A myth called Influencing with Authority

It is been said that “influencing without formal authority” is the most difficult task to do. This comes from the old school thinking that individuals can be influenced by a person who has formal authority over him or her. For example, if a team member (say X) immediate supervisor (say Y) is considered to be a person who has higher authority mainly because Y does X ‘s performance assessment, career growth, opportunity spotting etc.  Since Y is perceived as a “power-center”, it is assumed that Y will be able to influence X better by using tighter control. On the other hand, if an individual is not having the direct formal authority (say Z), influencing becomes a challenging task.

Cut to reality! I got first taste of this whole paradigm when I took over a program management role quite some time back. As a program manager, I was supposed to get a program delivered with multiple features, developed/tested by different team member from different project teams. Individual project teams had formal reporting structure with individual project mangers, who used to lend resources on  a per program basis. In simple term, this is what is popularly known as ‘matrix organization’ where formal reporting and business reporting act as a perpendicular items to each other. Definitely it was a challenging ask to get things done as a program manager without control of individuals. However over a period of time, I was able to build on it by developing stronger listening skills, communication, big picture creation, creating an environment of abundance etc, because of which the program execution became smooth.

At the same time I started observing where people started opening up with big time, by sharing some of their deeper concerns. They were telling me about individual career plans, career aspirations, concerns that are coming from various sources etc. Without even me asking for it information used to reach me, because of which I was able to build even stronger influence on people. On the contrary individual people managers who had formal authority were never aware of these items as information never reached them. In summary I was able to influence more without formal authority mainly because people were more open to me, which gave me tremendous opportunity for me to get people influenced.

On contrary, when I wore people management hat I ended up seeing the other side of the story where folks with lesser authority than me started having more influence on my people. Lesser the authority, more the openness thereby increasing the possibility of influencing. Performance appraisal is no longer the key for influencing individuals.

Bangalore Ultra 2013

Bangalore Ultra 2013
Bangalore Ultra 2013

After my first season running with Kaveri Trial Marathon, enrolled for Bangalore Ultra 2013 with Runners High community. The first season was extremely challenging, as I was finding too difficult to get myself up and running. After long runs (especially on weekends), it used to pain a lot (especially in the calf muscles), which made my weekends really painful days spent by sleeping, icing and taking rest. There were multiple other challenges like getting-up early, showing up on-time to coaching sessions, coordinating with folks for car-pooling along added with  bottom line responsibilities from work and family. During Bangalore Ultra training challenges became multi-fold as I was handling a big workplace transition added with my folks falling in sick frequently with some family travel. The real fun of running with Runners High community is the togetherness and support we get in form of coaches, runners and special children from Ananya and Shristi, which helped me to run successfully irrespective of all challenges.

For ultra I had very few and specific goals were in my mind. First and foremost goal was about running continuously for the race distance. During my first season, I used to do run-walk-run sequence whenever I ran out of my breath, which happened quite frequently. Thanks to regular coaching and breathing exercises (as cross-training), rhythm has set in to a larger extent. During the coaching sessions I was able to run much comfortably without losing breath or taking breaks. This has given me a significant boost in terms of self confidence and can-do attitude. Diwali heavy-eating made my last week coaching little challenging, but overall I was confident because of regular coaching.

The race day was even better. One small mistake I did during my previous season was getting too excited on the previous night, thereby getting lesser sleep. On the run day I had difficulty between 6-8 KM as I just couldn’t push my legs forward. Also the race was happening in Mysore, I ended up eating outside food which I was never comfortable with. Since Ultra was happening in Bangalore (near Hennur Road), I wanted to plan well by taking good amount of rest. Especially on the previous night I went to bed early with having very simple yet ‘carb-rich’ idlis. Had a pretty comfortable sleep and I was very fresh on the race day feeling very light. We (along with my running buddies) reached the location much earlier. The route was misty with lesser visibility.  Fortunately one of our buddy’s workplace is near Hennur, who had quite a good idea about the whole route. In fact the previous day he drove all the way to race location and measured drive time approximately.

When we reached the race location (about 5 AM), folks who were doing ultra long distances (100K, 24 hour continuous run etc…) were winding up their last minutes, which literally blew me off. They started on the previous day about 5 AM, were still running when I reached the location. Trained human body, driven by a strong will to succeed has no limits. I have heard and read similar stuff in many book, it was really an experience to see things unfold in front of my eyes. Some of my RH members have clocked more than 150+ KM in 24 hour time which is a remarkable achievement.

Bangalore Ultra 2013 - Completion
Bangalore Ultra 2013 – Completion

Bangalore Ultra is relatively a flat track with excellent running environment of Bamboo forest. This government protected forest got opened up only for running purpose, otherwise I understand it largely remains closed. The temperature was just perfect with 25K runners starting on time few minutes before us. My pace was steady around 3 KM mark, taken quick breaks (for few seconds) at aid stations to take enough of water and Electral to keep myself hydrated by maintaining appropriate  salt levels. I was not taking separate salt pills as my coaches mentioned taking electoral at break points will have the same as salt pills. On the way I was able to see some of the 25K runners coming back with lot of cheers and support. The pure joy of running and clocking every other kilometer was visible. There was also good number of friends (outside RH

running community, from my professional side and some college buddies) running as a part of this event, met them on the way. I couldn’t spend as much as time I could have wanted other than waving my hands on the way.  The last 2 KM mark was very comfortable for me as I was taking steady and strong steps towards the closure line. Buddies and chief coach from RH accompanied me in the last 300 meters or so asking me to push hard by increasing the speed. I was able to do it quite comfortably and finished the race in style. Food after race was also really tasty (unlike KTM, where we had a major disappointment with respect to food) ended up gulping some good number of idlis and pongal.

During my first season I used to have so much of sourness in my leg. When I was mentioning this to one of my seniors (whose son is training for national level badminton tournament for years now), he gave a tip of taking bath in cold water, which worked wonders. I don’t exactly remember the science behind this, it brought down my post-run pains to a larger extent. With cold water bath becoming part of life now, I am looking forward for my next reason with my own goals and objectives.

Book review – The speed of trust

Speed of trust
Speed of trust

Price: 500 INR

Author: Stephen MR Covey

This book was suggested to me quite some time back (by one of my mentors) got a chance to complete it recently. Written by Stephen MR Covey, son of Stephen Covey (senior), Speed of trust is a wonderful account of trust building in human relations. Personally, my experience with trust building is been a roller-coaster ride for me. I enjoyed tremendous amount of benefits in cases where I enjoyed higher level of trust, on the other hand struggled a lot when trust levels are low with the other person. Its hard to explain trust, mainly because “things happen” when it is there and “you feel it when you have it”. I was looking for some framework to work on getting better with trust building, where this book perfectly fit into. To start with Stephen establishes a business case for trust by connecting trust, speed and cost. In case of high trust environment, more things happen in real than talking or following-up. Hence speed goes up and cost comes down. On the other hand when trust levels are low, both individuals and organizations end up paying “trust tax” which slows down the progress of the overall progress. So level of trust has direct impact on organization’s  top line and bottom line in terms of financial implications. In case of no tax, top line and bottom line both goes up creating a ‘win-win’ proposition.

After establishing business case for trust, Stephen delves into multiple layers of trust and what are the key behaviors that will enhance the level of trust in any given situation. He starts with individual trust and further followed by relationship trust, organizational trust, market trust and societal trust. He goes on explaining key elements of building trust at various levels starting with individuals. Because if as an individual we don’t trust ourselves with highest level of authenticity, it becomes naturally reflected in other activities we handle and it gets passed on to others as a lower trust message.

As a part of trust framework, Stephen mentions how credibility is fundamental in establishing trust. In order to establish credibility four cores namely intent, integrity, capability and results play a vital role by laying down strong foundation. If these four codes are having issues with an individual, no amount of behavioral tactics will help in building trust. Once these cores are established strongly (thereby having higher credibility), individuals need to demonstrate certain key behaviors to establish higher trust environment. He talks about 13 behaviors (Talk straight, Demonstrate respect, Create transparency, Right wrongs, Slow loyalty, Deliver results, Get better, Confront reality, Clarify expectations, Practice accountability, Listen first, Keep commitments, Extend trust) as key behavioral elements.

With lucid examples and case studies Stephen takes though the framework of trust building. Stephen also talks about “Smart trust” where balancing right level of trust by tuning these parameters. Extending too much of trust sometimes might backfire (and I have personal experience in doing that) whereas extending less might create lesser trusty environment. So assessing the situation and extending right level of trust is key to have desired results. From outside trust might look like a intangible item, but its implications are very deep. It was a very hard and enriching learning to go through the framework and understand various elements of building trust.

Quality Healthcare in ‘Lean’ manufacturing way

Lean is a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination – Wikipedia

Delivering quality healthcare in countries like India is really challenging due to lesser affordability of patients with lesser doctors. Aravind Eye care made made its first attempt to radically change this by adopting McDonald’s hamburger approach to eye care. I have provided YouTube video below which talks about this innovation. Also in my innovation series, I called out Narayana Hrudayala who has taken similar approach to cardiac surgery. Recently I visited Shankara eye hospital in Bangalore, where I saw similar approach. Across all these healthcare organizations I see the following things in common:

  1. The hospital is primarily started as a charity by setting up basic infrastructure with the vision of providing quality healthcare at an affordable cost
  2. In order to make the operations in a sustainable, they need to ensure hospital cost is optimized to the maximum extent by reducing waste at all levels
  3. Since patients can be charged only minimal, they need to operate in volumes (ex: in terms of eye checkups, eye operations etc…) with quality built in every step. Number of doctors are limited, who anyways cannot handle higher volume.
  4. In order to handle the volume problem, doctor’s time spent with per patient needs to be optimized. This can only happen by making him as a key decision maker by looking into diagnostics information/data rather than starting with basic questions in each and every patient.  In order to achieve this optimization (for example, in case of eye-care),  the whole eye check-up, initial eye diagnostics, getting problem statement and checking medical history etc are handled by well trained para-medical staff so that doctor only spends time for decision. Thus every doctor will be able to see more patients per day, thereby addressing the volume problem.
  5. Since paramedical staffs are trained only on a specific activity very well and they only do that activity, quality is inherently built into the system. Paramedical staff salaries are lesser than doctors so the overall cost is also optimized

In summary by reducing non-core activities of doctor and optimizing it, multiple health care organizations in India are able to deliver affordable healthcare. In manufacturing world Lean manufacturing talks about various elements (like waste reduction, value creation, value stream mapping, Just-in-time production etc..), which is exactly getting implemented by Indian healthcare giants so consistently, so well! I would say this is a lean manufacturing approach to healthcare, not sure why this is not so popularly spoken about in the media.