Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The search for a hero

I was always fascinated by people who keep their cool under extreme duress. I am speaking about people who may seem ordinary but displays leadership by providing the right guidance in complicated scenarios. The world might be disintegrating around them, but they keep their head high and heart strong. According to me, such a person is a hero. We may think it is easy to find heroes. To tell you the truth, it is a rare species. Every leader has a flaw. Unfortunately, the most common fault of leaders is their inability to control their anger. Hence most of the leaders we come across get automatically disqualified from the title of a hero. In my constant quest for extraordinary people, I came across a hero. But there was a surprise in store for me in the interaction with the hero.

The hero is an acquaintance. He was handling multiple initiatives which were giving him quite a bit of trouble. By observing the buzzing movement around him for updates, you will be able to guess the magnitude of his pain. On one such day where the pain levels were high, I found him sipping a cold beverage, that too a non-alcoholic one. On seeing him enjoying the drink, I enquired unable to contain my curiosity. "How can you be so cool?" But the hero's response disappointed me. I didn't get an answer. Instead, I received a warm smile from him. A few days later, the hero tracked me down. I was surprised to find him. I was even more surprised when he brought up our previous interaction as part of the conversation. "I didn't understand your question. That is why I was not able to respond". I was not sure where this was leading. So I waited. "Another person asked me the same question. That is when it dawned on me. Stress does not show on my face. It may be a bad thing because then people think I am not serious. But I am glad. The unfortunate part is that I can't see my face when I am confronting trouble. I can only feel my heart beating faster. I might not be panicking, but I am worried."

I was puzzled. Here is a man who qualifies to be called a hero. But he doesn't realize it himself. While this thought consumed my mind, the hero spoke again. "I wish I could see myself during such situations. I always admired people who kept a cool head while confronting problems. I never thought I was one such person." The final statement reminded me of all the great quests and their ending. What you search is closer than you think it is. In the hero's case, it was closer to home.


Picture Courtesy: Lovro67

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Things to do on the work anniversary of your colleague

I am turning another year old at my workplace. As I turn grayer at work, I realize there is a lot of company in this matter. All of them are getting congratulatory emails on the completion of the milestone. As I brace myself with anxiety and anticipation for a similar email, I can't help wonder. Why do congratulate someone on their work anniversary?

Take a good look around your workplace. There is always demand for doing more with less. It has always been there. When we think we had squeezed the most to attain this objective, there is yet another demand to perform a miracle. While we try to get the best out of ourselves, there is the sword of Damocles. It is in the form of machines. They are rising. Or did I miss it entirely? Have the machines taken over? These are minor when compared to other challenges. As you age in the organization, the wisdom you have gained acts as a deterrent. The wisdom tells you not to jump to conclusions. This characteristic is interpreted as risk aversion.

With all these worrying facts, it is easy to give up anytime. If a person has stayed on for another year, it means that he has stayed on despite the challenges. Giving up is easier than staying on. So you should not be showering him congratulations. You should be thanking him. So the next time you compose a congratulatory email, please think it through clearly. Try to find something nice about interaction with the person and thank him for that. If you can't remember a beautiful thing, then keep it simple with a thank you. Smileys are acceptable and a perfect ruse for covering up your ordinariness of the relation.


Picture Courtesy: chriscom

Monday, February 27, 2017

Books: Rebirth

The title Rebirth applies to the spiritual reincarnation of the protagonist. This theme always incites our curiosity. Who is not fascinated by the superhuman effort to bounce back from the rock bottom? If this factor is not enough to attract us to this book, then the protagonist is an American of Indian origin undertaking a 1000-year-old pilgrimage in Spain. It is as if India doesn't have enough of gods and pilgrimages that this person has to find all his way to Spain with rapidly diminishing bank balance. There is something unmistakably wrong with the whole picture. After this point, I had to know why.

One has to walk through the road known was Camino de Santiago leading to Santiago de Compostela, a shrine of St James in Spain. This pilgrimage dates back 1000 years. Countless pilgrims have walked this path. But we walk this road with Amit. Amit's dad had recently passed away. He has many unresolved issues with his dad. He has a closed mind and hence experiencing problems in his love life. While taking the road, we come across who has their crosses to bear. Camino brings them peace and reconciliation. Amit comes across various acts of kindness. He learns to let go of the fears and anguish. He sees the transformation of ordinary food into a filling one just with company and laughter.  

Kamal Ravikant is the author of this book. I am reading him for the first time. Though the chapters have the title of days, it is possible to divide the book logically into three parts. The three sections align with Camino - Life, Death, and Rebirth. When analyzing the three sections, the first one is excellent. During this part, Kamal sets the stage. We are waiting with bated breath. During the second part, Amit's companion teaches him important lesson of life. This part drags after a while. The final section comes too fast. The author has good points. According to the author, it is not the wound but how it has healed that makes you what you are. Finally, not loving hurts more than loving. While good lessons of life, we have to wait too long for the story to end. 

There are other good books available under the section feel-good and self-help. Instead of the book, I suggest you walk the Camino. It might lead to a better story, for you.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Friends with colleagues

While discussing the corrective steps for a friend's project, I noticed a shade of sorrow on his face. The schedule of the project was a long one, and they were just warming up. So I didn't understand the cause for concern. Your planning may go wrong, and that is the reason for a retrospective. I continued to cheer him up, and then he confessed. "I am too friendly with the team. I have entangled my professional and personal life. Now, I am suffering".

On hearing this, I felt more sorrowful than my friend. There aren't any rules in any book saying you can't be friends with your colleagues. I have a lot of friends from the workplace.  There are cases of people leaving the organization because it has become big and there is no personal touch anymore. I admonished my friend. "You are harsh to yourself." Developing friendships at work helps to reduce stress at the workplace. That is my stand in summary.

While you ponder my point, here is the other side of the problem. Yesterday, I was trying to reach a colleague. After sending a couple of texts and a few calls later, I was not sure what to do. As there was a fire breathing dragon who was chasing me, I needed the help of this person to counter the danger. In my defense, I had used all my powerful spells without any success.  It was Friday evening. All this time, I was trying to reach his work phone. This fact dawned on me Saturday morning.  So what did I do? I messaged him on Facebook. An hour later, he was attending an important meeting.

As for me, I am not sure if any of my colleagues are going to send me invites over Facebook to connect. Neither am I sure about their joy in accepting my invites.  I might have crossed to the dark side entirely. But that is me. As the wise, there is a good side and a bad side for anything.


Picture Courtesy: tomvdh1

Friday, February 10, 2017

The CoCa factor

A few days back, I found a group of my colleagues huddled around a laptop. They were staring at an email. When governments are increasingly becoming protectionist and isolationists, the workplaces are adopting an opposite approach. They are embracing inclusion and cultural tolerance. As a result, we cannot take emails at their face value but have to apply the cultural background of the person who wrote the email. I have stared at emails trying to fathom the intricacies of the mind of the sender. 

I checked the email. It was a response to an issue. The sender has suggested a few steps. After the completion of these proposed steps, he called everyone for a CoCa. Now, what is this CoCa? This question was haunting the caucus that formed around the laptop. Does this have a specific meaning in the sender's native tongue? Did he misspell cocoa? Is he proposing coffee? The coffee is a good idea. But there is a large landmass separating the sender, and the receiver after discounting the immigration formalities will pose as a deterrent.

The jury might be out on the question of which one is better - a single brain, or the collective brain. But in this particular case, the collective brain won the argument. Someone pointed out. CoCa stands for Conference Call.



Photo Courtesy: GraceOda

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Pappettan explains the mystery of vanishing managers

A few weeks earlier, I bumped into an old acquaintance. I was with Pappettan when this chance meeting took place. Although I was happy to see my friend, he did not reciprocate the feeling. I was pretty sure it has nothing to do with me. I suspected the circumstance and hence pursued my line of inquiry.

Me: *concerned* What happened? You don't look happy!

My friend: *apologetic* I am sorry. It is this situation at my workplace which makes me unhappy.

Me: *cautiously* All of us has a bad story to tell about the workplace. *after a brief pause* If talking helps, we are ready to reason. *thereby making Pappettan also a partner in crime*

My friend: *with sadness and frustration* I have been associated with a project for almost two years. In this period, I had three managers. Everyone vanishes in a short time.

On hearing this, I turned silent and sympathetic. When your boss changes frequently, then there is less chance of advancing in the career. As I couldn't think any appropriate comment to energize my desolate friend, I decided not to open my mouth. That is when Pappettan decided to intervene.

Pappettan: *with a smile* I don't see any reason for you to worry.

My friend: *confused*

Pappettan: *still smiling* It is your boss who should be worrying.

My friend: * more confused*

Pappettan: *imparts wisdom calmly* They are the ones who is getting replaced. They should be afraid to be your boss.


Picture Courtesy: K2D2vaca

Monday, November 21, 2016

Change at the zenith of success

There are many things to be learned from successful chefs. A few weeks ago, I wrote about Massimo Bottura making a new dish out of a mistake. Now I have come across Francis Mallmann. The documentary provided a good view of his home in a Patagonian island and cooking in the open in this beautiful landscape. It makes you long for this kind of life. Then the reality of daily humdrum of life hits you. Coming back to where we started, what is that make successful chefs full of wisdom? It may be a harder subject to follow. So I will restrict myself to his pearls of wisdom.

One of the advice from Francis Mallmann is actually a no-brainer. Tell the truth without fear. Don't we know this principle already? But Mallman also admits this is not an easy task. You gain the courage to speak the truth with careful consideration without malice as you age. All of us want to quicken this process. Don't we?  It is the second lesson which is far more important. Cooking is teamwork. So he has to rely on his team members a lot. But he also changes his team members frequently. The change is not because the team member is incompetent. He changes when they become successful and have established their comfort zone in the team. According to Mallmann, the relationship can only go downhill from this point. So it is better to change the person. Somebody else on the team will step up to fill the void.

How many of us are courageous to change the composition of a successful team? Most of are quick to change but only when the relationship starts to deteriorate. So the change happens when the relationship is sliding down the slope and when it is at its zenith. I have witnessed resistance to modifying the composition of the winning team.  On the other hand, I have also seen cases where the change was inevitable to salvage the team albeit late. But I have not noticed people shaking hands and parting when the going was good. This act requires a lot of courage. Although this sounds like a wise advice, will we be able to break the shackles of our bad habits to adopt it?


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