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 jengins in my career.It will try to honour and offer thanks to all such individuals in subsequent posts. There have 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 don’t intend this be a chronicle of events.I will however try to place events & experiences in the perspective of my growth and development 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 try 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 the value system instilled by my school and family, mentors and mentorship through my career, leadership & change agent opportunities,my wife and family and  the Soka Gakkai experience.Future posts will bring out some thoughts on each of these in the chaotic but spontaneous approach I have taken in this blog.

More from the good ole diary

Here are some unedited snatches ;
Febuary 14th ,1973
On the day before I left 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 unknown.’
Feb 28th ,1973
I am a loner. This is not what I really am and the day cant be far off when I bloom out gregariously.Slowly but surely I must build up my confidence,curb my hyper 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 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 loneliness but now I’m beginning to realise it was all due to my disappointment in myself.
March 27th 1973
I am uncertain of what lies ahead for me. I only wish I could bring forward the tenacity of purpose and industry needed to achieve any measure of success.
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 looking at her.Once she did turn around and looked at me but after that didn’t 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. Truly it must be marvellous to be really in love.

The turbulant sixties

I truly had the most horrendous adolescence you can imagine.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 can’t fully understand. No need to know the why’s and wherefore’s now and many of the problems I encountered must have been the stuff all adolescents of that time grappled with. I found it unusually difficult growing up.
I had a low self esteem and a deep insecurity — where did this come from ? I was often lonely with frequent bouts of depression.There where times,I understand,when I went through days on end immersed in my own thoughts and not saying a word to any one.I was disappointed in myself — now where did that come from,considering I had loads of talent and was way above average in almost every facet of life.I wanted to be successful in life and remained paranoid about this for most of my career.It would be a drab recital of my youth and maladjustment if I tried to get to the root of these issues; enough to say I was a completely maladjusted adolescent– a boy interrupted if you may say so.
These are the problems 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 confide in and share the pains and pangs 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 development.I had huge aspirations but no goals, no game plans and neither the guidance of a mentor nor 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 on my life, unfortunately in ways not always good for me.Bless her soul.That’s probably the source of the deep rooted insecurity I carried for decades, or the inhibited behaviour or the need to please. That may be the reason for such a big sense of relief when I left home for my first job in B’lore . I will quote snatch from the diary of that turbulent time to relive the major concerns and feelings I carried during those formative days in an unedited flash back. All things considered I was far too immersed in issues and concerns of little consequence. I did not know it then and it was decades later that I realised the folly of my ways. My mother told me that I was going through a particularly bad astrological period in my youth; they call it the 7 1/2 year bad period. Perhaps !? 

Snatches from an old diary

The momentous first year away from home is perhaps best captured with out editing from these snatches from an old diary that I maintained and wrote fairly regularly.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 and I hope ’74 will prove to be the same.
Last 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 haven’t chalked 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 a fitting end to the 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 my interests clashed frequently with that of the others. I had to resign myself to views totally out of character, which was a strain to say the least.Years from now when I look back nostalgically ,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 getting disgruntled with transistor radio servicing when I got the good news of a job at ITI,B’lore.I couldn’t 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 faced a variety of situations which helped taper down the acute hyper-sensitivity which plagued me in the past.I am learning the happy knack of coming to terms with the practical requirements of every day life.I have adopted 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 always wanted to develope an ever growing social circle on getting a stable job, but I found such a social circle hard to come by for an introvert like me.Besides 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 spreading like ripples in a pool of water.I preferred being alone as I treasured my new found independence.I must strike a balance between ideals and good neighbourliness.
Early in the year I decided not to fight against traits within me which are in-born and inherent.I learned 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 being lucky to find a comfortable family to stay with , I didn’t have many 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 I learned was to act without thinking too much.Thus, I was never dogmatic and allowed the situation to drive my actions. I was coming to terms with an incorrect world !!It was second nature for me to read the thoughts of others and their actions which gave me a shrewder insight into the people I met. This will be a useful trait in the years to come. o
A lot has been done in ’73 and a lot more remains to be done in the years to come and as long as I count each passing year 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 celebrating New Year’s Eve, but as late as the afternoon of the 31st nothing was finalised. With my close buddies from ITI,we 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 can’t 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

Moving away from home for my first job ,at ITI Bangalore, in 1972 was a major landmark in my life.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.I wasn’t a very brightly coloured butterfly nor did I seek to fly far far away.I largely remained insecure & uncertain of myself for several years till I came to terms with my self.I grew up by leaps and bounds and thoroughly enjoyed a life of my own from the fateful day when I left home for Bangalore.
I stayed with the Thomases ,Suzy and Ipe and there two little children Miriam & Ipe Jn. They were a wonderful family and I felt at home and comfortable staying with them. I had most meals with the family, had to share the toilets, and became a part of the family!! They had a wonderful easy going and uncomplicated attitude to life which I found very appealing. It was a living style I wanted for myself.I wanted my own freedom and privacy which they gave me,allowing me to live my life the way I wanted too. 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

There are several reasons that led to victory in the early days of HRL, 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 to win as they were on an extended probation.

My training in the management school at IIMB to think and work in a structured helped me a lot in the long gestation micrography sales cycle. We strictly followed the selling cycle, so important when sales lead times are so high.The team placed their trust in me and followed my suggestions and approach, in turn I took full responsibility for the team’s 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, however, as a team, we kept at it and some where along the line they realised we where on the right track .
We discussed all tactical issues regarding each case every day. On Saturdays we conducted role plays of likely objections from customers. These daily tactical discussions and the movement we could see in several cases led to a growing confidence in the new methods I had introduced. Harish had a big part to play as I could see that he also believed in the structured and thoughtful approach we followed.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 contributor to our successes as a team.
I was in regular touch with my Manager in Delhi,CR Ramesh. Ramesh later became a life long friend.Our lives intertwined in a mystical way. Ramesh & Jaya,his wife, played an important part in my life and that of my wife Deepa. 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 leadership and directions.If Harish & George had not cooperated with me or choose to leave we may not have succeeded to the extent we did. They carried all the knowledge of customer contacts, the lay of the land etc.
There was a human side to why we jelled together as a team. My natural style was to set up a caring and result oriented environment. We had our fun moments together as we went off on picnics & outings. We got to know each other and what we saw of each other appealed both ways .We all needed each other and needed to succeed as a team..  

More First’s

An event that made a great difference to my career and life was the first time I took up leadership responsibilities.I had left ETTDC in May 1982 to join HRL ( Hindustan Reprographics Ltd), a wholly owned subsidiary of HCL which later merged with the other constituents of the HCL group to become HCL Ltd Reprographics Division and then as the Office Automation Division in HCL infosystems Ltd.
The team I inherited was a small one comprising Harish Muthana,Thomas George,Vikram Astha ( who didn’t fit in and left in about three months ) Sanjeev Saxena,and our sincere & dedicated secretary  Edna D’mello. Later Anil Sondur joined the team.We where the Micrography Sales Team of the Western Region.I was 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 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 opened with order after order, all strictly as per terms and with 30% advance. Securing orders at these terms was never considered possible at that time.We ended the year way above plan or expectations. To everyone’s surprise the Western Region performed better than the rest of the country by a very huge margin. Harish & George become loyal,trusted and highly rated salesmen in HCL, and grew within the organisation.I still keep in touch with Harish and a little less frequently with George.I was recognised very quickly after this performance and was promoted as an ASM and shortly thereafter as an RSM with responsibility of West & South Regions.
At HRL I finally broke out of my shell and recognised as a key performer for the company.These early years in HRL were the learning ground for establishing my leadership style & traits. Later in my career I led bigger teams with more responsibilities in HCL and Xerox. My leadership style and the approaches I took worked for me by and large.Looking back I could have done many things differently.This is natural as we learn and evolve as we progress in our career.
There is a lot I can share about leadership styles,my wins and losses,what worked what didn’t, what were effective traits and what not so effective.This I will leave for future posts. 
Although I was recognised as a performer way back in 1983, I continued to be reserved and diffident and unsure of my self. It was after many more years and several outstanding victories that I came to terms and tamed the demons within me. This too is material for a different day and time.

The Plan

The plan is to recall the very first instances of significant events from the very earliest days.I’m going to start with one that may not qualify as the earliest but some thing that has always remained a very special moment for me.
I had moved from  St Kevin’s to St Mary’s in 1957 and took part for the first time in  the school sports. As a tiny 8 year old I was in the ‘F’ Division.The sports meet was held at the Corporation Stadium in Chennai. On the great day as I wandered around I saw a race about to start and sauntered up to the starting line to get a closer look.I was surprised that it was my event and every one was shouting out to me to join.I stripped down to my running shorts and vest threw away the rest of the clothes and lined up with the others at the start line. I went on to win the event in a record time beating the favourite Eby Martin. That was the start of my foray as an athlete at school. I went on to win several laurels including the Junior Division Individual Championship at the Inter School Sports meet a few years later. I faded away later on due to ill health and various other reasons.But that’s another story and for another day.The memory of this first event is firmly etched in my mind. It is one of the fondest memories I have of my boyhood days.  

Getting started

Here I am setting off on a new journey of discovery and also of enquiry … where do I head too,what do I do.Perhaps I’ll write a book of experiences or better still document an inner journey .. from no where to enlightenment.Or a corporate guide for the uninitiated.Maybe a blend of all these.May be I’ll give it a fictional flavour .For the moment I have loads to do and loads to worry about in the good ole corporate world.Never a moment when you don’t have some thing to worry about
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