The Secret of Benjamin Franklin’s Success

Ben Franklin

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. ~ Benjamin Franklin

In his autobiography, Benjamin talks about how he changed his personality and became a man of unrivaled virtues. Benjamin was short-tempered and had a sharp tongue. He was keen to develop his character and become a better human being. At age 20, Benjamin listed the following 13 virtues he wanted to inculcate and master during his lifetime. He also wrote a short description for each virtue on his list.

  1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation
  2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation
  3. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time
  4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve
  5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing
  6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions
  7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly
  8. Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty
  9. Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve
  10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation
  11. Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable
  12. Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation
  13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates

His method is ingenious; he would take one virtue at a time and follow it for a week and leave all others their ordinary chance. He would consciously practice that virtue in his behaviors. After a week, he would move on to the next one on the list. This process would continue for 13 weeks to complete one cycle. In a year, Benjamin completed 4 cycles. Franklin did not live completely by his virtues and he fell short of them many times. He believed the attempt made him a better man contributing greatly to his success and happiness.

To me this is a phenomenal framework for character development. Practicable plan for improving our behaviors and leadership attributes. I humbly borrowed items 1, 2, 3, 4 and 11 from his and have attempted to inculcate them in my life. The process has been rewarding so far!

In his autobiography Franklin wrote these words, “I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit”.

If you have read this article so far, please do yourself a favor and try this idea for a week at least and see how this benefits you!

Rehashing Our Stories

Story

We are disturbed not by the things that happen, but by our opinion of the things that happen. ~ Epictetus

Our actions are guided by our perceptions and feelings. Interpersonal conflicts are primarily due to differences in perceptions and emotional attachment to our perceived reality of the situation! There are many books written on tools to challenge our perceptions. One of the best tools I have read is in the book ‘Crucial Conversations’ called ‘Path to Action’. The path to action has 4 steps and it’s a brilliant way to succinctly articulate our behavior patterns.

  1. See and Observe
  2. Tell a Story
  3. Feel
  4. Act

Let’s say a manager is passing by the pantry and his team members are laughing their hearts out. Seeing the manager enter the pantry, they all try to muffle their laughter and slowly stop. The moment he is out, they burst into laughter again. The manager observes this and tells a story in his mind. One story may be the team was talking about him and making fun of his leadership style. If this is the story narrated by the manager, certainly he will feel hostile towards the team and specifically towards the person who was leading the laughter club. How do you think the manager will behave with his team members? Definitely his feelings of hostility will influence his behavior and the way he treats his team.

When we know that we are not natural and influenced by negative feelings in behavior, we can use this tool to elevate our awareness. We just have to rehash the story, look for facts and go backwards!

Once the manager becomes aware of his biased action, he can ask the following questions to validate his story.

What feelings are influencing my action now? (Anger, hostility, frustration etc)

What story am I telling myself to induce these feelings? (Revisit the story, in this case the story of his team laughing at him)

What facts did I see or observe to validate this story? (Did he hear them take his name? What other facts did he consider to arrive at his conclusion?)

The above questions really help us validating out stories and understand the role of perceptions. Instead of driven by feelings, now rational thinking will be in driver’s seat. When dealing with interpersonal conflicts, remember each person has their own story, perception and feeling! Actions are fruits of perceptions!

Getting an A+ in Gratitude

gratitude

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others. ~ Cicero

Being grateful to people who contributed to our success is not a common practice. Probably this is due to lack of role models for us to watch and emulate. Marshall Goldsmith is very passionate about being grateful and saying ‘Thank You’ to people. If you meet him in person, you will sense his gratitude and thankful feeling in the first 5 minutes.

In his coaching practice, he recommends leaders to do the following.

  1. List 25 people who have made a positive difference to their career. In addition to workplace colleagues, this list can include their friends/relatives/family/teacher/role model and so on.
  2. Write a ‘Thank You’ note to these people (e-mail/personal letter/written note)

I read about this idea two years ago and didn’t take action though the idea appealed to me immediately. I was worried about what would others think when they see such a note from me! What if they think I am phony or dramatic or naïve? Finally I decided to let go of others’ opinion and did this exercise. I did this because I wanted to ‘walk the talk’, not just ‘talk the talk’. Before I recommend this to my coaching clients, I wanted to get a firsthand (not vicarious) experience.

I wrote 24 names in my list. The list included my managers, virtual team leads, mentors at Toastmasters club, motivated colleagues, mentor coach, coach friends etc. Many people on the list are now in different organizations or countries and I took 3 days to gather their contact details (Thanks to LinkedIn). I sent a short note of gratitude in an e-mail comprising 160 words.

As I hit the ‘send’ button for each e-mail addressed individually, my excitement and feelings of gratitude intensified. I sensed a great amount of energy rushing in my body. It was a phenomenal experience!!! After I sent the 24th e-mail, I felt like a guru of gratitude and was no longer bothered about the outcome of these e-mails. I genuinely meant what I said in the e-mail and I knew I wasn’t playing around.

Three things happened as a result of this activity (though I didn’t expect any).

  1. Most people replied back and said they were touched by that e-mail. They felt honored to know the fact that they have a hand behind my success and I acknowledge that hand.
  2. Some people also shared their thoughts about me and how I inspired them to perform well (this was a pleasant surprise to me)
  3. Few people loved this idea, they are now planning to take this forward and send a ‘Thank You’ note to people who contributed to their success

If you like this exercise, please go ahead and act on this NOW! I promise, the bliss you will experience after the activity is infinitely greater than the pinch you feel while doing this J

Thank You for reading, acting and sharing!!!

The Art Of Allowing

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Delegation is the art of allowing your team members to finish tasks, own responsibility, perform at their peak and showcase their talents.

Micromanaging and not effectively delegating pop up in majority of 360-degree feedback reports that I have administered to leaders. I recently worked with a leader (let’s call him Mr Khan) to get anonymous feedback from his direct reports and peers. Lack of delegation skills, not allowing his direct reports to shine came as the common feedback point.

Initially Khan was shocked to know what people thought about him. According to him he was delegating tasks well and allowing his team to showcase their work. He was puzzled and wasn’t able to understand how else he can delegate. When a leader improves his/her leadership attributes – it’s crucial to focus on changing behavior as well as perception of his team members. This is the corner stone of Marshall Goldsmith’s coaching methodology.

I sat with Khan and discussed the two questions he would ask all of his direct reports (in One-on-One meetings) to understand and change his behavior. Khan agreed to intently listen to their answers and not make any judgment or challenge their viewpoints. The goal was to understand his team’s thinking and decide later what to change. He also wrote their answers in a notepad for future review and reference.

  1. In what areas you want me to involve more and give you a helping hand?
  2. In what areas you want me to involve less and STOP poking my nose?

Last week Khan met all his direct reports to get answers to the above questions. Their answers gave him a new perspective about delegation and ownership of tasks. It’s important to know their perception about Khan and his style of delegation. Currently he is focused on changing his behaviors and allowing his leaders to shine and own.

The crux of Marshall’s process is monthly ‘follow-up’ meetings with key stakeholders. Khan is committed to meet his direct reports every month for 5-10 minutes to check on his progress and garner more ideas to become better in delegation.

After 6 months, we plan to do an anonymous mini-survey on Khan’s behavioral changes with his direct reports to measure the progress of change and follow-up meetings. With Marshall’s framework, behavioral change is guaranteed and measurable!!!!

Are you having challenges with delegation?

Do your direct reports think you are micromanaging?

Is it difficult for you to trust people and give ownership of tasks?

To start the process of change, sit with your team, review the above 2 questions, listen to them and consciously commit to change. More importantly, commit to have a monthly follow-up meeting with them to understand your progress. All the best!

PS : I acknowledge the picture from the net.

The Three Envelopes

Buck

The best job goes to the person who can get it done without passing the buck or coming back with excuses.

~ Napoleon Hill

In my coaching and trainings assignments, I invariably encounter people who are always blaming their colleagues, manager and team for failures. They blame others to justify why things cannot improve or change. A coach can narrate relevant stories and metaphors to broaden and stretch people’s way of thinking. This story originally comes from master coach Marshall Goldsmith. The story you are reading below is his thoughts dressed in my words.

The CEO (Jim) of a large organization stepped down from his position. During the farewell party the retiring CEO handed over 3 sealed envelopes to the incoming CEO (John). Numbers 1, 2 and 3 were printed on those 3 sealed envelopes respectively. Jim said to John; open these envelopes when the organization is not making good profits and you don’t seem to know what to do. They have profound advice in them and you should open them in the ascending order of printed numbers. With a smile of gratitude, John agreed to follow the outgoing CEO Jim’s instructions.

After 9 months, sales went down by 30% and his executive team was struggling to get a grip on the situation. While sitting alone in his office that night, John opened the first envelope entrusted by the previous CEO. The letter has just one sentence in bold letters – Blame Jim, the previous CEO.

John called the press conference next morning and blamed the erstwhile CEO for this setback and he ridiculed Jim’s unwise decisions.

Now he had a second chance to prove his leadership and get the results back on track. He attempted a few changes and nothing seemed to work. In the next 12 months, the company sales reached the lowest number in that decade. John felt helpless. He opened the second envelope. It had one sentence in bold letters – ‘Blame the economy’.

In the press release next morning, John elaborately articulated the ill-effects of current economy on the company profits. By this time he had become an expert in blaming others and passing the buck.

Nothing seemed to work for John and that same year the organization declared losses. His executive team drafted a plan for workforce reduction. Buffeted by the third setback, John started looking for reasons to blame and opened the third envelope with new hope. He was shocked to read the words in the letter this time – Prepare three new envelopes for the new CEO.

I hope you get the deep message embedded in this humorous anecdote and avoid the game of blame. If you know someone who is currently smitten by this ‘blame game’ please share or narrate this story to that person. Let’s hope this story lights the candle of responsibility in leaders.

PS : I acknowledge the graphic from the net. Let’s focus on the message, not be derailed by facts or numbers quoted in the above story.

Goldsmith’s guaranteed way to change behaviors

Behavior Change

“People will do something—including changing their behavior—only if it can be demonstrated that doing so is in their own best interests as defined by their own values.”

― Marshall Goldsmith

I am coaching a person who works as a manager in a multi-national organization with a few direct reports. I am a fan of Marshal Goldsmith’s principles and process of executive coaching. I leverage his guaranteed and measurable framework for leadership development. A leader needs humility, courage and discipline to go through Marshall’s process of leadership improvement. To keep the anonymity of my client – I will use the word ‘Leader’ in the ensuing paragraphs to refer to this person.

360 degree feedback (anonymous) is the first step in Marshall’s process to know the perceptions of team members about their leader. In this case we had 10 people participating in 360 degree feedback and providing their viewpoints on the leader’s behaviors. The report was very insightful and the leader was shocked to see the team’s perceptions and observations.

One common behavioral flaw emerged in most participants’ feedback.

  1. The leader doesn’t listen and interrupts others all the time

I really admire the courage of this leader who is willing to admit his flaws and willing to change & grow. Instead of justifying his style he is focused on ‘what behaviors are causing this perception in his team?’, which is the quality great of a leader!

During our coaching session this evening, he asked some tips to become a better listener. His natural style is to interrupt people within a few seconds. So we played this game that Marshall recommends in his coaching framework. We agreed that during our conversation, every time the leader interrupts me he would pay me INR 100/-. He laughed instantly and agreed to play this game – as it was a paltry amount for him 🙂

After this I went on sharing how this idea helped my other clients, he interrupted me in the middle of my first sentence 🙂 I stopped and said ‘100 rupees now’ ! He pulled out a 100-rupee note and handed it over to me. In that hour he interrupted me 5 times within the first 30 minutes and he lost 500 rupees 🙂 He started feeling the pinch!

In the next half hour, suddenly his awareness elevated and whenever he was about to interrupt me – he stopped midway and started smiling at me! This was amazingly powerful! I believe his drive to save money and win over me both increased his conscious awareness to change his behavior.

He was so excited about this change and the efficacy of this simple process. Tomorrow he is announcing to his team about this game. Every time they catch him not listening and interrupting others – he will pay them 100 rupees on the spot!

No wonder Marshall is a genius and the most populate executive coach on this planet with 150+ CEOs as his clients. Simple, effective and pragmatic ideas make his framework rock!

Good thing? Bad thing? Who knows?

GoodThingBadThing

Men are disturbed not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen.

~ Epictetus

There was once a farmer who owned a horse and had a son. One day, his horse ran away. The neighbors came to express their concern: “Oh, that’s too bad. How are you going to work the fields now?” The farmer replied: “Good thing, bad thing, who knows?”

In a few days, his horse came back and brought another horse with her. Now, the neighbors were glad: “Oh, how lucky! Now you can do twice as much work as before!” The farmer replied: “Good thing, bad thing, who knows?”

The next day, the farmer’s son fell off the new horse and broke his leg. The neighbors were concerned again: “Now that he is incapacitated, he can’t help you around, that is too bad.” The farmer replied: “Good thing, bad thing, who knows?”

Soon, the news came that a war broke out, and all the young men were required to join the army. The villagers were sad because they knew that many of the young men will not come back. The farmer’s son could not be drafted because of his broken leg. His neighbors were envious: “How lucky! You get to keep your only son.” The farmer replied: “Good thing, bad thing, who knows?”

That very summer….and the story continues…

The above Sufi story is quoted by many authors to illustrate how our perceptions color our life experiences.

Dr.Sri Kumar Rao in his best-selling book ‘Are you ready to succeed?’ recommends an exercise based on the above story.

Think of a past moment in your life where you perceived the event as bad then, but now when you look back that was indeed a useful fork in your life. All of us can recall several such forks in our lives – choosing a college to study, accepting a ‘not-so-attractive’ job offer, a personal setback or decisions that we took because of lack of choices and so on. Those events opened up new avenues and pathways of opportunities in the ensuing days!

Let’s look at our life today and review the things that are bothering us right now and crying for our attention. These events that seem bad may indeed be great turning points in our life when we connect the dots looking backwards at a future date! Absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence J

This is a fabulous tool for centering ourselves and face daily challenges. When we find ourselves in a web of internal chatter labeling a life event as negative –let’s remember to say to ourselves, Good thing? Bad thing? Who knows?

The Power of a Checklist

checklist

The basic challenge faced by managers is not understanding the practice of leadership – it is practicing their understanding of leadership. ~ Marshall Goldsmith

Marshall Goldsmith’s proven leadership growth process centers on consciously choosing new behaviors and committing to adopt new behaviors on a daily basis. To ensure that we measure our progress he stresses on frequent follow-up meetings with stakeholders. I attended his 2-day program at ISB Hyderabad last week on Executive Coaching. It was fascinating to see him take the same analogy and apply it for our personal behavioral changes.

Marshall narrated his personal example to illustrate the point. He has a checklist with a few questions listed on it. Three of his questions are below (I may not be using the exact words he uses).

  • Did I do some physical exercise today?
  • Did I say or do something nice to my wife today?
  • Did I say or do something nice to my son and daughter today?

He goes through this checklist every day before signing off the day. What inspired me was the fact that he has been reviewing his checklist daily for several years (may be decades). Now, he has hired a lady to call him every day and ask the questions on this list and hear out his answers J Wow! Now this needs courage, humility and discipline! Hats off to you Marshall!!!

Marshall

After we heard this, the entire class was silent for a while and we started making our checklist questions. Marshall said with a saintly smile, most of you will stop this process within 2 weeks – not because this checklist doesn’t work; because this will work.

He also recommended us to reach the book “The Checklist Manifesto” authored by Atul Gawande to know more about this topic of checklist and how this simple and yet profound idea can change our behaviors for better.

Inspired by his personal story, I wrote the following questions on my checklist to consciously do or stop certain behaviors.

  • Did I interrupt anyone while they were speaking ?
  • Did I mindlessly eat junk or unhealthy food?
  • Did I engage myself in some physical exercise?
  • Did I procrastinate on any important matter?
  • Did I make destructive or negative comments about others?

Marshall was right, I reviewed this checklist for 5 days and forgot to review the checklist after that J Within those 5 days I really felt great when I consciously focused on these behaviors. I was a better human being, a caring father & son and a loving husband 🙂 I wrote this article to reaffirm my commitment to review this checklist daily!!! This reminds me of Marshall’s quote – we don’t become better by knowing, we become better by doing

Blood donation camp on 17th Januray 2015 (Saturday)

Blood1

On 17th January 2015 (Saturday), we (my family & some of my friends) have organized a blood donation camp. I request you to participate in this drive and make more blood relatives. One unit of your blood can be administered to 3 needy patients. This is a wonderful opportunity to serve, help and make more blood relatives!

You can also contribute as a volunteer and oversee the operations.

Location: Respro Academy [Veta English Training Center]

Bannerghatta Main Road, Bangalore – 560083

Land Mark: Opposite IIM-Bangalore Main gate

Start Time: 10AM

End Time   : 4PM

Our goal is collect 50 units on that day. So if you have read this post so far, please ensure you book your slot now!

For better execution and logistics planning, we request you to RSVP and not plan to walk in on 17th Jan 2015.

Our goal is to make your donation experience pleasant and fulfilling.

For more information and questions, please feel free send an e-mail to pramoda.vyasarao@gmail.com or call me at 98806 32291.

We also plan to create an event on Facebook to share this with a wider audience.

To know more about benefits of donating blood, please read the below article

https://pramodavyasarao.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/my-23rd-donation/

Blood2

Here’s how my mother found Mojo at work for 33 years…

Mojo

“Mojo” is that positive spirit toward what we are doing now that starts from the inside and radiates to the outside. ~ Marshall Goldsmith

As an executive coach and leadership facilitator, I meet several talented individuals who are not finding Mojo at work. In other words, they are experiencing ‘Nojo’. They may have impressive titles, attractive remuneration and cozy offices; they are missing meaning and happiness in what they do. One thing is sure, no job will promise you meaning and happiness on the offer letter. Most people find acres of diamonds in their own backyard if only they take time and search for answers. Instead of chasing the mirage of ‘dream job’, people need to take a step back and ponder about finding Mojo in their current jobs. In my personal view, happiness is inside us. If we aren’t happy with our jobs now; mostly this will continue even when switch to a new job!

Our attitude towards what we do is as important as what we do!

That’s why seasoned interviewers ask questions on candidates’ previous jobs to know their passion and contribution. How a person describes his or her current job reveals a lot!

My role model for finding meaning at work is none other than my mother. My mom worked in a bank for 33 years. During her tenure, she didn’t eye on any promotions as that involved relocating to other cities. As a result she settled with various prosaic roles in clerical and accounting departments. I remember her title as ‘Special Assistant’ for several years, without any promotion. Despite this fact that job was ‘special’ to her (she made it special). My mother was very well respected by all her colleagues and managers for her positive spirit, her desire to help others and her cheerful personality. Needless to say she found meaning and happiness in what she was doing as a special assistant. I remember once quizzing her on how she found pride and meaning in her seemingly mundane and routine role as a clerk. She said she focused on two simple things at her work place.

  • Improve processes to provide better customer experience
  • Contribute and help her colleagues become more effective

When she was focused on these two things, she aimed at something beyond her own interests. And that’s the secret of her Mojo at work. Even today she has countless colleagues (still working) who admire her help and mentorship during the early years of their careers. It’s fun to join her when she visits her home-branch once a year to produce life certificate. The warmth, respect and care expressed by her colleagues even now are a reflection of her contribution and Mojo.

My mother found Mojo at work by following the below philosophy.

Find your strengths, indulge in activities that leverage your strengths and find ways of helping others from your strengths on a daily basis

Her story has certainly influenced my attitude and approach towards work. I wish this article inspires all readers to find Mojo in what they are doing!

PS : I acknowledge the graphic from the net.