Tag Archives: leadership

Building a Culture of Learning and Engagement – Part 2

Continuing with the ideas I had shared in my previous post, Building a Culture of Learning and Engagement, we need to find processes for learning and engagement that engage the mind-body-spirit of our employees. This would help to make employee engagement not just an intervention but a way of life in our organizations.

I received some excellent comments from readers to that post, and now I’m sharing some ways in which I believe we can achieve our goal:

        1. Creating a purpose driven work-force
        2. Including conversational processes in Learning
        3. Having a ‘Jugnu’ approach
      1. Creating a purpose driven work-force: Purpose can be described as the reason for our existence. Organizations are not always purpose driven but they are definitely vision driven and have clear goals and strategies. As part of alignment, we do help people see how the organizational vision connects to their role.Suppose we flip this approach. Supposing we start with each employee instead. Get each employee to identify their personal purpose and values – what matters to them – why do they exist – what makes them wake up with a spring in their step – what makes their eyes shine? Questions that perhaps they have never considered.Jobs don’t really require an answer to these, do they? Yet, a purpose statement helps us to understand the reason we exist, live and work. If we facilitate this discovery for employees, we build a sense of confidence and self-discovery in them. Only then should we link it with their organizational roles and the vision of the organization. We at Pragati Leadership strongly believe that this would enable a realizing of potential and power within people and they would then be able to be better engaged and involved with themselves and the organization. If I don’t understand myself and what I want, how will I understand what the organization aspires to achieve and my role in the same?Giving people the freedom, resources and autonomy to be able to pursue their personal purpose at work (along with their organizational role) would help to bring out both positive energy and involvement. Hindustan Petroleum has done this in a remarkable way with great success.
      2. Including Conversational Processes in Learning: Most of our OD and HR interventions are highly structured and well planned. They enable sharing of knowledge and building of skills.Yet it is informal conversations that lead to collaboration, connection and co-creation. Informal conversations lead to sharing of ideas, best practices and innovation. Organizations need to create spaces and forums to operationalize this. Two such conversational processes are: Open Space Technology (OST) and World Cafe. What is common among both of these is that a theme is chosen and people voluntarily sign up for areas or issues they are passionate about. This leads to learning and passionate ownership of actions. Many companies have experimented with regular monthly or quarterly forums where OST is introduced to employees . This has led to new ideas being generated, and more importantly,  people coming forward voluntarily to take responsibility for their implementation. These processes are sustainable, cost effective and require no external intervention. These are critical ongoing OD interventions that can build engagement and learning.
      3. Having a Jugnu Approach: The word ‘Jugnu’ means ‘fireflies’. Fireflies glow in the dark. Where there is darkness, they show the light. In an organizational context, Jugnus refers to those people who show more learning luminosity than others. In order to enhance the vibrancy, learning and luminosity of an organization, the HR/L&OD team can identify a cadre of employees called ‘Jugnus’ or ‘I-Catalysts’. These are people who are internal change agents for learning and engagement. They are naturally interested in sharing, learning, have a positive and optimistic approach and are natural communicators and magnets for others. These people can be identified through seeking nominations and selected using a check-list. With some degree of I-Catalyst training, they can become the extended arm of HR/L & D in order to catalyze learning among employees. I-Catalysts would typically be line managers .They would help to promote learning among employees by organizing and facilitating informal learning e.g. brown bag workshops, best practice sharing, debates, peer assist sessions, films, storytelling etc. Research has shown that the trend in learning is that organizations are moving away from formal training to informal learning where they don’t need to be in a classroom for picking up new skills etc. I-Catalysts can spearhead this process of informal learning within the organization.

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Photo credit: pareeerica via Foter.com/ CC BY-NC

When a culture of purpose, conversation and learning gets created, it automatically leads to greater employee engagement and involvement. People’s strengths and talents are used better. There is higher ideation and innovation. People meet across departments and silos and there is a naturally higher collaboration. There is less fear and more joy. More importantly employee engagement is no longer an HR intervention, rather it becomes each person’s priority. When this happens, the goal of the HR department has truly been achieved.

Are some of these ideas adopted at your organization? I would love to hear readers’ experiences and share knowledge so that we all learn and grow.

by Anu Wakhlu

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How Mindfulness Benefits Business

A few days after I had conducted a workshop on “Mindfulness for Excellence” for the Top Sales Leaders in an IT Company, I ran into one of the participants at the Pune airport. He was enthusiastic  about the huge benefits that come from being present to our innermost core of Awareness.

I asked him what he specifically found to be of value, and he shared some thoughts. He said he had evolved to be:

  • More conscious of  his surroundings, other people and  opportunities to serve
  • More relaxed, energized, inspired  and healthy
  • Clearer in  thought leading to more creative and agile decision making
  • More Confident  and Present ; and
  • Better in interpersonal relations.

The beauty about meditation is that only one single practice yields  these all-round results. You don’t need to follow separate courses of action for achieving them.

This is not surprising, considering that the most important instrument available to Leaders is the Mind.  The Mind  mediates everything that the person aspires for, perceives, feels, acts on, and achieves. It determines the quality of decision making, the person’s enthusiasm, his or her concern for others, oneself and the environment.

The mind provides the larger context  and purpose for the work of all Leaders. The quality of their thoughts and affects what they  create. The Mind is the foundation for all of life….the wellspring of all that happens or does not happen. The “collective mind” shapes the destiny of organisations and nations.

The true work of a Leader is to shape the minds of followers.

You can lead  others only  if you lead  their thought processes.

It is impossible to lead other peoples’ thought processes if one cannot govern one’s own!

Meditation and Mindfulness  enable the Leader to access a deeper Awareness which is beyond the mind. This leads to a spontaneous improvement in many dimensions of life. By paying attention to what is happening in the now, the quality of ones responses are more appropriate and creative. On days that I meditate in the morning, I find my work moving faster, with less distractions , and my interactions with people are far more joyful and easy.

There is a huge amount of research on the benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation. Even as I was writing this piece, an article on the Business Value of Mindfulness came into my Inbox!  Companies like Google have started using Yoga  and Meditation to increase productivity.  The evidence is loud and clear.

When Pragati Leadership talked of Meditation for Leaders 27 years ago, many eyebrows would rise. Today, there is ample research evidence to show that it makes practical business sense.

Considering that Joy, Peace and Freedom is what man’s search is all about, Meditation simply says you can BE all these right now. And this makes huge personal and business sense.

Perhaps, communing with the Timeless is the best investment of 20 minutes of my time.

by Arun Wakhlu

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Carpe Diem Mumbai 2015- Highlights

At Pragati Leadership’s flagship annual event, Carpe Diem, the first speaker was James Brook, Co-Founder and MD, Strengths Partnership. James spoke on the “Strengths Based Approach to Leadership”.

Mr. Brook began his talk with thoughts on the strengths based approach to leadership development, and how it challenges the traditional assumptions of leadership. He pointed out that organizations are investing so much into leadership development, that when combined, these investments equal the GDP of a small country. Yet there are not many promising leaders out there today. This is because employee engagement is deteriorating.  An indicator of failed leadership would be the many scandals that are unearthed regularly. There is a lack of longevity in the process of leadership. All this suggests that the development is not working in the right direction.

James BrookHe went on to question the audience:  ‘Is it necessary for a leader to be well rounded?’ and ‘What makes a good leader?’

He threw light on these issues by saying that it is not necessary for leaders to be well rounded. Effective leaders like Steve Jobs for example focus on their key strengths and work on them. Not all leaders have the same strengths, but the best ones build on their strengths and conquer their weaknesses to move forward.

He went on to discuss whether leaders are always right and do they know it all, then went further to say that this is not mandatory. A good leader is someone who appreciates and inculcates the importance of strengths, gives direction, goes beyond the usual and engages every team member.

From a psychology perspective, he shared that strengths are innate and developed mostly during childhood but behavior is something that can be learned and implemented strategically.

He also spoke of two very important qualities of a leader:

In conclusion he emphasized  that stretching strengths beyond the comfort zone will help a person to grow.

The second speaker, Arun Wakhlu (Founder and Executive Chairman, Pragati Leadership) spoke about “Exploring the Core Strength of Wholesome Leadership™”.

He commenced the session with his trademark ‘Namaste’, a traditional India greeting. He went on to emphasize the importance of understanding the kind of leadership that is needed for the good of the world, and the dangers facing the world not getting the necessary attention.

Arun Wakhlu“What kind of leaders, are needed to create a truly progressive world?” He questioned.

Arun went on to share that leaders who can inspire and energize, those who are fueled on passion and energy are needed. The one thing that is not given importance, is our strengths, this is the missing element that hinders our productivity on the path of Wholesome Leadership™. Two things that need focus are Context, ie., running a business holistically and looking at the bigger picture. The second is Consciousness, ie., living in the moment, taking each day and each opportunity, one at a time. It is pointless carrying the baggage of the past and anticipating the future, for our actions are determined on the basis of how we see things.

Arun raised the question “What are the effects of this ‘baggage’ on productivity?”.  A general consensus among the members of the audience was that it caused loss of energy, time and positivity.

Arun said that this realization would result in the leader being on fire! He went on to question, “Is it possible to put others on fire if you yourself aren’t on fire? There is no vitality in the motivation of others if you aren’t motivated yourself. Looking at it from the outside will lead to freedom and clarity of thought which in turn would lead to thriving innovation.”

According to him the problem lies in the attitude. He said, “there is no focus on, or nurturing of, strengths. Negative qualities are given more attention. Awareness which is ignored, is the deepest level of consciousness.”

He stressed on the concept of “Carpe Diem”, seizing the day.  “Seize the day” he said “as you never know what can happen to you tomorrow. “

He left the audience pondering with the parting thought, “It is all about taking calculated risks.”

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A Journey: From Street Child to Published Author, World Traveler

Amin Sheikh, Published Author

Amin Sheikh, Published Author

I recently got the opportunity to interview three leaders. As expected, each is a unique individual. However at heart, they are alike. One of these leaders is Mr. Amin Sheikh. The following is an account of our chat.

His hundred watt smile painted a happy picture, but as our conversation wore on, I learnt so much about Amin, some incidents tore me up while some made me laugh. His life story is no less than a movie screenplay, unfortunately it is very real.

At the age of 5, Amin was living in a slum with his temperamental mother, abusive step father and 2 younger sisters; he was forced to work in order to supplement the household income. He did so by working at a tea stall ferrying cups of tea back and forth between the stall and the customers. The tea stall owner too was temperamental and soon Amin learnt not to do anything that could instigate his anger. One day while delivering tea to a nearby factory, Amin tripped and fell, bringing the cups crashing down and smashing them to bits. In a moment of sheer panic, the innocent 5 year old decided it would be best to run; for returning to the stall meant he would be taken to task. He ran for a long time without looking back. That night, he slept at a railway station.

He continued to live at the railway station for 3 years and learned to beg or steal food. He also learnt how to fend for himself through few small tricks to sell things (such as a comb) or services (shoe shine). Amin tried returning home a few times but the abusive step father combined with a taste of the “free” life, as he calls it, prompted him to leave home each time. He made friends at the railway station and also travelled the length and breadth of the country free of cost, on the trains.

In those 3 years Amin faced the worst possible situations, physical and sexual abuse, forced drug abuse, instability, and many other atrocities. This also ensured that he lost his innocence at the age of 8 and was a cynic.  When Sister Seraphine of Snehasadan came to rescue him for the first time, he didn’t trust her and  in fact, pelted her with objects so that she would leave. However, fate was smiling kindly upon the boy and  Sister Seraphine persisted. A few days later, Amin went to live at Snehasadan.  He lived there for 8 whole years, and these were the most enjoyable and beautiful years of his life. There were hardships, there were rules, there were studies (which he disliked) and there was a time when he ran away even from Snehasadan, but he came back in a few days’ time.

Amin believes he first met angels at Snehasadan, they saved him and turned his life around. He went on to work with a newspaper vendor, then owned his own newspaper stalls and also washed cars for a living. With time, Amin saved up some money and learnt to drive, he also obtained a driver’s license. One day, one of his angels, Father Placie asked Amin to meet him at his office.

Father Placie told Amin about an employment opportunity with a man named Eustace Fernandes who needed a full time driver. Amin took up the opportunity without hesitation. His first impression on entering the house of Mr. Fernandes was that he had only seen something like this in the movies they showed at Snehasadan. Never before had he seen a more beautiful house and one so large. There were so many things, each with their own place, everything was clean and vibrant. Mr. Fernandes immediately hired him. Amin later learnt that Mr. Fernandes was a renowned artist, creator of the mascot for an extremely well known Indian dairy brand. He had a lot of visitors each day, friends and others. It was a lively home and slowly Amin became his man Friday.

Amin spent many years in the service of Mr. Fernandes and during these years he learnt English, and also received help from Mr. Fernandes to start his own transportation business. However, his calling came as a present, on Christmas day in the year 2002.

On being asked by Mr. Fernandes what he wanted for Christmas, Amin timidly asked if he could go along with him to Barcelona, where Mr. Fernandes’ sister lived and who he visited regularly. Mr. Fernandes thought it over and finally agreed.  In April, 2003 they flew to Barcelona for a vacation that lasted a month and half. Amin has flown to Barcelona and many other European cities since that first trip in 2003.

Amin Sheikh, the boy who ran away from his home in a slum at the age of 5 is now a proud owner of his own business, he owns 2 homes in Mumbai (one for his his mother and sisters; one where he lives by himself), he is a published author, having written his illustrated autobiography. His book has been translated into multiple languages such as Hindi, Marathi and French. Soon it is expected to release in 2 other foreign languages.

Amin has friends all over the world who help him on his journey to achieve his dream of providing employment to the underprivileged youth in Mumbai. He plans to open a café in Mumbai, through which he would like to connect these youth with the right employment opportunities. He is currently raising funds for this project. Through this café, he also wants to create a haven of equality where the homeless can be served along with other customers.

A leader in his own right, Amin has turned his life around, and wants to work towards helping other less fortunate souls who go unnoticed by most. His dream he says, is to change the life of at least one street child in his lifetime.

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Developing a Second Line of Leadership

Leadership is ultimately about developing other leaders. There are many qualities of leadership that we seek in our leaders that are highly valued e.g. Integrity, Business Acumen, Power of Vision etc. These are certainly important. However the primary task of leadership is to develop other leaders and therefore build organization capability for the present and the future.

The role of a leader is to create successors for their role and that of other critical roles in the organization. However, in most cases this is the one aspect of the leadership role that receives inadequate attention. At the organizational level too, this remains an area of challenge.  In a recent study conducted by Bersin and Associates for over 700 Human Resource and Learning and Development Managers- the number one challenge they all stated was “filling gaps in the leadership pipeline.” And yet there is overwhelming evidence that organizations who have a depth of leadership deliver better business results! In another study conducted by Hewitt Associates (TCFL – Top Companies for Leaders study), a clear co-relation was identified between building leaders and achieving significant business targets.

Companies are realizing that building leaders and developing potential successors for critical roles in the organization is of strategic importance for the organization’s growth. Indian companies have started putting this on top of their strategic people initiatives. In the same study it was also found that five of twelve companies that have robust practices of developing leaders in the APAC region, were Indian! These included organizations such as ICICI Bank, Aditya Birla Group, Infosys, Wipro and Hindustan Unilever Ltd.

The role of developing leaders from within is the responsibility of three broad stakeholders:

  1. The CEO and the Board of Directors: The role of most CEO’s is to grow the business and ensure operational excellence. What attracts their attention therefore in most cases is the strategic planning process, future growth prospects, operational optimization etc. The role of the CEO in building leaders is often delegated to the Human Resource/ Learning and Development functional head. And yet, this is probably the most important aspect of the CEO’s role: building the human capital for the organization to grow and flourish. The role of the CEO is therefore to be the catalyst and champion for Leadership Development at all levels. This would start by personally identifying and developing as many potential CEO candidates for his/her role. It would then continue by offering opportunities to these candidates to learn, excel and grow in their exposure to the business by personal coaching.Similarly, there are very few Boards who would have the agenda of CEO and senior Leadership Development as part of their regular Board agenda. In cases, where the Board asks for reports on the Leadership Development as much as they ask about profitability and strategic alliances, the agenda of People Development gets a firm footing in the company.
  1. The role of Human Resource/ Learning and Development Function: Development of Talent and specifically development of leaders in the organization is one of the critical areas that the Human Resources and the Learning and Development Function of organizations needs to pay attention to. It would start by identifying Leadership Competencies for the present business as well as the future. People across the organization would then need to be mapped on this. Interestingly while most organizations do have a competency framework, most of the time this is limited to functional competencies or then soft skills. Clear leadership attributes and behaviours are not always identified.Then an integrated Leadership Development framework and programmes need to be institutionalized and implemented. It is very important to make this a business initiative and not just an HR initiative. Interventions for developing leaders need to be done at all levels in the organization. This would ensure that the leadership capability for all gets enhanced. This would then result in better leadership band-width in the organization. Special programmes for high potential/ emerging leaders also need to be run as accelerated leadership development programmes. These would need to have opportunities for the leaders to experiment with new business opportunities/ challenges beyond their existing roles.Internal Coaches and Mentors are helpful in developing internal Leaders since they can support and accelerate the process of tacit knowledge and experience sharing. The Essar Group in India has based their entire Leadership Development initiative on the practice of Coaching and Mentoring.
  1. The role of Individual Leaders: Each Manager and Leader in an organization needs to own their role of being mentors and people developers for their respective teams. In our own experience of working with over 1,00,000 people in over 600 organizations, we have experienced that when line managers assume the role of HR managers of their own teams, they are able to develop leaders for their functions. This can happen when People Development and Leadership Development are seen as their primary role. Getting results is a by-product of this primary role. Such leaders need to do so by paying attention to processes like the Performance Management System and by recognizing its importance in tracking both the potential and performance of their team members. Similarly they should be interested in the competency building and the training and learning initiatives for their teams. They could sit with their teams prior to them being sent for training and clarify their expectations. After the training, they further need to track the improvements the person is making on the job and give constructive feedback. Such Leaders should also spend time with their team on a one on one basis, coaching and supporting their colleagues. They need to ensure that the team has exposure to new concepts and best practices of similar industries, so that they are familiar with the external environment.They need to be passionate about their roles as “People Developers” and spend more than 50-60% of their time on this aspect of their role. Delegation will ensure that they are building capability within their own function.

Leadership Development would require leaders to be supremely confident of themselves and their capability. Only leaders who are secure and focused would want to develop other leaders in their own functions and teams.

Organizations that are led by wise and visionary leaders and are supported by a proactive and credible Human Resource/ Learning and Development function create a cadre of leaders who promote building the leadership pipeline from within.

About the author: Anu Wakhlu. View Anu Wakhlu’s video profile

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Wholesome Leadership and Self Mastery

A Google search on  the word Leadership yields 113,000,000 hits. Leadership  is one of the most researched areas when it comes to business. Business touches the lives of almost all of humanity. Of the top 100 revenue generating entities of the world, more than half are multinational corporations. The power of Business for good is therefore huge.

Leaders in the world of Business have the potential to create positive breakthroughs for the entire planet. What kind of leaders do we need for this?

The leaders of today need to be different from the leaders of yesterday. Today, business can no longer  see itself as an isolated island dedicated  merely to the creation of shareholder wealth. Business Leaders have begun to recognize their larger role in delivering value to all stakeholders and preserving the environment for future generations. That is why hear about”Conscious Capitalism” which takes care of People, Profits and the Planet. We are also increasingly reading about  business leaders “expanding consciousness” in organizations.

This  is manifested through outcomes like:

  • Creating a joyful and engaging environment at work
  • Valuing interconnectedness and working across interfaces in Government and  civil society
  • Stewardship of organizational resources and
  • Actively working for an area of social concern .e.g. environment, child rights etc

This sort of Leadership which is based on an understanding of our intrinsic “oneness” and “interconnectedness” is called “Wholesome Leadership” tm. Wholesome leaders actively deliver value to all stakeholders.

What does it take to be a Wholesome Leader? Leaders, irrespective of their industry, need to be good at creating a powerful vision, inspiring people to follow that vision, thinking strategically through various business options, adding value  through innovation, leading teams and people  and most importantly, being in integrity and acting as role models for  their teams.

As Wholesome Leaders, we also need to be grounded in “Self Mastery”. Self Mastery means  both being aware and in control of our attitudes, thoughts, preferences and mental paradigms. It is about the ability to see, understand your mind and its tricks. It involves understanding that we have tools and options for thinking , and having the discernment and awareness to know what to use at the appropriate time.

As  a Leader, it is only when I am helping myself that I am in a position to help and serve others. I can lead others only when I have first leant to lead myself. Self mastery is the ability to make the most out of your physical, mental, and spiritual health. In other words, to be the best you can be. As a result of your efforts, you will be able to help and lead everyone around you.  In order for you to change the world around you, for the better, you have to change yourself for the better, along the way.

As  Business Leaders, self awareness  helps in making the right business choices. Self mastery refers to mastery over self. Being in control of ones emotions, feelings and not letting preferences, biases and prejudices sway  one from making the right decision helps us in Leadership. Paying attention to “self” is the foundational step in Leadership. When we work at the “roots”, only then can we expect significant changes to happen in our behavior and our actions. Self-Mastery refers to these roots. When we nurture the roots,we will automatically get the “fruits” which is the  business outputs we  desire.

Self Mastery refers to a number of attributes that have to do with  self awareness and self management.Some of these are:

  1. Awareness and Presence: Being in the now, unblocking all that comes in the way of being fully accepting and present in the moment Awareness is the foundation for self-mastery. Awareness has its roots in the deep understanding of  life and existence. An aware and conscious leader would be able to see the reasons for a problem/challenge and make choices that look at  the larger picture. All situations in life are inter-connected. What we do in one situation has it implications in another. As situations are interconnected, so are human beings. Being grounded in Awareness helps us to remain centered, calm, and see the oneness in all of life. Presence comes from Living in the now. Being present to the present moment helps us to develop the quality of “Presence”. This is not to say that one shouldn’t learn from the past or plan for the future. Remembering that the”now” is the only part of reality that we have to work on helps us to be grounded in awareness. Practices that help to build awareness  include meditation, yoga, reflection, practice of being in the now etc.
  2. Attitudes of Abundance: Attitudes broadly refer to the way we see things and consequently act on them. Attitudes refer to the mental models that we hold about ourselves, work and life. It is therefore abundantly clear that the attitudes and mental models that a Leader holds will shape not just her behaviour and actions but also impact the way she runs the organization.As a leader, if we consciously choose to see “Life and Business” as realm of possibilities, then we create a very different aura around ourselves. We think big, think out-of-the box and genuinely feel that “all is possible”. Along with this is the attitude of  gratitude and appreciation. This is well exemplified by the best selling book ”The Secret”.Attitudes of Abundance refer  to the attitudes that help us to build self-mastery. It is about being abundance inspired rather than deficiency driven. Working from an inner space of acceptance, appreciation and gratitude. This helps Leaders to attract abundance and positive outcomes through steadily held positive and appreciative thoughts. Thinking in ways that attract abundance is a conscious choice as a leader. It is not a matter of coincidence that “good things” seem to happen more to aware and conscious leaders.
  1. Courage and Audacity: Courage has been defined in many ways. It is deep faith in self and the universe and the conviction that life  will support what you intent to do. Courage is an attribute that we see in most Leaders. It may be a physical act or a business or people related decision. Having courage and relentless faith enables  a leader to tread  the pathway where others would hesitate. Having courage does not mean that there is no fear. Courage is persisting despite the fear. Freeing oneself from the outcome, helps in reducing the hesitancy and also the fear. As a Leader, when we live and demonstrate courage, we would  take on large audacious  goals for our organization, live in integrity with our values, work and hire people better than ourselves, develop people to take on our roles, speak up when things in the organization are not aligned with the values. Without demonstrating personal and professional courage, a Leader would not be able to be effective.
  2. Living out ones Values: Self mastery would be incomplete without a deep awareness and alignment with ones values. A wholesome leader reflects and is clear about  his/her value system – what they hold dear and for which they are willing to stand up. Living out ones values is  a indicator that the Leader has the capacity, conviction and the courage to take the tough road to  success. There would no compromises on Values. Taking tough decisions is  a test of self-mastery.

Where do we start learning the secrets of self mastery? If you accept things around you, without demand, you already have taken the first step. There are two important factors here.

  1. Once you accept people, and situations, for what they are, you won’t waste time and energy with frustration. This causes inner frustration, emotional turmoil, worries, and depression.
  2. Once you change yourself, through positive self mastery, the world around you will change for the better, without much effort on your part.

Self-Mastery is an ongoing journey for a Leader. At every stage in the Professsional Life of a leader, he/ she needs to work on themselves at the foundational level to go to the next level of capability and effectiveness. This is best done by working at the roots of  awareness and building the self-understanding to mature to the next level. Building skills and competencies comes at a far later stage. Business Leaders who understand this mature into effective leaders early enough. Unless one can lead oneself, one can hardly lead others. As the Gita says ”Atha Raja,tahtha praja” (As the leader,so the people).

About the author: Anu Wakhlu. View Anu Wakhlu’s video profile.

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From Just Another Option to Employer of Choice

Why are people leaving?

Why is it that organizations hire talented (or seemingly talented) employees, train them, take pride in them (or are disappointed), and watch helplessly as they leave?

There are many factors at play here. The often heard one is the lack of employee engagement, but the real issue lies much before engagement goes for a toss. Attrition is only the result. There is no point focusing on the result. One has to focus on the causes.

The causes are varied. From the lack of proper job fitment, to a lack of touchtime with the manager, to not receiving mentoring or recognition, to feeling that one is not being allowed to contribute fully, to a lack of autonomy, a lack of direction, career growth, compensation and many others. These things need to be fixed in order for the end result to look better.

Allow me to demonstrate this through my own experiences, which will undoubtedly find echoes in everything you may have experienced or heard about engagement, retention or attrition.

Earlier in my career, I was with a BPO firm was about 3 years, and another one later for a little less than 18 months. The latter one was a mega name and had a great value system and some noteworthy HR practices.

So why did I stay for longer with the former? In the former company, 2 things stood out. I was given an almost free hand to innovate and implement, and free speech to contribute. I felt valued. I received high class training, which added value to me. So why did I quit? Well, the trainings stopped, and I was not being given credit for the work I was putting in. Nor were my managers mentoring me the way they were earlier. The place had slipped into a harder place, a business only place. It had grown. It wasn’t like a start-up anymore.

The reasons for my leaving the other company were also exactly the same. I wasn’t getting the feeling that my contributions were valued enough. The growth of my career (which I’d call my own “Business”) was not accelerated, but being impeded.

Solving the Employee Turnover Puzzle

While most of the attrition factors point directly to the manager, it is the responsibility of the organization to groom the manager and to demonstrate, not just communicate, the values that the organization states it seeks to inculcate.

The problem isn’t always top down either. Leadership in most organizations today knows the value of engaged employees, and exhorts the organization to respond to that need. (According to a Gallup study, higher employee engagement in organizations translates into an 18% rise in productivity, a 12% rise in both profitability and customer metrics, and 31% reduction in employee turnover!)

However the Leader’s message gets lost, often at the level immediately below him. The KRA’s of the senior management do include people metrics, but year end review seldom see these being discussed. Senior management knows this and allocates their scarce time to the results that will be discussed – the bottom-line.

The triple bottom line rarely if ever gets any focus. The companies in India that do focus on the triple bottom line, like ITC, find themselves on the 2011 BT list of Best Companies to Work For. The above study says that employees today are beginning to look at the career as their “business”. If organizations cannot help their business grow, they leave.

So what is the answer?

Every organization on that list puts employee comfort, health, flexibility, learning, growth and balance at the centre of their HR initiatives. The message is clear: Help employees discover and express themselves fully, and they will reward you with their loyalty, productivity and creativity.

Therefore the answer is for managers to pay a lot more attention to how their employees feel. Feel about themselves, about their manager, about the organization, and about their relationships with each other. And how does the manager go about doing that?

For starters, we as organisations must focus on imparting learning in Interpersonal, Communication, and Team Building Skills to our managers. By equipping people managers with the skills they need to make employees feel more valued, the employees are guaranteed to feel appreciated & important.

Next, we invest in building ourselves as a Learning Organization. This can be done by offering learning opportunities to our employees to further their professional and personal growth. However, Learning Organizations are those that don’t stop at training, but additionally create a learning environment that allows people the room to make a few mistakes, try new things and learn from them.

HUL is one organization that allows its employees a free hand to implement practices they think will benefit the organisation. As a result of this autonomy, their reputation among young aspirants, particularly students is that of a “dream company”. A 2011 survey by Nielsen said that HUL is one of the top five employers of choice.

Additionally, HUL provides year-round leadership training programmes, a mapping of employees’ potential and a three-year career projection, should they choose to stay on in the company.

Furthermore, we help our employees to find, rediscover or maintain that delicate Balance between work, life, interests, society, taking and giving.

Having helped our people find this awareness, we can be confident of providing a kind of leadership that nourishes the self, the organization and society.

And before long we will find ourselves on both lists: Best Employers to Work For and Most Admired Companies.

About the author: Aman Zaidi

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Gyana Marga

Gyana Marga – A road to liberation.

Gyana – Knowledge in Sanskrit has been described as one of the paths to liberation.   Most knowledge is acquired for practical benefits or for worldly success.   Either you acquire knowledge to get around in the world, like knowledge of French will help you communicate with people in France and knowledge of herbs would help know which ones are useful and which ones are poisonous.  This kind of knowledge is essential for one’s survival.

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Success is often also linked to amount of knowledge one acquires.  The rush for acquiring MBA and other degrees defines the value of knowledge in the scheme of things. The current era is labeled as the Knowledge era; where knowledge is prized over capital, labour, land etc.

So where does this knowledge to liberation fit in?  Is it really relevant?  Well it is relevant, if the quest for knowledge is really there. It is relevant if we find ourselves unhappy in spite of all the progress we see around.  It is relevant if your life seems meaningless in spite of the worldly success you might have.

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Many well learned men sought what is the ultimate knowledge which man can ever acquire.  Some scientists have explored the frontiers of space and are trying to discover the Higgs Boson particle, which supposedly gives mass to the entire universe.  And billions of dollars have gone to research the origin of the universe, where and how did it all start… On the other hand psychologists, sociologists and other philosophers have examined the issues of mankind and have explored the wellbeing of human mind and what keeps us going, and where is the human race headed.

Vedas – the knowledge created by the Ancient Seers of India have described life and its abstract nature and its relation to God.   Their focus is on the ultimate knowledge which liberates us from the trials and tribulations of life.  Same is the case with Ashtavakra Gita and Bhagawad Gita.   Gita – the song of life, describes the duality which we are all sandwiched in.  Each action of ours brings forth a result and along with it, another set of problems.   No action is flawless.   And yet we need to act and be free.   Why is this knowledge so priceless?  Simply because it liberates us.   What does this liberation mean?  It means that we as individuals have a choice – a choice to see that the entire universe is our own creation and is one being.   This choice of seeing the whole instead of parts is liberating.   It transcends conventional behavior and actions. It transcends everything one sees from the plane of logic.

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It doesn’t mean that logic is not important.  Logic is very important to know the cause and its effect.  Logic allows us to organize things efficiently; it helps us to run businesses, trains and organizations. But it stops at that. It doesn’t offer synthesis.

In the path of knowledge – Gyana Marga, it is all about finding this synthesis and thus happiness and liberation.  This synthesis is about the source of life, the source of everything and experiencing Oneness in spite of the duality life offers.   The ability to celebrate this Oneness over duality is what Gyana Marga is all about.

How does one start about on this path?  Most of you already are on the path.  The knowledge of life is not separated from life itself.

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That is what Siddhartha, the young Buddha, sought before his enlightenment.   The ability to observe, contemplate and reflect, are the skills required on this path.  And all of us have been blessed with these skills.   So put them to use, and see the beauty of the universe through the lens of Oneness, and celebrate.

By Vikas Bhatia 

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Synopsis of Carpe Diem Mumbai 2013, August 9

Theme: Wholesome Leadership – A paradigm shift in leading change

Venue: Sofitel Hotel, Bandra-Kurla Complex, Mumbai

Date and Time: 9th August 2013, 6.30pm onwards

Panel:

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Participant Profile: Top Leadership (Non-HR), Top HR and L&D leaders; Sectors represented included Banking & Finance, Telecom, FMCG, IT/ITES, Manufacturing, Insurance, Realty, Pharma, Engineering, Designing, Real estate etc. with a mix of Small, Mid-Cap & Large scale industries.

Sequence Index of events:

  1. Welcoming the guests at Carpe Diem 2013
  2. Introduction and context setting by the host Mr Vivek Yatnalkar
  3. Introduction to the panelists (CLICK HERE to view their profiles)
  4. First panelist, Mr Anil Swarup’s sharing on ‘Self-Mastery
  5. Second panelist, Mr R Mukundan’s sharing on ‘Relating to & Developing People’
  6. Third panelist, Mr Shrikant Joshi’s sharing on ‘Delivering Value’
  7. Q&A with the audience
  8. Felicitation of panelists
  9. Closing comments by the moderator & host
  10. Dinner & networking

Synopsis:

The stage was set for a ‘Wholesome’ evening at Sofitel Hotel as the first of the guests trooped in for Carpe Diem Mumbai 2013. It was a drizzly Friday evening and a festive holiday on account of Eid at that! Yet, the steady in flow of guests continued and by 7pm the Salon Louvre was packed.

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The host for the evening, Vivek Yatnalkar – the COO of Pragati Leadership, took stage and started proceedings by welcoming the guests. He touched upon the current state of affairs vis-à-vis Business, Social, Political and Economic at a local and global level to lay the foundation for the discussion.

  • ‘What is the prevalent style of leadership today?
  • Is this giving us the results we want/ seek?
  • Are we going in the direction we want to go?’

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These were some questions he asked the audience to ponder upon. Vivek, then went on to introduce Wholesome Leadership and suggested this new approach as the way to lead sustainable change.

He explained the three facets of Wholesome Leadership, namely: Self-Mastery, Relating to & Developing people AND Delivering Value. Explaining briefly the manifestations of these three facets, Vivek justified the What-Why-How of this new approach and its relevance. He used the analogy of the see-saw versus Lift.

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While one shows the current dilemma facing businesses in balancing people development with business growth, the other simply shows that both can happen in parallel. He suggested that Wholesome Leadership can serve to ‘lift’ people and carry them forward towards sustainable change!

Vivek then introduced the three distinguished panelists to the audience before handing over the baton to Arun Wakhlu, our Executive Chairman, who was the moderator for the panel discussion. Taking cue from where Vivek left off, Arun urged the audience to think long-term and sustainable. To hammer in the point, he narrated a little anecdote from the Apache Indian community where elders would place all children and sit in a concentric circle around them while taking all collective decisions. This was done, he said, to ensure that they’re always aware that the effects need to be positively experienced for the next seven generations! As leaders, we need to have a similar ‘Wholesome’ approach, Arun reiterated.

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Thereafter, Arun invited Mr Anil Swarup – IAS, Member of the Cabinet Secratariat, Govt. of India, to take the podium as the first speaker. Mr Swarup spoke on Self-Mastery and livened up the atmosphere with some pointed observations, funny anecdotes and witticisms in the bureaucratic context.

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His inspiring talk for the next fifteen minutes urged the rapt audience to start this journey of transformation with oneself. He laid down some fundamental attributes to Self-Mastery, starting with a belief in a larger purpose and in the potential of self.

  • Mr Swarup stressed that this was crucial to delivering lasting value.
  • To achieve that, he urged leaders to be unwaveringly passionate about the work they do.
  • As leaders, they need to be seen as uncompromisingly honest and transparent, keeping promises they make.
  • They also need to be free to dream BIG and have a vision that is inclusive, he urged.
  • Finally, Wholesome Leaders need to be Efficient in delivering results to ensure that they become the change that they want to see in the world.

(You can watch the full presentation HERE)

A thunderous applause greeted Mr Swarup has he made his way back to the stage. Next in line was Mr R Mukundan, MD of Tata Chemicals, who was speaking on the topic of ‘Relating to & Developing People’.

Mr Mukundan started off the interaction by showing the audience a short video clip of an interview with the late Steve Jobs, chief of Apple. In the interview, Steve explains his mantra of ‘TRUSTING’ his colleagues completely to deliver. He explains how Apple functioned as the world’s largest ‘Start-up’ because it allows leaders to make decisions without any overseeing. (You can watch the video HERE)

Using this as a basis for his talk, Mr Mukundan shared that every year he showed this clip to his team for inspiration and guidance. He then went on to explain that it all began with the right value systems being put in place. If the team had the right values, their actions would facilitate better people relations and development, he justified.

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Mr Mukundan suggested that leaders need to build trust and commitment in their teams by treating their members as people and not just professional entities. To this end, he offered some simple pointers to follow:

  • Get to know key people as persons!!!
  • Set the context – the situation, direction etc
  • Delegate more – Work Levels
  • Stretch Projects
  • Development Dialogue (IDP)
  • Encouraging learning and Sharing
  • Performance Dialogue (PMS)
  • Career Counselling
  • Coaching

(You can watch the full presentation HERE)

The audience seemed to agree wholeheartedly with his take on Mr Mukundan and applauded him generously as he took his seat, making way for Mr Shrikant Joshi to take the podium.

Mr Shrikant Joshi, Chief Executive of L&T Realty, was the third panelist, speaking on ‘Delivering Value’ to all stakeholders, as a crucial facet of Wholesome Leadership.

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Mr Joshi’s presentation was replete with inspiring examples of the wonderful slum rehab work undertaken by L&T Realty in Mumbai, through their initiative, incidentally titled ‘Pragati’! Through this initiative, Mr Joshi explained, over 5000 modern apartment units were handed over to slum-land owners who were now living a comfortable life.

He also explained about how L&T Realty, contrary to industry practices, had pledged to have a 30% women workforce, which it has achieved! Through the many pictorial slides that followed, he threw light on a number of social initiatives undertaken across the country by the team to deliver value to all stakeholders.

(You can watch the full presentation HERE)

The floor was then thrown open to Questions from the audience.

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An invigorated group then sought more clarity on how to implement the simple practices of Wholesome Leadership in their day-to-day lives.

Thereafter, the host, Vivek Yatnalkar, once again took stage. He thanked the panelists for their insights and sharing. Arun then proceeded to hand over mementos to the three eminent panelists, as a token of appreciation and gratitude.

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Finally, Vivek summarized the evening’s learning and prodded the audience to begin this journey of Wholesome Leadership and leading change by ‘taking ownership’. He got the guests to remind themselves of the mantra ‘ If it is to be, it is up to me’ and with that, the evening of learning and sharing drew to a close.

But there was a surprise addition to the flow that no one anticipated. The Sous Chef at Sofitel was welcomed on to the stage by Vivek to share his ‘Special’ creation for the night, keeping the theme in mind. Chef Angad, explained that he had especially prepared ‘Wholesome food’ for Wholesome Leaders’ by a creative use of Wholesome ingredients, much to the delight and laughter of the audience.

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As the guests made their way to a sumptuous spread, the panelists were swarmed by some of them eager to continue the Q&A and to seek some more wisdom from the three stalwarts. At about 10 pm, some good food, banter and networking later, curtains were drawn on a stupendous evening at Carpe Diem Mumbai 2013.

(You can watch the full set of images from the event HERE)

The entire Pragati Leadership Team would like to thank the guests who attended this learning and networking event, despite other pressing engagements. We would also like to thank the staff and support team at Sofitel Hotel for making the event a well-organized and enjoyable experience. Last, but not the least, many thanks go out to our esteemed panelists for taking time out from their busy schedules and gracing the occasion.

 

We look forward to hosting you/ your colleagues at the next edition of Carpe Diem 2013 at Delhi-NCR on October 4th. To register for the event, please send an email to myneed@pragatileadership.com

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The Karma Marga – Perfection in Action!

Most Actions have a binding effect.  That in sense is the design to keep the world moving in perpetuity.  For example, winning a race would seem perfect, but even that has its own baggage.   The baggage could be some rivals getting jealous, loss of privacy etc.   Similarly, losing itself produces its own side effects.   So results arising out of actions bring about some bondage.

It is then very rare to find people performing actions which would not bind them.   What are such actions and how does one perform them?  Can one in the current scheme of things be really able to do something without having the bondage out of results?  Can a CEO of any organization be not bound by the results of his actions?

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The key in this is expectation.  Results by itself don’t bind oneself.  It’s the expectations from the results which create attachment and bondage. How can one not have expectations?  While it is just natural to have them, it has and will continue to be the root of this bondage. What would be the way of reigning in the expectations?

Krishna in the Bhagwad Gita advises the Despondent Arjuna – to not worry about the results (fruits) of one’s actions, and just surrender the act into Him.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says:

“tasmad asaktah satatam karyam karma samacara asakto he acaran karma param apnoti purushah”

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Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty always, for by working without attachment only one attains the Supreme.

Another perspective is to do things for the collective Good – That is called Yagna. Whenever such acts are performed for unselfish benefits, the act is deemed to burn the bondages of Karma. Unfortunately, even though they perform good deeds – people do get caught up in the results.  Often, good people want respect and appreciation and that in itself is bondage.

In the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, the character Phaedrus describes the difference between planned acts and spontaneous acts, the latter which are being performed without any measure of expectation.  An arduous mountain expedition with its rigor when performed as a pilgrimage has a different quality to the same act of climbing the mountain.   There is no baggage of expectations.  It certainly is uplifting even though physically it brings the same amount of tiredness.  The spirit of doing the latter act is that of Joy.

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So what’s the verdict – Joy is freeing the mind from its own bondages.  Joy is in doing the act.  Joy is not outside the action.   When every small act is done joyfully, without the mind paraphernalia, it brings freedom. That is perfection in action – perfect because the perfection in the being is expressed through the act. Not of the mind.

The Yoga happens as a result of the mind not being caught up in the results of the act. That is Karma Yoga – the perfect action – free from any bondage – joyfully and effortlessly.

True Karma Yogis never look back at successes or failures – because that doesn’t matter to them.  They have done the action out of joy, and it is over. Period. The world will definitely analyze their actions, and results, but it will not bother them, because they are enjoying the game, not the results.

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Sachin Tendulkar epitomizes this through the love for the game. It is the love which keeps him going even though his body and mind now are not so agile.

Are you ready to face every ball that is bowled at you for the sheer joy of facing the delivery? Are you ready to be a Karma Yogi?

By Vikas Bhatia 

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Branding as a Strategy for SMEs

By Nandakishore Padmanabhan

What is a brand? Among the numerous definitions I have come across, the one I like best is this – it is a quality which ensures that consumers ‘desire’ a consumable product or service being offered. Put simply, a brand gives an irresistible IDENTITY to a business. Consumers ‘buy the brand’ and NOT the product or service!

Very often, small and medium businesses that are in their early days of growth and evolution tend to view branding as an aesthetic cost-exercise – one that involves creating some or all of the following things:

  • Name (of the company, product or service)
  • Logo – a visual trademark that gives it a unique identity
  • Tagline – (a catch-phrase that explains the offering)
  • Colours
  • Shapes (of the product)
  • Sounds (A unique tune or notes used in advertising the brand)

Once they’ve gotten themselves this kit, most of them tend to forget all about branding and focus their energies and spends on infrastructure and processes, in their quest for greater business results.

There a few exceptions, though, which believe in the power of branding and the continuous evolution of the brand. History has shown us that, more often than not, such businesses grow to become industry behemoths both in terms of business value and by the immense ‘soft-power’ they wield over consumer behavior. Such brands tend to become synonymous with the product or service they offer. Consumers tend to use them as a benchmark against competitive offerings and therein lies the power of branding!

There are examples galore in India – Parle-G for biscuits, Chik Shampoo for ‘sacheted’ grooming products, Godrej for ‘Steel Almirahs’… the list goes on for iconic brands that became synonymous for the products they stood for.

We’ve heard about brand strategies and plans for branding but can branding in itself be a strategy? In other words, can branding be USED as a STRATEGY for the growth of the company?

  • How can branding enable SMEs to stand out in the crowd and attract FDI or grab the attention of big MNCs that will set-up shop in India, sooner rather than later?
  • With internet access facilitating wide and direct reach to consumers across the world – can branding help SMEs bridge the digital divide and reach out to untapped customers?
  • In fact, can branding enable SMEs to realize the maximum value for their offerings and then go on to create sustained, breakthrough business results?

Many interesting questions pop up given this new approach to branding. This article aims to answer some of these and along the way explore 5 SIMPLE yet POWERFUL, MUST-Dos for every SME. In doing so, it is hoped that these SMEs will be able to use the full potential of their brands as a strategic tool to power the growth of their businesses.

1)      The ‘equal-to’ Mantra for IDENTITY

DO NOT claim to solve generic problems. Period. Your customers have specific problems and they’re looking to you for solutions. Answer them with specificity. This is perhaps the most powerful way for you to establish early credibility and mindshare that can sustain. Keep it simple. Let your product or service be ‘equal to’ a specific solution.

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For example, if one goes by consumer perceptions in the motorbike segment over the past decade, Hero = Mileage whereas Bajaj (Pulsar) = Power. This ensured clear segmentation of the customer base. Every other new entrant had to fight them for this slice of the market-pie. Proclaim, upfront, clearly, what your brand is ‘equal to’ and capture a market segment that ‘belongs to your business alone’. Mind you, your business model must enwrap your brand and get tied-in!

Marketing is often said to be capturing a large slice of an identified/ existing market. I’ll go one step further. If your product or service offering is new then go forth and ‘create a new market’ for it by simply playing the ‘equal-to’ game. You can then merrily watch competition play catch-up for a long, long time!

 

2)      The ‘WHY-HOW-WHAT’ mantra for CONSISTENCY

Now that you’ve figured out your ‘equal-to’ platform, it is necessary to ensure that the communication is clear and sustained across channels. Mind you, it is far more important for your team to have clearly understood your brand and speak about it in one language, than your advertising. Not to say that is not important. At the start, your brand’s attributes must resonate with your company’s values and purpose. This will reflect as your company’s culture, imbibed and displayed by your employees. They will then speak the same language to the outside world.

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Again, keep it simple. Answer, clearly, the ‘Why-How-What’ of your brand, to borrow from Simon Sinek’s famous TED TalkBy that I mean, find answers to the following questions:

1)      Why are you doing what you are doing as a business?

2)     How are you planning to achieve your desired goal?

3)     What will you create/ offer to achieve this goal – create a product or offer a service?

Have regular discussions on these three fundamental questions. Freeze on the answers and proclaim them, consistently, across channels/ media. Remember, this is ‘Who you are’ as a business. Be consistent. Get people talking about this mantra, within and outside. Chances are that your customers will align with your deeper ‘Why’, appreciate your ‘what’ and help you in your ‘how’!

 

3)      The ‘Whispering-voice’ mantra for EMOTIONAL Connect

Customers either think rationally (left-brained and data-driven) about your brand OR they can connect emotionally (right-brained, emotion-driven) with it. History tells us that it is the latter behavior that all ‘Brands’ desire from their customers – an emotional bond that translates into preferred purchasing patterns. With such customers, there is always an inner voice telling them to choose you over your competitors for no logical reason. And that is what you want to retain and nurture for a long period of time. Because, it doesn’t break easily.

Take ‘Salt’ for example – for decades, families in India have sought out and asked for TATA Iodised Salt with the firm belief that it was/is the purest / safest.

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Salt meant TATA-Salt, back then in 1983 when it was first launched, it still does to a large extent even now! Even though competitors have presented consumers with seemingly superior facts about their products, TATA-Salt’s market leadership has remained pretty much unaffected.

There’s a powerful emotional connect between consumer and product established, in this case it made them feel safe and secure through its purity. It is the way the brand makes a customer feel that binds the two together.

Find that ONE emotional connection that can hook customers to your product or service and then proclaim this. Do you make you customers feel safe and cared for? Do you make life easier for them? Connect with your customers on these points before and after a sale. Even better, involve them in building an interactive community. State this boldly and confidently like you would to a loved one. Make them believe that you’re constantly thinking of them and listening to their needs and concerns. Engage on social media with your customers and answer their grievances/ concerns/ suggestions/ comments et al with full honesty. Before you know it, you won’t have customers – you’ll have brand ambassadors.

4)      The ‘Unwrapping-gift’ mantra for CRM

Once you are off on this journey, you will discover that these very brand ambassadors are doing a whole lot of brand-building and selling FOR you. These are customers who already love you and your product/ service! They are unabashed fans who sing hosannas to your offering in public!

First-up, put processes in place to ensure you recognize these true ‘friends’ as they come into your inner circle, acknowledge them and then reward them. Cultivating loyalty from these ‘early adaptors’ will not only ensure a steady stream of new customers, it will also mean a steady inflow of business earnings. All this with a little effort on your part!

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For example, at Pragati Leadership, we generously give away ‘I thank you’ and ‘I appreciate you’ cards to all of our colleagues, vendors, well-wishers et al! Some prominent businesses incentivize customer loyalty with valuable gifts, takeaways, prizes and recognition. And get rewarded with ‘referrals’ in return!

Figure out your loyalty rewarding mechanism and keep in regular touch with your brand ambassadors. Be active on social media. Write to them. Ask them to write back. Seek feedback, suggestions and advice. Inform them about how you’re putting their ideas into action or otherwise. Reward them again. Soon, you’ll have more and more customers vying to be part of this inner-circle, waiting to unwrap a gift of acknowledgment from you. Keep your door always open for them. They’ll open many windows as ‘referral channels’ for your business!

5)      The ‘Elastic-asana’ mantra for FLEXIBILITY

In this rapidly changing economic, social, political and consumer scenarios, you must be ‘flexible’ in your approach to using branding as a strategy. Staying updated and evolving with times is a necessity. Speaking the language of the times, evolving your offering to suit changing needs and tastes is integral to a good branding strategy.

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For example, look at how Marico’s Parachute Coconut Oil has reinvented itself as a brand over the past decade to stay relevant and create new markets through innovative product variations.

Mind you, the main product and its promise has remained true and consistent all through – pure coconut oil that is good for your hair! One of India’s oldest consumer brands, through innovations in packaging, branding and tamper-proofing alone, Parachute continues to remain a market leader in its segment, adding newer consumers to its burgeoning base of loyalists. And to think that the name and the product have no relation whatsoever in the first place just goes to show that consistent and powerfully potent branding can be a dependable strategy over decades!

So, if your plans and strategies aren’t working as well anymore, do not be afraid to change and adapt. Use that as an opportunity to go back to your customers and engage with them afresh! Ask them for direction and you’ll be surprised as to how they will show you a way out every time.

Multiple examples across the country tell us that those MSMEs that are flexible and resilient have survived macroeconomic challenges and came out stronger. Those that use branding as a strategy not only come through stronger but go onto become industry leaders once the dust settles and calm prevails. Will you be there too?

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Business Leadership vs Functional Leadership

One of the most important development areas of senior leaders in business is the transition into business leadership roles  after being in a functional role.

Enabling senior leaders with the mindset and paradigm change required for this role is a very common industry need.

In most typical organizations,technical expertise and the competencies required to execute around one’s immediate business area is always the key priority.

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Development actions and new learning is also around the same. People are also measured and evaluated on their immediate KRA’s which too are usually linked to functional performance. Its therefore typical that at senior levels,most people are experts in their areas of work. The challenge that this throws up for the organization is that there is  a whole bunch of functional experts  who are extremely good with what they know  and yet there is no leadership talent that looks at the “big picture “ of the organization. As consultants and coaches for  Leadership development,we have consistently found this to be a recurrent gap across different sectors of business- Manufacturing, BPO, IT, Pharma etc.

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The CEO doesn’t really have a team of business leaders to support him. He invariably has  an excellent team of functional leaders. This hurts the organization since there is a tendency to look at most issues from a functional perspective rather than a business angle. The approach to resolving also becomes very “my function/department-centric”.  This is also one of the main reasons why “silo-working “ and “silo-thinking” happens even at senior levels.

What can be done to mitigate this risk?

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One of the ways is by identifying a Leadership Team whose sole responsibility is to look at the business of the company as a whole and come out with perspectives, approaches that cut across boundaries. This team must not look at what each department is doing but more at what the business is doing and what needs to be done to meet the business challenges. Developing this mind-set and paradigm change will take time but it can be done.

  1. The role of the CEO is very critical in this. He must ensure that he moderates the session in such a way that people stop thinking of their “turf” and look at the company instead.
  2. Building skills on business perspectives, commercial  acumen, strategic thinking would be critical. The team needs to be exposed to the external world and needs to go and study other businesses and learn from them.
  3. Networking and collaboration would help to make this happen. These are critical skills for being a good business leader.
  4. The members of the Leadership team need to be given opportunities to lead sessions on application of strategy to business, creating business plans for the company etc. Peer reviews can help.

Some of these would ensure that the CEO has a bankable team with him for the present and the future.

By Anu Wakhlu 

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To become a Wholesome Leader, invoke the power of ‘Shakti’ within you!

These are complex times. Uncertainties abound and change has become a veritable norm. We’re swamped with data and analytics and yet, ironically, decision-making and hence leadership has become more complex. And complex times demand complete, Wholesome Leaders, don’t they? Gone are the days when a sharp mind that could access data, crunch numbers and decipher patterns from it, in order to make purportedly logical decisions, was considered a good leader. Today that same left-brained, logic-data driven leader, who was risk-averse, will be seen as a Partial Leader, unfit for these times!

Data - analyticsEnterprises of this era are caught in so much flux in terms of technological change, societal churn, changing attitudes and priorities, cross-cultural challenges et al. That’s why they demand more ‘Wholesome Leaders’ who can:

  • Lead from the front
  • Think out of the box easily
  • Take calculated risks when needed
  • Display emotional intelligence while building meaningful relationships AND
  • Continue to grow the business

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Now, that’s a tall order for most leaders, don’t you agree? We’re after all, wired differently and conditioned to stay on the left side of things, so to speak. The right side (pun intended) has pretty much remained dormant. No wonder then that most leaders find it difficult to rely on and utilize their Head-Heart-and-Guts* simultaneously while leading their functions/ teams/ organizations. Going by the definition of Dotlich-Cairo-and-Rhinesmith*, they are NOT the ‘Whole Leaders’ that today’s global enterprise desperately needs. Mind you, this applies to both men and women leaders who’ve not yet invoked the power of Shakti within!

Hindu mythology, Paganism and many ancient religions, backed now by Astro-physicists and Quantum Physicists, state that the primal source of all energy that gives life to our Universe is feminine in nature. By that we must understand that it is life-giving, emotional (if we may use that adjective) and instinctive.

shakti

This Shakti or the divine feminine force/ primal energy, exists in each one of us but it is conditioned to remain dormant or under-utilized. Our industrial evolution in recent centuries has necessitated it to be so, don’t you think? So what can we do as leaders to wake this Shakti from her slumber and goad her to unleash her full potential in her full blossom?

1)      Heart-first: Easier said than done isn’t it? From childhood, we’re trained, almost brain-washed into believing that ‘using the head’ meant improving and becoming a better achiever. Now we’re increasingly expected to suddenly ‘think from the heart’ and learn to ‘Manage and Lead’ people and teams ‘from this heart’! What if decisions are taken with a strong emotional foundation with full empathy? Isn’t that why and how meaningful bonds are made? Suddenly colleagues, peers and subordinates are all part of one big extended family that thinks and feels for one another.

heart-first

Even though such relationships are volatile in nature, they’re more likely to last the distance than say a negotiation-based, head-first relationship, usually built in the corporate world. As leaders, we must, therefore, learn to be open about our feelings and transparent in our communication.

This change can happen only if leaders are encouraged, from a very early stage of their career path, to openly and confidently show emotions and demonstrate heart-based decision-making.

2)      Instinctively decisive: When was the last time you, as a leader, had an intuition about something occurring? Doesn’t happen often, right? More importantly, that intuition would have likely been brushed aside as a frivolous thought by that all-weather-ally, Mr. Rationale! Again, this is an after effect of academic and social conditioning. The Shakti-power inside is actually the force that gives us gut-feel, intuition, premonition, call it what you may. Believing in this manifestation of Shakti and honing this quality is becoming invaluable to leaders across sectors and levels, in today’s uncertain times. After all, we’re not always privy to robust and indicative data and analysis that will help us take apparently correct decisions from the head. We cannot wait for all info to arrive on our desk either, can we?

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From an early stage, if leaders are encouraged to take gutsy, instinctive decisions, every now and then, it is bound to become a source of immense strength at a later stage when the stakes are high. Mind you, failures are bound to happen but the rewards in the long run are much higher because they’re likely to develop a keen eye to see opportunities that don’t seem to exist.

More importantly, by that time, these leaders will more likely get it right than wrong because taking gut-feel-decisions has become second-nature to them! Such leaders will not be risk-averse and will seem to find innovative ways out of sticky, almost impossible, emergency situations in business.

3)      Strength from Spiritual Awareness: You have a divine, infinite core within you that is the fountainhead of potential. This core is essentially Shakti in all her splendor and glory. As a leader, when you are truly aware of this potential, you have invoked Shakti to guide and lead on your behalf. Think about it. Traits that can never be taught or acquired through rote or sensual experiences are actually the ones that will step you up from a good leader to a great inspiration!

resilience

We’re often taught about developing mental strength. Most often this is mistaken for being stoic, logic-driven, sans-emotion and almost brutally realistic, to use a cliché. True leadership strength springs from an awakened spiritual core or Shakti in blossom. When one has the ability to really think and feel from the heart and be instinctively decisive, one has truly developed strength to take on any challenge in work and life. Sudden mishaps, dramatic changes, road-blocks, startling course-corrections et al will then seem a happy part of this leadership journey.

If you’re looking for examples of such leaders who’ve truly lead on behalf of the Shakti within them, two names come to mind immediately – Mr. Narayana Murthy – co-founder and Chairman Emeritus of Infosys AND Ms. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw – Chairman and MD of Biocon. Sample these facts/ traits about these two leaders:

  • Both saw an opportunity to start something new and jumped in head-long, driven purely by their gut-feel
  • Both faced tremendous challenges, many unforeseen, along their growth journey but overcame them all through sheer grit, ingenuity and strength of will
  • Both lead organizations that are globally amongst the largest employers of talent and are known for the care shown to nurturing their teams

entrepreneurship

The list can go on but you get the drift right? The standout takeaway in invoking ‘Shakti’ within each one of us is the removal of fear and pre-conceived notions. This state of being essentially manifests as entrepreneurship in the business world. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to lead an entrepreneurial team that is led by Shakti at all times?

ardhanarishvara

In fact, wouldn’t it be wonderful to lead on behalf of Shakti by tapping into that fountainhead of divine feminine energy within?

Wait… did someone say the word ‘Man’ is contained inside the word ‘Woman’?

 

By Nandakishore Padmanabhan

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Inside every successful leader there is a child at play

Every leader would like to believe that he or she is exercising power that has been rightfully earned, in order to get work done for the best results. In the process though, there is an inherent tug-of-war at play between positional power and pressure to deliver better than before. The collateral damage of this clash is often borne by colleagues, peers, subordinates and sometimes, unfortunately, even family!

When the going is tough and the need of the hour is to step away from the beaten-path to make game-changing moves, most leaders are often found wanting. The ability to take calculated risks and back innovative ideas pretty much separates the great leaders from the rest. Somehow, these leaders seem to possess the curiosity, passion and the ability to demonstrate equanimity under all circumstances. They are also able to identify game-changing opportunities despite being involved in fire-fighting or overseeing mundane tasks. For them, there are no issues to be sorted, only opportunities to be sought and tapped. They are honest enough to state the obvious however bitter it may be and quick to applaud initiative and that gives them the clarity of thought needed to make quick, inclusive decisions. Their teams willingly back them since there is no second-guessing or sycophancy needed to perform and be recognized.

The million-rupee question is how are they able to do what they do? The answer may lie in an old Vedic dictum that prophesizes that a man can discover GOD within when he allows the child in him to thrive. Essentially, what the sages were trying to tell us is that being child-like at all times is the ultimate measure of evolution, however paradoxical that may sound. The famous English poet William Wordsworth also echoed this thought. But we’ll keep that for later. For now, we will see how this is true for business leaders as well.

So, what are those five child-like characteristics that a good leader should nurture and demonstrate, day in and day out?

1)     Be innocent: Yes, you read that right. However difficult it is for us adults to believe in the value of this trait, it is perhaps the most powerful among the lot that a child possesses.

innocent child

As a leader of a team or teams, one must be innocent in thought, words and actions. This is the foundation of trust. It doesn’t mean being naïve or gullible. Rather, it is a quality that defines authenticity and clarity. Communication is then a free-way without barriers and that opens up tremendous possibilities. Followers willingly speak their mind knowing fully well that their leader is genuine, non-judgmental and unbiased. Ideas begin to flow out easily, collaboration is a given and hence breakthrough business results happen!

2)     Be curious: Remember when you were a child and everything that happened around you was new and magical? In hindsight, we’re quick to dismiss that as ‘child-like curiosity’ but that is in fact an unmatched asset every good leader should possess.

curious child

You are then able to continuously and unwaveringly look for opportunities subconsciously. As a leader, you look for talent that is waiting to blossom, you listen to all, you see everything with delight and full involvement. It becomes a happy habit to seek, accept and celebrate ideas from anyone, whatever their position or role. Finding game-changing ideas is then an inherent talent and there is never a dearth of information or solutions when needed. What happens as a result? There is never a lack of motivation or passion and achieving results is a piece of cake!

3)     Be stubborn: Throwing tantrums and not letting up till they’ve got what they wanted is but a natural thing for children. They are masters at the game and seem to find newer ways each time! More importantly, they seem to possess an inexhaustible reserve of stubbornness no matter how big or small the need. This is what driven leaders also possess in abundance.

stubborn child

But being stubborn does not in any way mean being unfair and demanding to the point of being overbearing. The stubborn child is able to extract what it wants by being persuasive, friendly, lovable and convincing. As a leader, if you are able back your instinct/ gut-call, to fix your mind on a goal and go after it like a stubborn child, you will discover that the team will come around to supporting and collaborating with you to achieve it. 

4)      Be forgiving: Remember those silly fights with mates that never lasted more than a few seconds? Remember how easy it was to swear never to speak again and get back to noisy banter, fun and laughter? Well, if you are a leader, you must be forgiving by nature. You might have set very high standards for yourself and hence reached where you have but that should not make you demanding and unforgiving towards subordinates and colleagues. It could also be that your role demands superior standards but that should not mean failure or mistakes are unacceptable.

forgiving child

After all, we’re all humans and we’re bound to falter now and then, right? If you can forgive easily and caringly, your Emotional Intelligence comes through in such a way that peers, colleagues and subordinates begin to trust and love you. More significantly, the idea-ramans in the team will never hesitate to share their latest idea or suggestion which could prove game-changing!

5)     Be playful: Yes. Let the child in you play at work. Never take yourself, your role/ designation or what you do, too seriously! Remember the mischievous child, always ready to play a prank or two, never hesitating to diffuse an angry moment with monkey-faces? Well, that child is needed all the more, every time you climb the corporate ladder towards greater leadership.

playful child

The playful leader enjoys every little event, celebrates those inconsequential successes and applauds merrily. More importantly for the organization, this leader handles so-called pressure situations with an unaffected gaiety that is infectious! Playful leaders manage to convert work into play for everyone in the team and that transforms organizational culture like nothing else can!

Did you find resonance with these traits? Do you still have doubts about actually practicing these in real life? Well, all you have to do is observe closely the shenanigans of children at home and if possible, participate in their fun! William Wordsworth suggested that ‘The child is the father of man’ in his famous poem ‘The Rainbow’ and indeed there is so much to learn from children that Leaders would do well to take their little ones more seriously, don’t you agree? You never know – the next BIG idea might just come from your child’s silly game or innocuous comment! Better still would be for you, the leader, to rediscover, nurture and unleash the child in you to lead the way… So go ahead! Be child-like and play!

By Nandakishore Padmanabhan

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Namaste Vayuh

Namaste Vayuh, tvam eva pratyaksham Brahmasi.

‘O, Vayu, you are the directly perceivable Brahman.

Vayu represents Mind – Power, released from limits and boundaries of the fickle consciousness. It is this Enlightened Intelligence which manifests in forms of thought or of action not hampered by the falsehoods of sense. This enlightened intelligence, in its entire greatness free from limitation, a continent of felicity; this Power is that which befriends the human soul and carries it safe through the battle, to the summit of its aspirations.

The activity of pure enlightened intelligence is sustained and increased by the conscious effort to radiate light. Light or Illumined will symbolized by the combination of Agni & Vayu. This Light – Giving is one of the greatest intoxications in life, for then it is possible to look beyond limitations and arrive at knowledge that we can refer to as illuminated intelligence. Right thoughts, right sensibilities – the full sense of the word “sumati”, which is the light in the thoughts; it is also a bright gladness and kindness in the soul.

Vayu is the Lord of Life. By the ancient Mystics, life was considered to be a great force pervading all material existence. It is this idea which gave birth to the concept of Prana, the universal breath of life. All the vital and nervous activities of the human being fall within the definition of Prana and belong to the domain of Vayu.

In the Rig Veda and the Vedas in general, it is the deities of the sphere of Vayu that predominate like Indra.  Indra is often called Vayu and Vata. Indra is behind all the other Vedic deities including Agni, Surya and Soma, the principles of Fire, Sun and Moon that can only operate under the guiding power of Vayu.

We connect to Vayu and prana through the breathing process. Pranayama allows us to work with and develop our connection with the cosmic prana. The purpose of pranayama is not just to bring in more air or give us power over the breathing process but to link us up to the unlimited energy of the cosmic Vayu. This occurs when we unite the dualistic energies of prana and mind so that our awareness can enter into the unitary force of Vayu.

In Spanish the word Breath has connotations of lifting up hope and comes from the word spirit. When someone has spirit, it means they are alive and they move, however when someone doesn’t have spirit, they are considered dead. That’s why the word Vayu in Sanskrit means what moves. Its root is “go” and means something that moves in all places; it moves outside, inside, above, below, to the left, to the right, in front of us and behind us. This is Vayu, he who knows himself, he who knows about the artery that gives life to my brain. When the soul enters into the body, then there is life but he also says goodbye to the body when it leaves. He knows the secret of my mind, because wherever Vayu is, the consciousness is. He knows my inner strength……

It is truly up to us to manifest and utilize this inner strength

Mind is the link between ‘sense world’ and the ‘soul realm’. Mind operates through thought, which is a subtle, vital, living, force; capable of acquiring infinite power. Vayu represents this infinite power. Power of thoughts lies latent in us, and can be developed to make or mar our own life and destiny. We are continuously attracting forces and condition most akin to those of our own thoughts.  Our particular thought within connects us with a similar thought from without.

In yogic thought, Vata is also prana or the cosmic life energy that manifests from Akasha or cosmic space. Prana is Vayu as the guiding force of life and intelligence in the universe.  Vayu holds the pranas of all living beings in its energy network that links them all together in the web of life. The soul is a portion of Vayu that has entered into the body with the help of fire or Agni.

The Atman stands at the center of all the currents and forces of Vayu, which are but its outer expressions. If we hold to that center than all the powers of the universe must revolve around us. Nothing in the world will be able to disturb us, just as the axis of a wheel cannot be disturbed by the movement of its periphery. The Self is the Vayu behind Vayu, the source of all energy, power and prana, hidden in the cavern of the heart. From the Self in heart radiate all energies and powers. The Self is the link between all beings and all worlds. Resting in our own being we can hold all power without trying to do anything at all…

Vayu forms the second of a five-part series by Aanchal Sethi on the basic elements and how they manifest in our lives. The articles are an attempt to inspire the reader to introspect, recognize and draw strength from one’s inherent traits which seem to embody the characteristics of each of the five basic elements. 

By Aanchal Sethi

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Talk less. Say more.

The fool talks. The wise man listens. So goes the adage. What it tells us is that there is much more to learn by listening and observing than expressing. How many times have we met that one odd person who just listened wholeheartedly and made us feel so nice as we did all the talking?

So the first step to a good conversation is to be able to listen with undivided attention, to make the other person express thoughts freely, to be able to paraphrase and grasp the exact essence of the communique. Once this is achieved, we’re most likely to enjoy and purposeful, enjoyable and energizing conversation ourselves.

Then comes the actual communicating bit. Is it all about a fabulous vocabulary, accent or the unique gestures that go with speech? In our digital age, is communication primarily about sending that topical email or that cryptic sms that is hip and with the times? And is it all worth it if it doesn’t touch the recipient at the heart?

The key therefore is to communicate from the heart to the heart. And there is more to it than just words. The things we tell the world when we don’t say a word are perhaps more informative than when we do. Ever heard of the term ‘silent communication’?

A frown tells the world you’re concerned, arched eyebrows announce that you’re ready for a fight, the stiff upper lip (apparently perfected by the British) would flaunt your superiority and stoicism, while a firm chin can convince the world of your determination. And that’s just the face we’re talking about mind you!

Drooping shoulders, sweaty palms/ fidgety hands, folded arms, shaking legs… the list can go on and they all say a lot to the other person don’t they? It is popularly called body language and it makes or breaks opportunities than anything else we’ve ever known.

In fact, studies have shown that communication is one of the biggest challenges facing the modern world despite the advancement in the tools for communicating. More friendships are broken, more families are torn apart, more jobs are lost and more deals come unstuck because of incorrect/lack of communication. The challenges are far greater within the workspace than anywhere else because of differences in culture, language, religions, perspectives, hierarchies etc But it is not separate from what happens outside. We carry the habits and experiences of our family/ social lives to work and vice-versa. That’s why it is all the more important to consciously practice our learnings at every moment, irrespective of the situation or audience.

After all, communication brings life into relationships and brings people closer. It helps rebuild broken bonds just like it creates new ones while throwing up opportunities. Relationships need investing in. And that investment comes though communication, be it sharing a thought or listening to feedback, opinions and perspectives. It is never truer than in the context of leadership where one needs to constantly communicate to various audiences using various means. A lack of communication leads to a breakdown in relationship which leads to a loss of leadership.

That is why if you want to make any organization work, communication is key. How information and feedback is passed around matters more than most other things because information affects the way people act and behave. Eventually it affects the way they work and hence the way the organization grows.

Communicate from the heart – that is the foundation of wholesome leadership. As a sign off, here’s an example of the power of words http://bit.ly/fFcKeB

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Personalize your Leadership

A series of recent personal experiences and musings have taught me the underlying strength and effectiveness of a true leader – the ability to ‘personalize’ his/ her leadership skills.

Musings on Krishna: The word Krishna means ‘all      attractive’ – in other words He attracts all.

When He used to be a part of the ‘raas leela’ each of the Gopis thought that Krishna was dancing with her and nobody else and that He loved her the most!

The reason was simple – Krishna was and is personal with His devotees.

Learning 1: A true leader needs to be personal with his followers.

Hosting-the Taj way: I remember some months back, I was checking into the Taj at Baroda and as soon as my car entered the porch area, the security guard opened the door and welcomed me by saying ‘Good evening  Mr Bharwani, welcome to the Taj’. I was elated to hear my own name and I kept on hearing it from the staff till I entered my room.

They simply personalized their offering (from my name to the food) to attract me, so much so I have very fond memories of my stay in that hotel and I have spoken about this to many of my friends. The result – I have become a loyal follower of this hotel.

Learning 2: The leader reciprocates in a way that makes the follower feel special.

Smiling with a saint: Recently, I got the opportunity to spend some introspective time with a saint in my building and we happened to see one of my neighbours pass by. For as long as I can remember, this lady never once smiled at anybody but that particular instance she smiled at the saint and I saw the saint smiling back. I was shocked. I revealed to him my astonishment and how I’d never seen her respond to anybody’s smile till that moment only to get another smile from him in response!

It then struck me that I have seen this saint meet many people from flamboyant billionaires to simple villagers and they all seemed so deeply connected with him. I’ve watched tears roll down their faces sometimes without a single word being spoken, triggered simply by a touch.

Learning 3: The leader connects with his people’s deepest feelings and needs, setting them free to express themselves fully.

 
  

Honest, soul-to-soul conversations and listening from the heart are indeed powerful tools to connect with the follower and as leaders see more of the follower, reciprocation becomes more meaningful and this attracts the follower to the leader all the more. There’s no better example for this than the Gopis, in the dead of the night, would leave their homes to meet their eternal lover Krishna, not worried one bit about the consequences at home.

To be a true leader therefore, one has to genuinely personalize one’s leadership endeavours. Only then will followers willingly take risks and put in that extra effort because they will genuinely believe that their leader gives them personal care.

By Deepak Bharwani

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Humble Leadership – the Power of One before the Zero

I remember attending my daughter’s annual drama performance, which was very unique in the sense all the students of the school from the first standard to the tenth standard, were performing and they had spent months practicing for it. It was at a mammoth level with 1000 students performing in their colourful costumes on a larger than life stage with spectacular lighting and heart soothing music.

The show ended and the principal came on stage to thank everybody involved in making the event a success. At the end, it was time to thank the director who we knew had put in a lot of sweat and tears to coordinate with 1000 participants and present a soul stirring performance. The principal called out his name ‘Allan’ and while his name was being called out thousand of students and parents were cheering in anticipation to see him on stage; but he was nowhere in sight. He knew the job was well done and he did not want to bask in the glory of the evening and take away anything from the children who had so beautifully performed.

It has been 5 years since the drama was performed and the memory of this event still holds on to my mind of a person who took the position of insignificance while doing such a great act. Recently, when India lifted the coveted cricket world cup trophy, the captain of the team M S Dhoni allowed his team members to take centre stage while he stood on the sidelines, even though he played a crucial knock in the finals and hit the final six over midoff to seal India’s victory in the world cup finals.

In both the instances, the two people took a humble position and there are people in the business community who term this as ‘humble leadership’. Jim Collins, the author of two much-quoted works, ‘How the Mighty Fall (2009) and Good to Great (2001) has linked the performance of great companies to Level 5 leaders, who practice two distinct qualities, namely genuine personal humility and intense professional will.

The Level 5 leader is always looking outside the window to see who deserves the credit for the job well done. This kind of humble leadership attracts people and brings out the best in them as their contribution is recognized as meaningful and significant. It is not easy to practice humility as pointed by social commentator Santosh Desai who believes that such acts require supreme self-confidence and wisdom.

Radhanath Swami who has studied the wisdom literature of the world and says “A true leader practices humility and humility really means honesty. Humility is about simply being truthful. What do we have to brag about? If God does not make the sun rise, what will you do? Did you create your brain? Did you create your eyes to see? Did you create your heart to beat? Did you create your arms to act? 

As they say in British parlance, do not be proud of borrowed looms. Whatever we have is not ours. We are merely instruments of a power beyond ourselves and to recognize and access that supreme power is real humility. Imagine the power of the Lord with you! It is like adding a one to all the zeroes, suddenly the value changes.

Our vedic scriptures prescribe a simple method of adding this One to our life by establishing a relationship with the Supreme One and any relationship requires good understanding and communication.

Prayer is a powerful means of communication with the Supreme Lord and the most effective prayer in the day and age is the chanting of the Holy names of the Supreme Lord. The chanting of the Holy names will cleanse our heart of all the impurities and will bring us to our natural state of being a humble servant and this will inspire people around us to become humble leaders leading to a more cooperative and loving society.

By Deepak Bharwani

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The 3 laws of E-motion

By Vikas Bhatia

  • First law: The velocity of a body remains constant unless the body is acted upon by an external force.
  • Second law: The acceleration of a body is parallel and directly proportional to the net force F and inversely proportional to the mass m, i.e., F = ma.
  • Third law: The mutual forces of action and reaction between two bodies are equal, opposite and collinear.
  •  The three laws of motion were first compiled by Sir    Isaac Newton in his work Philosophiæ Naturalis   Principia Mathematica, first published on July 5,  1687. Newton used them to explain and investigate  the motion of many physical objects and systemsth century,  the laws of classical mechanics were the ones through which we understood the world we see.3 laws of E-motion!!First Law:  Emotions continue to be in a state of flux unless acted upon by an external stimulus called AwarenessSecond Law:  The intensity of the Emotion E is directly proportional to the importance given to the situation, divided by the level of Awareness,   the value of Awareness ranging from 1 to infinite.

    In short, Ei =  S/A  where  S  is the degree of Significance and A is the level of AwarenessThird Law:   Every emotion (positive or negative) released or expressed (consciously or unconsciously) will trigger an equal and opposite response from the universe.First Law of E-motion:  

    Emotions continue to be in a state of flux unless acted upon by an external stimulus called AwarenessThe unavailability of sunlight for prolonged periods has been found to lead to depression in many people.  The multitude of events and environmental changes creates an ever changing landscape of emotions.  The rate of change in the external environment can lead to a frustrating emotional flux.  While the positive cycle of change is always welcomed, the negative cycle is often difficult to control and is very damaging for some individuals.   The key to restore balance and to make sure we are not dragged in a whirl pool of negative set of emotions is Awareness.   Awareness is a state of disassociation, a state of witnessing oneself.   The state of Awareness calms down the turbulent sea of emotions welling up in our being.  Spiritual practices like meditation lead to an increase in awareness.    Many scriptures and spiritual Masters have spoken about this Awareness.  A state of Awareness is like being Awake, and the emotional turbulences nothing but a dream.  This state of Awareness can also be described as a state of Vairagya – or Dispassion from the internal emotional response.  Hence the first law postulates that our awakening – a sense of Higher Awareness leads to the arrest of the constant flux in our emotions.The Second Law of E-motion:

    The intensity of the Emotion E is directly proportional to the significance given to the situation, divided by the level of Awareness,   the value of Awareness ranging from 1 to infinite.In short, Ei =  S/A  where  S  is the degree of Significance and A is the level of AwarenessAwareness as described in the first law is also responsible for mellowing down the level of our response.  The emotional response itself is inevitable, the intensity experienced then is a consequence of the significance we have for the external stimulus and moderated by the level of Awareness.Shama.  Awareness does not reduce the significance we put on that event, it just helps us cope with it better.  Awareness can also be linked to Viveka –  the faculty of discernment which helps distinguish between the permanent and transient, between good and bad.The Third Law of E-motion:

    Every emotion (positive or negative) released or expressed (consciously or unconsciously) will trigger an equal and opposite response from the universe.

    Unlike the physical world where the action produces an immediate response, why does the emotional response meander through time and space?  We do not know fully understand the fabric of the consciousness, the space through which the emotional world works, but it does seem to have the mechanics of the response built in.   At the pinnacle of awareness, the field of consciousness is completely neutral, and all actions and their responses dissolve.   In some sense this is the annihilation of the positive and negative forces which creates the drama in human mind.Brahman, in absence of duality, these laws do not have relevance.  In total Awareness, I am that!

    Aham Bramhasmi

    Aum Tat Sat 

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    Profit through the Prophets

    What the corporate world teaches you versus what spiritual wisdom says…

    The Age of Extreme Greed

    The wisdom of teachers, thinkers, prophets and great men has abounded for thousands of years. Despite this great body of wisdom, when we look around us today, we realize that we struggle to conduct ourselves in a manner becoming of intelligent, aware human life.

    Why is this so? A lot of us read. The question is what do we read? What books do we choose to pick up, read and follow?

    The answer to that too is contained in a book whose name at least we are all familiar with, the Bhagwad Gita. The Gita has Krishn telling Arjun that the cause of our behaviour is lust or desire.

    If we operate from a place of desire, we will be led to pursuing those activities, not those that will help us banish ignorance or those that will lead us to enlightenment or goodness.

    Yet all around us we see manifestations of lust, desire and greed. In public life, in corporate life, from common men to leaders, they all seem driven by lust. In the pursuit of the material, they have lost touch with themselves and have no time to acquire wisdom, either ancient or modern, and banish their ignorance.

    The result of this is for everyone to see. Our age is not called kalyug for nothing. All around us there is injustice, poverty, inequality, inhumanity, war, hunger, corruption. All borne out from lust.

    The Words of the Wise

    Let’s take what we can influence for starters. Largely, we inhabit and operate in the corporate world. Let us consider the dichotomy in what we learn and practise there. We are taught to be tough with our people. We are taught that leadership is about command. We are taught that we cannot allow anyone to take advantage of us. At the same time we are taught that we must maximize our advantage from all of our interactions, whether it is dealing with individuals, organizations or our poor customers.

    However, outside of the corporate world, in Life, everywhere from the Bible to the Quran to the Gita, there is repeated focus on speaking with kindness to people, on a culture of consulting each other, on dealing fairly with people, to working without greed.

    Consider that the Old Testament warns against “skimping the measure, boosting the price and dishonest scales”. Unfortunately we are only too happy when prices of our products or services or real estate get boosted, and we never spare a thought for fair pricing.

    Consider that the Quran has lessons in interpersonal skills, teamwork and democratic decision making when it says “And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter”.

    Modern management thought coupled with the increased accent on training has ensured that most managers are equipped with the relevant skill; however let us see what pains us most about feedback or appraisal sessions.

    Often we have worked with people where we have felt criticized and walked away from a “feedback” session with second hand negativity. What causes the behaviour of otherwise affable people to undergo such a change in feedback situations?

    Have we ever felt during an appraisal that our efforts count for naught because the result wasn’t achieved? How often have we been told that the effort doesn’t matter, only the result does. And how often we found ourselves wondering at how starkly that has conflicted with what Baron Pierre de Coubertin had to say?

    Take for instance Krishna’s advice to Arjun in the Gita:

    Therefore, O Arjun, surrendering all your works unto Me, with full knowledge of Me, without desires for profit, with no claims to proprietorship, and free from lethargy, fight.

    Krishna clearly advises Arjun to focus on the job at hand without a view on the outcome or gain.

    Take also for instance an instance related about Muhhamed. He is known never to have criticized even a simple thing like food, which many of us feel is our right to do. Once he asked his family for a condiment and they said, “We only have vinegar.”

    He asked for it and began to eat, saying, “Vinegar is an excellent condiment.

    Vinegar is an excellent condiment.

    How many of us think about how the doer of a job (whether cook or employee) feels when criticism or a harsh word is uttered about his effort. How often do we pay attention to Jesus’ advice to us: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you“?

    Ethical Earnings

     Is there a need for a spiritual education in our times today? Do we hardened, cynical citizens need a course in spirituality? I think so. Some of us are there already. We’ve moved from training our people on soft skills to stress management, from managing others to self-management, from productivity to work-life balance. Speakers like Robin Sharma, Deepak Chopra and Swami Parthasarthy are the rage in America, one country that is the foremost generator and consumer of modern management thought.

    CEO’s and corporates are lapping up the work that academics such as Sumantra Ghosal, CK Prahlad, Ram Charan and Rakesh Khurana are doing in the field of values, stakeholder and reciprocity based selfless leadership.

    The people that moved to Vedic City, Iowa, in order to be closer to the Maharishi University of Management, a university that is founded on principles of Vedic “consciousness-based” education, have found that their businesses have bloomed.

    Also in America, there are CEO’s like Pat Flood who have based their running of the company almost entirely around the values espoused by the Bible. And his company was on FORTUNE’s 2007 list of Top 100 Companies to work for.

    Since the late 20th century there has been an emergence of banks based on Islamic principles that prohibit either payment or acceptance of interest fees for loans of money, as well as prohibiting investments in businesses that provide goods or services considered contrary to its principles.

    And these institutions are bigger in size than businesses selling either tobacco or alcohol. For example the third largest Islamic bank in the World, the Bank Saderat Iran, has assets more than three times the market cap of the third largest alcohol company in the World, the UB Group in India. Their asset size also happens to be greater than the market cap of Indian tobacco giant ITC.

    Truly a victory for all those who believe that values based businesses will make money, probably even more money than dissimilar businesses.

    References:

    1. BusinessWeek.com,
    2. indusbusinessjournal.com,
    3. money.cnn.com,
    4. bnet.com

    By Aman Zaidi

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    God and the WWW

    God and the World Wide Web

    By: Vikas Bhatia

    Through the ages, humans have attempted in several ways to portray God. God has been represented in mythical figures, or sometimes as an abstract concept of the Supreme Consciousness. The representation of the self or ‘Atman’ has been even more abstract. In the Kathopanishad, it says ‘The Self being subtler than the subtle is not to be obtained by argument – Many are not even able to hear of the Self. Many even when they hear of Him, do not comprehend.’ So confusion persists in many minds about ‘what is the Self (Atman) and what is God (Parmataman)? What is the relationship between the Self and God? We are told that God exists within us and God exists everywhere. So what really is God?

    The self on the similar lines is the very core of our being, and yet it is said to be universal and in its purest form is nothing but cosmic consciousness. The Self and God in many ways are indistinguishable and yet the human mind associates the Self as a small part residing in our bodies and God as a bigger, universal entity. This duality itself is illusionary, and leads us to believe that God is something beyond a common mind.

    The relationship of the Self and God can be beautifully illustrated through the modern day example of the World Wide Web – or the Internet. The Internet was created for communication between the various labs of the US Defense but has evolved into a far broader and a universal utility. Internet can be broadly defined as collection of hundreds of millions of computer plugged into each other. This wide network has no real boundaries, no start and no end. It is has no fixed shape and continuously evolves. It does not even exist unless you plug into it. And the computers connecting to the Internet are part of the Internet and yet that is not the whole Internet, and the Internet would not be complete without these connecting computers. The same could be said about the human consciousness(The Self) and God.

    When this human consciousness unites or connects to the Divine Consciousness, it then becomes part of God. God then is a part of the self and the Self itself is a manifestation of God. Thus the individual self and God become one in this divine unity. God can thus be represented as the universal web of consciousness. This vast consciousness spans everything in this universe. The Mandukyopanishad says ‘All this whatsoever is seen here, there and everywhere, is Brahman. This Atman, the very self is Brahman, the absolute reality.’ This connection between the Self and God though may seem to be external is in fact very internal.

    We also have a God for various aspects of nature and life. We have gods/goddesses for education, money, health, rains, forest and so on. All these are part of this divine web. They are the various web servers from which you get all kind of blessings. It is the same web, just different parts or manifestations. Each manifestation is dependent on which blessings you want!!

    Connecting to the Internet requires some kind of connection be it a dial-up type or that of broadband kind. Connecting to this divine web also requires to have a connection facility – this could be through prayers, meditation (Sadhana) or Seva. Through these activities, one realizes the power of the divine web. When truly connected to this web, one does not distinguish the difference between the self and the rest. The self is the whole, as the universe and the universe does not exist without the self. The quality and speed of connection increases as one engages more in these activities. The level of experience enhances and the self becomes inseparable from this web.

    The role of a Guru in this context is akin to that of an ISP (Internet Service Provider). He is the gateway to this divine web. He brings you the power and the experience of the web to you. He is the troubleshooter if you experience any difficulties in the connection. Having realized and part of this divine web, he makes your journey enjoyable.

    The World Wide Web is expanding and so is this divine web of consciousness. It is infinite, ever growing and from which everything springs and ends. There are no national boundaries, no religious boundaries in this divine web. It is formless and all encompassing.

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    The 3 P’s

    By Vikas Bhatia

    The 3 P’s which drive the entire world of politics, business and societies are power, profit and pleasure. The 3 P’s have been the fundamental forces which have shaped the world we live in, right from the days of Ramayana, Mahabharata, Jesus Christ or that followed by the rise of Roman empire, the conquest of the British empire, the industrial era, and the global economy as we see it now. The challenges we face whether it be that of global warming, the oil crisis, the rising inequality, the economic recession have the indelible imprint of these 3 P’s. So profound are these and so deeply embedded that we possibly cannot imagine. Trying to remove them is possibly as inconceivable as removing the DNA from our bodies.

    Can we then ever expect Peace, Purity and Pluralism to be around, the counter or the spiritual P’s. It would appear that what we are wanting is that these forces to balance the overwhelming and destructive power of the three P’s of power, profit and pleasures. It is apparent that the positive P’s often make their presence felt only after the devastation created by those forces has left the individual or the society completely paralyzed. Revolutions are often brought about once the destruction is near complete…this battle of Ying and Yang forces is as eternal as the universe and this drama often witnessed at the sub atomic level as well as the cosmic level. Galaxies often eat up other galaxies, black holes gulp down everything around them. Such is the power of monster black holes swallowing matter, if Hitler ever knew about them would have felt utterly defenseless.

    The world problems as we have seen are also created by these powerful P’s. The Mayaa created by the 3P’s are so blinding, that individuals and societies at large mostly overlook the Frankenstein in making. So what is then the solution to the ills the world faces? Can we ever look at Utopia? The answer is yes and no…If the fundamental forces are embedded as it appears, we will continue to oscillate between periods of turmoil and then relative peace. It is the constant churn which has been documented in the Vedas, through the movement of time through the Yugas.

    Essentially, one of the forces of profit, power and pleasures have found strength alternatively or collectively by the changing mindset of the society. The roman society became decadent with pleasure after the conquest to establish the Empire. The British too got caught up with profits after the power was established. It is when the excess are committed on any of the three dimensions, a revolution brews. In the current Kal Yug, the worst of the four Yugs, the forces profit, power and pleasure have been very dominating. So caught up is the current generation in pursuing profits or being in power and all this with pleasures and comfort of the world, that if continued unchecked will lead to total destruction as we have seen in the past. Can this be avoided?

    At some point the seed of purity, peace and pluralism needs to be sown, watered and nurtured. That is the balancing P’s, or the spiritual forces which are also embedded, though they remain dormant unless awakened. That awakening is the dance of Siva, the God of Transformation, happening both at the individual and collective level. We are often awakened rudely and suddenly by the events around us or by an enlightened Master, the nurturer of these three spiritual P’s. While the material P’s will always be around, we can be released from the stranglehold of their malefic effects, if the spiritual P’s are brought to the fore. Often the awakening or the revolution at the individual level happens towards the mid life of the individual when the plans as set out by the individual fail to materialize or due to events which create a significant emotional turmoil. At the collective level, the strengthening of the spiritual P’s is a much more complex process. It requires an inspired individual who takes collective responsibility for the society or group in concern, identifies with the cause of the negative effects of the materialistic P’s and strives to generate a collective will to counter the effect through spiritual P’s. Gandhi was one such example. India’s freedom movement was achieved through the pluralistic efforts and peaceful movement against the British rule. The role of spiritual leaders like that of Sri Sri Ravishankar, founder of Art of Living is immense in bringing this balance, or awakening of the spiritual P’s. Such leaders through their personal quest, wisdom and dedication to the cause, work towards restoring this balance.

    The individual also needs to invoke the awakening, if he wishes to experience the beauty of life. There is possibly no escape to the dreadful P’s, but the quality of life can be significantly enhanced by inculcating the spiritual P’s, through a conscious and determined effort, or either through a revolution, sometimes violent.

    Is the dance of Shiva, the lord of transformation, going to create a Tandav in us?

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    Leaders by example Vs Leaders by default

    ‘I have a dream’ – such a simple line, yet it moved millions to act like never before. When Martin Luther King uttered these famous words, he announced to the world that he was their visionary leader who saw a better future and would therefore lead by example to that end. He inspired his followers to dream with him and turned them into believers who would go on to realise this dream collectively. He didn’t say ‘I have a plan’ – to quote Simon Sinek. Think about it. How many leaders can you recollect coming across who have ‘led by example’ and were not leaders ‘by default’?

    What then goes into making a good leader? There are some traits that a leader must have to be able to lead his/her team effectively towards success. Let’s look at these qualities as personal and professional traits.

    Personal traits

    Confidence: A must-have since only a person who has confidence in his/her abilities can help others know their true worth and perform well. It’s the confidence that helps a leader fight problems and come out of them successfully.

    Honesty: A good leader will always be honest and straightforward. It’s this honesty that gains the respect and trust of others. Success is always a team effort and it cannot be possible if the team members do not trust the leader’s abilities and respect his/her judgment.

    Will power: Resilience or will power is what makes or breaks a leader. A true leader will always have that extra source of will power to dig in and never give up in spite of troubles.

    Professional traits

    Person-focus: No two ways about it – it is the team that gets the work done and a lot depends on them. Team members look up to a leader who has a person-focus and not only goal-focus. A leader needs to be able to be a part of the team progress, understand problems and give solutions.

    Motivating: A good leader is one who constantly keeps the team motivated in spite of all the troubles and is able to derive performance out of them. But for that, one needs to be motivated oneself in order to lead form the front.

    Visionary: A good leader must be able to see the future and decide what needs to be done to realise that vision. This leader thinks out of the box and sees opportunities that others do not. He/she creates plans that work and makes everyone believe in the power of cohesive-thinking.

    Disciplined: A true leader will always be disciplined and will know what has to be done and how it has to be done, be it personal or professional. This is what makes him/ her stand out – being equipped with the right mixture of personal qualities and professional skills that are hallmarks of a true leader.

    Wanted: Inspirational Leaders

    Now more than ever, employees are starving for a sense of feeling connected to a higher purpose than just meeting this month’s sales and profit figures. An inspirational leader can really make the difference in improving the confidence of people, who will in turn enhance the organization’s performance.

    This seems to be the perfect time to bring more personal meaning to the team’s work and inspire to shine, despite difficult business conditions. This effort doesn’t cost money and will certainly lead to better long-term results. So how can one become an inspirational leader?

    The key is to look within. Inspirational leadership is a fundamental shift in one’s state of mind. It is not a cheerleading exercise but an effort to activate the inner passion of people. Everyone has something within them that serves as a personal motivation for their own level of success and satisfaction. Inspirational Leaders can tap into that source of energy and unleash the full potential of individuals and teams.

    We must constantly remind ourselves that everybody wants to feel like they are part of a movement, rather than merely cogs in a wheel. Whether they are in accounting, information systems, human resources, sales, or operations, people who understand the holistic goal of the organization can quickly see how their work is connected to the ultimate outcome. It is not difficult to see that leaders who can establish this type of emotional connection to goals are invaluable to the organization.

    Last but not the least, as a leader, it is imperative that one encourages full participation and ensures that all voices are heard. Traditionally there are a handful of people who are comfortable with being very outgoing and such individuals will clearly contribute. Yet the quietest people often have some of the most insightful suggestions. Inspirational leaders have the ability to bring out the best from all types of people. Yes – the old debate about extroverts and introverts resurfaces again! But we must remember that everyone is different and as leaders we must be the ones to adapt styles to produce the best results.

    Now comes the best part – celebration and recognition! People need to understand how they are doing. Recognition is very important because once people are inspired towards a common goal they will want to be informed about progress. Inspirational leaders know how important personal appreciation and recognition is to maintaining a motivated work force. Small celebrations when key milestones are achieved are great tools to help them team reflect on the journey and correct the course where necessary. These celebrations allow leaders to not only acknowledge the people who have crossed another great hurdle, but to share best practices so others may benefit from the learning along the way.

    That also brings setbacks into the picture. Inspirational Leaders who motivate teams also know how to deal with setbacks. They use such situations to show visible support for team members who may have taken a large risk and fallen a bit short. More importantly, they use setbacks for key teaching moments so as to minimize future shortcomings.

    In the end it comes down to a few choices that separates leaders from inspirational leaders. Can we embrace the mind-set that we will bring out the best in people? Can we take the disparate actions of many and create a common cause greater than the sum of the parts? Only then will the organization benefit in a truly wholesome manner thanks to a culture committed to developing people who will accelerate performance.

    So go ahead – Lead by example by choosing to be an inspirational leader and converting work into purpose.

    Source: Article by Jerry S.Wilson, senior vice-president of the Coca-Cola Co., where he serves as chief customer and commercial officer. He is a personal branding expert and co-author of Managing Brand YOU: 7 Steps to Creating Your Most Successful Self.

    Before we sign off, here’s something that is straight out of our dreams of an ideal leader! Till next time, happy reading and happy leading!

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