Wednesday 29 April 2020

TV Is Not the Idiot Box Anymore..

I was a little surprised when West Bengal Government chose to tie up with TV channels to stream live lectures for Class X and XII.

I hail from Andragogy background and I believed pedagogy will be all the more difficult with student's diminishing attention span and no participation. I had my doubts if this approach will be effective and will continue.

They even began junior classes and I was even more skeptical, if this was just an attention seeking exercise to flaunt what all ministry had done to continue education against all odds.

Image Design: Canva

I had my myth and doubts cleared when I sat through their English classes for fifth and sixth standard last Saturday. I practically took notes on what went well.

Well structured: It was combination of visual and auditory. The key words were explained even before the class started. It was to build on what students already knew or need to knew to understand the poem/ chapter better

Well Planned: The sequencing of the sessions was done in such a manner that it helps retention. The specific chapters are announced well in advance so that students can shoot their questions. One thing was not clear though - on what basis were the chapters selected? Was that based on the mails and calls they receive from students seeking clarifications in a particular subject, particular chapter or particular topic.

Well Prepared: The teachers were taking questions live over phone, video and also through mail. The responses, based on my understanding of the subject were apt - to the point, critical thinking driven and based on text.

Home Assignments: In order to ensure the students were engaged after the 30 minutes session and reiterate their learning, the teachers gave five assignments to dwell on the subject long enough to be thorough with it.

Questions from students: The quality of questions were both simple and critical. One or two questions were repetitive which kind of indicated that particular student was not attentive enough to take notes based on earlier response or re frame the question for more value add.

The positive thing was the student had to read the chapter in advance to have their questions ready before the session and follow it up with homework. In traditional classes, this level of preparation is slightly missing.

I can imagine the excitement of students to have their questions ready, being shown on TV and probably check with their friends, if that question helped in their learning.

Subject Teachers: They were knowledgeable and for detail explanation of certain topics, other subject teachers were connected live.

Moderator's role: She was not only summarizing and sharing practical relevance, her energy and the way she handled the questions within the stipulated time across channels was very well done.

The live lectures started with Class X and XII, then junior classes were added recently.

There was white board, a power point presentation, two teachers, some great interaction with students. 

When we were young and wanted to watch TV, we had to literally beg our parents, do our home work, cut down on play time just so that we got that small incentive.Today, parents will only be happy if children told they need to watch TV as they had a few doubts to clarify.

Times are changing. Are we ready to adapt?

Sunday 19 April 2020

How Can You Support Your Employers During This Crisis?

We all know, there is a lot of uncertainty now and we have no clarity, understanding or insight about how the future will be.

The lock down has lasted for almost four weeks. There are two more weeks to go or perhaps more. You may draw your salary in full or with a pay cut during these times. 

I presume most of you are already feel guilty about being paid without having to do any work for an entire month. And the reasons could be many - you probably do not have the required software in your home system or your job role is such that it cannot be executed from home or there could be data privacy issues for specific client projects.

Those of you who feel a sense of entitlement that they need to be paid for the good work they did so far, regardless of the crisis today or the looming question of business existence today - this blog is really not for them.

Social Media Support

The social media teams of most companies are active and posting amazing content. There is a lot of research, coordinating, designing, story boarding and thinking that goes behind those creative content. 

Most of you have desktop at home, laptop, mobile phones, tabs and internet.  The most you could do is spend an hour or so every morning to read, like and share the content that  your company's social media team posts on a daily basis. This is not about branding or any PR effort. This is basically using your own brand equity and social media currency to highlight the good work your company is doing to the rest of the world.

This sort of endorsement of employer's portfolio posted by employees in personal social media sites speaks volumes about the credibility of a company as a good employer and outweighs any employee satisfaction survey results.

Be genuine in your appreciation about what your company is doing for people, business and the communities.

Create Content

For those of you who are thinking that they are not good in business writing, the basic demand today is simple employee stories, their journey, their gratitude for all the opportunities or learning they have had in this company and their growth over the years to inspire others in the company who are not quiet that motivated and future aspirants who may want to join your company.

Make time to deep dive and find those moments. If you want to discard the idea thinking you never had any such moments during your tenure in the company, well in that case, it hints at your indifference towards your company throughout your association.

Even if you post a video about how you miss the monthly birthday parties in office, it creates imagery for those who were never part of that. The next time, you post, it may seem random but you know it has a purpose.

Social Media Channels

If you had this age old excuse that you were active on Face Book, Twitter, LinkedIn or Insta and cannot remember your pass word. 

Get all those channels activated now. You have all the time. 

Follow, tweet, retweet, share the good work your company is doing whether it is for business, for communities and for future. If you feel a sense of pride in that, you have probably created your profiles in these portals and started posting

Use Hash tags

This apparently seems simple to hash tag. How you use your hash tags will determine, how well the content reaches wider audience bringing traffic to your post.

Thank your employer

It is not easy for any employer, big or small, new or old, national or international to take those critical board room decisions - pay cut, lay off, restructuring, winding up but then it is a question of survival - Few versus all

If that communication has been made to you that there will be a 10% or 20% or 50% pay cut in the forthcoming months, respond to that mail with a very warm note:

Thank you for taking care of our welfare during  these troubled times. 
Isn't it always better that each one of us chose to bear a little so that  no one has to bear it all? We completely understand the need for the pay cut.
Regardless of our current roles and responsibilities, do let us know how we can support company's business outcomes and revenue from our respective homes, even if that means adding to our skills and taking up more work.
We are into this together and we will not only survive but thrive with our collective efforts. 
 I will be available during office hours on mail. 

I leave it on you to imagine the powerful impact of such a note on an employer, particularly if they are not a large corporation but a growing startup who is anxious about their existence if the lock down continues for indefinite period. This sense of belonging and moral support from an employee makes all the fight, war and struggle worthwhile.

Time Management

On a regular office day you  reach office by 9 AM. Is it different during lock down? Streamline that first.

Set some basic goals to enhance your productivity and constantly evaluate how you can support business goals and business outcomes from home.

If  you are in the daily whirl wind and the chaotic home atmosphere, distractions can affect your attention span, focus and concentration. That brings us to another key factor in your routine


Increases focus, concentration and attention. As David Lynch says “The thing about meditation is: you become more and more you”

This is not really the time to ask from your long term employer. This is the time to give, as much as possible. How can you possibly give anything to anybody if your attention span is severely challenged matter consequent to years of exposure to digital devices.

Switch them off and meditate. If you do not have adequate attention span, you will not be able to do anything discussed here for positive habit change.

Learn New Skills

Post COVID times  you will need them. You may want to improve your existing skills, say you are an expert in making presentation, learn how to make them on Canva or Prezi.

Find Your Tribe

When you call up a colleague to exchange pleasantries, boost each other’s confidence, share your routine, try and support just one more person at least gather strength, hope and stamina to battle this and emerge a winner. The community support goes a long way in this. 

It is your tribe, like minded souls, who will be your source of support and emotional bounce pad during this health and economic crisis

Support Sales, Strategy and Marketing Teams

You may check with your sales, strategy and marketing teams if they need any support in preparing presentations, communication strategy, fixing appointments with client, coordinating zoom calls or setting up a meeting - Anything you do to support these teams builds their internal lead pipeline.

It is about time to train your mind to do many things differently now, and if you have acquired skill, test them in live projects.

Senior Resources

High paying senior professionals in the organization can strike a deal by choosing to work contractually, keeping your seniority intact. It could drop earnings significantly however the professional can always acquire multiple clients, apart from the company.

Be Ready To Bounce Back

You have to create that mental resilience that you have will have to work ten times more, when you are back to work, whenever that is.

During this lock down just the way our cities are getting recharged, rivers are getting cleansed, low pollution in air, use this quiet period, this limited activity and movement time to ponder on how your support can make a difference - It is too early to measure impact but these little initiatives can be instrumental to build individual potential, team output, company revenue and country's economic restoration.

Now the onus is on you.

This phase shall pass.

Wednesday 1 April 2020

Lesson Learnt In A Vegetable Market

Today, after ten days I went out to the vegetable market. We managed all these days with the reserve we had. Life is good - Simple, disciplined, organized and a predictable routine – Absolutely no complaints. I and my mother spent a considerable time watching the News channels, both Hindi (to know about COVID19 statistics in India and the world) and Bengali (to know about the figures in West Bengal).

I personally kept track of the numbers being affected, cured and expired from all the credible sources online. I even launched a YouTube channel just to call out citizens who are still slaves of old habits and thinking patterns, and risking other’s lives.

It is only yesterday I learnt – it was an abnormal behavior to remain glued to media channels. We both snapped out.

Yes, we also watched the TV channels flooding the news of migrant workers – homeless, hungry, tired, desperate to reach their families, rinsed with disinfectants as if they were non-living things and later fed, screened and sheltered.

We cannot even imagine how they are struggling with their fears of being affected, concerns about well-being and safety of their families who are worried about them in their native places and survival issues without income and too many uncertainties.

Just today, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has published about psychosocial issues among migrants during COVID-19 and how their mental well-being is equally important during this crisis:

Treat everyone migrant worker with dignity, respect, empathy and compassion
Listen to their concerns patiently and understand their problems
Recognise specific and varied needs for each person/family. There is no generalization.
Help them to acknowledge that this is an unusual situation of uncertainty and reassure them that the situation is transient and not going to last long. Normal life is going to resume soon.
Be prepared with all the information about possible sources of help. Inform them about the support being extended by Central Government, State Governments/ NGOs/ health care systems etc.
Emphasize on the importance of their staying in their present location and how mass movement could greatly and adversely affect all efforts to contain the virus.
Make them realize their importance in the community and appreciate their contributions for the society.
Remind them that they have made their place with their own efforts, acquired the trust of their employer, sent remittances to their families and therefor deserve all respect.
Reassure that even if their employer fails them, local administration and charitable institutions would extend all possible help.
Out of desperation, many may react in a manner which may appear insulting. Try to understand their issues and be patient.
If somebody is afraid of getting affected, tell them that the condition is curable, and that most recover from it.
Remind them that it is safer for their families if they themselves stay away from them.
Instead of reflecting any mercy, seek their support in the spirit of winning over the situation together.

Most of us are adapting to new life styles, prioritizing our choices, reflecting on earning models, soul searching to squash our own bloated egoes . I am hoping even the migrant workers will emerge stronger, emotionally resilient and fight back this crisis with all their might.

Now back to the vegetable market where I get the fodder for this blog.

The local market has chicken, fish, vegetable in abundance and sold through temporary make shift stalls on either side of the road. 

I picked two cabbages for Rs 12 each, for which the vendor initially demanded Rs 15, bitter guard Rs 10, Cucumber Rs 10, drumsticks Rs 10, Tomato Rs 10. Brinjal Rs 10 What I noticed was he was using a manual weighing balance and was not quite able to manage it. If he holds it the wrong way, it is my loss.

Initially I just bought the cabbage. When I asked for the drumsticks which is usually sold by count, he put them also in the weighing machine. Something about the way he catered to this whole thing was not routine or normal.

He kept saying that he brought them fresh from the farms. As he continued to struggle with the balance, I asked him to hold it right to which he responded - I am basically a caterer and everything is shut during lock down. I am doing this for the past three days. 

Paradigm shift. I had little patience for his fumbling with the machine. Now I had respect.

He is faster than most of us are. He may have learning difficulties with new equipment or probably a sales pitch (the only pitch he knew was that he had brought them from the farms) however he has no mental inertia to respond to a crisis and switch over to an altogether different line of business.

To encourage him I told, this is a better avenue than catering which is seasonal (Typical me) - He agreed however sitting whole day to get everything sold bothered him.

I hope the migrant workers and many more contractors (both physical and knowledge) can build, not just their physical immunity but their mental ability to secure their future by focusing on their overall potential instead of just their current productivity.