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February 2020

Value of Inquiry

-Karthik Gurumurthy

What is common between a student, Business Analyst, Project Manager, Program Manager, and your profession. Irrespective of your chosen profession, one thing common is the ability to ask questions. I recently read a book "Ask More" written by Frank Sesno. He was a former CNN Anchor and White House correspondent and spent his career asking questions. In this book, he talks about the "taxonomy of questions" and explores the value of inquiry. Each chapter covers a different type of question, including "diagnostic, bridging, confrontational, mission, interview, legacy," etc. and more.

What I got from the book:

  • Asking questions helps you open doors, solve problems and break down barriers.
  • To use inquiry effectively, master asking different type of questions, including:
    • "Diagnostic" questions help you get to the heart of the matter and zero in on the problem.
    • "Bridging" questions act as connectors between a reluctant subject and needed answers.
    • "Confrontational" questions demand accountability and uncover the truth.
    • "Mission" questions identify shared values and goals.
    • " Interview" questions can be helpful or can intimidate both employees and employers. When used correctly, interview questions produce meaningful revelations.
    • "Legacy" questions give you the opportunity to reflect back on your life.
  • Asking questions and reflecting on it encourages personal growth. 

"The simple act of asking, of listening without comment or judgment, and letting a silence linger or a free-form thought coalesce invites a person to reflect or think out loud."


Take_Aways from the book " the Stuff"

-Karthik Gurumurthy

A young woman wanted to be a doctor, but couldn't get into a US medical school. A Cuban medical school accepted her, but she couldn't read or speak Spanish. She graduated within five years and now a physician. Authors Sampson Davis and Sharlee Jeter attribute her success to her having "the stuff". They discuss the essential elements of this level of fortitude and share stories about people whose stuff enabled them to overcome life's challenges.

The nuggets from this book:

  • Life is tough. To stay on top of it, you need "the stuff"
  • Using your stuff requires a mission statement and steadfast hope. Having the stuff means defying your limitations. Use your stuff to embrace the hard work.
  • Remain alert to unexpected inspiration.
  • With this level of fortitude, you can ignore fear and turn negatives into positives.
  • The stuff is inside you. We need to activate it.

"If you can re-evaluate a situation after experiencing trauma, look past the pain and find the positive elements of the experience, you are better positioned to grow from it."


Nuggets from Lifescale

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Your time and attention have never been more valuable. Tech companies vie for your attention and trade it as a commodity. They lure you into increasing your time on their platforms, and exploit neuroscientific  discoveries to manipulate your online behavior. You succumb to the barrage of distractions, losing focus and  creativity. "Digital anthropologist" Brian Solis noticed the demise of his own creativity and developed the Lifescale method in response. He provides a framework for recapturing your focus, rekindling your creative spark, and igniting a deep sense of purpose and well being.

People suffering addiction to digital devices often drop out of real life to sleepwalk, zombie-like, through a virtual existence. They lose the ability to focus, meet goals and fulfill responsibilities. The detrimental effects of never disconnecting from the digital world include decreasing attention spans, loss of empathy, and less energy for creative activities or critical thinking. Productivity drops as workers spend an average of two hours a day on their smartphones. The time you spend on apps, networks, social media and texts does not make you happier. It erodes your sense of well-being, increases stress and anxiety, and engenders feelings of loneliness and self-doubt.

The author has clearly spent a lot of time thinking through the optimum way to deal with the stress that can overwhelm us through being constantly interrupted by alerts, emails, messages on a plethora of platforms from Slack and WhatsApp to Twitter and Facebook.

The author provides a framework to help you navigate your way through your work life and personal life while still being able to be connected and avoid the inevitable burn out we all suffer from leading a digital life. As he says we've all, somewhere along the way, have become distracted. Maybe we don't realize quite how much our personalities have changed due to the advancement in technology but they undeniably have.

Read this book, reclaim your attention, break the cycle of instant gratification to think creatively and critically once again. Learn to waste less time on distractions and spend more time with your loved ones! Happiness and success are possible if you live consciously.

This book helps you build good habits, live with a strong sense of purpose and make technology work for you, not the other way around.


Circle of Influence

-Karthik Gurumurthy

There are few books that I like to go back once or twice a year to reflect on and how I can get better. One of those books is Stephen Covey's  "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People".  One of the concepts in the book that I found very interesting was that of the circle of influence. For those of you who have not gotten a chance to read the book, I shall briefly explain the same, essentially the aspects to improve productivity.

The core of the concept is that broadly, everything that has an effect on you, impacts you and is of consequence to you can be divided into two broad circles. One is called the circle of influence, which comprises all those things that you have an influence on, and the other is the circle of concern, which comprises things that impact you directly or indirectly, but which you can't influence. These are two concentric circles- the inner circle, the smaller circle, which comprises things that you can influence, and the bigger circle that has things on which you don't have influence.

Circle_StephenCovey

This is in context to work.You dream of being very successful in your career, but to be successful, one must deliver high quality and high quantity of output at work. You must deliver results which are compelling so that people make note of them, and thus create a good reputation and long-term career for yourself. For you to deliver those results, there are set of things which are within your sphere of influence, in your circle of influence. Likewise, there are things that impact your ability to deliver results at work that are not in your influence and those are in the outer circle, the circle of concern. Whenever I set a target to work at, I measure consistently and review periodically and reflect on how I can get better. Whenever I spend any amount of time on my circle of concern, I realized it is a major productivity killer and an extraordinary waste of my precious time. Whenever I spent time in my circle of concern, I felt irritated, angry, frustrated, at times incapable of creating results and  feeling inadequate- a whole set of negative emotions.

I have observed from all the productive leaders I have had  the opportunity to witness, that they spend all their time on things to which they make a difference, where they have an influence. The benefits of this habit go beyond just productivity. The more you focus on your circle of influence, the more it grows, and slowly and steadily, it starts to cover more of the areas that earlier fell under your circle of concern. 

To increase productivity, let us focus relentlessly on whatever is in our circle of influence. Rest will take care by itself.

 


Twitter..Facebook..Whatsappening?

-Karthik Gurumurthy

 Everything must be done yesterday. Ideas need to have been thought of last month and you’re expected to see 4 years into the future. 

This is the ridiculous notion that the next generation is told to think, act, and work towards. In this "new" normal, we post about our life on an hourly basis for our “friends" to validate our choices and actions. On social media, doing things in private is almost considered “weird”. We reach out with passive aggressive posts hoping for the sympathy and/or support we seek.

We compete online for the most ‘likes’ for our achievements and adventures  (which are sometimes exaggerated, posed or fabricated), and we post about our challenges as if they’re the worst imaginable experiences. We talk about our routine commute to work or school as if it’s something special or something that needs to be recognized by our so called  social media friends.

I AM HERE TO SAY STOP IT! There’s no rush to “get there”. Why are we in such a hurry to get to the finish line? Time is still time; still equally as valuable now as it was 40 or 50 years ago. 

So many people look to others and ask: What is the finish line? Who decides who is winning? What is winning? How can I show others I am succeeding? It really doesn’t matter what others think, you need to answer and define these yourself. In the future, the leaders that will succeed far beyond the rest are those that have patience, love, and live in this moment – Each moment!

What if  Mahatma Gandhi could have tweeted?  Let’s imagine what that would have looked like using an expert from his journal:
“Just got back from the Dandi March. I want World Sympathy in this battle of Right against Might."

Now, here’s an actual post I read on Twitter:
"I just had a cup of tea with  almond milk. It was one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made in my life.”

I am sorry Mahatma. We are pretty entitled aren’t we?  Maybe I don’t appreciate my days fully. I need to remind myself that I have it good, Really good!

This blog isn’t to offend anyone. I am  guilty as charged.  I am saying we need to slow down. We need to appreciate the here and the now. We need to stop documenting our lives for the approval of someone else, someone we may not even really know. Be appreciative of what you have. Tell your problems, your challenges to a real human, a close friend, not the world. 

For those that travel, I get it – it’s exciting. It’s a privilege to travel, and something I get to do. Yet I have stopped posting about getting on planes or checking into nice hotels.  I am guilty of that too. But not any more. 

If you want admiration and accolades from others, do amazing things, create an astounding impact in the world. Let others tell your story for you, it will mean more.

If you are sharing stories of cool humans or new interesting experiences then I say, “Do it!” Get excited and share the love because it is good to show human connections and wonderful accomplishments.

Be proud of your accomplishments. If what you’re doing is of value to others, creates Joy or provides knowledge, SHARE! People will want to celebrate with you. But if it’s just to gain acknowledgement of what you do or how “great” your life is, maybe it’s time to opt out of this ‘post and brag’ behavior. 

Today is today. Live in it. You are blessed.

I often need to remind myself of that too. Will use this opportunity to take a break from social media as well to see if I can practice what I preach.

Seeing the Goodness in everything

-Karthik Gurumurthy

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill

Train

What we focus on expands. It is a choice. Take every thought captive and redirect.

Who is in charge of your mind? If you don't lead your mind, you'll find yourself enslaved to the automation of your younger days. Our minds develop patterns. When we lead ourselves, we disrupt thought patterns that don't serve us well.


Keep moving forward

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Few months back, I passed an exam called PMI-ACP. This is for  experienced Agile Project Managers who wanted to get certified by the prestigious Project Management Institute. Even though I had the experience of leading agile teams for several years, I had to undergo training for the same to take this  exam. 

I took an online course which was offered by Joseph Phillips.  He is an outstanding trainer and what I loved about his training was, his videos were short, succinct and to the point. On top of it, he is always encouraging, very positive and says "Keep moving forward".. Thanks Joe for your outstanding training and words of encouragement.

MLK


Building rapport

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Be interested, not interesting.

Checking your ego at the door and simply just listening is incredibly empowering, both for you and whoever you’re meeting with.

The less I talk, the more I feel in control. If I’m 20 minutes in to a monologue about something, barely taking a breath let alone a question from the audience, how can I possibly be sure I’m on the right track?

Humility, empathy and listening are key skills to develop as a Program/Project Manager along with the ability to use silence and pauses as tools to control dialogue and it’s outcome.

Indeed, as someone more introverted, being in control by listening comes much more naturally than trying to dominate and drive a conversation through words alone.

Maybe it’s just me.. but I find it works well for my style.

 


Fear of the Unknown

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Whenever we reach an uncharted territory, we need to remind ourselves of Joseph Campbell's words: "The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek."

We need to own the fear, find the cave, and write a new ending for yourself, for the people you are meant to serve and support and for your team. We need to choose courage over comfort. We need choose the great adventure of being brave and afraid..at the same time.