54 posts categorized "Mentors"

Responding to critics

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I have heard a story about Winston Churchill and his extraordinary integrity in the face of opposition. During his last year in office, he attended an official ceremony. Several rows behind him two gentlemen began whispering. “That’s Winston Churchill. They say he is getting senile. They say he should step aside and leave the running of the nation to more dynamic and capable men.” When the ceremony was over, Churchill turned to the men and said, “Gentlemen, they also say he is deaf.”

How you respond to critics is very important part of building yourself. It’s all too easy to get defensive when critics rub us the wrong way or misunderstand us. There is also a possibility of us  being wrong as well. Ask yourself why the criticism was made. Is the person trying to help, to make things better, to help you avoid making mistakes, to suggest positive improvements? Is the person just in a cranky rude mood, having a bad day? Is the person just mean, or jealous? Is there good reason for the criticism?My dad gave me an outstanding piece of advice when I first left to US. He said, “If you take the blame when you deserve it, you will take responsibility and will improve and become a better person." I have found that to be very true. Difficult, but true. In my experience, until someone in a group (or in a family) accepts blame, everyone stays very anxious and focused on fingering the person at fault. Once I take responsibility and be accountable, then everyone else can relax. And then we can all focus on what needs to be done.

Thank the person offering the criticism. Sometimes they’re coming from a place of wanting to help you. That takes courage, and is a very generous thing. Be grateful for that. Even when they’re not trying to be helpful, they’ve taken the time to respond to you — and trust me, getting a response is better than absolute silence. Provoking a reaction means you’ve done something interesting — and for that, you should be thankful. Either way, thanking the critic will help lead to a positive exchange.

It is also important not immediately respond but delay the response.  Delaying the response gives time to think it over and not be reactive. Calm yourself down before responding. Always. Responding to a critic in anger is never, ever, ever a good idea.Respond rationally and calmly. Instead of being defensive, be honest. Share your reasons, acknowledge the other person’s points if there’s any validity, and come to a rational conclusion rather than jealously guarding your way of doing things.

Or stay silent. If you can’t respond with grace, then just don’t respond. Silence is a much better response than anger or defensiveness or quitting.


Miss you NR Sir

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Today I received sad news that one of my favorite teachers in high school had passed away. As children, we spend almost as much time with our teachers as we do with our parents. The teachers who have had tremendous influence on us are far and few and N. Rajendran Sir   (whom we used to fondly refer him as NR Sir) was one of them.  He created such a ripple effect with students that  there is not a day that goes by without thinking about him. I tutor Math almost on a regular  basis and I owe everything I learned in Math to NR Sir. I have lost close ones before, but have never felt such sadness and grief as I feel today. I really adored you Sir, and I will always. The infectious zeal with which NR Sir have taught so many of us continues to energize us even today. 

I was failing miserably in my IX grade in Math and was promoted to X with warning meaning I barely passed my Math in IX. In our school, Our X grade students were segregated based on our performance in our IX grade and luckily for us, NR sir was the assigned teacher.  We weren't sure what to expect of him as we never had classes with him or had an opportunity to interact with him. He sported a big moustache  which made him look scary. After I had classes with him , I soon  got over the moustache part and realized that he was a wonderful teacher who was able to connect us  really with the Math concepts. He used to make us do so many problems over and over that our hands used to hurt by the time we were done. I was sitting in the first row right in front of him, and for some reason he used to pick on me as well and asked me to go to the board and solve a problem.  I had low self esteem up until that point of time . His teaching boosted my self esteem big time.He always used to have chalk piece with him which he used to throw at someone who is not paying attention. He wanted to do everything under his control to help out students and  am thankful he took me under his wings to help me understand appreciate and enjoy Math to the fullest. I moved from barely passing in IX to being top of the class in his tests. I never had  the passion to  be the first or anything but getting a pat in the back meant a lot to me . I remember few tests which I didn't do too well,  He was very angry  at me and I was mad at myself for not giving my best and made sure I didn't  slack off after that. He was eminently fair, honest to the point of bluntness, ever helpful, but would brook no nonsense that would disrupt his classroom routine.  NR sir always exhibited extra bit of life in whatever he did and had the rare capacity to instill some of that in others he met.

I fall short of words to express my grief on the sad demise of our beloved NR Sir. I am what I am today only because of him.  The right way to pay tribute to him is to face this news boldly and go ahead and do a great job as his student and carry forward his legacy.

I hope his family can take solace in the fact that such a great man is surely looking down on them from the highest pinnacle of heaven.

Rest in peace NR Sir, you're probably lecturing God right now or having a breakfast with your Math teachers. 

Sukumar_NRSir

I am thankful to one of our seniors Sukumar Rajagopal for sharing  his picture. Few years back he also honored this wonderful teacher..and am attaching herewith the video of the same (with his permission).

 


Why do great people leave/quit an organization?

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Quitting is portrayed a bad thing usually. People who leave an organization after being there for long haul are usually portrayed as someone who is not paying the price, losing the dream.  But we do witness great wonderful people leaving quit organizations from time to time. Why is that?

People don't quit organizations, they quit leaders. It’s a sad but true commentary on the lack of leadership skills that are so desperately needed to thrive.

There are consequences to poor leadership and where it’s not present, people will leave to find it. Inevitably it’s the good hardworking loyal workers who leave. Left behind is a weakened and demoralized team forced to pick up the pieces.

But why do the good ones leave? What is the tipping point? The specifics vary, of course, but typically the good people leave for the following reasons.

No Backbone

This type of leader plays to the crowd and will say whatever he or she thinks you want to hear. The good ones had rather hear the uncomfortable truth than the pleasant sounds of a diplomat. The good ones want a leader who is not afraid to make the difficult decisions.

No Vision

The good ones long for and thrive in an environment where the leader has a vision for the future, can articulate it, and sets a course of action that will take them there. The good ones understand that without a clear vision for the future there is no future to be had by  just merely staying.

Cheap talk Manager

It will be hard to command the respect of your people if you have no skin in the game as it relates to your organization and its mission. You can’t expect a buy-in from your people if you are not fully invested yourself. The good ones seek to be with leaders who are as passionately invested as they are.

Not Adding value

If the so called leader does not move forward or makes effort in moving forward, the good ones will not sit idly by while the leader plays politics or favorites and be denied the opportunity to advance professionally.The good ones will thrive in a culture of excellence where their hard work and talents are put to best use. 

No accountability

The loyal great leaders fundamentally understand that accountability and transparency are the cornerstones of success. When a leader no longer feels the need to be transparent or be accountable for his or her actions, then the good ones will not stay. Trust is like glue for the leader, is there is none, people won’t stick.

Low standards

Ultimately, the leader is responsible for the culture of the organization. If proper boundaries are not being observed and inappropriate behaviors are being tolerated, then the good ones will not stay in that environment.

No Integrity

At the end of the day it all comes down to the integrity of the leader. The good ones want their leader to be a person of integrity and one they can trust. If integrity is lacking in the leader then integrity will be lacking in the culture. The good ones will leave to avoid the connection.

Many personal factors contribute to the reasons why the good ones tend to leave and move on. I have discovered that it’s not always for the money or a promotion or not willing to work hard. The good ones understand the wisdom of the words of John Maxwell who once said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” That’s why the good ones leave- to be with good leaders.


Who is your hero?

-Karthik Gurumurthy

It is totally fine to admire what a person achieves in science, business, or in sports, but it is not smart to turn them into a hero unless they are the kind of person you want your child to grow up to be. Sports people were portrayed role models were very appropriate because the media only reported their redeeming qualities. Tiger Woods might have succeeded as a golfer but he is not a great role model.Some great football players beat their girlfriends. What we can learn from Roger Federer/ Sachin Tendulkar is their dedication to excellence.  Here's the challenge- separating the message from the messenger.

There is also lot of confusion between being great at something and being famous. If you are famous, then you are admired. You can be famous for good, for being notorious, or just for being famous (Kardashian, Justin Bieber). If you are famous, people will flock to be near you, to have their picture made with you, and many of them will want to be just like you.

How many people choose a Teacher or Professor or a Mother doing whatever it takes to provide for the kids as a role model? Not many. More often we admire and adore singers, movie personalities and anyone who gets media attention.

We need to look at more than what they do, what they have and how they look. We must look at who they are and how they live.It is our responsibility to determine what we plan to achieve and then, find a role model who has succeeded in that area, using their standard of performance to motivate us in a specific aspect.

Just as we all have fallen short and failed in our endeavors, we have to realize that our heroes do not need to be all encompassing examples of inspiration. I have many role models. My dad, mom, many of my teachers/Professors /Cousins/Uncles/Aunts/ Friends. I doubt you have heard of any of them.


Asking the right questions

-Karthik Gurumurthy

One of the biggest questions that is continually in the forefront of a business owner/managers mind is – how do I become a better owner/leader?

So how do we become better? Not long ago, I had a learning break-through. It was at Vivekananda College and  Prof. S. Sundaram made this comment: “it’s not what you know that will help you, it’s the questions you ask”.

Prof. Sundaram was talking about Analytical Chemistry, but this applies across the board to just about everything.

Questions ignite imaginations, avert catastrophes and reveal unexpected paths to brighter destinations.In Forbes Bunch of entrepreneurs have pitched in their questions which are as follows:

1. How can we become the company that would put us out of business?
2. Are we relevant? Will we be relevant five years from now? Ten?
3. If energy were free, what would we do differently? Or if not energy, then choose another key word that drives your business?
4. What is it like to work for me?
5. If we weren’t already in this business, would we enter it today? And if not, what are we going to do about it?
6. What trophy do we want on our mantle? Is growth most important? Profitability, stability?
7. Do we have bad profits? Some products/services look attractive, but are they taking the company capital and focus away from its main line of business?
8. What counts that we are not counting? What tangible and intangible assets truly differentiate your business  that you currently have no means of measuring?
9. In the past few months, what is the smallest change you have made that has had the biggest positive result? What was it about that small change that produced the largest return?
10. Are you paying enough attention to the partners your company depends on to succeed?
11. What prevents me from making the changes I know will make me a more effective leader?
12. What are the implications of this decision 10 minutes,10 months, and 10 years from now?
13. Do I make eye contact 100% of the time?
14. What is the smallest subset of the problem we can usefully solve?
15. Are we changing as fast as the world around us?
16. If no one would ever find out about my accomplishments, how would I lead differently?
17. Which customers can't participate in our market because they lack skills, wealth, or convenient access to existing solutions?
18. How likely is it that a customer would recommend our company to a friend or colleague?
19. Is this an issue for analysis or intuition?
20. Who, on the executive team or the board, has spoken to a customer recently? What should we stop doing?
21. What are the gaps in my knowledge and experience?
22. What am I trying to prove to myself, and how might it be hijacking my life and business success?
23. What do we stand for- and what are we against?
24. Is there any reason to believe the opposite of my current belief?
25. Do we have the right people on the bus?

Questions can be a great friend. Have an outstanding weekend!


Lesson on integrity

-Karthik Gurumurthy

  SRT1

I am currently  reading the book "Playing it my way" written by the Cricket Legend Sachin Tendulkar (SRT).  I always want to know what he had to go through to reach the pinnacle of success he had achieved to be one of the greatest cricketers of all time. One of the stories which he shares in this book really shows what he is made up of. 

SRT's career did not start the way one would expect. When he started getting coached from Ramakant Achrekar (RA), he moved schools to Sharadashram where RA coached. The first two games he played, he scored  two consecutive ducks. He scored 24 runs in the third game.     One had to score at least 30 runs to get the individual score published in newspaper. The scorer of the game mentioned to SRT  that he will make up his score to 30 (adding the extras of 6 to his score) and convinced SRT that it should be alright as he is not changing the total. In the excitement of seeing the name in the newspaper, SRT had agreed to fudge his score from 24 to 30. He was hoping he would get applause all over the place for this accomplishment. Instead, the following day SRT got the surprise/shock of his lifetime. Coach RA got really upset, shocked and unhappy after seeing the fudged score in the newspaper. He took SRT aside  and showed through the motion how unhappy he was with the manipulation. It taught him a valuable lesson of integrity and SRT promised that he will never do that again. What a powerful story and a powerful lesson! The instance clearly shows how his character is made up of.

I have seen lot of occasions where emphasis is given more on performance than integrity. So I have seen lot of people falter and fudge having the notion of doing whatever it takes to make things happen. Doing whatever it takes is good but it has to be done with integrity. Success without integrity is not long lasting.  Even though he might erred in this occasion, it takes a lot of guts to openly share it so that everyone can learn from it.  This is one of the reasons SRT was able to have outstanding success in the long run as he had all these values and principles deep rooted in him. 

Picture courtesy: ESPN Cricinfo


Good thoughts

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Today my friend G. Krishnan (fondly referred to Gikku) shared a quote from Swami Vivekananda. I loved it and would like to share this with you all.

"If we both exchange one rupee, we each have one rupee.

But if we both exchange one good thought, we each have two good thoughts."

Isn't that so true and powerful?