On life…and learning

Archive for June 2013

How I Remember Nelson Mandela…

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imagesAnother day of unease passed by today in South Africa. Nelson Mandela, greatest hero of the nation, is tragically unwell. Prayers are being offered, not only in South Africa, but also all over the world. He is a true hero in many senses…

Today, I am reminded of a day of year 1988, 25 years ago. Studying in the 3rd standard, I was growing up learning about Shaheed Sardar Bhagat Singh, who, to date is my role model. On that day, I remember asking Ms. Chowdhary, my school teacher, “Miss, is there any other person in this world who is just like our own valiant Bhagat Singh?”

Bhagat Singh“Yes, there is, my son. His name is Nelson Mandela”, she replied. That was the first time I heard his name.

Now that Nelson Mandela is probably living his last days, I am reminded of this conversation quite vividly. I remember Ms. Chowdhary, a superb teacher, sharing some stories about him with me. They stayed with me, and probably, left a lasting impression on my formative years. I went on to read and learn a lot more about Nelson Mandela, his life, his values & believes, his leadership & bravery, clarity of thought & purpose and above all, the strength of his character. And really, he appeared to me a man very similar to Bhagat Singh.

Seven sentences of his that I am quoting below will tell you what a man he was and why I can surely call him ‘Bhagat Singh of South Africa’:

  • I was called a terrorist yesterday, but when I came out of jail, many people embraced me, including my enemies, and that is what I normally tell other people who say those who are struggling for liberation in their country are terrorists.
  • Nonviolence is a good policy when the conditions permit.
  • Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world.
  • For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
  • I do not deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation and oppression of my people…
  • Any man or institution that tries to rob me of my dignity will lose.
  • Our single most important challenge is… to help establish a social order in which the freedom of the individual will truly mean the freedom of the individual.

They say, Mandela admired Mahatma Gandhi. Something in me tells, he would have admired Bhagat Singh as well. After all, he was more like him than Gandhi…

I am praying for him…


Photo-credit 1: guardiantv.com

Photo-credit 2: hindustantimes.com

Written by RRGwrites

June 27, 2013 at 9:08 PM

Do You Too Like To Work With Your Clones?

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“I would like my team to think like me.”

“I am proud of my team’s bonding – they are all like-minded people.”

“In this team, we do things in the same tried and tested way. Our experience says that always works.”

“Why can’t my teammates think and behave like me?”

“Can you hire for me a person who can do this exactly the way as I?”

Chances are, you would have heard at least one of the above statements quite recently from a team-leader or a manager around you.

Often, I meet employees who work in a team and are unhappy with the way the leader behaves or operates, with the culture of the team, with lack of respect and recognition, and many other similar gaps leading to their poor engagement at work. However, one striking aspect that makes them most annoyed and disengaged is the leader’s expectation of them having & displaying same operating style and similar thought process as him. Not respecting diversity of opinion and styles of working, to my mind, are the biggest elements behind poor engagement of any team. I concede that it is the leader of the team who decides the path ahead and selects the team-membes to execute that vision. However, it is an abundantly misplaced notion that a great team is one in which everyone was hired for similarity of style, attitude and experience as the leader. In all my experience of building & leading high performance teams, I learnt that a strong team is one where everyone brings diversity of traits, experience, operating style and interests.

Let’s take an example of a Gardener, who, let’s say has space for planting about fifty small plants. To achieve a lush, blooming garden, will she sow the same species of flowers or plants in her garden? And then give every plant the same type of soil, same quality of manure and amount of sunlight? Or will she water all of them in the similar fashion? And then expect the garden to bloom with flowers of all colours? Won’t that be naïve?

Think of it; if a team is expected to behave just like the leader and is rather built with an intention to mirror the leader’s thinking and execution style, who would perform the quintessential task of raising questions or bringing different perspectives while dealing with a situation? Now, won’t that be too risky a proposition?

A really effective leader is one who has developed a skill of managing a diverse team, and I am not only referring to the diversity of gender, but diversity of thought-process, experience and interests, style and attitude. And then nurture and lead them all into forming a strong, cohesive unit, delivering consistently superior performance.

I am leaving you with my favourite quote on team-leadership:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 Do you know leaders who like to work only with their clones? Do share your experiences…


Photo-credit: theideabrand.com

5 Life Lessons I Learnt From My Father…

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Fathers DayBaba, as I would affectionately call my father, taught me a lot of things; just as any father would to his son. And some of these things became a part of my character, my overall being. Some of them were really basic things, while few had deeper meaning, which I took many years to understand and value. Now that Baba resides in his heavenly abode, this is the first Father’s Day I am spending without him around. And since morning I am reminded of all those learning and values he instilled in me…

  • He taught me the value of compassion as bedrock of character. He would tell me, “There are so many of us who aren’t as lucky as you are; help those whom you can and don’t wait for someone to invite you do ‘charity’. If you have it, it is imperative for you to share it. Do good, as it is the right thing to do.”
  • Staying organized was another invaluable lesson I learnt from him. Baba was an impeccably organized person, not only his work and business, but also in his daily life. Filing papers neatly, keeping records, organizing his personal stuff and keeping everything in a planned manner in his cupboard; whether a to-do list or simply packing a bag – he was as orderly as it can get. Long before I learnt the power of ‘5-S’ – the incredible Japanese principle of organization, Baba had inculcated this habit in me.
  • The power of dressing properly – a concept that now does circles in the corporate corridors as ‘Power Dressing’ – was another life-long skill I learnt by watching him. He was a man of style! Crisp, starched shirts, flawlessly ironed trousers and always in place hairstyle – not a thing out of place. He appeared as well dressed when he would return from work in evening as he would that morning! And I remember how he would see to it personally that my school-shirts are really sparkling white and not pale! He had a great sense of choosing & managing his clothing and never confused style with brands. With a sharp eye for detail and cut, he was always ‘in place’. A learning that I use to my advantage, though I secretly wish I were really as cool & classy as he were…
  • “Never let the colour of money colour your lens of viewing the world”, he would say. He taught me the lesson of managing tough times with ease and prosperity with unpretentiousness. Money was only means to him and not an end. And from him I learnt to value people and personal bonds over money, and I am glad to acquire this one lesson in the material world we live in.
  • “Trust others. People are generally warm and good hearted”; he taught me this right from the very childhood. And this was one value I learnt more by observing his actions; he would trust instinctively and place his faith in good intentions of people around him. To him, doubting others wasn’t a natural trait. And not that he hadn’t at times face the brunt of trusting so easily, he would still keep his faith intact in people’s intentions. I guess, it was the same positivity and authenticity that in return earned him the faith and in trust of so many people I know. One trait, which I would like to believe, helped me become a better people leader now…

Lord knows I miss my father. Now that he isn’t there with me, I live everyday of my life living up to the values he inspired in me. I guess, this Father’s Day, that is my gift to him…

Here’s wishing all the Dads in this world – a very happy Father’s Day.


Photo-credit: wallpapers.funmunch.com


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TalentAs a Talent Strategy professional, I have a keen interest in identifying, managing and developing talent, and I always thought it is more of a responsibility bestowed upon leaders and not merely a job that they have to perform. Similarly, talented people have a responsibility to put their talent to work and deliver. Else, what a waste, it can be…

While there isn’t any dearth of literature on this subject, very little of it really makes us think about making best use of talent. Recently, while following the events at the World Economic Forum held at Lima, Peru, I heard a profound statement on this subject, which I wish to share with all of you who follow my blog:

“The largest fortune in the world is Talent. It is a question of how you put talent to work. When you have a talent, you have an obligation to deliver.”

– Carlos Garcia Moreno Elizondo, CFO, America Movil, Mexico

What an intense and meaningful statement, this is. Does it make you think? Do share your thoughts.


Photo-credit: gowitflow.tumblr.com

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