Monthly Archives: November 2009

I can become a Leader

Sahara Care House, November, 2009

Every child, every person, looks up to someone, somewhere deep inside wants to be like him/her, tries emulating his/her mannerisms, style, way of working …..

I will be a pilot one day, says a child; I will be a teacher, I will become a doctor ….. says another and another. Something in the role model strikes as being worth doing and achieving and more so worth ‘becoming’.

Surinder (Suri) Sahni (played by Shahrukh Khan), in the recent Rab ne banadi jodi (RNBJ), transforms himself into Raj !! His wife Tania (Taniji) loves dancing. She looks for a partner in her dance classes and the imagery of ‘Raj” (played by Shahrukh in various movies), dominates her mind. Ordinary looking, Surinder (Suri) Sahni, an employee with Punjab Power, dons a different look of a flamboyant, flashy, outgoing ‘Raj’, to be able to spend time with and to gain acceptance from Taniji; to be close to her, to be able to be her dance partner, to be able to get her love, to be able to build a family with her. The story goes through its own Bollywood twists and turns, but finally Taniiji prefers Surinder Suri over Raj. Genuineness prevails. ‘Trueness’ of intentions wins over a ‘borrowed’ style !!

Each one of us IS a Leader ….. A Leader to someone !! To our children, to our family, to our customers, to a sports team, to our subordinates ….. There is NO choice here. As much as we aspire to be someone, or to be like someone, the ones we are Leaders to, may also be aspiring to be like us. To have a role model is like having a source of energy, an unseen power guiding us towards a direction. Needless to say, a very positive energy at that !! While there is NO choice ….. each one of us is a Leader to someone ….. the only choice is ‘What kind of a Leader I want to be !?’

That is where, I guess, the choice to be genuine and true to one’s nature and style comes up as being important. A borrowed and ‘put on’ style is seen through very easily. Not only that, is comfortable with one’s own style. In the movie RNBJ, Surinder Suri’s discomfort in a copied style and attire, is depicted quite well in his attempt to ‘adjust’ his undergarments under the uncomfortably tight trousers. The style gets shattered there and then.

A Leader cannot be different people at different times. It is not possible to separate who you are as a person from who you are as a Leader.

Also, this notion of Leaders being ‘charismatic’ has been debated endlessly. There are many cases of organisational successes with Leaders who were NEVER known. Their organisations’ results and performances were what got known. These Leaders remained in the background, unseen, but led their organisatons very effectively for sure. Over a period of time, they were replaced by others and the organisation continued to work very effectively after them too. That is what matters ….. their work, their creation of an organisation that continues to perform effectively even without them. There are also, however, cases of very charismatic Leaders, who dominated the show all over, but without high performing organisations. Not to say that there is a clear ‘negative correlation’ here, but a ‘causal’ relationship definitely does NOT seem to be existing.

Can one be a Leader about whom someone says ‘I know of a Leader, in whom there is a deep burning passion for his work’ or ‘I know of a Leader in whom Integrity is fully alive’ or ‘I know of a Leader in whom compassion, respect, equality and empathy thrive’ ….. !?

Leadership is a vast and wide topic. Fundamentally, a Leader has to provide an environment conducive to the flowering and fulfilment of the potential of those who follow him/her. Leadership is like an energy flow, an influence effortlessly leading those who choose to follow, towards a rewarding, desired and aspirational future state of being. There are traits and traits being talked about and listed. A listing of all these will probably require someone more than a ‘Superman’ to qualify.

However, the fact is that a Leader need not be a Superman. He/she can be you and me !! An ordinary human being can be groomed, developed and polished. It requires effort and intention though. Leadership is not a ‘skill’ to be picked up and to get ‘trained in’. It is an experiential and spiritual ‘state of being’ !! A Leader can make mistakes. A Leader can ‘trip and fall’. A Leader can ‘stammer’. A Leader can change his/her mind. These faults don’t ‘lessen’ a Leader. If at all, with a ‘Genuine State of Guiding Energy Flow, truly taking those who choose to follow, to their desired states of being through a complementary Rythmic Dance’ the seeds of a True Leader can take root in anyone, no matter how ordinary, who has strong and true intentions.

Most importantly ….. A Leader chooses to Follow, because he has to be A Leader to his Followers

Be One !!

JPSingh

JPS Consulting                                       
Just Plain & Simple                               
….. Helping Realise Potential

 10 Leadership Tips :

  • L : Listen, Listen, Listen
  • E : Set an Example
  • A : Build a Positive Attitude
  • D : Develop Others
  • E : Have Empathy
  • R : Respect Others
  • S : Build Self Control and Service Orientation
  • H : Be Humble
  • I : Have Unquestionable Integrity
  • P : Be Passionate

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When God was ridiculed …..

The Indian Optician, October, 2009

A few weeks back, I was with a big group of dealers from the optical trade. Various topics of common interest were brought up and the discussion moved towards how one could maintain and increase customer footfall. There was, and rightly so, concern and anxiety about the issue. Everyone was genuinely involved and interested. Increasing competition, organised players, mushrooming of shops, improved ambience, price cuts etc. were indicated as being factors that played an important role.

At that point, someone asked for my comments. “In such a situation, one cannot compete on ‘pricing’ and/or by spending money on ‘advertising’ alone. Each of these can be matched or overdone by other competitors, draining everyone’s resources, leaving everyone’s efforts ineffective or yielding suboptimal results”, I said. My view is that ‘customer experience’ becomes important to create a difference under these circumstances. One should not only look at ‘customer satisfaction’, but beyond that, at ‘customer delight’ ….. leading to loyalty, repeat visits and referrals !! See whether you have a ‘delighted’ customer walking out of your door !!

“How does one know that the customer was delighted ?” asked someone. While there are techniques and ways to find this out (like calling up the customer, having a feedback form, tracking repeat visits or just plain and simple asking the customer there and then) your sixth sense helps you know, feel and realise within yourself after you have dealt with the customer …..

At this stage of discussion, someone in the group stood up and said “Where does this lead to ? The other day I had a customer in my shop, who was bargaining for Rs.20/- for a solution bottle. She would go to a parlour and spend Rs.1000/-; she would spend Rs.200/- at a chaat shop without asking any question. But for a solution bottle she was bargaining for a mere Rs.20/-“. At this, the whole group broke into a hearty laughter and applause, as if each one was saying “Yes, I can understand this so well, it happens so often at my shop too”.

This reaction was quite shocking. My question to the group was “Do you have a plaque in your shop with ‘Customer is God’ written on it ?”. Everyone acknowledged having similar quotes put up at some location or the other. All I could say is that it was belief in that quotation that would make a difference in ‘customer experience’, leading them from mere ‘satisfaction’ to where they would know for themselves whether they were giving delight or not. It is one’s conscience which plays back the ‘truth’ in all such situations and that they should go back and ask themselves whether the ‘applause’ really showed that they ‘cared’ for their customers and ‘respected’ them ….. This was the time I thought God was ridiculed …..

Care and Respect are the initial and very basic conditions in the long and tough journey towards customer satisfaction, delight, loyalty, repeat visits and finally referrals, where the customer becomes your ambassador ….. helping you create your very own ‘Distinct and Unique Brand Identity’, which no one can match or replicate.

How or why should one then expect the customer not to bargain for Rs.20/- ? If the customer happily keeps feeding on ‘gol gappas’ without asking a question, she definitely sees more value creation and a better experience from this ‘chaat’ seller, compared to what she is paying !! One necessary condition for creating this ‘experience’ is that the ‘perceived value’ by the customer, should be higher than what ‘price’ she pays. This is the only way the equation will work !! And The Only Way to create a distinction and acceptance, is to ‘Step into The Customers’ shoes and see how things look from there …..

There is saying in India ‘Atithi devo bhava’ (A Guest is to be treated like God). In any case, even if a customer does not buy anything, he/she is a guest in our shop, to be treated like God !!

Would the person, whose comments about his customer brought an applause from the group, buy from himself ?????

If ‘Customer is God’ the least one can do is answer the following :

  • Do I truly care for and respect my customer ?
  • Do I feel good about representing my organization – and its products and services? Why / why not?
  • Why should customers invest their time and money with us?
  • If we were the customers, would we want to do business with us? Why / why not?
  • What can we do to improve the experience our customers have with us?
  • Why should we bother? What are the benefits for us?
  • What do we need in order to make that improved experience happen?
  • What can we do to help each other be more successful in that effort?

God is about love, and we can dialogue with Him and ask Him anything we want to know. Same is true for customers as well.

Have a delightful journey ….. but DO NOT RIDICULE YOUR GOD, ever ….. remember that he feeds your family too !!

 

J.P.Singh

JPS Consulting

Just Plain & Simple

….. Helping Realise Potential

JPS Customer Value Academy

….. Helping Create Customer Value

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Good Orderly Discipline : The Cosmic Energy

It is Energy All Around . . . . .

The Yin & The Yang . . . . . .

From the Steady Pattern to The Superficial Aberrations.

From The Calm Deep Inside to The Turmoil on The Surface.

The Visible Nature & Colourful Beauty : Prakriti.

The Serene ‘Interconnected’ Soul : Purusha.

The Outward Chaos of Shiva’s Rudra Tandava.

The Calm within of his Ananda Tandava.

The Cosmic Dance ‘is’ ….. !!

Viswaroop this is ….. !!

J.P.Singh

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Customer Service Capability Building

Adding Value to The Selling Process

The Indian Optician, October, 2008

Packaging of a product, they say, is a silent salesman. But it ‘speaks’ louder than anything else.

So also, in today’s competitive & professional world, plain functional skills as a product offering are not enough & need packaging as well. Having functional skills is a necessary but not sufficient condition. Infact with rigorous academic curriculum & examinations, functional aspects of a subject, hopefully, (though the relevance of some of the subjects being taught is continuously debated) should be taken care of adequately. Employers feel a general lack of employability even if candidates have relevant academic qualifications & subject knowledge. Quite often ‘soft’ skills are where the gap lies, they say & most interviewers would be checking these in an interview situation.

The area of development could be plain simple communication skills, related to working English or in many cases even effective communication in a vernacular language. Body language, clarity of speech, dialoguing & listening skills are important basic elements here. At the next level, personal grooming/hygiene, planning, time management etc. are areas which should be given particular attention.

Again, ‘personal/individual’ specific areas of development are not enough. Organisations are an interplay of multiple relationships. Therefore adaptive thinking, flexibility, right behaviour/attitude & teamwork become essential for effective & productive functioning of any organisation in order to maximise results. Most courses/degrees do not handle these areas at all. Specific attention is needed to develop these very important attributes of one’s personality. Sensitivity to view points of team mates, peers, superiors and subordinates will be possible only if proper behavioural training & inputs are given or rather taken proactively by the candidates to not just sensitise themselves but to internalise these traits.

Since every organisation exists for serving the customer, one way which can help candidates to develop the above attributes, is to develop a strong customer orientation. Quite often, lip service is given to this term. However, if this is understood & ‘internalised’ well, then the need for all the areas discussed above (be it communication, grooming, listening, teamwork, behaviour etc.) will become automatically clear & one would understand their significance in organisational working. Colleagues are to be seen as internal customers & hence the concept is helpful in cross functional alignment & working as well.

Needless to say, none of these so called soft skills can be picked up a few days before appearing for an interview or be played in isolation or faked. These should be developed continuously over a period of time so that they become second nature to one’s personality ….. bootstrapped together to present an integrated whole individual, facing the challenges or rather opportunities of the world GRACEFULLY ….. !!

J.P.Singh

JPS Consulting

Just Plain & Simple                               

 ….. Helping Realise Potential  

JPS Customer Value Academy

Just Plain & Simple                               

….. Helping Create Customer Value

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Luck is the by product of Continuous Improvement

The Indian Optician, August, 2009

In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

This is a short story that dates back to the 1960s but the wisdom expressed by the principal lead is very much relevant in today’s fast-moving world.

Not even two full decades had passed since India’s exciting independence and the traumatic partition, which resulted in a state of affairs wherein positive and negative aspects occurred together, just like two sides of the same coin, as happens so often in life.

We were staying in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar area. Kundan Sahib ran a small bakery shop, called Kundan Bakery, in the local market.

In 1947, the then very young Kundan Lal Sahni had migrated to Delhi with his family, leaving all material possessions behind in Lahore, where the family had seen great times and plenty of wealth. Armed with perseverance, capability and willingness to work hard, he landed in Delhi as a ‘refugee’ and set up a bakery shop – not a simple task during those trying times – but the ingenious Kundan Sahib took his work seriously and as a reward for good service and honesty, gradually, step by step, the volume of business increased and people flocked to his store to enjoy his delicious fare.

I still recall how as kids we often used to go to Kundan Uncle’s (that is how all the neighbourhood kids called him) bakery to buy bread, cakes etc. It was always a pleasure to go there, whether in a group or alone, as Kundan Uncle always had a kind word, a joke or a sweet for everyone. We used to play pranks with him and he enjoyed with us. He was like a family member to all of us. When adults went to buy something at the bakery, they and Kundan Sahib would have discussions on all sorts of issues – politics, Nehru, Raj Kapoor – anything. Kundan Uncle used to know what each of his customers liked. “Mrs. Mehta, I have this fresh bread that came in just now, the type Mr. Mehta likes. Should I pack this also?” or “Mr. Sood, it is your son’s birthday next week. Shall I bake that special cake he likes?” The best part was that throughout the day one could enjoy the fresh and tasty products. Personal requests regarding different kinds of products were also easily taken care of and we could not even dream of ever going to another bakery. Kundan Uncle was a part of the ‘ecosystem’ there and an integral part of our daily lives !!

Years went by. Our family moved to West Delhi. I went out to study and then for work to various cities. We stayed in touch with Kundan Uncle though – sometimes through telephone calls and occasionally, visiting his shop to share a cup of tea while passing by that area. It used to be about a once a year contact. His son’s Rajeev and Manoj were of the same age as me. We had played together as kids. Kundan Bakery continued to flourish. Clientele grew and a very loyal clientele at that !! Customers still would not go anywhere else for their bakery needs. Rajeev and Manoj also joined the family business. They opened more shops : one to start with, then two, three, four and five, in nearby localities of South Delhi. Kundan Sahib and his sons learnt to manage the business, shuttling between shops. They continued to have one central bakery where everything was baked and then distributed to different locations in the city.

Two years ago, I got a surprise call from Kundan Sahib. “Son, you have a management degree and have worked in big companies. I need to talk to you about our business. Can you come over?” he asked. “Sure”, I immediately agreed. We fixed a time to meet at his shop – the first one. I reached there at the time agreed. Rajeev and Manoj were also there. After some pleasantries and a cup of tea with the usual cakes, Kundan Sahib, now in his mid-seventies, said “Son, business has been going well. We have expanded and now have five shops. Rajeev and Manoj have been managing the business with me. Their children are also growing up. Lately, our family discussions have centred around finding a future direction for our business and we thought we should take your views also.” Manoj, the younger one, added “A few years back, a national company called Montana Bakery, started opening bakery shops all over the country. Montana has opened thirty shops all over Delhi, out of which fifteen are in South Delhi. They offer a wide range of bakery products : cakes, pastries, breads etc. Montana has a huge central bakery and distribute products twice a day, through temperature controlled vehicles. Our business is doing well, but Rajeev and I are worried that we may start loosing out to Montana going forward. We are telling Papa that we should look at some other businesses and reduce our risk, otherwise Montana could take away our business. It is a big brand. How can we match them? What do you suggest?”

“Kundan Uncle,” I said, “you have seen life. You have a lot more experience than all of us. While I may have an opinion on this, what is your suggestion?”

Kundan Sahib : “Son, I started this business from nothing and with nothing in hand. Over the years, I nurtured it and worked hard. I have tried my best to keep my customers happy. I have personally interacted with them, and by God’s grace, Kundan Bakery is a much respected name today. I am proud that my children Rajeev and Manoj continue to follow my tradition.  Now, my grand children have also started getting involved in this business and I am happy to share the knowledge gained through my personal experience, with them. I am aware that Montana has brought in new technologies and business practices and that this has made them more effective in today’s business world. They are fully equipped to meet the changing needs and requirements of customers; they have hired professionals to look at logistics, marketing, selling techniques, human resources, customer care etc. But although we may not have all the resources that Montana has, we do know a lot about our customers. My suggestion is that perhaps we should look at upgrading our processes, that is, the way we do business. This would mean a new way of approaching marketing, technology, inventory management, customer service skills, our people and hence our business outlook, while building on our customer relationships. This will make us more efficient, profitable and competitive enough to not only survive, but to come out stronger in the coming days. We have to upgrade and look at new ways of doing business in these new circumstances. Son, I have seen tougher times and I have always learnt new ways of doing business with changing times. That is what made me successful in my life”.

I was amazed at the way this man in his seventies looked at situations and circumstances !! He was willing to ‘relearn’ and change even at this age. I was reminded of a well-known personality, who, I am told, in his late eighties used to start a discussion with, “Twenty years from now …..” . He was always living in the current context with a dream for the future !! Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals”.

 

Kundan Sahib concluded by saying “A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t. You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. The mind moves in the direction of our currently dominant thoughts.”

 

I was immediately reminded of a popular saying, There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction”.

I thought to myself, “What advice can I give this man?”

 

“Kundan Uncle, you are very wise indeed, and have truly understood the situation. You have obviously given a great deal of thought to this impending threat but I am sure your way of tackling this problem is probably the best option and I am sure, your business will emerge stronger and more competitive going forward. Efforts at brand building, newer techniques in logistics and inventory management, investing in employee development and customer service, so that your employees take care of customers as well as you did ….. are things that will definitely pay dividends ”, I declared after much consideration.  After all, as another time-honoured maxim goes, “Luck is the by product of Continuous Improvement”, I reflected.

Note : This is a true story. Names and some facts have been modified for reasons of confidentiality.

J.P.Singh

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