A lunch date TATA Chairman N Chandra didn’t want!

n_chandrasekharana_148423I was reading this old article that biographed (is this even a word?!) N Chandrasekaran’s career and found this rather riveting anecdote:

“In the early stages of his career at TCS, Chandra learnt vital management lessons from customers. Around 1993, he was working on a very large US federal government programme. In the first phase of the project, TCS did a spectacular job. On the day the second phase was about to go live, the client manager came up to Chandra and asked him out to lunch. Chandra was alarmed. The system was going live and he felt he had to stay in the office. But the client manager was persistent. “I was very restless in the car. There were no mobile phones those days – no one could have reached me,” he says. “The client manager then said he needed to find out who could step into my shoes. Somebody needed to handle the job when I wasn’t around.” That was a lesson in delegating, trusting people and risk taking.”


The art of 5-minute-favors

While we are on the subject of Adam Grant, I loved his tip on how to become a voracious “Giver”. He propounds for what are called “5-minute favors”: things that bring high value to other people’s lives, but at a relatively low cost. In his words, the thought behind the 5-minute-favors is that “I’m going to microloan my time and my skills to help others without sacrificing myself,” Grant explains.

Guess which “Types” are most found in Davos?

In his celebrated book, ‘Give and Take’, Adam Grant, classifies people into 3 types – “Takers” are people who are trying to get as much as possible and contribute as little as they can in return, “Givers” help others by making an introduction, giving advice, providing mentoring or sharing knowledge, without any strings attached. “Matcher” is somebody who tries to maintain an even balance of give and take.

It’s surprising how you start noticing these dichotomous traits in people once you’ve read the book. I see it most in display at industry conferences though, where too many people are doing too many exchanges and then slowly you start noticing the magical truth – that “Givers” are the most successful ones of them all. WEF’s Annual Meeting at Davos, for example, which congregates the best of the best in the world, is full of “Givers”. In every meeting new contacts are being shared, people are matching notes in elevators and knowledge is being shared so generously even at refreshment bars.

We were sharing a table with Bain’s Global Chairman during one of those free moments, where he was engaged in a discreet tuck-in chats with the Chairman of a huge Japanese conglomerate on the other end of our table and as he got up to leave, he noticed my husband’s lapel pin that says “I love AI”. He paused in his tracks and addressed us, “you know what are my views on AI…” the gentleman went on to share some very rich views on AI with us in a genuinely interested conversation that lasted almost 10 minutes. Being the top boss of a top consulting firm, his 10 minutes probably would be worth a handsome clutch of dollars, but he was a “Giver” and he was just doing his thing!