I would define “Groundedness” as our ability to keep our feet on the ground at all times  even after we may have accomplished something in life. This is not easy but worthwhile to try.  Most of us strive hard to accomplish success in life.  We study hard, play hard and work hard for success.  The moment we accomplish something in academics, sports or work we believe we have arrived.

It is true that we deserve to celebrate our success.  It is not fair to say that one does not enjoy the fruits of hard work.  If you have put in your best and accomplished something in life, you deserve to celebrate it.  You are entitled to share the good news with your family and friends.  However, it is important to realise that what ever one accomplishes is life is not absolute.  You have achieved something in relation to someone else.  It is worthwhile to remember that we have millions of others in the world, who may have done better than us in the same field.

It is natural to compete with others when we are young and strive to be the best.  But it is equally important to compete with oneself.  We have to remember that whatever we have accomplished in work or life is not the ultimate.  Let us assume that one has broken a world record.  But there is always an opportunity to break one’s own record.  The best never ever rest.  It is critical to remember that the best do not fly in the air but are always grounded.

If you look at the work place, the situation is not different.  One does not respect people who brag about their position or power.  We do not admire people who beat their chests to share what they have achieved at work.  We salute people who give their best at work but always credit others for their success.  They ensure that they are always grounded.  They are fully aware that they have to work harder and smarter to excel at work.  

Human beings are not respected for the weath they accumulate or possess in life.  They are respected for their humility and simplicity.  The people who have their feet on the ground are the people who accomplish more than the people who fly in the air.  It is important to be a realist at all times.  It is great to dream and work hard to accomplish your dream.  But it is vital to be grounded to move on after you achieve your first goal.

If you look back at history, the greatest people on earth are the humblest.  They do not carry their titles on their shoulders.  They do not wear medals on their chests.  They do not rest after accomplishing their highs in life.  They share their success with others and most importantly keep their feet always on the ground.  It is easy to stray and let your feet off the ground.  The chances of slippage are higher than the chances of success in the future.

You could dream sky high but have to have your feet on the ground.  As the photo above illustrates that the tree has grown tall but has its root on the ground.

Let us learn to be grounded always.

S Ramesh Shankar

Sights and Insights

You are not alone..

We are born alone in this world and we may leave Mother earth all alone when we die.  But, in life, we are never alone in anything we do.  When we go through ups and downs of life, many a time we feel that we are all alone. We do not feel that way when we are happy.  But, when we are going through a crisis, we get a feeling that God has been unkind to us.  Why me ?,  is a question we ask God  often in such situations.  

It is equally true that we do not ask God for explanations when she showers us with joyous moments.  I believe I deserved a promotion or I bought a house through my dint  of hard work.  However, when I am not considered for a plum role in the organisation or my promotion is denied, I always wonder why God is unkind to me.  It is in these very situations, we need to realise that we are not alone.

God always balances the good and the bad news for us.  It is possibly when we become too arrogant and forget to be grateful to someone in life that God gives us misery to get us back to mother earth and be grounded.  It may be worthwhile to reflect that all of us go through good and bad moments.  When we go through bad moments, it may be useful to think of millions of people, whose situation is worse than us.  However, it is human for us to compare only those, who are better than us.

Life has its cyclical ways.  We all have been blessed with pleasant surprises in life.  We are blessed with a healthy child or get married to a person of our choice.  We do not express our gratitude to God but consider it our dedication to life.  When something goes wrong somewhere for us, we suddenly get more spiritual and religious.  We may not have visited temples, churches or mosques for years together.  But, suddenly we become a frequent visitor to pay our respects to God.

I have learnt that life is happier when we are ready to embrace the good and the bad with equal reverence.  The day we realise that we are better off than the thousands around us, whose life is more difficult than us, we will learn to be grateful to God.  This principle is equally applicable at work and in our personal life.  If we lead a life of contentment, God will always take care of us.  If we lead a life of greed, God can never satisfy our needs.

So, it is up to us to learn to accept life as it comes.  We have to remember the good ness in others and be grateful to God and other people in life, who have made us what we are today.  Neither the good nor the bad lasts forever.  It is up to us to balance both and be ready to manage both in life.  After all, like the weather round the years, life has its own winter, summer and rains.  We need to adapt to manage all the seasons.

Just like in the photo above, there will be some people ahead of you and some behind you facing similar situations as you are facing today.

Lets live a life of gratitude and we will be ready to face life as it comes to us every day.

 S Ramesh Shankar

Every employee is a brand ambassador

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We learnt by making every employee our brand ambassador.

S Ramesh Shankar

Dreams Unlimited

Is it a good idea to dream ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think ?

S Ramesh Shankar

I believe in myself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S Ramesh Shankar

Raising the bar


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can try.

S Ramesh Shankar

“I” versus  “U”


I have to take responsibility and give credit to U.  I have to lead by example and be a role model for U. I have always wondered where does I begin and U end.  In life, we tend to be centred around I and forget the U in most of our actions.  It is important to realize where to control the I and encourage the U and the We.

If we start in the family,  as parents, we tend to dominate our children.  The I in us dominates their life.  I tend to believe that I know what is good for my kids all the time.  It only changes when the kid turns an adolescent and then becomes a rebel.  The I in me gives way to the U.

At the work place, the scene is not much different.  As an individual, we work hard and excel and are a great team player.  But as we become a team leader, the I in us emerges and tries to dominate the U and We.  We forget how our leaders gave space and encouragement for us to excel.  This not only kills the enthuisiasm of our team members but also does not enable them to realize their full potential.

The social scenario is not very different.  Even as public figures emerge, they tend to be evolving as good leaders from the grass root level.  But the moment I starts dominating their ego, the U and We is subsumed.  This is the start of the downfall of the leader.

Thus, the earlier we realize the lessons of being humble and bury the I in our personality, the brighter are our chances of success.  This does not mean that I shirk my responsibilities in life by blaming U and we for all my failures.  As we learn in management, the responsibility has always to be with me but the credit is always to be given to the other person and the team.

It may be easier to write about than to practise.  It may be comfortable to advise others than to role model.  When your child is rebellious and you are told that you need to let go, it is not easy to digest that advise.  But as time passes and experience teaches you, one tends to realize and learn that I can be sacrificed for others.

May be it difficult to practise but worth a try.  What do you think ?

S Ramesh Shankar