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ashokbhatia

SQIt would not be wrong to say that in today’s world, a relentless pursuit of wealth and material belongings has left a deep scar on our souls. Many of us are twiddling our thumbs trying to figure out either how to de-stress ourselves or how to keep fighting those depressive blues. There is a nagging emptiness within and the mind boggles as to why and how it has come about. Most of us have no clue as to what could be done about it.

Redefining ‘Success’ and ‘Happiness’

One way out of this dilemma is to perhaps redefine our concepts of ‘success’ and ‘happiness’. What do these terms really mean? When we dig deeper, we might find that these two are not really dependent on external factors. There is an inner connection somewhere.

Something very elaborate, say a long well-planned vacation, might not yield the emotional high that we expected…

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ashokbhatia

Just like ‘Ramayana’, the epic of ‘Mahabharata’ also has many management lessons for the present day business leaders and managers. Greed, jealousy, quest for power, trying to achieve goals irrespective of the fairness of the means deployed – all these contradictions in life are very poignantly brought out.

Here are some lessons which could be drawn from the epic.

  • Merit over Birth

When it comes to announcing a successor to his vast kingdom, King Bharata does not choose any of his own sons. Instead, he namesMahabharat King Bharat Bhumanyu whom he considers more capable to manage the affairs of his kingdom. In a dynastic rule, seeds of democracy are thus sown.

In India Inc’s power rankings, professional CEOs are on the rise. Three of the top ten in the 2013 edition of ‘India Inc’s Most Powerful CEOs’ are professionals. Five years back, K V Kamath was the only professional in the top…

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Much like a proficient swimmer participating in a competition, a smart CEO needs to operate in two  diametrically opposite styles at the same time – one of attachment and another of detachment. She needs to be an enthusiastic participant in the operations and swim along with the current. Often, she also needs to sit back on the banks of the river, keenly observe the direction in which she is headed and make a detached and objective assessment of the situation. There is thus an inherent duality embedded in her role. Her role as a passionate participant must always embrace that of the intellectual spectator. The “who” and “why” of her concerns should constantly enfold the “what” and “how” of our methods.

With maturity, a person gains the ability to detach from passionate participation in the operations and do a pitiless analysis of the overall shape and working of the system. Successful CEOs know that after all the analysis is done, they still have to throw themselves back into the mix. One may call this art a hybrid style of functioning.

Detachment in Action

A sense of detachment, as brought out by Bhagavad Gita, is not about one losing the sight of the objective sought to be achieved. Nor does it recommend a defeatist attitude in one’s life and career. Rather, it is about handling successes and failures in a balanced manner. Smart leaders, who have achieved a spectacular success, do not become complacent. They remain humble. They determine the critical success factors and store these at the back of their minds, ready to be recalled when necessary. When faced with dire failures, they shoulder the blame, get requisite feedback and take steps to ensure the failure gets avoided the next time round. If they lose interest for some time, they bounce back with renewed enthusiasm and work towards delivering results. In other words, detachment helps one to be more objective.

Peter Drucker, when he dished out advice to CEOs, invariably acted as a dispassionate observer. He was critical but fair, assisting some of the best brains in the American corporate world in their crucial jobs of scaling up huge businesses so that their vastness became an asset rather than a liability. He refrained from developing a sense of attachment towards any of the CEOs he interacted with and maintained a critical detachment. He studied and commented upon the latest key issues without selling universal truths to his clients, followers and managers everywhere. This was one of his key qualities which added to the greatness of his thoughts.

If one were to go through the history of the Apollo series of missions launched by the National Aeronautical Space Agency of USA during the 1960s and 1970s, one would be struck by the kind of tenacity and equipoise demonstrated by the participating astronauts. Despite losing several of their colleagues in accidents, they remained committed to the overall goal, delivering some spectacular results for our scientists and technocrats to work upon. The same trend continues till date. Airspace disasters notwithstanding, we keep sending missions to Mars and to Sun. The quest of humanity to explore our universe continues unabated.

Inner Resilience and Equanimity

Attaining a state of detachment gets facilitated if a professional were to improve upon her levels of Inner Resilience and practice Equanimity. This is what Bhagavad Gita says in this context.

योगस्थ: कुरु कर्माणि सङ्गं त्यक्त्वा धनञ्जय |
सिद्ध्यसिद्ध्यो: समो भूत्वा समत्वं योग उच्यते || 2.48||

Be steadfast in the performance of your duty, O Arjun, abandoning attachment to success and failure. Such equanimity is called Yoga.

Professionals need to know not only what is to be done, but also how it has to be done. Lord Krishna does not fail them. He recommends an ‘evenness of mind’, the tranquility of inner composure in handling all the pairs of opposites in their careers and lives – success and failure, praise and reprimand, hiring and firing, sprees of expansion and down-sizing, products and services which are at opposite ends of their life cycles, mergers and demergers, favourable and unfavourable circumstances, and the like. This, indeed, is held to be the real ‘Yoga’.

In the process, we need to give up our false expectations, wrong imaginations, daydreams about the fruits of our actions, anxieties for results, resistance to change, and fears about future events which are still in the womb of the universal force called Time.

The traits of a Super Leader

Hers is a balanced personality, free of unreasonable desires which pose the danger of her losing sight of her sense of righteousness. She does not have a binding attachment with her emotions. Nor does she have a jealous preference for her pet ideas or for her pet people. She scoffs at any signs of nepotism. She encourages her team members to be nay-sayers, so voices of dissent could be heard and judiciously dealt with. She radiates positivity all around her. She is committed to the organization’s goals and looks after her team members much like a lioness would protect her cubs.

Such a person of steady wisdom is described in Bhagavad Gita as a Stitha-Prajna. Consider the following:

दु:खेष्वनुद्विग्नमना: सुखेषु विगतस्पृह: |
वीतरागभयक्रोध: स्थितधीर्मुनिरुच्यते || 2.56||

One whose mind remains undisturbed amidst misery, who does not crave for pleasure, and who is free from attachment, fear, and anger, is called a sage of steady wisdom.

Two concerns may arise here. One, could there really be persons who could be held to have all these qualities? Two, is it really possible for one to be free of one’s basket of desires and one’s ego?

In his book ‘Beyond the Last Blue Mountain’, R M Lala quotes the case of Jamsetji Tata, the founder of the Tata group of companies. It was he who gave the group a unique position in India. In his later years, he did not ask ‘What enterprise is the most profitable?’ but, ‘What does the nation need?’ Since the answer in his times was steel, hydro-electric power or an institute of science, he made his best efforts to fulfill that need.

He is reported to have once said something very basic:

We do not claim to be more unselfish, more generous or more philanthropic than other people. But we think we started on sound and straightforward business principles, considering the interests of the shareholders our own, and the health and welfare of the employees the sure foundation of our prosperity.’

Alfred Sloan is reported to have once remarked, ‘What is good for General Motors is good for America.’ J R D Tata always thought the other way round. ‘What is good for India is good for Tatas.’

Theirs is only one example of a business house which is clear in its goals and in its priorities. Several others could be quoted in the current context, like N R Narayana Murthy, the founder of Infosys.

Getting rid of desires and ego is no cakewalk. A CEO may introspect and fine tune her desires so the same are aligned with the values of the organization she works for. In the process, her personal desires take a back seat. Likewise, getting rid of one’s ego completely has a flip side. One could end up becoming a doormat and getting taken advantage of by all and sundry. Arguably, her wisdom and intuition can help her to retain her individuality even while letting go of the ego. Ask any CEO who has ever worked in a single-owner driven company, and she would attest to the basic principle of leaving the ego at the office gate itself!

Professionals who remain undistracted by transient entrapments have the ability to be rational and calm. They are steadfast in reaching their goals and go on to make successful business leaders.

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Recently, while on a trip to Switzerland, yours truly had the opportunity of calling upon Mr. José Manuel Castro Santiago, Minister – Counsellor at the Embassy of Portugal in Bern.

Despite his busy schedule, he was kind enough to grant an audience to yours truly, who wished to present to him a copy of his book ‘Como Sobreviver Na Selva Empresarial’.

It happened to be a day when the soaring day temperature had left denizens of Berne gasping for breath and scurrying for cover. To match the heat outside, the Embassy of Portugal in Switzerland offered a degree of bonhomie and warmth, much like the genial and affable disposition of the people of Portugal.

An informal meeting took place in his tastefully done up office. He was genial, graceful and dignified. The frankness with which he spoke and the warmth he exuded was typical of the people of character, resource and rich culture he represents.

It transpired that he had also had a stint in India. He spoke warmly of his positive feel about the country. He touched upon its rich ancient culture and the diversity of its citizens. Yet another emerging economy he had been posted to in the past was that of Brazil.

He mentioned that he has himself authored and published a book which captures his experiences in a long and successful career. Yours truly expressed a wish that some kindly publisher might bring it out in English as well, so the wisdom contained therein may get shared more widely.

He was happy to know that yours truly had been associated with the Tata group for close to a decade, that too in the field of leather footwear and components. The courtesy extended to an ordinary soul from an emerging economy like India was impeccable.

Diplomats represent all that their land is and aspires to be. Much like Ms. Clara Nunes dos Santos, the Ambassador of Portugal to Norway (whom yours truly had the opportunity to meet recently), Mr. José Manuel Castro Santiago is also no exception. One has no doubt that both of them handle managerial challenges coming their way with characteristic aplomb.

One wishes them and their country a great innings in the days to come.

(Notes:

This is how you can lay your hands on the Portuguese version of the book, launched in Portugal during March, 2016, courtesy Liberty Seguros and Vida Economica.

The English version of the book, entitled ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’, was released recently.

Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/a-meeting-with-the-ambassador-of-portugal-in-norway)

 

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Celebrating the first anniversary of having launched a book in Portuguese in March 2016.

English version to follow soon….!

ashokbhatia

Surviving in the Corporate Jungle

BookFrontCover

This is a short introduction to a book by yours truly, the Portugese version of which is getting launched in Portugal shortly. The launch event  in Porto is planned on the 2nd of March, along with a talk on “Work Life Harmony” at the  Catolica Porto Business School  of  Universidade Catolica do Porto. The launch event in Lisbon is planned at Universidade Europeia on the 3rd of March, 2016, as part of an event titled ‘Passport to India.’

How this book happened

Forty years back, the School of Business at a prestigious university in India made a big mistake. They awarded me a degree in Business Management. They were so very happy to see me off the campus that they even awarded a silver medal to me.

I owe this book to my professors – some of whom taught so well that I learnt a…

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Surviving in the Corporate Jungle

BookFrontCover

This is a short introduction to a book by yours truly, the Portugese version of which is getting launched in Portugal shortly. The launch event  in Porto is planned on the 2nd of March, along with a talk on “Work Life Harmony” at the  Catolica Porto Business School  of  Universidade Catolica do Porto. The launch event in Lisbon is planned at Universidade Europeia on the 3rd of March, 2016, as part of an event titled ‘Passport to India.’

How this book happened

Forty years back, the School of Business at a prestigious university in India made a big mistake. They awarded me a degree in Business Management. They were so very happy to see me off the campus that they even awarded a silver medal to me.

I owe this book to my professors – some of whom taught so well that I learnt a lot. Others taught so poorly that I had to study some subjects on my own. So, I developed extra interest in such subjects!

I also owe this book to my bosses, colleagues and subordinates. Some of them were as tough as nails. They were a terror and kept me awake most nights.

Others were tough but deceptively soft and sweet on the outside.

Some were so systematic that I dreaded any of my difficult targets getting entered into their bulky diaries. Once the entry was there, reminders after reminders kept pouring in, keeping me forever on my toes.

Some were so chaotic in their working that I was often roped in to assist them.

Why this book happened

The creative juices sloshing about within me bear the full responsibility for this book to have come about.

It was an inner urge to share my learning with managers and executives of all sizes, stature and shapes that made me start compiling my observations. The result is this book.

So, the book you will have with you soon enough is like a management summary of a part of the life I have led for around forty years, practising as well as observing the science and art of management.

As a senior manager with Tatas, the largest and the most respected business group in India, as also in several other companies which are large corporates and single owner driven outfits, I have seen delightful facets of management.

Why in Europe?

One has had personal as well as professional relations with individuals and corporates in several countries in Europe. Portugal is an important member of the European Union. The fact that most management lessons are universal in nature also helped.

Sacking an employee in Timbuktu is as difficult as an employee in Germany of UK. Motivating a team member could be as challenging in India as in Portugal. Yes, the social context is different. The economy may be chugging along in a different manner. But the art of getting work done has universal principles.

When your boss calls you, looks you in the eye, and asks you to go and sell a refrigerator to someone on the North Pole, you know you are in serious trouble. Further, if he flatters you by saying that you are the only one who can do it, you realize you are being handed a pink slip.

CEO World

I also happen to be one of the Founding Members of CEO World, an innovative start-up in Portugal. One of the services it offers to CEOs world over is that of engagement with their peers in diverse businesses and continents; Peer Groups which are virtual in nature and work on video conferencing basis. The challenges faced by CEOs get shared in an open manner, without any competitive risks, in an atmosphere of mutual trust and complete confidence. This broadens the vistas of managerial wisdom of all the participants and improves the capacity of a CEO to face challenges better.

Statutory Warning

The messages you would find in this book are serious, their packaging is not. The idea is to make you chuckle and see if there is any solution to the present challenges that you face. The book does not offer any problem-solving guarantees.

If you do make the mistake of owning a copy, ensure that your boss or your girlfriend are not able to lay their hands on it.

If you do not find anything of use here, simply gift it to someone you hate.

This is how you can lay your hands on it.

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SQIt would not be wrong to say that in today’s world, a relentless pursuit of wealth and material belongings has left a deep scar on our souls. Many of us are twiddling our thumbs trying to figure out either how to de-stress ourselves or how to keep fighting those depressive blues. There is a nagging emptiness within and the mind boggles as to why and how it has come about. Most of us have no clue as to what could be done about it.

Redefining ‘Success’ and ‘Happiness’

One way out of this dilemma is to perhaps redefine our concepts of ‘success’ and ‘happiness’. What do these terms really mean? When we dig deeper, we might find that these two are not really dependent on external factors. There is an inner connection somewhere.

Something very elaborate, say a long well-planned vacation, might not yield the emotional high that we expected. On the contrary, a post-dinner spontaneous outing for a late night ice cream binge could leave us elated.

Why do some things make us happy and others do not? We love beauty. We cherish humour. We like being appreciated and being loved. We love doing something ‘different’. Anything which connects us to our inner selves tends to make us happy. A movie or a work of fiction which we are able to relate to relaxes us. Exploring new frontiers and visiting new places often makes us happy. Perhaps the soul revels in its experience of exploration when we were cave-dwellers and hunters!

A paradigm shift could perhaps help. If ‘success’ ceases to be about the property we own, the social respect and fame we enjoy, and the high and mighty ‘connections’ we boast of, we might arrive at a different picture of ourselves. The quality of sleep we get. The inner glow of satisfaction we have when we leave our place of work for the day. The love we get when we get back home after a hard day’s work. A change in perspective brings about a stupendous transformation in how we think and feel. Our attitude becomes positive.

Materialism, Big Data and Perception Management

This is not to say that materialism is bad, per se. To satisfy one’s needs is a basic requirement of life. But we often end up over-doing it. Also, we fail to distinguish between our needs and our desires. Needs may be satiated easily. But desires have a tendency to regenerate and evolve, keeping us engaged. Desires keep making us run after an illusory rainbow which forever keeps drifting away from us.

Marketing professionals invariably target their products, services and communications at our desires. With the advent of Big Data, promotional campaigns are becoming far more segment-focused. We hear of ‘evidence-based decision making’ or ‘actionable information’. Even public policies are getting framed and aggressively communicated by governments to promote the feel good factor, whereas ground realities might show only a marginal improvement. Managing perceptions is essentially about catering to the desires of the average person. Fulfilling genuine needs can take a back seat.

Enter – Spiritual Quotient

Another way of striking a balance between materialism and spirituality is to become aware of our Spiritual Quotient; that is, our ability to understand and comprehend the spiritual aspects of life. In other words, moving on from the world of mind and heart to the realm of our inner selves.

When we move on from IQ to SQ, we move from the gross to the subtle, from the finite to the infinite, from tangible to the intangible.

Those who have a high SQ have this uncanny ability to be creative and insightful in their approach to problem solving. They build up their level of self-awareness and there intuitive faculties. They realize that there is a realm of intelligence which is beyond the five senses our bodies are endowed with.

IQ is what sees us through academic pursuits. EQ is what we gain by experiencing life. SQ is something of which we become aware a little later in our life.

IQ can be readily measured. EQ can also be estimated, though not with the same level of precision that IQ can be. However, SQ does not lend itself to easy measurement. All its attributes happen to be subjective in nature. By observing a person for a long time, one can perhaps estimate her SQ more realistically.

How relevant is SQ to a business?

SQ has several components: gratitude, self-esteem, self-awareness, consciousness, compassion, surrender, service and ego. Let us attempt to examine its relevance in the lives of individuals and business entities.

  • A sense of gratitude can make a practicing manager humble. She is able to see her own station in life/career more objectively. External factors or people who have played an important role in her career advancement become easily apparent. Team members, peers as well as superiors invariably end up liking her better. In turn, this fuels a better rate of career enrichment.
  • Self-esteem makes it easier for a manager to say a categorical ‘no’ when the situation demands so. It also leads to better levels of self-confidence. When negative news is to be conveyed to a team member who is not performing on all six cylinders, a manager with a higher degree of self-esteem can look her in the eye and tackle the situation head-on. Effectiveness improves.
  • Leaders and managers with a higher degree of self-awareness tend to be more successful. They are able to reprimand someone without letting it affect their own inner well-being. They are better at identifying appropriate moments to convey what they wish to communicate. They are better at radiating their sunny disposition to those around them, thereby improving morale and securing better results for the business.
  • A higher level of consciousness makes a manager connect better with others. The realization dawns that the team member or the stakeholder being addressed is yet another entity blessed with unique qualities and, hence, has to be treated at par. The challenge being faced by the other, as also the innate capacity of the person to handle it – both get factored in the line of action being suggested. Based on this approach, even large businesses can be shut down without much recrimination or hurt.
  • Compassion is a logical fall-out of a higher level of consciousness. A distributor or a supplier facing a financial crunch might feel repulsed at being pitied. But a compassionate gesture which addresses his immediate concerns can build a relationship rooted in mutual faith, loyalty and genuine respect. A manager who prevails upon his CFO and gets even a post-dated cheque issued to a hapless supplier ends up winning corporate loyalty. When Taj Hotel faces a terror attack, the whole company gears up to rehabilitate and reward the affected staff.
  • Surrender does not imply an abject abdication, but a well nuanced and calibrated acceptance of the reality at hand. A company which has nurtured an iconic brand over several decades may suddenly need to shift gears so as to match the change in its market demand. A new business vertical which utilizes a core competency of the group may need to be entered into. Flexibility and fleet-footedness in business is a sine qua non for long-term survival and growth.
  • A sense of service is what leads to sustainability. When an IT major like Infosys decides to compensate its carbon footprints by providing green products to rural households, it makes eminent sense. When a MNC like HUL decides to use a government scheme like MNREGA to create water potential for farmers in one of the most water-starved areas of India, it is servicing the society it draws its inputs from. When an Air Asia flight goes down killing all passengers on board, the CEO resorts to Twitter to keep the anxious relatives updated. When the Tata group sets up a Center of Performing Arts, as also institutions like TIFR, TISS and IIS, a value of giving back something to society becomes manifest.
  • Managing ego is at the core of the art of managing things. A manager who allows herself to be treated like a door-mat could disappear from a company’s landscape pretty soon. Another one who is forever having an ego clash with people around her would also not survive in the long run. What is required by a manager to be successful is a fine balance between the two extremes, buttressed by a strong sense of self-esteem.

Dr Ian Marshall and Danah Zohar, in their 2001 book, SQ: Connecting With Our Spiritual Intelligence, say that ‘while computers have IQ and animals can have EQ, it is essentially an SQ that sets human beings apart.’

It follows that to have a smooth ride in life, all three – IQ, EQ and SQ – have to be relied upon equally by all of us – whether in our personal lives or in our businesses.

A disruptive future

Technology is changing the way we live, think, behave and feel. The rate of change is only going to go up in future. Leaders, managers and even individuals with a high level of SQ are bound to have a better chance of tasting success in the decades to come.

It is time to still our brains, rein in our emotions and start building up our Spiritual Quotients!

(Caricature drawn by Sanket is gratefully acknowledged)

(Related posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/spirituality-in-management

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/grooming-future-business-leaders-a-spiritual-approach-part-1)

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