Wah Taj

A few years back, over a formal dinner, I was educated that half-way through your 7-course meal, many hosts would serve you a thing called ’sorbet’ a frozen fruit-flavored dessert as a way to cleanse the palate between courses. For even the most delicious of meals needs a change of taste buds. The shaping-years series has been continuing for a while, now it’s time to give both the readers and the writer a break from the past.

Sure, unraveling a secret buried in the distant ‘past’ has a nice mystical ring to it, but sometimes you don’t need to go stressing your grey cells so far back—the ‘present’ moments carry enough randomness. And if these random moments are deciphered correctly, there is a treasure waiting to be discovered. In this new “The Random Years” series, it will be my attempt to delve on seemingly insignificant instances that sweep through the days of our lives, for sometimes they carry tiny hidden messages that are invisible to naked eye…

Wah, Taj!

To rekindle our family romance, I stole a quick outing to Taj Mahal along with my wife and kiddos a couple of weeks back. Ritu and I had seen Taj glory in our wonder years, but Misha and Aneesh hadn’t.

The executive corporate organizer in me had chalked out a perfect treat: a) Fly over to Delhi in the morning; b) drive down to Agra; c) check in at the legendary Amarvilas by Oberoi ; d) go for a very special night viewing of Taj under full moonlight. (It seems that very few people are aware that Taj is open for exclusive night viewing in the vicinity of full moon).

Our 10ish morning arrival in Delhi saw us being greeted by a smart white-suited Avis Chauffeur with a Camry. I was pleased with my decision, for I had a choice of other competitive options from local vendors. “Going with Avis has a good risk-mitigation angle—What if the car breaks down? I can trust the brand with speedy replacement”, I had wisely educated Ritu earlier.

We quickly drove through Rashtrapati Bhavan and the Parliament house area where our great country is supposedly served from, stopping briefly in Bengali Market for energizing local indulgences dripping in sugary oil. Moving with clockwork precision, by 11ish we were well on our way towards Noida to get on the new superfast Yamuna expressway connecting the capital city to Agra.

That’s when the clock cuckooed out. The next two hours we played a dizzy round-robin game to get on the expressway, only to eventually figure out from a young rickshaw driver that a farmer-agitation had ensured the inaccessibility of expressway to commuters from all entry points. Apparently, it was big news that was already splashed all over the morning media. Damn Avis! You would think an organization of that repute would have built-in due-diligence systems to at least match the knowledge gathering mechanism of an under-aged rickshaw driver!

The next hour found us crawling our way back through traffic to catch the old Delhi-Agra road. And when we had barely made it back to the heart of Delhi, smoke started oozing out of the car hood and we got stranded in the middle of everywhere!

Of course, on the flip side, this was exactly the kind of contingency that had driven me to narrow down on Avis to begin with. But that didn’t seem to fly too well with my non-corporate family mindset. My wife chided me for having exercised negative thoughts, my daughter broadcasted on her FB status that this was the worst day of her life, and my son was feeling too pukey so considerately reserved his comments.

After 45 minutes of waiting and a series of apologetic calls from four different folks in the Avis hierarchy, a replacement Audi A8 arrived (at no extra charge). I was amazed by the customer service responsiveness and silently made a mental note; if things go wrong, I can trust Avis to take care of it.

Thus began our race against time. The Taj night-viewing time was pre-booked for the 9:00-9:30 pm nonnegotiable slot. The journey seemed endless; a car full of tired, hungry, and irritated people didn’t seem to help much. We stole a quick stopover for lunch; everyone wanted to hang around a bit. But that would have been poor time-management. A hurried 20 minutes, and my wife forced everyone to get back on the road.

The reporting time to board the battery-operated bus for the Taj tour was 8:30 pm. Our local travel agent’s convincing skills were put to an ultimate test as he deftly held on to the bus departure. We finally made it by sharp 9:00—running, panting, boarding—avoiding glares of fourteen extremely upset people.

A few minutes later, we were standing in front of a bygone age gazing right back at us—the white history basking under the soft shine of white moonlight. No photography. No phones. Silence. A different world. A different time. A picture of raw honesty. Sink it all in, then let the eyelids softly close—and the sight stays with you forever…..

By 10:30 pm, we checked into the hotel, exhausted. All, but the big boss, wanted to order room service. “Push yourself”, she insisted, “we have paid a tiny fortune for this exclusive hotel”. The hotel guest services quite graciously accepted our request to keep the restaurant open late for us; that bought us some time to shower, get ready (as if we were attending a party), and go down.

Only one table was occupied in the restaurant—tucked away in a corner. And my daughter suddenly went berserk. “Mom! Dad! Ashton Kutcher is sitting on that table”. The long day wrapped up with photo shoots, starry-eyed chit chats and a beaming declaration from my teenage daughter: “This is the best day of my life!!!”

Taj - the day after
Taj – the day after

Afterward

I am sure that everyone got the obvious point out of this story— the importance of right attitude to handle adversities. For you never know what lies at the end of the tunnel. The rendezvous with Ashton Kutcher was an outcome of a series of events—expressway closing, car breaking down, replacement car arriving in prompt fashion, managing travel time, barely making it for Taj night viewing, and finally pushing ourselves to go down for dinner. Had any of these events not occurred in the above fashion, then either – a) we would have made it much earlier to Agra and probably would have finished our dinner before Taj viewing; or b) we would have reached too late for our Taj tour, headed straight to the hotel, and would have definitely finished our dinner much before 11:30 pm. As they say—all things, good or bad, happen for a reason. The only controllable factors are the positive thoughts flowing through our brain cells, hope seeping in our heart, and then delivering to the best of our capabilities!

After-Afterward

But does this really qualify as a corporate lesson? For all we know, Ashton Kutcher might have been the ‘early to bed, early to rise’ type, and our late night dining would have guaranteed that we miss him at dinner as well as his early morning breakfast time! The point is that however pleasant the end was, meeting Ashton Kutcher was merely an ‘accidental destiny’. While these accidents do add spice to our lives, what management lesson is there to really analyze?

But what about the incredible Taj at night? Surely, that was not an accident, for that was the original PLAN. A plan that almost got derailed thanks to the lone unprofessionalism of Avis—inadequate due-diligence to pre-check the car and road conditions! It took the coordinated efforts of four parties to counter that solitary setback—my risk-mitigation plan, Avis’ responsiveness, Ritu’s time management and our travel agent’s convincing powers.

A genuine professional should learn to differentiate between the role of ‘chance’ and ‘plan’. ‘Chance’ plays a huge role in life’s unpredictable volatilities—right from the birth attributes such as family background and genetic IQ, to a series of environmental accidents that influence our choices of friends, academics, and even professional breaks. But once we eventually settle down in a stable competitive environment, accidental chances get marginalized, and intelligent plans swing into action. The professional world is not ruled by positive thinking, rather by logical thinking. Imbibing hope doesn’t solve problems. On the contrary, results come when we are able to kick the ‘hope’ factor out of the equation. And it’s not about just delivering to the best of our capabilities, it’s about consciously improving upon the worst of our capabilities.

Of course, all individuals are best suited to identify the missing gaps in their own capabilities—the above story highlights in bold a short sampling of such traits. Drop question: amongst the highlighted skills, point out the one that you believe deserves the highest weightage (particularly in managers): a) Organizing Skills; b) Due Diligence; c) Risk Mitigation; d) Responsiveness; e) Time Management; f) Convincing Powers; g) Pushing Oneself.



Destiny, Luck, Original, Style

19 Comments

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  1. Nice sorbet !

  2. Nice one Mr CEO …

  3. Managers need to have a high EQ – Emotional Quotient, that would intrinsically contain almost all the highlighted skills. The source of it all would be to remain calm and composed in any situation thereby allowing the mind to remain positive and apply any or all of these skills. A humble heart towards fellow beings but a focussed attitude to finally not let the goal remain unachieved….because there is not much of a point in reaching ‘there’ but not having the fellows sharing the joy and sense of accomplishment!!!

    • I like the part that everyday has a hidden message for life and all that happens to us ” good or bad”, happens for a reason as after all this whole eternal world drama is based on cause and effect theory.
      Coming to the answer for what I believe deserves highest weightage for the manager; well it’s a difficult choice to make as all of it makes into a manager from an individual contributor role. But if I have to rank it all in the order of weightage then I would rate “Risk Mitigation” (“c” ) as highest weightage as we need to hope for the best but need to be prepared for the worst as well. There should always be a Plan B to rescue and meet the goal or at least bridge the gap to meet the goal rather than a total disaster in management when things change.

  4. For me it would be f) Convincing powers of a manager that is required the most. It is so because anyone with this trait is capable of delivering Pushing Oneself, Motivate others to manage time, convince anyone to take what is needed to avoid any avenues of risks, etc. For me, its this very quality that examplifies any manager.

    Joking my dad says – always remember Rule#1 – Boss is always right. If not, refer Rule No#2 – i.e. Refer Rule#1. I think he says so, because he is the boss of his business and domain. Its times like today which have made the entire corporate ettiquette and conditions which preaches either have the skill set and dedication which can bring you up or be the favorite of your boss so that he can pull you up. Its bitter truth but definitely true. So its the power to convincing one leader requires to convince self that only trust, performance indicators should be the guide to anything within team members and not anything else. The biggest of all organization when they start do actually follow what is written in bold in above statements, but is it followed when the organization is successful and big one?

    Certainly, I relate the factor of Convincing way over all other in any sense and direction when it comes to professional life. And for a manager, its a key thing.

  5. Good one, Sir…

  6. I thought we would get to see a pic with Ashton!!!

  7. No doubt all the above skills are needed. However organizing skills, due diligence, risk mitigation and time management depend upon external factors in a good measure. The best laid plans sometimes go awry due to factors beyond our control.
    Convincing powers and pushing oneself again depend upon external factors. You are trying to convince someone else and you may push yourself till you break while the external factors won’t change.
    Responsiveness as in how you respond to situations is however completely in your control. Some situations may require you to be aggressive and fight back while others may require you to accept and work around them. The outcome may be as desired or maybe be different, but you still control how you respond to it and how you let the situation affect you.

  8. I was floored reading such a wonderful article,,,,great job Mr.CEO

  9. Hello Mr CEO,

    I feel all are important traits for a good manager, but highest weightage should be given to
    “Due Diligence” – “Avoid Risk in first place”
    and then “Risk Mitigation” – Mitigate Risk if it occured.
    “Convicing Power” – Convince the customer and turn the situation.

  10. Like always, a good one Arun. Actually, the question itself can be used as the subject of another blog 🙂

    For me one of the most important characteristics of a manager is option g) Pushing Oneself.

    I categorize options ‘a’ to ‘f’ as skills that are supposed to be part of a manager’s repertoire – some more and some less. Fact is, one needs an X factor (if I may call it) that brings all of these skills to be put into use.

    One might be having all the said skills but if he or she does not push oneself to use it, what is the use of possessing these skills? Now, pushing oneself is totally dependent on one thing and that is how badly you want it. Understanding the objective is one thing and how badly you want it is another. Stallone in Rocky (IV to be precise) says “I still have some fire in the basement”. In the above blog i am sure all of us understand the reason for pushing oneself. The interest, the zeal, the attitude to make sure that the sight of Taj in the night is not missed. Now, that is understanding the objective and pushing oneself to meet the objective using various skills (read other options).

    If you notice i have put “Pushing Oneself” as a characteristic/quality than a skill. Out of the options provided this is one option that cannot be easily measured and this option binds all the other options together. The reason i am talking about meaurement is because it is easy to say (objectively) that a Manager did not mitigate risks properly but very difficult to objectively substantiate that a Manager did not push oneself enough.

  11. Greetings to Mr. CEO..

    In my point of view all the above highlighted skills are essential,but Responsiveness is vital. Because it acts as a Kernel in a manager which is ultimately driving other organising skills as Time Management,due diligence,Risk mitigation and other as highlighted.
    The reason behind is that Responsiveness making one to complete a task and accordingly planning strategies that may include many factors and organising skills.

  12. I would rate three here:

    1) Due diligence
    2) Responsiveness
    3) Time management.

  13. For me ,manager should be very good at convincing skills.

  14. In my opinion, organizing skills is most imp among all..as org skills demonstrate effective and efficient workplace operation that contribute to a company’s overall success.. being organized, planning ahead and prioritizing your workload all comes under organization skill which is very imp for a manager to possess.

  15. What a effective writing Arun, Loved reading your blog, and I too believe patience is the best prayer, everything comes to us in some disguise form, we need to identify the positive outcomes out of it, Highly respect your for your dignity.

  16. What a lovely blog and superb way to put things in context.

  17. Loved the article. Happy to see that how a day in a life can become a management lesson. It has given me a new dimension to look in day to day events; and try to analyze causal and acausal occurrences to continue improvising. Here are my thoughts on the most important skill. Amongst the highlighted ones, none is distinguishable as having more importance than the other. All skills as mentioned; need to be leveraged optimally to get the things done in effective and efficient manner.

    Supporting my take; after all, the day could conclude in positive manner because,
    Organizing skills, as the right people were put to work on specific tasks, e.g. Avis, travel agent at Agra and of course the other arrangements
    Due diligence, when not exercised by Avis about the road blockage and car health had messed up the day
    Risk mitigation, idea of choosing the right taxi service helped to finally rescue the trip
    Responsiveness, of the parties transacted, from Avis to hotel staff all in the day made it conclude positive
    Time management, when the time crunch was experienced; finishing lunch quickly helped
    Convincing powers, when convinced by the travel agent to start the bus a bit late also turned out to be the key event
    Pushing oneself, and not losing the hope of seeing the Taj in moonlight, and doing all the required; finally yielded it’s fruits

    If I ask myself, if anyone of the above was not in place; could the day have concluded as it had? And I get the answer as big NO.

  18. Ashton Kutcher…Waowee..:)

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