Dependence…the flipside

I am one among those many who take pride in my own self-sufficiency. I always liked to be responsible for taking care of not only myself but others surrounding me also. May be this could be the reason why it become so challenging when I find myself in a situation in which I have to rely on someone else. Then when I started moving upwards in the career ladder I was made to realise by circumstances and experiences that it is essential to rely on others too to get things done in time.

 

I do admit that, too often we make things worse either by trying to do more than we should or by giving into feelings of uselessness. In both cases I did run the risk of actually prolonging my dependency. In needing others and allowing them to share the responsibilities, we allow a team to grow that is in today’s terminology called ‘home-grown’ all-round executives. Also, it allows one to bloom into a wholesome and successful executive. At the same time the senior can concentrate on many other things where his or her attention or action is more essential.

While one can go on counting the good things derived off sharing and delegation, we cannot ignore the negatives of this system. It is a complete chain work that finally delivers.

One initiative missing in this chain can lead to embarrassment and loss of credibility added with financial losses in some cases. Of the above, loss of credibility is long term damage which cannot be retrieved that easily. The minimum courtesy expected in cases of something not happening is communication of the same with hurdles faced well in advance. This way – at least – you are giving an opportunity to the person at the helm a chance to control the possible damage by taking the ultimate customer / client into confidence and furthering the issue in a different way. By leaving any such issue for the mercy of god one is damaging several other persons involved in it along with long term damages as said above.

To me it is a very hard lesson learnt that “don’t leave responsibilities with irresponsible individuals”.

But the million dollar question is “Whom should be termed as irresponsible”?

 

[Madhu K. Nair – 8th December 2005]

The Fast Track…>>>

The world has changed a lot in the past thirty odd years. I can’t but smile when I think of some of the suggestions I used to make in my weekly review meetings on the projects under execution. In one such meeting, I remember having asked for a dictating machine (which I heard about somewhere those days; not seen) as the minute of meetings to be typed on so many copies and sent takes lot of time from our busy project schedule. And my boss gave a wicked look at me followed by a warning “don’t act as a superman”. He was staring at me as a specie from another planet. Most of the MANAGERS those days had separate offices, dedicated secretaries, and a few assistants to whom you can delegate work. The Manager can have some Quiet time in between if desired. Even phone calls used to be screened before secretary saying boss is “IN” or “OUT” thus manager concentrating on the work in hand.

Most of us carry a pocket diary that will have lot of “To Do” lists of the day. Points just jotted down in short syllables if we are to attend a meeting on the given subject and day. No Internet, laptops, PDAs, smartphones, email or voice activated software. After 5 or 6 pm the offices or for that matter work places will be dotted by a few heads only and not buzzing 24×7 like today. Receiving a call at ‘HOME” means there is something wrong, a conclusion generally mind will jump into. Workload, stress, mental tensions were once in a while on specific conditions and reasons.

But the environment – and in most cases – the jobs themselves, have evolved. A more mobile society, equipped with laptops, handhelds, multiple cell phones carrying out their administrative work onsite at their client’s place, in their cars or at home is in place. Handheld electronic devices such as iPhones, BlackBerrys and iPads seem to be outselling everything because everyone wants to be ‘ahead’.

The pace of life has increased and it has become too fast. Stress too has increased. We now see a very higher percentage of persons with depression, obesity, diabetes etc. as compared to earlier days. Memory problems are rampant as everyone depends for everything on devices. Inborn capabilities are left to rust. Managing stress and life balance were justifiably added as the speed and complexity of life increased.

Idle time and free or discretionary time started disappearing since more than a decade and the process seems to be complete. Skills essential to individual productivity and the executive skills are slowly vanishing. Working hours may be increasing, but individual productivity going down. We might have hit success in making computers to replace as many persons as possible; but in reality reflection time, creative ideas all continue to decrease. Every other person including housewives is connected to electronic media such as email and various social media.

In my opinion, personal productivity has changed very little in the past two or three decades in spite of advancement in various facets of technology. There is no dispute that technology evolved for good things and also it helped speeding up the pace of life. But the extra speed did not convert every other factor correspondingly. We may be working faster, driving faster, communicating faster and eating faster – in short living faster. My observation is “although life might have become faster; but the same has not contributed exponential improvements in quality or net results”.

I feel we are accomplishing only little bit more than what we have been  accomplishing. We’re just doing it at a higher speed. Interruptions, low priority activities and managing conflicts and trivial issues are filling the time saved.

Effectively, it is high time one has to sit and think how fast should be considered fast enough and how far is the safe landing. If the destination is marked, available duration is defined, mind is conditioned I think life could well be driven within the permissible speed limits with lesser conflicts to manage.

In reality we are overlooking or ignoring the possible hazards of this speed that has become part and parcel of a person or a group of persons or a corporate. Nothing happens overnight and if something does be ready to face those consequences, which comes back in lightening speeds. Technology might have helped; but it also invaded into our private times or discretionary times as this phenomenon cannot be overlooked. It may help us in multitasking; but multitasking has so far proved counterproductive only.

The speedsters already have sacrificed their individuality, individual opinion and even their capacity to assess or convey matters in a strong way. I always wonder, if we are walking, talking, driving, planning and working faster where is that saved hours going? Production has not changed much; sleeping hours has rather reduced significantly. The division between professional and personal or private life has got seriously blurred and a significant percentage of the people have to deal with depression. Someone tell me where are those times – ‘work’, ‘home’, and ‘leisure’ gone? It all got mixed up irretrievably in the mad race to achieve those that are necessarily required to achieve. OR one will have to derive a method – sooner than later – to develop a skill to manage the time in a fashion where these essential times will have to be worked out without one overlapping the other in this changing world.

Madhu K. Nair [finished on 29th April 2004]

Together we Sail….!!!

While on the subject, one should always keep it in the back of their mind that any achievement – can be great or greatest, dismal or absolute zero – is never to a single account. It is always collective or pulling together of capacities of many individuals who are capable of accomplishing certain part of such achievements. Look behind every successful individual – be it in sports or management or for that matter anything – you will certainly find a hand or hands of few individuals. ALONE, one can hit success partially and even that success cannot be sustained for long time; it will be short living.

Look alongside every successful person you will find few caring people giving support, encouragement and able assistance wherever needed. Similarly, looking beyond one’s self one should seek advise, help from people of greater knowledge, experience and wherewithal to move in one’s mission smoother and faster. This in no way cast a shadow on your image, capacity or personality; rather it adds to your personality when you hit success in the first go and keep that streak in everything you do. Seeking individual strengths from one’s circle through consultations, discussions and guidance in no way blur the image of any individual.

Looking beyond one’s own self to ask for help or accepting help is a norm of any faculty…though some people feels it could be risky or subduing self-ego. Interdependent thinking can’t go wrong every time. It may at times; but then ones capacity to analyse and implement is the key to achievement.

I have seen many people who, even while thinking of their own short-term or long-term gains, conveniently forgets that the other person too must be nurturing his or her own gains. Unless, you help them gain you are not going to gain. This is the fact. Gain need not be materialistic always; it can be knowledge, it can be stature and it can be materialistic too.

While we think of gain or growth, one has to put the collective interest in the fore-front, emphasise transparency in inter and intra communications, has to develop a quality of listening to individual opinions before reacting and finally one has to use some rationale while solving problems that are likely to crop up every now and then.

So, effectively the sailing has to be together and inclusive to attain individual as well as collective goals. Individual growth without collective growth can be always dangerous as well as short living.

Madhu K. Nair [17.03.2004]

Passion & Purpose

 I believe whatever the field of endeavour is—sports, business, science, medicine, education, ministry, charity service—no one can perform at his or her best without passion. Anything and everything one deal with is too tough to get to the top without passion. You’re going to fail, be taken advantage of, be disappointed by people you trust, disappoint yourself, run out of resources—almost every day you’re going to encounter a good, solid, logical reason why you ought to give up. And without passion, you just might. That’s why passion is the pre-requisite for peak performance.

Peak performance is dependent on passion, grit, determination, and a willingness not to give up even if results are poor. Of course, this is when you know that you can hit it best sooner or later. Most importantly, if one is scared about the outcome at the very word ‘Go’ it is almost certain that you won’t make it.

I am definitely not a big time scholar or management wizard or anyone from those elite few. However, witnessing or dealing with different issues, different people, different situations, different locations of more than 3 decades have taught certain things. And one among such lessons is that the key to any kind of motivation is “Purpose”.

We come across several people in our life who are passionate for one thing or other. Passion fueled by purpose together with few like-minded friends can take you to the goal. One’s own passion out of one’s own energy has limited sustenance. I believe.

There is no perpetually moving machine in the universe, because everything in this world either runs down or runs out of fuel at some point of time. Each of us trying to maximize our peak performance day after day also can run out of fuel one day. That is why one needs to synergize one’s passion with that of a few more so that the passion continues, so will the energy.

Effectively one needs passion, that passion which is adequately fuelled by purpose, channelized energy from a few like-minded friends to meet real success or goal. More than my perception it is my firm belief.

In short, it is the ‘Purpose’ that generates ‘Passion’ and Passion generate energy to accomplish any goal that one set in his private, professional or organisational life.

If we reasonably agree with the above, then it is for each of us to decide how we want to run our club…!!!

Madhu K. Nair [4th of May 2015]

 

Align Action with Words

The old saying remind me “Actions do speak louder than words”… while talking make some quick calculation at the back of the mind “are you capable of following it up with action”? If the answer is ‘No’ then, I think, the very words can prove suicidal.

Words do carry a lot of weight in this technology driven world, how we say, what we say, in what context etc. gets carried through in seconds. We should be fully conscious while delivering each word that the words remain in the memory of audience if ONLY it is followed by action in alignment with what one speak. This is what, I think our elders meant when they say to one another –“actions speak louder than words.” In many cases, what we say doesn’t necessarily line up with what we do, and it becomes clear that it’s easier to talk about doing something than it is to actually do. At the same time, it’s easy to keep doing something and not necessarily spoken at every available venue; but “the word spreads” on its own. So it’s good for one and all to take a look once in a while to make sure there is certain alignment between what we say and what we do.

Now-a-days it’s become highly fashionable to talk about our dreams, but it takes a lot more energy to take even small steps that lead to bringing our dreams into reality. If all we ever do is talk about something, at some point of time we ourselves will begin to lose faith in ourselves because nothing changes on the ground. This is how “all talk and no action” proves suicidal. Also it’ll be useful to examine our actions – once in a while – to see if we are following through on our own words. For example, in expressing concern about the environment, are we asking ourselves whether we are taking the simple steps we can take to put that concern into action? If we are talking about road safety, we should make sure that we are taking the tiniest steps – for that matter – towards what we say to set an example and as follow up to our valiant speeches / articles.

Madhu K. Nair [24th September 2012]

A Team Leader

A day – I am too much perturbed seeing the way things are conducted or executed or communicated. I myself am at a loss to pinpoint where I made my mistakes. Did I ever try to live on some imaginary laurels that I presume that people showered on me?? At least I don’t think I ever tried to live on such laurels – many of which I don’t even take seriously. Anyhow have to live it out…for good or for bad…whatever.

I decided to put down whatever I perceive is the right path…if it ever help any one person even to say “Oh, it really helped”…I would be a satisfied person.

I remember I read somewhere in my teenage “some people are born great; some achieve greatness; some have greatness thrust upon them”. I don’t know why at the beginning it self this phrase came to my mind…may be it may have some relevance as I scribble through the end.

A leader is the one who is self-made; not born. One who have the desire and willpower or commitment, can only become an effective leader. Such leaders develop themselves through a never-ending process of self-study, self-education, and experience.

To inspire your junior colleagues and workers into better teamwork, there are certain things you must know and do. These do not come naturally, but need to be acquired through constant work and study. Good team-leaders always improve their leadership skills by studying contemporary happenings in their respective fields; leaders just cannot afford to rest on their laurels.

At the end of the day it is, generally, a common goal, which is required to be achieved through a group of people. You may call them employees, colleagues, workers, family members or whatever. But they need to be educated, inspired, motivated and guided to achieve this common goal, which happens to be the prime duty of a leader.

Please be mindful that one can’t ever call him/herself a leader by force. Leadership is, in addition to other qualities, all about explaining, coaxing, cajoling, shouting and still bringing a consensus in the approach. When all of the above fail, comes punishment.

As the responsible head, you must know your job and should have good familiarity with the tasks entrusted with the employees. When your sub-ordinates approach with a problem, you are duty-bound to solve it by your own means or means you take from others. Many a times it may seem silly problem to you; but you should understand that as long as it is beyond his understanding and solving capacities he would not have come to you at all – unless, of course, he is an idiot. If he is one, then the problem again lies at your doorstep because you failed to understand the real individual and deal with him suitably in time.

Leaders should realise that lieutenants are to be handled delicately; so are colleagues as well as customers. In industries that are generally categorized under un-organised sector ‘HANDLING’ of issues related to anything and everything is done with absolute care.

Also, a point to be noted is that it is not the leader himself or his bosses who determines if he – “the leader” – is successful. To be successful one has to convince your lower order that your ideas and suggestions are worthy of being taken up and they themselves are in the hands of an able leader. I don’t need to emphasize again and again that the leader’s success primarily lies in the hands of his lieutenants.

Before one takes judgmental position, for God sake, peep into one’s self whether or not he / she is fit enough to make a judgment. More over, before even we talk about punishment, throwing away, kicking out etc…think. Did you ever tried to guide or mould the individual? If the answer is a ‘NO’ then one doesn’t have the right to punish either.

When things go wrong – that can happen at times – stop blaming others immediately. Try to understand the subject in its entirety before even thinking loudly. Try and analyse the mistake, and keep moving to your next activity. I see – many times – dissecting, passing the buck, trying to find out who is the culprit etc. etc. But the head has to realise that – at the end of the day – the buck stops at his table.

If the leader has to stay put as the leader with wider acceptance he should have at least (i) timely decision making habits, (ii) timely problem solving techniques, and (iii) above all good planning skills.

Just hearing does not help; one needs to see also to learn things. So, you will have to set some examples at least for the rest to follow. Also, one has to know the people under him thoroughly i.e. attitudes, capacities, and their motivation levels etc., without which the leader will remain a leader on paper only. More importantly, ensure that your colleagues understood what you want and also make sure that they have everything that is needed to accomplish what you want.

Remember one thing, ‘Without trusted lieutenants a leader can be only a leader in paper’ so giving a pat on the back once in a while to someone who has done above average expectation won’t harm your prospects.

Needless to say, as a leader it is your prime duty to make process improvements that eventually helps you in maintaining quality, increasing production etc.

There is a very old saying, which is truly apt for any leader –

When the going gets tough; the tough gets going”…. I don’t remember whose words it is, but I do know one thing that there is no other motivational caption to a real leader which is comparable

 Madhu K. Nair [5th December…8th December 2008]

A Sense of Giving

Of late, giving has become a big business for many – be it corporates or individuals; but the whole concept of giving has fallen into different nomenclatures. If some give away for the sheer pleasure of giving, some give it for name and fame; others give for deriving commercial benefits in a different way. Once we back away from the commercial aspect, what comes to mind? Could it be that people are spending a fortune on gifting which also is giving ‘for some’ and still missing the purpose?
Some wise man once said; “He is more happy while giving than while receiving.” I am left wondering what kind of giving should be termed as the most valuable. What kind of giving can really produce that deep sense of fulfillment that eclipses even the receiving?
Each of us should be coming across with people who while giving will invariably ask, “Does it give tax benefits”? While some look for tax benefits, there are others who will say “hamara kya fayada”? and a few “where I will be seated in the function or how prominently my name will appear in the media”? To me all these question means, decide the benefit it brings which will decide how much to give.
The kind of giving that provides real value need not be put “on sale” at the end of the year while computations are on. In fact, these giving need not be “gift-wrapped” because the fundamental concept of giving should not – in a way – be commercialized.
Consider a few avenues that can bring a real sense of joy out of giving rather than wrapping on the sleeve that “I gave”. It is not the size of giving that matters; it should wear the label of sincerity, respect for the cause, the openness with which it is given, concern for the cause that made our mind into giving, the enthusiasm we display while giving, the kind of assistance the giving will give the recipient AND the time at which the needy received the giving.
What do all these different ways to give have in common? They all come from the heart. This is the true essence of giving. When you give from your heart, you put yourself in line to experience a deeply rewarding truth. There really is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.
Madhu K. Nair [17th February 2013]

A Manager in its true sense!!!!

Are we doing certain things or taking certain decisions only because that is the way it is commonly done or practiced? Think!! It need not be a right decision or action appropriate to your circumstances. That is why elders always say, “A successful Manager in nine projects need not be a successful one in tenth”. Also, some great person said “A MANAGER should be the person who can foresee and make sensible deviations to the conventional practices” – the one who can climb the career ladder and remain consistently successful in whatever he / she does.

An idea of doing certain things in a particular way as is commonly practiced need not be correct or appropriate for everyone who is doing the same thing elsewhere. It is for us to examine, analyse, understand and then come to a decision as to what style is right for us in the given circumstances. Many may be doing the same thing in a different way; and ‘many’ others may follow the same style. That doesn’t make that procedure a right one for us. For us the right decision or procedure means that which fits into our scheme of things which is generally governed by (i) location (ii) the quality of men and machines we have (iii) the financial situation we are in (iv) the commitment level of our people and associates (v) kind of customers we are dealing and how demanding they are (vi) and above all how much the individual’s feeling of accomplishment matters to him / her. All the above, according to me should play an important role when we decide to move a bit away from the conventional practices.

So, in short, I would be dead against the person who will try to convince me that “because such and such thing is carried out in this manner by many or all contemporaries” we have taken this decision. Rather we have to take very conscious decision of our own to work out a procedure that will match our activity and organisation. Of course, before taking such a firm decision we should deliberate among ourselves as to (i) what could be the consequences of such a decision – whether positive or negative? (ii) Does it undercut any of the critical parameters that are laid down by ourselves / customers (iii) the best and worst outcome of such a decision. Ask ourselves “are we in a capacity to face both the situation, are we confident enough to take ‘U’ turn and follow the time tested path and still reach the destination in reasonable time without incurring much damages in case of stumbling blocks in the taken decision?” If the answer is ‘Yes’ convince your fellow-mates or higher-ups and go ahead and try it. And if successful, it can give you a very positive hard kick to your thinking prowess and a shot in the arm in for your future decision-making. However, you need to convince the people who matter about your unconventional decision and also take them into confidence.

If the answer is “No” do not take that decision on your own and wait for an appropriate forum that will support your thought and then go after it. I know that it is not always that easy to take decisions that don’t fit into the general scheme of things. And many around you can even dissuade you from taking such decisions because “why to take the unexplored path” attitude.

Extra-ordinary decisions make you an extra-ordinary person. And extra-ordinary decisions can either pull you or push you. Here I think, if one can communicate to those around about the reasons why he thinks that he should be applying a particular theory in a particular fashion (which may not be conventional practice) and convince them (instead of saying “I am telling and you have to do”) you will be garnering support from all quarters.

This, I think, can be achieved by displaying maturity, coolness, ability to derive consensus, bit of tolerance and explain them why one is inclined to take this decision in a particular way.

In spite of all these if one find resistance to such new ideas, one can overrule the resistance and go ahead; but he should be fully aware that there would be those conservatives who would want to see you failing.

[Madhu K. Nair – 28th October 2011]