BOOK REVIEW: You don’t need a godfather

Author: Elango R

Price: 250 INR

Success is one of the key items that each of us wants for sure. Be it personal or professional sphere, succeeding and winning given immense feeling of accomplishment to individuals or teams. In the corporate world success, especially in the long run depends not only on skills but also in other key aspects like situational leadership, moral authority, managing dynamics of the organization and building a brand for individuals. While there are many books that take deep dive in each of the items mentioned above, the book ‘You don’t need a godfather’ provides a very pragmatic blueprint creating success.

There are three unique things about this book. First the way it is written is very different from others. Author Elango takes his example conversations with his little son Agastya and maps them to corporate environment by taking some of the key learning’s from his son. As a father of three year old I can understand this viewpoint, mainly because we tend to learn so many things from our children provided we are having deeper listening to what they are saying. For example Agastya, while watching a cricket match between India Vs. Ireland makes a statement ‘Appa I hate Ireland’ mainly because the opposition take the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar, thereby calling the opposition bad. When things go wrong we seem to blame that problem is ‘out there’ whereas we as individuals might be root cause of the whole issue.

Second uniqueness of the book is its simplicity. Author conveys some of the key messages in a very simple manner. In my article about ‘Fill = 200 INR, Bill = 2000 INR’ I called out some examples on how professionals compromise on moral values in the name of making some silly money. In the similar lines author gives examples of people with very high academic qualifications losing their jobs mainly because their integrity related issues are found and asked to leave the organization. As professionals it is very critical not to compromise on such items which plants critical seeds for success.

Third uniqueness of the book is about real time case studies he used for explaining some of the key messages. Some of them include — How individuals should see constraints as opportunities, how individuals should build a brand for themselves by doing small things correctly and differently and how to learn from many of the mistakes we do in professional careers etc. I am also glad to see one of my college seniors story is mentioned as a case study, where many of his early constraints (Ex: Learning in regional medium school and difficulties faced to learn English, Missing out on initial set of opportunities faced for traveling abroad but still hanging on, Switching over to an internal sales job which was considered as inferior initially but later creating wonders in the job etc.). As I know this individual for the past 15 years, it’s really heartening to see his story getting mentioned in a book like this.

If you are looking for a light weight, yet powerful guide for navigating thru the corporate jungle, You Don’t need a Godfather is highly recommended. Backed up with real life case studies and drawing experience from his HR profession, author Elango provides great insights into creating success by you own. After all we don’t need a godfather to succeed in life.

A meditator called Rahul Dravid…

Rahul Dravid, one of legends of world Cricket, announced his retirement yesterday. Even though I admire many cricketers, Dravid reserves a special place. It’s mainly because of the way he approached the same and lessons I could learn by looking into cricketing career. For him, being in the cricket ground and playing for India is similar to doing meditation. He did almost anything and everything that the team wanted – batted at different positions (being an opener to batting at seventh),kept wickets, bowled on few occasions, captained the team — even though most of them would put him out of his comfort zone. The sheer joy derived from his ‘uncomfortable zones’ is the key differentiation point for Dravid from other players. While there are definitely a lot of lessons one can learn from Dravid, here are my top three.

Aggression, in his own way: It’s been told that players need to be aggressive to win matches, which is true for Cricket as well. When it comes to Dravid, the definition of aggression takes a different meaning than what we generally perceive. Being a batsman, it’s mainly about competing fiercely against world’s toughest bowlers even in pitches that are favorable to them. Especially test cricket (which I believe is the true form of Cricket) is all about keeping the wicket intact. Dravid played multiple critical knocks in adverse conditions (ex: century scored against WI in 2011 tour) just by staying in at crease, thanks to his sheer concentration. Aggression is not only about taking on bowlers, playing attacking shots, scoring quick runs or sledging. It is also about keeping the wicket intact, beating the bowlers and opposition with patience, making them do mistakes and eventually capitalizing and winning on it, which Dravid successfully demonstrated in multiple occasions. It is not required to hit (or even touch) each and every ball to win test matches. Dravid has faced 31258 balls in his test career which is the highest ever faced by an individual in the history of test cricket, talks a lot about his own definition of aggression and winning test matches.

Continuous improvement: Dravid is definitely not a batting genius like Sachin Tendulkar. He had his own limitations when he started playing One day internationals, some of them being — poor strike rate, not so effective in rotating strike, not a quick scorer, not an entertaining player etc. Over a period of time he continuously and consistently improved on each of his limitations by giving acute focus for improvement areas. This can only happen when an individual admits ‘there are more things to learn and improve. Let me acknowledge and work towards it’, rather than wearing ego in shoulders. It took more than three years (1996-1998) for Dravid to get his career going in ODIs (see picture on the right), but he kept his consistency intact over the years, thanks to his continuous improvement mindset.

Glamor vs. Effective: In order to be effective, result orientation is the key. Unfortunately in India there are many factors that take a player way from the focus. Players are seen as glamor material some even regularly occupy page-3. Dravid remained in his own cocoon by completely keeping away from the glamor game. He was hardly known outside cricket (except few commercials) never been a popular guy, most wanted by media. Often his game is also perceived as boring or not so interesting to watch, but for him it is all about winning matches for India by being as effective as he can. Compared to his greatness he enjoyed relatively less media/press coverage, which talks a lot about the mark of this man. Even his retirement announcement came like a corporate package – No frills, no emotions but job done!

I am so humbled to see a great player sign-off on such a high note. There are definitely many things I can try and learn from this great individual. Hats off – Jammy!

A new year resolution – Talk Straight

I recently read a brilliant (and hugely popular) article on the HBR Blogs.  Readers of Dilbert too would recognize how this buzzworks are getting irritatingly more prevalent. Few people would disagree with what the author says, but continue to use most of these phrases in our work – in both internal communication and in external communication with customers and partners. There is a general perception of “smartness” when a person uses many of the terms mentioned there.

Referring to people as “resources”, time as “bandwidth” are other examples of the same – “We are constrained on the bandwidth front” makes you sound smarter than “We don’t have the time”. “I’m in the process of socializing this initiative among the various stakeholders” makes you sound smarter than, “I’m talking to the people about this to get support”. “Leverage”, “(Doesn’t) get the big picture”, “Evangelize” and “cross-functional” are among the other buzzwords thrown around. Deep down I don’t think anyone enjoys talking or writing like this, but this seems to be endemic and people continue doing this because everyone else does it.

Narayana Murthy was bang on when he said in one of the interviews, “In India, articulation is mistaken for accomplishment” – and using these phrases is associated with better articulation…. and since usage of these phrases is a global phenomenon, looks like Narayana Murthy’s observation seems pertinent to not just India.

So, here is my New Year resolution. “Cut out the buzzwords and keep it straight”. “In the process of” can be dropped from most sentences that you write and so can “productivity enhancement” and “organizational synergy”. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep a check list of these buzzwords handy so that you can “check” every mail to cleanse them of these before hitting the Send button.

Keep it simple! — NWritings

When Tendulkar drops a catch, Dhoni doesnt have to tell him to focus

Its a big Test match and India are desperately looking for wickets to tighten the noose around the Aussies. Ishant is streaming in and bending his back on a wicket that is providing the assistance needed for a determined bowler – bounce and movement off the seam. The Rainas and Kohlis have been doing their best with their constant yellings of encouragement. Hussey, or Mr Cricket as hes known, has been the lone source of resistance from the Aussies and they will surely go down in this key test match if hes gone. The ball is pitched outside the off and angling away and the otherwise cautious Hussey pokes it at tentatively. Ninety nine times out of hundred Hussey would have left this alone, but not this time. The ball takes the shoulder of the bat and flies off towards the waiting hands of Tendulkar in second slip for a straight forward regulation catch. Ishant has already sensed a wicket and is almost ready for his celebratory leap when the great man fumbles and the ball loops off his fingers – he had grabbed at it too early. Ishant is distraught and every Indian fielder has his hands on the head. The camera zooms in on Tendulkar and he knows he has screwed up – his face says it all. Numerous replays from different angles ensue. Dhoni and Dravid in first slip just walk to Tendulkar, pat his shoulders and unruffle his hair with a possibly a “take it easy…. come on” and move on to focus on the next delivery.

Now, this is exactly what most managers DONT do. The typical manager reaction to a screw up is long monologue, a dressing down and a stern warning of a “you better not do this the next time around”. They view this as the appropriate time to “educate” the employee on how things are done. Now, I’m not asking managers to turn a blind eye to screw ups or accept incompetence. However, In most cases the person who screwed up is already aware of the seriousness of his error and what he needs is a dose of confidence and being reminded of his achievements of the past. Back him!!! Help him remember the great slip fielder that he usually is and restore his confidence to be prepared for the next ball – unless this was the third catch hes dropped that day… in which case you want to move him to fine leg and pray that the ball doesn’t go there. Even if there are issues with the “catching technique” of Tendulkar, it is best addressed at the end of the day’s play.

Managers should look at themselves as “Coaches” who are vested in bringing out the best in people rather than “supervisors” who are trying to tell people how things are done.


– NWritings

Emotional Intelligence – Super smart Indian politicians!

Let me augment my previous post on Emotional Intelligence with two interesting videos.

In India, most of us feel that politicians are big time bozos.  But in reality they are the super smart individuals who successfully manage their emotions and eventually control emotions of millions. Simply put, they have very high EQ!

Case: 1 Mr. Chidambaram

A (Sikh) journalist threw a shoe at Home Minister P Chidambaram during a press conference; mainly because CBI gave clean chit to 1984 anti-Sikh riots accused Jagdish Tytler. Leaving the political angle apart, let us look into it from EI perspective.

The journalist was running ‘high’ emotions, because of which his rational brain simply stopped working. The Amygdala has taken the complete control, which has resulted in throwing shoe at home minister of the country. On the other hand, Chidambaram was in total control. He not only controlled his emotions, but also ensured that the press conference continued without any issues. If he would have reacted (say shouting back at the journalist) it would have been a different story altogether.

Case: 2 Mr. Lalu

While presenting the railway budget, many parliamentarians have urged Lalu (who was the railway minister then) to speak in English, who comes from a non-English speaking background. Assessing and understanding the situation well, Lalu didn’t get intimidated at all. He converted the situation into a humorous one by talking in broken English. It was Lalu’s smartness and high EQ, which came in handy.

As I mentioned in the presentation, life is all about handling situations in a smart way, where EI plays a significant role.

Emotional Intelligence – How smart you are?

I am totally convinced!

After dealing with tons of people both in professional and personal space, I have come to an understanding that Intelligent Quotient (IQ) matters only in certain areas. For example — getting your photo published in local newspaper for topping the school, get admission into good college, land in a high paying job by attending campus interview. But the real fun begins after that, where an individual starts working with people in some form or other. Here having proper Emotional Quotient (EQ) plays more important role, which eventually determines professional/personal happiness and success.

Having high EQ is the key for handling situations in a better way, which eventually makes all the difference. Recently started working on the ‘Emotional Intelligence’ with some like-minded folks, following presentation has the first cut of information about this topic.

Personal Effectiveness in Team Building

Being an ‘effective’ professional is the key for becoming successful in a team environment. In technology industry cross-functional teams (consisting development, test, documentation and customer support members) is no longer a theory, but a norm these days. Understanding and handling perceptions, developing deeper listening skills, working in a team with complementary skills — are key for long term success as a professional.

Recently, I have shared a presentation to my team, which is shared below. With Agile (more on this later) becoming new way of software development, it becomes all the more attention for us to pay equal attention in shaping such behavior in our teams.

What is your opinion on this?

MBTI Type indicator

I am currently working on a program for creating a map of members working in my team. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment is one of the standard indicators used for such process. The compiled presentation is available in the link below.