Four lessons I am taking away from India (and why we should all be in awe)

I have just come to the end of a very intensive one-day workshop in Hyderabad, India. We covered story-telling the Amplify way, which means a huge leap out of anybody’s comfort zone. I had gotten them to open up, to hum, to shout across the room, whisper under tables, to tell the story of Microsoft like never before, volunteer in front of their peers (all 166 of them) and learn to listen. Their brains were frazzled. Normally at this point people come over, say their thanks and disappear. Not these graduates, not in this country. The cameras came out (all 166 of them), the photo bombing launched, the Bangra music came on and before I knew it we were in a dance off. Let me repeat – the workshop had ENDED. They could go home, but they wanted to stay and celebrate!!

Now that is a bunch of people who know how to say thank you, who know how to mark the end of a day and to pay attention to the coach and show their gratitude. You would NEVER get this in England, in Europe, in … I have been around a fair bit and, well I don’t think you’d get this anywhere else. So – here are five things I am taking from India:

1) Customer service is exactly that – service. The attention the Microsoft Graduates paid to me was no different to the taxi driver, the concierge, every waiter in the hotel and in fact any stranger who always let me out of the lift first (despite me trying). Theirs is a simply a culture of service. Yes there will be things that frustrate – yes I was verbally attacked by five “guides” seeing a white guy at a tourist site and trying to make money from me, yes I had to walk quickly and say “No” a lot, but despite this, I feel a deep love and respect for the care and attention everyone gave to me in this wonderful country. 

2) Be grateful for what I have. I have two I-phones (one work, one home) and a pair of Bose headphones that I love. None of that is wrong. But I have taken them for granted. When I got in the taxi, Prem, the driver said to me “You must love music” and talked about my headphones like they were something amazing. For Prem, these headphones represented passion and something really special. For me, they represent a chance to switch off from the world and I get a bit annoyed about having to carry them around. I just need to stop and take a moment to enjoy what role they play in the story of my life. It is amazing that I could buy these headphones. I used to be an out-of-work actor on £75 a week. Now, I get to coach around the world and get lost in music as I de-compress from the wonderful intense days of coaching.

3) Be vulnerable. Yes, I say this a lot. Half of the graduates were from a rural background. This doesn’t mean they lived in the equivalent of the Cotswolds with Wifi and all access to they city. They are first generation city workers. They come from villages where the post arrives every fifteen days, where there is no Wifi, no email, one school. They have left everything they know to come and work in Hyderabad. My first Volunteer, Yoga stood up and told us her story. When she arrived at Microsoft three months ago, her parents said goodbye and she started to cry. She turned on her phone and Cortana said “Hello there my friend”. She said having Cortana is like having an invisible friend who is always listening and in that moment it brought her real comfort. There was pin-drop silence. A complete honouring of a very vulnerable story. We may be tempted to laugh reading this, but it happened, it is true and she dared to tell us. She then said “Everyone should be like Cortana. We may not be able to understand everything people say, but we will always listen”.

4) Take time to Celebrate. I may not break out in a badly choreographed Bangra dance routine every time I finish coaching (and Liz, my wife, would dis-own me if I did, as would my kids), but perhaps I could take a moment to look around at my clients, take in nature, enjoy the wonder of the city I am in and say a silent “Yes, job well done”. There is power in that. It grounds us and reminds us of who we are and what we care about.

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