Dr Santrupt Misra, Director, Human Resources, addressed
students from technology and management schools who made
it to the final short list of the Aditya Birla Scholarship
the group of young people with high energy levels, waiting
to take off on their chosen career paths, Dr Santrupt Misra
said, The first challenge of managing self is to understand
oneself. At his behest, various words prefixed with
self such as self-made, self esteem, self worth,
selfless, self evaluation, self improvement, self discipline,
self control, etc., were thrown up by the audience.
Dr. Misra urged the participants to understand what each
of those words meant to them. "From selflessness to
selfishness is one continuum, with the self as the centre.
The same self moves to one end of the spectrum and then
to the other. But the locus of control is with us, influencing
the decision of moving either towards selflessness or towards
selfishness," said Dr. Misra. So knowing where one
stands in relation to each of these "self" words
is the starting point of self-awareness.
me give you an example. Dwight Eisenhower was the general
of the allied troops in Europe during the World War. One of
the brilliant things about him was that he was fantastic at
holding news conferences. Whenever a question was asked, he
would have all the data, encapsulated in two-three very elegant
sentences. But when he became the President, people found
that he got very negative press because most of the press
people felt that this guy was incoherent. He never listened
to any questions. You asked him one thing and he went off
on a tangent on something else. This surprised many people.
Said Dr. Misra: "Often we don't realise how we perform.
We don't realise how we learn. We have been brought up in
a school education system where it is believed that when
the lecturer or teacher speaks, every student who hears
him learns from the process. But what we fundamentally miss
is the fact that not all of us learn the same way. Some
of us learn through listening and some of us learn through
reading. The interesting thing is that very few people learn
by both listening and reading. And far fewer know
which of the two they are good at.
"While researching the anomaly, they found that Eisenhower
the general, when he was leading the allied troops in Europe,
got his deputies to ask the journalists to submit their
questions at least half a day before the press conference.
The deputies used to write out all the facts and detailed
answers, which they presented to Eisenhower. He would then
read out these answers and, therefore, put up a great performance
before the media fraternity. When Eisenhower became President,
he obviously could not perform in impromptu press conferences
because he was not good at listening. And he had no readymade
"So the important question to ask yourself is 'How
do I learn better?' Do I learn better when I read something,
do I learn better when I listen to something or is there
any other way that I learn better?
"The other important thing for you to do is find out
what is it that you enjoy doing and are good at. In corporate
India, in my area of human resources, I often find that
if you put the wrong person in the wrong job you don't get
any output from them. If you put advisors in an operating
role they will not be able to take any decisions, because
advisors know only how to give advice. They are very good
at telling you all kinds of things. But when you tell them
to do it, they can't do it because they are not used to
"If you ask people from strategy or counselling background
to lead a business, they may flounder. For they've always
drawn various matrices and quadrants, but they have never
done things themselves.
"You put operating managers in strategic advisory
roles and they cannot perform because they've not channelled
themselves to think from a macro perspective. Very few people
have the ability to both strategise and to be excellent
"Similarly, some people are great at leading teams,
but others are excellent at being team members. Not everybody
is cut out to be a leader. And not being a leader is not
necessarily a negative thing. Imagine a situation where
you are an unwanted team leader of 20 teams vis-à-vis
a deeply wanted member of 20 teams. Which would you prefer?
So the take home is 'play to your strengths, rather than
trying to be somebody completely different.'
Positive v/s negative
"Do you know how many 'encounters' a person has on
a typical day? A psychologist would say roughly 20,000 interactions.
Can you recollect who was the first person you saw in the
morning, whom did you talk with the liftman, the
milk vendor? Each contact is an encounter. In each of these
encounters, you create positive or negative energy around
you, which touches you and the person you have encountered.
When somebody says hello to you, do you smile and reply?
If you do, you are creating positive energy. If not, then
you are not creating huge amounts of negative energy, but
have missed out on an opportunity to create positive energy.
Creating positive energy initially takes effort, but later
on becomes part of your personality.
"Here's an example. Prisoners of war in Korea were
found to have the highest mortality rates. Thirty-eight
per cent of them died even though Korean prisoner camps
were considerably less brutal compared to many others. The prisoners
were unattended, not chained, not tortured. But they still
had the highest mortality rate.
"A psychiatrist's research indicated that the Koreans
created so much negative energy around the prisoners that
it just reduced their life expectancy. For example, if a
child was born in the family of a prisoner and a letter
announcing the good news was sent to him, the prison authorities
did not give the letter to him. But if the letter said that
his wife was divorcing him and marrying someone else, they
would promptly give it to the prisoner. If the bank was
badgering a man for payments on his house or car, that letter
would promptly be delivered. The Koreans mastered the art
of creating negative energy around the Korean camps without
torturing anybody, which increased the mortality rate of
"Life is the biggest B-school. It keeps on teaching
Learn to empathise
"Empathy is a very simple expression. Many a time we
react based on what the other person tells us. If you could
step back and think, is there something bothering him or
her? Why is he or she doing that? If you ask that question,
you start empathising. But the moment I say something rude
and you respond with equal rudeness, that's creating a negative
attitude, which we don't realise. The question is to step
back and say, ok what happened? Why did that person say
that? Learning to let go is important. There is this one
big thing in all of us called E-G-O. Learning to keep that
under control is one of the biggest challenges that we as
human beings face. And it is the most important part of
Keep learning and changing
"You are all very bright people. But please understand
that being bright does not mean one knows everything. Often
brightness creates a disabling amount of ignorance, because
such people are unable to see merit in what others are doing
or saying. My father taught me this very important lesson:
When you think you are a great person, look ahead and find
that there are a million people standing ahead of you in
the greatness ladder. When you feel like a miserable wretch,
you feel you have done nothing with your life, then look
back and see how much better off you are than the millions
behind you. And that keeps you going.
is a lovely shloka in Sanskrit. It translates into: The
sun rises and sets with the same copper colour. Similarly,
a truly great and wise person carries the same demeanour
in times of both prosperity and adversity.
"I would also like to emphasise that the key drivers
of success keep changing during the different stages of
our life. And the challenge for us is to recognise this
fact and change accordingly. As a young student, what made
me successful is not likely to make me successful as a young
engineer. If I become a manager in an organisation, I cannot
continue to behave like a student. A professor may ignore
my coming late to class every day, but arriving late every
day will not be looked kindly upon by my organisation. Similarly
those traits that made me a successful manager need not
make me a successful CEO. So it is important to know and
understand that success drivers are different at different
Stand up for your values
"A value system, to put it simply, is what is acceptable
to you and what is not. It is a belief system that has been
repeatedly tried and tested in your mind. There is a difference
between standing up for your values vis-à-vis being
arrogant about your values. And learning to make that subtle
distinction is where the success lies.
"Being able to manage oneself is to be able to understand
what my values are. Where do I draw that line? For example,
two gentlemen don't get along. Man One knows that the boss
doesn't like Man Two. The easiest thing for Man One to do
is to say some mean things about Man Two to his boss to
curry favour with him: 'I know you are always right and
this fellow is a third class fellow." Man One made a value
choice when he said that. He gave in to a short-term temptation
of currying favour by letting a colleague down and taking
advantage of the privileged knowledge that his boss doesn't
like him. But remember the famous saying, 'when you live
by the sword you die by the sword.'
"Many times we have to grapple with value dilemma.
Here's a value dilemma. My company's policy is that we shall
not bribe people. The company has imported machinery that
is sitting at a port in India somewhere. It is sophisticated
machinery, on which the company has spent about Rs. 500
crore. It needs to be got out of the port and into the factory.
But the port authorities say, 'Oh, this document is deficient,
that is deficient.'
"Now if it is deficient or not, you don't know. The
officer has the authority and can find deficiencies. He
gives you a reasonable amount of hint that you have to give
him 20,000 bucks to release it. Your company doesn't believe
in bribes. You don't bribe. What would you do? For example,
I will not willingly encourage people to take money when
it comes to this situation. I will try to persuade the officer
first. Second, try to reason with his boss.
" At the end of it, if an entire system doesn't listen
to me, I still have accountability to shareholders, customers,
and lenders to whom I've committed that my project will
be up and running. My commitment as a value to my stakeholders
that my project will be over by a specified time, conflicts
with my value that I will not pay money. There is a choice
I have to make. What is the relative impact of holding onto
one value vis-à-vis another? Here is a clear case
of conflict. That's what the purpose of education is all
about. To prepare ourselves to take those calls and those
unique moments of value conflict. And that's why life is
the biggest B-school. It keeps on teaching you every day.
Leverage self confidence
"There will be times when you need to leverage your
self confidence to your advantage. But let me caution you
that you can't make self-confidence a substitute for your
ignorance all the time.
"I remember I attended, like you, a scholarship interview
many years ago. There were 11 men and women sitting around.
They said, 'Oh, you've done political science, public administration
and personnel management. What do you know about Simon?'
I told myself 'Oh boy! There is Saint Simon, who is a social
thinker and there is Herbert Simon, who is an organisational
theorist. If he is referring to Saint Simon, I can tell
him loads, if he means Herbert Simon, I don't remember all
"Quickly, I did all the processing in my mind and
decided to try my self-confidence. So I said, 'Sir, you
mean Saint Simon or
' I took a pause so he said, 'Ok,
tell me what you know of Saint Simon. ' My self-confidence
propelled me to play a gamble. But I came back and asked
myself, 'I got away once, but can I continue with my ignorance
of Herbert Simon for the rest of my life? I need to plug
"I know we cannot know everything. But those who believe
that self-confidence is a substitute for ignorance can carry
it off up to a point. Beyond that, no matter how bright
you are, it will start showing. So the lesson in self-management
is not to embrace the bravado that I can always substitute
my ignorance by my self-confidence.
Look at the larger picture
"Does your behaviour reflect the degree of awareness
that you have about yourself? For e.g., if you believe that
you are emotionally mature, does it reflect in your behaviour?
How do you take disappointment, success or conflict? Many
of us don't know how to deal with conflict. How do you deal
with conflict with your parents, girlfriend and boyfriend?
Do you sulk? Do you talk it out? Do you moan? How often
do you do tu tu main main with your friends?
" For example, if you have a friend who is always
bumming cigarettes off you and you don't like it, do you
tell him? No, you don't get around to telling him, but it
is impacting your relationship. That's avoidance of conflict.
Managing conflict is not about fighting all the time, but
it is about not being able to verbalise your feelings about
an issue that is bothering you. Your behaviour and decisions
should reflect your self-awareness.
I would like to conclude by saying that whenever I had
small disappointments in life, I always told myself that
maybe bigger things are waiting for me so I lost out on
the smaller things. That kept me going. Believe me when
I say that there are many big things in life to pursue.
Disappointments and failures don't bring an end to this
world unless you choose to bring an end to it, or God chooses
to bring it to an end."