Thursday, December 24, 2009

ISIS (Finishing School) Morning Walk Sessions - Are you not Happy at your Workplace – Survive or Quit?

Are you not Happy at your Workplace – Survive or Quit?

Where do we spend most of our life time? Is that with family and friends or in your work place?

Which one occupies much of your life time during your prime age?

If we analyse and arrive at a conclusion most of us will say it is about the work place, working environment and co-workers, whether managers, co-workers, customers or vendors who will continuously occupy you and engage you either directly or indirectly. This means your happiness and your ability to deliver happiness to others be it family and friends or those who surround you completely depends on how happy you are in your work place.

If you are not happy at your work place then every single minute or second or going to work every day is a challenge. The causes for your unhappiness may be due to many aspects.

Your manager who is either bad or you think is bad; you feel that you are expected to deliver by stretching to a break point. It could be because you are expected to share the falling revenues by taking a pay cut which you are sure or feel is due to inefficiency of someone else not doing his . It also could be because the team that you are working is friendly or toxic. Given an option you will leave the place but you are forced to stay put it provides more than what the same effort can provide outside or you are just waiting for your Stock Options to mature or there is a carrot dangling in terms of a promotion or shift to another department which will provide an exit point.

I had faced several situations during my professional life. When I was due to a long waited promotion “one in the evaluation committee happened to be vocal and had said “He should not be promoted because he could not deliver what I wanted him to” The simple reason for the same was that I did not please him in order him to please someone in the customers place for other than professional pleasures. I was not ready to compromise the professional ethics and asked the gentleman a written instruction to carry out his wishes. This had remained with him and ensured that I lost out when it mattered.

When I found out the reasons for me losing the promotion my instant reaction was “I will see to it that he pays for it etc, etc” but my friend who was a junior and younger advice me “gnana this is not like you, keep your cool as always, there are better things waiting for you than this so be happy this did not happen”. Rather than crying foul over the matter longer I started to work towards reaching far higher than that position of customer support manager and this became the first trigger for BBSSL’s foundation. Had my friend not intervened and advised me at that instant, my bad attitude and unprofessionalism would have sabotaged me forever.

Lesson Learned: Reasons and Causes for unhappiness may be many, maintain professionalism avoid and correct a bad attitude instantly else it will be sabotaging you.

Over the last 37 years of my professional carrier, I have spent more than 80% of my life time on work place and work related activities either at home or at office. I have lived with work and gone home to sleep or take care of personal responsibilities. I am sure this applies to many of us and hence being happy at workplace makes more sense.

There is no one who does not want to be happy at all times. When someone says or feels un-happy, there is something wrong, which is elementary and the same is experienced very deep within his or her mind and impacts a lot. One should consider it as a wakeup call the moment one starts the feeling of un-happiness. If you are not heeding to the call of some part of your biology immediately, this could be the start of an infection which could take time to heal. The cause of the un-happiness may be yourself, you may be part of the problem. In that case the solution is within you. The statement “I am not happy or not satisfied with what I am doing” will do no trick.

If you are not satisfied with your job or you are not happy because your boss or your co-workers are not c o-operating with you for or any other reasons, the best way is to explore ways to enhance your contribution to the team and organization. Work hard to upgrade yourself cover that weakness that causes un-happiness to you or those around you. There are people who say “This is boring and un-interesting” and this can become the core reason to cause un-happiness. In my views no work is uninteresting; it is the way that we execute the same is un-interesting. Innovate and do the same work differently and make it interesting. In most of the cases we have no option but to do the work and what is the point in continuing to feel bad about the same. Accept the reality and make things happy going. Once you start doing this you will not allow your feeling to boil and hurt yourself and others around you.

There is an interesting advertisement for a job portal in Indian TV Channels where the name of the boss “Hari Sado” is spelled by his team members as “H for Hitler, A for arrogant etc etc” and also we have heard many a times that people writing their resignations in a fit of anger and then either suffering or taking it back. Such conditions and expression of anger will make you lose respect and authority in the organization for ever. It also can seriously impact your current job and also any future assignments in other organizations as the world is connected and the news is not confined to this place only.

You also do not know when you will work with the same person again or reporting to him in another organization. Or the same person might become your customer or part of an interview board when you appear for a plum post. At times this person might be sitting in a right position to sign a great purchase order which would have catapulted your startup to the stars.

Start identifying the signs of unhappiness early

Sleeplessness or getting angry for no reason or getting irritated on co-workers and family members, seeking comforts through sleep, alcohol are signs that you should not ignore. These are the basic signs of un-happiness at work or indicators or stress and emotional disturbances. Under such situations it is always better to seek advice from someone who you know can give you inputs, go for a long walk to analyse the cause for the symptoms. In the worst case meet a counsellor and discuss.

By facing the reality head on you can address unhappiness. I had to face a serious conflict during my career. I was in Delhi and I needed another two years there so that my wife would have completed her tenure to earn her government pension and I also my ESOPs would have matured. However overnight I was transferred to Bangalore to lower position. It has caused me one of the worst possible nightmares in life. I had gone for a long walk more than 10KM , rather taking the bus I walked my way to home.

When I reached home past mid night I knew that I needed to face the reality and reported in Bangalore two days back. I accepted everything that was thrown at with humility and happiness and did not allow the changed condition on which I had no influence to overtake me. The sense of anger on those decision makers gave way to just reason. I accepted that “The one replaced me was better than me in some way and I could not do that to remain on what I deserved”. With this approach I got over that great pain and made efforts and got my wife transferred to Bangalore and the happiness returned back.

I changed my approach to the job and the people who made the difference. These solutions made me to survive and even thrived in the job that was less than optimal to satisfy me.

It is not that I had done all this by myself. Some of my trusted friends came into consult. I had brainstormed with them all the options available to me and areas to improve my current skill set. These sessions had given me confidence to learn new skills, even go to another friend within the company asking for another position (This did not happen because the first question that he asked was “Do you like the current work, which I said yes and he gave inputs to remain and prosper in the same place). Also people gave me inputs in managing the work life balance during the period as I was not ready leave my young daughter alone.

I faced the reality head on and took actions to come on the main stream rather than allowing the serious unhappiness to sabotage me. I did develop a plan to meet the challenge, made a list of good points about remaining within the current job and a list of good people within the group. One of the good point that gave me strength the short time to commute as I could walk to office from my own house in which I never lived after purchasing three years back.

Takeaways for the day

Differentiate between what you can change and what you can't.

· Take responsibility for making a change.

· Focus on making the best of a bad situation.

· Do not assume nothing will ever change.

· Do not go at it alone

Thursday, November 26, 2009

ISIS (Finishing School) Morning Walk Sessions - When, Should you be feeling like an Executive/Officer?

When, Should you be feeling like an Executive/Officer?

My father was heading a Tea and Rubber Estate of Shaw –Wallace where more than 400 families lived and he was treated like “God” by all the workers. He had the power to dismiss any one or take any one on work. I do not remember a single incident where he had asked someone to be dismissed but there are innumerable incidents where people have come at odd times and got employed. Still one incident remains green in my mind at all times. This is about one called “Seerpadam” who got a job for his family, married to the girl who looked after my young sisters, used this to promote himself and to survive and then turned against my father causing immense unpleasant moments and then became a lunatic(mad) but was treated by my dad again to make him alright. I had answers for the question why the estate people were treating my father as God but I never had an answer why my father used to run whenever he hears the sound of Estate Superintendent’s car coming into the Estate. Many a times he has left his food and ran off to meet the Estate Superintendent in a strategic place, saluting him with great obedience even though he had not done anything wrong nor was having food at home during his working hours. My mom used to comment saying “This person selects odd and out of working hours to visit the estate and trouble us, given an option we should leave this place and go away the next day”.

I have seen people queuing up to take my father’s blessings on “Tamil New Year Eve” but the same man bends backward when he faces his boss.

When I questioned my father for his approach towards his people and the boss, he used to say

“When you become responsible for somebody’s happiness you will realize”

For me, the superintendent named Fonseka was an executive and not my father because he was controlling my venerable father.

May be this was the first time that I have thought about an executive.

On 17th Feb 1977, I was attending Air Force recruitment and I was rejected from the final interview due to underweight. One Sergeant Balbir Sing saw me standing in the group of rejected people and asked me “ What happened to you, you have done your written test exceedingly well” When I told him that I was under weight, he pulled me out of the group and took me to Wing Commander SK Bhalla and told him “ Sir this boy has done his test exceedingly great, should we reject him due to underweight? Let him eat in our mess for a month then he will become alright. He is underweight because he is poor and not able to feed himself full” WG Cdr Bhalla not only recruited me but also recommended extra diet for three months. For my fellow this was a mystery and now if any one remembers this after reading this will realize why I got special treatment then.

I found a new meaning for executive on that day by understanding the power to transform one’s life and destiny for good.

Not only Sgt Balbir and Wg Cdr Bhalla changed my life but saved a family of 8 that day.

The next encounter happened when I was working in Air Force and deputed to a place called NAL near Bikaneer. I was supposed to be appearing for my AMIE papers and leave was denied due to non availability of a replacement. I had given up hope and cursed my luck for losing one more year. Two days before when the exams were suppose to be started, I got a call from one of the senior most officer and my immediate boss “Gnana please come to the officer’s mess with your luggage immediately”. I started to shiver and did not know what wrong I did that I am asked to report to the parent unit and that too by a senior officer. I took Jonga jeep and went to the officer’s mess thinking what would have gone wrong. On seeing me Sqn Ldr SN Shukla was saying “ My son why are you so much worried and scared, why do you think that I am calling you for something negative, think positive this Squadron Leader is your replacement for the next 10 days, go complete your exams successfully and come back. I have already informed the pilot of the AN32 to take you” All the best and be on the runway exactly at 15:00 Hrs”. Later I realized that Sqn Ldr SN Sukla missed his marriage anniversary and came to relieve me.

On that day I met another executive who was ready to sacrifice his comforts and position to ensure that his subordinate did not miss a critical milestone in his life.

Later I joined Infosys and was doing well. Between 1992 and 1997 I got the best increments and promotions at time double. I had not failed a single time and always got appreciations from customers. Then my annual appraisal for the year 1998 came in my boss Binod was taking it. As usual to Binod he had chronicled all the tasks that was given to me and we analyzed every single aspect of my work. After an hour or so I was so happy to find no negatives or any failures. I did expect a A+ and a recommendation from the Boss. “Gnana you have been doing well and I did not find a single failure or unpleasantness nor a customer has come back with any negative comments” I am sure I should be giving you a A- , I was shocked and thought for a moment he was joking. But was realized when he penned the same in the papers and signed I knew that this is for real and I lost the opportunity for the next promotion and the annual increment’. In his inimical style Binod told “Gnana you have not failed nor something went wrong in your work, which means that you are not trying anything new. You are continuing to do the same thing again and again and no innovation happens in you. So this year you are not eligible for anything”. OK, it’s time for a dinner lets go for the dinner. That dinner meeting gave me another perspective of a boss and I accepted the negative remarks and challenged myself thereafter to do things differently and become worthy of Binod;s group.

On this day I met another executive. An authoritative executive , one who ensured that status-quo is not rewarded but growth through innovation is rewarded.

These incidents solved the mystery around exactly what an executive did, the same that intrigued me when I was a kid, and I wondered if someday I could achieve my way to being one.

Since then, I started to look at all those supposed to be executives who had a wall divider between them and their employees. For the company, they owned the strategic goals but never got along with those who are supposed to execute the same. Many a time during critical meetings I used to find many of them will be focused on something that was not on the agenda. They were executing something that was asked by their bosses to be completed and they did not own it or was internally responsible for the same.

And when I promoted BBSSL, one thing that became important to me was the welfare of each and every member of the family. I forgot my lunch, my family and nothing existed. I realized one day when my daughter said “ Daddy, I was better off when you were in Infosys, I could ask to apply for leave and be with me. Now all your promises of spending more time with me when you become your own boss is not true I don’t find you on Sundays also, even if you are at home you are stuck to your computer” My instant reaction was ‘ Abhi now I am responsible for somebody’s life, they depend on me for their comforts so I am doing what I feel is right and your's next”

” With that I realized “Oh I have become an executive now as I have become responsible to execute things that will create happiness to others to whom I am responsible”. Of course it has come with a cost; the time that I have could have spent with my family ignoring the financial risk that was taken. No responsibility comes without a cost, but the happiness that I derive and now along with my family is immense.

The realization of being an executive is the one of accepting responsibility. It is like growing up from a child to an adult. From being taken care to a level where one takes the responsibility of taking care.

So what type of an executive you want to be? Mr.Fonseka or like others who’s names and initials and permanently etched in my life.

Take away for the day:

Power alone will not make you an executive, the power to enable and create happiness to those who depend on you and the sacrifices that you make or the cost that you pay to shoulder the responsibilities of an executive will make you a ..


Saturday, November 21, 2009

ISIS (Finishing School) Morning Walk Sessions - Sales and Marketing

SellingYourself (Products/Services) a Leaf out of Gnana’s life ……One afternoon Gopakumar woke me up from my afternoon siesta… “HI Gnana, I missed the bus and I need to go to Command Hospital to say Happy Birthday to my Friend and I need to reach before 5 PM else she would be gone for duty, the only way is for you to drop me there in your scooter”.

Reluctantly I agreed not knowing that it will change my life for ever and ensured that I am in safe hands. Whatever I am today it would not have happened without my efforts,dedicated support from Suguna and her sacrifice not forgetting my little one who missed me all along.

When we reached there he met his friend and wished her Happy Birth Day, during the chat some girl in a white Saree caught my eye and asked Gopa’s friend “ Who is that girl, can you introduce her to me”.
“OH, that one Suguna, she hates guys for what reason I do not know, but no way just avoid her”
That triggered my curiosity to get closer and know her and decided that I will not give up unless I understand what is all about.
I was living about 20 KM away from where she was staying and that posed a challenge. The only way to reach my goal is to find more people around her and hence I became a delivery boy for Gopakumar and others who frequent Hospital. I always requested the station doctor to refer me to command hospital for treatment. Months passed but nothing happened and I could not get near to Suguna even to greet her. Finally on an August 7th, the first meeting happened. I went to Command Hospital to meet Dayalsa, another colleague of Suguna. I caught her in the mess and she was in a hurry to go for duty, but when she was rushing, Suguna walked in and Dayalsa found an opportunity and told Suguna, “Oh he has come from far I am not able to give him a tea also, could you please talk to him give some water and tea for my sake”.
Without knowing Suguna agreed and got me a tea and sweet. I asked her what for sweet, 7th August happens to be her birth day and she had some sweets with her. That half an hour with her was completely used to collect information on her interests, which temple she goes with whom and almost everything, that is required to follow her.
My fuel station shifted 21 KM to a one near her place and on specific times to cross the road near the “Gangamma Temple” which she visits every Friday around 5PM. Every visit to the city always used to be taken by a long route which goes via Command Hostpital. I think I was lucky on most occasions and I used to cross Suguna on her walks and say “HI” and in return a small smile. This happened for a month or two and then one day I found her going to a guitar class and told her that I too was learning Guitar and offered to give my guitar notes. Next day promptly I went and gave her the notes and then slowly the conversations started. My efforts to get her to talk always failed and every time I come back to my room with a decision that I will never talk to her again or go back to her area fooling myself to repeat the same again and again. Finally after an untiring and many failures I got her out for a dinner and then the association got established never to break again. Now, we are happily married with a lovely girl and a son to take care of.
The story of selling myself to Suguna first, her family next and then convincing my parents to accept a love marriage was something which was achieved with perseverance, patience and a lot of hard work.

The same applies to Sales people also.

6 Year ago, when I first started BBSSL, a friend of mine, Logu, who worked for a large software company, suggested I speak with a common friend, who is in need of some consultants to tide over a immediate requirement.
So I called Murty and requested for an appointment. Murty was not ready for an appointment and said that we can talk whatever I wanted to tell on phone .But I knew the phone wouldn't make it and asked him for a luncheon. I suggested for a drink after work? Or maybe just fifteen minutes in person somewhere? “Gnana you will travel to Mumbai from Bangalore for this, why to spend on travel and time’ tell me what you want; I will help you as you are a good friend of Logu”. However I insisted that I meet him in person and d finally he agreed to a short lunch next week. However, he canceled it afterwards. I managed to get it rescheduled. He canceled the appointment several times. It was very clear for me that he didn't want to meet with me. I had decided to give up.
At this point I started to think of my efforts and patience that got me Suguna and I realized if I could avoid reacting to my feelings of frustration or hurt. The cost of rescheduling the meeting was a few rupees and a two minute phone call to Murty and the benefits were potentially huge. So I had taken a call I will continue to accept all the rescheduling of Murty until, one day, after many weeks, Murty finally didn’t cancel it and we had lunch. The lunch was short but I was well prepared for an elevator pitch, but long enough for me to ask him to let me do small presentation to his team. A couple of weeks after, he left me a short message explaining that the requirement of resources was not there anymore as his team managed to find a solution but he would remember me next time such a requirement arises.
I felt insulted and hurt. After all the effort and work I put in, all I got in return was a one-liner in an email? Again, I could have walked away from him.
But instead I called him again and asked for another meeting to understand where I went wrong. He as I knew declined, but put me to another colleague in another department who might have a need for my services.
The cycle of scheduling and rescheduling took place all over again just like with Murty. I was mentally prepared to reschedule endlessly and one day I started to enjoy the process of trying to get in, the challenge of making the sale. It became a game to me and my goal was to keep doing until, at some day, I will say the right thing to the right person and get my point to the other party. . to be sincere was having fun. Every single failure to get an appointment was a learning. I had to find a way to continue the conversation going.
If you seriously look at your daily chores many things hinge on repetition and we become good at these things unconsciously. The problem with many of us is that, if we fail once or twice we give up too soon, or treat the same as a boring activity. This is the general pattern unless one has a taste for the activity, it is interesting, is rewarding. Under certain circumstance we enjoy doing some things regularly for no reason because we enjoy it . When I start analyzing my successes that I had achieved over the period of last 30 years plus in various capacities, what I realize is that I have achieved is because I wanted to achieve what wanted to achieve else felt it as an insult to fail, I believed that I can achieve it, even at times I have achieved things when I had no skills or resources but managed the same through friends, and on most of the times I was thoroughly enjoying the challenge and the thrust to achieve the same. However at all times whenever I was to give up I knew I am not up to the standard or did not qualify for taking the task.

At all times I learned to become an expert from a very poor, average or a below average person.

Take away for the day
“If you want to reach the peak of your career and become an entrepreneur, you need to spend your time being a poor one , accept many failures learn to enjoy being poor one till you become a good one. This attitude is the one that is going to make you a great one”.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Banking Fundementals-Nostro and Vostro Accounts

When Money transfer is to be done beteen countries in different currencies Nostro and Vostro Accounts are used.

When Bank ‘A’ opens an account with Bank ‘B’ (which is located in another country), that account is called (from A’s point of view) a NOSTRO account. The same account will be called a VOSTRO account (from B’s point of view). The account will be generally in B Bank's country currency.

Example Nostro Transaction:

Exporter Mohan sells his goods to an importer Robert in Bermuda. Mohan banks with ICICI bank in India and Robert Banks with Bank Of Bermuda which has no operations in India.

Bermudian Dollar is not traded in India and hence the importer needs to pay for the goods imported through a common currency which is generally US Dollar or Euro. Assuming Mohan has preferred his payments throgh US Dollar and has asked Robert to pay through US Dollar.

Since Bank Of Bermuda has no operations in India, The bank will find a common bank which has operations in India or has established relationship with an Indian bank. In the current context Bank Of Bermuda will look for some bank which has a relationship with ICICI Bank of India to make the transaction simple.

Assuming that ICICI Bank has relationship with CITI Bank, New York which has operations in many countries. Bank Of Bermdua will establish a relationship with CITI Bank , New York and open US Dollar Account. As the need has forced Bank Of Bermuda to open an account with CITI NY, ICICI Bank also has opened a USD account with CITI NY.

These accounts are called NOSTRO Accounts of Bank Of Bermuda and ICICI Bank with CITI NY.

In the above export /import transaction between Mohan and Robert where Robert to pay USD 500,000 to Mohan the following will happen.

At Bank Of Bermuda

Debit Roberts USD account 500,000
Credit CITI NY Account USD 500,000 with an Instruction to pay this to ICICI Bank Account with CITI NY.


Debit Bank Of Bermuda's (Nostro)Account USD 500,000
Credit ICICI (Nostro) Account USD 500,000 with an instruction to pay Mohan in India

At ICICI India

Debit CITI NY Account USD 500,000
Credit Mohans Account INR (500,000X47), 47 being the exchange rate between USD and INR

Example Vostro Account:

If in the above example, if Robert Exports and Mohan Imports, Robert should be getting the money. CITI will maintain an account with Bank Of Bermuda if it does not have operations in Bermuda. This account of CITI to pay inside Bermuda is called the Vostro Account.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Banking Fundamentals-Trade Finance

Forward Contract

The exchange rate between two currencies is subject to change accordingly to the market conditions. Such movement in rate can prove disastrous. To ensure against such eventuality, corporate bodies resort to taking cover of their exposures in various currencies. They enter into contracts with Banks, undertaking to delivery / take delivery of certain quantum of foreign exchange at a pre-determined future date/period, at a certain rate. These contracts are referred to as Forward Contracts. Because of very nature of the transaction (uncertainty), the contracts are subject to amendment. These amendments make take the form of ‘extension’ or ‘cancellation’. Normally the contracts are closed by ‘delivery’.

Banks provide this as a service to its customers who deal with foreign currencies and the bank generally charges a service charge for each event while issuing a Forward Contract for forms part of the service charge income to the bank

Saturday, November 14, 2009

ISIS (Finishing School) Morning Walk Sessions -Leadership qualities

The subject taken on 12th For discussion is "Managing Team"
Assignment to the students:
Identify an incident when you were below 10 where you refused to accept and execute a task given to you by your parents for various reasons and talk about the same at the end of the morning walk in 10 seconds

Aswini's Story:
It is a family culture to distribute sweets and snaks on Onam day (Onam is one of the clourful festivals of Kerala a Southern State of India) to nighbouring following other religions. I refused to take sweets to a nearby by Muslim household and my father scolded and punished me to accept the order. Later I realised that my father was right and I was wrong in not accepting what he told just becuase I wanted to play with my cousins.
Rekha's Story:
During one of the mornings , my mother asked my father to go to the near by retail shop to get sugar as there is no sugar for making the tea and milk. In turn my dad asked me to go and get the same. Obviously I refused as I was busy playing with my siblings and cousins. My father forced me to go. However on the way I lost the rupees 100 note and reached the shop without money as I had forgotten the main purpose of my going to the shop. I had come back back without getting sugar and told my father that I have lost the note and what happened later is not hard to guess.

How the parents could have done it better.
Consider your father as your team leader or put yourself in your fathers shoe and you as your team member to whom you have assigned the task. You would have taken up the tasks had your father had explained the reason for assigning the task to you and what is the benefit that is in for you and what it will bring to the family.

Takeaway for the day
When you become a leader and want to assign taks to your team, ensure that you explain what is the stake for them and what is in for you. Get the team to accept the task rather than just odering to do.