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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

THE MIRACLE OF TRUST & FORGIVENESS

On an average we meet more people in our life who have done good for us or at the least they have never done anything to hurt us in anyway. It is also true that some people who have come in our life have causes us a lot of stress and may have lowered our image in the eyes of the people around us. But I am confident that if we take account of all these people we will find that those that have done well to us will be much higher than those who have hurt us. Even then most people tend to begin to lose faith in friends, family and relatives because they were hurt by the actions of one person from among the hundreds that they know.

Today while I was in my thinking box, I remembered a once close associate of mine who worked with me. I started thinking of my discussions with him and started recollecting what he told me. Before I go any further I want to tell my readers that I do trust people and sometimes I trust them more that I trust myself. I have believed that it is a good practice to begin by trusting everyone until there a reason not to trust them. I have never regretted this policy and it will stay with me to the end of my life. This does not mean that I have personally not been hurt by people; this is because of that very reason.

I want to share a story of a people who had been associated with me and what transpired during that period. The first person let’s call him “Sir X”. He worked very closely with me in administrative positions. He was very good to me all the time that he was with me but he changed as soon as I left the organization. He had so many things against me that he talked to others. But my world is so connected that everything came to me through some means or the other. Fate would have it such that he lost his job and I had to help him get a job again. I thought to myself should I help this person? The inner voices within me said go ahead and do it and I did it because I did not want to punish his family for his deeds. But old habits are hard to change and he was back to his old ways talking ill of me. Well, again fate strikes and he lost his job. He came to me and asked for help, I told him that I am going to help him but I want to know why he was doing what he was doing. He said he was sorry for what he had done and that he is ashamed of it. I told him that I wanted to know more about my weaknesses and that I was only human and I could be doing something wrong and may be hurting him unknowingly. He had no answer to my question because what he was doing was part of his genetic make and maybe he had no control over it. I spent the next few months having good discussions with him and got him a new job. He is doing well and has not adjusted to his new life very well. The question that comes to my mind has always been ..why did I help him despite what he was doing?

When I reflect back, there is only one thing that made me help him in all instances. It was just that I wanted to make a difference in his life and to his family. I still trusted my instinct that I could change him and I am glad that I tried and today he is so different.

This to any person could be considered as a bad experience and the first response would be to try and hurt him over and over again. But I wanted to rise above myself and wanted to see life in a new perspective. Today, I am glad that I did what I did and he leads a happy life. Now there are two ways of looking at this series of incidents. The first and the expected response is a tit for tat policy and the second is what I did.

Think about it, has anyone done wrong to you? Have you been cheated? Has someone spread wrong information about you? Then forgive them and go your way and don’t give a rent free space to them in your mind. I know you will say it is not east to do that and I agree with you. But remember not everyone is made to do difficult things in life, only some of us can do it and that is what makes us so special in this world.

There is another aspect that I want you to think about. Should I stop trusting people because I had one bad incident in life which I was able to salvage and make a better life for the whole family? I have always felt that trust is a pre-requisite for a happy life and we must continue to search for reasons why we need to trust people. Also remember that one bad experience cannot be used to punish a whole generation of people who now cannot be trusted because of one person. The most important thing to remember is that you are the master of your mind and you can twist it the way you want. Don’t become a slave of your mind but try and make your mind work according to your command. Trust people they are all good and they need a second chance in life. Don’t we all at some point need a second chance in life…..

Happy reading and all the best…


Monday, November 14, 2011

BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY

Andrew Carnegie the great American industrialist and philanthropist once said that there are three types of people in this world. The first types of people are those that always live on the margin and they do as little work as possible and if unsupervised they would choose not to do any work at all. The amount of work this group of people do is not even close to what their positions dictate. They follow the minimalist approach where they do only as much as it is necessary to just survive in the system to get paid at the end of each month. They can be identified easily as they don’t seem to stick too long in any place. Normally a year is sufficient for them to begin to get exposed.
  
The second groups of people are those that will do what is stipulated in their job descriptions and nothing beyond that. They follow a system of work by the clock and follow the 9:30 to 5:30 schedule and nothing beyond that. These are honest and genuine people but bound by self drawn limitations. I call such people as people who work within a defined contract structure and if they are required to put in additional hours they look for quick rewards.

The third types of people as defined by Carnegie are those that will go beyond the call of their duty. They seem to have everything going for themselves. Despite their work that goes beyond their office hours they are able to bring a better work-life balance in comparison to the other two groups of people. This type of attitude towards their duty is what I call as one of the secrets of all success stories. Here I want to be very carefully as I may unknowingly give the impression to the reader that I am defining success by the amount of wealth one accumulates. I am sure many of you will remember the famous John D. Rockefeller to whom the wealth that he accumulated did not bring him happiness. In fact today his success is not measured by the amount of wealth he accumulated during his lifetime but more by the wealth that he gave away for the cause of education and medical care.

This is a true story of a man who started his second innings after having lost all he had. There was one thing that he did not lose and that was habit of working beyond the call of duty. I am deliberately not using his real name so that I don’t reveal his identity. Karan was a middle aged man in his 40s and started his career with a modest beginning. He rose to become a Manager in a Manufacturing unit in the state of Punjab. Fate would not support him and one fine day he found himself on the street with nowhere to go. Karan after recovering from the after-shock decided to take matters in his hand and not wait for the invisible hand of God to work for him. By stroke of luck he chanced upon an opportunity to reach New York a land where dreams are made. He was able to get a daily wages job in a grocery store which gave him just enough to survive. He slept at night in the store itself and went all out to help his boss better the business. Over the next one year of his work at the store, he had been able to impress his boss with his level of honesty, integrity and hard work that his boss decided to ask him to open a vegetable store in front of the Grocery store with a deal that Karan would keep all the earning and give his boss 20 percent from the profits.

Karan used his savings to open a vegetable store in front of the Grocery store of his boss. He worked hard and even started home delivery to his good customers. The news of his service to customers spread like a wild fire in the Indian community and his customer base increase many fold. With his new found success he was able to rent a shop in the same market and started a grocery store like his boss. He always went beyond the call of duty in his work and it started paying him high dividends. To cut the long story short, today Karan is one of the largest importers of Indian grocery items in the United States of America. He is a multi-millionaire but still works with the same dedication that he started his small business operation. He never forgot his boss who stood by him in times of need; they are today the best of friend and are doing business together as partners.

Is there a moral to this story? Answer will depend on which category of people you would classify yourself into.

Think how you can reach beyond the call of duty…




Saturday, November 12, 2011

TAMING THE TONGUE

Have you ever though that every part of the body has a defined function which acts in coordination with the other parts in absolute precision. That is what makes the human body one of the most complex machines in the known universe. But we as humans have found ways to misuse this machine to an extent that it can hurt the wellbeing of others. Today let me try and put my views on using our tongue without brakes especially within the context of the workplace.

I you have worked in an organization you would be able to relate to what I am going to write. There is no doubt that a lot of people find spice in life only by talking about others. Somehow they find so much joy in doing this each and every day in their life. I feel that such people can be defined by a set of characteristics. First they are people who don’t have much in their own life that is worth talking about. Their achievements are very limited and they can survive only by putting others down. They are fully aware that what they are saying about the other person may not be correct but they still will continue with their attack. Secondly, they are people with very low self esteem and self confidence. Many times this lack of self esteem is the result of not having achieved much in the first place. Talking ill of others or indulging in small talk is their way of boosting their ego. Such people are only looking for a way of surviving on the margins of the life cycle and are seldom achievement oriented. Finally, such people lack professional courage and cannot accept the growth of others around themselves. I believe that it takes a lot of courage to look into the eyes of a competing colleague and congratulate them on their achievement. There is always a tendency to pull down others rather than to hold on to them and learn to climb to ladder. This is termed as crab mentality and relates to such people who will find negative things even in the most positive work of their peers and will keep criticizing them for everything. It describes a kind of selfish, short-sighted thinking which runs along the lines of “if I can't have it, neither can you.” When someone has a crab mentality, it means that they are unwilling to allow someone to get out of a situation, or to get ahead. In a classic example of crab mentality, people who are attempting to get out of bad work situations often find themselves foiled by peers who keep sucking them back in.

Workplace, especially in the domain of education is a place for role models, for people who have absolute control over their tongue. They need to understand very clearly that words spoken once cannot be taken back and what they speak has an impact on a lot of young minds. It is thus, essential that they learn to tame the tongue. I have had situations in higher education work space where people indulge in such practices. This is however a common trait among employees in almost every type of work place. These are also the very people who will have the first complaint that the work culture of the place in not good. Seldom do they realize that work culture of the organization is not made up of buildings and the furniture at the work place but the people like them and their behaviors.

In my experience, I have also found that if there is too much of back biting activity among the employees or there is loose talk going on then you need to look at reassignment of work among the employees. This is an indication that they do not have enough work and the resources of the organization are being wasted. In a situation like this, it is important to begin to talk to each employee and to start making work assignments and the dates for completion. You will find that such activity begins to reduce and a better work culture is in the process of being established.

As employees, we all need to reflect back and see if we are our self promoting this kind of culture in our organizations. My recommendation has always been talk to your peers and co-workers and not about them. If you need to talk to one person about the other person, then you are responsible for the bad work culture of the place. Keep your head high and remember you are not perfect either.

The crab mentality is a reflection of the famous saying “we all like to see our friends get ahead, but not too far ahead.” Learning to recognize the crab mentality in you is a very good idea, especially if you work or live in a highly competitive environment.

Read and think if we are part of the problem or the solution

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

MANAGING EXPECTATION IN RELATIONSHIPS

We as humans survive on relationships that we develop over a period of time. Some of these strengthen as time passes and some have the tendency to evaporate and lose its charm. The term relationship used here is fairly broad to encompass all relationship including social, work, family etc. I have found in my experience that the root cause for cracks to develop in a relationship are due to the fact that our  expectation from the relationship exceed what is desirable at any given time. All relationships all based on compromises that we make because our way of doing anything or even thinking are not the only way. Within each individual there is a perceived difference in how they look at life.
It is a good practice to always give the benefit of doubt in case things don’t go as expected in a relationship. Some of the times our expectation are so high from the other person that we fail to see the smoke till the fire flares up. One of the basic principles that I use in managing relationship with people is to give them a lot of space to be themselves. When I want to do something as part of the relationship I try not to score a point out of it. Sometimes there are situations where there is an expectation from the other end in the relationship of something being done and it may not be possible to do it even though you want to do it. These situations are quite common even in employee and employer relationships and there is a need to have open ended discussions on issues. 

The second principle to be kept in mind is that it is necessary to make sure that all parties in a relationship irrespective of type of relationship should understand that there is no give and take for everything you do. Whatever is done with no returns in mind? I have always done things without any expectations from the other end and I derive a lot off happiness from it. That is the main reason for me to do anything. I do not expect any appreciation for what I can do for others but I do expect an understanding of what is not possible for me to do irrespective of my best intentions. This approach has given me immense joy in managing my relationship with my friends, peers, relatives and the immediate family members.

The third principle I would like to highlight is to understand that people have their limitations and they will have to work within the framework of those limitations. It is also important to understand that sometimes people will have some conflict of interest which will come in way of doing something for others. This natural and a rational process and we should try and understand such situations in life. In general for us to be happy we only need to see what is it that we can do to others in a relationship that they cannot do for themselves. This is what in my opinion strengthens the bond between people.

Always remember that we live in social structure where expectations are a part of our life and we cannot run away from them but we can manage then well. Whether you are looking at work, social or family relationships the key is always to try and understand the point of view of the other person and assess the situation from their point of view. You may not agree with it but understanding of it is critical to any relationship. I hope you will give some thought on these points and use them in your personal life as well. Please leave your thoughts in form of comments as it will help me in fine tuning my own ideas.

All the best and happy thinking..

THE LOOKING GLASS

It is past midnight and I am trying to complete some work for a major meeting coming up on November 11, 2011. Something seems to be bothering me and I cannot but begin to put my thought on this blog and share it with you all.

I love to be in the company of people who are straight forward, clear, do not put personal interest before organizational interests. However, this a dying breed and soon it will become extinct and thus there is a need to take steps to protect this species.

Most of my learning in life has come from my early childhood or from the place of work. I have always tried to help people to the extent it is possible within the administrative structures of the organization. But in this effort I have also learnt that a lot of employees will try and take you for a ride. The funny part is that they don’t even think that the person that they may be dealing with is not a fool and he will see through the glass. Sometimes I get the feeling that they know what they are trying to achieve is wrong but if they try it may go through.

In recent months I have come across a number of such situations and I feel sad for those people who have tried to do things that I was able to see through and stop them at the right time. The funny part is that they are not ashamed of any of those wrong doings. You may be wondering, what are these wrong doings that I am talking about. Well for those of us who still believe in the value system of a classical teacher, it is a very difficult job to accept certain aspect of behavior of people.

Many times during the year I have had the opportunity to hear employees discuss their problems with me and taking some benefit out of me due to that reason. Then at a later stage I realized that the problem indicated by the employee was really not a problem but it was fabricated with an ulterior motive to receive some benefit. What I am beginning to find is that many employees in a work place are very dishonest to themselves. There are schemes working in the background from where they are supposed to receive benefits which are not due to them. I find that most people consider giving fictitious travel bills for official duty as something that falls in the range of acceptable behavior. I however consider such behaviors as outright robbery. Once an employee came to me and said that he was attending conference and I agreed to it. The funny part was that I was one of the speakers during that conference and I could not find the employee any where during the conference. The most interesting part was when the next morning the employee comes to me to say how great the conference was. I did not say anything except to ask a few questions to see what he had to say about the conference. I still don’t understand why the employee had to go through this in the first place.

The more I think the more I get convinced that there is a tendency for people to lie as they start everything with the assumption that truth does not pay. Second, they have one scheme in their mind and another in their heart. I believe that most of such employees know what they are doing is wrong but they still want to try. I feel sad that even in the profession of teaching such people exist.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

MY TEACHING PHILOSOPHY

All of us choose our careers with a set of goals in mind. Some of these goals are material-related, intended to take care of our lifestyle desires or obligations. Other goals are people oriented, with humanistic purpose of primary importance. Teaching to me has always been and hopefully always be a people oriented profession. I believe that one must care a great deal about students to achieve excellence in our profession.

Many teachers underestimate the impact they have on students. At our best we can turn students on. Unfortunately, when we are not at our best, we can turn them off. We possess that kind of power.

As a teacher I believe that the first major components of good teaching is the quality of information presented to students. Despite the short-term appeal of an entertaining charismatic teacher, the long-term impact of a course depends on its substance. The curriculum is in a continuous state of flux; deleting, integrating, and extending course content is probably the most active dimension within instruction. I do not offer the same course twice; new information is introduced, goals are clarified, the reference list is revised, existing principles are modified by recent findings, links with surrounding disciplines are strengthened, and areas of application are extended. Good teaching calls for consistency among three basic aspects: defining the course objective, managing the classroom hour, and devising methods of testing and evaluation. These three basic aspects are a matter of fair play, and students should know from the beginning what standards are to be met by the end of the course.

Good teaching requires considerable preparation, not so much in practicing and rehearsing one’s style of presentation as in making out the substance of the talk, its pacing, the sequence of points, and their integration with the contents that preceded and those that will follow. Even so, I do not pretend to give the impression that I can control the direction of intellectual fixation for each student throughout the teaching period. I think that pacing is important because students are unlikely to understand topic B if they are still trying to understand topic A. I give them the opportunity to catch up with me.

Over the years, I have found that motivation is prerequisite to efficient learning, and good teaching transforms resistance to interest and sustains the curiosity that brought students into the course. I strongly feel that the management of motivation requires adjustments to the differences in student interest, aims and ambitions. I have tried to accomplish this by presenting the arguments, the evidence to illustrate the points being made, frequent use of examples, anecdotes, and personal speculations to stimulate students to construct their own bridges to test their ability to apply the principles to a specific event. My prime responsibility as a teacher is to help students advance from dependent memorization to independent thinking and problem solving.

Through the last 19 years of my teaching, I have found that frequent testing of students has certain advantages: it helps to sustain habits of study, it leads to a more reliable final grade, and it provides ample opportunity for me to make quantitative evaluations of student performance.

I do not pretend to be a therapist and the classroom is certainly not a clinic, but I recognize that turning to the teacher is an early option when a student wonders what went wrong and what to do about it. I have always provided sufficient time for students to hear and advise them on their anxieties, confusions, conflicts and tensions that are generated in the academic pressure chamber. Students have found me as a person whose judgment they can respect and whose confidence is trusted as counselor, mentor, and a friend. In counseling, I respect the student’s individuality, his special needs, and his right to accept or reject the information, advice, or assistance being offered.

Last but by no means the least is my ability to work with my colleagues. No institution can be efficient if there is a lack of common goals among the teachers. We as teachers have to recognize that if students win, we as teachers win.  

Written in December , 2004