Month: June 2003

Thane Police Get Tips on Eating Right

Thane Police Get Tips on Eating Right

The lifestyle of a police officer is hardly enviable. Police work, by its very nature, is extremely stressful and requires enormous amounts of restraint. Abnormal duty hours make it difficult for a policeman to stick to the right eating schedule. Often, their work requires them to hang about at isolated locations for extended periods, making it difficult to get hold of proper food. All this coupled with the stressful occupation in which the policeman is involved means that health is invariably neglected.

It is this very concern that prompted Suprakash Chakrvarty, the City Police Commissioner, to suggest to The Rotary Club of Thane to organise a workshop on healthy dietary habits for the police force. On Monday, June 23, 2003, about 100 police officers of the rank of PSI and above from the 25-odd police stations of Thane, attended the workshop conducted by Dietician Kinit Hazare. The workshop took place the office of the Commissioner of Police and the attendees included Police Commissioner himself and Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Dhivre.

Hazare provided valuable nutritional insights to the police officers. She began by inquiring about their eating habits and pointed out the erroneous patterns that many seemed to follow. One factor that was common most policemen was that when faced with odd hours of duty at secluded locations, they all fed themselves with whatever junk food that they could lay their hands on. She emphasised the importance of avoiding junk food as they were nutritionally empty. Never mind the taste buds, the fact remains that junk food causes more harm than good.

Hazare urged the police officers to eat at least one fruit everyday, especially in the evenings. She also underlined the importance of breakfast as an essential part of their routine.

She advised the addressees not to consume non-vegetarian food at night as it takes longer to digest. Her clear preference was green vegetables. She strongly recommended a balanced diet comprising of all the kinds of nutrients, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and so on.

A Q&A session followed the lecture by Hazare. Initially, there were no questions, perhaps because of the hesitancy factor. But not willing to let such an opportunity go by, our commissioner fired the first question. He jokingly said, "You are asking us to give up the good things in life? How will we live without them?" His question played the role of the ice-breaker and a barrage of questions then followed, each answered adeptly.

In this world of instant gratification and over indulgence we tend lose sight of the fact that "we are what we eat". When we eat the wrong foods, our bodies bear the brunt. Food is the fuel that keeps our engines running. And police officers ought to pay more attention to their eating habits. That’s because, although maintaining good health is important for everyone, it is even more so for those serving in the police force. They are expected to be alert, agile and stronger than the rest of us. After all they are the protectors of the society and they just cannot afford to take their own health lightly.

Reality Check

Reality Check

Dr Rajan Bhonsle is a renowned counsellor and motivator.

Manoj Khatri: How should students deal with stress in the run up to the board results and after that?
Rajan Bhonsle: The root cause of stress is "expectations". Invariably all children know well enough, how they have performed in the exams. If they keep their expectations realistic and proportionate to their performance, there will not be any surprises. Very often, in spite of knowing about how they have written their papers, children lie to parents about their performance. This happens mainly due to fear of parental reaction. As results come closer, they are filled with fear and dread being exposed. While this is happening, deep down they know quite well what the result is likely to be. Fear of parental reaction comes out of the previous experiences with parents. If the parents have been reacting harshly, children tend to postpone revealing the truth. If children want to eliminate the stress, they should have a free and frank interaction with their parents, about how they have done their papers much before the results. This will help the entire family to have realistic expectations. And when one has realistic expectations, then one is not distressed at the time of results.

Manoj Khatri: How critical is the role of parents in helping students cope with their results?
Rajan Bhonsle: Parents’ role is crucial. Parental reaction to results matters the ‘most’ to all children. If the child has taken genuine efforts and studied to the best of his/her ability, that itself should satisfy the parents. And it is necessary for them to convey this to their child in no uncertain terms, that they are happy with his/her efforts, and that the result is not going to matter much. Even in those cases, where the parents are not happy with the efforts taken by their child, they need not wait to react till after the results. They can very prudently convey their observation to the child and make it clear that they are not expecting any surprises in the result. This will eliminate stress at the 11th hour.

Manoj Khatri: How should students react to obvious comparisons with their friends who have done better than them?
Rajan Bhonsle: Students need to learn to accept and appreciate that their friend/friends have done better in academics than them and remember that academic excellence is not everything. SSC exams probably test their memory, writing skills and their understanding of subjects such as science, maths, history, geography etc. However, there are many more aspects to one’s personality that are not tested during the SSC exams. One may have the ability of artistic and creative expression, sporting skills, athletic efficacy, physical stamina, business sense, leadership qualities, social skills, capacity to love, high emotional quotient, and competence in areas such as elocution, acting, music, poetry etc. Respecting and accepting that each individual is unique eliminates many interpersonal and intrapersonal problems. Feelings of jealousy, inadequacy, superiority / inferiority complexes are all a result of not acknowledging the fact that each person in endowed with uniquely different qualities. While respecting the academic ability of their friend, they should respect the unique ability and talent that they are gifted with and proceed with careers where they can prove their worth.

Manoj Khatri: What would be your advice to students who are disappointed with their performance and feel like it’s the end of all hopes for a bright career?
Rajan Bhonsle: There are innumerble career options for every child. If you keep your choice narrow, there are more chances of disappointment. If you give yourself a wide range of choices and options, there will not be any disappointments. In every profession/career there are successful people and unsuccessful people. It is not the career that determines your fate, but it is your well utilized talent, genuine efforts in the right direction, perseverance, and a realistic foresight that leads you to success in ‘any’ career.

Manoj Khatri: Finally, irrespective of their grades, what is the best way for students to go about selecting their career paths?
Rajan Bhonsle: Students should expose themselves to people from different careers, engaging in discussions with them to understand the realities of that particular career, the path required to establish oneself in that career, the financial involvement, the current scene regarding the career, the growth potential, the time frame to establish oneself in it, the estimated financial returns, lifestyle accompanying that career and other similar issues. Such discussions with people currently engaged in that career will give them a realistic view. Such endeavours could be undertaken by schools & social organizations, by inviting people from different professions for detailed interaction with students. If institutes do not undertake such ventures, parents can arrange for their child to meet up with different people for such interactions.

Reality check for Students

  • Have "realistic" expectations from your results.
  • Results in SSC exam tests only a small area of your whole personality. So don’t judge your worth with your marks.
  • Don’t compare yourself with anyone. You are ‘unique’.
  • Keep a wide range of career options open and don’t harp on only one choice.
  • Be frank with your parents.

Reality check for Parents

  • Love your child unconditionally for who he is and not by what he has scored in the exam.
  • Strictly avoid comparisons, as each child is ‘unique’.
  • Appreciate his/her efforts and not the outcome (results).
  • Acknowledge the other qualities & talents of your child and encourage them.
  • Create a safe family atmosphere of free & frank communication for your child.
  • Do not ‘impose’ any career option on your child.

Trials and tribulations of local train travel

Trials and tribulations of local train travel

A friend, who recently travelled in the CST-bound ladies special, related an interesting episode that only goes to reaffirms the belief of Mumbai’s suburban rail network being its lifeline. Our friend boarded the first class compartment at Thane station and soon found herself amongst a group of enthusiastic ladies, who were mostly in their middle ages. Needless to say, they were all working women, travelling to their respective offices. They travelled together every single day, though each one boarded at different stations, were headed towards different destinations and worked for different organisations. For these ladies, their morning journey a time to unwind, a time they relish with their "train pals."

As the ladies special halted at Mulund, the compartment was suddenly filled with the sound of greetings and good wishes. Apparently, one of the ladies who got in was celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary on the day and was an integral member of this group. A well thought-out celebration then followed. She was immediately offered a place to sit and then everyone then sang a song for her. The atmosphere was euphoric – and to think of, it was after all, a ladies first class compartment of a suburban train! Then, the group presented the anniversary-girl with a gift (an idol of a Deity) and an anniversary card, who in turn distributed sweets (Prasad) to everyone in the compartment, including our friend. And that was not all. She then presented a return-gift to every member of her group – a nicely wrapped steel jar for their kitchens! Well, the celebrations continued throughout the journey and the women seemed to enjoy themselves completely. The camaraderie they shared was visibly contagious and also symbolic of the undying spirit of the vibrant twin cities of Mumbai and Thane.

As for the train travel, however much we despise it, whine about its poor services and criticise the sorry state of its facilities, we cannot do without suburban train services. Proof of this is evident in the fact that suburban trains of Mumbai endure the highest passenger density in the world! Isn’t it remarkable then, that these frazzled passengers figure out such fantastic ways of putting up with the travails of travelling in the red-yellow coloured, wheeled coaches?

Never Give Up

Never Give Up

On Saturday, over 170 SSC students from the city and a few of their parents heaved a sigh of relief after attending the seminar, "You and Your Results" organised by Lighthouse Foundation, a not-for-profit enterprise created to facilitate personal transformation. The event was supported by The Rotary Club of Thane. The purpose seminar, which was held at Sahyog Mandir, was to reach out to stressed-out SSC students and help them deal with their impending results in a mature and sensible manner.

The seminar began a two-minute video clip that captured the reactions of students before results. They were asked, "What if you fail?" and the responses were expected: "I’ll run away", "I’ll be really depressed" and "I’ll feel hurt inside".

This was followed by an audio-visual presentation by Manoj Khatri, principal founder of Lighthouse. He began by flashing the names of SSC board toppers from the past few years on the screen and asking the audience if they recognise them. Very few did. Then, names of famous individuals like Thomas Edison, Dhirubhai Ambani, George Washington, Mark Twain, Walt Disney, Bill Gates and many more famous individuals were shown. Everyone seemed to recognise them and their achievements. Yet very few knew that they had all left education half way, were elementary school drop-outs or had never had any formal education. But that did not stop them from achieving unparalleled success. The message was loud and clear: Doing well in academics does guarantee success just as doing poorly in academics does not guarantee failure.

Abraham Lincoln’s story created a visible impact on the audience as he was introduced as the man who failed the maximum number of times before going on to become the President of United States. When the audience was asked what the moral of the story was, almost all of them unanimously echoed, "Never Give Up."

The Chief Guest of the evening was Jalaj Dani, Vice-President of International Operation at Asian Paints. He gave examples of Indians who had left their secure jobs to pursue their dreams. Harsha Bhogle, Shankar Mahadevan and Kalpana Chawla featured in his presentation.

The third panellist was Dr. Rajan Bhosle, well known psychologist and student counsellor. His address was made of little stories that urged the students not to attach any judgement to the many occurrences in their lives. With the help of a wonderful Sufi fable, he convinced people that happenings are neither good nor bad – they are just happenings.

A question and answer session that followed saw many questions being asked. Here Dr. Bhosle’s expertise came to use. Being a practising counsellor, he has several years of experience dealing with similar questions and he fielded them admirably.

After the seminar, most students and parents who were interviewed said that they were no longer as anxious about the impending board results. In fact students were thrilled with the many stories they had heard of people who failed and yet rose to heights of success in their lives.

Some of the other key messages of the seminar were: Each one of you is special. Trust and accept yourself. Don’t compare your marks. And never give up.

Since results are about to be declared, we’d like to appeal to all SSC students reading this to remember that "you are not your marks". Do not identify your self worth with your marks. In case you get less-than-desired grades or even if you fail, just remember that you will get a million more opportunities for success. Albert Einstein, one of the greatest scientists ever, had failed his entrance test Federal Swiss Polytechnic at the age of 16. Thankfully, he didn’t give up hopes, reappeared for the entrance test and cleared it. The rest is history.

Managing without managers

Managing without managers

Two decades ago, Ricardo Semler, a 24-year-old graduate from Harvard Business School, embraced an egalitarian approach to business management and transformed an ailing company into a flourishing one. When Ricardo took over the realms of Semler and Company, a Brazilian manufacturing business from his father, the country’s economy was going through a recession and had hit the company’s sales particularly hard. The company was in mayhem and on the brink of bankruptcy. Ricardo had never agreed with the autocratic management style in which his father had always believed. So he decided to change things a bit. On the very first day after he took over, he fired two-thirds of the top management. Next he rechristened the company to call it “Semco.” He then began mapping fresh strategies for the company to bring it back in form.

In spite of these changes, the company’s performance kept dwindling. Attempts such as brutal cost-cutting too did not salvage the situation. Finally, after experiencing severe stress for several months, Ricardo decided to drastically change his lifestyle along with that of his employees. The first thing he did was to eliminate needless layers of hierarchy; he trimmed down the hierarchy from twelve levels down to three levels. Today, a front-line lathe operator is only one layer away from the general manager of his division.

Next, he began consulting his workforce for all major decisions. Soon his company started showing signs of recovery and it became clear to him that the only way to drive his company to growth and success is by involving all his employees. He made up his mind to embrace what he calls “participatory management,” which essentially meant empowering employees and encouraging them to participate in running the business. His decision paid off, and handsomely at that.

In only a decade and a half, Semco grew from a five million dollar company with 100 employees, to a 220 million dollar company with 3,000 employees. And these employees are a highly motivated, self-driven and quality conscious lot. The management and workers are so empathetic towards each other and their communication so open that no union is required. Each worker is fully aware of his role in the organisation and is completely committed to company goals. And employee turnover is tending to zero. What brought such a change, you might wonder?

Utopian Workplace
Imagine working for a company where you decide your salary, set your sales and productivity targets, where you review your boss’s performance, where you could walk in at any time, where there is no dress code, where it is mandatory to take a vacation, where everyone knows what everyone else earns, and some workers can earn more than their boss. For most of us, this would be the ultimate workplace utopia. For employees of Semco, this is the way of life.

Semco, one may say, is the ultimate democratic organisation. Semco’s standard policy is no policy – instead of corporate governance, it advocates self-governance. All employees are treated like mature adults. Workers set their own production quotas as well as their own wages. Workers have access to all corporate records, and are taught to read financial reports. Profit-sharing is democratic too – profits shared are negotiated with workers, who then decide how to split the money.

Before people are hired for or promoted to leadership positions, they are interviewed and approved by everyone who must work for them. Every six months, managers are reviewed by workers and results are posted for everyone to see. Not only that – bosses with poor evaluations are actually fired! Each worker votes on major decisions, such as buying another company or moving a factory. Workers are responsible for their own quality control, eliminating the quality control department.

Because a large proportion of what all employees earn is a factor of the firm’s profits, employees tend not to abuse their freedom – they seem to know that if they do, the loss is theirs. Today Semco is reaping rich dividends in return for employee empowerment. The extraordinary manner in which the organisation is managed (or not managed), has earned Semco the distinct reputation of being the world’s most unusual workplace. Plus, it is one of the most sought after employers in the world and has steadily climbed to becoming one of the top five companies in its industry.

Ricardo on India
In an interview with The Economic Times last year, Semler advised that copying Fortune 500 companies is a bad idea for companies operating in countries like Brazil and India. He encouraged businesses to look for “new architectures” that can be “built around our cultural background.”

When asked how should one tackle resistance and go about changing mindsets, Semler replied, “You’ve to remember that the only resistance of any importance comes from the middle managers. About 80 per cent of the company, i.e., everyone who is not a manager or a supervisor, take to this like fish to water, in the sense that it doesn’t take very much to convince people that they should have more freedom to come and go when they want, dress the way they want, spend more time with their kids.”

Last words
In his book Maverick, Ricardo Semler, relates an incident when the wife of one of the company’s workers went to see a member of the company’s human resources staff. She was puzzled about her husband’s behaviour. He no longer yelled at the kids, she said, and asked everyone what they wanted to do on the weekends. He wasn’t his usual, grumpy, autocratic self. Ricardo concluded that as Semco had changed for the better, so had its employees.

Ricardo ends his book Maverick with these inspiring words, “I hope our story will cause other companies to reconsider themselves and their employees. To forget socialism, capitalism, just-in-time deliveries, salary surveys, and the rest of it, and to concentrate on building organisations that accomplish that most difficult of all challenges: to make people look forward to coming to work in the morning.”

Like everything else, business management metamorphoses over time. By going against the time-honoured practices of managing a business enterprise, Ricardo Semler has sown the seeds for a metamorphosis that makes the autocratic and hierarchical style of management seem dated.