Meaningful Engagement

In differentiating between aimless activities routine and result oriented pursuit , in my popular management intervention product : “Busyness to Business” ; I have often used the phrase – ‘ Meaningful engagement ‘ . In “Made to Mother” – another of my unique Leadership Intervention I have said that Maids get busy , whereas Mothers – who work for no less hours , are meaningfully engaged
While most instinctively relate to it , some of you felt interested for me to elaborate on what is meant by ‘ Meaningful engagement ‘ . Hence this note
To my mind , meaningful engagement happens when 4 components come together in sequence
o Desired destination – when there is a well defined , desired Goal – your clarity on what you want to achieve . This anchors you & gets you on a path
o Directed efforts — There exists a clear plan ( the path to your destination ) and working to a plan . There is a definite ‘ Cause & Effect ‘ to what you do . There is no adhockism . That you achieve something or not , is a result of your effort , not a part of your luck . This brings in predictability . It’s like playing a game of Dart with your eyes open v/s playing in a dark rook with your eyes closed
o Progression on milestones – Regardless of its pace , every moment is in the forward direction , neither lull nor going in reverse , every moment adds something , has a meaning to be there . Intrinsic to it is that there are pre set milestones , against which progress is measured . This helps you strengthen / refine your plan
o Self fulfillment : Whether at destination or while on journey when you have a sense of fulfillment , you know that you are engaged in something meaningful — something worthwhile . Success is not just in the outcome , but how FULL you feel from inside


LABOUR or CARE – What would you choose

  • There are two optional routes to approach to a task : LABOUR , CARE
    • LABOUR
      • Restricts to the ‘ body ‘ of work , understanding of task is through activities alone
      • Approach is very transactional – ‘ what do I get for what I do ‘
      • Efforts may be sincere , hard -not aligned with ‘ why ‘ of ‘ what ‘ and Self centric
      • Finally , it is a Job , not a Cause you work for
      • Labour approach is best exemplified by a ‘ Maid ‘
    • CARE
      • Focuses on the ‘ soul ‘ of work , understanding task through connecting with the purpose
      • Approach is of ‘ Ownership’ , of long term relationship
      • Efforts are aligned with purpose and much Customer centric
      • Finally it is a Cause you work for , which is higher than self
      • A ‘ Mother ‘ is the best example of  Care approach
    • Evolutionary journey in life requires to be from Labour to Care . It is a journey across concentric circles outward from the (self )center
    • It is a choice one needs to make , preferably earlier than later

An Alternative Approach to Work … & Life !

‘  ‘ It’s not my job ‘ , is a very popularly heard phrase in the Corporate World – which is the flip side of an otherwise very useful tool called – Job Description ( JD ) . JD helps one more clarity on his / her role responsibility & what is expected from the role . Unfortunately most use JD to have clarity on what is not listed therein, to claim as ‘ This is not my Job ‘

While above remains as the time tested , evergreen , conventional work approach , idea here is to present an alternative work ( & hence Life ) approach , for those , who it can help
This alternative approach which I discovered & am following since , works around asking 3 questions in succession , when you see anything around ( work , item , aspect , emotion , person … just about anything ) :

o Does this ( work ) need to be done ? .. if the answer is ‘Yes ‘ , go to the second question
o Can I do it ? (vis-à-vis your ability to do it ), if the answer is ‘Yes ‘ , go to next question
o Will I do it ? ( to do with your willingness & time availability )

If the answer to the 3rd / last question is ‘ Yes ‘ , just do it , regardless of your JD … doesn’t matter whose job it is

Let me explain to you with an example . You have a part time housemaid who comes everyday to wash used utensils . She is absent from last 2 days , without notice , as a result utensils to be cleaned have piled up in your kitchen sink & you are feeling short of utensils for cooking . You have two choices … wait until the day your maid shows up or get an alternative arrangement for cleaning , including yourself cleaning . Now try using my alternative work approach , ask 3 successive questions :

o Does this ( work ) need to be done ? Your answer is likely to be ‘ Yes ‘ -Go to next question
o Can I do it ? , Not being a skilled job , your answer is ‘Yes ‘ , go to next question
o Will I do it ? – Decide based on your time & mental comfort … may be you will say ‘Yes’

In reality , you would have acted much earlier than 2 days … you would understand that these 3 questions would have crossed your subconscious mind & answered in affirmative , even before you realized . This is how we work in our personal life … unfortunately when it comes to our work , we become Maids & think it is someone else’s job !

You just need to be careful while answering the 3rd question …. It is not just a matter of your time ( availability ) , but your will / your mental comfort . If you feel by doing that job ( which was not “ Your Job “ , you feel angry or you feel you are doing a favour or you feel it is a big sacrifice … & hence feel burdened , it is not worth you undertaking that task , because it is going to stress you – If you don’t have the ‘ will ‘ to do it , don’t do it . Say yes to the 3rd question only if you are free of any psychological encumbrances

I have always said that it will not be the Talent deficit , but Perspective deficit which will prove decisive difference between an Outstanding & an Ordinary, in the race at high performance end ; because “ What you do is a function of how you see “ . Conventional ( JD bound ) approach defines a Maid & the new ( JD led , but not restrictive ) approach is what Mothers choose

I am sharing this unconventional approach not to propagate its use — finally you should have your own will ! – but just to make you aware that there does exist an alternative approach beyond the conventional route ( not my job ) you know , so that you can , if you choose to use it .The paths for the two approaches are different & I can tell you that if you are the person with a burning career ambition , this new approach is for you .

If you ask me whether this approach by one will lead to his/ her exploitation . My answer is No ! , since you have a choice of saying ‘ No ‘ to the 3rd question … but if you do not feel burdened in answering Q 3 , exploitation or not … please say YES . Now imagine if we can have more & more of us taking this alternative approach , how grossly different World we will make !

What is true for Work is also true for Life & vice versa … These 3 questions – which I learnt from my Mother’s & Wife’s behavior , will help you at any stage in life !

Value Creation

  • I have a simple – home made – definition of what is adding value
    • If whatever you are actively associated with , becomes different & better because of or with you than without you , then you have added value . And if this happens as a directed effort , in a definitive pattern , then you know how to add value – you are in a Value Creation business
  • I have another , simplistic ( again home made ) understanding of when value gets created
    • Value is created only when you do something AHEAD of (i) Time , or (ii) Asking , or (iii) Expectations
    • When you do / fulfill anything which was required / asked for / expected from you … even if you respond in a timely manner … it does not create value ; it just neutralizes what would have been a negative value had you not attended to that demand / requirement .
    • The moment some thing is raised as : Demand , Expectation , Known requirement ( JD) against you … you are already into ‘ negative ‘ – best you can do is to ‘ neutralize ‘ by quick & meaningfully responding . If it is asked , you have lost the initiative to add value
    • On the other hand if you don’t even respond to what is required / asked for , you create a negative value
  • The whole essence of this Value Creation concept or what you can see as a ‘ fulcrum ‘ of value creation is the word “ AHEAD “ . The key is to be ahead or lead in value creation process . Most of the world , most of the time is in Reactive mode — always chasing something , that is the reason why most don’t or can’t create value . In reactive mode you are always chasing something ahead of you , whereas Value creation requires that you are in a Proactive mode to ‘ lead ‘ , by thinking or sensing or realizing or innovating something Ahead of somebody
  • While there are certain set of abilities ( Sensing ,Communication ,Planning ,Thinking ,…) constitution ( Caring , Understanding , Reflective , Learning ,…) and orientation ( Customer focused , Win-within-Win , …) that you need to create value and that there are methods & mechanisms to help you create value — elaborating on which is a subject of a separate article ; purpose of this blog is to create an awareness in you to know that the Essence of Value Creation is one concept – AHEAD  !

“ Aukaat “ Apani – Apani

  • The (Hindi) word ‘Aukaat ‘is a very useful word – though currently much maligned, due its usage in a derogatory way.
    • Many use it specifically to ‘ remind ‘ some one of his / her low standing , to denigrate , to humiliate – to express self , relative hierarchical superiority
  • To me, whatever ‘meaning ‘– is what we attach to a word. Words by themselves are only neutral carriers – we load a meaning on them ; hence a word per say is neither good or bad , it’s only an obedient tool to express what the master wants to
  • Aukaat, actually is a very beautiful concept. To me , it is indicative of a ‘ Boundary ‘ … boundary in itself being neither good nor bad , it just defines the ‘ expanse ‘ & where it ends
  • In life , to progress ; it is not much about what you don’t have it is more about we knowing what we have , how much does it stretch & consequentially therefore , where does it end – exactly like little kingdoms we had earlier , each having its boundary ( Nations being little kjngdoms of today ) or ‘ territory ‘ of an animal in a jungle !
    • For Peace & Progress, size was not as important as to know the boundary, so that there is at least no intentional encroachment into someone else’s territory. Within each’s own / independent territory each had enormous scope to create own ‘Heavens ‘….. Didn’t people in Singapore transformed, what was a small marshy land?
  • The same is true for an individual, to know ‘what is there ‘& ‘where it ends ‘. To excel in life it is not about what you don’t have which is a barrier , but not knowing about it – which leads to misadventure & hence a disaster
  • In fact it is my conviction that only when you (or only those who) know your ‘play area ‘ & where it ends, is when you really excel. Those who lack this knowledge ( actual word – ‘ Awareness ‘ ) remain directionless , dabble in many things , often clueless ( like playing Darts in the dark with eyes closed ) and end up at much suboptimal levels , topped up with frustration — not because they lacked in ability , but because they did not know about their abilities & their limitations
  • That is where I come back to the beautiful concept of “ Aukaat “ , which makes us aware of out\r boundaries / our limitations , so that we can play, within our play area maximizing on our strengths and thereby excel in whatever we do
  • There are examples & examples of successful application of this concept – both Positive & Negative
    • Sachin Tendulkar is a Glorious example of excelling in his strength area & not venturing beyond that boundary – it was wise for him to give up Captaincy to focus on & excel in Batting – Hundred 100s .
    • On the other hand there is an example in Ramayana & Mahabharat of crossing Boundary & failing … Seeta Maiya crossed the boundary Lakshman drew for her ( Lakshman Rekha ) …. She would have been invincible by playing from within that boundary
    • Abhimanyu — glorious example of valour , knew how to get into a Chakravyuh , did not know of how to get out – got killed ‘ crossing the line ‘
  • In sum therefore, I have grown fond of & convinced about the Power of the concept of “Aukaat “…. It is a beautiful, potent word / concept.
  • So I would encourage you to , instead of reminding someone else of his / her aukaat , it is more productive to get to know your own aukaat , because I am convinced that , only then you have a greater opportunity to excel , by playing within own aukaat . I have started practicing this.
  • For those , still skeptical about ‘ playing within aukaat ‘ , let me hasten to clarify the trade off , between the Short term & Long term in pursuit of excellence is that : In the short term , best shot at excellence is playing within the boundary ; while simultaneously working on stretching boundaries for long term excellence

Life Cycle : Sequence of events post an Achievement

I believe that every moment in our life has a reason to exist . Each moment needs to be recognised , acknowledged , respectfully received , cherished -while in it & when the momentary life of the moment is passed , it must be let go . The essence of a moment is to add Momentum , when it does that , its role is to move on . Hence while we should live each moment fully , we should leave it when it is over — not get stuck in it , simply because there is another moment knocking at our door . The problem is not ‘ immersing ‘ into a moment , but in not coming out of it !

Essentially therefore every moment must be full of Life ; Life needs to move on , beyond the moment . This is particularly true for moments of Highs & Lows , Exhilaration & Exasperation — we need to be conscious to move beyond the moment . I believe the cycle of ‘ Achievement ‘ has a sequence of  4 successive moments : Moments of Glory , Humility , Gratitude & Action  . I created this for my Daughter -Aditi , when she cleared her CA final – one of the most challenging exams . Sharing with you for a larger good !  

  • Moment of Glory
    • Experience an unadulterated happiness , be in the moment of Glory for a day or two . You must enjoy the achievement and feel truly happy . Don’t let any other thought , person or event interfere in your thus feeling
  • Moment of Humility
    • Once soaking in the Glory is complete , come out of it completely without a trace . Now touch down on ground and have your feet firmly there . Become normal , humble about success , know that regardless of what you have achieved , there are miles yet to go . Recognise that you are neither the only one , nor the first one nor the best one yet …. and many more have achieved much more ahead of you . Unless you shed your arrogance , air , you will not be able to focus on the task selflessly with 100 % concentration
  • Moment of Gratitude
    • Realise that you alone could not have achieved so much . Surely there is a contribution of some ( if not many ) to your success – directly or indirectly . You need to remember them and recognize their role in your achievement , give everybody his / her due
  • Moment of Action
    • Once above three stages are over , you need to swing into action … get your focus right & get 100 % into what should be ‘ your next ‘


 It all began with me asking myself this routine question , before leaving a place . I did not understand the POWER of this innocuous sounding question , till when I paused to reflect on it . I realized , apart from an obvious physicality , it has many more dimensions if you care to hear what it means …. “ What did I leave behind “, or rather “ What am I leaving behind “ can be such an anchoring thought – if you really listen to what it means , that can help keep us / our behavior in check
 If we go deeper , it can help unravel what ALL can we possibly leave behind on different dimensions ; like :
o Impression
 Everything we do ( or don’t do ) has our invisible quality signature . ‘Advertant ‘ or inadvertent – we always leave an impression behind & it is important for us to know / realise as to ‘What are we leaving behind ‘
o Performance
 We may not , but what we achieve ( or fail to achieve ) will remain on public memory & will remind them of us – positively or negatively , that is why we need to be conscious of ‘ What are we leaving behind ‘
o Demonstration / example What are we leaving behind
 We may or may not be conscious , but by our behavior – which people can see – we can be a role model to follow / not follow for those ‘ behind ‘ . It is our choice to be aware of ‘What are we leaving behind ‘
o Reputation
 So is the case of Reputation , which is the ‘ Sum Effect ‘ of our thoughts , words & deeds If we want people to remember for what we are , I guess , it is important for us to know – ‘What are we leaving behind ‘
o Legacy
 I have shared in my earlier blogs , psychographically there are two types of people : Trader type or Businessman types .Traders are focused on creation of material wealth ( which can be faceless and transient ) ; Businessmen want to make a difference , they are desirous of leaving Legacy behind ; it is our choice – ‘What are we leaving behind ‘
o Memories , history
 History is created by those who are on a mission , who are conscious of their purpose & reason for their existence ; They are aware and on a directed efforts ; we don’t need to alert them on , ‘ What are we leaving behind ‘
o Mess / orderliness
 Do I need to elaborate on what is happening here & why . This is a largely prevalent behavior of majority who is less self ware and much less socially conscious — They will not do what they are doing ( probably innocently ) if only they become aware of – ‘ What are we leaving behind ‘
o Creations : Product , Process , Progeny , Ideas , Innovations , Tools , Formats , Art
 Whatever we do or choose to pursue in life , the message is clear & universal — ‘ What are we leaving behind ‘ ; if only we know this , we will be very different , optimally leveraged & hugely fulfilling !
 Thus , ‘ What did you ( or I ) leave behind , is such a guiding thought , it helps realization in us on what is appropriate, what is not ; so that we are well equipped to make a right behavior choice
 On one hand , this question can humble us with a realization of enormous potential we have in what / how much are we able to ( create & ) leave behind ; on the other hand it can create a high sense of urgency , realizing that vis-à-vis our capacity , how much we are underleveraged – how much more that we can , but how much less are we leaving behind !
 When now that you realise the enormity of potential and possibilities , for what your actions in the moment can leave behind ; there is a possibility that you can be more aware , alert in the moment you act , to think & design to leave behind what you will , looking back , feel proud about , both quantitatively – but more importantly , Qualitatively !