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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Gurudev builds bridges yet again !

We are a mirror of the society. We get affected by whatever is in the collective consciousness of the society and we can make an impact on it too. Ukraine is going through a huge crisis and Art of Living is not unaffected by it. Of the several teachers doing great work in Ukraine, there was a conflict between two well meaning, well intentioned, dedicated teachers.

They both arrived in the German Ashram and didn't want to see each others faces. The signature smile of Art Of Living was replaced with anger and frustration. 
To put it simply, they didn't look like happy people, let alone Art Of Living teachers!

All the efforts of our international coordinator, the international traveling teacher mentoring Ukraine,to mediate and make peace had failed. Any effort to bring them together only became worse. 

In the German ashram, as elsewhere, Gurudev usually meets people in their country groups and listens to their issues and requests. In this case both these teachers did not want to see each other and be in the same room. They pleaded for a separate time with Gurudev.

They had intense interpersonal problems, and the mistrust, anger and hatred was very palpable.

Very patiently Gurudev invited one teacher to meet him first, then the next and then both together. What lasted for over an hour were conversations fraught with accusations, high emotions, tears, dis belief and mistrust. The way Gurudev handled it, at the end of the meeting both the teachers were hugging each other and promising each other of their support. Tears of sadness were transformed into tears of love and gratitude.

I got 5 very very valuable leadership lessons from the way Gurudev conducted this meeting.

1) Listen 100% 

Though both the teachers kept talking about many minute details, some of which didn't make too much sense sometimes, Gurudev just listened. He didn't rush them,didn't interrupt them, didn't stop them or question them. He just let them talk and let off their steam. He just kept asking them to share more and listened intently. By the end of 15- 20 minutes that each of them spoke, they had nothing more left to speak and looked visibly relieved already! 

Leadership learning - Expect differences of opinions and conflicts. When your team brings them to you, let them let out their steam. 50 % job is done already!

2) Don't judge or take sides

Not once in that one hour, did Gurudev judge either of the teachers or take sides. Even when what they spoke was totally opposite to each other, he did not think of one as good and the other as bad. One as right and the other as wrong. In fact, on a couple of occasions he appreciated each teacher to the other and the work they were doing. So both teachers could see that they were both doing good and important work for the organization .I could see, both teachers felt heard fairly and that itself kept the communication going!

Leadership learning- Don't judge or take sides in a conflict situation. A leader has to be neutral. By this, both sides will be able to bring their full case to the table, which is the only way the conflict can be potentially resolved.

3) Show that you care

Emotions ran high in this meeting. Gurudev, through his body language, concerned looks, compassionate approach showed how much he cared. He was passing around tissues, offering water, really being like a loving parent. Both the teachers were perfectly natural in their behavior and the warmth started blossoming between them too!

Leadership Learning- Even the best people in your team can have a bad day, a misunderstanding. If you show you care, they can overcome it.

4) Give a bigger vision

After listening and acknowledging their problems and challenges, Gurudev assured them of support and of finding a solution. He also gave them a bigger vision of how they have the responsibility of spreading happiness in their country and uplifting people. He said, people are waiting for you, so don't get caught in small little things. Think big, meditate. Things will resolve with time. He gave them such a big vision, that they themselves said that their disagreements felt like small things!

Leadership Learning- It is possible your team gets caught in small things and loses sight of the bigger goal. The biggest role of a leader is to keep uplifting his team towards this big goal !

5) Give Time

Despite being so busy, Gurudev spent over an hour with these two teachers! Not once did he rush them or let them feel what a tight schedule he has! 

Leadership learning - Your team needs you, your time. Giving your time at the right time, can save many a disaster of later.

Two teachers who refused to be in each others company, left hand in hand with an inspiration for a better life. They left with strength, love and peace in their heart.I am so grateful to have been in the room to silently witness this amazing transformation. I learnt, what no book or professor could have taught me. Hope this note inspires you to take better leadership action too!

P.S – When I read this article to Gurudev, he actually suggested changes to it ! So not only did I get a leadership lesson, but also a lesson on how to write about it !!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

An auto driver teaches customer delight!

Annadurai: Annadurai owns an auto rickshaw in Chennai City. It isn't an ordinary auto rickshaw because this is what you'll find inside it.

Free mobile battery charger
Watch TV for free
Free WiFi
Free books to read
Bumper prize contest for customers
Refer a poor child for studies
Discount in fare for teachers and on special days
Mobile and DTH recharge

His main goal is to provide customer satisfaction. The vehicle is Wi-Fi enabled and, if you're not carrying a laptop or smartphone to connect to the internet, Annadurai will slip you a 10-inch tablet. He carries an internet dongle attached to a Wi-Fi router and offers free access to the internet.

"Most people who take my auto work for IT companies and I know access to the internet is important for them," Annadurai says. "It takes about half an hour to cover the distance between Thiruvanmiyur and Sholinganallur. "Why waste that time?" says Annadurai.
Annadurai spends Rs. 4,000 a month on subscriptions to 35 various news publications.                       

( I read this incredible story on the ibn website. To me it is the most delightful example of  customer delight.)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Thank You, Sri Sri !!

You came to the world
For the good of humanity
152 countries & millions of people say
Thank You Sri Sri

Your message of love & compassion
Spread love, joy, peace & generosity
152 countries & millions of people say
Thank You Sri Sri

Sadhana, Seva and Satsang
The world rejoicing in this trinity
152 countries & millions of people say
Thank You Sri Sri

You are our shining light
Wise, loving, humourous and naughty
152 countries & millions of people say
Thank You Sri Sri

The mere thought of you
Embraces us with infinite serenity
152 countries & millions of people say
Thank You Sri Sri

We are grateful 
For you made us your devotee
152 countries & millions of people say
Thank You Sri Sri

Draupadi -The ultimate surrender to her Guru

A story goes that Rukmini and Satyabhama, the wives of Krishna are very jealous of Draupadi. They feel that despite all the love and care they shower on
Krishna, he is always thinking about Draupadi ( who was like his sister and friend. For Druapadi, Krishna was her Guru, guide,dear brother and friend). So one day, they decide to confront her. They go to her chambers and ask her why Krishna loves her so much. Why he is thinking of her all the time. No matter what they do for him, how come she is always on his mind! Draupadi answers that of course she loves Krishna, like they love Krishna. She cares for Krishna, just like they care for Krishna. But, she says there is difference in her love for Krishna and their love.

She says in their love for Krishna, they always say "Krishna is mine, Krishna is mine".
In her love for Krishna she says, "I am Krishna's, I am Krishna's!!"

This story always brings a tear to my eye. Its the ultimate example of surrender to the Master, of living a life of being the perfect instrument of the Master. Draupadi, for one, had a tough life to say the least. Yet, no complaints,no questions."I am Krishna's!" "I am his instrument". "My life is his, my joys are his and so are my sorrows!" Then, does he have a choice but to have her on his mind!

To me, Guru Poornima is a day to review how we have been the perfect instrument for our Master & how we have grown on the path.

Happy Guru Poornima !

My life, a Miracle!

On the occasion of Guru Poornima, deep gratitude to my Guru for making my life a miracle!

Even before You found me
I was in Your warm cocoon 
You guided me step by step 
You made my life a Miracle!

The very first day I saw You
I remember every detail
You saw me like You knew me 
You made my life a Miracle! 

Everything became so beautiful 
I started loving myself
I knew my world had changed 
You made my life a Miracle! 

I did things I never could
I said things I never knew
You transformed me beyond words 
You made my life a Miracle! 

You granted my smallest wish
You blessed my every prayer
You answered every call of my heart
You made my life a Miracle! 

Your grace, Your love
Shapes every event and word 
For the very breath I take
You make my life a Miracle!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

6 ways women leaders can be exceptionally successful

Women are increasingly asserting their rightful place in the world today. In politics, business, academics, science, media, religion & civil society, women have a voice of strength, of influence and of importance.

Women have some natural advantages as leaders. We are born to nurture and care. In bearing children, we set benchmarks of forbearance & ability to handle pain. In raising families, we are the perfect resolvers of conflict. In managing a household, we are  adept at building a positive profit & loss account. We are soft yet solid, amiable yet assertive, resolute yet responsive.

Our natural excellence far outweighs some of our perceived weaknesses. Then, what can we as women leaders do to find exceptional success in life? What can we do to overcome some of our self imposed restrictions? How can we play a even more influential role in the society? How can we let humanity benefit from what only we can contribute? As a woman who has had the good fortune of playing many leadership roles myself, I have learnt from my mistakes and apprehensions. This list is a glossary of things I wish I had done at different times in my life myself.

1) Have a grand vision

Think big. We know it naturally. We teach our children to do it everyday! Have a grand vision for yourself. Whether at work, in the community or at home have a goal that will be little more than easily achievable. In pursuing it, many of our boundaries will be broken, talents manifested and new horizons sought. Don’t be afraid of failure. If you fall, get up and go again. Have the conviction that you are good and can do it. Have the big intention, get the skills to implement it & execute. You will be pleasantly surprised what you achieve! 

2) Recognise your strengths

In the Indian tradition, the powerful trinity of Durga,Lakshmi & Saraswati are the incredible feminine power that led the Defence, Finance & Education ministries respectively for the Divine order. These represent the strengths of courage (Durga), wealth (Lakshmi) & knowledge (Saraswati).
We all have these aspects in us. We are bold, we have a wealth of good qualities & the knowledge of life. All we have to do is tap into this storehouse of ours and let them manifest in reality. At work it may mean speaking up without hesitation. Being bold and forthright. In the community it may reflect in preserving the wealth of friendliness and togetherness. Personally, it may mean pushing ourselves to continuously upskilling ourselves to keep up with the times. Suffice to know that we are Durga, we are Lakshmi and we are Saraswati. We only have to recognise these strengths.Then what’s to stop us ?!

3) Lead from the front

I have seen sometimes women are shy to lead from the front. Sometimes. Why? Come on ladies. Seize the opportunity. Don’t hesitate. Lead from the front. You may face resistance, challenges & obstacles. So what? We are stronger than to cow down to that. We are Durga remember? We are the light of leadership. The luminous force that can transform. Have this confidence.

4)Tap technology

Women of today are luckier than those few decades ago. Thanks to technology, our world has become a global village. Information travels in the nick of time & is available at the click of a mouse . Use this to your advantage. Save time where you can. Use gadgets to save energy. Use that time to relax, pursue a hobby, or just have fun. Use technology to your advantage, don’t be enslaved by it. Resist the urge to keep checking your phone or email. The world will survive!

5) Leverage the network

We can be a formidable network of support for each other. We only have to reach out to each other. Be in touch. Support each other. Then who is to stop us? We can be invincible. A force to reckon with. A strong influence to create a better, nicer society. Today there are some really inspirational womens networks around the world. Participate in them. Make your voice heard. Inspire others and be inspired by their stories.

6) Be Harmonious

When we are in harmony, life becomes a song. Isn’t it? When we are at peace with ourselves, calm and stress free, even the most difficult challenges feel like a breeze. When we are agitated, even the simplest situation feels overwhelming. Our internal harmony is key in determining the quality of our life. When we practice breathing techniques like Sudarshan Kriya, when we meditate, base our life on the strong foundation of knowledge & service, our life becomes a joy. We become a true asset to society. The beauty of our life shines through!

Without us women, the world is only half as beautiful. With us, it become twice as much.

( A version of this article is on

Monday, July 7, 2014

6 steps to improve the "Meaning Quotient" of your work

We spend 70-80% of our waking lives at our workplace. Yet, world over, people complain of job dissatisfaction, monotonous work lives, disinterest at work, fatigue and stress. Inspired by people I have learnt from, I made a list of 6 simple steps of how you can find meaning at your workplace. How you can improve your "Meaning Quotient" at work.

1) Know that your job is an important part of a bigger plan

No matter what your job is, how big or small it is, the fact that it exists, means its important. No company keeps a job position for charity.Your job matters, so its there. You can do the job well, so you have it. Remind yourself of this fact everyday if necessary. Your job is an important part of the bigger organisational plan. Embrace it with that respect. Go to work every morning with this confidence. I remember this story where a person visits a place where a beautiful temple is being built. He sees many workers working on the construction. This person goes to one worker and asks him what he's doing. The worker answers that he is laying bricks. He asks another worker who is also laying bricks, what he's doing. This person answers that he is building a beautiful temple. Both were laying bricks,but only one could see how his job contributed to the bigger plan of building a temple. How do you treat your job? Laying bricks or building a temple?

2) Have pride in what you do

I once met a little 8 year old girl who was picking up pebbles from a dusty road in her village. Her father, the village sarpanch ( Constitutional leader of the community) told me that she did this every every evening at about 5 pm. I asked her why she did it. With great pride she said, that because she picks up these pebbles, all her uncles ( men of the village) coming back from work on their bicycles do not slip and fall ! Her father went on to explain how everyone appreciated her gesture and more kids joined her now. The result was a cleaner village too! I was moved seeing the confident and innocent glow on her face. With great simplicity she taught me, that no matter what the job, if we are proud of what we do, it will make a huge difference to our stakeholders. Not to mention strengthen our position as important influencers at work.

3) Make a systematic plan to improve yourself

Life is evolving. The world is changing. Technology is galloping. Everything is improving. Then why not us? Yes. Make a plan for self improvement. One new skill a month. One new concept a week. One new word a day. It could be anything, as long as it makes you a more informed person than yesterday, last week and last month. Your self inspired, self driven approach to life will not go unnoticed. My husband Ajay, is the "Voice of Improvement" in my head. Always nudging me to do better, learn more. Who, where is your voice?

4) Be ready for mundane days

Everyday at work is not going to be dramatically exciting. Most days may be mundane. Regular. Routine. Such is life. Have the eye to look for the magical in the mundane. On days when everything seems little dull and calm, use the time to read up something new. Work on your own upskilling. Clean your desk and drawers.Sharpen your saw, so you are ready when the excitement -time to cut the tree, comes! I once worked with a boss who used to say that he comes to work expecting a long list of things to go wrong. If the day went by without all that happening, then it was a super day!

5) Don't compare

I have seen this around the world- everything in our life seems ok until we compare it to others.Then suddenly, everyone else seems to be better off than ourselves! Save yourself from this. Compare yourself to how you were before. Not to someone else. Everyone is rowing their own boat at their own speed. Neither judge them,nor yourself. Be kind to them and yourself. Sri Sri says that contentment is the biggest achievement of life. A contented man is a happy, peaceful man.Be content in what you have. More will come. Have the confidence that what you need will come to you. If you do want to compare, do it with someone who is less endowed than you. At least you have a job, millions don't even have that.

6) Be kind and friendly with your colleagues

Though workplaces need to be competitive to foster excellence and growth, they don't need to be war zones! We can compete with our colleagues but we don't need to be hostile or rude. I had a boss once, who used to come to office everyday with 5 marbles in the left pocket of his jacket. Everytime he was nice, kind or helpful to someone, he would move 1 marble to the right pocket. If he was rude, or shouted at anyone, the marble moved back to the left pocket. He never went home until all 5 marbles moved to his right pocket. I saw this everyday for the 7 months I worked with him! What kind of culture do you want to build at your workplace? Trust or mistrust? Being helpful & kind or unhelpful & rude?

Its up to us to find meaning in our work. Improve the "Meaning Quotient". It will automatically improve our "Performance and Excellence Quotients"! Success is then a forgone conclusion.

Its better to work on creating the meaning, finding the meaning in our work, than running after success.

Knowing which comes first, can make all the difference in having a joyful, meaningful life.
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