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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…

Leadership This Month : Missed Opportunities

Institutional Leaders with a historical legacy are faltering in the present. The International Olympic Association (IOC) & the Republican party establishment in the United States, in particular. The International Olympic Association (IOC) Russia, a sporting superpower was recently indicted in an independent anti-doping enquiry for establishment-backed doping by Russian athletes in the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, Russia. Imagine hosting the Oympics and playing dirty on the side to help your country athletes win. This goes against the very spirit of everything that the Olympics stands for. With the Rio Olympics so near, the IOC had to respond and act fast. What did it do? The bare minimum was to bar Russian track and field athletes from Rio 2016. And that it did, though even here, there is a provision to get them in. But the IOC did not impose a blanket ban on all Russian participation in Rio. A blanket ban would have sent a very strong, but much needed message to all member nations and their sports-establishments that the IOC is uncompromisingly committed in its fight against doping and any other…

Why Feedback falters

“So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work.” – Peter Drucker As a trainer, as you grow older, you may not become wiser. But you begin to think and wonder if you ever thought about things before! What was I thinking of when I asked people to use ‘sandwich technique’ for feedback years ago?! Praise first, Criticise again, End with Praise. Who was I kidding when I asked people to not focus on the person, but focus on the behaviour. That keeps it specific and makes a person less defensive, I said. Both are specific suggestions, much lauded. Both reduce things to a formula. And formulas and human interaction; never have the twain met! What is wrong with the ‘sandwich technique’?  As a feedback recipient, do you consider yourself a thinking person, someone who observes, learns and predicts? If you do, you know soon enough that here is a practiced technique on its way. Mechanical, contrived, and utterly predictable. And once you know what’s coming, you stop listening. I can very well…

Leader-ship : Lost at Sea

We live in a turbulent age. The democratic system of the world’s most powerful country, the United States, is being trumped up by a dangerous demagogue. A continental community ushered in to unite a continent ravaged by two world wars is being torn asunder. We have the highest ever number of refugees sequestered in camps because the countries they wish to enter have shut their doors on them. We have a terrorist group that wields state power in terms of – the territory it holds,the scale of violence it can unleash, and the identity it provides to its adherents. And we have a fragile environment that is breaking down to the point of no return, thanks to human depredations and excesses. First, the United States. To imagine Donald Trump having access to the nuclear button is a most fearful exercise. And this concerns the whole world, not just his country. The world’s most powerful democracy, the place where the world’s best intellects choose to live and work;  this very place has seen the rise of a dangerous and manipulative demagogue. The world’s…

Goals : Ain’t as simple as they look

Even after knowing how important goals are, we are none the wiser in our pursuit of them. We sit down with a blank piece of paper and ask, ‘ What is my goal?’. The simple assumption is that because we were not consciously having a goal, there was no goal in our life until that point. Goals & goal setting are multifaceted topics. They have many layers & multiple interpretations. Here are just two observations to get a handle on them. First, You are already pursuing a goal that you are unaware about. A more helpful way is to assume that my current reality is an outcome of an unarticulated goal.  Even if I knew nothing about goals in my life. For example, Ranbir Kapoor’s goal in the movie, ‘ Wake up Sid’ should he have articulated it was – live on my father’s money. I haven’t seen the movie, just a few scenes. In those scenes, I did not see him articulate that goal. It is not that he was living a goal-less life till he changes. The implicit goal…

Monday Morning Blues : Normal?

Monday Mornings If each day is a “gift”, I’d like to know where to return Mondays.                                                                       –  ( Put your name here) On Monday morning, you can’t hide it from yourself anymore. You are either happy to go to work or saying, ‘life sucks!’ And what is it you end up doing : look forward to the week-end. The ratio is 5:2. After five days of doing what you do not want to do in a place you do not want to be, you get two days to recover for the next five days of the same, old routine. And if your personal life is in shambles, you spend those two days seeing to it that is not going to pieces. There is no recovery, just damage-control. Am I painting too bleak a picture? I don’t think so. Here is the bleaker picture. You do not even know…

The Number One Reason a Successful Founder-Leader does not Invest in Learning & Development

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few                                                                                                                          –  Shunryu Suzuki If a successful founder-leader is not willing to invest in learning & development (L&D) even after the organization has a settled look, this unwillingness can be traced to one’s own life-experience. These leaders successfully built an organization from the bottom-up and a full-fledged L&D set-up had nothing to do with it. As a result, the leaders reason thus : “If I could learn by doing, isn’t that the best way to learn. The results are there for all to see. What is the need for L&D” Such founder-leaders miss two important points. First. As business founders, they were explorers in virgin territory that held all…

Conceptual juggling : What is the difference between ethics & integrity?

Integrity is being true to your word. Ethics is making sure of the moral worth of that word. Ethics tells us what is right/wrong & good/bad, but one has to stay on course ( be consistent) in living life one way or the other before we can reasonably evaluate the moral worth. This staying on course is achieved by living a life of integrity. In cricketing terms, a batsman needs to stay at the wicket for being able to affect the outcome. This staying at the wicket is integrity. The outcome, the moral worth is ethics. Integrity provides a sense of continuity/ permanence long enough for us to talk about ethics. Integrity does not determine the content of ethics. It keeps alive the process of adhering to ethics. An individual full of integrity can be a die-hard communist one day but may become an equally fervent capitalist the next day. Narayan Murthy was a socialist-sympathizer until he was arrested & detained without legalities in a communist country. His integrity stayed the same ( sameness of thought-word-action) but the content of…

Values & Culture v/s System & Process : Which one is more important?

As a part of a Whatsapp group, I was privy to this question : What is more important – values and culture or system and process? The drift of the conversation was towards most people feeling that values turned into behaviour that are embedded in a culture is a positive state of affairs than a system and process holding sway in an organization. This set me thinking on how they relate to each other. And here are my thoughts.  If you find people in an organization very empathetic/supportive & step out of the organization, you won’t find a concentration of people exhibiting the same behaviours across the street. The dichotomy of values/culture v/s system/process is conceptual, not real. In creating a new set-up, we can make a cognitive beginning with one or the other. In an existing concern, it becomes a chicken & egg story as both values/culture & system/processes end up getting transmuted into each other all the time. The empathetic/supportive behaviour in an established organization is a systemic attribute, not depending on specific individuals. It is a good thing…