Moving Inch by Inch at Service Square

When people tell me how some of my posts make them feel good or inspire them, I feel very charged.

After the euphoria evaporates, time comes for reality check. I look at issues in the office staring at me on the face. Then I appear to myself more like a paper tiger. I ask myself, am I kidding myself and misleading my friends with my brave talk?

It used to be my favourite past time going down the path of problem landscapes, till very recently.

These days, I do not linger too long looking at the mountains of problems. I remind myself, the closer my little finger is to my eyes, the bigger it appears. Challenges need some distance for their understanding. A close examination is best done from a distance. So, the mountain I see now need not be that big. I can even choose to recognize it as a pile of earth.

In my impatience for fast results, I miss appreciating the small gains we make regularly. There are so many of them – improved business, greater commitment from staff and significant output from me personally…..

From the beginning of this month, Mathan has become a Director at Service Square. After the training session last Friday evening conducted by Vigneswari, we celebrated with a beautiful cake which he cut while about 20 of us clapped.

Before he cut the cake, I told everyone about Mathan’s journey in Service Square – from the time he started as a housekeeping supervisor about 13 years ago. And, if he could make it so far, so could everyone else present.

Mathan just about reached the portals of class ten in a Tamil medium school. He has been working since then, to support his family. He works very hard and he has his own ways of planning his days. And he has a way with people. He can talk to anyone with confidence and a touch of finesse.

For the past several years, he has been running Service Square. I made my presence felt every now and then only to make sure that customers were treated well. He handled the executives, the housekeeping staff, customers and even accounts.

By default, I perfected a wonky laissez-faire style of leadership approach allowing the staff free play, without exerting any type of control. I delegated and lived the life of an ostrich, eyes sunk in sand, after that.

In a very beautiful Ted Talk by an Israeli conductor, Itay Talgam, “Lead Like the Great Conductors“, he shows the very successful Austrian conductor Herbert Von Karajan conducting, eyes closed, arms in circular motion. Itay Talgam narrates an incident where a flute player in London asks of the maestro in befuddled consternation – Tell me, when should I start? Karajan’s response was, “You start when you can’t bear it any longer.”

Karajan, had a reason and a method behind his conducting with his eyes closed.

When I conducted my business with my eyes closed, it was because I didn’t know better and had nearly lost faith in my power.

Yet, I had grandeur visions and dreams concerning my business – without doing the work, without showing up.

The sad part is, some people in the company made merry and flourished at my expense, immersed as I was in a state of non-knowing and non-seeing.

On the other hand, Mathan stepped in and started taking control. That saved the day for Service Square, though the growth remained very sluggish.

It beats me how I, who was considered a tremendous performer and a leader of leaders in all my previous jobs became so ineffective in a matter of just a few years.

But, this I know – the fall from grace as a leader did not happen overnight. It happened bit by bit, inch by inch, over a period of time. So slowly, I hardly noticed the metamorphosis in me.

Not tending my garden, the weeds invaded, slowly. Like Paulo Coehlo says in The Alchemist, “Every blessing ignored becomes a curse.”

I had become someone who was disconnected from people. I was not aware of my journey from a powerful connector of people to a self-centred island.

Starting my blog about two years and a half back and focusing on being the change I want to see in others – are beginning to bear fruit. Very powerful incidents such as the one I have narrated in one of my most significant posts, “A Gift Wrapped in Darkness“, are turning the clock back.

Just as my power as a leader slipped out of me drip by drip in the past, I am recreating those powers step by step in the present.

In the past, when everything I touched turned to gold, I was not aware of the process of creation. Now, I am aware of what I am doing and I feel happy as I create deliberately.

More and more, people and events present themselves before me and challenge me to think afresh. Last week, Rahul Vitekar sent me a mail with Peter Drucker’s 5 Essential Questions:

What is our Mission?
Who is our Customer?
What does the customer Value?
What are our Results?
What is our Plan?

Yesterday in the office, I shared these questions with Mathan. I felt very happy as he connected to the questions and felt his willingness to look at things afresh. We also talked about the power we have within to make it very, very big, by sticking our necks out and thinking and acting big.

The burdens from the sins of neglect of the past remain daunting. I have to face that reality too, as I venture out to create new realities and abundance in my business.

I invest more time nowadays, tending to financial matters and speaking to customers who have used our services to get to know what they value.

Within myself I create new and empowering stories – surrounding money, leadership, teamwork, work, networking….. The type of stories I tell myself about these factors determine their meaning, relevance and outcome for me.

Around the time I was just out of college, I saw a card with the picture of a tortoise. The caption read:

“Behold the Tortoise, it makes progress when it sticks it neck out.”


The message for me is, build brick by brick. Avoid short cuts. And stick my neck out. That is how I move towards my dreams.

And, having what I want quenches my thirst for things. Wanting what I have does more. It keeps my soul in perpetual bloom.

4 thoughts on “Moving Inch by Inch at Service Square”

  1. Aha… A day of bustling activity in Service Square and welcome Mathan! Reading about Mathan and his journey tells me how determination and faith can take one places and what is even more enlightning is your trust in him Babu… Hmm.. a leaf for me .. a big one.
    Yesterday when I read your blog… I was bursting with pleasure at all the joy, hope and optimism you were experiencing and I found myself unable to pen anything in response.. It normally happens to me when I am reading a new book and love what I am reading to such an extent that I put the book down!!
    So I re-read it today…took an deep breath and find myself smiling as I write this!
    I take your sharing about sticking your neck out, networking,re-creating your powers step by step as valuable lessons. Wow Babu… I love the way you share…I am now a confirmed FAN! Soul in Perpetual Bloom …this too!

    • Saji, Thank you for all the kind words about this post. Yes, Mathan is indeed a very special person. These days, I find I have so many reasons to be grateful for. For the appreciation I get from people from you, for my feelings of confidence and for the words on which I lean on for support. And for Mathan and others like him in the office.


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