Musings at 40,000 feet…

A80CBC07-052A-4CC9-91D2-84D41D78F9EA.jpegAs I write, am on flight back home to India after 100 day on/off tour of APAC countries….Singapore, Dubai and Melbourne before I take off for Kathmandu in few days. As always my lens to view, observe, reflect and comment on a what I see during my travels is culture. Only this time, it’s the culture of posturing, positioning and pitching. Whether I visited mega diversified conglomerates, worked with technology giants, partnered with small home run businesses or just spent time with local families, what struck me most is the way they are branding themselves, most of all these cities.

Singapore is all about the core values and intangibles assets of its people. Brand Singapore hits you the moment, the wheels of your aircraft hit the tarmac. It has fought their its way out of non-entity status and smallness into becoming a thriving, glittering economy, a shining case study for several global economies. Singaporeans have deeply engrained the value of honouring multiracialism, with fanatical focus on continuing learning and reskilling. Sojourners to this island-nation are now stayers. Every Singaporean is it’s brand ambassador.

Dubai on the other hand believes that brands are about people working together towards a shared purpose. It’s putting its people at the center of its vision and making a assertive statement that they have embarked on a journey to achieve ‘happiness’ for all who reach its shores. In fact, UAE has not only appointed Minster for AI but for happiness and well-being as well. Happiness per them is the ultimate metric of success. If a country’s brand can create that illusion to begin with and then make it into a reality, it’s pull will be like that of a siren drawing both trade and tourism to its shores. What a brand story.

Then there is Melbourne who has what it calls ‘Melbourne moments’. It’s the way they transform ordinary everyday activities into unpredictable and unexpected enjoyment which inspires its residents and visitors to experience them repeatedly, be it the fire spouting pillars on the yarra river promenade, pop up luxury brand retail stores or quintessential reconstructed spaces as empty parking lot, derelict garage or laneways which beckons the passerby just by their sheer promise of unconventional experiences. It’s not for nothing that Melbourne has got rated as the ‘most liveable city in the world’ for years!

If at times, you do think if spending time and money on building a brand is worth the effort, considering it’s such a intangible, well then it’s good to remember that not only these cities but mega brands such as Pepsi, Samsung, Amazon, McDonald, IPL and heaps more pour in millions of dollars into advertisements, sponsorships, events, billboards to keep their brand alive and kicking and right where it belongs…At the top. Let’s trust their reasoning.

Coming closer home, to personal branding, based on my travel observations, I am mulling over these and given that many of you ask me so much about it, thought it pertinent to share:

  1. It doesn’t matter where you come from, What matters is where you’re going. Start now.
  2. Being small does not mean being insignificant. Play the odds.
  3. Purpose fuels passion. Find yours. Fan it furiously. Make it your USP.
  4. To be remembered takes doing. Create your experience moments.
  5. To be a leader, you need fans and followers. Do good, take the stage, let the spotlight shine and say your piece. Applause will follow!

Transition, transform, transcend! Happy travels…

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My Travails & Travels…from Valley to the Peak!

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It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves! said Sir Edmund Hillary, man who scaled Mount Everest. 

I spent most of my childhood and adolescence watching the Himalayas from afar, always in awe and with longing. Such was their mystic pull that finally, after what felt like a lifetime, I spent a week in a camp in the Himalayas experiencing and practising the art of strengthening self….my “inner being”. Conquering the external world does seems easy, when one has mastered oneself. 

These few days in the midst of mighty Himalayas was a journey of a lifetime. It helped me fall deeper and climb higher! I fell and bowed in gratitude (much of what I have today is were some of my wildest dreams long time ago), I fell from my lofty pedestal of worldly title and rank, I fell deep and hard and I didn’t feel a thing! At the same time, I rose higher and unshackled myself of my fears: of failure, of rejection, of starting over…I truly transcended! Nature healed the soul, Ayurveda worked to integrate my body, mind and spirit and Meditation helped me fathom meaning and purpose of life.

At a metaphorical level, What I experienced was that:

  1. Every once in a while, we must allow ourselves to “feel the silence”, hear its deafening roar before we calm the tempest.
  2. Let our souls strengthen, which happens when we let our cup to run over…cup of fear, anxiety, rejection, failure. Empty it out
  3. Lift our foot off the firm ground and take a huge leap of faith. Wings will grown as we soar down.
  4. Its ok to fall and meander like the river, Slope and then rise like a valley, Stand tall and then soar like the Everest!. 

In our corporate parlance, what I would urge us all to do is

  1. Learn to prioritise self. Set aside “me time”. Reach out to learn from those who do it better…
  2. Stop procrastinating. Don’t sit on the fence forever. Act. Seek out those who’ve been there, done that…They know what to do
  3. Invest in yourself. Start by introspecting, then reflect and then swiftly back it up by assertive action. If you don’t, who will?
  4. Give it all that you’ve got. Be “all in”. Stop hedging. Maybe burn few bridge so there Is no looking behind, no going back!

In the beginning we journey to lose ourselves. Often, thereafter we journey to find ourselves! 

What is it going to be for you?

 

Damned if you do, Doomed if you don’t! So, What is it Gonna be?

1F282C2A-B5E5-4E35-A48A-98EDE3EA6BACSo, I have decided to Coach and Train 100 women this year!
Besides the fact that today marks the start of International Coaching Week & I couldn’t think of anything I’ll love to do more, Here’s why…

Over last few years, on an average I have been getting 10-12 messages a month, from women I know and don’t, those who work in my company or at times, surprisingly in other organisations, many who are at cross roads, confused about how to juggle several jostling priorities, not knowing how to deal with ambiguity at work, build their presence & brand, wondering how to make ‘breakthroughs’ in their life, struggling to find a level playing field, struck by imposter syndrome, tottering at the tip of taking a big decision and not knowing who to talk to…Often, these messages have pulled at my heart strings.

Thats when it struck me that its not about how far I have come, its about how much of what I have experienced and learnt that I have shared, how many people have I supported who were not my family or team member, how many lives have I touched…till it got to be point that it was behovth on me to learn some new skills and hone some old ones to be able to make an impact at scale, take the state of affairs to a point where “no one has to write in to me” but where “I would be the one doing the heavy lifting, creating a safe space for them to talk while I freely share my life journey. Stories of times, when I made it & when I didn’t, took weeks & months to recover, at times years, of the trade-offs & compromises I made but grew significantly, sacrifices made but victories won, collateral damage suffered but took giant leaps forward…

While I have been tweeting & writing on many platforms for a while now, have decided to do 2 things:
1. Coach 100 women – create safe space for you to talk, introspect & reflect, strengthen your “being” & come up with your answers & decisions! In a group setting and over 1 on 1 calls. Ensure you always have a keen listening ear and a willing heart.
2. Train 100 women – its not always about emotions & feelings. Its mostly about skills & capabilities. Help you build them in a workshop setting the one’s that have worked for me! I am not the best but I am fierce and fearless, like Jessica Pearson says in Suits aired on Netflix 🙂

Our journey will start by you getting to deeply “Know Yourself”, then be able “Build Yourself” till you get to a point when you convincingly “Believe In Yourself”!

Watch this space for more…

 

 

As Within, So Without. As Above, So Below!

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Said, Hermes Trismegistus of the Reformation and Renaissance era who’s often called divine source of wisdom, master of world of alchemy, astrology and theurgy. This quote is believed to have demystified one of the biggest secrets of life

In the modern world – “As Within” presumes – what do we think deep within ourselves, how well we know ourselves. “So Without” supposes – that it will get expressed in the life we lead.

“As above” represents what’s on our minds (Heaven). “So below” epitomizes that it will be seen in and around our body and environment (Earth).

The concept is that of interconnectedness. With this heightened knowledge of Trismegistus supposition, I want to share two things that I did:

Over the last few years, started to slowly and many a times painfully to learn the nuances of human mind starting with my own. I took many a different road to go deeper into the working of human mind, thoroughly understand the first principles and its manifestation is that I am now a certified ICF coach and an EQ 20.0 practitioner. In corporate parlance we could perhaps equate it to the grasp of human potential and understanding the journey of culture, human emotions & intelligence from IQ to EQ to SQ.

As Within, So Without. As Above, So Below!

The other thing, I am often asked is – What should we do?

  • Keep our heads down and intently focus on our goals and deliverables OR stay aligned with the larger fraternity to share and learn?
  • Deliver on our own tasks and those of our team, boss and company OR go over and above and across to create and deliver value to larger community?

To my mind it’s was never a choice between This OR That but always about This AND That! Strike the right balance. Do the right thing! When you:

  • Think you’ve mastered the concept – Get credentialed, Share freely
  • Feel you’ve delivered supreme value – Win an award that truly matters, Add value
  • Believe you’ve gained rich experiences – Become a storyteller, Change lives

I have learnt to be true to myself, let my authentic self reign supreme, allowed my purpose to be my beacon. After all, choices I make in my inner world will play out in my real world.

As Within, So Without. As above, So Below!

 

 

Incremental steps or Quantum leaps. Now or Never…You pick!

Leap of Faith

World today is noisy! There is cacophony of sounds, images, moments and actions so much so that it’s difficult to calm the mind and focus on the thought, let alone be able to say it our aloud or share with others….Mindshare is tough to get, attention spans are only microseconds long, everyone is swimming vigorously with the current to either surge forward or valiantly swimming against it to stay afloat.

How you are then to be heard and seen and noticed? Women more often than not have a lifelong struggle with it: More than anything else it’s a social blemish and a moral dilemma of “To do or Not to do” Talk about their achievements, aspirations, ambitions and such…After all years of conditioning has taught us that it’s wrong to think about ourselves first, wrong to be vulnerable publicly, inappropriate to talk about our hopes and desires, our dreams and aspirations and share our fears and anxieties especially at workplace. As for networking, lest said the better…

Let’s take the bull by the horns. Its time! My take on building and leveraging networks is – Do what you have to do! If you have something earth shattering to say, obviously say it and if you think what you know isn’t good enough for you to share, say it anyway. Let the world be the judge. Half of lives successes go to the one who speaks up, shows up! If only those who spoke were the ones who had unearthed some world’s mysteries and solved some world’s problems all would be walking around with a Noble prize or an Oscar nomination or a National award…But I don’t see too many of them around! Do you? So don’t let the fear of “I don’t know what to say, I have nothing to share…” ever stop you.

So just go for it. Build a personal brand for yourself, if others can’t do or won’t do it! Better to be known for something however small it may be, than to pass away in insignificance. Remember few things as you embark upon any such journey. Above all, understand and intently focus on “Your being” and “Your doing”. Do not sacrifice “Being” at the altar of “Doing”.

It’s always wise to know what path to take as you move ahead. Be absolutely clear about and have razor sharp focus on:

  1. Why do you want to say whatever you’re going to say?
  2. How will you do it, how often, to whom?
  3. Why will others want to know?
  4. Is it worth the effort?

As for the Why which is your “Being” part, this is what I believe. If you care about something, you have to stand up and say it!  If Deepika Padukone a Bollywood actress starts to be seen on billboards, appears on the “Coffee with Karan Johar” show, go to shopping malls to meet her fans, start going to “happening” events and parties shortly before her movie gets released, why not you? Even celebrities like her need to be seen and heard, repeatedly and on multiple platforms and media for us to sit up and take notice and eventually show up in theatres to see the newly released movie! Sheryl Sandberg needed to go on tour to promote her book, do FB chats and be on a TED stage taking about it before the world knew of her, her ideas and her book “Lean In”. That’s when she is the COO of world’s largest social media company,  Facebook.  If there is a voice within you that’s raging, get it out! If they do, why not you?

How you do it is the “Doing” part. Talk about what you stand for, your cause, things that matter to you, every way you possibly can. Look for opportunities at work to talk to talk to small groups, make those coffee chats and water cooler conversations count, volunteer to do training sessions, write a post and put it blogs on company site, step up to mentor few people, look for affinity groups to socialize. That’s internal: within your company. To reach the external world, leverage the awesome power of social media, use LinkedIn, Twitter, WordPress to freely express, set up and attend MeetUp groups, when on a holiday take out few hours to address neighbourhood community, take a masterclass at academic institutes, look for local events taking place and volunteer to share what you know best, stretch to take out few minutes daily and few hours over the weekends to build consistency and momentum to. It all adds up. In the beginning, expect nothing. Learn to pay forward!

Why will anyone else care? Now that’s a fair thing to ask ourselves. Just coz it’s what you want to say and do, certainly doesn’t mean those around you will have to jump up to listen! The answer is “blowin’ in the wind” sang Bob Dylan 1) Find an affinity group similar to your life goals, they will want to hear 2) Find other on same path as your lives joys and passion, they will pull you into the circuit 3) Get yourself on a stage that matters, around your areas of expertise, get written about in a publication which is widely read…then folks will sit up and notice! 4) Align yourself with a bigger cause than you that will rally others to join your journey. Say and share often and freely, push the needle on the subject, be a thought leader, torchbearer. Stand up for something, be known for it…And I’ve noticed that if one musters courage and stands up to talk, people gather to listen…and that’s how a “Kafila” grows!

What it will do for you is create a newer world! Get you connected to not just thousands but millions of people who are on same path as you! Help you further your purpose, fuel your passion and give you abundant physical and mental energy to move further, put a smile on your face and spring in your step. After all, when all is done and dusted, that’s what will really matters! These are the material gains, everything else is incidental!

Often when I hear is “there is no time”, “I am swamped with so much already”. “I don’t know how to use social platforms” and such. My reply always is – If that’s how you feel, you don’t want it badly enough…let it be. Until then, standby to watch others struggle to rise/fall/rise again on worlds stage, stand aside for those who walk the extra mile whiz past you at work, burrow your head into your pillow to get little more sleep as others wake up to go run and discover new places!

The day something/anything becomes your purpose and passion you will seek to learn, engage and share it relentlessly, pursue it endlessly.

And sometimes in life when the music dims, the stage is dark and the curtains are drawn and down, people’s whose lives you touched will magically appear to stand beside you & applaud.

1st published in “Times of Pamac” – Volume 8, December 2017

It’s Time to “Catch” our People

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In today’s times, compliance and control reign supreme. That’s no surprise given the volatility and paranoia in the corporate world due to economic macro environment, threats from technology, government regulations, unions and such…While organizations grapple with all this and more, its behoveth on us not to forget who’s at the front and centre of our business!

  1. Who creates value for your client & the firm? Is it your product & service or your people?
  2. Who is the advocate of your organization’s brand? Is it marketing or your employee?
  3. Who is the custodian of your company’s culture? HR or the employee!
  4. Who do your prospective customers & employees believe more? Information on your company website or social media posts of your employees?

Who then has really won the war for Talent?

The answer is “blowin in the wind” and has been for quite a while now! The proverbial employee of course! Now’s is the time for us to applaud them in letter and spirit.

Dale Carnegie said – People work for money but will go the extra mile for recognition, praise and appreciation. Many organizations do a stellar work around appreciating their employees. The names they have given to their recognition program (some that I know of are Cheers, Samaan, ICON, Stars) acknowledge the fact that they know that their employee is “The champion”. If that be the case, lets broaden the definition, reach and scope of our recognition programs.

Lots of research and data tells us that many companies value longevity; the tenure of the employee above all, which is great as loyal employee in today’s VUCA times is of great asset. After all they are one’s who have deep contextual knowledge and know just when and how to adjust the sail of their company’s boat when its stormy and windy weather. Experience often trump’s enthusiasm!

Besides loyalty, I want to make a strong case here for recognizing employee for other things as:

  1. Failing fast and learning early with no fear of retribution
  2. Disrupting hence innovating fuelled by organizational resources
  3. Making sacrifices as they steadfastly uphold values
  4. Imploding rather than exploding hence releasing incredible energy
  5. Doing the right thing…for the customer & colleagues when in conflict

When it’s about saying “Well done” & “Thank you”, bust all hierarchy. Let recognition come not just from the top but from all and from all far flung corners of the organization. Build such a strong culture of recognition that it sweeps across the organization like a tsunami.

Let us “catch” our people doing right and watch the magic begin! It’s time to WIN together!

1st published for SHRM Annual Conference – 2017 #SHRMiAC17

My Journey, from Slides to Stories

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If you, like me, worked for many years in global MNC’s and large corporation’s words like pitch, deck, power point slides would be part of your language and muscle memory. Your core professional DNA really! The moment I would hear of an operating review, customer meeting, project update, I would grab my laptop and feverishly begin to search through templates and formats, in fact, I even had them archived as per the person we were going to make presentation to….CEO likes blue colour font and prefers pie chart over bar, CFO wants to see excel and benchmark data, Customer want comparison with best practices…you get the drift. It was all canned and highly personalized. Or so I believed….

And then I discovered the power and potential of being “untethered” – walking into rooms full of people, standing on stage, talking in townhall, pitching to leadership without the slides. A year ago, this would have petrified me but then Life took a turn…

Today, my blood pressure no longer rises, I don’t sleep fitfully, and people around me don’t feel the pressure as I no longer spend endless hours making the deck and then beautifying the slides and then fretting over notes under each of them so I remember the data, insight and punch lines!

I now tell stories of my life’s experiences, my own anecdotes, tales of things I’ve done, paint a picture of things that have happened to me, share my own learning and talk of lesson I’ve learnt, a narrative from the heart that leave no piece out – hard facts or emotions.

And it works like magic! No one was as stunned with the impact it has on audience than I was! Not only did I unshackle myself from unnecessary gadgetry, unburden myself from anxiety of building content but ended up adding meaningful colour and context to my conversations.

Today I am my own “Google”, my life experiences are my “Wikipedia” and I am the “Story”!