Experience speaks..


In today’s world, some people ask – is experience valued ?  It may not be an easy answer to this simple question.  I am reminded of an incident almost thirty two years back.  My father was admitted with renal failure in the ICU of a hospital in Chennai.  The cardiologist, who used to examine my father examined him for two minutes,look at his pulse, checked his bp and would charge consultation fee of Rs. 100 per visit.  My monthly income at that time was around Rs 2000 .  This meant the consultation fee would be more than my monthly income every month.  I used to curse him for fleecing  a poor helpless soul like me.  My father recovered and was discharged.  I thanked God and returned home with my father.

Then after three weeks one day my father almost got choked in his throat while having his dinner.  I panicked and called in the same doctor on phone since it looked it were the last moments of my father alive that day.  However, the same doctor patiently advised me to lay my father on a bed and raise his legs with pillows.  He said that he will be fine and then I could bring him back to the hospital.  I did that and he miraculously became ok.  He later told me that his bp had gone down and raising his legs ensured flow of blood to the brain and he regained consciousness for me to get the breather to take him back to the hospital.  This incident taught me how valuable experience is in life. The same doctor I considered as a life saver of my dad and almost God sent.

In today’s work place, many employees feel threatnened the moment they cross fifty years of age.  Some employers also feel people over fifty may not be very useful and work on voluntary exit schemes to optimise this category of the workforce.  However, neither of these are necessary if we plan the right way.  It is true that as we grow old, our competencies may become redundant.  It is upto us to keep ourselves updated and upskilled.  If we do that and we are the best in whatever job we do, no employer will even dream of losing us.  On the contrary, if we live in the past and want to drive the car using the rear view mirror only rather then the windscreen in front of us, we may become obsolete sooner than we think.

So, the reality is that experience has to speak for itself.  It is like the doctor who was in his fifties then taught me how valuable experience is to save lives even on the phone.  Experienced managers can be great mentors and coaches.  One generation has to hand over the baton to the next.  It is upto us to be the beacon of light in the organisation rather than the dimming candle light.

Organisations gain from the wealth of the experience of her employees.  No organization can survive with material assets or cash in the bank.  It is the capabilities of employees which is invaluable.  It is the experience of the seniors which becomes the competitive edge in the market place.  However, if the seniors live in the past and are not in tune with the times than the future will not take them along.

It is like in the picture above, you should be willing to walk the ramp along with the younger generation if you are in tune with them.

Do you think experience speaks ?

S Ramesh Shankar

Mirror


I wonder many times as to how my behaviour with others will impact me.  I have seen in my life and career that many people get away with rude behaviour.  Sometimes people in power and authority think that have a right to behave rudely.  This happens both at home, work environment and society. Let us try to explore why this happens and what is the impact. 

At home, as I grow into an adult and become successful in my career, I tend to believe that I can boss around in the house.  I tend to take my family members for granted and sometimes even my parents.  This further makes me short tempered and unpredictable.  In some families, irrespective of both husband and wife working, there is a sense of superiority in either of us.  We are intolerant to the success of the other person and live in a make believe world. We do not realise how our behaviour as adults impacts the psychology of our own children.

If we move to the work place, the situation is not very different.  As we grow in the organisational hierarchy, we tend to believe we become demi God.  We treat our colleagues with disdain rather than human beings.  We tend to show not enough respect to people down the hierarchy.  It can result in simple courtesies not being extended to our colleagues.  It could be like not wishing back to our colleagues, when they wish us.  It could also mean not listening to junior colleagues or dictating our way through key decisions.

This tendency reflects in societal behaviours too.  People in positions of power whether in organisations, politics or other institutions tend to get egoistic.  They take everyone around them for granted.  Pride and ego dominates their behaviour.  They get away with this sort of antics as long as they are in power.  The moment they lose power, they become cowards and they do not realise how much they have hurt people till they get hurt themselves.

In all these situations, what is common is that power and behaviour seems to be directly correlated.  As power seeps into the human body, our behaviour tends to get from bad to worse.  So, it is up to us to realise this change and keep ourselves grounded and humble.  You may get respected as long as you wield power.  But, it is critical to remember that people respect your position rather than yourself.  In real life,  people respect those with character and humility.  Your words are more important than your deeds.    

All these situations signify that as parents, leaders or citizens our behaviour impacts our future generations.  Our words and actions determine our character.  Our character determine our actions.  Our actions trigger changes in society.  It is up to us to behave in a way we want our future generations to do.  Our behaviour reflects and impacts the behaviour of the younger generation.  It is like our images are reflected in the mirror every time we peep into it.

Let us behave the way we want others to do with us every day.

S Ramesh Shankar

Competition or Co-optition ?


We live in a competitive world.  The competitive spirit starts from our childhood.  Our parents tend to compare us with other kids in the same school.  Many a time, we are told why our peformance in academics cannot be like our neighbour’s daughter or son.  We are asked why we cant compete in sports like our friend’s kid and so on.  Not a single day in school or college goes without our performance being compared with someone else.   Why this competition ?  We are not born in this world with our neighbour’s son or daughter nor will we die with our friend’s children.  Then, why do we do compete and make our life miserable every day.

If we move beyond children, even adults tend to compare themselves in everything.  If a neighbour buys a new TV, it creates enough ripples within our home.  If a friend buys a car or house, we want to outbeat them in size and value of house and car.  Our value is based on the size of our house and car and not on the size of our heart.  We want to possess more wealth than our siblings and our friends.  We do not compete in giving back more.  We are not willing to learn from the best habits of our neighbours.

Why this competitive spirits seeps in our life ?  I may not have an answer but have many questions to ask myself and my readers ?  Why do our parents want us to always compete with our siblings and our neighbours and friends ?  Why do we want to possess more wealth than our neighbours and friends even though we may not need all of them in our life time ?  Why are we willing to sometimes sacrifice our personal values to outbeat our colleagues at work ? 

Many a time we justify our animal spirit of competitiveness by claiming that there are limited resources in this world and we have to be ahead of others in grabbing them.  In my view, there are unlimited resources in the world for us to be successful.  It is the limitation in our thinking, which makes us competitive.  We limit our thinking and that reflects in our behaviour.

The workplace behaviour is more competitive.  We die at the workplace virtually competing with everyone around us.  Our spirit is not to learn and grow but to compete and die in our careers.  While, it may be a good idea to be the best in whatever you do, it should not be at the cost of other colleagues at work.  It may be a good idea to compete with oneself in whatever we do in life.  We could be the best by being the best in work and in our behaviour.  

There is enough in this world for all of us.  Co-optition may be a better word.  We can work along with our competitors for jointly creating a better world.  Similarly, we can work with our colleagues to do our job better and learn from one another.  We can also learn from our siblings and support each other to succeed.  We learn more by sharing with one another rather than keeping knowledge to ourselves.

If at all there is an urge to compete, let us compete in working to create a happier world.  Let us compete to live together as a bonded family.  Let us compete with other countries to foster peace in the world.  Let us compete to eliminate pollution in the world.  Let countries compete to eradicate poverty in the world.  Cooptition may replace competition from our dictionaries.

In the photo above, friends are singing together to create a chorus rather than competing with each other to  outbeat each other.

Let us learn to live along with each other and create a world of our choice for our future generations.

S Ramesh Shankar

Women Leadership : New age imperatives


The International Women’s day celebrated on 8th March every year reminds us of the role of women in society.  It is true that in India and around the world, women have played a stellar role in leadership in family, organisations and society.  History teaches us of brave women who have transformed societies with their selfless leadership.  We in India have the privilege of women playing a pivotal role in all walks of life.  We have had freedom fighters, politicians, a noble laureate, historians, academics and very recently space scientists, who have made our country proud by their outstanding accomplishments.

In my book, leadership is gender agnostic. We need to lead by example and be a role model for our followers.  Leaders inspire change.  How does it matter whether you are a male or a female leader ?  It does not.  I have worked with women and men leaders and have found them equally inspiring to lead.  So, gender does not matter to determine your quality of leadership.  What matters is our ability to understand the needs of a multigenerational workforce and how to keep them engaged and motivated.

What are the new age imperatives, which the women leaders of today are challenged with ?  The first and the foremost challenge for women leaders would be the unconscious bias of others.  Although, I strongly believe that women are equal to men as leaders, there is a unconscious bias especially in the Indian society that women cannot lead in particular circumstances like a battlefield, flying fighter planes or even working in the shop floor of a manufacturing unit.  In my view, the bias is more in our mind than in reality.

Today India can be proud to have women fighter pilots, space scientists, manufacturing managers and even captains in the defence forces.  Thus all the so called male bastions have been shattered by sheer merit and performance.  It is time for the biased Indian male to wake up and realise that women today are not only equal to men but could be even better in many fields purely based on their talent.

The second challenge which women leaders may face in the new age would be the willingness of men and women under them to accept them as leaders.  As I said earlier that having worked under women leaders, I do not find any change between men and women as leaders.  But the feudal mindset of men and women may make them uncomfortable to accept a woman as a leader. This may be experienced by many women leaders and they get over it by their sheer performance and inspiration.

The third imperative could be the balance of work and life.  It is very difficult for women leaders to balance family needs and work needs unless they have an excellent family support.  In the absense of this support mechanism, it could result in strained family relationship or sometimes giving up a challenging career at your peak.  Most women leaders work double of their male counterparts since they have to balance home and work and this is a big ask of them.

As in the photo above, women leaders have equalled men in all aspects of leadership.

Having said that, I would like to restate that in my books, women leaders are as smart as male leaders if not smarter.

It is time to reflect and support them to succeed.

S Ramesh Shankar

Life is like a “Marathon”


Our life is like a marathon.  We start to lay our foundation in our childhood, work hard during youth and then pick up steam as an adult to achieve our life goals.  All that we achieve in our life depends on the hard work we put in.  It is like to run a marathon, we start practising almost a year before the event.  It is not only our physical fitness but our emotional quotient, which makes us a winner.

One need not be the fastest sprinter to win but needs to be high on patience and perseverance.  After we have set your eyes in participating in a marathon, it is meticulous planning, sweating it out every day for more than a year and good dietary discipline, which makes us ready for the marathon.  Life is no different.  As a kid, we have many dreams in our lives.  We want to realize all of them and at the shortest possible time.  If one is able to set a clear goal and work towards achieving it, nothing is impossible in life.

I am aware of many people who plan to participate in a marathon.  While they set their goal clearly, they do not plan for it well.  Their daily practise does not happen regularly. Their eating habits are not in place.  So, when they participate in their first marathon and end up with cramps after just 5 kms of running, they get disappointed and many even give up their goal.  

Life is no different.  We need to set our life goals- personal, career or otherwise.  We need to plan in detail and be self disciplined.  The moment we lose focus and fail to raise our own standards, we get into pitfalls in life.  This disappoints us and we tend to give up on some of our goals even before we have put in adequate efforts to achieve them.

In a marathon, one could possibly start with a dream run of 6 or 10 kms, then move to run the half marathon, full marathon and may be even attempt the ultra marathon.  This will help them take one step at a time.  It prepares the body and mind.  They increase the intensity of their participation every year and success at each step reinforces their belief in themselves.

The same is true in life.  We could set small milestones, work hard and achieve them.  This gives us the confidence to take on tougher goals and work towards achieving them.  Each time we succeed in attaining our goals, it builds on our ability to aim higher.  This is the secret of success in life.  Many of us give up even before we try our best.

Life is a journey and we have to take one step at a time.  The icons of success in all walks of life have proved that if you set your vision, plan your action and execute with discipline, everything is possible in life.  This may help us believe in ourselves and set impossible goals. Our efforts get rewarded even before we realize it.  This enthuses us to achieve more in life.

Let us start our dream run today.

S Ramesh Shankar

The sound of “Silence”


I love the sound of “Silence”.  When you are in the midst of a rain forest, the only sound you hear is that of the dew drops on the tree leaves or the song of the birds.  It makes you reflect in solitude.  The greenery around you makes you fresh like the morning dew.  It energises you and enables you to sync with nature.  The tweaking of the old branches in the cool breeze of the forest or the thumping paws of a wild animal on the morning wet pathway are the only sounds around you.

The farther you are away from the city, the more the forest haunts you.  It makes you realize how much mankind has killed nature in the name of development. The orange forest flame ignites your mind.   The butterflies kindle your imagination. The whistling sound of the wind calms you down and makes you sit up.  All this makes you realize that the pollution of the traffic and noise of the roads do not drain you any more.  It is the fragrance of the forest, which soothes your soul here.

I got up early in the morning, went for a short walk and then a therupatic ayurvedic massage rejuvenated my body.  The breakfast filled my stomach and then it was time to sit and reflect in this lap of nature. When you are drowned in the noise of the city, your thoughts get choked, your emotions drained and mind wanders in the quest for materiality of life.  You forget to live life to its full potential.

What does nature offer us ?  We have huge trees giving us oxygen, the leaves brightening our sight, the birds singing the melody and the smell of the forest calming our mind.  You realize that nature has so much to give us and we give nothing back in return.  On the contrary, we give back trash, pollution, noise and tonnes of plastic to ruin the earth.

I can be myself when I am in the lap of nature.  It brings out the best in me.  It can connect the mind, body and soul.  It brings you closer to God. It makes you realize the power of the super power.  The sunlight appears brighter, the air is cooler and the music of nature is melodious. The environment makes your reflective.  You are willing to be one with nature.

Why do we ruin nature inspite of all that she gives us every day ?  I have no answer except to believe that human beings are greedy. We always want more from nature than we give back.  We want life to be better every day and are willing to squeeze all the natural resources around us without worrying on how we could nurture nature for the future.

It is time to wake up.  It is time to commit that we will give back at least half of what we get from nature.  We can make simple commitments.  We will not pollute the environment around us.  We will live more organically.  We will reduce the use of plastic.  We minimise the use of cars, bikes and aeroplanes.  We will plant more trees and nurture nature in all possible ways.

We need to remember that our kids will get what we leave behind.  Our fore fathers gave us such a beautiful world.  We need to commit to leave behind a better world for our future generations.

S Ramesh Shankar

It’s never too late to begin…

All of us make new year resolutions only to break within months or even days after we have begun. It is normal to postpone an issue and justifying that the right time has not come for it. In my learning it is never too late to begin. I have known people who have acquired educational qualifications much after their retirement. So, we need to believe that it is up to us to decide when to start.

The first inspiring example I have is that of my father in law( the photo above). He is 85 years old today. He always had a dream of being a post-graduate in life. He was proud that his children and grandchildren had studied well and some of them have completed their post graduation. He always had this dream of being a post graduate himself. So, at the young age of 75, he decided to pursue his post graduation in Gandhian thought as he was passionate about that subject. He gave his exams and was delighted that realised his dream sooner than later.

Me and my wife have learnt yoga at least 5 times at various stages of our life. Every time we practised the same for a few months and then it wriggled out of our routine. We could never make it a way of life. Just two years back we went to a yoga school in Lonavala and teacher was so inspiring that she not only ensured that we learnt it the right way but motivated us to make it a way of our life. Since then, we have been practising it religiously for the last two years.

I have always had a passion for writing. I used to write for my school and college magazine. Even after I started my career, I contributed to our company in house magazines. However, it was last year when I really started writing seriously and began to pen a blog every week. Within a year I managed to publish a book and today it is an integral part of my routine.

Most of us tend to postpone a decision on some pretext or the other. It is sometimes due to lethargy and at other times due to lack of will. I have realised through all my mistakes in life that it is me to blame for any procrastination and not anyone else. Hence, it is time to realise that the will power lies within us and not outside. If we decide to do something in life, it is up to us to start.

In life, we will always have multiple jobs. It is up to us to prioritise what is important and then pursue it with zeal. Whether it is at the workplace or our personal life, we need to decide what is important in our life and then make a beginning. We need to remember that today is always better than tomorrow to make a mark. Today is in our hands and tomorrow may never come.

All these examples have taught me that age, work or life is not a barrier for us to do something. It is more of our own mindset and attitude to life. We need to be positive and determined on what our passions are and then doggedly pursue the same. If we postpone something, it is our drawback and we cannot externalise it by blaming the environment for the same.

Let us begin today.

S Ramesh Shankar

PS: Dedicated to my father in law, who left for his heavenly abode today.