Seven Years with Biwi and without a TV

7years

When men and women are able to respect and accept their differences then love has a chance to blossom.

~ Dr John Gray

Today Anusha & I are celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary. While chatting this morning, we pondered over crucial events and decisions that shaped and molded our relationship. Undoubtedly eschewing Television in the year 2008 has been the turning point in our life. While setting up our new apartment after marriage, we bought everything except the entertainment box.

It wasn’t a difficult decision for me as I wasn’t a TV buff anyway. However this was a significant diversion from Anusha’s interests & lifestyle. It was so nice of her to agree with my proposal for 3 months and then buy a TV if needed. I also committed to reach home by 6PM every evening and plan a family activity once I reached home.

First two weeks were easy to manage and we did things like visiting temples, attending family functions, chatting, going for a leisurely walk etc. After that it was really difficult to pass time. Just imagine how much can we talk? We started wondering what else other couples would do after wedding 🙂

Fortunately we didn’t budge and buy a TV. We listed our values and interests and started indulging in activities that brought joy to both OR one of us. The activities included watching inspiring movies, reading self-help books & magazines, yoga, going for long walks in Lalbagh, trying various cuisines etc.

The more we stayed away from constant exposure to media, the better we became as individuals. We started discovering our dreams, needs & values and more importantly we began expressing them to each other.

Now that our son Samyak is 3.5 years young, we continue to enjoy our life without a TV at home. Samyak enjoys watching animated movies and some selected videos on Youtube on my laptop. A common question we face from friends & family members is ‘When are you buying a TV?’ Our answer always is ‘We don’t know’.

My clients from Coaching & Training assignments think that I am missing a lot in my life by not owning a TV and depriving titillating entertainment to family. Some have said that via their facial expressions and very few have also verbalized these thoughts to me. Opinions are subjective and as a family we really have gained a lot by losing just one trivial thing.

By this article, I want to express my gratitude to Anusha for supporting me in this decision and willing to try new experiences in life. Life has become better in all areas in the last 7 years and the future looks even more promising and peaceful!

I don’t intend to bash TV watching and unsettle anyone reading this article. I agree that there are some benefits of watching TV for a limited time (underscore the word limited).

Why don’t you try this for a week and stay away from TV? It will be challenging and fun-filled. If you don’t enjoy that week, you have the remote control in your hand anyway 🙂

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Transcending from Knowing to Doing

Knowingdoing

It’s not about knowing. It’s all about doing. ~ Bruce Lee

During a training session last week, my running coach Dr. Gladson narrated a story of his friend (I don’t recollect the name, so let’s call him Mr. in this post). Mr. X works as CEO of an organization and he is in his early 50’s. X travels overseas at least 3 days in a week. X knows few basic things about health, nutrition and fitness. Despite very little knowledge, X is in great shape and his health vitals are perfect!

What’s the secret of X’s success? My running coach said, X consistently practiced and followed the principles he knows 🙂 That’s the secret behind his health and fitness. Not a lump of esoteric & theoretical knowledge. It’s the simple art of doing what we already know!

In my view, most of us know what to do to go to the next level. If you we don’t know there are many avenues to discover the stumbling blocks in our life or career. For instance, if you want to improve your leadership skills or performance at work – first get a candid and anonymous 360 feedback to know your reputation. Knowing what to change or improve at work place is never a challenge. It’s the doing part.

If you know what to do and you lack motivation, here is what you can do. Take a blank sheet of paper and write 20 advantages of changing your behavior. By the time you write 20 benefits, you will already be convinced to start at least. All you have to do is look at the list everyday when you wake up to keep the momentum.

To stick to your plan, you can find a buddy (to remind you), make a daily checklist or any such thing to build a new habit in you. Once the new behavior becomes a habit, you no longer have to motivate yourself on a daily basis. It’s now on autopilot mode.

Let me encapsulate the message in 3 sentences

  • Find the behavior to change – What to Change?
  • List the benefits to – Why Change?
  • Get on the path and do something every day! – Change 🙂

PS : I acknowledge the graphic from the internet

Smile More and Judge Less

Smile

Stress comes from not doing what we know we should be doing. ~ Rubén Gonzalez

Marshall Goldsmith conducts a unique exercise in his workshops. He did this activity with us in the 2-day workshop at ISB Hyderabad in January this year. We were asked to identify 1-2 minor changes in our behaviors that would have a major positive impact on our lives. We had the latitude to choose any area of life namely health, fitness, relationship, leadership etc.

Once we wrote two things on our notepads, Marshall asked us to frame one sentence to encapsulate those behavioral changes in 6 words. This was a tough task! It really made me focus and shave all unimportant words in my sentence. I took around 10 minutes to meditate on my words and finally settled with the sentence ‘Smile more and judge less’. This line acts as a constant reminder for me to find joy in life and to be aware of the fact that perceptions create realities (my two behavioral changes).

It’s been 90 days since I wrote this line and the message still rings in my ears once in a while to focus on new behaviors. I also have this posted on my message board at work!

Since then I have tried this exercise in 1:1 coaching and group workshops. Let me list a few lines people wrote in my workshops. I really love the way this activity piques people’s creativity.

Eat less and be healthy

Relax and Embrace Life

Enjoy more and complain less

Breathe deep and speak with a smile

Listen better and ask questions

Run and have more fun

Be happy

Let go and enjoy the inevitable

Talk less and accept more

Enjoy doing what needs to be done

How about you? When you do this exercise – what two things would you write? What would be your one-line slogan to remember? Go ahead and do this exercise. I appreciate if you can add your one-liners as comments on this blog. Before I sign off, let me reiterate mine – ‘Smile more and judge less’.

The Secret of Benjamin Franklin’s Success

Ben Franklin

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. ~ Benjamin Franklin

In his autobiography, Benjamin talks about how he changed his personality and became a man of unrivaled virtues. Benjamin was short-tempered and had a sharp tongue. He was keen to develop his character and become a better human being. At age 20, Benjamin listed the following 13 virtues he wanted to inculcate and master during his lifetime. He also wrote a short description for each virtue on his list.

  1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation
  2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation
  3. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time
  4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve
  5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing
  6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions
  7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly
  8. Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty
  9. Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve
  10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation
  11. Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable
  12. Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation
  13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates

His method is ingenious; he would take one virtue at a time and follow it for a week and leave all others their ordinary chance. He would consciously practice that virtue in his behaviors. After a week, he would move on to the next one on the list. This process would continue for 13 weeks to complete one cycle. In a year, Benjamin completed 4 cycles. Franklin did not live completely by his virtues and he fell short of them many times. He believed the attempt made him a better man contributing greatly to his success and happiness.

To me this is a phenomenal framework for character development. Practicable plan for improving our behaviors and leadership attributes. I humbly borrowed items 1, 2, 3, 4 and 11 from his and have attempted to inculcate them in my life. The process has been rewarding so far!

In his autobiography Franklin wrote these words, “I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit”.

If you have read this article so far, please do yourself a favor and try this idea for a week at least and see how this benefits you!

Rehashing Our Stories

Story

We are disturbed not by the things that happen, but by our opinion of the things that happen. ~ Epictetus

Our actions are guided by our perceptions and feelings. Interpersonal conflicts are primarily due to differences in perceptions and emotional attachment to our perceived reality of the situation! There are many books written on tools to challenge our perceptions. One of the best tools I have read is in the book ‘Crucial Conversations’ called ‘Path to Action’. The path to action has 4 steps and it’s a brilliant way to succinctly articulate our behavior patterns.

  1. See and Observe
  2. Tell a Story
  3. Feel
  4. Act

Let’s say a manager is passing by the pantry and his team members are laughing their hearts out. Seeing the manager enter the pantry, they all try to muffle their laughter and slowly stop. The moment he is out, they burst into laughter again. The manager observes this and tells a story in his mind. One story may be the team was talking about him and making fun of his leadership style. If this is the story narrated by the manager, certainly he will feel hostile towards the team and specifically towards the person who was leading the laughter club. How do you think the manager will behave with his team members? Definitely his feelings of hostility will influence his behavior and the way he treats his team.

When we know that we are not natural and influenced by negative feelings in behavior, we can use this tool to elevate our awareness. We just have to rehash the story, look for facts and go backwards!

Once the manager becomes aware of his biased action, he can ask the following questions to validate his story.

What feelings are influencing my action now? (Anger, hostility, frustration etc)

What story am I telling myself to induce these feelings? (Revisit the story, in this case the story of his team laughing at him)

What facts did I see or observe to validate this story? (Did he hear them take his name? What other facts did he consider to arrive at his conclusion?)

The above questions really help us validating out stories and understand the role of perceptions. Instead of driven by feelings, now rational thinking will be in driver’s seat. When dealing with interpersonal conflicts, remember each person has their own story, perception and feeling! Actions are fruits of perceptions!

Getting an A+ in Gratitude

gratitude

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others. ~ Cicero

Being grateful to people who contributed to our success is not a common practice. Probably this is due to lack of role models for us to watch and emulate. Marshall Goldsmith is very passionate about being grateful and saying ‘Thank You’ to people. If you meet him in person, you will sense his gratitude and thankful feeling in the first 5 minutes.

In his coaching practice, he recommends leaders to do the following.

  1. List 25 people who have made a positive difference to their career. In addition to workplace colleagues, this list can include their friends/relatives/family/teacher/role model and so on.
  2. Write a ‘Thank You’ note to these people (e-mail/personal letter/written note)

I read about this idea two years ago and didn’t take action though the idea appealed to me immediately. I was worried about what would others think when they see such a note from me! What if they think I am phony or dramatic or naïve? Finally I decided to let go of others’ opinion and did this exercise. I did this because I wanted to ‘walk the talk’, not just ‘talk the talk’. Before I recommend this to my coaching clients, I wanted to get a firsthand (not vicarious) experience.

I wrote 24 names in my list. The list included my managers, virtual team leads, mentors at Toastmasters club, motivated colleagues, mentor coach, coach friends etc. Many people on the list are now in different organizations or countries and I took 3 days to gather their contact details (Thanks to LinkedIn). I sent a short note of gratitude in an e-mail comprising 160 words.

As I hit the ‘send’ button for each e-mail addressed individually, my excitement and feelings of gratitude intensified. I sensed a great amount of energy rushing in my body. It was a phenomenal experience!!! After I sent the 24th e-mail, I felt like a guru of gratitude and was no longer bothered about the outcome of these e-mails. I genuinely meant what I said in the e-mail and I knew I wasn’t playing around.

Three things happened as a result of this activity (though I didn’t expect any).

  1. Most people replied back and said they were touched by that e-mail. They felt honored to know the fact that they have a hand behind my success and I acknowledge that hand.
  2. Some people also shared their thoughts about me and how I inspired them to perform well (this was a pleasant surprise to me)
  3. Few people loved this idea, they are now planning to take this forward and send a ‘Thank You’ note to people who contributed to their success

If you like this exercise, please go ahead and act on this NOW! I promise, the bliss you will experience after the activity is infinitely greater than the pinch you feel while doing this J

Thank You for reading, acting and sharing!!!

The Art Of Allowing

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Delegation is the art of allowing your team members to finish tasks, own responsibility, perform at their peak and showcase their talents.

Micromanaging and not effectively delegating pop up in majority of 360-degree feedback reports that I have administered to leaders. I recently worked with a leader (let’s call him Mr Khan) to get anonymous feedback from his direct reports and peers. Lack of delegation skills, not allowing his direct reports to shine came as the common feedback point.

Initially Khan was shocked to know what people thought about him. According to him he was delegating tasks well and allowing his team to showcase their work. He was puzzled and wasn’t able to understand how else he can delegate. When a leader improves his/her leadership attributes – it’s crucial to focus on changing behavior as well as perception of his team members. This is the corner stone of Marshall Goldsmith’s coaching methodology.

I sat with Khan and discussed the two questions he would ask all of his direct reports (in One-on-One meetings) to understand and change his behavior. Khan agreed to intently listen to their answers and not make any judgment or challenge their viewpoints. The goal was to understand his team’s thinking and decide later what to change. He also wrote their answers in a notepad for future review and reference.

  1. In what areas you want me to involve more and give you a helping hand?
  2. In what areas you want me to involve less and STOP poking my nose?

Last week Khan met all his direct reports to get answers to the above questions. Their answers gave him a new perspective about delegation and ownership of tasks. It’s important to know their perception about Khan and his style of delegation. Currently he is focused on changing his behaviors and allowing his leaders to shine and own.

The crux of Marshall’s process is monthly ‘follow-up’ meetings with key stakeholders. Khan is committed to meet his direct reports every month for 5-10 minutes to check on his progress and garner more ideas to become better in delegation.

After 6 months, we plan to do an anonymous mini-survey on Khan’s behavioral changes with his direct reports to measure the progress of change and follow-up meetings. With Marshall’s framework, behavioral change is guaranteed and measurable!!!!

Are you having challenges with delegation?

Do your direct reports think you are micromanaging?

Is it difficult for you to trust people and give ownership of tasks?

To start the process of change, sit with your team, review the above 2 questions, listen to them and consciously commit to change. More importantly, commit to have a monthly follow-up meeting with them to understand your progress. All the best!

PS : I acknowledge the picture from the net.