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Do you want a gift with it?

By Rajesh Setty on Wed 17 Feb 2010, 4:00 PM – 1 Comment

Everyone has heard the phrase:

Do you want some fries with it?

This refers to the standard up-sell offer from McDonalds. You buy a burger (or almost anything) and while the person in the counter rings that he or she looks up and asks,

“Do you want some fries with it?”

The offer is compelling and it works. Most people take up that offer and McDonalds wins.

Now, let’s look back at our lives.

You will get an opportunity to up-sell all the time. Every time someone makes a simple transaction with you. A brilliant up-sell might get some appreciation for marketing brilliance but that’s not what will make someone memorable.

Imagine that we change the game a bit – let’s say you forget about the opportunity to sell or up-sell. Let us you just decide for the rest of your life, you “look” for opportunity to give gifts.

In simple terms, a gift is something that (note: partial list only)

* Will help someone be better than who he or she is OR

* Will help someone get closer to their goals OR

* Will help someone have more capacity to contribute OR

* Will help someone have more capacity take care of things they care about OR

* Will connect them to someone that will increase their capacity in the future OR

simply –

* Will help someone make more meaning out of their lives

Now, suppose you were able to do that for the rest of your lives – with almost everyone that you touch…

Do you think your own life will be more meaningful?

You bet!

Then, why not start today?

It is easier said than done.

First, you need the “mindset” of gift-giving that is ON all the time. It takes time to develop that.

Second, you need “capacity” to give gifts. Based on all of our histories, we all have some of it but it is a life-long process to build this key asset.

Third, you need to be “growing” so that your “gifts” are more powerful with time.


Lastly, there has to be healthy balance of taking care of your concerns and taking care of the concerns of others. Just because you have the mindset of “gift giving,” there is no need to “sacrifice” yourself or your dreams.

Posted under Leadership.

Our deepest fear.. by Marianne Williamson

By Rajesh Setty on Sun 14 Feb 2010, 12:01 AM – Leave Comment

This is an excerpt from the book “A Return to Love” by Marianne Williamson

(Hat Tip: Mari Smith)

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness

that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves,

Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small

does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking

so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,

as children do.

We were born to make manifest

the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us;

it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,

we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,

our presence automatically liberates others.”

Please take a moment to reflect on what you read and have a wonderful day.

Posted under Leadership, Main Page.

The problem is never the problem…

By Rajesh Setty on Mon 08 Feb 2010, 12:01 AM – 1 Comment

In this short (around 2-minutes) video, one of my heroes, Tom Peters explains (with examples) why the problem is never the problem, the response to the problem is.

Totally loved the video and is embedded below for you:

Why did the 2-minute video touch my heart?

The way I look at it, the statement can be extended to many other things – such as an “opportunity.” An opportunity is not an opportunity unless you do something about it.

The trick is in “taking action” and doing something about what we are faced with. And, that is in our control.

Posted under Leadership, Main Page.

Grace and Elegance

By Rajesh Setty on Sat 06 Feb 2010, 12:01 AM – 4 Comments

Photo Courtesy: Amitabh Bacchan’s blog

Criticism is part of life. If you are doing anything significant, there will always be some criticism from someone


Simply because you can’t please everyone.

A simple thing to do is to handle criticism with grace.

Here is an example of how Amitabh Bacchan (who needs no introduction for anyone who has heard of Bollywood) handled criticism from another superb Bollywood actor Naseeruddin Shah.

Here it is, in his own words (on his blog)

[ Note: I made VERY minor edits for the sake of readability. Emphasis is mine ]

A question came my way during the reading of the latest Filmfare. When told to comment on Naseeruddin Shah’s remark on how I had become a victim of my star hood and forgotten how to act (That he had preferred me in my earlier ventures due to the simplicity of playing characters who were closer to the earth)

I replied that when an actor of Naseeruddin’s stature speaks, you just listen head down and quietly with your hands behind your back.

We can all learn a lot from just the above incident.

Have a great day.

Posted under Leadership, Main Page.

Being Strategic – Interview with Erika Andersen

By Rajesh Setty on Fri 31 Jul 2009, 5:00 AM – 2 Comments

being-strategicI meet Erika at the 800-CEO-READ event a couple of years ago and have been fascinated by her work. Her new book “Being Strategic” is out and I am participating in the Post2Post Blog Tour for the book. I asked Erika a few questions about the book and simply about being strategic. Here is the interview:

RS: Why do people and businesses avoid “being strategic?”

EA: It’s not so much that people avoid being strategic…it’s more that they default into other ways of thinking and behaving, and don’t realize there’s a more effective alternative.

One extremely common thing that takes people away from being strategic is simply the pull of the day-to-day:  people tend to get sucked into over-focusing on what’s right in front of them.  Stephen Covey talks about it as “doing what’s urgent, vs. what’s important,” and I think it’s a very common human tendency. And once you’re doing it, it’s tough to stop: it’s hard to be strategic when all your mental bandwidth is fully occupied with putting out fires!

The second “pull” away from being strategic is fear.  Fear causes people to hunker down, to narrow their scope – to focus on simply surviving and on defending/protecting themselves.  Interestingly, I’ve found that helping people to be strategic is a powerful antidote to fear.  If you can get people to begin looking clearly at the actual problems that face them (rather than their often-exaggerated fears about those problems), they can often begin to see their current situation more accurately, and then have the mental freedom and flexibility to look toward a better future.  I wrote a ChangeThis manifesto ( about this very thing, using Henry V’s victory at Agincourt as a great example of a leader being strategic and redirecting his people’s focus in such a way as to allow them to succeed against all odds.

RS: Why should people and businesses focus on “being strategic?”

EA: It’s still true today, as it was in the 15th century for Henry V: when you as a leader are strategic – that is, when you determine and then focus consistently on those core directional efforts that will best move you toward your hoped-for future – you are much more likely to achieve that future.

I’ve found this is especially true when times are tough – as they are now. If you can “pull back the camera and be a fair witness” – two skills for being strategic that I explain and encourage in the book – you’ll have a much better chance at actually creating the future you want or yourself or for your business.  That’s because using these mental skills makes it easier to see accurately: your current situation, where you want to go, and what’s in the way.  And then you can craft strategy and tactics that will allow you to navigate through whatever difficulties exist and get where you want to go.

RS: What is the core message of your new book?

EA: I think the core message is: this is learnable and useful.  That being strategic is a truly powerful and applicable capability, both personally and professionally; that it’s based on practical and learnable skills; that almost anyone can improve their ability to  think and act in this way by learning those skills.

RS: How can startups (especially ones that are bootstrapped) benefit from this process?

EA: Over the past couple of years, I’ve been doing vision and strategy work with a couple of high-tech start-ups in the medical field.  And I’ve noticed a couple of important ways this approach has helped.  First, it’s allowed them to be much more efficient in the use of time, money and people –  because they’ve determined their “core directional efforts” and so are much clearer about how to allocate their precious  resources.

Second, it seems to have quickly created a deeper and stronger sense of team, and therefore a more fun and productive work environment.  I think this is partly because they’re all on the same page about where they’re going and how to get there, and partly because they all created it together, so everyone feels really bought-in.

Finally, I’ve noticed they’ve had a pretty easy time getting second and third round funding – especially given this environment.  And I think that’s because having a clear and articulated vision and strategy has provided them with a much more compelling story to tell potential investors than what’s usually contained in a traditional business plan.

RS: What do you wish that people “take away” from your book and apply in their lives or in their businesses?

EA: I hope that my readers feel that, having read the book, they can better identify their own key challenges — and that they have a way to address them.

One of the testimonials on the book is from my client, colleague and friend Nancy Tellem, who runs CBS; she says, “Erika Andersen is to strategy as Suze Orman is to personal finance.”  I was honored when she said that, and I hope it’s true: that people come away from having read the book feeling more capable of being strategic in their own lives – of using these skills and this approach to achieve their personal and professional dreams.

RS: Can you please share your favorite “being strategic” story?

EA: Oh, there are so many! One thing I really love is when people see the power of this approach and it overcomes their cynicism.  Just last week, I was working with a non-profit group that’s had a lot of internal political difficulties in recent years.  I was conducting the vision and strategy process with a pretty large group – about 25 people – consisting of board members and senior staff.  The first day went very well and was extremely clarifying…and the political factions seemed to be coming together around the newly defined mission and vision.

We went to dinner that night, and one of the independent board members came up to me and said, “You know, I thought this was going to be excruciating. I’ve done a lot of strategic planning in my life (he’s a corporate executive), and it’s usually way too theoretical and abstract – we end up creating binders that just sit on somebody’s shelf.  It has almost always felt like a huge waste of time to me.  But this – this felt really productive. And,” at this point he smiled and looked a little bemused, “I know this sound weird, but it’s actually…fun.”

That’s what I like to hear.

I wish Erika the very best with this book and all her projects.

Posted under Leadership.

Let me conform but treat me differently

By Rajesh Setty on Mon 24 Nov 2008, 1:07 AM – 2 Comments

Everyone is unique. You are unique. I am unique too. We both know that.

The sad story is that rather than capitalizing on that uniqueness, many will struggle to conform to what’s around them. But with the same vigor, they want to be treated differently too.

That leads to a complex situation, a dilemma actually – there is a need to the same in the eyes of the members of a group but at the same time there is a need to “stand out from the crowd” from members outside the group (and may be even from members within the group)

How do you break out of the stalemate situation?

By remembering that the while the group likes conformity what it requires more is “value” to the group. If you can provide “significant value” to the group, a bit of non-conformity is forgiven. If you bring no value to the group, conformity alone won’t get you extra points.

You “stand out” not just because you want to stand out but because of the “value” you bring to the group. Unfortunately, you can’t wish to “stand out” – you have to act!

Have a great week ahead!

Posted under Leadership.

Entrepreneur Journeys – A conversation with Sramana Mitra

By Rajesh Setty on Tue 14 Oct 2008, 8:40 AM – 4 Comments

I have been following Sramana Mitra’s writings for a long time now. She has a new book called “Entrepreneur Journeys” that was published earlier this month. It is a collection of in-depth interviews with movers and shakers in the technology world.

Quick bio of Sramana Mitra

Sramana Mitra has been an entrepreneur and a strategy consultant in Silicon Valley since 1994.  Her fields of experience span from hard core technology disciplines like semiconductors to sophisticated consumer marketing industries including fashion and education. Her current focus, however, is primarily in the realms of Web 3.0 and Enterprise 3.0, and related infrastructure.  She has a particular interest in Media and Retail companies and their transition to a Web-centric world.

I had a chance to discuss her new both with Sramana and here are the excerpts:

RS: What is “Entrepreneur Journeys” about? What motivated you to create a series?

SM: I am deeply interested in mentoring entrepreneurs and teaching them how to build companies.

As a self-taught entrepreneur myself, much of my learning came from my own mentors – coffees, conversations, dinners – through which they told me their stories, shared their insights.

Entrepreneur Journeys is my attempt to capture that knowledgebase and institutionalize it, so entrepreneurs all over the world can vicariously experience those conversations, those dinners, lunches, coffees which I have been fortunate to have access to, and through which I built myself up.

Series? There are so many stories, and so much tribal knowledge. I want to capture a great deal of it, and leave it as a resource for those coming after. And for those in all the emerging markets.

RS: The book provides a snapshot of the entrepreneurs at a point in time? What is your plan to keep it “alive”?

SM: I don’t think the “time” is so critical as the “lessons”. I think the lessons are timeless.

RS: If there was a common theme across all the interviews in Volume 1, what is it?

: Inspiration. In later volumes, I will be zeroing in on more specific themes like Bootstrapping, Positioning, Innovation, etc. This one is meant to be pure inspiration, which is why it ends with Harish Hande’s story.

: What were some things that surprised you from the responses?

: Assuming you are asking about the responses from the entrepreneurs whose stories I have told, I think the surprise element is in how deep and detailed they were all willing to get with their stories. Over time, as I started getting more clarity myself on what I want to do with this body of work, I got better at explaining to the entrepreneurs what I want to focus on. That helped create more engaging, meaningful conversations – well beyond the bragging that comes in traditional PR. And now that this volume is out, it is very easy to explain to entrepreneurs exactly what I am trying to accomplish with the series.

RS: I know that people have to buy the book to get everything but would you please give a sneak preview of some of the lessons from these interviews?

SM: As I said in the book, what you will learn from the book is going to be personal and subjective. What I want people to learn is that entrepreneurship – successful entrepreneurship – is a very achievable goal. Not something to be scared of. Not something to put off until next year, and then next year, and then next life. Get going with it, is my advice.

: Sramana, the book has great content. Why chose the self-publishing option when you could have easily got a big-name publisher to get this book out?

SM: I have only done the Amazon deal so far. I have not sold the non-Amazon rights, and am in discussions to sell that with other publishers. I wanted a fast-track way to get this book series out ASAP. Traditional publishers take very long to get their acts together, and frankly, I don’t operate with those timelines. Besides, I got a great royalty structure plus lots of other goodies from my “special” deal with Amazon. It gave me an opportunity to be an entrepreneur and disrupt an industry. You can imagine how attractive that is for someone with my profile.

Posted under Leadership.

Big Ideas to Big Results – Interview with Mike Kanazawa

By Rajesh Setty on Tue 22 Jul 2008, 5:38 PM – 4 Comments

Michael Kanazawa and I met almost a year ago at the 800-CEO-Read Pow Wow event in Chicago, a gathering of authors and thought leaders in business and leadership. I joined Mike for his launch party of his new book BIG Ideas to BIG Results in April of this year and more recently had a chance to catch up and talk about his work.

Michael is a leading authority on the topics of corporate transformation and strategy execution. He serves as chief executive of Dissero Partners, a consulting firm focused on helping companies more quickly and predictably turn their BIG Ideas into BIG Results. He has worked with numerous high growth companies and global corporations including AT&T, Anadigics, Intel, PG&E, Schlumberger and Symantec. He has been quoted and featured in major media, including Fox Business News, the Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. He also blogs at recently published his manifesto titled, “People Don’t Hate Change, They Hate How You’re Trying to Change Them.” It has created a good buzz and I wanted to ask him a few more questions about it.

Here is our discussion…

RS: Why do so many leaders find it difficult to lead change and transformations in their organizations?

MK: First, many of us are promoted into management and leadership jobs with no experience or knowledge of how to effectively lead major change efforts. We don’t learn these skills through school or in most leadership development programs at corporations. And with an overall success rate of change programs at 33%, based on over 40 studies on effectiveness, chances are we’ve all lived through a lot more botched efforts than successful ones in our careers. Many people go into these efforts underestimating the time and care required to get it right.

RS: I’ve heard you talk about doing “more on less.” Can you explain more about that and how it relates to driving change and success?

MK: In many organizations there is little time for strategic thinking, prioritization of work or thinking through effective resource allocation. Every group is running fast against their own goals and often out of alignment with other divisions. Organizations end up in tactical overload. As resources get spread thin or cost cutting is done, leaders fall back on the old rallying cry, “we just need to do more with less!” In the end, these organizations get stuck in gridlock and progress comes to a grinding halt.

One of the big impediments to change is that people are so overloaded with firefighting on a daily basis that they can’t get out in front of things to do fire prevention work or to create strategic change. Shifting your mindset to doing “more on less” can help you and your team to get your work under control and deliver results more quickly on the few initiatives with the greatest business impact.

RS: For an IT leader, what is the best way to help the company change to adopt a new technology solution?

MK: First, if the IT department is implementing technology projects that are not clearly focused on delivering on the top strategic goals of the business, this is tough. Often IT and other departments are working to implement against their own priorities. In companies with weak strategic alignment, departments end up working at odds with each other. In this case, IT leaders need to work with the senior executive team to generate proper alignment between operations and technology goals.

Now, assuming that the company is aligned to a single focus, then the challenge is in engaging end-users to build their ownership and accountability from the beginning. Generating a high-engagement approach to needs assessments, user requirements documents and prototype testing can be a key to success up front.

RS: I know you have said that people should eliminate “buy-in” as a step in change management processes. Can you explain that further?

MK: Many companies put a “buy-in” step between a planning and execution phase. It is viewed as the trigger to get the troops involved in the effort. The problem with this approach is that it is typically too little, too late, to have a real impact on ownership and accountability. People do not like to have change inflicted on them and have no input to things that will impact their daily lives.

As I explain in the eBook, “People Don’t Hate Change, They Hate How You’re Trying To Change Them,” we need to eliminate the concept of “buy-in” as a late step in a change effort. The best way to ensure that people will be ready to implement a change is to engage them in the process of planning the things that will impact them. Clearly there are times when this can’t happen, like when acquisitions of public companies are happening, but those are exceptions to the rule.

RS: Is there one manager you remember working for who left a lasting impression on how you do things today?

MK: Michael Jimenez was my first boss as I left college and went to work for a financial services company as a credit manager (trainee). I went to him with my first loan package and was waiting to fill out the “Approved or Not-Approved” field on the form. He looked at it and said, “fill in your answer first and then we’ll talk about your decision.” I had questions and wanted to get his input to help make the decision, but he sent me back to make my own decision. I filled in “Approved” and he started asking me questions about why that was my decision and did I look at various analyses in making the decision. I had missed a couple and went back to do those. I came back and stood by my decision with him. He said, “Yeah, that looks right. Good decision.” That made my day. My confidence went way up and I was learning how to exercise judgment and having to live by my decisions.

There were other loans where I didn’t make the right call, but he never told me to change my answer. He would simply ask questions until I stumbled upon the same data or perspective that he was looking at and could true up my decision. He had me engaged and taking ownership of the decisions from day one. I was engaged and accountable. If he just had me filling out forms and stacking paperwork for him to make decisions on, the way other branch managers treated trainees, my experience would have been totally different. That was a great lesson.

Again, you can find out more about Michael at:

1. Company:

2. Book:

3. Manifesto: People Don’t Hate Change, They Hate How You’re Trying to Change Them

Posted under Leadership, Main Page.

Have you sent a “No Progress” report lately?

By Rajesh Setty on Mon 11 Jun 2007, 9:50 PM – 5 Comments

When people owe me things (examples: status of a project, document that they promised to send) but I don’t hear back from them on the due date, I get a bit confused.

Here is my dilemma.

I don’t know if

* They have completed the task but forgot to send me a note OR

* They had a problem completing the task OR

* They forgot about the task OR

* They are waiting for more information from me OR

* They didn’t know that THEY were supposed to do the task OR

* There is something else that I don’t know.

I checked with a few other CEOs to see if they face this problem. Their answer –  “Many times”!

Having been in leadership positions for more than a decade, I know that when I don’t get the “progress” report on time, the reason is mostly because there was no “progress” to report. I guess I would like to know even when there is no “progress”. May be a “No Progress” report?

Action Item:

How about taking an inventory of all your projects today. If people are expecting a progress report but you have no progress report, how about sending them a “No Progress” report and remove their stress a bit. They can deal with the situation better if they at least know that there was “no progress”.

Posted under Leadership, Main Page.

A Haiku and the need for us to have great teachers throughout our life…

By Rajesh Setty on Tue 31 Oct 2006, 9:22 PM – 1 Comment

What has a Haiku got to do with the need for us to have great teachers throughout our life?

Consider the following Haiku:

When I look carefully,
I see the nazumia blooming
by the hedge!

Basho, Zen mystic and master

Nazunia is a common flower – grows by itself by the side of the road.

What did you understand from the above? If you were like me, it wouldn’t be much. It is so simple that we may read it once and move on.

I was reading Osho’s book “Intuition” where he disects a bit deeper into this poem of three lines. Here is what I got from that analysis:

The last syllable – kana in Japanese – is translated by an exclamation mark as there is no easy translation for kana. Kana really means “I am amazed!”

So, what is the Haiku hinting? That when you look at something attentively or with caring even a nazunia can transform itself into a lotus. Remember the old saying – “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” The point is that if someone can see something fascinating in a nazunia, the whole world can look better for him or her.

Now, isn’t it clear without a doubt that we need great teachers throughout our life? Anybody can identify the extraordinary. Great teachers discover extraordinaty from within the ordinary.

Posted under Leadership, Main Page.