Don’t be ashamed of what you don’t know

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Don't be ashamed of what you don't know

About 40 years ago, I along with a small group of weavers set out to change the carpet industry in India. Our ultimate goal was to improve the lives of rural artisans while preserving their ancient craft. We knew that doing this would require changing the way business was being done at the time.

This was not an easy task and I admit that as a young person, I was quite naïve at the time. I believed that changing the way business had been done for so long would not be that difficult. Obviously, I was wrong but I don’t regret the passion with which I initiated my project.

When we are young, we do not let practical things blind us to the possibilities. We think with more open and clear minds. What an older, more experienced person might think of as foolish, young people openly embrace. Not every idea will work but where would we be if we were to dismiss any idea that was different from traditional thinking as crazy or impossible?

If we all approach things with a controlled and measured attitude, then there would be no progress in the world. Things might run smoothly with little to no bumps in the road but in the end, we would sacrifice making the big bold discoveries that change the world.

“Leaders who possess an open mind, who are driven by an insatiable curiosity, and who are more interested in what is right than who is right, tend to be much better leaders than those leaders who enjoy being the smartest person in the room,” writes leadership advisor Mike Myatt in Forbes magazine. “I’ve always said if you’re the smartest person in the room you’ve built the wrong team.”

When we hire staff at our company, one of the most important traits that a potential candidate can have is curiosity. Asking questions – no matter how small – demonstrates a type of humbleness and willingness to learn.

Too often, leaders and employees alike want to present a false image of themselves to the world. They feel insecure and want to make sure that people think they are the smartest. But just because one has a formal education does not mean they are wise.

The most intelligent people are those who are willing to say they do not know something. Asking questions, being curious and wanting to learn about different things shows that a person has the flexibility to embrace change.

When you can embrace change, then the possibilities are endless. These types of people have a view of the world that is much more tolerant. They are willing to take risks and make fools of themselves in the process. They are not afraid to appear naive.

While I have been in the business world for many years now, I still consider myself naïve. I am proud of this fact because it shows that I have a willingness to learn. I do not ever want to be the type of person who thinks he knows everything. In fact, as time goes on, I realize what little I do know.

My naiveté helps me look at things with fresh eyes and find new solutions to old problems. When leaders embrace their naiveté rather than pretend to know it all, that is when they really succeed.

Can business be a nourishment for the soul & elevate people to a higher purpose?

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Nourish the soul so your business can reach new heights

Nourish the soul so your business can reach new heights..
Business has traditionally been viewed solely as a means to make money. In that pursuit, those at leadership and management positions have worked hard to make their organizations successful at any cost with little to no regard to human value.

Because of this, many people feel a void within themselves that has become hard to fill with material things. Most people mistakenly feel that making a lot of money and buying more and more things will make them happy. They soon discover, however, that material things do little to feed the soul.

We can see so many ashrams or religious channels on TV trying to cater to this hunger that people feel. What I have observed is that the more people try to fill the void with fake or unauthentic dogma, the more these people move away from what they really need – other people.

As such, their minds become distorted and they do not realize what they should do. It is comparable to having a fever. When someone is sick with a fever, he or she does not know what to do. They only realize that they are suffering and that changes need to be made.

Medicines or ashrams will not heal this type of fever. The only cure for this is nourishing the soul. And the way to do that is through love. This is very simple and extremely difficult at the same time.

No one is born with preconceived notions about others. This happens with time and the influence of others in our life. There are some who look past differences and realize that everyone is the same no matter their position in life. For others, it is much more difficult and they always view anyone less educated, less wealthy or less refined than themselves as beneath them. People who have not realized the power of love are blinded by prejudices and distrust.

As a result, most business have lost sight of people. This makes no sense because it is people who are the soul and foundation of any organization. Transforming organizations from profit-centered to people-centered has innumerable benefits.

The trend today is for customers to patronize those businesses who focus more on doing good for everyone rather than just benefitting financially. People want to know that their hard-earned money is helping others rather than lining the pockets of those who already have more than their fair share.

Business can transform into people-centric organizations when people nourish their souls through love. Opening yourself up to other human beings, interacting with and learning from them is best way to do this. When you create an organization based on love, then people’s wounds heal and they can see others clearly.

Everyone has a story to tell and we should all listen carefully. When this happens, the old way of doing business will slowly die out. No business can compete with such an organization. By nourishing the soul, everyone’s efficiency and creativity reach higher levels – taking the entire organization with them.

Women and their exemplary capabilities

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NK Chaudhary's Women and their exemplary capabilities

We can’t afford to ignore women any longer..
In India, we worship female goddesses without blinking an eye. Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and anyone who does business will no doubt embrace her. It is also said that when a girl is born or a woman enters a home after marriage that Lakshmi has arrived.

However powerful this sentiment, the reality of how women are treated on a daily basis is far different. I have three daughters and because of this have been viewed negatively. When a daughter is born in India, while some will say that a Lakshmi has been born to the family, there are many others who view this innocent girl child as a curse.

Some people pitied my wife and me because daughters were born in my family, but I was overjoyed. I saw and still see no difference between my daughters and my sons. In fact, women are stronger and more resilient than men are in almost every aspect.

I have always been aware of the preferential treatment given to boys in my native country. Things are improving but we have a long way to go before true equality is achieved. In my younger days, I made the acquaintance of a British photographer who was traveling in India. We eventually became good friends and had many long and meaningful discussions about life and the local artisans.

But one conversation we had really stood out. I asked my friend why women are viewed so negatively and recounted my own experience with having three daughters. He told me that I am the luckiest person in the world because I have three daughters. He went on to explain that women are much more efficient and receptive than men are.

I did not let societal negativity from stopping me when it came to educating my daughters. They received as much education as their brothers. I can say for certain that it is the contributions of my daughters that have made our company the global success that it is today.

It is well known that girls mature faster than boys but many in society fail to accept this and also ignore the fact that women can do such amazing things if given the opportunity. India is a country where the full potential of women is not recognized and this is a shame because this is a huge loss.

It is estimated that India could be 27% richer if more women were able to contribute to the workforce, according to an article in The Economist. This is an amazing fact and one that I am proud to say that I support. In our organization, a large number of women make up our artisan workforce. We are strong believers in supporting and nurturing a woman’s natural talent.

Some of our best leaders at the local level are women. Women in rural settings are the ones who take care of the household. This is true leadership because it is the women who raise the children, do the household chores and manage income. Women are natural-born leaders and take our organization to completely new levels.

Women are very eager to learn and contribute. Rural women are burdened with household duties but when given a chance to flourish they can do even more amazing things. They know better than anyone what needs to be done to progress and move forward.

We are a small organization but we have made a concerted effort to encourage women because we recognize the amazing contributions they make when given a chance. Imagine all of the progress India – and the world – could make if the other half of the population were given the same opportunities as everyone else.

Give employees the gift of creative freedom

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NK Chaudhary's Give employees the gift of creative freedom

One of the biggest problems I see today involves creativity. This especially applies to the business world. I am not talking about an absence of creativity. There is abundant creativity everywhere you look.

The issue is that creativity is often stifled, especially in the business community. This is due to a basic lack of trust on the part of leaders and management. Leaders wrongly believe that they are the only ones who can handle business matters.

When I first started my business, I also had this attitude and spent a great deal of time micromanaging my people. This is the worst thing that a leader can do with employees because it demonstrates that you do not trust your workers enough to do the work they were hired to do.

When leaders operate on this level, it comes from a very selfish and egotistical place. I finally realized that if I wanted the company to succeed then I would have to trust my employees and allow them a certain amount of freedom.

This decision was also important for my personal growth as well because if I had continued to micromanage employees then I would also be at a disadvantage. Without the benefit of my employees’ information and insight, my company would not be able to sustain success. That is because old ideas cause stagnation.

When employees are allowed to express themselves and offer their personal wisdom, then organizations expand and grow. When you have the same people making decisions day after day, nothing moves forward.

Everyone has creativity within. Some of us are aware that we have innovative ideas but are not allowed to express them due to micromanagement. Others have never been given the opportunity to discover the creativity within them. It is the job of a good leader to trust workers so that they nurture and express their creativity. Good leaders will also work to find the hidden capabilities within people who may not be aware of their talents.

When employees are not given freedom they feel that they are not trusted. Without trust, no relationship can survive and eventually employees will look elsewhere for employees. High turnover rates cause a lot of disruption in organizations so companies need to do everything they can to retain workers.

One of the simplest things that can be done to do this is to give workers the freedom to take full advantage of their ideas and creativity. The best part is this method does not cost any money. What your organization can gain from more ideas and input is priceless.

Know how to hire and retain your employees

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NK Chaudhary's Know how to hire and retain your employees

Finding the perfect employee is next to impossible. Many companies spend too much time trying to find a person that they think will meet every one of their expectations. It is a waste of time because nobody is perfect. Many human resources departments make the mistake of trying to find someone that matches the exact criteria of the position. Not only does this waste time, but it also increases the chance of passing over an employee that at first glance may not have every qualification desired, but still might be a good hire.

Once employees are hired, it is up to leaders and managers to work hard to keep them happy and satisfied so that they do not go to another company. Because the economy has improved in recent years, it has become harder for companies to retain employees because they have more employment options. However, good leaders can take steps to make sure their employees grow with the company.

I always make sure that prospective employees are aware of our organization’s culture and that their values align with our own. Any mismatch will result in problems later on so it is better to be clear in the beginning.

I also believe in giving freedom to employees. When they feel trusted, people tend to shine and contribute much more to the success of the mission. When employees feel like they are micromanaged, they will not feel a sense of belonging resulting in frustration and a lack of creativity.

Retaining the best employees becomes a lot easier when they have good managers. Managers need to be the type of people who can bring a certain level of understanding and patience to the job. They must make sure that employees feel comfortable and can communicate freely. Managers should have the ability to help employees grow into their roles and with the company.

It should be clear to employees what their role is at the organization. Any ambiguity will lead to confusion and frustration. It is also wherein good Leadership comes in. Not only should job responsibilities be clearly defined when an employee first joined, but goals should be reinforced regularly. This way, employees and managers have a good understanding of who needs to do what. Employees will also feel more comfortable knowing that their goals are reviewed and refined regularly.

Employees will be motivated to remain with a company that values their well-being. Leaders must acknowledge that their workers are more than just employees. They have to embrace that employees are human beings with feelings and needs. When an employee is appreciated, he or she is more likely to be loyal and work hard. That is because they feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves.

Everyone who joins Jaipur Rugs is given the freedom to explore their passion and work towards it. This passion automatically translates into quality work.
When I started my work, I took a big risk and knew that there would be difficult times ahead. However, my love and passion for weavers and their work made everything much easier.

Lastly, the actual environment in which you work is another factor that many take for granted. People spend a significant portion of their day at the office, so it makes sense for a company to make sure that the physical space is comfortable and conducive to both collaboration and quiet-type work.

It takes much effort to find the right employee, so it makes sense for the entire organization to do whatever it can – within reason – to keep your people happy.

Compassion results in flourishing businesses & happy teams

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NK Chaudhary's Compassion results in flourishing businesses & happy teams

If there is one thing missing in the world, it is compassion. Too often we are preoccupied with our own needs and fail to see that others require help. This is because many of us are guided by our egos, which takes us to places where we only see one rather than the whole.

In many ways, we can say that the ego is based in passion. While passion is a great thing to have in many aspects, it can also be a hindrance. That is because with passion, we are often focusing on our own pleasure and benefit. When we are passionate about something it can translate into being a benefit for the self rather than for others. People are passionate about their own projects, work or significant others.

I think of passion as akin to having a fever. When a person has a fever, he or she often cannot think clearly and is not conscious in a way because the illness is controlling them. It is the same with passion. As a result, a person in this state cannot make decisions in a rational manner. A person who is unconscious can often take extreme measures resulting in disaster.

Compassion, on the other hand, is completely selfless because it focuses on others. For too long, passion has been an underlying factor in running businesses. While this can be a positive factor in a company’s success, passion is too often solely directed toward making as much profit as possible.

When I was young, I had a tendency to study nature for hours. This gave me a sense of calmness and wonder. I would also watch local weavers in my village intently. There was an intense connection between the weavers and my surrounding. This endeavor began as a passion for the weavers’ art and slowly transformed into compassion for them.

Once I began operating with compassion in mind, I realized that love is the basis of everything. No matter how much name and fame our company attains, if we do not have love as the foundation of our efforts, then this or any other organization will not be sustainable in the long run.

Thankfully, an increasing number of organizations are beginning to incorporate compassion. These conscious capitalists are realizing that in order to create sustainable businesses they must transition their targets from profits to people.

It took me some time to reach the stage of accepting compassion as the basis of our organization. After my children joined our family business and the company began to expand. As businesses expand, problems also increase.

It would have been easy for me to abandon my dream of sustaining a business based on love and compassion and instead follow a road that would lead to a more financially beneficial scenario. However, I could not abandon my original mission of running a business with compassion. I realized that if I lose sight of the artisans – and of love and compassion – then my organization would never be sustainable.

Compassion allows me to stay grounded. If I took a different route I may have more fame and money but eventually the ego would lead me to crash and burn. That is not how I want to live my life or run my organization. Companies built on compassion and love are the ones who have a bright and sustainable future.

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.