Thursday, October 11, 2018

Slice of Work #16 — Of Career Setbacks and Renewal

This was a long time ago. Ram a serious professional had a cushy job, a premier club membership and life was good. But he was not happy. He thought he “lived in a land of two shadows". His simple wife was a happy-go-lucky woman to whom a career undulates with time.

One day his wife asked him to quit. No point being unhappy with life. The money and the perks could wait. Ram quit and spent much of his time asking what he was good at and what he loved most. Took feedback of friends and colleagues. He became a lot calmer and now his children started to side up to him to speak. He took a lot of feedback from friends and colleagues and listed out what he did not enjoy doing.

He learnt a lot about himself and including his dark side. He could now look at himself in the mirror and feel fine. A could of months later he found a good job, not all that high paying and the brand was not well known either. He did not care. He liked the person who interviewed him – Yes, such things happen!

There was no looking back. He could laugh at silly jokes and not stress about work. He had found his edge and his happiness. And the firm loved him too. All owed to a simple woman who asked a simple question of his ask of life – his wife.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Slice of Work #15 — Culture Drives Policy, Not the Other Way

This was a fine mid-sized culturally vibrant dream company to work for. It had a large heart. It attracted good talent and much of it was owed to its CEO, a very fine man who was both genuine and charismatic.

The HR head met a candidate, Nirmala, who had a career break. She had a great background and experience. Just when the job offer was going to be made, Nirmala said that she wanted flexibility – work from home, work part-time and work at will, at least for a year plus to look after her child. The HR head heard himself agreeing to each of these although they were not part of the policy.

Convincing his colleagues and his boss was easy, for the culture was supportive. All this was almost 20 years ago when such things were really unheard of. Nirmala turned out to be one of the best a really a refreshing professional who brought in high energy to the place.

The HR Head moved on. He had long forgotten about what he had done. Nirmala did not. Nirmala recounted this positive experience at a National event where she spoke passionately about what this meant to her.

Her story was impactful—the ability to do things for others is within us and it is for us to bend the rules. People of influence can support people who are great talent. Flexibility starts with us being flexible in our mind.

Nirmala’s story reminded me that it is not a policy that drives culture, but culture that drives policy … and happiness at work. And someone who can take a lead on it.  

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Slice of Work #14 — The Man Who Hired His Boss

I knew Thomas who wanted to move out of his firm and had landed a cushy job in the same city that he lived in. A big plus. The added advantage was the prospect of some stocks that would fetch him good money. He seemed coasting along in his life after he had put down his papers.

As was his nature, he called up a few of his friends to let them know about it. When he called up one of his ex-team members, Sheen, he got a strange response. While all others had supported his move, Sheen was hesitant and Thomas asked him about it. Sheen said, “Thomas, I have been thinking about who should be my new boss in the firm that I have joined. I think it should be you.” Thomas was a bit hesitant but he asked Sheen to progress the referral.

Things moved fast and he got selected. It was an MNC and the leaders he met were very fine people. He forgot all about the stock and the money. It did not seem to matter. The only rub was that it was in another city. He called up Sheen and told him about his selection. Sheen was at his persuasive best to take the job. Thomas consulted his family and the shift happened. A new city, a new culture and new settings.

Thomas grew in his role and did well for himself as I knew he would. I have often thought of Sheen. He was so selfless and had the courage to ask his ex-boss to join the firm that he was working. In a way he hired his boss. I knew Sheen and asked him the reason for asking Thomas to join his firm and laughingly he said, “A known devil is better than an unknown one.” He is a good man and I don’t think I learnt enough from him, he added.

Sheen moved on to become a leader in another firm and is doing well for himself. Leaders are made, and made differently. Each one of them. The best of them find goodness in others and even hire them as their bosses.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Slice of Life #13 — Unpacking Mother’s Suitcase

suit case motherMy mother was a very meticulous woman and raised us as such. She was particular about how a bed should be made. In those days, we had mats that we had to roll them to perfection. Folding of clothes was another of her demands. Folded to perfection, putting many a launderer out of work. It was more of her need to have us believe mundane work needed more attention than we paid attention to. Her credo was – ‘A place for everything and everything in its place.’ My dad happily borrowed it and made it his. She did not claim any patent rights to it. A liberal she was, yes.

We all grow old and as did she. One day, we persuaded her to come and stay with us for good. She loved a patch of green at our place. Insisted on tulasi or basil, flowering plants and banana saplings. She used to go to the small garden and plucked every single flower for her ‘Gods’. I even chided her once that she must leave some on the plants for us to enjoy them. She was adamant. Slowly she stopped going to the garden as she was unable to climb the few steps without assistance.

As for her room, the things in her life were all over the room. They were in full cry to anyone walking past. A bit of an eyesore. I had to close the door of her room when we had visitors. One day she asked for the ‘blue’ trolley bag that I used. All the items she needed were on several side tables and when I asked about it, she said that they needed to be visible and within easy reach. She said that the chest of drawers was useless as she did not know what was in them. Come Diwali, I decided to clean her room and put things in place, tucked away neatly and told her about it.

She said nothing. I did see a fleeting shadow of sadness in her eyes. She veered away not wanting to meet my eyes. She was far too much in love with us. As for the suitcase, I got her sarees in them into the cabinet took away the trolley bag she did not need anymore. The room looked spick and span. There was an overhang of a heaviness of heart that I did not notice. Amma passed away a month later.

A couple of months later, I used the blue trolley bag and found that its zip had given up. She did not want me to use it and hence asked for it. And did not want to tell me. These days, the room looks clean, and each time I go in, I feel it was better off with the odds strewn around within easy reach of the only person who loved me unconditionally – my mother. I realized that old people needed an understanding beyond cleanliness. A sensitivity beyond compare. The blue trolley bag was unpacked and tucked away, the emotions were not. They are alive and each time I look at the trolley, it reminds me of her and my spectacles mists up again.