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Business of Nature is The Nature of Business

Business of Nature is The Nature of Business

“If this picture does not move you, then what will?” This was Babita Sinha’s impassioned plea and start on Guts Glory & Story. The picture on the screen was that of a half-burnt Kangaroo who was being given water to drink by a teenager – a terrible, heart-wrenching picture of how humans may have directly or indirectly pillaged the earth.

The earth seems to be burning – Australian bush fires, the Amazon forests, California; water seems to be running out from cities and it took a Cape Town to prove that such calamities will be witnessed by all of us living today. Trees are being indiscriminately cut, temperatures are going up and massive droughts and floods are common occurrences; a temperature rise of 1.5 degrees centigrade will be the tipping point for life on earth to begin its descent towards extinction. This is an emergent situation and needs urgent action.

If Your Green Canvas being in the “Business of Nature” cannot catalyze a reversal, then who can? – self-questioned its founder. The sequence of sustainability for them, deep-rooted in their ethos, is Planet, People and Profit and not the other way around. Funnily, if humans were not there on earth, nothing would happen to nature but if a small worm or a bacterium were to vanish, life will come to a grinding halt on earth. Can we, the ordinary people on the street, bring about any change? Yes of course. If 100 people could create 100 green spaces – big or small – and become flag-bearers and catalysts for converting yet another 100 in their immediate network connections – be it by gifting seeds, or helping small indoor kitchen gardens, gifting plants instead of other items – guess what? 100x100x100 makes it a million-people touched in just a few months. Such is the power of our network! YGC proudly claims that it is not just profit-based but passion-based. They have grown from creating small terrariums now to plant-staging both indoors and outdoors, landscaping, and planting trees on highways and roads. But it needs to be all about impact.

Simply put, it is about no negative impact on the earth and a positive impact on people. No chemical soils – the suggestion was to use kitchen waste like banana peels, eggshells, and coffee grounds, to rejuvenate the soil; water-wise plants like succulents, and planting the right tree at the right place, is important. In short local plants and trees are critical for sustainability and improving the resilience of the environment. Using coconut fiber instead of plastic pots, compost from waste, something that YGC procures from waste power plants, are easy alternates in direction of sustainability and environmental resilience. Impact via social inclusion, job skilling i.e. working with women in the local community and creating their version of ‘Shankarammas’ and finally via corporate workshops where they teach how “the nature of business is the business of nature” is their chosen route. Maintenance is yet another way where they employ and train differently-abled people for plant propagation or organic soil mixing.

COVID needs to be looked at through two lenses – environmental and societal. Nature saw its pollution levels at the minimum best. The Himalayas were visible from Saharanpur and Jalandhar. It looked like “corona was earth’s vaccine against the most petulant nature-virus – the human beings!” The founders mentioned that people have been flocking nurseries and in general, agriculture companies have been doing very well – just because “in extreme stress and anxiety, people turn to gardening as an antidote.” Gardening teaches patience.

COVID has shrunk our choices and access to spaces. The house is a refuge and a jail. People are now wanting to redefine their spaces into multi-use roles – office, relaxation, party-space, and out-door workspaces. Plants promote well-being – in-fact a large plant every 100 square-feet makes indoor spaces cooler and air quality much better. There are many studies to prove this.

Businesses can learn from nature and can make themselves resilient. Weeds in the gardens are important but if left unchecked will take over the garden; likewise, dissenters are important in an organization but if left unchecked will become corporate terrorists completely without control. Life is resilient – it grows in the most difficult places – even a compost bin! Likewise, startups operate in a similar model. Learn from your mistakes – it is fine if a plant dies, but if the second one dies then there is an issue. Sometimes you do everything correctly but yet the plant dies – relook at the entire environment. Finally, look at the root cause, not just the symptoms – a yellow leaf can have many causes – if you need to fix it you need to find the root cause. Find it.

On the grave issue of environment and sustainability, there is no time for discussions now, only action. Let us all join the choir! Thank you, Babita and Saumya… we are ready!

Full episode here.

– Alok Sinha

Guts, Glory & Story © 2020. All Rights Reserved.

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Building A Legacy: Leadership during COVID Times

Building A Legacy: Leadership during COVID Times

In adversity lies immense opportunity. It was the short story of the ‘three questions’ from Tolstoy, Steven’s mom would often read out to him when he was a child. It seems to be so topical today. Steven keeps those three questions as his constant companion –

• When is the right time to do anything? ‘Of course – now!’
• Who is the right person to listen to? ‘The one you happen to be with.’
• What is the right thing to do? ‘To serve.’

… because the past is slipping away and now is the only moment…

Leaving a lasting legacy:

Usually, there are three other questions that dawn upon people when they are at the end of their career lives – did I live well? Did I love well and did I matter? Did I make a difference and was it worth it at all? And therein lies the question of legacy. Legacy is mistakenly regarded as something that one leaves behind. But legacy is built – consciously or unconsciously. Especially now in the continuously unfolding COVID crisis, every leader, and potentially every human-being, needs to question himself – how do I make a difference? A quick reminder that legacy is in someone else’s mind and hence needs the effort to get created in the mind-space of others. A legacy can be created in 5 domains and they are family, business, professional, industry, world, or community you live in. Steven’s suggestion is to look at all of them carefully and work on all.

The time to act is now!

The Story of Rami – a dynamic CEO-leader, born in Riyadh, who took over his father’s business in Beirut and grew the business from revenues of 200M to 1 B USD; the business was ready for an explosive IPO. When asked, Rami remarked that the IPO was just for leaving a legacy for his family – making sure that they are more than comfortable through generations. But beyond the IPO, he wanted to dedicate his entire life in serving the community. As life would have had it, destiny had other plans. He passed away, an untimely death at 33 – a burst blood vessel in the head. Unfortunately, just before the IPO.

Steven stressed that action needs to be taken now. Be impatient for change – if something needs change it must be done. Leadership, he reminded, is a responsibility, and one cannot be a continuous critic during times of need but has to be an active change agent. Leadership reputation arises from not just ‘doing’ but from ‘leading’. And today the need is leading people out of anxiety, troubled times, and pain. One constantly needs to question himself, what is he known for? If it is just for technical skills, then something is terribly wrong.

Leadership 3.0 – the new paradigm for successful leaders.

People have discovered new parts of themselves today. Nearly everyone has experienced a change in his leadership style. Steven’s research on Leadership yields a completely new evolution of this beast. Leadership 1.0 was based around personal charisma – Welsh, Iacocca. Leadership 2.0, which has evolved over the past twenty years, was all about teams and collaborations – so a lone leader giving dictatorial orders was not enough to create an institution but it was with a team of people working together. The new Leadership 3.0 style that is seen developing is all about community and community building. It is about pulling people together; it is about battling anxiety and fear – together. Pandemic has made us start-ups and start-ups have a huge overlap between people directing and people doing. With ‘long term’ seemingly be dead, at least for a while, Successful leaders of tomorrow will be those who would have built successful communities.

Authenticity in leadership

Is legacy building different in a crisis? If you were to seek answers for ‘leadership during the pandemic’ either on the internet or otherwise – usually they have been low calorie and very general e.g.
take care of your selves, or Parochial – do this. Surviving and thriving are big issues in general. Today when water-cooler conversations have gone and WFH has become more individualized, there is a danger that leaders are in an echo-chamber with people that they get on with. Dissenters could be unconsciously or consciously kept out of discussions. For being within the dictates of the leadership 3.0 paradigm, one would need to consciously seek out men and women, who have increasingly become individualized due to WFH, but especially whose ideas don’t necessarily conform to one’s perspectives. On this island of humanity and employees, it is the leaders’ responsibility to keep everyone involved and bridging the gaps.

If you have something to say to the world, say it now!

Writing books – a powerful tool to quickly put a book into print. In today’s world where the speed of communication is the key for sharing knowledge and research freely, conventional publishing routes that take 9 – 12 months to publish a book may not be apt. Writer’s Channel help authors publish their book quickly.

Steven’s own affliction that occurred fleetingly at a young age of 26 has kept him living every day of his as if his doctor’s words could come true – “your affliction may return any day.” But in the shadows of strength and not fear.

Full episode here.

– Alok Sinha

Guts, Glory & Story © 2020. All Rights Reserved.