Art, Artist and Aura. Beyond Music.

A hot Saturday evening plus the invisible pins and needles on our legs, neck and hands from the mosquitoes. Reena and I were there for the promise, rather love of music. One that  was to be seen and  heard in front  of the majestic world heritage 8thcentury Prambanan temple complex in JogJakarta, Indonesia.  From outside the gates we could see the majesty of the temples standing like some carved menhirs waiting to sway to Yanni the musician, maybe Yanni the Obelix, carrying the Prambanan with him. All that was to be, yet now right here, we were frustrated with our confused and dazed attendant, who had all but lost our tickets, which was booked online and to be collected locally.

 

After an hour of emotional roller coaster, we got our tickets and hustled our way thru the gates, thinking we were running late for the show thought to start at 6 pm. As we made our way around, it dawned on us that a Jazz festival was being hosted inside the complex. People seated on the lawns, several stalls and budding artists staging themselves. A music festival we had only seen on TV or read about.  We came to the entrance of our section and were then asked to wait in line until the entry to the stands would be opened. We were glad to make it on time, so we thought, only to go through another and even bigger emotional roller coaster. After 2 and hours of standing on our iron clad legs, counting eternal time, hungry, almost giving up to go back, we were finally seated. We also learnt that we had paid 3 times more for the lowest cost section as we had booked it 3 months earlier, and back then other sections were sold out. Only to see on location, tickets being sold for the forward sections.

After all that bokeh of brain fog, we were in total awe and amazement of the monumental temple structures. Maybe 5 or 6 were visibly lit from the 11  we counted later. The cold yet pristine white light lit bathed the structures which formed a backdrop for the performance stage.  They stood out like something from an Avataar movie scene. Yanni and his team bobbed in and the crowds went crazy.  The music was over the top, the aura, the experience, the emotions that evening rained high. Here are some takeaways from that evening.

And, before you read on, have a look and listen here – Yanni @ Prambanan

 

  • Create an Aura. The Magnanimity of a dream. The tallest of the temple structures is 47 meters.  Lit up like giant luminescent hand crafted candles (sounds  better than menhirs) in the wind, standing tall, standing pretty and eerily majestic in form.  Music is for people to visualize, to take the mind to distant places, to explore the unknown and dream the impossible. This scene here was in that league. It definitely was the setting that won half our souls over. This was unique to Yanni. He knew the art of staging, the art of bringing the dream to the forefront like none others. That’s what music is supposed to do with our minds. And now we see it. Master craftsman with a master stroke. He teases the audience with this.

 

  • Your Team. Your People.Throughout the evening, he took care to create and blend much of his music around each of his star musicians. Showcasing each of their talent in a single blend that had perfection of an orchestra, but laced with the distinct spice of a single musician who broke the barrier of sound, elated and egged on by Yanni. He called their name out, turned and pointed towards the chosen one and almost seemed to have an invisible control on their instrument, on their mind. We later learnt from one his prominent musicians, who was on our flight back to Singapore, that most of his crew have been with him for 30-40 years!That’s the hallmark of a leader. Retaining talent, earning loyalty and to bring the best in an individual, yet blend their talent into a team output.

 

  • The Audience.I have seen many musicians, singers who urge the audience to clap, pump up the audience. Yanni was different. Here’s what he said or to that effect .

 

Last year, two of my fans took a picture in front of the Prambanan, and sent me a message for my speedy recovery and that they believed in me. This is when I was very sick and had to cancel my concert here. That picture gave me the belief to recover  , belief in myself and today I am here to complete the circle of my healing. People in Indonesia are friendly and have that look in their eyes , always smiling that’s unique.

 

Indonesia, it’s people and settings, to me is easily a top favorite among all countries I have been to. So I could relate to what was said.

 

 

Few days later, I reflected on how that whole evening had unfolded. From the anxiety of getting the tickets and the agony from waiting in a line for close to 3 hours, and the awe and inspiration of the lit Prambanan temple, and the familiar soul stirring music, and meeting the musicians on our plane …. Many a high and low moments stitched by the majesty of “and”, is what made this a landmark experience.

 

I did not want to mix business in here, but just could not refrain from doing so, when I chanced upon this snippet – “ The Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen “ .

 

 

 

 

Ref: Image thanks to Jogjatourtransport.com

 

 

The Making of Trust. A Habit. A Priority.

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On a perfectly sunny Singapore Sunday afternoon over a sumptuous Turkish lunch, an aha moment. This was his newest creation – the art of food. This, apart from the 2 generations worth of trusted carpet and lamp stores he owned that dotted the street. Mirz (identity protected) and I have now known each for a little over 12 years. Each time we meet, we inevitably end up sharing our experiences.

 

This time, he had the most fascinating story I had heard of all the times we’ve interacted. As I narrate parts of this story, I do have to protect identities and maintain that trust. Thus, all names are changed and some context has been made discreet.

 

5 years ago, Mirz chanced upon an odd-jobs worker (Jal) at a hotel. Liking his demeanor, Mirz offered him a job and a room to stay in at the topmost floor of the shop.  I’ve met Jal a few times when he’s come over to our house to deliver and install some items I purchased. He always came across as very respectful and hard working. Now, Jal is in jail after having betrayed Mirz and his family over the 5 years he worked there. Listen on…

 

Over the initial years, Jal made a handsome salary, joined his employer’s family for dinner almost every day, and made enough bonuses to send some back home; there were many smaller gestures, gestures that couldn’t possibly all fit in the limited space we have here.

 

One day, Mirz’s elite customer dropped by to buy an expensive carpet that he had selected earlier. Here’s the twist – it had gone missing. When Mirz  asked around, he noticed Jal trying to hide a strange, sheepish expression. Mirz’s brother had noticed it too. After much ado, for the first time in over a decade, they decided to take out the stock register and do a check. Up until that moment, they had never felt the need to do so in a family run business based on an old school of trust.

 

The stock check revealed several hundred carpets worth over $2 million missing over the 5 year period that Jal was there. Modus operandi? During the early hours of the morning, Jal made it a habit to climb out of his window, walk across the tiled roof to the adjacent shop window, squeeze in, and steal carpets at regular intervals. At some point in his time working there, he was brainwashed and embraced by a ring of external racketeers who would sell those carpets off in various countries. The carpets were rediscovered under Jal’s bed which, soon after police investigations took place, were identified to be a mere fraction of the stolen goods that were later found to be scattered across his home country, stores in Thailand, Indonesia, etc. Thankfully, many of these carpets were recovered by the international police network. However, that didn’t stop my jaw from dropping as the details unfolded; A sure shot Academy Award winner.

 

In business, trust means everything. Trust is earned, trust is built. That said, it takes a few, if not just one wrong move to wipe clean the entire foundation that the trust is built on. In the above story, if stock checks were performed frequently alongside some automation with sales and inventory data, maybe the problem would have been caught early on, saving millions.

 

In my own business, I had a “moment of truth” with a special integration effort that has been ongoing for the past 12 months. We had acquired another company’s business unit and as part of that I had to be out there listening to Customers and providing the assurance this is for the larger good. On one such occasion, during an executive meeting with one of our largest clients, we listened and understood their wants and needs. The Senior executive candidly stated that we were slow to get issues resolved and were not listening to their needs and intent which depends on their end Customer.  While we enjoyed a captive share in the account, it became clear, that what got us here would not get us where want to be and be able to scale, while being nimble. If you quite don’t have a seat at the table, or/and it’s on and off, then carry a folding chair with you.

 

We got a few things moving. We assigned highly skilled resources to be on the ground, structured updates and telling the truth with what is working and what needs to be worked on, executive updates covering  major initiatives, resourcing, and the associated success; direct communication to the top at frequent intervals. And, a few other things that eventually resulted in improved outcomes and built the trust further and removed the early concerns with M&A.  As a new company (the acquirer) it is important to do that, and not take things for granted. This was validated by  the client’s Senior executive sending a note thanking us.

 

Always listen! If we had not absorbed their feedback at that meeting, as well as the underlying tones of doubts that seemed to be building up, it might have been a different story altogether. Learn about what the environment entails and deploy relevant actions thereof. Value will follow where trust is earned.

 

On another recent visit to a client, he made a statement that meant so much: “Rajesh, thank you for listening to us the last time we met. The flexible software licensing model you and your team tailored for us, was very meaningful.

 

Before this meeting, I had asked my regional team, “why would the client buy from us  when they had options for a lower cost solution, from other reputed (perceived brand) suppliers?” I was told that they simply trusted us more. Only now have I connected the dots with what our leaders had been strategically executing, executing well. In essence, making false promises, not delivering, being there to make a quick sale, not understanding what sticks etc., are clear behavioural traits that lower any company’s reputation and an individual’s brand value. As a companies scale and agility is challenged, with that comes one of the biggest challenges – How to keep the front end innovation and value realisation going ?

In summary:

 

  • Take No Prisoners. First the mindset. It does not matter if we are underdogs or the Goliaths, a ruthless sense of winning all, and behaving as such is fundamental.
  • The art of listening. It is the next step to recognising what matters, and the curiosity to learn gives what matters a form and shape i.e. recognising needs, understanding them, and doing something about them.
  • Humility allows us to listen. Without humility it is impossible to listen, the humility to confront brutal facts and know that it’s a learning curve.
  • Trust is earned, and so is respect. Easily broken. To earn trust deliver value over a sustained demonstrable period. This consistency comes with discipline. An operational discipline requires a hard mind and soft heart. Eventually it will become habitual and in the sub-conscious.
  • The love for being curious along your journey, will also allow you to learn more and deliver accordingly.

 

Image: Ingredients towards realising sustained Trust.

 

Thus, an age old saying stands: Use data, process, and consistency to develop good habits. This eventually earns the trust and respect. Trust is an outcome of distinguished value delivered and realised.

 

Glad to see how things are working out and in the right direction with our leadership team, and our embraced L3V2 (Listen, Learn, Love. Voice & Value) sub culture.

 

 

Credit: Pixabay for the featured image.

People & Culture: The Value System

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One morning a team member walked into my open office, “Rajesh, I need 5 minutes to discuss something.” “Discuss” and “Something,” meaning the joy in seeking to understand the unknown, a yearning to unravel what and why. I ushered Shahid in and we got talking. He wanted to write a book on a technical subject, about which he was passionately curious about. All ears, I listened and we agreed that it addressed his deep inner belief to learn and explore this topic, and that I would happily support some flexible work hours. A year later, Shahid’s book – Roaming in Wireless Networks–was published by McGraw Hill, and continues to sell for USD 116/-; he is officially a guru in the industry. The book turned out to be a strong reference book on the subject, also helped our business as his voice earned him a seat at every table, sometimes even allowing for him to chair said meetings!

 

That being said, let’s dive deeper into some of these keys aspects and characteristics in order to better understand our learning/teaching model as well as the type of people we look to work with within the business.

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Less is More. Measure and Scale.

Monsoons, are generally dull and boring. I had to keep seeing the beauty in things, the beauty in nature that surrounded me, as I hopped, skipped and splotched along the puddled, graveled road. My morning walk during my holiday break, in a remote town in India. 

 

The sky, a giant canvas that blotted grey ink in twenty shades, the trees swaying like the fans meant for Gods. As the morning light peeped in and out, the vastness of the paddy fields, foliage and sounds of the birds, a perfect pantomime that swathed another 20 shades of green. And as though that wasn’t enough, the small town that this was, was peppered with color that even the Gods would be blinded by.

 

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