The Virtues And Toxicities Of Popularity

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”

~ Shakespeare in As You Like It.
No. my intention is not to ring my own bell.
Nor to pat myself on my own back. I have a message about the topic where I am the centre of the action and so, these two pictures.

Fellow Five on One blogger and web-friend Shackman posted this on his facebook page and as he had requested I copy pasted on my page.

“I think most of you know me pretty well, it doesn’t matter when our paths may have crossed. Maybe some of you like me and some don’t, but if you’re on my Facebook, it’s because I like you. I would love to see if we can still chat more than just likes and actually write something to each other. Again, I decided to participate in an experience called “Meeting between bread.” The idea is to see who reads the post without a photo. We are so quick to dive into technology that we forgot the most important thing: good friendship. If no one is reading this message, it will be a short social experiment. But if you finish this to the end, I would love you to comment in ONE WORD about us. For example: a place, an object, a person, a moment in which you remember me. Then copy this text and post it on your page (don’t share) and I’ll go to your page to leave a word that reminds me of you. Please don’t comment if you don’t have time to copy the text. This will destroy the experiment. Let’s see who spent their time to read and respond according to the common story outside of Facebook! Thank you for participating!”

I was overwhelmed with the responses that I received, bar a few, all from my colleagues from my working life. These wonderful people have been in touch with me all these years despite my having retired twenty years ago, thanks to the internet and the social media. It brought to my notice that I have  well-wishers in my life who still have regard for me; and I am reminded of that post and the comments on it as I write this post.

I don’t think that I was or am popular. Popular is for entertainers and sportspersons. Popularity is ephemeral. What I received was pure affection and regard from mates who had worked alongside me thanks to something that was drilled into me during my younger days by mentors who taught me a simple formula to be good in my career. CCDO. Connectedness, Constancy in the connectedness, Dignity in the relationships thus established and Opportunity for growth for both in the relationship.  This is something that I passed on to the people who crossed my path as well.  That it has worked has now been amply proved and I am grateful to those mentors who showed me the way. I repeat, I was not and am not popular. These long lasting relationships are testimony to that fact.

Since this has been my personal experience, I would say that the virtues of popularity are that they are superficial, short-lived and ego boosters. The toxicities of popularity are narcissism and self destruction. I am glad that I was and am not popular. I don’t know what to call what I am and leave it to my readers to decide on a nomenclature.

This is my take on this week’s Friday 5 On 1 blog post topic. The other four bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Sanjana, PadmumShackman and Conrad.  This week’s topic was suggested by Conrad. Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they have to say on the topic. Thank you.

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.