Here are five stories that influenced me and changed my life. (This is a reproduction of an article that appeared in the Corporate Dossier supplement of Economic Times today)
FIGHT YOUR OWN BATTLES. DON’T DEPEND ON OTHERS TO DO IT FOR YOU
Many years back, a co-worker, known for his political manipulations, sent an offensive and derogatory message about me to someone in my team. It was meant for someone in his team, but by a strange quirk of mobile phone keys, it got sent to my direct report. It impacted my team and me and I spoke to my supervisor, who promised to stand by me and help me fight the battle.
Armed with his support, I escalated the issue to the HR and a few others up the organisational hierarchy. Had my supervisor not supported me, I would have hesitated in escalating the issue, for the coworkers’ supervisor was an extremely powerful expat, and no one wanted to take him head on.
Backed by my boss, I did take it up only to see my boss chicken out at the last minute. I was left stranded. I had gone so far ahead that I could not have backed out. Expectedly, we lost the battle. We came out looking like complete losers. It taught me a very simple lesson in life.
Take up issues, which you can fight on your own. Never depend on anyone else to fight the battle for you. In organisations we often rely on bosses and peers to support us and stand by us in various initiatives. At best, they can be props. They cannot be the fulcrum around which one pivots. If you can’t fight the battle on your own strength and conviction, don’t fight it.
DON’T CARRY GRUDGES: IT IS UNNECESSARY BAGGAGE
Ajay Bimbhet was one of my mentors in the early stages of my banking career at ANZ Grindlays. After both of us left Grindlays, there were at least two times when he tried to hire me in his team. Both the times, I stayed back with my existing employers. And then we lost touch. I was under the impression that he would be upset with me and was scared to call him.
When my first book If God was a Banker got launched in 2007, he called to congratulate me. I was pleasantly surprised. I thanked him and in the same breath told him that I was surprised that he had called, for I thought he would be nursing a grudge. I remember till date what he had then said. “If I had to carry a grudge on such small issues I would have to stop speaking to half the industry.”
A simple statement, but it taught me a very important lesson. Don’t carry grudges against people. A simple conversation puts an end to longstanding discomfort. Had he not called on the day of my book launch, I would never have spoken to him and stayed under the impression that he would not want to speak with me for not having accepted his multiple offers to join him.
WHEN YOU PICK A TEAM DON’T GO FOR A PACK OF SHEEP, HERD CATS INSTEAD
In my role as head of a business at Citigroup, I had to once hire a senior resource in my team. It was a large role and we wanted someone with drive, passion and business acumen. I shortlisted one individual for the role, and was told by my supervisor not to hire him for he had a mind of his own, was very demanding and would be difficult for me to manage. Ignoring their advice I went ahead and hired him. I ended up working with that person for close to a decade across multiple organisations. He turned out to be the best person I have worked with.
Even though he reported to me, he challenged me, questioned me, debated with me, and in the end, made me think differently from what I would have, had he not been around. I probably became a better person because I hired a person of high intellect and independent thought process. When you pick a team don’t go for a pack of sheep, herd cats instead.
An extremely proud moment for me was when If God was a Banker was released. I was 36 then. A few years later, in November 2012, my daughter who was twelve years old published her first book, Heirs of Catriona – a 200 page, 50000 words book. While it made me a proud father, it also made me feel that the world had changed. Age was no longer a barrier to achieving bigger things in life. What I did at 36, my daughter did at 12.
Youngsters these days are far more capable, efficient, ambitious and clear in their thoughts as compared to the earlier generations. Respect the youngsters at work. Give them bigger challenges. Trust them. They will deliver much more than what you can ever imagine. All they need is a chance.
DON’T LET THE BEHAVIOUR OF OTHERS IMPACT WHAT YOU DO
I am a very cautious driver – the type who stops at a traffic signal, were it to turn red, even at midnight. Like every other observer of traffic rules, incessant honking on the roads peeves me too. About six months back, I had dropped my daughter off at school and was driving to work. The early morning traffic was thin. The light turned red. I stopped. A couple of cars stopped behind me. The moment the signal turned green, a well dressed man, in a Scorpio behind me started honking. That got me wild. I rolled down my window and made a not so parliamentary gesture.
The Scorpio pulled up alongside me and the suited guy in the Scorpio rolled his window down. I anticipated a fight. Instead he gave me a big smile and said, “Don’t get upset early in the morning my friend.” And he zoomed ahead. That set me thinking. Why did I lose my cool? Just because he honked a bit too often? That’s his problem. Not mine.
Often we let the behaviour of others impact us. This spoils our mood, our balance and our composure. And if this happens in the morning, the day goes for a toss. What the man said got me thinking. A smile could make all the difference. From that day onwards, I have retained my composure, not got impacted by maniacs on the road and have become an even more careful driver. My drive to work in the morning, irrespective of traffic is always a peaceful one, and consequently my days are far happier.