“Building Passion, Delivering Genius…”

09-27-2017  Rakesh Sondhi on “Building Passion-Delivering Genius”

“Building Passion, Delivering Genius – A Business Founder’s Journey” by Rakesh K. Sondhi

This is the strapline I created for my company, BMC Global Services Ltd, after watching Rafa Nadel’s extraordinary victory over Roger Federer in the Wimbledon Tennis Championships at the beginning of July 2008. But wait. Though Nadel did show extraordinary talent, the genius, in my mind, was actually Federer. Here was a man who won the championships for 5 years in succession, and he pushed his opponent to the very end, with incredible shots, yet he was as upset as he would have been if he had not previously won any championships. I was amazed by his attitude and it got me thinking as to what drives a genius.

A few weeks earlier, I had taken my family to watch the theatre show “Jersey Boys” – the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. We previously saw this show a year ago in San Francisco, and now we had seen it twice more in London. My children loved it, brushing aside any generation gap. This made me think about what actually is genius. Whether it is sport or music, there are a few, only a few, people who bridge generations and turn everything they touch into gold, in terms of quality.

In the world of music Elvis Presley was genius, as was Freddie Mercury to name but a couple. In sport, Muhammed Ali was a genius.

My question recently to my son, Arjun, who is the founder of IAmEntrepeneur, and is becoming a serial entrepreneur, was what distinguishes these people from the other players. He said “they had heart”, which I thought was an appropriate answer. These people had a heart, which came from a drive few people could replicate. These people possessed a passion which made them do extraordinary things. What is interesting is that there are no people I can think of who have been successful without this passion, and a hunger that drove them to extraordinary feats. I also believe that all of us have something inside which is driven by a passion. This may be a cause, family or something similar. As individuals we need to spend more time looking inside ourselves to identify where that passion lies. What will we do that will drive us beyond our normal limits? I also believe this is key to our personal development. What do we see our role on this Earth? I see this as vital for any business founder who wants to become a Start Up Champion.

So what is the relevance to business and leadership? I continue to be astonished at the mindset many people have going to work. “This is a job”, “it pays the bill” etc. People do themselves an injustice when they consider what role work plays in their lives. The Buddhists live by the Eightfold Path – a journey to personal enlightenment. One of these eight paths, talks about the right livelihood. The Buddhists talk about how people owe it to themselves to do a job they truly believe in and which inspires them. People who just do a job where they turn up and make up the numbers are perhaps not giving it their all, but more importantly they are letting themselves down. How many people can say this is the case? How can we expect our people to raise their game if they are not inspired by what is happening to them in the workplace. Where would the genius of Einstein, Newton, Adam Smith, to name a few, have been if these individuals did not believe in what they were doing, if they did not believe in the cause they were fighting for. Would Nelson Mandela have reached the greatness he fully deserves to be recognised for, if he did not really believe in his cause?

As leaders and entrepreneurs how do we get our passion into our workforce? This is a key question. Leaders spend considerable time trying to force genius outcomes on people by sending them away on creativity courses, by offering higher salaries, and by putting pressure on them in exchange for rewards. Unfortunately, the production of genius outcomes is the result of a long and interconnected journey, and not by the end goal. This journey requires inspiration to be passed on to our people from the leaders. The end goal is a consequence of people being driven by a cause, which is reflected in experimentation, mistakes and learning. In organisations we feel, as leaders, we can surpass the natural path of learning i.e. making mistakes – research has consistently shown this is not possible. As leaders we need to invest in our people, not in the form of courses and training, but in the form of responsibility, broad scope of definition and time to make mistakes.

As leaders we also need to understand what makes our existing people tick, what are their core values and beliefs and how can we integrate these with the corporate values and beliefs. Leaders need to understand their people in a deep manner, as they would a family member. Emotional intelligence teaches us to be self aware so that we can appreciate the drivers of our people. However, what I tend to see more of is scant consideration given to these issues. Leaders still feel as if these are boxes to be ticked.

Leadership involves getting to really build a caring attitude, where we genuinely care for our people and are truly interested in what makes our people tick. After all business is a collection of people, wanting to grow for each other in a commercial way.

In sport, coaches have to spend considerable time, a lot more than in business, with their protégés, learning what drives them, learning how to press the right buttons when the pressure is on, and also creating a mindset of constant learning. These coaches see a failure as an opportunity to learn from what has not worked, and they see success as an opportunity to be grateful to other people and external forces. How often do you hear “geniuses” say “this was all down to me”? The closest was Muhammed Ali, but I think he was saying it tongue -in-cheek, as he knew what role people like Angelo Dundee played in his success. Coaches also have the respect of their people. They can tell their people exactly as it is, not by giving a message that is diluted by the fear of the response that will be provided. To build this type of relationship requires a huge investment in time.

Successful people will always come across as being humble, not because they think this is the right thing to do, but because these people know that success is like everything else – NOT PERMANENT. The only thing that can be guaranteed when you reach the top is that you will be coming down at some point. Consequently, this creates a humility that encourages learning and a determination to succeed, which comes through not when you are the top, but when you have just lost as Roger Federer did in Wimbledon.

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