May 31, 2009

Mentor Speaks....

Hi !!!

The influence of mentors in our life is huge. Personally, I have learnt the most from mentors in my life when compared to text books, journals, friends or just anything under the sun.

I have been extremely lucky to find excellent mentors regularly in life. Each of them has influenced me in their own special way.

‘Mentor Speaks’ is a new series of conversation with some of my mentors which I am going to share with my readers.

Today, I will share a scintillating conversation between me and one of my latest mentors ‘Mohan Varghese Cherian’. Mr Cherian is presently the DGM [HR], ONGC. In his present assignment he is heading the ONGC schools and coordinating the functioning of more than 30 educational institutions.

I met Mr M V Cherian in ONGC while doing my summer internship on the topic ‘competency mapping’. His modesty and humbleness were the qualities which attracted me towards him. He also took keen interest on my project and gave me important advice.

All this led to further conversations and now I consider him as one of my special mentors.

Following is the transcript of my conversation with him:

Me: Hi Sir!!! You have approximately 3 decades of professional experience in HR, banking, teaching etc and your educational qualification includes multiple degrees including a Master’s degree in Business Administration from University of Ljubljana Slovenia on UNDP fellowship and Master’s degree in Defence Studies from Madras University. Apart from that you are also licensed by Richard Bandler as a Master Practitioner in NLP and licensed by Edward De Bono in Lateral Thinking & Six Hats thinking. Your resume is so inspiring with all your professional achievements. But I am very keen to know about your childhood and early life that formed the foundation of your personality that makes you such a delightful mentor of many like me?

Cherian Sir: I was born and brought up in Chennai. My parents were working professionals. I did have a brother but he passed away early in his life. I had to spend the rest of my childhood as a single child. Like any other single child I lacked the desired amount of freedom and my parents were over protective. Since I did not have any siblings, I initially found it tough to share my thoughts with someone. Later, I started making lots of friends especially kids. I loved children and I continue to do so. I cultivated some great hobbies like painting and music. Colours and music inspired me and helped me to push my creative boundaries. I learnt mixing of colours from a famous painter called Easwaran. Then my keen interest in music helped me to learn instruments like harmonica and piano. I love listening to music and this has led to a huge collection of music CD’s at my home which ranges from devotional music to hip hop music.
My hobbies always helped me to get close to children as most of them love drawing and music. I believe the friendships I fostered with kids is one of the best relationship I cherish always.
I was also a NCC cadet for 6 years and later did 25 solo jumps as a para trooper. I also hold a commercial pilot license with 480 hours of solo flying on a single and twin engined aircraft. Aero modeling and para gliding were other hobbies I loved.
As a sports person I played cricket, badminton and rifle shooting at interuniversity, state and national levels.

Me: Awesome!!! Tell me more about those solo jumps as a para trooper?
Cherian Sir: It was very exciting. During those few seconds in the air, I felt as if my heart was in the mouth. There used to be a cadet from behind who used to push us because it was very easy for anyone to get deeply absorbed in the bird eye view of the landscape below and forget about the jump. Those solo jumps have taught me a lot in life.

Me: What attracted you towards HR?
Cherian Sir: I was naturally attracted towards people and loved fostering good relationship with them from my childhood. I always had a great faith and belief in human potential. I genuinely wanted to help people and I believe all this helped me to get attracted towards HR. My early professional experience with State Bank of India, Madras Circle was extremely enriching in terms of putting my people skills into real practice. It did help!!!

Me: Tell me more about how you dealt with people related issues in the bank?
Cherian Sir: Let me give you an example. There were frequent conflicts between various clerks and such friction between them had to be stopped. We did a very simple thing. We introduced a ‘weekly pooja’. Money was collected from all to buy the necessary pooja material. After the pooja an employee based on his turn used to make the aarti rounds around the entire workstation and everyone regardless of the personal equation they shared with each other placed their hands on the aarti thaali. Within a few days there was total peace at the workplace. The clear message which was sent was that we were all ‘one’ in front of God. We also made sure that on special occasions like birthdays, weddings etc, cards signed by all were sent to the employee. The employee also gave treat to all of us in a small but very special manner. Sometimes the employee used to cook the entire meal and bring it for us. We used to have the meals all together. All this led to great unity and camaraderie.

Me: What were the initial challenges you faced as a young professional?
Cherian Sir: When I entered the company, most of the other employees had work experience which was more than my age itself. So I had to make sure that I work sincerely, respect everyone and learn as much from them as possible. [Among many of his professional awards, he also won the ‘Chairman ONGC’s Award for best young executive of the year-1993]. Apart from that sometimes I did not have the solution for a few problems the employees used to discuss with me. But I made sure that I recommended them to the right people so that their problems were taken care of.

Me: What is your advice to young HR professionals?
Cherian Sir: Firstly, be as humble as possible because you get the respect which you deserve only when you are humble and people feel more comfortable to discuss their problems with you when you are humble. Secondly, be open minded and always strive to learn more. Be a good observer and a very keen listener. However, the most important thing is to be genuinely concerned about people and to be able to empathize with them.
Try to be a good human being and rest will follow. If you are already a good human being then try to be a better human being.

Me: What tips would you give to today’s generation on having a work-life balance?
Cherian Sir: Try to have perfect harmony at home and invest proper time in both work as well as personal relationship. Never try to be the leader of the family. Consider the entire family as a team and yourself as the team member. Try doing good for everyone in your family with genuine concern. Be a good example infront of your kids and practice what you preach. Give your family members the credit for what they contribute in your life infront of others. Also, make sure you help your family with little things in sincere manner. Help your wife in cooking or help the kids with their home work. Make sure you invest time in vacations, movies, shopping etc.

Me: Tell me about your experience of meeting people like Edward De Bono & Richard Bandler?
Cherian Sir: I was extremely humbled. It was so amazing to meet people with such great understanding and depth of knowledge. They have such magnetic personality that you have to notice them. You are just left speechless.
It was delightfully surprising when Richard Bandler told us how a mere voice modulation can do wonders in a conversation. Then, it was really fantastic to notice how Edward De Bono can mould one’s thinking pattern.

Me: Please share your thoughts on heading the ONGC schools and your message to parents & teachers on how to treat school kids?
Cherian Sir: I am extremely excited about my present assignment as I love children. My message to the parents and teachers is that never compare any kid with others. They are very special in their own ways and have huge potential. Secondly, do not keep them on constant & tremendous pressure to perform well only academically. The focus has to be to create a well rounded personality. Most importantly, treat them with great affection and be a great example to them.

Me: It was great speaking to you Sir. Thank you so much.
Cherian Sir: Saikat!! Never say thank you as it puts a full stop in a relationship. Just say that you had a good time.

Me: Sure Sir!!! I had a fantastic learning experience.

May 29, 2009

A few retrospective questions!!!!

I helped one of my friend with his summer internship project by suggesting him a few questions for his questionnaire. His project topic is 'Business decisions for external customers'.

The questions are as follows:

1. Are all your business decisions taken by giving due consideration to external customers?

2. During the economic slowdown, has the customer centricity of your organisation remained the same as it was earlier or has it changed [decreased or increased]?

3. Are the employees from lower cadres given adequate oppurtunity to express their views while making business decisions?

4. Do you spend more resources on planning for business strategies or in execution of those business strategies?

5. How frequently do you make strategic decisions for your external customers?

6. Does the Human Resource dept take participation in business strategies for external customers?

7. Are you aware of the difference between customer satisfaction, customer delight and customer ecstacy?

8. Do you have a back office for addressing customer related issues?

9. Are the employees educated on consumer behavior and market ethics?

10. How much importance would u give on a scale of 1-5[1 being worst and 5 being best] for the effectivesness of your business decisions on external customer in terms of rate of returns?

May 20, 2009

The balancing act

My college buddy 'Deepa Mahtani' forwarded a mail to me. It's a small speech by Bryan Dyson ( CEO, Coca Cola).

It's as follows:

"Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air.

You name them - Work, Family, Health, Friends and Spirit and you're keeping all of these in the Air.

You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.

But the other four Balls - Family, Health, Friends and Spirit - are made of glass. If you drop one of these; they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked,damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for it."

Extremely thoughtful!!!! When I told a close friend about this speech, he said ''But in order to keep the glass balls ticking and proper, we need the rubber ball in it's best condition".

I responded to this by saying that " One needs to realise that the biggest challenge for an employee is not in deciding where to give their due attention ie the rubber ball or glass balls. But the real challenge is to get the balancing act of giving the right attention to all the dimensions ie work, health, family, friends & spirit."

May 16, 2009

Purpose of this blog???

Today, i am going to discuss the purpose of this blog. I guess this post should have been my first post but this is my 104th post .

It has been a nice & commited journey till now. I started this blog while I was working in TCS as a process associate. I was happy with my job but I was not able to persue my true passion [Human Resource Mgmt] as I was not in the HR dept.

Yet, I was an extremely keen observer and tried to learn more about HR functions from various friends and collegues. That helped me to come out with fresh ideas and thoughts on people issues and I needed a medium through which I could share them with my internet buddies.

This led to the birth of ideate zone.

Blogging has been one of my best learning source. During this course, I read blogs by many HR thought leaders and practitioners. I even got a lot of encouragement from them and I have been a huge fan of all the bloggers who helped me in this process.

Some of the key lessons which I had learned from blogging were:
1. Being open minded
2. Strive for learning and development
3. Being humble
4. Leverage creativity in all oppurtunities

Apart from HR thoughts, I also used this blog for my short stories, interviews, poems and other random thoughts.

Blogging has also helped me to make new friends.

To sum it up, it has been about ' an attempt to ideate on life, HR & beyond' ;-)

May 8, 2009

An interactive session with Dr R Karthikeyan

I had a very interesting interactive session with Dr R Karthikeyan, Director, Gemba Management Consulting Pvt Ltd & Secretary ,ISTD, Chennai Chapter during today's HR Sangam meeting.

The topic was 'Competency Assessment' which draws a lot of romanticization among HR enthusiasts. However the session was refreshingly beyond the usual romanticization associated with such upmarket and spunky HR topics.

He emphasized on the competency assesment process with genuine sincerity which comprised of the following steps:

1. Identifying competency
2. Competency dictionary
3. Preparation for assesment centre
4.Competency assesment centre
5. Individual development plan

Each steps were explained with very candid example from real organisational scenerio.

The session included a role play excercise on 'customer centricity'.

He also gave a humourous analogy on how the internal customer is like a wife as we deal with the same emlployees on a daily basis and how external customer is like a girlfriend as we deal with different sets of external customers on regular basis.

He focussed on the fact that observing people in action is the most important feature of competency assesment.

He made a special mention on how the attitude aspect is of prime importance in KSA[Knowledge,skills,attitude] framework and how it makes the biggest difference in results.

While talking about customer focus; he said it's very important to say 'no' with utmost warmth when required.

He even mentioned that the 'real' success of E- commerce will be determined on the day when silk sarees can be sold online [if u dont have a smile on your face then you are not a women or probably you do not understand women's mind well].

May 7, 2009

Recognizing 'attitude aspect' in competency mapping...

As we all know, competency comprises of three dimensions ie knowledge, skill and attitude.

In most of the competency mapping exercises , 'skills & knowledge' are given it's deserved consideration. However, we hardly notice the attitude aspect of competency being given any consideration.

Thats probably because many HR proffesionals believe that attitude can not be modified easily and investing too much of time in it might not be justified.

But I feel recognizing the attitude of the individuals with a purpose of maintaining a repository of the collective attitudes of the employees would help to get the pulse of the organizational culture.

There is also a good chance of the proactive set of employees making genuine efforts in changing their attitude towards realising more favourable results. In the long run, this will surely help.

So it makes sense in knowing what kind of attitude your employees are wearing?