Sunday, July 02, 2017

Fill In the Gaps - Learning and Development

I wanted to write this blog since quite some time. Never found that time and space. At my work we started a concept called 'Work Out Loud' and I am using this opportunity to write this blog thanks to my compliance to the activity this week.

Now if you see the activity that I am doing out of this learning is something that I think I am fairly good at, but at the same time never found myself encouraged enough to do this. This is one category of corporate learning. The other category being, that the learning outcome is my weakness and I am not encouraged to pursue it. It might also be the case that I am highly motivated to work on my weaknesses. Or exploring the last quadrant, that I am motivated to learn more about my strengths.

Most of us find our comfort zone in whatever our strengths are and need encouragement to pursue things that are our weakness. For example, if I find 'Leadership Skills' as my strengths, I would tend to build my entire career upon it. However there is a force from the other end of the spectrum which is a compliance called "My Learning Plan" or "Associate Annual Learning Plan" which explores what are the weakness of an associate and based on the competencies required for the job profile, the weaknesses of the associate are pushed to the 'Learning Plan'.

Now since it is the associate's weakness, s/he doesn't really get motivated enough to pursue it. So the corporate structure pours in more money to ensure that they love the bitter medicine. However colours you add or make the packaging interesting, the medicine is still bitter for the employee and hence the showbiz makes little impact.

I was going through Strength Finder and I could so relate to the argument placed in that book by Tom Rath. 

Let us imagine that we are able to discover strengths of an individual and we push learning plans according to what the associate is good at rather than what are his/her weaknesses, I think the associate would love to pursue the topic further. Moreover the amount of effort needed to pull someone from 30 to 80 is much more than pushing someone from 90 to 95. The reason being very obvious, "I love this topic. Give me more."

With this, are we at risk of placing our employees in their comfort zone? Comfort zone gets created by familiarity of the topic. If I am exposed to something unfamiliar in the topic I love, I would be challenged to resolve it and hence push myself further to improve on it. With this we are rather increasing the chances of removing complacency.

"But pursuing the course is not the objective of the curriculum. We need associate's growth as the outcome from the learning. What is growth from 90 to 95? I can show higher growth from 30 to 80."

I beg to differ here. The objective of corporate learning is not growth of the employee but productivity of the employee. If there is no return on investment there is no point of that learning. There would be much higher return for the growth from 90 to 95 even though it is mere 5 points ahead. Reason being the higher you achieve in a field, the niche area you enter and hence the work style and the outcome is more unique. Now as the employee hikes further towards the peak, the organization can expect innovations of most productive forms.

Most of the annual appraisal discussions focus on "What you need to improve?" While yes a basic compliance is needed to maintain the organizational sanctity, I believe it would be more prudent to discuss on "You are really good at this. Let us see what all opportunities we can offer you to improve on it. What all can be done to hone your skill further. How can we make it niche to the extent that you are a thought leader for that niche!" 

Yes I have experienced this in my current employment. It makes huge difference to the productivity. The employee feels more productive and hence valued. The organization reaps benefit from that value and hence it becomes a win-win situation.

As a L&D personnel we tend to think about how to 'Fill In the Gaps' within my organization. For a change let us discard this thought and focus on how to fortify my organizational strengths!

Friday, January 13, 2017

How to deal with extremely boring work?

Does it ever happen to you, where you have to do some mundane work which doesn’t suit your interest? Or maybe it is a mammoth task that requires some extra time and energy. Or it can simply be work that doesn’t suit your current mood and you just have no choice of escaping it at that moment?

Doesn’t that moment of lack of productivity become really agonizing? What do you do in such times? I generally get tempted to open up Facebook / WhatsApp / Twitter / Quora. Or I get tempted to eat something at that moment. I am sure you would have some other comfort zones where the mind tends to get diverted at that moment. And the one who succumbs to that temptation, eventually lives life in the country of ‘Procrastination’ which is ruled by Queen - Petty Pleasures and where we pay frustration, agitation, guilt and embarrassment as taxes. And trust me that is The Hotel California – ‘You can check in any time you like, but you can never leave’.

So what is really happening in your mind at that time and how to steer yourself back to productivity?

Here are certain things that I do and they work for me.

Consume fluids but avoid coffee.
Such times, mind gets tempted towards eating spicy or sweet. These are the elements that further add rust on the current situation. Lack of concentration, is quite a lot of times due to lack of water in body. Drinking water (preferably warm) helps. If you can find a mug of green tea, perfect.

Take a power nap of about 10 mins.
Many a times, mind loses concentration due to lack of oxygen. This can very well be due to lack of sleep. Closing your eyes for 10 mins, taking a power nap helps rebuild concentration levels.

A very effective technique to boost your concentration levels is Pranayam. Do Bhastrika Pranayam or Nadi Shodhan Pranayam. If you have done Yes!+ course then you know the Concentration Pranayam.

If you know how to meditate, nothing like it. Meditation relaxes your mind, boosts your focus, and enhances the capacity of your mind to receive more. And trust me, investing those 20 mins would help you way better than saying ‘Don’t have time for meditation right now’. If you really really don’t have 20 mins, spend at least 10 mins, but do meditate.

Mind in such times always seeks an easy way out. Starts pleading for things like earthquakes and fire to avoid such work. It gets tempted to get up and do a lot of other stuff. But understand that the work is your karma and you have to do it. Despite the earthquake, despite the floods somehow you will have to do that piece of work. This acceptance is very important.

Now when acceptance dawns, I would say begin work by splitting it in fragments. Don’t take up a task for more than 20 mins. By breaking the giant mountain into smaller stones we confuse our mind into believing that it is barely 10 to 20 mins task. “Let us finish it.”

Take break after every 20 mins. Take a stroll outside or simply close your eyes for 2 mins. Yes! It is not easy for many people. Closing eyes for 2 mins requires a practice. You can download some ‘Pomodoro’ type apps to facilitate that.

Never resist your mind from doing something. “Don’t open Facebook” tempts mind more than ever to open up facebook. I give my mind the option to close eyes. So I either work, or close my eyes. “Want to check whatsapp? Ok, let us close our eyes.” “But whatsapp?” “Oh yes, correct, let us first close our eyes” Then I simply observe the temptation fade out. That might take less than a minute (depends on whether yours is a meditating mind or not). Once the temptation is out, I open my eyes and start working again.

This way, I save my mind from spending energy unnecessarily, develop my mind’s capacity to observe, get multiple opportunities to relax my mind and I become more aware to correct my body posture.

When your eyes are closed, a relatively focused mind would find it attention on the breath. What is the breathing pattern? If the mind is really focused, breath is steady, calm and deeper. Simply taking the attention on breath improves the quality of mind drastically.

Do try these techniques out and let me know if any of this was helpful.

Happy Producitvity to you!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Demonize Demonetize

Nov 2016 to Dec 2016 demonetization seemed to be a buzz word. So much so that there were many elements who tried to demonize 'demonetization' and yet Modi stood victorious in most elections that followed demonetization. He promised 50 days to bring in normalcy and come Dec 30 we did see huge decline in ATM lines. So now I see the new target is the term 'Cashless'. And the same elements are trying to demonize cashlessness.

Here is my take on it.

Did you know that about 1.6 crore paid tax in the year 2012-13? That means just 1% of the nation is bearing the financial weight of the entire nation. Doesn't this ring any bell? With so many rich people around, does it make sense that only 1% of the nation's population bear the burden of the whole nation?

How do we know how much money people have? Unless we enforce cashless transactions, it would be very difficult to monitor who is hiding how much wealth? Unless of course the myth of the super powers of Rs 2000 currency are true. Every single digital transaction can be recorded.

So whether it's Paytm,  Jio Money or any mobile wallet transaction  or any Credit Card transaction,  every transaction can be recorded and accounted for. With this level of transparency, there is a good chance that people would pay the due tax.

And when so much of money comes in banking, it helps in generating good amount of credit. This in turn helps the economy. In layman terms, when banks get more money, they get more power to give more loans. Thus the supply of loans increases. This will benefit people who need loan. This will help entrepreneurs, people buying houses, cars etc.

There is an argument floating that the govt has taken this step to favor certain big industrialists. And gullibles are easily falling in that trap.

Cashless economy is a service. Credit Cards offer you a credit of 45 days. Who would pay for that? Huge expenditure is needed to maintain security of the digital transactions made, who should pay for that convenience? Nothing comes for free. Where there is a service there has to be a fee attached to it. They primarily charge the vendor and the banks. Certain vendors pass on the charge to the end user while others succumb to competition and wave off that charge. As end user you can take an informed choice of whether or not that trade off works for you.

Yes this policy of govt is going to help certain industries. But then that is true for every government policy. Should we be restricting every government decision just because it specifically favors certain industry? I think it is important for us to look into the larger picture. 

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Let's Make Some Noise About Peace

We were enthralled! We were blessed! We couldn’t believe what we have just heard. It was live, right in front of our eyes. Vikram Hazra on his electric guitar and his troupe on percussion and flute together created energy in the audience that is rarely experienced. I knew that it is not just music that he is playing but also the way he is involving the audience in the music that is making the difference.
It was a collective effort of each and every soul in Yogi Sabhagriha that I felt, that one cannot have this experience by choice. One needs to be blessed to experience this musical phenomenon.

Then Vikram Hazra took the microphone in his hands and said, “Imagine the energy created by just 3500 people …” and he paused. The audience started laughing and applauding to his way of bringing the WCF topic. “Imagine 1000 such musical concerts happening in parallel. Imagine the noise of those 3.5 million people and imagine the silence of those 3.5 million people.” We held our breath for a moment.

What a vision H H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has! It is phenomenal. We generally struggle to get an audience of 20000 for any major event. He envisions creating a stage for the capacity of 20,000 people. 

How many countries participate in FIFA? We had 43 nations participating in the 2014 world cup. In which event do we have people from 155 countries flying in to celebrate humanity, to celebrate diversity and work towards the direction of world peace?

If you still haven’t understood the gravity behind what World Culture Festival is going to do, let me tell you what Guruji said in UN during the World Yoga Day last year. “The term religious tolerance is of the bygone era. 

You tolerate something that you don’t like. Now the time has come for everyone to celebrate diversity.” Imagine 3.5 million people who would assemble in Delhi carrying this vision ahead. I believe that this one thought can prove path breaking. When we start appreciating each other’s cultures, we start appreciating the goodness in every part of the world. There blossoms hope for us to be comfortable with each other, to belong to each other despite of the differences.

I wonder how come such event was not organized by UN all this while! Especially in the world ridden with terrorism, events like these sow the seeds of hope. Be a part of this hope. I urge each and every soul on the planet to be a part of this event in whatever way they can.

Let us make some noise about peace 
Jai Gurudev!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Celebrating #35YrsofArtOfLiving - Pursuing Happiness

Pursuing Happiness
- Aggremma Sethi

Happiness is not momentary, rather it is a constant. At least that is what I have come to believe since a while now. Happiness is not just an emotion, but a way of life. I consider myself very fortunate to have come across this knowledge at a young age.

It was in the summer last year that an opportunity came knocking at my door literally by chance. My parents were both associated with Art of Living. I grew up in a household where ‘kriya’ was an often  used word, Bangalore Ashram was a dream destination, and my younger sister was put to sleep not by lullabies, but rather the lyrical bhajans my mother used to sing to her. So, having already done the Art Excel course years ago, it was now time to do the Happiness course as soon as the opportunity came along, at least that is what my mother hoped for.

I on the other hand had way too many things on my mind to bother about this; after all I was finally enjoying an extended summer break with no school to go back to! But as they say all things destined to happen will find a way. A small leaflet came in with the morning paper one day, announcing an upcoming happiness program. I took the paper to my room and without noticing the leaflet was soon engrossed in the world of current affairs.

My mother happened to come to my room looking for something and spotted the piece of paper that had unwittingly fallen from within the sheets of the newspaper. She let out a gasp sure enough to pull me out of any political drama I was busy catching up with (this might be a bit more dramatic in my memory, I agree!) and went on to tell me about ‘being aware of my surroundings’.

Long story short, two days later I found myself in a Happiness Program along with my mother.

Anybody who has had the experience of attending an art of living course knows that the hours fly by way too quickly. Not only did I look forward to attending the next session, I also started feeling like the duration was a bit too short! This six day journey was as blissful as it could be, and it’s after effects were even more satisfying.

Not only had I learnt the art of calming my mind with just having control of my breath, I had also become a part of a community of happy and contented people who worked towards spreading this cheer all around. It was in this happiness course that I found a rare friendship with someone I would probably have not had the chance to meet otherwise, and an ever increasing family that formed connected by just one man, and three little words “jai guru dev”.

The continued works of seva, and regular satsangs, were all I needed to keep myself happy. I realized  that taking out just 20 minutes of my day to do ‘kriya’ not only made me more calm and stress free, but also increased my capacity of working drastically. No longer did I need an hour of afternoon naps to replenish my energy but just 20 minutes in the morning dedicated to myself were enough to keep me going the whole day and longer!

I came to realize that stressing about something does not make it happen any faster, rather keeping your head clear and working towards it does. This six day happiness program gave me all as promised on the leaflet, and a lot more. I still feel grateful every day for having been brought onto this journey.

I don’t know if it was my mother’s wishes, my teacher’s last minute efforts, or some cosmic play of both, but whatever it was, I am utterly grateful.          

Courses done: Art Excel course, Happiness program, DSN course, and Sehaj Samadhi Meditation

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

The Man with the Plan

BKC was filled with people. I couldn’t find a spot to park my car anywhere in the radius of 200 to 300m. Finally I found a spot and walked down to the venue – MMRDA grounds. Never before had I entered a political rally. I had always despised all the politicians and I could not dig an iota of inspiration from any of them. Not until now. I was getting drawn to this magnetic place which had a different charm. A charm that was full of hope and optimism that yes we could have a rule where we can focus on development. We can have a politician who will take pride in speaking about his nation. And his pride would be so infectious that all our chests would swell by at least few inches. Most certainly his chest would swell 56 inch while talking about all the work he has done so far. And the nation rightfully measured it with cheer and joy. ‘Yes we can finally have a stable govt’ ‘We can after all see a government formed with more than 200 seats’ He had high hopes of achieving the magical figure of 272. Although it seemed far-fetched, it seemed too tempting and hence the nation believed him. Little did anyone know that 272 was not even a piece of cake for him!

Millions were walking in the direction that I was walking towards. The ground was made into a fortress by multiple checks and multiple metal detectors. Not an empty space. From the place where I got a seat, I could see the 5 storey stage as table and the politicians could be identified only by their silhouettes and body language.  His name was roaring everywhere. The cheer was louder than what Sachin gets in Wankhede (please no offence – even I am a Sachin fan). This was the cheer from all the 1B Indians who were left in utter despise about their own nation. Where politicians prospered from one scam to another and “Is desh ka kuch nahi ho sakta” was a daily dinner table line.  The roaring chants of his name came out from that level of frustration. One politician after the other spoke. Ramdas Kadam, Ramdas Athavle, Uddhav Thakray etc. Finally the 4 lettered man with whom the nation was about to say the 4 lettered word to the most corrupt rule every seen by this nation, walked to the podium with the grace of a lion and left people awestruck.

People could read his plans. They could relate to him. They knew that he is not merely mocking other parties and partying on their miseries. They knew that he was addressing their miseries. He could clearly lay down his vision for the next 5 years. “Terrorism distances people while tourism brings people together” It certainly seems like a catchy line. But he just didn’t have the line. He had the plan. He has done that before. He had shown what tourism can do. “Everyone right from a tea vendor to a big 5 star hotel benefits from tourism.” And the crowd gave a loud cheer on mere reference to the word – Chai Wala. I was not surprised that a mere chai wala can dream of becoming a PM. As they say Kichad mein hi kamal khilta hai. Someone who has lived the life of a poor know what the poor wants and understands him better. In his speech he must have uttered the word “Juggi Jhopadi” at least 10 times. Yes it is a branding strategy. In marketing they call it as a recall factor. But he knows the recall factor. He knows how to connect to the Aam Aadmi. He has exemplified the maturity to handle a situation where you are subjected to insults, non-cooperation, and stiff opposition and yet you manage to pierce all that.

Mein kehta hun, aaj hamare railways ke liye university kyon nahi hai?” And I was awestruck at the revolutionary thought. Railways easily employ 2 lakh employees. What would be the population of an average college in Mumbai, 5000? 10000? Here we are ready with 2 lakh employees. Why can’t we train them? “Train them on what” one would ask. Make better trains, better online systems, better ways to handle customers, better communications skills so that passengers can be dealt with more respect. Unfortunately in a country like India, respect is a premium product. We all crib about railways, the uncleanliness, the messy ticket booking system, the food served in pantry. Why can’t we train the railway employees to better themselves? I could see tourism resonating so well in that speech. He has plans to connect Indians from every village. I won’t be surprised to see George Clooney in ‘Incredible India’ campaign 5 years down the line.
When he became PM while sitting on a whopping 333 seats, the first thing he did was to start ‘Swatch Bharat Abhiyaan’. And he won my heart once again. Yes he has tourism in him mind. And he knows what stops a foreigner from coming to the exotic country called India. Apart from setting a culture of good hygiene, he means business. He knows the return on investment for Swatch Bharat Abhiyaan is way too much.

Now it has been more than a year since he became PM last year. But that evening is etched in my memory forever. While leaving, I had a candid chat with the cops who were standing there for security. They said “Its 9:30 pm and the crowd is still not leaving. Yesterday in Rahul Gandhi’s rally in same location, by this time even we had reached home.” I turned to my right watching ‘The Man with the Plan’ leave the stage and the huge mob making its way out through a huge dust cloud that got took birth by their mere walking.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Simplified Complications.

Rituals bring in discipline. Discipline creates a culture. Culture nurtures behavior. Behavior defines character. Character impacts your direction in life,eventually deciding success.

Rituals are a problem when they become a burden. It's a good idea to take up tiny rituals. I see so many people cribbing about rituals. They're always nice when taken in that playful spirit. And they're always trouble when completed as a mere formality.

Let me cite an example. I have started a ritual to pray for / bless any individual other than me the moment I complete my kriya and before I open my eyes. I feel that over a period of more than a year now, this tiny ritual has made a profound change in me. I find myself more caring than what I used to be.

Now this ritual needs some hook to hook on. It can be the time before I wake up, or the time when I have my tea, or the moments before I touch the water tap. Anything can become that hook for you to remember the ritual.

The 'Tiny Changes'  initiative that was started in Cts on similar lines received a huge response. So try this out and let me know about your experiences. We all want to change the static part of our life and we have immense inertia to bring about that change. This Tiny Change initiative encourages one to take up one tiny change that you would want in yourself that would eventually build the change you want in bigger picture.

In my opinion start something right now, whether or not you care about the bigger picture. And keep it smaller so that the ritual doesn't become a burden.

So, what is the new tiny ritual that you would like to start?

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

That One Tiny Moment of Repentance ...

“Care for a Vada-Pav?” I asked my cousin.
“I won’t have it, I have some health issues. You go ahead if you want.”
“Naah! Its OK. We can go ahead.”
“But if you want it, why are you not having it? Let’s go.”
“I just had a thought, ‘If I breathe my last this very moment, would I repent not having that Vada-Pav?’ If the answer is yes then I better go and have that Vada-Pav right now. If I know the craving holds no substance, I might as well drop it.

It would be such a pity if we were to repent in our last breath. However successful we might be, how much ever money we would have, irrespective of our education background, if there is a moment of repentance while bidding goodbye to this world, our entire lifetime would be such a waste. And I am in no capacity to waste my lifetime for a Vada-Pav. 

This may sound frivolous and funny, but it is true is most cases. 
"I wish I had seen Taj Mahal once."
"I really had to visit Kashi once."
"I so badly wanted that promotion"
"I wish my son should have been married."
"Just once if I had been to Bukaro Island."

And there is an endless list of desires that make us find it difficult to leave this body. From there stems the fear of death - one of the primary reasons for people not to be successful. And then it gets into a vicious circle of fear leading to anxiety leading to low confidence leading to less effective productivity, leading to an unsuccessful life (whatever fits in our definition of success), further leading to a state of mind of desires unfulfilled, finally connecting dots back to fear of death.

Let us try breaking this circle. If at all, we live ensuring that our last breath wont have that repentance, we would empower our self devoid of fear of death, thus leading to a new zeal to take on life and thus become successful. 

Somebody once asked Swami Vivekananda, what do find most amusing about mankind?
He said, "Everyone knows that they are going to die someday and yet they live as if they are going to live forever," The right way to live would be to imagine that if this is my last moment, how would I live it.

We find it very convenient to procrastinate our happiness to some other time because you know, somehow there is a feeling that we are going to live forever. Procrastination of happiness is a foundation stone for the pillars of fear, anxiety and sorrow to stand upon. Once Bawa (Khurshed Batliwala) said, "Have you seen the look on a dead man's face? Its as if he is shocked, 'Ho Gaya?' Till now I was living life and I knew that happiness is at the next corner and life ended before that!"

I have been to cremation ground twice in past 20 days and both the times for someone close and both the times, what amazed me is the sheer unpredictability of life. My granny active till the last moment blew us off when she peacefully closed her eyes forever. She prepared food for all, she kept herself busy till the last breath. How on earth could we imagine which moment was her last. There is absolute no guarantee on our expiry date. We have absolutely no clue on the question 'when'. I know so many instances when a patient walks on his/her two legs to the hospital and comes back on 4 shoulders. So there is absolutely no guarantee that this moment I should allow myself with the luxury of repentance. It is a truth that we find very difficult to digest.

Life is in this moment. This moment is pure, its fresh, its new, its innocent. Sri Sri always says, the past is like a dream and the future is pure fantasy. Live in this moment. Recognizing the purity and freshness of this moment can help us ensure that every moment is free of any repentance whatsoever. 

The idea of being ready to leave this body anytime can be well unsettling. It takes a higher level of maturity to bring our mind to that level. But to come to terms of reality, that thought itself is pure freedom. It is a thought that empowers us to live fully the way we want. And I believe if we have lived our life on our terms, we have lived successfully. No amount of money or education can compensate that state of mind.

Blessed are those who exhale contentment as their last breath.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Intent behind the act

The expression of being unreasonable can be endearing if it emerges from space of love, care and belongingness. Similarly even the expression of being reasonable can be alienating if it emerges from the space of ego.

I have often heard Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar say that the unsaid gets communicated better than the said. Behind words what matters the most is your intention behind them.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Aata Majhi Kharach Satakli

Last week I tweeted to Yo Yo Honey singh that I found it amusing that hysteria is equalled with heroism. Shouldn't it be the other way around? This type of hysteria is found in songs like Aata Majhi Satakli. To my surprise he made the tweet as his favourite. So whether he agrees or not is a conclusion best left to him.

However I surely intend to ask people to ponder on this a bit. What kind of films are we really encouraging ? Should getting angry and jumping like a monkey on every reason be equalled to heroism? If you really want to show action take some inspiration from James Bond. He is someone who would adjust his bow tie even while he is falling from the cliff of a mountain. That's why I love Iron Man.

What's peculiar about these action heros? They are camel composed and sure about their every action. They don't react but they respond. They use their mind more than their muscles. That's precisely why Shivaji became Maharaj. Else how is it possible for a tiny man to kill someone like Afzal Khan?

Real life heros have been cool headed and those who knew very well what their actions are getting them into. Being centered is very vital to be in the present. And when you have that kind of presence of mind is when yo can really clear a  fight gracefully.

It hurts to see movies like Kick, Chennai express, Singham making crores of Rupees. I think we certainly need some training for the Indian cinema viewers to elevate their maturity level.