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Archive for November, 2012

Going by the caption, I guess you imagine me to be a Casanova of sorts, with a bevy of beauties chasing me, eager to swamp me with their irresistible charms. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I am a simpleton, in looks as well as in physique. If ever there was an Oscar awarded to people who excel in projecting a permanently-worried-and-constipated look on their not-so-handsome faces, I would have won it long time ago. God has not endowed me with the kind of exceptional grey matter that appeals to the fairer of our species. Even those with the most fertile imagination may not call me either bold or dashing. I am your average middle-class guy, leading an average life – a conformist to the core. Well, that about sums me up!

If so, which mistresses am I talking about? Well, my wife is of the firm belief that even if we both are tied in holy matrimony by virtue of having taken the seven sacred wows while rounding a ceremonial fire as per traditional Hindu rites, I do not pay her the kind of attention she deserves. She claims that I am always engaged in pursuing courtship with the other interests in my life, namely, my career, my profound love for books and my infatuation with such technical gizmos as laptops, smart-phones, internet-savvy television sets, et al. She claims that all these extra-marital affairs of mine deprive her of an exclusive access to my love and affection, increasing her sense of abandonment and isolation.

Career obviously takes the first priority for me, much to the exclusion of family and other interests. Having come up in life due to an excellent education provided for by my parents long time back, I am mortally afraid of jeopardizing my career growth prospects just because a Parent Teacher Meeting is scheduled for the very day on which an all important client meeting is due to take place. Or, taking leave for a day to show a movie to a bunch of giggly kids from my in-laws’ side who have suddenly decided to swoop down on us, taking our hospitality for granted.

If an assignment needs me to lead my team for up to 15 hours on most days, I feel I have to be physically present in office there to buck them up. But my better half could not disagree with me more. Invariably, I am held responsible for having “married” my job, as also the company I work for.

Another “marriage” I get blamed for is that of my fondness for reading and writing. Savoring my early morning cup of tea, accompanied by the latest edition of The Hindu, I often get lost in its thought-provoking editorials. This is a sight that makes her register a strong protest in no uncertain terms. I am supposed to help her instead in deciding the sari she is supposed to wear when some guests arrive for dinner that day, followed of course by a long list of provisions I have to shop for on my return from office.Bertie image

Late at night, if I curl up in bed with my Kindle e-book reader, enjoying the escapades of Bertie Wooster trying to wriggle out of an impending walk down the aisle with a goofy female like Madeline Bassett, subtly assisted by the inimitable Jeeves, her priority would be to update me either with the misdemeanors of the maid servant during the day, or some gossip about the neighbor’s daughter.

On a lazy Sunday forenoon, if I am found composing a new article while sitting in front of my laptop, all hell would break loose. I shall either receive a sermon on the sacrosanct duties and responsibilities of a householder, or simply get asked if I can help her in locating her spectacles. My tenuous thought process having got disrupted thus, the creative juices would stop flowing, leading me to sigh in exasperation and grudgingly get back to the mundane affairs of life.

For a nationally acclaimed couch potato like me, it is easy for me to empathize with my wife when she thinks that the television set in the house is yet another mistress whose charms I find more alluring. When it comes to attracting my attention, it is definitely her arch-rival, especially if Amitabh Bacchhan’s baritone voice is wafting in the air, posing the next question to a participant in the quiz show “Kaun Banega Crorepati”.

Anyhow, let me confess that I enjoy such affairs with these mistresses only when my better-half is around, pottering about in the kitchen and running the household affairs as efficiently as only she can. The male of the species can surely pursue their “other interests”, but let them not take their wives for granted. Take a wife  out of the scenario, and the charm of all the extra-marital affairs would simply evaporate!

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A vast majority of our management professionals may typically scoff at the idea of any common areas between the realms of happinessspirituality and management. After all, management is all about getting things done, irrespective – perhaps – of the means deployed. Result orientation, MBO, resource optimization, mentoring, etc, have been the key words in the better part of the last century. On the other end, spirituality is widely perceived as one being decent and nice to others, of being considerate and empathic. This sounds more like a surreal concept, because then, it is commonly feared, there is a good chance of either insubordination, or an emotional blackmail by others in the organization, thereby diluting the chances of achieving one’s goals effectively and efficiently.

In other words, management is perceived to be at one end of the spectrum whereas spirituality is believed to be at the opposite end. However, if one were to look a little deeper, one is likely to find not only several dots which join the two apparently diametrically opposite view points, but also a new vision and strategy to manage affairs more effectively than ever.

BEING SPIRITUAL

What do we understand by spirituality? Sure enough, it is not being good to others around us. It has more to do with an inner call and a yearning to do better, whatever may be the chosen field of one’s activity. Like perfection and happiness, which are not destinations in life but the journey of life itself, being spiritual is a process in itself. An inner process of self introspection, development and improvement is what makes a person spiritual. Spirituality is awakening oneself and developing one’s unique abilities to the maximum, thereby maximizing one’s innate potential to achieve excellence in management.

Spirituality is not about withdrawing from the worldly activities; instead, it is about an active engagement with the mundane affairs of life, whether pertaining to managing an enterprise, or related to one’s personal life and self-development,

A manager is not an exception to this fundamental truth. In fact, armed with his systematic approach, he would chalk out a plan to achieve the goal of becoming spiritual in all his dealings. And that would make him even more spiritual than he originally would have been!

ATTRIBUTES OF A SPIRITUAL MANAGER

A manager who is keen to realize his own self would be more empathic towards his team mates’ problems. He would instinctivelyMahabharat Krishna Arjuna know when to motivate whom and when to pull up a defaulting team member. He would never rebuke a team member in public and praise in private. He would do his own home work in advance, and base his plans on feedback and suggestions from his team. Invariably, he would go into minute details of the plan, thereby striving for and achieving perfection. Failures would be taken as stepping-stones of future successes, and not necessarily used for witch-hunting. He is a leader as well as a mentor.

Why did Krishna choose to teach the essential principle of detachment to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra? Because due to a misplaced sense of attachment, Arjuna was deviating from his karma. The Lord was obviously a smart leader, so he decided to motivate him at a crucial juncture in his career. If the goal was to facilitate a win for the Pandavas in the war and avenge injustice and humiliation suffered by them at the hands of the Kauravas, he got it done very effectively indeed! Would it then be wrong to label Krishna as a Spiritual Manager?!

MOVING OVER TO “SQ” – A SPIRITUAL QUOTIENT

Management thought and practice has evolved dramatically over the past few decades.  The early 20th century saw our civilization coming up with an index for our cognitive and intellectual abilities – the IQ. Then in 1985, Howard Gardner came up with his research on “multiple intelligences” in his book Frames of Mind. Later, John Mayor and Peter Salovey co-propounded a new concept of “emotional intelligence” that is said to shape the quality of our inter- and intra-personal relationships. Reuven Bar-On coined the term “EQ” and described it thus:

            It is thought that the more emotionally intelligent individuals are those who are able to recognize and express their emotions,c1 (25) who possess positive self-regard and are able to actualize their potential capacities and lead fairly happy lives; they are able to understand the way others feel and are capable of making and maintaining mutually satisfying and responsible interpersonal relationships without becoming dependent on others; they are generally optimistic, flexible, realistic and are fairly successful in solving problems and coping with stress without losing control.

Daniel Goleman published his book Emotional Intelligence in 1996, confirming that success in life is based more on our ability to manage our emotions than on our intellectual capabilities; also, that a lack of success is more often than not due to our mismanagement of emotions. Some factors comprising emotional intelligence are “self-awareness, seeing the links between thoughts, feelings and reactions; knowing if thoughts or feelings are ruling a decision; seeing the consequences of alternate choices; and applying these insights to choices.”

Now, the time is coming for another paradigm shift – that of considering SQ – a Spiritual Quotient. Managers of tomorrow not only need to unlearn what they have learnt so far in business – their own or others’. To be effective, they need to refurbish their arsenal of managerial techniques by bringing in a spiritual awareness in whatever area they work in. Work, tempered with a liberal dose of contemplation alone would hold the key to managerial success in the days to come.

SELF-REVERENCE, SELF-KNOWLEDGE AND SELF-CONTROL  

The young executive today has excellent media exposure. A completely different set of rules at home have ensured an upbringing which is quite different from that of the earlier generation of managers. Undoubtedly, HR professionals today have a far more challenging job at hand in attracting as well as retaining the people.

The other day, the HR manager of a reputed software company bemoaned that unless one gets used to such inane tantrums as thea1 1 (11) aroma of toilet soap provided to employees in the wash rooms of their sprawling campus, and took care of the temperature at which a pizza or a hamburger was served in the canteen, the guy who is worth a couple of million dollars worth of revenue to the company might just decide to call it quits!

When it comes to appraising their team members, how many leaders are comfortable to be candid and straightforward? The underlying cause is for them to mix up between the person and his performance. Irrespective of the amount of rating scales developed, judging a person remains a subjective affair. But when it comes to rating performance, a great deal of objectivity is essential as well as desirable. A sense of detachment is of great help in such situations.

Likewise, when there are separations to be handled, true blue HR guys would handle the same with professionalism – in other words, with a sense of objective detachment.

Leaders have to make great sacrifices on the personal front so they may set a good example to their followers. “Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control – these three alone lead life to sovereign power”, Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote in Oenone, the poem named after the daughter of Mount Ida, who precipitated the Trojan War. Leaders without a spiritual compass in hand could result in their teams going astray.

THE HEART-MIND CONNECT

The heart, considered to be the seat of our spirit, isn’t a sentimental or an emotional entity. It is now understood to be intelligent and04 powerful in its own right. Its intelligence manifests itself as an intelligent flow of awareness and insight, or simply put, as intuition.

Several ancient civilizations, like the Egyptian, the Greeks and the Indian, have held the heart to be a primary organ capable of influencing our emotions, our morality and our decision-making abilities. Similar views are echoed in the Bible as well as in Chinese, Hindu and Islamic beliefs and scriptures. According to pioneering work done by Doc Childre, Howard Martin and Donna Beech: “All these conceptions have a common view of the heart as harboring an “intelligence” that operates independent of the brain yet in communication with it.”

Unlike the mind, the heart processes its intelligence in a more intuitive and different manner. The heart is not only open to new possibilities; it actively seeks from the environment newer understandings. The head “knows” but the heart “understands”.

In spiritual practice, we have streams which focus on quietening the mind; we also have systems in which the focus is on the “divine light” in one’s heart. All forms of spiritual practices nevertheless lead to better clarity of thought. This eventually translates into higher effectiveness and productivity at the work place.

THE AGE OF THE SPIRITUAL MANAGER

The following are some of the ways in which a spiritual manager stands to benefit:Technology MEDITATION-ENTREPRENEUR-SUCCEED

  1. Improving his self management, resulting into better effectiveness and improved personal productivity.
  2. Radiating his positivity to those around him/her, thereby improving organizational climate. This surely has a long-term impact on the operations.
  3. Improving communication, thereby enhancing his capability of getting things done.
  4. Facilitating sustained invigoration of operational strengths and continuous replenishment of organization’s resources.

In the future, thanks to shorter attention spans of consumers and an information overload, businesses would be facing higher levels of uncertainties. Managers with a high SQ would invariably have a higher chance of succeeding in meeting their goals.

Thanks to Lehman Brothers and the ensuing economic meltdown, there is an increasing realization in the west that there are serious pitfalls in the culture of materialism. No wonder that Harvard, MIT and Sloan are a few of the business schools which are now actively collaborating with management education institutes in India. This gives a unique opportunity to their students to learn the Indian culture and ethos first-hand. Management lessons from Gita, socially relevant projects and mentoring of under-privileged children in Indian slums are some of the points of interest to them.

Sure enough, the age of the Spiritual Manager is likely to dawn upon us rather early.

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KISS FREQUENTLYKISS FREQUENTLY

Managements are well-known for their propensity to give priority to business targets, and to hell with all the systems, controls and procedures! So, go in for systems which are simple and can be operated by idiots. Auditors will keep coming up with new SoPs. Before rolling these out, a manager would do well to apply the KISS (Keep It Simple and Stupid) test.

LAWYERS

Choose a lawyer based on the gravity of the issue at hand. Local lawyers are pretty effective for minor matters. For global issues affecting the industry, get your HO to rope in the second best in the country. This way, you will get first-rate attention, service and results.

LEADERS

Management can be learnt; leadership is inborn. The good news is that in some cases, leadership styles trickle down the organization, and get copied, thereby improving the behavioral consistency across the set up.

Lao-tzu, a Chinese philosopher, said “To lead the people, walk behind them”. LEADERS

LOGIC VS EMOTION

Formal education systems lead us to depend more on the mind, which thrives on logic alone. However, the heart is the seat of emotions, and has intelligence of its own. The power of intuition flows from the heart, and so does empathy. To survive and do well in the corporate jungle, managers need both in equal measure!

LONELINESS BLUES

The men at the top are a lonely lot, with no one to share their blues with. Special care needs to be taken to ensure they have a circle of neutral confidantes who can help them in retaining their balance and perspective on issues facing the organization from time to time.

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The other day, I walked into a shop which stocks household provisions. To my utter delight, I found a brand of constipation relieving powder which I had not seen since quite a long time in Pondicherry, where I live. However, the shop owner was not amused by my decision to buy a pack. “Sir”, he cautioned, “initial results would be good, and you will end up using it regularly. But after a year, the problem will become much worse!” Well, the Good Samaritan lost a small sale, but won over a dedicated customer for life!

On the contrary, my experience in big shopping malls has been rather disheartening. The eye contact is often perfunctory. The personal touch is invariably missing. Most of the stores have some loyalty programs running, but the warmth and the courtesy extended is superficial. If I need a product exchange, the procedural complexities leave me gasping for breath. If I wish to leave behind an order for a specific product, there is a good chance I would never hear from the store again. Often, the product knowledge of sales staff is so sketchy that it leaves one wondering what professionalism in sales management is all about.

To me, the raging controversy about Government of India’s decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail is meaningless. The Government appears to be over-stating the benefits of FDI in retail, whereas the Opposition is hell-bent upon projecting this as the last nail in the coffin for all the chemists, kiryana stores and sari stores in India. 

As and when Wal-Mart, IKEA and others enter India, they would face challenges of high density of population, high real estate costs, absence of parking spaces and professionally managed supply chains, poor infrastructure and a policy environment which could spring unpleasant surprises. Anyone who imagines the Indian market to be a cake walk for retail MNCs would surely be off the mark.  

As per a recent CRISIL study, reported recently in The Hindu, organized retail penetration during 2011-12 was merely 7 per cent of the $430 billion domestic retail industry. The balance was held by the Mom-and-Pop Stores. If all states in India were to allow FDI in retail, CRISIL estimate the organized retail’s share to rise to 10-15 per cent in about five years time. 

Retail majors in the developed world are struggling to keep afloat. Internet is changing the way we buy things. Smart shoppers these days browse for books and other items in stores, but finally buy them off the internet, enjoying whopping discounts. Strong backward linkages in warehousing and logistics are quietly bringing about this retail revolution.

Closer home, we find a housewife in Surat buying a mobile phone from Indiatimes and a student in Assam ordering a book on Flipkart. A family in Hyderabad plans for a bus trip to Tirupati and makes its bookings using Redbus. A businessman from Ludhiana orders shoes off Myntra and a teenager in Cochin buys a swanky new salwar kameez from Yebhi. A health-conscious housewife in Jaipur gets her supplies of Omega-3 supplements courtesy HealthKart. An executive pursuing his hobby in gardening in Nagpur seeks the support of Costco to buy a hedge trimmer. A book-worm like me in Pondicherry orders a Kindle book reader from Amazon!

In the days to come, advances in technology and wider internet connectivity will keep nibbling at the market share of nut and bolt retail. But who can resist the feel and touch of a silk sari and the whiff of fresh printed paper when browsing a book before taking a buying decision?! Organized retail may suffer much more on this account than our Mom-and-Pop stores. They offer personalized service. Door delivery is not an issue. If one is a regular customer, short-term credit is quite the norm. There are minimal exchange blues.

The trust generated in customers is a key factor which would always ensure that our  Mom-and-Pop stores shall not only survive but also flourish! In a worst case scenario, their rate of growth may get a temporary dampener, but survive they shall. After all, David did win over Goliath eons back!

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