MBA case study

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Me (to HR) – Hey, tell me something, why don’t sales managers interview executives? The reporting manager should be involved in the recruitment process

Him – I agree. But we realized that they don’t have the right interview skills and it was decided that they will not be part of the recruitment process

Me – So, instead of developing those skills, you took the easy way out? Most of the Branch sales managers have been promoted from sales managers? So, what makes you think they have the skills to interview correctly?

Don’t gasp in horror. This is how the corporate works. One big advantage of working in an organization which is not 100% system driven (to put it mildly) is that you can try new things. Your only headache is convincing people.

We organized a training session on ‘Right way to recruit’ yesterday for the team. I have been part of one such training and it is the best training I have attended. There was a lot of resistance initially (I won’t get into the reasons) because sales people are more arrogant, straightforward, difficult to please and harder to convince than any other function in an organization. You can shut them up but you can’t get them to do things your way if they are not convinced. By the end of it, they were convinced and everyone agreed to try these interview techniques. The bone of contention was – replacing hypothetical questions with reality based questions.

Example, instead of asking an executive “How would you achieve a 20% higher target”, ask him/her “Were you in a situation where you were given a higher target than your average business? Did you achieve it or not? How?”. Probe him/her on every detail so he can’t lie or make up stories and you will be able to identify the grain from the chaff. The point isn’t whether he/she achieved the target or not, don’t judge him/her on the results but on the process.

There are more such gems but I will write another post on that. The recruitment process also includes a quantitative test and a personality test. Everyone complained how good candidates fail the tests and we need to relook at them. None of the managers had seen these tests so we had a look. The quantitative test seemed simple enough and HR told us this isn’t where the problem is. Executives are failing the personality test, where, supposedly, there are no right or wrong answers. So, we opened that. That’s when it struck me. The RSM is a South Indian who does not know Hindi so all branch meetings are conducted in English. Since I have joined, I have to follow up his speech with mine in Hindi, covering similar points so everyone in the room gets it. Do I want an executive fluent in English? Not really. His fluency is required in Hindi because he has to interact with distributors, retailers, wholesalers, his team of salesmen etc. How can the personality be tested in a language he/she is not comfortable with? We have decided to get the questions translated in Hindi from now onwards.

Basically, in the last few years we have been losing out on good candidates because we were questioning them in English. It is such a facepalm moment but a very common one. It shows the kind of disconnect that exists in organizations. Sometimes, all that is required is a little common sense and the skill to be able to cut through the bullshit.


Apples vs apple sauce

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Most moments in your life are “This isn’t as good as I thought it would be. It sounded like a good idea in my head. Not so much in real life. This person is more interesting online. Why did I have to bring him/her into my real life?”. Basically, things are rarely as good as you expect them to be.

And then, there those few moments which are as good as your expectations, nah, even better. Yesterday was that day for me when I was in the TRX training and kept thinking how awesome it is. From 8.30 am to 6.30 pm, those were the few best hours of my life. Before the training, the answer to “What will I do next?” was “Figure out a way to start training”. But now it is “I need to get better, learn more, create my own workouts”.

I have been doing TRX for 1.5 years and know it is the best workout. But I didn’t know why. Why is it intense? What benefits does it have? NOW I know.

We started yesterday with the most basic and important exercise – the plank. I thought I know how it’s done. I didn’t. Here is the secret:

  1. Lie on the floor flat on your tummy
  2. Bring your palms next to you. The elbows must be below the shoulders. Push the palm into the floor
  3. Dig your toes into the floor
  4. Lift your knees (not your thighs) and straighten them
  5. Clench your butt. Very, very important. We all had to do the apples vs apple sauce test, wherein our partners touched our butt to check if it was tight as an apple
  6. Lift up. Stay

Everytime we had to do a workout with a plank variation, we had to start like this. You couldn’t start the plank if your butt wasn’t clenched.

Checks to see if butt is still clenched. Unclenches

What the course did not cover was how to take group classes and how to create a workout for the same. But TRX has 2 other courses for this. Most of the people who attended are personal trainers who will incorporate some bit of TRX in their client’s workout. I was the only one who hasn’t worked in the fitness industry but the one with the maximum knowledge about TRX.

All in all, it was a great learning experience. It is going to help me get better and take me closer to my goals.



TRX Certification

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By the end of tomorrow, I will be a certified TRX trainer. I am not sure if I will get the opportunity to train anyone in the next few months, but am going to try. If I was in Gurgaon, I would have started shadowing the TRX trainers – Amit or Mac every Thursday or/and Fridays but I have just moved to Mumbai and building the same kind of rapport and network is going to take time. The objective is to perfect my basics and understand the nuances of the workout. For 8 hours tomorrow, am going to do what I love the most.

This is a good time to talk about how I got acquainted with TRX. When I joined Fitness First, I attended the different group classes to figure out what I like the best- RPM, core, yoga, body balance, body combat, body pump etc. TRX was one of the last classes I tried. I had to register 20 mins before the class started else it got packed. Amit was the trainer and I was blown away. Not because he was hot, FF is full of hot men and women of all kinds, but because he gave personal attention to everyone. TRX was the only class where the trainer taught beginners the basics and pushed the intermediates to do better. That is what hooked me onto it. I wanted to do TRX everyday of the week but the class was only on Fridays. I started attending it regularly and getting better at everything. I couldn’t do 5 crunches when I started, now I can do 100 comfortably. Amit started pushing me harder and harder till I was among the best.

I NEVER missed TRX. The 7.30-8.30 pm (7.20 pm during winters) was sanctimonious and highlight of the week. If I went off track for a week, Fridays would be when I got back to the gym. I realized that the only way to do this everyday of my life was if it was my profession. I got Amit to spare an hour from his busy schedule and give me tips. He told me about the fitness industry, the amount of money one can earn, certifications required etc etc. He promised that next time there was TRX certification he would inform me immediately.

In April, the certification was supposed to be held but it got cancelled. Just as well because it was our anniversary and we had planned a trip to Bandhavgarh which I didn’t want to cancel. Since then I have been waiting for the certification to happen.

A month back I was early to the gym and got chatting with Mohit. Mohit works at a startup and takes body pump class on Wednesday nights. He put me on the mailing list of Professional Fitness which conducts the certifications. Professional Fitness told me they would have TRX course in August but weren’t sure of the dates. Then I got a mail with 28th August as the date but they needed 6 participants and only 1 person had paid till Wednesday. I was in a fix- Should I run the Hyderabad half marathon for which I had enrolled and booked the flight or reschedule for Delhi even though there was no confirmation the course would be held. I decided to take a chance but had a sinking feeling it would get cancelled again. When Neha from PF mailed me yesterday confirming the certification was happening, I couldn’t believe it. I paid for it today and still can’t believe it’s finally happening.

Whether I manage to take even one class of TRX or not, tomorrow is a big step forward towards what I want to do. Maybe not as a profession but definitely as a hobby.

I am happy goals don’t change when your life changes. You just have to want things bad enough.

Landlords- Mumbai Vs Gurgaon

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When I moved into the Mumbai flat, my deposit cheque bounced for some reason. I promptly called the broker and informed the landlord’s wife and promised to transfer the amount the very same day. The landlord had not even received intimation about the cheque bounce until then. At night I realised that I can transfer maximum 30k to a new payee and communicated the same to the landlord’s wife- let’s call her P. I promised to transfer the balance amount after 24 hours (basis RBI) rules. She asked me to also transfer the penalty amount of 200 bucks which I had no issues with. But I was shocked that people who own a flat which costs more than a crore, who work in a MNC and live in Hiranandani Powai would make that kind of a request. This is where Mumbai differs from Gurgaon.

We have stayed in 4-5 flats in Gurgaon in the last few years. Except for one flat where we were in touch with the broker instead of owner, all the landlords have been courteous. They have come over to say “Hello” a few times, invited us over to their house many times and never followed up on rent or a few hundred bucks. KC is responsible for rent while EMI is mine and most of the time, the amounts are equal so we end up even. KC is not the most prompt person when it comes to money (to put it mildly) but none of the landlords have ever followed up or complained.

On the other hand, even when I have gone out of my way to transfer the rent to the Mulund landlord in 2009 because he didn’t want to go through the pain of depositing the cheque, he wanted to charge me extra for staying one night extra in the flat after I was supposed to move out (I opted to stay in a hotel instead). And he didn’t return the deposit till the last minute, despite my requesting him to.

I don’t know why the attitude is so different in these cities. All these landlords are educated people with similar level of earning. As a landlady myself, I didn’t ask the tenant to pay a few hundred rupees for the bounced cheque. In fact, I didn’t even realize there was a penalty. Their cheque has bounced today and they will transfer the rent tonight.

Anyway, now that I have deleted my WhatsApp (48 hours and counting. I am alive, well and not missing useless chats), I doubt P will spend money on SMS.

1 + 1 = ???

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As soon as I joined the new role, I was ranting to my ex-manager about something and he said; “Don’t be quick to judge anyone”. Are you kidding me? This is ME. Of course, am going to be quick to judge someone. 1 + 1 always equals 2. It is simple.

I have realised that 1 + 1 does not equal 2 most of the time.

Disclaimer – I am NOT talking Maths, ok? Don’t assume I failed my Maths exams. If you’d like to check my credentials, I scored a 147 out of 150 in Gujarat boards 12th std and if that board is too LS (low society) for you, I scored more than 90 out of 100 in ICSE 10th std

It is about not judging anyone too quickly. The South regional manager had advised me not to rely on other people’s judgements. He told me “Many times your peers, seniors and even reportees will tell you someone isn’t good at their job. Don’t believe them. Take the time to assess it yourself. Most of the time there is no real basis for that judgement and you will be surprised. Form your own opinions”. I have been realising how true that is in the last few weeks. We forget that people behave differently with different people. If you don’t like or trust someone, you will be harder on them at work. And if you think they are good at their job, you will not interfere in their work. The victim of the former will not have a great opinion about you, while the latter will think you are a good manager. Whose opinion should a 3rd person believe?

I was telling D today “I am constantly thinking about my team. They are on my mind ALL the time. I can’t switch off”. He said “That’s a good sign. Managing your own expectations is easy but managing people’s expectations is the most difficult thing”.

Last month I had admitted, shamefacedly, to KC how I desperately want my team to like me. ME- a person who doesn’t give a fuck about what people think. He laughed it off and asked me to get a life. I keep remembering all the horrible things I have said about bosses in the last 8-9 years of my work experience and am mortified thinking that someone is going to say those kind of things about it. D, wisely, told me that everyone cannot and will not like me. And that’s ok. The job isn’t about getting the team to like me. The organisation has given us an objective for the year and together, we need to achieve that. THAT’S the point of the job.

I don’t have any peers I can discuss all this with. I have moved one step ahead of most of my colleagues/colleagues-turned-friends and they won’t understand any part of this. The only people I can talk to are my ex-managers (only two of them because I think everyone else sucked at team management and their job). It is nice to be able to discuss work with them but I miss having 5-10 people as colleagues. There is only so much one can bond with their reportees. They will always keep a certain distance from me and that is fine.

Today when the trade marketing manager and I went for chai (don’t like chai but that’s how you socialise in sales. THAT or smoking) and he started talking about having an off site for the team. I couldn’t stop laughing. Few months back I was on the other side of the table and constantly harassing my ex-manager for an “off site”. My ex-colleague V would spend 30 mins every week with him and badger him to have an off site. Some days it worked, most of the time not so much. Now, here I am, getting the same treatment.

Off site is when you go on a company paid trip to a scenic location for a meeting. You DO have the meeting but it is followed by a daaru party and exploring the local sights. Our last off site was at Kesroli.

Disappointing half marathon

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I am very annoyed with myself. Very. I could have met or crossed my personal best timing in today’s half marathon (IDBI Mumbai half marathon – Oval Maidan-Gateway of India-Marine Drive-Charni road-Oval Maidan) but missed it by a whisker. Not because I couldn’t have run faster but because I didn’t remember the personal best timing. I should get it tattooed somewhere but it’s going to change every year and that can get expensive.

Let me start from the beginning. I have been training for the Hyderabad half marathon (which I may or may not run. Will know for sure on Wednesday) and registered for the IDBI MHM as well. My last long run was 17 km in Gurgaon 3 weeks back which I completed in 2 hours. That gave me the confidence that I can complete a half marathon in 2 hrs 30 mins. 2.30 is the timing I had targeted for ADHM. If I did run any of these half marathons in Mumbai or Hyderabad in 2.30, I would have to target a lower timing and start training accordingly September onwards for ADHM. So far, so good.

When I started the run today I was very confident that 2.30 is going to happen. I just have to ensure 17 km in 2 hours. After that, it would be a cakewalk. I may even get a sub 2.30. N (a runner from Delhi who has recently moved to Mumbai and is a twitter/instagram friend) and I started running the half marathon together at 6 am but he crossed me in a few hundred meters. I wanted to start slow. 4 km is generally my warm up distance, after which I get into the groove. The first 10 km were a breeze and I was happy with the pace. Things started going wrong 11/12 km onwards. I couldn’t pick up the pace and 17 km in 2 hours looked impossible. I decided to focus on getting to 16 km and then figuring out what needs to be done. At 14 km I wanted to stop. This was too hard. My calves were on fire. My feet felt sensitive and I was afraid of the recurrence of a past injury. Why was this happening? 17 km 3 weeks back were effortless. Where had I gone wrong? 10 km last Sunday was not tiring at all. I started focussing on each 100 meters. I looked at my watch every 100 m and decided to run at a normal pace instead of running too fast and then having to walk. Sadly, I had to walk any way. From 7 km/hr average pace, the pace came down to 7.25 km/hr.

After 17 km, 2.30 was possible if I pushed myself but my body refused to respond. The extra holiday weight was slowing me down as well. I hated the jiggle of my waist. I started counting every km and pushed myself. 4 km more. 3 km. 2 km. I finished the half marathon in 2 hrs 36 mins 33 seconds. In my head, the personal best was 2 hrs 34 mins at SCMM. At 2 hrs 34 mins, I stopped trying. The timing didn’t matter anymore. I was disappointed. If I can’t beat the Mumbai timing in Mumbai itself, my training has been a waste. 7 months of running and I couldn’t get to the same timing. What hope did I have for ADHM? How would I ever get to sub 2.30 and further?

After breakfast, I opened the runtastic app and checked details of the past runs. My timing at SCMM was 2 hrs 39 mins and at ADHM 2 hrs 35 mins. I missed my personal best by 1 minute. I could have reached there, had I remembered. I would have cut down 1-2 mins easily.

Also, everyone seems to have had a bad run because of the high humidity levels, potholes on roads (maybe Mumbaikers are used to them, am a Delhi snob who likes her road smooth like butter), many U turns on the route and access to half of the road at many places which led to jostling for space to run. While the Delhi runners (2 of the ones I know) didn’t have a great run, I overheard Mumbai runners complaining as well. I guess it wasn’t my fault or the lack of training which is good to know.

Any way, I need to eat something and drop dead now. Ciao. Have a great Sunday. I plan to do nothing – to the best of my ability though don’t bet on it.

Just like that

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Him – Why have you been writing unhappy poems?

Me – Because some mornings I wake up crying. And I don’t tell you about it because I don’t want you to worry

Him – You are right. I will worry.

Me – So it’s ok if I don’t tell you?

Him – Yeah

And just like, we have gone from telling each other when we are upset to not telling each other when we are upset.

Good or bad? I don’t know.