What is Coaching and How to be an Effective Coach?

Reading Time: 9 minutes


Almost a decade ago, my tryst with coaching started.

I was a hotshot corporate executive. I was part of a business transformation exercise and was assigned a coach.

My first reaction was “Why would I need a coach? I know everything.” Besides my coach was not from my industry so “what would the person tell me which I didn’t know?”

I was a complete skeptic to the process when I went into the first interaction. Over the course of the year, I was humbled by the person and the process. My coach brought out so many insights about me and my performance that it opened new doors for me.

I became a complete convert to coaching and was trained in Breakthrough Coaching.

Over the years, the coaching industry has matured, but understandably there are still doubts on how an ideal coach should be.

In the absence of a clear idea, individuals going through the coaching process could lose out on the transformational magic of coaching. Organizations would lose out on time and money.

What I am sharing with you today is my experience, in both the roles, as a Coach and a Coachee (a person who is being coached).

I am sharing with you the essential skills which a Coach must have to help the Coachee reach her results. But before that:

What is Effective Coaching?

There are many definitions of coaching, but the one I resonate most with is by International Coach Federation

“A professional partnership between a qualified coach and an individual or team that support the achievement of extraordinary results, based on goals set by the individual or team.”

What I liked about the definition is:

  • Partnership: Coaching is different from a hierarchical relationship. It is a partnership built on mutual respect
  • Extraordinary results: First, Coaching has to be results focused. Else it will be a relaxed chat over coffee with no commitment from either side. I also love the challenge of “extraordinary results.” After all, why would you call a coach for just ordinary results?
  • Goals set by individual or team: Where the partnership is headed must be decided by the Coachee. Are you shooting for the moon or a round trip around the world is fine? Goals set by the coachee also makes sure that there is ownership mindset built in the coachee. Goals also help in deciding whether you should be coached or not.

Why should you be coached?

You don’t need coaching if you are just aiming for reaching your goals.

You need coaching when you want extraordinary Growth.

Some of the business examples would be

  1. You are being groomed to become the CEO or business head over the next year.
  2. You need to transition from a line function (delivery focused, team which has same targets as you have) to a staff function (influencing, no team)
  3. You are moving from a lone warrior to managing a team
  4. Preparing for an extraordinary event in the organization, e.g., a merger or acquisition or rightsizing the team
  5. Your organization wants to 5x or 10x the revenue growth when the industry is barely growing
  6. Your business is building new skills like Innovation or Digital Marketing
  7.  You have hired a Board to steer the Ledership Team and you want to make the most of this high-powered team
  8. As a CEO or business head, you want to create and deliver a new strategy

You get the picture.

But, just hiring the coach is not enough.

You want to hire an effective Coach who helps you evolve as a person along with helping you deliver the results.

Michael Bungay Steiner in his book The Coaching Habit says “Coaching can fuel the courage to step out beyond the comfortable and familiar, can help people learn from their experience and can literally and metaphorically increase and help fulfill a person’s potential.

Here are the qualities or skills you want to see in your Coach:

13 Coaching Skills to Coach Effectively

Here are the essential skills of an Effective Coach which I have gleaned from being both a Coach and a coachee:

1. Understands the context of performance

A Coach always sees the coachee in the context of his personal and professional life.

Coach sees the coachee in a holistic manner and makes an effort to understand what all is happening in the coachee’s life which impacts him.

The coach probes for
a. What is going on in coachee’s team?
b. How does the coachee interact with his peers?
c. How successful is the coachee in his mind?
d. How supportive is his family life to his performance goals?
e. What pressures is he operating from both personal and professional?

These are some questions just to get started.

The idea is not to make the coachee sit on a couch and do therapy.

The aim is to understand the context in which the coachee is operating.

Context helps in setting goals which not only are achievable but also fulfilling.

2. Goal seeking

The Coach has his sights firmly on the goal which the coachee seeks to reach.

Coaching is performance oriented, and great coaches understand the impact of having deep, meaningful goals which help the coachee reach his potential.

These goals are not just the organizational goals in revenue terms but, goals which bring out the resources of the coachee.

It is not enough to say “Increase sales by 20%” There would be additional layers like

  • Add new distribution channels or
  • Train sales managers to take additional responsibilities or
  • Transfer of sales closing skills to salesmen.

Together or individually, they will deliver the desired sales result but, it also helps in tapping hidden or unused resources of the coachee.

LaRae Quy, a Leadership Expert, recalls how her coach helped her up her game:

I was a slow long distance runner, but in the FBI Academy I needed to up my game and run 2 miles in 10 minutes to qualify—and ultimately, graduate. My coach told me to keep my eye on the back of a runner who was faster than me and focus on keeping up.

She clarifies this aspect of Coaching with this comment

“Keeping a vision of where you want to end up is critical when you come up against a roadblock or obstacle.”

(via 7 Ways Coaches Train Athletes To Manage Emotions)

This goal seeking also means that Coach is always holding the coachee accountable for results.
Exclusive Giveaway: Grab this FREE Coaching Checklist and get results in your coaching today

3. Accountability of results

A Coach always holds the coachee accountable.

Accountable for what?

Accountable for the promises that the coachee has made to himself.

This is very important. The idea is not to become a crutch on which the coachee leans.

The aim is to create the habit in the coachee of keeping promises.

Result focused helps to assess whether the coaching is delivering value to the coachee. This also makes sure that the coach has skin in the game

4. Skin in the game

Result focused ensures that the coach is not just a spectator to the game but is part of the game.

Like a sports coach, he observes from the sidelines when the game is in play. At rest, the coach goes through the plan again with the coachee making sure that the coachee knows the coach is there with him, to make sure the coachee is a success.

By observing the game and the coachee, the coach is also able to see the obstacles that the coachee is headed for

5. Identifies the obstacles

Our work, when observed from a neutral perspective, reveals that we have patterns.

The way you start the day, the way you conduct meetings, the way you plan or don’t plan for results, the way you motivate your teams.

Over time, there are habitual patterns which you develop which help you achieve your goals. However, the same habitual patterns also bind us in set ways of doing things and can become obstacles ahead.

A good coach understands your patterns and will call it out when it comes in your ways. Often the path to growth is unlocked just by identifying these obstacles.

6. Unlocks growth

Coaching, at heart, is about Growth.

Coach needs to understand where the coachee is in the growth journey. Often, the coachee needs minor course correction, and she is on his way. Sometimes, it needs deep correction.

Either way, the coach identifies which levers can be used to unlock growth for the coachee.

Examples of growth levers are:
a. Identifying the right goals
b. Bringing balance between personal and professional priorities
c. Grooming future leaders enabling the coachee to take higher responsibilities
d. Identifying the priorities which enable success
e. Better peer relationships
f. Organizing the mornings and the day forward
g. Healthier lifestyle

Wait, Lifestyle? Where did that come from? Aren’t Executive Coaches only about business and business goals?

A Harvard Business Review Study showed that in over 76% of cases the Coaching shifts from business to personal issues. This makes sense when you consider that often the obstacles are behaviors and habits instead of

This makes sense when you consider that often the obstacles are behaviors and habits instead of business-related factors.

There are many triggers to unlock growth. Each of these when acted upon creates the conditions which help the coachee succeed.

7. Creates conditions to succeed

You have a Ferrari but no road to race on. It will just be a pretty picture in your garage.

Coaching is identifying the road and sometimes, even creating the road on which you will race your Ferrari.

Coaching is about creating those enabling factors which help the coachee to operate from his highest potential. These enabling factors help in amplifying the work.

The conditions are there to create the desired momentum in the coachees journey.  Conditions help the coachee to focus on the releasing his fullest potential

8. Unleashes the potential

Given our limiting beliefs which most of us are operating from, the coach has to access the fullest potential of the coachee.

Once the coachee realizes that he has so much more to access which can shift his performance, the coach works with him to unleash this full potential.

Lolly Daskal, a heart centered Leadership Expert, says

“Coaches are great leaders because they know how to unlock potential and motivate people to maximize their performance. In short, they help others learn to be their best.”

(via The Best Leaders Are Great Coaches)

This may be new skill sets or dormant behaviors which help the coachee to walk confidently into the future knowing that he has more resources than what he was operating from.

The task of the coach is to make the coachee see this and not direct him.

9. Nudges and points in the direction but not directional

The coach has to make the coachee see the potential for change and the resources which the coachee can harness.

The coach nudges him in that direction, but the idea is not to be directional.

It requires great patience from the coach to make that space and time for the coachee to get these insights himself.

This discovery process helps to make the journey more authentic, and the coachee is more aligned and committed compared to a directional approach. This also makes sure that the coach is not taking credit for the results.

10. Takes no credit for the change

While a coach may present results for credentials, there should not be any possessiveness of the results.

The results are always owned by the coachee.

The coach is only a facilitator in the journey.

This ability to remain a facilitator means that the coach has to practice deep listening with the coachee.

11. Deep Listening

The No.1 skill which the Coach needs to have is Listening.

Deep Listening. Why skill? Because most of us are trained to be speakers.

There is an overwhelming industry out there to support speaking under the guise of being inspirational.

Listening, on the other hand, is a skill which needs to be trained and developed. Especially Deep Listening.

What is that? The coach has to listen to what is unsaid.

Coach has to uncover the hidden assumptions behind the coachee’s statements.

Questions like “what needs to happen for this to be true?” leads the coachee to his deep-seated assumptions.

Assumptions which may stop him from bringing his A game.

The coach also needs to listen to get the complete picture and make sure he has understood the coachee’s context completely. Too often the temptation is to jump in and provide advice when this is the last thing a coach must do.

Coach has to create the space and the freedom for the coachee to express himself fully. This expression is possible only when the coach practices Deep Listening.

Listening also assumes that the coach has to always approach the coachee from a position of compassion

12. Compassionate about the client but firm on accountability

Compassion is what gets empathy going.

The coach has to give the benefit of doubt to the coachee. He cannot get judgmental and say “this coachee is hopeless or stupid.”

The coach has to understand that the most successful people also have self-sabotage patterns e.g. Tiger Woods. These sabotage patterns need to be understood, unraveled and healthy habits need to be brought into place.

Compassion creates the space for the coachee to share his deepest thoughts and feelings since he knows that there is no judgment in that space. Only when this shared space is created, then the coachee gets insights into his behavior, the actions, and its impact.

Once the coachee gets clear of the journey and has put his commitment to travel this journey, then the coach gets firm and holds the coachee accountable for the promises the coachee has made.

Coach hence needs to be aware of when he has to operate from compassion and when he has to be firm.

13. An Effective coach is also a coachee

Great Coaches thrive on feedback.

Most importantly, they are sensitive to the impact they are having on others.

They are sensitive to their emotions and know how to marshal the appropriate emotions in the coaching conversations.

After all, a coaching session is not a dry account of facts.

You need the right amount of joy, compassion, excitement, curiosity, empathy, perseverance, hustle and gentleness to make the coaching a living, thriving relationship.

Go ahead make the most of your coaching relationship and thrive in your business and life!

Next Steps:

Use the Coaching Checklist (link here). There is a separate checklist for coach and coachee. For Coaches, the checklist serves to bring their A Game to coaching and becoming a truly effective Coach. For Coachees, it will help in getting the best from their coaches and also evaluating if they have a Coach who is bringing the best in them.

Do share this post so that more people experience the joy and fulfillment from an effective Coaching relationship.


Top 10 Leadership Experts with Huge Social Followers

Reading Time: 9 minutes

The names appear in alphabetical order of the first names


Brian Tracy  Leadership Experts Santosh Kanekar

Twitter followers: 372k

Twitter link

Brian Tracy is Chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company specializing in the training and development of individuals and organizations.

Brian’s goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined.

Brian Tracy has consulted for more than 1,000 companies and addressed more than 5,000,000 people in 5,000 talks and seminars throughout the US, Canada, and 70 other countries worldwide. As a Keynote speaker and seminar leader, he addresses more than 250,000 people each year.

He has studied, researched, written and spoken for 30 years in the fields of economics, history, business, philosophy and psychology. He is the top selling author of over 70 books that have been translated into dozens of languages.

He has written and produced more than 300 audio and video learning programs, including the worldwide, best-selling Psychology of Achievement, which has been translated into more than 28 languages.

He speaks to corporate and public audiences on the subjects of Personal and Professional Development, including the executives and staff of many of America’s largest corporations. His exciting talks and seminars on Leadership, Selling, Self-Esteem, Goals, Strategy, Creativity and Success Psychology bring about immediate changes and long-term results.

What does Leadership mean to you?

“Leadership is the ability to get extraordinary achievement from ordinary people.

Free Resource

Download his 14 Step Goal-Setting Guide:

Brian’s Leadership Quotes (click link here)

What I learned from Brian

It is difficult to distil the impact of a person who has written 70 books. His words have always had an impact. The one closest to me is “Luck is predictable. If you want to be lucky, take more chances, show up more often”. His book “Eat that Frog” and its philosophy of getting your most important work done first thing in the morning has been my personal productivity mantra for years.


Daniel Pink Leadership Experts Santosh Kanekar

Twitter followers: 370k

Twitter link

Daniel H. Pink is the author of five provocative books — including three long-running New York Times bestsellers, A Whole New Mind, Drive, and To Sell is Human. Dan’s books have been translated into 35 languages and have sold more than 2 million copies worldwide. He lives in Washington, DC, with his wife and their three children.

In 2015, London-based Thinkers 50 named him, alongside Michael Porter and Clayton Christensen, as one of the top 10 business thinkers in the world.

Dan’s TED Talk on the science of motivation is one of the 10 most-watched TED Talks of all time, with more than 19 million views. His RSA Animate video about the ideas in his book, Drive, has collected more than 14 million views.

He was also host and co-executive producer of “Crowd Control,” a television series about human behavior on the National Geographic Channel.


Lots of useful stuff here -> link

What I learned from Daniel:

Without a doubt, his book Drive and its central theme of what motivates people made a huge impression on me. The premise is very simple: what would motivate me? I would like the freedom to do things which are meaningful and in a way which I want and feel free. If it works, I would like to get better at it. Isn’t this what most would want? I love this framework. I love the pinkcasts, which are available on his website, which are short snackable content.

Doug Conant Leadership Experts Santosh Kanekar

Twitter followers: 112k

Twitter link          Facebook link          LinkedIn link         YouTube link

Douglas R. Conant is a New York Times bestselling author and keynote speaker with over 40 years of leadership experience at world-class global companies – including a 10-year tenure as CEO & President of Campbell Soup Company, from 2001-2011. After retiring from Campbell, in 2011, he founded ConantLeadership — a mission-driven community of leaders and learners who are championing leadership that works in the 21st century.

Doug also serves as Chairman of the Kellogg Executive Leadership Institute (KELI) at Northwestern University, Chairman of CECP (formerly the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy), a Member of the Board of Directors at AmerisourceBergen, and a Member of the Advisory Board of Quiet Revolution. He is also the Former Chairman of Avon Products.

You can learn more about Doug here: https://conantleadership.com/about/doug-conant/

What does Leadership mean to you?

“Leadership that works is all about the people. To truly influence people with honor, and make a positive impact, we must be tough-minded on the standards of performance and tender-hearted with the people involved.”

Free Resource

the ConantLeadership Flywheel: https://conantleadership.com/conantleadershipflywheel/

What I learned from Doug

I find the Flywheel an excellent guide for leaders but what I love most is that it places Trust as the hub. Authenticity has become a big differentiator for leaders today and will remain so in the future. Doug brings out Trust as the secret ingredient which makes leadership a winning habit.


Irene Becker Leadership Experts Santosh Kanekar

Twitter followers: 36.8k

Twitter link

Irene is a thought leader, doer and trailblazer whose accomplishments include being first CEO of a steel company in Canada, developing one of the first business mentorship programs in the country, first woman Rotarian in Canada, leading a campaign that changed environmental law as well as a landmark case enfranchising the rights of child victims of abuse. Her story and the genesis of her 3Q Edge™ model, Against All Odds, has been read by over 500,000 people.

Recent 2015 and 2014  awards include: Top Leadership Blog: Leadership Insights, Top 100 Leadership Blogs, Center for Management & Organization Effectiveness,  Top 50 Sales Management Blogs-Ducati USA, Top 75 Human Champion-Switch & Shift, USA, Top 100 Employee Engagement Experts Online-Kevin Kruse, Best 21st Century Leadership Blogs-Serve to Lead, Top 1% Social Media Influencer-Kred. An adept champion of social media and keen social media strategist, Irene’s blog 3Q leadership blog and social media channels have a following of 50,000+.

What I learned from Irene

“The greatest opportunities lie in looking at things the way no one else does.” I love this quote by Irene. Her approach to get out of one’s comfort zone and “champion the opportunity” makes a lot of sense in today’s disruptive environment.

John C Maxwell Leadership Experts Santosh Kanekar

Twitter followers: 1.57M

Twitter link

John C. Maxwell is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, coach, and speaker who has sold more than 25 million books in 50 languages. In 2014 he was identified as the #1 leader in business by the American Management Association® and the most influential leadership expert in the world by Business Insider and Inc. magazine. He has also been voted the top leadership professional in the world on LeadershipGurus.net for six consecutive years. As the founder of The John Maxwell Company, The John Maxwell Team, EQUIP, and The John Maxwell Leadership Foundation, he has trained more than 5 million leaders. In 2015, he reached the milestone of having trained leaders from every country of the world. The recipient of the Mother Teresa Prize for Global Peace and Leadership from the Luminary Leadership Network, John speaks each year to Fortune 500 companies, presidents of nations, and many of the world’s top business leaders.

What I learned from John

I loved his books 5 levels of Leadership and 21 irrefutable laws of leadership. I find those principles operating in so many leaders I have coached. I love his Law of Connection “Touch a heart before you ask for a hand” as I believe this is a cornerstone of modern leadership.

Ken Blanchard Leadership Experts Santosh Kanekar

Twitter followers: 246k

Twitter link

A prominent, sought-after author, speaker, and business consultant, Dr. Blanchard is universally characterized by his friends, colleagues, and clients as one of the most insightful, powerful, and compassionate individuals in business today. Ken is one of the most influential leadership experts in the world and is respected for his years of groundbreaking work in the fields of leadership and management.

What I learned from Ken

With his prolific writing (over 60 books) and the famous One Minute Manager, there is a lot to learn from Ken. I love his quote “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” This, for me, is the foundation of leadership.

LaRae Quy Leadership Experts Santosh Kanekar

Twitter followers: 65.1k

Twitter link

LaRae Quy was an FBI counterintelligence and undercover agent who exposed foreign spies and recruited them to work for the U.S. Government. A good FBI counterintelligence investigation uncovers new information about the spy to gain deeper insights into what influences their behavior and attitudes. LaRae’s job was to dig beneath the surface, probe the unknown, and discover their identity. In the process, she ended up knowing more about the foreign spy than they knew about themselves.

LaRae was born and raised on a cattle ranch in Wyoming where she learned many of the survival skills she would need as an FBI agent. After twenty years as an undercover and counterintelligence agent, LaRae became the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California for four years. Although the job description had changed, she used the same set of communication skills to present both a compelling message and positive image of the FBI.

LaRae completed graduate studies at Arizona State University before joining the FBI. She has also completed graduate studies at San Francisco Theological Seminary.

Her Motto:

“Never ask, Can I do this? Instead ask, How can I do this?”

What does Leadership mean to you?

“Leadership is taking control of your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set you up for success.

Free Resource

Take the 45-question mental toughness assessment at http://www.laraequy.com/

What I learned from LaRae

If there is one person who personifies Grit for me, it is LaRae. From her upbringing to her tough training and tougher experience in FBI, she came out with flying colors with her Grit and native wisdom. She shares it all through her blog and her work. She combines her FBI experience with knowledge and gives tons of practical advice. Check out her book Secrets of A Strong Mind where she shares her learnings and its application to Leadership.

I love her concept of Emotional Competence. She says Emotional Competence is the cornerstone of Mental toughness. She believes that it is a skill which can be developed by all through guidance and practice. Every week I make it a point to read her blog as there is always something new and practical to learn.

Lolly Daskal Leadership Experts Santosh Kanekar

Twitter followers: 1.24M

Twitter link

Leadership Coach. Consultant. Facilitator. Speaker. Author.

Lolly Daskal is the founder of Lead from Within, a global leadership, executive coaching, and consulting firm based in New York City. The Huffington Post named her one of its “most inspiring women in the world.”

With more than 30 years of experience, Lolly has worked with numerous Fortune 500 companies and organizations of all sizes in a wide range of industries, including biomedical, energy, government, pharmaceuticals, technology, banking, finance, nonprofits, and startup entrepreneurs.

She is one of the most prolific and popular writers for Inc, Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Psych Today, Huff Po and others. She reads a book every day, and she believes in heart centered leadership and is all about bringing value to others.

She’s about to launch a huge book with Penguin/Portfolio. Her upcoming book is called: THE LEADERSHIP GAP: WHAT GETS BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR GREATNESS. It will help anyone who wants to succeed overcome their gaps and achieve their greatness.

What does Leadership mean to you?

Wherever you go, go with all your heart


Lolly Daskal award winning leadership blog: www.lollydaskal.com

What I learned from Lolly

Her insightful articles whether on her blog or Inc.com are very thought provoking and truly heart centered. Her emphasis on empathy and thoughtfulness as leadership quality is universal and I can relate to it completely. Her belief that the best Leaders are Coaches is something I truly believe in.

Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Experts Santosh Kanekar

Twitter followers: 39.9k

Linkedin Followers: 505k

Twitter link

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith is the Thinkers 50 #1 Leadership Thinker and #1 Executive Coach in the World. He is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Triggers, MOJO and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. Marshall is one of a select few advisors who have been asked to work with over 150 CEOs and their management teams.

Dr. Goldsmith is also known for

  • Delivering keynote speeches about leadership and coaching for professional associations, executive groups and human resource organizations.
  • Providing top-rated leadership training for executives and high-potential leaders.
  • Teaching leaders and HR professionals to become great coaches.
  • Coaching for leadership that ensures executives achieve and sustain long-term, positive behavioral change.
  • Maintaining a worldwide network of coaching resources to help address clients’ leadership development needs.
  • Building teamwork through the unique “team building without time wasting” process.
  • Delivering leadership training that helps leaders align their behaviors with their organization’s Leader of the Future profile.

What does Leadership mean to you?

Leadership is working with and through others to achieve objectives. While individual achievement is all about me – great leadership is all about them.



What I learned from Marshall:

I love his Stakeholder Centred Coaching model. By making stakeholder’s expectations explicit, he makes them partners in the coachee’s success. I also love his focus on results. Coaching has to deliver business, and personal results and Marshall lives up to the promise. I am always inspired by his vulnerability in sharing his personal stories and it is something I want to adopt.

Patrick Lencioni Leadership Experts Santosh Kanekar

Twitter followers: 44k

Twitter link

Best-selling author of several business books including The Five Dysfunctions of Team, and sought after speaker and consultant.

Pat is the founder of The Table Group and the author of 10 books which have sold nearly 5 million copies and been translated into more than 30 languages. The Wall Street Journal called him “one of the most in demand speakers in America.” He has addressed millions of people at conferences and events around the world over the past 15 years. Pat has written for or been featured in numerous publications including Harvard Business Review, Inc., Fortune, Fast Company, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek.

As CEO, Pat spends his time writing books and articles related to leadership and organizational health, speaking to audiences interested in those topics and consulting to CEOs and their teams.

What I learned from Pat:

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team was my first introduction to Pat and the searing insights he brought into how teams actually function inside organizations. His current work on Organizational Health as a source of competitive advantage is a fresh way of looking at this topic and brings the spotlight back on Leaders and their role in building Culture.



A Big Slim Indian Wedding and the lessons I learned

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Yippee! Wedding invitation. Let’s roll!

Not exactly my reaction when I get it.

For starters, it throws all my routines out of the window and then the noise just keeps increasing and the…

Enough with the rant.

This time was different.

A few weeks back, I was invited to a typical Indian wedding. And I was excited.

I was excited given it was my best friend’s sons wedding.

And it was for three days only. Only?

Well, a lavish wedding nowadays is spread over five days and can be more.

So this is where the slim starts.

I had misgivings on how raucous it would be. But, turned out it was great fun.

Lots of laddoos, assorted ceremonies and dance later, as I was nursing my tired bones, I realized that not only was it the most organized wedding I had experienced, it was one of the most organized events I had seen.

Here’re the impressions that I came back with:

Cool as cucumber

My friend (Groom’s dad) was cool throughout. I finally on day two asked him. “you don’t look a shade worried and are very cool. What is the secret?”

He said “Early on I realized I am not able to do this all by myself. I identified team leaders and gave them charge of various activities. Hence I can make the most of this.”

The D word popped in my mind.


I have always observed this quality in the most successful people. They know that for their effective functioning, they have to delegate.

Many years back, when I started my working career, I used to micro-manage everything and used to be very stressed, trying to be on top of everything. It also took its toll on my health very fast. I learned this lesson by looking at my colleague who seemed effortless in what he worked. The key: Delegation. Those days we were product managers, so we did not have anyone reporting to us. He still managed to delegate, even upwards!

What should you delegate? Is there a method?

Rory Varden talks about this in his book Procrastinate on Purpose. He talks about how successful people manage to Create Time. That’s right, Create Time! By always being clear about their priorities and then giving oneself five permissions, they clear out tasks and focus only on those items which generate the maximum impact.

Gary Keller in his book The One Thing calls it Focusing Question:

What is the One Thing I can do such that by doing it everything will be easier or unnecessary?

Once this is identified, your management of time becomes easier, and you don’t waste time on unnecessary activities. This focus also paves the way for identifying people who you will delegate the work.

Do You need a Lion or an Elephant?

An interesting insight which my friend shared was how he shared work amongst the team leaders.

One of the biggest aspects of an Indian wedding is the food. After many years, people in India may not remember the specifics of the wedding but will remember if you served great food or just ok.

My friend got someone who loves his food (and talks with great relish) to be in charge of the Food.

But for clearing all the bills and payments, he asked his friend (who is a CFO in his day job) to manage it.

He similarly allocated the various tasks like Guest co-ordination, room planning, etc. depending on their strengths. What genius!

Delegation is complete only when the projects or tasks are allocated depending on the person’s strengths.

Some are good at overall project management while others love to get into details. Some like to be with teams and energizing and inspiring them; others like to work alone and do a lot of strategic planning.

By playing to the strengths of people, each one feels fulfilled with the task and is naturally doing his best. Even an obstacle seems very much part of the way, and they easily surmount it.

But all this work starts with first asking for help.

Can you help me, please?

The unspoken aspect of Delegation is Asking for Help.

Quite often, people struggle in this. Either they think it beneath them to ask for help, or they feel shy asking for help.

Asking for Help is a critical part of Delegation.

It is an acknowledgment that “I cannot do everything and I need help.” It is also means acknowledging that other people maybe better than me doing that work.

Asking for help also means enlisting their time and effort.

I have to be respectful of other people’s time and effort. Once I ask them for help, and they agree, I need to spell out the exact output which is expected.

They can make their judgment of how much they can commit to it. Delegation does not mean dumping work on people but being respectful of their abilities and time.

After that, I must be ready to surrender the task to them completely. No looking over the shoulder!

If I continue looking over the shoulder, then I will defeat the entire purpose of this exercise and waste time further. Off course, certain milestones and quality parameters need to be agreed in advance so that when the planned review comes up, it is a clear, logical conversation rather than an anxiety filled performance appraisal.

This agreement makes sure that there is a smooth flow in the project.

Like a gentle flowing river

I was struck by how over the three days everything was just flowing. Smoothly.

Often rigid deadlines invoke anxiety prone and stressed results. While some milestones are non-negotiable, we often focus too much on reaching the destination than the journey.

I remember in my Innovation Stage Gate calls (project evaluation calls), the project sponsors and Gatekeepers would always focus their questions on the process and how we got there while the project members would focus on what was delivered.

The journey is as important if not more than the destination.

Why so? Isn’t business about results and delivery? It is. But, there is more to it.

If we focus only on deadlines, we will miss the learnings which come our way.

This emphasis is especially so about Innovation projects. They are designed to maximize learning. At each stage, the gatekeeper wants to know what have we learned which gives us the confidence that we need to proceed to the next stage. It is never about the reaching the gate milestones.

Some of the innovation questions to ask are:

  • With a new product or service, we want to know whether the customers are excited by them? If yes, why so. If not, why so?
  • Are the suppliers confident of incorporating this new line within their supply schedules?
  • Is the production team prepared to add this extra line of production?
  • Is your front end equipped to explain and deliver this new product or service? Do they have the required skills to deliver this?

Organization needs to maximize the learning during this journey so that the rest of the process becomes smoother. When departments are working seamlessly, and people are clear about what they want to do and how to do it, it is as if the entire organization is in a flow.

This flow has to be ensured by the Senior Leadership

Let’s dance together

One of the behaviors I noticed in the wedding was how the families from both sides were joined at the hip.

They were working seamlessly to make sure that all the guests had a great time and at the same time, the main wedding went off smoothly.

The smoothness could happen because the seniors on both sides of the family were clearly working together as a team.

This is so true in business. The senior leadership needs to be completely in sync with what needs to be done and how it is to be done.

A critical aspect for this is the Alignment Mindset

I talk about this in my book Stop Reset Start.

When the seniors or managers leading the teams are aligned, then, it helps people down the line to know exactly what needs to be done. There is one voice in the organization and one direction. This alignment then helps in the subsequent planning.

How much Planning would three days of wedding require?

Seven months.

For seven months, my friend and his friends in the team had meticulously planned and executed all the details.

Projects which are clearly designated esp Innovation projects, how much time is required may be obvious. But I would say for any consumer-facing event whether it is a new campaign or a refreshment in the product or service line, the same rules of planning apply.

Does this mean everything should take seven months or more to plan and execute? Absolutely not.

It does mean that for any customer facing work, Planning for the execution is critical. Often, planning is done at objectives level and then the details are left to various departments to figure them out.

Each task at heart has a question: Who will do what by when by how much (money, time, effort)?

An overall Project Management Office often helps in having an overall picture of the different projects running in the organization and esp the interlinkages.

This picture of interlinkages is why for Innovation projects, it is a must to have a shared project team which meets virtually and charts how the different moving parts are coming together.

Knowing how everything is playing out also means that people are not anxious but are relaxed and in fact, having fun while doing their work.

Let’s have some fun

It is obvious that the guests at the wedding had a lot of fun. But, what about the hosts? In Indian weddings, I have often seen the hosts and the bride and bridegroom rushing from one ritual to another activity, and often they look completely stressed in the midst of all the joy which everyone else is experiencing.

Not this wedding. The hosts were singing and dancing and smiling throughout.

With complete alignment amongst them and clarity on who is doing what, they could enjoy what was happening around them.

Businesses often forget that work is an emotional experience.

It need not be all serious and dreary meetings and gloomy workplace which make a graveyard seem like an EDM party.

Employees need a sense of fulfillment.

They need to engage with the company and its purpose.

This engagement makes work seem fun and people are always willing to give more.

While a lot of focus is given nowadays to how the workplace should look esp in the startup world, there is a growing interest and acceptance of the need for engagement of the teams and the employees.

It is when people are happy and look forward to coming to their work; it becomes a joy, and it flows through the organization.


While I may have added a few inches by all the food I ate and the late partying, I feel lighter with the joy and happiness which I experienced not only for myself but my friend and his extended family.

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5 Steps to Stunning Change in Your Life

14 Daily Habits of Highly Successful People

The Power of Saying Yes

How Michael Phelps Can Inspire Your Startup

Reading Time: 4 minutes

“I want to be able to look back and say, ‘I’ve done everything I can, and I was successful.’ I don’t want to look back and say I should have done this or that.” Michael Phelps

Unless you are living on another planet, you could not have missed the incredible medal haul of Phelps.

How does one man achieve so much? Is it because of his 6ft 8in wing span and body shape which helps him conquer the swimming pool? Or is there something more?

And What does this mean for you and your startups?

#1 Start early and focus on what you are best

“If you want to be the best, you have to do things other people aren’t willing to do.”

Michael Phelps started training at the age of 7 and never looked back.

While there is a time and place for early adopters, the startup world rewards the early movers disproportionately. There is research which says that the first one gets 80% of the available value and the next one 14%. The rest fight for the 6%.

Always ask the question “what benefit is my offering giving to the customers?” Once you are clear, and your customer responds to it, focus on it. Keep practicing and improving.

#2 Sharpen your axe every day

Phelps has done swimming from the age of 7 and swam every day. Every Day!

Can you imagine that kind of commitment? Whatever the weather conditions, he would don his swimming cap and goggles and start swimming. This sheer dedication to the craft helped him put the distance between him and others.

Anders Erickson was the first to discover the 10,000-hour rule for expert performance.

The only way to get to that is practice every day.

I was recently in a pitch presentation, and a startup in the VR field said their AI machine had clocked 500k minutes of database, and this is its competitive advantage.

An early start is what will put the distance between your enterprise and others.

#3 Prepare for the worst

2008 Olympics. It’s the 200-metre butterfly finals. Phelps goggles are getting filled with water. He is unable to see clearly. What does he do? He keeps swimming as if nothing has changed. In the final lap, the goggles are completely filled, and he is nearly blind. Outcome: not only does he win the gold he sets a new record.

If there is one thing you can say for sure in business, it is this: Things will go wrong.

And when they do, you should be prepared.

An Ex-Australian Navy officer once told me, which stuck with me all my life: “You can never be shocked twice.”

If you prepare for the worst outcome, you will overcome it when it presents itself. Build the Ownership mindset in your employees so that you have an extra pair of eyes and ears on the ground.

What are the outcomes which you need to prepare for?

Flood of negative reactions from Customers

Cash running dry

Key personnel leaving you

Most large businesses have a written document titled Business Continuity Planning. Prepare for disasters and you will pole vault them when required

#4 You are limited by your beliefs

You can’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you get. – Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder at the age of seven. Imagine if he or his family decided to use that as a label for him. How limiting would that have been?

Ian Thorpe, who was his competitor, at one time famously said that no one could beat Mark Spitz’s seven gold medal haul. Phelps broke it with eight golds in the 2008 Olympics.

What a way to silence the naysayers!

Once you startup, you should focus on the business you have. Keep thinking about the customer and what you can do.

Learn from the mistakes of others.

As long as you are focused on the customer, you will always aim high and every day, you will generate new ideas to satisfy the customer.

Keep testing and churning out ways to delight your customer.

Don’t be limited by what is possible. Dream and aim high. Focus always on delighting the customer.

#5 Start Again

All was not rosy with Michael Phelps two years back. There is the infamous alcohol incident and his subsequent rehab. But he did not let it define him. When everyone had given up on him, and he had “retired”, he came back for one more shot at “immortality.”

There will be times when the going will be tough. You may even find yourself on the knees, down and beaten. It may even look like a dead end.

Hunker down, batten down the hatches.

Find out what makes you great. What do your customers love you for? Seek out the customers who love what you have to offer. Get the reinforcement. Get the team together and your investors in a huddle. Recraft your operations if necessary.

Get the team together and your investors in a huddle. Recraft your operations if necessary.

Start again. Come back with renewed energy.

True champions don’t always have smooth sailing. They also taste the dust sometimes.

What separates them from losers is that they come back, they start again.

Grit your teeth, spit the blood, fight the dust off and rise again. Be a Gladiator.

The podium of success awaits your moment of glory.


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Do You Want To Change Your Life For The Better?

Reading Time: 7 minutes

1938. Karoly Takacs was writhing in pain. The 1936 world class pistol shooter had just shot his right hand. His right hand by which he would hold his pistol.

The pain of the extinguished hopes was more than the physical pain. Everyone looking at him said “A great career which could have been has just ended” Or did it?

By 1939 i.e. in a year’s time, he won the National Shooting Championship. Olympics was cancelled in 1940 and 1944 due to World War 2. Finally in 1948 Olympics, after waiting for nine years, he wold the Gold medal and also in the next Helsinki Olympics in 1952.

He won all these championships by his LEFT Hand.

Back in 1938, He could have easily moaned in grief and led a victim’s life which everyone would have shown sympathy to. Instead he rose above his physical and mental challenges and achieved the impossible.

You may say “I am not an Olympic Athlete. How is this relevant to me?”

Let me ask you: “Do You want today to be better than yesterday?” If yes, then this is for you.

Because if you focus on the very core aspects of your life then your today is going to be better than yesterday.

What are these core elements?



Deliberate practice



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Purpose Trumps Passion.

This is one of the foundations of Cal Newport’s book So Good They Can’t Ignore You. Why so?

Lets look at what these terms mean:

Purpose: The reason for which something exists, a person’s sense of resolve or determination

Passion: strong and barely controllable emotion, an outburst of emotion, an intense desire or enthusiasm for something

Do you see the difference? Where would you hitch your ride to?

Having a purpose becomes a guiding beacon in our life.

Does that mean Passion has no place? We all are energized by our passion. But would it last for long?

If you asked Steve Jobs in his 20s about his passion, he would have said “Eastern Mysticism”

Too often what we think is passion, is actually a keen interest. When we are done satisfying it, we move to another “passion” and then after some time we find ourselves rudderless.

Purpose is that rudder in our life.

Why do athletes and sportspeople achieve so much? They live every day in service of that purpose.

Often people say “I don’t know what my purpose is?”

Look back in your life. Find out when you have been most joyous or felt most fulfilled or energized.

It could be as far back as your childhood or college days. There lie the seeds of your purpose. Maybe there was something about discovery or about organizing things or about achieving something.

Relate those incidents to your other significant life experiences and you will find a pattern.

If you cant find anything, then ask yourself “Whom can I serve? What can I do which can help someone?”

Don’t be limited by time or money. You can help people by just being there.

Volunteer for some cause. Often, People discover their purpose when they do volunteer work.

I believe that at our very core, we all want to serve others because this interconnectedness is what keeps this world moving. We just are waiting to discover it.

Whatever the purpose, there is a power which comes to it when you Focus on that one single purpose


What separates a Purpose from a To-Do list is SKILL.

Why skill?

Like all skills, it needs to be developed and nurtured.

Once Focus is developed, you bring the power of concentration in your life.

Focus helps in excluding the non-essential and concentrating on the most essential things.

No wonder Daniel Goleman, the pioneer of Emotional Intelligence, in his book calls Focus as the Driver of Excellence.

Focus narrows your attention to the most important part of your life.

With Purpose as your beacon, you ask yourself “what is the single most important thing in my life which will deliver my purpose? What is the one thing which will make the most important impact this year and this month?”

Gary Keller and Jay Papasan in their book The One Thing brings this point out repeatedly as how focus on the one thing has a transformational effect.

The flip side of focus is you stay away from multi-tasking. While multi-tasking looks and sounds exciting, it does not generate the results.

A study done by Clifford Nass, a Psychology Professor in Stanford University, found out “Multitaskers were just lousy at everything”. [Link Here]

As Gary Keller and Jay Papasan vividly point out “People can actually do two or more things at once, such as walk and talk; but what we can’t do is focus on two things at once”

Notice the word Focus again. That is the key.

Bring Focus in your life and unlock the powers of concentration. This key is not easy to find and needs practice.

Deliberate Practice

It is only when we undertake deliberate practice around building a particular skill, we become a force to reckon with.

We have all heard about the 10,000 hour rule for experts.

Anders Ericsson (Link here) who first came up with this rule, had one more critical element along with it.

10,000 hours of deliberate practice.

You need to not only practice but also bring in deliberate practice.

Angela Duckworth of GRIT fame mentions how she asked Anders Ericsson how deliberate practice works. It is not just repeating something over and over again. It is about setting up the entire skill into small chunks, seeing the linkages between them and then, setting up a feedback system.

How does this work?

Suppose you want to become fitter and have decided to run every day.

Just running every day 1 hour and clocking 10,000 hour is not going to make the world’s fittest person.

You need to start with a goal: what do you want to achieve in that one hour? Certain distance or calories burned or both?

Next, you will break down the run into prep, actual run and post run.

You will break the run into equal units.

Now you will monitor each of these every day with the aim to get better every day.

Every day in some small way. Maybe you will run 10m more or 100m more every day. May be your speed will increase 0.5% every day. Keep the increase very small because cumulatively they will generate a massive impact.

Gain feedback from each of this stage. What is working? Do more of it. What is not working? Do less of it.

You will hate this but no music while running. Why? The best of runners bring awareness into every moment to be with the experience and learn from it.

Building the Awareness muscle is the key to Deliberate Practice Click To Tweet

Can you see the elements of deliberate practice now?

This process helps in entrenching what is working. It creates new neural networks which not only retain memory of what you are doing but also add to your self image that “It is like me to make measurable progress every day”. This discipline of doing it every day will eventually translate into a healthy habit


One of the most powerful forces in your life is the force of Habit.

Once entrenched, they become unshakeable. What is important is you need to have habits which create a transformative effect.

In their book, The One Thing, Gary Keller and Jay Papasan give the example of Michael Phelps the Olympic Swimming Legend. In kindergarten, his mother was told “He’s not gifted, Your son will never be able to focus on anything”.

When the latest Olympic Games got over, his gold medal count was 23 making him the most decorated in the Olympian history. What changed?

Somewhere at age 12, Phelps decided to swim every day: seven days a week, 365 days a year. He did that from age 12 till those Olympics.

He focused all his energy into one task – swimming daily such that at some point it became a habit and not something he had to push himself to.

Think about a daily habit most of us have? Brushing our teeth.

Initially, your parents had to use all their persuasion to get you to brush every morning but over time, this has become a habit for you.

There is another effect of habits. They act as levers. Not only do you change one thing, you setoff a ripple effect which changes everything around us.

Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit  gives several examples of this. He gives the example of how lady shifted from chain smoking to jogging and it changed how she ate, slept, worked and saved money. Areas where you won’t normally associate that it would have an effect on but they do. He calls it as the Keystone Habit.

Keystone Habits have a ripple effect across our life and touch all aspects Click To Tweet

This is the power of habits. There are many functional habits which you can work at but one habit which will have a transformational effect is expressing Gratitude.


The Youth Gratitude Project Research convincingly shows that grateful youth are happier, more satisfied with their lives, friends, family, neighborhood, and selves. (Link here)

They also report more hope, engagement with their hobbies, higher GPAs, and less envy, depression, and materialism.

Does this mean you have to say “Praise the Lord” everyday? Not necessarily.

If you look around, there are millions of things happening right now to make sure you are successful in whatever you are setting yourself out for.

The sun has risen giving us the warmth we need and the nourishment that the plants need to start the food cycle.

People have reached their place of work early or are working to keep the electricity going, the traffic signals working, trains and buses running, your office is lit up and charged for your presentations and your computers, the hot coffee, the lovely chairs and the table of your meeting room: you get the picture.

Yes you might be paying money for it but everyone is doing their part so that you can do your part.

Patricia Ryan Madson, Emerita Stanford University, in her book, Improv Wisdom calls it the Silent Gifts.

Everyday is Christmas if you are thankful for the silent gifts which have come your way Click To Tweet

Harvard Medical School reports (link here) that people who thank more frequently or better still, maintain a Gratitude Journal report lesser diseases, are more healthier and happier than average.

Whom will you thank today?

One of the techniques which has helped me is the POST technique: People, Opportunities, Situations, Things.

We are quick to thank when we get things but there are people who make impact on our life, opportunities which open new directions to our life and situations which help us learn about ourselves and others, which are more powerful.


So the Core elements of change are:

  1. Purpose
  2. Focus
  3. Deliberate practice
  4. Habits
  5. Gratitude

Finally, these are only tools to create a positive force in our life. How and how much we apply it in our life will decide whether how big will the transformation be in your life.

Bronnie Ware is a writer and songwriter from Australia who spent several years caring for dying people in their homes. In her fascinating book The Top Five Regrets Of the Dying, she says that the one of the highest regrets, dying people have is

“I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me”

No matter what experiences you had in the past, today is the chance to make the change.

Live your life so that your epitaph boldly states, ‘No regrets. H Jackson Brown Click To Tweet

Will You bring about change in Your Life?


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14 Daily Habits of Highly Successful People

Reading Time: 9 minutes


Most days, your day starts with tumbling out of the bed to shut off the alarm, a quick shower, then, coffee while running out of the door. A long ride in the traffic to the office, a long to-do list is made with your head in the hand, a day which goes by in a blur and before you know it, you are back in the bed staring at the ceiling, wondering “One more day gone!”

How is it that some people seem to do so much within one day while you are just about ticking the 6th item on the task list?

If you study the habits of the successful people, you can unlock the keys for a joyful and highly productive day. Want to know more? Read on.

The habits that I have studied are:

  1. Successful people get up early and start early
  2. Create a Positive Mindset for the day
  3. Have a Ritual to start the day
  4. Clear about the Big Picture and how the day serves that
  5. Seek to Serve people around them
  6. Eat properly and the right foods
  7. Seek Feedback throughout the day
  8. Aware of the Impact on others
  9. Fully Present in meetings
  10. Create time instead of managing it
  11. Bring Clarity to their life and their teams
  12. They take Time Out
  13. Grateful for the day has offered
  14. Wind down the day at the right time

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Successful people get up early and start early

The sun has not caught me in bed in fifty years - Thomas Jefferson Click To Tweet

A landmark research by Christoph Randler shows people whose performance peaks in the morning are better positioned for career success. Here is a list of Successful CEOs and Entrepreneurs start their day early. While most would start by 6 am or even 7 am, they begin the day by 4:30 – 5 am. The early start has multiple advantages: the quiet time allows for setting the right direction for the day. Starting early means you have a head start on everyone. You are also using the extra time available for doing the most important things of the day. Imagine having that valuable time in the morning to connect with your deepest resources and creating a state which brings out the best? What would you do?

Create a Positive Mindset for the day

Every morning you have two choices - continue to sleep with dreams or wake up and chase your… Click To Tweet

Albert Einstein said this was “The most important decision” Ask yourself. Would you want to start the day grumpy and hopeless or would you want to feel optimistic and raring to meet the day with all its glorious opportunities? I am sure you chose the latter. How would you do it? By having a routine for it which sets you in the right frame of mind. It starts as Einstein suggested by putting the thought in your mind that the world is positive, and there are good things to look forward to it.

My personal mantra is “Thank you God for giving me this gift of life for another day. I look forward to the world which is full of opportunities” We are blessed every day with the act of waking up. Ask all those families whose loved ones don’t. It is true that the world has many opportunities which we need to recognize and harness. If nothing else, the day is full of opportunities to improve yourself. What would you want to say to yourself first thing in the morning?

Have a Ritual to start the day

Yoga is a light: The better your practice, the brighter the flame - B.K.S. Iyengar Click To Tweet

The thought is only the beginning. Successful people build a ritual which they adhere to day after day. The ritual could be meditation, yoga, a gym routine or even a 5 mile run in the morning. Research shows that even ten mins of meditation helps in combating anxiety, stress, cardiovascular diseases and chronic pains. It releases important hormones which put you immediately in a highly productive state. A proper mind and body routine in the morning preps the mind for a high-performance state which lasts longer than just having coffee and making a dash for the office.

The key is also consistency. Whatever the routine, stick to it. If you do 15 mins Yoga, make sure you do it every day. If you do ten mins of CrossFit, make sure you do it every day. This consistency builds the neural networks which create a positive self-image. You create a self-image which says “I keep the promises which I make to myself.” Ove time and especially in times of crunch, when you want to draw on your reserves for facing challenges, this one statement will ride you out of the challenges ahead.

Clear about the Big Picture and how the day serves that

What is The One Thing I can Do, such that by doing everything else will be easier or… Click To Tweet

Successful people are Purpose Driven. Cal Newport in his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You makes a persuasive case for why Purpose-driven work trumps Passion. This focus on purpose and its fulfillment help in creating the positive wave which they ride through the day. Purpose driven individuals also feel less or no fatigue compared to task based ones. They are clear about the What and the Why before the How. Gary Keller in The One Thing encourages you to ask the question “What’s the One thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” Successful people are clear about how this one day helps the week which in turn serves the month and hence, the year ahead. This helps them serve not only their agenda but also serve others.

Seek to Serve people around them

Only a life lived in the service to others is worth living - Albert Einstein Click To Tweet

Successful people are clear about what they want. More importantly, they are clear how about how they want to serve and enhance other people’s lives. They always ask the question “How can I help?” By relentlessly focusing on the serving others, their family, their teams and their community are always getting the best from them. This emphasis also creates a deep sense of fulfillment which powers their day ahead. Have you experienced that fulfillment when you spent a day in the charity of your choice? Do you remember how your mood was at the end of the day? Now Imagine if every day you went out with the concept of serving your team, your family, and your community. How would that be?

Eat properly and the right foods

Eat less from the box and more from the earth. Click To Tweet

This might seem an odd habit, but it is an important routine for highly productive people. We know that the best in the field of sports and high-performance areas make sure that they eat correctly. Why should it be different for anyone else in the business? The critical idea is to have a no fuss routine. Successful people know what foods keep them in productive conditions and more importantly, what foods will make them sluggish. They know that having a heavy steak night, before an important client meeting next day, is not an option. We derive our energy through breath and the foods we eat. We have a limited way to control what we breathe; we can surely exercise judgment and build awareness around what foods bring out the best in us.

Seek Feedback throughout the day

Successful people use failures to sharpen their intuition - Gordana Biernat Click To Tweet

We expend a lot of energy speaking and also learn very less compared to listening. Successful people listen more. They know what they know and also, what they do not know. They are always listening because that way they are continuously getting new perspectives to what they know and rapidly reducing the items, they do not know. Listening also helps them understand what the other person’s needs and desires are. By helping other people reach their needs and desires, successful people create impact for themselves and others.

Aware of the Impact on others

He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened - Lao Tsu Click To Tweet

This is a point which I cover in my book Stop Reset Start under the leadership section. Successful people are sensitive to others and the impact they are having on others. By tuning into how other people are receiving and processing information and more importantly, what emotional states the team is passing through, they harness the productivity of the teams.

At present, there is a disconnect between what the C-suite thinks is important and what Teams want. Research done by The Economist amongst 4000 professionals shows that Teams expect their Leaders to demonstrate more Emotional Intelligence. Successful leaders know that because they operate from that mindset i.e. human beings are rational and emotional beings. What gives meaning to their actions is Emotions. Successful leaders are in tune with the emotions of those around them. How would you think they would behave in meetings?

Fully Present in meetings

Future depends on what you do Today - Mahatma Gandhi Click To Tweet

Productive people are fully present in the moment. When they attend meetings, they either put their cellphones and watch alerts on off or keep it with their assistant. Their focus is on the person speaking and the team in the room. Since they are always working at improving their sensitivity, they keep away the distractions and tune into what the person is saying. More importantly, the ability to tune into person helps them understand what the person is not saying – his fears, his desires, his ambition. This ability to be fully present is aided by the morning routine of meditation or yoga. This ability brings the much-needed clarity and confidence when successful people make decisions as they know where everyone would be on any decision he or she take. It also helps them in knowing which work is best done by others hence creating time for them.

Create time instead of managing it

We lose time by not knowing where we're going - Rory Vaden Click To Tweet

Rory Vaden in his book Procrastinate on Purpose talks about how successful people create time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2X7c9TUQJ8

In a very persuasive manner, he brings out this important distinction between those who manage time (the usual time management techniques which fail) and the effective practice of Creating time.

You may wonder how is that possible? Successful people have a clear system of delegating and automating tasks. They always ask the question “Where do I add the maximum impact? Which are the tasks which I can automate? Which tasks can I delegate?” This makes sure that the work they focus on, generates the highest impact. At the same time, by automating the repetitive tasks and delegating tasks which can do it better than them, they free time for themselves which they can use for creating the maximum impact. This focus on creating time also brings clarity on what is important.

Bring clarity to their life and their teams

Make your vision so clear that your fears become irrelevant Click To Tweet

Successful people bring clarity in their life and for their teams. While they accept ambiguity and uncertainty as aspects of life, they also recognize that the people around them would want them to be clear. They bring clarity on their purpose and for those around them. They bring clarity on the direction which they and their teams are headed to. They bring out the best in their teams and themselves by being focused on the items which bring the maximum impact – for their teams, their business, their family and themselves.

They take Time Out

When in doubt, choose the kids. There will be plenty of time later to choose work - Anna… Click To Tweet

In the evening, they could be present with their friends, family or community. This may or may not happen every day, but it is important for successful people to be in tune with those close to them. It is part of their heart-centered leadership. It is part of their fulfillment. It is an integral part of who they are. Their life is not compartmentalized but integrated. They know being with their loved ones, their friends and the community builds the positive virtuous cycle of fulfillment for them. This engagement with the personal goals helps them aware of the silent gifts received by them through the day for which they are grateful.

Grateful for the day has offered

Gratitude is the Parent of all other Virtues - Marcus Cicero Click To Tweet

Successful people, regardless of their faith, are grateful for the gifts received during the day. They acknowledge that there many factors which create the success which they desire and achieve. They are grateful for the help and support received by them throughout the day. Some may end the day with a prayer. The net result is the same. Being grateful is an acknowledgment of all the silent gifts we received through the day. The universe has played its part during the day, and the least we can do is thank it. Gratitude is the only currency in the Universe.

Is there anything left just before you go to sleep?

Wind down the day at the right time

Sleep is the best form of meditation - Dalai Lama Click To Tweet

A crucial part of their routine is to wind down at the right time. Research shows the Gratitude leads to great sleep. A great liftoff for the next day starts with closing the night at the right time. Good sleep is a priority for successful people. In her book The Sleep Revolution, Arianna Huffington talks about how sleep has a direct impact on decision making, our health, our work and personal lives. Before the end the day, Successful people mark out what needs to be accomplished the next day. It is an important part of the sleep ritual and makes sure that there is a closure to the day. Research shows how we need to have a digital sunset the blue light emitted by our smartphones and other digital devices disrupt our sleep cycle. It is important we pay attention to our sleep just as the successful people do.

In summary:

Successful people get up early and start early

Create a Positive Mindset for the day

Have a Ritual to start the day

Clear about the Big Picture and how the day serves that

Seek to Serve people around them

Eat properly and the right foods

Seek Feedback throughout the day

Aware of the Impact on others

Fully Present in meetings

Create time instead of managing it

Bring Clarity to their life and their teams

They take Time Out

Grateful for the day has offered

Wind down the day at the right time

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The Power of Saying Yes, Responsibility of saying No

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Do you know that by the time you reach 18 you have heard NO around 10,000 times?

No wonder we get used to hearing NO. What is worse for business is we get used to saying NO to others. NO to new ideas, new initiatives, new ways of working. The common refrain “We don’t do it this way here”If it ain’t broke, Don’t fix it.”

It requires an outsider like Starbucks to show what Nestle should have done a long time back.

This post is about how key decision makers in your organization may be operating and why it may stop you from unleashing the best.

Quite often people act from The Power of saying NO and Responsibility of saying YES mode. Let me show how:

Managers often will say NO to a subordinate’s plan for a new style or new idea or an innovative way of doing things. This comes from the feeling that “I have the power to say NO” and I am going to use it liberally.

However, when it comes to saying yes, low performing managers think “I’ll have to explain why this works. Tomorrow something goes wrong I will be blamed” so they feel a certain heaviness of saying YES.

Over time, the organization becomes “safe” and “follows procedures” rather than taking risks to deliver more value to the customer.

Now contrast this with what I am saying:

What if Leaders felt the power of saying YES. They should feel that they have taken one more step in adding value to customers. I have taken one more step in beating the competition. I have taken one more step in making my team think and deliver innovation.

And If I say NO, then I have the responsibility of not making any of the above happen. Not only am I crushing someone’s dream, but I am also reducing the company’s future growth potential.

Now if someone has this doubt “Hey, does that mean I allow every wild dreamy idea out there?” The answer to it is: judge it whether it adds value to the customer, beats competition or increases the innovation and growth in the company, If Yes, Feel the Power of YES.

As a leader, are you building this culture in your team and organization?

For more actionable insights for improving your Leadership, check out my book

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9 Insanely Helpful Ways To Keep Startup Marketing Lean And Effective

Reading Time: 6 minutes

As a startup founder or CEO, you need to run a lean operation which can get the promised growth fast. You have secured your round of funding; you want to get out there and make the most of the plans that you have outlined and secured an approval. But, we have also seen how yesteryear unicorns are going through markdowns or downrounds.

You want to make sure that your marketing is geared for delivering the growth, develops and executes programs which run fast and have the most impact.

Find below the ways by which you can keep your marketing team and programs, lean and efficient.

Focus on core objective – conversions

There could be multiple goals floating around: Generate traffic, generate leads, convert to prospects and then sales or convert a ready list into sales – whatever is the objective, you need to focus on the One Thing, which generates the most impact in your business. Your One Thing is led by your commitments to the investor team in your last review meeting or funding round. If it is traffic generation then focus on getting the maximum number of people coming to the site or place. If it is Gross Merchandise Value then with traffic you need fast conversions, and hence, marketing efforts will focus on conversions and promotions.

A big hairy goal can then be made byte sized for actions. How?

Break the mountain into pieces

Start with a goal drill down into monthly goals.

Based on the Focus, which you have decided, break the overall target into monthly goals. Then, convert them into weekly deliverables. These should be on your screen or in front of you every time. This Focus, also, makes sure that teams are not working on various nice-to-have items. One team is working on one goal.

Now, break down the weekly deliverables into daily tasks.

Checklist your way to success. Checklists are the number one difference between a highly efficient and inefficient operation. A pilot in any airline swears by his checklist and hence has a higher success ratio.

Checklists are the number one difference between a highly efficient and inefficient operation Click To Tweet

A Checklist also helps in guiding your focus to the things which have the maximum impact.

Focus on the One thing TODAY

What will make the maximum impact on the business today, then tomorrow and day after?

Based on your cascade from Core objective to monthly goals to weekly deliverables, every day you need to prioritize those things which will generate the maximum impact. Again, the power of the few gets amplified when you work on the most impactful item now. When you meet any of your team members, ask them, what is the most impactful thing, you are working on today? Be ready with your answer for what is the most impactful for you too? Ideally, what is most impactful for you should be the same as the marketing person, the only difference would be the actions you are taking.

Once we are clear about what we want to do, then we can use the right media to amplify the message.

Use social media to amplify the message

You must be already on social media, however, have you prioritized it? I sincerely hope that you are not present in all the channels because you need to create buzz. The first decision of which social media you need to be must be decided by where your audience is.

Your customer profile decides which social media you need to focus your marketing on Click To Tweet

Once you zero onto the one medium or max two media, you need to tailor the content and programs depending on the medium. The campaigns you would do LinkedIn would be vastly different from the ones done on Instagram.

Ask your team to follow some of the big social media mavens out there who have tons of content on how to boost your social media efforts.

Keeping your social media efforts focused on one or max two will go a long way in keeping your team lean and your programs impactful.

This focus will help you in testing which messages work best in which media.

What are you testing today?

Treat every campaign ideas as a test and compare two different campaigns.

We have all heard about A/B testing.

However what lies at the heart of this is the testing mindset. By daily setting up tests, over three months’ time, your team will have enough data not only on the customers’ habits and preferences but also on which marketing programs work and why. Testing also removes the emotional attachment to “pet projects” and trust me everyone in marketing has a pet project.

Help the team develop a testing mindset 

With the data you have, you can allocate more funds to the programs which are delivering your objectives at the best cost-benefit equation.

Testing also brings excitement in marketing and the learning improves helping them get better every day at what they are doing. It is just like your product team which is testing every day and churning out “beta” ideas.

Do your marketing in permanent Beta mode Click To Tweet

This testing will lead to a calendar of activities.

Calendar for Marketing Programs

While it is exciting to try many programs and ideas, it can quickly become a distraction and sap energies. A calendar should guide the list of programs. Just like big blogs and social media have editorial calendars, the marketing effort needs to have a marketing calendar where every program in the month should lead to the monthly goal. The monthly goal decided the content and nature of the online and offline campaign you have. I would strongly recommend THINK DIGITAL FIRST. How does your campaign weave into our target customer’s online life? The monthly goal decides the content of the tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn stories and the Instagram posts that you do.

Once you decided on the what and the tone of the content, the next step is sequencing the messages. Having a calendar of online activities creates buzz but more importantly, drives traffic to the call to action that your campaign is directing the target customer towards.

You have a Call to action in every campaign, right?

Don’t create campaigns only for entertainment – create for conversions Click To Tweet

With CTA embedded in every campaign, over time, you will develop insights and learnings into the effectiveness of your campaigns.

Continuous Learning

Make the team read a marketing best practice or a social media blog every day and note down the action points.

As a startup, you are not wedded to any brand manual or global marketing program which large companies have. But, you also miss out on the learnings and best practices these companies have. You level the field by having a learning hour for you and your marketing team every day. Ideally two hours. Listen to podcasts when driving, take notes on your voice recorder. Read the biggest influencers in your space and social media.

Most importantly, develop testing ideas from your notes and learnings. If you can learn and test 10 new ideas for marketing, every day, imagine what it would do to your marketing capability by the end of the year? You would have tested more than 3000 marketing ideas. Talk about the compounding effect.

This testing and a ready bank of ideas will make sure you will operate at a speed which will blow your competition away.

Make Speed Your Strongest  Weapon

Action over Anticipation. Be Agile.

As a Startup, your lean structure helps you in taking decisions faster. If you are clear about the One thing which is going to drive your business for this year, this week and today, and you have a calendar for your online activities ready, then, there should be no reason why you should churn out your programs at a rapid pace.

To deliver the pace, Make sure that you are hiring the right people. Once you have cultivated the testing mindset, you can roll out the programs in beta mode, get results and if it is working, increase it to scale.

Scale should also include feedback from your customers on what is working and what is not. You don’t need elaborate research for this. Have built-in feedback systems inside your campaign. Call a sample of customers every week and test your assumptions. Ask them what is working, what is not working?

This feedback will not only increase the pace of your campaigns and positive results, but it will also, make you nimble in your fight against the giants.

Be the David in the vs. Goliath game

Move with speed and in fail fast mode. Know your strengths

Malcolm Gladwell points out some interesting aspects in his book David vs. Goliath. David wins more times than Goliath. The trick? Find your unique niche and play by your rules. While Goliath had a sword (good for close range combat where size and strength would help), David had a slingshot (the shepherd’s tools). He also ran towards Goliath probably unsettling him with this offensive. The slingshot helped him to aim from distance, fire and keep moving.

Find what makes you best and do it faster and harder.

Don’t aim for the best marketing. Aim for faster marketing. Click To Tweet

Get your solutions faster to the customer. Get the feedback faster. Learn and adapt faster.

Use your nimbleness and agility to your advantage. While the big guys will take weeks if not months to turn around campaigns, you turn around campaigns in days.

Use the testing mindset to test various ideas and then make them work harder and faster.
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Do You Want To Know the Secret Of Effective Marketing In Small Business?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Just Start.

If there is one proven way to have effective marketing and jumpstart growth in your small business, it is: Action over anticipation.

We are wired for taking action – but often only under fear. We all know about the fight or flight response.

But given time, we also have a tendency for “false perfection”.

Why false?

Have you noticed that nature has no pure circles or squares or triangles? They are often oval or rhomboids – slightly bulging at edges.

It is our desire to be perfect hence, we create the perfect circle and squares.

While it is good in science, it is bad in business.

Here’s how:

Being perfect assumes that everything will go exactly as per planned. That whatever is planned will definitely result in the outcome which we want.


It is said that after the first two chess moves, there are a million options by which the game can turn out. And this only with 64 squares and two players.

Now think of the marketplace with thousands of customers and hundreds of suppliers.

Perfection often leads to analysis paralysis. The need to have a beautiful, logical solution leads to endless debates on the correct step to be taken.

Perfection often leads to analysis paralysis. Click To Tweet

In the end, nothing moves.

I learnt this lesson once.

My boss used to love asking questions. On every campaign, we used to design; he would ask ten questions. Once replied, they would lead to 10 more questions and so on. One day, I decided that I would start it as a pilot project, and we will keep answering his questions. After two months, he asked, “By the way, what happened to that X campaign?” I replied “well, we started as a pilot project and got some good learnings from it and now in a better position to answer your concerns” He paused for a while and then said “you did the right thing. Let’s go national”.

The market and the customer are the best ways to understand whether something works or not.

We can have endless boardroom discussions, but it has no comparison to the rich learnings in the market.

Nothing teaches you better than the marketplace. Click To Tweet

Taking Action does not mean that you launch a half-baked product or dump low-quality stuff in your channels.

Have a testing mindset within the team so that no one is wedded to a particular idea or an approach.

Help the team develop the testing mindset by asking the right questions in meetings.

Run pilot projects, do A/B testing, check in one channel before going national, but Start.

It means beyond a point, stop the endless planning. Just start.

If you have an option between Action and one more round of planning, Just Start Click To Tweet

Check this article for how an owner of a successful online business prioritizes Action over endless debates -> Slideshare CEO

What are You going to Start Today?

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9 Important Steps To Building Ownership Mindset In Your Small Business

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The key to growth in small business is in creating an ownership mindset in your employees.

The key to growth in small business is in creating an ownership mindset in your employees. Click To Tweet

As an entrepreneur, it is evident that you have it. But, how do you build it in your people? Here’re some steps

#1 Fix the hiring

The first step is hiring the right people. You want individuals who are curious. Who are looking to better themselves and things around them. Who are asking “how does this add value to the customer?” You want people with the entrepreneurial zeal in them. You could look for evidence of this by checking if they had run small jobs on the side when they were young or ran a small business when they were in college. It does not matter if they succeeded or not. That they took action to their impulse is important.

#2 Creating Focus

Once the team is in, you want to bring Focus on what is most important for you and the business. Make sure they are clear of the One Thing they need to focus on. The One Thing, which is absolutely critical for business success. Focus is the number one reason why business succeeds. You want to make sure that each person in the team is working towards one goal which is clear to all.

There should be maximum three things below this one goal. I have seen this coming out right in countless industries and businesses. How do you ensure this? Every day, ask you and your team “what is the one thing which will make the most significant and positive impact on our business? Are we doing it? When? Who is doing it?” This Focus will create the habit of giving priority to the project/item/decision which will have the maximum benefit to the business.

There should be maximum three things below this one goal. I have seen this coming out true in countless industries and businesses. How do you ensure this? Every day, ask yourself and your team “What is the One Thing which will make the most significant and positive impact on our business? Are we doing it? When? Who is doing it?” This Focus will create the habit of giving priority to the project/item/decision which will have the maximum benefit to the business.

Focus is the number one reason why a business succeeds. Click To Tweet

#3 No distraction mindset

Once the team is fully aligned and working towards one goal, give them the freedom to achieve it. Make them focused on outcomes and delivery. Be the example of how to avoid distractions and be focused on delivery. This is critical. There are many urgent items to finish in a day and before you know it, the day is gone. By being laser focused on doing the one thing which matters, you have to train your people to avoid distractions and stay focused. This mindset starts from a small item like limiting the time you spend on social media to bigger issues like giving maximum priority to completing the projects which make the most significant difference to your business.

#4 Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Communication is an absolute must for every business but truer than ever when installing the ownership mindset. In every situation, let people know how you came to the decision as an owner of the business. Help them decide when they are in similar circumstances. Communicate frequently on what is most important for the business. This will make sure that everyone knows exactly what levers to pull in a given situation.

#5 Make them accountable for their decisions

Accountability management is an essential part of a leadership role. Do you hold people accountable to their promises? Do you hold yourself accountable to the promises you made? An owner of the business operates from the highest accountability given his skin in the game. “This is your business and your actions decide it’s today and tomorrow”. This form of accountability makes sure that your team focusses on action and execution.

This is your business and your actions decide it's today and tomorrow Click To Tweet

#6 Celebrate when they have taken decisions which help the business

The flip side of Accountability is Celebrating good behaviors. Because celebrating good behaviors leads to their consistent application. Consistent behaviors lead to habits and Persistent habits lead to successful business. So, celebrate decisions and behaviors where your team members have demonstrated ownership mindset. This could be just a simple impromptu town hall which celebrates a few instances or a raising a toast to the individuals in your next fun team outing (You have one, I hope!)

#7 Celebrate cost consciousness

This is a no.1 indicator of ownership mindset. Some people are naturally thrifty and there are some who are naturally spendthrifts. And the majority in between the axis. You need to celebrate those who consistently demonstrate cost consciousness. They always look for value in their decisions. They always make sure that the business is getting more value than what they are paying for it. They make sure their travel costs represent the best value decision. They make sure they are getting the maximum value from their agencies and suppliers.

#8 Celebrate customer focus and helping customers win their game

The sole purpose of business is to serve the customer. No one understands this better than the owner of the business. When someone makes that effort in understanding the exact needs of the customer and over delivers the value offered, you must celebrate this behavior. Why so? Think back to when you were buying something and your expectations were over delivered. You were thrilled and you probably mentioned that to your other friends. Over time, you went back repeatedly to this service provider.

It is the same with your customer who is delighted will come back to you. Your team member who over delivered to the customer is the reason behind it. And he has behaved with the ownership mindset.

#9 Lead by example

People will be motivated by your zeal and direction and will start owning the business. Whatever behaviors we have talked about above, you need to live and breathe it daily. You should be the role model to others whenever they wonder how to bring the ownership mindset alive. You should help people understand your actions better so that they are behaving like owners.


Build these habits and you know that many eyes are scanning, identifying and grabbing the opportunities which are always there for the business to grow.

How would you build this mindset in your business? If you want a checklist for this, then, check out just released book

If you want a checklist for this, then, check out just released book: Stop Reset Start.

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Now Available on Amazon