Understanding Transformation @ Bridging The Gaps

I spent a weekend at the Bridge the Gap camp. The camp was about many things – ultimate frisbee, painting, dancing, gender equality and meeting people from across the country. Read more about it here in Shweta’s post. The camp was a lovely place to be, full of love and energy. There were plenty of activities and sufficient camaraderie to get you through the Ahmedabad heat.

Through the camp though, I had one question on my mind. All of these things seemed to be the means to a certain end. What was the end? The closest answer I heard was “transformation”, but that is a wide term. So I kept looking and perhaps the answer hit me a day after the camp.

Realising I was carrying a piece of the camp close to my heart

I was back to my normal life – working for a large firm, talking to people around the world and getting “stuff done”. In a conversation about sales, I caught myself saying salesmen and replaced it with salespeople. That was purely because of a conversation I had with Box (Assistant coach for u23 India Ultimate Frisbee team) at the camp. He told me that at camp he referred to people as players and sports drills had to be renamed from “3 man drill” to “3 player drill”. It was the simplest thing – I remember wondering why I didn’t think of that earlier.

Of course this realisation stuck with me, and did indeed transform me.

My notes from camp

At meals I spoke to the kids – I surprised the tamil talkers and had fun with my broken hindi with the others. During the practice sessions, I picked the organisers’ minds. Here are some of the other realisations kids had through the camp:

Don’t be afraid to ask for all the love you need, Don’t be shy to give all the love you can 

A kid from Chennai told me that he liked it at camp because everyone was friendly. I dug deeper. I told him that it must be the case at home too. His rebuttal was diplomatic – smart kid!  He contrasted home and explained the non judgemental nature of all the participants at camp. Among his examples and my observations were examples of some kids teaching the slow learners, games that never stopped because the number of participants kept increasing and all the communication that happened between people who perhaps knew 2-3 phrases in each others’ languages. Some understood that a non judgemental and loving world exists out there. 

I can be someone else

I was told stories of how families don’t perceive some of these kids as very useful or keep reminding them that they are not very useful – too slow, too naughty, not as good as your sister. Confidence destroyed. But you know the beauty of self image? It is a self fulfilling prophecy. If people perceive you as good, you will be good in their presence. If people perceive you as bad, that you do exactly that. So the camp offered these kids distance from their normal life – perhaps 10 days away from home and at least six days of feeling useful. That feeling is powerful and hopefully makes them look for it when they return home.Some understood that they are better than what they were told they were.

Boys and girls both have pressures

There was a session at the camp where each gender shared what society expects of them and what that implies on their respective lives. I didn’t attend the session, but later a girl from lucknow told me that she learnt how boys have pressure because of gender inequality too. She told me that understanding that guys have pressure to bring money back home forces them to actions they might have otherwise avoided. Am sure some of the guys learnt something similar too. That is powerful. After all, equality comes from learning and understanding the other opinion. Some learnt to understand people of other genders and backgrounds.

Understanding the woman

For many it was a safe environment to interact with both genders. For many it was the first time that girls and boys played together. The girls learnt more about their menstrual system and learnt that it was ok to talk about it. The guys understood how they can be supportive (not sure if buying chocolates was covered). Some guys had a daily goal of talking to a new girl each day. Some girls were confused by the women role models they saw around them – they wondered if it was ok for a girl to be so comfortable in a mixed environment. Many people at camp understood their gender and the other gender; they bridged the gap.

Good Job 🙂

Sangeeta used the phrase often and soon it became the camp’s catch phrase. The kids used it often. It is powerful to overpower a person with so many positive thoughts – after all confidence in one sphere transcends to all spheres of life. Everyone learnt to say “Good job”. 

A Question from Liz: How would you describe the camp to others?

On the last day, Liz (an organiser) asked me how I would describe the camp to others. After much thought, here is my attempt.

The best days in life are those that you lose yourself in.You have so much fun, you enjoy everything around you – the place, the people and the activities.

At the end of the day you are tired, but you are so high on emotions that you can’t sleep anymore. You smile to yourself. Your mind wanders. It raises questions – Why did I deserve this? Why did I have fun? Will this feeling continue or is it just a passing moment? How can I sustain this feeling.

These are the best kinds of days. They make you grow. They make you learn. They make you yearn for more.

I believe the camp gave that to the kids.

The camp was the means. This was the end. Deep realisations on days that make you yearn for more.

Vikram visited Bridging the Gaps camp at Ahmedabad. This is the 3rd time Help2Grow has been associated with this initiative. This post is also cross posted at Help2Grow’s blog

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Training & Management

I am reading “The Hard thing about Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz. I love the importance he provides to people. He says “Take care of the people, the products, and the profits – in that order”. In the book he pays a lot of importance to one-to-one meetings as well. I’ve always believed that an easy way to measure the importance a manager gives his people is by looking at the number of hours he/she spends on one-to-one meetings & grooming talent. Personally, I’ve had a huge difference in performance when managers spend more one-to-one time with me. Ben Horowitz goes a step further and says that CEOs (and managers) should design training courses about the company, its product and other decisions taken by the company. He argues that while McDonalds has a training course for its staff, how come more complex jobs in our organisations don’t have job specific training schedules?

This is his case for why training (conducted by the manager – as other trainers don’t know much about your company) is a high priority:

Training is, quite simply, one of the highest-leverage activities a manger can perform. Consider for a moment the possibility of your putting on a series of four lectures for members of your department. Let’s count on three hours preparation for each hour of course time—twelve hours of work in total. Say that you have ten students in your class. Next year they will work a total of about twenty thousand hours for your organization. If your training efforts result in a 1 percent improvement in you subordinates’ performance, you company will gain the equivalent of two hundred hours of work as the result of the expenditure of your twelve hours.

Wonderful perspective to keep in mind.

My super-public habit tracker 

May: Exercise 1 Blogging 6 Meditation 2

What’s your job? 

I’ve been interacting with a lot of new joiners and I realize that we do hiring fairly wrong.

The job is sold as the thing to do and the company as the place to be. People show up and find they were sold a heaven that doesn’t exist. The bad thing is this means the new employee hates the company within the first few weeks. I like how zappos pays employees to quit in the first couple of months. That might work.

When there are new joiners, the team doesn’t always have a fixed onboarding plan. The new joiner feels lost for a while and this gives the impression that the team doesn’t care. Should human resources check in with all new joiners after 3 months?

Finally, I think it’s important to not just tell the new joiner what their job is, but also tell them why they were hired. Why did we put in effort and take the risk on you? I think this will give a better foundation to a hopefully – very long relationship.