Gone too soon…

I got up in the morning and heard a shocking news conveyed through social media. One of my ex colleagues lost his life long spouse. She was perfectly fine in health. She just complained of a mild head ache and slept early at night. She never got up thereafter.

Life is so uncertain. We do not realise how life could change within minutes for us – not days, months or years. We grow up with our near and dear and almost take it for granted that we will be with them for the rest of our lives. It may not happen.

I lost a close relative two years back in a similar fashion. He just went to the rest room for his morning ablutions and never returned. Such was the shock to all of us that it took more than a year to realise that he was no more.

I sometimes wonder why we end up fighting with our siblings, relatives and friends. All of us are guilty of doing it in some measure at every stage of our lives. We are least forgiving especially when the hurt is deep and we are not willing to forget or pardon them.

Today I am not sure if it is really worth it. I had some early experience in my life. First I lost both my parents just as I turned 25. At this stage I also was to attend the funeral of every employee who died at our steel plant when they met with an accident. Every time I returned from the funeral ground, I could not bear the grief of the near and dear of the ex employee’s family.

Now, when I look back, I realise that life is too short and there is no time to hate anyone. The only way to enjoy life is to love everyone around you. I would appeal to everyone to consider forgiving those who have hurt you in any way and love them unconditionally. You never know if you will ever get a chance again in this life to do so.

There are hundreds of people who have moulded me as a human being. I am indebted to many of them and cannot express my gratitude to all of them in this life time. I do try to meet each one of them on every possible occasion now and sincerely express my gratitude and salutations to them.

These incidents of sudden tragedy make you realise how short our life is and why we need to express our love and gratitude to everyone around us. We may not be around within seconds or they may not be there. Life may not give us a second chance and it is time we realise it.

Love begets love. Gratitude expressed unconditionally grounds you and makes you into a better human being. The one way to repay our emotional debts in life is to be of some help to someone in need when they least expect it from us. We need to help people unconditionally and anonymously if possible.

We may visit temples, churches or mosques to have a date with our Gods and Godesses. But the best religion in the world is to serve humanity unconditionally and without expecting anything in return. I am committed to try my best to give back to society in my little ways. So can you ? Try it and good health and happiness is guaranteed.

S Ramesh Shankar

17th February 2020

Trust versus Mistrust

 

In today’s competitive world, leaders are always tempted to take the short cut to achieve results. Leaders are evaluated quarter to quarter and hence claim that they do not have the time to trust their people. Imagine if a mother told her kid that she did not have time and hence did not trust her children. Or the patient telling the doctor that she did not trust the doctor and hence took her own treatment. It could be disastrous.

Similarly, in real life, there can be no debate between trust and mistrust. In my view, leadership is built around Trust, Personal credibility and Values. I call this the Triangle of Leadership. Trust leads to Personal credibility and Personal credibility helps you live your values in life. Similarly Personal credibility leads to Trust and Trust helps you live your values. There is no way Mistrust can make you a sustainable leader.

Trust is the essence of life. Imagine a family where the spouses do not trust each other and the parents do not trust the children and vice versa. It would be hell in real life. Every day there will be conflicts and acrimonious exchanges even within members of the same family.

On the other hand, if we trust each other as spouses and trust our children, the returns are to be experienced to be believed. I can cite a personal experience. I have been married for thirty eight years now. I have never counted the money in my purse and left it open always at home. Neither my spouse nor my children have ever betrayed my trust. Trust begets trust and not the other way around.

 

It is equally true in communities, societies and nations. The best organisations of the world have lived and grown based on trust. The world’s oldest organisations have always promoted trust amongst all their stakeholders. Similarly, the best governments in the world survive and prosper only when they instil trust in their citizens. The day trust is lost, everything is lost.

It is high time leaders realise the best of talent will thrive only in an environment of trust. The day they realise that they are not trusted by their leaders, they will leave for better places to work. So, organisations and leaders have to realise that only a culture of trust attracts the best of talent to organisations.

There is always a thin line between trust and mistrust like the red barrier in the photo above.

I always wonder why leaders do not realise this simple formula in life. We have to lead by trust and swear by trust both in our personal and work lives. However, if anyone breaches your trust, then the consequences should also be vey clear. While accidental and unintentional breach of trust can be forgiven, people should realise that intentional and repeated breach of trust will have dire consequences for them. This will also promote a culture of trust.

It is time to lead by trust always.

 

S Ramesh Shankar

 

24th Jan 2020

My Ephiphany for the new year

I have the habit of calling and wishing people on their birthdays when I come to know of them either through family, friends or through the social media. This month I called a dear friend to wish him on his birthday. We have known each other for more than three and a half decades. He was happy to receive my call and said he was waiting for it.

Then he shared an interesting insight. He asked why don’t we write obituaries for each other. When I told him that Obituaries are written and shared only on death of people, he said he was aware of that. But his suggestion was why speak about all the good qualities of someone after her or his death. Why not we write obituaries and share with them when they are alive.

I thought it was a great insight. It is true that we realise the goodness in others only when they are not around. It could be parents, siblings, friends or colleagues. How many of us take the time out to write and share about the good ness of others when they are alive ?

I not only thought it was a great idea but decided that I will implement it. I will start by writing about my friend who gave this idea. I told him that I will not call it an obituary. He responded stating he does not care what I call it as long as I am willing to appreciate the goodness and share with them when they are alive.

This friend of mine worked in the steel plant in the eighties and nineties. He is man with a golden heart. He will never say no to anything anytime. He has always been around to help people when they need him the most. He has taken care of his family and brought up his two wonderful daughters as value based human beings. He is not one of those who will call you often to formally enquire about your well being. But he will be the first to respond in a moment of distress for help. He finds ways and means to give back to society in ways only he can.

I felt good in writing this para and sharing with him. I would urge all my friends and readers to consider this idea. You may not call it an obituary but write about the good things of your parents, siblings, friends and relatives and share with them when they are around. They may just adore you for that. I loved the idea and hence I am sharing it with all of you.

Am grateful to Dilip in the photo above for giving me this new insight in life.

I would like to call it “Ephiphany” meaning insight, which I got from this interaction with my friend. You may call it the way you want to but try it. It is energising and does not cost you anything. On the other hand, you may be showered with love and blessings from all.

Why not make it your new year resolution for this year ? Please write the positive qualities of a friend or relative and share it with them. I am sure you will love the magic in your relationship after that share. Will wait for your feedback when you write back to me.

Lets try it from today.

S Ramesh Shankar

13th November 2021

Monday moods ?

I have been asked multiple times by managers as to how to know if their team members are fully engaged at the workplace. The answer is simple for me. Ask your employees if they are excited to come to work on a Monday morning. If the answer is yes, you have created an enviable work place. If the answer is no, you can ask them what they would like at the workplace so that they feel enthused and look forward to a Monday morning to come to work.

This may be true for kids as much it is for adults. I remember even twenty years back when my kids were in primary school, they were restless on Sundays since they were looking forward to go back to school on a Monday morning . When I asked them why, the answer was invariably that they enjoyed the company of their friends and the freedom and encouragement of their teachers.

I find it intriguing that managers find it difficult to unravel this simple truth. It could be because I have always been privileged to work with great teams and wonderful managers. I always eagerly looked forward to a Monday morning to get back to work. My work environment was always energising. It was not because of the physical comforts of the office. It was rather the emotional environment of the team with energy infused by my manager and other colleagues at the workplace.

I find most managers and leaders not even communicating with their team members. They find it difficult to walk around and have some fun with their colleagues. Even wishing back looks like a burden to them when their team members greet them in the morning. We do not lose any of our power or prestige by wishing people back when they greet us. Even the security guard at the office entrance is a human being and feels good when you politely wish him or her back in the morning.

Another interesting dimension is that managers are not able to understand that every individual in their team is unique. Some like public recognition while others may like it private. Some are more sensitive than others. We need to spend time with each of our team members to understand what energises them and accordingly mould our leadership style.

We also need to learn to break traditions. Why not have a party on a Monday morning at work rather than always on a weekend ? We need to spend time to create excitement at work for each member of our team. Every individual wants to excel and may do so if we provide the right impetus for them to do so. We cannot cut, copy and paste ways of dealing with people on everyone in our team. It is like every child at home is different, so it is at work. Everyone is a talent and may need to be harnessed to excel.

One of the simplest ways to communicate with your team is to share joy and sorrow. How often are we willing to share our lunch and spend time with them ? Are we at the hospital if a colleague falls sick ? Do we support a colleague to get over a crisis by being an emotional anchor ? These are small and simple ways of earning respect from our team members. It is neither too difficult to start nor to sustain.

Last but not the least is our fairness and authenticity with our colleagues at work. Do all our team members experience us as transparent and genuine leaders ? Authenticity has to be experienced through our actions every day. We cannot pretend to be so. It has to come naturally through our behaviour and actions.

Let us learn to lead by example.

S Ramesh Shankar

1st November 2018

“Sayli”Sportsmanship

Sayli Kamble

I was watching a music reality show on TV. The best singer in my perception was singing and while delivering one of the best ghazals of all time faltered and forgot his lines. One of his co participants, who is his competitor vying for the same title, sang the line and encouraged him to complete the song. I salute this girl Sayli and her parents for inculcating such a wonderful value in their child.

Sayili is a young girl from the Chunnabati area of Mumbai. Her father is a ambulance driver and mother a home maker. Their only child is competing along with others in this contest. When a competitor of yours, who is a favourite to win the title falters, it can be music to your ears. Most of us as competitors would have rejoiced at such an instance. But here is a girl in her early twenties competing fiercely but demonstrated humanity in action. This is true sportsman spirit in any game.

The game of life is no different. We may compete with our classmates in class in academics or sports. We may not win always but we have a chance to win their hearts through our actions. Imagine helping the captain of the opposition team on the field when he is injured. Imagine taking a neighbour to the hospital when he is in distress even though he has harmed you more than helped you in normal times.

Each one of us would have gone through different moments in life when we would have been betrayed by a friend , relative or neighbour. We may never feel like forgiving them leave alone help them in trying times of theirs. But just think of the impact you can make on another human being if you can be good to them even though you lose more than you gain in that process.

Today I was touched by this incident. I had tears in my eyes when I saw it live on TV. The Benefactor was equally magnanimous. After his performance when Sayili approached him, he hugged her in gratitude and so he did with all other co participants.

We can learn such beautiful life lessons from such incidents in real life. It is the behaviours like these, which can win hearts of other human beings. Neither money nor fame can win you accolades as much as such acts of service without any expectations. I should confess that many of us including me may not have the generosity to help a competitor in real life, when he is in distress.

I would say this is God in human form. It is like the millions of common women and men who helped millions of other people in distress during this pandemic. I was reading about a middle class housewife who was in distress and was desperate to get admitted to a hospital. A taxi driver whom she hired to reach the nearest hospital went from one hospital to another and ultimately got her admitted and saved her life. He did not even leave his mobile number with her since he served human kind without any expectations in return.

I see God in human form in such acts of humanity.

I salute Sayili and her kind of young girls and boys today. Proud to live in a country, where such values are being inculcated by parents in their children.

Salute to Sayili and her wonderful parents.

S Ramesh Shankar

18th July 2021

Monetising Relationships ?

Do we build relationships based on the monetary value of the person we are relating to ? It looks like that today. Whether within the family or with other friends, colleagues and relatives, we seem to build relationships based on our perceived value of the other person in economic terms.

It may not be true for all relationships but is increasingly becoming a trend. It is sad but is a stark reality in today’s material world. Relationships are meant to be unconditional and based on love and mutual respect. But today, we tend to measure the worth of a person only in money terms.

I do agree that this is not yet a universal truth. But I sometimes wonder why is it increasingly becoming the truth rather than an exception. It may be because of our materialistic instincts. We are increasingly valuing life in material terms.

We spend our whole life time accumulating wealth. There may be nothing wrong if it is done the ethical way. However, the danger is when wealth becomes the barometer for valuing relationships. How can one value your parents, siblings, colleagues or friends in monetary terms ?

We hear stories every day in the newspapers where parents are suing their children or the other way around. We see siblings filing cases against each other over property matters. Everything ultimately appears to be valued only in money terms. Children not caring for their parents or parents throwing away their kids from home.

All this leads to the basic question – how do we value relationships ? In my view relationships are to be based on love, respect or gratitude. I cannot imagine any relationship which is based on wealth. The moment love, respect or gratitude is missing in a relationship, it is bound to break or turn sour.

We need to realise that life is short and we need to make it sweet. We need to build relationships based on unconditionality. The moment we relate to someone with an ulterior motive, it is bound to fail. Relationships have to be natural to blossom and prosper.

In the past, we have heard of relationships which have survived generations. We have heard of businesses run based on mutual trust with no formal contract or agreement between partners. We have heard of life long partnership between friends, relatives and colleagues. This means all this possible and even prevalent today. It only means that we need to make it happen.

The day we build relationships based on mutual respect and unconditional love, it is bound to prosper. The day we are willing to contribute more than we get without any expectations in return, it is likely to succeed. Success or failure in a relationship is based on the unconditionality in that partnership.

All religions have taught us to respect the person and not their possessions. We seem to be carried away by valuing the wealth of a person rather than the love they shower on us. The day we respect the other person and love them rather than their financial position, we value the person and not their materiality.

I am happy that my relationship with my spouse has been unconditional and we liked each other irrespective of our material possessions, at every stage of our life.

Let us resolve to demonetise Relationships forever.

S Ramesh Shankar

2nd September 2018

The Invisible stickers

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A friend shared a story with me. It touched my heart and hence this blog. He said he was driving behind a car and was getting impatient since the driver in the car ahead of him was driving slow and not giving way. He honked and was fuming till he saw a sticker which stated that the car in front of him was being driven by a physically challenged person.

Why do we need stickers to teach us to behave ourselves in our lives ? Do we need people telling us that they are “suffering from cancer” or “they have lost a near and dear one” or they “have lost their job” through stickers on their face or their back.

We seem to be living in a world without emotions. We seem to be living for ourselves than for anyone else around us. Lets reflect on how we behave with our family, friends or colleagues at work.

When we get back from work we are busy with out laptops or mobiles and believe that the organisation does not exist without us. This false belief continues possibly till the day we lose our job or retire from work. It could be a false self image of ourselves. In this process, we do not have the time to wish our spouse or encourage our kids in their academics, sports or cultural activities. How can we justify this ever ?

If we move to the work place, the situation is no different. We believe our colleagues are machines, which are paid to work and give their best. We demand more than they can deliver and losing our cool with them is a matter of right for us. We are neither aware of the problems they are facing in their personal world nor do we have the time or the inclination to get to know them. We live and work in a heartless organisation and believe our colleagues are like robots, who work for us.

How about our friends ? In this era of social media, we believe if we get hundreds of likes for our posts on social media, our day is made. We get depressed when nobody reacts for a few seconds for every post we make on the social media. Our friends are virtual and emotions are expressed only in emoticons. We do not remember the birthdays or anniversaries of close friends and do not have the time to visit them.

This post from my friend really triggered my thoughts. It churned my emotions. I wanted to challenge myself and everyone around me to change. To change for the better. It is time to realise how valuable it is to spend time with your family. It is worthwhile to empathise with your colleagues at work and know them as human beings with emotions. We need to find the time to meet friends and share our time.

We can see a tram in front of us on the road as in the photo above, but if there is no sign -“Do not cross the road” , we may be tempted to do so.

We need to remember that human beings are social. We do not need invisible stickers on their face or their back for us to behave like fellow human beings. We need sense the emotions in others and be human.

Let us start now.

S Ramesh Shankar

The touch…

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A touch can mean many things to many people. The mother’s touch can mean a world to a child. A father’s pat could mean recognition for others. A partner’s touch could kindle romance between couples. An opponents touch could be a fowl in a soccer field.

So the same touch could mean different things to different people in different contexts. Today kids in school are taught about “good touch” and ” bad touch”. This is because it is necessary to recognise the intent of the touch. As an adult, we are able to make our judgement in most cases but kids get misled by inappropriate touches.

In some contexts, a touch is very effective to soothe a person. For example when a person is bereaved of a close friend, relative or even a pet a warm hug can help console a person. On the other hand, when a person wants to be left alone, a touch could intrude into their privacy.

We need to understand the culture and values of the people around us to use touch appropriately in our dealing with them. While one can be liberal with family members and friends as we understand them and they do the same. But when we use touch as a means of communication or conveying our feelings with others we need to understand how they perceive it in a particular context before we use it.

Even within the family, we need to understand how touch is perceived by people around us. While a warm hug is considered appropriate in some families, it may not be so in others. Even shaking hands between men and women is appropriate in some cultures and not in others.

A child’s touch is always comforting to a mother as in the photo above.

Even in cultures, where touch is considered appropriate while communicating with others, there may be individuals who are not comfortable with touch. Hence, it is important to use touch only after we understand the other person well and their culture.

Touch is also used as therapy to cure some illnesses. A massage is a common use of touch especially in Ayurveda for curing many types of illnesses. However, it is used only by trained therapists who know to use them appropriately with the right kind of pressure on the body. If inappropriately used, it could lead to more problems than solutions.

Even animals love touch as an expression of emotions. Dogs feel loved and cared when they are touched. However, if we end up touching a poisonous snake, we may end up being bitten. It is important to realise that we need to know how the animal will react to our touch before we touch them.

Humans are no different. While one person may feel loved and cared, the other person may feel hurt by the same touch. Hence it is critical to understand people and cultures before touching anyone around us.

Let us learn to touch appropriately.

S Ramesh Shankar

16th May 2018

Me & You

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Life is an interaction between individuals. We tend to generalise things and blame institutions around us for our state of affairs. Lets start with our family. A family is a social institution of well knit members . A family is not a physical house or our material belongings.

But it is unfortunate that many families end up in courts over property rights or to claim share of their wealth. They do not realise that family is the network of human relationships. It has to be enjoyed through love and sharing only. No amount of wealth can bring joy and happiness to family members if we are reluctant to share joy with each other.

Similarly, an organisation is not a physical building, factory or a set of computers. An organisation is a network of people working in it. It is the quality and richness of their relationships, which determines the culture of that organisation. Factories may come and go, buildings could be rented or leased but it is the people working there who make all the difference to the effectiveness of the organisation. The sooner we realise it as leaders the better the chances of success of the organisation.

It is equally true for a nation. The world’s wealthiest nation is the not the happiest country in the world. If money could buy everything in life, then the wealthiest nations should have been the happiest. It is not so because happiness is an index of our quality of relationships.

Interestingly most of us as individuals focus more on ourselves than on others. We want to acquire material wealth in all possible forms and at the shortest possible time. As we do this, we may not be bothered much about our relationships around us. We forget to nurture even our family relationships.

This nature continues and we are least bothered about the people around us. We start believing that our wealth can get us everything and anything in life. It is only when a crisis( like the current pandemic) hits us, do we realise the value of relationships and other people in our lives. If God forbid, we fall sick and get hospitalised, we look for friends and relatives to nurture us.

This brings us to the basic need to value life and relationships in life. The focus has to move from “ME” to “WE”. While it is human to accumulate wealth and focus on self, the sooner we realise the existence of other human beings around us and value them, the better it is for us.

Human interactions are always between two individuals and not with a statue or an inanimate object as in the photo above.

This reflection may help families, societies and even nations to prosper. The reason could be that the focus is on building relationships and spreading happiness rather than competing with each other to accumulate more wealth and at many times at the cost of other families, societies or nations.

Life comes a full circle. The realisation that happiness in life is based on the quality of our relationships rather than our wealth will make us reflect. This reflection may help us change course and improve the quality of our lives.

Our new year resolution can be – ” How many people can I make happier every day in the new year ?”

Lets reflect today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Bully leaders …

It was the Festival of Lights today morning in India. One of my young colleagues messaged me that she was upset and wanted to share something. She felt guilty that she may spoil my festival day. I encouraged her to share since I as a leader learn more by listening to others.

She then explained how she was upset with some leaders, who behave rudely and treat her very badly. She further enquired if I could write on how to cope with such bully leaders at work. I listened to her patiently and she appeared relieved. I thanked her for giving me yet another idea to write a blog on a subject, which may help youngsters to cope.

I have come across leaders right through my career, who have thrive on bullying others. Their behaviour is atrocious and the less said about it the better. However, the interesting thing is that such leaders do not realise how much their behaviour and language impacts others. They think they can get away with such behaviour right through their career.

Some of them also think that if they are successful in their career or competent in their field of operation, they have the license to behave rudely with others. This is neither true nor desirable. Every leader needs to realise that their rudeness will not get them anywhere. While they can get away with their ill behaviour with their team members, it does catch up with them at some stage of their career.

I have always believed that while we can build competence in people, it is difficult to change behaviours. It is important for all of us to realise that our behaviour defines our personality. People do not remember our functional competence but always remember the way we made them feel. The earlier we realise this, the better it is for us to grow and evolve as a respected leader.

It is important for organisations to focus on leadership behaviours. Many organisations are willing to tolerate bad behaviour of leaders if they are able to deliver on their results. This may harm the organisation more in the long run than they may realise. While nobody would like to work with such leaders, their results are also not sustainable in the long terms since their poor behaviour will come in the way some time or the other in their career.

The damage Bully leaders can cause on their team members is irreparable. While a physical injury can get cured, a mental blot does not go away so easily. Such leaders impact the confidence of their team members. Their behaviour ruins their self esteem and in turn demoralises them. It is for senior leaders and HR in every organisation to keep an eye of such leaders and deal with their behaviour immediately. The earlier we correct their behaviour, the better it is for them and for their team members.

One of the questions asked is – “how to cope with such leaders ?”. While we may not be able to avoid such leaders, since many of us cannot choose our bosses, we can learn to cope with them. It is important to give feedback to such leaders privately and in a polite and firm manner that their behaviour is demoralising. It may be worthwhile to speak to your HR partner so that they can help these leaders by giving feedback on behalf of employees. It may also help to keep a social distance from theses leaders and not participate very actively in their projects. This will be a good sign for such leaders that many team members are not keen to work with them and hopefully this will also be a significant feedback to them.

Another important lesson I have learnt is that it is easier to change our behaviour rather than trying to change others. We need to learn to be courteous to such leaders but at the same time make it clear in a polite way that rude behaviour is not acceptable to us. It may be easier said than done. But, in life, the most difficult challenges are this way. We need to learn to catch the bull by the horns or else the bulls will continue to rampage our lives and we may be the losers.

Lastly, it is important to realise that all of us are also leaders in our own right. We need to learn only the good things from such leaders. After all everyone has some good qualities. If we learn how to bully others, it may harm us more than help us. We need to learn that bullying as a leader is neither an acceptable trait nor a desirable one.

If leaders behave this way, there is no difference between a bullying monkey and the leader’s behaviour. I would rather say that comparing such leaders with the monkey may be an insult to the monkey.

It is time to stand up to such behaviour and have “zero tolerance” just like we would do to company values like ethics, safety and compliance.

Time to start is now, not even today.

S Ramesh Shankar

14th Nov 2020