Efficient leaders learn to unlearn

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NK Chaudhary's efficient leaders learn to unlearn

Most of us live by the philosophy that to learn is quite difficult. Perhaps it can be. What is harder is to unlearn many of the things which are accumulated over the years.

If you go to any bookstore, you will find plenty of books written about various aspects of leadership. Most people in top positions at organizations feel that to be effective; they must continuously be learning.

While learning is not a negative thing, the more potent thing to do is unlearning. It can be especially useful for those in leadership and managerial positions.

According to ALPS Leadership Founder & CEO Philip Liebman, there are three ideas that leaders need to unlearn to improve their abilities.

“Shedding unproductive habits requires escaping the confines of our comfort zone to the place where we challenge ourselves to become the kind of leader we need to and can be,” writes Liebman on LinkedIn’s Pulse. “Unlearning these three habits of thinking is a good place to begin.”

First, leaders are under the impression that they are the only ones that can accomplish certain things. It comes from the notion that everyone else at an organization is entirely dependent on leaders and managers.

There is a misconception that people in top positions have all the answers. However, this type of thinking is egotistical and only hinders creativity. Leaders should always be open to learning from others; the most effective way is to listen to what people have to say – no matter what their position is in the company.

As the years have passed, I have learned to delegate responsibility and tasks to others. Not doing so only hurts the overall organization in the end. I often wonder why leaders who chose to take on all the burdens themselves hire employees. Companies have employees for a reason. Trust them, give them freedom and your people will shine.

Second, leaders often think that their organization cannot be successful without them. While companies do need people at top positions, it is those at the ground level and across the company that takes companies to a higher level. One of the most important things that an effective leader can do is to ensure that a culture of inclusiveness, openness, and trust is created throughout the company. Everything else will fall into place after this.

Finally, leaders who can unlearn will acknowledge that leadership is not a final destination. Leaders need to continually evolve and be willing to admit mistakes and admit misgivings. Those who believe they have all the answers are usually the most ignorant. However, someone who can admit they don’t know something and are willing to listen to others and learn is very wise. It is this wisdom that makes exceptional leaders.

I have always told anyone who works for me that no matter what type of education he or she has, they must unlearn in order to become a productive member of our team. In other words, a person may have several degrees from top universities and still be completely ignorant. Real learning does not happen in a classroom – it happens when we interact with others and listen to their ideas.

As I get older, I realize how much I do not know. This is because I have learned to ignore the ego and listen to my heart. By doing this I am able to admit when I am wrong. It is not an easy thing to do but it makes such a difference when interacting with others. This demonstrates that one is human.

Which type of leader are you?

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NK Chaudhary's One Emotion

It is safe to say that people fall into two broad categories: ones who are influenced by their environment and the ones who affect their environment. There is a big difference between these two types, and you can probably guess under which category good leaders fall.

Noted businessman and entrepreneur Richard Branson recently wrote a blog about the two types of people and came up with an interesting analogy. He describes those people who impact their environment as thermostats and people who are influenced by their surroundings as thermometers.

While it is an unusual comparison, it makes sense because a thermostat controls the temperature while the thermometer measures it. Any leader who wants to be effective will most definitely have to affect the “temperature” around him or her. It means having a big vision as well as a big heart.

I have always believed that in order to make a real impact on the world, you must start making changes yourself. Waiting for someone else to do this is not practical because you may have to wait forever. Everyone has good ideas although we may not always be encouraged to share them. People don’t have the confidence to voice their ideas. As a result, we miss out on a lot of good views.

Everyone – regardless of religion or socio-economic background – has something valid to say. That is why I always strive to encourage everyone to express their thoughts. When we have a multitude of ideas and opinions, only then can we affect change around us.

No one exemplifies a “thermostat” leader better than the late American civil rights pioneer Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His son, Martin Luther King III, spoke about how the environment can influence people dramatically at a recent Virgin Unite gathering.

King was ten years old when his father was assassinated and, in a cruel twist of fate, his grandmother was shot to death six years later. After enduring so much heartache and tragedy, it would be natural for anyone to react negatively. King could have himself followed a path of violence and despair.

However, King did not give in to this impulse. He did not let the circumstances in his environment dictate how he would develop as a person. Just like his father, King became a community activist and civil rights leader. He became the epitome of a thermostat leader.

“Thermometers merely reflect the temperature of the setting they find themselves in, reacting to what happens around them – these are common,” Branson writes. “Far rarer is the leader who can be a thermostat, monitoring the environment, adapting where necessary, and acting to stimulate positive change. It is these leaders who can help create a better environment for everyone.”

Change happens and we should not be afraid of it. However, many do fear change because it is more comfortable when things stay as they are. But if we do this, then there is no progress. I try to embrace change as much as possible. If you view change in a positive light, then those around you will adopt this attitude.

Without these types of leaders, it is challenging to make effective change. Those who are more like thermometers might have a hard time influencing change because they remain stagnant and do not react to their surroundings.

The best leaders can assess a situation and then act accordingly. Some of the steps these types of leaders take may initially seem drastic or even foolish – but they will never fall into the status quo territory.

Good leaders react positively to what is happening around them instead of just observing. Be a thermostat type of leader and take your organization to new levels.

The one emotion that will take your business to new heights

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NK Chaudhary's One Emotion

People often ask me what is the secret to success. These people are usually looking for some business formula or method that will translate into overnight success. Not only do these folks realize that there is no such thing as quick success but they are often unable or unwilling to understand what is the basis of true success.

When I give my answer, many think I am joking. That is because I believe that any organization that wants to succeed in this day and age must include love as the foundation of its culture. In my opinion, nothing worthwhile happens without love – and that includes developing a good business plan.

After graduating from college, I had to make a very important decision. Choosing the safe path would have given me a steady job and financial security. This would be the dream of any young person. Yet, I was not convinced that this was the path that I was meant to follow.

I struggled with my choice but eventually decided that I could not be happy in a standard 9 to 5 type of job. After much reflection and thought I realize that my dreams lay in the rural artisans who create carpets.

Having observed these artists since I was young, I was very familiar with their work and lifestyle. It became my passion to make sure that these the skills that these people possess were nurtured and preserved.

This all came from a place of love. Of course, I needed to support myself and my growing family, but that need was secondary to the work of promoting rural craftspeople and their art.

Traditional business people laughed at me when they discovered how I was running my business. But these people did not understand because they operated not with their hearts but with their egos. I can’t blame them because that is how business has always been traditionally run.

Even after all this time and success to back up my experiment, some people still do not understand this concept of having love as a basis of everything you do in business. Fortunately, many people are waking up to conscious capitalism and are realizing that profits can no longer reign supreme over people.

With love comes trust. Placing trust in someone or something is one of the hardest things that we can do in life. When we trust someone fully, then we become vulnerable. If things go as planned, then it is good. But if we are cheated, then we are heartbroken.

During my years, I have trusted people and I have been cheated. But one thing I did not do is to lose sight of the love in everything. I trust and love my workers. As a result, I receive the same back. When employees feel they are trusted, they will give you loyalty and work hard to complete your mission. There are times when the trust is broken but you cannot let that bring you down because the rewards of infusing love in everything you do is well worth it.

Family businesses can maximize goodness.

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JRC Family

Businesses have always been a family affair. Family-run businesses account for the vast majority of organizations across the globe. In the U.S. alone, these types of companies make up 64% of the country’s gross domestic product. An astounding 78% of new jobs emanate from family organizations, according to the Conway Center for Family Business.

For me, my business is my life just as my family is. I see no difference between the two because there is a deep connection between my family and our organization. My organization is simply an extension of my family. I am very proud and lucky to have my children involved in significant ways in our company.

Even before my children were born, I had made a deep connection with rural weavers. I wanted to make a meaningful impact in the world and knew I could do this by working with these talented artisans and helping them nurture their art. In this sense, a lifelong relationship was born between the artisans and me.

This was the beginning of my pursuit of a purpose-driven company. I was – and am – more interested in the overall well-being of people than in profits. We do not view the artisans as mere makers of a product. Our goal is to nurture their talent so that they flourish. Instead of mechanically churning out rugs, the weavers’ natural creativity is enhanced, and their wisdom is used in the business process.

From this, our Manchaha (Artisan Originals) collection was born. This was an experiment that metamorphosed into a movement for exploration, professional growth, and empowerment. Rather than relying on a designer’s work to make a rug, artisans are given full artistic freedom to create a unique piece.

By doing this, we hope to demonstrate to the weavers how valuable they are to our organization while at the same time tapping into their ingenuity. When a person is given the freedom to do what he or she wants, the sky is the limit. We want the artisans to feel trusted. Trusting employees is one of the simplest things an organization can do to build confidence and loyalty. Happy and fulfilled workers stay with a company and outperform others.

This is especially important with a family company, who after a few generations, can decline into a sense of well-being and eventually lose that founder’s mentality that made them a success in the first place. The key to regaining that passion and drive is to make sure that anything you do in an organization is done with “we” in mind and not just “I.”

When you conduct business with the primary purpose of enriching just yourself, that comes from an egocentric place and has few benefits. But when you look at the whole picture and become as inclusive as possible, you can make real social change. These are companies that enjoy sustainable and long-term success. Better yet, they make an organization with meaning and purpose.

Take your Company Culture to the Next Level

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DSCN1970

Creating a successful business means developing the company culture that attracts world-class talent to your organization. Without a supportive and creative culture, the people you hire will be temporary, and you can forget about accomplishing any long-term goals.

These days most companies are working hard to create a culture that fits their needs and organization best. However, try as they might, some businesses end up creating a toxic environment, which can be worse than having no established culture at all.

“A great culture can encourage recruitment, retention and long-term happiness among employees,” according to a post written by the Forbes Coaches Council. “A toxic culture, on the other hand, leads to high turnover, low productivity, and poor team morale.”

There are clear warning signs to look out for if you suspect that a toxic environment may be formulating. While it is best to recognize and fix the problems as soon as possible, sometimes we cannot see what is right in front of us. One sign of a bad culture is that there is a false sense of peace and unity. In turn, it leads to a climate in which people are afraid to be honest if negativity arises. In the long run, this creates resentment among employees. The solution to this is to ensure everyone that they are free to speak their mind when issues arise. Make them feel comfortable when discussing negative things about work. No one should feel like they will be punished if they complain about something.

Second, restricted interaction among employees and teams can hamper progress seriously. When people keep to themselves, there is not a free and flowing exchange of ideas. Creativity is hindered, and the organization does not move forward. Gossip is one thing that is hard to avoid, and it is difficult to find a company where people do not partake in this bad habit. However, an organization that has people continually gossiping is one that does not have a strong foundation. In this kind of environment, people feel free to talk negatively about their bosses and co-workers instead of respecting them. In turn, this wastes time and creates hostilities. While it may be hard to enforce, it can be a good idea to create a policy that discourages gossiping. Then make sure that workers are listened to so that they do not feel the need to gossip with others.

Lastly, an obvious sign of a toxic environment is a high turnover rate. Employees won’t stay long with an organization if they are unhappy and feel stifled. Creating an environment where everyone is valued and respected can lead to long term results that will bring your company’s culture to the next level.

Self-Management Empowers Employees

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Jaipur Rugs founder, Nand Kishore Chaudhary, promotes Self-Management in Employees

Jaipur Rugs

Big companies mostly operate within a set hierarchy. The CEO is at the top and, top-level executives trickle down to manage the masses. There has always been a clear delineation between the employees and those who tell the employees what to do.

Thankfully, things are changing, and conscious companies are breaking the mold of the traditional business model by allowing employees to delve into a self-management style of working in the company culture. Having a rigid management style does not make sense because we, as individuals are quite capable of completing tasks when we are away from the office.

The sun rises and sets every day by itself; flowers continue to bloom without supervision. No one manages these natural forces, nor is a there is a manager or CEO who runs the entire world. So, it does seem counterproductive to put up such restrictions in a business environment.

In traditional business models, more time goes on getting solutions to issues than creativity and innovation. In this type of environment, the employees are not able to bring their wisdom and decision-making strengths to the table. Blocking the employee’s creativity is a missed opportunity to gain valuable insight. Just because an employee may not have a fancy degree or formal higher education does not mean that his or her idea holds no value. On the contrary, some of the most intelligent people I know have never been inside a classroom.

I had always been under the impression that I was the one managing my company. But I slowly realized through mindfulness and consciousness, that as a leader, I was not managing my employees. Instead, I had been restricting them by not letting them make their own decisions.

That is why we initiated a self-management trial with 600 weavers in various villages of Rajasthan wherein they were trained to ensure 100% on-time delivery with zero defect and zero wastage. The weavers were encouraged to be accountable for their own decisions. They were supported in their failures and assured that every mistake is just another learning opportunity. So far the results have been very positive, with 70% of the weavers participating in the self-management program reaching 100% on-time delivery with zero defect and zero wastage!

As leaders, we must be humble enough to trust our employees. Micromanaging does not achieve anything. But, many leaders feel that if they are always on top of employees, only then the work will be done faster and better. Indeed, it is not the case.

In the coming 2-3 years, Jaipur Rugs will be the world’s first self-managed company at the grassroots. And that will be a global case study.

Look for purpose and passion when hiring

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Jaipur Rugs Team

When hiring employees, most companies go through mountains of resumes and CVs, desperately weeding out the wheat from the chaff. Human resources experts have a clear list of qualifications in mind, including proper schooling, skills, and experience. Those involved in the hiring process feel that most qualifications must be met before bringing someone on board. Read More

Weaving as Meditation

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Weaving as meditation

The weaver’s hands move back and forth in a repetitive motion, taking brightly colored yarn in and out, in and out intertwining the threads that result in a work of art. The work that carpet weavers do may look mundane and monotonous to the outsider looking in, but this is a form of meditation.
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Leadership lessons from a legend

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Herb Kelleher

Earlier this year, the business community lost a pioneer of conscious capitalism when Herb Kelleher, CEO and co-founder of Southwest Airlines, passed away. Kelleher’s disruptive business model and one of a kind culture were responsible for the success of the American airline. Read More