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Ethics, Excellence and the

World of Management
By Pradeep Kashyap, Founder & CEO, MART


We all live by some principles. I was fortunate to have met
my spiritual guru nearly 30 years ago who inspired me to
live by high principles and values. Values inspire in us the
highest that we should do. It is the job of a leader like a
spiritual Guru or a CEO to inspire in us these values.
A little background about me and my organization MART
would help, as a number of examples in this article will be
from my life.
For the first 20 years of my professional life I worked with 3
multinational companies in IndiaExide from the UK,
Bosch from Germany and Toyota from Japan. During this
period I acquired fair amount of material wealth and
creature comforts. But the inner richness was missing from
my life and a hollow feeling kept bothering me. The year I
turned 40, I decided with the guidance of my Guru that I
must change the course of my life. I voluntarily opted out
of the corporate sector and since I wanted to understand
the social sector I joined a large NGO at just 10% of my last
drawn salary. I have been working for 20 years in the rural
sector and have not regretted my decision even once. Sure,
there have been times when I was not making enough
money but this was more than compensated by the inner
satisfaction I derived from my work. I have had the
privilege of meeting some of the best minds in the world
and seen some great and highly innovative work.
I too have created some innovative models of
development, particularly in the area of marketing. Had I
continued in the corporate sector I would have probably
become the CEO of a large MNC but would have continued
to do repetitive and dissatisfying work. I am glad I made
the decision I did.



In 1993 I founded MART, a livelihoods and rural marketing
agency, as a value based organization. Today, 16 years
later, we are a family of 50 dedicated professionals serving
rural India. We are a flat, non hierarchical totally
transparent organization no designations, every staff
member knows each others salary or the fact that we
submit detailed, itemized consultancy budgets to clients.
We are a team based organization where all decisions are
taken through consensus. We are an employee owned
organization where on completing 10 years of service every
employee automatically become a partner in the firm.
Let us now come to Ethics. To begin with let us try and
understand what ethics is?
Ethics is the application of spiritual principles to human
behavior. So ethics involves living by (and not theorizing
about) the highest principles applicable to human behavior
on a daily basis.
What are Principles?
Principles are guidelines for human conduct. They are
fundamental and universal because their source is the
spirit. These principles have come to us from rishis and
sages who received them over centuries in meditation,
through dreams and as visions.
Ethics can be understood at two levels. Steven Covey in his
book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People calls them
Personality ethic which refers to the development of
personality, and Character ethic which focuses on
evolution of human character.
What is Personality Ethic & Character Ethic?
Personality ethic includes public image, attitude, skills and
techniques. The effort here is to develop a more pleasing
and attractive personality with the objective of achieving
better social acceptability and greater material success.
This is the job of psychologists and personality grooming
experts who teach you better communication skills, better


social manners and personality grooming methods. These
are secondary traits and not primary like character.
Personality ethic results in quick fix solutions without
addressing the fundamental causes of human behavior. I
will not be focusing on personality ethic.
My concern is with character ethic which involves basic
principles of effective living integrity, humility, courage,
fairness, patience and simplicity. These are value based
motives or Lighthouse principles that govern human
growth and happiness. It is important to understand that
these fundamental principles do not change. Principles do
not react to anything; they do not depend on the behavior
of others.
Personal power that comes with principle centered living is
the power of self aware, knowledgeable proactive
individual, unrestricted by
the attitude, behavior and
action of others or by any
circumstances. Gandhiji
never held any position of
power in the government
in waiting, but he wielded
more power in politics
than anyone else because
of his principle centered
living. We accord the
highest respect to a
spiritual master, even political leaders and royalty bow to
them, because they are centered in universal principles.
Highest power rests with the person with the highest
awareness.
What are Spiritual Principles?
The most fundamental principle of effectiveness is the
Principle of Personal vision: For this we need to know Who
am I. We should understand that we are not our body
because if we were then which part defines us legs, hands,
brain or the heart? What happens to people with heart
transplants? Do they cease to be or do they assume the
person of the donor? Further we need to understand that
we are not our feelings. If we were then which feeling
defines us? We are not our moods. We are not even our
thoughts. If we were then how come we continue to exist
in deep sleep when there are no thoughts? And the very
fact we can think about these things separates us from
them. It is self awareness that enables us to stand apart
and examine even the way we see ourselves. The
continuous effort has to be to expanding our self
awareness which also helps to find our inner centre. Our
centre is where we deal with our vision and values.
Spiritual dimension is your core, your centre, your
commitment to your principles. Meditation,
contemplation, enquiry into who am I are ways to remain
in touch with the timeless core.
Dreams as Our Inner Guide
When your external action reflects your internal code you
are in alignment with your principles. This is how you gain
integrity. Integrity is important because without it you are
living with a sense of division within yourself. You will know
when you are not acting in alignment with your moral code
because your conscience will remind you of the difference
between what is ethically right and how you actually
behaved. The voice of conscience is so delicate that it is
easy to stifle it: but it is also so clear that it is difficult to
mistake it. When we refuse to hear the voice of conscience
in our waking life, it often appears as a critic in our dreams
at night. Dreams often show a mirror to our behavior by
becoming critical of us. For example if we have told a lie in
waking life our dream may create a situation where we are
reprimanded for telling a lie. We wake up feeling guilty
knowing well that we have tried to cheat on ourselves. Or
when we are going through an anxious phase in our life we
dream of reaching late for an exam or missing a train.
Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious. If we record
our dreams and make the effort to interpret them they will
guide us how to conduct our lives ethically.
When we make any commitment it is our conscience that
ensures that we keep it. So when we set a personal or
professional goal we must make a promise to our
conscience and set out to achieve it. Trust is cornerstone of
every strong business relationship. Without trust your
prospective customers wont buy from you, your team
mates wont listen to you and your family and friends will
run away from you.
Information, Knowledge & Wisdom
A man of wisdom is a man of ethics. But how do we
become wise? I will explain in the next few paragraphs how
information leads to knowledge and finally to wisdom.
Information is something we read or hear about. For
example we dial railway enquiry to get the timing of
Shatabdi from Jaipur to Delhi or the TV news informs us
that it rained in Delhi yesterday. Information is essential to
conduct our daily activities smoothly. But it does not
impact ethics in anyway.
But when information is analyzed and understood it
becomes knowledge. This is the purpose of education. In
school and college teachers impart information and then


encourage us to use the tool box of analysis to transform
information into knowledge. So knowledge can be taught,
you can acquire it from external sources. And knowledge is
what you know you know. For example I know that I can
solve a particular mathematics problem because I learnt
the analytical tools in school.
When knowledge is integrated with intuition, it becomes
wisdom, your experiential knowledge. Analysis as
described earlier and intuition are not substitutes of each
other, they are complimentary.
We dont receive wisdom; we must discover it after a
journey of life that no one can take for us. Each one of us
has to undertake our own journey. The ultimate
destination of your life, if there is one is wisdom. Wisdom is
the highest and deepest degree of knowledge, insight and
understanding. It provides you with the broadest
perspective on life. They say when you find your wisdom
you are living in the light, the light of the spirit.
Wisdom is not a state to be achieved but rather a state to
be recalled. You arrived on this planet with the boundless
wisdom inherent in all human beings; you only need to
access that place within you that connects you to the
infinite divine source. You are potentially as wise as the
Buddha or Aristotle-they have simply accessed places
within themselves where perhaps you have not journeyed.
That is why it is said we are all born a potential Buddha.
Wisdom is not intelligence. Wisdom is much more. It is the
highest level of emotional, spiritual and mental evolution
where you synergize your deepest understanding with your
deepest everyday actions.
What is intuition?
Intuition, extra sensory perception (ESP) or insight is when
we see things other people do not see. It is the Aha or the
Eureka moment. Intuition is what you do not know you
know. Intuition is not what can be taught, you develop it on
your own. The word itself means to learn (tuition) from
within (in).
Our subconscious minds are our link to the wisdom of the
universe (the collective unconscious as described by Jung).
Our conscious thinking is so limited, but our subconscious
thinking when connected to the unconscious is infinite.
Why is Intuition important for managers?
At a management school you learn techniques and
concepts to develop your analytical brain. In real life the
executive does analyze, but he also needs to synthesize for
which he needs experience and intuition which as we
discussed earlier, cannot be taught. So the single biggest
challenge for a corporate leader is to develop the power of
intuition because intuition is the critical differentiator
between a good and a visionary leader. Ray Croc recalls in
his memoirs that he had this strong intuition that he should
buy the then unknown, few, franchised McDonald stores.
There was no logical or obviously analytical reason for his
decision. Today, we all know, it is the largest retail chain in
the world.
As we grow in our careers knowledge alone is not enough
to make complex decisions. Decisions such as should the
company enter the European or Asian market? Should we
partner a local company or go it alone? Should we hire local
managers who understand the local culture or send out
managers from the parent company who know the
working of the company well? These are decisions
concerning the future and knowledge alone is not enough
to act. The manager needs to have intuition or insight to
foresee the future.
How to develop Intuition?
You can develop intuition through viewing issues
holistically. Intuition is enhanced through varied
experiences and relationships. Emotion is a strong element
for developing intuition. Story telling stirs emotion.
Intuition is developed by exploring and sensing beyond
what is visible and audible (sleep over things, sometimes
intuition comes through dreams). Intuition can be
developed by paying attention to our dreams. The
language of dream connects us to our unconscious where
all knowledge of the universe preexists.
Intuition is developed through total involvement with the
work. Women are more intuitive because they are more
emotionally involved in work. Contemplation, reflection,
meditation and long walks help the mind become quiet. A
quiet mind helps to see things the way they are and not the


way you would like them to be. At the crucial moment of
decision making, trust your intuitive brain and not your
analytical brain. Managers have to be intuitive, inclusive
and humane.
Excellence
Let us now move the discussion to excellence. What is
excellence? Like life, excellence is a journey, a search for
the highest. That is why Tom Peters called his famous book
In search of Excellence and not the destination of
excellence. Excellence is a total quality movement. It is a
process of continuous self improvement.
My guru used to say you should bring the same level of
awareness and concentration you experience during prayer
to your daily activities. Every meal at the ashram was
preceded by aarti in the temple. And after every meal we
washed the dishes. The Guru would say the awareness and
concentration you apply to washing dishes should be the
same you achieve during prayer. So level of awareness
equals degree of excellence. Total awareness or
enlightenment in other words leads to complete
excellence. That is why when we see something truly
excellent we say God must have made it. So the constant
effort must be to increase our awareness. Excellence is not
achieved by attitude alone, it depends equally on the
awareness you bring to the task.
Excellence through Mentoring
Another way to put an employee on the road to excellence
is through mentoring where the junior has complete trust,
respect and faith in his senior, resulting in a strong,
instructional and emotional relationship. The two share
warmth, love and support like the bond between Lord
Krishna and Arjun.
I look for every opportunity to show and tell my team
members that I care for them deeply. These young people
have given some of the best years of their lives to help me
grow MART. I honor them for that. Their successes are my
success and we celebrate all successes. Similarly their
setbacks are my setbacks and I always offer my shoulder
and hand to them in their hour of need.
When you strive towards excellence it does not help to
compete with others because you may be better than one
but worse than another. So are you better or worse?
Comparing yourself with a moving benchmark cannot give
you an accurate picture of yourself and it only results in
wastage of productive energy. So dont race against
others, race against yourself. Resolve to be better today
than yesterday. This approach will get you out of
competition with others and put you on the fast track
towards excellence.
Motivating for Excellence through Story Telling
A big part of a CEOs job is to motivate the team towards
excellence. To do that he must engage their emotion, not
just their mind, and the key to their hearts is a story. At
MART we have a tradition of celebrating staff members
birthdays, weddings, annual increments and just about any
occasion. Most of my teaching and inspiring people are
done through stories I tell at these gatherings. Story telling
is a very personal, emotional experience and therefore
allows management ideas to get united with an emotion in
the listener.
Many cultures have a rich tradition of parables, stories and
mythology to help common people relate to complex
subjects like character, honesty, sincerity and so on. In
management too, anecdotes and evocative stories can
help managers learn about human nature. These stories
inspire managers to seek excellence.
Another important truth-for you to win, no one needs to
lose. We are conditioned to compete for scarce resources.
We are told to be best in our class at school and
encouraged to be first in sports. This creates a scarcity
mindset and leads to competition. All competition does is
fuel the illusion that we are all separate. But when we
operate at a higher level we begin to see the
interconnectedness of everything, we all win. When we
work in harmony, there is more for everyone, Take love,
the more we give the more we get and our love bank does
not diminish. Or take happiness, or even knowledge. The
more we share the more it grows.
Success in life does not lie in reaching your goals-it lies in
the personal transformation and inner shifts in
consciousness and awareness that take place.
The question in your mind must be. Is it possible to practice
what I have suggested in a competitive, corrupt and greedy
world? Well Ratan Tata runs his multibillion dollar business
on ethical principles, so do Warren Buffet and
Narayanmurthy and many others. Barrack Obama is a
symbol of hope for humanity because of his transparency
and middle class values. If you are looking for enduring
happiness you should be prepared to lose out on some
material gains. Or you could follow a competitive,
aggressive and manipulative approach to seek short lived
gains but a life filled with stress and anxiety. I made the
choice to run MART and live my life on value based
principles. You must make your choice.
Contact the Author: pradeep.kashyap@martrural.com