Poem: Writer’s Block

For the past week, I have been really struggling to write quality content. I have ideas, but when I start writing, everything seems to fizzle out. This poem is inspired by my struggles.

writersblock

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Writer’s Block

 

I sit in front of my laptop, staring intently at the blank screen
Peering and poring over it, hoping to form words that come to mean

Sometimes I get a glimmer of an idea
It flits and floats, as if doing the cha-cha

The idea proves as elusive as a scent in the air
Trying to locate it proves to be as difficult as a prayer

I try to sip some coffee hoping for a spark
To ignite those neurons, fire up the quark

But words are still playing hide-and-seek with me
Wonder when they will give up and come to me?

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What Makes a Good Manager?

beagoodmanager-722x1024In my years of being in the workforce, I’ve had many managers, good, bad and even indifferent, but I don’t think I’ve had one as the one I reported to in my last short-lived job. This person, who was a nice person by nature, exemplified everything that a manager should not be. It was not because this person was being a manager for the first time, this person had been a good 40 odd years in the workforce and probably had been a manager for at least half that time. But the traits the person brought to the table as someone overseeing a team were traits that do not make a good manager. I kept thinking back to how this person treated people and this became the fodder for this blog post.

So what are the traits that exemplify a good manager? Keep reading….

'A good leader can lead them to water, but a great leader can also make them drink.'Leadership:
A good manager should not just manage the people under them, they should inspire and lead them. They should be emotionally stable, have enthusiasm for the work they and their team does and learn to take failures as well as success. A good leader also shares credit for a job well done and does not throw any member of their team under the bus just to save their skin.

Communication:
A good manager is someone who is able to communicate well. Managers communicate in a 360 degree, from employees who report to them, peers, clients and their own managers. This can be in person, via phone or even written communication through email. What they say should not be evasive or unintelligible, but should be clear and concise and not have any room for ambiguity. Another important communication is non-verbal communication, especially when dealing with subordinates.

Planning:
Good managers are organized. They know what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. A good manager not only knows the long-term goals of the organisation but also know what they and the team they supervise need to do to achieve those goals. A good manager will not only plan and schedule the team but will also have a good grasp of the departmental budget.

'How good are you at throwing money?'Problem-Solving:
Good managers are able to identify and solve problems. Whether it’s a personnel issue, an upset customer or a difficult vendor, good managers can think of creative solutions to problems, then execute the solutions. Good managers also take responsibility for problems that arise rather than seeing them as someone else’s responsibility and take an ethical approach to problem-solving. Great managers know in addition to being a leader, they are also teammates. They don’t just give feedback on problems; they help with implementing the solutions. These managers are very clear and realistic when it comes setting and communicating goals. Along the way, they get their hands dirty and put in the work to ensure their direct reports are set up for success. They show them how to be successful if they are falling behind and demonstrate best practices to help guide them along.

Attitude:
What sets every good manager that I’ve had over the years is simply nothing more than a good attitude. Attitude really is everything and great managers know that their energy and attitude set the pace for the day. A great manager knows when to hold certain situations lightly and when to drive certain situations with a high degree of urgency. Their communication is not hard to read or understand. A good manager never over-reacts and keep calm even under immense fire. They are always cool in the office and always have a smile on their face even under exceptional circumstances.

Transparent:
You cannot be a great manager if you sugarcoat things. They must know how to speak to their reports in a way that is direct, factual and straightforward — especially when it comes to bad news. They also get to the point quickly and transition into solution-based thinking (versus wallowing). Top-notch managers must also be transparent. This trait helps drive away any potential rumour mills before they open. They foster a culture of candour, making it easier for people to give meaningful real-time feedback.

toon473Flexible:
Great managers know that it is not all about them; it is all about the people. When things get bumpy they embrace ambiguity and make others comfortable in dealing with change. They also know that no two employees are the same and spend the time getting to know what motivates and challenges people. They ask questions and listen so they can set up a working relationship that is tailored to the specific needs of an employee (as appropriate and reasonable as possible).

Accountability:
Remarkable managers are obsessed with accountability. They realize that the success of their direct reports is their success. On the flipside, they share in failures and mistakes. They hold regular one-on-one meetings with their direct reports and reinforce the outcomes they and the team are responsible for. They are vested in driving solution-based cultures and strive to build an environment of continued learning (versus finger pointing). Also, to keep staff focused, they make sure to handle and manage accountability conflicts as they come up (instead of letting things fester).

Develop great talent:
A great manager is very good at spotting potential not only among their own team members but also among the other employees in the organisation and using the spotted talent to the best of their ability. They are able to get the right people in the right roles at the right time. They do this through the encouragement of mentorship opportunities and the implementation of a proactive plan for addressing career development interests, needs and desires. Great managers care about the future as much as they care about the present for both the business and the individual.

 

Decision Making:
If supervisors can’t make decisions for their team, how can they expect to guide them towards the finish line for projects or goals? The truth is, they can’t. That’s why the best managers have the ability to make decisions with a wealth of information — in a short amount of time — to get the best results from their team. The best managers are hard to come by, and with good reason: they have to be emotionally intelligent, honest and hold their team to the same performance and accountability standards that they hold themselves to.

These are the traits that I found that make up a good manager. I am going to use this as a guide when I become a manager.

What has your experiences been either as a manager or under a manager? I’d love to hear in the comments section below.

Looking back…..and Facing forward….

 

As we start the first week of 2018, let me do a short recap of my year that was in 2017 as well as some ideas on how I want this year to work out for me.

 

2017 started as usual for me, with looking for a job which didn’t materialise until the middle of the year. But what a position it turned out to be! I was bullied in my second week there by a subordinate and that’s when I knew I had to get out. I started looking for positions immediately, but before I could leave, I was asked to leave. I hated it there and so when the shock of having this thrust on me abated, I was really relieved. I attribute this 100% to my manager, who approved decisions I took, but turned around and lied about those decisions, even though it was approved by email! This person is a very strong-willed person with a personality to match and when confronted, I didn’t push back, which was, in retrospect, something I am not very proud of. Anyway, karma worked and what this person did to me was done to them in less than two months time!

The children had good school years. GG did especially well and she managed to move to the better stream (after we managed to convince her school principal that she can do it). She now gets to do the subjects she enjoys and excels in and hopefully will continue to thrive in school. BB, on the other hand, managed to squeeze into his stream of choice by a whisker. I was mentally prepared that he will not get into the pure science stream as his science marks just about made the cut-off marks for the stream and was already psyching him for other science-related subjects, but when the streaming results were declared, both of us did a little jig on seeing his name in the pure science class.

 

That was 2017, what do I want to do in 2018?

 

For one, I want to lose 10% of my total body weight as on 01 January. I have checked my weight on Monday (and I am conscious enough of it that I don’t want to reveal it to the whole internet), and will be tracking it with an eagle’s eye!

Continuing on the health theme, my last HbA1C reading put me in the upper end of the acceptable range and I want to bring this down to the lower end and in the healthy range by the end of the year. I have my next test in February, just after the Chinese New Year and so want to have some positive news there.

Other health and beauty related resolutions are to meditate daily for at least 10 minutes, put on a face mask every day for 365 days and clock an average of 10,000 steps daily. These should be fairly doable I think, I just need to be consistent and not give in to laziness and complacency.

I also want to write more this year, both in this blog and elsewhere. I dream of being a published author and want to take steps to achieve this by perhaps submitting a short story. I am going to work on this dream too this year.

On the job front, I am going to be super discerning about where I apply jobs to and even after I interview, I will not accept any position just because I get offered one. I don’t want a repetition of what happened in 2017, so I rather am safe than sorry.

I also want to travel and we’ve already started planning our year-end holiday where I want to explore parts of India I’ve never been to. I also want to do a solo trip, but I am not sure if this will pan out this year, but it’s something I am putting here, in the hope that the universe will let it happen.

So that’s what my plans for 2018 are. What about you? Have you made any plans? Or are you someone who wings it? Do comment below and I’d love to hear from you.

Life is like a Game

Life is like a game, you win some, you lose some

Sometimes the dice throws you a six, sometimes  it makes you glum

There are times you move up the ladder of life

But there are also times life gives you loads of strife

You have to dust it off and get up and go forth be unafraid

Because when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade

Life is just like a game, you win some, you lose some

Just enjoy the life you have, don’t become life’s victim

 

 

Reading takes you places

Climb the mountain, clear the highest pass,

Or maybe you want a trip to steppes full of grass?

You be an emperor or the pope

Or perhaps be someone who has lost all hope.

Visit all the great cities of the world

See things that you never thought possible

Is this about a magic carpet I am talking about?

Nah, all this from the pages of a book

A good book is your best you guide

Takes you places you’d never thought go worldwide!