Monday, 3 April 2017

Tackling the burden of chronic diseases in the GCC

Rapid economic advances in the GCC countries have resulted in the population adopting unhealthy eating habits, high-sugar diets and a lack of physical activity. This has contributed to a rising incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cardiovascular illnesses, cancer, and respiratory diseases etc. The result is that NCDs have become the leading causes of death and disability in the region, and the countries of GCC are among the worst affected countries globally by these diseases.

The nature of NCDs, also known as chronic diseases, require patients to be in continuous contact with the healthcare system. This means more use of healthcare services, which in turn causes an increased cost on government budgets and decreases economic productivity.

The economic burden of NCDs can come in two cost forms, direct and indirect-

·   Direct costs are those associated with the treatment of patients, such as consultations, medications, and clinical operations.

·   The indirect costs comes from the fact that these diseases result in shorter life span and reduces the quality as well as quantity of the work force. Decrease in labour productivity and increased absenteeism lessens their contribution to economic activity.

Before finding a solution on how countries can tackle this burden, you must first be aware of the risk factors involved. The risk factors can be classified into two, namely-

·   Non-modifiable risk factors lie outside the control of the individual and are linked to age, hereditary/genetic conditions, socioeconomic, cultural, and environmental determinants.

·   Modifiable risk factors are behavioural in nature and include tobacco use, physical inactivity and an unhealthy diet.

Governments, can and should work on appropriate regulations and policies, that can improve some non modifiable risk factors such as environmental influences, including pollution, toxicity in products and air quality. Clinical programs for the non-modifiable risks include comprehensive national screening programs to identify at-risk groups and to ensure early detection of chronic diseases.

Eliminating modifiable risk factors requires the focussed development and implementation of a combination of short term and long-term collaborative programs.

·   Short term programs are those which deal with incentives or disincentives like high taxes on tobacco, regulations limiting the availability of unhealthy food in schools, and clinical interventions. These measures reward or penalize, to reduce the impact of risk factors.

·   Long-term programs stress on preventive care and aim to change individual practices, along with regulations and funding in the healthcare.  The results of such programs will be slow, but impactful. They aim to alter the deep rooted lifestyles of the people. These measures should aim to be long-lasting, as they will dramatically improve the health of the populace.

Governmental authorities have to take an active interest in implementation of both these programs and will have to ensure that the programs work in collaboration with other relevant actors in the field for the optimum results.

Given the magnitude of the problem, there is no time to waste. The human and economic burden will not permit passivity in approaching the situation. The GCC governments must focus on implementing national and region-wide NCD agendas that will enact short-term and long-term programs. There is no easy solution for this epidemic. It will take time and needs relentless effort from all quarters. But, with proper monitoring and measurement, investment of resources in effective programs will certainly impede GCC healthcare spending and improve the region’s health status.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Informal leadership, a necessity

Leadership is one of the principal functions of management that provides direction for a company. A leader influences, inspires, guides, leads and directs other members towards achieving the goal of an organization. He/She impacts employee motivation, their performance, quality of their decisions and is, unarguably one of the major factors that decides the eventual success of the organization.
A leader's role in an organization can be formally assigned by his or her position, like manager or project lead, and it can also be informally assumed by an employee who possesses certain qualities that makes others follow him/her. Informal leaders possess strong charisma, a positive attitude, motivates others and put in effort to attain organizational goals.

Important difference between formal and informal leader is that formal leader is officially required to manage his team and is responsible for results at the end. Informal leader do not have any such official responsibility towards attaining the goals of the enterprise and may not be accountable for the final results.

An organisation can benefit immensely by encouraging its employees to take up the role of an informal leader. Some of the perks are-    
·   Team members often address concerns and issues with informal leaders that are not shared with managers. They might be more comfortable with sharing their problems with a person who doesn’t have an official authority and will not affect their careers adversely.

·   Top leaders as well as formal authority figures have a number of issues that they need to focus on. A person with informal authority, however, is free to focus on smaller issues or a singular issue. It helps in giving a serious time focus on these issues and ease the work load of formal leaders.

·   Formal authority operates within hierarchy and protocols. Informal leadership doesn’t have such restrictions. They are not shackled by policies or protocols. This freedom can be advantageous to the organization in many aspects.

·   Informal leadership has the freedom to not always be politically correct or do the popular thing. They need not be figure heads or role models. They have the freedom to voice their views and what they deem right.

·   Informal leaders are important to any change initiative. They can influence the other members by making them more adaptable and accepting of the change.

·   They have a first hand knowledge of how policies and process influence employees. They can observe/interact with the employees and give valuable feedback to the management about what works and what does not.

Informal authority has its advantages, but also limits. Since an informal leader can be anyone in the team, the groups might tend to choose a leader based on superficial reasons. Informal leaders also cannot exercise any sort of authority in order to get tasks done, which can become frustrating for them. The informal style may also led to development of many power centres and can lead to confusion among employees. If they are not on the same page as the formal leadership, they may create a negative vibe that impedes progress and become a liability to the organization.

In any organization, it is vital you ensure that both the formal and informal roles are filled. You should make sure that there is free and candid communication flow between the two and that the differences between them do not affect the team adversely. It is, hence, prudent for those in the management to take an active role in assigning and taking care of the informal leaders in the organization. Some of the ways which you can aid and encourage informal leadership are-

·   Once the informal leaders are officially identified, you should ask them to take responsibility for an initiative. Your confidence in them would boost the results they achieve.

·   You should understand your informal leaders' strengths and weaknesses and allow them to define their own role.

·   Management should certainly reward informal leaders for their support. This could be financial incentives or public recognitions.

·   Give importance to their inputs and concerns, and make them a part of your strategy decisions. With them inside the decision loop, they will feel a sense of ownership and will be more willing to actively support your decisions.

·   You should have developmental assignments in your organization to push more people into taking up informal leadership roles.

·   You can conduct leadership development program for your informal leaders. Remember,  the informal leaders of today might be the formal leaders of your organization in the future. You can empower them with the knowledge which will expand their capabilities.

Successful organizations need both informal and formal leaders in order to keep power and authority balanced. It is an essential partnership. Understanding the distinction between formal and informal roles and taking them forward in tandem, will give you powerful tool to help your teams’ progress. When informal leaders are working towards achieving the goals with the same vision as the formal leaders, they can take a tremendous burden from the backs of managers and formal leaders. Informal leaders, if handled suitably and sensitively can turn out to be precious resources that are extremely advantageous for your organ

“I haven’t failed; I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work”

How do Entrepreneurs handle failures?

“I haven’t failed; I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work” – Edison

Failure is a scary word. Especially for an entrepreneur who has put his/her money, idea, energy, time and hope into a venture, a failure can be a terrifying scenario. Nobody hopes for a loss but if it comes, you have to be ready to face it, to confront it and to overcome it. That is what makes a successful entrepreneur. In fact, a look though the lives of accomplished entrepreneurs and leaders would show that it took multiple attempts for most of them to achieve the realms of success that they are in today.

Success in business, is not dependent on whether you make it to the top in the first attempt. It depends on whether you have the courage to get up from the fall, brush off the dust, learn from your mistake and make your failure a stepping stone to success. Behind every success story, there is at least one, and possibly many failures. Failure allows you to learn and grow. It helps you to move towards a successful future. How can you turn your failure into a life lesson? Here are a few key points how successful entrepreneurs have handled failure and converted their defeat to success:
·  It is necessary to do your best to avoid any downfalls but you should also be mentally ready to accept any setback. If you are scared to fail, it will hold you back from taking the plunge. And most of the time, the biggest successes are possible only by taking the biggest risks. Be prepared to embrace failure.

·  Analyze what went wrong and where it went wrong that led to the failure of your business. You need to find out the causes of the failure and the steps that you might have taken to avoid the setback.  As you analyze, don’t forget to consider your assets too. Consider what worked for the business. Was it your employees, your leadership style, networking, client relations or your intellectual property?

·  Taking responsibility for your actions is an essential ingredient in handling business failure and turning it into a success. Do not try to pin the blame on someone else. If you were bad at certain aspects of management, admit it. If you took a bad decision that affected your venture adversely, admit it. Do not be embarrassed by your errors. Instead be proud of the things that you did right, the positive steps you took and the courage you displayed on starting the venture. Once you admit your mistakes, you will be open to learn from them.

·  One of the most important questions you need to ask yourself after a setback is ‘What have I learnt from the experience?’ Unless you are able to answer this question clearly and candidly, you cannot climb the rungs of success. Because it is the lesson you learn from the failures that will be the foundation on which you are going to build a next successful business. Analyze the lessons you have learnt before you go back to the drawing board to start over for the next steps.

·  What sets apart successful entrepreneurs from others is their positive mindset. They never, ever give up. If you have failed in your venture, you can either leave it, or, get up and start the next journey again. If you are taking the latter path, remember, you have the lesson you learned and the experience of a failure to guide you in your path forward.

Most importantly, if you need anything to get a business off the ground, it is perseverance. Don’t allow a failure to be the end of the story. Rise and work harder each time you fall. As the old adage goes “Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s a part of success”.


Monday, 9 January 2017

Is leadership an inherent trait or can people be taught to be good leaders?

They are the men and women who inspire you. Who transform potential into reality. Who manage, motivate, energize and influence people. Who create an iconic vision of the future. Who bring success and prosperity. The leaders. The visionaries who make a corner of the world a little better with their passion and innovation.

As with various other endeavours, leadership is important at every level in every organization. It is the leaders in an organization that provide the direction, encouragement and impetus to the employees towards conquering goals. Great leaders create great employees and together they create success for a business or an organization.

So, are good leaders born or made? Is leadership a natural talent or is it a characteristic that can be nurtured?  The question is sure to throw up many contrasting views, but behavioural theories point out that leadership is definitely more than just genetics.

Inborn traits can be associated more with leadership emergence than with leadership effectiveness. Within a group, an extrovert, a more intelligent or a confident person might assume leadership of the lot. However, this charisma does not necessarily mean that the same person will perform well if placed in a formal position of leadership.

People can become leaders through the process of training, learning, experience and observation. Inherent characteristics like being bold, assertive, smart, or risk-taking can be advantageous for leaders. If you don’t possess these characteristics, fret not. You can still be a phenomenal leader if you learn and develop the tactics, the strategies and the implementation.

Some of the most common attributes of a leader are -

·  Decision making skills
·  Flexibility
·  Fairness
·  Empathy
·  Confidence
·  Conviction
·  Communication skills
·  Conflict resolution
·  Critical thinking
·  Discipline
·  Business acumen

While individuals are born with varying degrees of these traits, only through practicing from the adolesent stage, these characteristics daily and across varying situations, can they become deep-rooted and an integral part of your character. Observe, listen, ask questions and pay attention to people around you. Take it upon yourself to evaluate your leadership abilities and acquire new skills. Do not wait to start learning something new, rather seek it out.

Leaders who have these qualities should not be complacent either but work hard to gain valuable expertise, perspective and insight to augment their skills. That is how effective leaders maximize their success. They make use of leadership training programs, knowledge from books, management courses, mentoring and learn from their experience to boost their skills and cement their position as a great leader.

Thus, if you are an owner of a business or part of the top management, you need to recognize that strong leadership development training at all levels in your organisation is crucial. Leadership is not about merely communicating guidelines to your employees and expecting them to achieve them. What an organization should do is prioritize leadership development and invest the required resources to make it happen and more importantly, make it effective.

For this you need to -

·  Communicate with your employees and get them to understand what leadership role is expected of them. Once you give them an overview of leadership requirements, you can provide them an opportunity to analyze where they stand and what skills gap they need to address to reach their goal.

·  Once you analyze your employees’ leadership strengths and weaknesses, you can decide on the kind of training they need. Training should be given in the core leadership skills that is lacking. Provide them with online resources, conduct workshops and bring in industry leaders to share expert views on leadership and leadership practices.

·  Networking is essential to individual growth of any leader as well as for business development. Networking will teach them how to form   connections, enter into discussions/conversations and act with the confidence of a leader.

·  Set up an objective mechanism to evaluate the performance of employees in leadership roles. You should reward employees who have shown outstanding leadership skills. 

·  Train your managers on new leadership styles, approaches, and methodologies with a view to expose them to various ideas and situations.

·  Mentoring is a great first stepping for developing leadership attributes. By using an effective mentoring program, you can help develop today’s talent into tomorrow’s leaders.

·  Believe in your employees and give them the authority to make certain decisions. When you give your employees responsibilities, they will  rise to the occasion and emerge as leaders.

·  People learn to be leaders by being around leaders. Leaders at the top should be role models for employees. They should aim to continuously remain a successful and a positive model in the workplace.

Organizations, today, need not spend time scouting for potential leaders outside their offices. Similarly, if you are an employee, lack of inherent leadership qualities need not deter you from becoming a great leader. There are several skills that are at the core of leadership, the embodiment of which makes an effective leader. Enhanced with education, training, coaching and experience, a person can undoubtedly cultivate all these qualities and more, needed to be champions for the forward progress of themselves and their