Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Keep your cup empty

Those who think they know it all have no way of finding out they don't...

--Leo Buscaglia

American Author & Motivational Speaker

You are the General Manager of your company, working in the corporate world for more than 10 years interacting with top-notch clients from across the world on a daily basis. One fine day your boss asks you to attend a training session on- “E-mail writing skills”. How would you feel?

Another one! You're a stellar performer of your organization who closes business deals like a pro. Sales pitches & presentations for you are as easy as a pie. While checking your daily mails, your see an invitation to attend a workshop on "Public Speaking". Would you consider that on priority?

Unless you're the Dalai Lama, your first reaction to the above situations would be- "E-mail skills?? For who- ME?"
Do I really need to attend this public speaking session, I deliver sales presentations to CEOs every other day"

Undoubtedly, it can be boring, very boring actually to learn anything about something you are already good at. The very thought of it can make you feel lethargic or disinterested; but the secret is, it's just the start that seems so. Once you pick up that book, play that video or plug in your headphones to listen to that audio clip- Puff! It's all gone. It's like a hidden treasure- the chest might look muddy, old, boring from the outside but the gems inside can transform your life.

No wonder the best sports teams in the world have “Coaches”. Do you really think Sachin Tendulkar or Lionel Messi need ‘coaching’? In fact, they are so skilled at what they do they can probably win a match blindfolded. Still they attend practice, training & coaching sessions. Why? With the sole intention of perfecting every single move they make, keep on improving to the infinite extent possible and further conditioning the skills they have. It’s the same reason why even the most established scientists in the world attend lectures & conferences of other scientists and world-famous fashion designers never leave a chance of attending a competitor’s show. The Japanese have nailed it with their concept of "Kaizen- continuous and never ending improvement" (no wonder they also gave us Six Sigma).

How to do that- Start off by considering your mind as a bottomless cup, a cup with unlimited capacity, no matter how much you learn, how much you know about your trade, believe you can always have more. Always keep your cup empty so that much more can be poured into it.

Further into this- three things:

First) 'Aspect'. Any field in this world is never stand alone, there are multiple other fields or dimensions associated with it. As a matter of fact, knowledge about anything is infinite and relates to a lot more. If you are a fiction writer, reading non-fiction might not help you in your content but can surely improve the process of creating your fictional content. No matter you are excellent at Java programming, exploring different ways in which a code can be re-used or made more precise can help you in all the programmes you are gonna write in future.

Second) 'Perspective'. Hundreds and thousands of perspectives. It is wonderful and out-rightly beneficial to know things from others' point of view. Even something appealingly simple and basic might turn into an altogether new piece of  knowledge, an altogether new experience when re-visited. Why? Because the "Perspective" matters; and that changes with time. You might as well feel differently about the exact same thing when you re-visit it again few months or years down the line. Read a book again that you have read five years ago & you'll realize how you can extract more from the same lines. The same concept by different authors provides many new perspectives and even similar experiences narrated by different people can expand creativity.
5 writers= 5 different perspectives.


Third) ‘Intention’. When you do something feeling connected to a bigger purpose, and see your work not merely as a job but a way to make a difference, greater amount of satisfaction flows. Once you start valuing more of what you do, you'll be better at it and feel more fulfilled while doing it. See your work as a craft and you'll automatically be on the look out for new & innovative ways to work and improve not only to make things better for yourself, but also for your team, organization, society and the world as a whole.

If we look back, a lot of decisions in life might simply have been made by the "Give it a shot"  philosophy and I bet most of them were actually worth it. So possibly a 30-minute E-mail writing skill session or an hour long public speaking workshop may not be as useless as you think it may be and almost certainly, there would be at least one new thing that will come out of it.

Every passing day is an experience, you grow with the day and so can your skills.
Remember- No matter how good you become at your craft, there will always be something more to learn, someone to learn from and a skill to be conditioned.

Aim for the peak!

The 'Keeping your cup empty' philosophy was inspired by Robin Sharma's international best seller- The monk who sold his Ferrari.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

The Conventional Essence of Communication

Leadership Story

The day we start giving more importance to Face-to-Face interactions will be the day we will understand the true meaning of communication.

--- Chintan Srivastava
Chintan Srivastava Leadership (CSL)

Right from the leadership seminars he delivers to the articles he writes, he focusses a lot upon communicating in the so called Old Fashioned manner of writing letters, sending greeting cards; preferring a phone call over a text message and personal meetings over phone calls. He is so obsessed with his mission of helping people realize the importance of these conventional yet powerful ways of communicating that people simply prefer to call him- THE CONVENTIONAL COMMUNICATOR.

Just before he was about to leave for his beautiful home in Frankfurt, we were lucky to catch him for a quick session at one of his favourite cities- Istanbul, where he just delivered a seminar to over 500 people.

There are so many aspects of personal development but communication has always been one your prime focus areas. Any particular reason?
It's the ESSENCE you see.
Communication- whether verbal or nonverbal is possibly the only way you can transfer your thoughts and feelings to the other person. Just because we do it on a daily basis, we just don't realize how crucial or as I believe- what a blessing it is.
In my seminars, whenever I ask people that how many of them had written a letter in the past 6 months or even a year, at most I see 10 hands going up; at one instance, it was just 4. That's why I always encourage people to make the most of this special gift in the most extraordinary possible manner. Whatever you say, whatever you write, do it from you heart, make people feel special.
Send cards and letters to your loved ones to express how much you value them and give out small hand written notes to your friends and associates as a token of your gratitude for their precious time and company. You'll be stunned to see how much people value these small gestures and these go a long way in building a lasting relationship.

But wouldn't that be impractical in today's fast paced and globalized professional world?
It's not just the medium of communicating in which I urge people to sometimes follow the conventional ways; it's also about what goes inside. E-mail, text messages and phone calls are extremely important especially in the professional world as they are quick. I would certainly not recommend you to write a letter to your client or your partner in another country and then wait for 2 weeks to get a reply for something that can be sorted on an E-mail within minutes. What I mean is, that personal touch in whatever you convey, that genuine sense of concern for the other person, and displaying that feeling of gratitude for the one you are writing to should be there no matter whether you write an E-mail, a letter, or even a Whatsapp text.
In fact, why to just keep it confined to the written ones. All these things can be efficiently done during a personal meeting or a phone call as well; they are easy to implement and will be extremely effective.

Don't you sometimes think it's overrated?
Absolutely Not! There's enough data & research to support that. The surprising part is that despite of training people for a long time now, occasionally even I get surprised on knowing some amazing facts. An  article published in the August 2014 edition of the Entrepreneur magazine- 'How do top leaders spend every minute of their day' finds that on an average, a top executive spends around 5 hours everyday in verbal or written communication. That is MASSIVE. We all know that right from the company policies to business strategies, a lot of decisions are taken at the Top Management level and effective/non-effective communication can greatly impact it. Still, right from school to college to organizations, communication is something which is taken for granted or considered secondary at the least. Indra Nooyi rightly said- "You can never over-invest in communication".

What about those who may not be able to express themselves so well?
Many people think that saying or writing something only in 'fancy' way will make an impact.
That's a communication stereotype as I may call it. See it's not a competition, the gesture in itself makes it special. It's not important that you decorate a letter or E-mail beautifully and write poetry, although you may- but that's not the primary intention. Anything expressed clearly, respectfully and above all with good feelings touches the heart of the other person no matter how simply said or written.

Seeing that people have now become more comfortable with text messages or E-mails, any tips on how can we become better at face-to-face conversations?
Unless you frequently deal with emergencies, the first thing to remember is that the person in front of you is always more important than the phone. If you are about to start a meeting and are expecting a call in the same duration, tell the other person upfront- "Sorry, but it's possible I might have to take an important call in between; will try to keep it short". This will show that you greatly value their time and your conversation with them. Also remember that people can see through people. One doesn't have to be an expert on body languages to notice that you are either not interested in the person, or the conversation. Rather, save yourself the embarrassment and avoid meeting in the first place if you genuinely don't want to. Please don't do it just for the sake of doing it, you won't be doing any justice to either of you.
Last but not the least- "For heaven sake keep that phone aside at least for sometime". In your life you will rarely come across a situation which could not be handled a little while later. There's no point in checking your whatsapp or e-mail again & again and then giving a lame excuse- "Oh just in case there's something important"- No, it won't be because if it's urgent, people will call you! Let me go a step further and call it an insult to the person sitting in front of you if you're constantly getting distracted by a DEVICE- a non-living, non-sensible piece of plastic.

Remember, don't worry if you're not exceptionally brilliant at communicating. It's a natural gift, a blessing that you have which can be conditioned and improved with time. Value it, value others and the rest will be just fine...


Monday, 12 June 2017

From the Cubicle to the Cabin

"People don't get promoted for doing their jobs really well, they get promoted for demonstrating their potential to do more"
-- Tara Jaye Frank
(Vice President, Hallmark Inc.)

Getting a promotion is a delightful moment for all. But it also leads to some major changes in our own ways of working as well as our relationship with others, especially when one moves from middle management to the senior management level. A few tips can be helpful for a smoother transition:

1) Remember what brought you here- Out of all the things that fly out of the window when a person rises up the corporate ladder, 'humility' is usually the first one, very closely followed by 'hard work'. Staying connected to your roots and ensuring that basic yet important qualities like these are not left behind is necessary for long term success. If you prefer, ask your boss about the qualities that lead you here and also reflect on your own work in the past, the challenges that you have overcome and the mistakes you have made to extract the learning out of them and to continuing the good work.

2) A little more to the next stop- Top leadership expert Marshall Goldsmith correctly titled his book- "What brought you here won't get you there". The cabin brings along new challenges and responsibilities with it and the way you have worked to come this far may not be ideal to attain the same growth levels. Becoming crystal clear about your roles and responsibilities can help you maintain your growth trajectory and competitive edge. Have a frank conversation with your new boss and team members. It's good to be aware of what they expect from you and at the same time, for them to know if  their expectations are reasonable and attainable. This will help all of you to be on the same page since the very beginning and will prevent any misunderstandings, over-estimations or over-expectations in future.

3) It can be lonely but wait- We all have built workplace friendships, some have more, some have less but we surely have people who are more than just colleagues. In the cabin, you will definitely miss the quick refreshing conversations with the person on the next workstation and those cafeteria breaks whenever you prefer as your new responsibilities may or may not give you the level of liberty you enjoyed earlier. But at the same time, having your own space can help you leverage a very important human quality- "Focus". When distractions reduce, it becomes easier to focus on our work, self-learning, and finding innovative ways of doing things. Moreover, your new team members are also humans having the same emotional needs so you can be sure of finding new buddies quicker than you think.

4) Be prepared to re-win trusts- Let's face it- you'll suddenly become the boss of many who were sitting right next to you just yesterday. Now that you'll be seeing things from a broader perspective, your opinions and point of view might change as you would then need to make decisions for a greater good. People with whom once you worked with may suddenly become skeptical about your actions or expect you to be a changed person simply because of your new designation. To avoid any such misunderstandings, it's important to stay equally connected with them especially for the first few weeks while you settle in your new role. Talk to them as frequently as you did earlier, take a break with them so they don't feel left out and eventually become confident about the fact that only your position has changed- Not You.

5) When in doubt, open your mouth- It doesn't matter if you are an intern in your company or the CEO, every day is a lesson and learning never stops. Just four words for it- "DON'T HESITATE TO ASK". Many senior executives lose their competitive edge simply because they think asking questions or clarifying simple facts will make them look dumb and their juniors might question their capability. Remember- "You are a Human. It's okay if you don't know it all; till the time you are willing to learn, you're good"

There surely must be many more things one could do to ensure that the new corporate journey begins on a positive note. What are your suggestions on it? Drop them in the comments below!

Chintan Srivastava Leadership

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Schedule like the CEO

"Since I have started a family and know that I need to close the office doors sharp at 6, I have become far more productive than the times when I had every opportunity to sit there till late . . .
However, it doesn't deter me from going out of the way for a client in a different time zone or if a special request comes up"

--- Rohit Thakral
Target Integration Ltd.
Dublin, Ireland
It is boring for some, difficult for others but the bottom line is- To lead a more fulfilling and productive life, Scheduling is an absolute necessity. A lot of us might think that this is a very rigid, inflexible & boring way of living life- stuck in the same everyday routine of hourly tasks; but surprisingly- 'It is Not'. As a matter of fact, people who stick to a schedule and are good time managers are found to lead a far more fulfilling & successful life. The secret- "By staying completely focussed on the work at hand in that designated time, they reach a whole new level of mastery in performing & completing that task. Which leaves them with enough time for all the other things they want to pursue (like socializing)"
Of course it is important to be flexible to avoid monotony, to make space for personal commitments, special engagements or events which might suddenly pop up one morning; but compromising upon your priority list might not be a very good option to go about it.
The ability to say- "NO" also greatly helps in managing our time effectively and prioritizing our commitments. But isn't it rude?? Isn't it difficult to 'Refuse' a proposal, an invitation or even a project (which you know you won't be able to fulfil)- Probably Not! A recent article in the 'Business Insider' by Brian de Haaff recommends four ways that can help us become more comfortable while saying No. It says that if a person a) Has a well defined vision and a well structured priority list, b) Genuinely understands the other person's request and the reason behind it, c) Responds quickly to the request and above all d) Explains his/her point well; then there is an extremely less chance that his denial will be perceived in a negative manner. In fact, one of the important identifiers of the fact that you are surrounded by sensible friends and great business associates is that they value your time as much as they value theirs.
In my personal opinion, if there is a single quality that can help us become superb time managers and greatly improve the other avenues in our life, it is DISCIPLINE.  Leadership expert Jim Rohn has rightly said- “Disciplined action is what gives birth to ideas, enterprise and values". But why is it that we are always reluctant to inculcate Discipline in life? Majorly because the results are not immediately visible, but they surely lay a more permanent foundation for success & productivity. When we look at the best & the most productive professionals in the world like the best CEO's, best sales professionals, best consultants we look at the "End Result" & assume them to be 'Gifted'. But we ignore the amount of relentless effort, the amount of discipline that they have followed throughout their lives to be where they are.

Thakral's value for his time, perfect balance between work & family life as well as the ability to go out of the way for a client  reminds me of a superb quote from the Lead Without a Title philosophy- "A commitment to mastery doesn't close at 5 p.m.". (It is just that in his case, it is 6 p.m. !)
'Discipline & Effective Time Management' to 'Success & Productivity' is like 'Rhythm to Music'. Without proper rhythm, even the best composed piece of music would lose its lustre. Times are changing and so are people along with it; but sometimes following pre-modern rules of living is the best you can do. I decide to live in accordance with the age old saying of- "If you don't value time, time will not value you". What about you ? ? ? 
Aim for Nothing but the Peak!
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Monday, 28 July 2014

INTERSTICES- Our Gateway to Productivity

"We have a lot of empty spaces in our lives. I call them INTERSTICES. Say you are coming over to my place. You are in an elevator and while you are coming up, I am waiting for you. This is an interstice, an empty space. I work in empty spaces. While waiting for your elevator to come up from the first to the third floor, I have already written an article"

-----Umberto Eco
Author- The Name of the Rose
These are the words of an award winning Globally recognized writer whose book 'The Name of the Rose' sold more than 50 million copies worldwide. We all can agree that becoming an award winning writer cannot just be a matter of chance or luck, it needs dedication, commitment and perfect utilisation of one's time.

Experts, philosophers and expert philosophers across the world have wisely said that Time is our most valuable possession; but they have also argued that it is our most wasted resource.
But talking realistically, aren't we always out of time, how can we waste time? We are always busy, so busy- meetings, work, socialization. Yes of course we are "Spending" time in some or the other way so sometimes, it is difficult to differentiate between the time we are wasting from that we are spending. Unknowingly, we come across a lot of interstices and before we figure out what to do, they are already gone.

Let's identify some ways in which we can fill these interstices to live a more productive, more fulfilling and a more successful life:

1) COMMUTING- Our commute time is practically the best but unfortunately the most underrated example of an interstice. No matter which mode of transport you take- public or private, commute time can be leveraged in so many ways. While you are on the bus or train, read that best selling book which you always wanted to or listen to that piece of new instrumental music which your colleague recommended. Enhance your motivational levels, be more productive or learn the art of living a contended life by listening to some great audio programs while driving to work. Above all, light music is known for making people calmer so can it can be highly beneficial while driving where it is important to be patient and keep al your senses active.

2) WAITING- In the world of smartphones, tablets and on-the-go internet, it is easy to find something interesting anytime & anywhere you want to. So the next time you are waiting for your cab at the office reception or for you loved one at a restaurant; check out the latest research article on a topic related to your profession so that you can stay ahead of your competition, take a quick look on the latest blog post on how to make your loved one feel special or take the initiative to make that phone call to an old friend to whom you wanted to talk for so long.

3) QUEUING UP- Right from depositing our utility bills to the check-in process before a flight, waiting in queues have become a part of our daily routine and that's again an interstice which most people cannot fill up. Robin Sharma recommends a good way to fill this gap- 'Carry a book wherever you go'. Yes it might seem awkward at the beginning to start reading at every place where you expect to stand in a queue, but think about it, isn't it worth it? So while the person in front of you is shouting on the top of his voice due to an extra cent charged on his last international call, you would be improving your patience levels with some wonderful meditation harmonies, visualising a beautiful scene from a story or might just make a new friend by simply striking a conversation with a person next to you.

4) CREATE YOUR OWN- Good people are a blessing and communication is a gift. We should consider ourselves lucky if we get an opportunity to spend time with some good friends over lunch or at a social gathering. But something equally sacred is- "Silence". Yes, you can create your own interstice and use it the way you want to by simply saying a Strict NO to Distractions and a Polite NO to people when something more important has to be dealt with. Don't worry about sounding offensive just because you turned down a dinner invitation to take a long walk in some fresh air or to write a beautiful poetry. A "True Friend" will always understand and respect your situations which require some personal time and will support you with the same.

So now that we have identified our 'Time Robbers' let us avoid making excuses about our so-called busy schedules and start spending that quality time doing the things we love, with the people we love or simply just simply for your own love.

Aim for Nothing but the Peak!
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Friday, 16 May 2014

The Leaders Who Value What They Hated

"To instil good work ethics in me, my father made me take a job as a clerk for $40/month in the small town of Shahjahanpur. All I had for transportation was a bicycle & the nearest movie hall was 12 miles away. I hated everyday at work...."

                                                               -- Dr. Vijay Mallya
                                                                  Chairman- United Breweries Group
                                                                  Team Principal- Force India Formula 1 team.

Surprising- Isn't it??
Who would have imagined that the billionaire "King of Good times", who is a paradigm for lavish living, would have earned $40 a month and commuted on a bicycle at some point in his life. And it has nothing to do with money, because his father- Vittal Mallya was equally wealthy at that time as well. Vijay Mallya surely had every reason to hate his work, but his father, being much more experienced most likely looked at the bigger perspective and decided to condition his son in this way, to prepare him for the bigger roles in life.

The internationally acclaimed leadership expert- Robin Sharma has rightly said- "Most of us focus on what we are getting rather than what we are becoming" but eventually the latter matters more.
If we take a quick look at our past experiences and that of others, we will surely recall many instances that the moments which we once hated turned out to be the stepping stones for our physical, mental or psychological conditioning and made us stronger in one or more of these aspects. As a child, I hated it when my father forced me to walk many kilometres in one stretch just for letting me get used to it. Today I appreciate the fact that he made me walk long distances as it conditioned my stamina & has turned out to be extremely beneficial in terms of my health and also whenever a mode of transport is not easily accessible to me. Its like any other challenging situation, tough at the beginning, and much easier when you get used to it.

Lakshmi Mittal- the billionaire steel magnate, believes that his present day achievements are the results of his childhood hardships. Hailing from a small village in the Indian state of Rajasthan which lacked even the basic amenities, Mittal mentioned in one of his interviews- "When you live in a joint family, you get less attention from your parents, which persuades you to study hard, work hard and makes you more independent".
An important quality that can be learnt from successful leaders is- "Persistence". Legend has it that great people never tried to escape a situation no matter how much they hated it. They endured it, fought with it, lived with it but giving up was probably the last thing on their mind. It was persistence that helped Lakshmi Mittal secure admission in a top notch English medium college despite of the initial reluctance of the principal due to Mittal's Hindi speaking background. This young boy who was initially at the verge of getting rejected eventually topped the college.

Another key to having a successful business and an amazing personal life which most leaders follow is- "Humility". And the lessons learnt from these so called times of hatred, prove to be extremely beneficial in keeping their feet firmly on ground even after achieving tremendous levels of success and thinking about the well-being of people working under them or those are not unfortunately at that level as they are today. Mallya enjoys quality time on his yacht (The Indian Empress) yet humbly pats the back of his security guard as he knows what it is to ride a bicycle. Despite of owning the most expensive home in the world, Mukesh Ambani is involved in a number of charities for the betterment of the poor & needy as he knows what it is to live in a 2BHK apartment; and steel baron Mittal would still pay attention to even the minute details of his multi billion dollar business as he knows what it is to live in a small village with no electricity.
If at all for once, just once we try to introspect the toughest times of our lives, we would be amazed to find striking improvements it has made to our present day personality.

"It is the Challenge that makes you work harder, when you have so many challenges, you become more determined" says Mittal...

Aim for Nothing but the Peak!
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Thursday, 20 March 2014


Leadership Story

A very talented poet, who mostly wrote about beauty was once asked the secret of the perfection he portrayed in his writings:
"There is no secret" he said, "I am just like any other person blessed with this extraordinary gift of writing; like we all are blessed with some or the other gift. The only open secret I can share is INSPIRATION. I listen music from different parts of the world and songs in the languages which I don't even have a clue of. Right from Arabic, Baloch, Pashto to my favourite- Turkish (The faint sound of the song "Boş Bardak" by Fettah Can could be heard in the background). It makes me feel lost in the inner joy which resides in the heart of every human being and helps me bring a sense of divinity, purity and depth in whatever I write."
It is natural for us to think that such wonderful lines might be a result of a lot of hard work and burning the mid night oil for many hours, but the perfectionist poet has a different opinion towards it. "Frankly speaking it does not take that much time for me to actually write a poem" he says. "Yes it takes a lot of time to 'think' about it but that thinking is effortless. My qualities of being a keen observant and living in the moment allow anything and everything to inspire me and I just need to incorporate these in my poetry. Even the thought of writing something fills positive energy within me, so much so, that I sometimes even wake up early morning with excitement to perform some lovely experiments with beautiful words.
He continues- "There is so much, honestly, so much inspiration in the world in the form of good music, good poetry, good literature and even scenic natural beauty, that it has the ability to take us places both with respect to our imagination, our creation and in our personal as well as professional lives. And as per my own personal experiences- 'The music you listen to doesn't necessarily has to be in the language you know'. Music is beyond the barriers of language and any piece of beautiful music inspires me to see the world around even more beautifully. It also sub-consciously inspires me to write more & more wonderful pieces of poetry"
On being asked what he himself thinks about his quality of being a superb writer & poet and also about all the appreciation he receives from the people who read his work or from those who are actually the subjects of his writings, the  Perfectionist Poet smiled and  humbly replied- "It is less about my skill and more about the beautiful creations of God for whom I write because- Every beautiful piece of  poetry has an even more beautiful inspiration behind it"....
Aim for Nothing but the Peak!
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