Developing leaders from the grassroots.

Corporate India faces a number of challenges which stand in its way to unlimited growth. Besides technological advancement, business strategy, competition, expansion, one of the most challenging tasks to master is the lack of required talent. It is surprising that in a country where nearly 50% of the population is believed to be below 35 years of age, why is there a dearth of talent?
One argument is that there is no dearth of talent but the utilization of it is not done properly. Various suggestions have been put forth by experts regarding development of the required talent by Corporate India. Here we shall have a quick look at a few of them.
• An efficient and effective senior team needs to be in place with clear objectives and clear cut role definition to individuals. It should comprise of people with the right attitude and also with lot of interaction and exchange of ideas among the team members. A strong senior management team sets an example for the rest of the employees to perform.
• The next step will be to create a next generation of leaders. Potential employees must be identified and be trained to develop the competency required to take up senior positions at a later stage. They must be given broader responsibilities at their level and a next level of employees must be ready to take the mantle as and when required.
• Along with business leaders, it is essential to develop the technical leaders too. Employees exhibiting potential in the technical field must be encouraged to develop certain skills in their chosen area of technical capability. They should be equipped with skills for a smooth change of leadership when the situation warrants.
• The new entrants into the company will play a huge role in the future in shaping the company’s fortunes. So, special efforts must be taken to select candidates who show promise and exhibit potential for development of talent. After selection, requisite training must be given to develop their talent and potential.

India is a country where talent is available in plenty and our system of talent identification needs to be refreshed to identify such potential and develop it to suit the needs of the industry. Keeping in view the long term interests of the organisation, Indian companies need to tap the huge talent market available in India and develop it to compete on a global scale.

Sheer determination can take one miles.

It is said that life is like a hurdles race. Obstacles arise at constant intervals. How many of us can take the challenge headlong?
There are many who overcome all odds to finish the race and they need to be appreciated. Today’s management story is about one such individual.
All of us have heard about the famous Brooklyn Bridge which connects Manhattan and Brooklyn across the East river. The story of how it was built is an interesting one.
The work on this bridge was initiated by an engineer; John Augustus Roebling in 1870.He was inspired by this idea to build a bridge connecting New York and Long island but was discouraged by many as an impossible feat. But Roebling was not one to give up easily. He had a vision of the bridge in his mind which he shared with his son, Washington Roebling.
The father –son duo started working on the concepts of building the bridge and also overcoming the various obstacles. The project started off on a good note but was totally thrown out of gear when an accident on the site took away John Augustus Roebling’s life and left his son a paralysed man.
There were suggestions to give up on the project as only the father and son knew about the bridge but Washington was not one to give up that easily. He tried to seek the help of friends but no one was ready as it was a near impossible task.
As he lay in his hospital bed wondering how to make his father’s dream come true, he realized that he could move one finger. And with the help of that movement, he started communicating with his wife. The work on the Brooklyn Bridge was restarted!
Washington oversaw the construction of this bridge from his apartment ably supported by his wife, Emily Roebling. She was the crucial link between her husband and the engineers. It took almost 13 years to build this bridge. And it was inaugurated on 24 May,1883.
This is the story of the sheer determination and never say die attitude of one man who overcame the worst of physical disability to achieve this. It is the result of the work of the engineers and their team who translated this man’s dream to reality. Not to forget that gentle lady who kept translating the ideas of her husband to the engineers.
All of us face numerous obstacles and hurdles in our daily life- be it personal or at work. The true strength lies in the fact that we will overcome it and move ahead to achieve our goals and dreams. All it needs is a bit of determination from us.

Social media in education.

Change is something that we all need to accept and it is happening at a furious pace in many arenas. Education is an area that has always been influenced by it. There is a change in the approach to learning at all levels –from schools to colleges to the more recent distant and online learning.
In schools, especially with reference to India, where it was essentially a one way teaching process, the approach has become a two way process where the student is encouraged to think and interact. It has moved one step further and now teaching involves liberal use of technology. Using the visual media for teaching has made inroads into education and also the use of internet has widened the prospects of teaching further.
Now in higher education, we see a trend of using the social media for learning. This is not only prevalent among students but being used by educators, employees and professionals. It is not only about using technology but also about using social media tools for exchange of knowledge.
Collaborating seamlessly has become increasingly popular, be it distant or face to face and used extensively by people from various walks of life for the experience of learning. With a number of applications available, collaboration will include projects, virtual study groups and self directed learning in the near future. This can be seen in the growing popularity of MOOCs which has made collaborative interaction more accessible.
One main drawback of online or distant learning has always been the lack of a human touch. Learning becomes a better process with a human element added to it. With new social tools available, students are able to connect to their peers and educators online. This human element has made online learning a better experience and added a human face to it. Online learning is now turning from a one way process to an interactive one and finding more takers as students and educators.
Learning has always been available in a general form where it caters to a large group. Now the graph has shifted in favour of personalized learning and is the first choice of many. Here the learner is not dependent on anyone to provide the learning opportunity. The availability of various platforms for alternative learning is becoming popular. Learners are taking charge of what they want to learn by using social media networks.

There is always an element of doubt raised as to how effective self directed learning is but like all new concepts, this will find people relating to it positively in the course of time.

All said and done, the truth is that an alternative learning process where the learner chooses his or her own learning program based on interests or for enhancement of career is here and is being utilized by all those who seek learning at one’s own convenience. It will be a combination which will have all the elements of classroom learning and the advantages of online learning.

Great men, great stories.

We have heard of many anecdotes of individuals in top positions or with great social standing take part in activities which sometimes is not expected of them. Today I have one such incident to share in Management Stories.
Ratan Tata is no stranger to any Indian and this incident is from days gone by when he had just been inducted into the Tata Group. One of his first assignments was to head the electronics company in the Tata Group, Nelco which was not doing too good at that time.
Once it so happened that a team of managers were driving to Nasik along with Ratan Tata. Their journey had to be stopped midway as the car developed a flat tyre. All the occupants had to get out of the car as the driver had to replace the tyre.
This was welcomed as a time to relax by all the team members from Nelco. They took it as an opportunity to relax, sharing some lighter moments. In the course of time, one of them noticed that Mr. Tata was nowhere to be seen. They panicked wondering where he would have gone.
They spread out in both directions to see if he was at some roadside eatery or talking to the people around or just gone on a walk. They could not find him anywhere. Suddenly, one of them spotted him with the driver helping him replace the tyre. He had his sleeves rolled up and was working alongside the driver helping him change the tyre. When it was done, sweat was streaming down his face but there was a satisfied smile on his face of a task well done.
That was a moment which perhaps the managers as well the driver would never forget. The team learnt a lesson on leadership from him.
Do not wait for big opportunities to exhibit your leadership qualities. Look for moments in everyday happenings to take a lead. To reach the top and stay there you have to start from the bottom. Humility has to be an inherent quality in all leaders.

Success does not come if you chicken out.

Have you seen a new born baby bird struggle to fly? New born calves or other young ones of animals try to stand repeatedly on their legs though they keep falling. What we need to note here is they never give up until they succeed.
Human babies also go through such stages but the same cannot be said of adults. Many of us just give up or lose hope.
Here is the story of a man who did not give up and tasted astounding success.
Colonel Sanders may not be a familiar name to all but KFC or Kentucky Fried Chicken definitely is. It is well known the world over. KFC is the result of the struggle and perseverance of this man called Colonel Sanders.
Just to go back in time as to how he shaped KFC……
Sanders spent his childhood in Indiana where he had to manage the house while his mother went to work. He had to lend a helping hand to his mother after his father’s death to take care of the house and the other members of the family. Perhaps this is where he developed his skills of cooking. After trying out many jobs, he started a service station in Kentucky which had a dining area where he served his special chicken.
As business grew, he moved into a restaurant nearby and catered to more customers. Later he added a motel to his outlet. In 1935 he was described as a ‘Kentucky Colonel’ in praise of his cooking skills by the then Governor .This was the start of his ‘Original Recipe’.
Sanders Court and Café catered to travellers who passed through Corbin, Kentucky on their way to Florida. However, a new interstate caused loss of business forcing Sanders to close down and retire. He received his first social security cheque for 105 dollars. But Sanders was not planning to settle down with this. He wanted to share his recipe with other restaurants across The United States.
He travelled door to door from houses to restaurants trying to promote his recipe. No one expressed great enthusiasm. He started moving by car and cooking his recipe impromptu at several restaurants. But he did not meet with success. It is said he heard out 1009 ‘no’s’ before he heard a ‘Yes’ from Pete Harman in Utah who agreed to partner with him. They launched ‘Kentucky Fried Chicken’ in 1952. The deal was said to be that for every piece of chicken sold, Sanders would receive a nickel. The restaurant would receive the ingredients in packets to avoid them from knowing his recipe.
By 1964, Sanders had 600 franchisees selling his chicken. He sold his company for $2 million at this juncture. It has changed hands since then but its flavour remains.
Success is determined by sheer hard work and perseverance as Colonel Sanders proved it to be. Age is no deterrent if you believe in yourself and in your dreams. KFC is now an international name and a favourite of many the world over. All thanks to the untiring efforts and determination of this lone man called Colonel Sanders.

Is there a problem?

This is a very simple and interesting story very commonly found for reading on the internet. But what intrigued me was that it threw light on how we sometimes approach situations in an entirely wrong perspective.
This is an incident that happened in the life of a bus driver. The dedicated man that he was, he reached the bus station on time every day and drove out his bus precisely on time without fail. This happened day after day. Commuters got in and got out at various stops on his route.
One day, a huge and well built man got on to the bus, glared at the driver and said in a booming voice, “Big Tom does not pay.”
The driver was naturally intimidated by his size and decided not to enter into an argument with him. The next day, this huge man got on to the bus, repeated his words and occupied a seat. The bus driver decided to ignore him for that day too.
But, this became a regular occurrence and the driver could not take it anymore. He decided that he was going to counter this man. So the driver signed up for body building classes. He also attended self defence sessions and learnt some forms of martial arts.
In a month’s time, he felt he was good enough to counter this giant of a man. So the next day, he was mentally prepared to challenge Big Tom. As usual, Big Tom got in to the bus, glared at him and said, “Big Tom does not pay.”
The driver mustering all his courage asked him in a loud voice, “Why not?”
The man was taken aback and surprised too. The driver was feeling elated that he had stunned this huge man.
He replied, “I have a bus pass!”
The driver was absolutely flabbergasted by his reply.
It imparts a simple lesson in life for us. On many occasions, we assume that there are problems in certain situations without lending a practical approach to it. What we assume as problems or barriers may not be so after all. Just like this driver, we tend to blow things out of proportion and get affected by it.

Chanakya’s Arthashastra – secret to corporate success.

The ancient Indians were supposed to be masters of many disciplines and their writings stand testimony to this.
One man who was known for his vast knowledge, sharp intellect and shrewd political thinking was Chanakya or Kautilya. He was a Professor of Economics at the famous Takshashila University and also specialized in Political Studies. His role as the Prime Minister of Chandragupta Maurya was above par and lauded by historians even today. He is considered as the earliest known economist and political thinker. He has 3 books to his credit which are considered as warehouses of knowledge even today – Arthashastra, Neethishastra and Chanakya Neethi. The first book is about identifying leaders and grooming them to exhibit these skills especially in governing a country.
Dr. Radhakrishnan Pillai in his book ‘Corporate Chanakya’ has presented the thoughts of Chanakya in a simple form for corporate leaders of today. I am trying to compile a few of his thoughts here.
Any successful organisation should have a strong foundation, a clear vision and a solid commitment to achieve the goals of the organisation. Kautilya considers that there are 7 pillars, as he refers to them, which determine the success of any organisation. Let us have a look at these 7 in today’s perspective.
• The King or leader: This person is the captain of the ship and guides the organisation in the right direction. Now they are known by various names in the corporate world – CEO, Director and so on. They steer the organisation towards success.
• The Minister or Manager: This is the person who manages the organisation and takes charge in the absence of the leader. This individual is always making sure the ideas are converted into action and nothing goes awry.
• The Country or the Market: No organisation can survive without a market and success depends on how well you manage your market. It keeps the cash register ringing.
• The Fortified City or the Head Office: This is where all important decisions are taken. All planning and strategy is carried out here. It is the nerve centre of every organisation.
• The Treasury or Financial Resources: It is the most important pillar as it is the one that decides the future of any organisation and needs to be well managed.
• The Army or The Team: Just as a well trained army is necessary for success in war, a well equipped team is necessary for the success of any organisation. It should be made of committed individuals who do not lose sight of the goals of the organisation. Each member is important and has a role to play.
• The Ally or Consultant: This individual plays a very important role when the organisation is in trouble. This person will be the one who will stand by you in times of trouble and extend the required support.

These seven are the foundation of the success of any organisation and will face all challenges that an organisation faces and help overcome them. It is definitely food for thought that a book complied centuries back has content which is applicable even in today’s corporate world. It speaks volumes about what a genius Chanakya was.

Success is yours if……..

We come across so many successful people in our day to day life who have made a mark in some way or the other. How often have you wondered what could probably be the secret of their success?
The occasions that we have thought so will be many.
A young man once asked the great Greek philosopher, Socrates about the secret to success.
Being the great thinker that Socrates is, he asked the young man to meet him the next morning near the river. The young man was overjoyed that the great Socrates was going to give him a reply.
The next morning, both met near the river. Socrates gestured to the young man to walk with him into the river. The young man was petrified on understanding the gesture. He wondered what Socrates was planning to do by walking into the river.
Gathering courage, he followed Socrates into the river. They kept walking until the water level reached up to their neck. Then suddenly, Socrates turned and ducked the young man’s head under the water. Taken by surprise, the young man struggled to come out of the water. But Socrates was a strong man and kept his head under water. He started gasping for breath and was turning pale. Then Socrates let him go and the young man came to the surface gasping and breathing heavily.
Now Socrates asked him, “What did you want most when under water?” The young man replied that he wanted to breathe and get some air. Socrates gave a wry smile and said, “That is the secret to success. Just like you wanted air badly when under water, if you want success badly, you will try hard to get it. This is the simple secret of success.”
Motivation to achieve success comes from an inner desire to achieve something. This strong desire to achieve is what propels us towards success. First have a purpose and then work towards achieving it. Success will definitely be yours.

The Mahabharata and management.

The Indian mythology is said to be replete with principles for which parallels can be drawn to today’s life and applied successfully.
The great Epic Mahabharata is said to be a storehouse of examples that highlight efficient management principles. This concept intrigued me a lot and my article is based on my reading of various write-ups on this particular concept- The Mahabharata and Management.
I am compiling the opinions expressed by various individuals trying to draw a parallel between instances from the Mahabharata and the management concepts. Hope it makes an interesting read
• The Pandavas while in exile decided to acquire new skills and also develop their existing ones. Arjuna set out to acquire skills in using new weapons while Yudhishtira acquired new knowledge from the rishis and became an ace in the game of dice. These skills gave them an edge in the final confrontation with the Kauravas. The lesson to be learnt here is that management skills and knowledge become redundant with passing of time. We need to acquire new skills to suit the changing times and update our existing skills too.

• Success comes with sharing of responsibility. The Kauravas had one commander –in –chief for their entire army. As each leader fell, it was passed on to another. Bhishma, Drona, Karna and the list goes on until there comes even a time when the army is leaderless. Despite having a Commander, Duryodhana had the authority to take and make decisions which led to clash of thoughts. The Pandavas had Arjuna as the Chief Commander; Dhristadumnya as commander in chief and their seven divisions were the responsibility of different commanders. This sharing of responsibility is a modern day management principle which leads to democracy in the organisation and success automatically follows.

• The Mahabharata gives us brilliant examples that reiterate team work always succeeds. Though the Kauravas had the advantage of numbers and stalwarts in the Kurukshetra war, they did not make a great team. Each one had a personal goal to achieve which turned to be their undoing. The Pandavas, on the other hand had only one main goal and everyone took part in the decision making process. Team work succeeds only when the team members have the same goal.

• Commitment is the secret to success. The Pandavas scored over the Kauravas in undying commitment. Though the stalwarts like Bhishma and Drona gave up their lives, they did not harm the Pandava army. Abhimanyu and Ghatotkacha fought losing battles but did not give up their lives before causing losses to the opponent. A team needs committed members rather than only skilled members.

• Last but not the least, Lord Krishna is an example of efficient crisis management. While the Kauravas and the Pandavas were fighting for immediate success, Krishna was looking at the larger purpose of the war. A leader should have the larger picture in mind always and drive the team to work towards it. As Krishna was not participating in the war directly, he managed to think differently and offer alternate suggestions to the Pandavas. A real leader is one who can offer effective suggestions as and when needed.

The above are just a few situations from this great epic which highlight important management principles. This epic is full of more such instances and is an interesting subject to study management principles. What is intriguing is the number of parallels we can draw to present day situations.

Put down your glass!

How many of us take our problems to bed?
The question may sound strange but it will surprise you that many answer in the affirmative.
Is it wise to carry our problems at work or personal to bed?
Here is a very simple story which could help you decide.
This is a scene in a classroom at a college that is packed with students. The Professor holds up a glass of water and asks a very strange question –“How much do you think is the weight of this glass?” The students were shouting out various answers “100 gms, 200 ml, 1 pound etc.”
The Professor continued and said, “I really don’t know how much this glass weighs. My question to you is – What will happen if I hold this glass for a few minutes?”
The students were puzzled but some managed to answer “Nothing!”
Next the professor continued to ask “What if I held it up for 1 hour?”
The students found it quite funny that he was asking such silly questions. One of them shouted out -”Your arms would ache!”
The Professor replied “Exactly.” What do you think would happen if I held it up for 1 day?”
Several answers were received – “Your arms could become numb. You could have muscular pain.” You may have to visit a hospital.”
“Excellent answers! But during all this was the weight of the glass constant?”
The students replied in the affirmative. He continued, “Then why do you say my arm would ache?”
The students had no convincing answers. The Professor asked, “What should I do to stop the ache?”
“Put the glass down” –pat came the reply.
The professor continued,”Absolutely true. Life’s problems are something like this. Having them in your head for a few minutes is fine. But if you carry them for a long time, then they begin to ache and disturb you. The longer you hold them, the effects are manifold. They begin to paralyze your thoughts. You will not be able to think clearly. So it is very important that you put down your problems from time to time.
More importantly, put them down at the end of the day. Then you are not under undue stress. You can start each day on a fresh note and handle any challenge that comes your way more effectively.”
This is such a simple yet effective way to keep ourselves stress free. Let us all try it out.
So at the end of the day, remember to put down your glass.