Monday, 23 January 2012

The best massage for me is the one which I only half experience

I understand that the word ‘parlour’ is derived from a French word which means ‘to speak’. But I do not visit a massage parlour to speak. I go there to sleep. And a massage which can’t lull me to sleep, or get me very nearly there, does not do it for me. Everybody has their quirks, and this is mine.

It is a basic requirement to have a place, even at first look and feel, that meets with my standards and sensibility. “How would the guys running the place know about that ?”, you might ask. “By thinking about what they would expect for themselves, and then setting the bar higher than those standards to be safe”, would be my reply. I love it when I am taken for a brief inspection tour of the facility even before I sign up for the massage. That’s because the folks there appear confident that they have been thoughtful and have set the bar well. I also love it when I see the masseur genuinely involved in getting the place ship-shape before my massage. That’s because he seems connected to my overall experience, and cares enough about his performance to know that he must.

It’s great to see the therapist and the masseur going over the form in which I declared the details about my medical history. Discussing and agreeing about what needs to be done and what doesn’t. I can sense when they are merely doing this to mitigate their own risk and when they are doing it for my sake as well.

It’s a relief to be handed the key to a locker to keep my clothes and other stuff in. Then I don't have to worry about my cash or cards. Anything, that keeps out the thoughts and feelings that potentially or actually distract me from my cherished sleep, is preferable.

Within the first few minutes alone with the masseur - in the way he introduces himself, mumbles instructions, and hands out the robe, towel and disposable briefs - I can figure out if he knows what it is to be non-intrusive in an intimate situation. I am pleased as punch to know that he is aware of the subtleties of behaviour that are central to his profession. And happily answer his questions about my preferred music, oil, temperature, and so on.

I thank my stars for being at the right place, when I am requested to take a warm shower before the massage. To be clean for handling by the masseur, sure; but to also unclog the pores of the skin to best allow for the oil to soak in. Then I know also, that I am very probably going to witness something that has an approach, a method, a technique, in the following minutes. I know I am going to submit myself to a fine student of his art when he provides me with a few pieces of evidence. Like doing justice to the soles of the feet, the palms, the small of the neck and the small of the back. Like using fuller strokes that are directed outside-in, from the head and the limbs towards the heart. Like the clockwise movements over the stomach and abdomen.

They say the soul of a good driver flows into and makes him one with his machine. So it is with a good masseur. He knows when, where and how much to knead, press, stroke, pinch, caress, roll and curl. He is attentive to the most fleeting of my body’s reactions and works to undo the knots. Unless he has good reason to do otherwise, he exhibits symmetry in his movements. And simplicity, unity, and balance. It’s usually around this time, about halfway into the massage, that I fall asleep. And experience the remaining massage in my dreams.

I love massages. Hence I have been less or more happy on several occassions when I've had them. But sleep during one ? And be completely thrilled ? Less than ten times out of a few hundred.

Why is it that the best massage for me is the one which I only half experience ? Because, true performance is about the journey. That guarantees the destination much before it is reached. Even you know that. When you’re getting the massage done.

How about when you’re the masseur ? Or the masseuse ?

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Can we have some more of that sauce please ?

A few days ago, an article in a newspaper article read something like this - “... we need business leaders to mature faster ... since we have a growing economy”. To me, it seemed like the article was sponsored by the distributors of fruit ripening chemicals. :-)

A lot has been said and done about leadership development. Much more will be said and done. What’s the harm if I add my two bits as well ?

Here goes. Every individual has some secret sauce within. Circumstances draw this out for others to taste. When people really like the taste, and wish they had that secret sauce too, they become followers. Come followers, the individual becomes a leader. Required to satisfy every expectation and pass each scrutiny. Every day.

Secret sauce doesn’t need analysis or explanation. People can taste it right away ... when it is served to them. Like they can feel beauty and love ... when these are before them. Therefore, when they look to fill leadership positions at the time of need, organisations easily know whether they have the right candidates or not. They know it when they have made the less than happy choice of a deficient candidate from within or of an unfamiliar candidate from without. Yet they are not fully convinced about leadership development.

Just look at the defence establishment. Presumably, even they do not believe that everyone can be a leader or be made into one. But just look at their record. Not one leader ever recruited from outside. Not one leader who didn’t at least reasonably fit the bill.

They do great service to the cause of leadership development by hiring the way they do. Looking for signs of a secret sauce in the candidate’s past. Examining events and circumstances in the candidate’s past to ascertain if some secret sauce was drawn out and whether there were signs of followership. Generating fresh circumstances during the hiring process to test the candidate against the burden of expectations and the requirements of scrutiny.

Leadership identification and development for them is a never-ending process. The careers of defence personnel are about doing diverse roles in varied circumstances. In a continued manner, the probability of finding the individual’s secret sauce is increased. There are continued chances to obtain and maintain followership, to fulfil expanding expectations and to pass intensifying scrutiny. Not a chance in hell for aspirants to only do jobs they are good at, or find convenient to do. Never a possibility of only flying safely over or under the radar, as they say.

There’s another magic that they know about. That followers get the leaders they deserve. Future leaders have to get followership from a pool that is good to begin with and is constantly developing to get better. They’re not going to like the taste of just any sauce. They’re going to expect and scrutinise like crazy. They’re going to demand more and better tomorrow than they did yesterday. It’s obvious, isn’t it, that leadership development is as much about followership development ?

Secret sauce, followership, capability of fulfilling expectations and passing scrutiny are all quite evident by the time an individual reaches a career level called the ‘selection grade’. Only the best of the best make it to that step. Selection panels do not get swayed much by the possible consequences of rejecting and demotivating others. After the first such selection grade, there are many more selection grades to earn before one can become a leader. Defence establishments are as fussy about promotions as they are about hiring. That’s another big service they do to themselves.

Of course, there are also state-of-the-art defence academies. War games and simulations. Joint exercises with other countries. Reward and recognition for the exemplary. Legends about the special. And so on. That complement.

As much as there are politics, prejudices, exigencies and errors. And so on. That detract.

But again, just look at their record. Not one leader ever recruited from outside. Not one leader who didn’t at least reasonably fit the bill.

And then doubt leadership development. If you must.