Monthly Archives: December 2013

Om Purnamadah: Peace Prayer on the Wholeness of Existence & the Vastness of Being

Here is a peace prayer (shanti mantra) from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, one of Hinduism’s sacred books, that is an appropriate paean to the wholeness of existence.

Om Purnamadah: Shanti Mantra, Peace Prayer

Om Purnamadah Shanti Mantra (Peace Prayer)

Om purnamadah purnamidam
Purnat purnamudachyate
Purnasya purnamadaya
Om shanti shanti shanti hi


  • Purnam-Adah: “That is complete.” Here, ‘that’ could refer to everything that is not part of one’s perceived sense of self (self-identify.)
  • Purnam-Idam: “This is complete.” Here, ‘this’ could refer to everything that is part of one’s perceived sense of self (self-identify.)
  • Purnat-Purnam-Udachyate: “From one complete entity, another complete entity is born.” The first entity refers to the ‘that’ and the second entity refers to the ‘this’—the two aspects of outer and inner sense of self-identity.
  • Purnasya Purnamadaya: “When a complete entity is taken away from a complete entity …”
  • Purnameva-Vashishyate: “… what remains is also complete.”
  • Om shanti shanti shanti hi “Let there be peace.”

Wholeness of Existence Acceptance: Om Purnamadah: Shanti Mantra, Peace Prayer

Interpretation: Wholeness of Existence & Acceptance

In our relationships, when we engage with one another, if we feel we lack in something or the other person lacks in something, then the engagement will be a transactional one. The very nature of such engagement might cause expectations and might foster feelings, thoughts, and actions that are selfish in nature.

When we engage with each other with the understanding that no one lacks anything and a consciousness that others are whole regardless of mere appearances, then all the feelings, thoughts, and actions fostered by such engagements are complete and selfless.

All of us must be giving, and by being available for others, we do not lose anything and remain complete. At the same time, the other who is receiving does not become “more” for her or she already is complete and stays complete.

Posted in Faith and Religion

Use Common Sense to Become More Flexible

Use Common Sense in Leadership to Become More Flexible

Too many leaders do not see that 99% of being a good leader involves using good old fashioned common sense. They make numerous leadership mistakes, which in turn causes poor employee morale and turnover problems. Common sense is useful in navigating tangible, everyday situations—situations where we actually are dealing with real people, here and now. On the corporate landscape, we see ten scenic vistas that relate to management and the use of common sense. From each vista, you can extract guiding principles to establish your own attitude and action.

  1. Use simple guiding principles. Life is complex enough without adding complexity to it. The difference between what you value and what your values are can help you actively seek to understand the corporate culture. The guiding principles that work are those that are aligned with basic values. If your employees need a week to study your operations manual or mission, you have a problem. At Southwest Airlines, they repeat a simple mantra “We are family.” The results flow to the bottom line. Organizations have a hard time letting go of their challenges.
  2. Respect mental models, yours and others’. Those mental models hold the key to how interactions get shaped. Every action is interpreted through your mental model, and each of your next actions is based on the interpretation. As with you so, too, with the other person. But that person’s model may be different. Not only is that okay, but it matters a lot. Foster a safe environment for people to communicate candidly, give positive and negative feedback, and have an honest dialogue within the organization, especially when things go wrong. Mental models helps others predict the kinds of behaviors your are likely to engage in more accurately than almost everything else you tell them does.
  3. Use landscape metaphors to describe both the environment and processes taking place within it. People are programmed to deal with landscapes, not with 2 x 2 matrices, board games, accounting statements, and bubble diagrams. One of the most important but one of the most difficult things for an effective organization is to be where your greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.
  4. Combine and recombine. The advantage of building blocks is that they come apart and can be put together in new ways. Holistic thinking does not lend itself to new combinations. Holistic thinking can force organizations to become too focused on performing to today’s demands and forget that business models are constantly evolving. Consistently acting in even small ways toward your vision by combining various ideas can give you a sense of influence and possibility.
  5. Recognize your multiple roles. Don’t hide from them. In each role, what is called to the foreground will differ, as will the context or background. To assert otherwise is to risk dropping your 18-month-old at the important client’s for daycare and taking the babysitter to a $200 lunch. The babysitter will wonder what is up, you won’t get the big contract, and your boss will be perturbed. Not only do you have multiple roles, but so does everyone else. When the roles are aligned, purposeful action happens easily. Reinforce the concept of interconnectedness: each employee isn’t just defined by the role he or she signed up for because there are downstream and upstream effects that affects others’ work.
  6. Create canyons, not canals. Rivers need lots of room, yet when bounded by canyon walls they are still free to explore. Not so with a canal. Much money and labor go into keeping that river right where it is. As with rivers, so too with other flowing processes, like, new product development, recruiting, marketing, and customer service. Building a canal for these flows is locking them into a reality that will be outdated before the canal even opens. Canyons work better—they require more digging but less maintenance. Prepare for every scenario by letting your ambitions die of fatigue rather than inaction and organizational patina.
  7. Tell stories to allow others the benefit of shared experiences. Merely repeating conclusions or instructions will not do the trick. Stories allow others to relate to fact, context and emotion and to bring their own interpretation to what they hear or read. Meaning happens from interaction, not from passive reception. Meaning can help build a strong, focused team.
  8. Send out scouting parties far and wide to probe the environment with the goal of finding stories to bring back. Look with an open mind. A weekly trip to Radio Shack is unlikely to reveal what the latest fashions are from Paris. Sears finally figured this out, and its clothing sales have improved greatly. How can you ascribe background or foreground to what you cannot see or have never heard about? The biggest risk of personal newspapers on the Internet is that we only read what we asked for. Without inventiveness, leaders are simply workers in management positions.
  9. Post and attend to road signs. Effectiveness is not a state to arrive at, but a mode of journey. Labels tag items to make them easier to find, but too much labeling or the wrong kind allows the label to become a fence. To individuals, tags are how they get known for doing things. But to the organization that same tag may signal, “This is Fred’s domain—back off.” Good for Fred in the short run, bad for the organization. Balance is essential. Serve with passion and demand excellence.
  10. Fuel coherence with aligned words. Leadership is a journey and coherence your vehicle. Just as your auto won’t work with the wrong gas, mixed messages and “do what I say and not what I do” behavior will not a coherent organization make. Vehicles can be towed and people coerced, but these are not coherent actions, just temporary aberrations. Both come at a cost. Language and word choice form a manager’s primary tool. Sound guidance can grow from the seeds of aligned words. Used poorly, all you get are weeds. If you really understand a concept coherently, you can explain it using a clear metaphor and consolidate the strongest counter-argument into the your understanding and communication of idea.

Southwest Airlines Vintage Ad: Mix Business with Pleasure

Southwest Airlines embodies coherence by having each of its employees “think and act like an owner.” Owners think differently from non-owners. Ownership is about caring, about becoming engaged in the active pursuit of objectives. Owners focus on the business results of their actions. They evaluate the merits of an idea based on whether it contributes to delivering customer value.

Owners bend, stretch and even break rules that don’t serve the purpose. If breaking the rules is not an option, owners take the initiative to change them. When people have a vested interest in the outcome of a business, they become more cost conscious, industrious, and imaginative. Owners are also willing to take action without being asked. An owner takes the time to follow up with a customer who expresses a concern during a casual meeting. An owner picks up trash that others may have ignored.

Southwest Airlines has eliminated inflexible work rules and rigid job descriptions so that its people can assume ownership for getting the job done. This gives employees the flexibility to help each other when needed. Employees adopt a “whatever it takes” mentality. They are practicing the next common sense.

Posted in Management and Leadership Philosophy and Wisdom

Advice to Entrepreneurs: Home Depot’s Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus on Loving Your Customers

Most entrepreneurs exhibit persuasion, vision and direction, accountability, goal orientation, and an intense ability to focus and direct their efforts. Here is advice from Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus on loving your customers. Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus are the co-founders of The Home Depot, the chain home improvement retail stores.

  • Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus, co-founders of The Home Depot Love your customers. When I would go into stores, I would hug and kiss customers because I recognize that everything I’ve had in my life came from them. That is the difference between me and Jack Welch. With Jack, the bottom-line was the most important thing. With us, we said if we treat the customer right, we eventually would have the bottom-line. Remember most customers are on loan. But, if the customer is loyal you, your company will be good, no matter what else happens.
  • The customer comes first. Number two was the associate. We knew that the associate was critical. We loved our associates. We would walk into stores and hug them. And they knew we love them. The feeling was there and it was mutual.

'World Changers: 25 Entrepreneurs Who Changed Business as We Knew It' by John A. Byrne (ISBN 1591844509) Source: “World Changers: 25 Entrepreneurs Who Changed Business as We Knew It” by John A. Byrne. John A. Byrne is chairman and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media Inc., a digital media startup Byrne was previously executive editor and editor-in-chief of and founding editor at Fast Company. Byrne is the author or co-author of eight books on business, leadership, and management, including Jack: Straight from the Gut with Jack Welch, former Chairman and CEO of General Electric. In “World Changers,” John Byrne presents potent advice on entrepreneurism and fascinating insights into what it takes to succeed as entrepreneurs from successful business luminaries such as Apple’s Steve Jobs to HARPO’s Oprah, from India’s Ratan Tata to Brazil’s Eike Batista. John Byrne argues that the greatest common denominators amongst great world changers are the centrality of purpose in their organizations, their willingness to seek advice through mentorship and peer counseling, and the ability to maintain focus and direction over long periods.

Recommended Reading

Posted in Business and Strategy Leaders and Innovators Management and Leadership

Dave Packard’s 11 Simple Rules

Hewlett Packard: David Packard and William Hewlett

Dave Packard, along with Bill Hewlett, friend and fellow graduate of electrical engineering from Stanford University, started Hewlett-Packard (HP) in Packard’s Palo Alto garage with an initial capital investment of US$538. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard are known for their legendary people-oriented management style and community consciousness.

Below are eleven simple rules that reflected Dave Packard’s philosophy of work and life. These rules were first presented by Dave Packard at HP’s second annual management conference in 1958 in Sonoma, California. A memo containing these seven simple rules was discovered in Dave’s correspondence file.

  • 'Bill & Dave: How Hewlett and Packard Built the World's Greatest Company' by Michael S. Malone (ISBN 1591841526) Think first of the other fellow. This is THE foundation—the first requisite—for getting along with others. And it is the one truly difficult accomplishment you must make. Gaining this, the rest will be “a breeze.”
  • Build up the other person’s sense of importance. When we make the other person seem less important, we frustrate one of his deepest urges. Allow him to feel equality or superiority, and we can easily get along with him.
  • Respect the other man’s personality rights. Respect as something sacred the other fellow’s right to be different from you. No two personalities are ever molded by precisely the same forces.
  • Give sincere appreciation. If we think someone has done a thing well, we should never hesitate to let him know it. WARNING: This does not mean promiscuous use of obvious flattery. Flattery with most intelligent people gets exactly the reaction it deserves—contempt for the egotistical “phony” who stoops to it.
  • Eliminate the negative. Criticism seldom does what its user intends, for it invariably causes resentment. The tiniest bit of disapproval can sometimes cause a resentment which will rankle—to your disadvantage—for years.
  • Avoid openly trying to reform people. Every man knows he is imperfect, but he doesn’t want someone else trying to correct his faults. If you want to improve a person, help him to embrace a higher working goal—a standard, an ideal—and he will do his own “making over” far more effectively than you can do it for him.
  • 'The HP Way: How Bill Hewlett and I Built Our Company' by David Packard (ISBN 887307477) Try to understand the other person. How would you react to similar circumstances? When you begin to see the “whys” of him you can’t help but get along better with him.
  • Check first impressions. We are especially prone to dislike some people on first sight because of some vague resemblance (of which we are usually unaware) to someone else whom we have had reason to dislike. Follow Abraham Lincoln’s famous self-instruction: “I do not like that man; therefore I shall get to know him better.”
  • Take care with the little details. Watch your smile, your tone of voice, how you use your eyes, the way you greet people, the use of nicknames and remembering faces, names and dates. Little things add polish to your skill in dealing with people. Constantly, deliberately think of them until they become a natural part of your personality.
  • Develop genuine interest in people. You cannot successfully apply the foregoing suggestions unless you have a sincere desire to like, respect and be helpful to others. Conversely, you cannot build genuine interest in people until you have experienced the pleasure of working with them in an atmosphere characterized by mutual liking and respect.
  • Keep it up. That’s all—just keep it up!

For Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard’s legendary management style and the history of Hewlett Packard, read ‘Bill & Dave: How Hewlett and Packard Built the World’s Greatest Company’ by Michael S. Malone and ‘The HP Way: How Bill Hewlett and I Built Our Company’ by David Packard.

Source: HP Retiree Website

Posted in Leaders and Innovators Philosophy and Wisdom

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Tells Stories: Devotion and Grace or the Parable of Devicharan and Sarvamangala

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836–1886,) the eminent Hindu mystic of 19th-century India, used stories and parables to portray the core elements of his philosophy. The meaning of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s stories and parables are usually not explicitly stated. The meanings are not intended to be mysterious or confidential but are, in contrast, quite uncomplicated and obvious.

In the Hindu and other traditions of the major religions of the world, parables form the language of the wise for enlightening the simple, just as well as they form the language of the simple for enlightening the wise.

The Parable of Devicharan and Sarvamangala

In a village, there once lived a poor Brahmin named Devicharan.

Devicharan was a very good man and he loved the Mother of the universe with all his heart. He worshipped the Mother in the form of Durga.

Very often, people asked Devicharan to go and read to them about the Mother from a book called the Chandi. In return, they gave him gifts of food or clothing. In this way, Devicharan was able to get enough to eat. He lived happily with his wife and daughter, and although they were so poor, they never felt sad.

Devicharan’s daughter was very beautiful and very good. Her name was Sarvamangala. Her parents taught her all they knew and she learned everything very quickly. She worked hard and whatever she did, she did well.

The time came when Sarvamangala was old enough to be married.

“You must look for a husband for your daughter,” Sarvamangala’s mother said to Devicharan. “But who will marry such a poor girl? We have nothing to give her.”

“Do not be anxious, my dear,” Devicharan replied.”

“Our daughter is as beautiful as Lakshmi and as gifted as Saraswati. Where is there a girl as lovely and as brilliant as Sarvamangala?”

“You are right,” agreed his wife. “She is good and beautiful, and skillful in everything she does. Her cooking is excellent. Above all, she loves to make people happy by serving them.”

“So we must not worry, about her marriage,” Devicharan said. “Mother Durga will do everything.”

A few weeks later, a good man who was a landlord paid a visit to the village, and he happened to see Sarvamangala. When he found that she was as good as she was beautiful he wanted her to be married to his son.

Devicharan agreed to this and Sarvamangala was married. She went away to her father-in-law’s house in the next village.

Devicharan and his wife felt sad and lonely, without their daughter, but they were happy that she was no longer poor and had a good husband.

Soon it was the month of the Durga Puja festival.

“Wife,” said Devicharan,” “Mother Durga has blessed our daughter with a good and wealthy husband. This year we must perform Durga Puja in our own house.”

“But, we are so poor” his wife replied. “We have barely enough to eat ourselves, how can we think of-doing the Puja here?”

“What?” cried Devicharan. “Is Durga the Mother of the rich and not of the poor? Will she not accept our humble offerings? We shall offer her whatever we can afford.”

The time of the festival drew near.

“We must bring home the image of the Mother,” Devicharan said to his wife.

“I wish Sarvamangala could come home, too,” his wife replied.

Devicharan took a fifty-paisa coin and went to the image-maker.

“I am going to perform Durga Puja in my house,” Devicharan said. “Please make me a small image of Durga. I shall pay you fifty paisa.”

“Have you lost your senses, Devicharan Babu?” the image-maker replied. “It costs a great deal of money to perform Durga Puja, and even the smallest image costs more than fifty paisa.”

“I have no money,” Devicharan explained, “but I love the Mother and I am grateful to her. I shall perform Durga Puja even if I worship her with nothing but flowers.”

The image-maker looked very surprised, and he became thoughtful.

“I understand your feelings,” he said. “Very well, I shall make an image for you, and you need not pay me for it.”

“I must pay you whatever I can afford,” Devicharan answered, and he made the man accept the fifty paisa.

As Devicharan and his wife prepared for the Puja, their thoughts turned very often to their daughter. Sometimes they wept because they felt so lonely without her.

“She will not be allowed to come to us now,” Devicharan said, “because she will be too busy. In that rich family they will perform Durga Puja in a big way and Sarvamangala will be a great help to them. We shall have to manage without her.”

The next day, however, Devicharan’s wife fell ill.

“What shall we do?” she wept. “Tomorrow the Puja begins, but I am too ill to move from my bed. Who will cook? Who will help us? Oh, Sarvamangala, we need you.”

Devicharan comforted his wife. “Don’t regret,” he said. “I shall go at once and see Sarvamangala. Perhaps her father-in-law will allow her to come, as you are ill.”

Devicharan went to Sarvamangala’s home, but she was not allowed to go back with him.

“I am very sorry,” her father-in-law said to Devicharan, “but my wife just cannot manage without her.”

Feeling sad and worried, Devicharan said good-bye to his daughter, and set out for home. He talked to Mother Durga as he walked along.

“The image-maker has made a beautiful image for me,” he said, “and tomorrow I want to worship you. Now my wife is ill and my daughter cannot come home. What am I to do?”

At that moment, Devicharan heard someone calling him from behind. It seemed to be his daughter’s voice. He stopped and looked back. To his surprise there was Sarvamangala hurrying towards him.

“Wait for me, Father,” Sarvamangala cried, “I am coming home with you.”

“How is it possible for you to come?” cried Devicharan. “What will your mother-in-law say?”

“Do not worry about anything, Father,” Sarvamangala replied. “Everything is arranged. Take me home with you.”

Now Devicharan and his wife were very happy. Their daughter had come home. She seemed more beautiful than ever and her face was bright with joy. She took care of her mother and did all the work of the house.

The same evening Sarvamangala helped her father to dress the image of Durga for the worship, which would begin the next day. The image stood in a decorated shrine and when they had finished they were amazed at its beauty. Sarvamangala’s mother now felt much better and she too praised the image.

“See how beautifully Sarvamangala has dressed the image,” she said. “And see how beautiful Sarvamangala is herself. We have no costly silks and jewels, yet our goddess and our daughter will find no equal anywhere for charm and beauty.”

The first two days of the festival passed happily. Devicharan worshipped Durga and his heart was filled with peace. The third day came, and this was the day when guests should be fed.

“Today we must give a feast to all the neighbors,” Sarvamangala said.

“Are you joking, child?” Devicharan replied. “How is it possible for us to give a feast? We have only a few fruits to offer.” “I am not joking, Father,” Sarvamangala said. “You have worshipped the Mother in your house. The worship will not be complete if you do not give a feast. I am going now to invite all the neighbors.”

Sarvamangala went to the neighbors’ houses. Devicharan prepared for the worship.

“Now that my daughter is married to a rich man’s son,” Devicharan thought, “she thinks” it is easy to give a feast.”

When Sarvamangala returned, Devicharan sat down to worship the goddess. Sarvamangala assisted him. The image seemed to be living and Devicharan’s face shone with joy. The whole room seemed to shine with light from the goddess.

At noon, the neighbors began to arrive. Sarvamangala had invited them all to partake of the fruit offerings made to the Mother.

“Just see what a prank the girl has played,” Devicharan said, feeling very worried.

“We shall look very foolish when they find we have nothing to offer them,” his wife said.

“Now you are both to stop worrying,” Sarvamangala said firmly. “Leave it all to me. I have invited them and I shall give them the offerings.”

Devicharan welcomed all the guests, and then went and sat before the Mother. “Let me not be put to shame, Mother,” he said. He remained sitting before the image for now he was afraid to face the guests.

Sarvamangala asked the guests to sit down, and then she served the fruit that had been offered to Durga during the worship.

“My father is poor,” Sarvamangala said, “so he cannot give you a big feast. It is his good fortune that you have come and request you to partake of these offerings.”

The guests began to eat the fruit.

“What delicious fruit!” they exclaimed. “We have never tasted anything like it. Just a little of it is quite satisfying. This is better than a big feast.”

With great happiness, the guests went home. They showered their good wishes and blessings upon Sarvamangala and her parents.

“Have the guests all gone?” Devicharan asked. “Did they laugh at me or curse me?”

“Nothing of the kind,” Sarvamangala said. “They were all very happy indeed.”

“The strange thing is,” Sarvamangala’s mother said, “half the offerings still remain, yet the guests were completely satisfied.” “It is indeed strange,” Devicharan said. “Mother has blessed us,” he added, and tears of joy flowed down his cheeks.

The following day was the last day of the worship. Devicharan felt sad, for today the Mother would leave his house. He sat before the image, offering the goddess a special dish made of rice, curds, and fruit.

As Devicharan sat there with his eyes closed he did not notice Sarvamangala enter the room. Quietly she began to eat the food that was being offered to the goddess. Then Devicharan opened his eyes. He was shocked to see his daughter eating the offering.

“What are you doing, daughter?” he cried.

Without saying a word, Sarvamangala ran from the room.

Devicharan asked his wife to prepare a fresh offering, and when it was ready, he again sat down to worship the Mother.

Again Sarvamangala crept into the room and ate up the food that was being offered, and again Devicharan asked his wife to prepare some more.

For the third time Sarvamangala crept into the room and ate up all the offering. Now Devicharan felt angry with her.

“What is wrong with you today?” he cried. “Do not spoil my worship again. Go away.”

Sarvamangala went to her mother.

“Father told me to go away, Mother,” she said, “so I am going.”

“Today you will have to go back to your father-in-law’s house, child,” her mother replied, “for the festival is over. When your father has finished the worship he will take you home.”

When Devicharan at last finished the Puja, he went to his wife.

“Where is Sarvamangala?” he asked.

“She was here a short while ago,” his wife replied. “She must be waiting for you to take her home.”

They searched and searched for Sarvamangala, but could not find her anywhere.

“The foolish girl must have gone alone to her father-in-law’s house,” Devicharan said. “I must go and see that she is safe.”

When Devicharan reached the house, he was relieved to see that his daughter was there.

“I scolded you for spoiling the worship,” he said to her. “Is that why you came away alone? Are you very angry with me?”

“What are you talking about, Father?” Sarvamangala replied looking very puzzled.

“Did you not eat up the offering as I was doing the Puja?” Devicharan said. “Did I not scold you?”

“But, Father, I have been here all the time,” Sarvamangala replied. “My father-in-law told you I could not go with you.”

Devicharan was astonished. Then he understood what had happened.

It was Durga herself who had come in the form of his daughter.

“Mother, Mother,” he cried, weeping tears of joy. “You came to me and I did not know you!”

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa once said, “I see God walking in every human form. When I meet different people, I say to myself, ‘God in the form of the saint, God in the form of the sinner, God in the form of the righteous, God in the form of the unrighteous’.”

Recommended Books

Posted in Faith and Religion

Avoiding Executive Burnout and Meltdown

Avoiding Executive Burnout and Meltdown

Today’s corporation is no longer a stable or secure place. It is an uncertain, turbulent environment where executives often find their compassion and humanity in conflict with the pressures of competition and ambition. Corporations are involved in a continual change process that creates heightened anxiety.

The focus is on velocity to generate revenue, reduce costs, improve efficiency, and enhance employee and customer satisfaction.

Most executives prefer to be seen as agents of change, but many are branded as corporate assassins with ice water in their veins and a pocket calculator for a heart. In addition, managers feel pressured, as sales and production quotas climb, but budgets, salaries, travel allowances, expense accounts, and opportunities for promotion dwindle.

Executives are at the end of an electronic leash, compelled to carry a beeper and cellular phone, check their voice mail, and e-mail messages often to remain in constant touch.

Corporations do not understand the human aspects of restructuring as they do finance and technology. The result is known as survival sickness or burnout, generally caused by prolonged or cumulative long-term stress. Recognition of it is not easy, since the condition is slow to develop. By the time it is noticed, permanent damage to an executive’s health and happiness may have been sustained.

Four Phases of Stress

Research identified four phases of stress reactions that lead to burnout.

  1. Warning signs. The warning signs are emotional in nature, and are feelings of vague anxiety, fatigue, depression, boredom with one’s job, and apathy.
  2. Mild symptoms. If an executive ignores these warning signals, they will intensify. Some physical signs are added to the emotional ones: reduced emotional control, increasing anxiety, sleep disturbances, headaches, diffuse back, and muscle aches, loss of energy, hyperactivity, excessive fatigue, moderate social withdrawal, and nausea.
  3. Entrenched symptoms. An executive who allows a prolonged stress reaction will suffer some painful conditions. Career, family life, and personal happiness are all on the line, and immediate help is essential. Signs include: skin rashes, physical weakness, strong feelings of depression, increased alcohol intake, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, loss of appetite, loss of sexual appetite, ulcers, social withdrawal, excessive irritability, emotional outbursts, development of irrational fears, and inflexibility in thought.
  4. Debilitating symptoms. If an executive survives this destructive phase, he or she is rarely able to continue working in the same field. Careers end prematurely as do lives. Sufferers are usually sick, both emotionally and physically. Symptoms include asthma, coronary artery disease, diabetes, cancer, heart attacks, severe depression, lowered self-esteem, inability to function, severe withdrawal, uncontrolled crying spells, suicidal thoughts, muscle tremors, severe fatigue, overreaction, agitation, constant tension, frequent accidents, carelessness, feelings of hostility, and thought disorders.

Such burnout is preventable if corporations encourage executives to take care of themselves, and if individuals heed the danger signs and keep their lives in balance.

You can avoid meltdown by recognizing the stress reactions that lead to burnout. Prevention is better than cure.

Posted in Health and Fitness

Leaders as Stewards & Shepherds

Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd: Lessons for Leadership

During the biblical times, the oft-used portrayal of a shepherd and his sheep was an illustration that could help people identify themselves in their cultural and social context. Over the years, people have come to understand what shepherding is all about. Good shepherding is regarding feeding the lambs and the sheep, bringing them to pleasant meadows for pastures and water, grooming and clipping them, delivering new lambs, controlling them to stay together, return wandering lambs and sheep to the herd, protecting them and leading them safely into their stables at night. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd and that we are all under the care of shepherds and. As leaders, we need to follow what the Good Shepherd does for his sheep. Psalm 23, (King James Version) says,

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

The Good Shepherd as Inspiration and as an Ideal

Smart leaders can understand much from the Good Shepherd and learn lessons on tending their flocks. Most sheepherders “herd” sheep, driving them from behind. The talent to lead sheep separates the true shepherd from the false shepherd.

At the end of the day, true shepherds bring their sheep to a safe place, a sheepfold, made of high walls with thorns on top to prevent predators from attacking the flock during the night. When predators penetrate the sheepfold and start attacking the sheep, the shepherd steps into the action and risks his life for the welfare of the sheep. The false shepherd, on the other hand, values his personal safety and welfare above that of the flock; and even though he might try to help, he never gives his all; as a matter of fact, in the face of danger, he may run away, perhaps saying to himself, “It is an endurable loss. I have done all I can without suffering damage myself. These things happen. Isn’t there a line item for this damage to inventory?”

We realize from true shepherds that leadership is not just a job; it is a calling. Leaders have “flocks” for which they must care, just as in the parable of the Good Shepherd. Leaders are entrusted with the stewardship of influencing, teaching, guiding, and guarding. Only three other callings in life present as much promise for influence—being a parent, being a teacher, and being a team coach.

Leaders as Stewards and Shepherds

The Responsibilities of a Good Shepherd

We invite you to reflect on your leadership. Here are three success factors:

  1. Be clear on your values and purpose. In today’s world of work, it is easy to become lost in all the noise, uncertainty, and things coming at us at all times and lose sight of what is important. As leaders, we must remember the only thing that matters is the well-being of the enterprise and people with whom we have been entrusted. Good shepherds are clear on their purpose and true to that purpose—the protection, care, and well-being of their sheep.
  2. Lead rather than herd. The shepherd walks ahead of the flock and leads them. The shepherd names each sheep and calls each by name. The sheep distinguish the shepherd’s voice, trust him, and follow only him. Herding is about pushing people in a direction without giving them choice. People follow sincere leaders because they want to follow, believing them to be worthy of their loyalty and trust. Leaders are responsible for the well-being of the company and its employees.
  3. Place the welfare of the flock ahead of personal safety and comfort. The true shepherd feeds his flock and ensures its strength. The false shepherd feeds himself first and gets fat off the sheep. True shepherds know that caring for employees is the only way to win long-term faithfulness and build company strength.

Today, we see leaders who play the corporate game for short-term financial gain or who are merely passing through on their ascent to somewhere else. These leaders possess little loyalty to the company or its employees. They are false leaders who when placed in a situation that threatens their lives or reputations will save themselves and flee for personal safety. We are starved for leaders who are willing to feed their flock and defend the company and its employees from intense predators and competitors.

Emulate the Good Shepherd in your Leadership Style

Here are six reflective questions for a self-quiz to assess if you are emulating the Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, in your practice of leadership. Try answering these questions to identify your strengths and opportunities for growth.

  1. “Do I know my purpose as a leader?”
  2. “Will I “go to the wall” for these people and this company?”
  3. “Do I nurture an environment in which people want to help each other succeed?”
  4. “How have I defended my company and my team this month?”
  5. “How well do I know my employees?”
  6. “Do they willingly follow me with full hearts and complete trust?”

In your leadership practice, model the actions of the Good Shepherd. Lead from the front rather than push from behind.

Posted in Faith and Religion Management and Leadership

Value Investing: Do Your Own Analysis

Most investors could do well to implement an efficient method to run their own investment portfolios. In spite of everything, investors seeking a peace of mind desire to have a portfolio devoted to a portfolio of investments in which they can have the highest degree of confidence— a set of well-researched holdings that they can hold through thick and thin irrespective of what the market doles out in terms of returns.

Successful investors pride themselves on in-depth and proprietary analysis in search of “alternative perceptions”—arguments and counter-arguments to support their investment theses—rather than acting on tips or relying on the judgments of others, including Wall Street professionals and investment advisors. Allowing someone else to make your investment decisions can lead to frustration, lack of peace of mind, and possibly complete financial devastation and ruin.

Repeatedly, Warren Buffett has emphasized the need for investors to think for themselves. Investing is not an area where a person with a high IQ necessarily beats a person with a lower IQ in returns. In an interview with Linda Grant for her article “Striking Out at Wall Street” on the 20-Jun-1994 edition of U.S. News & World Report, Warren Buffett is quoted:

You have to think for yourself. It always amazes me how high-IQ people mindlessly imitate. I never get good ideas from talking to other people.

Most people tend to think that investments is a numbers game. However, successful investing has a lot more to do with personality traits than most people come to appreciate. Seasoned investors endeavor to manage their emotions during the investment process. This seems like a good idea but putting it into practice requires a disciplined mindset. The most important thing is to develop a sensible framework and a practical decision process and to have the self-control to stick to your plan. Successful investing takes time, discipline, and patience. No matter how great the investor’s talent or effort, some things just take time. Warren Buffett’s investing style of discipline, persistence, and patience has steadily outperformed the market for decades. In an interview with Patricia Sellers published 31-Oct-2013 in the Fortune Magazine, Warren Buffett stated,

Temperament is more important than IQ. You need reasonable intelligence, but you absolutely have to have the right temperament. Otherwise, something will snap you.

When doing research on investments, successful investors tend to understand thoroughly a company when they try to enunciate the negative scenario better than the positive scenario. On the rare occasion, if they have thought their investment theses thoroughly, and conclude that the negative scenario is more likely to play out, they might consider shorting the stock from a long-term investor’s perspective.

Again in an interview with Linda Grant for her article “Striking Out at Wall Street” on the 20-Jun-1994 edition of U.S. News & World Report, Warren Buffett is quoted:

Full-time professionals in other fields, let’s say dentists, bring a lot to the layman. But in aggregate, people get nothing for their money from professional money managers.

Successful investors make their own investment decisions and are become accountable for them and try to find safety in what other investors are doing. They are willing to acknowledge their mistakes, constantly learn from them, and evolve their investment processes over time. In his seminal treatise on value investing, ‘The Intelligent Investor’, Warren Buffett’s mentor Benjamin Graham wrote,

Have the courage of your knowledge and experience. If you have formed a conclusion from the facts and if you know your judgment is sound, act on it—even though others may hesitate or differ. (You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd disagrees with you. You are right because your data and reasoning are right.) Similarly, in the world of securities, courage becomes the supreme virtue after adequate knowledge and a tested judgment are at hand.

The first step is to understand your investment goals and tolerance to risk. Knowledgeable individuals understand the risk / reward trade-off. They then decide the level of risk that they can take on to achieve their goals. Successful investors also periodically review the performance of their investments, and alter their investment strategies.

Many investors are overconfident in their own abilities in finding good investment opportunities. Consequently, they make investment decisions without sufficient research and their investment theses are not as carefully thought-through be.

Recommended Reading on Warren Buffett & Value Investing

Posted in Investing and Finance

Your Boss Steals Your Best Ideas

Your Boss Steals Your Best Ideas

Your boss steals your ideas? He takes credit for your ideas. And presents them as his own? Itching to call his sham and set the record straight?

Get over it. You cannot tattletale on your boss without seeming petty.

In the first place, ideas are overrated. When it comes to performance evaluation, execution of ideas—yours or others—is what matters more than the generation of ideas. In fact, most employees have no trouble generating great ideas. But very few are adept at choosing the ideas that have the best potential for impact and executing those ideas.

In the second place, never go over your boss’s head. If your boss stinks at his job, your boss’s boss will reckon your boss’s underperformance or incompetence without your intervention. If your boss is any good, just your complaint of him stealing your ideas might not be grounds for any action. In any case, a part of your boss’s job is to collate ideas from his organization and present them to the management.

Here is the upshot: you are making your boss look good. Brilliant employees know that the best way to make the boss like them is to make the boss look good amongst his peers and in the eyes of management. Think of your boss stealing your ideas as an investment: you are contributing some ideas in return for a better relationship with your boss.

Posted in Education and Career Management and Leadership

Cognizant Technology Solutions: An IT Juggernaut

Propelled by the increased outsourcing of health-care data processing and by a growing number of European clients and an mindful operational strategy to reinvestment substantially higher proportion of operating profits in the business drove Cognizant’s top line growth and lent a hand in maintaining operating margins over the years.

Despite being based in Teaneck, N.J., Cognizant had an organizational structure that was India-centric from the very beginning. Cognizant realized early that its business and customer service strategy required that Cognizant satisfied the needs of its customers locally and still operate an increasingly global workforce, most of which is based in India. Cognizant designed its organization around how the tactical or operational situations its customers are facing. Cognizant’s phenomenal growth was built around the USP that it is as American as the large consulting companies (Accenture, Cap Gemini, IBM) and as Indian in terms of workforce as its primary competitors Infosys, TCS, and Wipro.

Cognizant Technology Solutions Juggernaut

Cognizant was the fourth Indian IT services firm, to reach $1BB annual revenue milestone, but it was the fastest: TCS took 35 years to hit the $1BB annual revenue milestone, Infosys 23 years and Wipro 25 years, while Cognizant took just 12 years. To be fair, Cognizant never had a start-from-scratch beginning. The company was originally established in 1994 as Dun & Bradstreet Satyam Software (a 76:24 joint venture with the erstwhile Satyam Group) as an in-house technology unit of Dun & Bradstreet with headquarters in Chennai, India. In due course, as Cognizant started serving external clients, the joint venture was rechristened Cognizant Technology Solutions and spun off as a separate company in 1996. In 1997, Cognizant moved its headquarters from Chennai in South India to Teaneck, NJ. After a series of corporate splits and restructures of its parent companies, Cognizant had an IPO in 1998 and has never looked back. Cognizant experienced rapid growth during the 2000s and was a regular on lists of fastest growing companies compiled by Fortune and BusinessWeek magazines.

Cognizant’s operating margins have remained healthy even in the face of heightened competition for customers and talent, wage inflation, attrition costs, and fluctuations in the strength of the Indian Rupee. Historically, Cognizant’s margins of about 20% have been lower than the 28% margins earned by market leader Infosys. Francisco D’Souza, Cognizant’s CEO stated in the company’s release of year 2013 third quarter earnings, “We delivered yet another quarter of industry-leading growth that was broad-based across our portfolio of industries, services, and geographies. The sheer velocity of change in the industries we serve is driving the C-suite to challenge the status quo and rethink their business models to be relevant for the future. Our investments across multiple horizons of growth position us well to deliver differentiated value as we partner with clients in this journey.”

Wall Street was worried of Cognizant’s performance earlier in 2013. First, Infosys gave terrible guidance during its first quarter results compelling Wall Street to believe that Cognizant might lower its guidance as well. The earnings miss from IBM also hurt the information technology sector. Taking into consideration recent events, there are concerns about upcoming legislation may impact the status of foreign workers and profitability. Many of these factors are tangential concerns and do not impact the company directly.

Cognizant Technology Solutions, Cathedral Road, Chennai (Dec 2004)

Cognizant was a late participant in the rapidly-growing European region for demands for computer services. In response, Cognizant made aggressive efforts to increase its presences there—geographically and expertise-wise. In an interview with the Business Standard, R Chandrasekaran, Cognizant’s Group Technology & Operations CEO expressed confidence that his company is well positioned to meet the demand for IT services and consulting: “In Europe, clients are looking to move more work to a global delivery model. A structural shift from discretionary projects to larger annuity-based outsourcing deals across Europe is being catalyzed by the economic climate. Our continued investments in Europe, local leadership and broad range of capabilities make us optimistic in our long-term growth prospects across Europe.”

Cognizant, with a large number of clients in the United States, could confront problems in attracting and retaining highly skilled foreign workers—largely computer programmers from India—in the United States due to restrictions in the availability of H1B visas. The Obama Administration has not yet resolved the issue of immigration reform. In a recent interview with India’s Economic Times, Gordon Coburn, former CFO and Operating Officer and current President responsible for managing Cognizant’s P&L, stated, “We continue to work with our legislators to develop the immigration reform that would be good for the US economy and the clients. We are encouraged that our legislators understand that some of the components in the original bill may not have been good for the economy and the US clients. So we are seeing a better understanding around what part of the bill will be good and what part will be not. It is an on-going discussion and it will continue.” Cognizant will face challenges in deploying strategic and operational measures to shield its cost base from the impact of wage inflation and employee attrition.

There can be no doubting that Cognizant will continue to grow well into the future. Cognizant Technology Solutions will continue to exploit every opportunity to expand its top-line and bottom line further and garner significant market share.

Posted in Investing and Finance