Archive for May, 2010
A word of appreciation, an open mind, a thoughtful gesture — simple but effective ways of telling colleagues they count..
What does it take to be a good manager? Besides a B-school education, well-honed systems and processes, strategic thinking and implementable action plans, your team will gel if you take the following four steps:
Listen to your colleagues
As symbolised by Ganesh with large ears, a good manager must be listening all the time to pick up the early cues. Even if you are busy, leaving on an international trip, juggling multiple responsibilities, and there is a reporting manager who you know is handling her team well, step in for that 20-minute chat or lend an ear to a colleague you know is hurting or confused. Ensure that the manager is present during the chat because your intention is to help her, not undermine her efforts or relationship. In niche, small organisations people follow people, not ideas. So ask yourself always, Are you someone you would follow? Then listen whole-heartedly to others.
Open your mind, not your mouth
While the quality of one’s speech is judged by the use of words, the quality of one’s listening hinges on the lack of it. Don’t claim to be listening and then rush in to talk, explain, draw parallels or try to offer solutions and suggestions. Be empathetic and let the person say what’s on his or her mind, draw them out with encouraging phrases like “feel free to tell me what is bothering you; I know you say it is a bunch of small things nothing big, but I want to hear them; I don’t want you to feel burdened even by small things; your work is important to me and to our organisation.”
Value add to family
A good boss in India is one who cares about the welfare of employees’ families and cares enough to ask after them and theirs sincerely. A reliable boss is one whom the team member can turn to for assistance or guidance beyond the sphere of work. This bonding in Indian work relationships is now a Harvard study by Peter Capelli and his team.
It is surprising, is it not, that this is a topic of study, because for the longest time “we have been like that only”.
Strengthening this trait in today’s fast-paced life is well worth it. Helping a 10-year-old employee secure a seat for his child in a convent school if you can; giving an interest-free home loan to another longstanding performer; and offering flexi-hours and paperwork support to a key woman employee going through a difficult divorce — such gestures won’t cost you FBT — Fringe Benefit Tax — but they will yield FBL — Forever Bonded Loyalty from key players. Look for ways to help others. What goes around comes around!
Money and bonuses are a given and when more is made, more can be distributed. But going beyond the monetary aspect works magic. A personal note of appreciation to a colleague; a handpicked gift to suit the personality of a particular employee; or a spa or holiday gift or a luncheon with your personal time invested, will mean much more.
Indra Nooyi is an exemplary leader who goes out of her way in this regard. She would write end-of-the-year notes to spouses of her board members for their support through the year that had helped her colleagues work long and effective hours.
But, as she says, her Indian upbringing made her reflect on another important aspect. When she was appointed CEO of Pepsi, friends would come to her home in Chennai and offer a quick word of congratulation to her, but would spend much more time telling her mother how well she had done in raising her daughter and how much she was responsible for her success.
So Nooyi wrote personal notes thanking parents of her board members — and the response was overwhelmingly moving and lasting.
Now, in the next phase, she spends a day with each parent, even flying as far as Mexico to be with one mother, booking a beauty parlour experience for them to enjoy together. She has seen tears of joy and acts of company loyalty grow side-by-side.
Nooyi’s life is her message to us. It is so easy and simple to do, and so easy to forget to do too.
L — Listening, O — Openness, V — Value-adding in the personal sphere, and E — Extending appreciation are the four steps. And it spells LOVE. As the age-old saying goes, Love is what makes the world go round.
A manager or top leader’s attention to love is the needed addition for corporate strategy, capability management modules or Six Sigma to truly succeed.
It is enduring, because, after all, to borrow from 17 th century English poet John Donne, no boss is an island, entire of himself. He needs his people to succeed at work. And Love matters to people.
There is a lot to recommend a business model rooted in Indian philosophy..
If Six Sigma from Japan made it as a model for the corporate world, why hasn’t there been an Indian business wisdom model for the world, I wonder? It just hasn’t been packaged and marketed, I suppose.
This thought spurred others. What do we as Indians do differently from the West?
They call it soul, we call it Atman, the Self, and believe that the one Self in all beings is the only enduring reality. Indian philosophy holds that the rest — the body, mind, world — is of a lower order of reality, as unreal as a dream because of its transient nature.
So we function in the world, but apart from the world. We love things and people, supporting them without getting attached to them or depending on them for our own happiness.
We reiterate this central idea in our daily rituals, sometimes unthinkingly.
We wake up in the morning and chant a verse looking at divinity in our own palms.
Next, we step off the bed and ask Mother Earth forgiveness for stepping on her each day, giving her our load to bear.
We then chant to the toothbrush saying don’t just clean my teeth, clean my mind of impure thoughts and negative qualities such as jealousy and greed.
Then, we chant to the water in the bath, remembering how essential and grateful we are to it, as it represents the sacred rivers nourishing life.
We light a lamp, asking the wick to quell our ego, allowing us to light up with knowledge in our daily life.
We bow to each other, saying Namaste — I bow to the divine in you — greeting the real Self each time in one another.
We wear a dot or forehead mark — a reminder of the importance of balancing inner wisdom through this third eye of knowledge along with the two outer eyes which take in the world, thus helping us look inwards at who we are.
We go about our jobs as duty, offering up action to the Divine — doing our part to the best of our ability without getting over-attached to results, the result we accept as a blessing and as a recompense of past actions.
We give equal importance to Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth, and Saraswati, Goddess of Knowledge, thus balancing materialism with wisdom so that we can remove life’s obstacles.
We focus on material wealth and legitimate desires but also work for right values and liberation (from mental disturbance).
Then we Indians march off to be among the best scientists, engineers and doctors in the world…we find strength in who we are within ourselves daily, it is a way of life not a religion as you can see.
A renaissance for India
The truth is today not many Indians can explain these ideals clearly and are losing some of it as modernisation takes over. I am a staunch believer in a renaissance for Indians. It would be better accepted if we converted this into business talk which makes sense to both the West and to modern India.
How can we do it? Charles Savage, well-known American leadership coach based in Munich (Germany) puts it in a nutshell — An “out of tune radio” never picks up any stations. An “out of tune person is out of touch with the energy of life.”
This philosophy can be loosely translated into a business context and condensed as follows:
Be conscious that what you are doing is part of the Big Picture. Be aware of the Big Picture always.
Be conscious that your business sustains you by using material resources, and you need to plough back.
Cleanse yourself of negativity and self-seeking — think positive and act for the greater good.
Do what you have to do with sincerity and integrity. Accept whatever you get in return as your due reward.
Bottom lines are important but not all-important. Discharge your corporate social responsibilities sincerely. This will add value to the bottom line — profits go beyond figures.
Thus, we retune ourselves to the One Big Signal and reap richer benefits.
Would anyone like to take this forward and turn it into India’s Business Code for Success?