Face of a Balanced Man

Date:   Thursday , November 02, 2006

I believe that a balanced life and family are important for any successful person. Balanced life comes with the art of exercising one’s body, mind and soul. The last one being purpose. For me, the body needs physical exercise everyday from workout, the mind needs mental training through reading and discussion and the soul needs a sense of satisfaction through work.

Attaining a balanced life is often achieved with the help of a good family. If my balanced life makes me the leader I am, my family makes me the person I am. The two contour the value system within oneself, while setting the stage for success.

Peculiarly, these understandings do not come from a person’s upbringing, but it is the sense of the self. It could be structured according to each one’s practice or hobbies. Philosophy, history and literature have structured my thought process. I am introspective, analogical and expressive, in turn balancing my actions and emotions.
Once you learn to balance life, you take your turn to lead it. Leadership to me is as much as leading others as you lead yourself. All said and done, it leaves me with one question: How to extend this value system to my employees in an organization?

The Teachable Point of View
Extended teaching is not a cakewalk. One, you need to be sure of what you need to teach and two, how to connect with people whom you’ll be teaching. Fortunately, somewhere down the way in my career, I picked up the talent of organizing. It started with organizing my wife’s pantry and has now extended to solving complex issues at workplace. I can juxtapose things quite efficiently, so that is my ‘teachable point of view’. Now the question is, how to connect with people?

My journey from the early days of being a
software engineer to today’s lead executive has been one helluva ride on this ladder of employee complexity. So connecting with junior employees today is nothing but being retrospective about my early days as a software engineer. Albeit hierarchy casts its looming shadow, still I’ve often enjoyed myself doing the proverbial “CEO at the Cafeteria Table,” or “Open Forums,” where one gets to meet employees. This has helped me interact with different levels of employees, personally learning to tune into their frequencies effectively.

My adaptability-meter often nosedives from my position as an ‘understood leader’ to a junior engineer’s level, or leaps to reach my senior’s bandwidth. And this is a must for any leader’s survival. It is important to realize that leaders can never contrive a false image. And this is where the balancing of life comes to play. You balance your mind properly, and then you have no hassles of pretension. Even if your junior employee asks you: “How are you” on a bad day at work, you reply “thank you. I’m doing good.” And that is no pretension but the spotless face of the balanced mind, which aligns your actions and behaviors with your value system.

But it doesn’t mean I can adapt to every person either. Each one has his limits to either go down or up. After a certain point, it becomes hard to go either way. One should read Alan Greenspan’s (Rtd. Chairman of Federal Reserve of U.S.A) story about ‘How a person grounded in numbers makes the most macro level decision in world economics today’. That is simply the ability to teach the kids and teach the nation at once. Not all can be Greenspan—my role model in life.

Itch for ideas
Once the communication channel is opened up and you realize your potential to connect across the organization, the real work begins. I call it the introspective stage. You analyze your strengths and weaknesses as individuals, teams and the organization, while you proceed to achieve targets.

In any organization (Accenture India with 25,000 employees), your employees are your assets. Your greatest of ideas might come from an employee in the corner cabin, whom you have never met. So it is important to respect every individual for the potential they carry; ideas should come first to the hierarchy. I have constantly motivated my team by narrating my dream to establish Accenture India’s ownership, accountability and outcome driven culture. Such culture I believe is a product of internal teaching, learning and mentoring. It simply means sowing smaller ideas to harvest a bumper of ideas.

The potential of newer ideas today keeps me away from all bourgeois pleasures. But I need to understand that not everybody in a team has similar end goals. Some work for money, some fame and others to satisfy the itch to innovate. My job is to motivate the entire team and stretch them to deliver the best of their capability. Passion and more importantly, the desire to stretch always has a trap called the comfort zone. Getting out of the comfort zone is a book phrase, proved right by only a handful.

However, I do believe that conquer-the-world Alexanders do exist and I enjoy their company more than anything else. My job inside the company is just that: identify such Alexanders with some value judgement, create a positive atmosphere of teamwork, discuss, decide and shoot the targets down. All the while motivating them to be passionate, challenging and lowering the stress levels, but not making Mini-Mes or compromising on ‘big, hairy, audacious goal’ as Jim Collins puts it in his Good to Great.

At the end, we may not be perfectionists, not even optimum performers, but yes: WE are a team of die-hard idea generators.