The topic for the evening meeting discussion of NIPM, Karnataka Chapter on 17th April 2019 was on the interesting and relevant subject of managing the mind particularly in the turbulent times that we presently live in. The speaker was Swami Bodhananda, Chairman of the Sambodh Society operating in India, North America and Europe. The objective of the foundation is spiritual revival of humankind. It seeks to inculcate values such as respect for all religions, respect for the individual and his/her fundamental rights, respect for nature and harmonious living with a scientific temper.
At the outset, the Speaker said that India has got a lot to give to the world in the spiritual realm. It does not mean that we have the monopoly of all wisdom in the world. We will teach and we will learn as well, accepting the best practices from anywhere. Today, we are living in a global village with the way of life in any part of the world, influencing lives in other parts of the world. Managing the mind has become most essential for being effective in any life situation. He gave the example of Lord Vishnu, the "CEO of the universe". Although he is sleeping on a serpent ( a fearful prospect for ordinary mortals) and responsible for the well being of the entire universe, he is always in a calm, cool and collected, demeanour.
One can manage better when the mind is relaxed. When tensed, you tend to lose grip over the situation. Therefore, being relaxed is the most important lesson. Being relaxed even under provocation is the key. The provocation these days come from various quarters- work place, family situations, traffic on the road, teenage children, ill health etc. The management task is to be calm and relaxed in all stressful situations. In this connection, we have to learn to not blame self or others. Like Lord Ayyappa riding a tiger with a smile, a leader should have the quality of calmly managing all circumstances without complaining. After all, a leader has been positioned to handle uncertainties and make things happen without giving excuses. Taking new challenges and promptly responding to situations, becomes possible when the mind is calm and quiet. Today, AI may be available in a big way for gathering data but the ultimate decision will have to be made by the human mind.
The traffic of the mind involves processing a thought or sensation, applying the individual's own values and responding to it. How you respond to something depends on this process. As for example, one person, based on his belief system, would accept the Ganga Jal ( Water of river Ganga)) as sacred and consume it with devotion for attaining Moksha, while another may look at it as polluted water ."You are nothing but your mind." Yet,deep down, we are all pure consciousness. In the work situation, for effectively motivating people, the key is to make people aware of this fact. When this is done, work is not merely a means of earning one's bread but something that is pivotal to one's very being.
When the employee is made aware that "he is the field of infinite possibilities" and that he is a spirit deep down and not just the body/ mind/emotions or a pair of hands, the idea of ownership and belongingness automatically happens. When the employee is thus engaged, although the company benefits, the bigger benefit is for the individual himself. Thus it is not salary raise and other benefits alone that motivate employees.The time and effort spent in explaining to the employee the vital role of work in his happiness and well being is very important.
Three major problems faced by human beings today are stress, anxiety and anger. In view of the inability to handle stress, everybody seems to be afflicted by the passion of anger. Pollution, adulterated food etc are also causes of stress. The process of battling the big three has resulted in strained relationships. " You don't understand me" says the wife to husband while husband says the same to her. Nobody is prepared to listen patiently. They are preoccupied with themselves. Operating in a very complex, data driven world with people having become more aspirational has added to the problem. The dysfunction of the mind which is the instrument for dealing with the world has been the biggest problem.
In the modern times we also have to grapple with situations such as jobless growth and carbon intensive growth. In the situation of jobless growth, unemployment remains stubbornly high even as the economy grows. This happens when a relatively large number of people have lost their jobs, and the ensuing recovery is insufficient to absorb the unemployed, under-employed, and those entering the work force for the first time.Problem of carbon intensive growth is encountered when Economic growth leads to greatly increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the resultant impact on the global climate.
For managing the mind in a competitive world, the employees need to be told that "We are all fields of infinite possibilities. We are responsible for our own happiness and success." This message is in stark contrast to the general tendency of people to blame others for all their problems. Taking responsibility for one's own well being, is cardinal. We come across many disruptions in life, some of which are not under our control. However, when the mind is relaxed we are able to deal with them - able to go deep into oneself and come out with solutions. In this connection, HR needs to think 'outside the box' and guide people about managing the complexity by calmness.
Swami Bodhananda suggested changes in life style including in the food that we eat, change in the breathing style ( breathing from the abdomen instead of chest) and giving a break after every three hours to the employees during which time they can engage in relaxation, deep breathing and prayers. It would be good if they have a big picture of the company and life rather than worry about the small stuff. Working together as a team is another important requirement and also a challenge. Humility is very important to be able to work in a team.
One should be able to respect another, irrespective of his competence on the job. The speaker concluded that "Real HR" is contributing to all these aspects. The focus of HR should be on implementing native Indian concepts, for the effectiveness of our native work force. Listening to the speaker, I was reminded of the practices in Ace Manufacturing Systems Bangalore that I had shared in my blog " Quiet Best Practices". Readers may like to read about it here.( https://hrdian.blogspot.com/2018/10/quiet-best-practices.html ).
One cannot dispute the core of what the Swamiji discussed viz. about the need to be calm and relaxed when approaching a problem or taking decisions. His suggestion to delve into the Eastern thought for solutions instead of blindly aping Western models makes sense.Yet, the fact remains that the industry does not have the time or inclination to consider this option busy as people are, doing "Business at the speed of thought." Everything has to be done in haste so as to appear efficient and it is the person who appears very busy, seemingly working long hours who is held 'valuable' to the organization. The management education in the country is based on the Western model and concepts.
There is hardly any literature about the "How" of implementing the Eastern thought in an industry. Now and then we listen to a Swamiji or a speaker who quotes from the Gita, Ramayana or Mahabharata, nod our heads in agreement and go back to practising the Western approach in which most of us are trained in the first place. How many Allopathic doctors are willing to acknowledge that Ayurveda also has its place in healing? (one objection would be that it is not backed by scientific research). How many CEO s of Indian companies believe that a calm, relaxed mind is paramount and that focusing on this will automatically take care of bottom line, top line or Ebitda?
At one time, I was excited by the prospect of introducing Eastern thought in management. I had procured two books published by the Allahabad management association one each based on Ramayana and Mahabharata. I also went to listen to talks of Mr Subhash Sharma in the late nineties ( subsequently he published the book "Management in New Age:Western Windows Eastern Doors" in 2006) in which he talked about using more of Eastern thought assimilating it with the Western. The problem with these exercises is that they focus on the 'what', providing theoretical models rather than on 'How' in practical terms.Perhaps this can be worked out only by the practitioners in the industry themselves.
To my mind, we have had plenty of Gyan (Knowledge) from various quarters.Time has come for us HRDians to work out for ourselves as to how to implement the knowledge. First of all, we need to ask ourselves "Do we really believe this is important?" If so, what practical steps can we take to implement it. While having tea before the meeting, I met a gentleman Mr sadasivam who said that a topic like this is very important and that a discussion on it requires at least half a day. He also opined that that on a week day, it is difficult for members working in the outskirts of the city to make it to the venue and therefore the meeting should be on a Saturday.
I feel that half a day may not be required for normal meetings. However, NIPM and NHRD (HR Professional bodies) would do well to organize brain storming sessions of half day duration on a Saturday dedicated to eliciting simple, straight forward, actionable points, on matters important to the profession and develop a model for implementation. It could be on the topic we have discussed above or other matters such as " What can be done to enhance the esteem of the HR role in the company, particularly with reference to our internal customers?", "Practical ways for enhancing work place wellness" etc. Till such time we discuss practical implementation aspects and implement some of them , we will continue to applaud " the great ideas" in a meeting and go back to doing what "we have always done".
When we continue to do the same things,we will continue to get the same results!