Dependance versus Independance

When one organism lives on and depends on another living organism, we may call it a parasite. The other day I was going on a nature trek and noticed a small organism living on a leaf and it struck me about our life as parasites. Do we live as dependants more than necessary ? May be it is true and worth thinking about. We all are born in a family as kids and are fully dependant on our parents. We continue to stay with them till we complete our education through school and college. If given a chance, we like

to continue with them for the rest of our lives. We depend on them more than they depending on us.

As life progresses, we get married and sometimes are compelled to move away from our homes due to the employment of our spouse or otherwise. We start living on our own. Life becomes more independent and we miss the umbrella of protection of our parents. One of the interesting learning in life is that we vie with each other to learn the western society almost in every aspect of our life. We want to be modern in our outlook and physically comfortable in our material life. This is the positive part of our aping the western traditions. However, we conveniently do not copy things which does not suit us.

In the developed world, children move out of their homes when they are teenagers and start living on their own. They do errands and live life on backpacks. They fund their own education and do not depend on their parents for their livelihood. This is worth copying from the west. This phenomenon makes you independent in the true sense of the word. Further, it helps you realise the value of money earned at an early stage of your life. It helps you get grounded and find your way up the hard way in life.

In the Indian context, since we continue to stay with our parents, we are fully dependant on them. As we grow up and get married and move out of home in quest of our career we realise the value of independence and the hard work and toil one has to put into to earn it. Another interesting insight is that once we move out of our parents homes we believe our duties and responsibilities are over. We take care of our spouse and kids. We take care of our parents or in laws only as a courtesy and leave it to them to take care of themselves. Sometimes we also believe that supporting them financially is our way of taking care of them.

In my view, this is where we need to learn from our rich Indian heritage. We have to consider it our privilege to be able to take care of our parents and parents in law during their old age. No amount of financial support to them can repay our non financial debt to them. They have sacrificed their lives and comforts to make us what we are today and the least we can do is to take care of them financially and more importantly emotionally. It is at this juncture, we need to introspect and not ape the traditions from other cultures.

Dependance and independence is a vicious circle in our lives. We start with dependance and then become independent and end our lives as dependants again. What we do to others comes back to us. Let us serve our elders unconditionally without expecting anything in return. This will reflect our true spirit of independence. It is worth emulating from our rich Indian traditions and showcasing to the world as well.

Let us start today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Competencies for tomorrow ?

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I was recently in a business school attending a business conference. The theme was – “Metamorphisis – Reshape, recreate and transform. While I was speaking of the speed and rate of change in the environment around us, I did highlight the impact of Digitalization and its impact on human resources. This then led me to speak of three key competencies, which students need to evolve to be successful in the business of tomorrow.

The first competency is “Mindset”. Today organisations recruit for mindset and not for skills. The belief is that skills can be developed but mindset is very difficult to change in any adult. Hence, it is critical to have the right attitude and mindset for change. We need to believe that the world is full of possibilities and we are there to make things happen. If we are able to evolve this mindset in ourselves, we are likely to be a winner in any environment.

A positive attitude to work and life not only make you a winner, it enables you to inspire your team as well. I have been privileged to work with leaders and teams, who have always believed in possibilities. This is indeed infectious. This has led me to be an optimist in life always. I have never believed anything is impossible. It is only a factor of time and the efforts we put in to achieve our goal.

The second competency in my view is “Adaptability & flexibility”. A simple example could be our concept of job mobility. We should be willing to pack up our bags and work in any part of the world for any type of industry. Many of us are mobile but conditionally. We would say we are willing to be posted in metros in India or in the USA or Europe. When asked if we are open to be posted in the north east of India for example or for that matter in the African continent we may have excuses like ageing parents or kids in school etc. Unconditional mobility will take you places in your career and that would be flexibility and adaptability in our career.

Many of us disappointed when we do not get a posting in a place of our choice. We start complaining from day one. I would recommend that we consider it an opportunity to work in a new place rather than crib about not getting one’s preference. I was recently reading an article, where the author was saying that she renamed her daily “To-do list” to “Possibilities for the day”. This name change itself makes it flexible and possible. As otherwise, many of us would make to do lists every day and it will remain the same for days with us.

The third competency would be a “Learning” attitude. We need to be learning for life. There is no subject or field in the world which has a first and a last chapter. We can never imagine ourselves to be master of any field. Hence, it is critical for us to update ourselves everyday and keep in tune with the real world. For example if we take social media, the youth of today are not in Facebook anymore. They have moved to Twitter or Instagram. Class room training is not the only or the best way to learn anymore. We have hundreds of ways to keep learning every day.

I have met people who are constantly learning languages, new skills and concepts all the time. Age, vocation or location is never a constraint. It is our mindset and adaptability which would evolve us as a life long learner. We can learn from everyone around us. We can even learn from every object around us. Nature has its unique ways of teaching us every day. It is up to us to inculcate the learning attitude in life.

So for me it is clear – Mindset, Adaptability/flexibility & Learning attitude is the key to future leaders.

Why not reset and start today ?

S Ramesh Shankar

31st August 2017

Learning management from kids

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I have always been a great fan of kids. I have felt energised in their company and learn from them in every interaction. Of course, they do test our patience at times but so do we. I was wondering if it is a good idea to translate today’s management concepts to what we could learn from the behaviour of kids. We may not have realised it during the incident but if we look back, it is interesting and provides great insights.

Mission : I remember an incident from my childhood when I ran for miles behind a gas balloon which had flown away from my hand. While looking back and logically it may look foolish. But the kids have high levels of perseverance and never give up to achieve their mission in life.

Strategy : I am reminded of many incidents where my son has strategised and accomplished what he wanted to get in his life. Once my son wanted to go with his classmates in college for an educational tour. He had made up his mind and had evolved a foolproof strategy to achieve his goal. He first tried with me and then with his mother. He then pursued the same with his teacher and made his teacher convince us of how useful it would be to send him. Thus, although initially we had not approved his tour, he did make it finally.

Conflict resolution : While kids may end up fighting at the drop of a hat, I have seen them resolving conflicts much easier than adults. What I have noticed in them is that they are ready to move on in life. They are willing to forgive and forget. As adults, we tend to carry the grudge for our lifetime. Our egos prevent us from forgiving others and we are worried as to who has to first ring the bell for peace.

Listening : Do we remember how our kids listened to stories at night ? Even today when I see my grandson who is 7 years old listen to my wife I am stunned at his level of concentration. When he is listening to a story, he is in rapt attention. He does not fiddle around a mobile phone or watch TV and also listen. This is what most of us do. Hence, kids can take a class for us on attentive listening, which is critical for success as a leader.

Communication : While behavioural scientists have established that more than seventy percent of behaviour is non verbal, we do not use it effectively in our day to day communication. We need to learn from kids. A child may communicate effectively even without uttering a word. The expressions on their face , the laughter, the cry and et all can speak more than a thousand words.

Interpersonal skills : I have seen kids mingle even with strangers without any bias. Why do adults find it difficult to work in a team even with people known to them ? One of the factors I have noticed in kids is that they do not have any conscious or unconscious bias towards others. They are willing to let go. They take the initiative to interact and are willing to accommodate others in the group. As adults, we seem to have erased these qualities as we grow up.

Perseverance : I have seen kids go up and down the slide multiple times till they succeed. I have never seen them give up in life on anything. Why do we as adults tend to give up even before we give things a try ? Kids have the patience and the perseverance, which we need to learn. As we grow up our patience fades and so does our perseverance. We end up making simple things complicated and thus give up even without a try.

It may be worthwhile to observe the kids around us and learn management from them. The lessons are practical and real life. We can refresh our knowledge, skills and attitude to life. What do you think ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Class is classic 

Class means different things to different people. As a student of sociology, class refers to the social status in society. It is referred to as social class. It is like the caste system, which creates a hierarchy in society. Class could be based on income, caste, profession etc. An act of high quality is also referred to as class. For eg, in the cricket world, we normally refer to batsmen who are outstanding as class. An oft quoted saying is ” Form is temporary but Class is permanent.”

So, let us understand why form is temporary but class is permanent. It is believed the best in class player in any form of sports is classic although she or he may not be in form on a particular day. We can think of the best soccer players going goalless in a match. The best batsmen getting out for a duck and so on. However, their consistency and quality of the game is unimaginable. Hence, we could easily state that “Class is classic”.

If we move to the social class, there is an interesting theory in sociology called “Sanskritization”. This means people who are in the lower caste do everything in their domain to move to the higher caste hierarchy. This is simple aspiration in life. Who on earth would not like to grow ? However sociologists have studied this phenomenon and called it “Sanskritization”. Today it may look obvious that every one of us aspires to learn and grow in every aspect of life.

Another interesting determinant of class is forwardness or backwardness of a community. This is determined by developmental indicators, educational levels, per capita income and so on. So, when communities are behind their contemporaries in the same society due to clear developmental factors, they are referred to as backward communities. On the other hand, when communities move forward in the same factors they are called forward class.

Another interesting classification of society in the past has also been done based on the professional vocation of a group. This segregation then refers to a community as potters , agriculturists and so on. The profession adopted by the majority of a village or a community gives credence to the name of that community or village as a potters village and so on.

Whatever be the definition of class, I would state that “Class is classic”. In order to attain class in anything we do, we have to be the best in class. This means that in a group of artisans if we are the best, we are referred to as class. This has an important meaning for us in life. If we are the best in whatever we do in life, we will be a class apart and nobody can ignore us. On the contrary, class is respected always.

If I link it to the organisational context, most of us waste our time and efforts by comparing ourselves with our colleagues at work in terms of our performance. It would be wiser to compare oneself to self and be the best in class. If we are the best in whatever we do in the organization, nobody can afford to ignore us, least of all our manager. Hence, it is critical to remember that the best in class will always beat their own standards and records and not bother about others.

Why should we waste our time by comparing ourselves with others if we can be the best ? Our competitors should waste their time comparing themselves with us rather than the other way around. Let us excel in whatever work we do and be always better than the best. The best is class and may not be easy to replicate. We have to outshine everyone around us by our class and not by caste or position or power.

As in the photo above, Taj Mahal is class and hence no new architecture of the world has been able to beat its beauty.

Let us learn to outshine ourselves every day.

S Ramesh Shankar

People – the competitive advantage for an organisation

Every company in the world tries to identify what is its competitive advantage ? They look at what markets they operate in ? Who are their competitors ? What are their sources of competitive advantage ? This leads to factors like Cost, Quality, Reliability , Service, Innovation, Products etc. But, I do not subscribe to this theory of management. In my view, all competitors ultimately catch up to your sources of competitive advantage today or tomorrow. Hence, it is only “People” working with you, who are your only source of competitive advantage, which is not replicable.

Hence, if we believe that we have to make our organisation a great place to work – we have to realize that “Managing People” is not nice to have but must have factor for organisational success. If we take the simple example of the auto industry, we will get our answers. Today, the cars produced by different companies in the same segment is not very much differentiated. They have the similar technology, features, price etc. What really differentiates them is the service, which that company provides you before or after the sale of the car. Service is delivered by people and people are the key differentiator.

We have evolved the concept of “Ownership culture” in our organisation. What does this mean – this means that every manager owns her or his people in every possible way. A manager is the friend, guide and philosopher for his team. We need to build the people management skills in every manager so that they take care of their team members.

We launched the “People Matter” programme and the manager fitness certificate to support this philosophy in Siemens. This would help us strengthen the ownership culture by creating highly motivated teams. This would in turn enhance our customer experience. Like they say, if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers.

In this intervention, we partnered with Great Place to Work(GPTW). The reason why we selected GPTW is because we wanted a partner, who understand India and also helps us understand the best people practises in the world. They have helped us customise the programme to suit our context. They have benchmarked us with the best in the world and are supporting us to become the best.

This has been an exciting journey for me personally. I travel across the company and have visited almost all locations of Siemens. Everywhere I have been since the launch of the People Matter programme, employees have told me that they see the significant change in the behaviour of their managers. This is very heart warming. They tell me that their managers listen more and spend more time with them for their own development.

It is the people in the organization, who make a difference as illustrated in the photo above.

We would like to make this a way of life in Siemens. This is not a one of flavour of the season. We want every people manager to be the face of the employee in Siemens. We will empower them to take people decisions for all their team members. We will incorporate this in some way towards the “How” assessment in the PMP process. We will reward and recognise the best people managers periodically across the company.

We believe that it is “Customer first” but “Employee always” in Siemens.
 
S Ramesh Shankar
 

Campus to Corporate…

All of us look forward to our first job in our life. We eagerly await the completion of our formal education in school/college to enter the corporate life. We want to stand on our own feet and live out our dreams in life.

While this journey is indeed exciting, we have to prepare ourselves to be successful in this phase of our life. What are the changes which one has to encounter when you leave the college premises and enter the corporate world?

A. Forget your pedigree at the compound wall of the corporate : While your pedigree may help you enter the corporate world, it will not make any impact after you are in there. What makes a difference is your performance and the value you bring to the table.

B. Unlearn, learn and re-learn : Unlike the academic world, the corporate sphere changes very fast. We need to learn to unlearn, learn and re-learn at a hectic pace not only to survive but to thrive in the corporate world.

C. Excel : Excellence is a journey and it is never ending in a corporate world. You have to be the best in whatever you do and then nobody can ignore you. Kindly remember that this world is much more competitive than the academic world and you may not always get a second chance.

D. Ambition : Dream big and you will be able to realize your dreams some day. It may not happen in the time frame you have set for yourself but if you do not give up, it will definitely materialise.

E. Morals : It is always a dilemma in your mind if ethics have any value in corporate life. You may have seen millionaires making money the wrong way. You may be tempted to take short cuts and realize your dreams. Just remember to listen to your conscience every single time and you will do no wrong. It is better to be happy and hold your head high rather than be rich and evade the taxman or the police all the time.

F. Stand alone : It is natural for you to compare your self with others working with you. You may wonder why you get paid less as compared to someone else working with you. You may think the other person is less qualified or has irrelevant experience. It is not worth comparing yourself with others and feeling bad about it. You need to learn to be like the pole star comparing yourself with yourself and shining so brightly that nobody on earth can ever miss your sight.

G. Commitment : One may get away by submitting your assignment late in college once in a while. However, in the organisational context, living up to your commitments is the key to success. Your relative value is always determined by your personal credibility.

H. Punctuality : Self discipline is expected in corporate life. Nobody will remind you to be on time. You set your standards by being on time all the time. Your reputation is determined by your punctuality. It is good to remember that your discipline is displayed when nobody watches you.

I. Mobility: In today’s globalised business environment, one need’s to be truly globally mobile to be successful. We should be willing to pack up our bags and go anywhere in the world to launch a global career in any organisation.

J. Team work : Unlike the college daya, where one could get away with individual excellence, team work is the key to success in organizations. One needs to learn to work in team and collaborate and cooperate to leverage on the strengths of each team member.

Now, let us look at the emotions and feelings we may experience as we enter the corporate world and how do we deal with them :

I. Happy and excited : The enthusiasm and joy has to be sustained and persevered. We may not always get what we want but by sheer hard work and determination we can lay our own career path in the organisation.

II. Fear : The lurking fear of not being good enough will confront us. Our ability to be humble, grounded and willingness to unlearn, learn and re learn will help us get over fear.

III. Unhappiness : Not getting the location of your choice may make you unhappy. But our ability to adapt and make the best use of every opportunity will help us excel.

IV. Anxiety : Everything appears new and unknown. How to ask and whom to ask is a constant question in our mind. Simply asking and being innocent will help you always find your way.

V. Intimidating : The induction programme may be intimidating and you may find your self lost in a big organisation. Kindly remember all of us joined some day and today it is your turn. There is nothing to worry as you will come to know of everything as days pass by.

VI. Nervousness: The fear of the unknown and the realisation that time will run out fast may make you restless. As long you realize that learning is a life long journey, please remember that everyone in the organisation will be keen to help you.

VII. Curiosity : You are not sure when to speak and when to listen. You are curious when to ask questions and whom to ask. There is no right or wrong answers. As long as you are authentic, you need not worry about anything or anybody in the organisation.

Some things to look forward to :

A. First salary : The thrill of getting your first salary in life is unbelievable

B. Own office desk: When you reach office on the first day and get your own desk to sit, it is a matter of pride.

C. Corporate credit card: On getting your corporate credit card, you feel as if you have arrived in life.

D. Colleagues / friends – It feels nice to have new friends and colleagues at work and learn from them

E. Visiting card : Your first visiting card gives you respect and credibility

F. Independence : As we stand on our own feet, we become self reliant

All in all, moving from campus to corporate is like transitioning from bachelorhood to married life. Unlike your spouse in married life, you will have colleagues in the organisation. It is our ability to adapt and learn from them, which will make us successful.

The nervousness of the student transitioning into the corporate world can be seen in the photo above.

Wish you all the best.

S Ramesh Shankar

Traditions versus Modernity


We all have inherited innumerable traditions from our families and societies.  They help us in life and living.  We need not rediscover the world as our forefathers have experienced most of it and left behind ways of dealing with life in most situations.  When we follow a ritual, we may call them tradition.  On the other hand, when we invent something new to deal with a new situation, we may call it modernity.

In life both traditions and modernity are equally important.  While traditions share lessons of the past, modernity helps us to break free from the past and deal with the future with an open mind.  I used to think that most of the traditions are redundant and may not answer the questions of life in the future.  I personally did not believe in many traditions and believed they were backward looking.

However, I recently went to my diabotologist to consult for my diabetes.  When he enquired about my food habits I explained how I had moved from traditional food to new oils and less calorie food products.  He smiled and advised me to revert to traditional food.  He explained as to how the human body adapts to the food based on weather and eating habits.  He further explained that oils and food items recommended by our grand parents are more healthy than what modern marketeers make us believe.  

This was indeed a revelation.  He explained the science behind traditions.  It appeared to make more sense.  After all traditions are also rooted in science and may be we do not believe in them because there was no marketing of traditions.  I am not for one recommending that all our traditions are noble.  However, it may be valuable to look at traditions with an objective mind.  We may challenge only those traditions which may have become irrelevant in modern life.

Another interesting example of traidition versus modernity is the science of “Vaastu”. I used to live in a beautiful green home in Bangalore till I moved to Mumbai.  My wife felt that that home was not vaastu compliant after staying there for three years.  I resisted from moving out of the house since we had moved in by choice and loved the environs.  However, when I was moving to Mumbai for change of my job in 2011 I agreed to sell that home and buy another similar green home.

Meanwhile I tried to study the science of “Vaastu” ( Indian traditional science of architecture).  I found it intriguing.  It explains the basics for the design of a house.  It explains as to why the kitchen should preferably be in the south east of the house.  This is because the maximum sunlight enters the house in this direction and hence it will be a natural prevention of pests and insects in the kitchen.  The master bedroom should be in the south west because it is the coolest place in the house and so on.

After having studied the basics of Vaastu, I can state that this tradition is worth emulating and following even today.  Every recommendation of Vaastu seems to rooted in science and although learnt through traditions is relevant to modern life.  No wonder one of the best insititutes of architecture in the country has recently decided to include the study of Vaastu as part of the curriculum.

As in the photo above, people of a southern state use cocunut oil for all their cooking as per tradition and still lead a healthy life without much impact on their cholesterol levels.

Let the traditions of the past help us redefine our life today.

S Ramesh Shankar