The New-Age-Manager’s Magic Stick

March 22, 2009
13 min read



The confusion

Sex, talking about it, is taboo in many societies: ours is such a one.  Don’t worry I won’t delve into that topic in any ways other than related to management (!).  Conversations on death and old age are sure turn-offs in America: many Americans seem to think that they are contagious and talking about them will suck energy out of one’s being.  Philosophy is ridiculed in Singapore: most Singaporeans are only ‘practical’ (thinking only how to make more money).  Dancing is unsophisticated in the Newar community: many of us prefer expressing our excitement with an air of gentleness and affection.  Thinking that Nepal will get better in the coming years is absurd: that is why many of us, Nepalese say, “If visas to USA and Australia were not so regulated, there would be no one left in Nepal.”  What is right? 


September 16th 2007.  I arrived in Butwal for a consulting assignment.  One hour after, there was a curfew.  People were running hither and thither.  Everyone was scared.  Poor me because I could have chosen not been here. However a day earlier I had decided to make this trip.  People began to fear the worst.  Causes for the curfew were then not clear and varied.  Some said, it was because a truck hit a local, others said it was a reporter having been assassinated, others said it was a Masjid on the other side of the road being put in flames, still others said it was a communal clash. 


Now we know what it was that happened on that day.  We know that many people died but that it could have got worse. I too could have been hurt.  But it didn’t happen.  How could I have known at that time?  Could my thoughts alter the future that was about to unfold?  If I had thought that I was doomed, would I have been maimed?  Since I had not been affected physically and mentally (through the sight of violence), does it mean that I was thinking positively?  If something bad had happened to me, touch wood it never does, could it be that I was thinking negatively?  Is thinking negatively a way to repel negative outcomes or does it attract it? 


September 9th, 2001.  Two planes had smashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.  Another had dived into the symbol of military power of the USA, the Pentagon.  There was still a plane in the air hijacked with the suicide mission to hit the White House.  The passengers inside that fourth plane were panicked, unknowing of what to do.  As they swapped information with their loved ones on the ground they heard the latest news of three planes used as missiles against American icons.  They put one and one together: they deduced that this plane too was going to be put into similar use. Under normal circumstances the best strategy is to obey the hijackers.  But this was no ordinary seize.  They were going to die anyhow.  Now if death was certain, why not die like a hero.  Together all the passengers discussed and told themselves, “We have to stop the terrorists from hitting another civilian target.”  It is then that ‘terror transformed into inspiration’.  Indeed they acted accordingly and they foiled the sinister plan of the terrorists and in the process plunged to their death.  How many of us would have made such a choice? 


Should we separate professional life from personal life?  Can we?  We have many selves professional, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, sexual, social, financial, legal and more.  In all of us, there is a child and an old person too.  We are winners as well as losers.  Lethargy cripples our will like creepers wrap a tree, yet deep inside we feel we could be as energetic as a Sarukh Khan. We are shy like a snail, yet we know that we could be as open as Salman Khan.  We don’t make enough to make ends meet, yet something in us tells us we could hit the jackpot like Bill Gates did.


Today’s banks and stores have replaced yesterday’s factories in terms of employment.  The tellers and frontline employees are equivalent to the blue-collar personnel. The officers can be compared to the white-collar personnel.  Similar stories abound.  The laborer rose the ladder and became an engineer and then a manager.  Similarly the teller becomes an officer and then a manager.  A salesperson becomes a supervisor and then a manager.  Before factories, the story replicated itself in the army.  The soldier rose up the ranks.  Is it wrong to openly express one’s desire to reach the top? 


It breaks my heart when I receive an unexpected complaint from a participant in my workshops after it is over, and I can’t do anything about it.  I feel like a vortex in my heart, not of anger but of pain.  How could it have happened?  Why did he not say it earlier?  I always have proven to navigate my workshops through the most complicated seas of expectations.  Is it professional to mix emotions with business? 


If you are too friendly with your staffs they may take advantage of you.  If you are too hard on them, they may also take advantage of you.  So what is the best thing to do? How much distance to keep from one’s staffs? 


Dilemmas abound in life. 


There are typically two types of answers: one from the heart and the other from the head?  Which one to listen to?  I think there is no straight answer.  If success is what all want, those who listen to the heart have no less failed than those who have listened to the head.  Yet, the best options would be to be to experiment with both at various times and thus learn when best to listen to the heart or to the head. 


The hope

Every time I give consulting and training to managers and professionals, be it for management, marketing, customer service, communication, conflict and so on, I emphasize on positive attitude. Amidst the mountains of chaos raised by the tectonic forces of modern life and its shadowlike complexity, confusion will not decrease.  Instead they will escalate to such proportion that we may feel paralyzed.  Worse we may end up going in the wrong direction.  But even if that dire case, positive attitude will save the day. 


When the Rupandehi incident happened, I was in the office in Butwal.  I could look at my being present there on that doomsday from two very different attitudes.  First I could tell to myself, “I am so unlucky: now all my participants are in a state of panic.  How to conduct training in such a situation?”  Second I could tell to myself, “I am so lucky: this is an opportunity to teach them crisis management with a smile.  In addition, this will ensure full concentration.”  The participants felt my shift in attitude towards the positive and we stayed in the training until the curfew was over.  I can’t say how this event that could have turned very sour, didn’t.  But positive attitude helped calm me, make the optimum use of the situation and in the process gave solace to others too.  Now is attitude, which is basically, thought power an illusion, opium of the mind or an undiscovered source of energy, something invisible yet present like electricity?  I am a firm believer of the second set.  I am not confused on that matter.  Again and again I see harness the power of positive attitude in my workshops, in my office, in my home, in my life.  Every time it produces magic, one that sparkles in the face of the practitioner of positive attitude.  My wife teases my nose always twinkles.  Recently a difficult participant reaching the end of the workshop having found ‘something’ suddenly exhumed an air of bliss, his face began to shine: on the forehead, cheeks and nose.  I took his picture on my digital cam.  Upon seeing it others and himself were pleasantly surprised. 


‘Ramdev Swami’ phenomenon is more positive attitude than hard-core yoga.  It has been there for centuries but it never made such a shock wave in billions of homes at it did now. 


In the forests somewhere in Tarai, a sensation is cooking.  The Tapswi Ram Bomzom, who has defied all scientific explanation, is in meditation.  He said he will join mainstream society in a decade or so.  What will happen then?  This is a source of positive anticipation.  So the future doesn’t look so dim after all. 


As long as there are people like them, you and me in Nepal who are trying to make a better place to live and work, how can it not become so?  Let’s have positive attitude.  Let our faces shine so much we will not need light bulbs in the night. 


That all men are egoistic is not true as the event in the fourth plane that missed hitting the White House on 9/11.  They had a choice to be succumb by the defeatist attitude but they stood up to the rising occasion to save lives by sacrificing their own.  It must have taken lots of positive attitude for the leader of the group to inspire all the others and then for all of them to sustain their efforts. 


Let us try to disperse the other confusions in the light of positive attitude as well.  Will it work?  Is it a panacea?  Again I firmly say, “Yes” to both questions.  


The best book on positive attitude is the Bhagvad Gita.  It directs us to answers to our dilemmas.  The answer is nowhere but within.  In my consulting sessions, I try to listen to my client’s ‘within’ and act only as a springboard.  It’s tough but effective. 


If the managers are equivalent to what we call ‘head’ then the ‘heart’ must be the CEO or chairman.  After this analogy, it is not hard to decide whom to listen to.  On most occasions listen to the managers (head) because they have the most up-to-date information and thus the best inkling of what is happening and what needs to be done.  In matters of long-term direction, listen to the CEO or chairman (heart) because he is less entangled in the daily limitations of life and thus freer to explore possibilities than managers.  In crisis the head’s (manager’s) no-non-sense attitude and fact-based approach as well as the heart’s (CEO or chairman’s) intuition and all-is-going-to-be-fine attitude have to work hand in hand.


Industries upon industries are closing down in Nepal. But let us not forget that more and more banks are opening up too.  Nepalese are too communal, resulting in conflict.  But let us forget the Indian Idol, Prashant wave that pulled together all Nepalese from every caste, everywhere in Nepal. 


This is a big reason than developed countries invest in sports.  Such events unite its people like no speech, like no propaganda, like no law.  What Indian Idol taught us along with this macro level concept is that positive attitude wins votes. Prashant’s outlook towards life, sold him more than his singing skills.  His personality pulled a disbanded nation together, such is the power of this unexplored source of energy, positive attitude. 


The guide

Life’s intriguing questions find no answer in the mind in most cases.  Yet positive attitude attracts them to one like a magnet.  It might come in the form of a book, an article, an incident, a person. 


If you have a positive attitude, whatever you do will work.  What the Bhagvad Gita calls Krishna consciousness could even be explained to the uninitiated as just positive attitude.  Of course it is much more than that, but attitude is where it all starts. 


You might reveal your weaknesses in front of all like your undergarments from an accidentally open zipper, you might profess your ambition in a slip of a tongue amidst all your jealous colleagues, you might spill your personal problems in the office like milk on an oven, you might be too friendly with your staffs causing disrespect for authority or you might be too distant with them causing alienation and fear, you might send a ‘I-am-hurt’ email to your boss, you might talk about sex to a client (of the opposite sex!), you might be urging an American to imagine death and old age in the fashion of a yogi, you might get metaphysical with a Singaporean, you might lose control and dance in Newar’s party, you might end up being the last person left in Nepal, whatever you might do positive attitude is going to save your day. 


In the Gita, in one verse, Krishna says, “Rest on me (positive attitude) and I (positive attitude) will help you cross the ocean of misery, even if the world thinks of you as a sinner.”


Whatever you do, do it in positive attitude. 


The bottom line

I am into training and consulting.  I sell a product, positive attitude.  This is my sales pitch to a hard-nosed CEO, “You want profits to increase because your pay is linked directly to it.  Your staffs don’t really care about it because even if they do get a dividend it is proportionally negligible.  10% of their basic pay is not much incentive compared to that of top management.  Yet in many cases this compensation scheme also doesn’t exist.  Employees want security, increase in salary and career growth.  Why should they go the extra mile for a client whose business will contribute more to the board’s pocket than theirs’? 


“However this is a negative attitude towards work.  It is not good for business, sure.  But it is worse to one who practices it than to the company.  So you have to tell them to have a positive attitude.  Tell them to enjoy their work because such acts revitalizes the soul.  If they enjoy their work, find ways to do so not for anyone but themselves, customers will get the best service automatically like a bee gets nectar from a blossoming flower. 


“Management’s job is thus to make sure the employees develop a positive attitude.  The bottom line will take care of itself. Taking the opposite approach, that is demanding the employees take the bottom line indicators to heart, is like killing the golden-egg-giving goose.” 


In the equation of your mind, from now on, please add positive attitude.  It is a magical key than opens every door in all the hearts of the world.  Even the toughest clients and bosses do have one.  Take my word on that.