Wait Till Monday

We worked on a project for a client, who remunerated us handsomely; ’we’ being three young freelancers and me. All was good the first month. Everyone, including the client, was happy.

Then, things went south.

My business venture ran into troubled waters and demanded all my time. I hoped the team would continue to work on the project in the same vein. But slowly, the dynamics changed. Deadlines were not adhered to, quality faltered, and it became difficult to get in touch with them. I was unhappy. But I stayed a passive observer, hoping they would pull their socks up. Big mistake.

A couple of months later, the client let us go. No second chances.

Not only did we lose the client, but a sizable chunk of revenue too. I felt miserable.

When I gently broke the news to the team, they were crushed. “Where did we go wrong?”, they mused. I was tempted to lay out a list immediately, but refrained.

Jock Stein was one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s heroes. One of Jock’s biggest advices to him was never to lose his temper on players right after a game. “Wait till Monday, when things have calmed down,” he would reiterate.

“Wait till Monday.”

Those words rang in my head as I spoke with my team. So, my response to “Where did we go wrong?” was, “We must introspect.”

Jock Stein was not the only believer in not losing one’s cool immediately. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is another follower of the rule. Ravichandran Ashwin, one of Indian cricket’s most prolific spin wizards, once said, “There are situations when you feel like, ‘Oh my God!’ we are expecting a reaction and [Dhoni] just leaves his reaction in his kit bag and goes back to the room.”

When things have just gone wrong, emotions run high. Nobody is in the mood for constructive problem solving. According to Dr. Thomas Gordon, people want the fact that they are angry or upset to be known.

This is a vulnerable time for everyone involved.

Ashwin believes that ‘when emotions are flaring high, you always make the wrong decision.’ You might try your best to remain constructive. But anger and other negative emotions find their way through fissures as thin as hair.

Think of cleaning. Would you rather clean while the dust is falling, or after the dust has settled?

Waiting for two days before you breach the topic doesn’t just let the other person reflect on what went wrong. It also calms emotions down and paves the way for constructive discussion. Not fueling the fire lets you avoid needless conflict.

But merely waiting is not enough. For a positive outcome, other steps must complement the wait. They are:

1. Focus on the Outcome

You have two choices: You can show the other party and how upset you are. Or you can ensure that everyone involved learns something from the event. Which choice do you prefer?

Focus on what you want to achieve from the discussion. Accordingly, rehearse the conversation in your head. This sets the tone for a positive outcome with long-lasting takeaways.

See the bigger picture.

2. Give Time

When something goes wrong, most people are aware that they fell short. Unless they like to play victim. In such cases, any discussion is pointless.

Waiting till Monday gives people time to come up with their own answers. Thus, you empower others to learn by themselves. You develop independent thinkers who can develop unique perspectives.

3. Be Aware of Self

It takes two to tango.

It’s important to reflect on your actions as well: what you do well, what you could have done better, and what you could have avoided altogether. What did you learn from it? By losing the client, I learned the importance of staying alert and taking swift action, however uncomfortable it might be. Consistent conversation with positive mindsets are essential.

Also reflect on how you feel, and work on calming techniques. People who manage their emotions well, receive more favorable results. Managing your emotions builds resilience, which, according to research, helps people bounce back from a setback faster.

4. Find the Right Time

Timing is paramount.

Pick the opportune moment to speak to others. Beaching the subject when they are preoccupied with other thoughts is a bad idea. It doesn’t just dim your chances of success. It also makes you appear insensitive.

It’s essential to develop patience and understanding to choose the best time. That comes with experience and observation.

5. Listen

Like driving skills, most people overestimate their listening skills, a study showed.

A discussion is not just to impose your opinion. It should encourage others to share their challenges, and lessons they learned. This also makes everyone aware of their own challenges and potential areas of improvement.

managing a team

Genuinely listen to others before you jump to conclusions. Use plenty of open-ended questions. Dig deep and uncover the core of the issue. Then work on a constructive action plan. Remember, a positive outcome is more important than you expressing (read unloading) your feelings.

6. Offer Another Chance

to implement what they learned, how will they grow? How will your child become a thinker? How will your spouse take initiative when you are busy? How will your team handle critical situations at work if you are not available?

You cannot be assured that things will be better this time around. But people are more aware. A few more attempts, and they will develop into empowered, intelligent and capable individuals. This is the long-term goal you should pursue.

Summing Up

We believe in striking when the iron is hot. But the iron is also most vulnerable when hot. A weld is strong enough to hold pieces together only after it cools down.

If your child scores less in a test, refrain from scolding her immediately. Don’t pounce on the first mistake your partner makes. Don’t be quick to vilify work colleagues when something doesn’t work, or mock friends who couldn’t keep up a promise.

Being patient when frustrated is tough. Very tough. But it’s also what will set you apart from others. It will make you a better leader, partner, parent, friend… it will make you a better human being.

You won’t taste instant success with the ‘Wait Till Monday’ mantra. In the early days, you will falter often. The key is to introspect. Just before going to bed, reflect on how you handled the situation, and what you could be better the next time. Be patient. Good judgment comes from experience. And experience comes from bad judgement.

The next time anger rises inside you like lava in a volcano, take a step back. Reflect on the six points mentioned in this post. Waiting a couple more days will go a long way in making your life better

How to become A Lieutenant-in-Command at Work?

Here’s an old Indian mythological story that has fascinated me since years.

One day, Narada muni asked Lord Vishnu, “Why is the statue of Garuda (Vishnu’s eagle and vehicle) placed in your temples? Why not mine? Am I not your greatest devotee?”

Before Vishnu could answer, a crash was heard outside the main gate of Vaikuntha (Vishnu’s abode).

“I have sent Garud on an errand,” Vishnu said. “Can you check what happened, Narada?”

Keen on seizing the opportunity, Narada rushed out and returned a few seconds later and said, “A milkmaid tripped and fell.”

“What was her name?” asked Vishnu. Narada ran out, spoke to the maid, returned and said, “Sharda.”

“Where was she going?” Narada ran out once again, and returned with the answer, “She was on her way to the market.”

“What caused her to trip?” Vishnu asked. Narada felt irritated, but he asked her. “She was startled by a snake crossing her path”, he said.

“Are all her pots broken” asked Vishnu. “I don’t know,” snapped Narada.

“Find out, Narada. I might buy some milk,” Vishnu explained patiently.

Visibly angry, Narada went out and returned. “She broke one pot. But another is intact. She is willing to sell the milk but at double price,” he said.

“So how much should I pay her?” Vishnu asked. “Oh. I forgot. Let me find out.” Narada started running back out.

Right then, Garuda flew in, oblivious to what had occurred outside. “Don’t bother,” Vishnu said to Narada, turned to Garuda and said, “I heard a crashing sound outside the main gate. Can you investigate?”

On returning, Garuda said, “It was a milkmaid named Sharda. She was on her way to the market but tripped because she was startled by a serpent. She broke one of her two pots and is worried about how she will pay for the broken pot and spilled milk. I suggested she sell the milk to you. You are the husband of the Goddess of Wealth, after all.”

“And the price of the milk?” Vishnu asked. “Four copper coins,” Garuda replied promptly. “One actually, but I think she wants to make a handsome profit because she is dealing with God.”

Vishnu laughed and caught Narada’s eye, who understood why Garuda’s statue, and not his, is always placed in front of the image of Lord Vishnu in His temples.

Sometimes people get promoted because of office politics. But we often miss an invisible Garuda-like trait in people who climb the corporate ladder fast.

The people who move up the corporate ladder quickly often work smart. They complete their tasks efficiently and quickly, AND appear like proactive employees.

They do all this by applying a concept known as “forging artifacts.”

The Subtle Art of “Forging Artifacts”

The great inventor Richard Buckminster Fuller constantly had ideas for possible inventions and new forms of technology.

Early in his career, he noticed many people had ideas, but most of them were too afraid to turn their ideas into action. Instead, they preferred indulging in critique and discussions. To separate himself from these daydreamers, Fuller created a strategy called “forging the artifacts.”

Fuller would make models of his ideas. If they proved feasible, he would make working prototypes of them. Now his seemingly outlandish ideas were no longer speculation, but reality. He would present these artifacts to the public and gauge their response.

You can use the concept of “forging artifacts” to turn into a linchpin for your team and manager.

Here’s how.

When your manager gives you a task or project, don’t spend a week working on it and then turn in it. Bright chances are it won’t be how she wanted it to be, and tempers will flare.

Instead, complete a portion of the work — a mockup, an outline or the structure — and share it with her. Collect her feedback on it. Ask if the format is okay and take some inputs. Then you can set a realistic deadline with a 20 percent buffer and get to work.

When you work, keep your manager apprised of progress. Break bad news early and don’t blame anyone when you do. Also present alternatives, not just the bad news.

After a few rounds of prototyping, you’ll know exactly what your manager expects. This will make you appear proactive and turn you into an indispensable Garuda-like asset for your boss. She will trust you enough to place more responsibility on your reliable shoulders.

You’ll also reduce the time you spend on rework. You’ll do a task just once or twice, do it well, and be done. Then you can focus on other tasks.

Once you turn into a linchpin, you no longer need to ASK for promotions. You’ll the obvious choice, not just because you possess the skills but also because the right people trust you to use them wisely.

Summing Up

We cannot demand a chance to prove ourselves. We have to prove ourselves BEFORE we get a chance.

We get what we deserve, not what we feel entitled to. This “deserving” comes from adding value to others’ lives. It comes from preempting the value they desire and presenting it when they ask.

The value you add to others dictates the value that they add to you.

Work hard like a donkey and you’ll stay right where you are. Work smart and you’ll soar like an eagle. The question is, where do you want to go?

about Calcutta

You want your cities clean and green; stick to Delhi. You want your cities, rich and impersonal; go to Bombay. You want them high-tech and full of draught beer; Bangalore’s your place. But if you want a city with a soul: come to Calcutta. 

— HT Journalist

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life is a set of never-ending INTERESTING challenges.