On life…and learning

Posts Tagged ‘Learning

What I Learnt From My ‘Not-So-Great’ Bosses…

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Lessons Learned RRGwrites

We all love to talk about our Bosses, don’t we? And Lord knows, a minority of of us would regard our bosses as good leaders. When I wrote my earlier blog – ‘What My Great Bosses Taught Me’ – many of the readers asked me, “Hey, what about the bad bosses?”

So here it is…

The matter of fact is, I never had a really bad boss. Truly! That said, I have had my fair share of bad apples – a very insecure boss, another one who was ill-mannered and one who was simply incompetent for his job. However, none of them were awful enough for me to either loather or run away from them. In fact, I performed better under a couple of them, and was more successful under one of the tougher nuts.

There are many things I learnt from my great managers. The earlier blog enlists those. However, I learnt lot many more things from my, should I say, not-so-great bosses. A learning that proved invaluable in my later years; both, as a professional and as a people leader. Some of them were very simple, practical things and few were too profound a learning…

They are:

  1. Don’t reply to an unfavourable email in a hurry; wait till evening at least. That helps my hyper-reaction settle down and choice of words become calmer!
  2. You may be really intelligent and smart and all that, no point over-fighting your peers – functional or cross-functional. Even though they may not be able to score a point over you, they will end up despising you – something that won’t do good to the professional image in later years. From this boss, I learnt the value of building a truly well-knit peer-group, which may not be my besties, but wouldn’t despise me either.
  3. No one comes to work to do a bad job. No one joins office thinking they will give their worst that day. Keeping this in mind made me practice empathy and statesmanship, even when I was right and others were grossly wrong.
  4. Harsh language never helped the cause. If you are younger and more successful than your peers, you need to not oversell it. Success is a lousy teacher and it encourages arrogant behaviour and as rash tongue. Worse, even if you are right in what you say, how you say that will be picked, and surely used against you. Here, I learnt to be firm, yet stay polite. A learning that has held me in good stead since then.
  5. I learnt the craft of managing very senior management employees from one of my most difficult bosses. He was really good at this. I learnt the art of polite persistence, presentation skills to a senior audience group as well as how to handle tough questions from them, specifically those whose answer I didn’t know!
  6. Never work for a powerless boss. This is a great life/career-saving tip I received from one such a boss. I have written in detail about this learning here
  7. One must not feel insecure when your subordinate’s stars are shining brighter than yours. I once had a very insecure manager, who, despite being extremely competent functionally, was extremely inhibited in front of smarter juniors. He would simply feel threatened! My learning was a life-long one; that the key to success for any deputy is to do such good work that his boss gets promoted and recommends him for taking his spot! I have written in detail about this learning here…

‘Seek’ Your True Calling…

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Seek Finding Your True Calling

Just completed reading an insightful and extremely useful book – Seek – Finding Your True Calling’ by Rakesh Godhwani.

If you are an engineering or MBA student looking ahead to make a career choice, this book is a great investment – trust me, Rs.150/- spent on this book and one or two days spent in reading this masterpiece, albeit written simply, will fetch you a great ROI – provides you with ample food for thought – specially when you are at the cusp of making a crucial choice – what job or career to go for…

The book explores the key reasons why a large number of students leave their first job within first year of joining. However, quite usefully for the students, the author approaches the question differently … Why did they end up in these jobs in the first place?

Sounds interesting? It is, indeed. I meet a lot of young students and working professionals who battle a fierce challenge of poor engagement with their first jobs. And I can say, if not all, this book certainly attempts to provide some solutions, some guidance, and certainly forces you to make a more informed choice, rather than merely going for that great corporate brand and/or 6-digit salary offered at campus.

My first boss taught me a wonderful lesson; he said, “…find your true calling; promotions, salary-hikes, fame, and above all, an engaged work-life will follow you on their own…”

If you are a student aiming to enter the world of jobs, or a young professional trying to find your true calling yet, I would urge you to consider investing this Rs.150/-; you won’t regret spending it on learning the decision-making approach the author shares with you.

PS: Do let me know your thoughts once you’ve read the book!


Image-credit: pagalguy.com

If you liked this post, you may also like reading these earlier blogs:

MBA की ‘मास्टरी’…

MBA at 16! A must read…

How I Learnt to Conduct Positive Arguments…

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imagesAs an organization and human resources professional, my job involves conducting a lot of conversations, discussion & arguments and managing conflicts therein. As any other well-meaning professional, I have made my fair share of mistakes during such conversations; introspection told me that many such discussions could have been conducted in a more fruitful manner. Having said that, I would like to believe that I am better off today by making such mistakes and learning from them.

After all these years of being a true argumentative Indian, often straight-worded and carrying ‘When right, say it hot’ mindset, I wanted 2013 to be a better year. So, I took as one of my guiding principles/quotes of 2013 as – “I will not attend every argument I am invited to” (Author Unknown). I sat down in early Jan, dug deep into my experience and wrote down all the errors I tend to make during a discussion or an argument. And from that exercise, I learnt these two invaluable lessons, which now help me conduct a positive argument.

Now, during every discussion-turn-argument, I continually remind myself:

  • “I need to share my thoughts, without building a perception that the other person’s thoughts are incorrect. I may have my well-intentioned and valid reasons to state my views firmly, AND that does not make the views of the other person any inferior.” I keep telling myself that I am not trying to win over a personal victory here, I am just bringing my views and thoughts to the table.

  • “I must end the conversation purely on the merits of the two sides of arguments AND do not bring THE person in between the debate.” I keep reminding myself that if I state all my views with necessary facts, share my thought process clearly, I need not push or act aggressive. Not raising voice, and improving the argument is what I do – with a belief that the argument on its own merits will end up winning, if it is worth it, i.e..

How it helped? Well, I do not bring along my ego as an additional participant to a discussion any more. I listen with an intent to listen and not with an immediate urge to respond right back; to share with you, that was tough and I am indeed doing better by learning this art. I try not to allow my smile and/or my positive exterior to fade, even amidst the most trying arguments. And best of all, I do not end up making the other person feel being gunned down by the volley of arguments.

And I must tell you, I have started enjoying arguments even more now, they are a lot more harmonious and outcome-oriented! I still make some mistakes; few arguments still could have ended better… and that is the key, I now quickly scan my own self post every such conversation and reprimand self for any uncalled-for step. Next discussion turns out even better!

This was my experience. Now it is your turn. How do you conduct arguments? Do you follow any rules to conduct positive arguments? Do share…

MBA की ‘मास्टरी’…

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Inspirational-Picture-Quote-Hard-Work-and-Learningपिछले कुछ महीनों में कई विद्यार्थियों से मुलाकात करने का मौका मिला। अनेक प्रबंधन संस्थानों में पढ़ने वाले इन छात्रों से मिलना, उनसे बातें करना, उन्हें कभी-कभार कुछ सिखा पाने में मुझे एक अलग ही सुकून मिलता है। अपनी खुद की पढ़ाई के दिनों में मैंने इतने बच्चो, और कई बार समकक्षों को भी, ट्यूशन पढ़ाये कि अब तो ये आदत मेरे खुद का हिस्सा हो गयी है। और फिर, कॉर्पोरेट जगत में आया तो सीखा कि अच्छा और वास्तविक लीडर तो जी वो है तो पहले अच्छा टीचर हो। फिर तो ये आदत काम आने लगी और जैसा कि कहते हैं, अब एक ‘सीरियस हॉबी’, यानी ‘गंभीर शौक’ सी हो गयी है।

मैं भटक रहा हूँ; बात हो रही थी प्रबंधन के छात्रों की… अगर हम कुछ शीर्ष के, IIM, ISB सरीखे कुछ चुनिन्दा कॉलेज छोड़ दें, तो कुछ सालों से मुझे ऐसा प्रतीत होने लगा है कि शहरों-कस्बों में कुकुरमुत्तों के रूप में उग आये मैनेजमेंट कॉलेजों में पढ़ने वाले MBA के छात्रों में कुछ अजीब से जल्दबाज़ी, एक भागम-भाग सी हो गयी है। कमोबेश, यही हालत उन कॉलेजों की भी है जो हैं तो पुराने और स्थापित, पर पठन-पाठन, अध्यापकों-छात्रों के स्तर और मूल-भूत व ढांचागत शिक्षण सुविधाओं में काफी पीछे हैं। अमूनन, यह पढ़ाई दो साल की होती है। पर मैं तो देखता हूँ कि ज़्यादातर छात्र इस दौड़ में हैं कि कैसे, फटाफट से एक नौकरी मिल जाये, जो हज़ारों-लाखों रूपये महीने की तन्ख्वा देवे। बाकी सारे काम, जिसमे पढ़ना भी शामिल है, पीछे हो जाते हैं। हर काम कुछ इस वजह को दिमाग में बैठा के किया जाता है कि कैसे किसी बहुराष्ट्रीय कंपनी में नौकरी पा जाएँ। फिर तो दुनिया अपनी जेब में होगी और आसमान मुट्ठी में!

मैं इस सोच से चकित हूँ। अरे, गुरु लोगों, ये जुगाड़ तो सब ठीक है, पर असली मुद्दे – पढ़ाई और काबिलियत का क्या होगा? आखिर MBA के M का मतलब तो ‘मास्टर‘, माने उस्ताद है। और उस्ताद तो तभी होते हैं जब अपने फन में इतने माहिर हो जाएँ कि लोग हमारी उस्तादी का लोहा मानने लगें। और एक छात्र के लिए अपने विषय पर पकड़ ही उसकी उस्तादी – मास्टरी है। फिर समझना मुश्किल है कि इस पढ़ाई में जल्दबाज़ी का क्या काम! और स्कूल या ग्रेजुएशन की बात थोड़े न हो रही है, यहाँ तो उस पढ़ाई की बात हो रही है जिसके बाद छात्र, छात्र नहीं रहते, मास्टर, मैनेजर, लीडर, कंसलटेंट और न जाने क्या बन जाते हैं, हज़ारों-लाखों रूपए बनाते हैं अपने कौशल से। सोचिये, सिर्फ मैं बड़ा डॉक्टर बनू, फटाफट, ये सोचते हुए कोई डॉक्टरी पास होता जाये तो वो क्या खाके इलाज करेगा। वैसे ही, जल्दी से पहला साल बीते, summer training मिले और फिर 6 महीने और एक लल्लन-टाप नौकरी, इस झटपट रफ़्तार से की गयी पढ़ाई से क्या ख़ाक आप और मैं ‘मास्टर’ बनेंगे! कोई आश्चर्य की बात नहीं जब अब से कुछ समय पहले एक सर्वे ने छापा था कि ज़्यादातर मैनेजमेंट कॉलेजों के अधिकतम छात्र मैनेजमेंट की नौकरी कर पाएं, ऐसे गुणों का आभाव रखते हैं। और फिर चलो मान लें कि कैंपस इंटरव्यू में अच्छा इम्प्रैशन जमा के नौकरी मिल भी गयी, तो क्या वो एक सफल करियर की गारंटी है?

मुझे याद पढ़ता है कि जिन दिनों मैं पूना के Symbiosis लॉ कॉलेज में पढ़ाई कर रहा था; प्रिंसिपल साहब, डा. रास्ते, ने एक दिन लाइब्रेरी में मुझे पढ़ते देखा और शायद खुश हो के एक गुरुमंत्र दिया, “बेटा, इन तीन सालों में जितना पढ़ सकते हो, पढ़ लो। खूब किताबें छानों क़ानून की और इस लाइब्रेरी का खूब फायदा उठाओ, बेशरम बनों और बहुत सवाल पूछो अपने प्रोफेसरों से… क्योंकि जब तुम वकालत करना शुरू कर दोगे या नौकरी करोगे, तो पढ़ने का बिलकुल समय नहीं मिलेगा…”

आप मुझे ग़लत न समझें; ऐसा नहीं है कि सभी MBA के छात्र पढ़ना नहीं चाहते। जैसे शीर्ष के मैनेजमेंट कॉलेजों में, छोटा ही सही, एक तबका नालायकों का होता है, वैसे ही इन छोटे संस्थानों में एक छोटा सा तबका उन छात्रों का होता है जिनमे सीखने की अदम्य लालसा होती हैं। ये तबका चाहे बड़े शहरों में कॉलेजों में हो या कस्बों के, सीखने की धुन में रास्ते खोज ही लेता है। यह रोज़ अपने-आप को बेहतर बनाना चाहता है, और बिलकुल हठधर्मिता से अपने आप को ‘मास्टर’ बनाने में जुटा रहता है। ये सिर्फ एक अदद नौकरी नहीं चाहते, ये एक बेहतर करियर बनाना चाहते हैं और इस विश्वास से पढ़ते हैं कि अगर अच्छा पढ़ जायेंगे, अपने आप को उस्ताद कहने का जायज़ हक़ हासिल कर लेंगे, तो नौकरी तो मिल ही जाएगी, साथ ही एक लम्बे, सफल करियर की मज़बूत नींव भी पड़ जाएगी।

बहुचर्चित फिल्म ‘लगान’ में भुवन के रोल में आमिर खान ने क्या खूब कहा है, “चूल्हे से रोटी निकलने के लिए चिमटे को अपना मुँह जलाना ही पड़ता है…।”

जले हुए, पर मज़बूत और सदा-उपयोगी चिमटे से सीखते हुए ऐसे ही छात्र M से ‘मास्टर’ बन के निकलेंगे, अपने कार्य-क्षेत्र में सफलता के नए आयाम स्थापित करेंगें, और गुरुदेव रबिन्द्रनाथ ठाकुर के शब्दों में, ‘सफल होने के साथ ‘सार्थक’ भी बनेंगे’, ऐसा मेरा विश्वास है।

आप क्या सोचते हैं, बताईयेगा…

What My Best Bosses Taught Me…

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Leader TeacherIn my eight years of working life, I worked with some superb leaders. However, my first Manager will always be very close to my heart; he was the one who picked me right after the MBA-school and taught me the grind of the corporate world. A really demanding guy he was; his toughness ensured I learn everything the right way. There were no short-cuts allowed. He motivated and pushed me hard. In short, he shaped my career and my thought-process for the formative years.

After four years, I met another superb leader, who hired me to be the part of his dream-team, and took me to an altogether next level of learning and performance. Unlike my first boss, he was far younger, albeit an equally strong leader. He taught me another set of valuable lessons, and refined me into a better professional and a leader.

From a young, raw, inexperienced management trainee to now a people-leader myself, these two bosses left an indelible impression on my professional and personal lives. Here, I am sharing some of the key things they taught me; some very simple things they said and did proved to be the most effective learning later.

As a young management trainee, here is what I learnt from my first boss…

  • Whatever is worth doing, it’s worth doing in a process-oriented manner – create processes for everything you do.
  • Be a subject matter expert – there is nothing better than knowing your job the best.
  • Be in office at least one hour before an important presentation. Visit the room where the meeting is scheduled; check the projector, see if it works fine with your laptop. That’s being ready and being on-time…
  • Either you work hard for the first 20 years of your life and enjoy the rest of it, or you enjoy the first 20 years and you would find yourself working very hard to live your rest of the life.
  • If you don’t really know the business by the back of your hand, you aren’t the HR guy business would want to have on their team.
  • Never accept mediocrity – it is infectious like a disease.
  • A good leader never worries about his goal-sheet; he just helps members of his team achieve their goals; his get automatically done!
  • Never mess with the happy situation, specially, while deciding compensation and benefits.
  • If you are signing a document, writing an email, making a ppt – anything that carries your name, watch out for all the silly mistakes – spellings, fonts, formatting, grammar – they all make a dent. Positive or negative – you need to decide.

And the next Boss taught me these…

  • We do strategy only two days every year – rest 363 days we need to ensure impeccable execution.
  • People don’t have any control over who would become their boss; they learn to put up with whomsoever the organization puts over them. But they surely will not accept all bosses as their ‘leader’. Being the boss is easy, be the leader…that’s really difficult. But then, why would you want to do an easy job anyway?
  • Age really doesn’t determine maturity and years of experience are no measure of talent and capability.
  • Never hire people in your team who are any lesser competent that you. Hire people better than you, and make it a habit.
  • When in retail, spend maximum time travelling to stores; talking to people, spending time working on the floor – that’s where real action is, that’s where real ideas and results will come from.
  • Don’t start any major activity or a plan if you do not envision it running for at least five years. Dream big, plan right, look ahead…
  • Guard your team’s reputation like your own. If your team is right, no one should be able to touch them. If they aren’t right, you should be the only one reprimanding them, not others…
  • A leader not only needs to be fair, he must also appear fair.
  • It’s OK to fail at times; just don’t miss capturing the learning.
  • If all the sub-teams are not connecting in a ‘boundary-less’ manner, they aren’t forming one team for sure. Invest time and energy in making all sub-teams work together cohesively, and you’d build the most competent team ever…

While both these men belonged to different age-groups, background and experiences, they had many things in common – they were both voracious readers, always willing to learn new things and better themselves. They were quite punctual and orderly, and valued others’ time like their own. They were big men with small egos, and carried no chip on their shoulder about the designations, cabins, et al. Both were true to their words, and always came back when they said they would. Both spent more time in building careers of their team-mates than their own. And above all, they both never shied away from accepting responsibility, living up to what Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “A chief is a man who assumes responsibility. He says “I was beaten,” he does not say “My men were beaten.”

Many of these things I learnt by observing them. And when these two leaders spoke, I heard them loud and clear. Sometimes, it took me a while, even a long time in few cases, to realize the importance, for the impact of there words to sink in. It took me while to imbibe some of these learning and change my behaviour…but I now can see why some of these learning are real pearls of wisdom. I now enjoy practicing them, and reap the benefits.

I learnt several other things from my other managers too, and while I am still learning, something I’d never stop; I’ll be forever grateful to these two gentlemen, who taught me some really valuable work & life lessons.

Those are my learning from my best bosses. Now it’s your turn. Which of these learning speak most to you? I am sure you too worked with some great bosses; what are your experiences? Let me know in the comments below- and here’s to all of us becoming better leaders!

My Learning From Alice In Wonderland…

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AliceRight since my childhood years, and even to date, I am deeply fascinated with Lewis Carroll’s legendary character – Alice. Immersed in her very own Wonderland, she always intrigued me – some of my finest learning of life comes from this book ‘meant for the children’! Carroll was a rather gifted man of diverse interests in logical reasoning, science, philosophy and mathematics; to my mind, his words have much deeper meaning than merely intending to be a children’s book. Celebrating ‘curiosity’ at every available opportunity, Alice is a truly timeless character and some of her words occupy my thought process to date; I have found them really useful every time I have read them. Sharing seven of them with you:

  • “But”, said Alice, “the world has absolutely no sense, who’s stopping us from inventing one?”
  • Alice laughed, “There’s no use trying,” she said, “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
  • “Do you think I’ve gone round the bend?” 
    “I’m afraid so. You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
  • “If everybody minded their own business… the world would go round a deal faster than it does.”
  • “You should learn not to make personal remarks,” Alice said with some severity; “it’s very rude.”
  • “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
    “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,”
    said the Cat.
    “I don’t much care where…” said Alice.
    “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,”
    said the Cat.
  • “Tut, tut, child!” said the Duchess. “Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.”

Through the words of wisdom above, Alice leaves an indelible impression on the mind, shaping character, instilling values like power of imagination, trying & risk-taking, finding sense amidst chaos, managing self and that nothing is impossible. All through, she tries to interpret everything around her in a logical manner, and you’d often note the conflict between her desire to be mature, rational & grow up and her natural ingenuous whims; a skirmish that most of us adults face almost daily in our lives.

Now that you’ve looked closer, don’t you agree with some of the deeper messages Alice delivers to us adults too, specially in the chaos of the corporate world?


Photo-credit: weheartit.com

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