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December 23, 2005

The law of protection

The check-ins started with Manju. She said that she liked the phrase Dharmo Raskshati Rakshitaha � which means Dharma protects people who protect Dharma.

Prasad said that Dharma is like a container that holds everything. When you keep the container clean and protect the container from impurities, then it protects you from diseases when you drink from it. It is a mutuality principle expressed as Dharma (natural law) and if you follow the law, the law protects you - is another way of framing it.

We could also say that Dharma is like a boat in which we sail. If we take care of it and make sure that there are no holes (especially below the waterline), it will safely reach us to the shore.

Deepak said he has been reading the book �Good to Great� and admired the leaders portrayed in the book for their long-term vision for the company instead of selfish motives. In other words, when they are doing their �dharma� instead of focusing on themselves and glorifying themselves for doing their duty, they create great companies.

Srini said he had made a commitment to quit smoking but could not keep the commitment. He said that being forgetful was the reason. Someone in the group said that the commitment probably starts not at the point of deciding to smoke or not but at the point of deciding whether to buy the cigarettes. In other words, if one is addicted, that person forgets ones natural law. Then the addiction dominates and dharma is not protected. It requires awareness at an earlier stage (of buying cigarettes) where one still has choice, then dharma can protect that person by helping him/her to overcome the addiction.

Srini questioned whether level 5 leaders (as defined in the book Good to Great) started their companies with the motive of making the company outlive them, that is, leave a legacy or whether they just started doing something they were passionate about not knowing where it was going to go. Of course the key assumption is that leaders founded the company that they are managing. Many of the level 5 leaders did not start the company. But we continued the conversation about legacy and how to create it.

Vijay said that a company outliving its founder was just one way to leave a legacy. There are many ways to leave a legacy � one could leave a patent that is very useful or build a long lasting product etc.
Vijay conjectured at this point. An average leader may not have any idea of what the future is going to be and be ok with it. But a great leader would intend to leave some form of legacy even if he doesn�t know the future. So, the leaders featured in that book might have actually had an intention to create long lasting companies.
So is the leader�s dharma to create companies that last (and leave a legacy) or companies that flip? Is there an ethical basis for one or the other? How do we know what is the right dharma?

Manju said that the contractor who is remodeling her house also happens to be a priest. She wondered which profession would have more influence on the other. Which is his natural dharma?

I had just come back from a trip to India. I said that every time I have visited my family and friends in India, I would always come back with a feeling of not having spent enough time with them. This time I noticed that doing some very small things with each family member and friend could actually increase the quality of the time spent with them and hence even a short trip could be satisfying. The small things could be just taking a walk, helping in the kitchen, buying some small, useful things that they had not thought of buying for themselves etc. In some respects, I am finding that just being totally present with them and bring all my attention and being to them, seem to take away the feeling of not spending enough time with them. So in relationships, could we say that dharma is not about doing things, not about bringing things, not about spending time but being present to each other?

Deepak shared what he had been learning in his marketing class in his MBA: the power of words. He said that by naming something positive, it is possible to manipulate people into believing whatever happens under a certain name is positive. He gave examples from politics. Dinesh also quoted from a book he was reading about politics and use of right phrases and words in influencing public opinion.

Prasad felt that words and phrases have considerable influence on us. He said that first we capture an image in our mind through words and pictures. Once we associate an image with words, and when that image is sustained through repeated association, it creates a belief in us. That belief continues to get reinforced with each new incident that is connected with that person, or that image or that set of words. Over time, we create our own reality based on our mental images and our relationships are more connected with those images and words rather than real people. So, all of us might be witnessing the same experience, but we register that experience differently in our own minds based on our filters formed by beliefs, convictions and memories. In other words, each of us have a different reality and operate as if it is real.

What differentiates leaders from others is that they are willing to listen to other people�s reality without judgment and create a story that captures the underlying shared experiences (and hence tap into shared Dharma) and by retelling that story, they reframe the listeners� minds. This is what is known as cognitive reframing. More effectively leaders can tell that story, the more meaning and connection others find in it and that allows them to �wake up� to a shared reality and a new dharma that is appropriate for the organization. This is what one calls creating a new culture and that leads to great companies, Prasad concluded.

Posted by Ragu at December 23, 2005 10:39 AM