Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Coaching Stories No 20 - When Should I Ask for Perspectives

 I am not sure when I should ask for perspective.

As often as you can. The coach cannot give you perspectives on many things simply because giving perspectives without context has little impact. So as the coachee, if you ask questions based on the problems you are facing, the coach can give correct perspectives that you can use immediately.

It requires you to be aware of the situations, to know where there are potential areas of problems, to be able to put principles into practice and identify areas where you were unsure or got stuck. When you keep asking from that perspective, the coach can really enrich your experience by adding his perspective. 

Many times, this may only require a couple of minutes - hey coach, I am doing this. Is that ok? And coach will say, I think this is what the principle is, and you can do it this way, but keep this in mind while doing it.

It really helps. The smartest coachees fully take advantage of the coach that way.


Leadership Workshop with Backflipt 2!

 Sagar accompanied me to the workshop at Backflipt. Kumar came from Chennai and Rajeev's team was all ready for the workshop. It went well as we did the Timpson's test, shared some personal information, did a vision statement, set values, looked at 10x processes, set some 10x goals, looked at people management, did some communication exercises. We did some appreciation exercises, some role plays, had good discussions. Overall went off well.

We did not take a picture though. Next time.

  Thanks Rajeev and team. It was a fun experience and I hope you learned something about leadership by the end of it. 

Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga - Movie

 2023. It all starts because of a young man who orders a vegan meal on flight. He does not get it, asks for chilled water. The air hostess is seized by guilt and gives him her vegan meal. They then go to a pub where they drink vegan drinks and fall in love and he makes her pregnant. But he has other plans - to use her to steal diamonds from the Home Minister. I found this most interesting - stealing diamonds from the Home Minister with the help of the Home Minister's Secretary. Now if that was not enough, we have this air hostess planning some stunts of her own which do not involve vegan meals, sex or love. Now watch it to find out what happens - and hey, there's a promise of a sequel too (for all the vegans).  Avoid.


The Undoing Dance - Srividya Natarajan

 What a pleasure reading this book was. Wonder why SN does not write more often. I did read her 'No Onions Nor Garlic' and loved it. (Maybe I should go and revisit it again.) But what struck me most was the use of her language, (very precise), the layers she wove into the book and how it all came together in the end. If she takes on the caste system in the Onions, she delves into the devadasi system in this one.

Her introduction is as a student of the great dance master Kittappa Pillai and of the singer T. Brinda. She has taught and performed classical dance all over the world for three decades and more.

The book begins some 13 generations before our protagonists time, when a king who has removed a dancer from his service is forced to bring her back because of divine intervention - the temple he is constructing is stuck because the dome cannot be erected whatever they do. He has to call her back and then it is done. That is the power of the devadasis then, and how much the gods revered them. Over the years the system falls out of favour with society and without patrons who support them, they become women of ill repute, their art seen as something dirty.

To escape from this cycle, the ageing mother Rajayi, who ekes out a living selling flowers near the temple now, sends her daughter Kalyani away to Madras, to marry a well settled official involved in promotion of arts. Rajayi has secrets to hide and so has Kalyani. In fact, so it seems, has everyone. As the story moves on we find that Kayani's son by her master, Velu, is now staying with her mother, and the man who raped Rajayi, has a daughter who was once Kalyani's husbands's lover and who is now making a documentary about Rajayi. It all comes together finally, the two sisters, Rajayi and Lila, finally making peace with the system, Kalyani going back to her husband and the art kind of left in Kalyanikkarai.

The characters of Rajayi, Kalyani are strong, their lives and their desperation comes out clearly. The description of dance, the way the dancers feel about it, is fascinating. The end was rather cinematic but perhaps needed something as drastic to make the change happen. Loved it.        


Balagam - Movie

 Absolutely fantastic! Watch it. Well done Ramesh.

A Corporate Outing at Ideal Resorts, Mahabs

 Was on a 3-day corporate outing at Ideal Resorts near Mahabs! Great fun.


Thursday, March 23, 2023

Coaching Stories No 19 - What Keeping Your Word Indicates

 I committed to do this by this time but it's not so important. Why this fuss?

Not keeping your word indicates certain things. The first is that you cannot be relied upon to keep your word. You will break promises. The impact of this is that trust is lost. 

People do not trust someone who doe snot keep his word. Who cannot be relied upon. When trust is lost, people do not fully commit to work, to the relationship. They are always wary. One cannot trust such a person because we do not know whether such a person will deliver or not. More importantly, the person to whom you have given your word feels you do not respect or care for them enough to keep your word.

Leaders who do not keep their word will have a team that will not deliver, that will not keep its word. As a leader, trust building is very important.

A person you trust is someone who will show up, who will keep his or her word. You respect such people. Start honouring every promise you make, every word you have given. It's important to people.

Coaching Stories No 18 - What Coming Late Indicates

 I'm late by just a few minutes. So what's the big deal?

If you're habitually late, or do not have a healthy respect for a time you have committed to, it is a behavior indicates a few things.

1. That you do not take your word seriously enough and are OK with being flexible with it

2. That you do not know how to work backwards from a given commitment, keeping possible obstacles in view, and working around them.

Being on time shows an organised mind. A person who is late shows a disorganised mind, a person who is on time shows an organised mind and a person who is ahead of time shows a prepared mind that wants to contribute and make the best of the opportunity, and not just participate. The third is a leadership trait.

People who come ahead of time are well prepared and want to understand the environment better so they can contribute better.

Being on time also indicates a healthy respect for others time, for your own time. When you give respect, you get respect.

ll this can be understood by this behavior. Perhaps more. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Dear Friend - Movie

 2022. Malayalam.

Very interesting how they make movies from such simple, day-to-day themes. What's with these people?

Very watchable.

Anjali - Done With the Boards

 The bogey of the tenth class Boards is finally over for Anjali. She went through it patiently, alone, studied on her own, went to ask for doubts, made her own plans, asked for little help from us, kept her sanity and completed them.

The first exam was a bit of a tense affair for us. First time out of school, out of her teachers purview, out of known environments, will she lose her hall ticket, will she forget something etc. But then I realised that she is actually quite careful with the big things, takes care of herself, is aware of her enviorenment. She comfortably takes the Metro, has travelled alone from Mumbai to Pune by bus, and pretty mch handled her education by herself  without our help. SoI knew she would handle herself well.

And on her last exam I saw Akela go and fawn over her mistress, perhaps aware of what her mistress had done. And off we went, Anjali and i, for a pre exam ride in the car, some music, some jokes and off.

Exams done!  Well done Anjali. Ganbatte! 

Thought for the Day - Winning Cultures HDFC and UBI

 I have a Union Bank of India account (transferred from Andhra Bank) which I have had for more than 40 years. UBI started a branch in our colony but I never got much money from that ATM because it never works. For the past year, never. I have tried other UBI ATMs but most have this problem.

UBI - on the right

Recently a new HDFC branch has come up next to the UBI one. On the other side of the road. The ATM always works, it has money, it is clean, it is well lit. The moment I draw money I get a message from UBI sulking that I have been cheating on it and going off to HDFC. 'Use our ATMs. Don' t go to other banks.. Charges will apply.'

HDFC - to the left

And last week I saw another heartening thing. Not just having ATMs that work, HDFC has also put up a board that says clearly - HDFC Bank and ATM for anyone who might miss that from the road.

It is this attention to detail, this extra mile that makes the difference. It shows they care for their customer.    

Thought for the Day - It is our Putting Ourselves Aside that Bugs Us

 When we are upset with someone else for not doing something for us, it is clearly coming from a place where we feel we have been put aside and that no one is noticing that we have put ourselves aside.

More so ourselves.

It's almost as if we are upset with ourselves for putting ourselves aside and want everyone to recognise that. If we have put ourselves aside for someone else we want them to recognise that. When they do not we get mad - not at themselves - but at ourselves for putting ourselves aside. 

So, if we do not put ourselves aside, we have less chance of getting mad at others.

So, don't put yourself aside. Put yourself in the forefront. You will have nothing to feel bad about. 

Thought for the Day - Our Multiverses are Accessed Through Different Levels of Consciousness

 As our awareness increases, our consciousness expands and we seem to hold more things than we could earlier. Things happen with more ease and there's a perfection, a knowing to the way things are and how they evolve. What would have, at one level in the journey been a painful thing, now seems quite amusing. The consciousness has expanded, the focus has shifted.

And it is at each level of consciousness that we seem to enter a new universe. And that could well be the explanation for these muttiverses (to me at least), that at different level I experience a different reality.

Hmm, therapists could well open doorways to new universes and possibilities then. 

Krishna Prasad Nukala Shared This - How to Buy and Entire Cask of Paul John and Piccadilly Distilleries

 Read it!

Lovely Forward from Tarun

 Really interesting - I loved the sky part, been doing that more often these days!

"Drink water from the spring where the horse drinks. A horse will never drink bad water.  Make your bed where the cat sleeps. Eat the fruit that was touched by the worm. Freely pick the mushrooms on which the insects sit. Plant your tree where the mole digs. Build your house where the snake suns itself.  Dig your well where the birds build their nests in hot weather. Go to sleep and wake up with the chickens and you will reap the golden grain of the day.  Eat more green vegetables, and you will have strong legs and an enduring heart. Swim more often and you will feel on land like a fish in the water.  Look at the skies more often and not at your feet, and your thoughts will be clear and light.  Keep silent more often, speak less, and silence will reign in your soul, and your spirit will be calm and peaceful.”  Follow Source to learn more. Source Factology

And Another Arts Management Batch Ends - 2023

 This was a bigger batch than most with 19 students. By the time my course began in the last semester, two had left. There were two international students Sofia from Argentina and Ketharani from Srilanka. 

And the rest of the group were Srividya, Shresta, Sannidha, Vaishnavi, Nayana, Harideeptha, Devamanohari, Sharmila, Aiswarya, Poojitha, Sreelakshmi P, Sreelakshmi Shaji, Sridevi, Pratyusha and Abhirami. After over two months, we had our last theory class last week where I recapped the course to put it in context.

 And then we took a fine picture to end the last class.

A Thoughtful Gift from Sudhir - Much Appreciated

 When I first met Sudhir while getting feedback from the leadership team at Backflipt, I was thoroughly impressed. He had one all his research and was fully prepared - apart from knowing my story, the books i had written, the film I was involved with, he also knew the number of blogs I had written and could put that into perspective. I knew right away that this was a person who was finely organised, who thought ahead and was highly organised with his time and effort. I also found out his highly creative side when he shared his short films with me (which I will share on my blog).

Then during the cricket match, he came on time, and not just he - he got his entire team with him except one. His was the only team that was so organised which meant that he knew how to plan backwards so there were no surprises. During the game he showed a lot of skill but what impressed me more was how he worked in the background to coach and improve the team, to strategise and plan tactics, without disturbing the energy of the team. It was a revelation to me. 

It was no surprise to me to see the same qualities being exhibited when we did our workshops - his insights were always spot on and his responses were immediate nay even ahead of time. His help in designing stuff for the team Town Hall on January 23 was critical - he designed all the stuff we needed and the team got into the act to complete a good show. Sudhir shot videos of each talk, edited them and slotted them in the right context to view easily. All of that would have taken time but he did it without complaining - rather he did it with enthusiasm. 

And when we were doing the strategy plan for the coming 6 months - Sudhir came up with a lovely presentation and so many fabulous inputs - like the GTM (marketing strategy) which put everything in context. Even on a critical day when his wife needed a check up in her advanced state of pregnancy, he made it to a meeting because he did not want to let down the team (now has a fine baby boy who keeps him up at nights!. Wonderful, wonderful, leadership qualities. 

Unfortunately, Sudhir decided to move on, since he got a better opportunity. I still hope he come back. But typical of Sudhir he instantly started training his team - in public speaking, in presentations, in skill gap analysis - so they keep growing.

And even more typically of Sudhir - he quietly gifted me this well thought out gift -a Sheaffer pen and notebook thanking me for the leadership lessons. I remember telling him to stay back and promised to transfer all that I knew about leadership - it would have been brilliant to work with someone like him in this team. But I am sure he will learn all that and more with his learning mindset and quick grasp of things. Thanks Sudhir for the wonderful gift - and for teaching me many interesting things as well. I have learned many things just watching you.  Express yourself in as many ways as you can and use all your gifts well.             

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Notes to Myself - Impact vs Effort

Found this on LinkedIn.  From his blog on Everyday Leadership. 

Impact vs. Activity

David Driftmier

Global Delivery Lead at Quisitive
13 articles Follow
February 25, 2021

Talent Management. Reviews. Fitness Reports. Evaluations. Regardless of name, organizations everywhere spend tremendous amounts of time and energy assessing their people. Approaches to doing so vary wildly. I spent years watching the people review system at the company for which I worked change and evolve over time – mostly for the better. The various approaches to performance management are beyond the scope of this article, but I will instead focus on one important aspect – impact. Focusing on actual impact may seem like a no-brainer, but in decades of conducting one-on-one performance evaluations, the most common mistake I witnessed was the tendency of both individual contributors and managers to focus on activity and not impact.

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure” is a common management maxim and while basically true, it often leads people to identify only obvious and easy measurements. These measurements are often activity-focused and not impact focused. A common metric, for example, among marketers is “butts in seats.” It may show up in a performance review like this:
"This fiscal year, I conducted 54 awareness events attended by 3,456 potential customers."

Sounds good, right? This person touched a large number of people and presumably good things happened. The problem is this statement measures activity and not impact. Perhaps the events had poor content, leaving the attendee less inclined to purchase the product. Hopefully not, but left with only a statement of activity, there is no way to tell the true outcome. So, what does an impact statement look like opposed to an activity statement?
"This fiscal year, I conducted 54 events that resulted in attendees being 23% more likely to buy from Acme Chemical and driving $450,000 in incremental revenue."

$450,000 is impact. 54 events is activity. The employee in this example correctly connected the two. While this is a straightforward concept, failure to follow it is incredibly common. Why? Three reasons:

1) When someone works hard, they want to be recognized for that hard work. This often shows up in statements such as “I averaged 50+ hours/week this year.” Or, “I gave up my vacation this year.” While working harder may result in more impact, it isn’t always so.

2) Activity measurements are easier to identify. In the example, the number of events and attendees is a readily-available and straightforward measurement. Teasing out the actual business impact may take additional effort and analysis.

3) Business or mission impact can be difficult to quantify or prove. A product launch is a classic example. If a new product is wildly successful, is it the result of brilliant design, a stellar advertising campaign, an extremely efficient distribution channel, or superior manufacturing? Isolating the true drivers of impact can be difficult. During the lifecycle of the product or service it may be easier to adhere to the “change only one thing at a time” approach that makes isolating changes more straightforward. Finally, the common pitfall of correlation versus causality often occurs. “I worked an average of 10 hours of overtime per week, resulting a 15 cent increase in earnings per share at Enormous Corp.” Nice try, but proving causality for that one will be difficult.

Good leaders work this problem from both ends. When managing the performance of others, they work with their teams to ensure their goals reflect business impact and not simply activity. When discussing performance with individuals, they work to identify impact statements versus activity statements and help the team member understand the difference. When the leader’s own performance is being evaluated, he or she works to ensure they only focus on the impact they had on the mission or business and not on their own activities or effort. Most of us would readily agree that we would rather have someone on the team who sells more, produces more, or is more creative, than one who is simply always busy. Make sure both your words and actions line up with this desire.

Eisehnower's Important and Urgent Principle

Eisenhower's Important and Urgent principle

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakam - Movie

 Malayalam. 2022. Mammootty. 

How these people make these films is amazing. But this is about a bunch of Malayali pilgrims (Christian) who go to Velankini to ask for some favour from Mary matha. On the way back James, a married man who is on the tour with his wife and his teenaged son, gets off in the middle of nowhere, wanders off into a Tamil village and assumes the role of Sundaram, a man from that village who went missing. It takes a while for Sundaram's spirit to leave James's body after having got some closure with his family. In those two days much happens that shows human character at its best and at its worst. Watch!


Phalana Abbai Phalana Ammayi - Movie

 Srini Avasarala has a fine and subtle sensibility. He has a fantastic sense of humour, works hard and knows his craft. So I rushed to see his latest film which looked very interesting - one with conversations.

It's the story of a boy and a girl who meet at an engineering college in India, become good friends, go to the UK to study, fall in love despite their intention to remain good friends, find issues that all confused relationships have and finally clear up their misconceptions and get back together. Fairly straightforward but somehow it just does not stick together. Its rather confusing because it keeps flitting back and forth and we lose track of whether it is now or then. Malavika Nair stands out. Harini Rao shines in her cameo. The UK landscape was interesting.

More on this later but I have great faith in Srini and know that he will keep making films he believes in. When you push certain ideas, its always a risk. But then one needs to take risks and not the safe path. So Srini, well done and come back soon without changing what you are about. 

Ganbatte - Albert Liebermann

 The tagline says 'The Japanese Art of Always Moving Forward'. It is just that. I like the idea of saying ganbatte instead o fgood luck because ganbatte talks of effort, of standing firm. In simple ways it is about doing your best and not giving up. Or as the Japanese say - fall down seven, get up eight times.

To illustrate this spirit the author takes us through some wonderful Japanese practices, art, philosophies. The book starts with this painting 'The Great Wave of Kanagawa' by Katsushita Hokusai. It is this great tidal wave that is at its top and a fishing boat caught in it - and all the fishermen have to do is ganbatte. So we realise that life is not just about starting things but about finishing them. That we do not shy away from the difficult - like the US Army Coprs says - the difficult we do immediately, the impossible takes longer.

There is this story of the archer who seeks a guru to teach him to be the best archer. The guru tells him to shoot at the moon and come back. The archer tries his best to shoot at the moon and returns after a few years and says that try as he did, he could not shoot the moon and that he is a failure. This is when the guru says that just by shooting thousands of arrows at the moon in these years the archer has already become a master. He says 'the archer aims at himself'.

Stories of how the longest journeys begin with a single step. The one about Jiro Ono, the legendary sushi maker on whom there is a documentary called Jiro Dreams - and his obsession with improvement. Jiro's secret - do the same thing over and over again, improving bit by bit. Immerse yourself, fall in love with your work.    

Kibo is the word for hope and the author switches to the story of Pandora who opens the dreaded box full of evils (a set up for no fault of hers) and what remains last is Hope. That is why they say that after everything 'there is always hope'. The author also directs us to a film of 'The Man Who Planted Trees'.

The concept of Wabi Sabi seeks beauty in imperfection, says that nothing is perfect. Da Vinci apparently said this ' a work of art is never finished, it is only abandoned.' I love it. 

In the same vein their is the Japanese practice of Kintsugi where they repair broken things with gold - saying that which is broken is more meaningful. It is a huge thing and must be taken into cognisance. And then there is Kaizen - which is change to improve. Today better than yesterday, tomorrow better than today. 

Picasso said - Inspiration exists but it must find you at work.  

Katana swords are now works of beauty, rare pieces. The author dwells on what cannot be seen but can be felt - and cites the example of how director Akira Kurosawa filled medicine chests with medicines because the actors would feel more authentic while performing the role of doctors even if there were no scenes where they opened the draawers.

More examples of people like Dick Hoyt who ran for his son who had cerebral palsy - in fact Dick ran with his son Rick on his back - a 1000 competitions, 250 marathons, 6 Iron Man competitions (a marathon+112 miles of cycling+2.4 miles of swimming - without a break).

Get rid of the second arrow because that will make you take the first one lightly. The example of Joseph Merrick 'The Elephant Man'. There is reference to the koans (this is the sound of clapping your hands, but what is the sound made by a single hand?')

One interesting thing I found was the reference to Japanese exercise- apparently most Japanese do this form of exercise (its on YouTube) called Radio Taiso, which is a 5 minute guide to fitness. I like it.

So, he says, try, give your best and don't give up. You will fall as you go forward but that's OK, even as you fall, fall forward. I finally understood what fall forward means!

Interesting book.     

Coaching Stories No 17 - When Giving Feedback Keep the Entire Journey in Perspective

 I am scared to give feedback because they might get upset.

People get upset when we point out something - however gentle. The key to remember here is that what they are mostly getting upset is that we are not recognising the entire journey and are only pointing out their mistakes which are minor in perspective. In fact that one error may not really be a huge thing but she will be a better person for getting the feedback.

So, the first thing to remember is

1) feedback must have a positive impact in learning, behavior etc
2) before giving it, try not to focus on the issue only. Instead look at the entire journey (for eg. If you find a mistake in a book, look at the entire effort that went into making that book, or a film or an essay or painting or whatever)
3) start from that perspective that you understand and see their journey and what went into this project

This will make them feel a lot more secure and they will now be open to listen to you simply because they now feel that you understand their journey, their perspective. When they feel less threatened, they will listen ore openly.

4) having put that into perspective, now gently come to the point where you feel there could be an improvement. Don't simple show problems, offer solutions.

The key I realised is to make them understand that you know their journey.   

Coaching Stories No 16 - How Many People Have You Influenced Positively Today?

 I am not sure what difference I made today?

Look at how many people you have influenced positively today. 

It could be a 

1) simple acknowledgement
2) a small appreciation
3) a gentle nudge for them to stretch and become bigger people
4) a small question on how they are doing and offering them a ear to listen to
5) or a suggestion
6) a 10 minute mentoring session with each member of your team
7) bringing a small change/improvement in a process
8)  sharing a new idea with the team
9) sharing an appropriate story from your life that motivates
10) learning something new about your subs, what's going on in their lives

All this can be done without affecting the rest of your work but it will have a huge impact over a period of time! So what are you waiting for? 

Coaching Stories No 15 - Put It Down on Paper!

 How can I get clarity?

By putting your thoughts on paper. Noting works like a pen and paper to scribble and make sense of your thoughts. The best strategies, thoughts are laid down on scraps of paper. Writing gives clarity of thought.

Writing does not mean literary masterpieces. Just what you want, possibilities, connections, order, organisation, looking at gaps and thinking what needs to be done and voila, you have a plan of some sorts. That is enough to get clarity.

But most people do not write, put pen to paper. 

You could do it in your head too but writing it down offers two advantages.

1) It gives you both the zoomed out top view and the smaller picture 

2) it allows you to see gaps and fill in details

If you don't have both, and have no control over both, you have no plan.

So write, scribble, make some plan. Some strategy. It will help like nothing else. 

Thought for the Day - Destroy the Self Image, Don't Limit Your Possibilities

 Our self-image limits us!

Destroy your self-image. Or rather, let's use gentler language. Let's recreate a more fluid self-image that allows more possibilities!

Our self-image perhaps helped at some point. Now, recreate. Be fluid. Like water.

Be open to new possibilities.

Actually, to all possibilities. The lesser self-image we have, the more the possibilities! 

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Wooden on Leadership - John Wooden with Steve Jamison

John Wooden (1910-2010) was UCLA's legendary basketball coach nicknamed 'Wizard of Westwood' who won 10 NCAA championships in a 12 year period. His approach to excellence and leadership is revolutionary as much as it is simple and easy to follow - simply because he knows what to teach and how. I had been meaning to buy this book for years and finally took the plunge and wondered - why did I wait so long for it? I remember threatening people to make them buy this book for me but never carried out my threat. 

What Success Is - And How to Achieve It

At no point is Wooden known to have stressed on winning. His formula was simple - don't worry about being better than somebody else. Instead be the best you can become since you have control over that. Success then to him, was to be as good as you can get. So, focus and worry only about things you can control - and strive to reach your capabilities mentally and physically. 

The idea is to compete only against yourself and do things necessary to bring forth your personal best. Hold your head high, give your best - it improves your probability of winning. Winning is a by-product. Effort - is the product, so focus on that. 

Success then is in running the race. How you run your race depends on your planning, preparation, practice and performance (4 Ps). The focus then has to be on the journey, the process - and the result will happen more easily, more efficiently.  

A player who gives his best is a success. Demonstrate 'giving your best' through your behavior on and off the court, the importance of the twin connectors

Rules -

  • Before you can lead others, you must lead yourself.
  • Do the basics (the 4 Ps) - planning, preparation, practice and performance well
  • Write down the Tasks, Initiatives and Actions that each member of the team needs to do to perform at their best. 

Wooden's Pyramid of Success

Wooden's famous pyramid of success (which he displayed outside his office to communicate it to his team) looks like this:

Competitive greatness
Poise, Confidence
Condition, Skill and Team Spirit
Self-control, Alertness, Initiative, Intentness
Industrialism, Friendship, Loyalty, Cooperation, Enthusiasm

The bottom most tier 

1) Industry or hard work - not just about working hard mindlessly but mindful work
2) Enthusiasm - cultivate it because it helps you and others, its infectious
3) Friendship 
4) Loyalty - to get loyalty, care about people and they'll be loyal
5) Cooperation - to gain as a team which means one must welcome honest differences and thoughts which are key to grow

The second row is about the head 

6) Self control - cultivate self-control in both personal and professional life, it helps you to be consistent, it will keep your emotions under control because otherwise emotions will affect performance (he would insist on not using bad language, on being dressed properly, being on time)
7) Alertness - be constantly observing, absorbing, learning from what's going on around you
8) Initiative - take risks, make mistakes with honest intent, "the team that makes the most mistakes usually wins", be quick but don't hurry. Failure to act is the highest failure. Hustle
9) Intentness - show your intent on doing your best

The third tier - the heart of the pyramid
10) Condition - physical fitness, keeping peak fitness by practicing moderation and balance, physically, mentally and morally
11) Skill - learning at all times, learn skill lifelong
12) Team spirit - "the star of the team is the team", you should be eager to sacrifice personal interest for the group

The fourth row 

13) Poise - being true to yourself, don't be ruffled easily, stay true to yourself
14) Confidence - it come with complete preparedness, having done everything possible

The top 
15) Competitive greatness - a true competitor loves battle. its not about winning or losing, the leader has to be a great competitor, condition your team to love the struggle. Be more than the sum of all your players.

Wooden says that one must have faith and patience in oneself, in others, in their beliefs. When you've done your best you may call yourself a success, he says. And only you can define success for yourself! Don't allow others to define your success.  

Wooden's Lessons in Leadership 

Good Values

Wooden believed (and i do too) that good values attract good people. He cites the story of how Kareem Abdul Jabbar. someone whose talent was so widely known that every college was vying for him, was attracted to UCLA because of the values they practiced - quality, no racism. Wooden never approached players however good they were - he let them come to him. When he chose them, he would seek those with a fire in their belly. Those who matched his values - of equality, scholastic merit. Wooden always told his players that they were at college to study first, basketball was second. He pushed them to work for the highest grades. He would stand by the values he learned from his father and insisted that everyone on his team practiced the same - to never cheat, never steal. to not whine, complain or make excuses. He would say that your values (behaviors) advertise your identity, what you stand for. There is a story of how Wooden stopped players from taking home the cheap cotton t shirt without asking. He felt it weakened character.  He would insist on doing little things right - that way the big things are taken care of. And yes, Wooden always did what he expected the others to do. Even when he was 57, he would do everything the team did.

It's touch to coach character
Focus on little things
Character is more than honesty

Getting the Best out of People

Wooden says that the most powerful four letter word is love. You must love your team like family -like your children. "Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care." Wooden would invite players over to his house for thanksgiving when he knew some could not go home. He did what's best for others (which is love). There is one instance of tough love when he sent a player home (Bill Walton I think) for being dressed scruffily, which was not allowed. But Wooden bent his rules a bit when Bill wanted to turn vegetarian. Wooden says, understand what's good for the player, the team, and do it. Just don't get stuck in rules. Be firm but flexible. Show that you truly care for them and they will give your their best.

There's this instance when a player who had been to war and had this fear of flying. Coach Wooden said that everyone would take the bus and they did. He did not leave anyone behind. Or when they were invited to tournaments that did not allow blacks, Coach Wooden did not play, until they removed the rule.

  • Lead with love
  • Everyone is different
  • Show you care
  • There a time to be flexible, a time to be firm

On Teaching

Wooden calls everyone a teacher first - parent, coach, mentor. And you have not taught, if they have not learned. Just knowing the skill well does not make you a good teacher, you must learn how to teach! Knowledge is not enough, know how to teach.

To teach well, be present, diagnose, correct. Teaching is not telling, "show" how to do it patiently. The laws of learning are -

Don't cause indigestion by giving them too much information. Instead, give bite sized pieces, that they can easily digest. Finally he says, never be satisfied - its what you learn after you learn it all that counts.

There are legendary stories about what made him such a great teacher - he would show them he meant what he said - by showing the players how to wear socks (importance to detail), how he would listen to suggestions, how it was not about winning but about how to make it the best team it can be.

  • Professional expertise is not ability to teach
  • Ask more questions, have less answers
  • A demo tops a description

Performance - Emotion is the Enemy

Wooden figured early that emotion interferes with performance. His formula was that one needs intensity combined with emotional discipline(don't confuse emotion with intensity). He would say that it is OK to be OUTSCORED but not OUTPLAYED. Outplayed being when you do not give your best - which is what happens when you let your emotions take over you.  

Wooden's methods to practice control over emotions is do do things in moderation and not let go. Exercise control even when things are tough - no excessive exultation when they win, no emotion when things are going wrong. Focus on process. His players recall that even when the team was down in the dumps he would walk in all positive, always supportive. It was sticking to the process that mattered to him. Not the result or the score.

  • Control emotion or it will control you
  • Discipline
  • Moderation is the key

Team Work - Needs 10 hands to Score a Basket

"The star of the team is the team" - what a beautiful line!

Wooden was clear that to achieve greatness one does not need great players, one need great teams! Great teams are those that work as a team, that work for the team's good. Sharing the ball is the basic of team work so he says one can share - knowledge, contacts, ideas etc. In fact when we realise that everyone - from the receptionist to the security guard is part of the team, we realise that it takes 10 hands to score a basket. Wooden says that the leader must explain to each team member precisely how his or her contribution is important.

One key here is that the leader must acknowledge the unacknowledged and praise them publicly. One must always praise the stars privately. They are acknowledged by all anyway! (But still need acknowledgement)

For the benefit of the team one must put the best possible team together and that must be acknowledged by everyone. Share credit.


  • Star of the team is the team
  • Share the ball
  • Acknowledge the unacknowledged

Details - Little Things Make Big Things Happen

Wooden was a big one for details. They say that if you ask him what any player was doing in any practice session he would know. Wooden believed that little things added up, like one needs to add up pennies to be rich, or one needs to build houses brick by brick. His philosophy was that in a airplane if all the rivets were in place, the airplane was in good shape. All he had to do was check if all the rivets were in good shape and not falling off.

For instance he would constantly be searching for little ways to improve the team performance. He would make the team play against one another, the main players wearing the college jerseys and the subs wearing opponent jerseys! Or when he decided that orange rinds were a better way to energise players than chocolate because they also hydrated! In a way he was the originator of the 1% change every day as he went about improving things to make his team the best. His philosophy - make sure all the rivets are in place and to seek the right way always.

For this Wooden had a precise way of doing things. He would insist of precise processes (would allow for exceptions). He knew that to strive for excellence he could not be be lazy with details. He is known for his full control of practice sessions where not a minute was wasted for anyone. Armed with 3x3 cards which had clear instructions written for every person and every minute he would develop his team into the optimally balanced outfit. His search for balance was about balance in the body, the team and the mental aspect.

  • Start with showing how to wear socks right (drove home the importance of process and details)
  • Right rivets
  • Facilitate an environment of perfected details (fingernails trimmed, hair short, jersey tucked in,doing things right)

Make Each Day your Masterpiece

Wooden realised early enough the difference between activity and achievement. To produce real results, resources must be organised and executed meticulously. Wooden says - "in a competitive environment, there is never enough time". So a good leader must be skillful in using time productively. Time, used correctly, is among your most potent weapons.

Potential exists in every minute so use that minute well. "Not haste, not hurry. But hustle." Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Wooden would "plan number of hours to accomplish his teaching goals." Get them to offer all they have, all the time.

With time being such an important resource, one must learn to be on time. Being late shows disrespect. Successful ones used their allotted time best. In fact the quality of your allocation and execution of time determines the level of your success. There is a direct connection between success and intelligent use of time

One must not mistake activity for achievement. Plan every meeting as if your life depended on it. Keep track of minutes. (3X5 cards, no distractions at practice). Time expands with proper organisation and execution. 

It starts with a minute - your first minute matters. Set the proper tone with meticulous time and technique. Document for clarity and for record to analyse.

Motivation - Carrot or Stick
A good team is one whose members are filled with pride and not fear. Wooden says that well chosen carrots are always more powerful and long lasting. Show that you are on the same side.

The best carrot Wooden feels is approval from someone you truly respect. Such approval instills pride. Pride will push someone who is good to get better.
Firing someone suggests failure on part of the leader

Wooden says - have lots of suggestions , few rules. Favour firm suggestions to strict rules. He had a rule that only leader gives criticism


  1. Pride is easy to instill with the carrot
  2. Genuine praise
  3. No internal carping
  4. No rigid procedures

There's a handwritten note on how to avoid grievances:

1. Get all the facts - what went wrong, not who is to blame
2. Stay calm and find the solution together. Do not permit emotions to take over. Use reason.
3. Criticise in private
4. Commend before and perhaps, after you criticise. Help save face.
5. Keep your criticism constructive. It should help correct, improve. prevent - not to punish.
6. Treat everyone with respect and dignity

Grow Every One to Their Highest Potential - Make Greatness Achievable by All

As a leader you must realise that each member of your team has a potential for personal greatness. Help them achieve it. Your job is to help him or her to perform their job to the highest of their abilities. Here Wooden says that to motivate people we frequently give out awards - but these Rewards and Recognition activities must be thought out. What are you rewarding and recognising. Wooden says one should reward good mental attitude, unselfish team players and those who show improvement - not just the achievers in terms of popularity. 

Wooden says the leader must recognise and appreciate greatness in/is a supporting role. Must recognise the size of effort. Must encourage ambition. He also recognised scholastic merit, competitive spriit. Also, the team would vote for the Most Valuable Player in terms of contribution.

All promotions depend on mastery of current role and assignments. A good leader needs to get unseen potential of an individual out. For this the leader must know the people well, their strengths, limitations, and grow them.


  • Assess each job correctly
  • Encourage ambition
  • Be prepared for unexpected opportunities
  • Push for unleashing hidden potential
  • Get the best and tap into concealed resources

Pushing for Greatness - Seek Significant Change

The leader must seek significant change in behavior, in culture. The leader must look at himself and see where he is making excuses for not achieving greatness. Wooden himself believed that his team was compromised by the quality of the men's gym at the UCLA until his team went to the finals - he realised he had made excuses in his own head. As yourself - are you holding your team back with your limitations?

A leader must ceaselessly search for excellence. As a strategy he also realised that to achieve greatness the team needed to make play the best players so he decided to play the best team. Don't complicate such stuff and keep it simple.

Greatness or excellence cannot come as a single person's effort so involve the team. Look for "yes men" who align with your thought processes but who will say no when they are convinced otherwise and can change your mind. The classic case is how his assistant coach convinced him about the importance of using the full press as a strategy and it worked.

So listen to all viewpoints. Always question and always probe. Get more thoughts to the table and adopt best practices.


  • Stop saying No, start asking How

Pursue Excellence - Don't Look at the Scoreboard

Wooden never believed in looking at the scoreboard. The pursuit of excellence only asks - have I tried to get better - not in what the scoreboard says and that's the only thing that matters. Focus on doing things well. Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out. His mantra was - let competition adjust to us. We will focus on doing our job to the best of our ability in practice and in games. Forget about everything except concentrating on hard work and intelligent planing. Focus on improving a little each day.

Work backwards from long term goal to each practice session. Wooden says that encores for great performances start with a good day at rehearsals - so focus on good rehearsals. Success is possible only when everybody is paying attention to their jobs and doing their jobs well.

To begin with, as a leader, your first goal is to help the team right now - in practice. 


  • Nothing futuristic, stay present
  • Repeat each activity
  • To success you need to focus
  • Give your best

Adversity is your asset

As a leader do not complain when things don't go your way. Your job is to play the hand you are dealt with. As a leader it is also important to keep your word 100%. You are your word. Keep it. It builds trust.  

When you are facing uncertainty or new conditions, look at how it can help you develop additional aspects. Look to improve to face that adversity. (How Kareem Abdul Jabbar became a more all round player when the dunk was banned). Prepare to the utmost of your ability and teach your teams to do the same. Its all about preparation, how well you can foresee obstacles and tackle them in advance.

Wooden says, be a realistic optimist. Assume adversity and plan for all contingencies. That said drawing up plans is the easy part he says. But be meticulous about planning.

Wooden would get everyone on the same page in the first meeting itself - what was expected of them, what to expect from him, his philosophy of success and how to achieve it.

ABCs of success to him were

  • Execution of fundamentals
  • integrate individuals into one unit

Secondary Traits of a Leader

A leader, to bring out the best in his people, should know how to. Wooden used the whole part system - he would work individually on each area and then put it back together again so it ran better as a whole.

  • Work on individual areas
  • Define roles clearly
  • Give written instructions
  • Teaching them how to take feedback
  • Making team mates constantly talk to one another

Coaching methods
1. Be a teacher. Follow the laws of learning - explanation, demonstration, imitation, repetition, until habit is formed.
2. Use lectures, photos, etc to supplement your daily practice
3. Insist on punctuality and proper dress for practice
4. Insist on strict attention
5. No horse play. Practice is preparation.
6. Be patient.
7. Give new things early in practice period and repeat until learned. 
8. Avoid harsh, public criticism. Use praise as well as censure.
9. Encourage team work and unselfishness
10. Individually coach individuals
11. Use small carefully organised groups
12. Have definite practice plans and follow them

Coaching principles
1. Its about habits
2. Never be satisfied
3. Don't give them too much, but teach well
4. Don't tie them down too much that they lose their initiative
5. Give equal opportunity to all
6. Don't overlook little details. You must prepare to win to be a winner.
7. Convince the players the importance of condition - mental, moral and physical.
8. Confidence comes from being prepared and properly conditioned
9. Nothing is as important as proper execution of fundamentals
10. Development of team spirit is a must. Eliminate selfishness, envy and egotism
11. Be industrious and enthusiastic
12. Teach respect for all and fear for one
13. Use positive approach and develop pride in your own game
14. Have one team, not regulars and substitutes
15. Give public credit to your playmakers and defensive men at every opportunity

Wooden was obsessive with record keeping, making lists, listing out rules of behavior and personal qualities to develop

(what gets us to our goals)

Wooden would insist on developing the subs, the replacements, making all his players into better people. For instance he would teach them how to play without the ball - so their focus would be on the action and not showmanship!


Fantastic stuff for me. Immense wisdom. One of the best books I have read on leadership, pursuit of excellence purely from a how-to-do-it perspective. Do the small things right, get everyone together, get the right values and work as hard as you can to improve.  

The Elephant Whisperers - Documentary

 I watched 'The  Elephant Whisperers' after it won the Oscar. And once again i was reminded of what goes into making great art, or creating some thing beautiful and lasting. Debutant director Kartiki Gonsalves researched the lives of the Kattunayakan tribe which lives in the Nilgiris and lives off the forests - the forests are everything for them and provide for their needs. The forest is their god almost.

In this tribe seem to be communities that have learned how to care for elephants. The story is about a middle aged couple (fifties) Bomman and Bellie who have lost their only daughter and their bond with an orphaned elephant 'Raghu' who is entrusted to them by the forest department. Raghu was three months old when Kartiki and her team first saw him and they followed how the couple grew the baby elephant. They rear the baby like it is their own child - its incredible to see the bond they share. Bomman is known elephant caregiver having learned from his father the art of elephant caring and Bellie is also certified as one by the forest department. Satisfied with their performance with the orphaned elephant - apparently there are no known histories of such elephants surviving like this - the forest department give them another baby elephant which is orphaned, Ammu. Tragically the department takes away Raghu after all the care and compassion the couple give it and the parting is painful - but they survive it.

Its life on another plane. If love was the yardstick for this film - the love of Bomman and Bellie for the elephants and vice versa, the love of Kartiki and her team for their craft and their subject, just love that makes everything so nice in the world - whether it is a teacher patiently making a minor adjustment to correct a pupil, or a mother patiently caring for her child - makes it all so beautiful and worthwhile. Something for us to aspire for.

Thank you Kartiki and team. And congratulations!       

Friday, March 17, 2023

Vanijya Fannulu - Harshavardhan

 This is the second book of Harshavardhan garu that I completed reading. It is a compilation of humorous and yet very real and informative pieces about life in the government service. He has served as a senior officer in the commercial taxes department and his observations coupled with his fine sense of humour make the book a highly interesting read. Good humour writing is rare.

The articles are written in a manner that with a little more detail or some connectors it almost reads like a novel. It starts with his preparation to write Civil Services exams (the places they would eat, the various types of people they met), training at the MCRHRD in Hyderabad, his early days at Narsapur (with a picture of Taylor School where my father also studied and where apparently Bapu also did), a note about Pushkaralu and attendant issues, a sharp observation of how meetings were conducted, one on transfers, another on performance appraisals. There is a fine one on computerisation and how the department was one of the first in India to successfully do it (and how the air conditioned rooms were used and misused). He wrote about his visits as an investigation officer to various places - from Kalady to Kurukshetra, of tact and of adaptability. In many ways, it reminds one of a book he mentioned in this very book - 'English August' by Upamanyu Chatterjee. 

Harshavardhan garu is blessed with many gifts -observation, kindness, empathy, a sense of humour, a learning mindset, a way of seeing the best in all things and a deep knowledge of many subjects. His use of the Telugu language made me wonder at how wonderful it is, and felt I could have learned it some more too.But thanks to him and his books I think I will now read more Telugu books. Thanks Harshavardhan garu for sharing your books with me.        

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Sahrudaya Sangathyam - Harshavardhan

It has been a long time since I have read anything in Telugu and it gives me the right push to complete reading three - four other Telugu books i have borrowed ambitiously - Kanyasulkam, Darga kathalu, Himajwala, a compilation of short stories Sagar gave, a bio of actress Savithri etc. Harshavardhan has been my neighbour for a long time and I met him and his wife recently at Chandu's son's housewarming ceremony. We discussed our writing and he told me about his books and his blog and was kind enough to send a couple of them across - this and a humorous piece on his days as a Commercial Tax Officer that I am currently reading.

'Sahrudya Sangathyam' is a compilation of profiles the author wrote about people - those he knew, those he did not, those he admired and met. As always what we really are comes through when we write about others - we can see the good in them or the worst aspects in them. Harsha belongs to the first category. 

Each piece is about one personality in whom Harshavardhan has found a fascinating insight into human psyche. They include his guru Jinnuru Nanna garu, his uncle, his father who was a sub inspector, the people behind Paramahansa Netralaya, the Padala Charitable Trust, even his watchman Yesu and his hard working family. K Vishwanath the film director and Padmasri Nageshwara Rao are others who feature.

Throughout the book Harshavardhan reveals himself as he writes about others - his curiosity about people, his interest in everything around him, his kindness, his understanding and fascination of human nature, his sense of humour, his empathy. It is a wonderful read. Many congratulations to Harshavardhan on this fine effort.     

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Thaikkudam Bridge - Concert at Lal Bahadur Stadium

 I saw a news item in the paper that the TB was performing in the city. Sagar has introduced me to it and we really liked the Kantara music (and the following controversy). Anyway, I did like the idea of watching a concert at LB stadium and when Abhinay said he as going I asked him to let me know what the scene was like.

At 630 pm I dropped Brother Joseph at St Paul's and was heading home when it suddenly struck me that I could check this gig out. I turned towards LB stadium, ventured to the right gate, found out that there was a possibility of buying tickets for cash and did the needful. One young manager called Vijay Bhaskar took the trouble to walk with me to his car and give me an offline ticket. I showed it at Gate 17 and after getting the band on my wrist, walked into the stadium after many years - this very afternoon Brother Joseph showed me a picture of the match we played at the stadium in 1987-88 - All Saints vs Rest of Hyderabad - which we won.

There was seating and I sat, slightly away from centre. There was some awards function going on - it was part of a Telangana Youth Carnival, perhaps ideated by Student Tribe. There were awards of various kinds for colleges and their management and after everyone was awarded, the show took off.

I liked the sound, their comfort with their language, their effort to include the crowd by singing some Hindi songs. Good energy. I was surrounded by college kids though I did spot an odd grey haired person. It was like going back to college days and attending college festivals. Watching young boys and girls dance and have fun reminded me of what we would do in those days - somethings do not change! I watched the entire show and got out on the last number. Good show Thaikkudam Bridge!

Reading about them I got to know that the band is so named because it had its inception near the Thaikkudam Bridge, Kochi in 2013. It has as 8 vocalists and it was interesting to see different singers coming on for each number clad in Mallu costumes.

More than books, movies and music - it is the stories behind them that i find fascinating. Govind Vasantha, the founding member of the group along with Siddharth Menon (who does not feature in the lineup now I think) is very interesting. He is the violinist, vocalist, music producer and founder. Originally Govind Menon, he removed Menon and added Vasantha, his mother's name, in his effort to remove caste from his name. Interestingly he hails from a musical family, his uncle was a Carnatic singer of repute but what's more interesting is that his father, Peetambaran Menon, is a singer (he sang one of the best numbers today with a lot of energy) and is singing regularly with the band since his retirement from the Irrigation department! Now, Govind was born in the year i completed my engineering, 1988 (useless piece of info).

When you read stories like this, you want to see these people again. Stories have magic. I think I would like to tell more stories.

On the way home I got stuck in a crazy jam on Necklace Road where crowds thronged the roads to take pics with the new Secretariat in the background and more importantly, watch the musical fountain in Hussain Sagar. Luckily my side which was heading to Khairatabad got away after a 15 minute jam but the traffic heading towards Sarovar was a mile long.    

Manthan Talks - Yogendra Yadav

 Went to attend this talk by Yogendra Yadav on 'Reclaiming our Republic' by myself (great feat). I bumped into Sanjay Gadhalay as I walked in, saw many familiar faces, found a place to sit and enjoyed the talk.

Having been a psephologist, a politician and an activist, someone who walked the Bharat Jodo Yatra recently, he clarified why we have to save the Republic because it is under threat. Institutions were being compromised, voices being quietened. He had five remedies in which to save the Republic one of which was interestingly satire and another was speaking the language of the common people and not elitist English.

He said we must stop trying to speak negatively about Modi and instead talk of what we can do. e said we could take a leaf out of Modi's talks which are generally positive. Reminded me of the bet I had with Suresh years ago about Trump's election - I said he would win simply because everyone, including Hillary was talking about him. No one was talking about Hillary including herself in a good or bad way. Law of attraction! What you pay attention to, grows.

Interesting talk.  

Gudi Sambaralu - Murali Manohar Swami Mandir, Bahadurpura

 Srimani sent this as she normally does and it did look interesting. 

Suddenly found that the evening had opened up and I had time to spare and I headed off by myself into this place I never visited. I caught the end of the program, walked around the temple and came back. It was beautiful. 

Nicely arranged. They lit up the trees, enough parking, chairs, nice music, well designed stage, prasadam. Good stuff.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Coaching Stories No 14 - Segregating the Big Rocks, the Small Rocks and the Pebbles and Sand

 This is too overwhelming. How can I do so many things at once?

That's a good question. It boils down to segregating the important and the urgent and having different strategies for each. For example, as a writer I may want to write a novel, a film script, a newspaper article and my blogs or some copy editing work. I need to know what is important and what is urgent (or rather, what is easily achievable).

Clearly my most important BIG ROCK is the novel or film script


Strategy - this is a long term one. I need to identify the theme, research, begin work and set aside three- six months at least to get to first draft. Even after that it may or may not work. But it has to be done because it will have the BIGGEST IMPACT. 

So the strategy is to follow a disciplined effort of 2-3 hours of work FIRST THING every day and get about 2-3 pages done. In three months, it would be a decent first draft of about 250 pages.

Every day I have to do this as most important despite not seeing results.


These will earn decent money and will also fetch me a name/brand to many readers. It is good to have on my resume. So I will try to write one article at least once a week and get it published. It may pay me 3000-6000 rupees, will help me stay relevant, help me explore ideas, help me form a compilation of these which can go into a book.

So, the strategy is to write one 600-800 word article once a week on a particular topic and get it published. It will keep the flow going.


Though it still adds value, it has the least impact and needs least concentration or effort so I would fit it into a time when I do not have to stretch myself too much. I will do it because it helps me relax, supports my other work and is still pushing the boat forward. It may not earn money or may earn very little but it adds to the overall effort.

This way we save the most energy and best time for the most important work, and less for B and C. Clearly A will have less to show in the beginning, B will have a little to show and C is easy because you can see immediate results. The metaphor could be like planting a tree, having a fruit store or buying fruit in the market. Or building a house, renting a house, staying in a hotel. Or whatever.  

The same holds good for sales, product building or anything. Just make sure your As are big and cause a big impact.