The Best and Worst Case Score Tactic

The Best and the Worst Case

The Best and the Worst Case

This is a tactic which I use whenever I have to make a choice, take a tough decision or to do anything which gets me thinking. I call it the “Best and Worst Case Score” tactic. I have been using this tactic for quite some time now and it has made many of my decisions an easy choice which otherwise would have looked daunting. I have used it to handle choices/decisions ranging from professional life to family / friends related issues to just day to day small choices. Normally we tend to regard situations as more important and serious than they actually are. Using this technique has helped me differentiate between the seemingly important decisions and the really important ones.

The Tactic
When faced with any situation where you have to make a decision or choice and you are confused or stuck somewhere –
  1. On a scale of 10, give a rating assuming the best case scenario that can happen if you go ahead with the decision. The scale of 10 reflects what impact will the decision make in your life considering your long-term ambitions, values, etc
  2. Similarly, rate out of 10 the worst case scenario that can happen if things headed in the wrong direction.
  3. Now compare the scores, and you will know the answer to your confusion

Let me illustrate this with an example. I was thinking of buying a bike since I came to Bangalore. The only bike I wanted to buy was a Bullet, which are very expensive ones. And I had doubts regarding whether I would be able to handle it because of my build. People always advised me to look for a lighter bike which would be more suitable for me. But I only wanted this bike! The dilemma  (or what I thought) was that the bike cost upwards of Rs 1 Lakh and all that money would go down the drain if I am unable to manage the bike. I kept on deferring this decision for around 10 months due to the uncertainty, doubts, and all the confusion.

Then finally, I decided to use the “Best and Worst Case Score” tactic. What could be the best case scenario that could happen after buying the bike? The best case was that I would be able to easily handle the bike. I would go on long rides and travel to different places, and can have the experience of a lifetime. I rated this as a 8/10. Then I looked at the worst case scenario. I might not be able to handle the bike due to its weight, and it would be a waste of money. In that case, lets say after 1 year of unsuccessfully trying to ride the bike, if I have to sell it off, it will easily sell for some 80k as Bullets have a good resale value. So the loss, even in the worst case, will be around Rs 20k. I would rate it as a 2/10 on the worst things that can happen to me.

After evaluating the choices, I think it is very clear what I decided. I did not want to miss a possible 8/10 best case experience due to the fear of a 2/10 worst case scenario. The problem was that I was overestimating the fears in the worst case scenario. And this is very typical human behavior, whenever we seek something new, we tend to over-calculate the negative sides and play it safe. But I made the right choice and have some memorable experiences in the 10 months that I have owned the bike so far.

One can use this tactic for big decisions like changing a job or starting a regular exercise regimen, to small choices like whether to call a friend on his/her birthday, or whether to go home early to spend some time with your family. Sometimes it is amazing how clearly and objectively this tactics presents the picture in front of you. If you use this tactic, sometimes you will think that why the hell were you deferring this decision when the benefits are huge and risks/losses are minimum.

How to Have Career Development Conversations With Your Employees? or How to Care for Your People?

One of the most fundamental human needs we all share is to make meaningful progress in what we are doing. At the workplace this means knowing how does the road ahead looks, and how can we learn and grow to the next milestone on that road.

If you lead people, you can coach and guide your people on the path of future success by having what I term as Career Development Conversations. Knowing that their career progression is being taken care of freeing up mental space for people, which in turn gives them the space to do well in their current roles.

What they are?

Career Development Conversations are a set of coaching conversations a leader can have to help people understand, prioritise and act on their long term career ambitions.

People are mostly unaware of how they can grow in their careers, and as a coach you can help them figure this out. These conversations help provide clarity on how best to make meaningful progress, within or outside the current organisation.

  1. Career Development Conversations show you “Care” for your people

I believe one of the most important roles for a coach (and every manager is a coach by default) is to “care” for their people. And you do that by taking care of the “cares” of your people.

Do you know what your employees “care” about, what they value or not value in life, and why? Do you know what motivates or drives them? Do you know what frustrates them?

As a coach you can help people figure out what they “care” about. If we explore this simple yet powerful concept of “care” with our teams, it can open up a new world for them as individuals, and for us as a leader.

  1. They are Deep, Meaningful and Long Term; but made Tangible with Short Term Goals and Milestones

Working with various teams across continents over the last decade and a half, I have seen that people are often not aware what they “care” about, and what matters the most to them.

Career Development Conversations are deep and meaningful to figure this out. They not only help people to be proactive in their career choices as they achieve important career milestones like promotions, but also leave them with a feeling of satisfaction and contribution.

  1. They are the second best opportunity to serve your people

Leading by example is without doubt the primary way your people see and perceive your leadership. Any conversation or management practice will fall through if you don’t do what you talk about.

The second best way is to continuously have these career development conversations with your people, which will create the context and form the background of everything else people do in their day to day jobs.

These conversations can inspire people to cooperate in the face of business challenges. They help people align their own purposes with the larger collective purpose of the organisation, leading to accountability and co-operation instead of conflict and self destruction.

Career Development Conversations

“Treat a man as he appears to be, and you make him worse. But treat a man as if he were what he potentially could be, and you make him what he should be.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

What they are not?

There are a lot of misconceptions around career development conversations since there are different definitions of them depending on the organisation you find yourself in. Let’s clear up what I mean when I say career development conversations.

  1. They are not Optional

Most managers / leaders I have seen in different companies don’t have these conversations at all. Companies don’t realise its importance and it often takes a backseat with the focus mostly on driving business results.

Even when they are, they are not regularly reinforced and leaders are not held accountable for them. Nobody told me about these conversations either. I have learned them the hard way – making numerous mistakes as a leader and only later stumbling upon these conversations from numerous trainings and books.

  1. They are not Performance Reviews.

Many people and companies equate career development conversations with performance reviews, which happen on a quarterly or half yearly basis. However, what I mean by career development conversations is the total opposite of performance reviews.

Performance reviews focus on the past. Career development conversations focus on the future.  Performance reviews focus on putting you in a box (of job expectations) and measuring you against the expectations of that box. Career development conversations encourage you to get out of any defined boxes (or job roles) and define for yourself the meaning of success and contribution.

  1. They are not Short Term.

Career Development Conversations are long term. Think 5 to 10 years or even longer if you can. They help people envision what their career is (or can be) all about. They go beyond material milestones and successes; and empower each person to find their own meaning at work, and define the legacy they want to leave behind.

Having said the above, and keeping that as the background context, Career Development Conversations then drop back to shorter time frames of one year and less. By working on tasks aligned with the long term context, people can find new meaning and joy in their work which wasn’t available before. Needless to say, all of this results in better business results too.

  1. They are not about the next Promotion or Job Titles.

Career Development Conversations can also be confused with promotion and the usual benefits that come along. I believe that while that might happen as an outcome of these conversations, they are not the end goal in themselves.

The focus is on the continuous development of employees and their progression as professionals. The emphasis is on doing work which not only challenges people professionally but also leaves them with a deep sense of pride and purpose in your work.

  1. They are not just one of many “tasks” to be done

Career Development Conversations should not be taken lightly by managers / leaders. They are not just one of many tasks in your role. Infact, they are your ROLE. If you are not having these conversation, you are leaving huge potential in people and your team untapped. When done well, they can cause careers to take off.

Career development conversations should not be taken lightly. I believe every task your team member does should revolve around these conversations. These conversations will set the context of everything the team member does or does not achieve. They are to careers what oxygen is to life.

Key Conversations

Having gone over what career development conversations are and what they are not, let’s go over some of the key conversations :-

  1. Understand Them

The intent of this conversation is to understand your people beyond their job descriptions. You can do so by asking and answering the below questions.

  • What is your story?
  • How did you came to where you are today?
  • What are the key moments in your life –  ups and downs, successes and failures, and how each of these events have shaped you?

If you think this can be hard, then you are absolutely right. Getting people to open up about their life can be a slow and gradual process as you build trust and go beyond personal barriers.

  2. Help them figure out their True North / Lighthouse

  • How do you stand out in the world that makes you different?
  • What are you good at doing? What do you believe you are the best at? What have you gotten noticed for throughout your career?
  • What feels most useful? What kind of work makes you proud? Which of your tasks are most critical?
  • What bugs you? What makes you angry or frustrated?
  • What are your highest priorities in life? Where does work fit in?

By asking some powerful questions like the above, you will help people identify their strengths and weaknesses, values and motivations, and what makes them unique and special. For me, knowing someone as a human being is such a wonderful experience as I get exposed to the personality of the person which is normally hidden in workplace conversations.

Helping people figure out their True North can help clear the fog of uncertainty and clearly distinguish the path, or at least the direction, they can pursue in the future. This True North can be a lighthouse (of values) that can serve as a compass in difficult times.

3. Empower Them by Preparing a Plan

The next type of conversation is to build upon the above two and make it concrete in the form of a plan for where they want to go. Present them opportunities for future growth in the organisation based on their values and motivations, and not just on their talent and skills.

Once you have identified opportunities which they can pursue with purpose and commitment,  support them to find training to acquire any skills they need, or in reaching the right people. Work with them to create SMART (Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant Timely) objectives, which are impactful for both the organisation and the individual personally.

Having clear objectives to achieve in the future, and also clarity about how will it help them individually as well as the organisation will empower them as they build up confidence and momentum once they start. Once they grow their wings and build up speed, get out of the way and give them space to fly. (which can be very difficult, especially in big organisations)

In conclusion, I would also like to add that all the 3 kinds of conversations above never happens chronologically. You can jump between them as you feel fit, and it is a gradual process as you discover more and more about your people, and guide / support them on their way.

As you discuss these questions, you also open up and answer these same questions for yourself too. These conversations are not a monologue but a dialogue. I have always found having these conversations very useful to me too, and you also end up building deeper relationships and friendships at work. And working with friends is always a breeze, while working with strangers can be painful.  

The Perfect Road Trip

I believe that there is no better way to see and experience the beach, the snow clad mountains, or the plains than from behind a automobile, be it a two or a four wheeler. With every glance of a long weekend, you know the time has come to pack your bags and head off in one or the other direction. Sometimes it is the destination that matters, but most of the times it is the journey that makes the drive worth it. The sheer sensation when you feel the cool breeze turn into chilly winds as you ride up the hills, or the experience of breathing fresh air that you can never find in cities is unmatchable. Needless to say, the best way to experience rain is get out of your vehicle and get drenched.

My idea of a perfect road trip has three components – the vehicle, the company you have and the where and how of reaching your destination.

The Company
If I recall my most memorable trips, it has been because of the people I have for company. The fun I had with my colleagues at Jim Corbett Park in 2006, then with a different set of colleagues at Mashobra in 2008 was unforgettable. My recent trip to Paris with my wife also ranks high up because of the wonderful company I had. It is the company which decides how many memories you will carry back and how you will remember a trip after a few years. My idea of a perfect company could be two – One with a group of friends/family and another with your partner/spouse. One could be about adventure, fun and leg pulling while the other can be about romantic walks and quite evenings. While one can be crazy, the other can be mesmerizing. While one can be loud, the other can be serene. While one can help you feel the thrill of living each moment, the other can remind you of the beauty that is love and to enjoy the various serendipitous moments it might offer.

The Scorpio can be your ideal vehicle for a drive up the Himalayas

The Scorpio can be your ideal vehicle for a drive up the Himalayas

The Destination and the Journey
The second most important component to any trip is the where and how to reach there. Precisely, where is the destination that one is heading to, and how are you going to reach there? Sometimes it is the destination that builds the whole excitement, like Paris yet at other times it is the journey and the path you take to your destination which builds up all the excitement. My perfect journey would be from Delhi to Leh by road. One could take the route from Srinagar while going and return via Manali, experiencing the best of the Kashmir and Himachal. The drive through some of the most beautiful and scenic mountain ranges, and the thrill of seeing cliffs on one side is a sight not to be missed. The fresh air, the clean and cold water flowing in the form of rivers and small rivulets which turn into waterfalls at every fall will make you imagine the scene even while reading this. The stopping at various photo points, interacting with locals and knowing their culture all adds to the experience of the journey. The Himalayas let us soak and absorb its beauty into our soul, and not just our external senses, and that is what makes a trip to Leh from Delhi the perfect road trip ever.

The Vehicle
After you have finalized on the destination, the route and the people whom you are traveling with, the last (but not the least) important component of a great journey is deciding on your vehicle. The above two components have a big say in deciding what kind of vehicle you choose. There is a altogether different kind of fun in going together in a bus (with a group) or in a small hatchback or sedan if it is just the two of you. My ideal vehicle would be a SUV which can be multi-purpose and can serve as a private space for the two of you while also as the perfect vehicle for a group. For my dream trip to Leh, a Mahindra Scorpio (which I have had the pleasure to drive on many occasions) would be just the perfect choice. It can navigate the plains with potholes as well as the climb up the mountains on tricky surfaces with equal ease. Apart from the versatility of the Scorpio, the height of the driver gives you a commanding view of the landscape and the road.

Apart from these components, there are other stuff like a navigation device, extra pair of batteries for mobiles and cameras, maps, local currency in cash and the knowledge of the local language goes a long way in eliminating and reducing any discomfort or hiccup we might encounter on the way. To sum it up, nothing could be better than a trip to Leh on a SUV with either your friends or your partner (or both) for company.

Four Paths we Should Follow but Not Go Too Far and Where to Draw the Line (The Balanced Man)

There are some traits we should all have – like being helpful, confident, proud and humble, and enough has been written about them. What I want to touch upon in this article are some traits which we should aspire to have but not go too far in that aspiration either. It is very important to maintain the right balance in the extent to we have these traits. By focusing on these things in this article, the aim is only to become the best version of ourselves, and not to become better than anyone else.

Path 1 – Be Proud and Confident but not Arrogant and Cocky

The balanced man is sure, secure and certain but never has an exaggerated sense of one’s own abilities. He doesn’t need to have a victim to become victorious. He knows his strengths and weaknesses well, and knows when to seek help. If he has a good idea, he shares it with the world rather than keeping it to himself. He takes action regularly towards his objective, and these actions doesn’t need to put anybody else down. He has ‘real’ confidence, which is authentic and genuine, and doesn’t let his insecurities translate into over-confidence. The balanced man understands this difference.

There is a fine line between being confident and being an asshole. There is nothing wrong in taking pride in your achievements, but it is also equally important to have a beginner’s mind when starting new projects. You need to acknowledge your successes, but should not use it as a tool to demand certain privileges for yourself.

Life is a Balancing Act

Life is a Balancing Act

Path 2 – Be Nice but Not Let Others Take You for a Ride

Just as pride is important, humility is also a very important trait. It keeps us grounded and prevents us from flying based on past laurels. You know that you are skillful, but you also know what are your skill gaps and where you need to seek help. Apart from humility, another aspect of being nice is being patient and tolerant. We should be tolerant of the opinions and views of others, and patient with people and situations if we don’t get immediate results. The balanced man understands that his opinion is also an ‘opinion’, and other opinions are just as valid as his.

Having said that, we should never stretch ‘being nice’ too far that others start taking us for granted. There will be times when you have to put your foot down and remind people that there are lines which they should not cross. Again, this should not be done arrogantly or with a feeling of superiority but with calm and compassion towards others. The balanced man focuses on solutions to problems, and understands that sometimes a more aggressive approach might be what is required. You might need to step away from a job, stop talking to someone for a while, and so on. The balanced man is strong enough to face some short term pain and hurt but do the appropriate thing. The balanced man never loses himself to please others, or for being nice. He always knows his values and principles, and act with strength if the situation requires so.

Path 3 – Work Hard and with Dedication, but don’t let Anything Become an Obsession

We all admire the people who work with dedication, take on new challenges in life and have a great work ethic. But we also realize that these people don’t have a life outside of work and their work life balance is not that balanced. As with most things, there is a fine line here too, a line between dedication and obsession which the balanced man understands well.

The balanced man knows that life is like a wheel with many spokes, and work is only one of it. The other spokes are relationships, health, continuous learning, recreation, among others. The balanced man has goals and goes after them with planning, but doesn’t exhaust himself chasing more and more work. The balanced man knows the power of focus – they focus on work fully when they are at work, and to their family when they are at home. He doesn’t let one spill into another’s territory. He knows how to have an enriching and balanced life, and also understands that being obsessed towards any one aspect of life will have it consequences too.

Path 4 – Help Others but Don’t Patronize Others

The balanced man knows not only that helping others is a true way to give back to the world, but also that being helpful has its limits. We should know that if people need to learn and grow, they might be required to fail and learn their own lessons on their way. While one should always strive to encourage and plug any knowledge gaps, the balanced man realizes that doing the job for someone else is only going to make the other person weaker in the long run. Assistance is required sometimes, but people should have the freedom to make their own mistakes and learn from them.

By being too helpful, we start patronizing others. We start to give the message – “You are no good”. It is an insult to another human being, to his talent, and more importantly, to his ability to learn and adapt to the situation. That is making another inferior and taking false pride is our own superiority.

Having these four traits, but knowing where to draw the line is what will make you a Balanced Man.

3 Simple Secrets of Love

Life is simple, very simple indeed. But we humans take great pride in making it complicated. I think it is because we get our sense of worth by doing something tough, solving some complex problem or achieving some goal. So the idea of life being simple is very difficult to grasp for most of us.

Like life, the solutions or secrets behind solving most of our problems are also very simple. In this article I want to point out three very simple secrets for love. When I say love, I mean love between any two human beings, and not necessarily romantic love. It could also be love between two strangers, but the secrets are the same. Also they are nothing which you don’t already know or something which I have ‘discovered‘, they are plain old undeniable truths which we all are aware of, but rarely practice in our lives.

Here they go –

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. - Confucius

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. – Confucius

1. Delight at Sight

We all must ask ourselves a few questions here –

  • How excited are we on seeing our parents after coming home from work?
  • How happy are we on seeing our colleagues daily at work?
  • How joyful we become on meeting our friends over the weekend?
  • Do we smile and wish our neighbors when we crash into them every now and then?

Delight at sight means a feeling of absolute delight on seeing another human being. The delight of knowing that we have parents to care for us, friends to share a beer with, a spouse to share our life, and colleagues to work along with. Do we smile, run towards them, and wish or hug them with a big smile on our face?

We all know a few such people in our lives, and if we look deeply we will know that how much love they give and receive. If you have no human examples, look at your dog or cat and observe their behaviour. Can you see the “Delight at Sight” secret in them?

2. Marshal People By Example

Giving a lecture is so much easy than acting ourselves on what we are lecturing about. Just like writing this article is a lot more easy for me than to actually practice this stuff daily. But love spreads from sacrifice and compassion towards another, by teaching something by example. By doing something ourselves, and making ourselves a 10x better example of what we are trying to suggest/teach to the other person is the only way to sow the seeds of love in any relationship.

I can see my father as a perfect example of this. And I am sure we all can see the same in our parents. And it is a very hard process, as you have to continue practice living your life as an example, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, and so on. And if we want to preach a principle, we have to live our lives at least a 10 time multiple of that principle. It takes a BIG man to do that…

3. Heart to Heart

We should aspire to live more from our heart than from our brain. We should tap into the emotions and feelings which make us human (but not be driven by them) because the strongest human connections and love always originate from our hearts, and never from our brains. We should show an endless stream of compassion towards our fellow beings as each one of us is fighting very similar battles. Support people instead of criticizing, forgive them instead of holding a grudge and love them instead of judging them.

However, this is not something we should (or can) fake. Heart to Heart means being true to our feelings and never lying about how one feels. If you are sad – cry, if you are angry – shout; but get over it soon and pour out compassion for yourself and for others too. Do what you want to do, and give others space to do what they want to do.