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Friday, November 30, 2012

LEADERSHIP SPECIAL... ARE YOU A VIRTUAL BOSS?


ARE YOU A VIRTUAL BOSS? 
 
With organisations opting to create virtual teams in today’s diversified work environment, a leader is expected to exhibit different skill-sets and a new leadership style.


    Virtual teams consisting of people spread across different locations who communicate largely through technology tools like emails, video conferencing, etc. are most common at the workplace today. Thanks to the globalisation and technological advancements, people sitting across the globe today can work together on a single project/assignment and deliver quality results. Advantages like costeffectiveness, increased productivity, better employee engagement, etc are making many organisations adopt this structure at work.
    However, experts say that effectiveness of the virtual teams depends on the capabilities of the leader. Managing the virtual team is not as easy as dealing with people whom you meet on a daily basis. A leader has to bring in several changes to his/her management style. According to Nandagopal Prasad, global head of partner qualification and certification, SAP Labs India, managing a global team is a huge opportunity to enrich leadership competencies. The most significant advantage of a global team is the innovation, which gets fuelled due to the diversity of the team. However, he feels that when it comes to operationally managing virtual teams, structural differences do crop up. “This can be resolved by having a local manager for the teams in each location or making people directly report to the manager outside of the location,” suggests Prasad.
    “Another key quality a leader of the virtual team must possess is the ability or skill to collaborate with people without having meetings or face-to-face interaction,” says Bhavin Turakhia, founder and CEO, Directi. “A virtual leader must be capable of articulating himself/herself in writing. Writing down thoughts in an appropriate manner is a must. Proactively creating processes, which will make teams participate and share knowledge is also the responsibility of the leader,” adds Turakhia. Satish Menon, executive director, Geojit BNP Paribas Financial Services Ltd feels that while managing a virtual team, a leader must take into consideration the characteristics of the location of the team and ground realities of the workplace culture must also be accommodated. “Interpersonal skills of the leader must be improved and depending on the product and situation, the
leader has to deal with people differently,” opines Menon.
    To be able to manage a dispersed team effectively, a leader must bring in several changes to his/her leadership style. “Leaders have to evolve, and think what exactly they should deliver. There are numerous leadership theories and philosophies in this world but the only philosophy that will work with the virtual teams will be making the workforce understand the customers’ needs. The virtual teams and leaders would need to understand the priority of the business and should be able to take independent actions. A business leader should engage in helping every employee of his/her virtual team understand that he/she has to be the leader of one’s personal domain,” says Anirudh Dhoot, director, Videocon. “Leaders who manage across a global team across different time zones must be flexible to work during odd hours. The leader should not always expect his/her team to adjust to suit his/her convenience. Clarity and timeliness of communication are critical. It could be as trivial as adjusting the accent, speed of speech, so that people are able to comprehend over phone or any other conferencing devices,” suggests Prasad.
    Thus, virtual teams require leaders who they
can follow with trust and it is this trust, which sets the foundation for creating excellent workplaces.
Priya C Nair ETHF121127

FINANCE SPECIAL..... CA S H C U S H I O N


CA S H C U S H I O N 
 
Common errors youth must avoid 

   Everyone should appraise their financial needs and be responsive to products and services that are available in the market and which suit their requirements.
    Here, we highlight some of the mistakes that are generally committed by youth during their financial planning.

No clear goal: Everyone needs to set a financial goal and plan accordingly for achieving that goal. For example, goals can be buying a house, retirement planning, children’s education or marriage, wealth creation, etc.
Not clear in investment objective:
Today’s youth are carried away by misleading advertisements, and often invest as per their wish. This results in deviating from their financial goals. They do not map assets like mutual funds, insurance, fixed deposits, etc, to their future goals.
 Keeping money idle in savings account: Due to a frantic work environment and indolence otherwise, monthly savings accumulate over time in bank accounts. Suddenly, people realize that there is too much money lying idle in their account. This leads to impulse buying and affects their financial goals.
Delay in retirement planning: Delay in retirement planning will lead to additional outflow later.
Getting into bad debts and loans:
Most debts can be avoided by postponing a decision to buy something. Whenever the loan’s interest rate goes up, the worries associated with it also go up. Retaining the same EMI and increasing the loan tenure leads to a default, and at times also affects cash flow.
High risk or no risk: Individuals are either risk-averse or risk-seeking by nature. Taking risks is not gambling, but one needs to balance it judiciously.

Ignoring insurance: Today, most of the youth are under-insured and financially under-protected. Insurance helps in protecting financial goals. t Back-up plan: In order to achieve their financial goals, one should have a back-up plan in case of a reduction in income, retrenchment or business loss.
Unwilling to discuss money matters with family members: This will result in upsetting their financial goals since their cash flow will be affected in case of any emergency expense.
Liquidity: Most people lock more money in illiquid assets, or maintain too much cash. They should periodically look into this in order to achieve their financial goals.
Inflation bites: Many people save instead of investing, which leads to unpreparedness for inflation.
    N C Ramesh The author is a Chennai-based  financial advisor ETSWA 121127

WOMAN SPECIAL......... Man Of The House



 Man Of The House 

Hoping for the husband’s input on every domestic decision? Be careful what you wish for

AFTER SEVERAL years of marriage, I have realised that calling my husband, ‘the man of the house’ is a complete misnomer. To begin with, he is hardly at home, the work consuming a good 10-12 hours of a weekday. Secondly, he seems to believe that the house is an automated entity that cleans and repairs itself. It is messy when he leaves it in the morning, and neat and orderly when he returns. It is almost as if some fairy godmother has waved a magic wand over the place. Wet towels left on the bed have vanished, the dust on the dresser has disappeared and dirty breakfast dishes have been transformed into clean dinner plates. Yet, he has no curiosity about this magic and is completely oblivious to the finer details of running a household.
As a writer and consultant, I work out of home. The work part is conveniently forgotten and since I am at home, I usually end up taking care of the household chores along with typing out a client proposal, trying to think of the next plot turn for my novel and helping our daughter write a Hindi poem.
Meanwhile, my husband works hard by hanging around in office trying to look busy in front of his laptop or catches up on sleep during long office meetings. While we both don’t literally have to get our hands dirty thanks to the domestic help available in this part of the world, I still try to involve my husband in crucial domestic decisions so he can feel that he is a part of the household. That is the least he can do by way of contribution.
“What can we do to get the hardwater stains out of the bathroom tiles? Nothing is working.” I asked once.
“Googleit,” he said helpfully, as though it were a new brand of high strength cleaner.
“Should we buy a front-loading or a top-loading washing machine?” “Googleit.” “We need new curtains. Let us go shopping this weekend. There is a sale on at Fine Furnishings.” “Googleit.” It was only when I yanked the iPhone out of his hands and said, “Maybe I should marry Google and move in with it” that he looked up and said, “D..uh?” His eyes had the glazed look that comes on when I mention anything that needs to be done around the house.
When I finally dragged him to the furnishing shop, he spent most of the time on his phone, looking up and giving a thumbs up sign at every piece of cloth I showed him. Then after doing a harrowing shortlisting process on my own, I asked, “Should we go with the cream silk with peach coloured sheers that will go well with our furniture but could look dirty soon or the dark brown one which will not show the dirt but it might make the room look a bit dull?”
“Whichever,” he offered magnanimously.
I stomped out of the shop while he adopted an aggrieved long suffering look.
I recently moaned about this to a friend during one of our complain-about-the-husband sessions.
“He doesn’t care about the house at all. It is as though he is a transient visitor who is only interested in the food. He might as well live in a hotel.”
“Lucky you,” said the friend. “I have one who is obsessive compulsive about everything that goes into the house.”
“But you are so lucky,” I insisted. “I know that your husband fixes all the electrical appliances himself, hammers nails for putting up pictures and he has even shared his secret recipe for making a cleaning mixture to get rid of grease stains on the kitchen chimney.”
“Oh, you don’t know the half of it. He scolds the maid for not cleaning the fans properly and insists on doing it himself with me holding on to the ladder. He spots stray cobwebs that would escape the scrutiny of Sherlock Holmes. When others go abroad, they bring back perfumes and handbags for their wives. He goes to the supermarket and brings me a set of kitchen towels and a super-saver six-pack of Windex.” She wore the harried look of a long-term sufferer.
“But that’s good, isn’t it.” I muttered.
“That’s what you think. Five months ago, we decided to get new curtains. First he drew up a list of all shops in Gurgaon. Then we visited each one and collected swatches of cloth. He then made an Excel spreadsheet and compared different prices and material and decorative impact. He even interviewed my friends on their choice of material. Nothing seemed good enough. Now he wants to visit Delhi shops. By now, I don’t care if we have curtains. I want to live in a hotel.”
I think I will go to Fine Furnishings and pick up those curtains... by myself.
  • by Nirupama Subramanian HT121125

TRAVEL SPECIAL... Around the world in two peti


TRAVEL Around the world in two peti

Holidays almost always come with the headache of expenses. But for budget backpacker Animesh Rawal, travelling is all about maximum fun at minimum cost. He tells Shikha Kumar how he travelled four continents in just `2 lakh

Visitors to Animesh Rawal’s blog are greeted with the tagline, “The travel blog of a kanjoos Indian backpacker”. In 2008 that he undertook his first round-the-world trip. It lasted 10 months. When he came back and tried to fit into the corporate rat race, he realised, as he writes on his blog, “travel had struck a fatal blow to his career.” He decided to quit his job. His reasoning was simple: “A job might take me to the USA or Europe but it definitely won’t take me to Guatemala.”
Last year, Rawal took up the ‘Do peti’ challenge – a trip around the world, completed on two lakh rupees and in six months. He explains, “Two lakh rupees is the difference between the prices of an entry level and mid-level car. I had colleagues who owned these cars and complained to me that they could never afford a trip like mine.” After elaborate planning, Rawal zeroed in on his route – India, Middle East, Europe, North America, South America, North America, Asia, India.
East to West
In the beginning, there was a cheap, one-way ticket. A ticket for Rs10,000 brought him to Damascus, Syria. “I wanted to go overland as much as possible so from Syria, it was overland to Turkey, then Greece, followed by Italy, Spain and Germany,” he said. His budget was about 10 Euros a day. He hardly spent on accommodation, choosing to make use of hospitality exchange websites like couchsurfing.org or staying in inexpensive hostels. For food, he relied on local street food and supermarkets. “I only chose hostels that had a kitchen,” he said. “I also tried to cook at least one meal each for my hosts.”
From Syria, he travelled to Turkey by road. In Turkey, he realised the cheapest way to reach Greece was by flight (50 Euros). Greece to Italy was completed by boat. Since this was less a conventional holiday and more of a challenge, he went where the cheapest route took him. “I found popular places like the Colosseum in Rome or Hagia Sofia in Istanbul very dull and gave up after standing in line for 30 minutes,” he said. “I loved cities ancient Roman cities like Pompeii. It’s a fantastic view into what Roman life was like in the first century.” The travel expenses of this leg cost around Rs25,000.

The Great American
Road Trip
From Frankfurt, Germany, Rawal flew to New York (ticket cost: Rs 13,000). In New York, he stayed with a friend. In Pennsylvania, WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), which puts volunteers upon in farms, took care of three weeks of Rawal’s accomodation. “It’s a great opportunity to connect with people and get an insight into the kind of life they have,” he said. When travelling within the US, he usually travelled with others and split the fuel cost. So a trip from Washington DC to Texas cost him around Rs 4,000. From Texas, he took a bus to Mexico (Indians don’t need a visa if they have a valid American visa and are staying for less than a month).
Mexican Wave
Mexico was one of the places which was cheap on most counts. “The buses that traverse in Southern Mexico are very cheap,” said Rawal. He makes a special mention of the yummy yet inexpensive food with its tangy and spicy flavours. “Every province had their own way of making the tacos, burritos and the tortillas. Plus, I was brave enough to try the street food,” he said. In touristy terms, Pulum, with its many ruins, was the highlight for Rawal of the Mexican leg of his trip.
From Mexico, he went to Guatemala and Nicaragua. In Nicaragua, he stayed in a beautiful beach resort for no charge because he did some website work for them. From Nicaragua, he flew back to New York and from there, he returned to Mumbai by air. The trip had begun in March 2011 and ended in October, and he had exceeded his budget by just about Rs 20,000.
Discovery Channel
While on the trip, Rawal realised certain places, like Turkey, were more expensive than he’d anticipated. Bus journeys in Turkey cost no less than Rs1,500 rupees, which was more than he’d budgeted for. There were pleasant discoveries too. Hostels and food in Germany, for instance, were surprisingly cheap.
The trip was not devoid of troubles. While in Barcelona, Rawal’s passport and laptop were stolen and he had to cough up approximately Rs 14,000 for a new passport. However, this did not deter his enthusiasm. The travel bug is still in his blood and currently, Rawal is working in Greece.
“By taking on this challenge, I just wanted people to know that it’s all a matter of priorities. One can travel on as little or as much as they want,” he said.


Shikha Kumar DNA121125