How an ultimatum helped me overcome my handicap early in my career

Exactly 25 years ago, on April 18, 1996, I was selected to join NDTV in the news production team as a Production Assistant. My decision then had baffled a few near & dear ones. Why would a Correspondent (which I was in my previous job) leave the editorial space to join production? The reverse was known to happen but this was uncommon.

It was a no-brainer for me. I was getting an opportunity to join a team which produced ‘The World This Week’, a show known for its impeccable production values. I actually got to play a small part in the show before it went off-air and I am eternally grateful for it.

I had the privilege to watch and learn from my boss Shivani Jajodia, who had an examplary eye for detail and an innate sense of aesthetics. A strict disciplinarian, she would chide you for the slightest negligence and praise you if your work met her high standards. The news production floor, comprising a few boys and mostly girls in their early 20s, were petrified of her.

I was severely reprimanded only once when it came to her notice that I had frequently erred in my sound mixing responsibility in the production control room. In my case, there was no public rebuke. I was summoned to her room and clearly told if I made one more mistake, I would be removed from this coveted function in the PCR.

I had serious concentration issues. My mistakes were on account of not being able to focus. I remember being despondent after leaving her cabin in the newsroom. How do I ensure I do not make any more mistakes going forward given that I used to make at least one error a day? It was an impossible ask.

A colleague who anchored news bulletins noticed my plight and invited me to his home the following day. He told me he had a solution which could calm me down and help focus better. I was ready to try anything to help tide over the crisis.

The next day, the same colleague introduced me to chanting, the Buddhist way. I was a naive 22 year old and felt it would be against my Hindu religion. I did not pursue it after the trial.

However, I was committed not to lose my place in the accomplished club of audio mixers back then. The three other colleagues who mixed audio online for news bulletins were seasoned professionals. They were sympathetic but could not help much as it was not a problem of understanding or skill. It was because there was too much weighing down my mind at the same time, distracting me from the core task on hand.

The fear of losing my place as well falling short of my boss’s expectations jolted me enough to ensure it did not happen again. Seven years later, when the production team was bifurcated to cater to two channels, the first criteria was to select the two best in each function and place one in each channel. I became aware of this when I quizzed my boss why I was picked for the hindi channel when my hindi typing was below par. It was on account of my prowess in sound mixing, she said.

Looking back I am convinced it was the discipline imbibed in those formative years which helped me and my colleagues back then to approach work in right earnest in the years ahead. I remember a few not happy being admonished like children but it sure did help in the long run.

Had I not been served with an ultimatum, I may have continued to err which in turn would have impacted operations. But the fear of losing my seat in the coveted control room was enough to get me to pull up my socks. And I have Shivani to thank for that.

When Gods Seek Your Company

Source: Dr Surbhit’s Facebook profile picture

Life is strange. The best people you meet leave you early.

Dr Surbhit Choudhary is one such example. I knew him for only a couple of years. However, the duration of my association did not matter. Every time I met him, our bond strengthened. 

He was both a very skilled doctor and an outstanding human. At first, I consulted him for an allergy in my eye. A month and a half later, when my eye healed, I took my mom to consult Dr Surbhit for a retinal complication.

My mom embodies the personification of anxiety. Dr Surbhit began the treatment by first addressing her anxiety. He had a remarkable ability to calm her. After putting her mind at ease, he began the actual eye treatment.

My mom has a rare eye condition which requires an injection in the retina every month. It is a procedure which needs to be performed in the operation theatre and therefore requires due formalities like admission and discharge. The entire process takes between 4-5 hours but thanks to Dr Surbhit, he always did his best to keep it under four hours.

He was a workaholic and worked through the week without a break at least two weeks a month. I consulted him mostly on Sunday to avoid a clash with any professional engagement. I once saw his wife Dr Aarti accompany him on a Sunday and I remember asking him apolegetically how he managed to balance his work and life. He told me not to worry, he had promised her a sumptuous lunch at Oh Calcutta after attending to a surgery.

Not many doctors are forthcoming to share their hand phone numbers but Dr Surbhit passed it to me willingly at the first meeting and encouraged me to WhatsApp him if there’s ever any issue. He would always reply to each text with utmost politeness. Sometimes he would embarrass me with his polite response making me feel I should have phrased my text better.

I have the pleasure of knowing many good doctors but Dr Surbhit is special. My mom spent the last three years staying a few months each in three different cities. This arrangement required her to consult different doctors for the same ailment. If a doctor in another city had a different take from Dr Surbhit and I let him know this, it never upset or troubled him. He would stick to his line of treatment and never rubbish any other view.

I often recommended friends and colleagues to consult Dr Surbhit if they had any eye issue and they would always be thankful after consulting him. Dr Surbhit had the amazing habit of sharing every update on the progress of anyone I referred to him, even if I hadn’t requested for it.

To wake up one morning and find his picture in the newspaper announcing his demise was shocking. I still cannot believe he is no more. He was my eye doctor and I met him just once a month. If I can feel so bad, I shudder to think how his family, friends and the people associated with him on a daily basis would be coping with losing him forever.

I lost my dear cousin when he was a teenager. He was extraordinary. I still miss him. I remember being angry with God for taking him away so early. I know a few others who left well before their time and the common thread in each one was their remarkable ability to touch lives.

Perhaps, this explains why they are prematurely summoned to the other world. Because Gods seek their company as much as you and I do.

(This piece, first published on March 24, 2016, has been updated)

Post Script: Soon after the prayer meeting following Dr Surbhit’s eternal departure, his wife and professional partner Dr Aarti headed to the clinic to meet with fellow doctors, staff and reassured all she will carry on the good work she & Dr Surbhit had started together. Five years later, Dr Aarti continues to do so with vigour and passion. More power to her.

Talent Matters But….

When I am looking to hire, talent is a key requisite in the selection of a candidate. But I pay equal attention to other attributes such as team-playing ability, honesty, integrity and stability. 

If I have to decide between a smug super achiever full of vanity and a moderate achiever who is a dependable team player, I’d opt for the latter. Partly because the profession I work for is a complete team game where teamwork comes in great use.

But equally, I place a lot of emphasis on such traits which help in forming a culture of collaboration. As I do for innate values of trustworthiness and sincerity.

I also look for stability and therefore prefer those who will be invested in the organisation for a long-period. I must confess having let go some very talented applicants for a lesser talent with superior work ethic.

I often come across very ambitious job-seekers who switch jobs in a year or two to quickly scale the corporate ladder. And some of them are very competent. I wish them well and move on to the next candidate.

I have experienced first-hand having two talented members in my team who could not rise to the top despite their superior intellect. Both have a good eye for detail. Both express themselves better than most others. Both are very good in what they do. Both have a mighty sense of self-worth and at the same time underestimate the ability of others around them. Both struggle with inter-personal communication. Both rose exponentially for a few years before hitting a plateau.

I tried to counsel them several times and show them how they could flourish if they paid heed to my feedback. But their vanity takes over everything else. And it appears to be congenital which makes it tough to shed. Every such effort made me feel I am hitting a wall.

Every team needs at least one or two superstars. These are the big hitters who can change the game when they walk in to the crease. Once you have them, you don’t need to look for more such talent.

What you also need is a balanced team. You will need a couple of those who may not have the ability to score big but can tire out the bowlers in the opposition by standing their ground at one end.

You need great fielders who can save the certain boundaries and hit the wicket from the boundary line, running out the opponent batsman.

You need quick running batsmen who can steal a single even when there are six or more fielders within a 30 yard circle. And convert the singles into two, and doubles into three.

You need players who will sacrifice their wicket running to the danger end if they find their partner at the other end is better placed to win the game for the team.

The point I am making is you need all kinds to make a team. What you certainly need is for most, if not all to be complete team-players, who put the interest of their team above their own. You need the players to back-up for each other, take the pressure of one-another, play to each other’s strength etc. That’s why team work is at a premium.

You need those who you can trust, who are honest and sincere. Integrity is a virtue in very short supply. If you find it in a candidate, hire on-the-spot.

Not just while hiring, I have always considered these traits at par with talent during annual performance measurement, promotion and career growth.

I have also met a few who are self-aware of their amazing talent and feel that’s enough to carry their weight. And often, many organizations are okay with that. I differ. Unless I find someone who is God’s gift to the profession. In which case, I give some slack. But only some.

Published by RG

I see, I think. I hear, I think. I read, I think. Sometimes I write. Let me know what you think View more posts

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What is so damn positive about being Covid Positive? Then why call it positive? It should be negative, right? Only good things deserve the adjective positive. If you have the CoronaVirus in your body, there’s nothing positive about it

I Am Positive

Before you jump in to explain, I know the genesis of this nomenclature. The result of a clinical examination indicates ‘positive’ if the virus is detected. Like it was in my case. Now that you know I am Covid positive, you will hopefully understand and pardon my rant. This can happen to the best of us, even those who know well why such terminology is medically accepted universally. Human mind can work in complex ways, especially when confronted with adversity.

You’ve Got To Deal With The News

The news was broken to me by a senior HR team member who patched the Company doctor on the line. ‘Welcome to the Covid Club’, said the Dr in a half-humour manner of speech. I was not really seeking membership here, so I don’t know if I muttered anything under my breath. 25 years ago, when I started my professional journey in Delhi, I fancied a membership in the Delhi Gymkhana Club and a couple of other premier clubs in Lutyen’s Delhi. I soon abandoned the thought once I realised, the membership may come, if at all, many decades later when I may be too old to enjoy the benefits. Ever since, I have not sought access to membership in any club. Certainly not the Covid Club.

How Could You?

Now that I have briefly digressed, let me get back to the health crisis. Most families do not take the virus seriously unless it hits home. The moment a family member is infected, deep realization sets in. The first thought is disbelief. How could it happen to you? Are you sure? Hope they did not mix up the samples. These are not uncommon to hear from a loved one the moment they hear you are infected.

What Happens Next?

The next few hours are overtaken by a mixture of fear, anxiety and apprehension. What are the first things to do? It is not always easy for the ‘patient’ (I am using this term to distinguish the infected from the rest of the household) as he or she does not get the time to even process the news just broken to him or her. The patient’s phone starts ringing. From the health department to the DM’s office, the calls come one by one for verification. The Health Department representative visits your premises, checks your Pulse Oxymeter reading, inspects the household, lists out dos and don’ts and leaves after pasting a sticker outside your door cautioning that a Covid Positive patient lives here and mentioning the period of home isolation.

Don’t Let Stress Get To You

It is said that the Covid infected person should not stress as it can adversely affect the patient’s health. Say it to a newly-inducted member into the Covid family and chances are it may not resonate with him or her. Of course, it is human to worry when you find out the uninvited intruder has entered your body. It is also natural to stress about the health of your family members and all those who are at home till you are absolutely sure that they are spared of the virus. Till that happens, how do you keep away from worrying? It is easier said than done.

If the CoronaVirus does not kill you, constant questions about how you got it and how you are feeling may well do the damage. The moment your near and dear ones get to know, they will call you out of concern. It can be deeply disturbing and difficult to repeat the same lines over and over again. So how does one deal with it. Just send a message thanking all for their concern and requesting them not to call. Let them know you will update as and when there is an opportunity to.

In my case, I rarely spoke on the phone as it would tire me. Any conversation of a minute or more, I would frequently pause to catch my breath. My symptoms have remained pretty much the same for a week. I get fever once a day, usually late afternoon in the range of 99.4 – 99.8°F. I do feel tired while conversing. My doctor first prescribed Azithromycin 500 once a day for 5 days. This was before I got tested. When my test result arrived, I was given Bandy Plus, again once a day for 5 days. I have completed the course for both the antibiotics and have now been prescribed Microdox-LBS once a day for the next 5 days. I feel better today as for the first time in 10 days, no fever has been recorded. I share my Pulse Oxymeter and body temperature reading twice a day with my doctor and he was happy to note the first positive sign in a week and a half. It was a good enough reason to start writing.

I continue to remain isolated at home in a room where I live, read, exercise, eat, sleep and now write. And I continue to live positive – literally and figuratively.

Positive Tip

A word of caution: Do not take the CoronaVirus too lightly or too seriously. Both are risky and can endanger your life.

Strict or Liberal Boss: Who is more Effective?

Bosses come in all shapes, sizes and styles. But the majority fall in two categories – strict or liberal. The demeanour of the boss determines how the team conducts itself in the presence or absence of the boss. It also impacts the state of mind of the team and how it approaches its work. Last, but not the least, it affects the work output. Let’s dwell into both these styles and try to find out which one is more effective.

The Strict Boss

Between the two, perhaps the more commonly found is the strict boss. Teams are terrified of such bosses. The moment a strict boss enters the workplace, the team goes into rapt attention. When the boss is around, the team is always on its toes. The boss flares up if things go wrong at work and is quick to crack the whip. The boss is known for a fiery temper and no one wants to go anywhere near when the boss is in a foul mood. Members of the team heave a sigh of relief when the boss exits the office. The team wears a very different look when the boss is away. Such bosses demand total obedience and observance of rules. The team members are treated like school children and follow a set of strict rules and regulations. The team feels as if they are being watched at all times in the workplace.

“My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.” 

Steve Jobs

The Liberal Boss

Bosses who are liberal are far more lenient in their demeanour with the team. They make few demands and allow their team enough flexibility in the way they manage their work. Once responsibilities are assigned, the liberal boss usually doesn’t interfere unless there are issues with the output or conduct of the team or some of its members. Members are expected to be diligent in the discharge of their duties. The team is at ease in the presence of the boss and feels free to speak up or even disagree with the boss. Liberal bosses usually forgive mistakes as long as they are not repeated or committed by a habitual offender. Repeat offenders however, are not pardoned and treated very differently from others. Liberal bosses are not known to lose their temper often but their patience should never be taken for granted. Such bosses usually trust their team more and expect them to be responsible and self-regulate.

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

 Theodore Roosevelt

Posturing or Different Personality Types?

Both the contrasting styles do not necessarily mean they are two opposite personality types. In some cases, the strict boss could be a different person outside work – warm, even jovial. Team members struggle to understand why the same person would behave so differently outside work. The answer lies in the belief that human beings are generally not good at self-regulation and tend to take it easy if they are not pressured to perform. 

Case for Strict Regulation

Bosses who practice the strict method feel teams work most effectively when the whip is cracked. They believe employees tend to drift in an environment where there is greater freedom and flexibility. Strict bosses argue that it is difficult to get the team to focus unless they feel the presence of constant surveillance at work. The fundamental premise of their argument is as follows: it is imperative for the team not to lose sight of the ball, to fully focus on the job at hand; which is unlikely to happen in the absence of strict regulation.

From the Employees’ Standpoint

Let’s view it from the perspective of team members. Do they like being treated like school children? How does it feel to be under constant surveillance? Do the team members look forward to be at work in office? Does it feel good to be in a workplace where your boss is constantly breathing down your neck or frequently letting off steam? You know the answer.

Merits of a Carefree Workplace

Bosses who foster a relatively less regulated work environment feel it enhances employee engagement and creates a more conducive workplace for creativity and innovation. Happy employees look forward to being at the workplace. They are known to walk the extra mile for the team when required, often volunteering to pitch in at work for a colleague who is confronted with a sudden emergency or even a planned activity. They don’t usually leave the organisation unless they find an opportunity which offers a very challenging role or a significant hike in salary.

Which method is more effective?

It is tough to say which of the two methods is more effective. Often, the strict environment produces higher output due to minimal wastage of man hours. And lesser mistakes because the team members are more careful, for fear of incurring the wrath of the boss. But such places usually see higher attrition. Employees in such an environment actively scout for job opportunities and are quick to leave when it comes. It is never easy to find talent and when you do, it takes time to train and get the recruit up to speed with the workflow and culture of the organisation. Precious time and effort goes waste if they leave after they are trained and ready for the job, usually prevalent in stressed workplaces.

The liberal workplace has relatively much lesser attrition and therefore less time is wasted in hiring and training. However, some employees do take it easy and while away their time. Freedom at work is a good thing, if used responsibly. Not everyone handles it well.

My Take

I have followed the liberal style but dealt firmly with the delinquents. My approach has been thus: why let the entire team endure a stressed work environment only because some rotten apples misuse their freedom? Take the offenders to task, read the riot act to them. Let them know there is zero tolerance for delinquency and repeat offences. Different types of people should be treated differently. Those who are responsible and sincere should be provided enough freedom and flexibility at work.

I don’t judge those who adopt the other method. It could well work for them. It surely enforces discipline, mostly out of fear. Such teams are always on guard and possibly commit lesser errors. They spend almost all their time at work on the job at hand because they know they are being watched. There are advantages in enforcing this method.

The first few years of my professional career were spent in such a work environment. I remember at that time my colleagues and I used to be offended for being treated like school children. Much later did we realise the value of being schooled that way. We were raw then, straight out of college, university or at the most had a few months of work experience. The discipline instilled in us continues to pay rich dividends for the rest of our career. It is a good way to start. However, it may not be conducive for mid-career professionals.

So, what’s the verdict? I believe there can be no generic answer. There are pros and cons for both methods. It depends on many factors. While I prefer the liberal approach, I understand why the proponents and practitioners of the opposite approach opt for it.

To each their own.

Two Ways to Prevent Disappointment in Relationships

Do you easily get disappointed in life?

Over the years, I have observed in many cases, the cause of disappointment in relationships is usually on account of either expectation or comparison. Or both. Can you avoid it? You only need to resist the lure of expectation and comparison. Let me explain.

1. No Expectation, No Cry

When you set expectations and the end result does not match those, you are upset. Growing up in our families, we are conditioned to expect from our near and dear ones. We have set goals for them in our mind, which they may or may not be fully aware of. When those goals are not met, we are unhappy.

If you love someone, let them be. Do not expect anything and you will see how much more you are at peace. It sounds too simple to be true, right? It really is.

In India, we tend to be extravagant with our expectations. Children take parents for granted and have expectations from them which they believe to be their birthright. Parents are equally to blame. They allow such expectations to be formed instead of nipping them in the bud. Parents expect from their children too. Then there are expectations between husband and wife. And in-laws. The list is endless. It can get exhausting living up to them. Why not throw them in the bin and live a life devoid of expectations? Life would be so much more carefree, wouldn’t it?

2. Avoid Comparison

The second recipe to prevent dissapointment is to avoid comparision. We compare ourselves with others who we feel are better off than us. We obsess about keeping up with the Joneses. It could be a bigger house, fancier car, higher paid job, better opportunity etc. It serves no good purpose. On the contrary, it induces depression.

We compare our loved ones with others who we feel are more privileged, successful or talented. Such comparisons rarely have positive consequences. They usually result in discomfort, discord or despair. Why indulge in a practice which serves no positive purpose only because it has passed on from one generation to another? Chances are you have seen your parents do it and felt wronged then. And now you have followed the practice with your next generation. Why? Shun it. And feel the difference.

If comparison is a habit you simple cannot give up, compare with the less privileged, less gifted, less accomplished than you and your loved ones. You will feel thankful for what you have. Gratitude will bring happiness.

Pros & Cons

Some will argue that expectation and comparison can be healthy if they are used for goal setting and may lead to improvement. Agreed. Those who feel encouraged or motivated to excel, by comparison and expectation, are welcome to do so. But few use it constructively to achieve positive results. The majority suffer because they can’t handle it properly. Many are known to be psychologically scarred on account of such constant comparisons. Friendships are ruined because of a deep sense of insecurity arising out of such comparisons. Overall, it hurts more people than it benefits.

Avoiding comparison and expectation may not be easy as they have become habits for us. But habits can be broken. I have, and greatly benefitted as a result. I recommend you try it. And share your experience.

When Confidence Masquerades as Competence

How many of us have been in a gathering or meeting where ideas are sought and amongst the first to speak up usually know the least about the subject?

Confidence not always equals competence

Irrespective of the quality of content, the confidence of the speaker is never in doubt. Right from school days we have always had that one fellow student who may not know what he or she is talking about but says it, nevertheless, with supreme confidence. It is the confidence which sometimes makes others believe in the knowledge of the speaker.

In contrast, you may not feel the need to speak unless you can add a whole new perspective to the discussion. Or you may know the subject well but lack the confidence displayed by the speaker who spoke before you.

Isn’t it a waste of time to speak in a meeting unless you have something to contribute which has not been tabled before? Or you need a clarification. Time is invaluable. One needs to respect time of others. There’s no point speaking just for the sake of being heard.

Why does it happen?

Often, your silence may be perceived by your teacher or the leader in your group as under-confidence or lack of understanding about the issue being discussed. It is to obviate such a concern which usually drives your confident classmate or colleague to speak up, though she or he may not have anything significant to add.

Those who speak up, without knowing enough about the subject of discussion, do so to leave an impression of being smart, capable, confident etc. Sometimes, your teacher or leader may see through it and realise the futility of what’s being said. But, more often than not, such confidence is misconstrued as competence. And decisions may be taken to allocate roles based on this erroneous assumption.

A former colleague who I sat next to in a meeting called by an industry body was the first to speak when suggestions were sought by the chair. She turned to me after making her point, smiled as if to indicate that her mission was accomplished. She then shared her secret with me, as a tip to try in future. ‘Be amongst the first to speak, while others are still gathering their thoughts. It has always served me well.’

To speak up or not?

Have you been in this position where you wondered if you should follow the same practice as your confident associate or colleague? Not doing so may risk missing an opportunity to be tasked with a key assignment or an important project. Or being lost in the crowd with strangers where you only have a few minutes to make an impression.

I have been in such situations many times. I choose to speak if I can bring something new to the table. Or if I feel very strongly about the issue being discussed. More often than not, I choose to hear and not speak. Have I missed chances or been judged as less competent than my more vocal companions? Possibly. It is tough to be certain about it. If I had to live my life all over again, would I change my approach? No. I have never let others’ judgement alter my basic character.

How about you?

On Your Marks: Get Set, But Know How To Go

The recently announced Class X and XII results reminded me of my time as a student. Class X was the biggest examination in school. It was also the final school exam before I entered college. My school did not have Class XI and XII. Some of my dearest friends were the best performers in school. And I was far behind. I remember being embarrassed then mostly because of societal pressures and expectations. More than my parents, it was their friends who had set expectations and built the pressure. It was not easy for me to keep close company with high-scoring friends and face questions about my performance immediately after them. I am sure my good friends were uncomfortable too with my plight. Thankfully, they were not just good students but equally good souls who didn’t judge me on the basis of my scores.

I didn’t give my parents a chance of thumping their chest and declaring with pride how well their son fared. But I was satisfied with my performance. I felt it did justice to the effort I had put in for only a few weeks. I was disappointed with my english marks where I thought I had performed better than what the marks revealed. Clearly, the examiner did not think so. In fact, I scored the lowest marks in english of all the subjects I was tested for. It played on my mind for several months. Perhaps longer.

In my time, examinations were not all objective-type questions. For instance, in english, you had to write an essay. Besides, there were other questions which needed descriptive answers. So there was enough subjectivity built in to the process of academic assessment.

I opted to study in the field of arts while almost all my close friends chose science. Most of those who desired to know my chosen stream of study demonstrated a standard response after hearing my choice. ‘Oh, must have fared badly in the examination’. I didn’t bother to explain that my choice would have remained the same even if I had topped my class.

Friends of my family judged me as less competent compared to my peers. At that time, engineering and medical were the two career paths to pursue if you were a good student. To achieve that, one had to enroll in science. And commerce was third in the pecking order if you aspired to be a chartered accountant or wished to join the corporate world after completing a degree or diploma in business management. If your choice fell outside of the three, you risked being perceived as a loser.

Subsequently, I made all unconventional choices in the following five years. For all those who then pursued a bachelor of arts, it was an accepted practice to major in economics if you fancied yourself as a good student or were seriously career-minded. I chose Sociology. Most people in my parents’ social circle gave up on me. They had no doubt that I had set myself on a path of self-ruin.

When I took up journalism as a career, no one known to my family had traversed this path. My father wasn’t sure if I had made the right choice given that no one in his social circle had been there or done that. But he allowed me to choose my calling. He had always made his own decisions and I inherited the same gene.

A few decades later, when I look back, I have no regrets whatsoever. I still feel I made the right decisions. If I could change something, I would probably put more effort in exam preparation than just four weeks which I invested all my student life. With such a paltry investment, I feel having secured a first class in all the major examinations in my academic life was the best I could hope for. And I am in peace with that.

Going forward, did my scores in any or all the major examinations play a major role in shaping my future? I don’t think so. Did it make a difference to my recruiter when he hired me? Absolutely not. Would I have performed better in my professional life if my scores were higher? Not really.

My intention while writing this is not to dismiss examinations in school and college as inconsequential. Or disparage our system of academic evaluation. Both my close friends Amit Sinha (now Singh) & Subrata Ghosh, who I alluded to, at the start of this blog, deserved the success they achieved in the school final exam. Subrata was the overall school topper in my class and also topped in english. He has a photographic memory and could reproduce word for word, page by page, whatever he put his mind to. I believe no one in our batch could write better in english than him. Amit’s academic consistency as a student is commendable. Much like a player who scores well in each match. He works hard too and deserves all success he has achieved not just in academics but professional life as well. In fact, both Amit & Subrata are very successful in their careers now and still remain humble.

My blog is meant for all those who did not secure top scores or close to it, in the recently declared school results. There is absolutely no reason to feel despondent or crestfallen. The world has not come to an end. There could be short-term obstacles in not being able to enroll in the stream of one’s liking or the school or college of one’s choice. It is at best a speed breaker, not a dead end. Some students who can’t cope with their dismal performance end up with severe mental health issues. Depression is one of the most common ailments which could arise out of unsatisfactory performance and adversely affect students if not handled properly.

Parents have a huge role to play in helping the child cope with trauma. They should not fall in the trap of setting too much expectations which create pressure that could harm their child’s mental health. In some cases, children who can’t face the ignominy, resort to drastic steps which are irreversible. No parent would want to lose their child forever because she or he could not live up to expectations or failed to score the desired marks. If your child falls short of the magic number, let it be. Let him or her know it is fine. The onus is on you to calm your child and create favourable conditions for a new beginning.

In our student life, examination has come to be a race. Rewinding to my childhood, I recollect the golden words I heard at the start of a race. On Your Marks. Get, Set, Go. I would urge all children while they get set on their marks, it is most important to know how to go about it.

What Does It Take To Be A TV News Producer?

What does it take to be a TV news producer? I am often asked this question.

Not much, it is not rocket science, I reply. And then I keep adding to it.

A producer is a jack of all trades and master of none. A producer is a generalist who needs to know just enough to get the best out of specialists. A working knowledge of camera, lighting, video editing, graphic design and styling helps when you are partnering a video journalist, lighting director, video editor, graphics designer or a stylist in a programme or a project.

What is immensely beneficial is to have an innate sense of ownership and good managerial skills. It helps to be a people’s person if you desire this job. Often you will be working against time to deliver a product within a fixed deadline. On many ocassions, you will need your cast or crew to stretch to the limits to get the job done. You should have the ability to inspire, challenge and bring out the best in them. Sometimes, you may hear one of them tell you that he or she did it only for you. Or maybe it is not said but you get the drift. 

A producer is always expected to deliver the goods – be it fire, flood or famine. It is important to be self-driven if you wish to be a television producer. A producer is expected to be a fire-fighter and a safai-karamchari depending on the need of the hour. If you easily get stressed, do not venture into this job. This role is not for the faint-hearted.

A producer worth his or her salt would never be heard saying ‘It’s not my job’. There are no set boundaries within which a producer works. Often the goalpost keeps changing. A producer is expected to take it in her or his stride and in many cases, look forward to it.

A producer needs to be enterprising. It is this ability which commands a premium over anything else. It helps to be a nuts-and-bolts kind of professional if you covet this job. You need to be able to look at both the macro and micro picture. You should know how to plan well in advance and at the same time be ready to deal with situations which come unannounced.

Often when I interview candidates for this role, I don’t dwell much on the CV. Or past accomplishments. After all, a producer helps put together, in the best way possible, work done by multiple individual cast and crew. Nothing that he or she creates is executed solely by him or her. What I look for is a temperament suited for a backroom professional. One should be comfortable in consistently making the work of others look good. A producer is always trying to add value to other people’s work – be it a reporter, a video journalist, a presenter etc. In the end, the final product is the outcome of the work put in by everyone, led and managed by the producer.

Often, a producer is not known outside the workplace by the audience. Unlike a television presenter or a reporter who is seen by viewers and recognised outside of the TV newsroom and studio. A producer should not get bothered by this anonymity. It is the love of the craft which should drive her or him, more than anything else. Often, shows may not have production credits scrolling at the end. It should not make a difference in the producer’s effort and involvement in the show. There are some who feel being credited is their birth-right. And there are others whose passion and participation in the product does not diminish if they don’t see their name at the end of the show.

It’s not about how much you do but how much love you put into what you do that counts

Mother Teresa

I always dig deep to check what I call the candidate’s news Ps & Qs. It is important to gauge if the candidate is passionate about news. If news does not interest her or him, it will be just another job to be done. If you get excited by news and news events, you will always strive to go that extra mile because you love what you do.The applicant’s news quotient will indicate how clued in, she or he is, to news and current affairs. A producer who is more aware is much better placed to contribute on the job.

While a lot of skills can be acquired on the job, it is the personality traits that are usually congenital. Either you have them or not.  Which is not difficult to find out in the 20 odd minutes chat during the interview. I have been lucky to spot these attributes which have helped make the right choices, more often than not. Choices which can make or mar a newsroom.


After Or Before SELF Defines Your Personality

I have, for as long as I can remember, been a keen observer of people. Over the years, it has helped me to understand them better and later in my professional life, try and manage them effectively. I have had the opportunity to lead a team of 300 professionals and interact with different personality types. There are all kinds of people I have engaged with but there are two specific types who have captured my attention. Often I have met one immediately after the other and the difference between the two is so stark that one has to condition oneself before the changeover. It is a bit like moving from a very hot outdoor environment to a super-cool air-conditioned room without spending anytime in between in a neutral environment to adjust the body temperature. While there are thermostats available for machines, human beings have no such equivalent to help them adapt to extreme personality types.

Type A

The first type, who I refer to as A approaches others around him with the mindset – ‘How can you help me?’ Any new acquaintance or old association is viewed from this perspective. If she or he is not in a position to help, A either has no or little interest to engage or may just get into a monologue, for instance, narrating all past achievements. A‘s constant endeavour is two-fold: to either impress others or seek commendation from them. Sometimes, it is both.

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to leave

Oscar Wilde

Type B

The second kind, who I call B, views her or his environment from the perspective of ‘How can I help you?’ The B type is ever ready to help, in any way possible. To be of assistance, comes naturally to B. It does not matter, if the person being assisted is known or unknown, as long as there is an opportunity to help.

Why name them A & B?

The A type is derived from the word ‘after’. For A, it is first and foremost, about self. Everyone and everything else comes afterwards. B is an abbreviation for ‘before‘ and refers to the type of people who always think about others before self. It is the striking contrast between A & B that makes them so fascinating to study. The former cannot get enough of her or himself while the latter is too busy to worry about self. A rarely does anything without any self-interest. For B, service to others is always before self. A‘s efforts are directed at self-promotion or self-aggrandisement. B thrives in making self useful to others. A is always selfish. B is forever selfless.

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.

Winston Churchill

Meeting A & B back-to-back can cause different reaction depending on who you meet first. If you meet A first and then B immediately after, you are thankful and leave feeling good. If the sequence of meeting is reversed, you end up with a not-so-pleasant taste in your mouth. In either case, an interval between meeting the two can make adapting easier. If there is no time lag between both meetings, you just have to learn to cope.

Usually, after such an experience, when one has some time to think, one is bewildered at how different can two individuals be. But then one realises that it is nature’s way of creating balance. If everyone behaved the same, the world could get monotonous. Or so you tell yourself, whether you believe it or not.

All of us are familiar with A & B types in our circle of friends, family, neighbours and colleagues. One feels blessed to have B type in close company. They make everything easy around you. On the other hand, if your close friends exhibit type A personality, they will always have expectations from you, which you may or may not be able to meet. You have got to know how to deal with them, in a manner in which you can help both.