Inspiration, LIfe

The Power of Listening

We live in disruptive times. In a few years half the workforce is predicted to be between the age of 20 and 30 and the other half is a rich medley of ages. Healthy, smart and switched on. Also very hyper-connected!!!

So here we are, in this very complex milieu, trying to make sense of what is presenting to us as we juggle the demands of our work and personal lives.

Imagine if some of this complexity is presenting because each of us is making sense of what is happening in a very different, unique way? And what if we became curious about how we are making sense of what is in front of us?

What if a leader is able to still their mind and pay attention to the person who is talking until they completely understand their view of the world? It may just be the ultimate weapon.

Imagine then, you are leading a meeting to discuss a complex issue and every one at the table has a different view. What might emerge if each person was allowed to speak until every one at the table understood their perspective?

If we were to believe what Robert Kegan has to say, it is the pathway to developing a a more sophisticated and nuanced perspective that emerges when we are able to listen to diverse ideas and thinking. It creates in us the ability to respond adaptively to complex challenges.

It is a simple idea. Listen. Deeply. And with compassion.

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Inspiration, LIfe, Social Agenda, Travel

Of stereotypes and other delusions

This is a picture I took last year when we were visiting our parents and took a little detour to a town called Jodhpur.

I have lived in India for 35 years before moving to Australia in 2000. I love travelling, so have voraciously gone after several experiences in Australia, India and luckily, during my work travel to Europe, New Zealand, Taiwan….

I consider myself reasonably culturally sensitive having moved a fair bit, growing up in India and of course, settling in Australia and working at a fairly senior level with executive teams.

Yet, this cheeky woman on the right had me. She was hanging out in the shade with her partner and on my approach, asked me if I can find her a “good man”.

I chatted. Explaining my view of the world and how I came to marry my husband, who was a friend… blah blah. Until she burst out laughing and said, “I have a husband. I love him. We have been married for xx years”

There are lessons to be learnt in every moment. If we can listen. Truly listen. Then we can see the world as it is. Without our own filters, beliefs or assumptions.jodhpur4

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Inspiration, LIfe, Social Agenda, Travel

The Caterpillar & the Butterfly

it is getting dull

So does anybody here know how many times the caterpillar hangs upside down waiting to turn into a butterfly?

It was 16 years ago that my then boss’s boss gave me this book “Hope for the Flowers” when I told him that I am going away to Australia. He also thought I should get my head checked. Why would I leave a career in HR with Larsen & Toubro Limited to go to a foreign land where Indians were not respected?

Or something similar. Maybe not exactly that. It is true though, that it was unlikely that any Australian hirer would recognise XLRI or L&T. Someone did. And some other.

It is a bit irrelevant though. Because this, really is the story of my life. How many times have I hung upside down, waiting to become the butterfly.

First, though, I must acknowledge what prompted me to leave my glass of wine to come here and write.

I am reading “The Adversity Advantage” and I stopped when I read ” I’ve always had a restless voice inside me, which seemed to speak loudest when my life felt a bit stagnant”

Chapter 1: Growing up, my mum said I must study. “why can’t you come first” she laments. “If you study, you will”. And I retort, “why mum? is it so you can talk about it in your kitty parties?” “no” was my answer. I did study more than I cared to. Only because I thought it is important to get into where I want to, so I can do what I want to. I got the marks I needed in Year 10 ( Mount Carmel, Ahmedabad) to get into the best High School, St.Xavier’s High School. And then enough there to get into the best Commerce College in Ahmedabad. Though of course, I could have gone to New Delhi perhaps. And then, it was not about marks any more. Well, of course you needed to be close enough to a Distinction. Mainly though, it was about a test of your Math & Logical abilities….. ngbbs4c14b82adb40c

Chapter 2: Working: The first job. I hated it. It was my first interview on campus at XLRI and I took it. Oberoi Hotels. We were a bunch of 6 MBAs and were training with the Hotel Management Grads. So learning to make Moussaka, chop chicken “properly” handle the front office, know all the wines in all the regions of the world. Three months in, I knew it was wrong. So I quit. Especially after within the first month at the Head Office, the VP HR expected that I “escort” the HR folks visiting us from our Egypt Office to shopping Delhi. Hmmm. And I was “told” to be “more appropriate” when we dined with Mr. Oberoi.

OK.

Chapter 3: That first “campus” recruitment lasted four months and I found myself in Baroda. Where my sweetheart was. The one who was a friend and became a sweetheart 8 years on. No one knew what XLRI was. So from being coveted by multi-nationals, I went a beggin for a job! I landed and quit about 6 different jobs in about 2 years. I quit again when we were expecting our first baby. And a year or so later landed a job with IPCL, a large petrochemicals business in India. 5 years there and then, thankfully, there was an opening with Larsen & Toubro who was setting up in Vadodara at the time. Those 10 years were fabulous experience, where I was very lucky to be inspired by a few brilliant leaders. Until I got restless again. What am I missing?

Chapter 4: Australia. My boy was 10 & girl 6. We decided to pack a bag and move. If we got a job that recognised our experience & qualifications, we would stay. If not, go back. That was in 2000. 13 years later. I was starting to get bored. I am most proud of engaging senior leaders and securing their commitment to investing in their own development and creating enduring processes that create the environment for people to do their best work. What am I missing out on though by coming in and out of work everyday? What about travelling? What about doing something different? Every time I went to India, there was a tug. I feel disturbed about the fact that some women don’t get to have a shower in private. That people are displaced from their homes in villages and don’t get a decent quality of life when they migrate into cities for work. I quit work. That was 2013.

Chapter 5: 2016 Feb. Here I am. What happened in the last two years? Can’t quite account for it except to say that there hasn’t been a single day that I got bored. I cannot say either exactly what I have achieved? I had no goals. No plans. I have woken up each morning and done what my heart desires. I have studied. Read books. Written a few blogs. Or not. I fell into making soaps. And learnt how to do Facebook 🙂 I learnt marketing. And whilst I was doing that, I kept nursing my desire to bring EI education into schools. To make sure every woman has a private place to shower. And late last year, I decided I also want to keep consulting in the area of my expertise.

Because in the end, I am a catalyst. I thrive on change. I absolutely, utterly love any chance to make a difference. However small. Hence why, perhaps for me, turning upside down, slowing down, waiting for what’s to emerge is best. No ambition needed.

Except, I absolutely want to do the Masters in Science Coaching Psychology. I wonder where that might take me 🙂

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Inspiration, LIfe

Leibster Award

The lovely, very young Lauren Geatches from loquacious. nominated me for the Leibster Award.

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Well not nominated, exactly. She asked and I volunteered on this very warm, welcoming & supportive group of bloggers hosted by Blog Society on FB.  You can check out their FB page and ask to become a member if you are into blogging.

A girl after my heart I have to say after reading her blog “Why New Years Resolutions Don’t Work”. 

Yep. And I have a “hate” relationship with running too 🙂

I had not heard of this award until now and more than happy to go with the rules that have been passed on!!!

The first one being, to find 11 other bloggers to nominate. I am supposed to check if they have less than 200 followers. That one, I break. I don’t know. These are the ones I enjoyed reading and am very likely to follow!

A very compelling title seduced me to the blog The Story of Telling and found myself purchasing the very accessible “Marketing: A Love Story: How to Matter to your Customers” by Bernadett Jiwa.

Tess Barlett who writes love letters that get into your soul.

Dhanya who seduces me into thinking I too can cook.

Mama Said who in a heartbeat took my back to my first days as a mum.

Starlight Mummy how can women do it all!!!

And another gorgeous working mum at Girl in the PJs

And I know why I go to Pilates because of a thousand times too short

Am envious of Andrea’s farm. Check out her travel stories at The Pineapple Cake

Why I am a little crazy with Natalie over at Our Parallel Connection

I wanna go road tripping with Julie and become a nomad-nester

Slow down with Bex and her breathtakingly poetic pictures at Cup of Tea & Bex

I am meant to reveal 11 random facts about myself, so here it goes…

  1. I was born in Chandigarh, just because my Mum went to her parents home for her first child!
  2. I am afraid of swimming in the ocean or those beautiful water pools in the wilderness
  3. I cannot cook to save my life. Or my pans
  4. I get bored easily
  5. When I quit my job in India to come to Australia, my boss gave me a book called “Hope for the Flowers” . I still read it.
  6. I like the idea of going on big long walks and camping. And am terrified of the creatures in the wild!
  7. I enjoy food and am a terrible cook
  8. I love gardening and can kill almost anything
  9. I love being surrounded by beauty but just CANNOT keep my clothes “neatly” folded. I pick up clothes from the floor only because I like being surrounded by beauty
  10. I enjoy pampering
  11. I am wickedly naughty and a rule breaker.

Here are the simple rules of the Leibster Award:

  • Nominate 11 bloggers with less than 200 followers. ( I broke that rule!!)
  • Acknowledge and link back to the person who nominated you.
  • Answer the 11 questions the person who nominated you has listed. Here are mine
  1. Where is your favourite place to write? In my studio, where I can look out into the gum trees and listen to the birds flying by.
  2. Which 3 people, alive or dead, would you want to invite to dinner? Pierce Brosnan. Meryl Streep. My Dad. They are all alive.
  3. How did you come up with the name of your blog and what does it mean to you? (double question – I’m sneaky!) Stuff from the heart. I think I was just being lazy. And being me.
  4. What are your personal or creative resolutions or goals for 2015? Balance. I want to be able to step onto the balcony and back into the dance, several times a day.
  5. If you had to eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be? Salted Caramel. With ice cream.
  6. Who or what inspires you? Nature
  7. What is your best piece of advice for life? Be yourself
  8. What are five words to best describe your blog? Honest. Real. Playful. Plenty said!
  9. If you could donate all your money to a single charity, which would it be? End Poverty
  10. What is an embarrassing fact about you or your most annoying habit? Farting at night
  11. If you had to say goodbye to your sight or your hearing, which would you choose to keep, and why? Hearing. I am an introvert anyway and I love to see things.
  • Ask 11 questions you would like your nominees to answer – here are mine:
  1. What makes you happy?
  2. What makes you sad?
  3. What makes you mad?
  4. What makes you afraid?
  5. What is your wildest dream?
  6. What is the one thing you cannot do without?
  7. If you knew today was the last day on earth, what would you do?
  8. What would be the naughtiest thing you would do?
  9. What rule do you want to break and have not?
  10. What is the one thing you regret not doing?
  11. What is the one thing you regret doing?

 

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Inspiration, LIfe, Social Agenda

Happiness is overrated. Want to know why?

What would you say if a child came up to you looking sad?

You will reach out to comfort them. Instinctively, we know it is “not ok” to feel sad. It is kinda hardwired. I bet most of us have been conditioned to believe that feelings such as anger, sadness, and frustration are “not ok”.

And I will admit that I have been quite taken by “The Power of Positive Thinking”.

For a long time.

And this is what I have learnt.

Fear is a faithful friend. It is always with us. It is what keeps us safe. It will never go away. It is also the reason we may get angry, sad or frustrated. So if I am really mad, I know that something important to me has been taken away from me and I fear that I will not get it back.

Fear serves another purpose that is hugely powerful. I believe fear is omnipresent so we can fly.

Remember when you got that really BIG WILD idea?  Fear was probably right beside you, saying…

“Oh, now that is stupid.”

“You will never be able to pull that off”

“People will laugh at you.”

Know that thought? And I am sure you would have learnt/ read that we could just replace that with “I can do it”.

There is another way. Which is to say, “yeah, it does sound stupid. I may not be able to pull it off. And yes, I may fall flat on my face.” So who can I talk to about this idea? How can I take this forward?

And the most important question to ask yourself is “Why is this idea important to me?” “What about this idea is getting me so excited?”

The answer to that question is the secret held deep inside you that drives everything you do, the choices you make and is that light that guides you telling you what “feels” right and what “feels” wrong.

It is your closest friend. The one you sit beside when they are sad. Just sit. Listen. Hold hands. Treat your fears as your friend. They are.

When you feel sad, mad or just plain frustrated, imagine your friend has arrived. Do what you would do with a friend. Sit with them. Listen. Let go of your judgment for a bit. Go outdoors. And wait until your heart opens up and you understand why it is.

On the Beach 1

On the Beach 2

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Inspiration, LIfe, Natural, Social Agenda

Shopping, Farmers, Local, Artisans… crazy foolish people striving for a better world

To live with an open heart… like a child. Unfettered. Simply curious. Innocent. And compassionate.

Well that bit, maybe not always 🙂

We are a crazy bunch. Some of us that is.

As a HR Director, I was constantly tracking for what is out there…. tripping with excitement about some of the wonderful stuff people were experimenting with to help people live life large. Be in tune with what they value. And partner with leaders and teams to do stuff that will create the environment for people to do their best work.

I loved it. I was also restless. Wondering what else was out there.

I fell into making soap a year or so ago…. and I think I keep falling deeper because it allows me to be curious. It makes me think about what I buy, from whom and when.

So if I was to Get off the dance floor for a bit, and be an observer, what would I see?

I would see me getting a bit tired of large organisations like J&J, P&G, Unilever seduce us into buying stuff with the promise of whatever it is that was seductive.

I would look at the guy standing at his stall in my local markets. Like, I would slow down, and linger. Appreciate the work that went into getting up early in the morning loading the car and putting their soul into making their space look inviting. They are just plants. These are the ones though that even I cannot kill.

This I know to be true.

Orchids from marketSucculents from markets2

I would watch myself spending a bit more time with stall holders; getting to know them. Just curious. How do you make this. What is it about and then get pulled into their world for just a bit… Like Lindy Lawler who makes these beautiful pieces and tells a beautiful story that I can never say the same way. All I know is that there is a sense of abundance that is celebrated through her work.

Jasmine

Sometimes though, I have to get a few things from a far away land. Ghana is where my Shea Butter comes from. Kwabena, who is the Managing Director of the company based in Adelaide, works with women’s co-operatives that work in the Zabzugu – Tatale district in Tamale located in the Northern part of Ghana. Traditionally it has been the women who go and pluck or gather the shea nuts. The women sometimes have to travel as far as 17 kilometres on foot and carry bags in excess of 40kgs on the heads whilst carrying their children on their backs.

Shea

It is the same story with Neem Oil, where my dear friend introduced me to Agrocel, an organisation that works with the farmers to get us beautiful cold pressed Neem.

So here I am. Grateful to be surrounded by many many people who love me. Doing stuff that I am not ashamed of saying that I am not an expert in the domain. That I am learning. Having fun. And maybe, bringing some abundance into a few moments when people read the stuff I write or buy something to pamper themselves or a dear one.

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Inspiration, LIfe

Call me Stupid

It was about 14 years ago that we decided to make the move from Vadodara, a small city in India to Sydney. I was HR Manager with a very large engineering conglomerate. It was a great job, one where the VP of the business was continuously challenging me to do stuff way beyond my comfort zone. When I told him I was going to Australia his response was typical. “you need to get your head checked”.

And he gave me this book called Hope for the Flowers. It is about the foolish caterpillar who keeps “leaving” what he is doing in search for “what else is out there”…

it is getting dull

and then he realises he needs to hang upside down for a while. And then he will become a butterfly and fly.

Ahem. I am still waiting 🙂

And I wonder what I will find.

I know no different. I quit working a year or so ago. “It was getting dull”. I felt like I was missing out on life. The life that was possible.

I don’t know that it was conscious at the time that I was taking on the role of a change agent… helping the management team work through a request from our transgender employee who wanted to use the female toilets in our offices. In my head it was simple. Be honest. It is a legitimate request.

I managed a big move of our offices from a dingy stuffy building to an open beautiful building… more space, more meeting areas, plenty of parking.. I thought working through the issues is the way forward. It was tough moving forward surrounded by a couple of men who wanted to be heroes. I didn’t know how to play power games. The move which could have been a celebration felt like a battlefield.

These men were hugely successful in their careers. And here is this midget saying lets invest in becoming effective leaders. “What?” Start with those folks in the middle first. We talked about having a great culture. How about we measure whether our people are engaged? “Convince everyone else, and then I am on board” says my boss.

We got there. We measured engagement. We talked about it. We got people to understand it, take action and measure again. And we got traction. We started investing in our leaders. And yes, the executive team got on board. And we had the most amazing conference where the executive team participated in a world cafe where the entire organisation got talking about how we will get to where we wanting to get to.

“It was getting dull”.

So I quit… that was 11 years later. “What would it be like in a Not For Profit Organisation”… that is what I wanted. Now who would want me? “I was too corporate and would not want to get my hands dirty”… Someone was game. Thank you!!! So I had this awesome short term job where I become acquainted with an organisation that works on the toughest social agendas with no security of income, reliant on government funding on a short term basis and quickly realised that there is plenty to do in setting up and plenty more that someone else could do much better than me.

So another corporate job. They measured engagement and had not looked at the results. So that was easy. Lets understand this, act on it, measure it again. Lets invest in ourselves for a bit too. “You are asking us to do a leadership program?” “We have done plenty of those. I don’t want to go into another one and sing.”

And we did. There was no singing. There was plenty of real talking. A year or so in … “This is unlike any program I have done….”

“It is getting dull”.

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