Wimbledon 2016: What Roger Federer’s marathon five-setter teaches us about champions

What are the ingredients that go into making “Mental Strength”?

How do you tap into this strength, especially when you are in a challenging situation and the odds that you are surrounded by, seem absurdly insurmountable?

What is that magic ingredient that defines a Champion?

In light of Roger Federer’s “Epic” win at The Wimbeldon 2016, I was asked these questions at an interview conducted by First post, Network 18. My views as a Life Coach, from a vantage point of observation, where I have had the privilege to see many leaders unleash their greatness, for over a decade now, are summed up here.

A token of humble thanks to Ms. Sulekha Nair, Features Editor at First Post who has summed up our discussion so beautifully.

 

 

 

The ‘Vulnerable’ Leader – Do you have the courage to show your authentic self?

The fifth game would decide the clincher of the title between Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz, two of the best teams in the game during the late 90’s. The five game series had tied 2-2 and the best player in the world, Michael Jordan was going through sleepless nights between the fourth game and the fifth. He wished he be injured during practice, wished that his food be poisoned and he be admitted to the hospital. He wished that some calamity befall and the games stay as they are!

The reason? He did not want to be a part of the fifth match and stake the reputation of Air Jordan, the greatest player centre court had ever seen by losing the penultimate game. At the pinnacle of his career, the greatest basketball player of the world faced the most interesting challenge of his life – “The Challenge of Vulnerability.” It is a different story that he played the game, with all his heart and went on to win the most valuable player trophy at the NBA, but his story certainly resonates with the stories of some of the greatest people who’ve lived their time on earth.

How many of us have faced this situation when the odds are stacked against us, when we really want to quit and give up, when we are haunted by the demons that lie dormant deep within us? How many times in our lives have we almost given up, feeling a sense of desperation and deprivation ready to call it quits when your leadership is challenged? How many times have you felt like a vulnerable leader?

There’s good news. When a Michael Jordan can feel vulnerable, so can you and I. We all have our moments when the odds are stacked against us and we question our own ability and capability.

During those moments you need to realize that vulnerability is not an act of cowardice, but the ability to propel yourself and show your authentic self, first to yourself and then to the rest of the world. It is that force that you experience during the most testing of times, yet you break out of its shackles and emerge triumphant. Vulnerability is what brings out the best from within us and makes us stronger.

vulnerable

There are a few myths which are associated with vulnerability which is very important for us to get done with. The top three myths regarding vulnerability are as follows –

  1. Vulnerability is weakness: No it isn’t. It is the strength that gives us an opportunity to surpass our weaknesses
  2. You can stay away from vulnerability: It is a part of our existence and hence a part of us. No one can stay away from vulnerability, however we can cope with it and emerge victorious.
  3. It is not about going all alone: Vulnerability is also about disclosure, about the confidence to confide in someone who you trust and possibly guide you out of the situation.

There are moments during your course of engagement that you feel low, feel the need to back out, feel that the time and the situation are not suitable for your mind to propel towards action, fret not! Vulnerability could be an asset if used well could guide you into your next orbit of confidence and conviction.

Vulnerability is an asset, use it well!

Sometimes the biggest ideas are the simplest ones!

Aditya Ghosh, MD Indigo Airlines, had a problem. Cabin crew was required to count full meal boxes entering, & empties leaving the aircraft at flight end. This was a critical activity but took a lot of time. Also, counting errors cost the crew part of his/her salary. All this put together was often causing flight delays.

Ghosh turned to his friend, Rajiv Bajaj, Managing Director of Bajaj Auto Limited, who suggested – Weigh in, and weigh out the boxes all together. The job was completed in seconds, without chances of human error.

Sometimes the biggest ideas are the simplest ones!

Work-Life Integration – Yes, it is possible to have both – Career AND Family

As an Executive Coach, I see a lot of leaders going through the stress of not being able to effectively manage their career and family.  The work scenario today, is highly demanding and people are facing the problem of extended working hours. The concept of a  9 am – 5 pm job no longer exists. Added to this, our smart phones ensure, that we are glued to our offices, long after we have physically moved out of the building. In such a scenario, maintaining a healthy work life balance is almost a dream.

It becomes even more challenging in the case of women. Many highly educated and immensely talented women have kept their careers aside to devote time completely for their family. This situation leads to stress and health issues in most people.

Some reasons which trigger this imbalance are :

  • High levels of competence prevailing in the society. Executives, in the urge to get high ranks in their careers, keep taking up more and more work.
  • A Perfectionist Attitude – Very high benchmarks for self , situations and others
  • Another major reason is our global economy and dealings with international businesses. Odd working hours, to match client timings makes it difficult to have proper work life balance.
  • Long working hours and no limits on the office timings are a big cause for this imbalance.

work life integration

Let’s talk Solutions:

During numerous coaching interventions, where work – life balance was a strongly aspired goal, my endeavour has been work on the participant’s limiting belief systems. At the crux of this guilt ridden, unfulfilling life, is usually a powerful belief system at play – The “Either – Or” Belief, which deters us from striking a healthy chord between work and personal commitments.

Let us try and give up this extremist view (Either-Or) and replace it with a new belief which is holistic and  encompassing of both spheres.

“Work – Life Integration” is largely how a person prioritizes career and ambitions on one hand and personal life including social activities, health, family, leisure on the other.

This seemingly daunting task of maintaining a healthy work life balance, may not be so difficult, in reality. A few smart moves and disciplined use of simple techniques is all that may be needed to achieve your goal – Career AND Family.

Here are some solutions you can incorporate in your life to attain a healthy Work-Life Integration.

  • Never Overbook yourself with work. Set limits to the work you are taking on and then respect these boundaries.
  • Efficient planning helps you use your work days, weekends and holidays effectively. When my children get their annual schedule from school, the first thing I do is to synchronise all our calendars. This way we can leverage on the long weekends and  vacations and use these as bonding time for the family. All reservations are made well in advance, and that saves us the trouble of last minute woes.
  • A monthly, weekly and daily To-Do list is a good habit. Make sure you don’t run separate priority lists for work and home. Life has a tendency to throw up challenges but this practice will help you navigate through them with much more ease and finesse.
  • Build up your “Not To Do List”. We often end up doing work, which may seem urgent but later regret because it was not in alignment with our goals (Not important) . Consider this list sacred, and do not give into any pressure which might push you into this slippery territory.
  • One of the success mantras of a balanced life is to learn to say “No”. Know when to use this powerful word, and just go ahead, use it!
  • Invest time in training your team at work and staff at home so that you can delegate some of your work load. Train your kids to take up their personal responsibilities.
  • Take advantage of latest technologies to reduce your work-load, hours and stress. Women can especially make benefit of the latest technology and use techniques like live video streaming for looking after their kids when out for work.
  • Keep in mind that things cannot be perfect, at all times.
  • Offices and companies also need to understand this issue and take an initiative. They can conduct seminars and trainings on ways to achieve Work-Life Integration. Companies are offering options like half day work, work from home and prolonged maternity leaves for their women employees.

Many countries these days have limited their working hours to increase productivity and make people happier. Sweden, has recently moved to a six-hour work day. Such initiatives by the government are also much appreciated and longed in our country. In a developing country like ours which is flooded with overseas work, there is an urgent need to look into this matter by both individuals and corporates to have a healthier workforce and future.

There is no such thing as “Women Leadership”

 

On January 16, 2016 I was invited to the First Annual Coaching Conference – The World Game Conference, hosted by Erickson Coaching International and Inspire Coaching Systems. A day full of deep conversations and sharing of perspectives on Leadership, Life, Dreaming Big, Translating Innovation into Action, Transitioning boundaries – left the delegates with an enhanced sense of purpose and renewed goals.

As part of the agenda, was a panel discussion, on the topic – There is no such thing as “Women Leadership”. Many interesting and thought provoking insights came up in this discussion. As one of the coaches invited to participate on the Panel, I have tried to summarise my thought process on this subject, in this blog post:

Living near the border of Tibet in the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, the Mosuo tribe live in extended households with the head of the family is a matriarch. Interestingly, Mosuo women typically handle business decisions for their families.  Likewise, the Nagovisi tribe, an inherent of South Bougainville, an island in the west of New Guinea has ladies involved in leadership and ceremonies and pride most in the land entitled to them.

These are two distinct yet exemplary examples of how women are leading from the front even in the most non reported tribes of the world. This practice is not a new phenomenon but centuries old. And if we look around ourselves, we will find many many examples – be it Indira Nooyi, Sheryl Sandberg, Chanda Kochhar, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and so on, in the corporate world ; Saina Nehwal, Sania Mirza, PT Usha, Anjali Bhagwat in sports, or in politics like Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Queen Elizabeth, Golda Mein, Aung San Suu Kyi to name a few.

So the statement that we have here –  “There is no such thing as women leadership.”

Of course there is no such thing.

How could one even categorize leadership and slot it in a very narrow bucket of gender. While doing this we become discriminatory and myopic and take away all the credit of the hard work, passion, dedication, effort and the vision that exemplary leaders, irrespective of the gender, have showcased through centuries of leadership.

Leadership is certainly not gender based, hence, there is no such thing as women leader. My sojourn as an Executive Coach has provided me the opportunity to engage my services and closely work with senior leaders globally. Through years of enriching myself with the experiences seen and shared I have realized that each one of them had their individual strengths and their own styles of leadership, without a hint of gender intonation.

Stereotypes are created by the society. Or else how would you define a leader that is Sanjeev Kapoor, the globally recognized Chef who owns the kitchen space and is a male and Mary Kom who is the queen of the square boxing ring. If gender had to be looked at leadership and thereby their contributions to their individual fields, the roles should be been reversed with Sanjeev boxing and Mary Kom cooking in the kitchen.

Through my years of engagement, as an Executive Coach, I have had the opportunity of working with gentlemen CEOs who have a very nurturing and participative style of leadership, the attributes which is socially declared as feminine. Likewise, I have had the opportunity to work with authoritative and directive high performing women senior executives, as their Coach.  They surely make no bones about their direct approach to communication and execution. If leadership had to be mapped in terms of gender, again the roles should have been certainly reversed.

I ultimately believe that gender has nothing to do with leadership. Leadership is an attitude. Leadership is a way of being. It is about the style one adopts and adapts, to suit the environment, irrespective of the gender. Hence, I conclude by saying that there is no such thing as women leadership and also add a caveat that there is no such thing as male leadership too.

 

Leading By Example

“Leadership is by example and that is what motivates people. You need to develop genuine closeness with your people in your organisation.” says Narayanan Vaghul, former chairman, ICICI Bank.

Here is an excerpt from his interview which appeared in The Smart CEO : The Wise Leader on 15 Dec 2011, posted by S. Prem Kumar.

While sharing his experiences on Managing people he says:

Managing people really means staying close to them. So, how do you stay close to them? Not through socialising or by throwing parties or by playing golf with them. We need to understand that gimmickries do not work and develop genuine concern for people.

When I joined ICICI, we had about 800 people in Mumbai. In a short span, I got to know each and everyone by name. I used to leave my door open between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. every day and anyone from the office could walk in and talk to me about anything. It could be about the bank or it could be about their personal lives; I never said, what you are saying here is irrelevant. It showed me an aspect of his or her personality. One thing we need to remember is not to be artificial. Never shut your ears to any kind of feedback you are getting.

The second important aspect is managing people by example. People keep looking at you – how you behave, how you smile and how you conduct yourself. Keep looking at yourself and make an attempt to elevate yourself. We need to motivate people by example and by who we really are. You cannot tell a person, do not be corrupt, when you are corrupt yourself. None of these things can be hidden. Your faults will show up at some point of time.

The link to the article is: http://www.thesmartceo.in/cover-story/the-wise-leader.html