Expectations Management

One of my colleagues enquired if I could write on “Expectations management”. I thought it was an interesting subject and hence readily agreed. Someone interestingly said that frustration is the gap between achievement and hope. We are continually trying to live up to the expectations of all the people around us. When we succeed, we are elated and when we don’t we feel dejected.

Today, expectations begin even before you are born. Our parents are expecting us to be a girl or a boy depending on their wish. If we fulfil their wish, they are delighted and if we do not, they are disappointed. So, we possibly need to learn to manage expectations even before we are born. Then once born, we grow up and when it time to get into a school, most parents wish you get admission in the best school. The competitive race of life begins here.

Then we are out of school and we have to manage expectations of parents, teachers, relatives, friends and even the community around us. Each of these people have different expectations from us. While every parent wants the child to pursue the best of education, every teacher wishes the child excel in her or his subject of choice. Relatives and friends are awaiting your success in academics to celebrate with you and your family. The community around you wants to take pride in your accomplishments.

Let us assume you are able to live up to the expectations of all of them. This may be easier said than done. You may want to be a doctor and your parents want you to be a engineer. Your relatives and friends feel you should pursue music as a career since you are good at it. So, meeting conflicting expectations and still pursuing what you want to do in life is a tough ask. You may delight some and upset some other well wishers in your life.

Now, you have finished your formal education and want to pursue your passion in life. You have graduated as a doctor and want to go to the villages to serve the most needy. Your parents are worried about living conditions. Your friends, relatives and neighbours are worried that you will not be available for them. The community around you is looking forward to benefit from your services. They are disappointed that you are moving away to serve in a village.

Apart from all of them around you, you sometimes are not able to live up to your own expectations. The champions in every walk of life set very high standards for themselves. They do not rest till they are able to surpass their own expectations every day of their lives. So, whatever your accomplishment in your life, you may feel you have a lot to achieve in the future. Excellence is a journey that never ends. It is like a train which has no destination.

Another dimension of expectation management is when you get married. Both spouses have expectations from each other. When we do not meet each others’ expectations, it results in avoidable conflict. There is no magic wand to balance expectations from each other. But two way communication, mutual respect, active listening and adapting to each other may help us bridge our expectations with each other.

With all these complexities of life, how do you meet the expectations of all the stake holders in your life. It depends on how we set our own expectations. While we may not be able to set expectations before we are born or even as a kid, it may be desirable to do it as we grow into an adult. We should calmly negotiate with the relevant stakeholders what to expect from us in every stage of life. We may not be able to live up to everyone’s expectations. But we are not bound to do so either. We should live up to our own expectations and have the courage to manage the rest.

Whether it is your friends as in the photo above or colleagues at work, relatives or family members, we need set and reset our expectations as per the needs of the environment.

We have to develop the ability to negotiate expectations. This may be with our parents, relatives, teachers, friends or even our colleagues at work. We have to be clear on what we want to do and then we need to pursue that with passion without hurting anyone around us. As we learn to be focussed and persuasive, we will realise that we can wade our way through the mesh of life and achieve what we want to.

Do you want to try ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Violence in society

IMG_1449
Not a day passes today without a report of violence in some part of the world. Our newspapers, magazines and TV channels are brimming with headlines of violent incidents around the world. Why cannot we have peace around the world ? Why do we have rapists torturing innocent children ? Whey do we have school children wielding guns and killing innocent people ? Why do terrorists attack innocent citizens ?

Every violent incident is reported in newspaper headlines and debated on TV channes to give sadistic pleasure to some people. I am trying to understand the root cause of this behaviour in society. I cannot believe any religion in the world propagates or supports violence. I am not well read on religions of the world,not even of Hinduism to which I belong. But my limited knowledge teaches me that no religion teaches us to practise violence in any form.

After deep reflection, I have come to the conclusion that our family, education system and societal and political values are responsible for today’s tragic state of affairs. Let me try to delve on each of these three root causes and find answers of how each of us can contribute to change this situation for our future generations.

Let us first reflect on our family system. Family is the basic unit of society. Today the foundations of family as a social institution is threatened. This is true around the world. While we may justify our moving from joint families to nuclear families due to career aspirations or individual ambitions, this has led to breaking of family as an institution. The elders in the family played the role of mentor and guide for the younger members. Today we do not have mentors or guides within the family system. The inculcation of family values is fading in society.

If we move to schools, our education system is becoming more commercial than educational. The sole objective of most of the schools and colleges is to make money. They are less concerned about producing the future citizens of their country. Educational institutions have failed to maintain standards and inculcate values in their students. If at all students learn that earning money and that too at any cost is one of the prime objectives of individuals in society. Educational institutions need to partner with parents and society to inculcate the right values in the younger generations.

Political parties and social groups are perpetuating violence in some form or the other. While in power they do everything to suit their convenience at the cost of society. When out of power they obstruct the working of the government and support violence in every form so that government in power earns a bad name. This is further accentuated by the apathy of the citizens. We are willing to accept the violence and crime against innocent citizens by the rogues of society. These rogues do not have any religion or nationality. They are criminals and have no place in society. They continue to thrive because of political support from all shades of society. We cannot even call them animals as that would be an insult to animals. Animals are more faithful to humans than such unscrupulous elements in society.

While fire may symbolise violence in society, we need to find ways to put off the fire by our actions and use it only for prayers and peaceful purposes as in the photo above.

What can we do as citizens ? In my view, we can play the role of mentors to our children and younger members of our family to inculcate the right values. We can promote and support educational institution which produce great citizens for the future and boycott those which commercialise education. We can boycott politicians and political parities which supports rapists, murderers and corruption in public life. This can be done by our participating in every election and voting for honest citizen to be our representatives in legislatures and parliament. Every political party has honest members and we need to support and promote them.

It is time to wake up and take charge ? My 3 simple steps are just nascent ideas. What do you think ? What are your ideas ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Travelling around


One of my passions in life is to travel.  I love visiting new places and meeting people.  I also love to understand the culture and crafts of that new place.  I have been lucky to visit different parts of the world and of my wonderful country as well. Every time I have travelled to a new place, it has been a new insight for me. The place, the people and the practices indeed teaches me many life lessons, which no education in the world can.

It does not matter which part of the world I am visiting or during which time of the year.  Every new place has a new meaning for me in life.  Every new location teaches me new things.  I wish I could have been a travel writer, visiting places around my country and the world and sharing my experiences with everyone.  Although, I have almost visited all the states of my country , I am yet to cover all the treasures of my native country.

I remember my first travel out of my country.  It was way back in 1989, when I visited UK for a three month training programme.  Apart from the learnings in the programme, which changed my perspectives on being a trainer, it was indeed great insights into a different country with varied cultures, norms and behaviours.  I still remember how I enjoyed the Big Ben to see the UK parliament or the Buckingham palace and these brought back vivid memories of my limited knowledge of history studied in school.

Another wonderful visit was my first visit to the state of Jammu & Kashmir, the northern most state of my country.  It was way back in 2004 and many of friends cautioned me against the travel since there was tension between ethnic groups and also the state was seized with terror attacks.  Both me and my wife felt that terror is a world wide phenonomenon today.  It can happen in your backyard where you are staying and hence we decided to go ahead.  This was one of the best decisions of my life.

This state gives you the best glimpses of nature.  Its warm and flat at Jammu, cold and chilly in the valley and solemn and snowy at Ladakh(as in the photo above).     As you land into Srinagar, you feel you have arrived in a fairy land.  You can see snow capped mountains around you and the warmth of the people you meet is unbelievable.  All the people you meet here are hospitable and are always keen to make you comfortable.  They call it “Kashmiriyat”.  It means the culture of secularism in simple terms. It is such lessons, no book in management or psychology can teach you.

One of the best states I have visited so far is Sikkim, one of the smallest states of India.  The capital Gangtok is again surrounded by snow capped Himalayas and the city is spotlessly clean.  You have foot paths all around the city and you can enjoy walking around without worrying about any road mishaps.  I sometimes wonder why all of us living in different parts of the country in other states cannot learn from this wonderful state.

Last but not the least, I would urge everyone to travel around whenever you can.  I would urge parents and elders to take your kids around the world and around India whenever you can.  A visit to a new place and meeting new people can never be substituted by books or the television.  My wife and kids have travelled around with me in my country and around the world wherever I could afford to go.  Each visit has brought in a new lesson for each of us.

Lets start our learning journey today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Partnerships

DSC03979

In my book, partnership is when two individuals or entities work together towards a common goal.  In real life you look at partnership with friends, family or your spouse.  The relationship is unconditional and the expectation of support is mutual.  The summation of two is more than the simple addition of  individuals.  Partnerships ensure that we complement and supplement each other in all our efforts.

Now if we look at partnerships at an entity level, it is the symbiosis of two organisations to leverage on each other strengths.  It could be with a business goal or even with a social objective.  Partnerships ensure that the entities are able to enable each other to succeed.  History is evidence to successful partnerships between companies in the corporate sector and other sectors.

In today’s world, we also see partnerships between two countries.  It could be technological partnership, social  or any other field of common interest.  When multiple countries join hands it may end up as multilateral colloboration among those countries.  The success of partnership depends on mutual respect for each other’s strength and ability to give as much as your receive.

Interestingly, partnerships at individual, company level or country level are based on similar principles.  The first principle of partnership is the choice of the partner.  If you have to fully thrive on the benefits of a partnership, you have to choose the right partner for setting up for success.  A simple example could be the choice of your partner in a team sport like tennis.  If you choose a partner who complements your strengths and manages your weakenesses, then you are sure to succeed.

The second principle of partnership is mutual trust.  No partnership in the world can succeed unless they trust each other unconditionally.  After you have selected your partner, you need to ensure that your trust unconditionally.  The moment one of the partners seeds mistrust, the partnership is doomed to fail.  History is witness to successful and failed partnerships in the corporate sector.  If we examine the reasons for success or failiure, trust would be a defining factor in all such cases.

The third principle of a great partnership is giving your best and enabling the other partner to succeed.  This is true at individual, organisational or country level.  The best of partnerships thrive when they give their best and enable each other to succeed.  We can examine this character in all successful partnerships.  We will find that the more you give, the more likely you will reap the benefit of the partnership.

Thus, partnerships thrive on choice, trust and giving.  It is equally true at individual, organisational or country level.  It may be worthwhile to mention that none of us as individuals can succeed in society without establishing partnerships.  If married, you thrive only when you are able to complement your spouse to succeed.  It is equally true in companies and nations.

It is time to partner .

S Ramesh Shankar

Women Leadership : New age imperatives

IMG_1644
The International Women’s day celebrated on 8th March every year gives us an opportunity to appreciate and salute the role of women in society. It is true that around the world, women have played a stellar role in leadership in all walks of life. History teaches us of brave women, who have transformed societies with their selfless leadership. We in India have seen women as freedom fighters, politicians, a noble laureate, historians, academicians and very recently as space scientists, who have made our country proud by their outstanding accomplishments.

What are the new age imperatives, which the women leaders of today are challenged with ? 

 The first and the foremost challenge for women leaders would be the unconscious bias of others. Although, I strongly believe that women are equal to men as leaders, there is an unconscious bias especially in the Indian society that women cannot lead in particular circumstances like a battlefield, flying fighter planes or even working in the shop floor of a manufacturing unit. In my view, the bias is more in our mind than in reality.

The second challenge which women leaders may face in the new age would be the willingness of men and women under them to accept them as leaders. As I said earlier that having worked under women leaders, I do not find any difference between men and women as leaders. But the feudal mindset of men and women may make them uncomfortable to accept a woman as a leader. This may be experienced by many women leaders and they get over it by their sheer performance and effectiveness.

The third imperative could be the balance of work and life. It is very difficult for women leaders to balance family needs and work needs unless they have an excellent family support. In the absense of this support mechanism, it could result in strained family relationship or sometimes giving up a challenging career at their peak. Most women leaders work double of their male counterparts since they have to balance home and work and this is a big ask of them.

Having said that, I would like to restate that in my books, women leaders are as smart as male leaders if not smarter.

It is time to reflect and support them to succeed.

S Ramesh Shankar

Smile please…

IMG_3493
Our facial expressions speak more than our words.  There is research to state that we express ourselves 70% of the time through non verbal behaviour rather than verbal.  This means smiles can not only be contagious but can make a huge positive impact in our lives.  Then, it may be worth while to examine as to why we are so stingy in smiling.  Many of us find it difficult to smile unless a situation forces us to do so or we do it as an obligation to others.   Interestingly there is also medical research to confirm that smiles can exercise our facial muscles better than frowns.

It is time to examine the reasons for our smiling or otherwise. We get up in the morning, brush our teeth and feel quite comfortable smiling at ourselves at the mirror.  We have our cup of coffee with our family and friends and the smile may continue to blink.  As the day progresses, we meet people on the way to work or school and the smile disappears.  The frown may gradually replace the smile as we believe our day is worse than anyone else around us.

It is time to wake up in the morning and be grateful to God and ourselves.  We should believe that we are the luckiest in the world and blessed with family and friends, who are so caring and loving around us.  We should look forward to getting to work or school and meet our wonderful colleagues.  This may not only make us more confident and cheerful but will spread happiness all around us.  It may make us feel good and spread goodness with every smile on our face as we interact with others.

Why blame the world for a negative attitude if we can change the world with our smile.  Another interesting dimension of a smile on our face is that it is very contagious.  It is almost like yawning.  Have your ever tried it ?  If you look at people yawning around you, you end up yawning yourself even if you are not sleepy or feel like it.  Smile is similar.  Try it.  If you meet someone who smiles around all the time, the spread of cheer is infectious.

It may be interesting to examine as to why we smile less and frown more at ourselves or at others.  It may be because of the imbalance between need and greed in life.  We are accumulating wealth with the belief that wealth may lead us to prosperity and which in turn may make us happy.  This quest for wealth is endless and leads us from need to greed.  The moment greed overtakes need, we tend become angry with ourselves and more greedy.

On the other hand, we meet people on the street, who are never sad.  They may not be the wealthiest in the world but they are the happiest.  If we examine them better, we may realise that they fulfill their needs in life and never are greedy.  They give more than they get in life.  Their smile is generous and unconditional.  They do not smile at you because they need you but they smile at you because they want to make you happier every day.

On the other hand, many of us carry the burden of the world on us.  We believe that the world is cruel to us.  We believe that we do not have enough for a happy future.  We are in the never ending quest for wealth.  We yearn for a future, which is always eluding us and in the process forget the existence of the present.   We forget the past as soon as we reach a stage of self denial.  This makes us smile less and frown more.

It is time to wake up.  Let us smile at ourselves and at others.  Let us cheer ourselves .  Let us spread happiness around us like a flower spreading honey to the bees.  The world will be a happier place to live in.

Lets start today

S Ramesh Shankar
January 2017

Think before you ink

IMG_5815
Our ability to think before we ink may help us determine our future.  This may be the true barometer of a democracy as much a measure of our true success in life.  Let us first examine this hypothesis on what is a true democracy in society at large.  A nation, where every citizen can at free will express herself or himself without any repercussions or consequences is the foundation of a true democracy.    A country where the vote of every citizen is equal and valuable in determining its future is the crux of a democratic state.

I am lucky to be born in India, the world’s largest democracy and thriving for the last 60 years and counting.  We are multi cultural, truly secular and thrive on democratic values.  We may not be the most prosperous country in the world in money terms but we are the wealthiest in the world in emotional and spiritual power.  This has been possible only because every citizen of India determines our future.  Our constitution makers have ensured that every citizen contributes to the making of India.

The vote of the citizen in India is equal irrespective of whether you are rich or poor and whether you are educated or illiterate.  We are the first country in the world to have 100% electronic voting machines almost a decade back and we proud of our democratic credentials.  While the election commission of India, which is a constitutional body plays the role of an independent watchdog to protect and promote the rights of its citizens, it is each of one of us as independent citizens, who have contributed to this success by thinking before we ink in every election.

Now, if we move to the individual, the significance of thinking before we write something is equally important in our lives.  While everyone does appreciate the value of communications in life, it may be forgiven if we use inappropriate language verbally and seek forgiveness as soon as we realise it or someone points it out to us.  It may be erased from memory and easily forgotten too.  However, what is written down stays engraved in stone and lives in memory for eternity.

We need to think before we ink.  This may be easier said than done. In an era of emails and mobile communications, there is more communication through written forms of emails and chats rather than speech.  This makes it all the more necessary for us to think before we write.  We need to choose every word with caution and imagine the impact of the words we choose on the recipient of our communication.

We need to realise that it is easier to speak than to write.  The more we think before we ink, the better may be our expression and the more its impact.  It is we, who determine how others perceive us.  It is we as citizens determine the future of our country. The kid in the photo above seems to be thinking intensely before he puts his thoughts on the iPad.

Let us think.

S Ramesh Shankar
January 2017