Sunday, February 27, 2011

Monday Musings 115- Prisions of a one kind

115- Prisions of one kind
In the course of my day to day work, I meet a variety of managers and leaders – some who have already made a mark on the corporate scene and some aspiring to do so. It is now my secret passion to figure out, what makes them tick; what is that drives them on a daily basis. Behind the story of achieving targets, meeting objectives and chasing vision documents, is the story of a human being driven by unique and personal motives. Often that is their greatest strengths and ironically also their Achilles-heel.
A lot of them are driven by the search of power and others by glory; some need to be in the limelight continuously, others need to continuously prove that they are good, so on and so forth. More often than not, these motives are hidden deep within their consciousness – and as psychologists would argue, a result of complex interplay of socio-cultural background, family histories, relationship with authority figures in life and finally the influences of the way their own lives have been lived. It is also a case quite often that they themselves are completely unaware of these motives and hence behave, relate to peers, subordinates & supervisors, governed by these influences completely unmindful of the origins of their behaviour and therefore its consequences.
Each one of these motives determine the way these managers/leaders relate to the people they work with – some with pleasant outcomes but mostly with horrific endings. The ones driven with power are control freaks and will lose their sanity the moment things do not follow a prescribed script, often their own. They treat their views/wishes/instructions as gospel whose non-adherence will cause the scorn of the Gods and fury of demons. They may or may not be well meaning, but the affect on their peers/subordinates is equally debilitating and distressing. Those who need the limelight continuously will parasitically wear away their team members. Needlessly to say that the above two types, talented or otherwise are the greatest threats to functional teams because sooner or later their self interests will become larger than the interests of the teams they work with or lead.
No one of us is free from the influences that I shared earlier and hence there is a strong possibility that each one of is driven by one or more of these factors. So where does redemption lie? As I see it, liberation and redemption lies in AWARENESS. Do we really know what is driving us and hence do we know how far we are willing to go to fulfil these drives? Do we know what kind of debris we leave behind as we interact with our team members and for what reasons? Do we know our blind spots? Great managers are AWARE of these and are able to selectively leverage their drives basis situations and avoid being driven by them. They have access to the deepest recesses of their minds and its motivations-in a way that THEY are in the driving seat of their behaviour with others. At no point they allow themselves to become prisoners of their own psychological needs – of power, glory, attention or others. I am convinced that only an aware manager can be great manager.
Kabeer says:
Maala Pherat Jug Bhaya, Mita Na Man Ka Pher
Kar Ka Manka Chhor De, Man Ka Manka Pher
(Eons have passed whirling rosary, confusion/complexity of the mind remains
Give up the beads of rosary and rotate the beads of mind)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

114- Three Cheers for the small-towners

114- Three Cheers for the small-towners
I visited Ranchi and Bhubaneswar last week almost after a decade, two erstwhile small towns/cities, but now pulsating capitals to their respective states. Both these cities are close to my heart for very special reasons. Ranchi, the capital to my home state, was the one where I entered a cinema hall for the first time in the course of a sport tour, as a gawky and clumsy teenager of 14 and completely fell head over heels with Bhagyashree crooning ‘kabootar ja ja ja’ in Maine Pyaar kia (how appropriate). Bhubaneswar, the capita and almost twin city to Cuttack where I first went to college and started a fairly long journey in various hostels, that would culminate many years later as a coming of age experience for the proverbial small town boy.
A dance troop performed during the course of the award function in Bhubaneswar, the leading lady, clearly no more than twenty, dressed suitably and therefore provocatively for the latest chartbusters she was performing on, left me impressed and surprised. Two decades earlier it was unthinkable that the sleepy town could boast of such confidence in a young girl to perform on stage on numbers like Sheela & Munni. I have come back sure about a few things.
The first and clearly the most importantly, small town India is no longer small town in the traditional sense of the word. It is more confident in its own skin, more comfortable in chasing its own dreams, more sure about what it wants and absolutely unhesitant in the audacity of its choices. The talent is more visible and the  is unabashed in its desire to beat the big-city folks in their own game. If India story is a vehicle, its engines lie in the pulsating aspirations of the young adults its dusty towns and muffsils.
I can immediately connect the dots with so many more trends in so many more fields around me that lend credence to this phenomenon (and yes it’s nothing less than a phenomenon). Cricket is dominated by players from small town India. More small towners qualify for Medicine, Engineering and Civil services than ever before. A whole new generation of film makers and actors are making the new wave cinema – a bastion for the urban elite for long.(Vishal Bhardwaaj is from Meerut, and R Gupta of No One Killed Jessica is from Hazaribagh, so on and so forth).
So what is driving all this? First I believe the small towners are hungrier for success and glory. Having struggled for means and opportunity they are more hardened to deal with the vicissitudes of life. Their aspirations have stronger wings as they have no backups. Success actually is not an option for them – its survival. Second I believe they have a natural advantage because of their roots. They are more closely connected to the pulse of new India. Irrespective of their professions, they can connect better with the larger market that is India for the various products/services they are creating or selling. There is less likelihood if their living in a make believe artificial world far removed from reality. There is a natural ability to connect with real masses with real concerns.
There is much more that can be elaborated on this. At this stage, suffice it to say, if my generation in some sense wanted to break free of the small town mould, then the new small towners want to script their successes within the mould that they are in. Three cheers to the small towners. I can assure you, this is not the last we have heard of them. Watch out.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

113-Connecting the dots

113-Connecting the dots
Some argue that randomness is the order of the world. Others believe that everything around us seems to be happening of its own accord, preordained in a very prophetic sense. I am neither a philosopher nor a scientist and hence generally averse to be caught in this cross fire but the question is surely attractive enough to merit a thought. So as a river-raft, negotiating with treacherous  currents and rapids of life, which is like moving from one milestone on a long highway to the next, I cannot help but ask myself is there a pattern to this all.
I am quite intrigued generally by the possibility of a pattern to things that happen to us. Our random stories have familiar patterns – of happiness, of grief, of bereavement, of regret, of pain, of longing so on and so forth. When events do happen to us, either triggered by our own actions or as random consequences triggered by the actions of others, we are left either surprised or flummoxed with the question – ‘’Why me?’’ or do we take it genuinely in our stride with equanimity of spirit. Do we search for conspiracy theories in the universe, attributing mala-fide intentions to the authorities who are tasked with the running of destiny or do we curse luck for having handed us bad cards.
Do we connect the dots generally? Do we see a grander design in the way our lives have unravelled? Do we see a larger pattern in our work? I remember an old story as I ponder over this question. A man was passing by three workers working on a construction site and asked three workers as to what they were doing. The first one replies ‘I am laying bricks’. The next one says ‘I am erecting a wall’. The third one says ‘I am constructing a beautiful memorial’. I am sure you know which one has a better chance of being happy. The story has stayed with me over the years and I ask myself almost on a daily basis ‘Am I laying bricks or am I truly constructing a beautiful memorial?’
Almost on a daily basis I see young managers, who are driven with energy and blessed with talent, but singularly incapable of connecting the dots. There is no sense of perspective of things, of figuring out with modicum of maturity where to put a particular thing/question/event lies in the grander scheme of things – either becoming fussy over  inconsequential tit-bits or completely ignoring the large rocks. What a colossal waste of life! Over time their success and happiness will hang precariously on correcting this inability.
I fail to connect the dots as much as I am able to do that. I hope the ratio improves over time.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

112- Monday Musings: Of personal victories

112- Monday Musings: Of personal victories
As the sun sets on the horizon of a lifetime, I would want to believe that the personal victories are the ones that one remembers and by implication are the ones that would matter. The stores of great men are often stories of adversity. In fact all the great men and women of the times gone by, who have ensured their mention in the league of all time great, seem to have overcome some adversity or the other, mostly extremely personal. So whether it be a debilitating stammer, or personal family tragedy or morbidity of some kind or the other, or a background of extremely humble origins, it seems that personal battles have been the subtext of all the saga of greatness that we recognise today as inspirational or motivational. If there is man who inspires you to go beyond your means, uplifts you beyond your limited means, there cannot be the mention of adversity far behind.
But we lead normal lives. I cannot chose penury today and hope to overcome it in the search of greatness or wish for a disease or disorder or limitation that will provide fodder for my aspirations and wings for my greatness. Where does that leave the need for personal victories?
Here is my take on it. Let’s do something new, something which is so fundamentally against our natural grain, that the mere act of doing it is some sort of a battle – and mastering it is nothing short of a personal victory. Ideally this something can be what we enjoy. Lets learn a new language, a new art or a new craft, a new hobby – art, poetry, prose, literature of any kind, lets watch 100 best movies of all times, pick up one theme and become some sort of a master in it; learn a new sport that we always wanted to, run long distances, enrol in dance classes or something else which is wacky and crazy – but something that makes us do something fundamentally against our basic comfort. The act of doing it and doing it successfully is a personal victory.
Nothing replenishes the fountain of confidence more than one such pursuit chased enough to provide some level of adeptness. I remember reading about a gentlemen who used to pick up one new hobby every three years- logic being that it takes at least 3 years for acquiring some level of expertise. At the end of three years, it was time to move on.
I have been generally enthralled by the sheer prospect of experimenting with one new pursuit every few years, though my performance with this resolution has been rather unsatisfactory. But whenever I have picked up a new pursuit and treated it with a certain level of fidelity, I have felt extremely good about myself. The spring in my feet could not have been an outcome of anything else but by the buoyancy only personal victory could provide.