23 May 2010

1st Sunset Celebration for CRN 5K

On May 22nd 2010, we ran in the Children’s Restoration Network’s First Sunset Celebration 5K run. This is an organization dedicated to the cause of homeless children and their mothers. You can find more details at http://www.childrn.org. Sharmila ran too. In fact, I ran with her from start to finish. We completed in about 38 minutes. After that there was a 1K run/walk for children. Both Nikita and Natasha went for the walk. Amitesh and Esha also showed up for the race and the run.

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23 May 2010

Keeping calm under fire

Some of the leaders that I have admired most have had the ability to not only stay calm under stress, but continually be outright positive. And these leaders have been across all levels of an organization. Because they have been across all levels, I think this is more of a personality trait than something one necessarily acquires as they go up. However, I have no reason to believe that one cannot strive to be so, even if it does not come naturally.

Stress gets created when the observable results are at variance with what is desired. As organizational behavior will teach you, if that accountability comes without commensurate authority, that exacerbates the personal stress.

In today’s corporate environment (most of it at least), the demand for short term accountability is extremely high. The tolerance for failure – regardless of all high words of risk taking capability – is getting narrower and narrower. A lot of this is derived not necessarily from within the organization but the tough competitive environment and the fact that business is moving at lightning speed.

One unfortunate outcome is that when a perceived failure happens, the organization demands quick answers. Quick answers, no doubt, lead to simplistic conclusions. Add the tendency to arrive at simplistic conclusions and the above discussed tolerance for failure – and that leads to another dangerous behavior – finger pointing. This is derived from a deep rooted human tendency – “I am better than others; what I control performs better than something that I do not control.”

Finally, average human being finds it more convenient to name a person as the reason for failure than understand the true nuances of processes and constraints. First, it is easier, it is more convenient and it is something most people can relate to. Person A is an idiot – Ah! I get that. The complexity of understanding constraints – some written and some not written – some internal some external – that starts becoming too complex for us  This leads to a missed opportunity to drive true learnings for the organization.

Leaders have to be doubly vigilant not to fall into this pattern of behavior. Any organization learns quickly from the top. As human beings, we all want to be leaders. In reality, we all want to be led. We copy behavior from the top very fast – perhaps believing that compliance will lead to success. In the process, we amplify the behavior at the top.

Any sign of panic on the top and the dissonance in the org below – like a bunch of dispersed ants – is immediately visible. Any signs of finger pointing from the top and immediately the organization takes a cue.

A true leader needs to address issues from the position of poise and even handedness. A calming sense needs to pervade in the organization that is under stress. Giving the entire troop a sense of purpose that they are all in it together is of paramount importance. Regardless of the level of stress, they will need to stick together and emerge successful.

But above all be aware that this is just one more hurdle of many more to come in one’s career. Crossing hurdles require cool-headed thinking and an aura of positivity around oneself.

So how many such cool-headed leaders have you seen? I have been fortunate enough to see a few in my life.

1 May 2010

4th Run for Life (ALS), 2010

On May 1, 2010 – we went out to run at the 4th Run for Life to raise money to fight Lou Gehrig’s disease. Ran into quite a few friends. Amitesh and Rupak were there from our Sunday running group. Harold and Carol from office were there. It was gret to see so many people – especially so many kids – come out for a great cause.

I finished a shade below 25 minutes. Still 2 minutes away from my PR. It was hilly and it did feel great though.

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27 February 2010

30th Charles Harris Run for Leukemia

On Feb 27th, 2010, I ran the 30th Charles Harris Run for Leukemia. Charles was my friend Scott’s dad. I ran for charity after a big gap of almost 4 months. It was a 10K and there were almost 1600 runners. Nice course with only a couple of hills.

Did a PR of 54 minutes, 19 seconds. That is more than 5 minutes off my previous PR. Negative splits helped. Details of the day below…
charles-harris-backcharlesharris 2010p1110019

As I saw it…
I had not run in charity for almost 4 months. And then jumped on to a 10K run. This was in memory of Charles Harris. Charles played for New York Titans (before Jets) and Cleveland Browns. That was a long time back. That was when they did not wear helmets in NFL games! Charles was lost to leukemia 30 years back.

Charles’ son Scott is a good friend of mine and we live close to each other. His wife Denise works in the same group as I do in Equifax.

This explains how I got the chest number of 18. I am neither a Speedy Gonzalez nor did I pre-register very early. In fact, just yesterday Denise asked Scott to make sure I am registered.

It was a cold freezing day with a lot of wind. It was so cold that most of the runners were crowded in a hall to stay warm. Needless to say, I was totally bundled up. But there were runners in shorts and half sleeves. How they survive, I have no idea.

Anyways, it was great to meet Scott’s brother Charles (Jr), his sister and their family. They do this every year for their dad.

I had forgotten how great these runs feel. It wasn’t like I was trying to win the gold medal. But watching people of all ages and color and creed come out on a cold morning and pay money just to get a chance to run together, get a free T shirt, may be a banana or two – but above all be united in the spirit of celebrating life and defeating the causes of death – there is no way one cannot get an adrenaline rush. Just the spirit of it all would shave off a few minutes off your run.

There were these kids who ran past me very quickly and then got distracted by a dog watching them. They stepped off the run, petted the dog, had fun with it and then came back to run. Needless to say, they speeded past me the second time!

After I finished (almost dying) at 54 minutes and change, I met up with Scott and Denise again. (Scott finished in 46 minutes and change). I was introduced to this gentleman Michael who turns out is the neighbor of another colleague of mine from office. He was talking of his birthday party yesterday. He turned 50. And I am like – wow! I wish I can be in that shape when I turn 50. He mentioned how his wife warned him at 1 am that he is partying too much for a 10K run the following morning. And I am like – wow! you party, drink and then in a few hours come out to run. You are a good guy.

Of course, had he not finished in 41 minutes flat, I would have been very embarrassed 🙂

Well, I picked up my T shirt and then started for home. As I drove down the road, there were still a few runners finishing. There were some really elderly people – at this point they were only walking – not running. There were people out there waiting for the last person and cheering them up. There were the cops, ambulances etc at the end picking up the cones. They still had a couple of miles to go. Probably 30 more minutes. Back in the hall, the winners were being announced already.

As I stood at the traffic light, I was lost in my thoughts – These folks would rather walk slowly to the end than step aside and give up. And everybody was waiting there cheering them to the finish.

I realized that is what the human spirit is all about – Not Giving Up!!!

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