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

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It ‘is’ the best of Times; It ‘is’ the Worst of Times…

Hope

It was the best of Times, It was the worst of Times, It was the age of Wisdom, It was the age of Foolishness, It was epoch of Belief, It was epoch of Incredulity, It was a the season of Light, It was the season of Darkness…

So go the opening lines from Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. As I started to write this blog, I couldn’t find more apt words than these to describe what we see happening around us in the political and corporate world.

Beliefs are been forged and shaken, Trust garnered and then shattered, Sages on stage say one thing and do another, People are worshipped and then sacrificed at altar of profit…

As I’ve said earlier, I say again: the linchpin of these behaviours is the Culture and Value system of countries and companies; Epitomized by those chosen to lead them!

If culture be the bedrock of corporates then we must lean on it in times of change and turmoil. It’s the easiest to forgo and forgo but ruthless in terms of its repercussions and results. And we are seeing that around us as I write…What’s happening in Infosys today will go down in the history of corporate world as iconic case study of rise and fall of corporate culture and what’s happening with the US presidency is bound to spark another season of “House of Cards”

But all is not lost! Circle of life is just that – A Circle. What gives me hope and energy is the belief in “Removal of Obstacles” and “New Beginnings” symbolized by the on-going Ganesh Chaturthi festival in India. And if you happen to live in Mumbai, like I do, It’s not just tough, but impossible to stay immune to festival’s fervour and staunch belief in resurgence. So all of us who are working to build a strong and sustaining Culture in organisations, it’s a “call to action” to double our efforts, give it all we’ve got, use all the tools of the trade and tricks up our sleeves to make it stick!

It’s true: “Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast” as said Peter Drucker, but then it’s equally true that “Hope springs eternal in human heart” as said Alexander Pope!

Come – It’s time for us to BELIEVE in both the sage and the saint!

 

Are Leaders drivers of Diversity or is Diversity riding in a driverless car?

cars

This decade is perhaps the last port of call for the companies still thinking about Diversity and Leadership. Diversity is not just Gender and Leadership is not just CEO, CFO, COO or the person who owns the company. But alas even after there have been countless articles and blogs written to this effect, endless academia research and white papers that have been published, scores of management lectures and panel discussion on the subject, it’s still the 1st thought that pops up even in most progressive leaders mind and companies. Are leaders the torchbearers of diversity in organizations? The question that begs to be asked is – Not why not? But why? It’s an idea whose time has come and gone!

To my mind, it’s because we have allowed ourselves to think like this, HR and Diversity leaders across the world have risen in unison in last decade or so and drilled the concept of Diversity and role of leadership into every leaders mind, hard-wired it into HR core processes of hiring, learning, performance management etc, to the extent that it’s now become a muscle memory of all leaders! If that be the case, why do we bemoan it?

My viewpoint is that in the corporate world, we have reduced the power and potential of Diversity to the point of trivialization and metricization. It’s a contrarian viewpoint but backed by experience and tons of data.

Let’s look at some other worlds to see how the concepts of Diversity and Leadership play out. If we reflect on any movie award function such as Oscars or Filmfare or IIFA, we will remember that on stage every performer/actor who wins an award starts by saying “I won this because of my team – my director, choreographer, screenplay writer, music director, stunt man, make up artist, publicist and so on” – what they are really saying is – They won, because diverse skills came together to create a perfect mosaic – catapulting them into realms of leadership. The producer and director of the film knows this well and spends time, money and effort putting this magic potion together. Another example is of our armed forces. There is Army, Air Force and the Navy. There is perhaps no one better in the country than the Chief of Armed Forces who knows the immense power of Diversity because it is he who brings it all together in times of unrest, war, riot, revolt etc. As an eg: the diverse skill set of different part of India’s armed forces show various aspects of  diversity – the strength of the Punjab regiment, fearlessness of Maratha troops, Guerrilla war-tactics of the Nagas and valour of Gorkha regiment among many others are legendary.

Hence, it’s the proverbial writing on the wall in the corporate world that says, indeed shouts: that leaders need to appreciate diversity, manage diversity and learn to leverage diversity to ensure competitive strength in the market place as well demonstrate their core moral value system of “opportunity for all”, “fair play” and “equal playing field”. If we continue to hire just men over women believing there are not women out there in the job market who meet our role needs, if managers continue to hire clones of themselves, if leaders vociferously keep defending that “all is well” in their organizations, we have lost the plot even before it’s even begun. I find it fairly a waste of time to keep convincing leaders of the merits of diversity, it’s perhaps the most unproductive job anyone could do in today’s age and times!

So based on my own experience of leading the Diversity agenda in large corporations for over 15years, my call to action points are as under :

1.   Weave Diversity and Inclusion into the language of the company. Sprinkle all leadership communication with the words which position Diversity in the right spirit – Get the verbiage right

2.   Articulate, document and publish your Diversity agenda and then measure it. Drive it relentlessly, with conviction and passion. Slightest of doubt and hesitation will kill it

3.   Continuously check how your diverse population feel – conduct pulse surveys, do focus groups, set up coffee chats – what you don’t know, you can’t solve for

4.   Set up employee resource group – there is power in togetherness. Groups as  Newbies to the company, First time mothers, Far from hometown…derive comfort & feeling of oneness.  Do not fear them getting together – Let them learn from each other.

5.   Run unique programs so that the leaders truly understand nuances of Diversity, such as have a diverse employee from across the company in a structured manner and rotational way attend boardroom meetings, sit through critical project discussion, travel for important client meeting, attend key marketing presentation – the insights and perspective are bound to add value to both the parties

You decide – shall we continue leaning on leadership to drive diversity or Is it perhaps time to – Explore, Experiment and Execute on diversity agenda akin to Driverless cars?