Monday, February 28, 2011

My Wife Comes to Town - Humor Story

Funny, very funny story about my wife who hails from a village and her move into a big city. Good dose of humor, I promise.

A wife does not make a good subject for writing, but mine does. At first let me brief you about my marriage. I happened to be an officer with a bank in a primitive village and unfortunately fell in love with a girl who rescued me from a bear. I promptly married her quite sure of my safety .......and lived sadly thereafter.

For a few months, I faced a rough time trying to inculcate good manners in her. She would tuck the hem of the saree in her hip and sweep the garden as if she had a violent fit. Neighbors, at first, concluded that I had a lovely maid. She would scratch her back with the broom standing near the doorway, while I discussed business with colleagues in the garden. At other times, she would wear a night gown the wrong side, trip on it and collapse on the floor. She was also found to smile and giggle at passers-by and soon people were crowding before our home to see the new “evening show”.

She had her own way of inviting guests by jumping and shouting and running into my room to inform me that the guests had arrived. This resulted in first-time guests running helter-skelter thinking she had spotted a king cobra. Some scooted assuming they had entered the wrong house.

My lady secretary was the cause of a broken rib one day. For some reason she came home (to see the latest show, I guess) and at her entry, my wife’s face flushed in anger and she looked daggers at me. The green eyed monster surged within and out came a battering ram that hit my butt, resulting in a coconut-sized swelling that stayed for a month.

Later when I invited my secretary home one evening, she resigned and fled the village.

One day when I was chatting with my friends in the hall, I heard my wife shout, “please come quickly, I’ve got myself entangled in the night gown.” Embarrassed to the core, I excused myself and dashed into the bathroom to find her choking under the tap.

She wouldn’t let me step out alone. Wherever I went she would go too. Her head was filled to the brim with silly superstitions. If a dog howled at night, it meant that someone would die in the neighborhood. So she would not let me sleep the whole night, rushing through the gate and running all over the neighborhood.

You are perhaps wondering how I bore all this. Stoic indeed!

But I persevered and succeeded in changing her. Today, she’s a sight to behold and her etiquette could put to shame even aristocrats. Now she finds fault with my manners.

Guess, with women, you can never win!

Rajasekar Raju KS

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What an Executive Coach Can Do for YOU?

Across Corporate America coaching is routine, but Corporate India is yet to wake up to the benefits of coaching its mid-level employees. KS Rajasekar explores the process and results of coaching.

Note: This is an article I wrote when I was with (currently off air)

While it’s welcomed in the West, why hasn’t coaching taken off in a big way in India? In some ways our culture doesn’t permit high costs for counseling and personal advice. And the corporate outlook is that anyway the seniors are supposed to mentor/ coach the juniors, why should we pay heavily for coaching by external people. Or is it that they aren’t very aware of the actual benefits of a coaching program? Explaining the reasons, Ajay Nangalia, an executive coach, says, “Right now, the awareness of coaching and its benefits as a leadership development option have not yet been appreciated by our market. Only companies that have coaching for their employees in the West, now seek coaching for their Indian counter parts. So essentially, the awareness is very low amongst the senior leadership in India. That seems to be the main reason.”

Currently, it looks like the only sector that seeks coaching for mid or senior level employees is the IT sector, perhaps, because they are carrying their US experiences to the workplace here in India. Nabendu Gupta, Director – Performance Edge, Kolkata, concurs, “It’s only the IT majors that have taken to coaching in some way.”

Relevance of coaching
The challenges at work are the starting point of a coaching process and the office dilemmas makes it very contextual, and relevant to the work environment. Unlike training which is generalised and delivered to a group, coaching is highly individualised and relates to specific organisation goals and challenges for the coachee. All the experiences, challenges and gaps are within the organisation’s framework. Therefore it’s easier to relate, apply, learn and correct course while on a coaching mode.

Isn’t coaching more relevant to the organisation and individual’s issues than general training programs, and therefore much more productive? “There are limitations to training. Coaching approaches development differently. It is more need based and focuses on individual growth areas for development. In this sense it is far more effective than training. Having said this, training and coaching complement each other. Skill impartation is often sustained when training is supported by coaching. So yes, the answer to your question is that coaching is far more effective than just training. However, I would not want to write off training but rather look at both supporting each other as different streams in the common development process,” says Floyd Vaz, a Bangalore-based coach.

Coaching - a reward for talented employees
Every organisation has a need to identify, train and groom future leaders if it has to succeed in a competitive business environment. While the constant churn is a worry for managements, the other driver is the pace at which the market is changing, technology is evolving and innovations are happening. So businesses can’t afford to be laid back and run the risk of being left behind or run over. It’s an organisational challenge to retain talent. And in an employee’s list of what might make him consider sticking onto an organisation, training and development benefits are high priority. Stars in any company soon run of steam if they are not properly engaged and tapped into. Coaching certainly is very satisfying to such individuals whose performance is evidently enhanced after the process.

When does a mid-career professional need to hire a coach?
When executives feel they know where to go but don’t know how to reach there, then it’s time for a coach to step in. Essentially, the individual must be aware of the inadequacies and be willing to be coached. When organisations see a change for the future organisational leader, they hire a coach. The employee may be readied for extra responsibility or a new project that calls for a leadership upgrade.

So does it mean that if there’s no change, an employee doesn’t need a coach? Quite often, since senior executives are caught in a perspective of one’s own, an objective look by an outsider offers immense value. Relooking at existing problems and working a way out is also a coach’s priority.

“If coaching is about ‘developing the best potential of any executive,’ it implies that any time is the best time to appoint an executive coach. Another good time for someone to work with an executive coach would be when he or she needs to grasp the finer points of leadership. Remember, leaders will emerge from the organisation’s manager pool, but leadership is a learned craft and, most managers, even those who have come from the best management schools, may only be good at managing but not necessarily adept at leading. Coaching is perhaps the best development methodology for such situations,” explains Floyd Vaz.

Benefits of coaching
A key pull in coaching is that there’s a high level of confidentiality maintained between the coach and the coachee. Once a degree of confidence is attained, an individual expresses his inadequacies and personal experiences and opens up to the coach, since that’s the only way to plug the behavioural or skill gaps and enhance effectiveness. This may just not be possible in a training class or a session with a boss. The coach is non-threatening since he’s willing to understand the coachee’s gaps and work on them with specific goals. The coach being an external professional would not be able to relate what is stated by the coachee, to anybody within the company. That provides a lot of comfort to the coachee. Moreover, the coach is a partner in this event and is likely to provide a perspective to the coachee and serve as a sounding board. The coach can be objective since he is not impacted by your performance. And coaches tell you the truth, because they don’t have a reason to please you. That’s very important for the coachee.

Coaching is a perfect choice for middle career professionals (midpros) because of the unique phase of their corporate life. They have about 8 to 10 years of experience, jumped two or three jobs and are currently in some ways underutilised in their workplace. But what are actual benefits for them. Nabendu Gupta reasons that coaching “Helps them take corrective action on career blocking factors before it is too late.” In what ways you may ask. Ajay Nangalia throws more light, “There are huge benefits for the coachee: he or she can explore issues with an impartial sounding board and this helps the coachee think better. It helps him or her think and deal with complex situations clearly, and then they know how to deal with it more effectively. My experience is just talking and explaining the situation helps the coachee see things in a new light! It can help mid-career professionals re-look at their current competency set, and chalk out a whole new development plan to take them to the next level. It could be to be more effective on a global scale, to run an operation independently, or to find balance in one’s life. Coaching can help mid-career professionals re-energise their relationships at work by helping them find purpose and a plan to take them higher. “

Too often it can become lonely at the workplace. And sometimes a midpro may not feel at ease sharing his thoughts with peers or bosses. A coach can be a confidant with whom you can share what you want to do and why you desire that action. And he can help you achieve it in a very satisfying manner. He can work on your indecisions, confidence and attitude by giving you a 360 degree feedback and making you look at different perspectives.

What are the benefits for the company?
Improved leadership is one key benefit. It’s certainly speaks about the employer’s commitment to retain best talent by rewarding them with satisfying development programs. “Companies benefit tremendously because many times the money invested in leadership training programs has little impact, since there is no link between what is taught and what is implemented. In addition, each senior leader has unique development needs that cannot be addressed in leadership seminars. In coaching, the senior professional identifies the development agenda and an action plan to implement agenda. This leads to a better return on the training investment, as there is a commitment to change from the coachee’s side,” details Ajay Nangalia. Companies can design a customised development program for each senior professional based on his or her strengths, which are aligned to the company’s goals.

The coaching process
Any program must be over a period with goals being clearly defined, feedback shared and effectiveness measured. How does the coaching process work? How long does a typical coaching relationship last? “In coaching, agenda and the responsibility for change rests with the coachee. The coachee defines his or her own goals and sets the action plans, typically over a six-month engagement. The coach is an enabler of the thinking process, and a sounding board. The coach raises different perspectives and helps the coachee reflect on the impact of various actions. The coachee also sets effectiveness standards and tracks change. The reason coaching succeeds – this will surprise many – is precisely because it is completely the coachee’s program – not the coach’s. Coaching is not a quick fix solution. The coach also shies away from offering advice or solutions to the coachee; he does not tell the coachee what to do. The coach is a catalyst for the coachee’s own thoughts and actions,” points out Ajay.

Does coaching also look at emotional and behavioural gaps or just career related issues? “Coaching can address the emotional, behavioural, skill and/or competency development issues of an individual. It can also address individual career related issues as well as team and organisational development issues. Because of its short-to -medium-term nature, a good coach will at the outset want to know specifically and clearly the area/goal an individual, team or organisation wants to work on or better still, get them to define the outcome they are looking for in that area with timelines,” details Floyd.

Does coaching have to be face-to-face only?
Well, most coaches like to have as many face-to-face interactions as possible. But, it never happens all the time. So the process initially begins with 2 to 3 hour sessions once a month, backed by smaller sessions over phone and chat. Floyd Vaz avers, “Coaching is best done across the table one-to-one and can be supported by brief in-between-meetings, phone and chat services. But when this is not possible, the Internet chat facilities like SKYPE are a good alternate. I personally prefer SKYPE over the telephone because of the file transfer features. If a coaching intervention has to be facilitated over the Internet only, this is fine, but every attempt must be made for both the coach and the person being coached to meet across the table once in a while for ‘rapport building.’

“Coaching is especially helpful for mid-career professionals, as they have achieved functional expertise and success but need to understand how to move to the next level. The stumbling blocks could be self-limiting beliefs, social intelligence skills, or skills to help them succeed in a global economy. A coach can help each individual identify such blocks – often with the help of 360 degree feedback – and develop personalised plans to overcome them. A coach could also help these professionals assess their life priorities, values, and then align these to organisation realities. This would help manage any conflict between personal values and the demands of the organization,” signs off Ajay.

So be it promotion, leadership role or relooking at challenges within the organisation, it’s time to look out for a coach.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wanting Something - Zen Motivational Story

This is part of a series of short motivational stories I'm retelling because they are pearls that inspire.

A young man from the village went to meet a Buddhist monk whose fame had spread far and wide.

“Master I want to become your disciple,” said the man.

“But why?” asked the monk.

“Because I want to find God,” said he.

The monk dragged him to the nearby stream and put his head under water. The man struggled, flailed his hands and legs.

After a minute, the monk took him out of the water. The man was gasping for breath.

“What did you want most when you was under water?” asked the monk.

“Air,” replied the frightened man.

“Good. Now go away and come back to me when you want God as much as you wanted air when you were under water,” replied the Buddhist monk.

Notes: The search for truth is not a mere mortal exercise. The disciple has to be ready for the exploration. And the master will know when he sees one. The wanting for truth must come from deep within.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Short Self Belief Quotes to Inspire

Top motivational quotes to instill belief in your own abilities.

Trust and belief are two prime considerations. You must not allow yourself to be opinionated.
James Dean

Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail.
Charles F. Kettering

We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

If you wish others to believe in you, you must first convince them that you believe in them.
Harvey MacKay

The want of belief is a defect that ought to be concealed when it cannot be overcome.
Jonathan Swift

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Son Who Made a Coffin for his Living Father

This is one of the series of 50 Best Short Motivational Stories I've done. I tell these stories to inspire and motivate people.

There lived an old farmer and his son in a village close to the blue mountains. Both tilled the land together and sold the grains to buy goods they needed.

Over time, the farmer grew old and could no longer work. So he sat on a stone by the edge of the river and did nothing all day.

The son who went to work all day thought one day, “He sits here all day doing nothing. He has become useless.”

The next day he made a coffin of fine wood and asked his father to lie down in it. He dragged the coffin towards the edge of the cliff.

Soon he heard a knock from inside the coffin, “knock, knock”.

He opened it.

“I know you’re going to push me off the cliff. But I have one request. Throw me over the cliff but save this nice coffin, for your sons made find use for it.”

Motivational Story Notes: Do unto others what you’d want them to do unto you, says the Bible. Before you say or do anything, ask yourself if you’d be happy if you underwent the same thing. Earn good karma in life by helping others and making life better for others around you. Or your bad karma will come back to haunt you. Just because something is old, it has not lost its use. It’s merely served its purpose.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Snakes are harmless creatures, you shouldn't hurt them

A co-worker, Babu VL, was sharing his anxiety about spotting a big snake is his backyard and I suggested that he write to Romulus Earl Whitaker (born May 23, 1943) a herpetologist, wildlife conservationist and founder of the Madras Snake Park. He was surprised when a team mate replied. The email is reproduced below.

Here are some facts you didn't know about snakes. Shoo away your ignorance about these awesome creatures. Go read on!

Dear Mr. Babu,

Going by the photograph and your description, the snake is probably a cobra or rat snake. I do understand your concern regarding your kids, however, there is no need to panic.

Snakes living in residential areas are quite common and tend to keep to themselves. Snakes are shy animals and will generally choose to escape if you happen to encounter them. Contrary to popular belief, they will not deliberately chase humans, but if provoked or cornered they may bluff or even attempt to bite. Most people who have been bitten were attempting to kill or handle a snake or have trodden on it

Here are a few generic guidelines on living with snakes -
1. Don’t provide hiding places for snakes. Clear junk from around habitation, unless you want to encourage snakes ... which is also fine !
2. Watch where you walk. Use adequate precautions in known snake habitats.
3. If seen, allow the snake to escape.
4. Use a light when walking around in the dark.
5. Use proper shoes or boots and long trousers, especially when walking in the dark or in undergrowth.
6. Watch over your kids / pets.
The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust does not provide a snake-catching service. You could however contact the various wildlife NGO's or animal welfare organisations in the city to enquire on the availability of such a service, in the event of a snake entering your home.

Thanks for writing in.

Regards, Tarun.

Tarun Nair

Assistant Curator, Madras Crocodile Bank Trust.