Travel Stress


We travel to get to work, we travel during our work, and we travel to get to distant meetings. Travel comes in all forms: short and long timeframes and short and long distances. For most people, the commonest hurdle is the daily grind to and from work. This is most acute in large cities. The problems are truly international, but some of the ugliest and best-studied traffic jams are now everywhere.

The levels of stress that this brings are extremely significant. For those who handle it poorly, it can be damaging  to their health, and may even endanger the lives of others. Medically, we know that stress mechanisms all fire at once when the body identifies a crisis. Adrenaline pours out, the stomach shuts down, the pulse races, and the hair stands up on end. The blood pressure soars, muscles clench in spasms around the shoulder tips and jaw,  and primal aggressions rise, ready for fight or flight.

With immediate flight brings out of the question, more and more frustrated drivers are turning to the fight option—either inside their cars as they tip at the heels of slower drivers, or outside their cars, where they may stomp up and beat a dent into the roof of an offending vehicle. Even the mild and polite become aggressive when they strap themselves into their bumper cars to drive to work. This means they usually arrive late, enraged and spent before they even start to face the day’s stresses on the job.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Power


Power is what everyone wants and no one seems to have enough of. The desire for power is inherent in our very nature and fundamental to our survival.

Nowhere is the pursuit of power more evident than in today’s workplace. Managers are constantly striving to increase their arsenal of power, which is how it should be. Some may use power for selfish gain; others may use it to benefit the company. Regardless of how managers use power, the fact remains that without it they are incapable of achieving anything of significance for themselves, other people, the company, or society at large.

Power operates under the same principle as love: the more one gives to others, the more one receives in return. Unfortunately, many managers assume that there is a limited supply of power.

Most people contribute only a small fraction of their full capabilities, simply because they don’t feel a sense of personal power. They are bound by a bureaucratic management system that does little to encourage initiative and high performance. Almost all the power within the organization rests with those at the very top. Powerless in their ability to achieve results, most people eventually lose interest and settle for mediocrity.

The secret of achieving success as a manager and as a company lies in learning how to release the hidden potential of people. It lies in helping workers on all levels, from floor sweeper to executive, experience a sense of their own power. There are no success limits for the managers who master this art. Likewise, the company that rewards managers for successfully employing this art dramatically increases its ability to achieve its objectives.

If you want to achieve ultimate power for yourself you must get out of your own way. Instead of focusing your energies on the acquisition of power for yourself, focus them on how you can empower the people who work for you. If you are successful in giving your people power, they will surely lift you on their shoulders to heights of power and success you never dreamed possible.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Speaking the Body Language


About 60 to 70 percent of what we communicate has nothing to do with words. More important than speaking the language is what you communicate without words. Many travelers trust that if they don’t speak the language, there are a hundred gestures to get across almost any meaning. But gestures have quite different meanings in different parts of the world; body language is not universal. Subtleties are noticed, like the length of time you hold on while shaking hands. On a very unconscious level we can turn people off even when we are on good behavior. Thumbs up is considered vulgar in Iran and Ghana, equivalent to raising the middle finger in the United States. Touching a person’s head, including children’s, should be avoided in Singapore or Thailand. In Yugoslavia, people shake their heads for yes—appearing to us to be saying no.

In general, avoid gesturing with the hand. Many people take offense at being beckoned this way, or pointed out, even if only conversationally. In parts of Asia, gestures and even slight movements can make people nervous. If you jab your finger in the air or on a table to make a point, you might find that your movements have been so distracting that you have not made your point at all. Unintentionally, Americans come across as aggressive and pushy. Yet, in other parts of the world, particularly in Latin America or Italy, gesturing is important for self-expression, and the person who does not move a lot while talking comes across as bland or uninteresting. As always, watch what local people do. Or ask.

Body language is more than gestures. You communicate by the way you stand, sit, tense facial muscles, tap fingers, and so on. Unfortunately, these subtler body messages are hard to read across cultures; mannerisms don’t translate. In many parts of the world, looking someone in the eye is disrespectful.

In Japan a person who looks a subordinate in the eye is felt to be judgmental and punitive, while someone who looks his superior in the eye is assumed to be hostile or slightly insane. The Arabs like eye contact—the eyes are windows to soul—but theirs seem to dart about much more than Americans. We don’t trust “shifty-eyed” people.

Subtle differences in eye contact between the British and North Americans can be confusing. English listening behavior includes immobilization of the eyes at a social focal distance, so that either eye gives the appearance of looking straight at the speaker. On the other hand, an American listener will stare at the speaker’s eye, first one, then the other, relieved by frequent glances over the speaker’s shoulder.

Eye contact during speaking differs too. Americans keep your attention by boring into you with eyes and words, while the British keep your attention by looking away while they talk. When their eyes return to yours, it signals they have finished speaking and it is your turn to talk. These almost imperceptible differences in eye contact interfere with rapport building and trust.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

The Ethos of Great Managers


Smart individual performers keep getting moved into manager positions without the slightest idea of what the manager role is, let alone the ability to play it. They are sent to leadership development courses, but they come back more impressed with their mini-executive status than with the day-to-day challenges of being a good manager.

Conventional wisdom tells us that the manager role is no longer very important. Apparently managers are now an impediment to speed, flexibility, and agility. Today’s agile companies can no longer afford to employ armies of managers to shuffle papers, sign approvals, and monitor performance. They need self-reliant, self motivated, self-directed work teams. No wonder managers are first against the wall when the reengineering revolution came.

Every manager should be a leader. He must seize opportunity, using his smarts and impatience to exert his will over a fickle world. In this world, the staid little manager is a misfit. It is too quick for him, too exciting, too dangerous. He had better stay out of the way. He might get hurt.

Today’s business pressures are more intense. Companies need self-reliant employees and aggressive leaders. But all this does not diminish the importance of managers. In turbulent times the manager is more important than ever because managers play a vital and distinct role, a role that charismatic leaders and self-directed teams are incapable of playing. The manager role is to reach inside each employee and release his unique talents into performance. This role is best played one employee at a time: one manager asking questions of, listening to, and working with one employee. Multiplied a thousand fold, this one-by-one role is the company’s power supply. In times of great change it is this role that makes the company robust enough to stay focused when needed, yet robust enough to flex without breaking.

Thus the manager role is the catalyst role. As with all catalysts, the manager’s function is to speed up the reaction between two substances, thus creating the desired end product. Specifically the manager creates performance in each employee by speeding up the reaction between the employee’s talents and the company’s goals, and between the employee’s talents and the customers’ needs. When hundreds of managers play this role well, the company becomes strong.

In today’s slimmed-down business world, most of these managers also shoulder other responsibilities. They are expected to be subject matter experts, individual superstars, and sometimes leaders in their own right. These are important roles, which great managers execute with varying styles and degrees of success. But when it comes to the manager aspect of the responsibilities, great managers all excel at this catalyst role.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please contact www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight