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Dark Roast Double Shot: Laugh, So That You May Not Cry
Light-heartedness is not a manifestation of irresponsibility; it is an antidote to the sarcoma of anxiety.
Photo Credit : Shutterstock
The company that I was heading, had the communications mandate of an indigenous ayurvedic goods manufacturer, producing consumer goods ranging from medicinal to personal care. It was a very respected brand, which was slowly transitioning the notion of Ayurveda from a native home-grown tradition of remedies to one with scientific evidence of efficacy. Its success had clearly established the latent power and possibilities of natural product formulations and the multinational consumer goods companies were soon expected to enter the race, now that proof of concept was clearly established.
The buzz was very strong that the largest FMCG company in India was likely to launch Ayurveda based products in the very near future. As a concerned partner I had raised this issue in our meetings with the CEO and marketing team, pushing them to think through strategies of how to combat an onslaught from competitors with deep pockets and greater width and depth in distribution. Somehow, though they were very respectful and attentive in the conversations, they did not show any bias for action on taking any pre-emptive measures.
Finally, one day a headline in the leading financial daily announced that new products from the multinational with Ayurvedic natural formulations were ready to hit the shelves. I was very agitated, sipping on a cocktail of mixed emotions of anxiety and a sense of vindication. I cancelled my morning schedule and set off early on the hour and a half long journey to the client’s office, to be in time when they started work. The CEO, one of the most polished gentlemen that you could come across, was surprised to see me but graciously seated me down for a chat. Though restrained, I still communicated my impatience with our utter equanimity in the face of alarming competitive activity. He listened patiently and said that he empathised with my agitation but would take a few minutes break and then be back to finish the conversation.
Soon he was back and told me that the owner and Chairman of the company who spent most of his time abroad, happened to be in town and the CEO had briefly mentioned the context of my dropping in and asked him if he would like to join the conversation. As he had agreed to meet would I like to share my views with him? I was a little taken aback, because the gentleman in question was a very private person, rarely did he meet anyone other than his own team. I had never met him earlier either and the chance to meet him on a matter this important to his business seemed like a manna from heaven.
I walked into the room to see an avuncular gentleman, with his face radiating the warmth of his smile. He was wearing a crisp half sleeved white linen shirt and seated behind an uncluttered highly polished wooden table. Pleasantries done he asked me what was on my mind. Over the next few minutes, I told him of what we knew of competitive activity, their strengths, the possible threat to our business, the likely consequences for us and the reasons why I felt that we should be deeply concerned. As I finished, I was taken aback with the Chairman’s reaction. He laughed heartily and turning around to the CEO said “I like this young man; he is more worried about our business than we are”. Then in a very earnest manner he asked “Are we ensuring that we continue to make the best quality of products possible? Are our consumers happy with them and the benefit they receive?”. The CEO nodded in the affirmative. The Chairman turned his head and addressing me said “I understand your concern but as long as we are focussed on the consumer and our products we will continue to do well. Competition will do what it will do, we don’t need to be anxious about that. Just improve on what we do, every day.”. We spent some time together sharing thoughts on some of the products that the company was about to launch and our readiness and then I thanked them for their time and left.
I paid for the Dark Roast Double Shot, walked to the far corner of the café, loosened my tie and sank into the soft cushions. I had to fully absorb the experience of the last few hours. I now realised why no one was infected with my anxiety over the last few months. It came right from the top. The ability to focus on your purpose and not be buffeted in your belief of its power. Avoiding agitation and apprehensions that can sap your energy. The captain of a ship in a storm needs to focus on the ship. Worrying about the storm can be a debilitating act that drains away time and energy that could be utilised for positive efforts. An agitated mind is not the best crucible for the best and bravest decisions. This single act of leadership can improve the chances of success exponentially and define a culture that is positive, enabling and progressive.
Light-heartedness is not a manifestation of irresponsibility; it is an antidote to the sarcoma of anxiety. Levity and humour do not necessarily wean you away from the seriousness of your situation, they can help you focus on that which is important. Undue worry and anxiety on the other hand can set off a chain reaction that ends up in building a culture that breeds insecurity and tiredness. Leaving you with less energy to do what is really required. As the world moves in to the post-pandemic phase and its many challenges, leaders would do well to centre their organisations on the tasks ahead while steering them away from the fear and insecurity of uncertainty that pervades the mood of the times.
Many companies both local and multinational entered the natural/ayurvedic products category over the next many years. Some succeeded, some failed, some just mark their time but this company kept growing in products, sales, geographies and is today in markets abroad selling the goodness of Ayurveda to the world.
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(Nitish Mukherjee is a Board Member, Advisor, Coach & Mentor. The content of this article is his personal opinion.)