Management Lessons from the Ramayana

The Ramayana is one of the greatest epics of Hindu Mythology. It is not just a story, but also an educational medium used by the ancient sages to espouse the importance of doing your dharma (duty). Lessons from Ramayana are a part of teaching leadership, management and governance at many prestigious management institutions. Here are a few lessons that we can comprehend from Ramayana and how they can be applied in the corporate world.

Team motivation is vital

One of the most obvious incidences, in which use management principles is very clearly visible is that of Hanuman going to Lanka. His mission was to locate Sita there and give her Lord Ram’s message. When it became clear that Sita was in Lanka, Jamvant asked Hanuman to go there. He helped him in realising his true potential and motivated him to go in the enemy’s camp.

SWOT Analysis

Once mentally prepared for the job, first thing which Hanuman did after reaching Lanka was to do a complete analysis of the situation. He did a complete study about the Lankans, assessing their strengths and weaknesses, the various threats and opportunities which he had in the enemy’s camp.

Work on strategic alliances

In Ramayana, Sughriv has shown some of the best managerial characteristics. As a successful manager he had Ram to work accordingly and got his kingdom back from a brother who was far mightier than him. Using his managerial skills he even had Angad to work for him. If Sughriv would have been a bad manager then the same Angad would have turned into one of his arch enemies.

Value your subordinates

In the same Ramayana, again and again Ravana has shown the signs of a bad manager, and hence led to the demise of his kingdom. From the starting itself he ignored the suggestions of his managers and got his kingdom in the state of war with Ram

Leaders need to create more leaders

After the discovery of Sita’s whereabouts, Hanuman, of his own volition, set aflame the city of Lanka. Hanuman’s decision of burning Lanka displeased Ram. And so after that, Hanuman stopped taking decisions. To rectify the damage done, Ram had to remove himself from the scene so that Hanuman could rediscover his decision-making abilities. During the course of the war, Mahiravan, managed to abduct both Ram and Laxman and take them to Patal lok. Only Hanuman had the intellectual and physical prowess to rescue them and eventually, Hanuman succeeded in rescuing Ram. Ram had thus created a leader.

No one is bigger than the brand!

The challenge in building the bridge to Lanka was to make the stones float (as all stones will sink the moment it is thrown into the ocean). It is said that a solution was offered by supporters of Lord Rama, i.e. inscribe the name “Rama” on the stone and then throw it in the ocean. The same was done and it worked! At one point, Lord Rama decided to extend a helping hand so he picked up a stone and threw it in the ocean. Surprisingly it sank without a trace!

Importance of communication

When Bali fought demon Mayavee and entered a cave during their fight, Sugreeva was ordered to keep a watch outside till Bali emerged. After nearly a year’ wait when neither Bali nor the rakshasa (demon) came out, Sugreeva thought they had both been killed. He went back to Kishkindha and became its ruler and made Tara, Bali’s wife, his queen.However, Bali returned and seeing Sugreeva as king, Bali thought he had been betrayed.

Believe in your team

The Rakshasa army was a powerful one, which had defeated the formidable, devas and vanquished powerful kings. In contrast, the army of Rama comprised of soldiers who were perhaps aboriginal tribes who had never encountered a sophisticated army before. Yet Rama maintained confidence in the ability of his army to surmount this seemingly impossible odd and enthused by his confidence his army fought to achieve victory.

Succession planning

Dasaratha’s plans for installing Rama on the throne of Ayodhya do turn topsy-turvy, but the existence of a clear succession plan can never be denied. This is meant to ensure continuity in governance. It helped that besides being the eldest son, Rama was liked by all and hence chosen to lead the kingdom once his father passed away. As per Raghuvansham of Kalidasa, when the time comes to relinquish his body, Rama divides it equitably between his two sons – Lava and Kusha.

Leave the comfort zone

When Rama gets ordered to remain in the forest for a span of fourteen years, Sita and Rama take it as an opportunity to engage with the ordinary citizens of their kingdom, rather than remaining confined to the comforts of their palace. This helps them to understand the ground realities better.

Excellence in execution

The plan to locate Sita gets brilliantly executed by Hanuman. The wisdom with which he conducts the search and the single-minded pursuit of the goal is an example worth emulating by managers at all levels. While crossing the sea, he declines an invitation from Mount Mynaaka to take some rest on the way.

Recognize and stay away from the ‘Yes-men’!

Ravana is a highly learned and accomplished person. One of the reasons for his downfall is to neglect the advice of nay-sayers. His wife, Mandodari, brother Vibheeshana and grandfather Malyavaan – all advise him to return Sita to Rama. Instead, he chooses to listen to his courtiers who play on his ego and pride and advise him not to do so.

Always stick to the plan

When Rama killed the demon Maricha who came disguised as the golden deer, the demon called out “Lakshmana! Sita!” in Rama’s mimicked voice and died. Sita, upon hearing it, urged Lakshmana, who was standing guard to her, to go and help Rama, who seemed to be in trouble. Lakshmana’s patient counseling against it could not convince her. She accused Lakshmana of nurturing an evil idea of having an illicit relationship with her in the absence of Rama. Lakshmana, shell shocked by hearing such an abominable accusation, left immediately, leaving her alone. Ravana utilized this opportunity to abduct her.

Have a clear vision

Rama’s clear vision was to rescue his wife Sita and defeat the evil forces. This clarity about the goals as well as the process enabled his army to put its heart and soul in the battle to rescue Sita. A foreseen vision will always be a motivating factor to focus on the goal and to not get deviated. Every leader needs to have a clear vision of what he is aiming for and what will it bear him in future. Also he needs to think in parallel to his followers who will support him to achieve his goals.

Beware of dubious attractions

Sita, in the forest, got madly attracted by a beautiful golden deer. She refused to heed to her husband’s counsel that such a deer could not be a natural one and it could be a demon in disguise. It is her incessant pestering to acquire the deer to be her play-mate that forced Rama to go behind it. It paved the way for her getting separated from him and she got forcibly abducted by Ravana.

Maintain cool during crisis

Following Sita’s abduction, Rama wandered destitute and penniless in the forests searching for Sita. The Ramayana is full of poignant details of Rama’s sadness and his memory of Sita. Yet this grief did not prevent him from searching for allies even when the enemy was unknown. Even throughout the battle with Ravana, Rama maintained his courage even at the darkest hours and in doing so inspired his army to not only continue the unequal fight, but also win it.

Put a premium on values

Sticking to some core values which are steeped in righteousness eventually leads to success. The main protagonist of Ramayana, Rama, is depicted in Ramayana as an epitome of virtue. He is an ideal king, an ideal son and a pragmatic person. He sets high ethical standards in warfare and invariably sides with dharma, or righteousness.

Empower subordinates

When Vibhishan defected, Rama took him under his protection. He then had a talk with the various army chiefs some of whom disagreed with Rama. Instead of punishing them, Rama assuaged their suspicions and got them to accept his decision. Everybody felt that their opinions had been heard and that their objections had been clarified. Empowerment of subordinates to question his decisions was a key and unique quality of Rama which one cannot but help comparing with Ravana who never allowed anybody to contradict him

Do These 6 Habits Daily To Be On Your Way to Being a Strong Leader

You don’t choose to lead people, they choose to follow you. People want to follow someone who protects their interests, demonstrates integrity and leads by example.

When it comes to strengthening your leadership skills daily habits are important to analyze. What are you doing today that is making you a better leader? Where do you stand with your team right now?

You don’t wake up great at anything in life or business. Behind every great CEO, athlete or politician you will see a regimented set of habits and unparalleled work ethic that is exercised daily. The greats realize the small daily habits and actions will add up to represent a greater body of work.

These daily 6 actions may appear small in appearance but they are huge in importance.

1. They are accountable for everything.

And I mean everything. If you’re a leader, that means being accountable for everything that happens within your organization.

2. They are learn-it-alls, not know-it-alls.

No one likes a know-it-all. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said it best when he summed up a lesson from the book Mindset in a sentence: “Don’t be a know-it-all; be a learn-it-all.”

When you’re committed to learning, you’re saying you’re committed to improving. Constant improvement, even in small doses daily, will make you a better-suited leader in the future.

“Don’t be a know-it-all; be a learn-it-all.”

3. They are the hardest worker in the room.

If you want to be CEO you better be the hardest worker in the room. No matter what physical tools or IQ you were born with, work ethic is a choice. Being a leader in a company means sayings like, “first one and last one out” are not a cliche but a truism in your life.

4. They don’t beat around the bush.

Communicating clearly and directly minimizes the chances of being misunderstood. Being a leader means you will have to:

  1. Outline the company vision and directives with clarity.
  2. Have difficult conversations.

The difficult conversations aren’t fun, but they’re an inevitability you will face. Whether it’s giving criticism, letting someone go or negotiating, there will be a time when it’s not easy. In these situations have a bias for candor.

5. They listen more than they talk.

Great leaders don’t wait to speak, they listen. Focusing on listening to your team members does two things: It gives you a chance to gather the most information before giving direction and makes your team members feel heard.

6. They reverse engineer their team’s wants.

They say the golden rule is, “treat others the way you would like to be treated.” Great leaders don’t do this.

Instead, they treat others the way they would like to be treated. Some people on your team will be motivated by financial incentives. Others will be motivated by an opportunity to learn.

Once you find out what each member of your team wants from their position at your company you can reverse engineer your incentives from there

“If you agree or disagree with the above views, please like or comment. It helps us in our direction to give positive articles”

“We agreed, Sire…”

“You are now the VP Sales from now on”… Sweet words, something I always wanted to hear first handed, in a secluded place by my boss .. lets call him the MAN…with a glass of wine and a pack of smokes. And I hear it without the wine and the smokes. It was a dream. But we had an agreement… I had to list out the activities I had to do and also those which he had to complete for me to take the 10x Sales challenge… Haah! Easy peasy!!!

So the lists were completed and exchanged and modified and finally…Agreed upon!

I set out with a vengence to get my list completed as my list of to-dos was larger and longer than his. What is and what is night but just the colour of the sky! Heart pumping, mind buzzing and mouth screaming for all those who came in my way.

50, 60, 70…100% of my to do list complete!!! and I raced to the MAN’s office and checked up on him… Sire I have completed my tasks and only those remain which are pending action from you… “You mean to say, that I am not supporting you…” Dangerous thought!.. “No No Sire.. but it would help if you completed at least 1 task by the end of the week.. no no err month…”

“Ok I will see what I can do..”

Long story short… end of year, achievement 5x of target, admonished for non achievement…, no bonus, low rise in pay… “We agreed..” the MAN boomed.. Yes Sire…We agreed…”

Do put in your comments if you liked this post to an extent experienced something similar…

Life After 45… Part 2

This series is for all those corporate citizens who are all achievers in their careers but have been told that they are unemployable… They are 45+.. And for those who think that they will never be 45..

Retirement…????

In the early part of my “organised” corporate career, I had joined a an “exciting, new” life insurance company.

The entre team of new sales managers were very excited about learning new tricks. There were a few guys like me who were 30+ in age and it was certainly a very exciting time for us to be there with younger people and dynamic bosses.

Our trainings began… done by both Indian and foreign trainers; perks of being new joinees, first joinees, “founder team members” etc.

The first thing which struck me was to plan for working life with taking adequate life insurance; depending on age, affordability, risk to be covered blah blah!

One thing that stuck to me was that in all the downloads and reiterations we got was to calculate our saving taking into account our current savings, disposable income etc till the age of 60.. a working life of 37 years

Really! Cut to the new realities..bro!

  1. Graduation age 21
  2. MBA age 23
  3. First job age 23
  4. First promotion age 25 (?)
  5. First jump age 25
  6. First managerial assignment age 27
  7. First branch age 28
  8. First territorial assignment age 30
  9. Signs of stagnation age 31-35
  10. 2 more Change overs till age 35
  11. More stagnation till age 38
  12. First threat of job loss age 39
  13. First “unfortunately let go” age 40
  14. Next job after 6 months with a lot of heart burns
  15. Next “Unfortunately we are downsizing” age 45

Then the struggle..

  • Job portals
  • Friends (duh)
  • Ex bosses (double duh)

Shouldnt we be taking insurance while planning in job period to be from 23 – 45 years for a period upto age 75?

So basically 22 years of working life for 30 years of survival post it!

Please comment if you find this……Pessimistic, Optimistic, Balanced!!!

Life after 45… Part 1

This series is for all those corporate citizens who are all achievers in their careers but have been told that they are unemployable… They are 45+

The ageing dog..

My employers and I parted very amicably.. I had a few promises of further engagement and my career was not getting anywhere in my current company.

So, in continuation of the discussions with a new prospect introduced by a” close family friend”, the meeting was set in a personal setup.. the residence of the introducer.

After a few drinks and chit-chat that were going nowhere, the prospective employer hooked his arms to mine and took me to the terrace.. “Hey buddy..”he began..”you know… The average age of our employees is 33…”

And I was way over 45…

Stop Relying on Your Company for Career Development

Take control of your own advancement

As part of my job, I look at employee surveys, and one thing that habitually comes up is people wanting more career development and advancement opportunities. This fascinates me, because a lot of people aren’t doing very simple tasks—which can’t be replaced with organized committees or training programs provided by the company—to advance themselves. In fact, I make a point to have one-on-one conversations with people to better understand their point of view around this idea, and invariably it becomes obvious that they haven’t put the onus on themselves to go out and look for—or even create—opportunities to get noticed. To put it bluntly, that is backward, and it won’t get you where you want to go.

Taking control and creating opportunity does not have to be part of a grand scheme or something that will eat away at your productivity. In fact, it comes down to basics. Introduce yourself, shake people’s hands, and get comfortable with putting yourself out there. If you are interested in a particular area, even if it isn’t related to your education, background, or current job focus, find out who the manager is—and introduce yourself in person.

“Hi, my name is…” can go a very long way.

Learn the art of strategic exposure

If you really want to get noticed, you have to put yourself out there in strategic ways. Volunteer for work and new responsibilities—even if it means stretching outside your comfort zone or having to put in a few more hours of effort at night or on the weekends.

If you want to have your boss’s job or boss’s boss’s job, you need to show what you are made of to large groups of people. There are three ways to do this: Speak up in meetings; find opportunities to give presentations; and write emails that will be seen by either large audiences or key decision makers.

Here is the hard part: Make sure you are clear, concise, and emotive when presenting and corresponding. These types of interactions are how you build your personal brand and credibility within the organization.

Make sure to show up

It’s old news that many companies have embraced a heavy telecommuting culture. For example, here at Insight, about 80% of my team telecommutes. However, this means that showing up once in a while is that much more important to getting noticed. Even though it may not be mandatory, make the trip in once or twice a week. If that isn’t possible, find a schedule that works for you. Even great work can’t supplant a handshake or a face-to-face interaction with teammates and managers. Conversely, if you are in the office but work with teammates or managers who are remote, make sure to introduce yourself to them when they are in town or ask them to grab a coffee.

While there are easy things to do to get noticed, there are also a few easy mistakes that can be made along the way. In short order, don’t take too much of people’s time, don’t over-communicate—less is more when you are striking up that initial conversation—and do your homework so that you have the right information to be brief, but effective.

In the few times I’ve seen people put these best practices to work, I have not only been impressed by their behavior, but often have noticed their realization of career dividends as a result.

5 Unique Ways To Invest In Your Employees

Typical employee benefits no longer differentiate a company as much as they used to. Companies are realizing they must offer unique advantages that other businesses don’t to keep top talent. Investing in your employees is not a new strategy, but there are different ways of creating loyalty among your top performers.

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Here are five uncommon ways to create loyal, top-performing employees within your company:

1.     Thought Leadership

I’ve learned that one of the biggest employee motivators is a sense of pride in their work. If your teammates feel they’re truly the best at what they do, that goes a long way. Encouraging and investing in your employees can be both a big motivator and a great boon to the company. In a recent article, a colleague and I talked about the benefits that thought leadership can bring a company’s marketing.

However, we left out the fact that one of the biggest benefits is to the employee. The more an employee leads her space, the more opportunity and credibility she brings to her company. Look at your VPs or directors, and put a plan in place to share their expertise with the public. Sure, you could worry about them leaving to start their own ventures or join another company, but if they’re the right people for your business, it should make them more loyal to your company.

2.     Personal Branding

This ties into thought leadership nicely because you can build your employees’ brands as they become thought leaders. Maximize the value of the content they release or the awards they receive. Make sure everybody updates their LinkedIn and other social media profiles. Educate them on Google’s Author Rank so they increase their Web presence. As you increase their brands, you will see your company’s credibility skyrocket. Investing in the branding of your employees is almost as important as the overall branding of your company. When your partners or customers deal with your company, they deal with the people who lead it. A good personal brand will mean fewer trust barriers to overcome. Your staff will have more credibility and, at the same time, create opportunity for the company.

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3.     Unique Culture Benefits

Normal benefits like 401(k)s and insurance are important, but it’s also important to provide benefits that set you apart. In an earlier post, I wrote about a variety of different unique job benefits. Ken DeGilio, CEO of LaunchMob Media, has his team “volunteer for One Brick Orlando doing social media trainings — and they’re usually in a bar!” Invest in events and benefits your employees will brag about to their friends. You will instill a sense of pride in the company and probably obtain a few more applications from talent — without spending a dime on recruiting.

4.     Personal Time Investments

This is the hardest investment, but it’s also the most valuable. When my co-founder and I started Influence and Co., we invested a lot of time in each employee. We made it a point to take employees out to lunch, include them in business trips related to their areas, and spend time with them outside work. We were able to create a trusting environment while helping all our employees develop into the leaders they are today. As a result, we’ve had no employees leave and have been able to sustain growth because we have great employees who can lead day-to-day operations while we focus on the big picture. It was a big investment, but also well worth the time.

5.     Network Expansion

Many leaders are scared of the thought that their employees could develop massive networks. Job opportunities will eventually come their way, and they could easily be lost. However, if you invest in the above benefits, there should be a trust created that makes that less of a worry.

Make it a point to continuously introduce your employees to influential people you know. A spread effect will occur; they’ll develop the relationship and often turn it into an opportunity you might have missed. They’ll also gain the confidence that naturally comes with having a bigger network, and they will have more resources to learn from. Outside of the content I read, the best information comes from conversations I have with other leaders in my network. It’s worth it to invest in giving introductions or services that will help your employees become “connected.”

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You want your company to stand out from the dozens you’re competing against — to do that, you have to help your employees stand out. Your team really is your most valuable asset, and your team will keep adding value once they feel your loyalty is as strong as theirs.

John Hall is the CEO of Influence & Co., a company that assists individuals and brands in growing their influence through thought leadership and content marketing programs. Influence & Co., one of the leading providers of high quality expert content to the world’s top publications, is the creator of Contributor WeeklyConnect with John on Twitter or Google+.

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Never easy to fire an old resource

A decision had to be taken so I made my to do list of the process I would follow. 

  1. Counsel the reportee
  2. Come to an agreement on the methodology of reaching the target
  3. Monitor achievement 
  4. Involve my boss in the process 
  5. Involve HR in the process
  6. Go back to point 1

Response from reportee on the above points

  1. Am doing the best i can
  2. There is no better way to do this
  3. Am doing the best I can
  4. Why is he asking me questions 
  5. I am the best guy for the job and I can prove it

I had already resigned myself to my fate when my boss called me..  he was livid! And he started like this.. 

“…. If you cant manage your people, then I will get someone else to manage them…” oh! My… 

So, I started again… From point 1

  1. Listen buddy.. You are in real danger of losing your job if the said targets are not in place.. Your counterparts are at 90% so whats your problem
  2. Now I would be happy if you could  take your  achievements to 75- 80%.. this quarter.. Then we will push for next quarter.. Ok! 
  3. You can do it.. I will travel with you and meet your touch points for this month 
  4. Made a complete PIP plan and mailed it with copy to boss.. 
  5. … And HR

    Reaponse from reportee… Applied for 15 day leave

    Response from Boss… “Kill him”

    What should be my course of action… Anybody! 

    3 Mistakes Executives Make When Telling People That They’re Leaving

    Senior leaders in Silicon Valley are among the best-educated, most sophisticated, and savviest executives you’ll find anywhere. Yet over the course of placing senior high-tech leaders in new positions over the past 14 years, I’ve seen far too many make fundamental mistakes that cast a cloud over their leaving their old employers.

    The consequences range from the distasteful to the disastrous: hurt feelings, lasting resentment from former colleagues, blame for harming the company, and — worst of all — a reputation for thoughtlessness that can damage a career.

    It’s painful to witness, and it begs the question: If they can’t get it right, who can?Other than the admonition to resign diplomatically, little detailed advice has been available about how to leave one’s current company the right way. Even less research has been done on leaving well. To close that gap, my firm undertook a national survey of more than 700 senior executives and human resources officers. Only 16% of the senior executives reported that they would have done nothing differently the last time they voluntarily resigned. Here are their top three regrets and what you can do to avoid their mistakes:

    Being unprepared to be fired on the spot. You never know how much resentment your departure might evoke, or how harsh the response might be. In the worst-case scenario, you could be fired on the spot and escorted from the building immediately. Especially if you’re going to a competitor, don’t be surprised if your resignation turns into a termination. Almost all of a representative sample of senior executives and chief human resources officers we interviewed to supplement our survey said that someone leaving for a competitor would be terminated immediately.

    Nevertheless, if you are going to a competitor, say so. Being less than forthright will only compound the resentment when you’re inevitably found out and saddle you with a reputation for evasiveness. Tell your current company that you are crystal clear about your obligations to them and that you have already talked about the issues with your new company.

    Take every precaution to avoid the suspicion that you might be taking valuable data, technical information, or customer information with you.

    That means resisting the natural inclination to transfer or delete files from your computer that you regard as personal or of no consequence to the business. If you want to transfer some personal files, do it in front of an HR person. And don’t erase company files, because under forensic examination (if it comes to that) it can look fishy.

    Neglecting to rehearse. The second most frequently cited regret was failing to confidentially rehearse the explanation for departure with a trusted advisor. It’s not just a matter of being tongue-tied. The inability to explain clearly and reasonably to a boss or colleague why you’re leaving can lead to hurt feelings and misunderstandings, and it can open the door to protracted and painful attempts to talk you into staying when your mind is made up.

    Before springing your decision on your boss, go first to a trusted advisor to get coaching and another perspective.

    This critical initial conversation will give you the opportunity to talk through your personal and professional reasons for leaving and how you plan to mitigate the effects on colleagues and the company. It will also give you an initial reaction to your decision. Your mentor may make you aware of implications you had not considered, such as timing or the reaction of a key colleague you had overlooked. Your mentor may also be able to suggest the best way to approach your boss with the news.

    The effects of resignation ripple outward from your boss to your colleagues and the company as a whole.

    Foreseeing all of those effects can be challenging, so it’s not surprising that shortsightedness in that respect was the third most frequently cited regret in our survey.In looking at our data, we found that when it comes to analyzing the likely effects of their resignations, executives typically fall into one of three categories: those who focus on the optimal timing of their departures (38%), those who focus on relationships (31%), and those who take an unsystematic, scattershot approach, improvising as they go (30%).

    Source: 3 Mistakes Executives Make When Telling People That They’re Leaving