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I love exploring new avenues with "passion for impossible" which were not treaded by others so far. Not bound by any race or country or religion for me to associate with and contribute in their life. Regular blogger sharing my folly as "wisdom" for others. Please visit my blog http://www.ncnarayanan.blogspot.com to learn the moment of truth I faced in my life that made me wiser to handle this complex phenomena called "LIFE" 

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I welcome you to my blog

Dear friend,
This blog is an effort to share all the mistakes committed by me in my Life. I wish to share them with a hope that you may learn from my mistake and avoid committing them all over again!

I am blending my wisdom with that of all great Masters who have shown me the Light.

This blog is dedicated to everyone from whom I learned. Wish you peaceful life ahead.

Love
NC

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stature – A mystical Ingredient – Episode-3

Specialist to Generalist:

I happened to join a structural fabrication company in Trichy immediately after my engineering education in 1969 for the simple reason that my brothers were already working there and they gave me a reference. After six months’ struggle in the shop floor, I recognized that I was in a wrong forest searching for a right tree! As an youngster I always used to have day dreams and one of those was, standing in the shop floor which was adjacent to the railway track and staring at the Day express, the train that used to pass by every day majestically to Madras (Chennai today),  I used to  dream about migrating to Chennai which was a bigger city than Trichy and to work in a design department creating a complex gadget. Don’t ask me why, as I have no answer or rationale to explain those complex dreams that run in the human mind.

I am a strong believer of Deepak Chopra’s theory “7 laws of spiritual success” in which he says:

 “You are the integral part of the cosmos which creates black holes and nebulae. You can create anything good for you if you strongly believe as the whole cosmos will conspire to create it for you”.

It became true in my case when I happened to move to Chennai working in a Design department in TAFE creating many tractor components on those days, thereafter in Best & Crompton, Lucas-TVS, and Crompton Greaves till I rose to the level of Chief Designer and Head of Technology & Quality. What was the outcome of these two decades of specialization in Design? It helped me to rise to the highest level in the technical stream.

In my early forties I suddenly recognized that I must head an organization as a CEO as I have reached the pinnacle of technical stream. All my efforts in my 20 years of experience went in sharpening my designing skills learning Finite element theory, writing software, finishing my research in IIT and so on. I hardly recognized the need for sharpening my General Management skills as I did not recognize that something like that existed!! I had the dream to lead as a CEO without possessing the necessary skills. It was a rude shock to me when my seniors gave the feedback that I am fit to lead only a technology stream which is one of the subset of an organization and not the whole!!

What that General Management skill is all about? Let me explore that in detail in this episode.

All of us without exceptions do the same thing as what I have narrated in my autobiography above -  joining in any functional stream such as IT, design, production, maintenance etc and grow up to certain level and get stuck somewhere inbetween while we reach our level of incompetency. We all believe that knowing more technically in our functional stream will give us the leverage for moving up in the corporate ladder. It is true that a performer technically moves up till he/she reaches a stage where his/her people management skills would be an advantage to manage a team under them. Technical skills combined with people management skills give the leverage to some of us who could convince our seniors to promote us as the departmental heads. The Manager title and the team of people working under us give the notional power all of us are longing for.

Some leap frogs jump forward relinquishing their functional identity and become the CEOs which many of us are unable to do. In these circumstances, we end up blaming the whole world, resign to our fate and retire as a departmental heads. What is that these leap frogs do to break the barriers which many of us are not able to, is the main topic of discussion in this episode “Specialist to Generalist”.

 One of the key learning from Vedanta is relinquishing the bondages if you wish to progress in your spiritual journey – what is that it has got to do with the “CEOs in making”. I am recalling my own days where I was very possessive of being a “DESIGNER” and never felt like identifying myself with anything else as I was drawing my power from that identity. In the process, I never felt that there are many areas of skills to explore outside my functional specialization. The skills that gave me leverage up to certain point in my career itself became a liability to move forward. In other words it became a bondage that prevented my NIRVANA. What are those skills that helped the “leap frogs” to jump out of the bins of “functional frogs”?

These Leap frogs move from a “Specialist” syndrome to “Generalist” at the most appropriate time in their career. I wish to package these skills as “Conceptual Skills” for want of any suitable terminology. Lets me explain some of them in detail.

Envisioning:

One of the skills that are not taught in any academic education is “Visualizing the future ahead of time”. I may even say that it cannot be “Taught” but to be “Caught”. It is an art than a science which these people have developed intuitively. Does that mean it is a prerogative of the few who are born leaders with a DNA of Envisioning? No! Visualizing the future is the result of going beyond the “Inner circle of Concern” which Steven Covey explains in his 7 Habits of highly effective people. Most of us think that “It is my department” and not able to think that “It is my company”. Ridiculously simple – Is it not? The CEO leap frogs relinquish their departmental identity and go beyond it.

Less is More:

The Leap frogs relinquish the need to know “more about same thing” and switch to “Little about more things” which many of us cannot do due to our obsession about our functional specialization syndrome. A thirty thousand feet perspective is better than sitting in the cock pit of a plane in the airport. Shifting to the “big picture” of an organization is the skill these leap frogs have learnt which help them to manage the business than a department. In other words a chief designer of an automobile company may know how the car is moving while the CEO of the company knows how to make the company to grow.

The leap frogs shift their attention from functional focus to business focus by learning the complex way the organization functions through people, finance, process, technology and so on. They become a Generalist from a Specialist at the most appropriate time in their career. The let go is the most difficult part of CEO in making which many of us have not  been able to do.

In Summary:
  •   CEOs are not born but developed
  •    Technical skills give us a leverage to grow up to certain levels  in
      • the
        • organization
          •  
  •    It has its own limitation beyond a functional head level
    •  
  •    Switching form Specialist to generalist is the key to becoming a leap frog
    •  
  •     Relinquishing the technical specialization and moving to general management  skills is needed to become a CEO
    •  
  •    Big picture needs “Less is more” approach to know how the organization functions
    •  
  •  Going beyond the “Inner circle of Concern” to organizational “circle of influence” is the shift Leap frogs do.
    •  
  •  Stronger  your belief, greater  the chance of the cosmos making it a reality.



Learn the art of relinquishing and become a LEAP FROG than getting stuck in the functional well.



The Episode will continue next week. Till then Good bye.

Jai Gurudev
NC

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Stature – A Mystical Ingredient – Episode -2

Dear Reader

I was excited to see your overwhelming comments for this topic which commenced last week as a serial. I profusely thank all of you for your encouragements. For such of those who have joined this episode first time, here is the synopsis:

·     All of us without exception wished to climb up in the corporate ladder and lead a large corporation or at least a group of people.

·      Many of us climbed the ladder up to a certain level and declared as inadequate to go further. This applies to even Jim Mc Nerney, the CEO of Boeing who was shortlisted for stepping into the shoes of most celebrated CEO Jack Welch of GE and lost his chance to Jeff Immelt who was ten years younger to him when Jim was 51. Jim left GE and joined as a CEO in 3 M and later produced spectacular results for Boeing, the largest aircraft manufacturing company during his tenure as a CEO.

·     This leads to a quest in our mind to know what are the characteristics that distinguishes one human being from another by virtue of which he or she could lead a corporate which many of us are not able to. Although it is an ocean of a question and no one can write a prescription which will be a panacea for everyone to apply to achieve what some of these exceptional leaders have achieved.

·         I have started one more futile attempt which many authors have tried in the past to give cook-book solutions for leadership! In this series I am trying to narrate some of the characteristics observed by me during my meetings with many accomplished CEOs of Indian corporate world. The anecdotes are disguised some times to secure the identity of people. I welcome you to explore the hidden potentials of you to become the CEO of one of the corporate in the future.

·       In my last episode I explored two topics namely “Going Extra mile” and “Self-esteem”. I invite my new readers to read these topics before continuing this episode-2.

I wish to explore a few more qualities of a successful Leader in this episode:

Highly Talented a** hole vs highly talented team player:

Please pardon me for using the often uttered American phrase which is the influence of reading a recent book “You cannot order change” by Peter S Cohan in which he describes one of the characteristics for climbing the corporate ladder is to avoid becoming a pain in the neck when we are high performing individuals but very poor team players. Let me explain from my own life experience.

I secured ranks in my engineering educations and developed an arrogance, viewing everyone one else as cockroaches which is the syndrome of most of the rank holders. I was often described as a highly talented design engineer but a pain in the neck due to my poor interpersonal relationship. This was a big impediment to my growth as I needed the quality to become a good team player to occupy senior positions in the company as I have reached a stage where I was the next in line to become a Chief Designer.

My seniors tolerated my indifferent behaviour as I was a performer. I deserved a pink slip many times for my nasty kick backs towards many peers and bosses and narrowly escaped with feedback which I never took seriously. It never dawned on me that there was a need for transforming my personality till I was 34. 

It is often said in Vedanta that the “Guru will arrive when the disciple is ready”. At last, I was lucky to have a mentor who could recognize that I am in a state of “One who knows not that he knows.” – One who has the ability to lead but he is in a state of slumber waiting to be woken up. Even great people like Swami Vivekananda needed a spark from Ramakrishna Paramahansa to wake him up.

My mentor and boss Anandakumaran Nair affectionately said that he will promote me as Chief Designer of Lucas- TVS with one condition. I will reproduce here with his own words “I am promoting you with one condition that you will make everyone to say that you are a good team player within six months and if you fail, I will demote you back as a designer.” He also gave me a clue by saying “The simplest way to become a team player is to go with a helping hand whenever someone needs your support”

One of the blessings of Lord to me is the GPS – a compass that was helping me to catch me going wrong and set me on the right course which eventually Nair’s words did. I took a U-turn from a “Highly talented X hole to a highly talented team player”. The rest is a history which gave me promotion every two years till I headed the highest levels in the technology stream in Crompton Greaves. No one knows what would have been my fate if my mentor had not arrived in my life. 

Today in my consulting career I see many blind folded NCs (that is me) in their 50s doing the same thing what I did in my thirties. Alas, what big opportunities these “Highly talented X holes” are missing in their life. I chose to write this topic with a hope that some of them shall read and get a spark in their life. If they don’t do, their corporate will miss great CEOs and they will retire blaming everything else other than themselves!
  
I have come across a few top performing managers in certain corporates who have completely lost their ability to get along with their peers, bosses and sub-ordinates. These individuals although contribute to the growth of the organization, score very low in their 360 degrees evaluation. In spite of several feedbacks from their seniors, they refuse to alter their attitude till they are side lined. On the other hand there are people who may be mediocre in their performance but are excellent team players.

I had the privilege of coaching CEOs during my consulting career and often one of the biggest obsessions of high performing CEOs are “How to deal with these highly talented X holes? Let me try and explain why some of us reach this syndrome and live in a state of “One who knows not that he knows not is a fool”.

Unfortunately we were not taught how to become a good team player either during our education or mentoring. May be due to competition mentality injected during our childhood by parents and teachers when we were in school, we always wanted to win in all our human interactions. Due to this folly we lost our ability to relinquish our individual identity and merge with the team’s identity. I often find this quality of individual is of paramount importance to break the barrier of individual identity and grow as talented team players as they are most preferred than others!

I wish to quote the words of Jim McNerney the legendary aerospace giant who is one of the most accomplished CEOs of this century:

“You cannot order change. After all, there is only one of me and 1,60,000 of them.”

Jim is saying that even though he is in a powerful position as a CEO, is powerless as all the 1,60,000 people in the corporation must be willing to hear and get convinced about what the leader is saying. After all people will enrol only when they are seeing what is there in it for them?

Recognizing the fact that we are not alone on this planet and we need the help  of everyone else for our survival and comfort is the most difficult task. This is evident in a simple exercise of analysing everything that we use during our day which are the result of someone else’s hard work – the food we eat from the farmers, the cloth we wear from the weavers and so on. Unless otherwise we have a sense of gratitude we have no way of overcoming the syndrome of “I am the greatest! and don’t need to recognize the other human beings in my life.” If we fail to transition into a “highly talented X hole to a “highly talented team player” we will miss the bus once and for all.

In summary:

  • We are not alone on this planet
  • To remain sane in life, we need to live in the presence of all human beings. 
  • Psychology says “we can remain sane only for 30 days if you are left alone          without any human beings around, as our identity is the result of the presence       of other human beings”
  • We cannot accomplish anything without the support of all other team players.
  • It is not enough that we are highly talented – this thinking will lead you to a state of “Highly talented X hole” and get side lined
  • Transition to “highly talented team player” is the key to growth in the corporate ladder
  • Hence,
·       Learn to be a good team player before you could lead teams as a CEO. 

The Serial will continue. See you next week in Episode-3 with more tips on Stature building  for Leadership


Jai Guru Dev
NC   

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Stature – A mystical Ingredient for success

During my childhood my mother always used to say “you have to study well and get first rank for occupying high positions in a company”; I don’t think it would have been different for any one of you. As the last child in a family of eleven, I used to observe my eldest brother almost 15 years elder to me studying in premium colleges for his pre-university and medicine thereafter. My father being a doctor of medicine, he wanted his first child also to become a doctor. Every parent without exception want their child to become a photo copy of them or become someone which they have missed to become!! If I wanted to become a singer and for some reasons I could not, I would push my child into a music class while he or she wanted to learn dancing!

Another aspect that drives our life is “Fear of social disapproval” as psychology describe it as one of the mental blocks that haunt the modern civilization. We want to “Look good” in the eyes of the people around at the cost of “Feeling good”. Sukabodananda in his book “Oh Life relax please” has written a real life incidence to illustrate this folly.

A girl while travelling in a bus had suddenly experienced pain in her leg which was increasing and spreading all over her body. She was shy of checking it out in public as to what was going wrong and hurriedly walked to her house to check it out. While just entering her house gate she fell dead and later it was found that a black scorpion which was in her garment was biting her to death. Looking good in front of everyone appeared more than her life itself. She could have chosen to check what was biting in the public  that would have save her life.

This real incident reveals that all of us live for the society’s opinion "to look good"  than our own feelings. All parents without exception wish to drive their children crazy more to look good in the eyes of the society rather than empower their off-springs to develop their stature to become successful leaders in the future. We are misguided to accumulate knowledge rather than learn the art of taking people along for a common goal.

One common sub-conscious level programme all our parents have written is “If you study in a premium institution and get ranks in your education, you will earn more money!” We cannot blame our parents since after all they did the same their parents have taught them. Unfortunately, education is only an insignificant part of our active ingredients for success in our career. A study conducted in the US has revealed that 85% of the great business leaders of corporate are neither from premium B-schools nor rank holders. This raises the question where the rank holders have gone? They have grown up to certain levels in the corporate ladder and reached their level of incompetency. 

Please don’t get me wrong as if I am discouraging education and scoring high percentage or grades. All that I am trying to impress upon you is that - there is something more than education and degree that play an important role in our success. The question I wish to raise and answer in this article is:

What is the active ingredient for succeeding in the corporate world? 


Is it education or stature?

In my consulting career I meet many successful CEOs and business leaders on a daily basis. When I meet them, one thought always linger in my mind is “How they superseded many to reach where they are?” What is that active ingredient for success - Is it their education or intelligence or hard work or relationship building or people management skills; what is it? One common characteristic I observed in them is - they are as common people as all of us are. Then how they made their way up? The question comes to our mind is why many of us with academic excellence still get stuck with certain levels in the corporate ladder. Let me try and elaborate the tips for successful leadership:

Going Extra Mile:

Whenever we are asked to do anything in life, all human beings without exception think of the paradigm “WIIFM” – an acronym for “what is there in it for me?” We wanted to check it out before accepting responsibilities – what are we going to get out of it? Due to this syndrome we are not able to accept any larger responsibilities beyond our functional domain. Many a time when we are asked to take a responsibility beyond our job description, we resent it saying that “it is not my job”. We refuse to “go that extra mile” as we are not certain of the rewards. Unfortunately, the responsibility precedes the recognition!

I want to share an anecdote from my life:

“Lourdswamy joined as driver of my car 8 years ago and still serves me as a guardian of my cars, care taker of my pet, errand boy for getting groceries, attendant in my office while I have no visits, my personal assistant for my daily chores and many more. In his 8 years tenure he never came a minute late, took off without notice, made me to search for him while I finished my days work with my clients or made a scratch or dent in my cars. He always went beyond his functional boundaries and added significance to my career by playing the role Lord Krishna played as a charioteer for Arjuna.

The interesting aspect of Lourd is (I don’t wish to call him 'driver'), he never went that extra mile for the sake of reward. May be due to his un-assuming nature I took care of   all his needs like buying a property, a two wheeler, his children's education, paying his insurance and so on”.

Being a business excellence consultant I play a role in enrolling people for improving the products and processes of my clients. As a change agent one major issue I face is people don’t want to passionately involve in solving their company problems. The question that haunts their mind is “WIIFM” - what is there in it for me?

One of the characteristics of a successful person is to develop a mindset to take responsibility when the reward is not clear. Paradoxically the reward is guaranteed if we perform by giving 100% of ourselves without the pre-occupation of the rewards. All business leaders who have reached the pinnacle of corporate ladder had done this. With a limited education Lourd did it and grown in his career too!!

Self esteem & self-confidence:

During my tenure as technology leader I came across a Bengali boy who joined my team as a graduate engineer trainee (GET) who was looking very thin and wearing a glass with high power. I have always seen him cutting jokes upon himself which revealed his low self esteem. Once I suggested him to demonstrate one of our new products for a video presentation. He strongly opposed my suggestion saying that he looks ugly to stand in front of the camera and his English is horrible. I could vividly see his ability while his own self esteem was pathetic. He was in a state “One who knows not that he knows is sleeping” whom the mentor has to wake him up!   In order to show his ability to himself I ordered him to do the demo which he eventually did. To his surprise when he saw the video he understood that his self confidence was low due to his self esteem and not due to his lack of ability.

 Psychology says that our expression of our personality is a function of what we think about ourselves which is termed as self esteem. Our self image is a function of our sub conscious programmes which is a result of our childhood experiences. Some of us feel good about what we are and some of us feel inadequate and feel empty inside. If I feel that I am dark in complexion, short in height and my nose could have been shorter and so on, I feel inadequate and empty. Due to my internal emptiness I manifest behaviour of attention seeking or displaying lack of self confidence and so on. Any amount of my education is not going to be of any help in making me as a resource when I feel inadequate inside. People who succeeded in the corporate world are the ones who challenged these paradigms by constant practice. 
   
Will continue for a few more weeks. Look forward to sharing more insights on this topic.

Jai Gurudev
NC