Life is full of different paths which are difficult but ultimately they lead to beautiful destinations. But what about making a living and how is it different from making a living? Making a living is to survive the norms and patterns of the daily cycle but making a life is full of passion and joy.
In this episode of The Payal Nanjiani Leadership Podcast, Payal Nanjiani a Leadership expert, world-renowned executive coach, and a New York award-winning author go one on one with Gurcharan Das, Former CEO of Procter & Gamble India. You can listen to the full episode on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or Google podcasts.
Payal: How did you embrace this philosophy of making a life vs making a living? How did you really bring that into the company?
Gurcharan: I did it my way which was a two-hatched life but in the company, is where I learned from an assistant security guard, Kamble, the best lessons for making life at work. This man came as a young man from a village in Maharashtra. He could not even pronounce the name of the company. He did not know much English but he had infinite curiosity. He was like a child. When it rains, we adults take an umbrella and go to work and there is a puddle on the ground and we go round the puddle. But a child sees the puddle and jumps into the puddle. That was he. He wanted to learn about everything. He came in the evening shifts so his work started at 5:30 in the evening. The very first day he saw this coffee-making machine and so he learned to make coffee and then I could see him serving coffee to everybody in between his security rounds. Then he discovered the telex machine. Although he didn’t know English, he started learning English at night and so in a month or so he was sending simple telexes. One day one senior officer of the company dropped his wallet near the men’s room and Kamble found it, found a lot of money and he also looked inside for an ID, found out whose wallet it was, came to me and told me, now you be the assistant security guard for one hour and I am going to go and deliver this wallet. And then after about 7 8 months, the assistant security guard that our telephone operator was going on maternity leave, so Kamble went to the personnel manager and said give me a chance, let me work until she comes back, let me be your temporary telephone operator. The manager said you can’t speak a line of English and we are a multinational company and we get calls from around the world. You can’t obviously be the telephone operator. I heard this and went to the personnel guy and said give him a chance. But it worked out.
I got, after a couple of days of him working as a telephone operator, a call from company lawyers and they said “do you have a new Epbax system ?”, I said “no” but he said “now your telephone calls are always answered on the first or second ring”. I went to him that evening and I asked him why do you answer the phone so quickly? Kamble said there may be a customer on the other end and I don’t want us to lose an order to a competitor. This was the kind of guy he was.
Basically, this guy was very special. He infected the whole office. The way he used to serve coffee, he brought a carrom board at lunchtime and people started playing carrom, but every moment he was loving his work. Kamble kept that infinite curiosity of a child and he was such a role model that the company knew that we had a very special guy. He quickly got promoted and promoted and promoted until he ended up as a director.
What is it that made him a success in every job and it’s a tribute not only to him but also to the company that they quickly understood they had a very special kind of individual? The mistake we all companies make is that we hire people, interview people, at interviews we want to know what knowledge they have, what skills they have but we don’t worry about their attitude and in business if you are going to be a leader, attitude matters more. You can train people, you can give them skills, but you can’t give them attitude. Attitudes are set very early in life.
The most important decision a company makes is when to bring in a new person and we don’t pay recruiting, attention as seriously as we should. In good companies, a person, the top graduate from Harvard, if he is good, they give him 8 interviews, 10 interviews to just find out that attitude. And what is that the assistant security guard was making a LIFE rather than just making a living? First of all, he was a poor kid from a village. Second, he was childish, he had curiosity. He had learned everything. Third, if you needed something, you sent us that guard and he was there ready to do it for you. Execution is more important than strategy.
Payal: What are the three qualities that helped you become a CEO and that could be a message to anyone who desires to grow in the organization?
Gurcharan: Taking your work seriously and not yourself seriously. If you can do that then you will genuinely love your work but also you don’t sleepwalk through life. You live and examine life. The thing that I have through all this, watching Kamble and watching myself, is that when you are really absorbed in what you are doing, not only does the time get distorted but you become sort of lighter. Live your life lightly not like a feather, but like a bird. Bird is an agency and if you live in this state and do not have to carry the burden of work on your shoulders, it really liberates you. Life is happening when you are planning.
Execution is more important than strategy!!
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