I am not going to bore you by telling you why time management is important and all that. I suspect enough books have been written on this topic. (I always have wondered though how people focused on effective time management are supposed to read up all those books on effective time management J ). Instead, let me tell you a couple of observations on some of the executives that I have learnt from.
First – and this might surprise you – what to spend time on differs vastly from executive to executive (and I have filtered the ones that I consider are very successful). Some spend lot more time on understanding the details – some prefer to drive the strategy. Some spend more time with their directs, some spend less. Some consider spending time with employees after work improper time of their work and some make it a point to do so. Regardless of the usual story of “balance” and “do both” and all that, my observation is that the successful executives – knowingly or unknowingly choose what they want to spend time on. And usually this differs from one executive to another.
Second – and this will not surprise you – they are very disciplined about managing their time with the choices that they have made above. It is very easy to fill up one’s calendar – especially as you go up the hierarchy. There is always some crisis, there is always an important customer, there is always an important presentation and so on and so forth. The ones that I admire most have struck me with their ability to say “No” and question why they are getting involved in things that they should not. That is undoubtedly a common thread between successful executives.
Third – and this is more empirical evidence than I have taken the time to observe in detail – it seems that some amount of ability to compartmentalize your time and thoughts is important to be able to succeed. Some of the best ones had an uncanny knack of being able to switch gears yet grasp the “linking points” when they existed.
Finally – there is no correlation as I have seen between success and how much time some of the best executives spend on work. There are the ones who are absolutely obsessed with spending as much time as they can on work related items and there are the ones who draw boundaries and stick to them. While it is very difficult to compare two executives since they tend to differ so much from one another, I can definitely make the following observation thinking thru all the great executives I got close to – customers, partners and employers: In the longer term, the differences they made to their companies was very little to do with how much time was spent but a lot more to do with what they did with their time.
I am sure you will have something to share with me on this…
“I will give you a missed call”
Here is another interesting tidbit from our India trip. First, everybody and his mother has a cellphone in India. I kid you not when I say that the porter (usually called “coolie” in Northern India) I used at Durgapur station flashed a cell phone. My guess of an average porter’s daily income is about $2 !!
However, what got my attention was some of the unique lingo in the cellphone culture in India. The most prevalent one is probably “Ekta missed call diye debo” (translated from my mother tongue – it means “I will give you a missed call”). You can understand my state of confusion in trying to find out how the heck is anybody going to give me a “missed” call? Don’t I decide whether the call was missed or not? 🙂 What if I pick up the phone when the call comes in? 🙂 How does he give me a missed call now?
Well, after some enquiring I found out that essentially this is a protocol to confirm a previously agreed upon event without paying the cellphone company. So, if I tell you that after I reach Calcutta safely, I will give you a missed call – it means upon reaching Calcutta safely, I will call you and wait for the phone to ring once and then cut it off. You don’t pick it up till it keeps ringing which presumably means I need to talk to you!!!
All this is designed to not pay the cellphone company (in India the caller pays but the receiver does not) for the call. And of course avoid the unpleasantness of actually talking to me 🙂 (who has all that time in India? 🙂 )
Maybe that is how the porters are affording their cellphones !!!!
New Element called “Governmentium”
This is very funny. Have you ever looked up “Governmentium” in Wikipedia? This is the entry that you will get…
Govermentium (Gv) has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons. Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second to take from four days to four years to complete. Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2-6 years; It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, Governmentium’s mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass. When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.
On Oct 31st, 2009, I ran the Big Pumpkin 5K Run 2009 in Roswell. This was after quite a gap – due to injuries. The run was organized by World Harvest church. It was a terribly rainy day. We were all soaking even before the race started!
I posted a 25 min 38 sec run – still about two and a half minute away from my PR. But the good news is I was able to do negative splits for the first time in my life successfully!!
The other day, I had a pretty engrossing breakfast meeting with a top executive of a large public company. It was engrossing because we started debating – what turned out to be a really interesting – topic. I would love to hear your views on this.
The central question was – What should be the perspective that a top executive in a company should have? That he/she is going to be in the company for a long time? Or that he/she is going to be around for some stipulated period of time (say 5-6 years)?
As we debated, we found a lot of pros and cons on both sides. Presumably, the executive has shown somewhere in the resume that he/she has held at least one job for a pretty long time (8-12 years, say). So, that, at least proves that he/she is not a job hopper or that he/she bailed out everytime the wind blew unfavorably.
After that what?
If the executive joins the company thinking “I will be here for 5-6 years. I need to bring in the maximum effect I possibly can in that time”, the advantage is that
(*) the executive will have a certain level of impatience that is required to continuously push the organization
(*) will have little sense of job protection and is therefore probably not going to be too shy of picking battles
(*) just like a doctor’s advise “you will die in 2 years” quickly sets priorities in one’s life, a sense of “end date” will push the executive to focus on the right priorities
On the other hand,
(*) the executive might come across as being “not loyal” to the company or the cause
Let’s take another executive who joins the company with the assumption he/she will be there for the long haul (or even retire from the company). Chances are that the executive
(*) will be more patient about bringing some larger changes which inherently take a long time (especially if they require culture change in the company)
(*) will be valued as loyal to the cause of the company and
(*) inherently will be interested in learning different aspects of the company (with the assumption that he/she will see a career path thru various different positions in the company)
On the flip side,
(*) a sense of job preservation may drive the executive to acquiesce/avoid uncomfortable decisions/situations
The truth is most executives overestimate their ability to drive what their “end date” will be (more often than not , I have seen companies drive this calendar for them). Still, it would be interesting to understand from the company and the individual’s point of view what would be the right strategy under what circumstances.
Most importantly, the question is what perspective should they have? In reality, they may land up staying longer or shorter depending upon many other variables.
In an interesting twist to the debate, we also wondered, if we were the CEO of the company, which kind of executives would we hire? For what kind of positions?
Durga Pujo is the biggest annual festival for Bengalis from India. We had a three day clebration here in Atlanta. Nikita and Natasha both danced in it. Sharmila was busy getting dressed up in all the traditional Indian clothes and chatting with her friends. I was mostly eating and making myself scarce. 🙂
The first video is of Nikita. This is a song composed by Tagore. Dance choreographed by our personal friend Mayuri Ray. The second one is by Natasha and her friends – this time a popular Bollywood song and choreographed by Mayuri again. The last one is by Natasha and her friends to a popular Bengali song – choreographed by another talented friend of ours – Indrani Kar.
Nikita’s performance – “Megher Koley”
Natasha’s first dance – “Dheem Ta Na”
Natasha’s second dance – “Saat Bhai Champa”
On Sep 19th, 2009, I ran the Roswell Rise ‘n Run 5K Run. This run is organized by NFCC along with the City of Roswell. The mission of North Fulton Community Charities is to prevent homelessness in North Fulton by supporting families in their homes during short-term emergencies. By pooling the resources of local religious, business, and civic groups and individuals, NFCC assists families with rent, utilities, transportation, food, clothing, medicine, and other basic needs. NFCC also coordinates special assistance to families during the holidays and matches volunteers with projects. You can learn more about them at http://www.nfcchelp.org/ABabout.html