Flying birds


I have always been fascinated at the way birds fly high in the sky. I used to envy them and think how lucky they are.  One day I was wondering what the birds would be thinking of us as human beings on earth.  While I envied the birds for flying fearlessly, they may be envying us for enjoying ourselves walking around on the ground.  We believe the birds have all the freedom in the world and they do not need to stay at a permanent place.

On the other hand, the birds may wonder how lucky human beings are that have a permanent place to stay.  Birds have to keep flying endlessly till they are tired and have to find a place every day to rest at night.  They have to earn their food by flying around trees or other places and may be lucky some day and not on other days. We are so lucky we have a home to stay and get food served on our plates every day.

This phenomenon teaches us an important lesson in life.  We tend to compare ourselves with others and feel jealous.  Further, we think others do not suffer as much as we do.  We feel we are always face the most difficult situations while other rejoice.  We never realise that others may be in similar situations like us or may be even worse than us.  It is like me envying the birds in the sky till I wondered one day what the birds would think of me.

Life is a journey and has its ups and downs.  All of us have days of joy and moments of sorrow.  It may be worthwhile to admire others and learn from their goodness.  It may not be worth the while to envy others and die out of comparison.  If we need to compare anyone, it could be ourselves.  We can always be grateful to God for all the joyous moments he gave us when we face some miseries.

It is the attitude of self reflections and learning, which may make us better human beings.  Each living being is created by God and have their own pluses and minuses.  It is up to us to look at the positive of others and learn from them.  Jealousy can only make us move backward in life.  It is worthwhile to fly high in the sky like the birds and dream big.  It may be useful to leave the bad moments of one’s life behind like the birds leave their nest behind when they migrate.

It is up to us to be free and enjoy life like the flying birds.  If we learn from them, we benefit.  If we compare ourselves with them and feel bad, we lose.  Let us learn to learn not only from other human beings around us but from birds and animals, which have enough to teach us.

Today can be a new beginning.

S Ramesh Shankar

Every employee is a brand ambassador


Someone nicely said that ” if you take take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers”. This is true in letter and spirit. We launched an organization development intervention two years back to bring “customer centricity” in our organisation.  We were keen to keep the customer at the centre of everything we do.  While we had many key aspects of this intervention, evolving a “Customer first culture”was one of our major priorities.

It may be easy to measure customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction.  However, we were wondering as to how do we define ” Customer first culture”.  We did workshops across the organization and invited employees who were customer facing and also those who were customer supporting.  This helped us define what “Customer first culture” could mean for any organization.  

Interestingly, employees told us that “Attitude, Empathy & Commitment” were the three key cornerstones of creating a customer first culture.  Then we decided that we need to train our employees to understand what customers felt about us, inculcate the right attitude , build empathy and instill commitment in whatever their role is in the organization.

We trained most of our employees – direct, indirect and even third party employees and contract employees working with us.  At this stage, we realised that the real success of creating a customer first culture would be to make every employee a brand ambassador of the company.  Every action of every employee every day can either promote the culture of customer first or become a impediment in evolving this culture.

Interestingly employees gave us a lot of ideas to evolve this culture.  We realised that we need to share success stories and learn from the mistakes our employees did every day.  We shared all the success stories and evolved rewards and recognition for great customer orientation displayed by employees in different parts of the organization.  This propelled this movement and helped us promote the right envirorment for evolving the desirable culture.

So, almost every employee in the organization was trained. Customer facing employees, customer supporting employees, employees in support functions, our workmen in the shop floor and also the security staff, pantry staff, receptionist et all.  This ensured that every employee kept the customer at the centre of everything she or he did in the organization.  Every employee realised that every action every day was critical for evolving this culture.

This gradually became a way of life.  Our security staff were courteous to every visitor coming to our organization.  Our pantry staff were caring and conscious of our guests.  Our workmen were prompt in responding to customer complaints on the shop floor.  Our support function staff were responsive and proactive.  Our sales and service personnel realised the benefit of having a positive attitude, being empathetic and keeping their commitments to customers every day.

This has not only resulted in more than doubling our customer satisfaction index but has helped the organization grow multi fold in business and profits.

We learnt by making every employee our brand ambassador.

S Ramesh Shankar

Dreams Unlimited

Is it a good idea to dream ?


I think so.  After all, life is full of possiblities.  It is up to us to dream, dedicate our efforts and be disciplined to realize those dreams in our life time.  One interesting facet of life is that anyone can dream.  You need not be rich or poor, educated or uneducated, man or woman, living in a developed world or a developing world.  The only condition has to be the ability to dream and dream big in life.

I also realize that the journey from dreams to reality are similar for all.  The best thing I have experienced in life is the ability of a poor person to dream big and then zealously work towards fulfilling the dream.  One of my colleagues was working with a group of young girls in an orphanage.  She was helping these girls to plan for their career.  She  was inspired by the dreams narrated by these young kids in their school.  One of them wanted to be a pilot while the other a police commissioner.  What this teaches us is that dreams can be unlimited and unhindered.  However, the journey to convert dreams to reality is arduous and tough.

I have seen young school children from the lowest strata of society dream big and accomplish their dreams through hard work and discipline in their life time.  I have also seen rich kids ruin their life with no dreams or desires and burning their inherited wealth till they reach a point of no return.  It is up to us to dream big and then work towards it.

This is equally true in our work life.  Many of us start our career at a lower level in the organisation and with meagre salaries.  We bury our dreams like the ostrich in the sand.  The world moves on and we are left behind.  On the other hand, you hear great inspiring stories of how employees joining as a workmen in a manufacturing organisation end up becoming the CEO of the same organisation by sheer dedication, discipline and dogged pursuit of their dreams.

If we reflect in our personal life, the story is not very different.  We all start our career or business and have limited earnings.  We dream big and want to be wealthy and wise.  Some of us may work towards our dreams and make them a reality.  While others may continue to dream without any focused efforts.  Thus dreaming in life is the first step.  It is like setting a vision and mission for an organisation.  The next step is to work towards making that dream a reality.  It could mean adding qualifications, skills and expertise.  It could mean moving around the country or the world.  It could mean taking risks in life.  It could mean thinking of the impossible and working towards making it possible.

So, life is like a dream and it is up to us to make it a reality. The picture of marine drive above in Mumbai at night is like a dream come true.

What do you think ?

S Ramesh Shankar

I believe in myself


In anything I do, the first step is to believe in myself.  A colleague commented on my previous blog and stated that while others may believe in you, you have first to believe in yourself.  He further shared an interesting quote – After failing to climb Mount Everest, the reply of a great man – “I will come again and conquer you because as a mountain you cannot grow, but as a human I can.”

In my view that is the spirit of a positive human being.  I fully agree with my colleague that belief in oneself is the first step to success in life.  I can share many life memories, where my self belief has indeed been the first step to success.  I passed out of college in 1981 and my father had  retired from service.  Being the eldest son in the family I had to start my career to support my family as by then my two elder sisters had got married and left our home.  In the eighties in India, getting a job was not that easy.  There were hardly any placements in college or campus recruitment. 

I was pursuing my post graduation in personnel management.  I had completed two stints of internships at two different industries.  I had done my best at both the companies but was not sure if I would get a job offer.  I was worried since being without a job at home was not a choice.  I had a responsibility to support my parents.  I had the self confidence that I will get an offer from somewhere.  I always tried my best and believed in myself at all times.  As soon as I finished my second internship, this company offered me a job within a week of my passing out of college.  

At another instance, I was working in a fast moving consumer goods company.  We had gone for a outbound along with the sales team.  There was an exercise wherein we were asked to climb a tree which was 50 feet high and jump to the ground, where a safety net was laid.  We had been given safety belts and there were expert trainers to take care of our safety.  Most of the team members refused to jump down except two of us.  Interestingly the two of us were the oldest members of the team.  We were 50 plus in age.  We believed in ourselves and also in our trainer and hence took the plunge and succeeded.  The other team members possibly did not trust themselves nor the coach and hence did not. 

In life, we may have many tough situations.  We may fail multiple times but the self belief should never get eroded.  The best examples are from the field of sports.  We see sports women and men lose multiple times but they never give up till they win.   I recently met a colleague from my company in a global conference.  She is an Olympic silver medalist in swimming.  She was narrating her own story.  She had lost a medal in the previous world championship and then practised for four years and won the silver in the next Olympics. She shared that she always believed that she could make it to the Olympic medal podium and hence never looked back.

Success in life is based on the foundation of self belief.  If we believe in ourselves, we will believe in others and we will never give up.  We may have crests  and troughs in life but our goal is clear and our self confidence is energising.  As in the photo above this young guy seems to brimming in self confidence.

Let the journey of a thousand miles begin with a small step and in my view the small step is to believe in yourself.

S Ramesh Shankar

“I believe in you”


” I believe in you” seems a very simple statement but a very powerful one.  I was recently in an internal global hr workshop when some of my colleagues gave me this idea.  We were discussing of trust and then someone said that I should write on this subject – ” I believe in you”.  I was touched by the power of the statement and hence readily agreed to reflect on it and write about it.

Let us start to examine as to why this simple statement is so powerful ?  When was the first experience of this statement for most of us ?  I would first start with our family.  In most cases, our mothers more than our fathers would have expressed this to us as a kid in both verbal and non verbal behaviour.  Most mothers believe that their kids can do the impossible.  This belief in itself empowers the kid and creates a sense of self belief.  They encourage their kids not only to study but play every possible sport and also try their luck in co curricular activities.  Like in the photo above, a mother will always give a thumbs up to a child in all his actions and always believe he will succeed.  The eyes of the mother speak and encourages her child.

If we move to the school,  the best teachers repose their trust in their students and make them believe that they can excel in anything.  As a student I recall a very interesting incident in my childhood days.  I was interested in debating but had never done one.  One day my English teacher made me participate in a school debate and made me believe that I could do it.  I was very nervous since I had never debated before.  But the confidence of the teacher in me made me go ahead and not only participate but win a prize in the very first competition I participated.  The invisible pat of the teacher may motivate the student.

If we move to the workplace, many of us will recall that the best managers and leaders infuse confidence in us by their actions more than their words.  They are always willing to take the risk and allow us to experiment and fail.  They may or may not say to us that they believe in us always.  This encourages us to take the plunge in areas, which we never would have even dreamt of.  The words and actions of the manager should inspire the team member.

If we examine the behaviour of our mother, teacher or manager who believed in us, there are  some attributes common in all of them.  They give more than they take from others.  They are unconditional in praise and stingy in criticism.  They are always positive in their attitude and optimistic in their beliefs.  They encourage us to experiment and are willing to support us if we fail.  They will always come forward to take the blame on our behalf if something goes wrong.

If this is so simple, why do many of us fail to practise such a simple thing in life as parents, teachers, managers or leaders.  I believe the simple things in life are the most difficult to practise.  It is like telling the truth.  I am yet to meet anyone in life who does not want to be truthful all the time.  But most of us falter at some stage of life or their and learn from our mistakes.  Some times we may say it verbally but still it does not have any impact.  I believe this may be because there is no congruence between our words and our actions on the ground.  Our actions do not reflect our beliefs and hence our words do not mean anything to anybody.

I think  I learnt a simple lesson in life today.  I promise that I will infuse this spirit of ” I believe in you ” in myself as a leader from today and will always try to display it in my verbal and non verbal behaviour with my family, friends and colleagues.

It is indeed a good insight !.  What do you think ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Raising the bar

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I am always in awe of Sergey Bubka, the pole vaulter, who broke his own record at least seven times in his sporting career and has 35 world records to his credit. Many of us will tend to believe that if we have reached a peak in our career or vocation, we can relax and there is nothing more to aspire for.  But the people, who excel always think that there are no limits to excellence.  It is like this plane in the photo.  You do not know if it is landing or taking off.  You may reach your destination but the plane continues its journey.

Excellence is a journey and not a destination.  This is true in all aspects of life.  It does not matter what vocation or career or business we are in.  I recall my college days.  We used to have a bus conductor, who used to excel in his role.  He would sing songs, be courteous to passengers and crack jokes with everyone.  This made him a role model for all bus conductors to follow.  We see auto drivers, who are excellent.  They are courteous, provide newspapers and magazines, provide wifi and are always looking to improve their services to their customers.

In life, it does not matter what we are doing.  There is always scope for raising the bar.  As a sports person would say, it is up to us to define our goal.  There are no limitations in this world except our own mental limits.  We tend to be caught in our own circles and then blame the environment or other people when we cannot raise the bar.  The best in the world are always restless.  They try to seek the impossible and make it easily possible.

Many a time as ordinary mortals we fear the unknown.  We are afraid to take risks and tread a path of comfort.  We tend to believe that we are doing our best and nothing further can be accomplished.  Most of us stretch ourselves only when challenged.  Either a visionary manager or the competitive landscape around us challenges us.  Even then, we try to find an escape route.  We tend to find excuses for our own limitations.  We do not want to dwell in the world of the Unknown.

The greatest of women and men in the world have always done the impossible.  There are millions of examples in our lives, where people have excelled in unbelieable circumstances.  We recently saw the Winter Olympics and saw athletes from around the world, who excelled without any infrastructure or facilities to back their preparations.  They never complained but steadfastly pursued the goal to excel in whatever they do.

It is time to reflect.  What makes people excel ?  It is not the resources but the spirit within us.  Some times, the competitive environment may propel excellence but the power to compete with oneself time and again comes from within.  We should be hungry to beat ourselves in everything we do.  We should aim to be the best in the world always.  But being the best is never permanent.  The sooner we realize this, the better the chances for us to excel in this journey of excellence.

The best in the world compete with others and compete with themselves.  They always have the dream of bettering the best.

We can try.

S Ramesh Shankar