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Role of HR post Covid crisis

Work from anywhere

What could be the role of HR in the post Covid scenario ? This is a question, which may be lurking in the minds of many people. I would state that HR could evolve their “Ten Commandments” post the Covid crisis is over and employees gradually trickle back to the workplace.

1. Job Security : In the post Covid scenario, most employees would be worried about their jobs. This would mean a lurking fear that their organisations would have lost revenue for more than a few months and this could result in job losses for many. So, the first duty of HR could be to make the CEO communicate to all employees how they plan to get over this crisis and assure employees at all levels that they would not lose their jobs.

2. New Workplace : The new workplace will have a new normal. It will not be the same place of work like in the past. Apart from physical sanitisation of everything, there would be silence and loneliness at the workplace. There is need to make people adapt to this new work environment through effective communication and counselling by the managers and leaders at all levels.

3. Cost optimisation : While HR leaders should try their best to save jobs, they could be the champions of cost reduction efforts in the organisation. They could engage with employees at all levels and enable formation of teams so that cost reduction is in everybody’s radar and the organisations are able to make up for the losses incurred by this pandemic.

4. Employee engagement : In the post Covid scenario, employee engagement actions become all the more critical. It is important to make employees adapt to the new workplace and at the same time realise that we need to continue to serve our customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders and all other stakeholders as we did before.

5. Work from anywhere : While the Covid crisis forced organisations and employees to adapt to the work from home option, it may be an opportunity for HR in organisations to enable employees to work from anywhere. This means no fixed workstations, laptops for everyone and they could work from any office or any place of their choice in the future.

6. Re-engineering processes : This is a great opportunity for HR to facilitate all the functions in the organisation to challenge all their existing processes and eliminate unwanted ones, simplify those needed and automate wherever possible. The shop-floor could also be digitised and automated so as to minimise human interface in routine operations and use employees for human value addition, which robots or machines cannot do like listening to and attending to customer grievances.

7. Rewrite the HR manual : Just like the Constitution of a nation gets amended from time to time based on the needs of the nation, this is a great opportunity in the history of the organisation to re-write its HR manual. It may be helpful to keep it simple, eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy and all paper work if possible.

8. Productivity : While many of us may not realise that India still has one of the lowest labour costs in the world but our productivity is not on par with the best in the world. This reset post Covid gives us an opportunity to rejig our productivity levels at the shop floor, in our offices and also in all our processes with suppliers and customers. For eg. is it possible for all employees to deal with all HR processes through their mobile phones and eliminate all paper work in the future.

9. Digitalisation : The ability to go digital in all aspects of work is a real possibility in the new workplace. Sales can happen online and service can be remotely handled. This means manufacturing can be digitilalised and automated and so can be all other processes. If banks can provide all their services through digital means so can all other organisations and this is the best time to transition and go digital, wherever feasible.

10. Employee Health & Safety : This crisis provides the best opportunity for organisations to rewrite its health and safety standards. It is not only physical health but mental and emotional health and wellness, which will get tested post this crisis. So , it is the best time for organisations to prepare for similar unknown crises in the future.

While I may not have listed down all possible things, which HR leaders could do post this crisis, I have focussed on the most important and called them the “Ten commandments for HR”.

Do let me know if I have missed out anything ? You can make your own “Ten commandments for HR” based on the needs of your own organisation.

S Ramesh Shankar

12th May 2020

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Relearning from childhood…

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Learning is a life long journey. I was sitting with my grandson, who is 7 years old. He asked me if I knew how to use Instagram on my phone. I said yes. He asked me if I could take a photo of his with the whiskers of a rabbit. I told him that I did know how to do it. He readily agreed to teach me.

He advised me to open the app on my phone. He then showed me as to how change the setting on the phone and then take a selfie as in the photo above. I was quite stunned. It was great learning to use a mobile app from a 7 year old.

As children, we are inquisitive and curious. We learn continually by observing others and things around us. When I asked him as to how did he learn it – he said that he saw my son doing the same on his phone. As we grow up in life, we possibly forget to be curious. Our inquisitiveness is buried within us. We feel shy to ask questions and thereby our learning retards.

It is time to look back and learn from childhood. If we cannot turn the clock back, we can observe young kids around us and learn from them. Another incident made me realise how simple observation can be of great learning value. My grand son was at home for his school vacation. We were playing with each other. Then he wanted to download a few games on my iPad.

I gave him my iPad and enquired which games he would like download. He glanced through the app and shortlisted a few. When I was about to download, he told not to do so. He informed me that every app has a preview. We should preview the game and only if it is interesting, we should download the app. It would otherwise be waste of money. I could not believe that a young kid of 7 years could be so knowledgable on how to carefully download game apps from the internet without wasting money.

To be honest I was not aware of it. This helps learn an important lesson in life. We all are good learners as kids. We observer everything around us and learn. We do not hesitate to ask questions when in doubt. As we grow up our observations skills fades away and hence may be our learning ability also diminishes. We are scared of asking questions when we do not know so as to hide our ignorance rather than learn from others who know.

It is time to reflect. It is time rekindle the child in us. It is time ask questions of curiosity from everyone around us including kids. It is never too late to change. It is also never too late to unlearn, learn and relearn.

Time to restart is today ?

S Ramesh Shankar

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Joy of giving…

I have always be in awe of our festivals in India. Diwali is no exception. Apart from lights and crackers, one recalls Diwali with fond memories because the entire family got together once in a year and celebrated together. We got up early at dawn and had an oil bath before sunrise and enjoyed all the sweets and savouries all day.

Today I got a new insight on Diwali. It is celebrated in India with two different beliefs in the northern and southern part of the country. In the north, people believe that Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after his 14 years in the forests and hence is welcomed back with lights and crackers. In the South, it is believed that Lord Krishna killed a ghost by name Narakaasura on this day in Dwaraka Yuga.

The new insight I got today is from a forward about the story of Narakaasura and the lessons for all of us. It is believed that Narakaasura is the “I” or ego residing in all of us as humans. When Lord Krishna killed Narakaasura, he eliminated our ego and released more than 16000 evils in us. So the next day on amavasya we pray to Godess Lakshmi to lead us to the right path.

Every ritual in Hindu religion and so in other religions has a deep insight for all of us. We generally get swayed by the rituals and start believing that they are of no use and most of us including me give up rituals because they serve no human purpose. I have been no exception. Now that I have all the time in the world, I am able to reflect and get new insights into these rituals.

Another interesting belief that we should clean our home and get rid of all the unwanted things. This is also symbolic that God wants us to give up all that is not necessary and take up the good things in life.

It is also enshrined in our religions that the best way to serve God is to serve the human kind. If we give more, we get more. If we are content with what we have, God always gives us more than what we need. This is the challenge for all of us. How much is enough – is a question difficult to ask and answer for oneself ?

I have admired people who give away without expecting anything in return. Recently another friend forwarded a message with a great insight. It was a couplet from Rahim. When Tulsidas looked at Rahim donating, he found his eyes looked at the ground and so asked him ” O great person, where have you learnt this amazing way of giving ? “. As your hands rise ( to give), your eyes look down. “. Rahim replies – “. The Giver is someone else ( God Almighty), giving day and night. The world has a misconception that I am the giver. So, I lower my eyes in embarrassment. ”

The best people I have met in life are those who give unconditionally. They are anonymous most of the times and recipient does not know that they are the donors. They give because they have a surplus and they are grateful to the Almighty for it and want to thank him for the generosity bestowed on them.

It is like the exotic orchid in the photo above, given my colleagues at work, which are blooming because of their unconditional love.

This blog a salute from my side to all the wonderful people who have made me what I am today. They have given me support, advice, money and love unconditionally. I can never ever return their favour in any form. I promise to give back without expecting anything in return as I bow in gratitude to them.

S Ramesh Shankar

27th October 2019

Managing performance in the digital age

All of us wonder as to how do we manage performance in a digital age ? We are not sure of our markets, customers, competitors and even types of employees. How do we measure performance in such a fluid state ?

The basics of a good system :

A good performance management system consists of target setting and performance review, assessment of competencies, rewards and recognition and potential assessment. So, why complicate our lives in a digital age. Let us try to keep it simple.

Target setting :

We could evolve a system of target setting for shorter periods of time. It could be quarterly target setting and review. As of today, we may have clarity from one quarter to another. So, let us set simple measurable targets and review them at the end of every quarter. If the targets themselves become redundant within a quarter, let us review the targets itself.

We possibly need to set dynamic targets, which are reviewed periodically during the course of the year like the moving train in the photo above.

Quality of dialogue & feedback :

The crux of a good performance management system in today’s environment is not about the system but the quality of dialogue we have. The millennials are not worried about targets not being set. They are more concerned about the quality of dialogue and feedback so that they can continually learn and grow.

Competencies :

Now, if we move to assessment of competencies – the first step would be to define the set of competencies relevant to the business and the environment it operates. We need to keep this simple too. A focussed approach on defining one or two functional competencies and one or two leadership competencies would be effective. These could be again reviewed every quarter based on the dynamics of the environment

Core values :

The core values of the organisation should be the bedrock of the system. This will not and should not change with time. Many organisations do not spend enough time and effort to define their core values and beliefs. This is critical for success and sustainability of an organisation. While nothing prevents us from a periodic review of these too but core values have to remain core at all times and should stand the test of time.

Rewards & Recognition :

Now if we move to rewards and recognition, the timing is most critical. The generation of today looks for instant gratification like two minute noodles. Our reward and recognition systems should be designed to recognise instantly. The time gap between a critical incident and reward given for it should be minimum. Empowerment of the first line managers is critical for this process and its effectiveness.

Performance vs Potential :

Last but not the least a good performance management system differentiates performance and potential. We should design the system in such a way that performance is assessed and rewarded every quarter whilst potential can be assessed at the end of every year and recognised through exciting projects and assignments.

Success of a good PMS :

The success of a good PMS in today’s era will lie in a fully automated system which is simple, transparent and empowering. The focus should be on the quality of dialogue and feedback between the employee and the manager and not on the robustness of the system.

Role of people managers :

We need to train and certify people manager on a periodic basis to achieve this goal. We need to remember that even in the digital age AI will not be able to express human emotions like the managers can in person. Hence the success of the system will be skills of the managers in dealing with millennials with human touch in an era where human interactions are likely to diminish otherwise.

S Ramesh Shankar

5th March 2019

Transforming engineering education in India

 

Many of us working in corporates continually complain about the quality of engineering education in India. We state that the students are not industry ready and the syllabus is outdated. The question to ask ourselves is what are we doing about it.

We have some German multinationals leading the way in this space. They have launched scholarship programmes for engineering students across the country. They go to more than 22 states and to the remotest government engineering colleges and select meritorious students from the poorest of families.( annual income less than Rs. 2 lacs per annum). They are selected through a objective technical and psychometric evaluation process.

These students then join the “scholarship programme”. This scholarship covers the cost of their engineering education. They are provided a laptop, mentor from the company and internships every year during their engineering education. Further they are trained on the latest technologies and also on soft skills like communication, presentation skills etc so that they become industry ready from the day they join corporates after their engineering education.

The highlights of the programme is that it is designed based on the reliable German dual education system. This is a holistic development plan with soft skills training, internship in company locations, functional and technical training including certification. This not only ensures industry ready students but also ensures that students are trained and certified in the latest technologies so that they are future proof.

The scholarship programme is different from other similar programmes in that it is much more than a financial assistance programme. It provides the following inputs to the students and enables them to be fit to work from day one of their joining an organisation post their engineering education.

A. Holistic development : The training over the period of 4 years comprises of technical training, functional skills, personality development, soft skills training, communication skills and ably supported by mentoring.

B. Mentoring : Every student is mentored by a senior manager from industry so that they can be moulded in both their functional skills and personality development. They are also inculcated withe values and ethics of business.

C. Technical training : Most industries complain that the engineering education does not train students in the latest technologies and make them industry ready. Our programmes cover the latest technologies and also certifies them in areas like mechatronics so that they are better equipped with practical inputs before they enter industry as engineers.

D. Soft skills training : The biggest challenge engineering students face when they enter industry is on soft skills and business etiquette. This programme ensures that by the time they finish their engineering course, their communications skills are sharpened and they are groomed with business etiquette’s. They can confidently present their views verbally and also through presentations and reports. They are also given inputs on Smart study techniques, effective conversations and time management. They are also made aware of emotional intelligence and self awareness. They are trained for effective participation in group discussions, personal interview

E.Personal vision & career management : They are trained to evolve their personal vision and manage their career so as to reach their life goals. This enables them to evolve as confident and responsible citizens.

F.Interpersonal skills : One of the challenges while entering industry is to work effectively in teams. Hence, they are trained on interpersonal skills, assertiveness and social skills so that they can contribute effectively as team leaders and team members.

G.Cross functional training : They are given inputs in sales and service, manufacturing, quality, supply chain and finance. This ensures that they get multi functional exposure and understand inter dependencies in an organisation.

As in the photo above, the child may learn laws of motion in a park better than in a classroom if demonstrated through practical experiments.

This model of training engineering students by these organisations are a practical and sustainable approach to transforming engineering education in India and making them industry ready. It is time other organisations follow this or similar models so that we can contribute to transofrming societies at large. We can bridge the gap between industry and academia and play our role responsibly to make the impact.

S Ramesh Shankar

Founder – “Hrishti”
14th May 2019

Be happy with nothing…

I have sometimes wondered as to “What is the definition of happiness ? ” in life. It could mean different things for different people. Some may be happy with wealth while others may be happy with good health. Some may be joyful with friends and family while others may enjoy loneliness.

Each of us can evolve our own definition of happiness. This could change from country to country, region to region and individual to individual and nothing wrong with that. After all every human being is different and has the ability to define happiness for herself or himself.

One of my favourite theories is that “Health & Happiness money cannot    buy “. We have to find ways and means to be healthy and happy at all times. Let us explore how we could be happy today. Happiness is a state of mind and attitude to life. It is not a commodity which money can buy.

I have seen people with all the wealth in the world and still unhappy. On the other hand, I have seen people who find it difficult to have two square meals a day but still are very happy. This may be possible because these people learn to be happy with nothing in life.

The art of being happy is contentment. If we learn to be happy with what we have, we may be happy with what we get in life. If we keep complaining with what we have, we will never attain happiness in life. So, the secret to happiness is to be happy with nothing more than what we have already.

One of the ways to attain contentment could be to compare ourselves with the have nots. There may be millions of people around the world and in our own country who do not have half as much as we do. But, we still remain unhappy because we tend to compare ourselves with people who have more than us.

There is nothing wrong to be ambitious in life. We all aspire to work hard, make more money and get more wealth. As long as we do that in the ethical way, it is fine. But, the day we realise that wealth may not be the source of all happiness, we may have arrived.

This realisation may come later than we think. It is easier to follow the rat race. All of us have done it or are doing it. It is difficult to be content. Contentment is a state of mind. It is our ability to be satisfied with ourselves and our belongings in absolute terms. Any relative comparison leads us to discontentment resulting in unhappiness.

Ambition can lead us to compete with ourselves. It can stretch our imagination of excellence as a journey and not as a destination. However, accumulation of wealth may not lead to happiness. It could lead to material satisfaction but not necessarily mental well being. So the secret of happiness may lie in striking the balance between wants and needs.

As in the photo above, this bird seems to be happy with nothing.

Happiness may be the art of ensuring that we work on fulfilling our needs and not our greed. As long as our want and needs are fulfilled, we may be inclined to be happy. The moment greed surpasses needs in us, it may lead to unhappiness.

Let us learn to be happy with nothing.

S Ramesh Shankar

20th December 2018

What you give, you get back…

What goes around, come around is a common saying. In my view, this is equally true in life. We have to remember that what we give to others, we get back in some form. If we share love and happiness, we get the same. If we spread hatred, it may come back to us in some form.

It is equally true in money and material things. If we are willing to share our material wealth with others in whatever little ways we can, we are blessed with more wealth. If we are able to help a friend, colleague or relative in distress, God helps you in more ways than one when you are in trouble.

I have seen this and experienced this in multiple ways in my life. Let me illustrate with a few examples. Whenever I have tried to help someone in distress in cash or kind, God has always returned me with caring support when I have been in despair.

I have also noticed that whenever I have faced a cash crunch, I have got some unexpected surprise inflows, which I did not think of at all. I feel this is because I may have done some good to someone without expecting anything in return when they were in trouble.

It is equally true for sharing our knowledge and skills. The more we share with others, the more we get from others in terms of their knowledge and skills and thus helping us grow everyday.

We could easily learn some good lessons on giving from a pet dog. You nurture and care for a dog and she will give her life for you. I had a Labrador at home. She was so caring that she will not eat anything unless my wife had finished her lunch or dinner. As humans, we can ape these noble qualities even from animals around us.

So, it is worthwhile to believe that in life, we get what we give to others. It could be in cash, kind or feelings. It may neither be directly correlated nor scientifically established by any logic. We have to believe in this destiny of life and it will hold true for us. There are some things in life which we have to do without any logic or reasoning and this is one of those actions.

If you do not believe in this theory, that may also be fine. It is your truth and cannot be equated to anyone else’s truth. You may have experienced life otherwise and that is your reality. However, it is worthwhile to challenge ourselves and our belief with the backing of others sometimes and it may work miracles.

I have been challenged by some younger people in my family and work teams who believe that this theory may not be valid today. Even in a sports field they believe that this is not true. I have an alternate view and still hold on to it. In my view even a sportsperson who is well behaved on the ground is respected more than others. You get back the same respect you give to others in life or on the sports field.

As in the picture above, you give milk to a stray cat which is hungry and someone may feed you some day when you are hungry.

Each of us have a right to hold our own view. I just want to share my experience in life and urge you to experiment and make your own judgement. I still believe we get back what we give to others in life.

Let us give and try.

S Ramesh Shankar

20th December 2018

You share more, you learn more…

I have been privileged in life in every way. I have learnt from everyone around me at home and at work. Every family member and friend has been generous in sharing their knowledge, skills and life lessons with me. Similarly at work, every colleague I have worked with or interacted with has been more than eager to share their learnings with me.

I have sometimes wondered as to why people conserve their knowledge. Some people believe that if they share their knowledge or skill, they may lose their competitive advantage or their worth in life. I think the other way around. The more you share, the more you learn.

Let us reflect on own lives from childhood. Every time we recite a nursery rhyme to a kid, we memorise the same and never forget it. Similarly, every time I have taught maths to my kids, I have improved my own numerical abilities. In my view, it is difficult to imagine that I will lose my identity if I share my knowledge or skills with others.

I have seen this attitude at the work place too. Many senior professionals try to conserve their knowledge and skills thinking that it increases their value in the organisation. It is the other way around. A leader who is ever willing to share knowledge or skills or builds positive attitude in others is the one sought after by the team members.

One interesting dimension to be kept in mind in organisations is that even if you share a policy or a process, it cannot be aped in terms of culture or execution the way you do it in your organisation. Culture evolves. It cannot be copied. So, there is no rhyme or reason not to share your best practises with the world.

We can see in sports that the best players are ever willing to share their skills with their juniors. They never feel threatened that their juniors will learn their skills and make them redundant. Life is no different. Nobody can copy your style or attitude in life. Knowledge and skills are to shared to be sharpened. Attitude is to be ingrained from within.

Organisations and societies spend years to evolve their cultures. It is not possible for another society or culture to easily cut, copy and paste them. Similarly, it is not possible for an organisation to copy a system or a process easily unless there is a culture as a base and a value system to support it. So, we need to realise that the more we share, the more we create learning opportunities for ourselves as individuals and organisations.

Every individual learns from others more than from oneself. So, it is imperative that even as individuals, the more we share, the more we learn. Learning by sharing has to be a way of life. It has to be an attitude to life. This ensures that we can never become obsolescent.

Even sharing kulfi as in the picture above with your friends can be a learning opportunity.

Let us learn to share always.

S Ramesh Shankar

18th December 2018

Journey is as important as your destination

Most of us love to go on vacations. We plan for days together about where to go. We choose our destination based on our interests, the company we are likely to have and the time we have for our holiday.

However, we forget one simple rule of life. We focus so much on the destination that we forget the journey. We do all the research to find out everything about the place we plan to visit. The places to visit, the weather, which may help us to plan the clothes we need to take. We also plan the people we have to meet at our destination.

In this whole process for planning our holiday, we forget that there will so much to do on the way to our destination. Imagine you going on a holiday in a car with family and friends. In my view, the journey is more joyful than the destination. We focus so much on the goal that we forget to enjoy the journey.

Life is no different. Each of us have a lot of goals in life. We have a lot of ambitions. We meticulously plan to reach all our life goals. But most of the times we do not end up enjoying the journey to our destination. For eg. One of our goals may be to graduate from a prestigious university in a beautiful state. We focus so much on our academics that we do not have time to see places in that beautiful city. We do not have time to admire nature or meet wonderful people around the university.

This is so true almost in every aspect of our lives. We resolve to go for a morning walk every day to the park. Our goal is to keep fit and maintain good health. This is laudable. But while we are walking 5 kms a day in a beautiful park, we don’t enjoy the green trees, wild flowers, the singing birds or the blue sky above us.

Then as we get ready to go to work or college, we are running against time. Even if we are taking a public transport, we have so much to enjoy along with way before we reach our destination. We close our eyes and miss to see the world around us. We may get opportunities to meet nice people along the way. We may observe good Samaritans around us serving society and so on.

At work, our focus is on target to achieve for the day. There is nothing wrong with that goal. But we fail to wish people around us. We do not remember to wish a dear colleague on her birthday. We may even find it difficult to find time to have a healthy lunch break.

In our social life, we are not different. We neither remember festivals and occasion to celebrate with family and friends nor remember to wish them even if we are at home on a festival holiday. We think sending and receiving messages on social media the best past time in life. We do realise that social media does not convey emotions. We do.

Imagine missing a sight like in the photo above and not pausing your journey to admire this beauty as in the photo above.

It is time to wake up and enjoy the journey as much as the destination. We all are born on a pre determined date and possible our return date to heaven is also fixed. The time in between these two dates is at our discretion. This is the journey we need to enjoy as life. We should not spend our life worrying about the ultimate date. After all, all of us have to go some day. Some go earlier while others may go later.

Time to enjoy the journey is now.

S Ramesh Shankar

22nd November 2018

Everyone of us have an expiry date…

Today I read in the morning newspapers that a senior bureaucrat in the government is retiring at the end of this month and neither is keen on an extension nor an alternate role in government. I salute this bureaucrat. All of us have to realise that we have an expiry date. Unless we give way, we cannot give opportunities for others to excel and prosper in all fields.

I have seen this phenomenon quite prevalent in corporates. The senior managers starting from the CEO think that they are indispensable and never want to let go. We all have to realise that there is a pre determined expiry date for all of us. It is like a medicine when manufactured has a pre printed expiry date. Life is no different.

When we are born on earth, God has already decided our date of death. Similarly when a food item is produced the expiry date is printed on the packaging itself. We need to realise that in our careers too this is applicable. We all have to come and go. We may be excellent in whatever we do but we need to give way at the right time for the next generation to take over.

This is equally true in sports. We find many senior sportspersons reluctant to hang their boots even when their talent is fading. They want to live in the past glory and do not give space for the younger talent to prosper. It is better to realise that we need to give way when people ask – ” Why now ? ” rather than “Why not now ?’.

Even in the family, we need to realise when our role expires and we need to give way to the next generation. We should not hang on to power as if nobody else can do better than us. We may be surprised that the next generation may do better than us. They are smarter, more energetic and may work differently.

This is equally true in our political system. Our political leaders never want to retire. I recently read about a veteran politician changing political affiliation just to get a parliamentary seat. It is true that our political system does not specify an age of retirement. However, all political parties should decide that everyone should retire and give way to others at a particular age.

It is more about our inability to accept the reality of age and cling on to our positions and roles. We have seen this in organisations, sports and politics that the gen next always surprises us positively.

All of us have a responsibility of giving way and letting go. We need to realise that everyone has a start date and an end date. While we can continue to excel in whatever we are doing, we need to give way when the time comes to retire. We should not find ways and means to delay this decision. This will harm the organisation more than we can imagine.

I have always believed that when working in an organisation I was aware the day I joined as to when I need to hang my boots and enjoy life as in the photo above.

Life is fair to everyone. We all need to realise that there is a beginning and end to everything in life. We can do everything to begin well, work hard and excel in whatever we do. But the day when we feel we have reached our peak, we should learn to give way.

Let us learn to give way always.

S Ramesh Shankar

18th November 2018

How to love and enjoy your work ?

One of the oft repeated questions to me by employees is – “ How do you still enjoy your work after working for so many years ? . Most employees are complaining about work, their bosses, the organisation or the environment around and wonder how can one enjoy work in such a scenario.

Some times employees change roles and have new bosses and new environments. At other times, they even change their organisation and move to another location but still the crib continues. So, I was wondering if it is worth reflecting on this subject – “How to love and enjoy your work ?

The first realisation in this journey of work is that we are the only one who can change our attitude to work. If we decide that we have the best job on earth, nobody else can stake that claim. On the other hand, if we are to find reasons why we are not loving what we do or enjoying our work, we need nobody else to give us the reasons. The day we realise and internalise this basic truth, it may be easier to answer this question to oneself.

The next step is to ask – “ What is preventing us from loving our job or enjoying our work ? Let us look at the possible answers and try to dive deep inside us to find the answers for ourselves. First challenge could be a demotivating boss. Now, the question to ask is whether we have the option or authority to change our boss. If the answer is no, which is the case in almost every situation, we need to find how do we enjoy work irrespective of our boss.

If we look within and ask ourselves – “What do we enjoy doing at work ? , we may be able to find the answer. Then, the next question to ask is “What is preventing us to do that ?. We may suddenly realise that our boss is nowhere in the picture. It is either our own lack of initiative or efforts, which may be coming in the way.

Another reason which people say is they do not have great colleagues at work to learn and grow. The day we realise that we are also colleagues for someone else and they may be thinking the same about us, this feeling will disappear. We need to lead by example and influence others to change in a positive way to make the environment vibrant around us.

Yet another reason which people say is that – “We do not have enough freedom at work ? The day one realises that empowerment is not given but taken, this may also change. Nobody on earth can prevent us from innovating, trying out new things and if we succeed taking credit for it and if we fail owning up responsibility to learn and move on.

Another common reason is the organisation culture. Culture is not building, computers or physical infrastructure. It is the people, values and the way we treat each other. If we feel the culture is not conducive , we also have a responsibility to influence and change the culture. History teaches us that a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King single handedly could influence a nation – then why cannot we influence the culture within our own organisation if we want to. To make it simple, we can start with our own team.

If you do what you love, then you will love what you do as in the photo above.

The lessons I learnt in my long corporate career is that if I want to love and enjoy my work, nobody can prevent me to do so, except myself. I need to take charge, empower myself, try out new things and create a fun work place, where everyone enjoys along with me and thrives to experiment and learn every day. Have we all not seen one team member who is always having fun in any team with any boss and in any organisation. It is time to become that team member today.

Let us start today.

S Ramesh Shankar

10th June 2021

Insecurity of the boss

One of my colleagues at work is a prolific writer. He writes articles regularly and also publishes in magazines and newspapers. He is proficient in professional areas as well as fiction. One day he called me to inform that I will not see his articles in newspapers or in the public domain anymore. I was surprised and enquired as to why he suddenly lost interest.

He called me back to tell that his boss has asked him to stop publishing articles in the public domain like newspapers, magazines etc. I asked him the reasons for the same and he had no answers. He said his boss feels that a lot of his time is spent in writing articles and thereby he is not able to contribute much within the organisation.

I had advised one of my colleagues who worked with me to utilise every opportunity to represent the organisation and present papers and participate in discussions in academic and professional circles. I was surprised that one day she called me to state that her current boss has started questioning her participation in these events on the basis of time spent (even if most of them were on weekends) and also on their impact to the business.. I wondered why and when asked for the reasons her explanations were not very convincing.

This led me to the insight that many managers are insecure of their own team members. As parents, all of us want our children to excel in whatever they pursue. We want them to do better than us both in their career and in life. Then how is it different for a manager or a leader. Many leaders are wary of their own team members. If my boss calls one of my subordinates directly and interacts with her, I am worried.

Similarly many managers themselves want to make all presentations in leadership team meetings and do not want to give opportunities to their team members. They may justify this by stating that they cannot take the risk of failure or afford any goof up in front of senior leaders. I beg to differ. If we cannot take risks with our own team members, with whom will we take ?

Imagine a senior cricketer thinking that if he coaches a budding youngster and the junior excels, he may lose his place in the team. A true leader will always want his team members to do better than himself. One of the primary responsibilities of a leader is to develop their own team members. If leaders feel that projecting their team to the outside world will expose their weakness, they are only fooling themselves.

On the contrary, the best of leaders I have seen and worked with in my career have always promoted and facilitated their juniors with potential to try and even fail. After all, none of us can excel unless we get an opportunity to fail, learn and improve. As a leader, I should use every opportunity to promote my team members. The more I promote my team, the more I am respected as a leader. We can give all the credit if they succeed and own responsibility if at all they fail.

I recall one of the quotes of the legendary JRD Tata. Once when many leaders from the TATA group left and became CEOs of other companies, somebody asked him if TATA is producing leaders for other companies. JRD replied that he is happy that TATAs are producing CEOs for the country. This is leadership in action.

The more I am worried about displaying the talent of my team members in public domain, the more insecure I am as a leader. Further, really talented people will be wary of working in my team. The earlier a leaders learns about this insight, the better it is for his or her own career.

We need to remember that our security builds security of our team members. The more insecure we are, the more insecure our team members feel and behave. The more we expose our team members to the world outside, the more we get recognised as a leader. A true leader should be almost invisible and work only in the background.

The insecure boss is like the king of the past, who never left his seat for the fear that someone else may occupy it if he leaves it even for a few hours.

Every leader needs to realise that their own insecurity is their weakness rather than the weakness of their team members. The earlier they realise it, the better they will grow as a leader.

Let us learn to develop ourselves by developing our team by giving them all possible opportunities to learn and grow both within and outside the organisation.

Lets try from today.

S Ramesh Shankar

15th May 2021

The “know all” managers…

I sometimes wonder how little I know about anything in life. I attended a Carnatic music recital and learnt how little I know about music. I have attended a nature camp and realised my limited knowledge about plants, animals or birds. But I sometimes wonder how some managers seem to know everything in life.

I would call them the “Know all managers”. They may belong to a functional area before they become the leader of a team or the head of a business. The moment they become a general manager they tend to think they know it all. They seem to sometimes think that they know more than the experts in their field.

I admire the managers who are versatile and know it all. But I sometimes wonder if that is a good trait or bad. I am not sure. I believe that even if we lead a team, we may not be the expert in all fields. The day I realise that as a leader my role is to get the best knowledge, expertise and support from my team, I may be more effective.

The know all leaders think that they know everything. Further, they think that there is no need to listen to everyone’s view. They make up their minds even before they listen to everybody’s views. They prefer to talk more than listen. They make up their mind and take decisions based on their own perceptions.

I may call this phenomenon the arrogance of the mind. The day I think I know it all, my learning ends and my decline begins. My mental faculties are closed. I do not listen to people around me. My eyes are blinded and I do not see the wisdom of others. The really knowledgable people are generally humble and introverted. As a leader they may need to be encouraged to share their knowledge.

As a know all leader, if I silence my team, I will be a loser not my team. Most managers of this type think that if they listen more they may not be effective. In my view, the opposite is true. A leader who listens to her or his team is more respected than others. A leader who listens to others gains more than loses in terms of knowledge, skill or attitude.

The know all leaders may appear effective in the short terms but lose out in the long term. First, they are not willing to get the best out of their teams. Second they do not get the best counsel from the experts in their team. By not listening to their colleagues and not allowing them to speak, they silence the wisdom in the group. They may appear to be decisive but this is because they like to listen only to their voice and their views. This may result in a fast decision but not necessarily the best.

One quality which is fading in leaders today is humility. In my learning, humility is the foundation for sustainable leadership. We need to realise that even life time experience cannot teach us everything in life. The best teachers and leaders I have met in life are always keen to learn from everyone around them. Their humility bowls you over. Their humility makes you realise your limited knowledge or skills. They inspire you to be a life long learner.

It is like some nurses after working for a few years start believing that they know more than the doctors just because they have experienced a variety of patients in their career.

This makes it imperative for all managers to realise that they have to be life long learners. A manager who learns from everyone around him evolves into an inspiring leader. In my view, the difference between a manager and leader is our ability to inspire others. Our inspiration is not by our superiority of knowledge or skills but our humility to learn from everyone.

Let us learn to be life long learners.

S Ramesh Shankar

7th November 2018