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”.

Inspiration, Social Agenda

Getting Social

Mum called out this morning and asked if I would like to get up and go for a walk. I was sleepy. I wanted to get up. So I just did.

So we were walking and talking. We made our way to the public toilets that the people we met yesterday were perhaps talking about. It is a decent facility and at 6 am had plenty of users. The guy at the door saw me approaching and asked me if I would like to use the facility. You pay Rs. 5 to use the toilet and Rs10 for a shower. There was one woman amidst all the men. Apparently the guy runs it privately and paid Rs 3 lakhs plus to operate it. This is the annual fee. We reckon people may not feel they can afford to use it everyday. We also walked past a woman on the way, bathing out of a small bowl on the street… washing herself quite nicely with soap. She was wearing a skirt though. So reckon she would welcome the opportunity for a personal shower.

So my mum has offered to speak to her friend who has built a temple nearby to consider building some shower and toilet facilities that the people can use. Perhaps then I can try and secure corporate sponsors who will pay for operating the facility so it is free to the users.

Self regulation … I am so sure this will work.

As we were walking, we drifted into various topics and I started reacquainting myself with the electrician who does odd jobs for Dad. He was crying a few years ago when he was with Dad because he had not been paid his salary for a while. My Dad asked him why he does not start working on his own.

This from my Dad, who has served as a senior police officer in a very corrupt bureaucratic environment and didn’t think he had any choices!

So, long story short, Dad gave some support, encouragement and perhaps some nagging and he started off on his own 🙂

This young man is earning Rs.20,000 a month today. A year or so ago, he wanted to buy a scooter and asked my mum to speak to her friend who may help with a loan etc. Spontaneously mum offered to loan him the Rs.20,000. That too was repaid in a few months saving the man Rs.7000 in interest.

And why am I sharing this? It is because I am constantly wondering and grateful that my parents, who live in Vadodara with both their daughters 14-24 flying hours away seem to be surrounded by people who come and help them and fix their things at the drop of a hat. I am grateful for that.

More than that, I am grateful for having grown up observing and contemplating many such acts over and over again.

To be able to put away what you are doing, what is bothering you or you are absorbed with and connect with another person is a gift. Each one of us is capable of using that gift.

And it starts with me. Especially me. Because I have seen it over and over again in both my parents.