Whom should I blame ?

The monsoon is here and it is pouring cats and dogs. The roads are choked. The traffic is crawling. Trains have been interrupted and there is water logging everywhere. Everyone is badly impacted. Whom do I blame ? We want to blame the state government in power ? We want to blame the city local body ? We want to blame the central government and so on.

The local body, state and central government have to take responsibility for the state of roads and monsoon preparedness in general. There is no doubt about it in my mind. But, how about blaming myself for this state of affairs, at least partially ?

While it is fashionable for everyone especially the elite to blame the state and everyone else, we refuse to look within us. I was reflecting on this question today morning and thought about the following :

Why does my milkman, who is 75 years old not complain of rain and deliver milk without fail at 530 am every day ?

Why does my newspaper boy deliver my newspaper at 7 am every day even in this heavy rain ?

Why do my maid and driver not bunk their work and report regularly every day ?

All the above people come from the lower strata of society but do not shirk their responsibility by blaming the environment or the state while discharging their duties. Why do I want to blame everyone around me except myself ? What can I contribute to prevent this in the future. I have ten ideas to share and I commit I will personally try to follow the same.

A. Prevent the use of plastic and disposal of waste over drains in office and at home near my neighbourhood

B. Segregate waste into organic and inorganic and ensure safe disposal.

C. Ensure rain water harvesting is done sincerely in my community

D. Ensure storm water drains are clear and cleaned before the monsoon in my community and at my workplace

E. Report manholes and water logging to the municipal authorities in time

F. Ensure that everyone around us uses dustbins in public places

G. Carry cotton bags for all types of shopping

H. Recycle everything possible at home and at work

I. Dispose of e waste appropriately in designated places

J. Take responsibility for my community and my workplace for all of the above.

If you agree, like my post and say yes. Your ideas can add to mine too and will useful to all of us.

Enjoy the rains and let us inculcate a habit of “I can” contribute to changing the environment rather than blaming and cribbing at all times.

S Ramesh Shankar

10th July 2018

Patience Unlimited

I have always been in awe of my father for his unlimited patience.  I have wondered as to how did he have so much of limitless patience.  In my entire life time, I have seen him losing his cool only twice and here I am who loses his cool atleast twice a year.  I also need to give some credit to myself as I have graduated from losing patience twice a day to twice a month and nowadays it is only twice a year.

It has been a journey of life long learning.  In this blog, I would like to reflect on how I learnt patience from my father.  The first thing I have observed in my father is his ability to mind his own business at all times.  I have never seen him interfere in the life of others and this may have enabled him to keep his cool under all circumstances.  We tend to lose our patience when we get involved.  Impatience is in a way reacting to a situation, which we cannot accept.  There is no need to react if you do not get impacted by others’ incidents.  In all our family matters, I have never seen him talk about others or interfere in others’ matters.

The second learning has been that he was very self disciplined.  He was a government employee and served in the telecommunications wing of the central government for more than three and a half decades.  He was a self made man and worked very hard day in and night out.  He was always on time to work and never made anyone wait at home or at work.  This was possible only due to his self discipline and his ability to be organised.  Thus there is little scope to lose his cool for things which were not in place as he wanted them to be.

The third attribute which made him patient was his ability to be an active listener.  I have hardly seen him speak.  He was a man of few words but always a good listener.  It is easier to keep talking than to listen.  If you are a good listener, you have the time to assimilate and not react as the way we do most of the time.  This means less impatience and more maturity in our interactions.  Thus listening helped him to be patient at all times.

The fourth quality I learnt from my father was his ability to be self dependant.  I have never seen him depend on others for anything.  Even after his retirement from service and after my mother’s death, he did not depend on anyone for his living.  He cooked his own food, did his own shopping and maintained the house and the garden with his own hands.  This self reliance enabled him not to depend on others and thereby lose his cool when others do not deliver.

The fifth characteristic of my father which stuck to me was his ability to share happiness with others and keep sorrow to himself.  I have never seen him in my life time cribbing about anything.  He has never shared his distress with others but was always willing to share his joy.  This made him an endearing person to all.  I am yet to meet anyone in my family or friends circle who was not in awe of my father and his patience.

My father’s patience is like the endless water of the sea and me like a bird flying across to feel it.

All these qualities of my father left lasting impressions on my mind.  I was short tempered as I began my career.  But, as I grew up, I realised the value of patience and have tried my best to learn from the interactions with my father and live life the way he did.  I may have only achieved 10% of patience he had but still consider it worth an effort as it has helped me immensely in my career and life.

It is never too late to start.

S Ramesh Shankar

Looking back or Moving forward

It is that time of the year when the Christmas carols can be heard. The end of a calendar year and the beginning of a brand new year. We look back to move forward. All of us love to reflect on the past year and build hope for the next year. We are happy of some events and regret others while we look back. We are optimistic about the future and hence wish the new year brings joy and happiness to all of us.

It may be a good idea to look back. But, what should we look back at. We need to realise that looking back and being grateful to people, who have contributed to our success in the previous year may be a good idea. It may be worthwhile to feel happy about some of our key accomplishments during the year. It may be worthwhile to learn from some of the mistakes we may have committed in the previous year.

But many of us tend to spend more time looking back then moving forward. This is what we need to guard against. It is like driving a car looking at the rear view mirror. The rear view mirror is very helpful when we need to reverse or when we need to overtake someone on the road. It is not possible to drive a car on the highway by only looking at the rear view mirror. We need to look at the windscreen and anticipate what is coming in front of us and how the road is twisting and turning before us.

It may be a better idea to move forward rather than looking back at all times. We need to believe in ourselves. We need to realise that there would always be a sunrise after a sunset. We need to hope that tomorrow would be better than yesterday and today. It is like most of us do not spend time in planning for an event. We spend more time in fixing issues while an even is occurring in our lives.

It is better to plan and foresee the future. It is better to dream and anticipate change. It is fun to hope and aspire for the upcoming year. We tend to spend more time in analysing what went wrong rather than anticipating what could happen in the future. It is this change in attitude, which would help us navigate change. It will help us anticipate and prepare for whatever is likely to happen.

I am a born optimist. I would prefer to spend less time analysing the past and more time in dreaming about the future. We cannot do much about what has happened in the past. But, we can create a future of our choice. While past is history, future is mystery, yet to explored. While history can teach us lessons, it may not be able to anticipate what is likely to happen. I would prefer to brood less about the past and dream more about the future.

I have learnt in my life that it is worthwhile to reflect on the past to learn for the future. But, if it is better to spend less time looking back then moving forward. The past will not necessarily lead us to the future. It is important to remember that we need to move on in life irrespective of what happened in the past. We need to cherish good memories but it may be worthwhile to spend more time in shaping our future.

As in the photo above, the peacock in the forest was not sure whether to look back or move forward.

Let us learn to drive our life by looking more at the front windshield rather than looking at the rear view mirror. I am by no means suggesting that we need not look back at the past. I am only recommending that looking ahead in life is more fruitful than brooding about the past. I am saying we need to learn to move ahead. The earlier we learn this lesson, the better we can anticipate the future of our life.

Lets move forward.

S Ramesh Shankar

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