Break The Rule. Talk To Strangers.

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Are you one who is uncomfortable talking to strangers? Are you the one who as a rule in a restaurant chooses a seat facing the wall or are you the one who will usually sit in the front seat of a taxi- to avoid back seat conversations? In any official event if you do not find comfort with the known faces you are most likely to be brooding in a corner.

Well, you are not the only one to have this issue. This is our basic training from childhood, which forebode us from talking to strangers. Disciplined living was seen as silently obeying the orders and not raising any questions.

This ingrained coded behavior may be the one that is slowly but definitely harming your career prospects. Trust me small talk and free conversations can lead to a smarter, healthier, and happier life.

If we take the findings by researchers at University of Michigan researchers, then small talks with strangers or social conversations lead to enhanced problem-solving ability, lowered risk of heart attacks. As a side bonus, your travel and such engagement time become a lot more enjoyable, the good feelings last for hours. So, why wait.

Additionally, these talks can help you extend your network, which can result in expanding opportunities. As you surround yourself with mostly people from similar background and industry, it helps you extend beyond your comfort zone and induce new knowledge and fresh perspective. Talking allows you to get out of your pressing stressful ‘to do’ list and diverts your attention to the present moment.

For all, you know; it may lead to you finding the love and partner of your life- but that I suppose is not the main criteria.

Smart social small talk has three ingredients to it; invitation, breaking of ice and sustaining talk.

So to initiate- you need to scan the people around you and seek the most logical target. People who do not look stressed, smile and seek eye contacts are more willing to talk than the one sitting in the corner brooding or in the mid of an interesting conversation. Check people in front and back in the long lines at airport or the person sitting next to you on a non-red-eye flight.

You need to use a common harmless opening to find the common ground; weather, current non-controversial topic or even appreciation of the service.
See it from other person’s point of view. They may want to speak to you, so get that inviting smile on your face. In a restaurant or a lounge always chose the seat that faces people.

However, how do you sustain these conversations? The fact is that it is easier to listen and two the discussion finds its own flow. For you to participate actively, you need to listen attentively. Show others that you are really interested in listening to what they are sharing. You respect the time that they are investing with you in the conversation. Like they said- get the concept not necessarily the content- listen to the massage instead of thinking ahead your response.

Create your witty loaded elevator pitch, sprinkle that with stories, anecdotes that will create the hook to keep conversation going. Flip it; instead of talking- ask open-ended questions that need more than just a yes or no. Open up a bit more than you normally do. It works wonders for you but be cautious in how much you open up.

Appreciation brings smile and warms up the conversation. Positively comment on jokes and insights they share. Trust, just like you and me, people feel good about being liked.

Follow up with future possibilities. If everything is going right, do share visiting cards and coordinates. If you are more proactive and want to be sure, do share next meeting on a mutually beneficial subject. Do not pile up on the person. You want the stranger to now be a friend.

Reach out, and feel the difference a little small talk can make in your routine.

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Sanjeev Kotnala with 28 years of corporate experience is the founder of Intradia World; a Brand, Marketing & Management Advisory. His focus area includes Ideation and Innovation; he also conducts specialized workshops like IDEAHarvest, Liberate and InNoWait. For soft skill training, he follows SHIFT (Specific High-Intensity Frequent training), a process of continuous training with frequent shorter sessions. Email sanjeev@intradia.in tweet @s_kotnala web: www.intradia.in www.sanjeevkotnala.com.

Will your chapter change the title?

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The past is just a story. You can do nothing else but learn from it. And future is vague, undefined but intended. So today is when you are nearest to the reality, ready to write the next chapter. Today or for that every moment of your life has been the opportunity to write the chapter that can give your story a new direction. However, maybe you have been working on a default mode or your conscious and subconscious has not been in sync.

Writing a new chapter starts with the passion and intent to define something and make a mark. To be constructive and proactive. With this intent, you invest time and energy to Read the story. You understand the situation, support cast, their capabilities and potential. This is what will be the foundation, barrier and the catalyst for you writing the next chapter.

The story exists  and most likely it has a title. Title that did justice to the story. It is usually a working title until it hits the press. And here you are, determined and destined to write the next chapter.

Now the new chapter you write can possibly do one of the two things.  It can help move the story forward in the intended direction towards its destiny, or it can re-evaluate and decide the direction the story should be taking. What will happen, depends upon few definitive alignments defined by the author. Why is the chapter being written? Is the author of a follower or a leader, an execution specialist or a strategist, committed to the cause or just a fellow passenger?

In case of Apple, the chapters written by Steve Jobs not only changed the title to the story called Apple, but it went further and redefined the title to the story of information technology, telephony, music, camera and marketing. When MK Gandhi started the chapter of non-cooperation in Indian freedom movement, he did not rewrite his story, he wrote the story of an Independence movement and gave a new tool to fight. When Verghese Kurien started the white revolution with village cooperatives, he redefined his story, image and many more lives. When E Sreedharan the metro man first took the project, the story of Metro rail was hazy but with his actions, he has written a completely new story. Most of them were not happy with the story they were in.

The impact of the new chapter can be felt on the front page, the cover of the book. Does the chapter (revision or an update) in the story is powerful enough to demand a new title? Is it so revolutionary and disruptive that it is reorienting organisational resources and redefining how it is known and perceived? If your actions impact the equation organization has with its stakeholders and the way it syncs with its ecosystem. This will need a change of Title.

Don’t be awed by the names like Kurien, Steve Jobs and Gandhi and believe that you do not have the opportunity to read the story, forget about writing the chapter. Look closer home and you will see the Bansals rewriting the chapters, Kishor Biyani, Subash Chandra, Ronnie Screwvala. R Balki is writing a new chapter in his own story. See the students who have secured good marks in schools or have made to IAS coming from a background that only said, you should not dream. But they dared. Instead of accepting the constraints that were better defined than the possibilities, they moved on; they pushed themselves because they had the passion and conviction not to be part to the story they found themselves in.

Write a powerful chapter or change the story you are in.

Once you write the chapter and change the title, do not for a moment think that the job is over. The new title became a reality when you wrote the chapter is just another working title. A co-author at a later date and time through action and inaction will redefine and give the story a fresh title.

It is rare that a chapter completes a story. ‘The end’ is not a chapter in the story of organizations. In professional life, it is the day you stop contributing and not necessarily the day you stop working of retire. In personal life, ‘The end’ is the universal truth- death.

However, when you do write a new chapter that is powerful enough to change the title of the book, you can be assured that when ever the book is read, referred, discussed or published- the Chapter, you wrote will have the title you intended. After all, all you were interested in was not the past, that was just a story ad future was always intended and vague. You were and are the present, and that is what should be the focus, writing the current chapter that will change the title of the story.

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Sanjeev Kotnala with 28 years of corporate experience is the founder of Intradia World; a Brand, Marketing & Management Advisory. His focus area includes Ideation and Innovation; he also conducts specialized workshops like IDEAHarvest, Liberate and InNoWait. For soft skill training, he follows SHIFT (Specific High-Intensity Frequent training), a process of continuous training with frequent shorter sessions. Email sanjeev@intradia.in tweet @s_kotnala web: www.intradia.in www.sanjeevkotnala.com.

BUILD LIFE AROUND CHARACTER.

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‘I am like this only’. ‘I am the result if my experiences and my attitude is now so hardened it is tough t change’. ‘But, that’s me’. We all have heard such statement and under my breath I believe we all have sued these to explain ourselves. No doubt it is one of the best excuse and a perfect way to defect criticism. A way to defend yourself and live the image you are. Unfortunately in the process you lie to yourself and utterly fail in the process. BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, YOU ARE WHAT YOU WANT TO BE. And your character is just one of your desired reflection.

Character is not some hardened enamel that cannot be re-molded. Even when you do not want, it is building and rebuilding inside you, it is like you and your body- a system always ‘Work-in-progress’. It is an unfinished painting or a sculptor where slow refinement is in process.

There is a desired reflection that you what and all your efforts are guided towards ensuring a perfect fit. You are what you want to be. And you are what people perceive you to be. There will always remain a gap because these are two different measurement practices. And will remain different. Even we do not use the same matrices in evaluating our efforts and reactions and those of other.

Character is the result of uncounted choices made through out your life. Many guided by others and mostly decided by you. Slowly but surely creating what you are and sometime defining what you should be.

It is simple to see what will work. Will an aimless molding work for you or conscious directed efforts with a clearly defined character will work for you. One can lead to creation of a personality that is more guided by external forces and the other- character-, which is the inner core of you.

There is not much a proof of any DNA linked transfer of character. It is not like fingertips or retina.

It is not something that cannot be changed because it is something that gets created after you are born.

Initially your parents and society does have the responsibility in initially seeding your cheater. But, soon your conscious self takes charge.

Character does not need an unpleasant or adverse experience to become rich. Nor does success corrupt it. But the firmness or the resolve of a character may be tested and demonstrated in unfavorable situations.

It is after all your inner reaction mechanism to external triggers. It defines how you respond.

A mechanism only you are responsible for. A mechanism built only to respond to you.

It is something that only you can nurture and you must nurture.

It is your inner self and who better than you to understand it. It is as simple as that.

If you are willing to make conscious efforts to convert yourself into the person you want o be. Nothing can stop you from being one.

All you have to take is to create the image of person you would want to be and then strengthen the qualities you need. Once you do that, you will find it becomes the foundation of your life. Your life will be built around your character. You will then not be trapped to live with a character that is built around your life.

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Contact Sanjeev Kotnala a certified coach  at Sanjeev@intradia.in

 

To write a new Chapter, read the story first.

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Last time round, I discussed the need for you to write a new chapter for the brand. I shared how it is important to keep the brand-consumer romance alive. Hopefully you have taken that seriously and you are brimming with few ideas that you would want to execute.

If you were part of a different story and have just been transplanted or have moved into the new story, you are in a hurry to give the current story a new shape. Yu want your signature as the author where co-authorship is all that is available. You are willing to write. You have the passion, desire and deep understanding of the plat.

It is a natural reaction, we all want to write chapters that will make the story take the desired turn. We want to be the creators and I am sure you are not just a silent observer in the story you are part of. Story you are part of.

BUT, HOLD IT FOR A MOMENT

Before you start thinking of the new twist and or an extension of the thought, it maybe prudent on your part to read the story. I have always stated that the last life or history s just a story. We can not do much about how the story has reached where it is now. But, we can definitely take learning’s from it. We can understand what happened and why did that happen. We can not only re-look at our success and learn from it. We can learn from our failure too.

Reading the earlier chapter of the story is still needed even if you are the only author. Which is rarely the case. A story is just a compilation of episodes and set of choices that the characters have made. They have reacted to some external or internal inputs. They have read the situation. They have allowed their memory and understanding to take the messages, distort, delete or generalise them. Made some assumption and then only the story took the turn to where it stands today.

Reading the story will help you understand the culture and the fabric, the religion and the core values of the community responsible for the story. The constraints it must operate within. The experiences that has shaped the destiny of the story and hence you will be able to better construct the new chapter.

You will know the flavour and get the right drift. You will know what your audience is feeling. You will know exactly whey they are investing in you and are part of it. Why are they reading the story that you are crafting?
Nothing stops you to innovate and refine the flow of the story. Yes, you can ingrain a angle of horror in a romantic novel. But you understand that it is the romance for which the audience was with you. A sudden jerk will alienate them. That is something you may not want or cannot afford. But, with your understanding you still can without losing audience innovate and tweak the flavour of the story. You can wean them away from the flavour and introduce an equally exciting and defining flavour.

So go ahead, did into the archives, talk to the characters, and talk to the silent observers within the story, get the facts right and perceptions crystal clear. Understand the reader’s expectations. Once you have done that and have a fairly good idea of how to steer the story in its future avatar, go-ahead full force and write the new chapter that you desperately want to.

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Sanjeev Kotnala with 28 years of corporate experience is the founder of Intradia World. A Brand, Marketing & Management Advisory. His focus area is Ideation and Innovation, a subject in which he conducts specialised workshops like IDEAHarvest, Liberate and InNoWait. For soft skill training, he follows SHIFT (Specific High-Intensity Frequent training), which is all about continuos frequent training with shorter sessions. Email sanjeev@intradia.in tweet @s_kotnala web:www.intradia.in www.sanjeevkotnala.com.

Have you written a new chapter?

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Have you written a new chapter for the brand?

Brands work with familiarity and consistency, with benefits and relevance and with emotional connect. They are just like human being. A set pattern of behavior and an accepted level of unchanged unmagnified performance bring stagnancy into relationship. It is like marriage.

A brand just like in a successful loyal marriage must strive to enhance the offered romance in relationship. It must rejuvenate the excitement before the inherent inbuilt natural urge of discovering alternatives take over. The brand-consumer relationship is like life, full of little incidents and episodes building the memorized and perceived aura.

Remember the bike you rode, kiss you stole, car you owned, hotel experience, delayed flights, emergency delivery, assistance from unknown people, cosmetic or grooming products and even the mobile you own. Everywhere there is an unsaid level of expectancy and in-built redundancy.

Brands use stories to justify their relevance and status. Consumer uses such stories to justify their choices.

Dove, which was the just a beauty soap with moisturizer, wrote a new chapter with the campaign for real beauty. Toothpaste industry writes a chapter every season. Pepsi and Coke – where products do not allow much flexibility use communication to write a fresh novel every year. Mahindra has been doing a great job of engaging audience with newer twist and turn in its ever growing brand story.

Brand like star performers cannot live on their earlier successes. They drop out of the audience’s present. The efforts required to get back in the system amplify exponential with the gap from the last successful adventure.

When brands fail to write new codes of memories for the consumer in B2C, B2B or B2I, the books and the stories start losing their sheen. They become old; they have been heard a many times. They are past no one wants to see because the present is changing rapidly.

Dell failed to write an interesting new chapter, so did Motorola. Kodak and Polaroid failed in their attempt, by the time they thought about it, the readers (consumers) preference for the genre had shifted.

Apple and Samsung are a classic case of brands busy writing new chapters even before the ink dries on the last expression. It is more than just planned obsolescence. Do not forget, to succeed chapters must find an echo with the consumer choices.

The game may be refined by the brand but is defined by the consumer’s willingness to accept.

Look at the media side of business. Star is regularly writing a new story; reorganization to sports to Hotstar. You hear stories with relevance. SRK, Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan and R Balki is few celebrities who are more than keen on writing a new chapter in their relationship with audience. Dainik Bhaskar has been attempting to write chapters after the hugely successful thriller of Rajasthan and Divya Bhaskar (Gujarat Launch) and now the revived Zid Campaign. Indian Express has been consistent with its investigative journalism and continues to excite its audience, though its story needs a lot more tweaking to interest many. Ariel is not just tweaking the story line and characters in its brand story but is busy making attempts to define the story sharing pattern.

Sometimes it is not just the chapter but also the construct skew and the genre of the brand stories that the brand needs a change. SAB has been one of the sharpest defined and positioned GEC channels with hardly any competition. Unfortunately, they were so wedded to the positioning that they failed to redefine their path when comedy and smiles started getting traded at News Channels and other GEC with larger pull and money. The SAB team failed to tweak their ware. Possibly it is still serving the channel objectives, but they do need a new chapter.

Possibly it is time to start looking at brands not as a treatise, series or even a novel. Maybe it is time to look at brand history and life through a series of short stories. It is something that will reflect brand’s adaptation to changing pace of expectations and desires.

Keeping the brand story franchise alive and adding new chapters is a role that the agencies must play while partnering clients and brands. They need to be the resounding echo of the consumer’s shift in interests. They need to be doing more than just amplifying the stories traded by clients.

You cannot keep enjoying the last successful chapter for long.

It is a fallacy that consumer with ever-increasing spectrum of fragmented taste and options is the one on the driver’s seat. If the brand with its new exciting relevant chapters can keep itself in-sync with the evolving consumer, the situation will change. It is time for brand-customer relationship to be mentored and not just sustained.

The brand and consumer are no longer a planetary system with one of then the center of orbit. They necessarily be like quasars or the pulsating twin stars, always in an undefined tango of excitement. Always in the act of writing a new chapter.

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Sanjeev Kotnala with 28 years of corporate experience is the founder of Intradia World. A Brand, Marketing & Management Advisory. His focus area is Ideation and Innovation, a subject in which he conducts specialized workshops like IDEAHarvest, Liberate and InNoWait. For soft skill training, he follows SHIFT (Specific High-Intensity Frequent training), which is all about contineous frequent training with shorter sessions. Email sanjeev@intradia.in tweet @s_kotnala web: www.intradia.in www.sanjeevkotnala.com.

It is your role as a leader to reflect the values.

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I was doing a competency gap analysis for one of my prospective client who believed that the employees were part of an extended family, that they understand the culture. They are in alignment and sync with what the vision, mission and the core values are.

I met employees across a cross-section of verticals and age group. Some of them were sitting right under the large framed ‘Core Values’ poster. Some even tried to glance at it so as not to fail the silly test.

The only thing clear was the gap between projected ‘core values’ and reflected values. It was not tough to understand what the issue was.

The words can never replace the learning an employee gets from actions. As Marshall Goldsmith says ‘ultimately, our ACTIONS will say much more to our employees about our VALUES, and our LEADERSHIP SKILLS than our words can ever can. If our actions are wise, no one will care if the words are not perfect…’, And that’s it. That is the synopsis of the complete corporate philosophy. Actions are easy to understand and imitate.

Many organisations believe that the fancy posters- plaques and frames with richly articulated organizational statements will somehow by their sheer presence one day percolate down and influence employee behavior. Those painfully crafted words are a waste. So are long hours debating every coma and full stop in addition to the covert and overt reflections that can be derived from the values. Great carefully chosen words not necessarily can impact behavior of your employees. If it was true, then most of Churches and temples by now would have been enough to realign human behavior.

Like the company that I hinted about, if there is a gap between the behavior of top management and the words that describe the core values of organization, the core values reflected by the employees will be inferred from action and not the words.

Many of the companies are just reflecting what is fashionable at the time. They suffer from a shifting and redraftingre-crafting of the values every few years. These non-differentiated approaches along with the non-relevance of so copied words lose value in the employee framework.

It is futile to waste time and energy in rallying the employees around a specific charter of values unless the management lives the values. The internal communication will just glorify the messages, unless we live the message. It is better not to run internal communication to drill down a core value that is not reflected in our work culture; it will only lead to louder or latent dissonance.

Recently, I was in a tribal area with an NGO. These NGO volunteers are seen as a role model by the trials. They are part of the education system. They talk of lofty ideas and what are the right things to do. However, while driving they never wore helmets. It was an easy case to identify and correct.

What is sought is measured. What gets measured is done. What gets done is seen, what is seen is copied. What is copied becomes habit. What becomes habit slowly becomes the dominant culture.

Once again, quoting Marshall GoldsmithCompanies that do the best job of living up to their values and developing ethical employees, including managers, recognize that the real cause of successor failureis always the people, not the words.

So, if you really want the organizational culture to truly to reflect the core-values, then all, you have to do is to reflect it in your actions. For a smoother, gravity led percolation of such behavior you need to start from top of the pyramid. If they follow it, sooner or later, the lower pyramid will get coloured by it.

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Connect with me at Sanjeev@intradia.in

Be your Best Friend

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We seek support outside, we seek best friends outside and we ignore the fact that ‘our relationships are a reflection of the relationship we have with ourselves’. We seek perfection and we freely critic other people. We time and again ignore our own internal reflection and ecosystem.

The most important relationship in our life is the one we have with ourselves.  And it is here that we fault the most. Should we not be selfish in this area?

Do we love ourselves the most- the natural answer will be ‘Yes we do’ but a short inward look will amplify the fact that it is a myth. Do we respect ourselves? Do we trust our feelings and intuition and have confidence in our action and knowledge? Suddenly the resounding earlier Yes starts weakening for no real reason.

It is a relationship with ourselves that matter the most. It is after all our reflection and choices that we want to be mirrored in other’s behaviour. Do we have similar expectation from ourselves as we have from others?

Look deep within yourself and see the areas that you find relationship with yourself being weak. Is it the work discipline, the family ties, the parental responsibilities, the monetary expectations, the heightened fear and insecurities? It will be worth your time to indulge in such an analysis and see what comes to your mind.

If you truly take this reflection seriously, it will help you release the negativity if any. It will help you shift your focus to strengthening the right areas and relationships. You will start seeing and seeking the right support.

Look you can lie to anyone but yourself. When you look in the mirror or you see yourself from others point-of-view, what kind of a person do you see? Do you like that person? If not, it is time to surrender your imperfections (Not surrender to your imperfections) and starts working on them.

Time you be your best friend, time you advice yourself toward a more successful, happier and richer life. A life that is defined by your own definitions of unconstrained unchained image of what is that you want to be.