Category Archives: Leadership

CEO’s Number One Problem- Accountability in the workplace

When it comes to people specific challenges, what we constantly hear from CEO’s of growing companies is – “People in my company lacks accountability”.  Lack of accountability within individuals and managers is one of the primary reason of inability to scale the company.

Image Credit: Alvin Mahmudov on Unsplash

The term accountability is used interchangeability with responsibility. The main difference between responsibility and accountability is that responsibility can be shared while accountability cannot. Accountability means how well or effectively you carried out what is expected of you.

While there could be many reasons for low accountability, the top 4 reasons why individuals & managers lack accountability are:

  1. Spending far less time in communicating why accountability is important.
  2. Setting accountability before alignment.
  3. Lack of discipline in following rituals to set the accountability.
  4. Not able to link behavior of accountability with rewards.

Spending far less time in communicating why accountability is important

Accountability is what differentiates a good company from a  great company. People are much more career-centric today than before and they want to be the part of success. CEO, functional heads, and managers spend far less time in repeatedly communicating why accountability is important, and how it’s going to impact the company growth and success.

Setting accountability before alignment

If accountability means how well or effectively you carried out what is expected of you, alignment means defining what we should achieve and what we should not achieve as a company. The first step to achieve the highest level of accountability is to start with achieving alignment from top to bottom. The experienced entrepreneurs & CEO’s know why this is important. And spend far more time to get teams aligned on operating plans and strategic priorities.

Lack of discipline in following rituals to set the accountability.

Every company who is serious about growing or maintaining the competitive edge sets some rituals to set and enhance the accountability in teams. The weekly Monday meetings are one of those rituals. Those Monday meetings fail to perform because

a) Agenda of those meeting is too broad (b) those meetings are not data-driven (c) the size of the team is too much such that not all get the opportunity to put in their point or share status or share the challenges they are facing  (d) feedback post these meetings are not captured to measure how well these meetings are performing.

Not able to link behavior of accountability with rewards

The behavior of accountability should be directly linked with monthly, quarterly and yearly rewards and bonus from top to bottom. This should not be the KPI per say to be measured but should be the parameter on which you should enable continuous feedback on. The data point generated from this should help in decision making for rewards.


  1. Communicate often the importance of accountability
  2. Align before you make people accountable
  3. Set rituals to drive accountability
  4. Reward/Punish people for not being accountable

Building Sports Culture in your Company

India has finally started performing well in sports other than cricket. Indian sportswomen/men performance in CWG , 2018 games was commendable and was one of the best in a decade.  Per my understanding, there are 3 main reasons for this much-awaited success:

  1. Better Coaching.
  2. The discipline of practice with better equipment.
  3. Improved reward & incentives.

Many companies can succeed & executer better on their growth plans if CEO & leadership team can make each individual in the company(or at least 50%) behave and execute like a sportsperson.  Though linking sports directly with business is not fair; as in sports you practice 90% to 95% of the time, and the actual performance is only 5% of the time. In business, you have to perform every day. You don’t have that much time & budgets to practice.

To build sportsmen culture in your people, you have to follow the same 3 principles stated above: “Better Coaching Culture”,” The discipline of execution with better equipment” and “Better Reward & Incentive System”.

Build Better Coaching Culture

Managers are the coaches in a company. A coach is someone who helps in “Understanding the strength and weakness of the coachee”, helps in “Making sure the coachee remains disciplined every day” and “Motivates the coachee whenever she feels down”. In sports, coaches are a former player(might not be the rockstar player of their time), but now has the ability and hunger to make the coachee perform best at the highest level.

To get the managers who are better coaches in your company, 2 critical touchpoints are when you are “hiring a new person as managers” and “promoting individuals to become managers”. When you are hiring the new person as a manager, she should possess all the required coaching competencies. And when you are promoting the individual contributors to the manager role, make sure that you have enough data points on following core competencies a manager should posses

  • Ability to understand the strength and weakness of each report
  • Should have required functional and technical know-how
  • Should have the ability to get execution done with discipline every day
  • Should have the ability to give feedback & coaching on a regular basis
  • And above all, can communicate well in written/verbally

 The Discipline of Execution

I played badminton at my school level and have represented the school at the district level. But failed to perform better because I was not disciplined enough.   When a company performs better than its competitors, its because at every level every person brings disciplined of execution towards the direction set by the CEO/Management.  And the managers play a very important role in bringing this discipline. The managers will be able to bring a better discipline to the team ONLY when there is a high level of alignment within the company forwards business priorities that need to be achieved.

The process starts with CEO’s ability to cut down the complexity and put in company’s strategy and 3 to 4 business priorities/goals very clearly. And communicates this to the entire company. And than HOD’s take those priorities up and work within the functional unit on what, how and who will work on which goals which will impact CEO’s priorities.  Once the managers exactly know what they and their teams need to work on, only then they will be able to bring the discipline of execution in their teams. Currently, the way I see we implement qilo, managers to get hell lot of work done from their team, but lacks the focus on what should be executed.

As a company, you & your managers can get many things executed from your teams. But if they are executed on wrong priorities all this time, it will result in you working for your competitor.

Adopting an efficient goal-setting framework like OKR or Hoshin-Kanri or One-Page Strategy framework can help here.

Better Reward, Recognition and Incentives

Money is a universal motivator. Most companies fail to put in an effective and transparent reward and incentive system in place. And because if this you fail to deliver the message clearly to employees about “What’s in it for me to execute with discipline every day?”.   And more than anyone else, it should be the managers who know your reward and incentive system in and out.

A better reward system should always link the people performance with business performance. It should be data-driven and above all should be able to generate enough data points for better decision making on individual performance. And this data should be communicated to employees/managers on the monthly/quarterly basis. Your reward policy and the process should always reward the end tail of the company on their individual performance, managers should be rewarded for their individual + team performance. And HOD’s should always be rewarded for the company performance.

Building the sportsmen culture in your company is not an easy task. But if you are able to bring this change in your company, you will have a far better competitive advantage.


  1.  As a coach, your managers should be able to (a) Understanding the strength and weakness of their team members (b) Put discipline of execution within the team every day and (c) should be able to motivate/give feedback to the team members on the continuous basis.
  2. To get the discipline on execution, you manager should clearly be knowing what they are trying to achieve. And how their achievement is linked with bigger picture/CEO priorities
  3. Your reward system should link people performance with business performance.


Are you Executing Better than your Competitors?

As leaders, we tend to focus very hard on ensuring that we build robust quality metrics for our products and satisfaction metrics for our customers.

We invest heavily in capacity, sales dashboards – try to look at the lead indicators minutely, keep a check and the pulse of the market.

Breaking News – Even your competitors are doing the same!!

Let’s get a reality check no one running a business wants to give an inferior product or service in the market. Capeesh!

Then what makes your competitor grow faster than you?

The Answer is simple they are Executing Better than You.

The best part about my Job at qilo is meeting leaders understanding their success stories and growth barriers.

One theme that has emerged out clearly for successful leaders is needed for Fast Execution.

Going to market quicker, learn from the customer, change the plan and Redeploy.  Which requires hell load of Organization Agility and most importantly all hands on the deck.

Of all the conversations I selected, 5 factors, which the leaders claimed to have succeeded to drive fast execution

  1. Leadership Sincerity (Hunger) – How sincere and committed leadership team is to achieve the vision
  2. Defined Purpose – A well-defined purpose get’s half the job done and purpose cannot be financial gains (Sorry), hard question to ask what impact we want to bring to our customer?
  3. Show the big picture – If you want people to execute faster, the urgency is built by showcasing the big picture not by pushing deadlines on someone’s throat
  4. Enrollment – Team who execute faster are enrolled for the purpose and they execute creatively
  5. Communication – The most important element to drive fast execution, companies which talk gets talked about.

We see teams being aligned with roles, functions and result areas – for companies who execute faster – they get aligned with a common goal!

Execute Faster and Better or else get ready to be executed by your competitor!


Why OKR Implementation Fails

OKR is a management tool helps you to link business priorities with people. Adoption of OKR in companies as a goal-setting framework is still at a nascent stage. In most companies, the age-old KRA and KPIs are used as a goal-setting framework which is more role-centric than business-centric. While implementing the OKR in many companies, we have learned and picked up few things which results in the failure of OKR implementation:

  1. Force fitting KRA & KPI approach in OKR : For OKRs, the input is CEO/business priorities with respect to cash generation, margin, growth and enhancing customer satisfaction & success. For KRA/KPI’s the input source is the Job Description.
  2. CEO and Department Head not getting involved in the process: Since OKR’s is a business-centric approach of goal-setting, leaving the process to HR to someone else in the company will lead to failure. The process starts with CEO defining the Business Priorities that the company has to achieve in that particular financial year, followed by leadership team owning the accountability among themselves on how those priorities will be achieved. And then subsequently, its given to team below the HOD’s. If the leadership team doesn’t get involved in the OKR implementation, the end result will again be a mere formality.
  3. Company-wide lack of communication why we are implementing OKR. The KRA centric approach of goal-setting is there from last 30 years. When implementing the OKR, you need to invest the time in education your people what OKR is and how its different from the KRA approach of goal-setting.
  4. Delaying implementation of OKR when the new financial year start’s:- When the new financial year start’s, leadership teams put up an Annual Operating Plan(AOP).   The output of AOP is your business priorities. Delaying the implementing of OKR  means the delay in putting AOP in action.
  5. Failing to put Monthly/Quarterly Review Process: Unless the cadence of review from top to bottom is not put in the place, people will not take updating the progress on OKR’s seriously.
  6. Not using OKR performance data in your Rewards/Incentives: Failing to link the OKRs with Rewards/Incentives of the individual employee will fail to answer the question for employees “What’s in it for me to help the company implement OKR successfully “.
  7. Not leveraging a tool to implement OKR: OKR helps you to link business priorities with people and helps you to align the teams and individuals better. Implementing the OKR in excel sheet might suit for the small company with the size of 10 to 15 people, but implementing OKR with employee size of more than 20, will increase your administrative time of managing the OKR’s across teams and individuals.


Blitzscaling 16: Reed Hastings on Building a Streaming Empire

This is my 13th  blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And its also about why organization culture is important for Blitzscaling. Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

The previous blog related to Blitzscaling is here.

In this session, Reed Hoffman interviewing Reed Hastings, the Co-Founder and CEO of Netflix. And the most sought-after mentor of silicon valley shares his mantras of building the culture and scaling the company.

  1. Netflix culture deck is the most evolved culture decks out their. And here are the details of the deck for you :

  2. Putting your culture in writing not only helps you to get right kind of people in your team, it also makes the entire thing more debatable to get more understanding. At Netflix, every new employee goes through the deck to understand about the company.
  3. With the right kind of density of people in the company, you need less processes to manage them. More the people, more processes are required. Reed call this as “Right Talent Density”.
  4. Your manager should always be giving the context of why they are doing what they are doing. And then just give them autonomy to people to execute freely.
  5. Reed highlighted that NefFlix company culture is different from Google. And he emphasised that one company culture is different from another. Organization culture is an expression of what you and your senior leadership want to be. Thought I believe that while it’s important to define that expression of what you want to be, it is also very important that it should be aligned with what your customer wants from you as an organization.
  6. You can only have a strong culture in your company if you can have a strong & clear mission. The funny thing about mission statements/plan is that “it doesn’t wort rk out most of the time”. But one thing it for-sure helps in to help the current and prospective employees and customers see what company want to achieve in next 5 to 10 years.
  7. When attacked by the big competition, focus on your core rather than expanding the offering; because it will further lead to more fronts to fight the battle.
  8. Being too intellectual to your customer on why you are offering what you are offering doesn’t work, as customer care doesn’t care about that. Your customer care about value, price and service.
  9. “The only prediction about the future that comes out to be true is that prediction itself will be wrong”. When Netflix was seeking funding in 1997,  they thought that online video streaming will pick up in next 5 years by 2002. By the time 2002 came, internet bandwidth was still at the nascent stage. So they thought & projected that by 2007, online streaming will be contributing 50% to their business. But it was still ZERO after 2007.
  10. The right time to become an entrepreneur is when you got the idea that to make it work you are ready to go and touch the poverty line. Or other way around is when you can’t get that idea out of your head for next 1 to 2 years.
  11. You can’t let friendship come in the way of professional or business judgements. So when you are hiring your friends or friends of friends, just make sure of this thing.
  12. Use more data when you are picking stocks, but less data when you are picking your spouse or new hire.
  13. As a CEO, you have to invest in yourself on the continuous basis. Because when you become better, your company become better. As you grow your company, you focus on creating the culture, mission/vision, hiring right guys so that they can hire right guys further. To make this all happen, you need to improve every single day.
  14. There is no right answer whether you can become an entrepreneur or not. From Reed perspective, if you have got a strong grit and if you are a generalist who can do multiple things(most of it will be very boring) for many years to come, you can try your luck.
  15. The biggest mistake you can do in your life or as a founder is try and to be someone else. So all Steve Jobs lovers, it fine to read about him and get inspired, but dont want to be one.
  16. Successful teams and employees act like a sportsman/women. Treating your employees like family means you probably need favour’s from them or want them to work for you cheap.

The ABC of Performance



Ram Charan wrote in his book execution – the future companies are the ones who will execute well in Strategy, People, and Operations. While strategy and operations are very well defined the challenge has always been in the crucial link “people” – aligning them is the key to organizational success.

Performance Management is a subject where sometimes process’ overwrite people and culture. And somehow we create an environment wherein performance of an individual is judged like a Miss Universe pageant, where you are asked the most clichéd question – why should you be the miss universe and the participants compete how they posses superpowers to heal the world.


With so much cacophony around performance management – at qilo we call it performance enablement, the organizations have to first create an ecosystem for an individual to perform and we call it performance ABC driving attitudes, behaviors, and capability.


Even if you have best your strategy and process’ in place if your people do not have the right attitude display the right behaviors and are capable to execute their role – growth will never happen.


I have heard a lot of leaders talking about lack of readiness in their organization – actually it’s not readiness its fear of change and fuzzy vision of future.


So what should be done? My learning so far.


1)   Question the design of the performance management framework – it is meant to build leaderboards or create an ecosystem for people to perform

2)   Keep it simple – Business imperatives (strategic) next the role I play in achieving them and how I am doing it

3)   Pay for potential – Build the team that will take you to achieve success in future or lives in the past glory?

4)   Feedback – Tell me how can I improve and do my job better now! Not when I have done it

5)   One size does not fit all – Try to make your performance design align to people, not a stiff upper lip

6)   It’s not a checklist – Do not run a process just for the heck of running it, define the core why you need to do it?

7)   Enroll people not force them into a process – enrollment has larger powers and drives accountability

8)   Start from the top – leaders have to walk the talk, there is simply no way out

9)   Highlight and showcase the positive behaviors even if they are low in numbers glorify them for others to see and follow

10) Make it transparent – there is nothing grey here – it should be either black or white


Bring the change now, if you don’t your competitor will.