5 Signs that you are failing as a Parent #Big Idea2016

photo-parent-child-riding-bikesIt is very important for me to keep a tab on my ability and competence as a parent. Just as I cannot take credit for success of my organisation, I would never desire credit for raising a happy, confident, value centric child.

Nevertheless, I would always keep assessing my parentability.

You are failing as a Parent:

  1. If you cannot disambiguate your childhood memories:

“When I was a child, I always polished my shoes.

When I was your age, I never asked for pocket money.

When I was in 10th grade, I got my first watch on topping my class.”

You are telling the truth to your children but what about the remaining truths like when you bunked your school, when your father found out about the love letter you wrote to a classmate or when you cried whole night to go for a friend’s wedding.

After becoming parents, we tend to have biased and selective childhood memories. We only remember our achievements, our niceties and our obedience as kids. We conveniently erase all the memories of heartache we gave to our parents.

If you hide your shortcomings, your defiance and misdeeds, you are hiding your true self.

  1. If you live under an “I know everything” umbrella: Though we prepare for every small test, every interview, we never prepare for playing the parent role. We just feel like gaining all the parental wisdom by ourselves. It is important for us to admit that we need to reinvent ourselves after we become parents. We need a potion of discipline – balance – patience to start the journey. It is prudent to learn and upgrade our knowledge consistently on the way.

If we fail to curate our technology use, if we fail to appreciate their web content and music downloads, we will not be able to observe the evolving of our children into the personalities that they want to become.

  1. If you tell and not show: If you tell your children not to use mobile phones on dinner table but you keep checking your messages between meals (urgent office work!), if you tell your kids to exercise while you create new excuses to avoid Yoga or Gym sessions every day, your instructions will have no impact. It is very difficult to be a 24X7role model but then whosoever told you that Parenting is a joyride was genuinely kidding.
  1. If comparison bug has stung you:

”How many marks did the topper get?

Who got the highest package?

Why don’t you be punctual like me?”

If you use such questions, you must be comparing yourself too with your friends, colleagues and anyone worthy of your attention.

It undermines your confidence and self esteem. It makes you feel inadequate and it robs you off of your uniqueness.

To future proof your kids, tell them to benchmark themselves against themselves resulting in gradual and steady improvement.

Winners are trend setters who focus on breaking their own records. They are winners not because they win but because they focus on self improvement.

It is a norm in my household that we never discuss grades / performance of any other child. “I am interested in your performance only” is my standard response to my daughter. Love yourself the way you are. Love your children the way they are.

  1. If you are not grateful enough: When people feel entitled to get the services of a servant, a driver, a waiter as they are paying for it, they will never be grateful for all that they have got.

An ungrateful parent can never raise a grateful child. If you fail to develop the attitude of gratitude for everything from a day well spent to luxuries of life, you fail as a human being.

ENTER 2016 WITH THESE POINTS TO PONDER. THIS IS A BIG IDEA NOT FOR A YEAR BUT FOR LIFE”.

 

How giving are we as Parents and Leaders?

Joy of givingThere was an old woman who would climb up to this small church with a small bag clutched in her hand. After saying her prayers, she would sit on the stairs, take out a blue stone from her small bag, look at it for some time and then move back. A young boy would see her every day. He was attracted towards that blue stone. On Christmas day, he went to the old woman and wished her.

“God bless you. What do I give you?” she asked.

“I want the blue stone that you have.” He blurted out.

Within a second, the lady handed over the blue stone to the boy. The bag was empty after that. The boy was ecstatic to receive the stone and rushed back home. Christmas and the blue stone kept him in high spirits throughout the day. At night, he kept the blue stone under his pillow and went off to sleep. Sleep eluded him that night.

Perturbed, he went to the church next morning. The old lady was climbing up as usual. He rushed to her.

“I want something from you”, he said.

She smiled and pointed at the empty bag.

“No, I want your feeling because of which you gifted the only precious possession you had. Please give me that valuable feeling” he requested.

She smiled. “I have many precious possessions that I can give you”, she said. “A smile, a helping hand, a blessing“.

It is difficult to give away whatever is precious to us. Values and valuables – can be and should be shared.

In today’s time, it is difficult to give time, concern and attention. Rather than giving likes and comments on social media, how nice it will be to give some real time to our children without mobiles in our hand.

Rather than compiling presentations full of jargon and feel good data, how valuable it will be to give some real empathy and human attention to our colleagues.

The art of giving and receiving is becoming scarce. Giving with happiness and receiving with gratefulness are a depleting phenomenon. Let us learn to develop an attitude of giving and gratitude.

Donating and giving are different. Donating is easier as we give what we have enough of. If we give what we don’t have enough, we give a bit of ourselves in the form of our time, concern and empathy. That will be a real gift.

Receiving with gratitude is to remember it eternally. We should not want to return a help or a favour to the same person who extended it to us. We should try to at least give it to someone who needs it. A chain of giving and receiving binds all of us together. Let us start today.

Do good Storytellers make good leaders?

Storytelling

My daughter and my husband had a night routine where they would weave a new story overnight with their characters – an old man (named Khammam), a dog (named Khatkhat) and a parrot (named totey). They would go on picnics, long drives, fly kites with these characters every night. As an actor, my husband would call all the characters in different tones and my daughter learnt to speak with kindness, with pity, with anger, with happiness. Some days, they would help a person on their ride, some day they would sing songs and some days they would get late and miss their flight.

Fifteen years later, they still talk about those stories and it is something that only they two share and understand.

We read my pictorial stories together and she learnt to recite couplets from Madhushala at the age of five.

Storytelling helps parents to bond with their children, to encourage them and to make memories. Each family has a treasure trove of stories which they repeat to laugh and cry together.

Stories create magic, stories bring joy, and stories bind us and convey valuable lessons.

Can leaders tell stories to become effective?

Paul Smith, author of Lead with A Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives that Captivate, Convince and Inspire, says that leaders can use storytelling to inspire the organisation, set a vision, teach important lessons, define culture and values and explain who you are and what you believe.

There are organisations like Nike where all the senior executives are designated Corporate Storytellers.

Storytelling brings heart in the task called Leadership and makes it humane.

Just as family stories inculcate values and shower love, leadership stories give a sense of belonging and inspire the whole team.

In my first Leadership session, I teach my students to “Try again, Fail again, Fail better”.

My personal story strikes a chord instantly. I failed my class X Board exam in Hindi subject.

I was always a meritorious student and everyone expected me to top the class as always. When the results were declared, I had secured and eighteen out of hundred in Hindi, while the aggregate was 70%. A failure in the first board exam was traumatic, more so because I had no explanation for it.

Family members, friends of my parents, class-mates showed sympathy on my face and made fun on my back.

I was devastated and depressed. I felt helpless and cheated but I had no control over the situation. The only thing I could do was to apply for revaluation which I did. I had to appear for supplementary exam as the revaluation result didn’t come out in time. After four grueling months, I received an envelope which carried a revaluation marksheet with a merit certificate. My original marks were 91 out of 100 and I had scored among the top 0.01% of the CBSE Board students.

Those four months taught me the biggest lessons of my life.

  • I learnt to fail, fail again and fail better.
  • I learnt to laugh at adversity and take it in my stride.
  • I learnt to take myself less seriously.
  • I learnt to try, to hope for the best, yet be prepared for the worst.
  • I learnt to be fearless – as a human being.
  • I learnt to be cool – as a parent.
  • I learnt to be encouraging – as a leader.

Does “Disagreement” lead to “Disrespect”?

We often come across subordinates and team members who voice their disagreement with our views. When someone disagrees with us for the first time, it shocks us for a while. A mature leader would take it in his stride and respect the difference of opinion while some of us might feel offended.

If it is a dissent in front of other team members, it might hurt a bit more but it is essential to understand that dissent doesn’t mean animosity.

The genesis of this feeling is found in our culture where obedience without reason has been considered a virtue for ages. Our elders always appreciated and expected complete obedience and regarded disagreement as a sign of disrespect.

My daughter was arguing ferociously with me yesterday when I lost my cool saying “How can you talk to me like this?” “I cannot argue submissively, Can I?, she shot back.

Exasperation in her teenage mind translated into her loud words.

It sat me thinking that our heart brands it as disrespect what our mind knows is disagreement.

Though it is essential to have the right tone and appropriate body language while disagreeing, we as parents and leaders must also not equate a difference of opinion with lack of respect.

  • Listen and Reflect – As parents and Leaders, we should train our mouths to function after our ears and brains have processed the communication – verbal as well as non verbal.

If we take our time in reacting to any disagreement, we will be able to think it through and frame our response accordingly.

  • Learn to laugh at yourself – If you are known by your team and children as a person who can handle dissent, they will be honest with you and you will earn respect in the long run. Developing the ability to laugh at oneself makes us confident and adaptable.

I will keep my vulnerable heart in check the next time my daughter decides to argue with me.

 

 

 

Are you bringing out the best in me?

Extraordinary“Will he/she get mad at me? Will he/she judge me and laugh at me? Will he/she make me feel stupid and useless? How do I make him/her happy? Will he/she leave me?”

Do we come across these thoughts often? It might be any relationship which makes us think like that. It could be your parent, your spouse, your friend or your boss.

These thoughts signal that we are spending our lives with people who don’t bring out the best in us.

Our intentions, as parents, as spouse, as superiors, as friends might be to help our kids, spouse, subordinates and friends but we might not be getting the right results.

Psychiatrists and counselors in Mumbai claim that children as young as six years are showing signs of depression. Psychiatrist Dr. Harish Shetty meets at least one child every day with a strong tendency to die. Children are stressed more due to pressure from school and parents, cyber bullying and reaching early maturity.

As parents, are we bringing out the best in our children?

Childhood is not a parking lot for adulthood. We parents and teachers are guilty of curtailing the childhood and compressing it too. We curtail their childhood by making them compete early, by handing over the gadgets at a ridiculously early age. We compress their childhood by packing in innumerable structured activities to make them a master of piano, soccer and abacus. Can we find ways to bring out their imagination, bewilderment and a sense of happiness in the present?

Ask your spouse if he/she feels facilitated, cooperated and encouraged by your words and deeds.

During my women empowerment workshops, I come across brilliant women who have given up on their enterprising selves owing to lack of understanding and support from their partners and families. Our social conditioning and polarized expectations don’t bring out the best in us.

The tech orientation program offered by MotherCoders  (http://www.mothercoders.org/)to young mothers is an exceptional move to bring out the best in these talented women who can, give an opportunity, balance computing with childcare.

As leaders, do we invest enough time in our team to figure out the kind of people they are, the kind of priorities they have?  

It is generally said that people join organisations but leave their bosses. If a superior stifles your mind, hurts your self esteem or manipulate situations, you will be sulking and fretting over petty issues.

Do you feel embittered and helpless in your important relationships?

It is time to remind yourself that you need to spend your time and energy with those who empower you, embolden you to realize your potential – personally, socially & professionally.

“Ignore those that make you fearful and sad, that degrade you back towards disease and death.” – Rumi

References:

  1. http://epaperbeta.timesofindia.com/index.aspx?eid=31804&dt=20151216
  2. http://www.mothercoders.org/
  3. http://peacefulrivers.homestead.com/rumipoetry1.html

 

 

Can we walk the talk as Parents and Leaders?

Child & ParentI was attending a social function at a batchmate’s home. The younger brother of my batchmate had once been a participant of my grooming program. I met him after 12 years but he seemed to remember his experience of the one month grooming program vividly. He introduced me to his six year old daughter telling her that I was his teacher. This struck an interesting chord with the chirpy little girl who hanged out with me for a large part of the evening.

The interesting exchange between the little power house and me gifted me valuable insights into the psyche of modern children.

She sat close to me with lot of confidence and asked “So, was dad a good student?”

“Oh Yes, he was” I smiled.

“Did he use to come every day on time” she looked straight into my eyes like a disciplined teacher.

“He was very sincere”, I replied.

“But did he finish his homework also?” she quizzed me further.

“We didn’t give homework but he was very active.” I tried to assure her.

“Did you scold him when he goofed up”?

I was getting startled by the questions coming at a jet set speed while other friends on the table were enjoying the whole scene.

Unperturbed by the presence of so many older people, she asked again, “Tell me, did you scold him?”

“No, I didn’t because he never gave me a chance to be angry with him”. I chose my words consciously.

The little girl was so curious to know about her father’s childhood because she wanted to fairly assess the competence of her father who must be telling her to finish homework, to get up on time, to be a nice girl. She was very keen to ascertain whether her father was a child he wanted his child to become.

In a recent interview, veteran photographer Raghu Rai spoke about his daughter Avani who is training to be a photographer like him. He narrated an incident when Avani was four and they both were spending time at a new farm house he had bought near Delhi. He took a break from his work and only did landscaping of that farmland while little Avani would tag along. In the hot April Summer, they had to walk long distance navigating the six acres of land. “Avani was tired and insisted I carry her”, he remembers but Raghu told her to walk as no one pick anyone in a village. After dragging herself for hours, she almost broke down. She was carrying a little flower and said “Even I am picking someone up and walking, so why can’t you?”

It is very important for us to walk the talk. Before setting expectations and bench marks, we as parents and leaders must synchronize our words and actions. All the parents who want their children to always top their exams & competition must ask them if they did so? All the leaders who make rule books must ask themselves if they had abide by the rules that they want others to follow.

How to create real legacy as a Parent and Leader?

DSC_8281.JPGConcept of immortality doesn’t take away our desire to leave a legacy behind. Apart from our good – bad memories etched in the minds and hearts of people still living, we leave behind our children, our ideas, our businesses, our physical / artistic creations.

What should we give to our children as a true legacy? What should we give to our society, our organisations as a memento of ours which they can’t dump in the backyard of their minds, never to retrieve?

Mark Zuckerberg, as a new parent, gave away 99% of his Facebook shares, worth $45 billion to philanthropy and wrote a letter to the newborn (actually to all of us), “Our society has an obligation to invest now to improve the lives of all those coming into this world”

Though the detractors are calling it a tax adjustment move, I appreciate the action as a parent and as a leader.

The narrow approach of Indian parents to accumulate more and more for their own children has made us self centric, oblivious to our own surroundings. If we could give a problem solving attitude to our kids and encourage them to believe in their unlimited competency to solve any world problem, it would be far more valuable than amassing unlimited wealth for them which would render them unproductive and prone to family feuds.

The attitude of gratitude embedded in our organizational culture can create a cohesive society where social responsibility of business would not be a compulsion but an emotion.

The phenomenal work being done by Azim Premji Foundation or the village transformation being brought by Vineet Nayar’s Sampark Foundation will leave behind a better legacy than the profit and loss account of their respective organisations.

A business house in Rajasthan runs a specialty hospital in their village. The owner of this group told me that his mother always wishes him good luck for the hospital. “May your hospital flourishes and you make a chain of these village hospitals” is her favorite blessing, he says.

The wellbeing of business is inherent in this blessing. What better footprints can be left on the sand of time?

 

3 Ways to manage Conflict at Home and Work Place

Conflicts are inherent to our social life. They are integral to growth and change. We face conflicts within, we experience conflicts when dealing with various people in family, in social circles and at workplace.

Conflicts are latent in the beginning and start developing if not addressed in the beginning only. We as individuals intend to deny the conflict in the nascent stage but when it starts causing symptoms like frustration, unhappiness, frequent disagreement, we have to recognize the existence of a certain conflict; we need to find ways to manage the conflict before it turns into an aggressive one.

Many organizational leaders have admitted that they learn conflict management skills from their mothers and wives who succeed in handling many conflicts using various techniques – early handling of conflict, continuous negotiating or building up rapports with many people.

A homemaker deals regularly with a fleet of domestic help, maid, driver, grocery vendors, and service providers for gadgets. A mother deals with sibling conflicts, conflicts of kids with her / family and her inner conflicts. Extended families in India intensify or pacify conflicts depending on their personnel equation with you or your family.

If we are able to solve the conflicts arising in our families, they teach us lessons to manage organizational conflicts.

  • A keen observation of each family member gives us a fair idea about their thoughts, behavior and expectations. Our observations can help us smell the brewing conflicts before they become too strong to handle.
  • Unmet expectations cause major conflicts which can be handled by effective communication. When we dive deep within, we can see the seeds of dissent / disagreement that are causing the conflict. Discussion with the other person using assertive and empathetic words can resolve the conflict.
  • Feeling of possessiveness and a desire to control leads to many conflicts in the family. Ego clashes and a bossy attitude kill many relationships in the organisations. It is very important for seniors in the family and leaders in the organisations to have emotional intelligence (self awareness) to deal with their self love. Hierarchies are getting smoothened at unprecedented pace, let us imbibe that.

The major conflict hotbeds in a family: mother – in – law & daughter – in – law, husband – wife, sibling – sibling, parent – offspring create more conflict scenarios than many organisations and offer multiple, creative solutions too.

The biggest difference though is the way we look at conflicts in family and conflicts at work.

In family, we try to accept the differences and develop coping strategies as we think life term (not short term or long term). In organisations, we manage conflicts with a ‘fix it’ approach and we have a choice of keeping it short term or letting it go.

Keeping a check on egos, expectations, possessiveness can nip a lot of familial conflicts in the bud. Families flourish when difference of opinions / choices is respected and long term happy togetherness is cherished as a goal.

“CAN WE JUXTAPOSE THE SAME IN OUR ORGANISATIONS?”

 

Can random reading help us as Parents and Leaders?

Pile of BooksWhen my daughter was two, she enjoyed turning her colorful books, naming the pictures using her own vocabulary. Her grandmother will cook up stories while they both turned pages of a picture dictionary. I played a synthesizer in school and gave it to my daughter when she was four. When I saw her pressing the keys in random ways, I invited a music teacher friend to teach her. Within a month, she played some tunes. She didn’t know how to write and never learnt the musical notations but could play any song. She is fifteen now and is pursuing Hindustani classical music but still plays without notation support.

My home overflows with books and I have an unflinching habit of reading at night. I like to read three or four books at a time – a combination of an autobiography, a nonfiction on some interesting issue, a novel and some management/self help book. I will read about music ragas for a few minutes and switch over to data analytics. I will read a ‘Nine Lives’ or a ‘Pandemonium’ in the evening and read only two or three Urdu / Hindi couplets by Besheer Badr or Kunwar Bechain at night. The continuous switching of my mind helps me focus & remember things. I share them more often as I find them more interesting due to variety.

My daughter has seen me juggling between books which she never practiced. On her fifteenth birthday, we had a revealing discussion yesterday. She told me that she enjoys listening about so many stories/incidents from me and has learned more from them than anything else.

While writing essays or research papers, snippets of information collected in her mind helps her think and write. We discuss ideas, people, anecdotes, problems and solutions but randomly.

Kids process the things that they hear/listen in their own ways but it certainly impacts their thinking skills.

Since I share my reading experience with my daughter, she shares hers with a spirit of vengeance. I have assimilated lot of knowledge about Bill Bryson, Syrian refugee crisis, domestic violence act and musical compositions from her.

There is no teaching in random reading but a lot of learning.

Can we replicate the same at our workplace?

Can a random reading culture be cultivated organically in an organisation?

 

 

Can reverse mentoring at home and work improve our parenting and leadership skills?

Reverse Mentoring

Mentoring is generally defined as a one – on – one relationship where a senior professional (mentor) will guide or share his/her specialised wisdom with a junior (mentee/protégé)

By definition and convention, we believe that the senior or older people have all the necessary competencies to guide the junior folk. Mentoring shapes the right attitude among them. With internet of things (IOT) barging into our personal and professional lives, it seems practical and logical that we start learning from our children and younger team members. Our technological immersion requires us to be innovative in the way we decide to update ourselves. Learning from children at home brings fun, better connect and a healthy communication style in parent – child relationship.

When my daughter teaches me to change the settings of my phone to download videos or helps me to make a you tube channel, I swallow my parental pride and listen to her attentively. “Pay attention” echoes in the same way as it emits from my mouth when I solve a quadratic equation for her. The role reversal balances our bond and strengthens it.

One of my students manages my social media pages and keeps suggesting me ways to improve my digital presence. His mentoring is valuable and we as seniors must admit that we need to be trained by these young netizens for whom IOT is a part of lifestyle.

Technology wants leaders to be more open to the idea of learning from the younger executives as this will save time and lead to better learning on the job.

When parents learn a new skill from their children, they learn to appreciate their children better. Children learn to empathise with their parents and understand how the parents feel when they teach something to them.

When senior leaders get mentored by the juniors, the communication flows easily and the environment relaxes to some extent. Though it requires maturity at both ends, the results of such mentoring in the dynamic world of today could be enriching and lasting.