6 Off-beat Questions to test your leaders #4 – Pepsi or Coke?

Question 4: “Are your clients Pepsi or Coke drinkers?” YK1zi

For a B2C company this question can reveal how deeply you have researched your consumers. I’m in a B2B company and I think this is a good question we can also ask the Client Partners or Sales guys who are managing accounts and it would reveal just how often they’ve had informal chats with their customers and how closely they know them.

Note: Stay tuned for the remaining 2 questions that I will share in the next 3 days…

6 Off-beat Questions to test your leaders #3 – The Petri-dish imperative!

This question is really asking, where in a company is it most safe to epetri dish.jpgxperiment and ask radical questions. You can’t do it everywhere. “As an established business,” says Tim Ogilvie, author and entrepreneur, “you’ve got all these promises you’re keeping to your current customers—you have to stay focused on that. But that may not have a future.” So the question becomes, “Where, within the company, can you explore heretical questions that could threaten the business as it is—without contaminating what you’re doing now?”

P.S. Petri-dish is a small, clear, round dish used for scientific tests in a Laboratory.

Note: Stay tuned for the remaining 3 questions that I will share in the next 3 days…

6 Off-beat Questions to test your leaders #2 – Dishwashers need motivation too?

Question2: “How will you motivate the dishwashers?”

This is one of those weird interview questions and can out-wit someone who is not a quick-thinker. When I posed this question to my husband who is a successful leader in his own right, he said he will motivate the machine by putting more dirty dishes in it! Experts says that the only correct answer to this question, posed to manager candidates in a hotel chain, is “If they are overloaded I would roll up my sleeves and start washing right alongside them.”

Note: Stay tuned for the rest of the 4 questions that I will share in the next 4 days…

6 Off-beat Questions to test your leaders #1 – The question that changed GE

Successful leaders excel at the art of asking goodquestions and sometimes these 100-200 words odd-ballers can unlock so many hidden layers of a person’s characters and even his leadership potential.

My next 6 posts are going to be on such odd-ball/off-beat questions which you can use to assess your potential or existing leaders.

Question 1: “If we weren’t already in this business, would we enter it today? And if not, what are we going to do about it?” -Peter Drucker, management expert and author

The late Drucker posed a variation on this question to Jack Welch in the 1980s. It inspired General Electric’s “fix, sell, or close” strategy for exiting or restructuring unprofitable businesses.

Note: Stay tuned for the rest of the 5 questions that I will share in the next 5 days…

The curious case of a paper chit in the IMF Chief’s purse!

While at Davos this year, I heard a journalist friend recall a chat she hadFullSizeRender with IMF Chief Christian Lagarde where she said she was so tired of business leaders telling her that they wanted women execs on Boards but weren’t finding the right candidates that she started keeping a small piece of paper in her purse with names and numbers of 20 bright and accomplished women leaders she knew; and so the next time a man gave her that “excuse”, out came the paper!

Maybe everyone should have a secret chit in their bags after all. The “excuse” mafia needs to be brought down don’t you think?!

A lunch date TATA Chairman N Chandra didn’t want!

n_chandrasekharana_148423I was reading this old article that biographed (is this even a word?!) N Chandrasekaran’s career and found this rather riveting anecdote:

“In the early stages of his career at TCS, Chandra learnt vital management lessons from customers. Around 1993, he was working on a very large US federal government programme. In the first phase of the project, TCS did a spectacular job. On the day the second phase was about to go live, the client manager came up to Chandra and asked him out to lunch. Chandra was alarmed. The system was going live and he felt he had to stay in the office. But the client manager was persistent. “I was very restless in the car. There were no mobile phones those days – no one could have reached me,” he says. “The client manager then said he needed to find out who could step into my shoes. Somebody needed to handle the job when I wasn’t around.” That was a lesson in delegating, trusting people and risk taking.”


The art of 5-minute-favors

While we are on the subject of Adam Grant, I loved his tip on how to become a voracious “Giver”. He propounds for what are called “5-minute favors”: things that bring high value to other people’s lives, but at a relatively low cost. In his words, the thought behind the 5-minute-favors is that “I’m going to microloan my time and my skills to help others without sacrificing myself,” Grant explains.

Guess which “Types” are most found in Davos?

In his celebrated book, ‘Give and Take’, Adam Grant, classifies people into 3 types – “Takers” are people who are trying to get as much as possible and contribute as little as they can in return, “Givers” help others by making an introduction, giving advice, providing mentoring or sharing knowledge, without any strings attached. “Matcher” is somebody who tries to maintain an even balance of give and take.

It’s surprising how you start noticing these dichotomous traits in people once you’ve read the book. I see it most in display at industry conferences though, where too many people are doing too many exchanges and then slowly you start noticing the magical truth – that “Givers” are the most successful ones of them all. WEF’s Annual Meeting at Davos, for example, which congregates the best of the best in the world, is full of “Givers”. In every meeting new contacts are being shared, people are matching notes in elevators and knowledge is being shared so generously even at refreshment bars.

We were sharing a table with Bain’s Global Chairman during one of those free moments, where he was engaged in a discreet tuck-in chats with the Chairman of a huge Japanese conglomerate on the other end of our table and as he got up to leave, he noticed my husband’s lapel pin that says “I love AI”. He paused in his tracks and addressed us, “you know what are my views on AI…” the gentleman went on to share some very rich views on AI with us in a genuinely interested conversation that lasted almost 10 minutes. Being the top boss of a top consulting firm, his 10 minutes probably would be worth a handsome clutch of dollars, but he was a “Giver” and he was just doing his thing!