Value of work

One day a woman spotted Pablo Picasso in the market and pulled out a piece of paper. “Mr. Picasso,” she said excitedly. “I’m a big fan. Please, could you do a little drawing for me?” Picasso happily complied and quickly etched out a piece of art for her on the paper provided. He then smiled as he handed it back to her. “That will be a million dollars,” “But Mr. Picasso,” the woman replied, flustered, “It only took you thirty seconds to do this little masterpiece.” “My good woman,” Picasso laughed, “It took me thirty years to do that masterpiece in thirty seconds.”

(From Know Your “Genius Point” by Robin Sharma)

Underdogs should not be underestimated

One day, as they were driving back to their office after a visit to their customer’s factory, a Sales Executive told his General Manager that he had noticed that the GM spoke equally politely with all persons, from the Managing Director down to a janitor whom he happened to speak with. This was extremely unusual, especially in India. He asked the GM if he was equally polite to all persons in personal life as well, or whether his politeness at the customer’s factory was a part of his salesmanship.

The GM replied that it was not salesmanship. As a child, he had been brought up to be polite to all people. As he grew up, he was inspired by the story ‘The Verger’ by W. Somerset Maugham and by the real-life examples of people like industrialist Dhirubhai Ambani and film actor Rajinikanth, both of whom had grown from very modest beginnings to reach the pinnacle of their respective professions. He added, “It is only an accident of birth that we have been born in families that could provide us with a comfortable lifestyle and a good education. So, let’s not underestimate or look down upon a petrol bunk employee, who might well turn out to be another Dhirubhai Ambani, or a bus conductor, who might well turn out to be another Rajinikanth!”

Thoughtfulness

“I have seen many persons coming and presenting you with boxes of mithai (sweets) to thank you for some work that you’ve done for them. Most of the time, you keep the box unopened. But, sometimes, you open the box immediately, have a small piece of mithai, and then keep it. Do you do this at random, or is there some logic behind this?” I asked the social worker.

The social worker replied, “If a box of mithai is presented by an affluent or a middle-class person, I don’t open it. However, if it’s presented by a poor person, I make it a point to open it and eat a piece. That’s because of two reasons. Firstly, while the cost of the mithai is no big deal for an affluent or a middle-class person, the poor person has probably spent a significant portion of his daily salary to buy the mithai, maybe he and his family have had to skip a meal or eat less food than usual, so I want him to have the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve eaten at least one piece of the mithai presented by him. Secondly, while affluent or middle-class persons buy the mithai from a premium confectioner, poor persons generally buy the mithai from a local shop. I do not want any poor person to feel that the mithai presented by him is not good enough for me.”

Sensitive

The teenager came home from school, collapsed into a sofa, buried his face in his palms and started sobbing uncontrollably.

His parents were bewildered. They just couldn’t imagine what might have happened. They had never seen him so emotional before. He was a good all-round student, jovial and even-tempered, friendly with all his peers, liked by all teachers and elders, and had never got into any serious fight or quarrel with anybody.

After a few minutes, the boy calmed down and explained that a couple of older boys had been verbally bullying his friend whose hand was in a cast due to a recent fracture. When he had requested the boys to refrain from bullying his friend, they pushed him and challenged him to physically silence them. Fearing that his friend’s injury might get aggravated in any scuffle, he had just walked away with his friend, while the other boys made nasty remarks.

“Don’t let their remarks bother you,” his mother advised.

“I don’t care about their remarks. I’m upset that my friend was being bullied and I could not defend him,” the boy replied.

Oxford Dictionaries define Sensitive as, “Having or displaying a quick and delicate appreciation of others’ feelings,”
and also as, “Easily offended or upset.”

In this incident, the boy had and displayed “a quick and delicate appreciation of others’ feelings.”

Many of us are “easily offended or upset.” How many of us genuinely “have or display a quick and delicate appreciation of others’ feelings?”

Reach out

At 7.00 pm, Sudha came out of the Conference Room after a meeting that had lasted 5 hours. There were 6 missed calls from her close friend Lakshmi. She called back immediately.

She was shocked when Lakshmi informed her that Neeta, their close friend who now lived in Europe, had lost her young daughter in a road accident the previous night.

“How has Neeta reacted? Is she OK?” she asked

“Nobody knows. I got the sad news from Neeta’s brother a few hours back. I informed all our friends, but none of us has spoken to Neeta. What will we say, anyway?” Lakshmi replied.

Sudha decided to telephone Neeta immediately. She didn’t know what she would say. All she knew was she had to share Neeta’s grief.

When Neeta answered the call, Sudha just said, “Neeta,” and started sobbing uncontrollably. After about 15 seconds, she mumbled “Sorry” a couple of times and disconnected.

Sudha was ashamed that, instead of supporting Neeta, she had added to her distress.

She thought of calling once more, but was afraid she would burst into tears again. So she sent a text message:
Neeta, I want to speak with you, but I know I’ll break down again. I’ll call when I’m sure I can be a support, not add to your distress.

A few minutes later, she received her friend’s reply:
Sudha, believe it or not, you are the first friend to reach out to me today. That’s all that matters. That’s all I need from a true friend. Words are neither important nor necessary.

Customer is king!

At 6.40 pm, I decided to leave for home. I closed the last file and shut down my PC, switched off the fans and lights, locked the door of the Sales & Service Department, and walked into the corridor.

Raj had locked the door of the Commercial Department just then, and we walked towards the lift.

Just as we reached the lift, we were enveloped in total darkness. When the lights didn’t come on after about half a minute, I remembered that the generator had had a breakdown the previous afternoon and was expected to be repaired only the next day.

Both Raj and I knew it was hazardous to walk down the stairs as some of the offices on the lower floors used the staircase to store the cartons containing their samples. We decided to wait till the electricity supply was restored.

“How was your trip to the Branch? Did you manage to collect all the outstanding payments?” I asked Raj.

“I managed to collect all outstanding payments, except for Victory Industries. Not only did the Proprietor flatly refuse to release the outstanding payment, he used the filthiest possible language against me,” Raj replied.

“What did our Branch Manager have to say about this?” I asked.

Raj replied, “This customer is expected to order 4 new machines a few months from now. The Branch Manager asked me to take it easy, and asked me to report that the Proprietor told me that they will look into this outstanding payment after they complete arranging the finance for the company’s expansion.”

“I think you should report the truth, including the fact that the customer used abusive language,” I said.

Raj thought for a few seconds, and replied, “You are correct. The Branch Manager won’t like it. Worse, our Managing Director will be upset if he learns about this. But I have no choice. I’m on leave for 2 days. I’ll submit my report when I return to work on Monday.”

Since the electricity supply had not yet been restored, we decided to walk down slowly and carefully down the stairs.

Raj returned to work on Monday. At about 11.00 am, the Managing Director called me on the intercom and requested me to meet him immediately. A few seconds after I entered the MD’s room, Raj also entered. As soon as we were seated, the MD said, “Gentlemen, I overheard your entire conversation on Thursday evening. You didn’t know it because it was dark, but I was seated in the Reception. That night, I told our Branch Manager that I know about this incident, and instructed him to tell the Proprietor of Victory Industries that, if he does not apologise unconditionally to Raj in writing within 3 days, our company would file a criminal complaint against him. Here is the customer’s apology letter.”

He handed a letter to Raj, and continued, “I have given them some time to release the payment. I am willing to accept a delay in payment, I am prepared to lose his next order for 4 machines, but I will never tolerate anybody misbehaving with my employees. The customer is king, but we are not his slaves!”

This post, based on a true incident, is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

Questioning

One day, when I questioned the technical correctness of a particular inspection procedure being followed by my client, he replied that the procedure was definitely correct because it had been recommended by his customer, a world-famous automotive parts manufacturer. I replied that the world-famous automotive parts manufacturer could be wrong, and explained to him why I thought the procedure was not technically correct. He conceded that there was some merit in my line of reasoning, and said he would discuss the matter with his customer.

Later, he asked me why the fact that the inspection procedure had been recommended by the world-famous manufacturer had not prevented me from questioning its correctness. I replied that I always question any information that is presented to me, irrespective of the source.

“Would you question some information that is given to you by God?” he asked.

I replied, “I would definitely question any information even if I knew it had come directly from God.”

“How can you question God? By doing that, aren’t you dishonouring God?” he asked.

I replied, “Assuming God exists, and assuming that each one of us has been created by Him, it means each of us has been given his brain by God. That God expects us to use the brain given to us by Him. By using my brain to question information given by God, I honour God. If you don’t use your brain to question God, you dishonour God!”

My customer had no answer.

Dear reader, what do you think?

Principles

During an informal discussion, our Professor advised a few of us that one could not be truly happy unless one lived one’s life according to one’s principles. As an example, he said that he dabbled in the stock-market, but he never traded in shares of companies connected with the alcohol and tobacco industries since he was strongly opposed to the consumption of alcohol and tobacco.

When one of us asked him why that was such a big deal, the Professor revealed that, six months earlier, his Investment Analyst had advised him to sell his shares in an engineering company and buy shares in a cigarette manufacturing company, but he had refused to do this as a matter of principle. Both company’s shares were trading at about Rs. 200 then. Now, the engineering company’s shares were trading at Rs. 210, while the cigarette company’s shares were trading at Rs. 240. If he had sold the engineering company’s shares and bought the cigarette company’s shares, he would have been richer by Rs. 30 per share! But he had absolutely no regrets.

In the process of adhering to his principles, our Professor had willingly given up the chance to earn a profit that was more than half his annual salary!

What a refreshing change from owners of alcohol businesses who remain teetotalers due to the ill-effects of alcohol, owners of tobacco product businesses who don’t consume their own products because they are carcinogenic, and religious leaders who gladly accept donations from alcohol and tobacco businesses despite preaching against alcohol and tobacco!

“Important principles may, and must, be inflexible.” – Abraham Lincoln

“There are three constants in life… change, choice and principles.” – Stephen Covey

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.” – Victor Hugo

Open-minded

“You are inheriting our company’s worst-performing Branch. Your sales guys are all quite good, but the team has been performing badly because of your two Assistant Managers. Not only do these old bandicoots create all kinds of trouble, they also demotivate their juniors. They are big liabilities on our company,” the General Manager told the newly appointed Branch Manager who was taking charge on the first working day of the year.

The Branch Manager asked, “If they are that bad, why haven’t they been told to either correct themselves or quit their jobs?”

The GM replied, “They’ve both worked with our company for over 20 years. They worked very well in the first 12 years or so, but after that, as our sales and our staff strength grew, they started misbehaving for some reason. If we take any strong action against either or both of them now, the other employees will feel that we exploited them in the early years and are now dumping them because they’ve slowed down with age. Anyway, I wish you good luck in handling them!”

The Branch Manager was an open-minded person. He decided that he would not allow himself to be prejudiced by the GM’s feedback. Within the first few days, he realized that both the AMs, who had no professional qualifications, were frustrated and insecure about the fact that their career growth had slowed down considerably since the company’s ‘professionalization’, resulting in their having to work under professionally qualified bosses who were younger than them. While he couldn’t immediately do anything about this situation, the Branch Manager decided he would try to reduce their frustration and insecurity. During personal and group interactions with them, he gave them implicit but unmistakable signals that he genuinely valued and respected their experience and seniority.

After initial skepticism, the AMs responded positively. They worked sincerely and did not “create all kinds of trouble” as they used to earlier. They started participating enthusiastically in the weekly review meetings instead of sulking silently as they used to in the past. This had a very positive impact on the other members of the team. For the first time, the team started working unitedly.

By the end of the year, not only had the Branch achieved the year’s sales target, they had surpassed it by 50% to become the company’s best-performing branch! All because the new Branch Manager had chosen to be open-minded, not prejudiced!

No

One day, I was visiting customers in another city with the Dealer for that city. After completing the meetings scheduled for the morning, we stopped for lunch. Just as we were about to enter the restaurant, my Dealer received a call on his mobile phone. He requested me to enter and be seated while he attended to the call.

When he joined me a few minutes later, he complained, “This mobile phone has made my life miserable! With around 15 customers having called me in the last four hours, I’ve not been able to concentrate on my work. I think I should switch off my mobile phone. Don’t you agree?”

I replied, “You and I have been meeting customers since yesterday morning. In some of your telephonic conversations yesterday, the callers requested you to send them quotations yesterday itself. You knew that you would be busy visiting customers with me yesterday and today. This means you can start sending quotations only tomorrow. You should have told yesterday’s callers this. Instead, you agreed to send them quotations yesterday itself.

Today, the same customers called, expressed unhappiness about the fact that they have not yet received the promised quotations, and demanded that you send the quotation today. Again, instead of telling them that you will send the quotations tomorrow, you agreed to send them quotations today.

Tomorrow, the same customers will call you and blast you even more for not sending them the quotations today despite promising to do so.

My friend, your misery has not been caused by your mobile phone. With all due respect, your inability or unwillingness to say “No” is the only cause of your misery.”

The word No is a negative word, but the ability to say No when one means No is one of the keys to happiness.

A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble. – Mahatma Gandhi