Author and lecturer Srikumar Rao says he teaches executives and entrepreneurs how to boost their effectiveness, shape their careers in line with their desires, and use their vision to create companies where people want to work. He developed his "Creativity and Personal Mastery coursework on Long Island, as a business course for LIU Post.
Originally from India, where he earned his MBA, Rao, 64, worked as a marketing executive in the United States while earning a PhD in marketing from Columbia University. He later headed into academia.
"My epiphany was, Why don't I create a course that will take the teachings of the world's greatest masters, strip them of religious, cultural and other connotations, and adapt them so that they are acceptable to intelligent people in the postindustrial society," he said. He has since taught his business courses at Columbia, Northwestern, Berkeley, and the London Business School, as well as at companies such as Google, Merrill Lynch and Johnson & Johnson.
Rao also teaches classes and presents workshops in Glen Cove through his company, The Rao Institute, with a new session beginning in January. His most recent book is "Happiness at Work: Be Resilient, Motivated and Successful -- No Matter What."
What's the biggest dilemma most executives face?
The level of stress in their lives and the fact that they're on a fine curve oscillating between elation and despair. It's happening faster with globalization; competition is anywhere. Who would have thought that a computer company like Apple would completely upend the music industry? The only way you're going to survive is if you can surf the waves when it comes, learning on the 2-foot waves first so when the tsunami hits, you'll look back and say "What a wonderful view."
How do you help executives shape their careers?
If you have it in your mind that you're building the cathedral of your life and that's what you're dedicated to, you don't become complacent. Because that's a grand vision that's pulling you on.
What's an example of how people can invest in the process versus the outcome?
A CEO of a major corporation would put in for bids and noticed his employees were very busy thinking, "We've got to win the bid, we've got to crush the competition." After taking my program, he said, "Let's simply think about putting forward the best bid that we can. If we lost the bid, what would we regret not having done?" By not focusing on winning, they actually won more bids overall, over time.
What would you say to the person who says spirituality has no place in business?
Many companies do well according to certain financial metrics, but I look at things from a much bigger perspective than just finances: Is this a company that people want to work at, is it a company people genuinely feel allegiance to and say "Hey I want to belong there, it feeds my soul as well as my pocketbook and it is doing good in the world."
What are some tips to eliminate workplace stress?
First, recognize that things are under your control. You have actively constructed your circumstances with your mental models. If you want a meaningful, purposeful life, it's in your hands and nobody else's. If you're overwhelmed, breathe deeply for two minutes, all the way down to the bottom of your belly. You will find that you bring a much clearer head, and you don't get sucked away by your emotions. The next thing is, every time you're being pulled away by any strong emotion, by anger, by lust, by fear, don't get carried away by the agitation, just witness it: "(I'm) becoming agitated because I have a deadline and haven't completed the work yet." So you're not judgmental, you're not saying it's good or bad, you're simply observing it. And then, don't be in a hurry to label a situation as bad that might become good. The moment you say "this is terrible," the suffering begins.
NAME: Srikumar Rao, CEO, The Rao Institute LLC in Commack
WHAT IT DOES: Personal and professional development seminars offering "radical transformation" for executives and entrepreneurs
EMPLOYEES: 2 full time, 5 part time
REVENUE: $400,000 to $500,000