Create Passion not Tension

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Employees around us complain of stress and tension. Some of it is self inflicted but most of it is imposed by their managers or leaders. Why do leaders create tension ? I have never understood this phenomenon. It could be due to genuine inability to keep their stress to themselves or their lack of self confidence. It could also reflect on their inability as a leader. Some leaders also believe that they can get the best output from their team if they create tension. The contrary may be true in reality.

What should managers do to get the best from their team members ? Managers should create a vision and then infuse passion in their team. The vision will give direction to their team and the passion will take them towards their common vision. So, managers need to realise that they can get the best from their team if they create passion, not tension.

What happens when you create tension for your team ? First and foremost, nobody wants to work for you in the long term. Second, your team will lose their self confidence and will falter at every turn of a project. They will dread failure and will run away from your team at the first possible opportunity. Nobody enjoys stress and that too from his or her manager.

Stress leads to tension and this in turn leads to negativity in the team. The environment drains the energy of the team and everyone ends up finding fault with each other. Most of the deadlines are not met. There is no positive vibes in the team. The attrition in such teams will be the highest. Most of the team members will look for opportunities outside and will ditch the time at the first possible instance.

On the other hand, what happens to teams, where leaders create passion. It’s fun to work in such teams. The leader generally raises the bar. They create a very enviable vision along with the team. The team is party to the co-creation of the vision. This ensures that every team member is passionate about how they can contribute to attaining that collective vision.

Positivity is the second name of such teams. Everyone around wants to join such teams. They are willing to sacrifice from short term benefits to work in such teams. Money, time or resources are never a constraint in such teams. We typically see this in start ups. The promoter or a leader shares a brilliant idea. Then they work with the team to visualise the future together. Once this is done, there is nothing which can stop the team members give their best to achieve the team’s success.

I am not one stating that it is absolutely not necessary to set stretched targets to your team. In times of crisis, an atmosphere of urgency is needed to deliver results. Army commanders at the front line command by inspiration. Their commitment is leadership by example. They do not put their foot soldiers in front and stay behind. Similarly, good leaders will lead from the front. Even when they create a sense of urgency, their team members are keen to contribute their best and do not reel under tension.

As in the photo above, if someone is passionate about cycling, they will do it every day and not consider it a tension to maintain their health.

All of us are or would be team leaders in the future. It is important to remember that stress and tension creates negative energy. Passion and vision creates positivity. As managers and leaders we have to create a positive culture infused with fun at the workplace. This may be easier said than done. But once we are able to create this environment, we need not bother. The team gallops even when we want them to walk. If we struggle to do it by ourselves, we can learn from the best leaders around us.

Let us try to live our passion every day.

S Ramesh Shankar

It’s good to cry too…

It is generally believed that men do not cry. It is mindset that if you cry, you are not a man. This gets reinforced by many life incidents. My father was a very soft spoken person and never cried. I have never seen him raise his voice or get angry at anyone. I had also never seen him cry. So, I also believed this belief that men don’t cry. Then, when my mother died and I was lighting her funeral pyre, I saw tears roll down my father’s eyes. I realised that crying is normal to humans.

It is a fact that all of us have emotions. Some of us express it, while others may not. My father never expressed his sadness and thereby his sorrow with others. He could neither be seen jumping around when he was overjoyed nor sulking in sorrow with tears rolling down his cheek. He preferred to keep his emotions to himself. My father has been a role model for me in my life. I always wish that I learnt to be half as patient as he was always.

Today, we try to inculcate in children not to laugh or cry aloud. It is ingrained in them as if it is bad manners. In my view, we should encourage our children to express their emotions openly. The more we laugh and cry in this world, the more we will be in balance. We will learn to share our joy and sorrow with others. We will learn to let go and also share the emotions with others.

It may be true that I have inherited this quality from my father. I have also cried only a few times in my life. But, I realised that every time I let the emotions pour out of me in the form of tear, I feel relieved. Recently my brother in law died and when his son was lighting his funeral pyre, he burst into tears. My nephew is a young lad in his early thirties and could not bear the loss of his father at such a young age. The priest halted the funeral and advised the young boy to cry aloud and let his emotions come out.

We need to learn to emote. We grow up being told not to laugh or cry. The conservative society labels young men and women who cry as not brave enough. In my view, this is not right. It is good to cry and laugh. It helps you to release your pent up emotions and let go. It may also help you to forget and forgive people if you are willing to let go off your emotions.

I was hurt by an uncle of mine during my young adulthood, when he declined to help me when I was in distress, while treating my ailing father on his death bed. I was very upset and deeply hurt by this incident. I almost stopped talking to this relative. Years passed by and while I was narrating this incident during a training programme, I burst into tears. I could not control my pent up emotions. After I regained my balance, I was willing to forgive this relative and even spoke to him later.

Emotions are an integral part of our being. We need to let it be and let it go as and when it is necessary. We may get overjoyed and we should jump in joy and share our joy with others. We may be overwhelmed with sorrow, when multiple incidents occur one after the other and we lose control. We need to share this sadness with others and cry aloud so that we can vent out our feelings.

In my view, laughing and crying should be an integral part of our living. We should laugh and cry every other day as we breath every day. It is good to laugh and equally sound to cry. Let us not be guided by age old mindsets that “Men don’t cry”. It is human to cry and we need to realise that we all are human beings. We all cry at birth and make others cry when we die. Let us also learn to cry in between birth and death.

Lets learn to cry.

S Ramesh Shankar

Sorrow & Joy…

Life is a journey filled with joy and sorrow. We go through days filled with joy and want to share with family and friends. However, there are other days when we are drowned in sorrow and have nobody to share with. In life in general, most people will be willing to share your joy but avoid you when you are doomed in distress. It is at this time you get to test your true family members and friends.

I have personally gone through many years in my life when it appears that the sun does not rise at all. It looks gloomy and cloudy and you have no tears left to cry. All your tears have dried up and you fail to see light at the end of the tunnel. The road in the tunnel seems endless and full of twists and turns. When someone tries to console you, you get more irritated than relieved.

It is at such times one needs to reflect. It takes time and patience to look within and reflect. Your true family and friends are beside you and provide the psychological support for you to get over this crisis. During these times, listening to your own inner voice and reflecting on it is more soothing than listening to others. However, we also need to remember that there are many people around us who are also drowned in an ocean of sadness as compared to us.

I have also met some people in my life who have gone through one crisis after another. I have no words to console them. I am aware that their tears have dried up. Only time and reflection can help them get over this phase of life. It is a tedious and arduous journey. Most of the time one has to travel alone in this journey. The secret is to live on hope. While easier said than done, I have found no better alternative so far.

What can we do when we meet people in our life, who are in such situations. Most of the time, we may not have answers to their soul searching questions. But, we can be a good listener. They also know that we may be helpless. But our physical presence and psychological support gives them hope. It is hope, which helps them limp back to normalcy. There can be no life without hope and we need to rekindle that hope in them.

It is in such weak emotional moments, the “Godmen &God women” of various religions exploit our social vacuum. They exploit our emotional weaknesses and most of them make us believe that they have super powers to help us get out of this situation. We need to guard against such men and women. They are enemies of God in human form in my view. We need to believe in ourselves and our near and dear ones, who are by our side during these times.

While I am a born optimist, it is difficult to infuse optimism in people, who are in deep distress. No words can console them. No stories can inspire hope in them. No cloth can wipe their tears since their tears have dried up by now. The one sure way of supporting them is by being with them and listening to them silently. It may be helpful to share their emotions at this hour of crisis to the best of our ability.

When you have no tears left to cry, life looks as if you are standing in front of a hill like in the photo above and it may take years to climb to the top and go over to the other side.

We also need to let them be alone during this time. Self reflection helps a lot. Our ability to be grateful and also realising that there are millions around us in more distress enables us to gain composure. We need to let them cry when they want to and lead life at their own pace. We can only embrace them with the psychological blanket of emotions.

We need to believe that tomorrow will be better than today.

S Ramesh Shankar

Hurt

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I always wonder why some people do not realise how much they hurt others by their words and deeds. Today I heard of an incident where someone’s mother was admitted in a hospital and was recovering. One of her relatives who came in to see her mother instead of encouraging and consoling her, told her unabashedly that you are wasting your money on her treatment since your mother is not going to live long.

I was shocked and dismayed even to hear this incident. First of all this relative was not a doctor. Secondly, she was neither supporting this person financially nor emotionally to treat her mother. Then, I fail to understand what pleasure a person can get to make such unforgivable statements especially to a daughter attending on her mother in a hospital. You can hurt someone unknowingly and it is forgivable but if someone hurts you knowingly what do you do ?

I do understand all of us end up hurting people around us by our words or deeds some way . We may not realise it as and when it happens. However, we do regret when we realise it and seek forgiveness from the person we have hurt or from God for our cruel behaviour. In this instance, the relative was her aunt. It is beyond my imagination to even think of why people behave this way. I can understand how deeply hurt this person may have felt.

We are brought up by our parents and they sacrifice everything in life to give us comfort and joy in life. They never think twice before spending money on you for your betterment. As we grow up, our parents get old and sometimes they do fall sick and become immobile. It is at this time we need to think of how we can serve our parents. We can never in our life time repay the non financial debt of service our parents have rendered to us. In my view, it is a sin even to think of not treating them well.

In this case, the relative who made these scandalous statements was her mother’s sibling. Her mother had been like a mother to her since the age gap between them is quite a lot and her mother had died at a young age. So instead of being grateful to her and helping the family financially or otherwise to treat her mother, this person ends up making such regrettable statements. I will never recommend that we should even make such statements for our enemies if we are human beings.

All of us are materialistic in life and we accumulate wealth during our youth to take care of ourselves in our old age. We need to realise that serving our elders is a rare opportunity God provides to some of us in our life time. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity. We need to consider it our privilege and honour to serve our parents and take care of them when they need us most.

If we think spending money on our parents or elders hospitalisation is waste of money just because they are old and immobile today, we are inhuman in thought and action. We have to realise that all of us will grow old some day and imagine our children thinking the same way and leaving you in a hospital unattended because they think spending money on your treatment is not a wise thing to do.

Some of us realise our mistakes in our life time. It is possible that some of us never realise it in this life time. Hence, I understand why the Hindu religion says that human being has seven births. This may be because God gives us six more chances to repent for our errors in life. I pray to God that all of us treat our elders with respect and dignity. We treat them the way we want to be treated by our children in the future.

Hurt is like the the shedding of the leaves by the trees during autumn. When someone hurts you, you feel barren like the trees may feel when their leaves shrug off.

Let us learn to forgive such inhuman humans and pray to God that he will bestow them with wisdom in this life or the next.

S Ramesh Shankar

Expectations Management

One of my colleagues enquired if I could write on “Expectations management”. I thought it was an interesting subject and hence readily agreed. Someone interestingly said that frustration is the gap between achievement and hope. We are continually trying to live up to the expectations of all the people around us. When we succeed, we are elated and when we don’t we feel dejected.

Today, expectations begin even before you are born. Our parents are expecting us to be a girl or a boy depending on their wish. If we fulfil their wish, they are delighted and if we do not, they are disappointed. So, we possibly need to learn to manage expectations even before we are born. Then once born, we grow up and when it time to get into a school, most parents wish you get admission in the best school. The competitive race of life begins here.

Then we are out of school and we have to manage expectations of parents, teachers, relatives, friends and even the community around us. Each of these people have different expectations from us. While every parent wants the child to pursue the best of education, every teacher wishes the child excel in her or his subject of choice. Relatives and friends are awaiting your success in academics to celebrate with you and your family. The community around you wants to take pride in your accomplishments.

Let us assume you are able to live up to the expectations of all of them. This may be easier said than done. You may want to be a doctor and your parents want you to be a engineer. Your relatives and friends feel you should pursue music as a career since you are good at it. So, meeting conflicting expectations and still pursuing what you want to do in life is a tough ask. You may delight some and upset some other well wishers in your life.

Now, you have finished your formal education and want to pursue your passion in life. You have graduated as a doctor and want to go to the villages to serve the most needy. Your parents are worried about living conditions. Your friends, relatives and neighbours are worried that you will not be available for them. The community around you is looking forward to benefit from your services. They are disappointed that you are moving away to serve in a village.

Apart from all of them around you, you sometimes are not able to live up to your own expectations. The champions in every walk of life set very high standards for themselves. They do not rest till they are able to surpass their own expectations every day of their lives. So, whatever your accomplishment in your life, you may feel you have a lot to achieve in the future. Excellence is a journey that never ends. It is like a train which has no destination.

Another dimension of expectation management is when you get married. Both spouses have expectations from each other. When we do not meet each others’ expectations, it results in avoidable conflict. There is no magic wand to balance expectations from each other. But two way communication, mutual respect, active listening and adapting to each other may help us bridge our expectations with each other.

With all these complexities of life, how do you meet the expectations of all the stake holders in your life. It depends on how we set our own expectations. While we may not be able to set expectations before we are born or even as a kid, it may be desirable to do it as we grow into an adult. We should calmly negotiate with the relevant stakeholders what to expect from us in every stage of life. We may not be able to live up to everyone’s expectations. But we are not bound to do so either. We should live up to our own expectations and have the courage to manage the rest.

Whether it is your friends as in the photo above or colleagues at work, relatives or family members, we need set and reset our expectations as per the needs of the environment.

We have to develop the ability to negotiate expectations. This may be with our parents, relatives, teachers, friends or even our colleagues at work. We have to be clear on what we want to do and then we need to pursue that with passion without hurting anyone around us. As we learn to be focussed and persuasive, we will realise that we can wade our way through the mesh of life and achieve what we want to.

Do you want to try ?

S Ramesh Shankar

The gregarious neighbour


In life, one is blessed to have a wonderful neighbour.  I have had this privilege on a few occasions as I have cris-crossed the nation as part of my career.  In life, you neither can choose your parents nor your colleagues at work.  Similarly, you do not have the privilege of choosing your neighbour.  It was by chance that I bought a flat and moved in.  The neighbour moved in as a tenant. 

We hardly knew each other and generally met only in the lift while going up or down to work or on an outing.  We exchanged smiles and greetings and that was the only introduction.  My wife, me and my kids were very touched by their warmth and helpfulness.  They were a young couple with three kids.  Both husband and wife were always welcoming and greeted you with smiles.

In my less than two years of being their neighbour, I have never seen them in conflict with anyone in our society nor create any ruckus.  They were a sporting couple and always willing to help others.  I always used to silently admire them.  One day they invited us home for a cup of tea.  We realised that we were from different states and different age groups but there was something in common between us.

I admired their friendliness and we shared our feelings with them when we met them.  Interestingly enough they reciprocated our feelings.  I realised that in life, if you need good neighbours, you have to be good.  If you expect others to smile, you need to smile.  If you are helpful, others are more than keen to help you.  Age, caste, creed, religion or nationality does not matter at all.

I moved out of that flat to move to my newly built home in another part of the city.  But, we continued to be friends exchanging calls, messages and greetings through phone and social media.  Occasionally we met for lunch or dinner.  But, even if we did not meet, we had great rapport and respect for each other.  We evolved as friends for life and nurtured our relationship.

Today, if I look back, we stay in two different cities and lead our own busy lives.  But, we still are in touch with each other. We still look for opportunities to talk to each other and wish each other.  We celebrate the successes of each other and are more than willing to share any sorrow between us.  Once a friend, always a friend. I think one is blessed in life to have such neighbours.

I recently was chatting with her and it occurred to me that this family is a great source of inspiration for us.  They taught us to live life happily and share your joy with others.  Both husband and wife partnered to nurture our friendship and sustain it.  They enabled each other to pursue their passion in life and always sported a smile all the time.

I wish and pray to God to bless all of us with such neighbour in life.  

What do you say ?

S Ramesh Shankar