by Deepak Bhatt (Views and Opinions are personal)

December 11, 2017

Identity crises: The gap between what was and what is

Out of the countless hit songs picturised on the charming Shashi Kapoor who passed away recently, one particular song from the film Kaala Pathar stands out for its deceptively simple, veiled philosophical message: Ek rasta hai Zindagi, Jo thum gaye toh kuch nahi (This life is like a road, if you stop moving, it is meaningless). I feel it is such a layered songs; more than meanings emerge as you keep humming it.

While Kapoor withdrew into retirement pretty much gracefully, owing to a good part to his failing health, not everyone has had such an honorable exit. From sports to the film industry to politics to the corporate world, we see numerous examples wherein individuals, who were once the darling of the media and a hero in the eyes of the masses, swiftly fell out of favor. Some lost their magic touch and faded away, others couldn’t cope with sudden failures and spiraled down in life and still others faced ignominy and often fled their country.

Changing times: from celebrity status to also-rans

A decade back, Vijay Mallya was the toast of the Indian corporate world. His brazen, in-your-face style was celebrated. The variety of businesses he controlled successfully – brewery, airlines, IPL teams and so on – made him a poster boy of business. He was invited as a chief guest to the convocations of major B-schools. His page 3 lifestyle was the source of envy for even film-stars. Some thought he was India’s answer to Sir Richard Branson.

And suddenly financial trouble began. Problems escalated rapidly and before long, his debts so much overtook his assets, fingers were being pointed at whether he had been running businesses ethically. Everything grew so tough all around him he had to take shelter in England.

The story of fall from grace is a common one even in the sports world. Tiger Woods was once considered the pride of the spectacular success of the colored people; soon, however, he fell from grace. The cyclist Lance Armstrong was held in awe for his unbeaten success in Tour de France; suddenly things started turning sour for him. Boxer Mike Tyson, once a symbol of African American pride, faced numerous charges and bankruptcy issues. Closer home, one-time popular cricketers Ajay Jadeja and Mohammed Azharuddin were charged with match-fixing and faced their own tough times.

The common thread in all these examples is how some incidences changed almost overnight the lives of some people who were once considered successful and worthy of emulation.

The psychology of denial

A psychologist friend of mine recently explained to me the psychology behind this denial. “When they fall from the peak of their success, they can’t accept they aren’t successful any longer… they have tricked their minds into believing nothing bad will happen to them... they feel they are invincible.”

This extreme make-believe world in which some famous people create and live in makes it difficult for them to come to terms with facts. When they are no longer #1 in their respective fields, they create a delusional world in which they continue to rule. Sometimes they have unknowingly encouraged a circle of sycophants around them who prevent these celebrities to see the reality around them until it’s too late. At other times, these celebrities are so settled in their own comfort zones their psyche reacts by shutting out reality. In still other cases, they don’t want to confront the real world and withdraw into a cocoon.

Whatever the responses these people adopt, the fact remains that they are in a state of denial. Their ostrich-like approach of hiding themselves from the facts of the day leads them to fix the blame on anybody but themselves.

Bachchan and Khana: A study in contrast

One can think of a number of examples when a successful person fell swiftly from success to failure. Not all of them have responded by going into denial – some have made unbelievable turnarounds and reinvented themselves. Others didn’t do so well and often battled financial issues or substance abuse problems for the rest of their lives.

In the film-industry, industry experts often compare Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna. Before Bachchan turned successful, Khanna was the reigning superstar of romantic films. He enjoyed unbelievable popularity. Bachchan’s sudden and continued popularity led to the loss of Khanna’s stardom. Years later, Bachchan too faced huge failures and financial crises. Yet their response patterns couldn’t have been more different.

Khanna almost shrank into semi-retirement and never achieved his previous fame. When he passed away, he was a yesteryear’s retired star with no present or tomorrow. Bachchan, on the other hand, displayed immense resilience when he faced financial problems with his company ABCL, his own stardom and what not. And yet he fought back and reinvented himself beginning with Kaun Banega Crorepati. Today, even at 75, he is one of the fittest, busiest and most respected film-star; his stardom has only strengthened over time.

Examples on both sides

There are of course extreme examples too. Famous writers like Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf, poet Sylvia Plath, actors Guru Dutt and Marilyn Monroe, doctor-scientist Subhash Mukhopadhyay and businessman George Eastman are among some of the most well-known and talented persons who committed suicide as they battled a variety of personal and social demons.

On the other hand, you can think of Indira Gandhi faced unprecedented criticism and a severe failure, following the Emergency and allegations of various kinds. Yet she fought back and successfully returned to be the Prime Minister of India again. Even today, people whose political ideology differs from the late Mrs. Gandhi’s, acknowledge that she was the iron lady of India.

Abraham Lincoln, one of the most respected of all US presidents, failed a huge number of failures before he became successful. Oscar-winning Hollywood actress Kim Basinger rose to fame and then filed for bankruptcy and yet survived. The current US president Donald Trump faced a number of major ups and downs in his real estate business before he reached the White House. Viktor Frankl survived the horrible concentration camps during World War II and went on to write one of the most inspiring books every: Man’s search for meaning.

The summing up

The lives of talented or famous people are not easy. Almost all of them have faced tough times. Some could fight back, others could not. There is not one single reason one can attribute to why they did what they did. But if one were to review their lives, one will appreciate the following five facts:

Being famous and being happy are not the same thing. You have to work as hard at being happy as you have to for being famous.

Being talented in a field doesn’t automatically grant you the gift of resilience. Every individual must learn to fight when life becomes difficult and it requires great mental strength.

In many cases, a strong family support or a deep spiritual foundation helps people come out stronger from adversities.

Change is the only constant. Those who could not accept that are more prone to fall prey to disturbing circumstances than others.

It is important to separate one’s real self from one’s success. Success is relatively temporary but the inner strength one can build is far more lasting.


Disclaimer: The objective of this post is not to prove or disprove, appreciate or criticize the ways in which individuals or organizations took action. Neither is the purpose to malign or criticize individuals or organizations. This post simply studies incidences, strives to analyze situations and find the learning out of it.

November 25, 2017

The Art of Conversation in daily life

The power of speech that is unique to ushumans is also the reason behind the amazing development of the human race. Itis indeed interesting that, on a daily basis, we use this amazing gift withoutgiving it much thought.

With the increasing number of options indigital and virtual communications, I feel the art of conversation is not dyingbut it is taking up newer dimensions. In the age that we live today, everyoneis short of time and hence it is all the more important we re-learn the art ofconversation.

The conversation I’m talking about is not ofa professional type. While that too is important, we learn so much aboutprofessional conversations and communications in our B-schools and boardrooms.The type of conversation I have in mind is the one we have in our homes, ourdrawing rooms and our dining rooms. When every family member is hard-pressedfor time, it’s vital we revisit the important of the art of conversation indaily life.

Theimportance of open-ended questions

The first requirement of being a good parentis listening. Do parents engage with their children effectively? It’s easy tosay that generation gap, the scarcity of time and career pressure prevents longconversations, but we are talking about quality of conversations here.

Parents could begin with simple questionsover the dinner table: “So, Priya, how was day? Shashank, how’s your scienceproject turning out? Priya, what was the highlight of your football matchtoday?”

Note that they are open-ended questions thataren’t answered by simple yes-no (“Did you enjoy your school today?” “Yes!” Endof conversation), so there’s a lot more coming up. Children can pour theirheart out, share their concerns, express their joys and feel connected. “Dad!Today our PT teacher taught us somersault! Awesome!” “Mom, you are amazing!Your tip for improving my stamina on the football ground is showing results!”“Mom, I need your help with my science project. How about this Saturdayevening?” “Dad, my friend Pratik needs your help with Economics. When can I askhim to come over? May be this Sunday morning?”

Helpingwith decision-making, not making decisions

By a little effort and with the rightconversations, parents can make the most of the time they get with theirchildren. They can help children adjust in new surroundings, confront toughsituations, make the right decisions, and, most importantly provide help inbuilding confidence by letting children take decisions themselves. Don’t takedecisions on the behalf of your children; show them the pros and cons ofissues, explain them the likely outcomes of each decision and then watch them growby taking responsibility of the decisions they take.

Conversations on the dinner-table could golike this:

Mom: “So Priya,what have you decided: between the tennis practice match on Monday andpreparations for your Sanskrit test that’s scheduled on Tuesday. Which one willyou choose?”

Priya: “Mom,I’m utterly confused! I want to have both! I love tennis, and yet I don’t wantto do badly on my Sanskrit test.”

Dad: “Oh Iknow, you like Sanskrit! Tough choice, eh?”

Priya: “Sureit’s tough Dad! You know I love Sanskrit!”

Mom: “SoPriya, what factors would you use to decide between the two?”

Notice how first Mom reminds Priya it’s timeto make a decision. Then Dad not only echoes Priya’s confusion but also gentlyacknowledges that he’s taking enough interest in Priya to know she lovesSanskrit. Priya feels her Dad knows her likes-dislikes, invests time in her andunderstands the strong parental bond there. Next, Mom slowly guides as to howdecisions are taken: not in a haphazard manner, but by weighing various factorsappropriately.

You’d also notice the parents haven’t showntheir own preferences, much less pressurize Priya into one decision or theother. Many things happen due to this. One, Priya learns decision-making. Two,she feels she’s appreciated as an individual with an independent voice in thefamily. Three, it strengthens the family bond. Four, she realizes she canalways take help from parents whenever she’s confused.  And finally, she will learn to own upwhatever the outcome of her decision.

Notthe best conversation!

Compare it with the communication below,which carries very subtle negative undercurrents.

Mom: “Priya,what are you going to do about your tennis practice match next Monday? I hopeyou remember you have a Sanskrit test coming up on Tuesday.” (Shows undueurgency. The second sentence hints that Mom believes Priya isn’t responsibleenough to remember her tests.)

Priya is nowon the defensive, instead of being open. “Well, it’s not my fault the two areon consecutive days. And, Mom, have I ever forgotten any tests, especiallySanskrit?”

Dad (looksup from his WhatsApp chat): “What’s so special about Sanskrit?” (While Dadmeant to ask why Priya gave so much importance to Sanskrit, Priya interpretsthis differently. She thinks her Dad doesn’t even know what her favoritesubjects are! And besides, Dad is always busy with WhatsApp!)

Priya(irritated), “Why do I have to keep reminding you Sanskrit is my favoritesubject?”

Mom (showingsigns of anger): “Priya, that’s not a very polite way to talk to yourDad!”  (and turning to Priya’s Dad) “AndI really wish, for the 20th time, you’d not use WhatsApp duringdinner!”

See how a little change in the initialwordings made a huge difference later on!


Children are maturing earlier than before.They are also becoming more assertive and it’s important to respect theirindividuality. A little care in framing your sentences can make a hugedifference. Showing a lack of trust in their abilities to make the rightdecisions not only weakens them but also weakens the bond within the family.

It’s not necessary to hold long conversationswithin your family to stay together. Short, respectful and meaningfulconversations can go a long way in reinforcing your family’s cohesiveness. IfDad had avoided WhatsApp during dinner-time, he could have better framed theremarks!

November 10, 2017

Is your passion hurting your startup?

Afew days back, I read an article on Forbes.It reported that the 3rd most importantreason why startups fail is “Not theright team”. What a revelation!

Foundersof startups, when they begin, are so fuelled by their passion they work crazyhours. And it is perfectly understandable, given the faith they have in theiridea, their product. If they had 50 hours a day, they’d still be craving formore, such is their passion!

Iam aware passion is a wonderful thing, and an absolute must if you wish tosucceed; there is no alternative to passion. In the history of mankind, nogreat task has ever been achieved without tons of passion.

Butare you aware the same passion can sometimes hold you back in chains and cankeep you from growing?

“I can do itbetter”

Startupfounders are the ones who have found a solution to some tangible problem. Theirsolution is ingenious, inexpensive, easy, fast or novel in some way. In otherwords, founders are doing something better. Effectively, founders are prettygood with their core solutions.

Andit’s here that the problem begins.

Whenfounders hire people to grow their team, they often believe the people they’vehired aren’t doing as a good a job as the founders themselves. So the foundersput in more time and do the stuff themselves instead of getting it done by thenew hires.

Butthey quickly reach a limit. There are only so many hours in a day, so thefounders can’t afford doing everything themselves.

Sowhat happens is they can never grow beyond a limit, because they aren’tdelegating things right.

Here’s whatyou can do:

Insteadof taking up everything, every activity, founders need to focus on thefollowing.

  1. Get the right hires. Invest a lot of time and resources in hiring the right people. Having one great team-member is worth five or ten mediocre team-members. Make sure you get the right people, even if you have to wait. That also means you will need to understand the hiring process much better.
  2. Invest your time in training: No matter how good your new hire is, she will still need some training. The objective of the training is make the new hire familiar with your setup, the skill requirements and, most importantly, align her output with your vision.
  3. Be demanding, but also give time: Most likely, your startup is built around a new idea. There may be few, or may be zero, examples in past of how things can be done with such an idea. Hence the new hire will need some time figuring out things. Be demanding in the quality of output, but also be patient.
  4. Remember the whole is bigger than the parts: There might be times when you, as a founder, feel you could have come up with a better design, a better code, a better print than your hires. Hold yourself from doing everything yourself. If you think something can be improved, explain what can be done and get your team-members to do that; don’t do everything yourself. Sitting alone, you can never achieve much, so don’t rush burdening yourself with too many tasks.


AsI said earlier, passion is a must for success. But don’t let your passion keepyou, the startup founder, from delegating as many tasks as you can. Remember,you, as a founder, are a team-leader and your job is to explore newer ways ofsolving problems, networking, leading your team and scaling.

Insteadof getting trapped into the mindset of doing everything yourself, learn to getthe right people and get the best out of them. That way, you’ll be able toscale faster and work better. Good luck!

DeepakBhatt is a communication, media engagement and publications professional.Currently he manages communication at the Indian Institute of ManagementAhmedabad (IIMA), one of Asia’s finest B-schools. He can be reached at hellomrbhatt@gmail.com

October 23, 2017

Role of Public Relations during Public Reactions

Inthe past seven years as an HR and PR professional, I have always wondered whatmakes people or organizations react differently in moments of crises. A productor brand may have remained unknown after hundreds of thousands of dollars inad-spend; just one crisis, one controversy and everybody is talking about the product.

Willcrisis always lead to the downfall of an organization? Can it be ever handled soas to convey a positive image of the organization? Can the crisis ever beturned into an opportunity to show the core values of the organization? Here’sa good example to begin with.

OnJune 17, 2012, Clayton Hove of the ad agency KK Bold, tweeted

“Sawa bird had crapped on a Smart Car. Totaled it”

Hewas poking fun of the size of the Smart Car (a new electric, eco-friendly car),hinting that the car was so small even bird droppings of a single bird couldtotally damage the car! The tweet, by huge exaggeration, was meant to make thesmall size of the car look silly. It was a bit embarrassing for the company.

Thecompany, SmartCar USA, could have gone into a defensive mode. They could havecome down harshly upon the tweet and accused Hove of indirectly snubbingresearchers or pursued the legal course, accusing Hove of maligning the imageof the company.

They,however, decided to take a very different path.

Twodays later, the company tweeted

“Couldn’thave been one bird.
Soundsmore like 4.5 million. (Seriously, we did the math).”

Thecompany had actually researched the weight of the droppings of one bird and, ina good-natured spirit, calculated how many such droppings it would take todamage the car! Not just that, SmartCar USA also published a funny Infographicalong with the tweet!

Fromwhat could have become a source of embarrassment, the company, in one singletweet, won the hearts of people all around. The sense of humour was highlyappreciated and it remains a memorable lesson in Public Relations (PR) skills.

Crises and PublicRelations (PR)

Unfortunately,almost all crisis is fundamentally negative in nature and unless the PRdepartment acts swiftly and smartly, these occasions can severely damage theorganization’s credibility, hurt sales, tarnish the brand image, and, inextreme cases, kill brands and force organizations out of business.

PR,at critical times, has the ability to tremendously reduce damage, quickly takecontrol and prevent the situation from deteriorating further. One of the mostcommon misconceptions is that PR skills are useful only to generate publicity;actually it goes way beyond.

PRis a leadership and management function, targeted at sending out structuredcommunication content to third parties. The first and foremost role of PR is toensure that organizational goals and expectations the society keeps from theorganization remain consistent, as experts like Latimore Dan and others viewit. That means PR must conceive, design, deliver and execute communicationsthat expand the influence of the organization. Handling crises is certainly atop priority for PR.

Let’stake a look at two extreme cases of PR exercises.

What not to do:The case of United Airlines

OnApril 9, 2017 United Airlines personnel approached four passengers, carryingvalid tickets and seated on a flight about to take off, to give up their seatsfor airline crew members. At least one passenger David Dao refused to give uphis seat.

Inthe heat of the moment, the airline and security personnel physically draggedDao out of the aircraft. Many passengers found this very disturbing andunethical. Some recorded the video of the entire event. In no time, the videowent viral over social media, and the airline’s reputation dipped in no time.

Theairline issued a statement, apologizing for having overbooked the flight. Itstwitter message was worded too diplomatically and did not directly acknowledgeits poor handling or rude behavior. Subsequently when two more incidents in thesame month surfaced, the poor PR in the first case led to these two incidentsbeing highlighted on social media, further degrading the airline’s reputation.

What to do:Tylenol  

Johnson& Johnson (J&J), the multinational pharma giant was faced with aserious problem in 1982. Its drug Tylenol, then an OTC drug (Over The Counterdrug, meaning one that did not require a medical prescription for purchase)used to relieve pain and fever, was caught in a bad controversy when sevenpeople died after consuming the drug. The deaths were due to addition of potassiumcyanide, a malicious act that had happened outside the company’s productionplants and effectively out of its sphere of control.

J&J’sresponse is considered a classical example of what should be done and how apowerful and positive PR can go way beyond damage control. Putting the safetyof customers first, J&J quickly recalled about 31 million bottles ofTylenol, worth over $300 million. Statements reassuring the common people wereissued. When the drug was reintroduced, it was presented in tamper-proofpacking. It answered tough questions that were raised from various quarters.

TheJ&J PR took a stand befitting a leader – instead of going on the defensive,it accepted responsibility, drew as much learning from the incident aspossible, clearly put the safety of customers ahead of costs, entered intobetter engagement with media and customers and patiently responded to over2,500 calls. All this positive PR helped J&J reach its way back todominating the market.

Whena similar incident repeated itself four years later, J&J took a morefar-reaching decision: It announced no Johnson & Johnson drug would be OTCanymore, since it was not possible to fully assure customer safety. Medialauded the decision and the brand established itself firmly in the minds ofcustomers as a safe, customer-first company.

A few more examples

Pepsi and Cokedisplayed inadequate PR skills in India while handling some reports that showedtheir products contained harmful levels of pesticides.

Odwalla juices USAwere found to have been contaminated by E Coli. Odwalla responded swiftly byaltering their production processes that drastically lowered the chances ofcontamination.

Texaco USA wascharged with racial discrimination by a handful of its African-Americanemployees. The oil company swung into action by offering apology, suspension oferring employees and hiring an African-American owned agency for damagecontrol.

Cadbury’s Indiawas charged with selling chocolates that contained harmful chemicals. Cadbury’shandling of the crises was not great, and it took a long time for the brand tobounce back. 

The Tatas couldhave better handled the situation when Cyrus Mistry was removed from the Tata’sboard of directors.

Mel’s diner: Anunusual case

Once,when the streets of Los Angeles were flooded due to a burst pipe, a localrestaurant Mel’s Diner realized it was not possible to conduct business sincecustomers wouldn’t be able to walk in. It came up with a brilliant idea.

Toall the workers who came in to repair the broken pipeline, Mel’s served freehamburgers. Workers appreciated the kind gesture. Soon, the word spread and TVcrews got the news. They video-recorded the act and by evening the same day,thousands of viewers watched news and interpreted this gesture as one of positivelyresponsible corporate citizenship. By capitalizing upon an unexpected andunrelated crisis, Mel’s strengthened its corporate image and brand.


Absenceof accurate and timely information leads people to react irrationally and in anexasperated manner. They even fall prey to rumors. That’s why it’s importantfor organizations to respond appropriately and swiftly.

Organizationsmust begin by explaining the situation clearly. Next they must answer questionsfrom media, customers and all other stake-holders, explaining how the situationis likely to affect each of them and find the best way out. Most importantly,the organization (actually the PR department and / or the spokespersons) mustappear fully in control, efficient and honest in sharing information in a waythat minimizes the damage, prevent any further panic or erode shareholdervalue.

Thekey takeaway is what the organization can learn from it and how it can preventsuch crises in future. When handled intelligently, organizations can emergestronger, more reliable and more alert. And that’s a mighty achievement for PR.

DeepakBhatt is a communication, media engagement and publications professional.Currently he manages communication at the Indian Institute of ManagementAhmedabad (IIMA), one of Asia’s finest B-schools.

June 14, 2017

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January 27, 2017

Skills required to be a successful professional in the field of Corporate Communications

I have oftenbeen asked by students and aspiring professionals to share what I think are theskills required to succeed in the field of corporate communications. Just likeany other field, here too there is no magic key which will open the goldengates for aspirants. However, I am happy to share whatever my wonderfulprofession has taught me. I will startwith the skill I think is one of the most important – perhaps, the mostimportant – to excel: Passion.

Why I think“Passion” ranks slightly higher than other skills is that the field ofcommunications is a lot of art and only a little bit of science. Hence, anyaspirant wishing to make a career in the field of communications will have todo a lot of learning herself.

If you studymedicine or engineering, there are precise textbooks, which, if followedscrupulously, ensure that you know the basic working. A textbook of anatomy,for instance, can tell you how the human heart operates. No matter the gender,age, ethnicity and so, this fact will always remain true.

A textbook onhydraulics will help you study the various scientific characteristics of waterand water flow. No matter what, these characteristics remain largely unchanged.

The reason issimple: anatomy and hydraulics are exact sciences.

Communicationsis different: it is largely an art. What words work well with individual Acannot work with individual B. In fact, the same words that worked forindividual A today, may not work tomorrow for individual B. That means you haveto have the passion to constantly learn, try, observe, correct and improve. Theprinciples of communications that you used yesterday may turn completelyineffective tomorrow.

Let me explainwith an example: some fifty years back, children were expected to followwhatever the parents and teachers asked them to do. That was the communicationspolicy then. Today, things have changed. Children of all ages are a good dealmore assertive and demand proper logical explanation for everything. Teachersand parents have to be more democratic and open in their communications todaythan they were fifty years back.

Twenty yearsback, the print media was a dominant force. Today, slowly but steadily, thedigital media is overtaking all other forms. The strategies that producedresults in the print media aren’t necessarily effective in the digital media.

This is wherePassion comes in. The Passion to learn on the go, the Passion to never acceptanything as the final answer, the Passion to always question the status quo…all because communications is an ever-evolving art. If you think a certainpractice has worked today and intend to keep using it forever, you will beproven wrong very soon.

So friends,that’s what Passion is. Being passionate about your chosen field will ensurethere won’t be a dull moment. There will be numerous challenges, but never adull moment. If you are passionate, I would say you’ve won half the gamealready.

I will shareother skills in my upcoming posts. Meanwhile, let me know what you think.

Image Courtesy: Google

January 11, 2017

Demonetization: 7 Lessons on Communication

Note: This isnot an economic or a political analysis of demonetization; this is an attemptto study the communication strategies used while the government declaredsomething extremely important.

The Modi government’sdemonetization raked up a hornet’s nest, to say the least. People havevehemently argued on either side. Opposition parties have cried hoarse on howinsensitive and counter-productive the decision will turn out. Modi supportershave whole-heartedly welcomed the decision, expressing strong optimism.

We will notdiscuss the social, economical or political aftermath of the decision – we willstudy the communication strategy Prime Minister Narendra Modi used during theentire announcement and what lessons management professionals can learn fromit.

Nothing aboutthe declaration could have been easy. A seasoned statesman like Modi and hisentire team would have known all along what they were attempting was extremely delicate.That is where using a great communication strategy was not only important, itwas critical. Let us take a look at the strategy used.

1. Be direct: When PM Narendra Modi announced that Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes willcease to be legal tender within hours, he didn’t mince words – he was direct.However tough and potentially unpopular the decision may turn out to be, he didnot beat around the bush. That prevented baseless speculations.

Additionally,notice the way Modi chose the audio-visual medium (the television) instead ofrelying on print. When you see a leader in flesh and blood (even if virtually)announce a strong decision himself, it contributes to his image as somebody whois direct and forthright with his people, and reinforces the image of a strongleader.

2. Appearlogical: He made sure the decision didn’t soundQuixotic or Tughluq-like. In his speech, he carefully explained the entirerationale behind the decision, the likely problems people might face, the waythe administration was expected to respond and the potential benefits.

A true leadersdoesn’t merely announce, because he knows a true leader needs not only the fullsupport of his team but also the co-operation of the masses. The way displayedthe long-term benefits, he completely silenced extreme remarks from the commonman. Notice that the reactions from the common man have been extremely mild,considering how momentous the decision was.

3. Keep itsimple. Had Modi chosen, he would have shared thedais with RBI governor, deputy governors, finance secretary, senior economistsor top officials. Prima facie, this could have added more credibility to hisdecisions, as the economists and others would have brought out all the economicterms to explain and justify the decision.

Modi apparentlyknew it might be helpful to a very few people, but the majority of common manwould only be more confused. He explained everything in the easy language so everybodyunderstood what the government was trying to do and what objective thegovernment was trying to achieve. Without jargons, he sold the idea in simplestterms possible.

4. Show howthe listener would benefit: Two of the biggest illstroubling the common man were terrorism and the rising gap between the have’sand have not’s (brought about, at least partly, by a black-money economy). Heclaimed the decision to withdraw the notes would fully or partly solve both theproblems. While the problem of black money is still wide open to debate,terrorist activities came to nearly a standstill – no major terrorist attackshave been reported for a long time.

Demonetization seemedto cripple financial support to terrorist activities that was fully fuelled byblack money and counterfeit Rs. 1,000-notes. By derecognizing the Rs.500 andRs.1,000 note, he almost pulled the rug beneath the feet of the nation’senemies.

5. Appearsensitive, be diplomatic but not overly emotional:During the 1-hour speech, Modi empathized with the masses. He acknowledged thatthe coming weeks may not be easy. That, however, did not conveyed a sense ofhelplessness; indeed, he presented it as a short-term sacrifice every citizenwas to make for long-term benefits.

The tact withwhich he asked for a 50-day window for things to settle down was a sounddiplomatic approach: anyone momentarily scared was assured that the hardshipswere really short-term. Besides, the way it was put showed his was aparticipative approach: he had taken a decision that he felt was in the bestinterest of the country and he was asking the people to co-operate.

6. Show youare in control of the situation: When you imposesuch a severe measure upon a 1.3 billion people, you simply cannot get awaywithout putting emergency measures in place (Government hospitals, forinstance, were instructed and permitted to accept currency notes that were tobe unacceptable tender elsewhere.).

Modi and histeam very well knew the kind of chaos demonetization was likely to unleash. Tocontain it and to prevent the situation from going out of hand, the PM conveyedthe sense of having thought of everything and that everything was going to beunder control.

How successfulor effective these measures ultimately were is a debate that belongs elsewhere,but the government tried to show it was trying to be as helpful in thesituation as was possible without ruining the overall objective.

7. You don’thave to respond to everything: There were countlesscriticisms (and even allegations) against the announcement. The common mancriticized the measure wasn’t executed well, some economists said the decisiondid not make sense in the long run, and parts of the opposition partiesquestioned not only the wisdom of the PM but also the very intention behind thedecision. Modi sat silent. He had said all he had wanted to and wasn’t too keento respond to every allegation floating around.

How far thisstrategy of not responding was fruitful is debatable. But he got a few benefitstoo. One, because he did not respond (mostly), there was only one version ofthe action. Had he clarified over and over again, it might have brought upnewer interpretations which his critics might have termed self-contradictory.By choosing to mostly ignore criticism, he could contain his contents.

Two, by notresponding, he refused to play the game his critics or political rivals wantedhim to get involved in or get defensive. He could focus on what he wanted,instead of wasting energy on debates. While in a democracy, a leader must beaccountable and answerable for every decision, Modi’s shrewd approach ofchoosing to respond only when he decided to ensured communication was properlydelivered in the right quantity, at the right time and not in a haphazard way.

Even the worstof Modi detractors confess Modi is one of the top communicators of ourgeneration, so any lessons we can learn from such situations must be more thanwelcome.

Views expressed here are personal

January 5, 2017

Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader by Linda A. Hill, Kent L. Lineback

You never dreamed being the boss would be so hard. You'recaught in a web of conflicting expectations from subordinates, your supervisor,peers, and customers. You're not alone. I believe this book is a goodand quite complete one - at least for me :) being a manager/lead for 2 monthsnow when it comes on the duties and challenges of a manager.
The idea is to be aware of the 3 imperatives of a greatmanager.

Manage yourself: if one wants to be an effective and trustedmanager of people, he/she should start with managing the self. What means to bea boss, the role, the relationship with others. Being aware it is all aboutresults in the end, but the ones around you who need to achieve them still havebrains and hearts.

Manage the network: - exercising influence super important tounderstand who are the ones around you who can make you and the team succeedand whom you can also advice. There are 3 types of them: operational (for dayto day activities), strategic (resources, see the potential, being the sponsor)and development (people who you need to trust that will give you candidfeedback about your performance.

Managing the team: clear roles and direction, clear sense ofwhere the person as an individual and team member is. Always asses when todelegate (low, moderate, high touch) and constant discussions aroundperformance and perception are needed.

It is so useful to remind yourself about the pitfalls of friendship,the extreme authority, the loose ends, the fear of having strong team players,the lack of trust, the always better self-perception... etc. I wouldrecommend this book as I think one can take away lot of info and put them intopractice.

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