Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Who is Barun Biswas ?

10 years ago, in a sleepy village named Sutia , near Calcutta,  in the State of  West Bengal,  in the Eastern part of India, on a rainy July morning, some people had huddled together distributing pamplets. They had come together to protest against the spate of crimes in Sutia. They talked in hushed voices , with a despondent look on their faces. People passed by with their umbrellas , not paying heed to their meek voices- afraid ... .  Suddenly, a young man in his late twenties, walked up proudly and spoke on the mike. His voice was fearlessly bold and calm. " If we cannot take care of our mothers and sisters , we do not deserve to live in  a civilized society.  It is better to be dead than living in constant fear. Come, let us join hands and protect the honour of  the women ".  This young, bold, courageous gentleman was Barun Biswas.  He sparked the fire of  the movement against atrocities  in the "Rape Village " - the unofficial name given to Sutia. 

A gang of politically powerful goons , led by a miscreant named Sushanta Chowdhury , prowled the Sutia area. They extorted the people and used gang rapes as a means to silence the protests. Anyone who protested or wanted to go to the police were silenced by the gang by raping the females of the family, in front of their eyes. By official numbers, there were about 40-45 rapes in two years , a dozen or more murders , but the actual numbers were much more. Barun spearheaded the formation of a group named Pratibadi Mancha, who helped the families garner courage and the first FIRs against rape were registered.  He helped the rape victims get married.  Slowly, many people joined the movement and the Government was almost forced to take notice.  Finally , Sushanta Chowdhury was arrested and is currently serving in jail. 

On July 5th, 2012, after alighting from the suburban local train at Gobardanga Station , he was gunned down by some unidentified youth.  It is being suspected that Sushanta Chowdhury had masterminded the killing from jail.

But, his fight for peace and justice lives on. The threat remains but the fear is gone .  In the houses of Sutia, the garlanded photograph of Barun Biswas is kept beside the idols of the gods and goddesses. 

Barun Biswas was made of steel.  The son of a poor landless farmer, he had this passionate streak of helping others.  Even in school, he was never afraid of speaking up - even against his teachers , if the need be. He was scared of no one and  helped the needy at the cost of his own comfort. There were numerous needy students who he had helped and given shelter - offered them his own bed while he slept on a plastic sheet.  He bought medicines for the poor and elderly,  gave free coaching to bright students seeking jobs. He had submitted a plan for dredging a canal to prevent flooding of Sutia and nearby villages.  Recently this plan has been passed by the government.  He had passed the state civil services examination , but he wanted to stay in his village and, so he took up the job of a school teacher in Sutia. And he enjoyed it. It gave him so much more time for social service.  "Nothing pleased him more than helping people. He did it passionately, out of genuine love for the people," said Arun Biswas, his brother.

"If killing Barun was meant to gag the voice of protest, hundreds of Baruns will emerge . He will live through our work" - the villagers say. He is their Guardian Angel.

Barun , you will not be forgotten.

On 5th July, 2012, as you lay on the station platform, crying for help, with bullets riddled in your body , no one came forward to help you.  Forgive us Barun !

Your dog Bholu, still sits on the steps of your house, waiting for his master to return. 

We too are waiting for you, Barun... through thousands of common people in the world who will protest whenever they see injustice.... 

Your Leadership has sown the seeds of many many leaders in Sutia village , who are taking your cause forward .

Long live Barun.  May your tribe increase !

Thursday, 22 August 2013

It is all in the Mind ... Stupid !

A few days back, I bumped into an old school friend of mine. 

After a few minutes of exchanging pleasantries, she asked  me “ Ananya, do you remember Vidya? “  

I said  “Of course I do. She was the head girl of the school when we were in class 10th.  A very bright, sweet, mild and intelligent girl.  I really liked the way she used to enact Shakespeare in school and she was very humble and friendly with everybody . What about her ? Did you meet her? How is she ?” 

Well, it is really sad…. She is in a mess.  I met her last month. She is suffering from severe depression. You know , she was studying medicine, but quit when she was in her last semester. She feels she is not capable of anything. In fact, I was really upset to see that she could not even operate her cell phone properly… really sad ….!”

Vidya was the brightest student in our batch. She was good in academics, extra curricular activities and was friendly with everybody. All of us loved her.  We used to imitate the way she talked,  her dressing sense, her haircut et al.  I remember, one day , Vidya and I had stayed back in school for a drama practice.  She told me a strange thing on that day.  When I recall that now,  I get a glimpse of what must have gone wrong. She had told me “ Ananya, do you think I will be able to become a doctor ?  You know , my mother keeps on telling me that I am too soft to handle tough situations” .

This is what I think must have gone wrong.

When you constantly hear negative things about yourself, somehow, you start believing in them.  After sometime, she must have started believing it and in her mind, the constant conversation and conflict of these negative thoughts must have been hard on her. 

 Patterns of positive or negative self talk starts mostly in our childhood.  It is very important to curb the negative self talk and replace it with positive ones.

 Though it should start early, but any time is a good time. 

  • Notice Your Patterns - The first step toward change is to become more aware of the problem. You probably don’t realize how often you say negative things in your head, or how much it affects your experience. An effective method to know is Journaling . At the end of the day, write all the negative thoughts which have crossed your mind. Once you do this for a few days, you will be able to identify what you need to curb.  As soon as some negative thoughts come to your mind,  say “Stop !”. Better if you can say it aloud.

  • Replace Negative statements :   Words , which we say in our minds as well as aloud , have a huge impact on us. Replace powerful negative words with milder ones. Example, “Impossible” with “difficult", “Pain” with “discomfort”,  “hate” with “anger”.  It works. Believe me.  Also,when faced with adversity, we should proactively see how we can change the adversity with advantage. For example, when we have to cancel a trip at the last moment , after the rush of disappointment, can we feel that maybe the time that we have in our hands now can be fruitfully used, and anyways we can always go for the trip later.  Many a times, when I feel really down, I think of one of my visits to the hospital. Seeing all the ailing people made me think how lucky I was to be able to do simple things like breathe, walk and smile. I know it is difficult, but when we try proactively, it can be done. This is the way to build resilience. 

  •  Develop The Right Attitude : Resilient people tend to view life’s difficulties as challenges and respond accordingly with action, rather than with fear, self-pity, blame or a "victim mentality.". Part of resilience is emotional awareness.  it’s important to understand what you’re feeling and why. Sometimes people feel overwhelmed with their emotions, and this frightens and immobilizes them. Knowing why you feel upset can provide valuable information about what needs to change in your life.

  • Feel that you are in control : Resilient people believe that they’re in control of their lives, and it’s true. While we can’t control our circumstances, we can control how we respond to those circumstances, and that makes a big difference in our attitudes and in the course our lives   Be optimistic.

  • Visualize A Better Life : Building and maintaining a visual image of what you want in your life (instead of focusing on what you don’t want) can be a powerful way to attain positive change and opportunity. Make a detailed list of what you’d like in your life. Sit down daily and visualize what your new life would look like and how it would feel to have these changes. (Click and read my blog post on  Positive Visualization)
I am a great believer in the " Law of Attraction”.  I plan to write a separate blog post on this.  

It is a real pity that unknowingly we do damage to our children and people whom we mentor,  in a way that it becomes self deprecating for them. In workplaces,we should motivate people and  bring out the best in them by praising and giving constructive feedback rather than criticizing .

 As leaders we have to understand that each person is a unique individual and everybody is a mix of good and bad. As parents, leaders, mentors, we have to bring out the best in them. We have to motivate them to make them shine.

If we do, then the Vidyas of the world will be able to realize their dreams and the world will be a happier place. 

Note : The name has been changed for anonymity

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Be sure that the work will NOT be done IF .....

All of us know the story about Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. Just to re cap ...

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it.

Everybody was sure Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job.
Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it.
It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when actually Nobody asked Anybody.

This is the age old  recipe for the work not getting done !

I have experienced many meetings where significant decisions were taken and there were several to-do's listed out.  All of us nodded our agreement to do these, but finally it was not done . The sole reason for this was that there was no designated "Owner" for the tasks. 

  • Against each line item of to-do's , put a name. This is the owner of the task. Being an owner does not mean that s/he is supposed to DO the task. Her responsibility is to see that the work is completed.  She can create a group or delegate the work, but finally, she is answerable if the task is not done

  • Even if you put a name, be sure it will stretch endlessly if there is no planned completion date.  Insist on an end date . Reassure the owner that the date can be modified in case there are any hurdles in the job. 

  • If the above two points are there and you do not have any means of tracking the items, again, you will not be sure that the task list will see the light of the day.  Create a regular mechanism to track the list . It is not necessary that you would have to meet , but emails, phone calls etc can be simple mechanisms for tracking.  What works best for me when there are multiple tasks and owners,  after tracking, consolidation of the progress of the item and sending the update to all the stake holders - including the owners. 

The above points makes everybody focused on the tasks. Tasks get done because ownership is given to one person. S/he feels responsible, important and answerable and usually the work gets completed successfully.

What do you think ? Any more tips from your experience?

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Five Great Ways to build Culture

I perform a simple test in some of my Leadership workshops. 

To the group of  leaders sitting in the room, I  ask "On the piece of  paper in front of you, write the names of two organizations where you really enjoyed working and you get just 2 seconds to write".  And once they are done, I ask some of them to tell everybody why they loved to work there. 

Inevitably, what comes out  is the admiration of  the "Culture" of the organizations. 

As Leaders, we have to build the Culture of the organization. Culture is like Internal Branding.  Culture is built upon the Values , Mission and Vision of the organization. Culture binds the employees together and they feel themselves as  a part of a community. 

These are some great ways to build the Culture :

  •  Rituals :  In one of the organizations where I worked,  every project had their own "Team Cheer".  At the end of every meeting or gathering or celebration, the full team cheered together . I remember calling out "Hakuna Matata " (No worries) every time we had a meeting in one of my projects. When we said it together, we all smiled and felt geared up, cheerful and ready to take on the world ! Simple rituals like Monthly birthday parties, team huddles, burger parties builds a cult in the project and the organization. The best companies - Google,  Walmart, Dell have these rituals. 

  •  Values :   Most of the organizations have values. And most of the values are just a picture on the wall , near the reception area.  To build a culture, the first step is to create a solid set of  values for the organization. Something which the leadership believes in. Things which define the character of the organization.  The next and the most difficult step is to communicate the values and actually "live" them.  Talk about the values in all the gatherings, meetings, presentations, activities. Touch upon at least one facet of the values whenever you talk to your team.  Act according to the values so that your team can emulate you.

  • People  :  It is the employees who build an organization. So , to build the culture, we have to build them first.  Be paranoid about recruiting the best fit not only for the present but in the future too. Investment in employee development like organizing Leadership workshops,  team leading, team building sessions,  technical trainings etc. go a ,long way in building the culture of  learning in an organization.  The employees should be nurtured such that the culture is ingrained in their hearts and they it in the organization 

  •  Unique Story :  Every organization has its unique story. How it was started by five college friends with their savings in a garage. How they overcame the hurdles. These stories should be narrated at the appropriate time and gathering. These informal stories become a part of the culture and instills a sense of pride. 

  • Workplace Setup :  Many  organizations do not have any cubes. It shows "Open"culture. Why does Google let their software engineers decorate their own desks ? Yahoo now wants their employees to run into each other for better and more frequent interaction. So the way the office is designed impacts the behaviour and reinforces the values and the culture of the organization. 

So, do you want to architect the culture of your organization or your project ? 

Which ones from the above do you think you would like to  implement ?