If we can, we should…

I have always wondered as to why we don’t do what we should. It could be a simple routine of a morning walk or a more a bit more complex as completing a project on time at work. Either way, we always spend more time in finding excuses for our non performance than putting in efforts to ensure our performance.

Interestingly I have noted that this trait in us continues with us from childhood to old age. As a kid, we invent excuses for not doing our home work or for skipping school or college. We become more innovative as we grow into adolescence and take our parents and friends for a ride. We enjoy discovering excuses at this stage of our lives.

Then we we grow as adults and we start working and this trait is not left behind. We always have the traffic congestion for our late coming to office or even the internet breakdown for delay in execution of any work related project. On the other hand, we never miss a flight because of traffic when we go on a holiday or miss a movie online because the net breaks down.

So life gives us all the opportunities to excel in whatever we want to do. We find the silliest of reasons to give up on chances, which come our way without our even asking for it. So, what does this do to us and to others. We miss steps in our career growth and lose our personal credibility. Others lose their respect for us as individuals in the family and colleagues at work.

Now, let us look at what happens if we do what we can. This may appear simple but may be one of the most difficult things to accomplish in life. I find people not keeping their word to their kids to take them for a movie. Imagine you meet people who will always keep their word. I have met many of them in my life – both at work and in my personal life.

First, you have high respect for such people because once they commit, they deliver. Secondly, they infuse this positive energy in others. If you work for a leader who is always on time and always delivers on all her commitments, you tend to become like them. This is natural. If my parents were courteous to everyone around, I learn to be that way. Similarly if my manager does what he can, then I do whatever I can too.

Even in our personal lives we love people who keep their word and deliver. When our parents always get us what they have promised, we respect them. On the other hand, we have scant regard for friends or relatives who always forget what they can do and find reasons for their non delivery.

Interestingly this phenomenon is universal. It is not linked to state, country, religion, ethnicity, culture or language. Having worked in multinational organisations, I have experienced it across the globe. So the choice is simple. If we are determined to do we what should, we can.

Even in the current Covid times, they are asking us to do 3 simple things. Wearing a mask , keeping a metre distance and washing our hands. We can and we should if we want to prevent the virus attacking us.

As in the photo above, if we can relax, we should. Gautam Buddha teaches us relaxation is possible at all times.

Life could be different from today if we make this small change.

Lets give it a try.

S Ramesh Shankar

14th June 2020

This too shall pass…

This too shall pass

I found a lot people around me amongst family and friends who were restless during the recent lockdown in most countries. They were uncomfortable to sit at home and refrain from their normal activities of the day. This brought in a feeling of anxiety and insecurity amongst them.

I do agree that this period of the pandemic is a challenge to everyone of us. It is impacting individuals, families, societies and nations at large. While individuals are feeling lonely, families and societies are getting disenchanted. Of course, nations are facing the economic challenges as a fallout of the pandemic and the consequent lockout.

The question before everyone is – “When will this be over ? When will life normalise for everyone ? Nobody knows the answer – not even the public health specialist as this virus is new to everyone. Everyone is trying their best to cope with it. The individuals, families and societies are putting up a brave face and dealing with this unknown challenge.

One thing I am sure of. This too shall pass. Having lived in the coastal part of a state, which faced cyclones every year during the monsoon, I can say with experience that nobody could predict a cyclone accurately. Although I must admit that the predictions of cyclones and storms have improved over the years, it is still an act of God. Nature’s fury is still unpredictable.

Today the forecast of natural disasters are much better and so is the preparedness of the state. A good example is the state of Orissa, which faces atleast one cyclone every year. It affects the coastal belt, where the poorest sections of society have to face the brunt. However, in the last few years, we have seen that the government of Orissa has prepared very well, evacuated the target populations and prevented many human disasters. So, even though it is God sent, human beings have been able to plan and prevent catastrophes consistently.

We need to believe that this too shall pass. After all, all of us as individuals and collectively as a society have misused Nature and may be it is just a gentle reminder to us from Nature to mend our ways. God realises that the citizens of the world have suffered enough due to this pandemic and hence will find ways and means to end it soon either through a vaccine or through herd immunity.

We need to believe in ourselves and commit to ourself both as individuals and communities that we will respect nature much better than we did in the past. We need to believe that this too shall pass and life will be normal again.

Life is a cycle and the good days will follow soon.

S Ramesh Shankar

30th May 2020

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

Featured

Role of HR post Covid crisis

Work from anywhere

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

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.

Phoren returned ?

It is interesting how the world turns upside down within a few days or even hours. It was a great honour and matter of pride for people in India to tell that they have just returned from a foreign trip. They were proud when their children studied abroad or they themselves went on a holiday to a foreign land. They could proudly share it with friends and family with photographs and all details.

However, in the last few days since the Covid virus hit the world, it is the contrary. Nobody wants you to be near them if you have returned from a foreign country. Apart from the compulsory quarantine for a fortnight mandated by the health authorities, people are wary of phoren returned friends and relatives. It is no longer a fad. On the contrary, people are wary of disclosing that they have returned recently from a foreign trip.

I am not against anyone going anywhere to do anything. If a student excels in academics and wants to study in the best university in the world – she or he has a right to do so and should do the same. Similarly, if a professional or a business person gets an opportunity to thrive in a different country there is nothing wrong about the same. However, what intrigues me is that the people residing in these prosperous worlds want to return to India when there is a crisis. Inspite of having better medical and health care facilities, they believe India will care for them more than any other country in the world would. They want to acquire citizenship in these countries for their material prosperity but they still want a place in India’s heart for their emotional security.

The government of India with the help of our national airlines and also the defence forces repeatedly takes up difficult missions to rescue Indians from across the world whenever there is a crisis and they should continue to do so. However, I have only one appeal to these prosperous and successful Indians. While India and Indians will always have a space in our hearts for all of you, kindly do not forget India when we need you. We would urge you to remember India not only when you are in trouble but also when you doing well wherever you are.

I saw a picture today sent by someone on the social media. It shows thousands of successful Indians returning to India during the Covid crisis because they feel it is safer to be at home during this period. On the other hand, millions of migrant workers are left stranded in the metros because there is nobody to take care of them. They could not afford to take flights back home like the prosperous Indians could.

Gratitude is absolute. It can and never should be relative. I cannot and should not think of being grateful commensurate to the benefit I derive from a person, organisation or a nation. I have to be absolutely grateful to everyone who has helped me in this journey of life irrespective of the magnitude of their contribution. It is then I am truly grateful.

Similarly prosperous Indians around the world have to be grateful to their roots in India and the people who have contributed to their success. They should express their gratitude in monetary and non monetary terms whenever and wherever it is possible and not wait for someone to ask. It is like people living in metros should be grateful to the migrant workers from across the country for their daily services. We have to take care of them when they are in crisis and not only use them when we need them. Gratitude is a two way street. One never knows when we will be trouble and and we may need help.

It is like in the picture above. The foreign returnee is not sure whether she wants to show her face or not.

Let us commit to express our gratitude in deeds rather than words and expressions from today.

S Ramesh Shankar

29th March 2020

Slow down before it is too late…

The Covid -19 virus attack around the world has helped people to forcibly slow down. I have always wondered why people are always on the fast lane especially in their career. The cut throat competition makes people sacrifice their life and family to stay ahead of the curve.

Let me be honest. I was no exception. I also ran the rat race till the age of 38, when suddenly an illness in the family shook me up. I used to spend extra hours at work and never worried too much about my family , friends or relatives. This incident not only shook me up but it changed my life.

I am not sure if it is worthwhile to run in this rate race called life. We need to get our priorities right. It is difficult to draw the line as to where work ends and family life begins. But it is worthwhile to do the same. After all, we all work to lead a happy and healthy life, enjoying ourselves with family and friends. What will we do with all the money we earn if we have no time left with family or friends to celebrate in life.

It may appear philosophical but it is worth reflecting upon. What is the purpose of life ? If we are able to find an answer to this question, it may help us set our priorities in life right. If not, we will continue to wander in this mesh called career / business and will never be able to get out of this vicious circle.

I remember a few years back one of my close relatives consulted me. He had got a great break in a leading fmcg company in Mumbai while he was working in a public sector organisation. He and his spouse both worked for the same public enterprise. Both husband and wife were keen to take up this job in Mumbai but his parents refused to move with him. Since his aged parents stayed with him, he was caught in a dilemma. If he moved, it was good for his career, if he did not move, his parents continue to happily stay with him. So, it took him some time to take a call. After consulting a few well wishers, he decided to sacrifice his career to keep his parents happy.

So, in life, we have to take a call on what is our goal ? What is our purpose ? How do we define happiness ? This could change as we grow up and as our family expands. But it is worth asking these questions time and again and prioritise your life accordingly. We have to remember that money cannot always buy happiness for you. In the true sense, money can make you materially prosperous but inner happiness may still evade you.

Today with the Covid – 19, virus hitting the world, everyone is shaken. Governments are dealing with this crisis every hour. Families are worried for their kith and kin especially if they are working in the virus infected regions or countries. We have to remember that we need to take a call what is important at every stage of our lives.

Having worked in the corporate arena for almost four decades, I am not professing renunciation of one’s career. I am only advocating that we need to set and reset our priorities in life time and again. It is fine if it changes and we go wrong. It is only when we make mistakes do we learn. It is good to learn and change. After all life is a long journey and we get more than one chance to make mid course corrections. However, if we don’t, we cannot blame the world, we need to blame ourselves.

Now is the time to sit back and reflect. Now is the time reset your goals in life. It is never too late but the earlier the better for us.

Lets start today.

S Ramesh Shankar

15th March 2020

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.

The journey is as important as the destination

Today our scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation almost made a landing on the moon after valiant efforts. The mission may have partly failed to land on the moon although the orbiter is encircling the moon and will give invaluable data to our scientists to explore further.

While the nation was watching the entire episode through the night on national television channels there was a sigh of despair amongst the mission team when the object failed to land on the moon. It was kind of the Prime minister of the country to watch this live and then go and address all the scientists the next morning to keep their spirits high.

One of the statements made by the prime minister of India was “The journey is as important as the destination”. It was a great insight for me personally. Many a time in our lives when we fail, we tend to focus on the failure which is the destination and forget the learnings through the journey.

Our wonderful space scientists would have worked for decades to achieve this impossible mission. They would have learnt a lot of valuable lessons through this journey. Hence, it is important for us to celebrate the journey as much as the destination.

It is true for scientists, sportspersons and even the common women and men like us. We need to enjoy our journeys as much as keeping the focus on our destination. It is like someone undertaking a trip to a beautiful hill station and keeping their eyes closed through the journey in a train waiting for the hill station to arrive. Imagine what all beautiful sceneries one would missed if one were to do that.

If we take any company in the world and even the most successful ones, they would never have achieved success unless they enjoyed their journey and celebrated all along their way to success. It is important to remember for every successful product in the market, there would be hundreds of products which would have failed and never hit the market before.

Life is no different. We need to keep our focus on our life goals. However, it is important to learn throughout the journey of life and celebrate each milestone on the way. If we do not do that, we may stop learning and that can be our biggest failure.

Another important lesson learnt today from the ISRO experience is the role of a leader. The leader should be with the team more during failure than during success. It is the inspiration of the leader during failures that makes a team succeed again and again.

Our best wishes to our Indian Space Research Organisation scientists and every Indian is proud of their accomplishments today. We are one of those pioneers in space research in the world only because of them. Let us salute them. I dedicate this blog to my brother in law was a scientist with ISRO for four decades.

S Ramesh Shankar

7th September 2019

Leadership lessons from Ms Sushma Swaraj

India lost a popular political leader yesterday. Ms Sushma Swaraj was India’s external affairs minister and an outstanding parliamentarian. I have been a silent admirer of this leader for many reasons. Today when the nation lost her due to a heart attack, I can share 3 key leadership lessons, which all of us can imbibe to be better human beings and leaders in our own spheres :

A. Humility – A lawyer by vocation, she was an excellent parliamentarian and a former state Chief Minister and cabinet minster in the union cabinet for more than a decade. In spite of all these credentials, she always had her feet on the ground and was working for the welfare of the common man at all times.

B. Communication skills : She was one of India’s best parliamentarians in its history so far. Her ability to put her points across using the most dignified choice of words are worth emulation. She was the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha and I have seen her tearing apart the government on many occasions but even her worst critic could not find fault in her language or her dignity. She bought stature to all positions she held in public life.

C. Accessibility : As leaders grow higher in the hierarchy, they tend to lose their connect with the grassroots.. However, even as external affairs minister of the country, she was accessible to the common man from India and across the world. She used social media effectively and responded to every sos call to her at lightning speed. I have seen many senior leaders not even reply to emails from their own employees or return phone calls since they felt it was below their dignity to respond or call back their juniors. This is one of the best lessons which Sushma Swaraj gave to the common man and leaders of today

While all of the above may appear simple, they are the most difficult to adhere to. I have spent 38 years in corporate life and can share that I have not come across many leaders in my life who have been able to successfully imbibe all these three qualities with equal rigour.

I salute this great daughter of India and pray for her soul to rest in peace. I commit that I will try to imbibe all the above qualities in my life and be humble, dignified in my communication and accessible to the last person in the hierarchy I deal with. Although I have tried all of them but to say the least , I have a long way to go in all these aspects in my life as a leader.

It is time for each of us to reflect and learn ? RIP Sushma Swaraj.

S Ramesh Shankar

7th August 2019