A Piece of Rant Club…

15 05 2008

X: I Am Good At Management…

Me: Why Do You Think So?

X: Umm… I am good at coffee table conversations. I am good at talking to people. My communication skills are super. Top of the world actually. And, finally, I think I am good at coordination (really, any one can schedule meetings and handle logistics! ) and I enjoy doing it.

And finally as the discussion proceeds, I realize that its either the lure of flexible time, or the seemingly easy work that acts as a persistent motivator than the idea of career.

There is a lot of misconception about the so called management roles, at least in the field that I work in. Thought most of the senior people in those roles seem to be doing only talking, preparing pretty presentations, or spending most of their time in meetings, there is lot more under the hood than that meets the eye. One doesn’t account for the years of experience or the knowledge that they are equipped with to handle client demands on the feet, or the experiential insight that they bring in while addressing specific issues. Even bad communicators may have sound understanding or a strategic approach to the problem at hand. We can’t ignore the skills that they bring to the table because someone has bad presentation skills, just the way we can’t give weight for garrulous mouthing of words with little essence.

For those who are contemplating management career or decision making roles, a little bit of soul searching is crucial. List out all the reasons and hidden factors that propel you to consider this option. You can give a load of convincing answers to the world, yet please don’t deceive thyself.

Do you have it in you to face tremendous odds and come out trumps? Can you handle tremendous pressure or do you get fizzled out at the drop of a hat? Do you have the never-say-die spirit or do you give up easily and are driven by the principle of fatalism, i.e. the belief that you don’t have control over your deeds and some external force like God determines that.

After going through these discussions umpteen number of times, and talking to aspiring MBAs my mood turned nostalgic as I leafed through those memories of college days. I am blessed with a great mentor during my engineering days, and I am sharing a piece of those exchanges. These are times when I feel that the basics of these questions hasn’t changed over 5 years.

Why you want to do MBA?
1. Is it for money?
2. Is it for fame?
3. Is it for getting power?
4. Is it for getting a good job?
5. Is it for getting social recognition?
6. Is it because you want to make a career in Management?
7. Is it because you like to take challenges?
8. Is it because you want to broaden your horizons?
9. Is it because you have an academic bent of mind?
10. Is it for the sense of achievement?
11. Is it to get yourself equipped with an additional degree so that you can have an edge in this dog-eat-dog world?
12. Is it because you get turned ON by business and economy like nothing else?
13. Is it because you have nothing else to do?
14. Is it because of peer pressure?
15. Is it just for the sake of it and enjoyment?
16. Is it for making yourself more eligible in the marriage market?

It doesn’t require a great deal of analysis to figure out the secret motivator behind picking brain about management roles. For most of us in corporate field, its unavoidable. As we add on experience to the work life, most of our work or output depends on the deliverables of others. Thats when people management, communication, planning and organization skills come into play. For some, a management degree is a way to break free from the technical roles or a launchpad into different industries. For students, MBA is either a lucrative career option or a way to extend unemployment. ( Pun intended :) )

But for those with mammoth goals and lofty aspirations, I am sharing this piece of advice that I received years ago from my mentor.

“A person doesn’t become a CEO just by doing MBA or just having the desire. The culmination is only due to untiring efforts and careful grooming over many years. Do bear that in mind. Although, having lofty ambitions is laudable, being nervous even before the battle has begun doesn’t behoove you. You need to have the emotional poise to handle things at ease. “

And finally, chill. We are all good at management in one way or the other. We all are managing our lives without much catastrophes. Acquiring management skills isn’t rocket science if we put our mind and heart to it. They say, vision without action is a dream and action without vision is a nightmare. Be true to the choices of life and be true to your dreams and longings. Life will sail on much more easily and happily.

How To Be A Good Leader..

18 12 2007

Now that’s a question that rings in my mind quite often, since I joined the corporate world. Am trying to capture some reflections and experiences here, distilled from some real life’s learnings. Its tough to be a good leader or a boss, and its even tougher to acknowledge our weaknesses and the impact that we have on others. Yet, the more we grow in age, experience and cadre, the more our efforts and work is dependent on the contributions of others.

Now, what are the personality attributes that can make someone tick as a good leader or boss? They are pretty much visible to commonsense and are for experience. Tell me how many good leaders have you met in a daily work life context? Yet, there are some real qualities that differentiate them from the common managers and leave a lasting impression in mind. Here is a collection of some of those in an effort to identify, acknowledge and probably inculcate them..

Humility And Courtesy

Ok Ok.. That was pun intended! :-) yet, On a serious note, see most of the people who are in influential positions to be most humble and open to people around them. In any knowledge and people intensive industry, what differs one from another is how they apply their uniquely gifted talents and skills. No one is superior or inferior to another and the more we acknowledge this, the more enriching we become.

In fact, those guys who are most likely to throw their weight around are typically in the middle management or in support group as they are often responsible for executing decisions taken by others whether they agree or disagree. Hence, the craving for false significance which reflects in the demonstration of pseudo authority through bossism and shortsightedness. Watch out if you are indulging in this. This behavior can help you get along the day, but not far.

Celebrating Success and Credit Sharing

Celebration is fun. Sharing the success and joy builds the team spirit and unity. Celebrating successes and failures is the essence of life. Don’t you think so? Yet, so often, going through the rhythms of the corporate mumbo jumbo, we often rarely stop for that little pat on back. Hold a little party, acknowledge others’ contribution and live up to the saying-‘one for all and all for one’. Everyone loves to feel important and wants their work to add value to the organization and team. Be genuine and say thanks to all those who made your graphs sparkle in whatever minor way.

Sense Of Humor and Fun

Quite needed in high pressure environment. Humor brings in fresh perspectives and makes us more open to challenges and other possibilities. Added to that, a sense of fun energizes workspaces and makes us more productive. Life is a huge practical joke. Identifying the humor and playing along can really soothe nerves. Don’t wear sleeves on heart, try the vice versa.. :-)

Staying Calm And Leading By Example in Moments of Crisis

There is no fun in scrambling around and getting worked up on minor crisis situations at work. Accept it. Risks and failures are a part and parcel of life. Its no fun indulging in blame game and taking a free ride on the tension swing. Stand for oneself and for the team and show that you are there and you care. Be around like a breather or a tower of strength in moments of crisis and exude confidence and positivity. Tough call? Indeed. It requires continuous effort.

Being Flexible And Playing The Good Listener

Are you that kind of boss, who stares at the laptop when your teammate drops in for a quick chat? The most vital part of leadership is to acknowledge that people have different priorities and your task list may not figure out on the top of theirs. Acknowledge their personal priorities, be flexible to work out win-win options and always be open, approachable and listen to what others are saying or not saying. Be a people developer and lend an ear when needed. Life may seem to be measured on how many millions we made, yet what counts in the end is how many lives we touched and how many smiles we spread.

Clarity and Expertise in Work

Be sure of what you are talking about and what you want to achieve. Most of the bosses I know falter at this. Often the delegation looks like this.

If you are not sure of what you want, not even the best of the world teammates can help you achieve it. Have clarity on what you want to achieve and then communicate it effectively to your team. It can do wonders.

And, trust me, no one wants to work for a dull head. Never stop learning and understand the significance of the contribution that you are making. Do you think only talent shows? Stupidity is even more tantalizingly evident. Don’t make suggestions under the pretense of adding value. :-)

Trust and Motivation

The last on my list and the most important one. Believe in team, assert your trust, enlist them in your mission and give them space to carry on. That’s what is called effective and efficient delegation. Noone really wants to work for a boss who don’t trust their capabilities and hovers around like an intrusive security camera. Ask the one who tried. He probably doesn’t have a team now.

As beautifully put by Antoine de Saint-Exupery,

“If you want to build a ship
don’t herd people together to collect wood
and don’t assign them tasks and work,
but rather teach them to long for the
endless immensity of the sea.”

Ultimately, it all boils down to this. People are leaders because they choose to lead. Else, they stay managers.. Now I see why this became a huge article! I can actually title this as ‘7 habits to be a successful leader’. :-) It’s tough to make sense of what makes a leader tick. If I missed anything, let me know.

Management Failures..

5 12 2007

Ever wondered what would that mean? I had a brush of it in the corporate context. I have seen some great teams collapse due to sad leadership. I could see some real gem of talent migrate to greener pastures and some great ideas being nibbed at the start due to management failure or ego hassles. Sometimes it feels hopeless to see all this wastage and negative energy happening around just due to the dearth of management and leadership skills.

Why is it so difficult to sense the potential of people around us, how difficult it is to give credit to people for what they have done, and how much time does it take to acknowledge someone’s contribution? All it needs is a little bit of listening, a modicum of concern, enthusiasm, energy and genuine warmth, which became like a rare phenomenon in today’s context. Placing trust has become so difficult on today’s managers who are driven by their goal sheets and checklists with little concern to the people reporting to them. Probably being a part and parcel of knowledge intensive industry, I can see how the manipulation of energies of the people can make or break businesses in the current day context.

What an intoxicator power or authority is! I saw it change sweet smiling people into work extraction units. Yes, I understand professionalism is about of focusing on outcomes, and being work oriented but why cant we have a sensitivity to the expectations of the people around us? Just because we have an authority to wield the stick, we can’t really expect to get the work done by throwing our weight around. I see a lot of intellectual racism in action with a lot of unproductive team meetings, where people engage in blame game due to lack of time management, role clarity, and lack of trust and focus from management.

I see different types of managers around me, but those who work on their personal learning while aiding to the professional growth of their team are quite rare. What I see are those people who engage in politics and credit snatching, those who rest on the shoulders of their team and hammer them down to rise taller. Guess one of the toughest challenges of the current organizations is middle management. And I cant deny the importance of organizational culture in developing team, people and management skills. We talk about business continuity, right? How much onus are we placing on the leadership for talent migration, team failure, productivity concerns and team motivation levels? Guess we need some soul searching there..

Credit Sharing…

30 11 2007

Am just back from a little crib session and this was a hot topic there. How surprising it is to see this issue popping up in so many conversations. Credit Sharing is an important aspect of managing any team structure and I am sad to see many ignore it in their way to glory.

I am not trying to bring in Ayn Rand philosophy of selfishness here as in the current organizational context, in Indian industry, we work with people and the more we grow in our career, the more our success is dependent on the inputs and support offered by the others. Especially in IT industry, where a lot of work is structured around groups and teams, it is even ridiculous to ascribe the credit to a single person in the success of a project. Yet, I see this phenomenon of credit snatching and credit hiding instead of credit sharing. I don’t see any logic in blaming team for failure and appreciating manager for success.

In fact, some of the best leaders I have met in the industry are successful in their career are those who realize the potential of the people working for them and put it to effective use by aiding to their professional and personal growth. Though I hear some say that don’t mix up emotions in professional life, how can it be possible that we are emotionally insensitive to the people around us?

I can sense that people follow leaders, not the rule books. Please be the guiding hand to those you work with, making sure that they don’t need anything instead of dictating their lives and taking credit for their efforts. A little bit of recognition can do wonders for motivation levels and the work environment. And all those entry level people, it also means acknowledging the existence of the security personnel or those receptionists instead of treating them like pieces of furniture. A little pat on the back, a gentle smile or a small nod can do wonders, trust me.

Work Life Balance..

7 11 2007

One of the most quoted phrases in HR lingo.. And what a powerful myth to dream about! Balance.. Hmm.. Isn’t work a part of life? And how easily we use this, as if we can apportion our time between work and life. Somehow I have always felt that the more I call something work or job, the less I am interested in doing it..

Whenever I think of this phrase in particular, some of the assignments that I did as a part of Indigenous Management course in IMDR flashes in my mind. I have interacted with a lot of people in indigenous industries and its impressive to observe how their work is entwined in their life. When we bunch of students went and saw their work locations, what caught out eye was the pride that radiated in their faces when they were displaying their wares. What struck me was how much love and purpose they could sense in their life and how closely connected are their personal and work lives. Their career instills a sense of purpose into their personal life.

How much ever I wish to compartmentalize my life, its not always possible. Whatever tensions I face in my professional environment rubs off in my personal space. I never seem to attain that magic balance. Life for me is intense and I plan to explore it to the fullest. Work is fun and focus. Either I love the work I do or do the work I love. Period! And where there is love, fun and a sense of enjoyment, there seems a lack of caution, control and balance.. Don’t you think so?

Choice Or Default?

12 10 2007

Generalist Vs. Specialist?? Guess this thought always rings in my mind.. Unofficial commonsense says that you can understand and learn the tricks of the trade in any specific work in 6 months.. Not convinced? May be one year. Could be two as well.. It ultimately depends on your comfort level.. Official Office Wisdom suggests that one becomes an expert if he has parked himself in the same stream for years together. Happens quite often in industry, right?

When people talk about Job Hopping and Loyalty and when I come across the so many specialists, a nagging thought always pops up in my mind. Are they in this field by choice or by default? Sometimes its so easy to stick on to what we know rather than go ahead and explore what we want. Especially when we are choosing our profession or a specialization.. We go by market trends or popularity index.. We drown ourselves in that work, be it SAP, ERP or MBA seldom giving it a second thought. Whenever that mindless frenzy tires our souls, few people would be able to answer what drives them to work on Monday morning? Is it love for job Or is it just another Manic Monday (ala Bangles fame)?

Career choices can be so tricky. Most of us make their careers in one specific direction just because someone advised them so. Or its just that they ended up doing what they are doing by fluke and are afraid to venture into a new field as it could be risky.

Robert A. Heinlein says, “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

I know its totally out of context. Yet, is it? If you work in the field that you love, years pass on like days and that thirst for knowledge and zeal to learn never dies. I have seen some real specialists whose love for the job keeps them going. Its amazing to watch them live on the job. They work to live to their internal standards and for their individual passion.. On other side are those Generalists who venture into every field they come across, taking life and career as it comes and being adaptable to the demands of life.

Whatever category you belong to, always be on the side of those who has the luxury to wake up to do what they love to do everyday! It could be your choice (that was the field you dreamed into your life since childhood! ) or what fate has conjured it for you (yes, there is a long list of situations, responsibilities, fate, destiny with you to corroborate) . Yet, my only piece of advice is this. Love what you do or do what you love. Else, you will end up in a perennial crib club ride in life!

I Went Strength Hunting

9 10 2007

Today. Yes, I took this Clifton StrengthsFinder at our office. It is considered as a exercise to find an individual’s dominant themes, strengths and talents. Apparently, this is not a free online test. One has to purchase one of the Gallup Organization’s books which has a one time test ID along with them. Though its an optional test, curiosity got better of me and there I was getting the course ID, switching on the music and logging on to discover myself. :-)

The verdict is out! My dominant talents out of the 34 themes are Woo, Input, Achiever, Arranger, Self-Assurance. Initially, I felt a little quizzical at the names of those themes! Input? (Sounds like processing stuff!) Woo? (It got a nice ring and rhythm though!) Yet, I have reserved a marked respect for these tests, having gone through Pulin Garg’s research, MBTI during my academic days. Its always easy to play the cynic, than to be pick the best out of something. So I took a closer look at the descriptions of these five themes. The least I could do to the years of research Don has put into this project. Am posting them online over here though and am not sure of copyright. Take a closer look!

People strong in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over. They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with another person.

People strong in the Self-Assurance theme feel confident in their ability to manage their own lives. They possess an inner compass that gives them confidence that their decisions are right.

People strong in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.

People strong in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.

People strong in the Arranger theme can organize, but they also have a flexibility that complements this ability. They like to figure out how all of the pieces and resources can be arranged for maximum productivity.

If I muse on at all sorts of the personality profiles and tests that I took so far, I guess they do have their merits. They offer an insight (some do!) into oneself, facilitate introspection (the moment someone is talking about us, we reflect), and make us feel good! Chalo, let me admit this. I guess friends can better vouch for them than a thirty minute personality test. Who can talk about myself better than me? I would say that this test could profile the kind of activities that I indulge in a pretty decent fashion. Now my thought process mirrors like this. What is the use of this information? How can I capitalize on this? Any thoughts?


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