Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Serving Leader by Ken Jennings and John Stahl-Wert

Today, Servant Leadership is taking a prominent place not only in volunteer driven organizations, but also in corporates. With the growing number of "matrix organizations" and teams embracing "Agile" for project delivery and led by a Scrum Master, Servant Leadership skills are the need of the hour.

I had a chance to read the book "The Serving Leader" from the Ken Blanchard Series, written by Ken Jennings and John Stahl-Wert. The authors have sandwiched the Servant Leadership lessons in a fictional story. This blog post summarizes some key lessons and learnings from the book.

The following are the 5 powerful actions that the authors teach for you to transform your team, your business and your community:
  1. Run to Great Purpose 
    • To do the most impossible good, strive for the impossible
    • Sustain the greatest interest in pursuits beyond self-interest
  2. Upend the Pyramid
    • You qualify to be first by putting other people first
    • Your are in charge principally to charge up others
  3. Build on Strengths
    • To address your weaknesses, focus on your strengths
    • You can't become the best unless other do, too 
  4. Raise the Bar
    • To serve the many, you first serve the few
    • The best reach-down is a challenging reach-up
  5. Blaze the Trail
    • To protect your value, you must give it all away
    • Your biggest obstacle is the one that hinders someone else

Source: The Serving Leader, by Ken Jennings and John Stahl-Wert

Some traits of a servant leader and key messages worth noting from the book:

  1. He spent a lot of time in activity that looked more like "teaching" than "managing"
  2. He was known for setting high goals and standards.
  3. He encouraged risk taking, though he wasn't afraid to remove people for "persistent" underperformance
  4. He unleashes the strengths, talents and passions of those he or she serves
  5. When she points out a problem, she also offered several solutions and she always showed up when it was time to do the hard work of implementation
  6. She constantly gets her ego out of the way and builds up the confidence / self-esteem of others
  7. By putting others first, the Serving Leader is able to catalyze the creation of high performance teams
  8. He ensures that the right people join the team, those with the right skills and values, those who embrace the same shared purpose. He is tough on selecting people and setting standards
  9. In order to serve many people, the servant leader at first picks just a few other leaders to serve, people who can meet the Servant Leadership standards
  10. He ensures that "activity" is no substitute for "results". At first its about being selective in choosing the leaders you're going to work with. And second, it's about continually raising the expectations for performance
  11. When the performance of an individual doesn't improve after "heavy coaching", the Servant Leader helps him or her get a position somewhere else
  12. People by nature try to live up to what others expect of them. That's true for rich and poor, people who have an easy life or a hard one. Expect little, and we live up to the expectation. Expect a lot, and we stretch and grow to meet the expectation. What kind of service is it... when you deny a person the challenge to become really terrific
  13. Life is too short to waste on sentimental pursuits that don't actually improve anything
  14. Servant Leaders teach others the knowledge, skills and strategies they need to succeed. And the Servant Leaders work hard to get obstacles out of their team's way so that the team can make progress.
  15. Servant Leaders build teaching organizations to create excellence at every level. Leaders who teach become consistent in their own performance.
  16. Community happens when everyone rolls up their sleeves and gets to work
  17. You get better results by shifting attention away from your weaknesses and focusing on your strengths
  18. Serving leaders articulate a purpose so compelling that people are willing to run toward it. The leaders set the pace and this spirit gets transferred to the people they serve
  19. If the purpose isn't bigger than the people involved, great things wouldn't happen
  20. Mistakes aren't the issue, what you do with them is the issue. Ask to be forgiven for the past, and then seize your future with all you've got. 

If you want to learn more about Servant Leadership, visit the authors' website

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Vocal Variety - 4Ps of Voice

“Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs” said Stephen Covey, the famous author and speaker.

Delivering a speech to the audience, is similar to the journey that you take in a train. The train journey becomes much more enjoyable and adventurous, when the train traverses through peaks and valleys, instead of just going in a flat terrain. The train changes its speed based on the terrain. Similarly, your speech should also be going through moments of peaks, valleys, flat terrains and at times, even a complete pause. You can achieve that by tapping on the power of voice.

Toastmasters provides you a platform for “finding your voice”. When it comes to voice modulation, one of the speakers that I admire is Zig Ziglar. Despite the age, his voice comes across as energetic, attractive and inspiring. Watch the video of Zig Ziglar, where he talks about the "Art of Selling".

In this article, I'm going to describe the 4Ps of Voice - Pitch, Pause, Pace and Projections.


Pitch can be used to communicate emotions. A high pitch reflects "high emotions" such as anger, happiness or excitement. Low pitch reflects "low emotions" such as a somber mood or sad moment.

Listen to my recordings:

“How dare you take my bike keys?”  (High Pitch)

"Why did you take my bike keys?      (Low Pitch)


Pausing is good - do you know that? As a novice speaker, we may think that Pausing means "You forgot the content". While the reality is, advance speakers use Pause as an effective tool to maximize the impact of the speech, on the audience.

When you are on a roller coaster, the roller coaster comes to halts in between, before picking up momentum. The halts make the roller coaster ride much more thrilling.

What are the situations in which you can pause:

  1. Before beginning to speak on the stage, to get the attention of your audience. You can easily take a 3 or 4 seconds pause, trying to establish eye contact with audience. Even an unsettled crowd will become settled when you pause for a while at the beginning
  2. Before delivering a punch line in a humorous phrase. For example, "A doctor tells a woman she can no longer touch anything alcoholic. So she gets a divorce". The pause makes an audience to think in a particular direction and when you surprise them with your punch line, it brings humor. 
  3. When delivering a quote, to stress the important parts. For ex., "5 years from now you'll be the same person except for the people that you meet and the books that you read"
Listen to some of my recordings:

Do you know which club got the first prize….  Chennai Speakers Forum! 

You don’t have to be GREAT to START  but, you’ve to START to be GREAT 


Pace is the most missed out tool in regular speeches. Novice speakers deliver at fast pace due to nervousness. However, it will be very hard for the audience to follow the speaker, when the pace is too fast. The best example is when Ravi Sashtri or Sunil Gavaskar narrates a wicket loss during a cricket commentary.

Listen to some of my recordings for fast pace:

Steve Jobs’ motto was to “Simplify!” He said “No” to pretty much every SINGLE thing … 

Should it have screws – NO 
Removable batteries – NO 
Stylus – NO 
Keyboard – NO 
Manuals – A BIG NO 

And that resulted in the birth of sleek, cool and attractive iPhone

All of us join Toastmasters to evolve to become a great communicator or a great leader. So, I recommend all of you “NOT TO GIVE AN EXCUSE”, after you sign up for a role. 

When YOU give an excuse, you miss an opportunity to explore, 
When you don’t explore, you miss an opportunity to gain experience 
When you don’t get the experience, you miss an opportunity to evolve 
When you don’t evolve, how will the fundamental purpose of YOU joining Toastmasters is going to be met? 

Here is an example of a slow pace: 

When I went to the stage and spoke, everybody laughed. That was my last visit to the Speakers club.


Projection of voice helps you to reach out to the people sitting in the last row. You've to adjust your voice projection (aka volume) based on the number of people in the audience, room size, whether you are using a microphone, whether you are speaking to a live audience or over a webcast. When you have a good projection, you come across as a confident speaker. Low Projections, at times make your audience lean forward to listen to you. For ex., when you want to tell a "secret", you can use "low projection". 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

CC Project #6 - Vocal Variety - Lessons from Steve Jobs

Call him as charismatic or argumentative …
Call him as a visionary or brutal …
Call him as innovative or idiotic …
No matter what you call him as, you will be right.

Good morning fellow Toastmasters and Guests,

The man that I’m going to talk about is “Steve Jobs”. Steve Jobs once said “People, who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do”. He is a perfect example of this quote. You can derive inspiration and messages for a 100 odd World Championship speeches from Steve Job’s life. Today, I’m going to share 2 significant messages that I learned from his life.

Quality is more important than Quantity, one home run is much better than two doubles

Paul Jobs… the man who adopted Steve Jobs was a good and intelligent car mechanic. His profession was to rebuild old cars. During the weekends, Steve helped his dad in doing some household work like laying fence or building cabinets for the home.  His father was a man of perfection. He refused to use poor wood even for the back of cabinets. He would paint even the back of the fence – the same way that he painted the front side of the fence.

Steve Jobs once asked his dad “Dad! Why are you wasting your time in paying attention to what people couldn’t see?”. His dad looked at him, smiled and said “Son… Yes! Others wouldn’t see it, but I know it’s there. For me to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, the design has to be carried all the way through

This philosophy led jobs to manufacture Apple products with the same care, even in the details that would be invisible to the user. For example, Jobs rejected the designs of the original logic boards inside of the Apple II computer … as the ‘lines were not straight enough’.

“Deciding what not to do, is as important as deciding what to do”

Jobs loved simplicity in design. He honed this when he became a practitioner of Buddhism. After dropping out of college, he made a long pilgrimage through India seeking enlightenment. This is when he got hooked to the principles of minimalism from Zen Buddhism.

He applied those principles in every product that he designed. For example, when you are combining the functions of a camera, a music player, a GPS, a phone and a browser into a device like iPhone, you can end up having a product that is so convoluted and so complex.

But, Steve’s motto was to “Simplify!” He said “No” to pretty much everything …

1. Should it have screws – NO
2. Should it have a stylus – NO
3. Should it have a keyboard – NO
4. Removable batteries – NO
5. Pack them with manuals – A BIG NO

The result is what you see in an iPhone.

How did these lessons impact me?

These two messages are related to each other and they stress the importance of quality and saying NO to things. Until very recently, I used to think of me as the “Master of Time Management”.   I’m sure all of you might’ve heard about the example of putting “BIG stones first into the jar and you’ll always find time for the SMALL stones, later”. My time management principles were based on that. I used to categorize tasks as big or small based on the time it takes me to complete the job… and I sequenced them accordingly. However, the drawback in that approach is… you are trying hard to accommodate ALL stones and ALL tasks.

What if you have twice the amount of stones than what your jar can accommodate? You’ll have to say NO to some stones… actually… to many stones. So, these days, I adopt a different methodology in time management. I pick only the 3 stones that are of importance to me… and just do a perfect job in that. Be it the emails that I read/respond, be it the stake holders that I deal with, or be it the activities that I focus on.  I’ll brutally say NO to many. This method has increased my efficiency and performance. It also helps me to lead a very balanced lift.

Fellow Toastmasters and Guests, there are very few people in this world like Mahatma Gandhi who can say “My life is my message”. And Steve Jobs is one of those very few people. Steve Jobs' life is a tale of highs and lows, successes and failures, friendships and rivalries, love and hatred...It has innumerable messages for us to take away. If you’ve forgot everything that I told you today, just remember only these 2 things:

  1. Quality is more important than Quantity, one home run is much better than two doubles
  2. Deciding what not to do, is as important as deciding what to do

I’ve started following them… will you… Toastmasters?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

You call him as charismatic; you call him as argumentative; you call him as a visionary and you call him as brutal. You will be right. When I finished reading the last page of the book "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson, I get the feeling of having watched Baahubali 2. Jobs' tale is both instructive and cautionary. It is a tale of highs, lows, surprises, successes, failures, rivalries, emotions, love, hatred... and everything else that you would see in a movie like Baahubali.

Rob Siltanen's quote "The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do" won't fit anyone else better than Steve Jobs. Jobs aspired to live at the intersection of humanities and technology, and he just did that throughout his life. He always thought that he is special and he compared himself with the likes of Einstein and Gandhi. I am not sure if he is as good as Gandhi, but he definitely made an impact, as big as what Einstein made with the theory of relativity. Jobs' feeling of getting rejected at an early age... created the feeling to prove. He did prove to the world, that he is different.

Steve Jobs not only built great products, but also built great companies. All of the products that he built followed Leonarda Da Vinci's mantra "Simplicity is the ultimate Sophistication".

Both the book and the man, impacted me ... and made me to think. Here are some highlights from the book:

  1. Unlike other product developers, Jobs did not believe that customers are always right. He felt customers do not know what they want, until you show them. He didn't just motivate his teams to make mere product advances, but whole new devices and services that consumers did not know they needed. 
  2. He loved doing things right. He even cared about the look of parts that you couldn't see. During his childhood days, he learned from his dad about the importance of making even the back of the cabinets and fences properly, even though they were hidden. 
  3. He practiced strict vegetarianism (vegan diet) for the major part of his life. 
  4. Apple's marketing philosophy - empathy (intimate connection with the feelings of the customer), focus (eliminate whatever opportunities are unimportant), impute (presenting products in a creative, professional manner)
  5. Jobs ends up to be brutally honest, telling the truths that most of us sugarcoat or suppress. He usually didn't care an iota of what people actually think of him. According to him, people were either enlightened or assholes. Products were either amazing or shit. 
  6. Jobs thought "If you need slides, it shows, you don't know what you are talking about"
  7. Jobs was driven by his perfectionism and gets impatience with those who made compromises in order to get a product on time and on budget. People look at him as someone who has reality distortion, especially when he gets too passionate about a product.  
  8. Lessons Jobs learned from the Buddhism - material possessions often cluttered life rather than enriched it. So, he embraced "minimalism". He reflected that through the things that he accumulated at home and through the things that he wears everyday. He also applies this philosophy in designing / building products.
  9. Jobs wanted to have end to end control over the entire ecosystem, when building products. He believed that for a computer to be truly great, its hardware and software has to be tightly linked. He followed that right from the MAC to the iPhone to the iTunes. He was a believer of creating end to end solutions. 
  10. Jobs thought "You have to be ruthless if you want to build a team of A players. Its too easy as a team grows, to put up with a few B players, and then attract a few more B players, and soon you'll even have some C players. A players like to work only with A players. Part of my responsibility, is to be a yardstick for quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected"
  11. Jobs is good at focusing on a few things and say no to many things.  He feels that "deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. That's true for companies and that's true for products"
  12. The mark of an innovative company is not only that it comes up with new ideas first, but also that it knows how to leapfrog when it finds itself behind. He believed in making hit products and promote them with terrific marketing

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Mistakes to avoid in English while forming sentences

I lost the precious opportunity of mastering English in both school and college days. I had to compensate for that during my professional life. Thanks to Toastmasters, I inherited a number of good habits, including the habit of regularly reading good books. I am able to speak without (many!) grammatical errors today because of the habit of reading good books and newspapers.

Even today, I don't understand the dictionary definition of "past participle", "past continuous tense", "adverb" etc., because I haven't studied grammar properly during school days. However, I manage to speak good English. There is a famous quote "Small things make perfection, but perfection isn't a small thing". A few simple grammar corrections to your sentences will make you appear like a good speaker.

1. After "did" there should not be a past tense verb

Wrong usage: Where did he went for lunch?

Right usage: Where did he go for lunch?

2. Use of "Can able to" 

Wrong usage: I can able to complete by Friday

Right usage: "I can complete by Friday" or "I'll be able to complete by Friday"

3. "I and my friend" 

Wrong usage: I and my friend went to a restaurant for dinner on Friday

Right usage: My friend and I went to a restaurant for dinner on Friday

4. Use of "One of my"

Wrong usage: One of my friend work for Cisco Systems

Right usage: One of my friends works for Cisco Systems

5. Use of  "People vs. Peoples" "Children vs. Childrens"

Wrong usage: I met a number of peoples in Coimbatore

Right usage: I met a number of people in Coimbatore

Wrong usage: I enjoy playing with Childrens

Right usage: I enjoy playing with Children

6. Use of "struck" vs. "stuck" 

Wrong usage: I got struck at work

Right usage: I got stuck at work

7. Literal translation of "native language" to English

Wrong usage: You going-ah for the wedding?

Right usage: Are you going to attend the wedding?

8. Use of "simple present" tense

Wrong usage: Anitha work really hard in this project

Right usage: Anitha works really hard in this project

Wrong usage: Anitha and Sam really works hard in this project

Right usage: Anitha and Sam really work hard in this project

Wrong usage: I works really hard in this project

Right usage: I work really hard in this project

If you want to increase your proficiency in sentence formation in English, I would strongly recommend you to read good English novels. Though you may be reading a lot of self-help books or technical books, your English fluency may not improve. Because, they don't teach you how to form sentences like "Hey! Shall we quickly go to cafeteria and grab some lunch?" However, in novels there will be stories; in stories there will be characters and characters speak through dialogues. If you don't know which novel to pick, you can start with Chetan Bhagat's novels. They are simple enough for all of us to read and understand. If you are reading novels with an "intent to learn" as opposed to reading with an "intent to kill time", you'll be able to develop your proficiency in sentence formation.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

CC Project #5 - Your body Speaks - Two sides to a coin

Last Sunday morning, my brother and I were strolling on the shoreline of Marina Beach. I don’t know how many of you had been to Marina on a Sunday morning. You can see the sun warming up the ocean waters by spreading its arms. You can see groups of people busy jogging and walking. You can see vendors busy selling tender coconuts, cut fruits and juice.

Good morning fellow Toastmasters and guests,

When you admire all of these and keep walking … you’ll see a group of people who live in Marina. Yes… Marina is their home… they eat there… they sleep there… they even defecate there. When my brother and I saw this I immediately shouted “It is because of these people… Marina isn’t clean. Look at that guy… he is openly defecating on the Marina sand. Doesn’t he have common sense?! These folks should be brutally punished

My brother smiled at me and said “Saro… There is always two sides to the coin. Some of these folks are here due to no fault of theirs. Look at them… many are from north India. Each one of them may have a flashback story that brought them to Chennai. They may not even know the language. Begging is the easiest job that they can do without knowing the language. Given the small money that they earn… where can they go and stay… that’s why they are here. Our politicians keep the poor as poor … by launching populist policies as opposed to investing in infrastructure, education and job opportunities. Now tell me Saro… should we punshi these people first, or should we punish our politicians first”. I didn’t know what to answer… I smiled and we moved on.

Whenever I delve into any topic of social interest … I end up realizing “There is always two sides to the coin”. For example, let us pick terrorism. All of us talk about the atrocities caused by terrorists including abducting or killing innocent people. But, let us look at the other side of the coin. These terrorists want their “voice to be heard”. In most cases, they are part of a minority group. They are not represented adequately in the social, economic and political circles. They don’t have other means to fight against money power and political power… and hence they resort to terrorism. If these people get access to education, health care and job opportunities and get an environment where they can peacefully coexist with others… why are they going to get into violent acts?

Now let us pick another hot topic – demonetization. People complain about hardships to common man, people complain about deaths of people standing in queues, people complain about GDP slow down.

Let us look at the other side of the coin. While everyone keeps complaining about the “government’s execution plan”… I feel “If government had planned the execution so well, the purpose of the exercise itself would be lost”. Our people are ready to wait for hours in the queue to get darshan of the non-existent God. Our people are ready to wait for hours together to get freebies. Our people are ready to wait in queues for movie tickets, train tickets and to even get ration. Why are we not ready to wait in queues to get money from bank for a few days?

I admire the government’s agility in reacting to problems faced by common man. They’ve tweaked the implementation of the scheme almost on a daily basis… to minimize the hardships caused to the citizens. I see folks who are still running pillar to post… with a lot of unaccounted cash in hand. They look like mouse caught in a mouse trap. Only 4 crore out of the 120 crore people pay tax – mostly the salaried class.  A number of business men who have been piling loads of unaccounted cash in their vaults are now in a soup. Every day, we keep reading about several crores of unaccounted cash being unearthed by IT officials… from colleges, jewelers and private jets. The number of digital transactions have gone up by 300% in the last few weeks. Yes there is pain… but, there is no gain without pain.

Robert H. Schuller, a famous author once said “I’d rather attempt to do something great and fail, than to attempt nothing and succeed”. There are two sides to any coin… and any action. People will be divided in their views… no matter what you do, when you do or even if you don’t do anything. If you keep waiting for the perfect conditions to emerge to take action, you’ll never be able to take any action. In this fast paced world, the only way to succeed is … take risks, experiment, learn fast and move on. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

CC Project #4 - How to say it? - Wayanad Trip

When the summer heat hits you hard, what do you do? We turn on the Air Conditioners at home to keep ourselves cool… when the A/C bill shoots up, we know it’s time to pack our stuff and head to a naturally cool place.

Good morning fellow Toastmasters and guests,

… and that is exactly what we did during this summer. We headed to a cool place called Wayanad. The “we” is a group of 10 people including my parents, wife, daughter and the extended family. The “we” included people all the way from 6 feet height to 2 feet height.

Also read: CC3 - One Step at a time (Get to the Point)

Wayanad is nature’s hidden treasure. It is hidden between the borders of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamilnadu. On one side, there is mesmerizing Mysore and on the other side, there is astonishing Ooty. Wayanad is sandwiched between these two cool places.

We stayed in a place called Hotel Haritagiri. That is a great place to spend time with family and kids. We went to Wayanad for a 3 days’ vacation. We could’ve spent all the 3 days inside the hotel and we would’ve still enjoyed the vacation.

We had rented a Tempo Traveller to go around. On the first day, we went to a place called Edakkal Caves. The drive to Edakkal Caves was refreshing. Wayanad is dipped in green… with beautiful trees, plants and bushes… along both the sides of the road, like a beautiful girl wearing fresh green saree.

We parked our van near the visitor’s entrance. Edakkal caves was standing on top of a tall mountain. At first, we thought we can easily climb the mountain. So, we started doing a brisk walk. After some 30 minutes of climbing, the brisk walk became a slow walk and then, in a few minutes, literally we started crawling. All of us started gasping for breath. We breathed so heavily that our ears realized that there is a heart inside us.

As we climbed up, the path became very steep and narrow. Our legs started to ache, some of us started feeling dizzy and finally, our legs came to a grinding halt. It looked as if Mother Mountain is looking straight into our eyes and roaring “Kabali-da”.

When we were too tired and ran out of steam, we spotted a “Tender Coconut” shop. We felt happy like a thirsty traveler spotting an oasis in the middle of a desert. I asked the shop owner “Brother… what is the price?” in Tamil, he responded back “Rs.50 Sir” in beautiful English. I internally thought, “Boss! Given the thirst that we’ve, even if you had said each one costs Rs.500, we would’ve bought them”. I ordered 10 Tender coconuts and all of us finished drinking that. Immediately, we got replenished, refreshed and rejuvenated.

We started climbing the mountain again. In about 30 minutes, we reached the cave. The cave was formed by large rocks sticking their head to one another. It felt as if someone had powered up 100 ACs simultaneously. The cave was so cool. The rocks had algae all over them. Each of the rocks had scribblings, drawings and some writings. It looks like they were written before 5000 years.

When you look down from the top of the mountain, it feels as if you are standing on top of a 1000 storied LIC building and looking at Anna Salai.  The kids ran around and played for a while. We spent some time there and started climbing down. Since the mountain was steep, the downward descend was also difficult. In about an hour, we reached down and got into our Tempo Traveller. Everyone looked like punctured balloons. We had late lunch in a nearby restaurant and reached Hotel Haritagiri to take a good nap. We spent the rest of the day in the Hotel itself.

In the next 2 days, we visited a few more places like Banasura Sagar Dam, Kuruva Island, Karlad Lake. Three days of vacation evaporated like three minutes. Wayanad had much more to offer, but we had very less time to enjoy the full breadth and width of Wayanad. I’m sure this feeling will be there, even if we visit Wayanad a few more times.

Fellow Toastmasters and guests, when you are looking for a great place to have a stellar time with family… when you are looking for a peaceful getaway from the buzzling city life… when you are looking for a place to soak into the beauty of nature…. Wayanad is the place to go!

Also read: CC4 - Make it theirs (How to Say it)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Table Topics - Wayne Dyer - CSF Meeting #223

The theme of CSF meeting #223 was "You'll see when you believe it", a quote from Wayne Dyer. I picked topics which are quotes of the famous author Wayne Dyer. 
  1. How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours. 
  2. If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. 
  3. Our lives are a sum total of the choices we have made. 
  4. The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don't know anything about. 
  5. It's never crowded along the extra mile. 
  6. The last suit that you wear, you don't need any pockets. 
  7. Anything you really want, you can attain, if you really go after it. 
  8. Conflict cannot survive without your participation. 
  9. There's nothing wrong with anger provided you use it constructively. 
  10. You cannot be lonely if you like the person you're alone with. 
  11. You can't choose up sides on a round world.
  12. Everything you are against weakens you. Everything you are for empowers you. 
  13. Self-worth comes from one thing - thinking that you are worthy. 
  14. Miracles come in moments. Be ready and willing.
I also picked some English idioms (local slang in any language) as topics... 

Let the cat out of the bag
Hot potato
Miss the boat
Can’t judge a book by its cover
Once in a blue moon
Ball is in your court
See eye to eye
Best of both worlds
Steal someone’s thunder
Costs an arm and a leg
Take with a grain of salt
Devil’s advocate
Last Straw
Hear it on the grapevine
Hit the nail on the head
Jump on the bandwagon

Monday, August 15, 2016

CC Project #3 - Get to the point - Searching your voice ?!

“Shouldn’t these girls be staying at home and cooking? Why are they even joining colleges? When they finish the studies, they are going to get married to a guy in US and just stay at home. Indirectly, they are denying opportunity for an eligible guy, who will be a future bread winner”

Good morning fellow Toastmasters and guests,

That’s how immature I was during my College days. Did I think like that, because my mom was a house wife? Or, was it because of how Rajini defined women in movies like Mannan & Baadsha, those days? I don’t know. Melinda Gates, co-founder of the famous Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said “A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult”.

Also read: One step at a time (Get to the Point)

Change in Perspective – First Job

When I started my career I realized that … it is not just searching for a women’s voice … even searching to find a women at office was difficult. My perspective towards women was changed by a lady who I met at work place. She was my mentor. She used to patiently teach me everything and specifically, she reviewed all of my emails and offered suggestions on my English grammar / sentence formation etc., I started becoming better at writing emails because of her. She was the sole bread winner of her family because, she had lost her dad a few years ago. When she finished her M.Sc Mathematics she found it difficult to land in a job. She went ahead and completed a diploma course in Computers and managed to crawl into an IT job. She took care of her family and even made her elder brother to settle in life. This lady changed my beliefs. She not only searched and found her voice, but also made her voice to be heard loud and clear… by male chauvinists like me… through her achievements. That is when my perspective towards women changed.

Sherly Sandberg

Recently I read the book titled “Lean In” written by the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg. Sheryl shares an interesting incident in her book from the year 2004, when she was working for Google. She got pregnant with her first child. She was running their online sales and operations groups. She had joined the company a few years back when it had a few hundred employees. As you may know, every pregnant lady goes through a terrible time during their first trimester… often plagued by morning sickness and nausea. Women put on a lot of weight during this period. Sheryl wasn’t an exception. Most days, by the time she reached office in the morning, almost all of the parking lots near the building entrance will be taken up. She normally parks at a distant parking space… and ends up walking to the entrance on the hot sun. She couldn’t tolerate this. She walked straight into Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s office and told them “We should have a parking space for pregnant ladies, near the entrance”. They made it happen immediately. Till that time, Sheryl hadn’t realized that a pregnant women needed a reserved parking near to the building. Unlike Sheryl, all of the other pregnant women workers of Google had suffered in silence all along. Malala, the famous women rights activist says “I raise up my voice – not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard”. Sheryl became the Malala for the pregnant ladies in Google.

Women & Toastmasters

Let us take Toastmasters for example. Though Toastmasters was started in the year 1924, only in 1973 we started officially admitting women. Helen Blanchard who was the first women Toastmaster, later became the first women International President in 1985. Today, worldwide we’ve 48% women in Toastmasters. But, in India… we’ve only less than 30% women joining Toastmasters.  Let us look at our own District. We haven’t had many women playing the top District roles. Even the ones who end up playing the roles like DTM Nina John, DTM Suganthi Periasamy had to go through so much of hardship to get there.  Research shows that everyone has a bias… The chances for someone to think of women as “bossy” is twice when compared to men.  Is THAT challenging our women Toastmasters from getting into the top roles?

Also read: Mitra - My little one (Get to the Point)


Malala says “We realize the importance of our voice, only when we are silenced”. Fellow Toastmasters and Guests, let us help our women to find their voice by letting them sit at the table, by letting them raise their hands, by listening to their voice and at the least, not stopping their voice from being heard. Women like Sheryl Sandberg, Malala and Suganthi have searched and found their voice. Can we help others too, to search and find their voice?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

CC Project #2 - Organize Your Speech - Ola

Imagine going in a cab from Bangalore to Bandipur. And in the middle of the ride, the cab driver tries to renegotiate the fare with you. You refuse to pay him the extra fare… and he drops you in the middle of the trip. What would you do?

Good morning fellow Toastmasters and guests,

If it is you and me, we would just board a bus and finish our trip to Bandipur. Later we would bitch about the cab driver in Facebook and Twitter. But, Bhavish… the founder of Ola is different. He ended up creating a cab booking service along with his friend Ankit… to provide a reliable transport service for commuters.

Also read: Got an idea? Patent it 

Ola, like any other startup started its operations in a small room with a hand full of developers. Today, they are a 7000 employee strong company. Why is Ola a hit in India? I will share with you the top 3 reasons which I like Ola the most:

1. Places the power back in people’s hands

The cab service transformed significantly in the last 5 years. At first came the radio taxi services such as Fast Track. In fact, Fast Track became very popular that people called any “radio taxi service” as Fast Track. However, you were able to book Fast Track taxis only by making a phone call or by going to a website. The wait time for Fast Track taxis were always very high. BOOM came Ola. It allowed you to book your taxi at the click of a button and in the nick of the moment. You can track where your driver is. You don’t have to give directions to your driver to find you. You don’t have to negotiate the fares with the drivers… and above all, it is a cheaper alternative to auto rickshaws.

It places the power back in people’s hands… literally through their mobile apps.

2. When we dream it, they make it

One thing that astonishes me about Ola service is the pace of their innovation. Ola’s valuation today is $5 billion and its annual revenue is approximately $1 billion. They make 500,000 trips a day. Does Ola make profit today... the answer is a BIG NO. They can turn-on the profitability knob any time. But, look at the services that they’ve launched in the last 1 year…

they introduced Ola Money, so that you don’t have to pay in cash
they introduced Ola Micro service .. cabs at Rs 6 per KM
they introduced Ola Share … for sharing your rides
they even introduced a free Ola Boat service when Chennai suffered due to historical floods

While traditional software companies would’ve taken several years to roll out these many features, Ola was able to introduce these services in just months. Their marketing engine is also very powerful. Today, they’ve 80% market share and it was due to their spirit of innovation. . You dream it… they make it real.

3. They WIN, by making us WIN

Ola service reminds me of the symbiotic relationship between the remoras and the sharks, in the sea. Remora is a cleaner fish which sticks to the body of the shark and cleans up the shark, by feeding on the dirt surrounding the shark’s body. Remora becomes happy because it gets its food and the shark is also happy because it gets a cleaner body. Similarly, in the Ola world… both the cab drivers and the customers win.

Ola drivers are of different age groups, from different places and speaking different languages. But, all of them are motivated to make more trips, all of them are trained to treat customers with respect. I heard that they make Rs.2000 to Rs.3000 a day. As a customer, I save nearly 30% on the cost of my rides… when compared to the money I would have otherwise paid to auto rickshaws. Also, I didn’t have to haggle with the auto rickshaw drivers to negotiate rates. Ola also saved me a lot of time… because I used the commute time to make phone calls and clear emails. Ola Wins by making both the cab drivers and the customers to Win.

Dear friends, I lost my car in the Chennai floods and used Ola service for about 3 months. So far, I’ve taken closer to 200 trips. Today, I’m a fan of Ola service.  Ola has enabled several 1000s of cab drivers to make money, really fast. If you want to become an entrepreneur and build a successful company like Ola… keep these 3 guidelines in mind:

Place the power in people's hands
When they dream it, you make it
You WIN, when you make them WIN