Friday, October 18, 2013

Effective meetings - Some best Practices

It is just amazing how so many people manage so efficiently to bypass some basic meeting etiquette. Imagine the following:
  1. People don’t accept/reject/respond to the meeting requests you send
  2. People don’t invite the right participants for the meetings/discussions they call for
  3. A clear agenda is not sent out
  4. All the participants have little idea of what their fellow participants’ role in the meeting will be
  5. Meetings are always called for more than an hour
  6. No one moderates a meeting with participants exceeding 5
  7. Minutes of meeting is nonexistent as a practice but in a few rare instances, when minutes are sent out, nobody reads it
  8. Context setting never happens in any meeting
  9. At the end of the meeting, participants leave with no clear action items and next steps defined
  10. People take calls in the middle of the meeting, return and expect other participants to update them
  11. Half of the participants always come late to the meeting
  12. Most meetings are sent out with no location details
  13. Most people don’t take any decision in most meetings
  14. Most people do not talk even when the points discussed concern them
 Now, imagine this: 
  1. Only in cases where decisions/outcomes have to evolve during the course of the meeting, meetings are called for more than an hour
  1.  The right participants are invited to the meeting
  1. Before the beginning of the meeting, the participants know -
    •  The objective of the meeting and consequently the outcome expected 
    • Their respective roles
    • The context of the meeting 
    • Where the meeting will happen
    4.      If the participants number more than 5, the meeting is moderated 

     5.     The participants arrive to the meeting on time and if they have to take calls/attend    to  other work, they get updates after the meeting (on what transpired in their absence) from fellow participants/meeting minutes

     6.     Participants participate when it comes to topics that are related to them

     7.     After the meeting ends, participants
  •                  Know the action expected from each of them
  •                 Know the time by when they should complete their action items 
  •                 Are aware of the next steps  
  •                 Get the meeting minutes from the person who called the meeting or the participant  who volunteered/is assigned the note keeper. 

It doesn't require an understanding of rocket science to see which set of practices is  better and more conducive to effective meetings. 

After all, in a collaborative world where decisions increasingly involve concurrence from multiple stakeholders, conducting effective meetings (and consequently productive meetings) is an art in itself!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Truth about me - A sad commentary on our attitude toward hijras

I was browsing the racks of MyLib, Jayanagar when I came across this title. I remembered a friend wanting to read stories of Hijras and other sexual minorities and so immediately decided to borrow it. Back home, I started reading the first few pages and was hooked.

Haven't we all seen hijras near traffic signals, in trains and in railway stations? What is the first feeling we experience on seeing them? Please give it a thought. Speaking for myself, I have experienced fear and a strange anxiety. When they have approached me, I have always increased my pace and avoided them.

This true story of Revathi, born Doraisamy in Tamilnadu, is by turns sad and shocking with rays of hope emerging, only to vanish into darkness. She asks in the autobiographical account (Originally Unarvum Uruvamum in Tamil and translated by V. Geetha into English):

"If society scorns us, then we turn to our families, if we have a family. But if family scorns us, who do we turn to? Is this why people like me do not stay in touch with their families? Could not God have created me as a man or a woman? Why did He make me this way? Why is He savouring this spectacle that He created? In a rage, hitting my head against the wall, I began to cry."

The book recounts Revathi's struggles, hopes, fears and wishes. It is a mirror that shows our society in a very poor light for the way we treat hijras. Revathi shares her experiences living with fellow hijras in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. In each of these cities, she is exploited and treated with disdain. During her visits to her hometown, she is mocked by the public when she travels by local buses. However, not everything in the book is disheartening. Revathi is cared for by fellow hijras and the odd non hijra. Her family hates her and loves her. Eventually, they seem to accept her for who she is.

We are also exposed to the inner world of the Hijra community, their rituals, traditions and language. Paampaduthi, chelas, gurubais, guru, naani, kaalgurus, nirvaanam, pottai, danda - words that disturbingly get into the reader's head and work their way through his conscious to imprint themselves firmly and powerfully.

What I find inspiring about the book is the author's - Revathi's - resolve to keep going. She seems to get up everyday and as a Hijra, does her chores with a resolve and strength of character that many of us would shudder to even think about! For this reason alone, it is a must read.