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HARNESSING THE HEART - PART 6

…LIVING UP TO THE CHALLENGE OF CONSCIENCE IN DAILY LIFE


Harnessing the Heart
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Dear Reader, in this series, we offer you real life stories from contemporary heroes who have demonstrated the courage to follow their conscience when confronted with difficult dilemmas or challenging circumstances in their daily lives. This segment is an ode to the strength of the brave-hearts who chose to listen to the voice of their conscience, thereby abiding to the values of Right Conduct, Truth, Love, Peace and Non-violence, even if the choice appeared the tougher one to follow.

In our previous issues, we brought you inspiring stories of Mrs. Priya Davis, and of Mr. Dev Taneja, Mr. C. B. S. Mani, Mr. Karthik Ramesh and Mr. Amar Vivek.

In this issue, we carry the enlightening account of Mr. Krish Venkatasubramaniam, a successful accountant who narrates his experiences of how sticking to honest principles despite possible unfavorable reactions only led to enhance his position; how positive pressure applied to colleagues led to better working practices, and how promoting discipline only enables harmony in the corporate world.

The Win-Win-Win Formula

By Mr. Krish Venkatasubramaniam

A Chartered Accountant and CISA (USA), with nearly 18 years of experience in Indian and Multi National Companies, Mr. Krish Venkatasubramaniam is the CEO of Anantha Consulting Pvt. Ltd., Chennai. Additionally, he is also currently pursuing a Masters in Psychology and is engaged in Research in the field of Human Excellence. More importantly, Krish has been a devotee of Bhagavan for more than three decades and is a member of the Sundaram Bhajan Group, Chennai.

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June 2005. It was then almost four years since I had taken up a job in the Maldives, a cluster of a thousand tiny islands on the Indian Ocean. Many around the world have been fascinated by that tiny country for its beautiful beaches and coral reefs, no wonder, making it one of the preferred international tourist spots. And I was the Group Financial Controller of a resort group. But to me, it was like living in a spiritual desert.

Being a Sai devotee for more than thirty years, I longed to feel His Presence there. And I did whenever I snorkeled on the beautiful reefs. Who else can create such wide variety of beautiful and colorful fishes, I thought to myself, but I was still missing Him and the company of Sai devotees. I prayed and wished if I could return to India and decided to update my resume.

What Can an Honest Resume Deliver?

As I sat preparing my resume, I felt that I should mention only those details, which were entirely true in all respects. That way I would be pleasing Him and my conscience. It was not that my resume earlier had fabricated facts; but in the quest of making it attractive, I had added ‘flavours’, which ideally could have been avoided. And so, I deleted, altered and trimmed the document until it was hundred percent true, and then confidently posted a copy to Bhagavan before circulating it to my friends and contacts.

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Harnessing the Heartt

Within a few days, I received a call from an old friend of mine from India. After confirming my preferences, he said that he would pass on my resume to Deloitte, a leading Multinational Consulting and Auditing Company.

He also said, ‘You know, your prospective boss’s name is the same as your God’s name’. This sent a shrill of joy through me, because even though my friend was not a Sai devotee, he did not hesitate in the least to use the word ‘God’ to refer to Bhagavan.

In any case, I sent my resume by email to Deloitte and expressed my willingness to travel to India for an interview at any time, as is the normal procedure. In the next few days, just after a phone call from a Senior Manager of Deloitte, the Chief (with ‘my God’s name’!), sent an email stating that he is dispensing with the requirement of a direct interview. He straight away sent the offer through email, agreeing to all terms I had requested.

This was truly a great lesson for me; it convinced me that sticking to values would surely bring the desired benefits. A fellow Chartered Accountant like me would know how difficult it is to shift a career back to India after a four year stint in a country like Maldives. But here was a case where a crucial career shift was made to look as if it were like going to the next room! That is the power of values!

The wise and moral man
Shines like a fire on a hilltop,
Making money like a bee
Who does not hurt the flower.

The Pali Canon

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My employer at Maldives wanted me to continue for a few more years, and hence refused to give me a relieving letter and the experience certificate. I was in a fix since such a document had to be handed over while taking up the new job. My friend offered to help me by printing a letter head and ‘cooking up’ the necessary documents for this purpose.

Again, I thought of my principles and teachings of Bhagavan, and firmly decided that I would not do such a thing. Instead, if asked, I decided I would honestly tell them the fact. Wonder of wonders, I was not asked for such a letter or certificate! My boss did not even want a reference from any of my previous employers in India, even though I was ready to get the required references.

The True Power of a Corporate

A few months ago, when a Business School invited me to give a lecture, I spontaneously chose ‘The Power of Ethics and Governance’ as the topic. I went on to explain during my presentation that following ethics is not just one’s duty; neither is it a statutory compulsion. It is, in reality, a Power. Many corporates and individuals have thrived on values, etching a name on the sands of time. While many businesses have failed due to flawed strategies or faulty execution, not a single enterprise in the history of the world has failed because the promoters chose the ethical path!

There are times when a professional takes over new responsibilities in the corporate environment and faces the task of correcting age old unethical practices that have cemented themselves. I have always believed that, the individual should intelligently alter the course, rather than approach the issue emotionally. With confidence in himself and faith in the invisible power of the Divine, he has to smoothly transform people and practices.

As far as possible, without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others…

Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;

- Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Positive Pressure – Solution to Corporate Malpractice

When I took over as the Manager, in charge of Corporate Taxation at a Multinational Retail giant in 1999, I faced the above issue. The earlier Head and his team were used to the system of bribing the government departments for almost everything. There was very poor internal documentation of such pay-offs, which were numerous, since it was part of the Shared Services catering to five fairly large Companies.

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My first line of action was to act on those areas which could be immediately changed internally, that is, operations that were within our control. I ensured transparency by involving the Treasury Department in such shady deals. Whenever cash was paid to any external person, an employee from the Treasury would accompany the Taxation staff.

Internally, the information was candidly documented. My colleagues were unhappy and angry with me. ‘Why should we ourselves bring in such tight controls?’ they asked me. I calmly went ahead with the proposed improvements. The Management was extremely happy with my voluntary governance initiative.

The point here is, instead of worrying about those things that are beyond one’s ambit or which cannot be changed immediately, a professional has to keep doing the little things which are very well within his control. And more importantly, once he leads by example, he either inspires or at least creates positive pressure on people around him.

The qualities of Assertiveness, Intelligence and Humility are very essential for a professional in the course of ensuring ethical practices around him or her. Isn’t it often that an individual faces a situation where he or she is not able to question the unethical act happening in front of their eyes? And what really stops the person from doing anything? It is just the lack of assertiveness.

Taking Stock of the Truth

While auditing leading corporations during the stint with Deloitte, I used to find young professionals having an aversion towards simple tasks like stock counts. They view such activities as too mundane considering their professional qualification. But they fail to notice that these are the opportunities for young professionals to get exposed to situation management, where they can hone their assertiveness and presence of mind. It’s very much akin to a young and budding sportsman who is willing to play only in the big league. But there are a lot of things that you learn by playing the smaller games, where you sharpen your skills for the tougher games ahead.

On many occasions, these young auditors would actually not be satisfied with either the arrangement or the segregation of a particular stock. Still, the client would press them to certify, and they would meekly accept the quantity and sign the Stock Sheet (each stock item would value a few lakh rupees or more). Sometimes, it was just the tendency to ignore these issues as trivial. We used to hone their ability to assertively, at the same time humbly, refuse things that were incorrect or unsatisfactory (you need not oblige, but speak obligingly!). With a smile on your face, with softly spoken words, you can still create a powerful impact! And more importantly, unless you are able to exhibit these traits while doing the smaller tasks, you would not be able to do it while performing the ‘bigger’ tasks.

The Superior man thinks of virtue;
The smaller man thinks of comfort.

- Confucius

Finding ‘Win-Win-Win’ Solutions

One needs to apply one’s intelligence to decide what stand he or she should take in a given situation. Actually, in difficult situations, a prayer could bring the needed guidance! On one occasion, while inspecting a chemical factory, we noticed one of the Managers using his mobile phone very near the highly sensitive production area. Using a mobile phone was expressly prohibited, with sign boards all around, since it was identified as a ‘Very High Risk’ activity. My team member noted it down as one of the critical reportable points.

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The Location Head came to me and requested me to remove that from the report, since he felt, the Corporate Office would definitely take serious action, which would most probably result in the termination of the employee. I was in a fix. I thought of his family and did not want him to lose his job. But I was doing my duty of reporting key issues to the Corporate Office, and I thought I would fail in my duty if I did not report such a critical issue.

Therefore, I explained to the Location Head that I cannot remove it from the report, but would talk about this issue personally at the appropriate level in the Corporate Office. I called the concerned person at the Corporate Office and also met him on my return to the City and discussed this issue. He appreciated my gesture and ensured that sufficient warning would be given to the concerned staff, but he would surely not lose his job this time.

Whether it is earning money, or accomplishing one’s task, the secret is to look for a Win-Win-Win situation. You win, the other person wins and you win God’s Heart in the process! A mere win-win without winning the Lord’s Grace is still a failure. When we are tuned to His teachings and follow our conscience steadfastly, there is always a benefiting and beautiful end. It is, actually, the safest and surest path, but unfortunately, more often than not, many take to the more complicated and highly risky path, out of delusion and wrong perceptions.

In the words of B.C. Forbes (founder of the Forbes magazine), ‘He is a wise man who seeks by every legitimate means to make all the money he can honestly, for money can do so many worthwhile things in this world, not merely for one’s self but for others. But he is an unmitigated fool, who imagines for a moment that it is more important to make money than to make it honestly.’

Illustrations: Ms. Lyn Kriegler Elliott, New Zealand

 


Dear Reader, did you find this article inspiring? Do you have such experiences in our daily life that you would like to share? Please share your thoughts with us at [email protected] mentioning your name and country.  Thank you for your time.


 

 

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Vol 6 Issue 05 - MAY 2008
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