Article (December-2017)


Nourish roots to grow wings

Neha Gupta Lehl

Designation : -   Founder

Organization : -  Alchemy of Organization Development, Mumbai


365183 Total View        

Invest in growth
Meeting leaders in the corporate world, I see a clear connection between self-work, which is the nurturing of one's mind and spirit on one hand and the effectiveness of leadership on the other. And when I speak of leadership, I am not just talking about task efficiency, which is one - faceted but of leadership from a more holistic perspective, where a leader is also a true people's person, well - grounded and high in emotional quotient. The relationship holds true for self - leadership.
Makarand Khatavkar, Group Head, Human Resources, Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd., recently told me that regardless of one's age, keeping a certain percentage of one's income aside for new leaning is the golden rule for continuous growth.
"I am constantly looking for inspiration and life lessons from stories of grit narrated by others. I place a lot of premium on learning," he says, "Society does not quite approve of people spending their money on themselves. To put money in one's own learning therefore takes courage. It is not really appreciated by society but one has to go beyond that."
Last year, Khatavkar went to Harvard for a program on Immunity to Change. He says an enrolling for professional development program is a ritual he undertakes once every 2-3 years. "It is refreshing to attend such programs. Also, once I am back, I find myself doing my day-to-day work with much more interest. We buy clothes, jewellery, cars, and take vacations, and it is okay to do so. We must however remind ourselves to set aside money for our learning as well."
Khatavkar says learning is self - directed. No one can teach you if you are not ready to learn.
According to him self - learning happens via following routes:
- Attending courses
- Reading Books
- Practicing it (golden rules of 10, 000 hours of practice for mastery)
- Reflection (what it means to you)
 "The continuous investment in self - learning has had a deep personal and professional impact in my life. It has added tremendously to my confidence and improved my ability to deal with difficult situations. The learning transforms you in a way that makes it impossible for you revert to your original state of ignorance. Once you see or know something you were unable to see to or know in the past, you cannot act in the old less - productive ways," he says. He adds that it gives him deep satisfaction to know he is not just driven by money.
"Young people would do well to realise how the power of perception helps one deal with professional challenges. Don't separate theory from practice. Apply it to real life situations. It gives you the power to change things at the workplace and solve problems or offer solutions appreciated by business," he adds.
Khatavkar's insight brings to mind a Zen story from John Suler's Zen Stories to tell your neighbors called working very hard.
A student went to his teacher and said earnestly, "I am devoted to studying your subject. How long will it take me to master it."
The teacher's reply was casual, "Ten years."
Impatiently, the student answered, "But I want to master it faster than that. I will work very hard. I will practice every day, ten or more hours a day if I have to. How long will it take then?"
The teacher thought for a moment and said, "20 years."
The path of nourishing one's roots is one of patience. It takes time. There are no shortcuts. It depends, among other things, on one's leadership vision and values. If one's leadership vision is aligned to the metaphor of the litchi tree, it becomes clear that for the tree to produce luscious fruit, one has to soak and nourish the roots well in advance.
Finding gurus everywhere
In yet another enriching conversation, Jayesh Sampat, President - Human Resources, Business Operations and Customer Experience - Liberty Videocon General Insurance, says, he has no choice but to constantly nourish his roots! "I keep asking myself questions like 'How can I express my full potential?', 'can existing processes be executed more creatively?' When it comes to creativity, there is no one path, and I, therefore, like to experiment with different paths. There is constant change in my field and outside my field. When I am looking at change in my function, I am looking only in the inside. When I look at changes that are unrelated to my field, I have an outside - in approach. Many solutions and opportunities that I see in unrelated fields, I then bring into my field."
Sampat sees clear value in investing time in gathering experiences unrelated to his area of work. He emphasizes that most of one's learning may not occur in the practice of HR but in related areas that are away from the usual functional work.
Normally, we work on auto mode. It is the state where the map of reality outside and the map in our head match. However, every earthquake in the world outside renders old maps in the head useless. We have to therefore learn everything necessary about the new changed world and make changes in our mental map. We deal with such changes by engaging in an alternative learning experience that revamps the brain. This changes the way we work, and the eyes with which we look at the world. With learning, old paradigms change as additional perspectives come in. A constantly changing world calls for a mind under constant reeducation so it can respond with agility to new emerging realities. Such a mind relates more quickly to challenges and connects dots faster. This also translates into a heightened ability to spot opportunities and counter challenges as thinking turns non - linear and creative over time and responds in ways that are not traditional, tried or tested but simple, elegant and effective.
Just as one takes holidays to be away from work and relax, it's worthwhile to be away from one's familiar surroundings by distancing oneself from the world of emails, and work to be with a different set of people and do things, which one does not normally do. Such breaks are sure to expand your horizons and once you resume work you are sure to find yourself acting out of a space of quiet confidence and heightened creativity.
Being a leader is like being a tall well spread out tree whose height stands for vision, width for the breath of roles one has to play at work like business specialist, nurturer of people, motivator, solution specialist, and creative expert. However, for this to happen, the roots must go down deep so the tree is healthy, well - nourished and centered. It is such a tree, nurtured, watered and cared for, that gifts hundreds and thousands with shade, flowers and fruit.
Let us be that tree!