Imagine that you hear the phrase “It’s beautiful”, not once, twice but over a hundred times daily. How would you react? Let me also clarify that this is happening in your natural surroundings and you are in full control of your physical and mental capacities. In other words, you are not high on meth in a pot shop. I was subject to this very surreal experience last week.

All thanks to Nhu.

Nhu is a slightly built hardwood floor contractor whose services we engaged for obvious reasons. What is less obvious is the leadership, integrity and engagement lessons he imparted which will endure long after he left the confines of our dwelling.

But it all started with “It’s beautiful”.

Again, and again and again. What am I talking about?

Well, it sounded strange at first. Amidst the eardrum-splitting noise of wood cutting, fitting and hammering I heard a loud voice emanating from Nhu staring closely at every few panels after they were fitted and proclaiming “It’s beautiful”. Not just his panels but every one that his small team of workers was engaged with. I pretended to ignore it and at first thought, he was doing it to impress us so we would not complain. But then I observed more closely and he could care less whether we were in earshot or not. He was immersed in the job and loving it. The back-breaking, knee hurting, and sweat-inducing labor, all punctuated by the mesmerizing “It’s beautiful”.

Finally, I had to do it. I walked up to him and asked him. Why? And he placed his hand on my shoulder and looked me in the eye and said. “As you can see this is hard work. And as a leader, it is my job to inspire my guys and appreciate the quality of work that we do. It is a tonic that always works. And we really do an amazing job. All I do is call it out”. #Wow.

And then I pondered some more and three takeaways emerged from the “Its beautiful” strategy

1.    #leadership – Nhu captured this beautifully. Give the team and yourself a reason to believe in the amazing work that is being performed. Don’t wait till the destination. All along the way.

2.    #integrity – Don’t fake it till you make it. Much like Capt. Jason Lopez, he believed in what he did and the articulation of “Its beautiful” was his soul speaking out. Say it if you mean it.

3.    #engagement – Unconsciously we (my wife and I) were dragged into his poetry and started noticing details about his eye for detail, demeanor, and respect for his team. The customers were engaged. We could all take a leaf from Nhu and aspire to become high-integrity and engaging leaders in our daily lives. And once we get there, nay, even during the journey, constantly say those magical words … “Its beautiful”. Reminds me of Sam Cooke’s evergreen hit “What a wonderful world that would be”.



    Empathy, Education, Empowerment

    Mine is a typical Indian immigrant story: an Engineer who became an Engineering Manager, who grew antsy and segued into Product Management then rose to VP and SVP. During those years I fancied I was innovating and experimenting, but in reality I was wearing a corporate straitjacket. Constrained by my industry’s insular mindset, I became a slave to the definition of my job. Inevitably, I ended up dissatisfied. So, I did something unusual for a man in my position: I stopped to reflect. I searched my life and talents for what was fulfilling and had purpose. I discovered I enjoyed storytelling to promote understanding. I loved mentoring and helping people become the best version of themselves. Importantly, I realized I was still passionate about the tech industry, particularly the issues surrounding privacy and ethics. Today, I’m pursuing my passions. I like to think of myself as an accelerator of technology and positivity. I’m the COO of UberKnowledge, bringing cybersecurity awareness and training to demographics that are underrepresented in the industry. I speak at conferences highlighting the need for a sharper focus on the ethics surrounding the technology industry.  I write articles and blog posts using analogy to simplify technology trends and complex topics like AI and IoT. I host podcasts with CISOs and other industry experts. The purpose of these is not to sell snake oil or products but to bridge the chasm between security vendors and customers so that the real problems can be solved to make the world a safer place. Underpinning all of these efforts is my belief that life’s purpose for us all is simply to connect. And the best way to do that is through generous and positive gestures.