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WATCHING THE CORPORATE WORLD - THE SAI WAY

By Mr N Dayasindhu


Mr Dayasindhu is a former student of Sri Sathya Sai University having completed his Masters in Business Administration (MBA) in the year 1995. Currently, he is serving in Infosys, one of India's largest and prestigious Information Technology services company.

Among Swami’s teachings, the one that is special to me is WATCH - Watch your Words, Action, Thought, Character and Heart. This was among the earliest messages that He blessed me with and not surprisingly the one that always gets played and replayed inside me. A few years after His instruction to WATCH, He graced me with the unique, once-a-life-time opportunity to enroll in the MBA course at the Sri Sathya Institute of Higher Learning. I cherish and will continue to cherish the years I spent in His Divine abode.

While praying to Him to guide me on a topic to pen a few lines on the relevance and practicality of His teachings with specific focus on management, I was guided to share what I strongly believe in. Something based on personal experience rather than those He dismisses as "bookish knowledge". This is my humble attempt to share a few experiences where I have been guided by His message to WATCH.

Watch Your Words

Many believe that it is good to have some arrogance and often confuse arrogance with self respect. In fact, there are now scholarly research papers that indicate that nice guys finish last in the corporate world! I find it hard to believe that this is true.

 

A year back, I had the opportunity to present a paper at a premier international conference. This opportunity had been given after a team of leading academicians in the field had selected my paper after a rigorous blind review process. I was overjoyed and also proud of my achievement. And with this mind-set I reached the conference.

 

In one of the discussions, an elderly gentleman was keen on knowing more about my paper. I went on to summarize the research with enthusiasm. I dismissed some of his questions as banal and from one who sounded like a novice in the subject. The gentleman had left the discussion there.

When I later thought about it, it appeared that the questions made enormous sense and that I had made a mistake in dismissing them. I remembered our beloved Swami's command of watching my words. I waited for this gentleman the next day and apologized for having dismissed his questions and told him what I had discovered. He was smiling now and said that he had liked my enthusiasm in the previous discussion and was happy that I had been thinking. After our discussion I gave him my business card since I had realized that we had not introduced ourselves. My jaws dropped when I saw his card; he was one of the pioneers in the field and an authority on the subject. I apologized for my ignorance.

During my presentation, the session chair introduced my presentation as something that all should look forward to since he had observed my "pioneer" friend having a lengthy discussion with me. I was nervous when I started. But when the presentation was over and before any questions were asked, my "pioneer" friend mentioned that he thought it was a good piece of research.

Needless to add, the paper was well received by all the others and by His Grace is now being used as teaching material in some of the most prestigious universities in the world.

Watch Your Actions

In a consulting assignment that I was a part of, there was an important manager in the client organization who was haughty. He would often taunt us with near abusive language. Our team was getting fed up with this attitude and meetings with this manager were a dreaded ordeal. Some of my colleagues were getting impatient and wanted to give it back to the client manager in the same coin. Some complained about the client within our company and wanted to be shifted out of the project. I was also thinking that this was probably the only way out. Then one morning I had a flash that maybe we could try to be extra nice to this manager and see if this helps in sobering his attitude. My colleagues dismissed this as an absurd idea. However, I felt there was nothing to lose if it could be tried for a day. Instead of avoiding this manager, I was smiling and wishing him well. He was taken aback at first and then responded with muted acknowledgement.

A few days later we were to meet him late evening, and I suggested that we could possibly do that next morning since he may want to spend the evening with his young son. The next morning there was a sea change in this manager's interaction with us. He turned out to be very supportive and cheerful. My colleagues felt that someone had cast a spell on the manager.

 

In a figurative sense it was true that our beloved Swami was the one who could have orchestrated this. We later realized that he was frustrated with us since our project meant additional work for him that translated to spending less time with his young son. Since we were now sensitive to his personal time, he started treating us like trusted colleagues.

Watch Your Thoughts

In most of our careers, we must have come across instances when we often question the rationale of the decisions of our managers. Quite a few times we would have heard our colleagues mention that the eighth wonder in the world is someone being a manager! Many a times there is a tendency among MBAs, especially early on in their careers, to dismiss non MBA managers as aberrations. I used to have a manager who was a graduate but very well experienced in the industry. Sometimes I used to wonder why he had been given the responsibility of heading our division. Though I was very polite and respectful to him, I always had this lingering thought that he was probably not as good as me in analytical ability. I guess he probably read my mind since in one management meet he announced that I would develop a business case for a new service that the company was contemplating. I was thrilled at the opportunity and thought that it was an acknowledgement of my analytical skills.

In quick time I had collected data and had a business case ready. I was happy with the outcome and was ready to present it to the manager, more as a formality rather than getting his advice, since I was not sure if he could add any more value to my analysis. The manager was genuinely happy with the rigor of analysis that I had done and appreciated my efforts. I was basking in the acknowledgement of the praise when he added that I may want to rethink on presenting this, since in reality the illustration for the business case was at best a theoretical extrapolation. It then dawned on me that I had assumed that application of the technology would be applicable to the largest market segment without checking if they had a compatible technology infrastructure in place. I would have made a fool of myself, if it had gone along and presented this business case to senior management.

When I did present the business case, the manager ensured that everyone got to know that it was entirely my effort. I was overwhelmed and was chiding myself for not obeying His command to watch my thoughts earlier when I felt I was superior to my manager. Even though I have changed organizations, this manager is still one of my well wishers. And I still respect his judgment and advice.

Watch Your Character

There are instances in our corporate careers when we are privy to confidential information pertaining to our employers. Often such information is useful to other competing organizations. I was once invited to a dinner at a relative's residence. He mentioned that this was a dinner for relatives and friends and not his work group. I wanted to be sure since this relative was working for a competitor company and it always made me uncomfortable when he got inquisitive about my work.

 

At the dinner, I was surprised to find that his manager and his entire work team were there. In fact, I was introduced as the person who his manager wanted to meet. This was like walking into a hungry lion’s den! I was at a loss on how to act and had to come up with something that was polite but firm. When introduced to the manager, I mentioned that it was possible for professionals working with well respected companies like ours to be friends and to meet socially in-spite of being direct competitors. I made it a point to mention that it was nice to read that their company had won some international awards. The manager was proud and mentioned that it was indeed hard work and dedication that had won them the recognition.

Now the manager and the work team were on the back-foot and would find it hard to stoop down even to broach the sensitive competitive information. Though one or two of the team members tried bringing that up, the manager would quickly change the topic since he had earlier given an eloquent exposition of integrity, hard work and dedication. The evening was enjoyable since the tables had turned and we ended discussing only neutral subjects.

While leaving the manager commended me on my integrity and mentioned that he would always prefer someone with integrity in his team since information will not leak from his company. It was entirely His Grace that I was able to get away from a very tricky situation not only unscathed but also with a compliment.

Watch Your Heart

The trials and tribulations in the corporate world today are extremely stressful. It is easy to just go with the wave and not stop to think about what one is doing as long as the going is good. We find it difficult to stop and take stock of what we really are pursuing in a career. I have had the good fortune of interacting with a few who have a very clear idea of their ultimate goal. For instance, I know a professor with impeccable qualifications from the best universities that would have got him the pick of careers in both academic and corporate positions in any part of the world. Inspired by our beloved Swami he has chosen an academic career in India. He is among the few who have the will to follow their true heart instead of getting swayed by the pulls of mammon and power. Similarly, there were busy executives who diligently visited the Tsunami affected areas every weekend for a few months to help in relief operations. It was what their hearts wanted to do but they were also aware of their responsibilities to their employers. These friends were typically the most energetic on a Monday morning when one assumed that they would be the most tired. How often do we have the courage truly to follow our heart and balance those pursuits with a career?

To conclude, I offer my humble prayers at the Lotus Feet of our beloved Swami to grace us all with the strength to continue to WATCH ourselves so that we remain worthy instruments of His mission.

This article expresses the personal opinion of the author and not necessarily those of the organization to which he is affiliated.


Dear Reader, did this article inspire you in any way? Would you like to share you feelings with us? If so please contact us at [email protected] mentioning your name and country.  Thank you for your time.


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Vol 5 Issue 08 - AUGUST 2007
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