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‘If you feel good, you work good’

T.T.SRINATH | Updated on May 04, 2021

TT Srinath reviews Sankarasubramanyan Ramamoorthy's book

When driving up the hill to the hill town, Kodaikanal, in Tamil Nadu, India, we pass a hamlet called ‘Perumal Malai,’ (Hill of God). In this hamlet is located Bodhi Zendo, a retreat centre, which encourages meditation practice according Buddhist tradition. The centre has been set up by a priest, Fr. Ama Samy.

In one of my several visits to the centre I met Fr. Ama Samy and requested him to help me re-craft my thought process which was then clouded with worry and anxiety.

After listening to me he took me to his library and offered me two books to read. One was a book titled ‘Feeling Good-The New Mood Therapy’ by David D Burns and the other was ‘Six Pillars of Self-esteem’ by Nathaniel Branden.

The book ‘Feeling Good’ based on Aaron T Beck’s theory of Cognitive Therapy helped me in altering my thoughts and reducing debilitating anxiety. Nathaniel Branden’s book helped me to understand the compelling need to build within me psychological help and nourish positive relationships.

‘Feeling Good’ was written around the 1980s while ‘Six Pillars of Self-esteem’ came out around 1994.

Sankar (Sankarasubramanyan Ramamoorthy), who prefers to be so called, has written what I believe, is a seminal contribution to building relationships at work. It is current and immensely relevant.

His book titled ‘If you feel good, you work good’, may on first viewing, seem clichéd. Yet if one were to go beyond the title, assuming what Sankar may have written as being common knowledge, and instead delve into the book, several lessons on understanding organisational culture, the science of organisations in the current context and the recognition that relationships lead to results, and not the other way about, will hugely impact us.

As the backdrop for the book, Sankar has chosen to write a heartfelt story about ‘Citicorp Overseas Limited (COSL),’ an organisation that firmly set foot in India way back in 1984, when the IT industry was still in its nascent stage.

Sankar was a member of the organisation between 1989 and 1995 and had a ringside view into the phenomenal practices in relationship building that the organisation fostered.

His manner of writing the book is in the form of a story, well told, where one is able to hear several voices from the past that helped to build COSL into the organisation that it was and became.

Many organisations have today adopted practices that COSL first essayed in the early 80s, among them being an open office environment with cubicles for each person, a desktop for each person, social gatherings and many more.

In 1984 India was still a closed economy and organisations worked with what Sankar describes as the ‘machine paradigm of leadership’, which meant ‘get results through people.’ The focus was on results and people were a resource to achieve those results.

COSL turned the pyramid on its head and reframed the paradigm as ‘embrace people and results will automatically follow.’

The COSL experience that Sankar speaks about was ‘not about getting results and building a great place to work, it is about getting results through building a great place to work.’

The book, which is available on Amazon in the Kindle edition was written by Sankar through the lockdown and has been released this year (2021).

The term VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity & Ambiguity) is an acronym that has been bandied about for a couple of years and its most telling impact are only now visible and experienced by us during this pandemic.

The pandemic is cutting at the very roots of our existence and the need to hold one another, to embrace each other, whether it is in for-profit or non-profit organisations or even social bodies, has become imperative.

Sankar’s revealing book offers several lessons, many of which are being practiced by organisations in some form or the other yet, most organisations that seem to emphasize the need for positive human interaction tend to derail when confronted by, and for example, what is happening around us in the form of the pandemic.

As a reader, my most significant take-away from the book is the singular thought, ‘I have little control over what is happening beyond me and only have a choice of how I wish to respond.’

Sankar offers several touch points that each of us can actually use as our guiding light as we hack our way through the confusion, the dilemma, the anguish and the pain we are experiencing just now.

Sankar has been a votary and serious practitioner of ‘Appreciative Inquiry’, a methodology that prescribes recognising life-giving forces, abundance and bounty in organisations, rather than looking at restraints, poverty and lack.

Again while this methodology has been in vogue for over 20 years, its immense value and approach at this point of time seems extremely relevant.

Sankar’s deep conviction and belief that recognising human potential, nourishing it, nurturing it and allowing it space to expand, comes through loud and clear in every word that he has chosen to commit in writing.

His book provides the reader an opportunity for self-inquiry and helps the reader recognise the need to be centered and rooted in one’s own goodness and yet be able to expand one’s wings with the belief and conviction that dreams will only come alive if they are fostered.

Sankar’s book is being made available to us at a time when we are barraged by data and information about the number of people infected by COVID, the death toll that is bulging and the complete lack of understanding of how to combat this malady. Sankar’s book, thus, comes to us when we need anchors to stabilize ourselves, to moor ourselves to positive thoughts and in so doing recognise that after ‘the darkest hour comes dawn.’

His offering through the book is couched, as I understand, in seven very simple lessons, which include:

1. Phenomenology (the need to create mindful awareness).

2. The concept of figure and ground (recognising the context of each situation in relation to its backdrop).

3. Being in the ‘here and now’ (being completely present to what is happening).

4. Being able to experiment (to permit ourselves to be divergent, counter intuitive, yet recognise the contours of our environment).

5. To recognise that life tends to gravitate towards ‘energy that pulls’ (therefore the need to neutralize toxicity, if sensed or present).

6. To recognise that all reality is co-created (relationships foster only through an ‘I’ and ‘thou’, i.e. ‘I & YOU’ approach and not through an ‘I’ and ‘IT’ i.e. ‘Subject-Object’ approach).

7. To believe in the goodness of people (For what you believe is what you see).

In his play ‘Edward II’, the playwright Christopher Marlowe writes ‘The wheel of life has turned its course and it has now reached the nadir. Whichever way you look at it, it can now only go up.’

Sankar’s books assures us that during such troubled times if we choose to look at what is possible and what will help individuals, organisations and institutions to reorient their people-approach towards what is enabling, supportive, enriching and rewarding, the storm that is now raging may shake us but not stir us.

(The writer is an organisational and behavioural consultant. He can be contacted at ttsrinath@gmail.com)

Published on May 04, 2021

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