Many young and old (post retirement) friends and acquaintances ask me for pointers to enter the world of Organizational Consulting & Training which I have been in since 1985. I thought it would be good to share generally what I have been advising people for several years. I hope it will benefit many more. It is easy if you are a motorcycle mechanic. What you do is clear. The customer has a pressing need. It doesn’t cost much to repair his motorcycle. So, he comes.
But with Organizational Consulting & Training you are dealing in concepts, feelings, emotions and some techniques which mostly depend on the sincerity of the learner in applying them as well as his expertise in doing so; to show their effectiveness. That is a very challenging ‘s environment. The customer’s need is not as immediate or pressing like the man with the broken motorcycle. And he must pay a jolly sight more to fulfill his need. Moreover, his benefit is far less clear, especially as it depends on what he does with what he learnt from you. Having been in this business now since 1985, I can tell you that it is perhaps the most challenging and exciting business that exists – provided you know what to do. So here are some thoughts about what works and what doesn’t.
It was 1968 and I was 13 years old, in Grade (we called it Class) 8 in the Hyderabad Public School. If you left the school from its main gate and walked over the bridge across the stream which flowed full and freely in those days (not the trickle of sewage and toxic chemicals today) and on which we used to sometimes canoe, you came to the Begumpet Railway Station. This was at the bottom of the garden of a very graceful British Country Mansion, except that it was in Begumpet and not in England. Be that as it may, it would have been totally at home in the Shires of England. It was called Vilayat Manzil. It had a huge wooden gate about 8 feet tall and wide enough to take a Four-in-hand or perhaps an elephant or two. Not surprising as this was the house of Nawab Wali ud Dowla, the Prime Minister of Hyderabad State. The son of the man who built Falaknuma Palace, Nawab Vicar ul Mulk, who was also a Prime Minister of Hyderabad State in his time. That is where Nawab Nazir Yar Jung Bahadur , son of Nawab Wali ud Dowla, lived . By the time I met him, his father had passed away (he died in Madina in 1935) but his mother (Ameerunnisa Begum) and younger brother, Nawab Bashir Yar Jung lived in Vilayat Manzil. His older brother, Nawab Habib Jung, also a good friend, lived nearby in his own house, built in another part of the garden that surrounded Vilayat Manzil. A beautiful Spanish style Hacienda with an open central courtyard. Nawab Habib Jung Bahadur wrote the very first reference letter for me when I had applied to Harrisons & Crossfield Limited (Harrisons Malayalam) in 1979. I recall two things in it. He wrote, “He is excellent in saddle seat equitation and always shows respect where respect is due.” Habib Jung had horses and I used to ride them with his son Mohammed and he fine-tuned both our riding style.
you came through the gate, you were on a circular driveway which curved past
two large water tanks with marble fountains with carved lions. Even then water
was getting scarce and so I never saw those fountains functioning, but the sculptures
were striking. This is where I met Nawab Nazir Yar Jung first. I had heard of
him as a dog breeder, trainer and judge. He was a prominent member of the
Kennel Club of India (KCI) and a highly respected judge in dogs shows all over
the world. I had the privilege of accompanying him to several dog shows and can
still see him racing around the ring with his German Shepherds or in the field
trails of his Labradors. I was very keen on owning one of the dogs from his kennel,
the famous Paigah Kennels but to my great surprise and disappointment the price
was Rs. 500 for a puppy. In 1968 that was more money that I could have dreamt
of. So, I never bought a puppy. Nawab Saab however, took a liking to me and allowed
me to spend time with him in caring for his dogs. This rather unlikely
friendship grew, and in time he treated me like his own son. At that time, he
used to have more than one hundred dogs in his kennels. It was a sight to see. I
didn’t get a puppy at that time (later I got several) but I got the friendship
of Nawab Saab, which was a priceless gift. He became my mentor, teacher and
keenness for tea planting also came from listening to stories of plantations –
the Anamallais in particular from Nawab Nazir Yar Jung. Nawab Saab had been a planter
with Brooke Bond Tea Company (Tea Estates India) and was on Monica Estate (SenguthaparaiDivision).
very dear friend and mentor, Mr. K. Ahmedullah wrote this piece about Nawab Nazir
Yar Jung which gives an insight into his planting life, which he never mentioned
in the more than 50 years of our friendship. He talked about his hunting in
Grass Hills and Highwavys, the exploits of his dogs and about his tracker
friend called Kali, who he mentioned with great affection. But he never mentioned
anything about his planting career. Being a planter myself, I can appreciate what
Mr. Ahmedullah writes. Here it is:
NYJ was an authority on dog breeding,
training, and was often a judge of international dog shows. It is a pity that
this was not mentioned in the item that carried the news of his passing away.
The news only harped on his Paigah connection, Jung title and so on. NYJ was
on Monica Estate, Anamallais, reporting to Raghava Menon, just before he quit
planting. As you know, Monica was a prestige posting, being the flag ship
Estate of M/s Tea Estates of India, of Brooke Bond.
It so happened that I was moved to Monica as assistant manager, immediately after NYJ resigned. Soon thereafter Raghava Menon was promoted as Group Manager in addition to his holding charge of Monica. He continued to reside in Monica Estate. I was asked to look after the operations of the entire estate to allow Raghava Menon to look after his additional duty, but I remained an assistant manager! That is when I took charge of Senguthaparai, which was looked after by NYJ.
And that is when I discovered that NYJ had planted the most advanced 100 hectares of coffee selections from Kenya. Not only that but he had created a most advanced system of curing and pulping the coffee harvest, using gravity as the driving force, from a stream which flowed on Senguthaparai. That coffee commanded a premium at the Auctions.
I thought I should put this on record as not many are aware of the talents this man had. NYJ was a decent, pious man, who never harmed anyone. IN FACT HIS GENEROSITY IS A LEGEND ON THE PLANTATIONS WHERE HE WORKED. He died with the KALEMA on his lips, which is the best possible reward The Almighty bestows on those who walk in HIS WAY .
NYJ never entered the Anamallais
Club! Siasp Kothavala, Doon School contact, was his close friend and just a few
others, whom he entertained lavishly. He had about 20 dogs and a donkey,
which was used to carry meat daily from Valparai town for his dogs!
I got all this information from
Raghava Menon, who had a high opinion of NYJ and from Siasp and his wife
Zarine , who were good friends of ours.
Like most of my friends at that time, Nawab Saab was about twenty years my senior. I think I benefited a great deal from being friends with older people as I learnt from their experience and my equation was always as a learner and they had something to teach. Nawab Saab was an exception in that he had a variety of life experience that I have seldom found anywhere. He would not only tell stories but would draw lessons from them which I found very useful and applied in my life many years later. He was a Judo Brown belt, a pilot in the Royal Air Force, polo player and dressage expert, a crack shot with a rifle and shotgun, a woodsman who taught me to love the forest and how to take care of myself in it. He was a swimmer trained as a lifeguard. He was a planter, manager and a role model par excellence.
thing I remember about Nawab Nazir Yar Jung above all else is his storytelling.
Storytelling is an art. Not everyone can tell a good story. Nawab Saab was a
master of this art. Listening to him I remember being transported to the misty
slopes of Grass Hills, waiting in the cold of the dawn for the Nilgiri Thar to
present the opportunity for a good shot as they came out on the crags to take
the sun. I recalled these descriptions when I went to Grass Hills more than 25
years after him and felt that I had been there before. So vivid and detailed
were his descriptions.
remember feeling a hollow dropping sensation in the pit of my stomach as I
listened to him tell the story about how he was charged by a wounded Bison
(Gaur) and how his Airedale Terrier saved the day by drawing the animal away
towards it, allowing Nawab Saab to get the killing shot. But the dog, whose
name was Khan, went over the cliff with the bison and died. Nawab Saab would
have tears in his eyes when he told this story. I remember all the tips he gave
me about survival in the jungles and about woodcraft, all of which I have tried
and found to be superb. Every tip he gave me, be it about planting, or hunting,
or safety or human psychology, was true.
key to a good story is detail. Detail is what fills color into the outline.
Detail is what helps you to see what the storyteller has seen. I can vouch for
the fact that I could see the mist rise from the forest in the dawn as the sun
rose. I could smell the rank smell of elephant urine which announces their
presence in the forest. I could hear the rumblings of their stomachs and the low
deep hum by which they communicate. And many years later when I had the
privilege to walk in the same path that Nawab Nazir Yar Jung walked, I knew
that I had been there before. I had walked those paths in spirit, listening to
the narrative of a master storyteller and today I walked them myself and found
the story to be true in every respect. I knew the smells, the sights and the
feelings. Nawab Saab walked in spirit beside me and it felt good to know that.
Nazir Yar Jung was an international expert on dogs and was invited to judge dog
shows around the world. With him, I learned to train dogs for various activities,
from tracking to retrieving to guarding. Dogs are amazing creatures. One must
live with them and train them to know this. I spent many years right through
school and college doing this. Nawab Saab was at that time training a dog squad
for Thengakal Estate in Vandiperiyar, Kerala, which had perennial problems with
theft. More about that later. I worked with him training Dobermans, German
Shepherds, and Labradors for tracking and guard/attack work. Nawab Saab was a
strict disciplinarian and didn’t allow even his own cousin who was on our team
to call him anything other than Sir or Nawab Saab. He disliked people calling
him ‘Uncle’. He used to say, ‘I have nephews and don’t need any more. You can
call me Nawab Saab or Sir.’ This, however, didn’t reduce the warmth and
friendship with which he treated us. We would start very early in the morning
and work right through the day till it got very hot. Then we would stand down
and give the dogs a bath and feed them and we would all rest. Then in the
night, once it got dark, we would start the training once again.
Nawab Nazir Yar Jung, I learnt the importance of commitment to quality. He
never once used the word, but he never accepted anything but the best. Be it in
breeding dogs or in their training, or in training horses. Attention to detail
and insisting on the best. He was an expert in Judo and that also added to the
quality of what he taught us. He taught us many self-defense techniques using
our bare hands or ordinary objects of everyday use that are always at hand and
can be converted into weapons to defend yourself and make the attacker think
twice about attacking you. Martial arts training is more about training the
mind than about the body. Martial arts is about living with awareness, studying
your opponent, discovering his weakness, and exploiting it to your advantage.
It is also about building your opponent a bridge of gold to retreat over – as
Sun-Tzu calls it. But to do that you have to conquer your ego before conquering
your enemy. The worst enemy is an overindulged ego.
the years that I spent with Nawab Saab I learnt that when you work with animals
your own sensitivity and communication improves. Your language is useless as
the animal is only responding to sound, facial expression and signal. So the
importance of being absolutely precise not only in what you say, but in how you
say it and being aware of your body language when you are giving that command
are essential to get the instant obedience that only a dog can give you. Dogs
are so incredibly sensitive that they will pick up your facial expression or
the way you hold your hand when you give a command. And the next time you don’t
give it in that exact way, the animal gets confused. It is always essential to
be extremely self-aware to be a good trainer. I realized that training dogs was
equally if not more about training myself in how to communicate effectively. It
was hands-on experiential learning in being intensely aware of myself, my posture,
facial expression, tone of voice, mood, and overall disposition. I learnt all
this training dogs, but over the decades since then this helped me in
communication, public speaking, negotiating, and coaching people across three
continents. I thank Nawab Nazir Yar Jung for teaching me these lessons and I know
that he was pleased with me.
anticipate you to such an extent that to see a highly trained dog and his
handler at work is to witness magic. That is what we saw when we saw Nawab Saab
working with his dogs. The dog seemed to be doing everything on its own whereas
he was doing nothing without his handler’s command. But the commands are so
subtle that they are invisible to all but the trained eye that knows what to
look for. There is a wonderful program on British Television which shows
sheepdog trials. You see this handler standing a long way off in the field
directing his Border Collie (the favorite breed for these trails) entirely by
hand signals. The dog goes to the flock, cuts out precisely the number of sheep
that he is ordered to cut out, and drives them into the pen all on its own by
responding to signals that are invisible to us.
had for our own trainer, the best in the world. A man who had trained
everything from sheep dogs to tracking dogs, gun dogs, hunting dogs, and guard
dogs. And we learnt from him. I hope we learnt well. To test how well we had
trained the dogs to track, we would stand on one side of a wall that bordered a
large area of scrub vegetation. Then we would give our dog a ball which he
would hold in his mouth and smell. Then we would command him to sit and stay
and throw the ball as far as we could over the wall into the forest. The dog
would vibrate with excitement, yearning to go for the ball. We would count to
ten and then say, “Get!” And off he would go. A big Doberman would clear a six-foot
wall without so much as touching it. A Labrador would scramble over it. And
then a few minutes later, back it would come over the wall with the ball in its
mouth, circle the handler, and sit on his right. Then on command it would drop
the ball and take the piece of dry meat that the handler would give him as his
reward. How can I describe the excitement of testing your skill in the
performance of your animal? The lesson learnt – you stand or fall by how your
trainee performs – as important a lesson in corporate leadership as in training
animals. A good coach after all is not the one who has the greatest knowledge,
but the one whose team wins.
biggest learning for me in these early years was the realization that no matter
what you do, it is only worth doing if you aim at being the best in the world
at it. And to be the best, it is essential to be passionate about what you do.
I sincerely believe that it is impossible to excel in something that you do
only halfheartedly or because you are forced to. It is impossible to be the
best in the world in anything that you are not passionate about because you
will never put in the heroic effort that is needed for you to succeed. Another
realization was that when you are doing something that you are passionate
about, you never get tired or stressed out. You are always fresh and full of
energy and those around you also feel this. Passion is essential because it is
the only thing which makes the heroic effort seem worthy of the goal. Only the
passionate never compromise because compromise is the cancer which kills from
within. Passion is infectious; so is compromise. Stress occurs when we do things we don’t
learning is that if you are in a situation where you find yourself doing
something that you have no passion for, then it is essential to do one of two
things: Either kindle a passion for this activity by learning more about it and
seeing how it is valuable, or leave and find something that you do feel
passionate about. It makes no sense to do something that you have no love for. Happiness
is the result of doing something that is worthwhile, and which adds value and
not of how much money you make or what rank you have. Interestingly, it is when
the work feels worthless that people get overly concerned about titles, money,
and perquisites. That is why I tell my clients who talk about compensation as
an issue in people retention, “Money problems are not money problems, even when
they are money problems.” Most people
complain about the compensation when they are uninspired about their work. The
biggest proof of this are the many people in missionary and charitable
activities who work all hours for next to nothing and are very happy doing
their jobs. Happiness is therefore more about intangible rewards than about the
tangible ones. That’s why I say, ‘If it can’t make you cry, it can’t make you
dogs was a huge learning in human psychology. I learnt the importance of taking
a stand and then remaining firmly on it without giving in to the pressure to
change. I learnt that dogs and people will test your limits to see how firm you
are. Once they test the boundaries and find that they can’t be pushed away,
they accept them. Firmness and consistency are critical. There is nothing more
debilitating than a leader who is ambivalent. I learnt the value of physical
courage and how, if you stand with courage, you lend courage to those around
you. I learnt the value of leading from the front and that there is only one
leadership position – in the front – which is why those who follow are called
‘followers.’ What kind of a leader is it who has no followers? I learnt the
value of quiet companionship – there is nothing more relaxing than sitting on a
hillside with your dog beside you, watching the world go by. With Nawab Saab,
you didn’t chatter. If you had something useful to say, you said it; if you had
a question, you asked; otherwise you kept your mouth shut. The value of silence
was appreciated. Without silence inside your head and heart and outside in
terms of speaking, you can’t introspect or reflect. Silence has great value. We
didn’t have intrusive gadgets to disturb our peace and so we valued silence. In
the forest, silence also helps you to know who else is around. Knowledge that can
be critical to survival and enjoyment of your experience.
Saab taught us to pay attention to the dogs and their highly developed
faculties which warn of danger long before you would have been aware of it. This
is where his storytelling really came into his own. Every lesson had a set of
circumstances that it had been drawn from and that added value and meaning to
it. This was not merely theory but hard-earned life experience that we were
learning from. From my dogs, I learnt the value of unconditional love and
complete trust in someone. When my dog got injured during training, I would
order him to lie down and would then clean his wounds with hydrogen peroxide
and stitch him up without anesthesia. The dog would lie there, sometimes
whimpering in pain but never moving and never protesting or trying to harm me
in any way. He trusted me completely and knew that what I was doing was for his
good. There is nobody happier than a dog at seeing his master – no matter how
ugly or dirty, poor or hungry, unfashionable or square his master may be. To
the dog, his master is the best, most lovable, reliable, remarkable, and trustworthy
human being in the world. And that has nothing to do with whether in fact this
is true or not. The dog doesn’t care. Whatever the master may be to the rest of
the world, to his dog he is the best in the world. And that is the secret of a
great friendship and a great marriage. What you believe about someone and
demonstrate in your dealing with them, is what they rise to embody. That is why
they say, ‘Treat a man as if he is the best that he can be, and he becomes
that.’ Many years later I dealt with some of the most intractable and obnoxious
union leaders with great politeness, treating them as if they were heads of
state and all their nastiness went away and I didn’t have to suffer any of it.
People used to be surprised and asked me how I did it. I never let on the
secret – that my dogs taught me this lesson. Some readers may not take kindly
to being compared to dogs – but believe me, there is nothing more honorable in
terms of friendship and loyalty. This is what Nawab Saab taught us and we
learned these lessons well, very enjoyably and lived to realize their value
throughout our lives.
mentioned earlier, Nawab Saab was requested to train a dog squad for Thengakal Estate
in Vandiperiyar, Kerala. I don’t know if you have been inside a cardamom estate.
Almost 30 years after this story, I raised and planted cardamom in the Anamallais
and recalled those days when we were in that estate in Vandiperiyar. We trained
the dogs in Vilayat Manzil and in the lands behind Yusuf Tekri in Towli Chowki.
Today there isn’t an inch of vacant land in that place. In the early 70’s it
was miles of barren land with scrub bushes, some Sitaphal (Custard Apple – Annona
squamosa), some Lantana (Lantana camara), a sprinkling of Neem (Azadirachta indica), one or
two Peepul (Ficus Religiosa) and an occasional Banyan (Ficus Benghalensis). We would
load up the dogs in Khaja Nawab’s jeep and drive to Yusuf Tekri and then spend
the day training the dogs. Since these dogs were being trained as trackers and
guard dogs, the training was very intense. For tracking, we used Labradors whose
sense of smell is more developed and keener than the other breeds we had. For
guard/attack work, we used Dobermans and German Shepherds. But all dogs were
taught everything as well, as a backup even though we used them, whenever possible,
separately for these jobs.
fascinating to see how these different breeds worked. For a Doberman everything
was a competition. The dog would get stressed out, angry and would bust his gut
to do his best. A Labrador on the other hand took it all as a game and thoroughly
enjoyed himself. He was playing and having fun, whether he was following a
scent track or attacking an intruder and dragging him to the ground. Temperament
has a big effect on the trainability and steadiness of dogs and humans under stressful
conditions. Nawab Saab’s training technique was based on gaining the trust of the
animal and persuading him to work. Nawab Saab never used force or punishment
which was very commonly used by other trainers. The result was that Nawab Saab’s
dogs worked much better than anyone else’s. The only catch was that training
took longer than it would have taken if you simply beat the dog to a pulp and
then forced him to obey. Our dogs were our friends and beating one was
unthinkable. The other thing was the knowledge that success and failure was
really ours, the trainer’s. Not the dog’s. If the dog didn’t perform, it was I
who needed to look at my training technique, treatment of the dog, consistency
of command and it was I who needed to work harder. ‘Failing’ the dog or
punishing it was meaningless because the dog’s performance was a non-negotiable
goal. Every dog was trainable and if it didn’t get trained, it was I who was at
fault. Nobody needed to point that out to me. I knew it. I held myself accountable
for it and I succeeded or failed by this standard.
to our schooling technique today. Who passes or fails? Teacher or child? Who must
really pass or fail? What would happen if we changed that to what really should
happen and if teacher’s salaries were docked if children failed and they got a
bonus if they excelled? Same thing for the corporate world. Companies succeed
or fail because of what decision makers do. Not workers. But who gets laid off?
Responsibility must lie where it belongs and those responsible must get the
credit or pay the price. Not someone else, whose only fault was that they
obeyed orders. Once again, sorry about the comparison, but it is precisely this
ability to take learnings from one situation and apply them to a totally
unrelated situation that distinguishes human learning from animal learning.
That is what I learnt and that is how I learnt it. And that is why I say that I
owe so much of my learning to the very unusual childhood and youth that I had
and to mentors like Nawab Nazir Yar Jung, Uncle Rama and Aunty Mohini.
to our story, we finished our training and took the train with our dogs, to
Cochin. The dogs were in the Brake Van at the end of the train. Every few
stations, we would run to the back, unleash the dogs and take them out on the platform
to stretch their legs and greet telephone poles. Then give them some water and
back inside the Brake Van and we would run back to our compartment. Eventually
we reached Cochin where the estate transport met us and we drove for another
six hours to get to the estate to meet the Manager, Mr. Rudy Bosen.
Bosen very kindly invited Nawab Saab, me and Khaja Nawab to stay with him, and
his wife, Dorothy made some wonderful chocolate ice cream for us for dessert after
a lovely dinner. The estate had a big problem with theft as cardamom is a very
valuable spice and easy to steal. A cardamom plantation is extremely dense and
very easy to hide in. Thieves would come into the estate across the boundary at
night, with sickles and jute bags and simply cut the ripe bunches of cardamom
and take them away. To catch them in the dark was completely impossible. That
is why Rudy Bosen thought of using dogs and contacted Nawab Saab for help. The dilemma
was, how do you publicize the fact that now there are guard dogs which can
catch thieves. The challenge was to have the dogs merely as an effective
deterrent. Rudy Bosen didn’t really want anyone getting chewed up by a dog because
in Kerala that would likely cause a bigger problem than the theft.
Saab had a unique idea. He asked Mr. Bosen to invite all union leaders and whoever
wanted to come from the village to the estate to a dog show and competition at
the end of which they would be given a sumptuous meal and could win cash prizes.
People came in large numbers with great enthusiasm because there is nothing
much to do in the plantations and any kind of entertainment draws big crowds.
When everyone had settled down on the Muster ground under the marquee Nawab
Saab, through an interpreter asked for volunteers to take part in the
competition. He then picked six of the likeliest looking men. He told them to
go and hide anywhere they wanted to, in the plantation. But before they went
off, he took some item of clothing from each of them. He told them that he would
give them half an hour to go and hide and then the dogs would find them. Meanwhile
we put on a show of attack training which looks very ferocious indeed. For that
also we took volunteers, dressed them up in protective clothing and then the dogs
took them down. For a grown man, who thinks that he is strong, armed with a
knife or stick, to have a dog taking him down in one smooth lethal attack, is
very unnerving. That is what our objective was; to put the fear of the dogs in
the minds of the people and any potential thieves.
this demo was over, we got the tracking dogs out and gave them the clothing to
get a good sniff of and sent them into the plantation. The dogs disappeared in
a jiffy. There was initially some rustling of leaves. Then total silence. We
waited with bated breath as this was the final test of the pudding. If the dogs
missed even one man, our reputation would be shot. We were literally putting
our honor on the line. Then suddenly there was a scream. We ran into the
plantation following the calling of the dog. The tracking dogs had been trained
to ‘speak’. They would bark at regular intervals of a couple of seconds and would
continue for as long as it took for the handler to get to it. Bow-wow-wow-wow
and on, it would go. That told us that the dog had ‘treed’ the quarry or had pinned
him down and the sound would guide us to the animal. The long and short of it
was that we caught every single one of the men. Then we all came out of the jungle
to where everyone was waiting to see what had happened. The men looked very sheepish
and down in the mouth that they had not won the Rs. 1000 reward for the one who
could escape the dog. In the 1970’s Rs. 1000 was big money. Mr. Bosen was a smart
man. He still gave them consolation prizes for participating and then we all
had lunch with the union leaders and all competitors. The result of this was
that theft stopped on this estate as if someone had shut off a switch. The dogs
had such an effect on the psyche of the people that nobody wanted to take a
chance of meeting a dog in the dark of the night. As Sun Tzu says, ‘The wise
general never fights a battle. He wins without fighting.’ I have yet to see a ‘general’
as wise as Nawab Nazir Yar Jung.
Have you ever been in the shower
in a 5-star hotel, nice and wet all over and you reach for the shampoo bottle,
only to find that there are three? That is not because you are drunk and are
seeing triple but because you are faced with three identical bottles but with
totally different contents. What is in the bottles is not a mystery of course.
It has been helpfully printed on the label. However, the label was designed by
a 20-something design engineer sitting in a sweatshop in India or Bangladesh,
who has never seen the inside of a 5-star hotel shower and won’t until he gets
old enough to need glasses to read and the money to pay for the hotel. Then he
will realize what he did all his life when he is forced to play Russian
Roulette with the shampoo, body lotion (complicated way to say ‘soap’) and
conditioner. If you think this is funny, put conditioner on your head instead
of shampoo and you will think that is even funnier. That is perhaps the reason
why I had to decline a haircut recently which was for Rs. 350 on the plea that
I refuse to pay more than Re. 1 per hair, aforementioned number being an
optimistic hair-count of my head. The refusal of hair to adhere to my scalp may
be ascribed to the times that I used conditioner instead of shampoo. No
self-respecting hair can stand such treatment and so they decide to part
company with me forever.
“What’s the big deal?” you ask
me. “Why can’t you read the label?”
“I need glasses to read but I
don’t need glasses to shower. So, I don’t wear glasses in the shower, which is
where I need glasses to read the labels on the bottles.”
What is the solution?
Take all shower bottle label
designers to a 5-star hotel, blindfold them, strip them naked and shove them
into the shower.
Why blindfold them?
How else will they understand how
it feels to hold the bottle in your hand and not know what is in it?
Customer Satisfaction and
Customer Delight can be condensed into one phrase and that is, “See with their eyes.” The keyword being ‘Their’.
As they say, ‘When you gotta go
you gotta go.’ But then the question arises, where does he go? And what’s more,
what if he had to do more than just irrigate the tracks? And even more
critical, what if the ‘Motorman’ was a ‘Motorwoman’. Incidentally for those who
may think that I am being facetious, let me assure you that I have seldom been
more serious in my life. This, lack of facilities to do it decently and in
private, is a major problem with Traffic Police Constables also, especially
women Constables. Maybe the fact that we don’t have a distinct word for a
woman police constable is an indicator of our blindness to their
To return to our ‘Motorman’ video
and the lessons from it, the reason the man has to do what he did is because
the designer of the engine driver’s cab, never drove an engine in his life. If
you think I am exaggerating, let me tell you another story.
In 2000 I was invited to teach a
series of leadership courses, which we called From Managing to Leading, for the
design team of one of the two major truck manufacturers in India. There were
totally two hundred engineers who would take this 3-day residential course at
their training facility. They were all graduates from the IITs (Indian
Institutes of Technology) with a sprinkling from REC’s (Regional Engineering
College); some of the most highly qualified engineers in the country. The IITs
have an entrance test about which someone asked one of the professors of MIT
what he would do if he had to write that test. He said, ‘I would leave, in tears.’
In short these were very smart people with arrogance to match. I asked for a
meeting with the Head of the Division, the Head of HR and a cross section of
the design engineers to understand their issues so that I could design a
program that suited their special needs. This is how that went:
Me: “Many thanks for agreeing to
meet me. I am hoping to understand from you, what you see as the special
leadership challenges that you face and what you see as being the key
deliverables for this course. So, let me begin with a question to all and each
of you; Do you have a heavy license (license to drive a truck)?”
They: Thinking: Total silence.
Odd looks. “Looks like we made a mistake. This guy looks like he’s flipped it.
Heavy license? Why on earth would we, IIT grads, have a heavy license? Do we
look like truck drivers to him?” But then this is India and he is older than we
are, so we can’t just tell him that he is crazy. So, we remain silent.
Me: “Hmm! Does this mean that you
don’t have a truck driving license? Nobody has one?”
Me: “You mean that you design
these trucks but none of you has ever driven what you designed?”
They: Thinking: “Now this is
getting uncomfortable. How do we answer this?”
Me: Thinking: “Expressive
“Okay, let me ask you another
question; How many of you sat with the driver in one of your trucks as he drove
from Chandigarh to Chennai?”
Eyes roll, silence is now so
heavy that it is oppressive.
Me: “Okay, Chandigarh to Chennai
is long, though your trucks are being driven on that route. But let me make it
simpler; has anyone sat with the driver as he drove from Chennai to Bangalore?”
Eyes roll again. More silence.
Me: Now I am twisting the knife: “So,
you are telling me that you design trucks that you have never driven or ridden
They: Sheepishly: “Yes.”
Me: “Let me ask you another
question: Who makes the buying decision in the case of a truck?”
They: “The owner of the trucking
Me: “Right and wrong. The owner
‘decides’ but he is totally influenced by his drivers. If the drivers like a
certain brand of truck, the owner will always buy that brand unless there is a
huge price difference between that brand and its competitor. No owner wants
unhappy drivers who are constantly complaining about the truck which results in
slower turnaround time, directly translating to lower profits. The owner wants
the best, most efficient transport and his driver decides. Who is that driver?
He is the one whose reality you have not even tried to understand. You were
looking at me like I was crazy when I asked if you had a heavy license. What do
you say now?”
Sadly, this inability to see with their eyes is widespread and is the real reason behind bad design and
Try an experiment. Walk down a
street that you usually walk down. Notice how it looks and try to remember the
details. When you get to the end of the street or if it is a long street, then
when you have walked a few hundred meters, turn around and look up the street
you just walked down. How does it look? Does it look like it had been a few
minutes ago when you walked down it? Or does it look different? This is a good
way to understand how perspective is a factor of position. What you see depends
on where you look at it from. The same principle holds in life. One of my
friends, a senior police officer was talking to me about human trafficking,
which is a very big issue in India. She talked about how her subordinate
officers seemed to have become calloused about it. She asked me for ideas about
how she could get them inspired to solve human trafficking cases and bring the
perpetrators of urban slavery to book. I told her, “Ask them to give the victim
a name. The name of their daughter.” Simple as it sounds, it worked. Things
change complexion when we put ourselves in the shoes of the ‘other’. The other
is no longer a stranger to be ignored at best or at worst, maligned and hated.
We see the other, and in him, we
This is the origin of the Golden
Rule: “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” Or as someone else
put it: “Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want them to do to you.” Or as yet
someone else put it: “People may forget what you did but they will never forget
how you made them feel.”
Before I end, let me assure you
that this is not about business or winning customers. The biggest lesson I learnt
in this context was one week after I got married. I married when I was thirty
and had been living alone since I was eighteen. We got married in Hyderabad and
left the next day for the Anamallais (where I was an Assistant Manager in the
tea gardens) we arrived in Madras at my aunt’s place. Jahanara Aunty and Mohammed
Uncle were absolute gems whose hospitality was legendary and recalled to this
day by everyone who was fortunate enough to enjoy it. Two
days later we boarded the train for Coimbatore from where we drove up the
Aliyar Ghat of forty hairpin bends. Samina was violently sick all the way up
the Ghat. Being prone to motion sickness anyway, the Ghat road was not doing
her any good at all. I was very concerned because this Ghat road was a given if
we lived in the Anamallais and with Samina being so sick on it, it didn’t seem
to portend well for us. The prospect of a repeat performance every time we
traveled was definitely not something to look forward to. But as it happened
after a couple of trips Samina got over her motion sickness altogether. Maybe
the Ghat road shocked it out of her system.
a tradition that estate workers welcomed the Assistant Manager when he returned
with his wife. But it was not something that happened always. The workers
decided who they wanted to welcome and who they didn’t. In our case as our car
rounded the bend off the Sholayar Dam and came towards ‘Black Bridge,’ we were
stopped and requested to alight. Samina and I came out of the car, glad for the
chance to stretch our legs. The road was lined with girls who sang a welcome
song and showered us with flower petals as we walked through this guard of
honor. We were taken to a pavilion which I realized had been made by tying the
best sarees of the women to the poles and decorated with lots of flowers. Tea
garden workers can be the most loving people in the world and if you were good
to them, they appreciated it and reciprocated. I saw many examples of that in
my decade long career. We were garlanded and sat at a table on the two grandest
chairs that they could find. Then we were served tea and biscuits and sweets.
It was then that a depressed fly decided to end its meaningless life in my
wife’s teacup. But Samina, being the perfect lady that she is, merely fished the
fly out and drank the tea without batting an eyelid. An amazing performance
which saved us from a lot of embarrassment.
speeches were made, and the women danced and sang a song in our honor in which
we were mentioned repeatedly in sometimes a humorous way and sometimes with
great respect. The amazing thing was that this song was made up then and there
and they sang about various habits of mine, including singing while I rode my
motorcycle. People observe you and remember and respond to you the way they perceive
you. People listen with their eyes. They don’t care what you say, until they
see what you do. I have seen this in my life more times than I can possibly recall.
All the more reason to ensure that whatever it was, remained good and
the end of all this song and dance there were some speeches by the local union
leaders and one supervisor and then I was asked to speak. It was permitted for
the manager to speak in English and the speech would be translated. But I had
learnt Tamil for occasions such as these and spoke it well, much to everyone’s
delight. When I had finished and thanked them for all their trouble and
expressed our gratitude for the honor that we had been granted, they gave my
wife a gold ring as their gift as a mark of their love and honor for me. I was
floored. These were poor people who had collected money for this, something
which was not expected of them at all. What could I say? As I mentioned
earlier, Managers and workers in the plantations form bonds that are more like
family than anything else.
story was the background for the lesson I mentioned earlier. A lesson in seeing
with ‘their’ eyes. It was about a week later when one day I was saying something
to my wife about my car and so on when she stopped me and said, ‘If you keep talking
about everything as my-this and my-that, how will I ever feel that I share it
with you?’ I was flabbergasted. I didn’t realize the effect of my perfectly
innocuous speech on my wife. I had lived alone since I was eighteen and was
used to thinking of everything as being mine. Sharing didn’t come into it as I’d
had nobody to share with. But now I did. I realized that I needed to change my
outlook. I needed to see with her eyes. Today, thirty-four years later, I am
very happy that I learnt that lesson.
This is a new initiative that I started this week. Leadership is a Personal Choice. It will be available on Google Podcasts (Android) also. Please listen to the introduction first which tells you what this is all about and what I am trying to persuade you to do. Then listen to the first episode, Differentiate. This and more to come, are the essence and extract of my own experience as a Leadership Development expert, gained over 35 years, on 3 continents, working with people of multiple races, religions, communities and nationalities.
This is my tribute to all those who contributed to my growth, all those who taught me life lessons and gave me opportunities to prove myself. All those who challenged me, stood by me, refused to accept anything but the best and who appreciated what I did. What I do today is because of what they did for me. Some of them have passed on. Others are still in my life and I thank Allahﷻ for both. They are too many for me to name and some wouldn’t like to be named. But I salute every one of them and they live in my heart.
I want to share this with you free and I hope you will benefit. Some people told me that I am giving away my capital (because for a Leadership Consultant ideas are billable capital). I said that I would rather give it away than take it to my grave. I don’t know anyone on the other side who needs this.
So, please listen and enjoy this. And if you like it, please share with others and please let us know. All the very best to you.
If you asked me to tell you in one word; only one
word, the secret of success, I would say, “Differentiate.”
Let me begin with a question; “What do you ask for
when you go to the corner store to buy toothpaste?” Do you say to the attendant,
“Please give me toothpaste?” If you did, what would happen? Maybe you should try
this out the next time you go shopping. What would happen is that the store attendant
would ask you, “Which brand would you like?” You will face the same situation
if you went to buy almost anything in the market, unless it was buying mangoes
from a street vendor. Products are known, recognized and bought by their brand.
I teach career management in global corporations
and have been doing that since 1994. You can see my presentation on career
management on my YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/YawarBaigAssociates . The link to the presentation is Careers in Global Corporations http://bit.ly/2ZY3KW5 . I’ve taught this
course in GE, Motorola, IBM, Microsoft, National Semiconductor and many other corporations
in America, India and elsewhere. But more importantly this is what I practice
myself, in my lifelong effort to add value to others and thereby to myself. That
is how I define my career. That is my differentiation. Adding value to others.
What is differentiation?
Differentiation is to stand out. Not blend in.
Incidentally that is also how I define leadership. Let me give you another example;
how do you introduce yourself? More than likely you say, “I am an IT
professional or engineer, doctor, teacher, whatnot.” Well, so are a million other
people in the world. You are one in a million in the wrong sense. You need to become
one in a million in the sense of that proverb. That is differentiation.
Because Differentiation creates Brand
Brand inspires Loyalty
Loyalty enables Influence
Without differentiating you are one grain of rice in a sack. You are still rice, but one grain in a sack. Nobody knows you exist. Nobody cares. Nobody understands this better than Apple. Or Coke for that matter. And that is why these brands inspire loyalty that seems extreme and even absurd to others. But it is neither. It translates into a totally loyal customer base which is money in the bank and make Apple and Coke the most valuable brands in the world.
In the podcast that goes with this article, I will
tell you a story about brand that happened with me in 1996 and has stayed with
me all these years and is one of the most powerful illustrations of the power
of brand. Don’t miss that podcast. Please subscribe to our channel and you will
be alerted every week with a new episode.
How can I differentiate, you ask? Let me tell you
a story from my life. But first, the principle; you differentiate by doing what
the rest of the world is not doing and doing it in a way that is graceful, dignified
and beneficial to all concerned. Differentiation is not about being freaky. It
is about standing out in a way that inspires respect and the desire to emulate in
those who see you.
It was 1989 and I was a Manager in the tea
plantation industry in South India. I had been in the industry since 1983 and
had developed a reputation for high productivity and excellent labor relations.
A very big advantage in a highly labor-intensive industry with a militant
unionized workforce. I was ambitious, high-energy and looked forward to a fast-track
career. At that time, I was transferred to our company’s garden in Assam. The job
was at the same level as I was at but came with better perquisites and a slightly
bigger span of responsibility. What it also came with was the ‘opportunity’ to
be as far away from the company headquarters as is geographically possible,
when your company HQ is in Chennai. For some this may have looked like a good
thing. To me, it didn’t. In the corporate world, ‘out of sight is out of mind’.
So, I declined the transfer. This was not easy for me or my bosses. This was a
trying period because suddenly I had no specific job. I had to leave my job as
the Manager on Lower Sheikalmudi Estate because that job had already been
assigned to another colleague. That left me literally homeless as there were no
bungalows in the Anamallais where I could live. It is a measure of my reputation
with the company and the understanding of my superiors that I was not simply sent
home for refusing to accept the transfer. I was sent off to Mango Range until
the management could decide what to do with me. We stayed there for six months.
I was getting my salary, but I had no work. No office, no superiors to report to.
No assignment. Nothing to do.
I was assigned a bungalow in a forest thicket,
which was in a dilapidated condition. The location of the bungalow was lovely,
and it was a joy to wake up to bird calls every morning. However, the house
itself looked like it would collapse on our heads at any time. Of particular concern were the walls, which
were so waterlogged that they had fungus growing on them in huge patches. My
wife is an amazing homemaker and all her talents were put to test in this
place. Out of this dilapidated house she created a lovely home which we enjoyed
Now, this is where differentiation comes in.
Anyone else in my position would have done one of two things. Either they would
have resigned and tried to find another job. Or they would have considered this
period as a paid holiday and enjoyed it. I enjoyed it alright, but not as a
paid holiday and I didn’t leave or even try to find another job. I loved my job
in the plantations and had no intention of leaving until someone kicked me out.
So, I wanted to ensure that didn’t happen. Since I had no regular job, I
decided on doing two things:
For a long time, I had been talking about the need
for systematic training of new assistant managers. The current system in the
plantations was that a new assistant would be put under a manager and what he
learnt or didn’t depended on the capability, interest, and energy of himself
and his manager and field or factory officers. If the assistant was lucky and
got some people who were both knowledgeable and interested in teaching, then he
learnt a great deal. If not, he remained guessing. This is a highly undesirable
system, which is very time and energy intensive and does not give standard
results. I had been advocating for several years the need for a standard textbook
on tea plantation management, which could be used to provide standardized
training. Any additional inputs that the young man’s manager and staff could
give him would only add to this, but he would not be deficient in the basics.
During my stay in Mango Range, I decided to write this book and in 6 months, I produced a 200-page Manual of Tea Plantation Management. Remember, this was before we had access to computers. The best we could get was a 386 desktop and DOS-OS. So, I wrote the book on an ordinary typewriter and then re-entered it all on a 386 at the head office when it was done. No copy paste, no cut and paste, no auto-correct or spell check. Windows were in the wall and what sat in your lap couldn’t be typed upon. At the time of its publication there was no such book on the market, and it was a source of great satisfaction for me. My company published it as an internal training book and though it was never a commercial publication, it did get fairly wide publicity and was used by many new managers. The biggest lesson for me was about the power of the written word and its high credibility in making your customer base aware of what you have to offer. I never forgot that lesson and today, I have just published my 35th book. After that book there was no way that I could be ignored, not that I feared that. I had a lot of people who I had dealt with over the years rooting for me in the company.
The second thing I did was to spend a lot of time
in Mango Range factory and hone my expertise in CTC manufacture of tea. I was
very fortunate in that Mr. T.V. Verghese, who had retired as a General Manager
in Tata Tea and was consulting with our company on CTC manufacture, was a
regular visitor and we became good friends. He shared his knowledge freely and
I learnt a great deal. He was a practical teacher, which meant that I got to
spend a lot of time on my back on the floor meshing CTC rollers with grease
anywhere on my face and body that grease would stick. I learnt all aspects of
manufacture hands-on, further reinforcing my belief that learning comes from
doing – not from talking about doing. In Murugalli Estate, I’d had a lot of
experience in Orthodox manufacture, and even though I had built Mayura Factory,
the premier CTC factory in South India, I was moved as soon as the construction
was over – thanks to a motorcycle accident. Consequently, my knowledge of CTC
manufacture was weak. In Mango Range, as a student of Mr. T. V. Verghese and
thanks to his willingness to teach, I rectified that deficiency. It was ironic
that thereafter I went to Ambadi, which was a rubber plantation and never
really used this knowledge, but it did come in use for writing a paper
comparing Orthodox and CTC methods, which I presented at the UPASI Annual
Conference in 1989.
Mango Range was an interlude in my career. I was
marking time and waiting for some positive change to happen, and in the meanwhile,
I enjoyed myself. It has long been my philosophy to live one day at a time and
to try to create as much happiness for myself and around me as possible. I have
learnt that the two are the same. You can only be happy if those around you are
happy. This is true whether you are an individual, an organization, or a
country. Imagine what a wonderful world we would have if instead of competing,
we collaborated and shared resources. We would all be wealthier, happier, and
healthier. I have always held that the secret of happiness is to be thankful
for and enjoy the small things in life. There are far many more of them than
the big events. If we can enjoy the small things, then we can be happy all the
time. The key to enjoyment is to appreciate them and be thankful for them. An
attitude of gratitude. The key to contentment is not amassing material but in
being thankful for what one has. The happiest people are those who are content.
Content people are those who are thankful. Material wealth has nothing to do
One of the things that I was very appreciative of
and thankful for was the leisure that I had in Mango Range. I had no specific
work except what I decided to do for myself. And I was still getting my salary.
So, I decided to learn golf. I got a caddy from Ooty Golf Club to come and stay
with me in the estate for three weeks. His name was Frank Augustine (I used to
call him Frankenstein) and he looked like a dried prawn. When he swung the club
though, he always hit the ball with that sweet phut that all golfers love to
hear. And the ball would travel straight like a bullet down the freeway. Whereas
my club would come up with a good measure of earth and top the ball to boot. Shows
that technique and not strength of the arm is what works in golf. As it does in
many other things in life. Frankenstein believed in hard work – meaning, making
me work hard. He set up a practice net, produced a set of one hundred used golf
balls and we were good to go. I would hit the ball into the net until I felt my
arms would drop off. All the while, Frankenstein would sit on his haunches
under the Champa tree that was to one side and watch me and make clucking
noises. The effect of all this clucking and my swinging at the ball became
clear when one day about midway in our training Frankenstein suggested that we
should go and play a round at the club. So off we went on the three-hour drive
to Ooty. After a cup of tea and a sandwich, I teed off and that is where all
the practice paid off. Ooty Golf Club has very narrow freeways bordered by
spiky gorse. If you didn’t hit your ball straight, you would send it into the
gorse and then you may as well forget about it – or pay to get the ball back by leaving your
blood on the gorse and acquiring gorse thorn furrows in your hide. As
Frankenstein continued his mother hen act, I could see the distinct improvement
in my style and capability.
Differentiation creates Brand. I got noticed and appreciated
and was rewarded with one of the toughest jobs in the company. I was sent to
New Ambadi Estate as its Manager. Two estates, two factories in Kulasekharam, Kanyakumari
District of Tamilnadu, which is geographically in Tamilnadu and spiritually in
Kerala. Highly militant, unionized, communist unions with a history of violence.
And to top it all, I didn’t know the first thing about rubber estate
management. I had not even seen a rubber tree in my life until then. That is another
story of great friends, like Arun, who taught me all about rubber. I
successfully faced the tough unions and not only won but made lifelong friends
with the union leaders, so that when I was leaving Ambadi three years later, the
General Secretary of the CITU, came to my farewell party, unannounced and delivered
such a speech that he had us all in tears. But as I said, that is another story.
Yawar Baig & Associates™ is an Organizational Development Consulting company specializing in helping organizations achieve their goals by aligning their structure and business processes with their Core Ideology.