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Greta Thunberg & Climate Change

The world converging around a conversation always presents a positive opportunity. Provided we truly reflect on what we are talking about and identify what really matters. There is so much of heated opinion about Greta Thunberg, the individual. Those happy that climate change has been thrust into global consciousness look at her as an environmental crusader. Those probing her credentials to speak about climate change look at her as a spokesperson for the privileged class who damage most the climate they supposedly want to protect. To focus on Greta Thunberg as an individual is to get stuck at the symbol. Consider what is at stake – the future of our planet. A hundred years from now, all the talk about Greta, the individual, is going to be a footnote in world history. What will be probed by discerning people looking back at our time is this – Amid all the talk, what was the action taken. Did communities and nations pick up the gauntlet and ask searching questions? Did people make the effort – to know and understand..to establish and…

Can Leaders be made to feel the pinch?

When business leaders prepare the world for tough decisions, their language says a lot. The choice of words, the metaphors they use, the imagery they put forth – everything seems carefully deliberated upon. So, you get a sense of the general consequence. It is left to each individual to infer what specifically the words of the leader could mean for her or him. Todays ET carries toughspeak by Cognizant CEO, Brian Humpries. Before I proceed, let me emphasise I am using the Cognizant CEO’s remarks as a reference point for my argument with neither indictment nor appreciation for Cognizant flowing out of my reflection. I fully respect that businesses have to remain viable to ensure livelihoods. Referring to the possibility of job cuts at Cognizant in the near future, Brian Humpries said, “I do not believe in death by a thousand cuts, I would rather pull the Band-Aid off and get it behind us and set the context as to why this is critical and fast-forward to the future.” Humpries painted a rich metapor on the organizational inflection point. His…

Three Great Movies For The Connoisseurs

Watching Cinema is an existential experience. What you make of it is upto you. There are tastes that cater to everybody across the spectrum. I enjoy great cinema though I don’t understand it in one go. Sometimes not even the second time. What stays with me is the feeling of having experienced something sublime and just out of reach; with the invitation to reach out more, to dive in deeper.  Foreign language cinema adds the allure of a different culture, a different worldview, a different time. And yet, there is a touch of the Universal and the Timeless that helps us forge a connection. Here are three movies – only for the connoisseurs. Those who can indulge the filmmaker, seek out the vision, and persevere for personal meaning. Once upon a time in Anatolia – The storyline is deceptively simple. A group of people are searching for a dead body along the Anatolian landscape. The murderers have confessed and all that remains is to pinpoint where they have buried their victim. The movie spans the entire night in which the…

The Peter Drucker Diary – Entry 5

The work of a genius or giant often presents an anomaly. Reverential regard obscures the real work. People know the name, but haven’t engaged with the work. In this series, we take one Peter Drucker quote or excerpt and seek to understand it. Entry 5 “Expect the job to provide stimulus only if you work on your own self-renewal, only if you create the excitement, the challenge, the transformation that makes an old job enriching over and over again”  A job, especially in the context of an organisation, is in place for producing consistent results as demanded by the nature of the task or the wish of the customer. This creates routine. Any routine becomes mindless after some point of time. People go through the motions and deliver the minimum acceptable results that bear the stamp of consistency. For the organisation, most such results are low-stakes and deemed acceptable; and so, everybody plays their part in the drift downwards towards mediocrity. Peter Drucker puts the onus for a positive handling of the situation on the job-holder. Do not expect the…

Virat Kohli : The tough and the warm actions

Yesterday, Virat Kohli during his batting innings, urged indian supporters to stop booing Steve Smith. Kohli encouraged them to applaud Smith instead. This action won Kohli a lot of appreciation. And rightly so. Thats how leaders are expected to be. During the 2017 India – Australia test series, Virat had accused Steve Smith and the Australian team of cheating when it came to using the DRS review system. At that time, because it became a ‘your word against mine’ scenario and also because the two cricketing boards had to protect the reputation of their national teams, we did not appraise Virat Kohli’s stand too well. The South African tour ball-tampering scandal rocked the cricketing world later on. The rest is well-known. My contention is Kohli’s action in confronting Smith and Australia then is equally deserving of the same appreciation that people showered on him when he urged supporters to move on and not hound Smith. To call a spade a spade. To do plainspeaking is also how leaders are expected to be. In organisations, we have many a leader who…

Why is empathy so hard to experience?

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the thoughts and feelings of another. Empathy is prescribed as an essential attribute for leaders and managers.  When you are able to understand and identify with the thoughts and feelings of the people you work with, you will succeed. Empathy is such a natural human response to life,why then is it prescribed? After all, nobody prescribes breathing as a way to live. We breathe on our own. And so do we empathise on our own, don’t we? We instantly empathise when a stranger on a train or a flight speaks about a recent bereavement. We maintain peace and quiet for a colleague hard at work, even though usually we like to ruffle their feathers; because we know that their next meeting could be career-defining. We can identify. We can relate. On the other hand, social life and work-progress is also based on moderating or disregarding empathy. A hard thing to accept, for sure! Our much loved team leader has fought hard at a meeting of higher-ups. He did his best for all…

The Peter Drucker Diary – Entry 4

The work of a genius or giant often presents an anomaly. Reverential regard obscures the real work. People know the name, but haven’t engaged with the work. In this series, we take one Peter Drucker quote or excerpt and seek to understand it. Entry 4 “Knowledge does not eliminate skill. On the contrary, knowledge is fast becoming the foundation of skill”                Knowledge and Skill get melded together in real life. Yet, when people reflect on both of them, they often make the error of looking at them in isolation. Focussing on one without considering the other often proves to be the undoing. Knowledge is ‘how things work’ The best management education provides knowledge, but if the skills of managing are not being practiced at the same time, this education is largely theoretical. Knowledge imparted without considering how it is going to be used ( skill) is like being given a manual without the real object. Management education is also received knowledge, handed down to us over the years. Real knowledge is created in…

LeaderPlay – Compensating for flawed employment

Sometimes, I believe that compensation is the perfect word for high salary packages. As leadership positions dwindle, how else can you compensate an ambitious performer who had been misled into believing he or she will be at the top of the heap one day. The unspoken truth about personal development within organisations is that the potential for self-growth for individuals working under the same setup for long is limited. There is no real exposure to the sheer range and diversity of the world outside. This exposure makes so much of a difference.You compensate the ambitious performer for not being able to provide them that; after all, you want your best racehorses cooped up in the stable. Funnily enough, the organisation can avoid this compensation by rethinking why it has to prevent employees from seeking substantive growth experiences elsewhere, if not outright multiple employment. And it is a win for the organisation as well. Enabling your employee to engage uninhibitedly with the world is the best engagement strategy one can think of. Universities who demand that full-time faculty also take on…

LeaderPlay – Are we truly developing high-potentials?

From the place I stay, there are two routes to reach a much frequented destination. 1- The Standard route ( shorter distance-wise, longer commuting time-wise) 2 – The Faster route ( longer distance-wise, shorter commuting time-wise) As is expected, the faster route is chosen. The other day, on Google Maps, for some reason, both routes showed the same estimated time. I still chose the so-called faster route. I believe most people would do that. Most Mumbaikars – as Mumbai residents are called – do the same thing when they are travelling by local trains. If the slow train is in front and the fast train is expected much later, they wait for the fast train even if both trains are expected to take the same time, or even if, the slow one is reaching earlier. Why? In their mind, people disregard the train waiting time and get a kick out of seeing the fast train breeze past the stations where it won’t make a halt. We let our minds trick us into feeling good! This got me thinking about the…

LeaderPlay – Turn your doubts into certainties and vice versa.

Leaders are given sensible advice. So sensible that the leader cannot think of it on her own. And if that be the case, perhaps, ‘sensible’ is not what leaders need. Just, maybe! What then? Out of inspiration or desperation, how can a leader break the monotony and gift herself something useful? How about an absurd idea, LeaderPlay as I call it. Start where you are as a leader, as a human being, really. LeaderPlay says, “Turn your doubts into certainties and your certainties into doubts.” We all have both – doubts and certainties. Leaders have them too – with higher stakes, that’s all. As a Leader, you doubt if you are a tolerable speaker. You have your doubts. You see, that is your problem. You are not 100% sure. And all along, you have been hiding and running away, not wanting to know. And you will do that till your dying day. Grab the next chance to speak. Be certain that you are awful in the eyes of the whole world. Congratulations! You have turned doubt into certainty. As a…