Accessible, Affable, Amiable, & Available

A favorite nursery rhyme goes:

Higgledy Piggledy my black hen; She lays eggs for gentlemen;

Sometimes nine and sometimes ten; Higgledy Piggledy my black hen.

I am about to “clack” and “cluck” and lay one Golden Egg (not 9 or 10) for you: the formula for success, silver bullet that overcomes all, sure fire recipe for triumph!! Ladies and Gentlemen, what you need to do is simply be Accessible, Affable, Amiable and Available. And your life is made!!! Permit me to explain.

In the early school days who was your best friend? whom were you most attracted to? It was a super friendly Ajit or a Daduly (elder brother to all in school); you went towards them because they were affable, amiable, friendly. You could easily tell them what was bothering you.  Not that they had an immediate solution to your problem. But the fact that you could easily approach them and tell your woes was enough to unburden you. They were your “heroes” in school.

Take even the teachers. Whom do you remember most fondly even now? and why? It was a Somalingam (Somu, to the entire school, behind his back of course!) or Miss Nagpal or Mrs Chatterjee. Remember them? They all, without exception, were accessible and available. You could easily tell them when the boy sitting next to you forcibly took away your new color pencils or the boy seated behind enjoyed kicking you whenever teacher was not looking. Approachable and friendly have ensured their place in your memory, for life time.

Why school alone? think of your family. We have all had a Aba Mama or a Sudha Atya or a Aju dada who was, is and will ever be special. Other relatives also pampered you, yet these people had a special secret sauce which went straight for your jugular. They were always there for you. They were super affectionate. And you never hesitated telling them what you wanted. Whether it was watching Royal Circus from the first row or getting more than your share of cashewnuts and mangoes, they always made it happen. It was as though you were special in their lives, and not the other way around.

Comes the landmark of college.  Whether you were in a nerdy college like Parle or Ruparel, who made it as the President of the Students’ Union? It was Mr Charm. The guy who could be in 20 groups at one time (much before Facebook and WhatsApp) and all groups thought of him as their special friend. Affability was their middle name  and they were accessible 24*7 whenever anyone had a crisis. I talk of course of the times before the Students’ Bodies got politicized and money began talking loudly in these fora. Otherwise it was always Mr Amiable & Accessible who ruled the roost. Even in professional colleges like IIMs/XLRI/TISS, Mr Popular managed and ran all the events and the skunk-dos. And we “intellectuals” were more than happy to accept them as leaders.

Next stage: job and corporate India. In my 37 years of studying  corporate leaders, if there is one formula I have seen ALL successful leaders follow it is this simple truth : they are accessible, affable, amiable and available. I had the privilege to work under someone who was the epitome of these characteristics. I talk of course of Arun Bhende. Though from a premier institute like TISS,  intelligence was not his claim to fame. But his accessibilty and good nature ensured that when he joined Siemens, union leaders from all his previous companies still considered him as their chief adviser. He was always available to them and gave his time freely. His affable demeanor was such that besides unions, managements were also seeking his advice. And his contacts in the Government machinery meant that the third party to any industrial dispute: the Labour Commissionarate also sought him out for suggestions and guidance! (I often wondered how he kept chalk and cheese & oil and water apart!)

Professional things apart, anyone from Arun’s friend circle or acquaintances never thought twice before calling him for any problem, whatsoever!! I have seen Arun arrange buses for a union to take members on a morcha to Sachivalaya. And then telling the transport contractor not to charge as they are a union: “think of it as social service”. During the time of cooking gas shortages (none had 2 cylinders or piped gas then) I myself have been one of the many beneficiaries of getting out of turn allotment through his kind offices. Amul Butter shortage: call Arun. Party at home and you require Scotch: Arun. Hospital or school admissions were just too simple. Son needs a job: Arun. Daughter in law needs a transfer in a nationalized bank: Arun will find some contact. The day I thought he was not Arun Bhende but GOD himself was when someone called as a cat was stuck on a tree opposite his house at 4th floor level. He actually called Arun and asked what should be done. And imagine my sheer horror when Arun replies: ” Don’t worry, I know the Fire Brigade InCharge of that locality. I will ask him to send a snorkel to bring the cat down.” And all this done with a smile!! Affability, amiability, availability and accessibility personified was Arun.

I have seen this formula repeat ad infinitum. Think of your best boss : was he available to you anytime, everytime? Or was he grumpy and moody?  You will still recollect the smile which always played on this supercool boss’s face as he took things in his stride and made friends and followers, even as he solved problems.

Enough stories abound on the internet about Abdul Kalam as a boss in ISRO & DRDO. His people gave their best for him and the organization because their boss was always there for them. Think of other legendary corporate biggies: Rusi Mody, Sumant Moolgaonkar, Mr Gaitonde of Century Enka to name a few in the earlier generation. M/s Anand Mahindra, Nandan Nilekani,  Azim Premji ,  KV Kamath,  Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw,  Arundhati Bhattacharya,  Kishore Bayani. Need more names? Do you think any one of them would have been successful if they were not accessible to everyone in their team, approachable to draw out the best thoughts and plans their teams could come up with, and lead the teams with amiability and affability? A great leader is made finally by a team who give their individual best for the collective good. And that cake can be baked only by a leader who knows the secret recipe of these personal characteristics.

So you: Don’t try to be the smartest guy around. Be accessible to the people around you. And when they come to you with ideas or problems, be available to help them think it though and then run interference on their behalf. Be amiable and affable so that they love to work with you and give their best. Be affable and available so that your peers &  colleagues help keep your plans and ideas afloat. If you are able to do this, success will follow. This is the formula, the Golden egg which will give rich dividends in your personal and professional lives.

Don’t thank me, thank  Higgledy Piggledy, my black hen : vikas

PS: I owe the title words to KJo. He says he is a successful producer/director as he is affable, amiable, accessible and available. I rest my case.