Success.

As it so often happens, two messages on my WhatsApp today leads me to this blog post.

The first message that I received in a group page was this image from a very savvy old colleague who has overcome some big problems and is now perceived to be a success.  Please click on the image to get a larger resolution.

The next one was from another young friend, in his early fifties now employed in Europe in the Financial Sector, with a perceived successful career behind him with more to come in the future. After we exchanged some other information, he came up with the following:

“Been working since 6.30 am. Annual results expected by mid February, with possible layoffs to follow. Hope I get made redundant with a good severance package! Will be happy.

If it happens, would like to use the time to retrain myself to do something more enjoyable and less stressful. Unfortunately, I got a very good rating at my appraisal a few weeks ago, so unlikely.

“Will also tell you someday about how selfish and self obsessed most people in the financial services industry are. Pays well but kills the soul.

I hope that you noticed that he thinks that it is unfortunate that he got a good performance appraisal rating!  Had he been a Millennial, I would have directed him to my blog post written some months ago so that he could identify with the millennials! Since he is not, I shall wait till post results of his employers to come up with another discussion with him.

He was in Pune in December and January and I could sense that he was not very happy with what he was doing but, I did not comment on it except to joke about it calling it his mid life crisis. At that point, I had gone back in my own life and recalled that I had just finished on five year contract with an employer and had retired two years later than I had aspired to. I did not look to be retrained but was enjoying my retired life after many years of travelling and not spending enough time with the family, spending time with my late wife and friends and generally goofing off. A series of events led me back into corporate life again on three separate occasions.

I hope that some such unplanned for “events” will take place in my friend’s life as well and when he is back in India by the end of this year, I will have more interesting topics to talk with him about.

Incidentally, I have consulted some friends to figure out a graphic to describe an iceberg of failures. Once that is ready, I shall post another blog about it.

Passing The Buck.


What a topic to start off the new year’s 2 on 1 Friday Blog Post with! It is my idea for it and I hope that my readers and Chuck’s will enjoy reading our takes on a topic that must ring bells to all of them. Please do go over to his blog too to read his.

I have been in Non Management, Lower Management, Middle Management and Top Management and have come across this phenomenon at all levels. Sometimes overt but, mostly covert. I personally have passed the buck, to the bottom, sideways and to the top without any shame and have also received the buck from all sides to know what a delightful pastime this could be in corporate life.

Passing the buck can operate in our normal every day life too, like it just happened to me which is what prompted me to come up with this topic.

My classmate’s grand daughter who lives in Gujarat,  wanted to study in a college near where I live which offers a very expensive Liberal Arts programme.  My classmate asked me to find out details and I was quite lost as I have had little to do with colleges for over a quarter century.  I however remembered that another friend’s daughter had gone to that college and so asked that friend if she could talk to my classmate and she readily agreed.  Both of them not only talked to each other but got the girls to talk to each other too!  Just see how many bucks were passed! The girl in Gujarat talks to her parent, who in turn consults his mother, who talks to me, I talk to my friend, she talks to my classmate and also to her daughter and both the young ladies talk to each other too.  At the end of it all, the decision maker continues to be the first girl in Gujarat who will decide one way or the other.  Nobody else will be responsible.

Or take the Uber driver I had the pleasure of going with recently.  He missed a pothole and jarred the vehicle so badly that I was thrown up and my head banged the roof of the vehicle.  The driver, coolly looks at me and blames the Municipal officials for the poor condition of the roads.

I hope that you enjoyed reading my post, if not, I accept responsibility for the disappointment.

Leadership.

My exposure to good leadership started when I was eighteen years old in a brand new sales job reporting to a young MBA from Boston University. This man was neither the boss nor the leader shown above but, a mentor. He saw something in me that tickled his fancy and asked his most successful sales person to take me under his wing to train me.

That Super salesman, let us call him SSM, took me under his wing literally as well as metaphorically and taught me things that have lasted as part of my personality till today. Two of the most significant things that have stayed with me and which wisdom I in turn, have passed on to innumerable mentees are: 1. Be very good in your job, constantly try to be the best among the colleagues and;  2. Build up a healthy bank balance and keep it growing.

At that impressionable age, I could understand the first maxim but, I had to ask SSM to explain why the second maxim was necessary. That wise old man told me that one never knows when one will come across a superior who will not accept or appreciate your ability and the best thing to do under the circumstances will be to quit and seek your fortune elsewhere. The bank balance will help you tide over the period of unemployment.

The second maxim succinctly explains leadership problems that subordinates face as, there will be different types of people in positions of authority and all of them need not be good leaders or even bosses, and could well be monsters.

Many other persons in authority came into my life and,  three were particularly great leaders and mentors who ensured that I performed well and in turn became a good leader / manager.  Naturally, I also came across many who were neither good leaders nor mentors but they gave me lessons on how not to be.  I also had the amazing experience of working for some narcissists who come under a different category altogether.  A book can be written about my experiences with those worthies but, I learnt a great deal from them too.

Early in my managerial career, I came across a formula that enabled me to be effective in managerial positions and something that as a mentor, I passed on to my mentees too.  This formula is CCDO.

The first C is Connectedness.  This implies good relationships with one’s superiors, colleagues and subordinates.

The second C is Constancy.  Constancy in maintaining the relationships.

The D is for Dignity.  Giving and demanding dignity in all relationships.

The O is for Opportunity.  This implies the ability to provide opportunities to all connected with one to perform well and progress.  Providing the opportunity would also imply providing the wherewithal to exploit the opportunity.

All the good leaders that I have come across in my life have inevitably shown these characteristics.

There is another important element that often comes into play in leadership and that is what I would call situational.  There are people who provide great leadership under particular circumstances but fail to under normal circumstances.  I am sure that my readers will readily identify many in their circles who feature this trait.  The most famous of such leaders was Winston Churchill who was a great leader during WWII but flopped as one during post war peace time.   I have come across many such individuals and as I write this, I am in touch with one particular person who is providing such leadership under totally unexpected conditions.  Once the crisis is over, I am sure that this individual will revert to his earlier placid role in his circles and I would be very surprised if he would be comfortable in that role later.

An important element in leadership is the exercise of power. I refrain from writing on that for now as a book can be written on that subject alone. For those who are interested, one book that impressed me a great deal in my formative years and which also helped me exercising power effectively was and continues to be The Anatomy Of Power.

To bring some humour to this rather serious post, here is something that should cheer up many of my readers who would have come across such bosses in their lives.

I hope that you have found this 2 on 1 Friday blog post interesting and I request you to go over to Shackman’s blog to see what he has to say on the topic that he  has suggested.

What Did You Gain Or Lose By Taking A Risk?

I am not much of a risk taker, or, more accurately, there were not many instances when I had to take risks. I can think of three major risks that I took about all of which I have written separately in my earlier blogs but this is a summary of the three to address this week’s 2 on 1 weekly Friday blog post where my consort Shackman and I write on the same subject. This week’s topic has been suggested by Shackman who has just taken a big decision about which I am sure he will write this week. Please do go over to his blog to see what he has to say.

The first risk that I took in my life was when I was all of 22 when I decided to quit my well settled job and life in Chennai to go to Business School for a two year course. I was more or less constrained to take the risk as I had to handle some ticklish personal issues in Chennai and prudence suggested that I remove myself from the scene for a while. I took the risk and the rest as it is said, is history.

Business School, a novel concept in India at that time, resulted in my being recruited off campus by a multinational company where I spent the next twenty three years in a successful career. While I lost the carefree lifestyle of a bachelor by going to the BS, I gained a great career and made many friends, many of whom are still part of my life.

The next big risk that I took was three years later when I was 25. It was a deliberate one of asking my late wife who was till then a friend, to marry me. I lost my bachelor status but gained a partner for the next forty years plus all that marriage brought along with it including a great son.

The third big risk that I took was to quit my employer of 23 years to seek my fortune elsewhere. I took that decision as I knew that I would be uncomfortable with the future direction that the company took and in retrospect, all that I had foreseen took place and I have no regrets whatsoever. Taking that risk exposed me to four other experiences of differing types and those experiences were priceless. Here too, I gained in stature and made many friends some of whom are still very much part of my life.

By taking those three big decisions, I did not lose much but, gained a great deal and the gains are still working for me in my retired life. I have no regrets.