Engage first, English can wait


When the parent company imploded, the CSR division was the first they let go. You can’t fulfill your social responsibility when you are struggling to survive, can you?

Each member of the CSR arm had helped a hundred pick themselves up, discover dignity, look up, hope. What happens now to those who are charged up and waiting for upliftment?

Sorry! They will have to fend for themselves. We have a company to salvage. We have a job to find.

All the employees of the division were efficient, certain to find another employer. But, they were all worried about him.

He enjoyed walking into strange places that spoke strange tongues. He patiently overcame suspicion, cynicism and hostile inertia. One beneficiary, one achievement at a time, he made his mark.

He goaded many an indifferent administration into doing what they were meant to and gladly let them hoard the applause. He pushed the invisibles to face the cameras. After all, they had overcome what generations had endured before them. Of course, his little nudges helped, too.

Yet, in the office, they worried about him because he had no English. They helped whenever they could. He stuttered through presentation-studded meetings in his native tongue. His slides were predictable, tutored.

Now, how can he find another job without English?

He was worried too, but for a different reason. In the few days that remained, he had to go back and talk to his partners in far-off villages, where news had no corporate page, and very few could read.

These were the people who used to call him up almost every day, for little things that mattered a lot to them—fertilizer use, livestock insurance, irrigation ponds. Some of them were not sure of their own age; but they were all sure about him, his advice.

He wanted to tell them he was going. Yet, assure them this was not abandonment. “If I don’t do that, they will never again trust anyone who offers to help. And they still need help,” he explained.

He can’t help that his job was cut short. However, he believes the engagements he nurtured thanks to that job deserves a more satisfactory, productive closure.

English would love to give words to his voice. Applaud his empathetic, proactive communication. And his enthusiasm to preserve positive connect as disconnect roiled around him. He has shown the importance of genuine engagement even when you are not selling, just serving.

He never really had English. He doesn’t need it now.


Done pointing? Now, poke eye!


The designer delivered the artwork late and then the printer goofed up, I justified. The newsletter ought to have arrived a week earlier.
The boss looked patient, on-the-verge patient. After letting the silence linger loud and long, he spoke softly.
“The printer was not late, the designer was not late, nor were half-a-dozen others you must be working with. You know the only one who goofed up? You. You can do nothing about all of them. All that you can control is what you do. Don’t tell me about what they did or didn’t. What did you do to achieve your goal? What did you do to anticipate, prevent or deal with the worst they could do?”
I dismissed it as boss-talk as soon as I escaped. But something must have sunk in. Over the years, I found myself pointing less, preparing more. The occasional slip-ups caused less damage.
What he said then sounds loud and clear now.
Point a finger at all and sundry for everything that gets in your way. Let spit fly, blood flow. After you are done, turn the finger around and poke your eye. That will help you see better.
That when it comes to your goal, not he, not she, not they, it’s the I that matters.

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