Embrace the Chaos

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Are you overworked?  Stressed?  Worried about money, health, family, your job?

Instead of running from the chaos, what if the answer was to embrace it?

Bob Miglani is a senior director at a Fortune 50 company in New York City. He came to the US from India in 1979, and grew up running his family’s Dairy Queen business. He is the author of two books: Embrace The Chaos and Treat Your Customers.

I recently had the opportunity to talk to him about his journey from “overwhelmed” to “embracing the chaos.”

You cannot control the chaos.  You can control you. -Bob Miglani

 

The very first chapter of your new book starts with a powerful statement:  “You cannot control the chaos.  You can control you.”  A business trip back to India taught you this in a fresh way.  What’s the story of how chaos in India influenced this book?

There was a period of my life where I was stuck.  With so much uncertainty in my job, career, unpredictability of life and the speed of it all made me freeze.  I looked to the future, and every path in front of me looked worse than the other.

9781609948252It was a chance invitation to India that led me to rediscover how to move forward when we’re faced with so much uncertainty.

India is full of uncertainty and unpredictability.  Go to a business meeting, travel on the dilapidated roads or visit a tourist destination and things have a way of going wrong.  It’s easy to find yourself in a place where you have no control and everything seems to be falling apart.

There were a few times that this occurred to me, which I talk about in my book.  It was after these events that I came to this profound realization that so much of our stress and anxiety about the future rests on this perceived notion that we have control over everything.  But the truth is that we don’t.  We can’t control our customers, our bosses or our colleagues.  I have a tough enough time trying to control my kids; so to think that I can possibly control all these other aspects of life is fruitless.

We should stop trying to control those things because that’s what causes us stress and worry about the future. Instead, we should try to control ourselves – our thoughts and our actions. Taking action and moving forward in life gives us that certainty.  That’s what I learned from India, where I met so many others who were working, engaging and living fully.

Bob Miglani

Usually we do everything in our power to create a planned, organized life.  And yet life doesn’t work that way.  Accepting and adapting to circumstances beyond our control is another area you explore in your book.  How do you develop that mindset?

When things don’t go according to plan is often the time when we grow the most because we rediscover the resiliency that we have deep inside of ourselves.  Understanding that for true growth to happen in our business, in our relationships and in our lives, we have to let go of our notion of a perfect plan.  We have to shift our thinking and our own skills rather than direct attention to the problem that might have occurred.

Learning to develop that mindset isn’t easy, but it is possible. One way to cultivate acceptance is to put ourselves in challenging situations, either by setting hard-to-reach goals or taking on tough assignments or projects.  What this does is force us to realize that our actions are what matters, what we did when we faced uncertainty, not that we fought the change but how we adapted to the change.

Would you share one of the stories from your book?  I immediately think about you catching the bus with your cousin, Vivek.  What did that teach you?

I was in India with my cousin Vivek, and I had asked him to take me on a typical bus that he takes to work because I wanted to do what the locals do: take a bus to work.  On my insistence, he agreed.

While we were waiting for the bus, I heard him say, ”OK. Start running.”  I looked over to my right and saw this completely full bus barreling down the dirt road.  Passengers were hanging to the sides of the bus using their fingernails and sometimes parts of the arms inside the window.  The bus driver had no intention of stopping as there was simply no room.  So what people do is to run along and somehow wedge themselves into the huge pile on the bus.

There’s no way I was getting on that bus, I thought.  It was just too full.  There had to be a bus that was less full; so I’d wait for the next one.

10 Ways to Reduce Stress

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This is a guest post by Charu Chandra, an aspiring leader, entrepreneur, and blogger. Charu blogs about the beneficial effects of yoga and strength training and other things fitness-related at strongyogi.com.

 

A good leader is expected to always remain in control of his emotions.

But like it or not, things don’t always go according to plan, and leaders, even good ones, are prone to emotional outbursts. And if stress is not recognized and corrected early, it usually snowballs into bigger problems.

So, it is imperative that a leader remains calm at all times. As you may have experienced, situations only tend to get worse when approached with stress.

10 ways to reduce stress in your life

1) Tidy up your workspace/room.

A cluttered room or workspace is a great way to build up stress. I have noticed that removing all unnecessary items from my desk (all I have on my desk is my laptop and a glass of water), making my bed every morning, etc. keeps my mind really calm.

2) Tidy up your inbox/computer/desktop.

Since we spend a lot of time on our computers and smart phones, keeping them clutter-free is as important as keeping our physical workspace clean. For example, until recently, I had close to 7,000 unread e-mails in my inbox.  So I sat down for three hours and cleaned up the entire thing. Once I was done, I felt incredibly relaxed and peaceful.  So make sure you don’t let things get out of hand in the virtual world.

3) Speak your mind.

One of the sources of stress in my life was my roommate. He used to go to bed late and would always play video games loudly late at night when I was asleep. So, the second or third time I was disturbed, I got up from bed and talked to him about this. This helped a lot as I let go of the anger in me and also because the noise stopped. So, if something needs to be said, say it.

4) Pinpoint the source of your stress.

Stress is not always general. Sometimes, specific events or people can stress you out. For example, a job interview scheduled for tomorrow may be causing you stress today. In my experience, the best way to deal with such situations is to do everything you can to address it and leave the rest to god/fate/luck.

5) Give up control.

Trying to control situations too much can cause stress. Don’t misunderstand me, leaders should always be in control of a situation but shouldn’t expect to be in control of its outcome. A good leader adapts to whatever turn a situation takes and is always ready for anything. Using the interview example from above, I do my best to prepare for it and then relax. Because I know that there will always be unexpected events no matter how well I prepare.

6) Take a break.

If you’ve been working hard on something, taking a short break to get away from it all is always a good idea. Taking a walk, playing with an animal or a baby, watching television, listening to calming music, taking a nap and exercising are all great ways to de-stress. Find out what helps you relax.

Out Execute the Competition

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Irv Rothman is the president and chief executive officer of HP Financial Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hewlett-Packard Company. Prior to joining HP, Rothman was president and chief executive officer of Compaq Financial Services Corporation where he led it from its founding to growth of over $3.7 billion in total assets.

Irv is the author of Out-Executing the Competition.  What I really admire is that Irv is donating all of the royalties he earns on the sale of the book to Room to Read, an organization dedicated to children’s literacy.

 

The best way to out-execute the other guy is to know your customer’s business as well as you know your own. -Irv Rothman

 

Attracting the Right Talent

Much of success in business is about finding and cultivating the right talent.  How did you attract and retain the talent needed to accomplish your goals?

Attracting and retaining the right people starts with a leadership commitment to first develop high performers in-house.  And this has to be more than an annual “talent management” exercise.  It’s an activity that leadership must consistently demonstrate is important by developing people and promoting from within.  This sends key messages to an organization:

1)   Leadership can be trusted to do as they say they will.

2)   Career opportunities exist…. No need to look elsewhere.

3)   Leadership recognizes and acknowledges that outside hires are a 50/50 proposition.

In short, provide an atmosphere where people can learn and achieve advancement based on merit.  Not only will the good people stick around, their hearts will be in it.

 

Developing a Culture of Execution

 

Out-Executing the Competition

Your book title is all about execution.  How do you develop a culture of execution?

A culture of execution starts with devotion to the customer.  Since it is theoretically easier to keep a customer than to find a new one, all messaging and reward systems need to be packaged around a “customer for life” philosophy.  And a pay-for-performance compensation system is a must.  Moreover, it can’t be black box; people need to be clear as to what rewards can be expected from results and behaviors.  Once you’ve got all that organized, creating an environment where people have freedom to act on behalf of the customer is crucial. You can’t have a circumstance where people are bound by the linear strictures of a traditional command and control organization. It not only frustrates your employees, it also makes for dissatisfaction on the part of the people on the other end of the phone.