Friday, September 26, 2008

The I in Team

Considering my last post generated enough heated comments , I thought I might just take on another issue by the horns..or atleast by its tail.
My team is remote, spread across different states in the US and in some cases geographies. So this kind of working has its perks (People don’t notice if your making faces over the phone) and its lows (You may be really good friends with someone, but you have no clue what they look like!). I have worked with fully stationed teams also, I miss the camaraderie that we share over coffee and the team lunch at the end of a project (that one I really really miss, including the time in office after that where all you do is wait for the sleep and digestion to take over :) ! ).

I have to say that working in a remote team has taught me a lot about working and dealing with people. First impressions are not formed on looks or mannerisms but on speech and points put across. Of there are times, when these first impressions are way off base because a person can be silent on the first call, but start warming up after that or they can be really confident , but you realize later that after a few calls, they are stuck with one point alone and don’t have too much to contribute.
I used to be the one who used to sleep through Organizational behavior classes in college, but I have to say the cramming that I did the day of the exam now comes back to haunt me. The real team training I had was in college. It’s really easy to talk about team spirit, but to have 8 different individuals trying to merge ideas into a 6 minute presentation is a whole different ball game. But that’s the essence of team to me. Pushing a point which you think will help, but also ready to let go sometimes of a brainwave, which seems important to you but totally ignored by the rest of the team. But there are some team players who do tick me off because they forget that the point of doing work together is to get to a destination or final product, not completion of their task alone. Listing these team gems in the descending order that they annoy me!

The Garrulous speakers: For a 30 minute meeting, they spend the first 22 minutes, describing what they think the problem is and they might want to do about it. Of course by the time I wake up when they finish, we have to schedule another meeting because nothing has been sorted out. Of course the worse ones are those who have spent considerable time in the organization, who would like to start every meeting from the day they joined. I like history but talking about life in 1962 is not really what I want to listen to at lunchtime on Monday afternoon.

Defensive ones: “I didn’t do /think/ say or even imagine that”. You can’t have a discussion or even a conversation, when a team member is constantly defending their actions or blaming others. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is say “I made a mistake, let us discuss what we can do to rectify it”. It’s that simple. I have a colleague, to whom we are afraid to send a mail to. He acts if each one is a personal attack against him or his person.

Emotional ones: These are the team players who think every word you say is a hidden insult against their person. I had just joined a new project, and was working with someone who had been on that assignment a few decades. I noticed her tone was becoming more remote and one day she had a breakdown on the phone, yelling at me. Finally when she calmed down, and apologized, I asked her what I had said or done to make her loose her cool. Her answer was that I mentioned “I don’t understand” a few times and that to her was insulting!!!!! Now how did that translate to me berating her, believe me I don’t know, but those words set her off. In the end, I finally figured out that she disliked me taking the place of the former colleague and as I didn’t treat her with the same similarity she felt insulted. An office atmosphere is precisely the place, where personal feelings have to set aside. If you have a problem with a person’s attitude or speech, talk to them. This is where interactions cannot be based on liking or disliking of personality but on getting work done.

Hitler’s relative: They are the self appointed and unwanted leaders of tasks or projects, who constantly look over your shoulder. We have the official managers, who do the same tasks but I really dislike the ones who want to be involved in everything each member of the team does. They want to know what each team member is doing at every point in time, be involved in every meeting and finally cause confusion when it comes down to basic responsibility. We had one person on our team who drove the rest of nuts doing just that. Till one of my colleagues, just spoke to her on how the rest of rest of us felt about her being team players. She has quietened down since .

Credit Snatchers and Name droppers: These ones like telling the big bosses, they were part of the core team who came up with the solution. Of course their contribution would have a forwarding note to you. Usually they also love dropping names. Their sentences usually start with “Well when I worked with this VP or director”. But the worst part is when they go directly to the top managers, without speaking to the team or worse snitching about the team. Usually any team has its ups and downs, but the ones who spread the stories I think are the most despicable. You really can’t change these people because they thrive on getting ahead at the cost of the team as a whole.

Also if something is bothering you, Communicate. With the strict guidelines of manner of communication blurring, it’s easier to talk to the person who you are working with day in and out. I believe that there is an I in team. But the point of the I is to relate to the others, so as to grow, learn and contribute. Each interaction is an experience, which may be good, bad or ugly. But to turn into something that you can grow on, that’s where the “I” plays a major role.

And finally a short story that I grew up with and a joke, hope this makes you smile and think

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

1.Since my last report, he has reached rock bottom and has started to dig.
2.His men would follow him anywhere, but only out of morbid curiosity.
3.I would not allow this associate to breed.
4.Works well when under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a trap.
5.When she opens her mouth, it seems that this is only to change whichever foot was previously in there.
6.He would be out of his depth in a puddle.
7.This young lady has delusions of adequacy.
8.She sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them.
9.This associate should go far - and the sooner he starts the better.
10.This associate is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot.

Keep Smiling ppl

Monday, September 15, 2008

P's and Q's

One of my earliest memories, is of my mom straightening out my dress and telling me to mind my “P’s and Q’s”, as company was coming. Though I had no clue what those stood for , I knew she was asking me to mind my manners and not put my extremely large foot in my larger mouth.

It meant that I have to say thank you even though the guest gave me a really old packet of biscuits and not interrupt people while they were talking. It also essentially meant that if I treated that person well, they would treat me well in return. Growing up I embarrassed my parents enough by saying something at the most inappropriate moment and I continue to embarrass K still , but one thing which stuck me to me was to always say my Please(P’s) or Thank you (Q’s) and to directly look at a person when they are speaking to you. Well, I don’t find that nowadays !!. ...I probably sound like an old lady with a cane, who most recent memory was Gandhi walking on the Dandi March :) !. But I really cherish , the now old age custom of P’s and Q’s. And no, I’m not going to rant over the kids nowadays. I see parents trying to get them to follow the manners and culture, its more a rant now against the adults I see.

Through my job I move with people across geographies. We may not really understand each others accents, but each of those team members, always are polite both in their mails and in their talk. But then I interact with the Indian sub-continent, and the new rush of talent fresh out of higher institutes of learning. Even though they are very good at their job, they assume that conversations can be conducted like an personal email. There are never any P’s or Q’s attached to these mails. I don’t expect them to send me thank you notes when I am doing my job, but when they request additional details, that’s when I would like to see some manners come into play. I know that the office and the means of communication that we use (email, sms) give rise to a more informal subculture. The emails that I get seem to be more an order to personal assistant than a request for information . I probably dont know them from Adam, so I really dont want them to ask me really personal questions about my visa status or if I'm married. This laissez faire attitude is not restricted to their official selves.

Last time in India, I was at dinner with a couple of family friends. Their daughter who had just joined a major IT company, got a call at the beginning of dinner, and continued talking through dinner, and walked into her room after dinner to continue the call, all the time ignoring the guests.. She conducted the call in the dining hall, so we lost half an hour of companionship sitting in silence, listen to her friend and her crib about their project manager . All her parents could do was mutely shrug their shoulders with an apology. My mom would have ensured, that my call was cut the very second it was received, considering we were at the dinner table.

Even when a gift is given or a compliment paid, the reaction now is to shrug it off or act as if it doesn’t matter. Its “cool” to be indifferent. That may work if your 15 and people shrug it off as an adolescent problem, but not when a person is leading a team.
I know that by being informal , we are trying to break down some barriers in communications and geography.
But that doesn’t mean that we forget that manners were integrated into the culture for a reason. That respect is shown and received is through words and acts.

When I went to lunch with a couple of friends, I thanked the waiter when he cleared the dishes. My pals looked at me if I had lost it. “He’s doing his job, why are you thanking him, we are going to tip him anyway” was the remark made. It may be the persons job, but maybe it makes it a little bit easier on the waiter, if you don’t act as if you are the “Queen of Sheeba”. But what’s worse is now people think it’s snobbish if someone is nice.
When I was in Chennai buying a few trinkets my last trip, I over heard the sales girls making fun of the American in front of me because she said thank you when they wrapped her purchase. They commented that only white people say thank you for everything. They didn’t get the fact, that the lady ahead was actually thanking them for their services, which I highly doubt their boss did at the end of the day.

Funnily enough in a land where “Athithi Devo Bhava” –(Guest is equivalent to god) , we keep saying that we are leaning towards the western civilization. But culture irrespective of the east or west part of it, remains the same. Be nice to the people around you, informality does not mean that we forget basic human courtesy. I know a lot of people shrug and say “Today’s generation”, but to me manners is a habit which is timeless. Irrespective of the age or the generation you belong to, its never too late to start minding your P’s and Q’s.

Whoever, has read my tirade, deserves their jokes, so here goes

A. One Christmas,mom decreed that she was no longer going to remind her children of their thank you note duties. As a result, their grandmother never received acknowledgments of the generous checks she had given.
The next year things were different, however.
"The children came over in person to thank me," the grandparent told a friend triumphantly.
"How wonderful!" the friend exclaimed. "What do you think caused the change in behavior?"
"Oh, that's easy," the grandmother replied. "This year I didn't sign the checks."

B. Ten Things To Say About A Gift You Don't Like
10. Hey! There's a gift!
9. Well, well, well ...
8. Boy, if I had not recently shot up 4 sizes that would've fit.
7. This is perfect for wearing around the basement.
6. Gosh. I hope this never catches fire! It is fire season though. There are lots of unexplained fires.
5. If the dog buries it, I'll be furious!
4. I love it -- but I fear the jealousy it will inspire.
3. Sadly, tomorrow I enter the Federal Witness Protection Program.
2. To think -- I got this the year I vowed to give all my gifts to charity.
And the Number One Thing to say about a gift you don't like
1. "I really don't deserve this."

Keep Smiling ppl,

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Me,Myself and Tagged

Well talk about Murphy’s law. "If anything can go wrong, it will!"
The last week started off ominously with a trip to emergency as my headache of 4 days continued to dog me, followed by laptop crashing on a Sunday night, just before I had to send out reports on a Monday morning. So I spent the next 24 hours recreating reports for the postponed meetings, and it ended with K & I being locked out of the house, because both of us in a haze of colds left our keys behind.

But the above week is nothing compared with what the folks of New Orleans have gone through. Three years after Katrina thrashed their city to pieces, they started rebuilding their homes only to find storm Gustav threatening to do the whole thing again. What shocked me into silence was the courage of the city folk of New Orleans, to leave behind their homes to board buses and planes, with no idea where they are going takes not only courage but a sense of utter belief,that if they did it once they can do it again. As a CNN anchor spoke to New Orleans who were driving out, leaving behind their house, I didn’t see one person break down or even waver. The mayor speaking about a forced evacuation, had me holding my breath. Gustav however turned into a smaller storm and not too many people were affected by the storm and its water level. So God is watching out after all!

This week seemed to be the silver lining around my cloud. I got an award from Keshi (Thank you sweetness).

And I was double tagged this week
Tag 1 Days of my life : courtesy Priya
Two questions in each category answer them and then tag your friends from the blog-o-sphere Leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been tagged and you are all set.


-Your oldest memory?

-What were you doing 10 years ago?


-Your first thought today morning

-If you built a time capsule today what would it contain?


-This year

-What do you see yourself doing 14 years from now?

Oldest memory:
When I was 4, my parents had kinda dozed off, and I really wanted to watch Di- Di( a comedy show ,translated from German) on TV. So I got up and put the switch into the socket, the shock sent me spiraling to the sofa. Even now I can feel the zing on my fingertips (but funnily enough that didn’t put me off from watching tv all night long, after the hullaballoo had died down )

10 years ago:
I was in an internship, so it was 18 hour days, but the evenings were fun when the gang got together for 12 am ice-cream, in the only shop open in Chennai during that time.So if you remember a whole lot of noise in Egmore, Chennai at midnight , it was probably me.

First thought in the morning
I hate CR for keeping a meeting at 8am in the morning.. grrr

If you built a time capsule today what would it contain:
Books ,my grandma’s crochet and moms recipes . Though are the stuff for me that last through time.

This year…

Shopping during Thanksgiving.. this year is going to be extra special for my shopping list and really bad for K’s wallet.

14 years from now
Back home in Chennai, hopefully teaching and writing a book… But definitely blogging :) !

Second tag Wonderful Quotes: courtesy SMM

This was the really really hard one. I love books, the feel , the scent and mostly the characters. A book is a land that I live in for the time I’m reading it, so its really hard for me to select my favorite quotes and the worst part is most of my favorite books are back home. So these are the rules
Wonderful Quotes" tag. “The rules are
a) jot down 5 of your favourite quotes from the various books read
b) Tag 5 people at the end. If you don't have the books, then google them.

So now the hard part of my favorite 5 quotes

1.“When humor goes, there goes civilization. –Erma bombeck”
I bought “I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression” for my sister after her first daughter was born, but spent my supposed hours babysitting , reading and laughing . I think Erma epitomizes what I would like to be in an author – humor combined with human emotion is hard to write, but ensures that everyone reads with a smile and a thought.

2.” This above all — to thine ownself be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”- Polonius, Act I, scene iii – Hamlet

My mom being an literature major, used to give us abridged versions of Shakespeare plays from Scary (Macbeth) to Romantic (Midsummer Nights Dream). But I guess I fell in love with Hamlet at the age of 5 , and every quote from that play has a deeper significance now as an adult. Though as a child, I used to picture my self as the perfect Ophelia who lost her mind over her love , now I know Ophelia would have dumped him for a different prince given half the chance

3. "It is an important and popular fact that things are not always what they seem. For instance, on the planet Earth, Man had always assumed that he was the most intelligent species occupying the planet, instead of the *third* most intelligent. The second most intelligent were of course dolphins who had long known of the impending destruction of earth” – Hitchhikers Guide to the galaxy
I’m not into Science fiction, but a pal sent me the eBook and asked me read it, which I did during my first month on the job. This book had me laughing so much, that I had to convince my boss that I had tourette syndrome and did not really find the training manuals which I was supposed to be reading hysterical :D !. I still wonder, what my colleagues thought of me that first month, when they were doing their 16 hour days!

4. "I'll thcream and thcream 'till I'm thick — I can, you know"- Violet Elizabeth Bott -William series
This was a series of children’s books which I loved. Enid blyton had already captured me with her English countryside and scones. This series of books took it to a higher level. This quote in particular is dear to me, as it was what I tried a couple of times on my family. From being cute the first two times it became annoying the third time, and my sister threatening to throw me out of the train the fourth. But its still ranks high when I am not going to get my way :D !

5. “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted” – Randy Pausch – The Last Lecture
Randy’s lecture for me was more a direct conversation. It addressed a lot of spots in my life which I had previously seen as unfair . This book is filled with quotes I love and use in my life. It changed my perspective and the way I looked at people around me.

I have to end with another quote of Randy’s which I think rings true for every situation

“Find the best in everybody. Just keep waiting no matter how long it takes. No one is all evil. Everybody has a good side, just keep waiting, it will come out”

So for the tag - I choose Ani D, Uma, MIP, Vignesh, Priya (Quotes)/ SMM (Days)
Have fun people

Tthe joke for the gals (guys don’t hate on me :D)

Three men were hiking through a forest when they came upon a large raging, violent river. Needing to get to the other side, the first man prayed: 'God, please give me the strength to cross the river.'

Poof! . God gave him big arms and strong legs and he was able to swim
Across in about 2 hours, having almost drowned twi ce.

After witnessing that, the second man prayed: 'God, please give me strength and the tools to cross the river'

Poof! ... God gave him a rowboat and strong arms and strong legs and he was able to row across in about an hour after almost capsizing once.

Seeing what happened to the first two men, the third man prayed: 'God, please give me the strength, the tools and the intelligence to cross the river'

Poof! ... He was turned in to a woman. She checked the map,
Hiked one hundred yards up stream and walked across the bridge.

Keep Smilin

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