Book Review: Winning the Marathon of Life
by Triveni Mehta on 17 Dec 2011 3 Comments

Backed by a Management Degree from BITS Pilani, Rashmi Datt worked for eight years at Pfizer before she discovered her true passion – People Development. She is now an executive trainer who has supported serious corporates in their talent development endeavours. What differentiates her from the rest is her ability to reflect and use the “reverse learning” process to enrich her subsequent interventions. Her transformational programmes are primarily focussed towards facilitating people in their quest for a life of emotional fulfilment. It is through this understanding of the finer nuances of human situations that have enabled her intellectually in dealing with a subject as complex as “emotional intelligence” in her latest book, “And the Lion smiled at the Rabbit”.

“Emotional Intelligence” is a term popularised by Dr Daniel Goleman in his bestselling book, “EI why it can matter more than IQ”. It is the skill of reading our emotions before they spill out, choosing our response in line with our objectives while being sensitive to the others’ needs. At work it gets divided into two broad categories, Personal Competence and Social Competence. While the former deals with the “How” of managing ourselves, the latter is about managing relationships. Its critical components include self awareness, recognition and motivation, empathy and social skills.  

And the Lion smiled at the Rabbit” delves on each aspect of EI with a certain amount of depth. It draws from the author’s experience spanning over two decades the culturally universal tales of the Panchtantra, well researched case studies and real world corporate experiences. It gives the reader a 360 degree perspective of the subject. It can best be described as “distilled wisdom.”

For instance, “How the Jackal skinned the elephant” has been captivatingly narrated in the context of conflict management. Similarly, the story of the lion and the bull brings us to read about an interesting acronym ILAJ.

Of special interest, I feel, are the stories taken from the lives of Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali, JRD Tata, Indira Nooyi, Michael Dell, Robert Kearns and Mahatma Gandhi.

Mike White, her closest competitor for the Global CEO position at Pepsi, decided to stay on at Nooyi’s instance. While announcing her appointment, he said, “I play the piano while she sings.” He continues to be her closest confidante there, ‘I treat him as my partner, says Nooyi [chapter on The Art of Winning People].

The Robert Kearns story, “His life was simply his battle,” concludes that the real challenge lies in choosing our battles strategically, through calculated planning, rather than reacting from anger or acrimony.

The book is a departure from others of its genre in as much as it does not leave any of the issues open ended. Some of the acronyms as in “Holdup”, “Opens”, “Carat”, and the “ABCDE method”, are easy on the memory and easier on action. For those looking for strategies for dealing with situations differently and more successfully, the book is a practical guide.

The book has been set in an Indian context, which makes it particularly easy to connect with. Its appeal lies for People Managers who have progressed in the leadership pipeline, but are continuously challenged by changing aspirations at the workplace, and wish to bridge the expectation gap. Trainers too can learn from some of the powerful insights in the book.

Rashmi Datt is a ‘must read’ for the millennials whose ubiquitous presence has inspired Indian Corporates to invest in research on their work personalities. Gen “Y,” as revealed by research, is characterised by its impatience for results, attention seeking behaviour, desire to be listened to, respected, and given instant feedback, its quest for collaborative-ness, competitiveness and professional space. Most importantly, the young generation expects to be mentored rather than monitored by bosses whom it views as friends, philosophers and guides, rather than figures of authority.

The implications of these findings are addressed in the book by the sections on “Self Regulation” “Building Relationships” and Handling Difficult Situations”. As I understand the context, Gen Y has almost made a virtue of its underlying need to succeed, and NOW. This is what the book is all about.   

The author is a human resource professional

And the Lion smiled at the Rabbit: Manage Emotions to Win

Rashmi Datt

Wisdom Tree, 2012

Price: Rs 245/-

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