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Defining Consciousness is akin to the case of seven blind men trying to describe an elephant. People have different perspectives. So, when it comes to saying what it really is, the descriptions are often as different as chalk and cheese.

The reason for a wide spectrum of ways in which we understand this concept is what one could label as the Yin and Yang factor. Many of us use our brains to explain what we understand it to be. Many others use our hearts to do so. Perhaps this concept is rather profound. It is beyond the sensory limitations of the human mind, which has an uncanny ability to divide and analyze things. This is what eventually leads to the phenomenon called Analysis Paralysis in management. Our hapless hearts are rooted in what Daniel Goleman refers to as Emotional Intelligence. A solely emotional perspective has its own limitations.

But the situation is not as challenging as it appears to be. The common denominator underlying the entire spectrum is that of the collective good. An integrated view of the concept is surely possible, provided we move on to the level of what Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall, in their book Spiritual Wealth: Wealth We Can Live By, allude to as Spiritual Intelligence.

However, before we move further, let us consider some of the perspectives which one normally comes across.

What is Consciousness?

The Five Maxims  

Ask Jeffrey Deckman, and he is apt to say that it is imperative for a Conscious Leader to play the following roles:

  1. Being a ‘healer’, who calms, comforts and connects those around him.
  2. Of being an ‘elder’, by practicing wisdom, empathy and patience.
  3. Acting as a ‘steward’, nurturing talent and creating conditions for growth just like a gardener would act.
  4. Doffing the hat of a ‘navigator’, envisioning challenges and opportunities, defining broad goals and guiding others.
  5. Being a ‘facilitator’, acting like the conductor of an orchestra, ensuring harmony, encouraging open discussions and aligning by voting and not by consensus.    

Of Gallant Knights

Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall speak of Knights, the leaders who choose to embark on a spiritual path. Having sensed something fundamentally sacred underlying human life, they embed this reality in their actions and in their life’s work.

In both life and work, the knight abides by five principles:

  • There is something sacred, some deeper, shared consciousness, unfolding in this universe and providing a baseline for every aspect of life.
  • Life and all its enterprises are interconnected.
  • All human endeavour, including business, is part of the larger and richer fabric of the whole universe.
  • The relationship of the healthy individual to the world is one of engagement and responsibility.
  • Service conveys deep sense of humility and gratitude.

A Triple Bottom Line Approach

Stephen Karbaron exhorts businesses to embrace an approach of profiting from a purpose driven, triple bottom line paradigm. To him, this is what defines a conscious business strategy approach. He emphasizes the need to be innovative, adaptable and prepared for change, whilst being aware of all stakeholder needs. He keeps sharing live examples of businesses which follow this approach.  

Of Philosopher Kings

Dr Roy Woodhead is of the opinion that the very words ‘conscious enterprise’ imply some sense of an ‘enlightened enterprise’. In one of his thought provoking articles, he says that Plato put forward the idea of ‘philosopher kings’ to lead us. They would not be allowed material gains but would be well looked after; their economic neutrality and lack of vested interests were seen as very important for effective government by the philosopher kings.

Ramayana, one of the revered Hindu scriptures, speaks of King Janaka, the foster father of Sita, the heroine of the epic story. He is said to be a ‘philosopher king’. He is revered as being an ideal example of non-attachment to material possessions. He not only administers his country but also invites sages and intellectuals to spiritual discourses in his assembly. His interactions with sages and seekers such as Ashtavakra and Sulabha are recorded in ancient texts and are illuminating treatises on spiritual principles.

In their book ‘Rajarshi Leadership’, authors S. K. Chakraborty and Debangshu Chakraborty espouse the cause of spiritual leadership. This is a concept which sums up a key lesson from India’s tryst with spirituality: that of first discovering the divinity within, and then to manifest it without. Such conscious leadership is blissful to oneself and to others.  

A Holistic View of Affairs

Jack Beauregard is of the opinion that it is about one connecting with the wholeness and the process of creation. A higher level of consciousness opens one’s life to one’s inner cores, thereby allowing the creativity of the universe to flow into one’s life. This enables one to find innovative solutions for solving the numerous challenges that one faces. He believes that a higher level of consciousness also creates a spiritual perspective. It allows one to view one’s life, other people, our work organizations, technology, the planet earth, and the universe from a sacred point of view.

Jack Beauregard opines that one can help create a new, harmonious world in which to live by taking responsibility for transforming one’s own consciousness. When enough people choose to develop, act, and do business from a balanced, wholistic paradigm, this will automatically have a positive influence on the consciousness of our planet. We can help co–evolve with the intelligent creative process of the universe. When a critical mass is reached, we will then create a positive alternative to the negative actions and beliefs of today’s world. 

Our species will evolve to its rightful inheritance when we realize that human consciousness is a smaller part of the larger consciousness of the universe, and our individual lives, and the human species in general, are small parts of the vast web of life and just one manifestation of the mystery of creation.

The Realm of Creativity 

Hindu and other scriptures speak of one reaching a state when one’s consciousness becomes one with that of the universe, often leading to an exalted phase of creativity. Our physical body then acts as an antenna, translating signals from the universe into something human beings would comprehend. When someone like Mozart composes music, he merely writes what he hears. When a humourist like P. G. Wodehouse creates his unique characters and weaves them into a dramatic plot, he acts more like a celestial author who enables lesser mortals like us to notice a humorous strain in all things around us. 

When Science Steps In

When humanity gropes for the source or the definition of Consciousness, our scientists do not disappoint.

Consider The Global Consciousness Project which is an international, multidisciplinary collaboration of scientists, engineers, artists, and others. Their goal is to examine subtle correlations that may reflect the presence and activity of consciousness in the world. Their researchers predict structure in what should be random data, associated with major global events. Their contention is that when millions of people share intentions and emotions, their data show meaningful departures from expectation. This is an area where science appears to establish the reality of a global consciousness.

A materialistic scientist would tell us that our brains consist of neurons made of atoms. These process our external experiences. At times, our neural processes lead us to recognize a higher meaning in things. According to them, our 40 Hz oscillations happen to be the neural basis for consciousness in the brain.

A Spiritual Insight

More than a century ago, this is how Sri Aurobindo, a highly revered spiritual master and a visionary from India, described his concept of Consciousnessthus:

Consciousness is a fundamental thing, the fundamental thing in existence; it is the energy, the motion, the movement of consciousness that creates the universe and all that is in it not only the macrocosm but the microcosm is nothing but consciousness arranging itself. For instance, when consciousness in its movement or rather a certain stress of movement forgets itself in the action it becomes an apparently unconscious energy; when it forgets itself in the form it becomes the electron, the atom, the material object. In reality it is still consciousness that works in the energy and determines the form and the evolution of form. When it wants to liberate itself, slowly, evolutionarily, out of Matter, but still in the form, it emerges as life, as animal, as man and it can go on evolving itself still farther out of its involution and become something more than mere man.

— Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, pp. 236-7.

Consciousness is usually identified with mind, but mental consciousness is only the human range which no more exhausts all the possible ranges of consciousness than human sight exhausts all the gradations of colour or human hearing all the gradations of sound — for there is much above or below that is to man invisible and inaudible. So there are ranges of consciousness above and below the human range, with which the normal human [consciousness] has no contact and they seem to it unconscious….

— Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, p.233.

In a way, what he appears to be pointing out is that understanding Consciousness is akin to realizing the difference between a physical body which is alive and one which is dead. It is like the sole element which is missing from a dead body.

By providing us with a very wide canvas to understand the term Consciousness, Sri Aurobindo is also indicating that organizations which are conscious are most likely to have the following characteristics embedded in their culture:

  1. An attitude of humility and devotion which enables people to operate – individually as well as in teams – at a higher level of productivity;
  2. A flatter hierarchy which redefines the relationship between those who lead and those who are led; in other words, a Theory Y approach to human relations, a higher diversity of cross-departmental teams, a premium on gender diversity, and an optimum gap between the packages and perks of the highest and the lowest paid people;
  3. A harmonious engagement with diverse stakeholders.

(Notes:

  1. Inputs from Dr Ananda Reddy of the Sri Aurobindo Centre for Advanced Research (SACAR), Pondicherry, India, are gratefully acknowledged. Illustrations courtesy www and Huta, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, India.

2. Inputs from Dominique Conterno and Esther Robles, co-founders of Consciousness Enterprises Network (https://www.consciousenterprises.net), are also gratefully acknowledged.)

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Exploring the concept of Consciousness further, one may say that whereas a normal organization cares for Results alone, an organization steeped in Consciousnesswould provide an equal weight to all of its three ‘R’s – Results, Relationshipsand Righteousness – in its strategic and tactical thinking.

Results could be either of the financial kind, the market share kind, or a combination of the two.

Relationships would imply a positive working atmosphere where, besides harmonious relations, dissent is not suppressed; rather, it is encouraged. Following human values is an essential part of this attribute. So is respect and dignity towards people in general.  

Righteousness would encompass such features as concern for sustainability, giving back to the society and running operations not only within the ambit of law but beyond it, wherever possible. Being pro-active, when it comes to corporate governance; taking care of the rights of the minority shareholders; ensuring that principles of natural justice get followed; and, following values and ethics.

Yes, the precise definitions of each of these sets of attributes would vary depending not only upon the kind of business an organization is in, but also on the kind of business environment it operates in.   

If each of these three dimensions of conscious organizations is taken into consideration, organizations which are committed to achieving a higher level of Consciousness could consider doing a self-assessment by using the kind of representation shown below:

Here is a scheme which can enable an organization to rate itself against each of the attributes, on a scale of 1 (low) to 9 (high).

Conscious organizations which rate themselves very close to the (Relationships: 9, Results: 9, Righteousness: 9) position in the figure could pat themselves on the back and keep up the good work they are doing, inspiring other ones to follow suit.

The ones which are in the Aspirant (5, 5, 5) category are already on the right track and would do well to start firing at all the twelve cylinders and reach a higher level of Consciousness.

The majority of organizations we come across might fit into the Arsonist Achievers (9, 9, 1) slot. To them, both Results and Relationships count, though they could not care less when it comes to following the path of Righteousness. Such enterprises end up contributing to the kind of situation where we find that during 2020, for instance, humanity needed to be supported by the planetary resources which 1.7 Earths alone can provide. (https://www.footprintnetwork.org/2021/01/19/we-do-not-need-a-pandemic-to-movethedate)

The Bureaucratic ones (9, 1, 9) are bound in red tape, caring only for Relationships and Righteousness, with poor accountability for Results. Yes-persons rule. Sycophancy prevails. Service to the public goes for a toss.

Organizations in the Doomed category (9, 1, 1) prophesize caring only for Relationships, while neither producing Results nor caring for Righteousness. For example, some of the Bretton Woods and other institutions set up after the World War II now appear to be out of sync with the global realities.     

Then we run into some Hollow ones (1, 1, 9) which profess to care only for the path of Righteousness but in reality are shams, pampering only to the ego of a self-styled guru heading a sect. Internal working conditions are akin to labour camps. The pomp and show of serving humanity is often more of a public relations exercise. 

We also have the Preachy ones (1, 9, 9), which care two hoots about Relationships but keep delivering results while making it appear as if they are also on the path of Righteousness. Their bluff is easily called because this unique feat cannot be achieved unless Relationships are given due importance in the scheme of things. Many political outfits which we find are steering their countries away from the core tenets of democracy and turning these into a dictatorship would fall in this category. Political power surely comes their way, but at a great cost to the socio-economic fabric of the nation.  

Most of us dread dealing with the Fly-By-Night (1, 9, 1) kinds, where Results alone count. Long term survival is not the aim. Just keeping the head above the water remains the sole aim. Quite a few of enterprises – mostly in the tiny and small sector – would fall in this category, simply because they can neither afford the luxury of Relationships and Righteousness, nor do they consider it necessary to do so. Ponzi schemes and financial scams fall in this category.  

Then there are mafia organizations which are blissfully ignorant of any such niceties; these continue to chug along in an Unconscious manner. Our society shall surely be better off in their absence.

Within the three ‘R’s outlined here, there may appear to be a sort of gradation. To many of our embryonic start ups, it may appear that only when a certain stage of stability has been attained can the business imagine paying attention to Relations and Righteousness. But habits, once formed, die hard. Such organizations run the risk of getting caught in a conceptual warp, evolving into pure money spinning outfits, eventually landing either in the Fly-By-Night slot or in the Arsonist Achievers slot.

The Many Lenses of Viewing Consciousness

But this is merely one way of viewing the concept of Consciousness.

Over time, our scientists, philosophers, academicians, management honchos and spiritualists of all hues, sizes and shapes have attempted to define the same. Each of these is presents a unique perspective and is worthy of consideration.

The final choice, of course, rests on our leaders. It could be based either on the nature of activity of an organization or on the leaders’ strategic vision.

The pandemic plaguing humanity since 2020 has yet again awakened us to the urgency of uplifting our state of Collective Consciousness and getting an injection of Vitamin Consciousness.

Note: Inputs from Dominique Conterno and Esther Robles, co-founders of Consciousness Enterprises Network (https://www.consciousenterprises.net), are gratefully acknowledged.

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A culture which is rooted in Consciousness does not throw up hapless leaders who keep burning the proverbial midnight oil in their relentless pursuit of commercial goals only, while shoving concerns such as the environment, the society and human resources under the corporate carpet.   It does not merely mean that our marketing honchos are doing their best in servicing our customers effectively and efficiently; instead, it implies that they do so while ensuring that the product/service as well as its packaging is environment-friendly.

It means that those toiling on the operations side design the processes in such a way that the carbon footprints are at least neutral, if not positive; that our financial wizards keep nudging the organization towards maximizing returns to all its stakeholders; and the human resource executives keep burning the midnight oil to ensure that people and processes respect human values and dignity, while keeping the costs to the bare minimum.

Professionals in an organization could be performing their roles while understanding challenges at the mental level alone in a rather artificial manner, leading to rigidity and even fanaticism in some cases. But then we suffer some limitations which are not different from the kind of handicap some of our sensory organs often face – a nose which fails to detect the putrid smell of a corporate scandal in the offing, an eye which can see but does not register wastage of resources in the operations, an ear which can hear but does not listen to a female employee reporting an incident of harassment at the hands of a superior and defers taking an action against the latter, a tongue which turns to complacency upon tasting a mighty success and a skin which has turned so thick that bribing one’s way through a regulatory agency no longer feels prickly.

Contours of a Conscious Culture

Values which drive an organization create its cultural ambience. Thus, a Conscious Culture is based not only on the kind of high values and principles being followed by a business but also on a smarter recognition of the purpose of the company and the interdependent relationship between the company’s stakeholders.

The drive of propagating a Conscious Culture need not start only from the desk of a top honcho in an organization. One may find even a liftman, a receptionist, a cleaner, a post room employee, a supervisor, or a manager initiating it. If the working atmosphere is such as to recognize and encourage conscious behaviour, the drive is bound to have a snowballing effect across an enterprise.

Many of us are aware that spiritual experts recommend not merely a sitting meditation but also a walking one; in other words, not a static meditation but a dynamic one. Likewise, Consciousness is not merely a waking awareness at the mental level but also the force which moves and propels the organization towards its enlightened goals. When interconnectedness between various departmental silos gets activated, the chances of a synergy coming about improve. The net result is a quantum jump in the overall efficiency of the organization, leading to uniform satisfaction all around, amongst all its stakeholders.

The marketing honchos then refrain from registering sales which could eventually become bad debts due to customer expectations not having been really met. The operations experts do not lose sleep over shipments which must be booked just before a quarter ends even though the physical goods might still be stuck on the manufacturing line. The finance guys do not indulge in window dressing so as to please their superiors. The human resources team does not start shifting those in permanent employment to a mode of contract employment, or refuse to submit correct employment figures to pension/provident fund regulators.

To put it simply, the silo approach gives way to an interconnected way of working, where each silo head is aware of the implications of his actions over all the other silos. A truly Systems Approach to doing things comes about. All elements and all clusters of the network are connected in some ways, leading to overall improvement in efficiency and effectiveness.

In a large IT hardware outfit where I used to work, ballooning sales receivables used to make the top management lose sleep. An aggressive sales force kept earning handsome incentives on billings while the finance head kept twiddling his thumbs trying to keep a lid on dues from customers. Based on repeated caution from internal auditors, a joint group comprising managers from marketing and finance was formed to review the matter. The incentive scheme was suitably tweaked and a monthly review by the joint group eventually brought the situation under control.       

A Self-actualization of Sorts

Following a paradigm of Consciousness does not belittle the importance of generating profits. Rather, it encourages a business to make decent profits and plough a part of the wealth generated there from into the welfare of the society at large. It exhorts an enterprise to act based on the harsh realization that resources drawn from the earth and the environment happen to be limited in supply. Often, the stark choice facing managements is that of profits today versus survival tomorrow. Wiser organizations would strike a balance between the two.

Some of us may recall the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, where the last stage is that of self-actualization. This is akin to our realizing who we really are and what we aspire for in life. However, when we turn to Eastern philosophies of motivation, we may discover that Maslow is not the ultimate authority while adopting either a spiritual or a conscious approach in management. He merely offers an image of the individual and social achievement based on our egos. In the Eastern view, there is instead an attempt to transcend the ego at all levels.

Adhering to Consciousness would not mean that one expects our business leaders to evolve to a stage of being such selfless persons as Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela.

Lord Krishna is often portrayed as someone who encouraged a mighty war to take place some 5,500 years back. But if we scratch a little deeper, we shall find that he had no selfish motive in doing so. He had already built a small independent state for himself and his family in Dwarka and was seeking neither more property nor wealth for himself. His motive was essentially to demonstrate that the path of Dharma – righteousness – is to be always upheld. Admittedly, the war caused large scale devastation. Humanity had to bear an enormous cost. The irony was that even the so-called victors never felt victorious!  

Our scriptures have never held that making profits is a taboo. Instead, they hold that a portion of the same be shared with the society at large. This is indeed the way of nurturing a culture steeped in Consciousness in the organization that we happen to lead.

Way back in 1889, when the visionary industrialist J N Tata kept aside half of his personal wealth for the purpose of setting up an educational institute where Indian youth could receive world-class learning in science and engineering subjects, he was not concerned about his business in any way benefiting from the gesture. He did it for India, the country he loved. It comes as no surprise to see that today the Indian Institute of Science in India, set up in 1909 after Tata had expired, is held to be an educational institute of eminence.

Notes:

  1. Inputs from Dominiuqe Conterno and Esther Robles, co-founders of Consciousness Enterprises Network (https://www.consciousenterprises.net), are gratefully acknowledged.
  2. Illustration courtesy Huta of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, India.

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The more turbulent the times, the higher the need for spiritually inclined CEOs to run our businesses! 

The Spiritual CEO presents a roadmap for how to build a better business, live a better life and make a bigger impact—all through the simple practice of Korporate Karma. Distilling the ancient wisdom of the Gita and learnings from the Vedas and other spiritual texts, the author S. Prakash explains how centring the spiritual being clears the path to greater success in both businesses and personal lives. 

The book is an interesting read and has answers to several questions raised by several Board Members and “C” suite leaders. It provides a simple template for a CEO to look into a “Mirror” and introspect where they stand and how they can metamorphosis to leave a lasting positive legacy, in the process of becoming a “Spiritual CEO”.

The world is going through a tremendous transformation, perhaps even a metamorphosis, where it is no longer acceptable to stand on the sidelines, balancing balance sheets and drawing up window-dressed profit and loss accounts. The time has come for leaders and CEOs to merge their success and that of their businesses with the qualities of spiritual awareness and compassion. 

Exploring concepts like Korporate Karma, Spiritual Alchemy, Corporate and Spiritual TBL (triple bottom line), Korporate DNA and the positive influence of tradition, values and beliefs on businesses, this book opens our collective eyes to the urgent need for change.

It also includes practical solutions and tangible guidance on how a CEO—and indeed every business leader—can adapt to the new world and its reality.

The book has been published recently by Westland Publications. 

 

The Author

S. Prakash, the CEO of See Change, India, is a nationally acclaimed author, coach, master story-teller, key-note speaker, heartful leader, organisational turn-around expert and nation builder. His three-and-a-half decades of work includes a rich blend of business, management and leadership experiences.

He has been writing on human behaviour, business success and many other related topics for over two decades and has published ten books in several languages and has authored more than a thousand articles on self-development, spirituality and other subjects.

 

 

In case you wish to order

Pre-order here: http://bit.ly/SpiritualCEO

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Earlier on, we had touched upon the importance of brand equity. One can undervalue the criticality of this attribute only at one’s own risk and peril.

Corporate Brands

Companies benefit immensely from making conscious efforts to keep their brand images shimmering. If asked to quantify the resultant financial uplift though, their CFOs would be found twiddling their thumbs. But it is not difficult to see the kind of benefits which accrue from having a shimmering image, whether in matters of human resources, sourcing or marketing, besides in such grey areas as liaison and government dealings.

Several instances can be quoted from my own stints with the Tata group.

When a INR 5 crore modern leather processing factory was established at Dewas in 1975, the plant was commissioned without any delay, with all necessary government approvals in place. No government officials had to be appeased, whether in cash or in kind. In fact, the then government of Madhya Pradesh went all out to support the complex being set up.

In another case, a senior manager deputed to the headquarters of the Electricity Board to secure power connection for a small manufacturing unit ended up assuring a demanding government officer that a measly amount would be paid upon the issue of the necessary permission. A 50% advance paid to the officer concerned was shown in the manager’s travel expenses claim. A furious general manager called in the manager and gave him a severe dressing down. Yours truly was called in and asked to resolve the issue. My visit to the place cost the company five times the amount demanded. Somehow, I could secure the permission without any further underhand payment and got back to my desk with a feeling of triumph and pride at what had been accomplished. The senior manager soon left the company and moved on to a greener pasture.

Tatas are well known for their sound values and systems. They have a unique way of handling under-the-table demands by all and sundry. When it comes to compliance, the emphasis is on avoidance and not on evasion. As to corporate governance, their 150 year old record is blemish free.

Tatas repersent a fine example of what Alan Wallner is apt to call a Conscious Brand. As one of the thought leaders who happen to be a part of the Conscious Enterprises Network, he believes that branding is not just about physical attributes; rather, it is about the inner presence of a person and of the team that creates the brand of a business – it’s the way we treat other people and work together to create something remarkable.

A Mighty Responsibility

To keep a brand duly buffed up and shining is no mean task. Besides management back-up, a positive culture and clear policies which facilitate an ethical approach to business dealings, it needs extensive training at the front level of any organization.

Experiences of Customer Delight

Sometime during the late 1980s, I once had a problem with a Kodak camera I had bought just about a few months back. Somehow, I had not been careful enough to save a copy of the purchase proof with me. I contacted the shop from where I had bought it and he refused to entertain me in the absence of either a bill or a receipt. But when I contacted the Kodak office in person, they made no fuss. A technician checked my camera and within twenty minutes, I walked out with a brand new fresh camera in my hands.

As a lay customer, I once had a problem with my TataSky direct-to-home service account. When nothing satisfactory happened for a week, I gave a piece of mind to the next person I could manage to speak to. Within a day, not only was the problem addressed but even a senior person called me up to apologize for the inconvenience caused.

Such first-hand experiences restore one’s faith in a brand, thereby giving it a unique advantage – that of free word to mouth publicity!

Converting Ex-employees into Brand Amassadors

At HCL Infosystems, another large company, a separation with a disgruntled star performer was handled very delicately. The outcome was that he ended up being an ambassador for the company, referring candidates for several other key positions in the following years.

Even a massive plant closure involving over 1,000 persons was handled so very decently that there were no protests and red flags of any kind, nor any interference from the local politicians or communities. Key personnel who could not be accommodated were assisted in securing alternative career opportunities, with the Human Resources Department playing a key role.

Caring for the Delicately Nurtured

Unilever recently stated having introduced a policy with zero tolerance towards domestic violence.

 

A ten-year stint of mine with Tatas matched well with my own upbringing. However, by the time the episode touched upon by me earlier occurred, I was in a bubble at the other end of the spectrum of values. I had perhaps permitted my honest visage and sincere disposition to be put to nefarious uses. Sure enough, the fault of accepting a situation of this kind lay somewhere within me.

Personal Brand Equity

It stands to reason that one’s brand equity is built over a long period of time. Once built, it becomes like the fragrance of an exotic flower. It travels much ahead of one, often opening up new vistas, offering a wider canvas for one to perform and excel at whatever one undertakes to do. The observant ones amongst those around us are surely able to size us up much quicker than we can manage to do ourselves.

Professionals need to step back every once in a while and check if their brand image is bright and shining. Keeping one’s brand value burnished helps in career progression. It is also an immensely satisfying slice of life which promotes self-worth and boosts self-confidence.

My experience tells me that these are the kind of inputs which go into keeping a professional’s brand value burnished.

Under-promise, over-deliver

Being aware of our core strengths as well as limitations helps us to assess our chances of success in delivering on a project. By ensuring that we commit conservatively but deliver zealously, we build up a reputation of reliability. There are indeed times when a polite ‘no’ could save us from denting our reputation.

Honesty and openness in relationships

Our colleagues and team members are equally smart. They are quick to sense a touch of opacity on our part. They detest a lack of transparency in us. Dealing with those around us with honesty ensures that they repose their faith and trust in us. As a result, our capability of getting things done improves.

Being a friend, philosopher and guide

All of us have some expertise which may not be directly relevant to our Key Result Area. It could be an insight into the realm of alternative therapies which a colleague can use for one of her family members. It could be about handling rebellious teenagers at home. If we put such expertise to use by helping others around us, word goes around and others rush in to seek our counsel. We might have the image of a tough task master, but this softer aspect of our personality helps us to build a unique brand for ourselves.

Networking

Whether within the organization or outside, networking goes a long way in building up our reputation. The trick, however, is in avoiding those with a negative outlook, while promoting ties with those who have positive vibes.

Keep learning

Keeping the saw sharpened always helps. By refreshing our knowledge pool continuously, we remain a leader in more ways than one. Often, a dash of humility is all it needs to remain ahead of the curve.

Being genuine

By being ourselves, we enhance our dependability. Others feel reassured and refreshed after each encounter with us. They do not mind confiding in us. In turn, this helps us to understand and address their anxiety and concerns better. Our ability to deliver improves.

A brand is all about reliability and dependability. It offers good value for money. So do professionals who work on the basis of deliverables. Smart ones realize that an image cannot be built up purely based on optics and communication. It needs to be backed by real inputs so one’s brand value remains intact and is kept shimmering at all times.

One of the key factors in building a brand and sustaining its image is the kind of value system it represents; moreover, the purpose which guides it.

 

(Illustration: Keller’s Brand Equity Model)

 

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/bidding-an-adieu-to-mr-ratan-tata

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/building-up-the-employee-brand-value-3

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/12/29/a-not-so-plummy-encounter-with-an-arm-of-the-law)

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Of Swollen Minds and Shallow Hearts

A vast majority of managers fall in this category. With money power ruling their lives, they cannot be blamed for behaving like robots, relentlessly chasing materialistic goals. With the heart playing a subservient role to that of the mind, analytical skills rule supreme. Intuition, feelings and emotions take a back seat, leading to rapid burnouts and build up of stress. We run into managers who are driven entirely by results, a prospect tolerated with much glee by top managements. Often, they lose the trust and confidence of their team members, resulting into a human relations crisis. External titillations offered by life provide transient moments of gratification. The inner glow of happiness eludes them.

This tribe, which puts a premium on the ‘I and Me’ approach to decision-making, experiences a hollowness within. Minds are whirling with ideas, indicating the dire need to practice brain-stilling, as…

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(Non-statutory warning: Reading the article below could be injurious to readers’ mental health and leave them a wee bit depressed. Caution is advised.

The author is reasonably certain that this article is not an outcome of the kind of wholesome pessimism which is believed to envelope one in advancing age.)

There is a mood of despondency which descends upon my frail grey cells once in a while. Dark clouds which have gathered upon me are accompanied by sinister rumblings. Lightning streaks of a menacing kind keep lighting up the sky, duly followed by thunderous howls which pierce my ears. One peers into the future and one shudders to think of the kind of world one would leave behind for our progeny to live in. Tectonic plates of our society appear to be shifting, causing major upheavals.

No, one does not allude to the pandemic stalking us these days. Nor does one refer to such universal problems like global warming, economic disparities, widespread poverty and illiteracy etc. Instead, one refers here to tectonic plates of a different kind – the ones which impact our value systems, human values, social harmony, honesty, fairness and justice, norms of democracy, absence of truthful and factual information, materialistic progress, and the like.

Consider what is happening around us these days.

Some Ground Realities

The Lack of a Conscious Approach to Business Goals

Businesses continue to be driven by greed and avarice alone. Hapless CEOs have no other option but to keep delivering results from one quarter to the next.

There are no guarantees that Volkswagen will not soon come up with yet another technical trick to befool the regulators and its customers. Boeing may yet again secure approvals for launching a model which might put air passengers’ lives at risk. Financial scams will keep tumbling out of corporate closets at a standard frequency which might put an atomic clock to shame.

Think of rising inequalities. Consider a report presented by Oxfam at the January 2021 World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda, titled ‘The Inequality Virus’. It says that the 1,000 richest people on the planet recouped their Covid-19 losses within just nine months of 2020, whereas the world’s poorest could take up to a decade to recover from the pandemic induced setback. I am certain that philanthropic initiatives of the richest have not suddenly seen a proportionately higher uptick.

So, every crisis that humanity faces turns out to be an opportunity for the well endowed to amass greater wealth. Is this the kind of Materialistic and Unconscious Business model that we wish to continue following? Our answer would of course depend based on whether we are from the ‘haves’ side or the ‘have-nots’ side of the society.

The Monkey Business Called Politics

Probity and decency in the public life of our leaders is long since buried. Gone are the days when vibrant democracies needed a strong opposition to thrive. These days, even the President of a country can himself turn against the hallowed portals of democracy and send rampaging mobs braying for the blood of those out to declare him defeated in an election. In other words, it is one of those promotional offers – you vote in a President and get another one for free!

The aforesaid top boss’ term has revealed enormous gaps between the ideals of American democracy and the reality. Even before he exhorted his followers to attack the Capitol and the legislative branch of government, he ignored watchdog rulings and constitutional safeguards, pressed to overturn the outcome of an election, and pardoned those who covered for him, all the while funneling taxpayer dollars to his family business.

In yet another country, the main adversary runs the risk of not only being poisoned but also getting imprisoned on some ground or the other, while those in power brutally suppress dissent marked by men’s underwear and gold-painted toilet cleaning brushes.

World over, there is no dearth of leaders who have dictatorial ambitions but mask these well with democratic credentials. Speak of transparent political funding and all one gets is the silence of a tomb.

In yet another country, lies, obfuscation of facts and clever data management seem to have become a norm. Photo-ops, positive optics and feel-good media feed by devout followers keep the entire nation in thrall. Attempts to stifle dissent and to paint anyone not toeing the rulers’ line as unpatriotic continue unchecked. Getting offended by comments made by those living thousands of miles away appears to have become a national pastime. When a stand-up comedian speaks up, our clairvoyant nature allows us to guess what offending remark he is yet to make. Prompt legal action gets taken, nipping the intended mischief in the bud.

Building physical infrastructure is simply great. So is the drive to embrace technology to make life of a common man simpler. But when this comes at the cost of demolishing social harmony and making a democratic country free of any kind of opposition worth its while, the long term price of a ‘progress’ of this kind is rather high. I am not an economist, but I wonder if an economy can grow while the society itself is getting fragmented.

World over, quite a few governments have even used the pandemic as a cover to suppress dissent and cut short processes to introduce laws of an unpopular kind. In the process, their soft power is bound to dive down.

The Rudderless Social (and Anti-Social) Media

During 2020, in India, when our northern neighbour had encroached upon our land, and when the media should have been doling out useful health tips for people to stay safe in the midst of a pandemic, the only ‘breaking news’ was the suspected suicide of a Bollywood actor and the activities of his girl friend.

Social media, duly backed by smart algorithms, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, keeps shaping our thought processes, our choices, our preferences, our perceptions and our beliefs. We are already living in a fish bowl where the law makers as well as the private players are hands in glove to sell detailed information about us to the highest bidder. Privacy concerns and personal liberties be damned. Pretty soon, it may happen that government support is available only to those who have a pro-government presence on various media platforms.

The whole idea is perhaps to help a lay person evolve into a dumb chum of the first order, unable to use his own judgement in matters of public importance; essentially, to numb the person’s grey cells. In other words, we all become zombies (or jack asses, if you prefer) of the first order.

Little do we realize that there are no free lunches in life. Any service available to us free of cost over the world-wide-web we have spun around ourselves only means that ‘We, the People’ are the product on sale!

If our social media czars do not come up with a realistic code of conduct for themselves soon enough, governments, to salvage their public image, may soon have to start dishing out harsher laws.

Perhaps, one of the czars will soon set up an academy to groom many of our whizz kids into becoming ethical hackers and algorithm developers.

Neglecting Half of the Homo Sapiens

If they stay at home, their contribution to society is never even acknowledged. Rather, it is taken for granted. If they venture out of their home and hearth, lustful gazes disrobe them mentally. If they get violated, they only have to take the rap. In war zones, they are the instruments used to inflict deep wounds on the psyche of the other.

Yes, I refer to the tribe of the so-called delicately nurtured. They are the ones upon whom Mother Nature has conferred the unique capacity of keeping our civilization alive and ticking. They may be as tough as nails and proving themselves to be better than the so-called sterner sex in all fields of human endeavour. A fact which was reinforced yet again when a deadly pandemic arrived at our doorsteps. In public, they may get put on a pedestal and revered. But in private, they often get treated like a doormat, treated as mere objects, only to be used and abused.

Doting lover boys, upon metamorphosing into husbands, often shed their chivalrous masks and start behaving like dictators. If a family breaks up owing to mistreatment, ridicule, abuse and violence at the hands of their husbands, it is the lady of the house alone who gets the entire blame – for being obstinate and uncompromising. The general view is that she is a gold digger of sorts.

Such a patriarchal mindset is not an exclusive prerogative of the poor alone. Nor does it respect geographical boundaries. Education levels also do not make much of a difference. Take couples across different countries, economic status and education level and one is apt to find this to be a universal phenomenon. The Chivalry Quotient may vary across all these parameters, but a singular shortage of preux chevaliers is felt all over our planet. Religious beliefs and even some spiritual tenets reinforce such derogatory views.

In respect of the legal framework, our experience in India has been a mixed one. The females have learnt the art of terrorizing their husbands and their families by foisting cases of imagined harassment, with the sole aim of securing better settlements while seeking divorce. Surely, the training in chivalry truly begins at home – either in the kitchen or at the dining table. Laws can play only a limited role.

The tectonic shift taking place here is that of divorce rates going up and couples preferring to remain friends with perks. Upwardly mobile wives who can stand on their own feet detest drawing husbands who refuse to wear skirts and help out with domestic chores. Once the family structure crumbles, there is a higher probability of the value system of the next generation going for a toss.

The Silence of the Lambs

In many of the issues brought out above, are we ourselves not responsible for the mess that we are in? The silence of our intellectuals, the self-centredness and public apathy of the middle class which more or less upholds values in society and the mute surrender of the common man – are these not some of the factors which have enabled this situation to have come about?

Many years back, I vaguely recall having read a satirical story in Hindi, written by a well known humourist in the language, Hari Shankar Parsai. A herd of lambs is made to believe that few wily foxes alone can solve all their problems. Pretty soon, foxes get voted in. One fine day, a ruling comes that to save the ruling foxes, some sheep should voluntarily surrender to be sacrificed each day so the patriotic fervour is kept alive and the nation is run effectively!

I am not a political science buff. Thus, I am not qualified to say if democracy as a model of governance is failing us. But one of its enabling factors is the presence of conscious leaders who are not shameless and still have traces of humility, empathy, decency and a concern for genuine overall good.

With No Malice towards Anyone  

Educated youth who have no means of earning a living, will they not have a raw anger simmering within them? Will the poorer lot not take a jaundiced view of grand government schemes the benefits of which do not reach them?

Perhaps there is a feeling of helplessness within them. Perhaps they have dollops of patience.  May be they realize that they are too small to bring about any change and feel it is better to accept things as they are and continue wallowing in misery and self-pity, blaming God for all their troubles.

But is a meek acceptance of murkier developments in the world around us a better approach? Can we not dissipate the seething anger within by at least saying what we find to be reproachable? Can we not break our silence of the lambs and speak up?

With Whom Does the Buck Stop?!

Are we ourselves not a part of the problem? Why have we, reasonably educated and rather wise people, decided to outsource our thinking processes and have instead opted to become zombies?!

Do we not keep patronizing companies even we know they have been cheating in the past? Are we not the ones who get swayed by propaganda and cast a vote for a particular party or a particular leader? Do we ever boycott a media outlet which acts as a mouth piece of those in power?

If we are addicted to, say, WhatsApp or Facebook, can we really blame their inventors for the issues that we face? Don’t we find it convenient to remain in touch with our friends and family members through these platforms?

When we notice a female being harassed, are we not likely to look the other way? Is the onus of ‘adjusting’ not always put on the female? Can we take a pause before we make a victim the facilitator of a crime?

Overall, by remaining a mute spectator and witness to acts of corruption, misinformation, lies and half-truths, do we not become accomplices to such misdeeds?

It is not wise to altogether point a finger at others only. A knife kind of a tool is given to us. Let us use it to prepare a juicy dish and not to hurt someone. The choice of usage is with us.

Our endeavour therefore should be to stand up, be courageous and outspoken. This alone can get us counted. Even if there is one sane voice amongst all the noise and din, it would resonate with other like-minded individuals out there.

Our salute needs to reach out not only to those who are already raising their voices but also to the decision makers who might eventually get around to listening to us.

Some Silver Linings

All this is not to say that there are no silver linings in the dark clouds hovering above us. As P G Wodehouse puts it, even when the air is pregnant with V or W-shaped depressions, there are always silver linings on the clouds. We shall do well never to repine, never to despair, but to work upon our own selves and on others in our sphere of influence. It is good to remember that, no matter how dark the skies may be, the sun is shining somewhere and will eventually come smiling through.

There are business houses which keep following good values and ethics in their day to day operations. There are leaders who respond well to challenges like social disharmony and stalking pandemics with a dash of human values. They treat dissent as a valuable input for their decision making processes. We also have very few social media and gig economy barons who are being forced by their own employees to either shape up or ship out.

Lawmakers and pressure groups in USA are already reported to be thinking of ways to bring in a wide-ranging overhaul of ethics, laws, the likes of which have not been seen since the post-Watergate era.

Perhaps, eminent legal eagles in India can also take a leaf out of the USA experience. As a country, we had experienced suppression of dissent even during the 1970s, when an emergency was declared. Can some more constitutional safeguards be brought in so that a popular mandate does not give the executive the right to ride rough shod over other arms of the government, thereby increasing the probability of the country being taken in a direction which is not the same as what our founding fathers had envisioned?

Above all, it is the man on the street, busy keeping his body and soul together, eking out a living for his family and even helping others in distress. When the scales from his eyes fall and he wakes up to a life threatening situation at hand, he reacts. The farmers in India are already showing their resolve following the strategy of peaceful protests and civic disobedience used by Mahatma Gandhi many decades ago.

Then we have lone wolf professional bodies. World Without Corruption in Belgium gives businesses a voice in fighting corrupt practices. The Conscious Enterprises Network in UK speaks of conscious leaders leading their enterprises in a holistic value-based manner in all spheres of human enterprise. The Center for Business Ethics & Compliance in Russia is focused on best practices in the realm of ethics and compliance.

Likewise, in India, Spandan Foundation is passionate about human values in organizations and even plans to set up a centre dedicated to the cause. Shakti Leadership highlights the importance of using feminine traits like empathy and compassion in decision making and assists individuals and organizations in their quest for conscious evolution. The Association for Democratic Reforms keeps relevant political issues alive and kicking in public eye.

I am sure there are many others scattered over other continents. Their attempt is to bring like-minded people together and keep the embers of a pious fire aglow, focused on values and ethics.

The Mighty Churning

The society is always in a flux. These days, it appears to be undergoing a mightier churning which reminds one of the episode of Samudra Manthan (The Churning of the Sea) in Indian scriptures. The churning throws up poison as well as the nectar which grants immortality. Those who believe in following the path of righteousness end up securing the latter.

It is easy to see that we have a leadership crisis on our hands. Since a situation also produces a leader, one hopes that more and more conscious leaders keep emerging, nudging us in the right direction.

Admittedly, the silver linings appear to be like a pale parabola of joy, to borrow an expression from P G Wodehouse. This will remain so till the time a bevy of conscious leaders – whether in business or in politics – do not appear on the scene and convert this into a shimmering parabola of bliss.

The solution is not to keep sweeping issues like hunger, poverty, economic non-inclusion and prejudicial animosity under the carpet. Nor is it to raise the existing walls, whether political, commercial, attitudinal or religious. It lies instead in a truly global view based on the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbukam: The World is One Family.

Being a born optimist who believes in having a chin-up attitude, I do hope that some of these tectonic shifts can at least get retarded, if not altogether reversed, in the years to come.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/06/17/why-the-wren-is-a-patriot-and-not-a-nationalist-guest-post-by-prof-badri-raina

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/11/23/jeeves-and-the-social-media-challenge

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/bertie-jeeves-and-the-internet-of-things

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/bertie-social-media-and-blogging-blues

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/01/10/jeeves-seeks-a-placement)

 

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ashokbhatia

Sir Wilhelm Rontgen, I have just started my career in a large company. I am clueless how to understand the real motives of Scientist Roentgenpeople around me. There is no correlation between what they say and what they actually do.

Try to tune your mind to frequencies ranging from 30 peta-hertz to 30 exa-hertz and just X-ray their minds. You will then be able to understand people better. Putting yourself in their shoes (or sandals, if you prefer), finding about their family backgrounds and upbringing, discovering the underground cable connections they have within the company you have just joined, et al, are all inputs which would help you to understand them at a deeper level.

Use your common sense and intuitive insight to peep into people’s minds, much like the way my X-rays do for the physical body. If you take people around you at face value, you will always feel…

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These days, while boarding a flight, one’s nerves are all of a twitter, wondering which model of aeroplane will be ferrying one. If it happens to be a Boeing 737 Max, the soul sickens in horror. One imagines the plane crashing within a short time of having taken off. One starts reviewing one’s insurance covers. One worries about the welfare of the family. One thinks of the kind of closure the near and dear ones may never get if one’s mortal remains are never traced.

This is not to say that one necessarily fears death. Like taxes, it is inevitable. But what one shudders to think of is the kind of trauma one may undergo a few minutes prior to the actual event, after which, nothing else would really matter!

Thus, while boarding a plane these days, a lay passenger perhaps has two prayers on her lips. The first one is that the plane lands at its destination safely. The second one is that the captain will not be flying it while working from home. Whatever the advances in technology, a human being is still valued as a safer bet!

All this is thanks to the Boeing 737 Max issue which has been making headlines since 2018. Just to jiggle our memory cells a wee bit, here are the facts as yours truly understands them.

Some Facts of the 737 Max Case

In October 2018, Indonesia’s Lion Air flight plummeted to the ground shortly after taking off, killing all 189 people on board. Subsequently, in March 2019, a crash happened in an eerily similar manner in Ethiopia, killing all 157 persons aboard.

Boeing claims to work on such ‘enduring values’ as integrity and safety.  The company defines integrity as taking ‘the high road by practicing the highest ethical standards.’ Likewise, safety is captured thus: ‘We value human life and well-being above all else and take action accordingly,’ the company suggests, and that ‘by committing to safety first, we advance our goals for quality, cost, and schedule.’

But to match the launch of A320neo by Airbus, said to be 15% more fuel efficient, Boeing moved fast and launched the 737 MAX nine months after Airbus’s announcement. Regulatory approvals were apparently rushed through, by simply declaring the 737 MAX to be merely a ‘derivative’ model of the company’s cash cow – 737. Technical changes of a material kind were apparently made, but the need for pilot training was never highlighted. The Flight Crew Operating Manual was not modified to reflect the changes. If this had been done, perhaps the pilots might have been in a better position to know what to do should the plane begin to behave unpredictably after take-off due to bad sensor data.

According to a Reuter’s report, a Joint Authorities Technical Review done in 2019 had harshly criticized the US Federal Aviation Administration’s review of a safety system on Boeing‘s 737 Max jet that was later tied to two crashes that killed 346 persons.

An 18-month probe into the sordid affair subsequently led a US congressional committee to put the blame on ‘repeated and serious failures by Boeing and air safety regulators.’ The committee spoke of ‘a culture of concealment’, whereby the company withheld key information from regulators. Undue influence unleashed upon the FFA seniors marred oversight.

The plane remained grounded worldwide from March 2019 to November 2020. In November 2020, the plane was once again certified by the USA authorities as being fit to fly once necessary modifications had been made. Regulators in the EU are expected to do so now.

In January 2021, Boeing agreed to shell out a compensation package of $ 2.5 billion to settle a Justice Department investigation and admit that employees misled regulators about the safety of its 737 Max aircraft. The US government and the company said that the settlement includes money for the crash victims’ families, airline customers and a fine.

This obviously does not bring back the dead. Nevertheless, it is a matter of some satisfaction that Boeing finally revealed a streak of consciousness in their dealings with diverse stakeholders.

The New Story of Business

Western experts had originally recommended Command and Control as a means to generate wealth and had gone on to imply that stark materialism is the way to seek peace and happiness. However, the Eastern approach is based on an inward blossoming, an inner growth and development. This approach holds an inner glow of success to be superior to sensual gratification of an external nature.

By proactively adopting a Conscious Capitalism approach, several businesses have already recognized the truth that they have a greater purpose, much beyond delivering value to their own stakeholders.

Conscious businesses have trusting, authentic, innovative and caring cultures that make working there a source of both personal growth and professional fulfillment. They endeavour to create financial, intellectual, social, cultural, emotional, spiritual, physical and ecological wealth for all their stakeholders.

There are many labels for an approach of this kind. Compassionate Capitalism, Humane Capitalism and Inclusive Capitalism are some. Socially Responsible Investing and Impact Investing are others. Nilima Bhat and Raj Sisodia label this as Shakti Leadership, highlighting the need for balancing masculine and feminine aspects in decision making. R Edward Freeman refers to it as Stakeholder Capitalism. According to him, profit and purpose, humanity and economics, business and ethics can go ‘and-in-hand’!

Is Boeing now taking a Conscious Capitalism route?

One has no information in the public domain as to the internal changes made by Boeing so an incident of this kind does not recur. But based on what one already knows, the following conclusions may be safely drawn:

  1. In order to beat the competition, Boeing 737 Max was declared to be a ‘derivative’ of its predecessor and not a new model.
  2. Regulatory approvals were rushed through.
  3. Software changes were not effectively conveyed to pilots; Flight Crew Operating Manuals were not upgraded.
  4. It took a rap on its knuckles by a Congressional Committee, and then by the Justice Department, for Boeing to admit to misleading regulators and declaring the compensation package.

In this case, we may all draw our own conclusions.

Corporate’s tendency to cosy up to regulators and the governments of the day is understandable. But when it amounts to disregarding their self-proclaimed values of safety and integrity, thereby endangering human lives, they would appear to believe in the model of inhumane and unconscious capitalism.

Those who happen to advocate the cause of Conscious Capitalism and Ethics in Business fondly hope that this case eventually proves to be a ‘Corporate Soul Awakening Moment’ of sorts for the 105 year old outfit.

 

(Notes:

  • Written with no malice towards anyone!
  • A version of this post would appear in a yet-to-be released book which connects Bhagavad Gita to Management) 

 

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What is it that makes a professional fondly look back and remember the time spent with a particular organization?

The initial package sounds jaded over a period of time and the Law of Diminishing Utility eventually kicks in. The seniority for which one so adroitly negotiates at the entry stage fails to charm after some time,  unless backed by further achievements, recognition and rewards, added responsibilities and advancements. Time also takes the glow and shine off the social prestige which goes with being associated with one of the better known brands in the industry.

So, what is a professional left with after having left an organization?

The Lingering Sweetness

Much after the association with an organization has come to an end, the everlasting impression one carries in one’s mind depends on two simple factors. One, professional achievements which were individually attained but facilitated and enabled by the support systems ingrained…

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