Archive for the ‘Management Lessons’ Category


CEOs and managers wanting to puncture the stress bubble these days have several options. Some can head to the nearest gym and burn away those blues. Some can simply switch off their technical gizmos and spend some quality time with their loved ones. Some can start learning yoga and meditation. Some can choose to put off the lights at home, put on some soothing music and relish their favourite tissue restorative, sans any distraction.

Others can pick up any work of P G Wodehouse or Terry Pratchett and recharge their batteries. Or, they can look up the delightful work of such eminent cartoonists as R K Laxman and Mario Miranda, both of whom have looked at managerial situations with the lens of sparkling wit and humour.

In Mario Miranda’s cartoons and illustrations, we come across the buxom but woolly headed secretary, Miss Fonseca. We also get to meet Mr. Godbole…

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Gandhi by R K Laxman

Mahatma Gandhi, revered the world over as an apostle of peace and non-violence, led India’s freedom movement. His birth anniversary gets celebrated on the 2nd of October.

Are his teachings relevant to the world of commerce and business? Can CEOs of today learn a thing or two from his aphorisms?

Here are few of his thoughts which business owners, CEOs and managers might find of some interest.

The future depends on what you do today.

Managements who care for their brands re-engineer their business processes and ensure sustainable operations. They respect the environment and the aspirations of the local communities. They ensure compliance with local laws. Ethics and values are strictly adhered to.

A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He…

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In order to commemorate 125 years of the Chicago address of Swami Vivekananda, Integrating Spirituality and Organisational Leadership (ISOL Foundation) had recently organised a World Congress on Vedic Foundations of Management Science.



Several luminaries and experts in diverse fields addressed the gathering, which was inaugurated on the 11th of September at the Breasted Hall, The Oriental Institute, The University of Chicago. Distinguished Trinity and ISOL Awards were presented on the day. The event concluded on the 13th of September, 2018.

The Inaugural Session started with a Welcome Address by Dr J L Raina, Chairman of ISOL Foundation. Vedic Mantras were chanted by Mr Ashok Vyas, followed by a Welcome Song penned by Mr D V Shastry.

Prof Sunita Singh Sengupta, Founder ISOL Foundation, welcomed the delegates and presented a Background Paper.

The Inaugural Addresses were delivered by the following:

  • Ms Neeta Bhushan, Consul General of India in Chicago
  • Dr Larry Greenfield, Executive Director, Parliament of the World Religions
  • Prof Bala Srinivasan, Vice President, Strategy and Global Initiatives, University of Chicago
  • Prof Sunaina Singh, Vice Chancellor, Nalanda University

Rich tributes were paid to Swami Vivekananda by:

  • Prof Dinesh Singh, Former Vice Chancellor, University of Delhi and Chancellor, K R Mangalam University
  • Dr Bharat Rai, Oncologist in Chicago
  • Dr H P Kanoria, Founder, Shristi Corporation, SREI Infrastructure Finance Limited and SREI Foundation
  • Swami Yatidharmananda, Managing Tustee, Swami Chidananda Sevashram

The following tracks were covered at the three-day event.

  • Sri Ramakrishna, Ma Sarada and Swami Vivekananda
  • Education in Ancient India
  • Women Empowerment
  • Contemporary Themes on Spirituality, Ethics and Management
  • Global climate change and Eco System Management: Insights from Vedas
  • Ancient Indian Mathematics and Astronomy: Its Contemporary Relevance
  • Ayurveda, Yoga and Meditation for Modern Health Care
  • Ancient Indian Architecture, Sculpture and Art
  • Exploring Sustainability through Spirituality
  • Contemporary Themes on Scriptures, Ethics and Management
  • Vedic Foundations of Management

The last mentioned session was chaired by Prof Neal McGregor.

  • Prof N Ravichandran shared ‘Managerial Insights from Panchtantra Stories’
  • Prof Omprakash K Gupta elaborated upon his passion for ‘Simplifying and Summarising Sanatana Dharma Scriptures for our Youth’
  • Prof Kisholoy Gupta spoke of ‘Vedantic Wisdom in Contemporary Management’
  • Dr Ravi Subramaniam presented ‘A Qualitative Examination of Leadership Traits of Ram from Shrimad Valmiki Ramayan’
  • Yours truly presented a paper on ‘Ramayana – Some Management Lessons’.


Here is the PPT which might be of interest to some of you.

Ramayana Management_Lessons Chicago PPT


Distinguished Valedictory Lecture was delivered by Lucy Forster-Smith, Senior Associate Pastor for Leadership Development, Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago.

Dr J L Raina and Prof Sunita Singh Sengupta summed up the proceedings of the commemoration event.

(Thanks are due to several persons who added value to my presentation and gave a final shape to it.)

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Vision and Mission Statements of corporates adorn their walls and can be readily copied. However, the value system of an organization is not something which can be copied very easily. It permeates the entire organization – its hierarchy, its various divisions or departments. It rubs off on most of its employees. Even service providers and supporting manufacturers get tuned to the same frequency. It would perhaps not be wrong to surmise that values are to an organization what the soul is to a physical body. Organizations which thrive over a long period of time and achieve sustainable commercial success would invariably be found to have sound values at the core of their operations.

Manifestation of values

Small things reflect the values being followed – whether spaces in the car parking lot are allotted hierarchy wise or are based on a first-come-first-served basis, whether the corner office has high sound-proof walls all around or is open to all to signify transparency, whether the boss is entitled to charge the company for her spouse accompanying her on a business trip, whether office stationery items get whisked off to executives’ households for use by their kids, or whether use of cell phones or social media platforms is viewed with a sense of benign resignation by a hapless human resources honcho.

One striking feature of values is that even if these remain spoken of in hushed tones and get communicated more effectively through grapevines which are embedded deep in any organization, it is leadership which sets the tone. Those down the ladder fall in line. Those who shape up, and have a reasonably good performance on the job, survive and do well. Those who do not, get eventually shipped out. The latter then try to look for other organizations where the values – theirs and those of the organization – happen to be in harmony.

When head-hunting for a CFO, Human Resources honchos know pretty well that even though the final three short-listed aspirants happen to have near-identical qualifications and experience, their personal value systems would set them apart. One would not mind being used to extensive window dressing to please diverse stakeholders, thereby raising the concern for a disaster lurking round the corner in not so distant a future. Another might admit to being open to transactions in hard cash, thereby consolidating his own power and pelf in the company, if appointed. Yet another one might take a dim view of any underhand dealings and project the image of someone who believes in transparency with the internal as well as the statutory auditors, thereby leaving the CEO and the board of directors breathing easier. If the management cares about maintaining high standards of corporate governance, the last one would land the assignment.

At the macro level, values of an organization manifest in the wisdom which underlies their actions. When it comes to achieving the heights of corporate excellence, organizations which have sound long-term values are invariably found to enjoy strong brand equity. Scratch beneath the surface and one is apt to discover the wiser ways in which it conducts its operations. Its initiatives lead to a sustainable growth of the business, giving back to society in ways which are imaginative as well as pragmatic.

Take the case of Tatas, a salt-to-software business conglomerate which has more than one hundred companies in its fold, spread over more than one hundred countries. Their businesses might be as diverse as chalk and cheese but much like beads strung together by a string, what holds all these outfits together is a common set of values which the group stands for. The name stands for dependability and better value for money. Around two-thirds of the profits of the group flow into Tata trusts which channelize these back to the society in myriad ways.

Speaking to the conglomerate’s leadership recently, Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus, said that the group has been under “fire” for the past few months due to allegations of mismanagement and “being in business for reasons other than good corporate governance”. “The spirit that we had that made us grow to $100-billion revenues has not been through mismanagement and unethical procedures,” he said, adding that it has grown by being a visionary, having a spirit of integrity, unity and doing philanthropy.

Products and organizations have life cycles of their own. Just like the human body is prone to many changes – birth, existence, growth, decay, disease and death. But values outlive these perils of life; somewhat akin to the Self which Gita holds to be eternal and deathless. Values pervade all arms of any organization.

अविनाशि तु तद्विद्धि येन सर्वमिदं ततम् |
विनाशमव्ययस्यास्य न कश्चित्कर्तुमर्हति || 17||

avināśhi tu tadviddhi yena sarvam ida tatam
vināśham avyayasyāsya na k
aśhchit kartum arhati

That which pervades the entire body, know it to be indestructible. No one can cause the destruction of the imperishable soul.

An inner connection to handle myriad challenges with aplomb

Hapless CEOs face myriad challenges. There are pinpricks from customers, employees, suppliers and many other stakeholders. The directors and the shareholders have to be kept in a positive frame of mind. Regulatory agencies and government departments have to be kept in good humour. Concerns for upholding norms of corporate governance keep snapping at their heels. Only nerves of chilled steel and deep reserves of inner resilience can help them to keep performing on all the twelve cylinders. An inner connection surely helps.

In an indirect manner, Gita touches upon the importance of an inner connection for business leaders. It holds that wise are those who enjoy a tranquility and calmness within themselves. Their inner being is in harmony with their outer being. Their decision-making is based on balanced, well-considered and a holistic view of the facts of the case. They do not manage crises in business with knee-jerk reactions. They deal with people according to their nature and with occurrences in the business environment according to their force and the truth or hard reality they represent. Impartial they are. Detached they are. Compassionate they happen to be, but never at the cost of their innate wisdom and truth. And never do they compromise on their core values.

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Those of you who are fond of cats would perhaps be able to draw a parallel between the behavioral traits of the bosses they deal with at their place of work and the feline creatures whose company they cherish at home.

Here are some of the roles which appear to be common between the two species.cat 4


Both expect to be treated like royalty. The way they conduct themselves is nothing short of regal. They lord over whatever they survey. They can show off annoyance at being interrupted – while devouring a slice of fish as well as while delivering a sermon on office manners.

Never would they show appreciation for what you do. The only time you find them cuddling up close and purring is when they need a tacit assurance of your support towards an assured delivery against a juicy target set by the top dog.

Try and…

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After the 2008 economic meltdown, the management world has discovered that CEOs need to follow not only a Business Compass but also a Moral Compass to steer the enterprises they happen to head. Improving one’s Spiritual Quotient is now a sheer business necessity, and shall be more so in the decades to come.

It is here that Indian scriptures and sages provide a ready template for managers of all sizes and shapes. Let us consider a few facets of some of the pearls of Indian wisdom which find ready application in the realm of management.

Some pearls of Indian wisdom 


  • The entire narrative highlights the importance of values in our lives.Ramayana 1 Businesses which follow a policy of righteousness and conduct their operations in an ethical manner enjoy tremendous brand equity in the market. This rubs off on their products as well as on their employees.
  • Lord Rama decides to…

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The short half-life of all things material

If Marie Curie had decided to become a human resources professional at some point of time in her sterling career, she would surely have had something to say about the half-life of so many things:  Interpersonal Relationships, Joys and Sorrows, Promotions, Increments, Awards and other recognition which come one’s way all the time. Even insults, abuses and rebukes hurled at managers by their bosses, whether in private or in public, would have invited a comment or two.

Consider this. When one is about to join a company, a sage looking junior executive responsible for handling one at the selection stage would invariably paint a rosy picture about the state of affairs. One would be shown the kind of awards won by the company while discharging its Corporate Social Responsibility mandate.

If selected and upon joining, the demo version would continue right into one’s induction period. A honeymoon phase would invariably follow. All would be hunky and dory. Till the day, of course, when the boss would call one in, look her in the eye, and suggest that she start preparing for a bigger challenge – something like camping on the Mars and peddling the company’s goods and services out there. The scales would then start falling from one’s eyes. The warts would start becoming visible.

Likewise, when a special promotion or increment comes one’s way, a short span of happiness and exhilaration is bound to lift one’s morale. However, with the passage of time, the recognition would start losing its sheen. Challenges in the new position would weigh one down. Ask a canteen boy who is suddenly promoted as a canteen manager. Ask a production supervisor upon whom fate has smiled and who has suddenly found himself promoted to the level of a production manager. Ask a sales representative who finds himself elevated to the rank of a sales manager. There is a good chance that most of such promotees, having found their level of incompetence, would start ruing the day they got promoted. To their utter horror, they would discover that doing a job with their own hands was far easier than getting others to do the same job. Bosses who had originally pushed for the promotion of these souls would be looking sheepish and diffident in such group meetings where the performance, or the lack of it, of the promotees would be on full public display. The management may eventually come to regret the decision to confer a promotion on such souls.

Or, take the case of a bloomer having been made and the resultant rebuke delivered by a senior. If the same is delivered in private, it could lead to some soul-searching and perhaps some improvement in the future handling of similar assignments. Once the basic feedback is ingrained within, the incident may tend to get relegated back into one’s consciousness. However, if the same feedback is delivered in public, the impact would be much higher. A feeling of guilt, shame and remorse may come about, leading to poorer performance on the job. One could then be caught in a downward vicious cycle. A feeling of revolt and revenge may also pop up. Depending upon one’s sensitivity levels, the incident may remain in one’s active memory for a long time to come, leading to a drop in self-esteem and self-confidence.

The common thread in all these occurrences is that nothing is of a permanent nature. Life keeps throwing bouquets and brickbats one’s way. The impression created on one remains a function of time. That is how, wise men say that ‘Time is a great healer.’

Of reversal of polarities

Yet another feature of mortal things is what experts in the science of magnetism would thoroughly approve of. This one pertains to reversal of polarities. A person, an object or even a relationship which happens to be positive at one point in time could easily become negative at another point in time.

A boss who happens to be a role model could one day metamorphose into a villain in one’s career. Over a period of time, unstinted support from her could vanish and assume the sinister shades of vehement opposition to whatever brainy scheme one comes up with. The underlying reasons could be many. An inner sense of insecurity in her. A mere suspicion that you are in cahoots with a senior of hers she takes a jaundiced view of. A personal issue which has made her lose a sunnier outlook about life.

Likewise, a much coveted transfer or promotion could eventually prove to be an albatross around one’s neck. Unforeseen dimensions could open up when handling the situation on the ground. When wisdom dawns, one might realize exactly what the boss meant when she looked one in the eye with a steely eye and surmised that the only person who she thought could gleefully take up a challenge of that nature would have been one alone! The glamour which appeared to have been associated with the event gives way to a sense of entrapment. A sense of despondency overtakes one.

This is what the Gita has to say on the nature of material things:

मात्रास्पर्शास्तु कौन्तेय शीतोष्णसुखदु: खदा: |
आगमापायिनोऽनित्यास्तांस्तितिक्षस्व भारत || 14||

mātrā-sparśhās tu kaunteya śhītoha-sukha-dukha-dā
āgamāpāyino ’nityās tans-titik
hasva bhārata

“O son of Kunti, the contact between the senses and the sense objects gives rise to fleeting perceptions of happiness and distress. These are non-permanent, and come and go like the winter and summer seasons. O descendent of Bharat, one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.”

Why sweat over the small stuff

The fact remains that life rarely unfolds the way one wants it to. Others do not necessarily behave as one would like them to. There are always those who would disagree with one. Things are not handled the way one would expect them to be handled. Some things work out with little effort. Others do not, even with much greater effort. So, if one chooses to fight against this strong undercurrent of life, one would spend much of one’s time in life fighting battles of an insignificant import. Instead, much like Arjuna, one could eventually choose to fight in a war which is based on the principles of righteousness.

One needs to realize that things are of a transient nature, whether people, objects or incidents. Also, what emanates positive vibes and gives pleasure today could well turn out to be a source of torment tomorrow.

If so, there is no reason for one to sweat over such transient things. One might instead focus one’s energy, time and resources on things which are have a much longer shelf life.

A hapless CEO lives from one financial quarter to the next. A gentle nudge to her Chief Financial Officer brings about some improvement in the quarterly guidance values. However, there are limits to which receivables can be stretched, inventories can be buoyed up and expenses deferred to the next quarter. Sweating over the same stuff every quarter takes its own toll on the team’s stress levels. A myopic vision gets developed. A long-term value-based view runs the risk of getting relegated to the background.

Of things which have a much longer shelf life – Values, Character

Which are the things which have a longer shelf life, one may well ask. One’s value system. One’s character. One’s attitude towards life in general. One’s own brand equity. One’s capacity to be able to handle the rough and tumble of a management career. One’s ability to take decisions based not only on big data analytics but also on intuition.

These are the kind of things which are made of sterner stuff, so to say. Vagaries of time find it difficult to chip away at these innate qualities of one. Once this core is managed well, external things fall in place most of the times. One’s responses to people and circumstances become more nuanced, thereby improving one’s managerial effectiveness.

Putting a realisation to practice

It is one thing to know about the impermanence of things in one’s life. But it is quite another to learn to ignore the small stuff and not get swayed by the immediate circumstances. Nerves of chilled steel need to be developed. A state of inner calm needs to be cultivated. A habit of calm endurance, both in pleasure and in pain, needs to be formed. Inner Resilience needs to be imbibed.

Bhagavad Gita exhorts one to do precisely this. It goes on to propose that a person who has attained this state of mental equipoise attains immortality. The principle of reincarnation comes in here.

यं हि न व्यथयन्त्येते पुरुषं पुरुषर्षभ |
समदु:खसुखं धीरं सोऽमृतत्वाय कल्पते || 15||

ya hi na vyathayantyete puruha puruharhabha
kha-sukha dhīra so ’mitatvāya kalpate

“O Arjun, noblest amongst men, that person who is not affected by happiness and distress, and remains steady in both, becomes eligible for liberation.”

Leading a vibrant life

Lord Krishna is not exhorting one to lead a monastic life which would be somewhat monochromatic in nature. He is merely saying not to get swayed by the ups and downs of life. In one’s journey towards attaining perfection, one can make the conscious choice of enduring meekly the little joys and pinpricks of life.

Here, He does not allude to a hapless endurance of the setbacks experienced in one’s career. That would indicate an attitude which has its origins in the dark recesses of the mind, harbouring such tendencies as procrastination. Instead, the reference here is to the sunlit valleys of life through which flow the rivulets of wisdom and understanding.

Consider the case of a manager who has been given a pep talk by his boss. He is now aware of the bigger picture and is fired with a missionary zeal to achieve his target. He is prepared to make many sacrifices on the way, because he has found a deeper purpose behind the task he is entrusted with. If a bouquet is received in the interim, he feels happy but does not slacken his efforts. If some brickbats get flung at him, he takes the feedback in his stride, sifts the wheat from the chaff, and chugs along till the target is achieved.


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