Making it big


It was at HRL as the Country Head of the Service Team that I first entered the big league .This was a team that grew to be greater than 250 strong and a job that required human relations skills , process orientation ,and all the related skills taught to us at the Management school.I did get to like the role and soon got identified as a Service Profile and not a sales profile.Be that as it may I liked the role , found it very challenging and maybe was better cut out to be a service person than a sales person .This is some thing that has alway been at the back of my mind , perhaps I wanted to be in the sales fraternity .I always said to my self that should the opportunity to lead a sales team come my way I would not be found wanting.However I was quiet and shy and did not have the usual charecteristics of salesmen and people could be forgiven if they didnt want to assign me the role of a sales head.
What realy where the factors that lead to my success in his role.Firstly I think I was able to see the bigger picture and could fashion the service vision based on the requirements of the senior management team.Secondly I was able to bring a holistic approach to developing the policies and programmes for the service team some thing my B school had trained me to do.It was unusual for a person of my background to be in service and I was  surely way above most others in terms of strategic thinking and alligning the team to company goals. I guess as a leader I was head and shoulders above the others in the service team and hence quickly got to a position of unquestioned leadership within the team.I maynot have found the going so easy in terms of aquiring leadership in a sales and marketing fraternity.Not rotating and getting into a sales & marketing position earlier enough in my career would surely have stunted my growth as a professional.
I was always a people orinted manager and  this helped me win the support of the service team including the senior team members .I was a good role model for them and and always sought ways of getting the best out of them.Having the full confidence of the MD and other senior managers helped get me the space to work freely.I loved the freedom I got and all my life this was a big requirement for me in any assignment.
One principle I always adhered to in my career was to allign personal goals to that of the company and to steer the teams goals in line with the broader company goals.This is something I always advise any manager to do .All my earlier professional days where tied down to the office and I got little or no time for the family.My wife Deepa gave me al the emotional support I needed and took ful responsibility for the family leaving me free to imerse my self in work.Was this good or bad ?? I can say but i’ve always found that there is really a thin line between what is good and not so good .How one conducts one self and gets the best out of any situation is the most important thing in life.I was really fortunate to have such an understanding and wonderful person as my wife.

The Launch Pad


A sudden move in Jan ’85,to Delhi as Country Head of Service for HRL was the launch pad for my journey into Senior Leadership positions.It is here that I grew to lead a team of over 200 spread all across the country . More importantly I moved into the inner circle of HRL and became a key critical resource and a major influencer of decision making .I was seen as a good, effective and successful senior manager in HRL. 
There where many people who helped me .PS Viswanathan ,the MD of HRL created an environment where I could put my thoughts and ideas into actions and gave me both the space and the confidence to play my part .The management team comprising of CR Sitaraman , Hemant Kumar , Mahesh Mahajan, M Raghunandan among others where perhaps the nicest team I have had the good fortune to work with .This was a great team of likeminded professionals who worked together in a synergestic way to achieve the goals of the company.I cannot emphasize how important it was to me that all these individuals gave me the environment and support to grow and establish myself as a leader.
 

The Steppes of Success


Successes , position ,perks , recognition et al would follow in a long hard driving career .When I look back there is much to feel proud about and much to be pleased & happy about.There are many people who have been instrumental in helping me grow and  they have been my mentors & shoten jengin in my career.It will be my endeavour to honour and offer thanks to all such individuals in this narative.There have  also been several opportunities , some fortunate and some by design ,to grow and develope which I will also cover but  may not be able to do full justice to each .Besides I dont intend this be a chronical of events .I will however try to place events & experiences in the perspective of  my growth and develpoment and give for each an assessment and analysis. 
The personal side of life and my spiritual journey have intertwined , or should I say run parallel with my professional life at every stage . I will attempt in a humble way to cover developments on all fronts be it professional ,personal or spiritual.I do know that my professional growth was driven in many ways by spiritual & personal development. 
Significant steppes or growth planks for me  have been my family & formative years , mentors and mentorship through my career, leadership & change agent opportunities,my wife and family and  the Soka Gakkai  experience .I will attempt to recount and analysis each of these steppes as I go along or as I stumble along .

More from the good ole diary


Here are some unedited snatches ;
Febuary 14th ,1973
On the day before I feft home for B’lore I saw the girl who had occupied most of my thoughts all these years.In ’57 when she left with out a word , she left in me a huge void.She did return years later but the norms of our family and my own acute shyness kept me away from her .This time I left without a word but I wont be leaving any voids behind.I take them all with me .So as Dr Christian Barnard said ,’ So you grow older and life was measured not by birthdays or successive new years .It was a string of good byes .It was a race from the garden of childhood , a leap towards the unknow.’
Feb 28th ,1973
Of my own choosing I’ve decided to be a loner .Basically I am not a loner and the day cant be far off when I bloom out gregariously .Slowly but surely I must build up my confidence , curb my hype sensitivity and learn to achieve just that balance of the extrovert and the introvert which is so fetching in the successful.
March 2nd,1973
I am lonely yet not gloomy.At home I was lonely too and time and again plunged into gloom.Who knows if gloom is round the corner?I always thought my blues where to a large extent because of my lonliness but now I’m begining to realise it was all due to my disappointment in myself.
March 27th 1973
I dream of greatness so much , yet I am in no way outstanding.I am just ordinary and I suppose not even my nearest friends would ever in the slightest measure see in me the greatness I wish to attain.I only wish I could bring forward the tenacity of purpose and industry needed to achieve any measure of success.
April21st,1973
At a movie ,Secret of Santa Vittoria, I saw a girl sitting a few rows ahead of me .I found myself getting very attracted to her and I just could not keep myself from loking at her .Once she did turn around and saw me but after that didnt take much notice of me.It really is a very long time since I felt the warm glow around me on thinking affectionately about a girl .I wanted to see her again when the movie was over but missed her in the crowd.I walked away with the disconcerting thought that I would never see her again.Yet there was around me that happy feeling & tenderness that only a girl can evoke in a man.Truely it must be marvelous to be really in love.
 

The turbulant sixties


I truely had the most horrendous adolesence you can imaine.It’s too far back in time for me to put the bits and pieces together.There are memories and scars which I will briefly recount and cant fathom the answers to several questions .No need to know the why’s and wherefor’s now and many of the problems I encountered must surely have been the stuff of all adolosents of that time.However let me lay them down as I saw them ;
I carried a very low sense of self esteem and a deep sense of insecurity — where did this come from ? I was for most times I can remember lonely with frequent bouts of depression.There where times ,I was later told,when I went through days on end immersed in my own thoughts and not saying a word to any one .I harboured a deep sense of dissapointment in myself — now where did that come from , considering I had loads of talent and was way above average in almost every facit of life.I had a deep desire to succeed in life and remained paranoid about this almost all through my career.It would be a drab recital of my youth and maladjustments if I tried to get to the root of these issues; enough to say I was a completely maladjusted adoloscent– a boy interupted if you may say so.
I would place the root of my problems to some of the following with out any qualification and purely from hindsight and the wisdom of age.
 I did not have companionship of my age with whom I could share and reconcile to the pains and pang of growing up.Nor could I share my troubles with either parents or a role model or mentor.The lack of a mentor or life coach was a huge drawback which set me back in personal developement by at least a decade or two.I had huge aspirations but no goals , no game plans and neither the guidance of a mentor or the wisdom to understand that life is all about choices and I had the full ability to make my own choices and shape the course of my life and career.
My family , and particularly, my mother had a very strong influence in our lives, unfortunately in ways not always good for us .Bless her soul .That’s where I would lay my bet was the cause of the deep rooted insecurity I carried for decades , or the inhibited behaviour or the excessive concern for living life the way others decided it should be .That I guess is the reason for such a big sense of relieve when I left home for my first job in B’lore . I will revert to quoting snatch from the diary of that turbulent time just to relive the major concerns and feelings I carried during those formative days in an unedited flash back. 

Snatches from an old diary


The momentus first year away from home is perhaps best captured from these snatches from an old diary with out any editting .So here goes :
 
With the New Year less than ten hours away,I cannot resist thinking over all that has been in ’73.When viewed against the past half-a-dozen years I can say it has been a good year for me andI hope ’74 will prove to be the same.
Lat New Year’s eve was quite enjoyable with Hema & the girls and Jaya and Prithi at home.There was a lot of fun,singing and general gaiety.This time it’s not going to be the same.In fact I still havent chaulked out a programme but with the flexibility and independence I now have I can get around.I do think it would be quite stimulating to break in the New Year alone,with my mind roaming freely and in gay abandon as it has for most of the present year.It would be afitting end to the current year though not necessarily a great beginning for the next.
For years I have been cramped by tradition and the confines of restrictions.Now to be able to move to the dictates of my own mind unhampered , is a blessed relief.I was always individualistic ; most of all because I had a certain priority of interests which clashed almost everytime with that of the others and to resign myself to views totally out of character was a strain to say the least.Years from now when I look back nostaligicaaly ,1973 will stick out as the year I was freed of shackles.
’73 was also the year I finally found steady employment.Earlier I had spent about eight months at the Philips Regional Service Centre at Chennai.I was steadily getting disgruntled with transistor radio servicing when I got the good news of a job at ITI ,B’lore.I couldnt stop myself spreading the news among my colleagues at Philips.It was a relief to know that after almost two years I had finally landed a decent job.
In the eleven months I have spent in ITI  I have faced a variety of situations which have served to taper down the acute hyper-sensitivity which plagued me in the past.I am also learning the happy knack of comming to terms with the practical requirements of every day life.I have pushed aside certsain impeding notions and developed a more practical bent of mind.An absolute necessity in this troubled and selfish world.Looking back over the year I can say I sure have grown up a lot.
I has alwaysintended to develope an ever growing circle social circle on getting a stable job but I found such a social circle hard to come by for an introvert like myself.IBesides the circle of friends I had at ITI , the small circle I had outside the factory seemed to be growing tighter and tighter rather than keep spreading like ripples in a pool of water.I seemed to prefer being alone as I treasured my new found independence.Here I must strike a balance between ideals and good neighbourliness.
Even before the year was very old , I had decided not to fight against certain characteristics within me which where in born and inherent .I also learnt not to worry to much if I was being understood on not and most of all I learned to control my over eagerness to please.
Living as a paying guest was a novel experience and as I was lucky to find a comfortable family to stay with , I didnt hav emuch problems.It never crossed my mind that I would one day be a PG but now I have got quite used to the idea and even advocate such a living to others like me.The one great thing Im learnt was to compromise thought and action.Thus I was never dogmatic but allowed a compromise between actions I had to take vs my thoughts and very propitious to act in concernance with my thoughts.In other words I was getting to come to terms with an incorrect world !!It also was second nature for me to read the thoughts of others arising out of thier actions which gave me a shrewder insight into the people I met.
A lot has been done in ’73 and alot more remains to be done in the years to come and as long as I count each passingyear and still look forward to change in the next ,I know I will be growing and maturing.
And so time flew by and ’74 was around the corner .We planned sufficiently in advance for the 31st night but as late as the afternoon of the 31st nothing was finalised.However we ,from ITI , did set off after dinner , saw a movie,dodged through milling crowds of long haired youngsters yelling & dancing and some where in the hubbub ’73 slid away and ’74 with all it’s promise took over.
What will ’74 have in store for me I wonder?I cant really predict the future events but with the confidence of ’73 and with due reservations for the unpredictable , I face ’74 with greater balance and peace of mind than I faced ’73.It only remains now to face each twist of fate with patience and courage, to do the very best I can all the time and leave the rest unto the Lord
 

Growing Wings


Another significant first was moving away from home for my first job ,at ITI Bangalore.I stayed as a paying guest ,took my own decisions regarding my time ,activities etc etc .It was as if the butterfly was finally breaking out of the  cocoon.But as I said before I wasnt a very brightly coloured butterfly nor did I seek to fly far far away.I largely remained insecure & uncertain of myself and this would continue for several years till I came to terms with my self,nevertheless this was a very significant land mark .I grew up by leaps and bounds and thoroughly enjoyed a life of my own.
I stayed with the Thomases ,Suzy and Ipe and there two little children Miriam & Ipe Jn.They where a wonderful family to stay with and I felt at home and comfotable with them .Had most meals with the family had to share the toilets and was almost part of the family!! They had a wonderful easy going and uncomplicated attitude to life and in certain ways I must have been influenced by their living style .I also wanted my own freedom and privacy which they gave me,allowing me to live my own life the way I wanted to .This and the fact I was away from home gave me a really great feeling and I shook off some ,if not all, the shackles that bound me for so long.
 

The winning formula


If I consider what lead to our victory there would be several reasons , here are some of them.I had a burning desire to win having risked a lot in resigning from a cushy job in ETTDC to join HRL, and could be sacked for inability to fit in or perform.This strong desire to win rubbed off on Harish & George .They needed it as they where on an extended probation.

My training in the management school at IIMB to think and work in a structured way was helping me a lot in the long gestation micrography sales cycle.We also strictly followed the seling cycle.The team placed their trust in me and followed my work way , in turn I took full responsibility for performance .
I carried no baggage from the past and went about the task of securing orders with enthusiasm and hope.Harish & George may well have had reservations in the early days , how ever I kept at it and some where along the line they must have realised we where on the right track .
We discussed all tactical issues regarding each case every day,including on Saturdays role plays of what our customers objections maybe .These daily tactical discussions and the movement we could see in several cases must have lead to a growing confidence in the new methods I had introduced .Harish also had a big part to play as I felt he also believed in the structured and thoughtfull work way.I was often told when I was taking over this team that Harish would be difficult to handle .This was an error of judgement by my managers .He was a great influence in our successes.
I was in regular touch with my Manager in Delhi ,CR Ramesh.Then my manager and later to be a life long friend .Our lives would intertwine in a mystical way as we lived through our lives .I would have much to say about Ramesh & Jaya , his wife, later on .This frequent communication helped convey the feeling that we where on the right track and our adherence to the recommended sales strategy only helped keep faith in us.This positive communication also helped our team stay on track and accept my leareship and directions.If Harish & George had not cooperated with me or choose to leave we may not have succeeded as they carried all the knowledge of customer contacts , the lay of the land etc.
There was a human side to why they hung in and helped .I believe I set up for them a caring and result oriented environment .We even had our fun moments together as we went off on picnics & outtings together .We got to know each other and what we saw of each other must have been appealling both ways .We alll needed each other and needed to succeed .  

More First’s


The next significant first that made a great difference to my career and life was the first time I took up leadership responsibilities .This was when I left ETTDC to join HRL ( Hindustan Reprographics Ltd) part of the HCL Group ,which later merged with the other consituents of the HCL group to become HCL Ltd Reprrographics Division and then as HCLOA Division now part of the HCL Infinet organisation.This was in May 1983.
The team I inherited was a small one comprising Harish Muthana,Thomas George,Vikram Astha ( who didnt fit in and left in about three months ) Sanjeev ,later Anil Sondur and our sincere & dedicated secretary  Edna D’mello .We where the Micrography Sales Team of the Western Region .I was then the District Sales Manager ( Western Region).It was really Harish & George who formed the early team , their earlier Boss had been asked to leave for indifferent performance and both Harish & George where on extended probation with just three month to perform or go .
We struggled as a team for a good 4 to 5 months with out a single order but we knew we where on the right track and results where round the corner .We stuck together as a team and also stuck to the task on hand .Then the first order came in from Vulcan Lavel ,Pune and soon the flood gates openned with order after order all strictly as per terms and with 30% advance .Never considered possible at that time.We ended the year way above plan or expectations, infact the Western Region clocked business more than the entire rest of the country by a very huge margin .Harish & George become loyal trusted Salesmen for HCL and grew within the organisation & where rated very highly .I still keep in touch wirh Harish though I have now lost touch with George.I was given instant recognition by being first promoted as an ASM and shortly thereafter an RSM with responsibility of West & South Regions.
This was the arena where I finally broke out of my shell to be recognised as a key performer for the company .This was also the learning ground for establishing my leadership style & traits .I went on to leader much bigger teams with much more resposibilities in HCL and Xerox and by and large my style worked well for me .Looking back I would certainly do many things differently ,however the basic style would remain.
There is a lot I would share about leadership ,my wins and losses ,what worked what didnt, what where effective traits and what not so effective.This I will leave for a future date . 
Though I was now a performer ,I continued to be reserved and diffident and unsure of my self .It would take many more years and several outstanding victories before I came reasonably to terms with myself.This is also material for a different day and time.

The Plan


The plan would be to recall all the very first instnces of significant events from the very earlierst days .I’m going to star twith one that may not qualify as the earliest but some thing that has always remained a very special moment for me.
This was when I moved from  St Kevins to St Mary’s and took part for the first time in  the school sports .As a tiny 9 year old I was in the ‘F’ Division .Our sports meet was at the Corporation Statium at Chennai and on the great day as I wandered around I saw a race about to start and suantered up to the starting line to get a closer look .That’s when I realised it was my event and every one was shouting out to me to join in .I stripped down to my running shorts and vest threw away the rest of the clothers and joined the particpants .And yes went on to win the event in a record time .And started off my career as an athlete at school .Went on to win several laurels including the Junior Division Individual Championship at the revived Inter School Sports meet a few years later. I was to lose out later on due to ill health and various other reasons .But that’s another story and for another day.