Professional Lessons to learn from Diwali Festivities

Diwali image 1


As many of us know, Diwali is not just about a day. The festivities and the rituals begin right from Dhanteras, and go on for days till Bhai Dooj.

Now, here are some professional lessons to be learnt from the five days. Don’t worry, we are not asking you to work during the holiday season, but the following lessons can always be implemented after you come refreshed from a Diwali break.


This day, the thirteenth day of the dark fortnight of the month Kartik, is associated with cleansing and purchasing.

The day gives us lessons about the importance of getting rid of chaos and old clutter , and thus make space for order, novelty and freshness.

In the office space, it is similarly necessary to get rid of old, obsolete technology, and be up to date with the emerging trends. Plus, it is a great idea to keep the work station clean, tidy and ordered. There is known to be a positive correlation between work efficiency and a well-lithygienicpeaceful work environment with minimal disturbances.


 Chhoti Diwali:

The fourteenth day of the fortnight is associated with preparation of sweets using various ingredients like flour, semolina, dry fruits, milk solids, etc.

Remember how the various sweets are not simply “sweet”, but the taste of the main ingredient always lingers? Be it milk, cashews, almonds, pistachios, there is an instant recognition.

It would do us good if we keep this in mind: it is necessary to retain one’s essence to gain recognition.

For example, an HR manager of any company, would much prefer a candidate who is honest  and transparent as opposed to someone who is showy (flamboyant) and ingratiating.

Sooner or later, the inner qualities of that candidate would be recognised, like the main ingredient of the “sweet.”



Here comes the festival of lights! There is sound, there is colour, there are feasts, there are Pujas performed, there is celebration everywhere! The young people visit and take blessing from the elders. Oh, and there are diyas, rangolis!

In the professional lingo, this teaches us the importance of good networkingbonding, the importance of mentors. It tells a lot about the power of one small diya. About the power of one single colour to add that missing touch in a rangoli. Sometimes, a rangoli remains incomplete without that one colour. Team work is the Key.

A line of diyas has the capability to light up an entire place. Collaboration, not competition is the way to go.


Govardhan Puja and Bhai Dooj:

Govardhan Puja is celebrated to mark the feat of Shri Krishna when he lifted up a mountain to save cowherds and farmers from incessant rains. Some regions celebrate this day as a New Year, and some as the Annakut, literally mountain of sweets. Some celebrate the bond between husband and wife.

Bhai Dooj celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters, here, the sister acting as a protector of the brother.

Anyhow, the two days teach us a lot about the importance of being supportive to our colleagues, especially in the time of crisis.

Taking responsibility, having empathy, handling interpersonal relationships effectively are some of the lessons we can take with us. It tells us about the importance to have Emotional Intelligence. In short, the importance of taking leadership in little things.

Emotional Intelligence could be used in handling meetings, negative feedback or appraisal, client relations, empowering your colleagues, etc.

Diwali festivities not only give us good times, but good lessons which could be applied in a professional setting.

Delving into meanings of festivals and traditions, could help us a great deal to understand the values and their timelessness.

Happy Diwali!


Recruitment Story: Sleeping, Smelling, Dreaming Generators

recruitment story one

Some of us would be familiar with our parents and grandparents telling us stories about the struggles they had to go through when they were younger. Anecdotes about walking long distances to go to school, when all we have to worry about now is whether we will be able to catch the bus on time. About how one had to actually spend hours in the library to look for one tiny snippet of information, when all we have to do is one Google search.

Looking at these incidents with humour is all very well, but the thing is, all of this is true. We have to admit that our parents and grandparents did some pioneering acts which might daunt us if we think about it now.

Here we present one such story about our initial years.

Flashback to almost thirty years back. The India we know today was different then. The world as we know now was different then.

There was a requirement of an “Operator” for an 11,000 kva, 40 feet tall generator at a Textile mill in Nigeria.

The only brief given was the person should:

“Sleep with Generator

Smell of Generator and

Dream Generator.”


This was no era of KRAs.

This was no era of specifications of degrees or specialisations.

This was no era of interconnected email networks which now ensure that there is an almost instant spotting and filtering of potential candidates. Headhunting was the only way.

Add to the mix, although generators were a norm in industries in India as well as Nigeria and electricity not as widespread as it is now, a machine this big was still a rarity.

How would one cope with a “Brief” like this in the present day?

It was the brief where we had to understand that there was a need of someone who knew all about dismantling and assembling generators like the back of his hand.

They needed someone who could work hands on with a generator. Or more specifically work hands on with an 11,000 kva, 40 feet tall generator.

We found the perfect candidate for this position. Yes, with no KRAs and just this brief. Yes, in that era.

This was all done, under the able guidance of our CEO, Dr.O.P Pahuja, who is a hands on Engineer himself. This tells us so much about his visionary nature.

Dr. O P Pahuja
Dr. O P Pahuja

This recruitment story is of the time when industriousness, problem-solving skills, perseverance, awareness, risk-taking, courage were the qualities that were necessities. They were needed to thrive and keep companies running successfully.

This recruitment story is a testimonial to the pioneering and industrious nature of Team United HR. It aligns perfectly with one of our mission statements: “Putting right People in Right Places”


Beyond the Rivalry

Collaboration Image


Setting up goals– long term and short term- is an important activity that fuels growth. Sometimes, the standards are set according to what the supposed rival is doing. We have to be better than them, is the call of duty one answers to.

Healthy competition is good if it helps one come up with new ideas and reach targets.

What happens when the competition doesn’t really lead to anything? What if it just becomes an activity that drains your energy? What if it just turns into an unproductive, loss-making enterprise?

Not just in recruiting, but in many other industries, getting a client is important. Or more like winning a client is important. However in Recruiting Industry, sometimes, this “win” determines how much you would get paid, or to notch it up one level, whether you would get paid at all!

Retaining a loyal client is another aspect about this “winning”. That you would no longer be able to hang on to the regular because of various reasons on your part could be a stressful and often anxiety-inflicting event.

Joshua Skult in his article talks about how he just couldn’t find someone who was good with a particular software. His regular client had been making repetitive calls. Ultimately, he collaborated with his “rival” recruiter and found a placement for this client. What Skult did was, as he put it, take 50% while he could, rather than lose the 100%.

He feared what many do: he would lose the competition.

But he chose to collaborate with a fellow recruiter. Our NPA works on the same line, and that’s how splits work for everybody.

Another example, given by Stephen O’Donnell talks about his experience with collaboration. According to him, “A few years ago, The Recruitment Agency Network (RANJobs) in Scotland was a network of firms which initially built a website to contend with S1Jobs price rates. Before long those agency owners, who would normally never speak, were pursuing a joint tender for a huge government contract in order to compete with major national agencies.”

It is important to not make the rival an enemy.

And although, it might be so that collaborations, and their frequency and requirement is increasing now owing to the employment rates and trends, they are not that new an endeavor. They aren’t that uncommon too.

Collaborations are seen in areas which seem to be not even connected remotely to the corporate space. For example, in academia: interdisciplinary studies are on the rise in humanities.

We see confluences of engineering and biology in many recent scientific advances and studies.

The most common collaboration which we seem to be completely desensitised to is seen in fields of advertising, media and films.

We all remember ads which claim so and so product is “free” with their product. This is a daily example of collaboration, where both the companies profit in one way or another.

Skult very aptly puts it, “…with the interconnectivity that the world now offers it only makes sense to take full advantage of the ability to share information, ideas and business with those around us. What once was seen as naive or risky is now actually a smart play that will increase productivity, create valuable alliances and improve client relationships. It will take a willingness to shed long held fears, but, having done it, I know it works.”

Alliances, collaborations, calculated risks, trust, are some of the keywords we need to remember to think beyond competitions, enmities  and rivalries.



What is your Learning Style?

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Cause for Friction:

There are times when no matter how close attention you pay, the information just doesn’t get registered.

Sometimes, it tires you to no limit as you try to explain something to a colleague or friend but they just don’t seem to be getting what you are saying. How much more simply could I sum up this, you wonder.

Meetings end in confusion, presentations are deemed having no impact.

You wonder, at times why people can’t even grasp some basic concepts.

It could be that there is a difference of learning styles.

Learning is not limited to school days. Training for a particular job, learning about the inside workings of an industry, learning about some new model of work that is going to be integrated in what you did until now: there are countless examples in our professional lives where you either need to learn or need to impart some knowledge to others.

It is important to have an understanding of the various learning styles:

  • To increase efficiency.
  • To save time and energy.
  • To learn better.
  • To teach or train better.


The Learning Styles:

The model of learning styles first devised by Dr. Richard Felder, Linda Silverman and Barbara Soloman during the late 1980s is one of the most widely used and comprehensive classifications out there. It was updated in 2002.

According to this, there are four dimensions to learning styles. Each dimension has two poles with a continuum in the space in between.

Sensory: Sensory learners look at everything concrete. They are concerned about hard facts and things which could be substantiated.

Intuitive: Intuitive learners look for meaning. Their eyes are open to theory. They process in terms of concepts.

Visual: Visual learners, as the name suggests, process in terms of visual representations. Graphs, diagrams, charts, pictures grab their attention.

Verbal: They explain/need explanation through words. Hearing, listening to, reading information is how they process it.

Active: Active learners like to manipulate objects, experiment, go for trial and error to figure things out. They work well with groups.

Reflective: They think, contemplate, evaluate, analyse. They figure out things by themselves.

Sequential: Sequential learns look for the building blocks to a big picture. They prefer to have information in a linear, orderly manner.

Global: They look at the big picture and then fill in the details. Their approach is much more holistic.


Being Aware Where You Lie on the Spectrum:   

It is important to be aware about one’s learning style so that one knows what they might be missing.

For example, a sequential learner might miss out on the big picture at times, and on the other extreme, a global learner might miss out on the smaller details.

Or, it might take an intuitive learner more time to understand the importance of facts which are needed to substantiate any theory. A sensory learner might underestimate the importance of conceptual clarity.

Visual learners might have trouble “reading” data that has not been presented in graphs and diagrams. Verbal learners might have a tough time handling audio visual learning where they can’t “read” anything.

Reflective learners could take a cue from active learners and focus on decision making rather than just poring over the available details. Active learners could learn some patience and learn to look (closely) before leaping.

Thus, as obvious as it sounds, it is important to strike a balance in terms of the aforementioned dimensions.

Whether you are the learner or the one imparting, it is necessary to identify your learning style, whether it’s a combination of many styles, where you lie in the continuum, what could be missing from your approach and what is the best thing about your approach, and try to understand the same about the person/group you are to learn from/ explain/train.


The Ladder of Inference: Is Your Decision Quick or Rash?

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There is a meeting going on. Someone is giving a presentation, let us call him person A. He expects everyone to pay attention to what he is saying. He spots person B “fidgeting” with his phone. He assumes B is not interested and thus has a problem with him, and at the end of the meeting when B tries to appreciate the presentation, A gives him a cold response.

Turns out, B was on his phone, but contrary to A’s assumption, for a completely different reason: he had forgotten to put his phone on silent, and had just remembered this. So he was just changing the phone settings quickly so that he can pay attention properly to what A had to say. And since it was a new phone B had just recently bought, he was taking more than usual to navigate the settings, he was still getting used to it. B was in fact,  not “fidgeting” with his phone.

Jumping to conclusions is something we are all guilty of. Most of the times it happens unconsciously. We are always in a hurry these days, and any lag in the mechanism is not acceptable. But it is important to be aware about the thin line between a quick decision and a rash decision.

 The Ladder of Inference, also known as the “Process of Abstraction”, is a phenomenon pioneered by organisational psychologist Chris Argyris, and applied by Pete Senge in his book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation.


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In an era of making snap decisions and quick judgements, it is necessary to remember and when possible, apply this conceptual understanding in our corporate interactions. This is a tool that would take us a step closer to objectivity, accuracy and balance.

Now, the Ladder of Inference gives an analogy of our thought processes, as the name suggests, through rungs of a ladder.

  • The first rung is that of Reality and Facts.
  • We then take in and process the reality and facts selectively according to our past experiences and associations. This is the rung of Selected Reality.
  • According to our experiences and associations, we interpret those facts and the reality. This is the rung of Interpreted Reality.
  • We then apply the assumptions that the Interpreted Reality gives us.
  • We draw conclusions based on those assumptions.
  • We form beliefs because we “climbed” to the conclusions.
  • Our actions then are based on those beliefs.

So if we look at the example given, in the reality of the presentation and the meeting:

  • Person A took in and processed the reality of B using his phone according to the former’s existing associations and experience set. There was a process of selection.
  • Person A thus interpreted that B was fidgeting with his phone.
  • He thus assumed that B was not paying attention.
  • So, Person A formed the belief that B must have a problem with him.
  • So, according to this belief, A begins to give a cold shoulder to B. The former’s actions are now governed by the Ladder of Inference he climbed.

One only needs to imagine what would happen if the “conflict” kept on brewing and if it never got addressed.

Let us take another example. Miss Y went for an interview in a crumpled shirt. The interviewer Miss Z  made an assumption in her head that Miss Y is untidy and not so nicely groomed and hence unprofessional. But she decided to not jump to conclusions, and hence decided to simply ask Miss Y the reason for her untidiness. Miss Y then replied that she lives very far away, and she had actually ironed her clothes well, but the three hour crowded local train journey in the heat took away all the crispness.

Miss Z simply paused and asked herself in a quick mental process:

  • Had she dug up enough data?
  • Was the assumption well-founded?
  • Would the assumption lead to a valid conclusion?
  • Had she considered all facts, and are there any other facts she should be looking at?
  • What belief is her action based on, and is there any other better way to act based on a different belief?

These seemingly simple questions go a long way.

All it takes is asking questions at each rung to ensure dialogue, co-operation and better decision making.

The Ladder of Inference thus proves to be useful, in order to not fall off. The rung allows us to be mindful about our thought process and the steps we take while making decisions. Taking conscious pauses while climbing the rung could eventually turn into an unconscious habit, leading us a step closer to making well-informed, well-balanced just decisions.