Never too late to resolve…

Another New year dawns on us. We wonder what new year resolution to make. I am no different. I sometimes wonder if it is too late in my life to make a resolution. But on reflection, I realised that it is never too late to resolve.

If we look back at our lives, we have so many imperfections embedded in us. We are not yet perfect in anything. Hence, the opportunities to makes resolutions to change and improve is endless.

Let me start with simple things in life. Am I good at making up my bed after I get up. I leave it to someone else to do it for me. So, may be the first resolution can be that I make my own bed everyday.

Then the next question to ask is “Can I make own coffee or tea ? If the answer is no, it is time to learn to do it yourself. So, the second resolution can be to make your own coffee or tea and may be make it for your partner or family members also.

Do we do some exercise every morning ? It could be a walk, a jog, cycling or playing any game. If the answer is no, which is most likely for most of us, that can be the third resolution. I commit to walk or do yoga every day.

Then we look for someone to help us with our clothes and office accessories. This could be our fourth resolution and we could learn to organise ourselves well so that we do not need someone’s assistance to pick our clothes or other office paraphernalia.

Most of us ride a bike or drive a car to work every day. We then blame the world for the increasing pollution around us. Our fifth resolution can be to take the public transport to work at least once in a week and there by contribute our bit to reducing pollution in the world.

Do we wish everyone with a smile at work ? We enter the workplace and find it difficult to wish the security guard. We do not think it is important to wish everyone around us at work and shake hands with them before we start our day. This could be the sixth resolution that we will start the day by wishing everyone around us with a smile.

At work, do we delegate things we can easily do ourselves ? If the answer is yes, then it is time to change. Delegation is a good management practise. However, we can do somethings ourselves, which when delegated may delay action and is not necessary. This could be our seventh resolution.

One thing which amuses me is that people do not return calls made to them. Yes, all of us are busy all day and night and we may not be in a position to pick up calls many a time. However, courtesy demands that we call back everyone who called us. It could be a junior colleague, family, friend or the CEO it does not matter. This could be our eighth resolution.

Our ninth resolution could be get back home on time. While working hard is a good idea, it does not add to productivity by sitting late at work every day. This neither improves our performance at work nor makes our family happy.

The tenth resolution may be to make at least one of the above nine resolutions and ensure we follow it through the year. My belief is that if we commit to do at least one thing and make it happen, it will be great.

Let me wish you, your family and friends a wonderful new year. So, here are my Ten Commandments to myself for the new year. I was reflecting on them sitting in front of the Buddha in my garden.

What are yours ?

S Ramesh Shankar

1st January 2019

People – the competitive advantage for an organisation

Every company in the world tries to identify what is its competitive advantage ? They look at what markets they operate in ? Who are their competitors ? What are their sources of competitive advantage ? This leads to factors like Cost, Quality, Reliability , Service, Innovation, Products etc. But, I do not subscribe to this theory of management. In my view, all competitors ultimately catch up to your sources of competitive advantage today or tomorrow. Hence, it is only “People” working with you, who are your only source of competitive advantage, which is not replicable.

Hence, if we believe that we have to make our organisation a great place to work – we have to realize that “Managing People” is not nice to have but must have factor for organisational success. If we take the simple example of the auto industry, we will get our answers. Today, the cars produced by different companies in the same segment is not very much differentiated. They have the similar technology, features, price etc. What really differentiates them is the service, which that company provides you before or after the sale of the car. Service is delivered by people and people are the key differentiator.

We have evolved the concept of “Ownership culture” in our organisation. What does this mean – this means that every manager owns her or his people in every possible way. A manager is the friend, guide and philosopher for his team. We need to build the people management skills in every manager so that they take care of their team members.

We launched the “People Matter” programme and the manager fitness certificate to support this philosophy in Siemens. This would help us strengthen the ownership culture by creating highly motivated teams. This would in turn enhance our customer experience. Like they say, if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers.

In this intervention, we partnered with Great Place to Work(GPTW). The reason why we selected GPTW is because we wanted a partner, who understand India and also helps us understand the best people practises in the world. They have helped us customise the programme to suit our context. They have benchmarked us with the best in the world and are supporting us to become the best.

This has been an exciting journey for me personally. I travel across the company and have visited almost all locations of Siemens. Everywhere I have been since the launch of the People Matter programme, employees have told me that they see the significant change in the behaviour of their managers. This is very heart warming. They tell me that their managers listen more and spend more time with them for their own development.

It is the people in the organization, who make a difference as illustrated in the photo above.

We would like to make this a way of life in Siemens. This is not a one of flavour of the season. We want every people manager to be the face of the employee in Siemens. We will empower them to take people decisions for all their team members. We will incorporate this in some way towards the “How” assessment in the PMP process. We will reward and recognise the best people managers periodically across the company.

We believe that it is “Customer first” but “Employee always” in Siemens.
 
S Ramesh Shankar
 

Why do I blame the world ?

We all have a tendency to blame everyone else in the world for almost everything. If things work for us, we take the credit and when something does not work, we blame others. This is the reality of the world. Lets start with ourselves and our lives. If I come first in the class we say it is all due to my hard work. If we fail in the class, it is due to teachers not doing their job or parents forcing me to take a subject I do not like and so on.

If we move to the work place, life is no different. If I do well on the job it is because of my hard work. If I do not do well, it is because of lack of support from my boss or from other colleagues at work. This again proves that everything going well at work is because of me and everyone else around me is responsible for anything going wrong.

If we move to society at large the situation is not very different. If the roads are flooded during the monsoon, we blame the government, municipalities or contractors. However, if the I choke the drains with plastic waste I am not responsible. If the city is not clean, the state has to be blamed. If I litter garbage around my house, we may blame the municipality for not having effective garbage collection system.

All this leads me to reflect as to why do I blame the world for everything that goes wrong in my life ? Why do I take the credit for all that I do well in my life ? Is this human psychology or our limitation and selfishness ? I would consider it human limitation and our selfishness. We as human beings always want to take the credit for everything positive in life and blame the world for all the negatives.

I was wondering how the world would change if we looked within ourselves and decide to reverse this trend. Imagine my giving all the credit to my teachers and parents for all my success in life. What would happen if I credit my boss and colleagues for my success at the work place ? How will society be different if I lead the change I want to see in my environs ?

I think it is time for us to lead this change and make a positive impact in society. I would like to take responsibility for all my actions. If things go right in my life I could give credit to the people who have made it possible. If I do something wrong I will take the responsibility and ensure that I own it up. This will ensure that the people who deserve the credit for my success in life get the due.

All this will also ensure that there is an attitudinal change in society. Change always begins with the individual. Like we say an organisation is not buildings or structures, it is a summation of people working in it. Similarly, change has to begin with the individual. Why blame the world for my sins ? If I smoke, I am responsible for it. How can I blame my friends or relatives and claim that they have got me into this habit ?

A selfie above is a good illustration that change begins with me.

We always tend to externalise a problem or an issue ? We want to blame the world for all our wrongdoings . We want to blame society for anything which happens to us. We want to blame the government for all inaction and evils in the community. It is time to reflect and change. It is time to introspect and act. It is time to look within oneself rather than outside ourself.

Change begins with me.

Let me start today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Campus to Corporate…

All of us look forward to our first job in our life. We eagerly await the completion of our formal education in school/college to enter the corporate life. We want to stand on our own feet and live out our dreams in life.

While this journey is indeed exciting, we have to prepare ourselves to be successful in this phase of our life. What are the changes which one has to encounter when you leave the college premises and enter the corporate world?

A. Forget your pedigree at the compound wall of the corporate : While your pedigree may help you enter the corporate world, it will not make any impact after you are in there. What makes a difference is your performance and the value you bring to the table.

B. Unlearn, learn and re-learn : Unlike the academic world, the corporate sphere changes very fast. We need to learn to unlearn, learn and re-learn at a hectic pace not only to survive but to thrive in the corporate world.

C. Excel : Excellence is a journey and it is never ending in a corporate world. You have to be the best in whatever you do and then nobody can ignore you. Kindly remember that this world is much more competitive than the academic world and you may not always get a second chance.

D. Ambition : Dream big and you will be able to realize your dreams some day. It may not happen in the time frame you have set for yourself but if you do not give up, it will definitely materialise.

E. Morals : It is always a dilemma in your mind if ethics have any value in corporate life. You may have seen millionaires making money the wrong way. You may be tempted to take short cuts and realize your dreams. Just remember to listen to your conscience every single time and you will do no wrong. It is better to be happy and hold your head high rather than be rich and evade the taxman or the police all the time.

F. Stand alone : It is natural for you to compare your self with others working with you. You may wonder why you get paid less as compared to someone else working with you. You may think the other person is less qualified or has irrelevant experience. It is not worth comparing yourself with others and feeling bad about it. You need to learn to be like the pole star comparing yourself with yourself and shining so brightly that nobody on earth can ever miss your sight.

G. Commitment : One may get away by submitting your assignment late in college once in a while. However, in the organisational context, living up to your commitments is the key to success. Your relative value is always determined by your personal credibility.

H. Punctuality : Self discipline is expected in corporate life. Nobody will remind you to be on time. You set your standards by being on time all the time. Your reputation is determined by your punctuality. It is good to remember that your discipline is displayed when nobody watches you.

I. Mobility: In today’s globalised business environment, one need’s to be truly globally mobile to be successful. We should be willing to pack up our bags and go anywhere in the world to launch a global career in any organisation.

J. Team work : Unlike the college daya, where one could get away with individual excellence, team work is the key to success in organizations. One needs to learn to work in team and collaborate and cooperate to leverage on the strengths of each team member.

Now, let us look at the emotions and feelings we may experience as we enter the corporate world and how do we deal with them :

I. Happy and excited : The enthusiasm and joy has to be sustained and persevered. We may not always get what we want but by sheer hard work and determination we can lay our own career path in the organisation.

II. Fear : The lurking fear of not being good enough will confront us. Our ability to be humble, grounded and willingness to unlearn, learn and re learn will help us get over fear.

III. Unhappiness : Not getting the location of your choice may make you unhappy. But our ability to adapt and make the best use of every opportunity will help us excel.

IV. Anxiety : Everything appears new and unknown. How to ask and whom to ask is a constant question in our mind. Simply asking and being innocent will help you always find your way.

V. Intimidating : The induction programme may be intimidating and you may find your self lost in a big organisation. Kindly remember all of us joined some day and today it is your turn. There is nothing to worry as you will come to know of everything as days pass by.

VI. Nervousness: The fear of the unknown and the realisation that time will run out fast may make you restless. As long you realize that learning is a life long journey, please remember that everyone in the organisation will be keen to help you.

VII. Curiosity : You are not sure when to speak and when to listen. You are curious when to ask questions and whom to ask. There is no right or wrong answers. As long as you are authentic, you need not worry about anything or anybody in the organisation.

Some things to look forward to :

A. First salary : The thrill of getting your first salary in life is unbelievable

B. Own office desk: When you reach office on the first day and get your own desk to sit, it is a matter of pride.

C. Corporate credit card: On getting your corporate credit card, you feel as if you have arrived in life.

D. Colleagues / friends – It feels nice to have new friends and colleagues at work and learn from them

E. Visiting card : Your first visiting card gives you respect and credibility

F. Independence : As we stand on our own feet, we become self reliant

All in all, moving from campus to corporate is like transitioning from bachelorhood to married life. Unlike your spouse in married life, you will have colleagues in the organisation. It is our ability to adapt and learn from them, which will make us successful.

The nervousness of the student transitioning into the corporate world can be seen in the photo above.

Wish you all the best.

S Ramesh Shankar

Emotional Dustbin


We may consider the dustbin as the least attractive place in the house or office as we end up throwing all that we do not want in life. However, we do not realize how valuable the dust bin is as it relentlessly accepts all our garbage we throw into it.  I was wondering how valuable the dustbin is in our life.  In life, you always want people around you, who are willing to listen to all your outpouring.  We may call them the emotional dustbin.

  I had a colleague of mine in one of the earlier organizations I worked who ( in the photo above) symbolised the emotional dustbin.  He was easily accessible and was always willing to listen to the feelings of everyone around him.  I have seen him from morning to night listening to people and enabling them to outpour their emotions.  This is not an easy task.  One may get emotionally discharged if we keep listening to others sorrow all the time.

  However, in life, we all need an emotional dustbin.  As we grow up, it is generally our parents and in most cases our mother or an elder sibling, who plays the role of the emotional dustbin.  We can pour our emotions on them endlessly.  They have the patience and perseverance to listen to us and tolerate our non sense too.  It is this ability of a person, which makes him or her adorable.

This is equally true for us as parents at home. As our kids grow up, our patience tends to diminish. While all of us wait for our child to speak the first word in the world, we want to shut up the child as he grows up. We cannot tolerate the continuous muttering of our child. Then adosclent children tend to test our patience. Their rebellious nature challenges our emotions and we refuse to give in. It is at this stage, our listening skills are put to test.  

In the organisational context, most people managers are not good at listening.  We need to realize that our team members are people with emotions.  Our ability to enable our colleagues to share their joy and sorrow with equal measure will help us grow as a leader.  We need to learn to be like the emotional dustbin.  In most situations, we may silence our colleagues by our inability to be good listeners.  

  As adults, we always get along better with people who are active listeners.  We like their company as we can share whatever we feel like.  We pick friends and colleagues at work or life, who are willing to invest their time in us.  We are impatient with people who are restless.  While we want to liberally share our feelings, we are not equally excited when others want to do the same with us.

  In the cycle of life, we all are emotional people.  Some of us hide our emotions and find it difficult to express them till we lose control.  While others look for people around them all the time so that they can freely express themselves.  It is true that all of us want to share with others many a time.  It is easier to share with others and make them listen to your feelings and emotions.  However, it is difficult the other way around.

  May be it is time to realize that the dustbin is invaluable and human being as an emotional dustbin in life is the most valuable in our lives.

  Is it time to emote ?

S Ramesh Shankar

No tears to cry…


All of us would have faced situations in life where we are drowned in grief and have no tears to cry.  It is these situations where you feel lonely but do not want to be disturbed.  You want to confront God as to why he has besieged you with such a crisis.  You are lonely but prefer solitude to a crowd.  You want to be left alone as reflection helps you deal with sadness.

I have myself been through situations like these in my life.  The first time after I lost both my parents in my early twenties I lost faith in God.  I stopped visiting temples and questioned the very existence of a spiritual power beyond human kind.  It has happened to me on a few other occasions later in my life too.  Every time, it makes you cry but without tears in your eyes.  Every time you look at the world with different eyes and console yourself only by comparing with people who are in more distressed situations than you.

Last week one such incident happened to me.  I called on a friend who is as gregarious and vivacious as human beings can be.  She is a person whose mere presence can energise you.  I have seen her brings smiles to the lives of many around her.  I have always seen her finding opportunities to help everyone around her in every possible way. I called her to enquire about her well being since she stays in another city.  She did not even pick up her phone.  I was worried.  I sent her a message and she replied that her mother is seriously unwell and her grand child is also not well.

I reflected on this incident and realised that even a person like her did not have tears in her eyes to cry.  When all the good deeds you do to others does not ensure your happiness, you wonder whether it was worthwhile to be good in life.  You wonder if helping others is necessary when God does not want to help you in a crisis.  This applies even to people like her who are selfless.

I have also seen colleagues and friends confronted with multiple crises at the same time.  One sometimes wonders why God is cruel to such people.  Even before they barely wriggle out of one crisis God presents them with a bigger challenge and this shatters their confidence in themselves.  It is during phases like these, we need to be around to help such people in distress.  We may not be able to relieve them of their stress.  But, our very presence and being around may instil faith in them that they are not alone to face this emergency in their life.

However, I am a born optimist and I realize that every night is followed by a day.  Everyday the sun sets to rise again.  Hence while our tears may dry up during a crisis , we need to keep our hopes alive.  We need to believe that we are capable of dealing with everything in life.  After all there is no dead end in our life.  There will always be a turn and we need to have the patience to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Let us pray to God so that he ensures that good people in life do not suffer this way.

It is better to cry with tears than without.

S Ramesh Shankar

The last journey


I had gone for my morning walk today as I do everyday.  I go to a beautiful park opposite to my house and it is along the Arabian Sea.  The greenery of the park and the sound of the morning waves from the sea apart from the chirping birds make my day fresh and wonderful.  So, today was no exception to this great start to my day.  However, as I was making my final round I witnessed an unusual incident.

I saw a dog pulling a dead crow, which had died on the sea shore and pulling it to a grass lawn to have it as her morning breakfast.  What was astonishing was to see a cluster of crows in the sky ,following the dog screaming and announcing the death of the crow.  While the dog was least impacted by the shrieking of the crows above her, it really moved me as to how the crows were mourning for the last journey of one of their siblings.  They seem to be hurt that it died on the sea shore and had become fodder for the dog.

While this may be a stray incident, it stirred the emotions in me.  I have always been told from my childhood that it is ok if you do not visit a friend or a relative on the good news of the birth of a child in their family.  This is because you could always do so sometime in the future.  But, if you come to know the sad demise of a friend or relative and if you are in town, you should never miss the last journey of the person who has died.  This is because you will never be able to see that person again and it will his last journey on earth till the graveyard.

I am not sure how many of us realize this as human beings.  We are so caught up with our daily chores that we hardly have the time for our family or friends to share their joy or sorrow.  We neither have the time nor the inclination to visit anyone.  The herd of crows reminded me of how even birds and animals are more human than us.  They gathered together and mourned the death of another crow and screamed down to the dog to spare the dead crow alone.  Why cannot we as human beings learn from birds and animals if we are not able to learn it ourselves ?

The lesson for me today was that we need to find time for our beloved ones.  It could be to celebrate together a joyous occasion.  It could be to mourn the death of a near or dear one.  Especially in the latter case, life does not give us a second chance.  If we as human beings  think we are superior to animals and birds our behaviour has to prove it.  The crows made me realize that may be we still have a long way to go.

It is time to wake up.  It is time to find time for others.  How long will we justify our lack of etiquette to lack of time ?  How long will we run the rat race ? .  We may  realize that there is nobody to run the race with us anymore and then it may be too late.  It is time to realize and wake up now.  Let us resolve to ourselves that even if we do not have time to share joy, let us ensure that we will be around to share the sorrow of others always.

If crows can show humanity, I have not doubt, humans also can.  It is only our ability to reflect and resolve.  It is our ability to prioritise and act on our resolve.  If we think we can, we will.  The time to start is today.

Let us just do it.

S Ramesh Shankar