Saturday, December 25, 2010

LEADERSHIP AT SEA -- CAPT AJIT VADAKAYIL


BLUE OCEAN LEADERSHIP-- CAPT AJIT VADAKAYIL

“You cant sail her with just 2 men. You’ll never get out of the harbour!”
“Son, I’m Captain Jack Sparrow, savvy?”

--- Johnny Depp ( cool dude adventurer) in Pirates of the Caribbean.


Great achievers are rarely realistic by other peoples standards for they see problems as valuable feedback to help them steer a better course. It is your belief about your own capabilities , which force you to try on not to try . The comfort zone is a great enemy for courage and confidence. Set high goals and standards for yourself. Completely unrealistic goals however are a form of self delusion. Only a fool will try and delude himself into success.

Often my critics and my well wishers ask me why I self inflict and keep the Sword of Damocles dangling all the time over me . I tell them – it is mE style.

Here is the secret--

Insecurity or the sword of Damocles is the chief propulsive power in this world. Some mavericks, like you know who-- welcome a certain amount of frustration as a challenge—it gives them a kick to overcome it. Treat a quickened pulse caused by adrenaline rush as an ally –and not as an enemy. You have the power now to convert fear into excitement, flight to fight.

When people gun for them it gives a chance to prove themselves . Tactical anger has more to do than what meets the eye. You can now do things you would not have done normally. Some people need to feel angry in order to create enough leverage on themselves to make a change. Too little stress may be as harmful as too much stress, especially when you want to get a task done. Some stress or stimulation is needed for optimum performance—this is termed positive stress response PSR. Optimum stimulation causes creativity and change. Performance rises as stress increases. Once a optimum point is crossed however, increasing stress impairs judgement and alertness and performance falls off. Too much stress causes panic and feeling of inability to cope.

Among all my mentoring pieces —this is the only one I am fully qualified to write. Leader ship is an art which you practice, or it just remains a notion frustrating you with its elusiveness and tantalizing you with its possibilities. It is not a concept, it is something you do. A lawyer practices law, a doctor practices medicine, a cook practices cooking—same way a leader practices leadership.

Leadership is not what you learn in management schools and books . Most such books are written by unqualified whiz kids, who consider a map more important than the terrain. They have never been higher than the base camp at the Himalayas—but have written several books on how to conquer the Everest. Yeah, sure!  Edmund Hillary had got drunk over a few bottles of beer and given them a scoop on a platter— sure, we believe that. Just as a champion bridge player does not emerge from a single session at the table, effective leadership simply does not happen without practice. You have to know what to hold and what to discard, when.

Hmmm! So what are my qualifications ---- I am from the land of thinkers, I have more than 6400 days of actual command on board merchant ships—24 hours of contextual leadership in every of those 6400 days . Very few souls on this planet have this type of quality/ quantity leadership-hour exposure. ( yeah! this is a bit like crane hook hours you fill on the cargo work abstract ! tee hee! )

People who have sailed with me will cry—“Capt Vadakayil never practiced a dang word of what he has written here ”. They are absolutely right. My maverick style has always been based on humor and the awe factor ( yeah, 16 kilo dumbbells were part of inducing this factor ).

This way I could kick the beehive, and the bees instead of stinging me to death , willingly parted with their piggy bank honey. They stole from other hives and gave me that too. But that does not mean I did not know what it takes . The clown of the trapeze show is usually the most versatile of the entire lot. Don’t let his clumsiness fool you.

Now a ship’s captain is not like the one size fits all , 9 to 5 shore company boss who operates in secure surroundings and will take bed rest if he feels queasy in the morning . This one trick pony’s life is never at risk, when he has a security problem he uses his chair power ---there is a department to deal with it, if one of his team has a accident-- there is a specialist doctor available, if his faucet leaks-- he calls the plumber, if one of his managers gets run over by a truck when crossing the road to office , he is not hauled over the burning embers for not training the manager how to cross the road properly with a log entry authenticating the solemn deed.

In short a “one size fits all” shore company CEO is not a 24 hour father figure. He rarely gets the opportunity to practice emotional or contextual leadership like a ships captain ,where he got to juggle diverse hats—doctor, lawyer, judge , policeman, plumber, cook, barber, tailor, head shrink, journalist, politician, conciliator, party organizer, coach, diplomat, savior, plumber, engineer, metallurgist, referee, soldier without licence to kill  —you name it.

This jack of all trades changes hats every few steps based on the context, culture , setting , direct/ indirect cues that demand a particular style of leadership—where relevance, urgency and potential , relative to the need of his crew are dynamically assessed.

Contextual leadership does not seek to transcend the individual. A ship’s crew is usually made up of individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds, ages, education, ethnicity, experience, and culture. You are responsible for a whole gang not so bright or brain dead that you did not pick, whom you cant smack or sack –you are expected to accommodate them for the entire 4 month contract. Even if you get united nations good players , getting them to play together is the hard part..

The captain is often faced with a rapidly changing business environment, a single leadership style like a company manager cannot be expected to be effective with every person, or in every situation. The best leadership style is "the style that works". Here you take into account all the forces in the situation or “the context”. It could be rough seas. How do you integrate these forces so you can select the style that is most effective, the one that produces the best outcome for the company, the charterer,, the crew, the weather and the situation . The context determines your next move.

You have an idea of a contextual “ flammability composition graph” which is used on board tankers to keep away from the explosion cup ? Knowing the characteristics of each context is the beginning of deciphering the mysteries of leadership . How you lead depends on Who, What, Where, and When you lead. You must know how to adapt or change your leadership approach as the conditions evolve and maturity levels.

Success in one realm does not always translate into success in another. Indeed, superintendents relying on obsolete management school powered past models of success without being sensitive to the context of the situation , and ignoring the dynamic needs to choose afresh , has often caused disaster at sea.

This piece is about futuristic blue ocean leadership. The land lubbers can use this too as it is tailored for their use—they can call it blue sky leadership and feel comfortable. Here you don’t have to be grey or dull or boring—you can be exciting, adventurous, innovative—whatever you decide to be, you must be consistent. No one else knows that you can work miracles—but you know you can do it , deep down—and that is what is important.

A good leader has the technique to get extra ordinary performance from ordinary people. He can take his team to places they would not have gone by themselves . He will reinvent his industry instead of just simply trying to lead it. He is capable of generating good solutions for difficult problems. He will not give up easily and can recover quickly when faced with setbacks. He can understand , accept and is sensitive to individual differences. He prevents his team from stagnating and losing touch with reality. He stands at the teams point of balance. He is aware of his teams pulse and emotional undercurrents. He is consistent, fair, upright, no-bull kind of leader , treats everyone with dignity and can listen. He can understand his employers perspective. That is why he wears the mystique and the style —the air of power , honour and dignity , and he is trusted and respected.

On board my ship , every month end there is a meeting with everybody sharing a failure ( near miss/ incident/ hazard ) --- to find out what people have to offer, to allow them to contribute the valuable experience they have collected from other experiences and companies, to involve the entire team in problem identification , goal setting, to develop an action plan, and to evaluate own their work. Based on such meetings I usually have the crew list marked with—competent, committed, architect, mason—so that a effective threesome or foursome team can be made. A Big Moose/ Dilton team is more effective with the menacing beach bums than 2 Diltons or 2 Mooses.

Management that perceives order as its mission and chaos as the enemy will totally miss the opportunities present when the established structures fall away, allowing for the creation of new and more appropriate ones. Einstein said—you can never solve a problem with the same kind of thinking that created the problem in the first place . After the Kobe earth quake—the Japanese still did not learn their lessons—they still made top heavy houses on stilts with paper walls.

Annual seminars give each employee the unique opportunity to take a high level look at the company and its direction—thus encouraging every one to spend a couple of days living and thinking like the CEO. Employees could then examine their own challenges from a different perspective and encourage each other to be more creative and innovative. This is very different from our own EMS seminars which is more like a collective bargaining agreement ,free for all, with vested interests rubbing their hands in anticipation from the sidelines , for the fallout spoils.

Innovation involves tangential lateral thinking, approaching tasks from unexpected angles, challenging assumptions, irreverence to consensual views, lack of respect for past custom , rocking the boat and challenging rules. Innovations initially tend to be less efficient that existing methods.

Management as taught in prestigious management schools and practiced currently worldwide is a science. Inventories can be managed, people must be led-by example. There can be no bad soldiers under a good general who exudes confidence and can never break into a sweat. .. Leadership strives to accomplish change, whereas management focuses on maintaining equilibrium while achieving results using the late working drones and the worker ants. A manager has to manage processes rather than people for people can manage themselves if you let them..

Leaders think for the great using imagination and intuitive powers. Managers with analytical , number crunching monkeys riding their backs , just stereo type, working for the good. The biggest enemy of great is good. Once you have a good enough solution, it takes a lot of effort and courage and brainpower to look for even better ways.

A managers job is to create stability and deal with reality. A leaders job is to stir emotion and set audacious , grandiose goals that shake the status quo. Management uses an explicit set of tools and techniques, based on reasoning and testing, that can apply to a variety of situations. Leadership has fewer explicit tools. Too much management and you stagnate. Too much leadership and trend setting , and you get nowhere. Embrace the challenge of striking the balance.

Many managers follow the notion of busy fools and confuse hard work with long hours. They feel they must be bloody good if they push the mouse 16 hours a day.
Management is more formal and scientific than leadership. It relies on foundation skills such as planning and controlling. Leadership requires eliciting teamwork and motivating people.

A leader makes frequent use of his or her imagination and creative problem-solving techniques to bring about change. A manager tends to make frequent use of standard, well-established solutions to problems.

A leader frequently displays enthusiasm, passion, and inspiration to get others to attain high levels of performance. Managing involves less outward emotion and a more conservative demeanor to achieve goals once they are defined.

Many managers mistake task assignment for delegating. Task assignment is just a routine work which is autocratically demanded and seen by the employee as a burden. Here the main focus is action. Delegation produces growth, must be negotiated as it could be misunderstood and it requires commitment. The leadership style here is laissez-faire. The things the leader knows the best is delegated. By delegating he shares his knowledge. He gives people the opportunity for broader experiences. He will get his employees to volunteer themselves and not wait for someone to discover how great he really is.

Rely strongly on intuition and think out of the box when solving problems. Take pride in your ability to generate alternate solutions. There is a better way to do things than what has been done in the past. Have a child like approach—not caring what others think. See a problem from all perspectives and do upside down thinking. Permit others to tear down your ideas and so that you may rebuild it . Have the strength of character to battle entrenched resistance to change. I was witness to such spirited resistance at leaderless Trogir shipyard where I stayed 6 weeks for delivery of chemical tanker Siteam Explorer. The management could not even make the yard workers wear helmets—that says it all.

Practise tip of the iceberg thinking. Treat every unexpected event as an indication of a trend. Rethink means turning the problems you face on its head or approaching it backwards. It could mean challenging all fundamental assumptions. Intuition is an accelerated form of thinking where the disparate parts of a problem suddenly snaps into place like the pieces of a jigsaw—the answer just feels right. Rethink could mean pull instead of push.

Richard Branson had come to the campus of Delhi IIT in the third week of Jan 2008 , with the British PM for a tete e tete with the students. He was the first in the world to apply futuristic open page thinking by hiring people who did not have a background in the airline industry— all of them Virgin ( now don’t ask me if that is literal for the British air hostesses tee hee !! ) , except the pilots.

The MD of Univan had applied this 16 years back when he employed a ordinary lawyer as the head of Safety Dept ( the man turned out to be overbearing and overwrought –that is another story ). Vroon Breskens had employed a land lubbing management guru as their technical director 12 years back—he would not know the difference between a cast and a die or port from starboard —but he did have the ability to pull the lens back.

Leadership as it used to be is no longer appropriate. Leadership as command and control is defeated even before it starts by the chaotic conditions of our times. In our times of huge change the leader is not in control over the normal levers of power.

Leadership is like shining a torch beam –you need to know where to shine it and for how long. You shine it in the wrong place or at the wrong time you put the adventure at peril and lose respect. Imagine a scenario where you are the leader of a school bus load of boy scouts and girl guides—you are trying to reach safety after a picnic and your bus breaks down in a dark forest before an impending storm. You have a torch which you have to put to optimum use before the batteries run out.. This calls for anticipation and intuition.

Decide what is right before you decide what is possible. If every possible obstacle must first be overcome, nothing will ever get done. Make firm decisions about the things you want—burn your mental bridges behind you. Over concern for the approval of others can paralyse you ability to take effective action.

Good leaders must have emotional vocabulary. Words are triggering devices to instantly heighten or lower emotions . Have you ever been deeply moved by a great communicator. On the walls of my old school was posted the great letter by Abraham Lincoln to a school teacher —on how to mould his son-- I have yet to see someone who was not deeply moved by this great piece of communication. Why don’t you read this para and check out if you feel touched? Caution: the brain dead must stay away.

Quote—
Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone is getting on the bandwagon...
In school, teach him it is far more honorable to fail than to cheat.....
Teach to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him he is wrong.
Teach him to be gentle with gentle people and tough with the tough.
Teach him to listen to all men; but teach him also to filter all he hears on a screen of truth, and take only the good that comes through.
Teach him, if you can, how to laugh when he is sad... Teach him there is no shame in tears.
Teach him to scoff at cynics and to be beware of too much sweetness.. Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to highest bidders, but never to put a price on his heart and soul. Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob.. and stand and fight if thinks he is right.
He will have to learn, I know, that all men are not just and are not true. But teach him if you can, the wonder of books.. but also give him quiet time to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun and flowers on a green hillside.
Treat him gently, but do not cuddle him, because only the test of fire makes fine steel. Let him have the courage to be impatient.. Let him have the patience to be brave. Teach him always to have sublime faith in himself, because then he will have faith in humankind.
This is a big order, but see what you can do. . He is such a fine little fellow my son!
- Abraham Lincoln"---
Unquote

Words have the power to start wars or create peace. People with impoverished vocabularies do not have the multi hued palette of colours to paint their life’s experiences for them selves or for others. Leadership requires first and foremost excellent communication skills combined with listening skills. That is how context and cultural sensitivities are sensed and converted in suggestions and actions

Intuitive transition management might be deemed by conventional wisdom and number crunchers as beyond the edge of the frivolous. Imagination plus a sense of wonder creates vision from which futures are made.

A vision is an idealized scenario of the future of an organization—a goal that entices people to work toward a rosy future. A leader creates the vision and a strategy to reach the vision; a manager uses a set of skills to work toward achieving the vision

Now, vision is not a policy statement or the product of a committee. Vision emerges from the depths. It has a lot to do with the powers of intuition and the operation of the RH side of the brain. Einstein apparently heard his visions as music which he later translated into mathematics.

Visionaries are driven people. They see things that others do not see , march to a different drummer, play by new rules. They tend to be strange and difficult to get along with. If visionaries are compulsive they are also frustrating, for they tend to talk in repetitive circles, like you know who-- struggling to bring their object of awareness into focus. Their compulsions give them the appearance of certainty. Their lack of clarity often make them an object of scorn. An example of a visionary was Da Vinci who was centuries ahead of his time. Your vision is the blue print of your achievements. Don’t let vision be a mirage, or an unrealistic pie in the sky thinking.

Some managers feel threatened if others do not fit in to their stereotype mould. They do not understand that every human being is different and dictated to by his own will and heart and mind. Generally, less experienced or insecure managers will tend to lean on the more authoritarian types of leadership because they desire the title of leader to bolster their self-esteem, and they lack confidence in their skills. Talented, mature leaders employ the most appropriate style based on the context. Through all leadership situations, you must find a style of leadership most suited to the occasion that balances your own maturity and capabilities and the group's maturity and ability.

Emergency situations do not lend themselves to consultation or delegation or for a show of hands like in the Lok Sabha.

Marine engineers who move up to shore management often face an adjustment period that involves adopting a whole new skill- and mindset. They must let go of their affinity for hard numbers and straightforward answers, and learn to embrace ambiguity. " In management, there's no right or wrong," --There are only effective answers.

Management deals with ambiguity, with situations where answers don't exist in a right-and-wrong structure. I believe management is a whole new career for tunnel visioned marine engineers.

Thinking is nothing but the process of asking and answering questions. What drives our behavior however is -- gut reactions , neuro-associations linked to pain and pleasure —not intellectual calculations. To create a new behavior you have to simply rewire yourself. All decisions are driven by your unconscious desire to achieve pleasure values and avoid your pain values. All are pushed by one value and pulled back my another. Decision making is nothing but values clarification. We all have a miniature court system set up in our brains . Our personal rules are the ultimate judge and jury. Next time you get upset with somebody –remember—you are not upset with that person. You are reacting to your own rules for the situation. Use this pattern interruptus ( no—it is not like coitus interruptus tee hee!! ) to refocus on how to communicate in a better fashion, to avoid conflict.


HARD TRUTHS to forge the BOL mindset.--

Debates rarely progress beyond thesis and anti thesis. The usual effect is to leave each side more deeply entrenched in their original position. On the contrary ,when you brainstorm what remains at the end is wisdom.

There is no training course or book for the unwritten rules, that make you a good leader.

Each person has two sides to his personality—the analytical and the intuitive.

Thinkers learn to trust the latter.

Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy.

Good behavior is the last refuge of mediocrity. Check out the well behaved , non controversial , Rosgolla sweet guys around you and see how good they are!

There is always magic in the first attempt. IAS gold medalist-- 3rd attempt , hardly has a sheen.

For a man who has no idea whether he is sailing Ganga bajoo or Jamuna bajoo—no wind is the right wind.

Rather be saved by criticism than be ruined by praise.

When all is lost the future still remains.

May a true word is said in jest.

Credibility stems from what you do—not what you say.

The wheel that squeaks gets the grease. Another school of thought--The wheel that squeaks the loudest before a long journey gets replaced.

Unless you value yourself you will not value your time.

A weak mind is like a microscope which magnifies trifling things –but just cannot receive the great ones.

The stupid are always cock sure- it is the intelligent ones who are full of doubt.

Creative minds have been known to survive all bad training and bad company..

Only when it is dark enough , you can see the stars. An engineer can prove his mettle only when his machinery breaks down.

It is all right if somebody lets go once in a while –as long as he can get himself back.

People with self esteem are usually cheerful –yes!

Failure is often the result of neglecting to make that call – or to go that extra mile.

Gifted men need to be challenged constantly in order to excel.

Most problems well defined are already half solved.

Unhappiness is very often nothing but a bad habit.

If a man does only what is required of him he is a slave—the moment he does more he is a free man.

There are two kinds of discontent in this world—one that works and the other that wrings its hands. There is no cure for the first type, but success—there is no cure at all for the second.

Knowledge is power only when it is put into action ( the old proverb need to be amended )—if you do not use knowledge , it remains potential power only.

A lot of us see—very few observe. Most sleepwalk through life without paying any attention to the infinite possibilities around.

Courtesy is the lubricant of society. Probably this should be mE resolution for 2009--. to be courteous when I feel like bloodying some jack ass’s nose.

The absence of fear is either the lack of imagination of intelligence or of the will to live. Fear however is a good creative force.

All great thinkers and inventors were ridiculed at first. It is a human failing to deride new ideas or efforts. The thing to do is to laugh at the scoffers and go right ahead and do what you feel is right.

Business is an intuitive activity involving hunches and gut feeling. Computers can NEVER be business leaders.

For dreams to mature they need a period of incubation. Leave them in the attic of your mind for too long , and mould gathers. Bring them out in the open too soon they get evaporate.

Creativity requires a challenge.

Watch out for minions for whom pleasing a superior can become more important than campaigning for or doing the things he believes is right for the organization.

It is great to find at work an outlet for skills and abilities beyond those for which one was explicitly hired.

When a problem crops up again and again—it means the root cause is hidden, and you have to dig deeper.

Drive for consensus and fear of conflict drives the company towards mediocrity.

People are the way they are today due to their upbringing, culture, past experience and financial status.

Chaos is our constant companion in these times of change. Eliminating chaos is tantamount to eliminating life.

What you cannot comprehend---you cannot predict.

Mentors are meant to open the doors of your mind rather than giving free advice.

The mindless optimist is the fellow who falls from the 80th story of a skyscraper and as he passes the 50th floor cry with self satisfaction—so far so good.

The most fulfilled people are those who have dissolved the boundaries between work , love and play.

People who say that something cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Those who are not lighting any candles should not bitch about the dark.

Dream big , for only big dreams have the power to move your spirit.

Your mind is like a muscle –the more you use it, the more powerful it becomes.

Self confidence requires high levels of health and energy.

It is not what happens to you but how you respond to what happens to you that determines how you feel.

Life is too short to waste a minute doing a job you don’t like or care about.

Confidence also comes from being prepared to walk away from a bad situation.

Learn from experts. You will not live long enough to figure it all out.

Any idea or thought that you accept as true will be accepted as a command by your subconscious mind.

The cold and hard north wind made the Vikings.

Forgiveness is a perfectly selfish act. It sets you free from the past.

Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful appreciating heart.

The illiterate of the next century will not be those who do not know how to read and write—but those who cannot unlearn and relearn.

Sure formula for failure is to try and please everybody.

If you fear competition what you really fear is your own incompetence.

When goals are exciting they ignite your passion . Passion unexpressed by your emotional muscles, simply dissipates.

Know the strengths and weaknesses of your team, or you will be forever trying to shove round pegs into square holes and vice versa.

Man’s mind when stretched by a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions.

Change is our greatest ally. The kind of thinking that brought us where we are will NOT get us where we want to go.

All great salesmen have one thing in common—enthusiasm for their product.

Some people show greater interest in work than getting paid for work. People who make a difference are always the ones with the concern – not with the credentials.

Commitment to a higher standard compels you to act.

If the map and the terrain differs , the terrain counts. The map is just a means—like the budget.

Stories produce better change than dry abstractions. Stories convey beliefs and get hardwired into our brain networks—they tap into ways of intuitively understanding the subtle currents that flow through our lives.

Hurt comes from a feeling of loss, which is mostly illusionary.

In order to have a true perspective of one’s importance, keep a cat as a pet that will ignore you royally and a dog that will worship you. You will soon learn not to intimidate or get even with your cat or score brownie points.

Moaning is unproductive and it achieves nothing. It make you a magnet for other moaners ( the laws of magnetism fail here ). Cheerful and positive people attract likewise.

The worst use of time is to do extremely well what need not be done at all. Usually this is what people do to make up for their own lack of competence. I remember once taking over from a Master with a KGB mindset who has the most perfect filing system on this planet—it contained 99% information and stuff which could never be used in the future—sheer waste of paper and time.

Reward extraordinary efforts. Do you remember how great it felt when you got an unexpected bonus at work the last time. If you feed a dolphin every time it jumps and start an uninspired pattern—very soon it wont jump unless you feed it first.

This is how the unionized Calcutta crew of SCI ships got rotten to the core—no OT, no work. The solution is to give rewards spontaneously. The feeling of being uncertain whether you will be rewarded or not excites the nervous system, increasing the intensity of pleasure when rewarded. To learn more—ask a compulsive gambler , who has been gambling away non stop for 12 hours , about this high which addicts. The dolphin thus jumps high because of the exciting possibility of a juicy reward.

Use negative emotions as a call to action. The best time to use a negative emotion is when you begin to feel it. –kill the monster when it is still tiny, before it can go out of proportion. Your brain gives you emotions of fear and anxiety as a call for preparedness for what may occur in the near future.. Cultivate an attitude of positive expectancy about future events. Treat frustration as your friend. Guilt tells you that you have violated your own standard—so don’t wallow in it—do something to prevent you from violating you own high standard.

A common denominator among successful leaders is that they consistently make superior evaluations and so can anticipate better than others. They can use foresight to place themselves in the best position for scoring, and seize the moment ( even the infamous hand of god !) -- like Maradona.

To learn about systematization watch a good cook in a popular short order Udipi restaurant in Mumbai at rush lunch hour. Every move he makes is for a definite purpose. All his ingredients are within easy reach. The most used ones are closest to him. He is so familiar with their positions that he need not look when he reaches out for them—just like the car clutch, brake and accelerator. He puts in every ingredient in at the right time so that nothing is under cooked or over cooked, he has so many hot plates running simultaneously.

A Creative thinker like to see lots of sky and an extensive beautiful view, rather than sit in a stationary locker without windows. The creative process is aided by by walking on open ground—if the eyes can see far , the mind can reach out. On a walk he will let his brain idle—it allows slower brain waves where connection happens. Though the brain is just a small part of the body weight, it consumes a quarter of the fuel that is essential for problem solving. Thinkers must have an informal work climate. Knowing how to communicate to innovators whose style is alien to yours is important.

If you put your ships crew in a trashy environment,they will trash it even further—but if you put them in a beautiful environment with uplifting images which fires their imagination they will preserve it and feel more at ease with themselves.

To cultivate your inner garden spend more time with positive uplifting people with wit and interesting perceptions. There is beauty in thinking for ourselves and not accepting someone else’s mediocre standards.

If you are tackling a topic that requires a fresh study, best is to drown yourself in it for an hour without consciously force searching for solutions. Blue thinking means suspending your judgement which tend to be clouded by past and limiting experiences.

A good leader will even retrain his parents ,who cannot relinquish their old dominance, to communicate with him on an adult to adult basis , and avoid being manipulated by guilt traps.

A soft answer turneth away wrath. Let not the sun go down on your own wrath.
Geniuses do not wait for an idea to interrupt them—they actively seek them out. They can adapt themselves to anything by making the right demands upon themselves incrementally.

When people do the extra mile beyond the call of duty praise is due on the spot—not one week later. Failure to give praise may cause them to stop doing this.

The number one demotivator in the world of work is not knowing what is expected—where to put the fulcrum on the quality /quantity lever.

Eliminate worry by identifying the worst possible outcome of every situation. This means risk assessment forms we use are are stress busters. Analyse each situation by asking what is the worst case scenario that could happen and then use the T4 principle to eliminate it

SOME DO’S

You must have your principles and there must be a line beyond which you will not go.
Let no member of your team come to you without leaving better and happier.

Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers. Learn ability is the ability to extract generic inferences from specific instances and using them in new unstructured situations.

Sometimes you cannot control the events in your life but you can always control your response to them. Do not expend energy on an approach that is useless—flexibility gives you the power to create a new approach— if this is construed as shifting goal posts in the middle of a match –so be it. Flexibility is an attitude. If there is one sure thing to guarantee success—it is the ability to change your approach

Use judgement and discretion—there are times when the exact truth and truth finding exercises are unnecessary.

When there is a problem go out and act—do just sit there too frightened to move –do something.

New ideas come from differences, from having different perspectives and juxtaposing different theories. Allow yourself to be unsane , untrapped in your every day sense of sanity to experience things you have unconsciously kept yourself away from.
Professional growth is an extraordinarily high need. Support and give some political cushioning when warranted. Provide flexible working hours.

Provide your team with the necessary equipment -- get them the best broadband or the latest Windows Vista.

At meetings , a period of social interaction before getting down to business can encourage a relaxed atmosphere and establish team spirit. You can show that you are interested in somebody as a person , not just as a co worker or boss.

At meetings look for areas where different views dove tail and can reach an amicable solution. When the going gets tough avoid staring—keep your gaze withing the imaginary triangle produced by the brows and nose.—and make your body language work for you. Where the message is important increase direct eye contact. Look for grimace body language signs which indicate that you have waxed lyrical for too long.

Motivate your team to go that extra distance. Work on your ability to take the complex and make it simple. Maximize limited resources. ( does it sound a little like our own infamous “ we maximize your earning potential “ which the shipchandlers and workshops followed to the T --tee hee!!) .

Seize the moment . Know what to do well in advance. Avoid the tendency to snatch back previously delegated work. Shifting priorities, new deadlines and conflicting signals may tempt leaders to snatch back.

Keep abreast with technical developments and be willing to commit. Make quick decisions.

Focus your attention on the immediate needs of your crew. Personally sacrifice for the common good in times of extreme crisis.

Convey the behavior and levels of performance that will be considered unacceptable, acceptable or exemplary within the team..

Rely on intuition and judgement in dealing with attitudes, biases, perceptions, emotions and feelings. Don’t set arbitrary policies without consulting those directly involved. Stretch your comfort zone to initiate conversations with crew and get commitment at the end of the conversation. Side stepping issues will lead to mistrust and lower your credibility.

Set performance standards that challenge. Give some constructive criticism.

Build a sense of family and make key people know that regardless of what happens you will remain a united family. A culture is designed to support the company’s most valuable resource—its competent and committed employees. He knows the importance of keeping the wolves off the backs of his team.

Sometimes step aside as a leader so as not to slow everyone else down. Give authority to people to whom you have given responsibility.

Regularly check how everybody is doing emotionally, psychologically and physically.

Take steps to ensure that the team is proud of how they are developing.

Set a pace to allow everybody to keep up. Make sure the work load is balanced for everyone.

Roll up your sleeves and pitch in during times of crisis. Say—your 3 month stock of ship’s provisions are all lying on deck and suddenly there is a huge downpour.

Understand the capabilities of your group. Empower people to take action. Treat all with fairness and dignity.

Let people know that you are open to suggestions and recommendations.

At the end of the day review today’s actions and plan for tomorrow.

Respect is gained by personal courage displayed during difficult times and in the face of potential strong opposition. Be spontaneous without fear of being nervous. Be dominant—not domineering. Be strong when your team is under stress.

Take time off to think.

Be constantly aware of learning opportunities. Never be afraid to ask questions if you does not know the answers. Take responsibility for your own learning curve.

Detect and check deviations from standard operating procedures to see if they are for the better

Be a good diagnostician and value a spirit of inquiry. Preoccupation with small technical problems and getting bogged down with tiny meaningless details is undesirable.
In any workplace there will be a mountain of red tape, bureaucracy, old rules left by the previous management regimes—get rid of them. I usually start off high profile by changing the meal timings—to show that the old order will change for the better.
It is easy to give someone a contract and a job description in the company manual. Trouble is it leads to a lot of confused people. Let everybody know right from the start, what is expected of them. Or you get people doing the wrong things , and them telling you this is the way we did at the last place we worked.

Adapt your style depending on the team member—there is no need to change your spots or personality. I was once stuck with a stone deaf chief officer—after 5 months I realised that I had indeed changed my personality—speaking loud and shrill was never my style. Think about what they need and what motivated them—and adapt your management style too accordingly.

Every body in a team , no matter how lowly their position or rank has something to offer. These are the ones at the cutting edge. Get their feedback and their ideas. You might listen –that does not mean that you are going to act on every one of their ideas.

In a team some have to be slowed down and others speeded up. Some will be good in technology while others will be not. It is this difference which makes a team superb. —vive la difference.

Meetings can be used to fuse a team. The leader must be firmly in control—there can be no wishy washy democracies. Start meetings on time. Never go back over stuff for late comers. Make meetings fun. Be flexible and allow people to be themselves so that they contribute. The stuffy manager is frightened because he feels insecure and seeks a rigid approach to prop up his lack of self confidence. Managers who are secure in themselves do not need to score points or bully or interfere. Steering a steady course needs small helm movements not continuous hard a port hard a stbd movements—just to prove that you have the all important con.

If any of your team wants to talk to you just because he is lonely and you seem to have a fun image —don’t get uptight as long as he is not taking advantage of this and you do not lose control

You will sleep well if you have a clean conscience. You have never stitched up anybody or broken any laws. Your salary is not your driving force—your driving force is your need to be the finest living legend at sea.

In any conversation the person who asks the questions has the control. Use questions to control a meeting.

De Hiring is a key part of leadership. The general who keeps a core-coward in his force is himself incompetent. The right attitude here means going that extra mile, to brainwash and recover this poor soul even when you are pissed off.

Respect is the key determinant of high performance leadership. How much people respect you determines how well they perform. Integrity is the most respected quality of leadership. Always keep your word.

Make every goal clear specific , measurable and time bounded. Goals that are not in writing are just wishes or fantasies.


Some DON’T’S

As a leader you must not be disruptive unless it is in an innovative way.
Don’t depend upon the predictions of others—make your own.

Don’t believe all these so called aptitude tests made by mediocre men—the kinds which will declare that the Eskimo cannot adapt themselves to extreme Arctic colds.

Blindness or fear of the new , causes leaders who are heavily invested in yesterdays ideas, to miss the boat.

Don’t set the bar at an impossible high level . It ensures lack of fulfillment and self worth.

Do not associate with those who are chronic complainers and conduct formal organizational cynic clinics. Model and support positive behavior. Exhibits the confidence and drive to inspire others.

Spend time building people up instead of tearing them down. Do not motivate people by fear. Consistently be open and honest even when it hurts. Share your fears.

Do not ill treat the bearer of bad news or shoot the messenger.

Do not use fear as the key. It causes some to lose focus on the new direction and possibly dragging others down with them as in the example of a drowning swimmer. Do not give untimely criticism.

Don’t let time bandits come to your desk and steal a major portion of your prime time. Work is not composing emails or pushing your mouse. It is about doing something and being productive and profitable.

Don’t expect people to abide by your corny rules if you do not clearly state what they are. The fewer rules you have –the more happier you will be. When I go home on leave I lock up all my rules in my suitcase, and keep it under the bed –to be reopened only when setting off from home to join ship. Could this be the reason why a super strong personality like yours truly did not have a single fight with his wife for a quarter century of married life.

Never allow yourself to be scapegoated by companies who conveniently lose their Jekyl to gain some Hyde. If they want a sucker let them find a less honourable man who does not have the moral fibre-- if you build a reputation of honour , integrity and honesty, no rogue will ever approach you to cover up or cover up for their fraudulent acts to make a few dollars more. It gets easier once you have established a reputation for not covering up. Remember—a real friend will never ask you to cover up for him and put yourself into danger of disgrace.

Make yourself the default setting for the honesty factor, the standard by which others judge themselves. If you get sacked for caring for your own honour—so be it. Hindsight says that 75% of all sackings are not because somebody did not do his job—but because he did not fit into the rotten corporate culture. In such petty , small minded cultures you may be a senior manager –but to get a pencil from the stationary cupboard you have to speak nicely to the custodian of the stationary cupboard.

For creative juices to flow , there are eureka environments, where the matrices of disciplined thought are are already operating but not yet sufficiently hardened to disrupt the dream like fluidity of imagination. Eureka moments in the early morning shower—at the border line between sleep and full awakening .

Eureka moments require the right and left hemispheres of the brain to work together. Neurophysiologists might propose the RH side of the brain—humanistic psychologists offer the subconscious mind---mystics will identify the great cosmic abyss . Good ideas need time to incubate , mature and grow.

Stress is usually associated with the less pleasant aspects of life. --Noise, dirt, extreme temperatures , too tired , too depressed , chest congestion, seasickness, bad smell induced nausea like on Sichem Pearl , loss of sleep/ appetite , inability to enjoy things one is used to, difficulty concentrating, change of sleep patterns etc. Stress is the individuals perception and assessment of the environment. One area which may be stressful for one need not be so for another. Coping up with a difficult senior or junior can be stressful. Not being relieved in time can be stressful. Lively and fun parties give welcome relief from stress.

Like road rage , on my last ship Siteam explorer I discovered there is something equivalent called computer rage. A slow computer or email system which hangs at inopportune times can be stressful, --as it is beyond your control.

Choose the right words— your voice tone, intonation, volume , facial expression , gesture , body language all play a part in the message you send. Unless all these parts of the equation match , the message remains garbled. There is no need to give lengthy explanations. Take ownership of your message by using the word I,  not WE.

Actions of course speak louder than words. Adrenaline produces energy—it has to be expended. Use force appropriate to the situation. Never fuel anger by adding your own two pennies worth. Do not invade another’s personal space unless it is imperative for common good.. While remembering the other persons rights never neglect your own. Never be anybody’s punching bag. Influence without manipulating. There is a difference between a positive constructive feedback and destructive verbal attack. Giving criticism can be as stressful as receiving it.

Avoid using the threatening word “consequence”. Give negative feedback early—so that the receiver need not dredge his memory. Allow the other person to respond—and give him thinking time. Don’t stray from the subject when giving negative feedback—lest you dilute it. End on a positive note .

An assertive leader have a positive self image. Spontaneous assertive self expression is important in all instances if you have to avoid the adrenaline rush induced F and F responses of seething , over reacting, withdrawal or sulking.


You cant motivate people with logic. If you want to move them you must touch their emotions. 5 emotions are love, pride, greed, guilt and fear.

The ability to focus attention on important things is a measure of intelligence.  Incorrect assumptions lie at the root of every failure. Delegate responsibility only to those who have demonstrated an ability to handle it. A person who suffers a incompetent employee is himself incompetent. Speed is an important quality of leadership. Authority without love is stifling.

Stupid is forever, ignorance can be fixed. - Don Wood.

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TEAMWORK

A team takes on a life of its own and you have to regularly nurture and maintain it.

Each member of the team is entitled to be interested in all aspects of the operation. This is not cancelled out by the fact that he has special responsibilities in a limited area, like the goal keeper in a soccer team. This creates higher levels of job satisfaction and commitment plus higher levels of trust and support.

Teamwork is the ability to work towards a common vision. Its is the forum for the common man to attain uncommon results. Teams provide possibilities for empowerment that are not available to individual employees. Teams can implement complex plans and develop creative solutions to complex problems much better than individuals.

A group in itself does not necessarily constitute a team. A team is a small group of people with complementary and diversified skills committed to a common purpose, where they use their strengths in full and can complement for each others weakness..

In order to be a good team player one has to compromise.

Never constrain a team member to guess at something when you are ashore or absent for some time—this is not good teamwork. Hostility among team members , missed signals, misunderstood decisions and low participation are symptoms that signal a need for team building. Morale problems do not happen overnight and they cannot be resolved overnight. Conflict resolution is not a stand alone skill. Without this skill the team cannot bond. The team must perform as if they owned the company themselves. The team members must know what is expected of them.

Building effective team spirit requires leaders to be excited and even passionate about what they do on a daily basis. It is the leaders job to provide a positive and congenial climate .

Give your team members more control over their jobs.

A good team has flexibility and synergy and achieves more than the sum of its parts. It is the job of the leader to identify issues that inhibit the team from reaching their goals address those issues and remove the inhibitors.

The team leader must have people skills. Team members must know how to examine team and individual errors and weaknesses without making personal attacks. The leader must be able to identify jealousy, cynicism and defensive behavior. He must build a feeling of solidarity and team spirit. He has to look out for the cynical lone ranger who ignores others, and survives by being servile to the immediate boss who writes his service report. Don’t excuse a badly behaving team member. In a meeting if conflict gets terribly overheated—take a break and let every one cool off.

Have you noticed how a good football manager like Alex Ferguson sits in the stands , furiously chewing gum , watching team dynamics—the natural forces at play and determine is they are acting for good. He will make interventions to make the effect of those dynamics more positive. Coaching will be provided to make up any skill deficiencies. He quickly determines the teams strength and weaknesses and tailors new approaches. He provides feedback to correct unproductive moves. A good basketball coach calls time out at key moments of the game to give team members an opportunity to assess their play against the game plan and as necessary refocus their thinking and energy for the next critical period of time

Some people are just negative by nature. Don’t hesitate to confront such cynical team destroyers and demand behavior change at once. Some people lack confidence and view attacks on their opinions as a personal attack. A typical statement would be “are you telling that my 20 years of experience does not matter?”

Team building cannot be a short term flavour of the months –like how the PSC gives statements like –this month we will concentrate on GMDSS and next month on crew accommodation hygiene.

Music orchestra bands are a clear example of how a team works. Poor performing bands are inflexible, the musicians have petty differences, compete with each other, stay in their comfort zones and expect the audience to accommodate their jarring music.

Just plain old Harmony is not the goal of cross functional teamwork . False consensus is undesirable where team members are afraid to express a contrary point of view for fear it will destroy the positive feelings among team members. An absence of overt conflict is often mistaken for teamwork. Conflict is natural and desirable. Issues are attacked –not each other. If conflict is not visible , either the people are thinking alike or they have suppressed conflict. Both situations are not helpful. Teams that suppress conflict lose effectiveness and the conflict erupts into destructive ways. A good leader will not allow endless debates on minor problems.

Team leaders must be fair, supportive and recognised by team members as one who can make final judgements and work with the upper management .

The blue ocean leader is not afraid of taking the first step--as he is sure of his own capabilities..He knows the importance of understanding another point of view. He knows that progress has been made on this planet only through disobedience and rebellion-- and that people with spirit , passion and courage have always been sinister to the walking dead.  Strength of character and courage of convictions is NEVER mistaken for poor attitude. He communicates in the language of the people NOT in fuckin' latin. He revels in awakening creating joy in creative expression. He is NOT stupid to mistake motion for effective action. He knows that force can conquer and win battles, but its victories are always short lived. He knows that a drive for consensus is always the first refuge of the scoundrels. You dont convert men by silencing them. he knows when he praises everybody he praises nobody.

The leader must give team members a large picture of how the overall project is going— like how I insist on the common folder of the LAN computer to have a running bar diagram for loading , discharging and tank cleaning . Well functioning teams are involved in the setting of objectives with realistic time frames. Roles are clearly defined and do not overlap. Emphasis must be on solving problems and system corrections –not blaming the individual responsible for the problem. There must be frequent performance related feed backs.

Conflict must be openly discussed so as to result in growth or learning. Members must enjoy and respect each other . Most people hesitate to let down a friend—psssst!--one of the reasons why I hold wild, hair down parties to see how my crew polarizes.. In a shore office like EMS Spore I could see the way people polarised by checking out who got let out of whose social invite or office email humor. I remember I once started a chain of email humor just to check this out.

If the goals are foggy or too easy to achieve, the team will not be motivated to make the extra effort that separates a high performance team from an ineffective motley bunch. Goals provide a sense of direction to the team and should not be impossible to achieve. They also must be measurable so that the progress can be monitored.

When there is no synergy in the team, the people are passive. Their skills and knowledge are not utilized and they waste their time. Any team must have just enough hands to do the job and no more.

If bonuses and incentives are part of the reward system, they should be given to teams performance—not individual performance. Team culture is destroyed by racism, inappropriate race based pay systems , divide and rule overtime policies, horrid working conditions and destructive comments from management. A team cannot achieve its full potential if all that is allowed is logic or information. Any team must focus on real work. When the team realizes that all you are allowing them is to re-arrange the deck chairs on a passenger ship or chip away rust from deck plates or keep a mere lookout, rather than helping to run the ship—they lose interest.

Workplace teams are a means NOT an end. Teams are a means to do something better, quicker, safer and cheaper. A cookbook approach cannot be taken to build teams. Team members often tend to want to clone themselves and invite participants “just like me”.

Be sensitive to friction. Nip it in the bud before it ends in a full scale war with everybody taking sides. Let it be known that feuding wont be tolerated. Reason with them. Don’t take sides—but take swift and resolute action. People must be polite, friendly and kind in a workplace. People are entitled to respect, civilised behaviour and dignity. Creating a good atmosphere is easy when it comes from top down.

If you take sides then you are part of the argument and the disagreement. You as a leader have to remain totally objective and in the middle. Being conciliatory is like mother hen breaking up a fight between 2 of her chicks.. You just want to restore peace. You will not spend inordinate time in finding out who pecked whose ass first.

Your rules say that there can be no bullying, shouting, threatening , intimidation or victimisation in your team. This is abuse. You are allowed to refuse abuse . If somebody is not doing his job he should be taken aside and his mistakes pointed out calmly and rationally. There are the proverbial little chick-licks on whose head an acorn fell and she thought that the sky fell down—and she set off hoppety hop to tell the king—whipping up mass hysteria along the way.

If the team comes to work looking to enjoy themselves, be stretched and challenged then you can get the best out of them. It is the job of the leader to get them emotionally involved , instill pride and make them care about what they do.---that what they do makes a difference, rather than just line the owners pockets. Getting your team to soar takes passion and determination. No one can whistle a symphony—it takes an orchestra to play it. Be ready to prune dead wood, straggly growth and tone deaf lousy flute players.

The force of a team like a typhoon takes time to grow—but once it is spinning, it is a formidable thing indeed.

ENDING WITH HUMOUR

Laugh at yourself before others can laugh at you, then if they laugh at all, they will laugh with you.

Humor is a language which we can use to creatively retrieve a lost position and it is often more effective than pedestrian logic and self justification. Insight can be gained through humour—to hit the mark in a way rational arguments don’t achieve. Humor leaves a gap for you to fill in with your own interpretation. In the world of humor and creativity there is no such thing as nonsense—at least not in the generating ideas stage. When you want to make an imaginative leap—nonsense is exactly what you want. In a meeting where every nods their heads and say “yeah –makes sense”—remember there are probably a thousand people doing it already. Most great innovations are initially regarded as weird, because that is not part of thinking as usual.

A violin virtuoso believed he could play the violin so well that he could charm all the savage wild beasts. He played for couple of weeks unharmed in the deep Indian forests . One day he was eaten up by a starving tiger. All the other animals approached the tiger and cried “why did you do that—he was playing such divine music “. The tiger just cupped his ears and countered “what?”. Beware –there are many such deaf people in this world—and there are also the types who pretend to be deaf. Or they will pretend to sleep and expect you to wake them up. You can be a genius , and the most valuable asset of your company --- there are many who are not bright enough to acknowledge you ----or out of jealousy will deliberately not acknowledge you.

There was this rude boss with the logo “do it now” poster in his cabin. Sure enough, soon –his deputy ran away with his wife , his accountant ran away with all his money and his trusted secretary informed the police about how he embezzled and siphoned off company funds.

Playfulness or humor allows you to adopt a wider angle lens on the problem, to see old in new ways. Humor is a trigger to free up the mind so that your thinking gets less stuck. You are creating a new chemistry in your brain, walking on roads less travelled.

Humor relaxed the narrowly focused mind to allow intuition to come in the fore front. It is not a problem solving technique, but a different state of emotion. Humor comes from the right side lobe of your brain where intuition also lies.

Contextual humour-- At the exit of a grave yard, engraved on a tombstone —“ I told you I was ill “— never failed to make the saddest person smile.

Signature logos’ for agent provocateur

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Fire your creative imagination
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CAPT AJIT VADAKAYIL ( 28 years in command )-- NOT 9 to 5 --but 24 hrs a day.
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