Monday, May 30, 2011

The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Managers

Am I fixated on the number Seven...looks like it and according to my enlightened sis-in-law and her friend Dan Millman who wrote the book " The Life you were born to live" , it is one of my lucky numbers. Anyway, I was reading this interesting article by Geoffrey James (GJ) today and what caught me was the title of the article "Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Managers". Without much ado let me share the gyan aka Cliff Notes edition of the article with you -
The world has changed. Things are different than they were. Nothing is the same, except some things like: bad management, which is as eternal as death and taxes.Our problems and pain are universal, which is why we need universal, timeless, self-evident principles common to every management team throughout history. GJ did not invent them and takes no credit for them. GJ simply identified and organized them into a coherent framework...a framework that I have conveniently shared with you for greater good ;-)
Habit #1 : Be a Know-it-All : Make sure that EVERYONE in your team ALWAYS knows that you're a cut above the hoi polloi that tremble at your feet. That way they won't get uppity.
Habit #2 : Manage Numbers and Deliverables not People : Make sure EVERYONE in your team ALWAYS knows that they are replaceable...Follow this habit religiously, and you'll always have wonderful Powerpoint decks to present to the bigwigs in board room. After all, what those guys care about are the numbers, right? Employees? Screw 'em.
Habit #3 : Embrace the Status Quo : Forget about all that crap about innovation. If something ain't broke, don't fix it.
Habit #4 : Divide and Conquer : The best way to manage a team is to make sure that one half hates the other half. Ideally, you want the entire group to be a seething swamp of resentment and pique -- all of it aimed at co-workers rather than you! Most importantly, make certain that you're always the person to put the finishing touches on a successful project, if only to "keep peace in the family." That way, you can take the lion's share of credit while throwing some crumbs on the floor for your underlings to fight over.
Habit #5 : Do it Yourself : Don't believe any of that BS about the importance of delegating. Delegating is for sissies who can't think strategically. Think about all those books you've read by top CEOs like Jack Welch! Did they delegate? Of course not! They captained the ship and keel-hauled the flunkies.You are the Hero who swoops right in and does the job right!
Habit #6: Expect Mind reading: The best way to keep employees on their toes is to make sure that they never know exactly what you're thinking.If you're asked your opinion on something, always say: "Well, that depends." If you're asked for a decision, always say: "I have it under consideration" or (if you're feeling particularly frisky that day) "I have it under active consideration."
Remember: Your ability to remain in power is directly dependent upon your ability to keep your employees confused and disoriented. After all, if they know what they're supposed to be doing, why would they need a manager?
Habit #7 : Sharpen the Axe : One way to "sharpen the axe" is to read plenty of Ayn Rand, whose philosophy of business is tantamount a "soul-ectomy." After you've read enough Rand, you'll find it impossible to care about all those moochers and losers who aren't as successful as you. Finally, if all else fails, you can "sharpen the axe" simply by remembering the motto immortalized in The Sopranos: "It's not personal... it's just business."

Haven't had enough yet of this delightful article - to read the article in all its gory and glorious details go here. GJ definitely made my day today and got a couple chuckles out of me and a few omigods! I need to stop doing that...the beauty of such reads is light-hearted as they are - they do make you search deep within yourself to answer questions and in someways refine your actions in a conscious manner.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Se7en and life the last seven days.... I have a confession to make. The genre of movies I like run along the lines of psychological thrillers and suspense. One such movie that I watched many years back on a cold rainy day was called "Seven"...I get chills down my spine even now as I think of that movie - the seven deadly sins (Gluttony. Greed. Sloth. Wrath. Pride. Lust. Envy)...the brilliant,elusive serial killer targeting the so-called sinners.
Truth be told - these seven sins are an integral part of my life at some point or the other. Put your hand to your heart and ask yourself and you will see what I mean...I will give you an example : when I was pregnant with K2, I polished off an entire fruit cake (from Passage to India) in one sitting with a big glass of milk...if that isn't gluttony...don't know what is.I have very exacting standards for myself and my close family and friends ...unfortunately life is not always as black and white as I make it out to be in my head. Why this sudden flashback on Se7en, just that I am dealing with a lot of the above-mentioned  in so-called near and dear ones and the temptation in my mind is a "singular disconnect"...(a concept I coined in my exploration of all things mind...but not one I want to delve into today :-) ).

 Life has been busy in a vacuum the past week - K2 is sick (yet again)...and we are spending the long weekend quite quietly...tempers ran high, temperatures ran even higher - life is a constant wheedle, needle and whine with K2 right now and my hope is that he out grows this phase soon. I can't wait for him to start school near our house...
Today I want to give you the butter chicken recipe I have been titillating JL and M with -

You Need -
  • 1  Large Onion (roughly chopped)
  • 1 small knob of Ginger, 4 cloves of Garlic (roughly chopped)
  • 8 Tomatoes (ripe and juicy)
  • 2 Jalapenos (roughly chopped, more if you want more of a kick)
  • 2 pounds of Grilled Organic Chicken ( yes, for me it was the short cut :)  - shredded and de-boned)
  • Spices - Roasted and Ground Powder (Chilly Powder, Cinnamon,Clove,Nutmeg,Cumin and Coriander)
  • Kasturi Methi Leaves
  • Salt to taste, little brown sugar
  • Organic Valley Sour Cream - non fat
  1.  2 spoons of  Olive or Saffola Oil - add the spices . Add a pinch  of brown sugar, when the sugar caramelizes add the Onions, Jalapenos Ginger and Garlic. Cook till golden and fragrant and then add the tomatoes - when the tomatoes are cooked and the oil separates (takes a lot of TLC)...turn your cooking range off and add the kasturi methi leaves and salt.Let it cool.
  2. Now take your food processor and grind to a smooth, creamy paste with some water ( I used my Magic Bullet, less clean up).
  3. Put the mixture back in the pan and gently heat, add the chicken pieces, 2-3 spoons of the OV Sour Cream (go as per your taste). Keep it on low heat - as it comes to a rolling boil, add 2 table spoons of tomato ketchup (my secret weapon !!!) and check the salt levels. Turn off. Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves. Enjoy with a bowl of hot steaming rice.
I am hoping to finish this book that K1 passed along to me - A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink...and when K2 is feeling better watch Kungfu Panda 2. How has your weekend been treating you?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Santa Barbara, Killer Whales and a Killer Butter Chicken....

The years in Santa Barbara were idyllic – a start-up culture, close-knit team, a wonderful supportive spouse (we got married after we moved to Santa Barbara from Washington DC) and the fabulous chance to spread my wings and bask in the warmth of southern California. Two friends that I made in my first couple months there were M and S – one warm and absolutely the best friend I had (I remember her every time I look at the beautiful ring stand she gave me, which is every night) and the other flamboyant with a joyous abandon to enjoying life and every new experience to the fullest. I remember the three of us going down to State Street to enjoy some Mexican food with a much needed Margherita and the only one that got carded was me :-( 

S lived life large- she and I went to Amsterdam for a Business trip and she splurged 3 grand on clothes which to me seemed very impulsive and over the top…over the years I have made life style choices based on my life priorities. K1 and I live life with three overriding principles –
(A) Live Happy
(B) Live Healthy
(C) Live Clean (within your means, ethically and simple)

Over the years I have switched our food habits to Organic, Local and focused on healthy options. I will give you an example – my plan yesterday was to take K2 for dinner to a restaurant for some “mommy time” with him (K1 was still blissful in China sans wife and child)…however, as I drove to Whole Foods for a few essentials – Bread, Milk etc. I saw that WF was having their Friday Sale – a whole, free range roasted or grilled chicken for $5 (regular price $10). I am an avid follower of “The Whole Deal” and found a coupon for a free side – I picked Mom’s Macaroni Salad (which on a normal day would have been $9). The chicken is about 3 pounds, enough for dinner for K2 yesterday and I made a killer Butter Chicken (recipe to follow if requested – just fair warning this is a heart healthy curry, so if you are looking for some butter action, wrong recipe).
Coming back to M and S, I was missing them quite a bit because the first time I invited M & S over to our place in SB, I had cooked a butter chicken…those were wonderful, uncomplicated times …lots of learnings but a lot of love and laughter…carefree lifestyle. Life today is a bit more measured and I am hoping to instill in my son some of that joyous intent to live life fullest…no regrets, no worries…living in the present ( of course I still am the planner but am trying to break out of that habit).

Here are a couple pictures from our whale watching trip last week. I do want to give Sanctuary Cruises a plug…they were reasonably priced, very personal trip and we had a very learned Biologist on board – Dorris who was amazingly patient while she walked us through the various marine life. What made my day were the Orcas (killer whales), Hump Back Whales, a huge group of brown pelicans, the playful risso dolphins and the albatross. Do try and make a trip out to Moss Landing to Sanctuary Cruises if you are in the area…right next to Sanctuary Cruises is this awesome farm stand – I picked up blueberries, strawberries, five pounds of Organic Oranges, ten grape fruits, 3 pounds of apples, 2 pounds of lemon, fruit sticks (mango and apple), 4 heads of garlic for 12 dollars :)
How has life been treating you?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Give me some sunshine...

Sunday turned into Monday turned into Tuesday…weekend morphing into busy weekdays, yet the one thing constant in these 3 days is the drizzling rain, the grey skies, the empty landscape…and the absolute stillness around. At times, the silence it is comforting and relaxing yet sometimes I long for sunshine…the warmth that heralds the advent of summer…(make the taxpayer in me happy California…give me some sunshine).

To ward off the chill, I long for my mother’s hot comforting Dal (Dal is a hearty lentil stew prepared in India, the source of protein for non-meat eaters). Not being one with immense patience, I don the avatar of a domestic diva and pick up my pressure cooker to create some kitchen magic. I have in my refrigerator a tender opo squash (Lauki) and so begins my journey to recreating one of my favorite comfort meals (oriya ishtyle)

You Need:
  • 1 cup Moong Dal ( I usually dry roast the moong dal before using in this recipe)
  • 1 Small/Medium Opo Squash (chopped into small pieces)
  • ½ Onion, 1 Tomato, 3 Pods of Garlic (finely minced), thinly chopped Ginger (As per your taste)
  • ½ Spoon Olive Oil (if you are feeling particularly decadent use Ghee)
  • Jeera for tempering, Turmeric Powder, Salt to Taste and Fresh Lemon Juice (for that zing!)
  • Cilantro for Garnish
To Make:
Add the olive oil to the pressure cooker. Once the oil is shimmering add the jeera (cumin seeds ) and fry till it is fragrant. Add the turmeric powder. Add the chopped Onion, Ginger and Garlic. When they start browning add in the tomatoes, cook for about 2-3 minutes till it mixes with the Masala and then add the Opo Squash, Moong Dal, Salt to taste and 3 cups of water. Put the pressure on and let it go for 3-4 whistles. When you open the pressure cooker, check to make sure there is enough salt. Add in the fresh lemon juice and chopped cilantro. Enjoy with a hot bowl of brown rice (my sunshine in a bowl)

I have substituted most oils and ghee with Olive Oil in my cooking for the past 3 years. One of the main reasons for this switch is health and to maintain a steady cholesterol level. I won’t say Olive Oil and Indian Cooking go hand in hand…but I will say this much, over time they have learnt to become good friends. I don’t stick to one brand of Olive Oil and have in the past 2 months used an EVOO brand of Olive Oil called Corto mainly to support the local California Growers.
This goes out to Creative Concoctions #4 – Cooking with Olive Oil .

It's soon time for bed and playing in the background is the song from 3 idiots ( I love this movie because it was the first movie that made my family laugh and smile after some tough times...)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Just another day in paradise...

The kids screaming, phone ringing
Dog barking at the mailman bringing
That stack of bills - overdue
Good morning baby, how are you?
Got a half hour, quick shower
Take a drink of milk but the milk's gone sour
My funny face makes you laugh
Twist the top on and I put it back
There goes the washing machine
Baby, don't kick it.
I promise I'll fix it
Long about a million other things

Well, it's ok. It's so nice
It's just another day in paradise
Well, there's no place that
I'd rather be
Well, it's two hearts
And one dream
I wouldn't trade it for anything
And I ask the Lord every night
For just another day in paradise.
                                                                                                ---Phil Vassar

Caught up in the mundaness of life...the incessant traffic on 101, the early morning calls, the constant rush to get lunches and dinners ready...kid ready and the dog walked...I forget to take a minute to stop and enjoy the beauty around....The crane waiting...waiting for right moment
The pink blush of the Cherry Blossoms now an event of the past...they blossomed and now the trees are a bright red...mostly unnoticed.
The beautiful wildflower I almost missed as I stare unseeing from my bedroom window, as I sip a cup of herbal tea.

Just a day in paradise...
We are taking K2 whale watching tomorrow...what are your weekend plans?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day...

Some mothers are kissing mothers and some are scolding mothers, but it is love just the same, and most mothers kiss and scold together.
                                                                                                           ~Pearl S. Buck

Abinash and Ma...circa 1974

Erica Jong aptly said - My love for her and my hate for her are so bafflingly intertwined that I can hardly see her. I never know who is who. She is me and I am she and we're all together

Happy Mother's Day !!!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Motherhood and Apple Pie…and quieting the monkey mind.

As I hurry through my daily routine – life does not feel the warmth and fuzziness…what’s up with this saying anyway…it has been ringing in my brain for 3 days creating a dissonance of sorts. I am of the opinion that Apple Pie is definitely placed on a higher pedestal that it should be – the dough is doughy and the apples are stewed…some apple pies more tolerable than others…but overall eh! I have had better. Motherhood – the past 3 weeks has felt the same way – eh! I have been better. What with K2 falling sick, the imminent uncertainty of things work and the constant feeling of rush and the feeling that – crap! There is something I have forgotten on my To-Do List.

Every morning starts with getting lunch ready and packed for the two K’s, 1-2 early morning calls, make my morning cuppa (hot water, honey and lemon), drag K2 out of the bed kicking and screaming, get him ready while I try to finish my cuppa, if K1 is not on a call (which is highly unlikely) – he takes on the mammoth task of getting K2 ready : make the bed, rush through a shower, barely there make-up to hide the raccoon eyes, a final check of the house and out of the door for my carpool with K1 and K2. Wait a minute…did I just forget my office badge, what about my cell phone…yikes! my wallet….The first second of quiet I get when I turn on my computer and sit at my cube sipping a cup of Zhena’s Gypsy Tea…the palpitation dies down and the calm settles in as I get through my day’s list. Where time flies by I don’t know but when I look up its soon time to leave to take the long trek ( 30 miles) to K2’s school and back home…on the way we sometimes need to stop by Trader Joe’s or the Indian Store for some staples – Bananas, Bread, Samosas (yeah! yeah! not a staple but on days of dire needs this fried piece of dough filled with potatoes hits a spot).
Evening is a whirl – what with getting the laundry done, give K2 a oil massage and bath, get his dinner ready, feed him – exhausted I have not really planned dinner for K1 and me…K1 is understanding and we either grab something from outside or eat something low maintenance. By this time it is 9-10 PM. I drag K2 to bed and I try to entertain him until he falls asleep. I am back on my computer either working or blogging, paying bills, creating a new T0-Do List – at 11.00 PM I am ready to call it a night – however, my mind wanders from thought to thought – incomplete to do lists, a walk-thro’ of irrelevant conversations, perceived deficiencies, wallowing in things not done…finally exhausted I fall asleep. Morning is yet again a repeat of the above. My product management mind has synthesized 4 key pieces of learning from this daily experience – of course I am able to practice 50% of it, and am working on the other half of it i.e., have fun and be patient when things don’t go my way
(A) Plan for the short term
(B) Execute
(C) Put 1 hr aside every day for fun
(D) Get a handle on the Monkey Mind

Most importantly, rather than existing in the present moment, the monkey mind focuses on one thought after another, and these thoughts distract me from enjoying the beautiful present- stop me from focusing on my wonderful strong boy growing from an infant to a toddler, the expanse of serenity and beauty that surrounds me (I may be biased but I live by paradise!!!), the strong pillar of support my husband and family have been through the years….

“The mind is like a crazy monkey, which leaps about and never stays in one place. It is completely restless and constantly paranoid about its surroundings. When we talk about the development of peace, we are not talking about cultivating a peaceful state, as such, but about simplicity and clearing the chaos and the noise in the mind”
                                                                --- A wise person