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Federer : Insight into his resurgence

Not a single Grand Slam. 2013 to 2016, four long years. And now, two out of two – the Australian Open and Wimbledon. How did Roger Federer turn things around? Here is what seems to have helped : an involuntary break caused by a knee injury and subsequent surgery. It was not by design that Federer took time off.  But the break helped. The body got enough time to regather its vitality. The mind was sharp as ever. And the spirit was willing. Re-energized like never before, Federer defeated Nadal and won the Australian. The win made him realize the value of his break. So much so, he skipped the French, was fresh and raring to go at Wimbledon; and won it without dropping a set! In the post-match speech and interview, Federer has announced plans to take a longish break once again. At soon-to-be 36, he has decided to conserve his energy for the big ones – the surfaces that suit his style and are easier on his ageing body ( that rules out the French Open). So, he…

Aiming for team excellence? Make yourself dispensable as team-leader.

You are a fast-rising team leader intent on learning strategy & the big picture. You get feedback that you need to focus on helping team members get better at operations. How does that feel? A bit frustrating, of course.  It is like halfway up the mountain, you are looking at the summit, charting your own route and then, you are asked to retrace your steps and climb down to base-camp. Is there something you can do, something different? Yes, you can. Be strategic about the whole thing itself. Yes, you are asked to work on tactical excellence by helping your team members. But no, you need not get tactical in your approach. Be strategic. Create an elaborate & systematic plan of action.  How? Tactical is doing things one at a time with each member. Believing that I have to myself sit down with each and help them learn the ropes. Strategic is refusing to accept that you have to do this all by yourself. Instead you ask, how can I get them to learn largely on their own? That does not mean…

Leadership this month – Heroes are not always right.

From the barber to the CEO, everyone in India loves to hold court on what ails Indian cricket. The latest news is that Anil Kumble, the coach & Virat Kohli, the captain do not see eye to eye. To make the two reconcile is not my task. That said, this is a great opportunity to ask – Are we as a society and a people also blind to how things are? How often do we believe that choices made by our heroes will always be right? In the case of the Tata Group, it was Ratan Tata himself who had a role in appointing Cryus Mistry as the chairman in the first place. Anybody disputes that? We all know how that turned out. In the case of the Indian cricket coach, it was the famed trio of Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly & VVS laxman who chose Anil Kumble. And things have apparently not turned out well on the internal harmony front. Now, who is going to challenge the cricketing pedigree of these legends ? Not me. And yet, going by…

Why clarifying stakeholder expectations matters to HR

Every organization talks about people being its most important asset. If they walk their talk, the HR ( Human Resources) function would also be the most important function. Why? because everybody assumes, HR -as the name suggests – is all about people. The reality is that HR is nowhere secure about it’s presence in the scheme of things. Clarifying stakeholder expectations is a good way to plot HR on the map. Here is a Q&A format exploration of the same. Have taken HR in the public sector as an example – with three primary stakeholders – employees, officers and unions. HR in A Public Sector Undertaking What is the Fundamental expectation of all stakeholders? Answer: Make it easy for us to perform our core task & validate the very reason why we exist. Why do the stakeholders expect this from HR? Answer: Human beings are the life-giving element of any enterprise. All capital,equipment & resources are deadwood unless human beings engineer sparks of performance by working together. HR as a function begins its work on this premise. This helps HR…

Movies : An iconic car chase scene

Explosive Action. Intense. Gritty. Peter Yates showcases it in the pulsating car-chase of ‘Bullitt’, the 1968 thriller. If action sucks us in, it has to be because tension has been built upto the moment of release. Most action movie plots shy away from building up tension for just one definitive release. They seek the safety of numbers; and insert scenes that are like short machine gun bursts. Build a little tension here, release; build some more, release; raise the stakes higher; and release again. James Bond movies fit the bill. Action movie buffs like that. To each his or her own. It is too formulaic for my liking. In Bullitt, Peter Yates, the director, does not do that. He builds up the tension for a whole hour into the movie. And how it works! At one level, the tension is built up on the level of the plot itself. Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen) is a lieutenant cop in charge of a witness-protection assignment over the weekend.  A legislator has roped Bullitt in for the task. The witness is going to make his political…

Ikiru : A movie for the cinephile

Most people like watching movies that entertain. A few are open to being more patient. These people will strive to engage with the movie on a deeper level, at least to begin with. Later on, it of course, pans out differently for different people. And the few who are in this category, make peace with that. If you are among this select few, you should surely watch Ikiru. And if death and the meaning of life as cinematic themes sit easy with you, you cannot miss Ikiru. It will be a movie you will cherish forever. So, what is Ikiru about? Ikiru means ‘to live’ in Japanese. The story is simple. A lifelong bureaucrat comes to know that he has cancer and has only 6 months or so to live. When death stares him in the face, he realizes he has never truly lived. Caught up in a system that has reduced him to being a cog in the wheel, the man, Kanji Watanabe wonders whether he will ever get a chance to do anything that makes him come alive before…

Thoughts on the TATA Group challenge

As a teenager, 23 years ago, I remember being struck by something unsual in the newspapers one day. All of them were carrying one single news story on their front page. It was the obituary of JRD Tata. And on the rest of the page, there were vignettes or anecdotes from JRD’s life. Usually, political icons got such coverage. Why such a coverage for an industrialist then, I asked myself.  As I read and devoured everything in multiple papers and magazines, I got my answer. JRD was so much more than an industrialist & a business leader. JRD showed how much a business can contribute to a nation and society if it is driven by values & enlightened leadership. In your teens, you are moved more by ideas of justice and equality than by those of making money. To know that a business can reconcile such values & make money was a revelation to me. Reading about JRD made such a huge impact then. As I read about what is happening at the TATA group now, I am not dismayed…

Leadership this month : Taking time-out

The volatile Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte was asked about his response in an anticipated meeting; should Barack Obama, the US president, talk about rampant human rights violations and extra-judicial killings under his regime. In his native tongue, he said he would call Obama, ‘son of a bitch’. Obama’s response? All he said was that given the less likelihood of a productive and constructive conversation, he would call off the meeting. Which he did. No grand riposte. No grand-standing as the President of the United States of America. The Srilankan cricket team won their Test cricket series against the mighty australians 3-0, a whitewash. In the process, Australia lost their Test no.1 ranking. The Australian cricket captain, Steve Smith was sent back to Australia during the one-day series on the grounds of rest and preparation for the upcoming South African series at home. Of course, the decision was criticised as a sign of weak leadership. How can the captain of a beleaguered team go home like that? Well, he did. Under new captain, David Warner, the Australians won the one-day series…

Living in the now : An everyday opportunity

Right next to the gate leading out of the renowned Yoga institute in Santacruz is this inscription, “Mindfulness is Yoga” It also urges us to close the gate as we walk out. A specific example indeed for being mindful. But, “what is being mindful?” I carried this thought along with me as I walked over the railway bridge and stood along a road on the Western side. I was now waiting to hail an autorickshaw. The words ‘living in the now’ had now hopped onto the mindful train of thought. So, now I started thinking, “What is living in the now?” I was getting late. A few autos were on their way. An ordinary moment became extraordinary in a flash, moments later. Why so? See if it makes sense to you. Yes, it may even seem nonsense. I experienced something for a few moments. Then, the mind took over and I found myself asking, ” Can you be in the moment without reaching out for the auto- in the mind?” That is, can I be completely content in the present moment without my mind…

The Olympics at Rio : Inspiring achievements

The curtains have fallen over the Rio Olympics. The applause is yet to die down. The adrenalin is still surging through my brain. After all, our mind can soak in the glory of sport even when the body is not in the contest. Which is what I experienced when the Brazilian volley ball players were on the gold medal podium. This is Rio. This is their home. And their anthem is being played. Can anything top this?! They are weeping tears of joy. Clutching each other. Hearts beating as one, and stuttering because the moment is one to die for. Who doesn’t know that feeling?! Everyone does. Each one of us who has played team sports has that one electrifying experience of a closely fought game, be it any sport. When we know the contest has chiselled something within us, something deep and lasting, that goes beyond the game. Call it Self-belief or the power of We or by any other name. It is near impossible to define it and no definition is required for those who have experienced it. All we can say is that, it…