Academically, I was a below-average student. I failed my year 9 exams in one of the language papers and just managed to pass my year 11 science exams. I barely scored 58% in my year 10 (GCSE) and 57% in year 12 (A Levels). You are ruined in India if you get below 85% on these exams. I failed to get admission to a reputed university and then failed three times in my UPSC (civil services) examinations. All this was when we, as a family, desperately needed money, and my parents said nothing.

Eventually, I managed to top the university in Physics at the district level, and I cracked one of the toughest entrance examinations to get admission to one of the most prestigious universities for my Master’s in Physics. I was one of the only students from the entire community to enter the prestigious university, and my parents said nothing.

I could not afford two-time meals and breakfast and was starving at university. I could not attend the convocation ceremony of the most prestigious institution because I could not afford mere 600Rs (£6). I could not further apply for my MBA in the US as I did not have money to pay for the GRE/GMAT entrance examination fees, and my parents said nothing.

I knew my parents were struggling to make ends meet, so there was a mutual understanding. I never asked for support, but my parents were always there if required, and so was I, and we both said nothing.

They never praised my successes or over-parented me during my failures, as they probably knew what was ahead of me and getting me ready to face the challenges. However, they always openly praised and improved me in that mattered to them the most, i.e. my ethics, moral life, empathy and attitude towards hard work.

Who would have thought in Year 9 or with a 58% score in GCSE that one day I would be leading Enterprise Architecture for Data and Analytics transformations for British Telecom, one of the UK’s most complex and prestigious digital transformations? But even today, papa does not praise me for these so-called achievements but only for the value parameters defined early in my life.

Team BT – Enterprise Architecture, Data and AI

From left: Paul Oliver, Bhavin Shukla, Ravinder Chauhan, Jason Perkins, Matt Penton, Doug Charlton, and Sgouira Lyra.

The skills learned over time and as a way of life have helped me in various roles. The large-scale transformations are multi-dimensional and not based on a single textbook. It is about finding ways to serve different views, opinions and reasons and taking the right decision based on the strategy and vision. My life journey every day gives me hope that things might not be right at this stage, but they can reach the target state with a purpose. The struggle early in life taught me how to adapt and energise to form an anti-fragile nature in a perfect storm and chaos.

I have been fortunate to get a good education in values. As a tradition, it is my turn to apply the same recipe to fine-tune or praise my girls for their righteousness but not their success. Be there if they need me during their difficult time but let them struggle to help them come out of the cocoon because who knows when will they need it and where they will land with or without these essential life tools?

Or maybe the world’s philosophy will change, and my children will write one day, Papa Did Not Praise Enough!

In the world of SMART Objectives, NPS scores and OKRs flying around everywhere, I wonder how organisations measure the value parameters to praise and motivate their employees to do the right thing. Also, what does a “good” employee look like, and how is this measured across organisations on a long-term scale? Hope this is not left to the LinkedIns and Twitters to derive!

Do we, on the ground, genuinely try and understand the diversity of people and how their diverse backgrounds can bring real value to the organisation and its culture, bringing it one step further to achieve its vision or are we too focussed on delivering projects? This is a key question to ask!

The former president of India, the Late A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, puts it nicely, “Where there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in character. When there is beauty in character, there is harmony in the home. When there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation. When there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world.”

🙏

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