Archive for May, 2010
I wake up this morning to a text message from a new friend who closely follows my blog on wordpress. ‘..do you think the pilot of the ill-fated Mangalore flight fell in the success trap ganesh wrote in his blog last week?” provocative morning text, for somebody who is still reeling from a mix of relief, sorrow and fear. As a frequent lander(sic) in the Mangalore airport, ever since Ganesh asked me to manage the growth of Mangalore, I was shocked to receive Vidyaranya’s text on Saturday morning (there is something about Saturday mornings! – I dread to receive MGs calls on Saturday, it is always about somebody somewhere not doing well he wants to tell me! ), relieved to hear when Murali our CRO confirmed no Mphasian or their extended families except Vidyaranya who lost his family friends entire family of parents and daughter in the crash(another early morning text)! Fear about how will people react to this for Mangalore..personal impact is never faraway, fear as if I will ever be able to allow my family to fly on their own! My spouse of course in her inimitable style said.. don’t cage us with your love, it can happen while stepping off the sidewalk! You can’t cheat fate!
Back to my friends text.. maybe yes, maybe no.. he has flown so many thousand hours, landed 19 times in the same airport, worked in India.. we will never know, the dead keep their secrets.. did he let an inexperienced underling land.. is this a lesson on delegation.. i hate dissecting tragic events and doing management gyan, i am already numbed by the incessant news anchors spouting gyan! This event triggered of a different thought! If I was on the flight and were to go up on flames what would people say.. what would have been my last thoughts!
Would family and friends say, ah he owned the best car in town.. or will they cry more because i wore the best suits in town… will they exult because i worked 18 hours a day or 6 hours a day, will i die a different death because i bought the LED tv my neighbour covets, or win the assignment over 20 other people! Strange thoughts.. morbid connections to mundane events. But it set me thinking.. or writing.. what is my legacy.. if I was on that plane what will people say.. or what wont they say.. I don’t know.. worse what if close family , friends or colleagues had been on the illfated flight, what would i go through, remember the missed good byes, never expressed love, sorries never said but wished we had! Small grudges never forgotten now seem god I wish i had let go. You never know and I don’t want to think any further, but it did painfully make me aware of what my priorities in life are.. and what mattered most!
What didn’t matter is those small resentments and labels.. what mattered is never to miss a chance to settle a dispute, smile, accept a sorry, make the call and say i love you, forget the fight and most importantly let go off all the baggage we accumulate over the years!
I know I know what you are thinking .. memories are short, this tragic event too will fade and will revert to our old ways.. this is the truth but hey you would have at least let go off a lot of baggage, and who knows some of these habits may stick. A friend of mine, recently shared with a few of us that the reason he is always quick to say when he likes somebody, quick to praise and short on anger.. is a result of losing his father, early in life never having had the courage or time to say how much he loved him, or thanked him for being there.. he realised it only when it was too late. Now that he knows he is not going let off that chance every time it presents itself.. see it does make a lasting effect on some people.. hopefully many of us will remember after reading this blog. I am signing off now to make a few calls, bring a few smiles and shake off my baggage.. what about you?
And please remember the families and friends of the departed in your prayers tonight to give them the strength to go through this terrible loss.
Millions of Indian cricket fans were horrified to see India crash out of ICC 20-20 without a single win in the super 8, I am one of them. The hindsight experts and armchair champions will start the blame game, analysing what went wrong. People who were claiming Dhoni to be the best captain few weeks ago will offer strong views on what Dhoni must do to stay as a good captain. Don’t worry, I am not an expert on Cricket and I am not going to offer views on what needs to be done to win the next 20-20 world cup. This loss triggered a thought in my mind, I wonder if there is a phenomenon called “success trap”. Each one of us are susceptible to this.. I have presented the contrast below to share my perspective
When you are on a path to success
•The desire to succeed drives your actions
•You are focusing on front to beat the person ahead of you so you look ahead
•You experiment and innovate
•As individuals, you see greater success in collaboration because you don’t feel that you as an person is above the team
•Focus is on where you want to be
•You notice small gains
•You listen, learn and lead. Also you unlearn to start the cycle of listen, learn and lead.
•There is fire in the belly
•You value people
When you are successful
•The fear of losing drives your actions
• You are watching your back noticing people who are behind you
•You tinker and fine tune
•As an individual you start valuing your contribution to the success of your team. You try to highlight the contribution and keep it
•Focus is on where you are
•You don’t notice small losses
•You lead and lead based on what proved to be successful. You continuously reinforce the old learning.
•There is success in the belly
•You value success
The intent here is not to be professorial here. This was my ‘aha’ and I wanted to share it with all of you.
I started this blog by talking about a team that didn’t make it, let me end it with an individual who won against all odds – this is lifted from a mail that Kannan T sent out.
The same week the Indian team didn’t make it past the super 8 – another person overcame genuine fatigue and his determined opponent to win the Chess World Cup. Vishwanathan Anand won the Chess World Cup.
True Champions don’t find excuses, they look for reasons to win. Even after driving past 5 countries, 2000 kms and a million potholes in 40 hours, success guided the world champion. Here is a stirring story to spur us to avoid the success trap. Scroll down to the last part of the link (http://bit.ly/cVMNyg ) for an interesting account of the arduous drive that Anand undertook to reach the match venue in time for 12 rounds of physically and mentally draining battle on the chessboard. .
I took a lesson from this and made a personal commitment – I am going to shake off our success of 2009 from everything that I do. I will be that teenager with fire in the belly, intensity in every action, focussed on speed of outcome and be that listening, learning and unlearning leader. I will be guided by what is ahead of me – a differentiated, new tier 1, teenaged company that always goes beyond.
If we are falling into the success trap, we will un-fall and emerge as a team which always touches success but doesn’t allow success to touch the team.
Credits: this blog is by Ganesh Ayyar – CEO of MphasiS.
If I told you that the moon was not a perfect sphere, but pocked with mountains and valleys like the earth. And that No longer could it be said that heavenly bodies revolve exclusively around the earth- you would not be amazed or perplexed, as these are normal, accepted ,now proven concepts . But that was not how these thoughts were perceived and received by the Cardinals in the 16th century when Galileo Galeli documented the same . Instead , the reactions ranged to the extent of certain clergy refusing to look through Galileo’s telescope, because they thought it bewitched!!!
This blog is not about revelations it is about how to make things happen, how the focus should be on the idea and not YOU.. the flexibility and ability to work the system. Galileo and what he did is a powerful historical perspective for us. A case study to use modern jargon to demonstrate a powerful strategy for change management! Unconventional but now new.
The wisdom of Galileo is most marked in his recanting (I know this is not a commonly used word, so here is the meaning – to make a formal retraction of or a previously held belief or position). He was accused of heresy by the Inquisition and was being arraigned for his advocacy of the Sun as being at the centre of the Solar System.
The church and the Pope held that the Earth was at the centre of the system of planets and everything moved around the earth. To say otherwise was heresy! Such a heresy was a grievous offence in those old harsh times and hence the Cardinals of the Inquisition arrested Galileo and asked him to revise his position publicly. They threatened him with some highly refined tortures and showed him the room where the instruments of torture were held.
It is very instructive to understand what Galileo went through and how he worked out a solution that ultimately benefited him and benefited Science. Wisdom he decided was to recant and then to secretly pass on his studies and discoveries to a realm beyond the reach of the Cardinals of the Inquisition, Pragmatism he concluded was more important than heroics and he decided to recant in public and plead forgiveness for his heresies.
In this manner, he was not exactly a great hero and futile heroics may not have earned him a place among the greats in history. He must have remembered Bruno being burned at the stakes. He was weak and quivered at the thought of being tortured. His studies would be lost to posterity and it may be a few decades if not centuries before they were discovered by some future wise man.
We too often come across such situations in our working life and have a choice between rigidly holding on to a position that may seem very correct and righteous but does not in the long run serve the larger purpose. That is where the wisdom of Galileo must be applied. Even today think back how many times you have had a great idea and the system has pushed back or smothered it. Could you have applied Galileo’s strategy?
Obviously yes.. but the issue is, it neither appealing nor popular. We are brought up on old and new popular icons of knights in shining armour that took the establishment and brought it down! And the most difficult, the ‘I”, the ego has to recede and you have to focus on the idea, the change .. then you will do anything to make it happen!
I only hope you will put all your energy around ideas and change that brings about collective good! And guess what this is not about you, it may not even be attributed to you immediately – it is the art of making the new the old…
Remember the changes or ideas may not change the world, it can be for simple personal and professional success and Pragmatism works best when faced with powerful hierarchies, steeped tradition and powerful personalities and when your change/idea or world view challenges established world views.. Don’t worry about winning the battles but focus on winning the war, drop the focus on YOU and focus on the change! And hey don’t think short term.. remember patience pays.
I know I leave this deliberately with more questions than answers.. take a step, think about this, read a little more on Galileo, …history always has powerful lessons for those of us willing to look at it… a good start is Guha’s India after Gandhi, 15 – 17th Century Europe and the new world stories!
Final word don’t blame the system.. instead be the change… be Galileo
Good luck have fun challenging status quo and success in making them stick, to all of you Galileos!
Credits-BTW this blog reads very well because it was co –authored by a friend, Chandrasekhar Sastry (Sastry Uncle) whom i call a friend but is more a mentor and guide. Uncle has written the book, “Non Resident Indian” and many articles and columns in his own inimitable style. He has also won many prizes for fiction writing. Hopefully I will be able to convince him to write some more.
Also, users of wordpress will see a new addition – “booky corner” – a review of interesting books for all the book lovers out there. Currently up there is a book review by Merin Jose on Predictably Irrational – extremely well written..Happy Reading!!
I know ! I know ! Weird title for a blog! And I am sure you are wondering whether I have lost it.. again. I have all the reasons to lose it – got to the airport really early, only to find that the flight is delayed. On enquiring why they didn’t text message.. the answer “sorry sir, we only inform if the flight is delayed by 30 mts”! Guess what? The flight is delayed by 25 minutes.. talk about cute answers!. Now let me move on to more esoteric subjects like horses and jockeys
Picture this, a bright summer morning, the horses line up, the crowd is cheering, some fool stands up blocking your view.. the race is flagged off, the horses bolt out.. with that, many hearts lose their mooring and get to the mouth, there is wild cheering, sighs.. smiles, the race draws to an end.. there are winners, runners up.. and the script plays out like any race!
Let us take a step back as this is not about the race – this is about the key players in the race which has many a parallel to our ‘rat race’(ok ok work environment!) that will drive home some important points and help us manage our professional lives more effectively! Since we are in the season of sequels – you can look at this as a sequel to ‘ Busy – Activity Trap’ blog . The horses are our Individual Contributors (HR speak for the ones who earn the money – software engineers, call centre associates, DBAs, tech support officers et al), the jockey is our Frontline Supervisor(project lead, unit manager, asst manager et al), the coach is our Manager (ops managers, delivery manager) and the owner is our version of Delivery Heads, Vertical Heads..
Now what happens if the jockey decides to run the race instead of the horse, or the coach decides to ride the horse or the owner tries to coach! Right.. it sounds ludicrous.. and will result in disastrous outcomes! The horse runs the race focussing only on beating its rivals – head down, eyes locked on the finish line. The jockey, right there, in the centre of action, closely directing the horse, egging it on, stroking and striking, watching out for the other horses, pacing it to insure it completes the race, understanding the strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncracies and accordingly driving it to high performance. The trainers are on the sidelines biting their nails, frowning, crying themselves hoarse cheering, shouting ideas but realising most of their work is before or after the race – choosing the right horse, selecting the right jockey, insuring training schedules, picking the right feed.. and last but not the least the owner- poor chap – all he can do is pour in the money, pick the right races, insure the right infrastructure, pay out the salaries, do the public relations.
Now, can you see the parallels of how many of us really see our jobs that way? The sad fact, based on many years of talking to people, coaching, doing 1-0-1s, is that many of us fail to make the transition from horse to jockey to trainer to owner . We continue to operate at the levels we are comfortable with, where there is a direct correlation to our effort and immediate results, which is at an individual contributor level and sometimes as a jockey! But rarely rising above that level. Go back to the line I described what a jockey does – how many of us really do that in our roles as people managers or even see our roles as that?
A sure fire way to find out where you are, is to look at your calendar. What keeps you busy? Classify these tasks as roles of horse, jockey trainer and owner.. match that with your role! You will see it for yourself. Let me clarify, it does not mean that in the rat race (sorry work environment) work is so compartmentalized – the reality is that we each run the race, sometimes jockey, train and own.. but where do we spend most of our time? Should be where we are paid to deliver..
A different perspective to this analogy , as I subconsciously play the role of the Trainer, is that of empathy. do I truly understand the perspective of the horse? The surge of energy needed to start, the sweat and grime of running the full length, constant prods by the jockey’s whip and the sense of failure on coming second. Do I the trainer feel the same way standing in the air-conditioned stands?
While most of us have grown through the ranks, we have forgotten the trial and tribulations of working the grave-yard shift or taking 120 calls a day. Stay in touch with that struggle that made you who you are today, and you will open your eyes to the hot-buttons that drive your workforce.
Good luck – to me writing this blog has been a journey of self discovery, I hope it is for you to.
Here is to running each race to the best performance not just excelling in our individual roles but collaboratively as the best in class team of Horses, Jockeys, Trainers and Owners. As we race on , lets take a moment to relish the experiences gathered and bring the relevance even to our next role