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Archive for August, 2019

We live in times when the allure of the C-suite appears to be wearing off. Expectations from CEOs of all hues, sizes and shapes are reaching stratospheric levels, with the ostensible result that attrition rates at that level of management reflect an upward tick.

A recent report by Price Waterhouse Coopers had revealed that the CEO turnover at the world’s 2,500 largest companies rose to 17.5% in 2018 – 3% higher than the 14.5% in 2017. For the year 2018, the first time in the study’s history, more CEOs were dismissed for ethical lapses than for financial performance or board struggles. CEO turnover rose notably in every region in 2018 except China, and was quite high in Brazil, Russia, and India (21.6 percent) while the lowest was in North America (14.7 percent).

According to the report, in 2000, a CEO could expect to remain in office for eight or more years, on average. Over the last decade, however, average CEO tenure has been only five years.

The mixed bathing challenge for CEOs

While those who aspire to occupy a C-suite keep an ear to the ground and eagerly wait to seize an opportunity as and when it comes up, the ones who have benevolent Guardian Angels and end up occupying one soon realize the perils of mixed bathing on the Dark Continent where, attracted by the tourism propaganda of some innovative travel agents, they end up swimming in the Zambezi river. To their utter horror, they discover that mixed bathing regulations are in vogue there, and that their dip is being shared by a couple of young crocodiles. What leaves them literally cold in the feet are the penetrating and unfriendly eyes of some of the crocodiles swimming alongside, who have taken a jaundiced view of their habitat being infested with a juicy specimen of the tribe of Homo  sapiens. Quite a few others are gleeful, drooling over a good source of their daily vitamins. These crocodiles might as well be representing the kind of challenges CEOs would face when, and if, they return to their office desks: Business Goals, Quarterly Guidelines, Investor Pressure, Ethical Dilemmas, Compliances of all kinds, to cite only a few.

Business leaders of the future

Increasingly, there is a need for business leaders who can steer their businesses using not only a Commercial but also a Spiritual Compass. In an era when technological developments are redefining the manner in which businesses interact with their stakeholders, there is much that CEOs and managers can learn from the Bhagavad Gita. It is a Do-It-Yourself Manual of Motivation. Its language is pregnant with symbolism at times. But it has rich lessons to offer for day-to-day conduct of business.

Of jackals, cobras, giraffes, elephants and tortoises 

To run a business well, wily jackals and cobras are required; but so are friendly giraffes, brainy elephants and wise tortoises. If the leader herself happens to be a spiritually inclined person, focused on steering the business successfully towards its purpose and goals but without running into a collision with massive icebergs hiding a hidden mass of compromises with core values and ethics, she would attain the exalted status of a Conscience Keeper for the entire business.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/towards-sq)

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via P.G. Wodehouse: Laughter guaranteed.

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Those who aspire to become residents of Plumsville often ask as to what is the proper sequence in which his works must be devoured.

Well, they can stop twiddling their thumbs and breathe easy. Here is a ready reckoner from the stable of Plumtopia which awaits their bulldog spirit.

Plumtopia

So you’d like to give P.G. Wodehouse a try, but don’t know where to start. Or perhaps you’ve read the Jeeves stories and want to explore Wodehouse’s wonderful wider world. 

You’ve come to the right place.

There is no correct approach to reading Wodehouse. If you ask a dozen Wodehouse fans, you’ll get at least a dozen different suggestions — and picking up the first book you come across can be as good a starting point as any.  But if you want more practical advice, this guide will help you discover the joys of Wodehouse — from Jeeves and Wooster to Blandings Castle, and the many ‘hidden gems‘ beyond. 

9781585679225_p0_v1_s192x300Bertie Wooster & Jeeves 

Even people who’ve never read Wodehouse are familiar with his most famous characters, Bertie Wooster and his manservant Jeeves. Like all Wodehouse’s work, the stories are masterfully crafted to bring the reader joy — but Bertie Wooster’s…

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All of you are welcome to join me in this journey!

 

From depths of despondency to heights of committed action

Agitation to tranquility, peace and calm within

Negativity to positivity

An inward shuddering to steadfastness within

Sweating the small stuff to worrying over values and ethics;

 

From being stressed out to higher resilience

Fretting over past and future to living in the present

Controlled by ego and desires to living a life of true bliss

Lassoing the wild horse within known as the mind

Analysis paralysis to intuitive decision making

Clear focus on work but not to the rewards thereof;

 

From chaotic work to a balanced life

Myopic to a long term view of things

Quarterly guidelines to value-based strategic goals

Generating surpluses to holding same in trust for stakeholders

Creating wealth and sharing some of it with society at large

Treating all with due respect and empathy;

 

From aversion to love

‘Me and I’ to ‘We and Us’

I-am-the-Doer to humility

Encouraging dissent and diversity

Communicating with clarity and beneficial motives

Standing up to what you are convinced is wrong;

 

From being selfish to selfless

Reactive to proactive

Passion to compassion

Anger and hatred to love

Arrogance to grace

Always maintaining an inner connection with your true Self;

 

From anxiety to poise

Fear to courage

Restless to peaceful

Resentful to forgiving

Imbalance to balance

Desire-laden to free of desires;

 

From gross to subtle

Being a hypocrite to being true to yourself

Keeping mum to openly defending the good

And destroying the bad

Attachment to detachment

Enjoying life to the hilt;

 

From expectation to acceptance

Passive resistance to vibrant surrender

Intellectualizing to wisdom

Ignorance to knowledge

Unaware to aware of your strengths and weaknesses

Managing affairs by loftier objectives.

 

What I conveyed to my friend Arjuna on a battlefield long time back can inspire you to face mighty challenges while running or managing a business.

From a despondent being, I could somehow succeed in persuading him to becoming a highly charged-up warrior, ready to fight for his rights.

I merely re-packaged the rich lessons of eternal wisdom embedded in Indian scriptures and presented a highly distilled version of the same for use of all of you.

If you wish to deliver miraculous results, keep your saw always sharpened, put in extraordinary effort and have unwavering faith. There is no other way to success.

Who is the driver of the car?!

Those of you who do not take a jaundiced view of the proposition of reincarnation, may consider the example of a brand new shimmering car being allotted to us in the form of a new body at the beginning of each of our lives. The car does not come with any time-limited warranty. Its longevity is determined by the quality of its engine, the love with which one maintains it, the manner in which it is handled while being driven around the sunlit streets of life, and several other factors.

Bhagavad Gita gives us a roadmap of what one can do to utilize this car to its optimum level. The more we inject the fuel of hopes and desires into its system, the faster it may run, though there is a range of speed within which the engine efficiency is the best. Regular application of brakes is a necessity, so one does not meet one’s ruin while driving. One’s senses, one’s mind and one’s desires have to be kept on a tight leash and deployed only in moderation, so the mileage one gets is the best possible under the driving conditions that one faces. The lubricants of skills, knowledge, faith and sincerity help to maximize engine efficiency. The coolant of detachment assists quietly in its own way.

Try and visualize a driver-less car of the future, duly armed with Artificial Intelligence and practically run by a complex array of Programmable Logic Controllers and other technological marvels. It can take one from point A to point B in a far less stressful manner. It can park itself. Assuming that it is a hybrid model which works on conventional fuel as well as also on its battery, whenever brakes are applied to keep its sensors and desires under check, a part of the kinetic energy gets utilized to charge the battery as well.

Now, if the supreme analytical skills of this car lead its ‘mind’ to believe that it is indeed the real driver and not the real person who owns it and decides its destinations from time to time, the car could be said to be living in a delusion of its own. Indeed, the soul would be the real driver!

This indeed is the tragedy of CEOs and managers who believe that they alone are the doers as well as the enjoyers of the delightful journey called life. A sense of conscious detachment then becomes necessary for one to realize one’s true place in the overall scheme of things.

Life is a unique opportunity for all of you to use the same and move up the ladder of spiritual evolution. Pray do not waste it while you are busy chasing materialistic goals.

 

(Note: A version of this article was published in New Race, a journal brought out by the Institute of Human Study: https://sacar.in/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/New-Race-November-2019.pdf)

(Related Post:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/management-lessons-from-the-life-of-lord-krishna)

 

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There come some truly humbling moments in one’s life when, while imagining that one’s Guardian Angels are surely in a benevolent mood, one suddenly wakes up to a reality which appears to be quite to be contrary. Scales fall from one’s eyes. One realizes with sudden horror that one had perhaps been promoted to the post of an honorary Vice President of the Global Association of Morons, exuding negative vibes to all the hapless souls around. Or, as P G Wodehouse would have put it, one looks ‘like the hero of a Russian novel debating the advisability of murdering a few near relations before hanging himself in the barn.’ 

Yours truly was recently in a suburb of a city known as Trondheim in Norway. Nudged by my hosts, I had decided to take a walk on a relatively lonely road overlooking the fjord. Seagulls were having a gala time, hunting for their supper. A gentle wind was blowing, creating small ripples in the water. Several boats belonging to a bunch of houses nearby were gently rolling in the mild waves, awaiting their turn to be able to provide satisfaction to their masters. Motor boats were occasionally sipping across, leaving trails of white foam in the otherwise bluish-green waters. The sun was on its home run, rushing to get a well-earned night’s repose.

To be able to access the beach, I had been advised to cross a railway track which lay between the beach and the road. Somehow, given the low level of my intelligence, I had not been able to locate the point from where one could cross the tracks. Having taken a walk along the road, I had been unsuccessful in locating either an underpass or an over bridge across the tracks. Nor did I imagine one coming across an unmanned railway crossing in an advanced country like Norway. Having temporarily given up hopes of being able to make it to the beach, I decided to sit on one of the several benches which dotted the road. The bliss of a contemplative communion with Nature is unique. I was relishing the same.

Two young girls, perhaps around 8 years of age, passed me by, accompanied by a devoted member of the canine species. The latter gave me an inquisitive glance. Having quickly ascertained that I had nothing of interest to offer, it continued to march onwards to greener pastures. After some time, the trio returned, with the canine in tow. The girls were enjoying their ice cream bars and merrily chatting between themselves in Norwegian.

Having crossed me, the girls went ahead a little. Then, suddenly, one of them returned to where I was. Her outstretched hand carried a few coins of Norwegian Kroner, the local currency. She addressed me in clear English.

“Please, sir, these are for you.”

I looked at her dumbstruck. I could not fathom her thought processes.

“No, thanks”, I bleated.

“We want you to be happy. Please accept this.”

My first reaction was shock and surprise. Then came to me an appreciation for the kind of etiquette and manners this young girl friend of mine had. While I was contemplating giving her a long lecture on what money could or could not buy one in life, she was giving me a sympathetic look, a faint smile on her face. She was obviously enjoying one of her daily acts of kindness, a la Edwin the Scout. I dismissed the thought of a lecture, deciding not to spoil her day.

“No, thanks. I do not need this.”

Disappointed, she turned and started to walk away. An idea struck me then.

“If you want to see me happy, perhaps you could do me a favour?”

She turned and walked back up to me, happy to be of some assistance. Fearless, composed and courageous, she looked enquiringly into my eyes.

“For some time now, I have been trying to find a way to the beach. Do you think you could help me, please?”

She was obviously delighted at this suggestion. Excitedly, she gesticulated and tried to indicate to me the spot down the road from where the tracks could be crossed.

“If you have some time, could you please show me where exactly the spot is?”

“Sure….come along.”

She took me to a dead end in the road. Next to this was a wooden gate, held in position by a loose metal chain. She took it off, showing me from where exactly to cross the tracks. I thanked both of them profusely. Goodbyes were exchanged. The pet wagged its tail tentatively. The trio resumed their walk towards their respective abodes.

I confess to being a bit woolly headed, much like Lord Emsworth happens to be. But I have neither a big castle nor a large estate to take care of. Nor do I have the need to hire Scottish gardeners or to worry about such important things in life as the calorie count of the Empress of Blandings or oversized pumpkins winning prizes. Having been born a single child to my parents, I am spared the trauma of being bossed over by someone like Constance. On Parva School Treat days, I don’t have to go pottering about, judging cottage gardens in villages and running into girl friends in the Gladys mould, made of far sterner stuff than that of mine.

But the episode brought home few things very clearly.

One, on that fateful evening, I must have been radiating negativity in very large doses, turning all radioactive materials which appear in our Periodic Table green with envy. Sure enough, a Byronic gloom had enveloped me.

Two, kids in advanced countries are perhaps brought up believing that money can buy anything, especially if the intended recipient appears to hail from a dark continent faraway.

Three, their benign motives deserve to be commended. So do their courage and fearlessness in approaching desolate-sounding strangers, with an idea to bring some sunshine into their lives. Perhaps when they grow up, they might be taken through some migrant camps, or even deputed for some time to one of the emerging economies, so they could understand the kind of deprivations a major part of the humanity puts up with.

The fact remains that there is no shortage of the milk of human kindness coursing through their veins – a sentiment that Bertie Wooster would surely approve of. One merely hopes that the heat of advancement in age does not make the milk evaporate, come what may!

 

(Comment:

In the famous story ‘Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend’, it is the latter which seeks protection from the former’s irate head gardener. Having done the needful, Lord Emsworth feels like a man amongst men. However, in the encounter that yours truly had, the party of the other part turns out to be the benefactor.

In case you wish to look up a visual version of the original story, please check out the following link:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/06/08/lord-emsworth-and-the-girl-friend-a-visual-version)

(Illustration courtesy: Suvarna Sanyal)

 

 

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What happens when a banking professional like Suvarna Sanyal, who has spent a life time poring over bulky ledgers and checking debit and credit figures, turns his attention to one of the popular stories dished out by P G Wodehouse? Well, he simply whips up a series of illustrations which figure some of the better known characters from the canon in some selected scenes from the story!

Residents of Plumsville would recall that this is the only story in the canon which is narrated by Jeeves. Savour below the results of his labour of love which, incidentally, have already undergone a scrutiny under the precise microscope of an expert in all Plummy matters.

 

I want to explain to you why I am speaking to you directly, instead of letting Mr Wooster present one of his tales.  I have been asked quite frequently to explain any formula I might have for success in my profession, and have concluded it could be summarised as ‘Resource and Tact’.  I hope the example of this story will show you what I mean.

 

 

 

“Oh, dash it, Jeeves!” he said, sort of overwrought. “I wish at least you’d put it on another table for a change.”

“Sir?” I said.

 

 

I should mention that Mr Wooster then told me he was considering adopting a kid, but also wondering whether to give up his London flat, take a house, and have his sister and her three little girls to live with him.  But I avoided the blunder of outwardly expressing my disapproval of the idea at this juncture.

Well, it was a respite, and I welcomed it. But I began to see that a crisis had arisen which would require adroit handling. 

 

 

Mr Wooster wearied of Brighton after two days, and decided to return home, and we started back about 5 on a fine summer’s day.  We had only gone about two miles when I noticed a red-haired young person of about 12, with a snub nose and an extremely large grin, seeking a lift.  She seemed to me to have the air of one who had been absenting herself from school without leave.

 

 

 

“I’m going to get into a frightful row,” she began. “Miss Tomlinson will be perfectly furious. I thought I could get back in time so that nobody would notice I’d gone, but I got this nail in my shoe.”

“Oh, I say, this is rather rotten,” he observed. “Isn’t there anything to be done? I say, Jeeves, don’t you think something could be done?”

“I think it would be a legitimate subterfuge were you to inform the young lady’s school-mistress that you are an old friend of the young lady’s father; that you had been passing the school and had seen the young lady at the gate and taken her for a drive. Miss Tomlinson’s chagrin would no doubt in these circumstances be sensibly diminished if not altogether dispersed.”

 

 

The young one was delighted at this generous offer, and as I turned in at the gates of a house of imposing dimensions, and brought the car to a halt at the front door, she volunteered her name.

 

 

I decided it might be simpler if I explained the situation to Miss Tomlinson, who proved to have a handsome but strong-minded appearance, and she recalled to my mind Mr Wooster’s Aunt Agatha.  ‘She had the same penetrating gaze and that indefinable air of being reluctant to stand any nonsense.’

I went on to explain to her that Mr Wooster is an extremely retiring gentleman.

“He is an extremely retiring gentleman, madam, and would be the last to suggest it himself, but, knowing him as I do, I am sure that he would take it as a graceful compliment if you were to ask him to address the young ladies. He is an excellent extempore speaker.”

“A very good idea!” said Miss Tomlinson, decidedly.

 

 

I drove round to the stables, and although the car was in excellent condition, I seemed to feel that something would go wrong with it, something which I would not be able to put right for a couple of hours. One gets these presentiments.

It was about half an hour later that Mr Wooster came into the stable-yard, and complained that he had lost his cigarette case.  He then went on to extol the virtues of his recent companions.

“Extremely so, sir,” I said. 

“But a bit exhausting en masse.  And they giggle so much.  Makes a fellow feel a bit of an ass.  And they stare at you.”

“When I was employed as a page-boy at a school for young ladies, sir, they had a regular game which they used to play when a male visitor arrived. They would stare fixedly at him and giggle, and there was a small prize for the one who made him blush first.”

“I’d no idea small girls were such demons.”

“More deadly than the male, sir.”

 

 

Mr Wooster returned to the company of the girls, while I took tea with the maids in the kitchen, after which I returned to the stable-yard, and Peggy Mainwaring appeared.  She asked me to return Mr Wooster’s cigarette case to him, which she said he must have dropped somewhere.

She then told me he was going to give a lecture to the school.

 

 

She had barely scampered off to rejoin her friends when a deeply perturbed Mr Wooster came round the corner.

 

 

And within minutes, Miss Tomlinson appeared, and spoke to Mr Wooster.

 

 

The large schoolroom was situated on the ground floor, with commodious French windows, which, as the weather was clement, remained open throughout the proceedings. By stationing myself behind a pillar on the porch or veranda which adjoined the room, I was enabled to see and hear all. It was an experience which I should be sorry to have missed. Mr Wooster indubitably excelled himself.

Mr. Wooster is a young gentleman with practically every desirable quality except one. I do not mean brains, for in an employer brains are not desirable. The quality to which I allude is hard to define, but perhaps I might call it the gift of dealing with the Unusual Situation.

 

 

Miss Tomlinson  made a short but graceful speech of introduction, stressing the fact that he was Mr Bertram and no other breed of Wooster. But before he was able to open his mouth, the young ladies burst into a species of chant, of which I am glad to say I remember the words, if not the tune.

 

 

The performance, which was notably devoid of cooperative effort, seemed to smite Mr Wooster like a blow. And then he tottered forward.

Girls!” said Miss Tomlinson. She spoke in a low, soft voice, but the effect was immediate. Perfect stillness instantly descended upon all present. I am bound to say that, brief as my acquaintance with Miss Tomlinson had been, I could recall few women I had admired more. She had grip.

 

 

I fancy that Miss Tomlinson had gauged Mr Wooster’s oratorical capabilities pretty correctly by this time, and had come to the conclusion that nothing much in the way of a stirring address was to be expected from him.

“Perhaps,” she said, “as it is getting late, and he has not very much time to spare, Mr. Wooster will just give you some little word of advice which may be helpful to you in after-life, and then we will sing the school song and disperse to our evening lessons.”

She looked at Mr Wooster, who passed a finger round the inside of his collar. It was painful to see his brain endeavouring to work.

“We will now sing the school song,” said Miss Tomlinson, rising like an iceberg.

 

 

I hurried round to the car, and in a very few moments Mr Wooster came tottering up. I had climbed into my seat and was about to start the engine, when voices, including those of Miss Tomlinson,  made themselves heard.  At the first sound of them Mr Wooster sprang with almost incredible nimbleness to the floor covering himself with a rug. The last I saw of him was a pleading eye.

When Miss Tomlinson asked about the whereabouts of Bertie Wooster, I expressed helplessness, but she went on, obviously stirred with emotion.

“Mademoiselle has just found several girls smoking cigarettes in the shrubbery.  They stated Mr Wooster had given them the horrid things.  I think the man is out of his senses.”

 

 

One night about a week later, I took the whisky and siphon into Mr Wooster’s study.

“Jeeves, this is dashed jolly.  A sort of safe, restful feeling.  Soothing.  That’s the word,” he said.

“Indeed, sir.  By the way, sir, have you succeeded in finding a suitable house yet?

“House?  What do you mean, house?”

“I understood, sir, that it was your intention to give up the flat and take a house of sufficient size to enable you to have your sister, Mrs. Scholfield, and her three young ladies to live with you.”

Mr Wooster shuddered strongly.

 

 

 

So, how does one manage bosses and ensure they never go round the bend when they get too enthusiastic about an idea of theirs? Jeeves would heartily recommend ‘tact’ and ‘resource’!

 

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/06/28/when-bertie-entertains-thoughts-of-having-children-around

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/06/08/lord-emsworth-and-the-girl-friend-a-visual-version)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ashokbhatia

LEADERSThere is something unique about managers from India. Apparently, they have a Western mind and an Eastern heart. In other words, a unique combination of analytical prowess and intuitive faculties.

Here is a thought-provoking guest post from Mr K V Rao, Resident Director – ASEAN, Tata Sons Ltd , Singapore.

“I was born and raised in India in small towns, and started reflecting how is it that so many of my compatriots make it to global leadership positions ?

Many of our ilk have left the shores, for distant foreign lands. Have studied and imbued the best of cultures, but retained some of some of that inner rusticity, and native eclectic personalities. They have made it to the top jobs of Google, Microsoft, Mastercard, or a Pepsi, and the list is endless and still more to surface. All have been exceptional fighters, who seem to compete fiercely but fairly, often guided…

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