Mridula Sankhyayan – Vatt Vriksh Consultants

Author: Mridula Sankhyayan

[Workshop] Aug 18 Leading with Emotional Intelligence and Building Resilience


Vatt Vriksh is delighted to be participating in the DIAN Professional Series, an initiative of Community Business. This is a programme of world-class workshops relating to diversity and inclusion – delivered in partnership with leading D&I experts and consultants in key markets across Asia.

We will be leading our signature workshop Leading with Emotional Intelligence and Building Resilience in Bangalore on 18 August, 2 – 6pm. I warmly encourage you and your colleagues to register or put down a placeholder first.

Workshop Details

Name of Workshop:
Leading with Emotional Intelligence and Building Resilience
This workshop is aimed at providing concepts, tools and strategies to enhance your emotional intelligence quotient and help you to

Develop trusting relationships (clients and teams)
Manage and navigate change
Be resilient

The session is designed to help you
Appreciate the relevance and business case for EI at workplace
Hone EI skills to influence and manage difficult conversations
Hone EI skills to navigate change and build resilience

Why Attend:
At this Workshop, you will know how to:
Ø Actively engage senior leaders in driving your D&I strategy
Ø Gain commitment and sponsorship of senior leaders
Ø Empower senior leaders to become champions and advocates
Ø Negotiate for resources and funds to drive your D&I strategy

Friday 18 August
2 pm – 6 pm
JW Marriott Hotel Bengaluru
(Sponsored by Marriot, Hong Kong)
Registration Fee:
US $500. If your company is a member of DIAN, you may be eligible for a complimentary ticket – please contact Matthew Yu or Sandeep Nairto find

Are you a Manager and struggling to keep it together?

Are you a manager and struggling to keep it together?

To know more or post a question write to Mridula Sankhyayan, visit Vatt Vriksh Consultants

Lagging behind on your deliverables because you spent most day listening to team troubles, solving team conflicts, escalations, attending meetings, ad-hoc requests from your leaders?

When you dive in details, ask questions and do it yourself, you are labeled micro manager
When you delegate you get feedback to get more hands on
When you promote your team members you are biased
When you don’t, you are told you must think of giving growth opportunities to your team
When you give feedback, you lack empathy
When you don’t, you hear, “my manager is not interested in coaching me and providing me platform.”
When you are doing reviews, you are a task master
When you praise one, the other feels left out
When you get praised, you stole team’s credit
And the list goes on and on…

So eventually you sit there wondering, what in the world was I thinking when I asked for that promotion and wanted to manage a team!

Who said being a manager was easy? Infact, it is one of the most challenging jobs. Who wants to be managed anyway, who wants to pay you for managing others. After all we are all adults and quite capable of managing ourselves. So being a manager then feels like a redundant role and a thankless job.

However, if you truly are any good at any or all of the above, then your value is truly recognized. Especially when you stop managing and start leading!
Leadership is hard but very rewarding work. It starts with “Being an expert” at something, then “Being the go to” person, “Getting things done” and “investing time with your team” because you are interested in their development and growth as well not just yours.

Don’t just tell them what to do, but tell the “why” too?
Don’t just delegate, but coach too.
Don’t just praise but share the work for which the praise is due.
Don’t just hear them but listen well and empathize
Don’t just talk of what you have done, share what the team has done
Don’t just give business targets, tell them how this links to the bigger picture
Don’t just reprimand, reward too. Never criticize in public. We all have frail ego’s. My selfies say it all.

So what’s new, you must have heard this in every performance review and feedback conversation! It’s not what, but How? That is the big question.

Invest in one new skill every 6 months, its survival of the fittest, increase your learning agility, building yourself as a manager who is a leader. Don’t manage, just Lead!

To know more or post a question write to Mridula Sankhyayan, visit Vatt Vriksh Consultants.

Ardhnarishvara inspired Gender Parity

Ardhnarishvara inspired Gender Parity

Thinking of issues around Gender Inclusion, reminded me of the symbolic figure of Ardhnarishvara- a symbol of Lord Shiva and Shakti representing coming together of male and female energies as one. I thought of sharing my tryst with Shiva – the Lord of all times and how I relate it to the world around me.

As a child, I was fascinated by the manifestation of Lord Shiva. The aloof, meditative, unconcerned, half naked Lord with snake, moon, skulls and lion cloth. While Krishna and Ram have so many stories and conversations to their account, that you think, you know them in person, while Lord Shiva is non-communicative and yet easily pleased (Ashutosh: one who gets pleased easily) as believed. I found him full of contradictions and yet he charmed me with his mysticism and maginificense.

And then came the abstract Ardhnarishvara. This was beyond me and as a child I did not make an attempt to dive deep in order to make sense of it.

However, a moment of flash this morning inspired me to write this piece. I have been working on some projects that focus on the various themes of International Women’s Day 2017 – Challenge Gender Bias, Forge Advancement, Celebrate Success, Stop Gender Violence, Drive Professional Development. So, Gender Parity – (equal representation and contribution of men and women to every dimension of life whether public or private) has been top of mind theme for me lately and in that came Shivratri.

Once again I stumbled upon the image of Ardhnarishvar. Shiva – Shakti, Half Man, Half Woman! And I thought isn’t this what we are trying to achieve? – an equal representation of men and women, 50:50 gender ratio in organizations!!

And despite the best efforts world over we are nowhere close. In fact, we may see light at the end of the tunnel in 2186. Longest tunnel in history. The World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186. It will take us 170 years to reach 50:50 representation. Half Men and Half Women in organizations!

So, I looked at the parallels from Ardhnarishvar to Corporate World and strangely in my mind’s eye I found some. Hopefully, they will resonate with you too.


  • Ardhanarishvararepresents the synthesis of masculine and feminine energies of the universe (Purusha and Prakriti) and illustrates how Shakti, the female principle of God, is inseparable from or the same as, Shiva, the male principle of God.
  • Corporate connect: In a professional work environment, this manifests as the representation of men and women in the organization. It also depicts how men and women work together balancing energies that they bring forward to collaborate and take business forward.


  • Ardhnarishvara infers: The universe had risen from the union of sexes.
  • Corporate connect: The rise of an organization is driven by bringing in male and female perspectives, approaches and styles to drive innovation in business, build high performing teams and inspire a culture to make an inclusive organization that taps the potential of diverse talents.


  • Ardhnarishvara conveys: The interdependence of Shiva on his power (Shakti) as embodied in Parvati. The separation of two results in Shiva’s Tandav leading to an out of balance catastrophic nature.
  • Corporate connect: This depicts that men and women are naturally interdependent. An imbalance in gender representation will lead to imbalance of energies. The imbalance leads to aggression, conflicts, myopic decision making, big losses, psychologically unsafe workplaces and the list continues.


  • Ardhnarishvara: Across cultures, hermaphrodite figures like Ardhanarishvara have traditionally been associated with fertility and abundant growth.
  • Corporate connect: The gender inclusion and gender parity in business leads to an environment which is highly productive and growth oriented. Diverse perspectives are valued not envied or feared creating employer of choice organisations.


  • Ardhnareeshwara: Often, the right half of Ardhanarishvara is male and the left is female. The left side is the location of the heart and is associated with feminine characteristics like intuition and creativity, while the right isassociated with the brain and masculine traits – logic, valor and systematic thought
  • Corporate Connect: In a corporate environment, its symbolic and manifests as the energies we need at workplace to sustain profitable business. It’s important to state that women are capable of showing valor and men emotional intelligence. I see the traits as gender agnostic. It’s about balancing the energies at workplace. If we just demonstrated logic, analytical thinking and bravado, we cannot create an inclusive work environment that fosters creativity, innovation and emotional intelligence. These energies when represented equally and synergistically create world class businesses that lead to unprecedented growth and raise the bar to next level evolution for mankind.


My bows to Ardhnarishvar that inspires Gender Parity! And a better world for you and me!


Psychological Safety- A competitive advantage!


Hey, How’s it going?

What do you hear in response to that question?  “Better than Ever!” Or “Don’t get me started! 

It’s a common question and your response can be quite telling about your emotional well-being at work! These are some of the responses I often get from my friends.

  • Yaaa, same old, busy… you know how it is!
  • Not bad!
  • Oh, don’t ask!
  • It’s so frustrating!
  • I don’t know how long I can take it!
  • Great! I am loving it!

Given the time we spend at work; you would want to get the last response as often as you can!

Research: Harvard professor Amy Edmondson has done her research in the field ofPsychological Safety at work. She says, in order for us to have highly engaged, high performing teams and in order for us to build a culture of innovation, we must first make our team environment psychologically safe. Read more below.

Symptoms: Your workplace may show signs of lack of psychological safety if you experience any of the below:

  • Hard to get information that you need to do your job
  • Blame games, Scapegoating
  • Increased corridor conversations, disruptive gossip
  • Bias in decision making: No or pale rationale for not being assigned to a special project, an important meeting, job promotion, mobility, bonus number!
  • Taking credit for other’s work or successes
  • Micromanaging
  • Going behind someone’s back to “steal” their client, project, area of work
  • Bad Behaviors: Being rude, shouting, yelling publicly, being ridiculed, alienated
  • Displays of offensive, derogatory or sexually explicit behaviour

Real Workplace Scenarios: Have you seen yourself or any person you know in any of these scenarios?

  • It’s my new manager. My colleague told me “Beware! She is a tough task master and a slave driver, I doubt you will get your 3 weeks leave for your wedding!” ………I am worried!
  • I got along like house on fire with my manager, my performance ratings had been top notch for last three years. Due to organisation restructuring she moved back to London. The new manager and I just don’t see eye to eye.  He is always finding faults with anything I do and favoring the other guy whose kids study in the same school as his. He is such a nitpicker and wants to change everything as if all me and my team did so far is useless. Btw I also heard that he doesn’t take feedback very well, so I better not open my mouth ………. I am really anxious about my future!
  • I have just hired a new team member! She is very talented, experienced and has lot of fresh ideas! However, I notice tension among her and a few tenured members of my team. She proposes an idea and they inevitably counter it by saying things like, “Oh we tried it, right? We went through this whole piece in 2010 and it didn’t work!” or “that’s a great idea, however in our culture, I doubt very much that it will fly!” I have also noticed they don’t invite her for lunch or coffee breaks. I can see she is disappointed, frustrated. The relatively junior team members are watching this “tennis match” play out during team meetings, not sure whose side to take. They actually like the freshness of her ideas but are scared to open their mouth in-front of their managers and risk rocking the boat!
  • We hired a promising campus hire, super excited and raring to go, buzzing with ideas! A dream employee for any manager! However, it’s only been a month and his manager has come to me twice, “This new kid is very immature and unrealistic! He went ahead and shared this idea with the other function head without even running it past me. He already is expecting to be promoted. Oh btw he wants to be added to that project run by CEO’s office. I can smell trouble; he is stepping out of line. We will have to manage his expectations! I see he is quite high maintenance and don’t know how long he will last.” Managers insecurity has set in big time as they feel challenged by the intellect and confidence of this “just out of campus kid”.
  • A senior person in the leadership team, who is quite patronizing, is seen often going for coffee and joking with junior women. He is influential at the firm and very close to the CEO. A very experienced senior woman has come into the team. She has made quite an impression and few friends already at senior levels. He sent her an inappropriate message about her looks and she reacted quite strongly against it. He is now playing politics and making her look bad in front of the CEO at every opportunity he gets. He has even got the CEO to agree to reduce her role and take a big piece of her role under his wing. His insecurity and fear has set in! The woman is under stress and finds the environment very difficult to work in. She is wondering if she made the right decision to join.

These are real incidences picked from different industries, different levels in organizations. All are triggered by a sense of insecurity leading to negative emotions, scarcity mindset, and you can see primal, reptilian brain kicked in with amygdala on full throttle arousing feelings of fear, anxiety, insecurity, anger, jealousy! Doesn’t sound like a place you and I would like to work at. But guess what, this phenomenon is commonplace at most workplaces, including Fortune 500.

Employee Experience: What experience does this create for the new manager, new employee, new campus kid or the super smart woman?

It slowly chips away their enthusiasm of sharing all the great ideas they were excited about. It makes them cautious and they start to slowly watch what they are saying, filter their message to suit the person in-front, not speak up even when they think their idea might be better than boss’s favorites, shy away from being bold and sharing their views in a leadership meeting as the boss may not approve of it and it will inevitably show up the review feedback. Eventually people are silenced in fear! Sounds familiar?

All these behaviours indicate that the employees are experiencing a workplace that’sNot psychologically safe. They find it difficult to be open, transparent, spontaneous, questioning and creative. People are afraid to make mistakes and always trying to prove a point, wanting to be right all the time. Innovation suffers, engagement takes a beating, hushed corridor conversations become common place, people become self-preserving, hoard information, take credit for their team’s work and so on. A toxic workplace culture sets in.

Feedback: How psychologically safe your work place is? Do you see these examples and symptoms come up in escalations, employee surveys or exit interviews? If you are tuned in you will certainly hear it from the grapevine! What are you doing about it?

Most of these are triggered by an intension of self-preservation in this competitive environment. As if it’s a jungle out there. Employees think that if they don’t do things to protect their self-interest, they will be taken out, be passé, in no time! One mistake and they are done! Fear of failure sets in! They are on the watch out all the time and weary of every move of the team member’s junior, senior or peer irrespective! Paranoia sets in!

Leadership sets the tone: Leaders say its ok to make a mistake or take your time to learn but how do we react when a mistake happens? Do we take time to coach and support the individual, understand what went wrong and how to prevent it in future or do we call and reprimand the person, take them off the project, ignore them next time you see them in the corridor or seal their fate with a performance improvement program, leaving a very demotivated individual who in that mental state is likely to make more mistakes? If they survived the feedback and took it in their stride they will get more cautious, toe the line, won’t experiment or come up with new ideas and stick to the beaten path. Rise to be ‘the average’ employee. Just do enough to stay afloat! Over a period of time it becomes the culture of the organization. Scary but true!

I am an eternal optimist and I know inherently people are well intentioned. They want to belong, contribute, do well and grow. They want to get sincere, honest, well-meaning feedback as well. No one in their right minds comes to work thinking, “Today, I am going to bring the place down! Be my worst self at work. I will make as many mistakes as I can, be rude to my colleagues and find ways to be difficult and argumentative.”

Inherently we all want to be accepted, respected, appreciated and valued! Yet in the business of our day jobs we forget to observe, listen and understand how our employees are experiencing the workplace.

Talent Management Systems: While the consciousness has been raised on this a lot over last few years by Tech companies primarily like Adobe, Google, Accenture, a lot of others still in their mindset are driven by scarcity mindset! Performance review bell-curves, ratings, narrow and biased selection criteria’s, stereotypes about leadership, women and other diverse groups still hold! These systems further alienate and demotivate potentially great employees.

Best Practices and more Research:

Great organizations recognize it and take action to create psychologically safe workplaces with strong Intentionality.

Google published a list of the five traits that its most successful teams share last year. First among them is “Psychological Safety.”

This topic was has been researched extensively by Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson, and her TEDx talk on the topic is much watch.

In the talk, she describes the experience that sparked her interest in psychological safety, or “a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking.”

As a grad student, she was studying medical teams at hospitals in order to find out what distinguished the best performing groups. She assumed she’d find that the top teams made the fewest medication errors.

To her surprise, she found exactly the opposite: Better performing teams seemed to be making more errors than worse performing ones.

At some point, she realized why: It wasn’t that the best teams were making the most errors, but that the best teams were admitting to errors and discussing them more often than other groups did. In other words, what distinguished the best performing teams waspsychological safety, which facilitated a “climate of openness.”

  1. Calls to Action: In conclusion, here are some best practices one can adopt to create a psychologically safe workplace


  1. Set the leadership tone: In order to build an open, transparent and safe workplace, leaders need to understand the price they are paying currently on engagement, productivity, innovation and attrition. A zero surprise culture is built when employees feel comfortable in bringing their vulnerabilities to the table without fear of negative consequences. That’s when timely escalations, ideation, innovation can happen.
  2. Review talent management systems: Limiting systems create limited opportunities only. Set high standards but open up your systems so everyone has a chance to to succeed. Set ambitious goals, train, coach and give feedback, measure people against those goals, reward them when they achieve those goals.
  3. Train leaders and managers to recognize symptoms and act upon them: All managers should know what psychological safety at workplace means and skills and behaviors to develop to create an inclusive workplace
  4. Reward and Reprimand: Encourage managers/leaders who are demonstrating role model behaviors, reward and recognize them. Equally important to call out those who do not demonstrate the right behaviors with real consequences to their promotion, pay and growth in the organization.


  1. Stay Hungry, stay foolish as Steve Job said! Keep learning, read, know your business, the latest market trends, adjust, adapt and learn a new skill, acquire knowledge every six months.
  2. Be known for an Expertize: There is no room for general managers. What’s your skill, what are you good at, what are you a “go to” person for?
  3. Hire talent that’s smarter than you! Takes guts, takes courage to do that! But in the end serves everyone well.
  4. All hands in: In your team meetings make sure everyone speaks without fear of consequences. Invite quiet ones to talk, manage over enthusiastic, self-styled experts, who dampen the rest carefully.
  5. Develop your Emotional Intelligence: helps in regulating your own emotions, understanding others and developing strong relationships and sponsorships

New or junior team members:

  1. Find Mentors: get yourself multiple informal mentors, seek their advice regularly
  2. Weekly meetings with manager: make sure you are meeting your manager regularly and keeping them abreast and seeking their advice to navigate some roadblocks
  3. Be a Learner and be seen as one: Ask questions to learn the new system, culture and decision making processes, understand current practices, what’s worked, what’s not, get your facts in place, do some historical research before suggesting a new idea. May seem like a lot of work but its needed to establish yourself as a credible team member, as a good learner, as a person on their side and not an outsider. This will build trust. Once trust is built, your ideas will be accepted with ease.
  4. Build Consensus: Learn the art of consensus building. Socialize your new idea one on one with key influencers, don’t forget to ask their inputs, make them part of your ideation, make them believe it’s their idea. Consolidate all views, share with your manager, get their inputs, advice (remember you are a learner). Now you are pretty ready to take it to the larger forum and you will see more heads nod..
  5. Share Credit: Give credit like you won Oscar. It may seem weird but people love to hear their names in the vote of thanks. Especially in-front of senior leadership. They will support you as they will not want to go against their own idea embedded in yours. Leadership will love you as you are already showing art of consensus building, teamwork and emotional maturity by sharing credit. It’s a win-win!

We all owe it to ourselves and our co-workers to build a psychologically safe place at work! Hopefully we will hear more of “I am loving it!” responses to, “Hey how are you doing?”

Running in the right direction! Are you?

Who wants to reach the age of 60 and brood over regrets?? Nah not me.. do you??

I wish I had travelled to the hills, beaches more….

I wish I spent more time playing, chatting with my kids when they were young…. 

I wish I had visited a friend from school….

I wish I had taken time out for old age home, special needs kids….

I wish I had listened to my dad, mom attentively when they called me at work or even on the weekends…

I wish I had gone to Mansarovar or valley of flowers, Egypt….

I wish I had joined the hobby classes for baking, clay modeling, Yoga…

I wish I had exercised more…

I wish I had eaten healthy…

bizpicq1May be one or two of these will resonate with you. May be you have your own list of “I Wish…” But life is a vicious cycle. It goes round and round in circles and very few people are able to step out to see the “Merry-go-round” that used to be so much fun in childhood! We hopped on and we hopped off at will, we increased the speed to feel the thrill and we slowed it down to get a friend onboard but we were always in control of our Merry-go-round.

Now we are so busy. Busy like a bee working harder and harder and yes having a sense of achievement with each project target met, an assignment successfully completed, a deal signed off, a presentation done well, a bonus to bring a smile on your face! A trip to Swiss Alps, Cambodia or Disneyland! Pictures on facebook, 100+ likes , wow’s  they don’t have a sign for feeling jealous yet!!

Then what? Another year of grind! You have to earn to maintain your lifestyle! Kids in IB schools, college admissions, marriage, and anniversary diamond for the wife, five star birthday party for the hubby….it’s a never ending list.

But then there is a wakeup call! There always is one! A beggar on the street that touched your heart, a community project you went to, sponsored by office which made you think and think hard! Listening to a friend who quit his corporate job to follow his passion, a goal setting exercise in a training program which reminded you of your childhood dreams and long term mission in life!

Question is what will you do? Will you wake up to that call? The call keeps coming now ever so often! But will you wakeup to that call? Call that your soul truly desires, call that connects to you deeply. Maybe that’s what you came to do before you got caught in the most exciting play of your life- home to work, work to home, weekend grocery shopping and throw in once in a while parties, outings.  A deception of a rich fulfilling life! By the way difficult to give up as well as you have the lead role! You are the protagonist of this play!

Perhaps you will wake up soon enough! Or maybe you are awake and realize it but have a million reasons for why you cannot stop the play. It requires courage! Rohit Shetty, my college batchmate shared this quote today in our WA group defining courage.

“Courage is taking a step forward into an area of difficulty without a solution in mind, trusting that whatever help you need will become available” But do you have the courage to take that step to your calling?

Wake up before it’s too late! Who wants to lead a life of regrets!

Don’t think I have done it all. I am hearing the call loud and clear but trying to muster up the courage!

Like someone said – “In the end we only regret the chances we didnt take”

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