Leadership in a digital age

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Leadership is a challenge for every leader every day. The challenges of leadership have changed over time. It is not only the people you lead but the environment in which you lead determines your style.

I wanted to reflect on what will leadership challenge look like in the digital age of the future. I explored it from five different angles – work, skills, technology, space and life. I then examined how a leader could deal with the challenges in each area.

Work – Let us explore as to how the world of work will change over time. The first and foremost distinction will be that the line between work and home will blur. People may work from anywhere and will not be comfortable with drawing distinct lines between home and work. They would prefer flexible working hours. An employee’s needs, wants and expectations from work will change. One cannot motivate employees by money alone. Purpose and values may be be more important than money. Life long employment will be history.

Skills – The skills acquired by a person will determine their value, not age or experience. Employees will tend to own their career and skills as they would like to be at the steering wheel at all times, not their boss or others. Automation and AI may make skills redundant sooner than expected. The only differentiator human beings may add to skills will be emotions.

Technology – Leaders have to continually master technology to have the cutting edge with their teams. Artificial intelligence and technology will replace routine jobs. Human beings need to add value with resonating emotions. Collaboration and co creation will become a way of life. Social good will overtake organisational selfishness.

Space – The cabins in offices will disappear. Work environment will embrace open architecture. Hierarchy will be a thing of the past and cross functional teams will drive organisations. Organisation boundaries will merge. People may work in multiple organisations and are committed more to their profession than to any organisation. Dress codes will be determined by individuals and not organisations. Formals will give way to casuals as comfort rather than impressionistic dressing will be the norm.

Life – Family as an institution may disintegrate or even get redefined. Society will evolve as a network of individuals rather than families and communities. Relationships get established through social media than real ones. Marriage as an institution may break down or change. This may impact relationships within and between families and communities. Stress will manifest in complex ways. As human interactions minimise, social interactions will increase with the use of technology. This means while technological connectedness may increase due to social media, bots, AI etc, human relatedness may decrease due to limited face to face interactions. Values have become relative as compared to absolute in the past. It is no longer black and white. It is grey most of the time and subject to interpretation.

So, if we look at leadership from these angles – work, skills, technology, space and life, we will understand that leadership in a digital age has varied challenges. They need to be dealt with differently from the past. Let us examine each challenge and on how a leader in the digital age can deal with it.

Work – The leader has to to be flexible and an adaptive networker to bring out the best in his people. Without laying rigid guidelines, the leader has to create the space to bring out the best in his team.

Skills – A leader has to be a challenger of their team and at the same time provide continual opportunities to learn and grow. If we can ensure that neither we nor our team members are complacent, we could be a winner.

Technology – A proactive adopter of technology and the latest trends will make a leader deal with the challenges of the digital age in an adaptive manner.

Space – A leader who behaves like a hierarchy less space creator will thrive in the emerging digital age. Our ability to cement collaborative teams to work together will be the differentiator for the future.

Life – A leader of the future has to evolve as an emotional anchor. The break down of family and marriage as institutions in the future will create more stress to the individuals and less coping mechanisms to deal with same. This means that leaders in the future have to be emotional anchors and fill the vacuum created by the emerging social trends. Leaders have to deal with relative value systems as compared to absolute of the past. This means what was considered inappropriate in the past may be considered normal or appropriate in the future. This means the role of listening to one’s conscience will be more important than ever before.

Let us learn to lead in the digital age of the future.

S Ramesh Shankar

8th July 2018

The red carpet

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I have always wondered as to why we use a red carpet to welcome important people on festive occasions. It could be a tradition or custom. It could also be a symbol of celebration. I should confess that I have not done any research on this subject. But I felt it may be worthwhile to spread my wings and let my imagination fly for the reasons.

In many religions red symbolises goodness. This could the reason. It could mean the occasion is auspicious and hence the red carpet. It could mean that you are remembering God while welcoming a guest.

Red could also a symbol of blood. It could show that you are welcoming your guest with your body, sweat, blood and soul – in a way whole heartedly. Blood may also relate to life and relationship and hence a connection is established between the host and guest.

In some countries red cars symbolise energy and youth. I understand that red cars are even charged more insurance. This is because they are likely to drive fast and more likely to make insurance claims. Thus red could represent energy and enthusiasm while welcoming a guest.

Red in Hinduism is sacred. It is supposed to protect you from all evils. This may also may be a way to welcome your guests and protect them from evil eyes being cast on them. It is fascinating how a colour could reflect so many things.

I wonder why the carpet could not be blue or yellow as they are also primary colours. I have no reason to believe why it is so. A simple logic could be that red does not fade easily and hence it may be easy to maintain red carpets unlike other colours.

It may be useful to reflect that colour of the carpet does not make the difference. It is the spirit in which it is used. In India there is a quote, which states that ” Respect your mother like God, Respect your father like God, Respect your guest like God and Respect your teacher like God. “. This means that the guest has to be respected like God. This could also be a logic for using a red carpet to welcome guests.

The red colour reflects royalty. It possibly is linked to the kings and queens of the past. If we look at the world of cinema, a red carpet is the symbol of the Oscar ceremony and may be reflects a regal ceremony.

I have no doubt that red is royal and regal. It expresses the emotions of the host to the guest in visual form. We have no doubts that a visual representation speaks more than a million words. This could also be the reasons for using red to welcome guests.

Red is used in most advertisements and this may also be a factor. Red could represent a colour which is striking and will be viewed by all. We can either believe our past and agree that there is logic in using a red carpet for any or all the reasons above. On the other hand, we can forget the past and change the colour to blue or yellow and see what people around us react.

The choice is ours. Red or blue – the emotions remain.

S Ramesh Shankar

8th June 2018.

The Appraiser & the Appraisee

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It is performance review time in most organisations.  The year is over and the appraiser has to review the performance of the appraisee. In most organisations, the appraiser is expected to have a pre-appraisal dialogue before she appraises her reportee to understand how the year has gone and what went well and what could have been done better.  Many appraisers do not take this step seriously and even give it a slip. In this step, the employee is expected to speak and the manager listen.

The appraisee fills in the form and based on the understanding of the same, the appraiser assesses the employee.  This then becomes a one sided appraisal as the manager has not been able to return to the other side of the story.  It may be said that principle of natural justice, wherein you give a chance to defend yourself before being judged has not been followed.

In the next step, the manager assesses the performance of the employee and fills in her comments and feedback to the employee.  This could possible be discussed in an appraisal group and then it is time for the manager to give feedback to her employee.  The manager is expected to fix a date and time and preferably do a face to face feedback session.  Most managers do it casually and in an informal setting like a canteen over a cup of tea.  I recently met a manager, who stated that his boss met him for breakfast and gave him feedback in exactly five minutes.  This negates the very purpose of a feedback session. In this step, the manager is expected to speak and the employee listen.  The manager is expected to give feedback with real life examples of what went right and what could have been done better.

The appraisal is expected to be complete, when the manager sits with the employee and agrees on the targets for the next year and also the development actions.  This enables the employee to focus on key areas during the next year and also helps the employee to take ownership of his development.  This could be reviewed periodically with at least one review every six months.

The real conflict arises when the appraiser and the appraisee have opposing view points on the performance of the appraisee.  This conflict could be resolved by asking for clear examples of high and low performance.  It can also be substantiated by feedback from peers and internal or external customers.  This may help the employee to get a realistic feedback and also take necessary steps for the next year to improve.

In most organisations, performance appraisal becomes a ritual and not so liked phenomenon.  This is mainly because managers are not trained and do not possess the necessary skills to listen, appraise and give feedback.  Both the appraiser and the appraisee dread this process and want to get over it more to tick a box then to celebrate the process.

As in the photo above, two way communication is critical for a successful appraisal dialogue. Listening more than speaking by the manager may facilitate a rich conversation.

One can make a performance management process rich in content and delivery by honing the skills of the employee and the manager.  Each has a distinct role and has to play it effectively to ensure overall development of the employee.  The real test of a good performance dialogue could be if it is inspirational or perspirational. The day the performance dialogue becomes inspirational, we have achieved the end as much as the means to the end.

S Ramesh Shankar
December 2016

Work from home ?

“Work from home” ( WFH) has become a good option for organisations to combat the Covid crisis.  I am aware of many senior leaders, who always believed that work from home meant no work and no control over their teams.  They were not only sceptical of this concept but generally discouraged their team members opting for WFH.  Now with the Covid crisis, these leaders have not only accepted this concept whole heartedly but are willing to accept it as the new normal.

While  WFH is being lauded as the the way to go into the future, it has its own limitations.  We need to be fully aware of the pros and cons of working from home. Let us first look at the positives of this concept :

a. Flexibility :  It provides flexibility to the individual and the organisation in terms of time and place of work and also enables individuals to manage their day accordingly.

b. Time-saving : It saves a lot of time especially for employees working in the big metropolises of the world.  The commute time is generally waste of time and energy to say the least.  This option ensures that people do not waste their time in commute.

c. Family time :  Employees tend to spend more time with the family in this option as they are physically at home even during working hours and thereby can lend a helping hand to their spouses and family members

d. Cost saving :  It could be a potential cost saving measure for organisations in terms of infrastructure and real estate costs.  A part of this could be passed on to employees in terms of their salary and benefits.

e. Work-life balance :  It can promote better work life balance if we are able to manage it optimally at our end and managers are supportive of the same.

Now let us look at the negatives of this concept :

a. Over-working& Under-working :  Employees tend to work more and thereby get more exhausted mentally due to calls and video conferences.  With time zone differences, it could end up eating into personal time of employees. On the other hand, some employees may misuse this option and work less too.

b. Impact on relationships :  The WFH option could result in impacting workplace relationships as conflicts cannot be easily resolved through web chats, phone calls or video calls.  Face to face interactions help in resolving conflicts at the workplace.

c. Family relationships :  Over-working and mixed priorities of work and home could end up in avoidable family conflicts between spouses and other family members as well.  This could result in misunderstandings, which otherwise may not occur in reality.

d. Work life balance :  While most people would think that work life balance could be better, in reality it could be the other way around.  Family members may start believing that they were better off when you were going to the work place rather than working from home.

e. Team work :  Team work at the workplace could be unplanned causality of the WFH option.  When team members do not meet face to face or talk to each other, their productivity is likely to dip and conflicts may increase.

Having looked at the pros and cons of the WFH option, it may be prudent for organisations to take a balanced view of the same post the Covid crisis.  It is neither desirable to swing from one end of the pendulum to the other and make all employees work from home nor stop this as an option when we get back to our old ways of working.  It could be provided as a flexible option and gainfully utilised by employees and organisations to strike the right balance between employees’ needs and organisational priorities.

It may be useful to remember that “Work from Home”(WFH) should be a means to an end and not an end in itself.

S Ramesh Shankar

26th May 2020

Role of HR post Covid crisis

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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

The plight of decision makers in a crisis

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I have always wondered how difficult it would be for decision makers to make decisions in a crisis. The current Covid crisis is not an exception. Every country is trying to deal with the crisis in their best possible way. However the citizens are unhappy with the decisions being taken by their respective governments.

In a democracy, it is much more difficult to take decisions as compared to other forms of governments. Here, if you decide you are criticised and if you don’t, you are criticised. Either way, there will be people waiting for you to take a decision and then they are ready to pounce on you as to how bad a decision it was.

I sometimes wonder if these critiques ever put themselves in the shoes of those who decide. If there is a lockdown, they say livelihood is lost and if there isn’t one they say lives are lost. Those in governance are finding the right balance between protecting lives and saving livelihoods.

The beauty of a situation like this is that everyone becomes an expert on everything. We have common men and women advising us on how to deal with preventive health to deal with the virus. Whereas, even doctors and health workers are finding it difficult to deal with an unknown virus.

We have arm chair economists advising us on how to revive the economy and save livelihoods at the cost of lives. Some business honchos have even gone to the extent of saying that the economic downturn will result in more loss of lives than the Covid crisis.

The governments in the centre and the states are trying their best to decide what they think is in the best interest of its citizens. However, we all are restless and are ready to pounce on any decision taken by the state or the centre in our country. We do not realise that the people we have elected to take decisions supported by smart and knowledgable bureaucrats have more information than we have to decide on matters to deal with this crisis.

While we all have become public health experts, economists, administrators and futurologists, we forget our duties as citizens. We are the first to violate a guideline set by our local government on the pretext of being educated and knowing what we are doing. We go out to buy things which are not essential or demand for services from others risking their own lives for our comfort.

We do not realise how difficult it is for the urban and the rural poor. The situation is tough especially for the urban poor and most developed cities today run on the work of the migrant labourers. As citizens, we need to find ways to support these people during this crisis and not sit back and blame only the government in power for not doing anything. Are we capable of taking care of our security staff, our maids, our gardener’s, housekeeping staff and so on. If each of us commit to take care of people who touch our lives every day then the problem is simpler for the government to handle.

In a crisis, the most important factor to remember is that there is only one leader and all of us have to be diligent followers. Like in the Army they say, the word of the commander is their religion. So, we need to behave. We have elected governments at the centre and the states and we need to trust our people in power including politicians and bureaucrats to deal with this crisis effectively.

Let us learn to be trusted followers rather than quack experts in every field especially in a crisis. If I can put myself in the shoes of those in governance, I may realise how difficult it is to decide. I am an office bearer in our community association and can tell you that it is very difficult to deal with community decisions in a crisis like this. We have only 25 families living in my community. Imagine someone deciding on behalf of a billion people or even a few millions in a state.

As in the photo above, it is wiser to sit at home and admire the pond heron eating fish in your pond rather than sit in your arm chair and criticise the decision makers in a crisis.

Trust is key in a crisis. Follwership is our duty. Let us empathise and appreciate the difficult role of the decision makers by being self disciplined and following whatever guidelines are given to us.

Let us make a difference by being positive always and being enablers rather than detractors in a crisis situation.

S Ramesh Shankar

2nd May 2020

How to reduce employee cost without reducing employee numbers ???

I have always wondered as to why organizations tend to focus on employee cost reduction at the first instance under any crisis situation! While employee cost in most organizations especially in manufacturing sector will be a negligible as compared to material cost, the tendency is to focus on how to reduce employees in order to tide over any crisis.

    I was reminded of the famous British management thinker Charles Handy.  He once spoke in Delhi for the Economic Times summit and shared a beautiful formula, which can be depicted as follows :

                                              Business Success = ½# x 2*x 3$

Note ; # reduce employees by half, * double your sales and $ profits will treble.

He explained that most CEOs believe that in any crisis situation if they are able to reduce employees by half, their sales will double and their profits will treble.  He further went to state that as long as CEO’s remember that they could also fall in the half of employees who are let go, they would take the right decisions for their organizations.  This is the bitter truth even today.

     The Covid crisis will impact businesses adversely.  Many CEOs would think of ways and means of cutting employee numbers so that they can tide over this business downturn.  While that may be an easy way out, CEO’s may have to realize that employees win customers and employee loyalty sustains organizations.  With this premise in mind, I thought I could share ideas of how employee cost could be optimized even without having to reduce employee numbers.

    In this article, I will attempt to share a few ideas of employee cost reduction without having to reduce manpower :

a.     Employee Salary reduction :  While many organizations may consider this a taboo, it is fine in a crisis situation to reduce salaries rather than people losing jobs.  It has to start from the CEO and go downwards and not the other way around.  If possible, we should spare the lowest level of employees in this exercise.  

b.     Salary structure review :  This could another way of linking salary more to performance than level or designation.  Further looking at fixed to variable pay, review increments, promotions linked to role, salary bands etc.  There are multiple ways to do this and can be done without employees losing jobs.

c.     Benefits Review :  There are various benefits which organizations evolve over a period of time.  This is the time to review the same and monetise wherever possible or eliminate them.  It could range from leave, holidays, copay in medical insurance and so on.  There are again varied ways of dealing with this without impacting employees in any direct way.

d.     Review Organization structure:  It is the right time to make the organization leaner and more effective.  Invariably, in most organizations, layers get added just to create positions for people to be promoted or someone’s ego to be satisfied.  Every part of the organization can be reviewed and all unnecessary levels can be eliminated.  This will make it more efficient and responsive to customers.

e.     Employee involvement & engagement :  This is the best time to harness the full potential of employees.  Those who do the work know best where we could improve and reduce cost.  So, if we are able to find ways and means of involving employees in idea generation and execution, cost reduction can easily be achieved in different aspects of work in all functions.  We need to suitably reward employees for the same linking it to the savings accrued and the benefits to the organization.

f.      Hidden subsidies :  Organizations tend to build a lot of hidden subsidies which are neither visible to the employees nor to the organization.  It may be time to review all of them and again monetise them or eliminate them if they don’t serve the purpose for which it is created.  This could include canteen, transport, concierge, travel allowances etc. 

g.     Review office spaces :  Real estate is one of the biggest cost amongst all overheads.  Now that even the sceptics have accepted “Work from Home” as an option, it may be worthwhile to review the need for large office spaces and reduce cost.  We could consider 50% of field sales and service staff to work from home and visit offices may be once a week to submit claims or follow up on issues.  We could review offices, factories, guest houses and the like and rationalize the same.  We could also eliminate fixed seats for employees and make flexible offices spaces as a way of life. 

Employee will not mind any of these changes provided we communicate effectively and authentically.  Any employee will appreciate that it is better to take a cut in salary or benefits rather than lose a job.  If employees are told that all these measures will ensure job security for all, it will be highly appreciated.  The success of all these measures will lie in effective planning, communication, execution and rigorous reviews.

I thought about all this with only one objective of saving jobs.  I will be happy to consult with any organization pro-bono to plan and execute any or all of the above ideas.  I can detail them out for you in consultation with your internal teams so as to customize it for your organization.

I need not be paid a single rupee for this service.  If the organization is able to save jobs, my mission is accomplished.  If the organization saves employee cost without reducing its number of employees and is able to quantify savings, I will be delighted.

At the end, if organizations achieve their goals, we can find ways and means of contributing to my social cause of “Eradicating preventable blindness amongst children” and I will be highly indebted to them always.

I have committed to find ways and means of giving back to society in the second innings of my life and saving employee jobs in a crisis could be one way of accomplishing my mission.

Critical eye

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I have met people in my life, who have a critical eye for everything around them. They will read the newspapers word by word and will always be in a position to point out a spelling mistake or language misuse. I am not one amongst them but I do admire them a lot. I have never been meticulous in my life. I am self-disciplined but live life leisurely and sometimes may slip up. I love the critical people around me as they add value to my life.

It is not fair to say whether critical people are good or bad. Each of us have our likes and dislikes in life and have a right to live life on our own terms. I love critical people as they can always point out areas for improvement in our life. They look at things from different angles than ourselves. They have the ability to see things you are not able to. For example if I write an article, I may not find any mistake in spelling or use of language. But they can read the same article and point out a couple of mistakes easily.

It is equally valuable in organisations. We need to have people of different thinking abilities in our teams. Some may think the same way as we do. We need others who think just the opposite way and some in between the two extremes. This not only adds variety to work but also challenges our limits. We are able to think on the same issue from multiple perspectives and this adds value to our work.

If we look at our family environment, it may be worthwhile to have members who think differently. A critical person is able to add value in the family too. It may help us improve ourselves and also our ability to take decisions in different circumstances. We may also sometimes not take wrong decisions because one valuable member of our family cautions us against it. On the contrary if everyone toes the line of the senior family members, we could end up in mistakes, which we could have avoided.

In a democracy, we need a critical opposition so that the government is on its toes. Unfortunately, we do not see this in our parliament nowadays. But one can recall outstanding speeches made by our own parliamentarians as opposition leaders. They have not only been critical of key government decisions but have enabled the ruling government to make mid course corrections.

Even in team sports, it may be worthwhile for captains and coaches to have critical team members in their teams. These members may help team strategise effectively in every situation. They may think differently or even question the team strategy. This may help the team to re craft their strategies or make mid course corrections. Sometimes, this may also help teams to renew themselves against tough opposition.

On the other side, it may not be easy to live with and deal with critical people in your life. One may feel irritated or defensive when one is questioned on everything every day. It may be easier to have like minded people in your family or team. Life is cosier and easy to navigate. We need to develop the magnanimity to encourage diverse thinking in our teams and appreciate the value of it. We need to learn to adapt to critiques.

As in the photo above, my wife Meena R Shankar has a critical eye and hence is my life long editor of all my writings. She is always capable of giving alternative perspectives.

Life may be boring if it is monotonous. Imagine watching a TV programme or movie in black and white all the time. Once in a way it may look interesting. However, we always like things to be colourful around us. The same is true in life. We need to have variety and spice to make life full. We need people thinking differently and diversely. We need to learn to respect them and deal with them effectively.

Life is fun with diversity.

S Ramesh Shankar

What others’ see, we don’t ?

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We need to continue to explore to see the unseen. A child may remind us of something in front of us, which we see every day but have not really observed. We sometimes miss the obvious and its not exclusive to us. All humans experience this phenomenon. This may be because we perceive things around us differently and hence tend to see what we perceive. After all perception is reality.

I have experienced this phenomena right through my life at all stages. As a kid, you tend to focus on things that interests you. You are oblivious of all other things around you. Then in the youth, we get influenced by your friends more than your family. This makes us look at things which excite us. As we move to adulthood, we tend to put a value to everything around us. We value things which we perceive as worthwhile to us.

It may be interesting to share some examples in this regard. We may be attempting to solve a puzzle for hours without any success. A kid may come in and crack it in a few seconds. We are perplexed. We wonder what we could not see which the child could do in seconds. As we grow up in life, logic takes over our lives. We forget our gut and our feelings. A child is more perceptible than an adult because they are always expressing themselves in emotions. They are not bothered how others are going to perceive them. We are worried how the stereo typed society will view us. Hence our behaviour is determined by the people around us rather than what we want to do.

It is sometimes interesting to note that a child can create multiple options within minutes. I was recently with my grand son who is 7 years old and he could pose in ten different ways within a matter of a few minutes. I might have struggled to even think of the possibilities before I could pose for similar photographs. I would have evaluated how others would perceive me when I am seen posing in such photos. That would have determined my behaviour. We are inhibited by our own limitations.

I have often seen that when I work with a group of young millennials at work, they can come up with multiple whacky options on any issue. The experienced employees tend to become prisoners of our past experience. We are worried that it did not work in the past and hence may not work in the future. We are bothered how are seniors will react to a crazy idea. A young employee is open, quick and spontaneous.

As in the photo above, the two langurs could spot a tiger nearby and cautioned us although we as tourists, who were looking for the elusive tiger could not spot it on our own. This happens in real life too. We do not see what others are able to see in every day life. It is either because of perceptions or because of conditioning of the mind. In a jungle, the langurs are the first to spot danger of a tiger and alerts all living being around them of a possible attack.

In reality, life is not different. We tend to see things which we want to see. It may be a good idea to challenge ourselves by the people around us. They can help us to see things, which we miss out in life. The time to explore the unseen is now. It is never too late to learn.

Let us start today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Intent versus Action

I was wondering what I need to reflect on for the new year. I was reminded of the famous saying that read – ” A slip between the cup and the lip”. In life, many a time, there is slip between what we intend and what are are actions portray.

Today we are in a state of flux. We are at the threshold of massive change. India is poised at the right inflection point and we have a lot to gain if we act fast and in the right direction. If sometimes our actions misfire, we need to reflect on our intent and change course so that we can move in the right direction always.

We need to reflect on this point as a country, as a state, as a community and more importantly as an individual. Many a time in life our intent may be noble but our actions may not be in sync with our intent. It is never too late to reflect on it and change course if our actions do not lead us to our goal.

It is as simple as driving a high end car on a freeway. You may be enjoying the drive and may be at good speed but if you realise that you have taken the wrong freeway, it may not lead you to your destination. So, in life, if we need to change course to realise our goals we should and not get stuck on anything we have zealously pursued.

Let me start as an individual. Most of us are adept at making new year resolutions. We aim at the moon and make sky high commitments to ourselves. However, we realise that most of our resolutions die even before the ink dries up on the paper on which we had written them. It may be a good idea to reflect and take one small thing at a time. For eg. this year, we could resolve that we will appreciate one person around us every day. This may bridge the gap between intent and action as it is simple and it will give us immense joy in doing it every day. Life is a journey and there would be commas and full stops midway. This does not mean the end of the road. It only means we need to start all over again.

As a community, we have a rich heritage and we need to learn from our culture. We have to live and let live. We need to be more tolerant and inclusive in our intent and actions. Today we see violence all over and this is not what our culture taught us. We always were proud of the quote – “Vasudeva Kutumbakam”- the world is one family. As individuals we have to realise our duties before we try to exercise our rights.

As a country, we need to focus on our basics. We still have a long way to go to ensure food, clothing and shelter for all. Our focus has to be on these fundamentals. The government has to collaborate with the public and all political parties to deliver this. Let us ensure that every individual has her or his basic human needs fulfilled. Today we are 129th on the Human development index in the world. We should be among the top ten in the next decade.

Political parties need to learn to work together to achieve this goal. We have attained a lot of milestones since independence. If all parties come together, there is nothing we cannot achieve as a nation. Sometimes, we may make mistakes and it is fine to accept and move on. Our actions should always lead us to our goal. If they don’t, we need to have the humility to accept the same and change tracks and move on.

We cannot afford to move backwards as a nation. No political party has a right to damage public property as a mark of protest. Violence has no place in a civilised society. If we have to protest against anything, let us do it in a legitimate way. Let us learn to debate without offending anyone or hurting someone’s feelings.

May be time to learn from Lord Krishna, the eternal coach as in the picture above.

People in governance have the responsibility to lead the nation. They need to take others along in this journey. People in the opposition have to realise their responsibilities too. Who governs today may be in opposition tomorrow and this cycle will always go on in a democracy. Let us lead this country to be amongst the most developed and the happiest in the world by learning to work together as individuals, communities and as a polity.

Proud to be an Indian now and always. Wish you and your near and dear ones the best of everything in the new year. I would urge you to resolve to appreciate one human being around you every day in the new year.

S Ramesh Shankar

31st December 2019.