Performance Goal vs Learning Goal

Getting an A in French class is a performance goal. Being able to speak French is a learning goal.

Both goals can fuel acheivement.

A performance goal (Getting higher grades) is effective for relatively straightforward problems but often inhibits one to apply the concepts to a new situation.

It gives a feeling of entitlement, If I clear IIT (A prestigious engineering exam) I am entitled to the bests in life (Which is far from true).

Performance goal leads to the entity theory, If I do this, I will get this. And is a system that requires a diet of successes otherwise we give up easily on the goal (Or change the goal). As it’s more extrinsic than intrinsic.

People, therefore, choose easy targets that, when hit, affirm their existing abilities but do little to expand them.

In Learning goals, one doesn’t have to feel that they’re already good at something in order to hang in and keep trying. After all, their goal is to learn, not to prove they’re smart.

It is more in the belief that ability is malleable and working harder is a way to keep getting better and better.

Given a choice between the two, always go for the learning goal, as it’s much more fulfilling and rewarding than the performance goal.

Distraction vs Traction…

Traction is any action that pulls us toward what we want to do or what we are interested in doing. These actions are done with intent and purpose.

Distraction, on the other hand, is an action that pulls us away from what we want to do or rather what we need to do.

So if kids want to watch TV to get distracted from studies or escape from studies. It should be a big NO.

But If s/he wants to play Video games it should be fine as long as it’s scheduled and meaningful. However, playing Video games to escape from their responsibilities is a distraction.

Distraction if remained unchecked can form a negative habit, whereas Traction changes the perception and makes it more meaningful and positive.

Traction can also be used with if…then rule…

If you complete your studies in time, then you can watch TV for one hour.

If you help me with kitchen, then I can allow you to play video game for half an hour.

Same is true for us, so …

If I can finish that office presentation, then I can watch TV for one hour.

So anything including digital devices or digital time can be made positive and purposeful if used in the right perspective and within limits i.e for Traction, not Distraction.

The Sleep Miracle…Don’t miss it.

A Doctor tells you about this miracle pill, if you take this pill regularly, it:

  • Reduces your chances of having cancer or heart diseases drastically.
  • Boosts your memory and increases your productivity many folds.
  • Boosts your immunity and helps fight & recuperate from all diseases much faster.
  • Reduces your chances of Alzheimer’s and other stress-related diseases drastically.
  • Keeps your fat in control and helps reduce weight faster.
  • Moreover, you will be much happier on a day to day basis without stress and anxiety.

We all would have grabbed the pill with both hands even if it costs a bomb.

The Pill is: Daily dose of 8-9 hours of good sleep at night.

Now don’t roll your eyes, I know sleep is the last thing in our mind, we are running so fast, that sleep looks like a waste of time.

But there is numerous scientific evidence that both good quality and quantity of sleep leads to a much happier, healthy, and successful life. For further read please refer – Why we sleep book here.

I was always a firm believer in sleep, so much so that I take short naps very frequently apart from the night dose (I wrote this blog sometime back on it). Before understanding sleep benefits I use to feel guilty about these naps or completing my quota of sleep whereas my peers use to get away with just 6 hours of sleep.

But now I can say sleep is one of the most critical requirements of our body. Sleep conditions our body for best productivity and long & healthy life.

So let’s take our sleep seriously and ensure that we have a daily quota of at least 8 hours of sleep.

Here are the few quick tips for sleeping better:

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. We in general have a wake-up plan – Alarm clocks, Wakeup calls, etc but start having a go-to bed plan as well on a daily basis.
  2. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol before sleep. Contrary to the belief that alcohol helps in sleep, its other way around it just brings drowsiness but sleep or rather deep sleep is not possible with it.
  3. Avoid large meals late at night. I presume you would have felt this yourself, having large meals late night leads to an increase in metabolism for digestion and hence should be avoided.
  4. Relax before going to bed. Don’t overschedule your day so that no time is left for unwinding. A relaxing activity, such as reading or listening to music, should be part of the bedtime ritual.
  5. Take a hot bath before bed. When we sleep our body temperature should drop, a hot bath opens body pores and allows the body to cool down. You can try it but again depending on the climate and location etc.
  6. Dark & cool (Not cold) bedroom, this suits the body and helps get sleep faster.
  7. Gadget free – No TV, mobiles & laptop. We all know the story of melatonin- sleep hormone and the negative impact of gadgets and screens against it. Avoid any devices at least one hour before bedtime.
  8. Don’t lie in bed awake. If you find yourself awake after staying in bed for more than twenty minutes or feeling anxious or worried, get up, and do some relaxing activity until you feel sleepy.

So go ahead enjoy your daily pill of sleep and be healty & wealthy in life.

Solve complex problems or solve consumer problems?

As a technologist or product owners, we have a choice – Solve complex problems or solve consumer problems? Believe me, there is a huge difference.

Being techy it gives us people a thrill to solve complex problems even if the problem has zero correlation to a real consumer.

As long as its complex we want to solve it :). Let’s not get into why of it? Maybe it gives a mind thrill or gives a good massage to our ego.

But then what’s the point of product & technology, if it does not solve consumer problems? or real-world problems?

I would say this is one of the biggest learning for me, now that I have my own startup. And I can safely say this makes a huge difference between a successful techy and an average one. Anyone who gets this prospective can not only deliver things much faster but adds tremendous value to the product.

I learned it the hard way, here is how it happened:

Initial days as a techy I had very little interaction with clients who were using our software. But one day I had a call with one of our biggest clients to explain (We use to provide a platform for sellers to sell their items and ship it to the consumer, something similar to eBay) why a major release got postponed leading to shipping & tracking problems. The Client was losing a lot of money because of this issue.

I was dreading the call and was ready with all the tech explanations why it happened, what are we doing to fix it, etc, etc…

The call started, my sales colleague did a quick intro along with the business side updates and handed over to me …

I started with all sorts of technical jargon and then tried explaining that the architecture of the dashboard was scraped and rebuilt for scale…blabbering as much as possible to convince him.

Off-course he couldn’t understand a single word.

But here comes the surprise:

Me – “Sir, the release got delayed because blah blah…we are working day and night to get it live by next week and again blah blah blah more jargons”

Client – “That’s fine but can u please enable my shipping address in the success page”

Me – After long pause….“Sorry, didn’t get, Please tell me again..”

Client – “You guys have removed my shipping address from the success page to make it more prominent on the next page, and hence my customer couldn’t find it easily. ” Client Continued – “Because of this, my customers are not able to understand and have been canceling orders. Also, I need to coordinate with every customer on the phone/mail and losing money…”

Me – Again a longer pause, but some sense of relief and guilt for making this guy and others suffer for our favorite “Dashboard Release”
“Sure Sir, I am sorry for the issue it might be a product bug let me fix it asap”

Client as politely as possible – “I am not much concerned with when the dashboard goes live but please fix this asap and I am more than happy”

Me – Now with more confidence, since its just a shipping address to be added to the success page.
“Sure Sir, I assure you, we will release it by tomorrow”

We fixed the shipping address display issue in the success page, The Client(s) was happy and we released our dashboard in next two weeks (BTW – there were very few usages of the Dashboard but that’s a different story)

This was a life-changing moment for me, I couldn’t understand what happened for some time, why is the client not bothered to use Dashboard built with great technology and supposedly help him so much.

Later I figured that most of the clients had a simple system to show the shipping address and get their team to process it thru excel. Why would they want their team to learn Dashboard and make it difficult, learn a new skill set and invest more?

If we would have understood their problem a bit deeper and had integrated excel into it. It would have been much easier to implement, much faster, and would be very helpful to them. But we were solving a very difficult problem of integration of data from different sources into a single Dashboard and was being proud doing it.

Remember 80-20 Rule

To all the techies and product folks, remember – 20% of product & product features are used 80% of the time hence if we can hone this 20% we are winners. Of course, it’s difficult to identify the 20% and that’s where our focus should be.

So next time if you see a complex problem to be solved, first raise questions what & why, is it really helping someone? and if it does not go solve a complex puzzle to massage your ego 🙂 but please ignore the complex problem.

How to filter the best candidates in a telephonic job interview in 20 Minutes…

Being an entrepreneur I know how critical it is to get the right candidates, but at the same time, it’s impossible to spend a lot of time interviewing and screening each candidate. Hence I started researching how to screen the best candidates in the fastest way possible.

Here are a few learnings which I started using and gave surprisingly good results the best part it requires much lesser time for screening the “A candidates” from “B & C candidates”. (Some points are taken from book WHO – The A Method for Hiring)

Target: The initial screening interview should be short, phone-based, designed to select the best-suited candidates for our requirement.

Lets first start with the “DO NOTs”

Never start the interview by telling about yourself, company, or JD (Job description).

Unless you already know the candidate is the right fit, why waste time on this?. If she is the right candidate she would have already gone thru JD and website/company etc details.

Also, I have seen once you elaborate on the JD and your expectations, the candidate revolves around it and sometimes says those exact words. Kind of killing the whole process at the start.

You will get plenty of time to sell yourself & company later once you figure she is the right fit.

Don’t ask “Tell me about yourself and your profile?”

This is an over abused question and a waste of time, the candidate is so used to this question that it never touches any new information different from CV/Resume. Moreover, once it starts it’s difficult to control the candidate not to elaborate unnecessary details wasting further time.

Now let’s start with the screening questions:

#First Question: What are your career goals, or in the next 3-4 years what you see yourself doing?

The question gives a good opening dialog for the candidate, there is also a bit of surprise element to this question. It allows her to elaborate on her dream and what she wants to do in the future.

What to expect:

Notice whether her goals are matching your requirements. For example, if she is looking as a managerial position and your requirement is more of an individual contributor role, there is a red flag.

Secondly, if she lacks a goal or is saying a copy of the job description she got from the consultant or website, screen the person out. Talented people know what they want and shouldn’t be afraid to tell us.

Lastly, this question should reflect passion and energy in the candidate, after all, it’s her career goal(s) she is talking about. If it’s dull and monotonous, I would screen out the candidate.

#Second Question: What are you really good at professionally?

The question allows the candidate to further elaborate with plenty of points to talk about. Try to get as many traits (At least 5, the more the better) with real examples in some cases, it should give us a clear picture of her strengths.

What to expect:

If there are some key strengths that do not match the job requirement, again a red flag.

For example, if she keeps coming to front-end technologies and you already have a strong person in that technology it does not makes sense to continue unless you are specifically looking at expertise in that area.

Also, look at the passion, this is her area she should ace and should come out to be impressive.

#Third Question: What are you not good at or not interested in doing professionally?

This gives the other side of the equation about her, directly asking whats your weakness leads to a canned and self-serving answer like “I am impatient for results” or “I work too hard” not providing any productive details.

What to expect:

Again try to identify 3-4 areas that she is not interested or good at, if required put fear of reference check into the person. Saying what will be the reaction of your manager if we ask this to her? but ensure its in a soft tone so that it doesn’t disrupt the candidate.

#Fourth Question: What is the one single product/project you would say as your best and why?

This tells us what excites her, motivates her at work. Is it a technology solution, which is exciting, or design or architecture, etc, there is no right or wrong answer for this. Also, why part tells you where she likes to pat her back and tries to excel.

What to expect:

If the product/project was done long back, let’s say 3-4 years earlier, this implies there are not many exciting things she has done in the past 3 years, which is a red flag.

The reason for success and recognition should somewhere match the strengths we are looking for. Also, the reason for the best project shouldn’t digress a lot from your job requirement.

For example, if she says her best project was delivering high performing interface for email marketing and getting good results, but you are looking at SEO digital marketing profiles. There is a mismatch, this not exactly counts to reject but gives you an alarm to grill more on the SEO side.

#Fifth Question: What is the one single product/project you would say was your worst and why?

Again this gives the other side of the balance sheet, why part is most critical.

What to expect:

Failure is an important part to understand the candidate’s approach to a problem. Did she learn from it? What happened to similar future projects and how she came back from this.

It’s important that this also be a recent project, not 3-4 years old because failure is critical for growth, and unless she is recently out of her comfort zone learning would have not been possible. A person’s resilience towards failure is an important part of learning. A really talented person will learn from failures and handle it successfully going forward.

This ends our initial screening process.

All the above questions will give you pretty good insights about the candidate. Moreover, the candidate would have gone thru a really exciting interview.

Somewhere in the middle if you don’t like what you are hearing, simply collapse the call by accelerating your questions. It can be finished in much lesser time if the initial response is not positive. On the other hand, if you hear a strong potential match to your requirement, you can continue spending more time or ask to schedule more time later.

Remember for A candidates you can give more time and for B/C candidates cut short things, you own the process. But if there are doubts, skip and go for the next candidate, we all know how much worse it becomes when we hire a mediocre.

Tips to Reduce Screen Time While You’re WFH…

It’s exhausting to look at a screen all day. And yet, if we’re working remotely, it may feel unavoidable. To maintain our energy throughout the workday, let’s try to proactively disconnect from screens whenever you can.

Here are a few tips that can help:

Avoid Video calls if possible – Remember that video calls aren’t necessary for every meeting: Let’s try a regular phone call every once in a while to mix things up. Also, choose physical over digital whenever possible.

Use Pen/Paper if possible – Brainstorming ideas for an article? Write out your thoughts on paper or post-it notes. Creating a road map for a big project? Sketch the initial draft on a whiteboard or butcher paper instead of typing in a laptop.

Move around as much as possible, even if it’s just standing up and rolling your shoulders or grabbing a glass of water between meetings, take frequent breaks.

Take tech-free breaks over lunch, tea time, and find activities that don’t involve a screen to wind down.

Taking these steps will help us reduce our digital fatigue and feel more energized at the end of each day.

Work Stress Keeping You Up at Night…

Work stress is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to get in the way of a good night’s sleep. Try these strategies during the day to avoid worrying about work at all hours of the night.

Make a to-do list. The act of writing down uncompleted tasks allows us to put them out of mind.

Keeping a journal, where you write down thoughts and feelings. Putting pen to paper can help process emotions and reduce anxiety.

Get some exercise. Physical activity — even a single instance — decreases rumination, which is often linked to insomnia.

Practice meditation. Researchers have found that even small amounts of mindful meditation (10 minutes before and after work for two weeks) helped calm racing minds and improved sleep quality and duration.

Lastly, be easy on yourself. Self-compassion can often break the cycle of negative thoughts that keeps you up.

Work stress may be inevitable at times, but these strategies can increase our ability to wake up feeling refreshed and able to tackle the biggest challenges.