As Leaders all of us Professionals and Entrepreneurs interact with several people in the Business. We need to manage several relationships to succeed at the job. One of the most important relationships is that of Boss and Sub-ordinate. I see several Professionals not being able to manage the relationship with the Boss. I feel this happens to many Professionals at some point of Career or the other. Usually when you become more senior Professional.
Let me give an account of my own experience in my career so far with my Bosses!
Totally Aligned: I have experienced a wonderful relationship with a few Bosses with whom I was totally aligned. The relationship was wonderful. The Boss was appreciating my strengths, I was worshipping my Boss’s Qualities and trying to learn. The relationship was just perfect. I was able to have this relationship at a relatively early stage in my career.
Absolutely no fit: There was this type of relationship with one or two people where there was no common ground at all. My methodology and my Boss’s methodology just did not match at all. The relationship just did not click at all. This happened to me when I was early into the Job as well as mid stage.
Trying to align and give up: Then there was this type of Boss where there were some disagreements, you try to manage them respectfully as you have seen some amount of life. But when it is going on beyond a point, you just give up. This happened after good number of years of experience.
Manage a Respectable relationship: Then, I have experienced a few relationships with my Bosses (Both in full time job and in Consultancy) where there are number of disagreements. But we deal with them respectfully and keep going forward. Looking back, I could do this quite early in my career. Of course I do it day in and day out as a Consultant / Coach / Entrepreneur.
When I look back, I am able to appreciate the point of view of every Boss with whom I worked. I am able to look at the relationship that I had with them from a distance and able to appreciate why some of them worked and why some of them did not. I feel it depends on the stage of your career as well as the Compatibility of the People involved.
Fresher and Boss: In many ways this is a very nice relationship. The Boss does not have any axe to grind as the subordinate is a fresher. The Fresher is also starry eyed and looking at his Boss with admiration. Of course, there are again some relationships where the Fresher and the Boss just do not see eye to eye. In this case the Fresher quickly changes the job.
Growing Manager and Boss: There is that stage in your Career when you start growing rapidly. If you and your Boss are aligned, your Boss may be the one who is helping you grow. But in other cases, the Boss may be very uncomfortable with this guy who seems to be growing in stature every day!
Challenger: Then there is this stage where you may be just as senior and competent as your Boss. You are too close to him for his/her comfort. The relationship will be tense. The Boss would be peeping over your shoulder perennially. Boss may feel that you are a Challenger to his position.
Senior Colleague: Then you would gain years of experience and become a Senior Colleague to your Boss. Technically he is your Boss. But as both of you are senior Professionals, the relationship is more like a Senior colleague rather than a reportee.
With my personal experience of Managing / Mis Managing the relationship with my Bosses in my career and with my experience of watching many Senior Professionals as a Consultant / Coach / Entrepreneur, I would recommend some Best Practices in Managing the relationship with the Boss.
You need to Manage the relationship: First of all we should recognize that there is a need to ‘Manage’ the relationship with the Boss. Many a times you may think that just working with all your heart is what is just needed. Everything else will fall in place. It may not. You need to recognize that your Boss is another Human being with his own imperfections as you have imperfections yourself. When I say you have to ‘Manage’ your relationship, I mean the good way. I am not talking about the practice of just trying to please the Boss. Those who are doing it and doing well do not need to read this article. I can’t add much value to them. Recognizing that there is a need to Manage the relationship is the first step.
If you are not able to agree that you need to Manage the Relationship, then spend more time on this. Talk to your friends. You are welcome to talk to me. You need to be convinced about this basic foundation.
Many a times we may take extra efforts with our Team. But we may feel the Boss has to do it with us and we may just not take any effort to manage our Relationship. But I feel this argument is flawed. At a senior level both the people need to put in effort. The Boss may be finding it difficult to ‘Manage’ you. Give him a chance!
Understanding the Priorities and aligning: Usually after you have put a good number of years in the industry, you would develop your own way of working. If you get a Boss who is able to just leave it to you, then it makes the job easy. But many a times you may have a Boss who is as Strong willed and who is having as much experience as you are. Then it is required to understand his /her Priorities and align with him. It is just fine to modify your Goals and methods of reaching them. Either he listens to you or you listen to him. But if the disagreement is strong, don’t just duck it. Try to deal with it. As Marshall Goldsmith says we have to make peace with the fact that it is the Boss who decides many things around you. You need to accept this fact.
Communication: Understand the amount of Communication your Boss needs. If in doubt, you can ask. But many Bosses may not be able to articulate well about how much Communication they need. For example, I need a lot of communication from my Team. I am happy with someone who communicates a lot with me and then understands what need to be communicated and how. Understand your Boss’s preference. Please note that it is worth doing this.
Reach out to him as a Human Being: Very often you label your Boss with Positives and Negatives at work. You may not see the Human side of him/her. Try to reach out to your Boss to just do that. I have seen many Bosses who do this very well with their Team members. I had a Boss who would invite the team to his home and play a wonderful Host! I could see a very different sensitive side of him in those interactions. Another Boss was very good in feeding people! You would go back home much heavier if you go to his home for Lunch/Dinner! You need to take the same effort with your Boss! It is needed!
Genuine appreciation: You need to give Genuine Appreciation to your Boss when it is due! This is a smart way of letting him know what you like about what he is doing. You may get more of it in return! Without this, your Boss would not know what you like about him/her. Don’t fake it. He/she would know it.
Formal Feedback: Try a formal feedback session with your Boss at least once an year. Sometimes you may need it twice a year. This will work with some Bosses and does not with some others. Where it is not working, look for subtle signals to understand the feedback. It is tougher. But you need to put in the effort. There is a Danger of misunderstanding him/her. Try your Best to validate your understanding.
Learn from your Team’s feedback: Many a times you can learn from the feedback that you may get from your own Team. If you can reflect, you can pick up many learnings. You can look at gap in reality vs your thinking about various team members opinion about happenings in the team.
Managing a Disagreement: With all your efforts too, you would have disagreements with your Boss. Expect them. The problem is bigger if you are expecting a wonderful stain less relationship!! If you are old enough, you would have understood that it is quite okay to have disagreements with your Children and your Spouse. So why you can’t live with some disagreements with your Boss?
When there is a Disagreement, look for what is the Best solution for the situation. Don’t get hooked to your position beyond a point. Take the opinion of various Colleagues. Do not go only to like-minded Colleagues. It is comforting to gang up with similar thinking colleagues. It is important to go to Colleagues who think dissimilar to you in these situations. You need to put effort to understand the other point of view. We need to have belief that the other person is having the Best intentions when he/she is suggesting something. This may be your opportunity to Learn something different.
My own experience of such situations is that when I managed such situations, my learning was wonderful. It took me to the next level as a Professional and as a Human being. When I ducked those situations, I missed out on the Learnings!
We need some Humility!
My experience is that those with some Humility can manage the Relationships much better! Those of us who are still having rough edges find it more difficult to manage relationships. Rough edges (in terms of our behavior) would hurt others and they hurt us more!
One good practice to learn Humility is to have Gratitude.
You need to write down what all you are grateful about in your life. Thank those who helped you to gain in them in your life. Do this every morning. This teaches you Humility! This would totally rewire you if you are sincere to the cause.
With more Humility we would manage our relationships much better. We would understand that taking everyone along with you (including your Boss) is more important than having some Bright ideas in your head and a feeling that your thoughts are superior to everyone else’s. You would become more tolerant to others’ ideas.
Wish you more Harmony in your Relationships! It is needed to reach your Goals!
For a Leader to be successful, especially in these fast-changing times, he/she has to be Learning continuously. But Learning is one of the first casualties once a Graduate join a Job. Somehow the habit of Learning dies once someone joins a Job. As one gets promoted and goes to senior positions, the Learning habit gets buried in the ‘heap of experience’. One can Learn from own direct experiences and from what is happening around them. My observation is that most of the Executives are very resistant to Learning. The more senior a person is the more he/she believes that there is nothing more to Learn.
To Learn or not to Learn?
If you are the Senior Leader in the Company, you may be even thinking that it would be counterproductive to say that you are learning, or you want to learn! The proportion of Learning Leaders is very small.
How do I learn?
It is not that no one wants to Learn! I observe that many of us want to Learn. Learn something new and so on. But, most of the times we fail to Learn! I notice that many people may not know how to Learn!
When you were in College or in formal Education, there is a structure to your Learning. I remember when I went to a 3-year MBA while working. There was a strong structure of Monthly classes, Assignments, Residentials, Group discussions and so on. I was able to Learn a lot! I am always thankful to my employer then, Rane Group who sponsored me for that excellent Course! When you are dealing with many issues live, you can learn much more than when you just completed your Degree!
Now, how do I learn at Job where there may not be a structure for learning? How do I learn in my Business? This seems to be the issue many people are facing.
There is nothing to Learn!
Of course, other than this there is this callous attitude of saying ‘I don’t have time to learn’! For these ‘Busy bodies’ the time has not yet come! We can try to help them by trying to rise their ego to Learn. But responding or not is still their choice!
While working in a job and as an Executive and Business Coach, I have always tried my best to Learn as fast as possible. I remember one celebrated Teacher commenting about me as an ‘Osmotic Learner’ meaning someone who learns with every breath! This had been a god given strength for me.
I have been trying to teach the art of Learning to many people with whom I had the fortune to work with.
I would like to present you a few Best practices in Learning.
01. Learning is Highly Technical: While some of us can learn fast and naturally, many of us require a structure for Learning. If you agree with me that this Human Body is a sophisticated machine, then there is a way in which this Machine Learns. I think David Kolb captured this very well in his Learning Model.
Kolb says as we go thru many experiences in life, we need to Observe what we are going thru in a reflective manner. We then have to conceptualize the Learning to our context and then experiment it in our life.
We need to ensure we follow these steps. Many of the Training programs stop at Concrete experience stage.
We have to Learn the art of Reflection. This is very critical step in Learning. No reflection – No Learning! But once you cross this stage the other two are as important.
In the area of Reflection, writing Diary / Writing Logs of incidents that we go thru can be very useful. This is the way we try to practice what we learnt!
02. Your own Leadership Model: I would encourage every Leader to formulate his/her own Leadership Model. This model should reflect how he/she is practicing the art of Leadership. This does not mean we will not improve this model. We are going to have the model so that we can improve what we have. If there is no Model you don’t know what you are practicing and you may not be able to improve.
I am reproducing my own model of Leadership below. This is one model. I am sure you can do even better than this one.
I continuously keep improving this model.
03. Career Goals / Learning Goals: You need to be clear about the direction in which you would like to learn! For this, you need to have your Career Goals and Learning Goals for at least next one year! Without this, you may work hard and still not find yourself with good direction!
04. Showing Gratitude: Showing gratitude for what you already have is very important to Learning. Acknowledging what you have is important to get more! Once you start showing gratitude, your attitude towards world changes radically. It opens you up for more Learning. Try it! You can write down all the good things that you already have in your Life and thank whoever has helped you to get them. It may be your Teacher, your Boss, your Wife, your children. It would be great if you can tell them personally. You can keep going thru this in your mind every day!
05. Partners in Progress: In your Learning journey, you need the help of your Friends / Colleagues. Without them, you would be simply Blind to your Strengths and Weaknesses. It would be good to have a group of Colleagues/ Friends to get a 360 Degree feedback and a feedforward as to what you can do to improve yourself in a specific area. Please be bold to pull in a few people who do not see eye to eye with you on a few issues. When someone is not agreeing with you, it is a chance to improve. If you ignore them, you are going to lose chance to improve!
06. Use Technology: We are going thru Fourth Industrial Revolution! These are exciting times. There is a lot of technology around us and we can use it for our Learning too. You can rewire your Learning using the Technology. Use E-Learning courses. A Good E-Learning Company can help you to use the Courses in a systematic way. Micro Learning is a concept that can help you to learn regularly and at a Micro Level. You can keep learning the Micro Skills continuously.
Kick off a Learning Journey!
My experience of observing myself and others says that the whole journey has to start with ‘Reflection’. Please look at the Video of Robin Sharma on Reflection. He puts the concept together very well.
In the past 6-9 months, most of the Industries across India have started complaining about their Businesses slowing down. May be this problem very much exists in other countries too. But, let me focus on Indian Companies. The Slow down panic is there in many industries and everyone has his/her own theory about how bad it is, why it is happening and how long it will last.
In this article, I would like to just focus on ‘What a Company can do during the Slow down’.
Every Company would have expanded their capacities with some expectation of Sales every month. When that Sales is not happening consistently for a few months, they would start panicking. Usually, you would see following happening in Companies where the Sales is not happening as per plan and it started dipping below the last year and last few months average.
- Sales Team looks help-less. They are not achieving the Targets consistently and Sales numbers are falling steadily. The Sales team keeps reporting bad numbers. After a few months, the Management may start accepting that there is nothing that can be done, and Sales team is trying their best!
- Employees get fired. The Contract employees are the first to be fired. As the Sales Dip continues, the firing will extend to other types of Trainees, Junior Staff, in Some companies’ Senior people will be fired as it gives better bang per firing. These same Employers talk about the need for Employees to work as owners in good times and when things go wrong, they fire the employees (Rajiv Bajaj put this wonderfully in his interview with CNBC).
- Inefficiencies increase in Factories. The Factories start idling and the Production efficiencies increase. Again, this keeps getting accepted as okay as the Volumes are down.
- New Product activity reduces. Most of the Companies will see their New Product activity reducing as they do not want to take more expense and more risk during the slow down.
- Mad rush to reduce Fixed Costs. The Semi Variable / Fixed Costs get cut ruthlessly. Maybe it is right to do that. But even the essential ones will get cut.
- Negativity all around. There will be a mourning environment and the energies are down. Senior Management pet topic is about how to cut Costs (Again nothing wrong with this approach. But that can’t be the only chant.)
- Company starts going into a shell. You can almost see the company getting into a shell withdrawing all signs of life! It is almost like closing your eyes hoping the storm will just pass and it won’t affect you if you close your eyes!
- Everyone starts asking for Government help. Last but not least, everyone starts looking to Government to rescue them. Government can help Companies to enter in to new markets across Globe by passing on some subsidies to them. This is done by many Governments across the world. China is a wonderful example of supporting their Industries selectively so that they can penetrate the Global market. But, you can’t expect Government to come to your aid whenever there is sluggish demand or more serious slow down.
What else we can do?
I would argue that most of the Indian Manufacturing Companies have huge possibilities for improving themselves. The inefficiencies that are there in the Companies are huge. The Slowdown that is happening can be used to rediscover themselves in many areas of Business. We can look to becoming a stronger Company that can withstand these Slow times! I am not talking about throwing lot of money at problems. I am talking about fundamentally restructuring your P&L in such a manner that you can withstand these Slowdowns.
Let me highlight a few ways below. We will deal with each of these areas in detail in articles that will come in subsequent weeks.
01. Skill up your People: A Company is built only by the People that it has. When the Top line dips, Companies should not look at firing its’ People. This is foolish and it is akin to shooting yourself in your foot. When you look at the Shop floor Employees, most of the Companies are living on Contract employees and Trainees whom they can fire immediately! This is no great Leadership! You can show great Leadership by:
a) Re-engineering the Learning: Defining the Skills required for each of your Employees, Skill them up by using Modern Technology like E-Learning. Use this Slow down to re-engineer the way you focus on Skills.
b) Make Learning Contextual: Define Micro Skills and Micro Learning agenda for employees depending on your Business agenda for this Year. Train them for the Context by using the E-Learning.
c) Bring Skills to the center of the Business: Link Skills to Performance and link Skills to Performance assessment. This will ensure your Employees create a pull for Skilling up.
The Business Goal for this activity should be to Triple the Sales Turnover created by each employee in the Organization over next 2 years. This is very much possible. Leaders need to take up this challenge.
Do not look at firing Employees. Rather, build a Team that is totally committed to your Organization and this will make you win in the Longer run. In the Short term too, only this can create good results. If you fire people and improve your Bottom line, the Investors would see it clearly. You would be harming the Company by doing this.
02. Re-engineer your Business Systems: Most of the Indian Companies do not have a clear way of working. The SOPs are there in ISO files and they get dusted before every re-certification audit. After that no one looks at them and no one follows them. Some of the following can be done:
a) Re-engineer the way you Manufacture. If you have not implemented the Lean Concepts on your Shop floor, this is the time that you should do. Everyone will understand the seriousness of the Situation in a Slowdown.
b) Re-engineer the way work happens in various Functions. The Productivity of every activity can be at least doubled if you have not applied Lean principles to it. I am talking about the activities that your Staff does. Time taken for releasing a P.O, Time taken for accounting a Bill and so on.
c) Define the way of working in every Function. You should define your ‘way of working’ in every function. New Product Development System should be defined, Cost reduction System for your company should be defined, Sales Process should be defined, Marketing Process should be defined and so on.
The Objective of this exercise should be to get every activity in the Company done in 50% of the time compared to what it is now.
03. Re-engineer your Costs: The Opportunities for reducing the Cost in a significant manner are there for many companies. In the past decade or so, the Companies are focusing more on Costs. But still there are opportunities to reduce Costs. Some of the activities that can be taken up are:
a) Taking up Big Targets for Cost reduction.
b) Conducting Brain Storming sessions.
c) Involving Subject Matter experts.
d) Bench marking with World Class Products.
The Objective of this exercise again should be to improve the Profitability by 35% or more. A Big target will make your team to think entirely in a different manner. Have trust in your team, they will deliver the results.
04. Re-define the Market Place and the way you approach it: In the current status of the Industry where there is a big change that is coming up in Auto sector in terms of surge in Electric Vehicles and reduction in IC Engine vehicles, many Companies have to have a relook at their focus areas. They may have to redefine their Industry focus. A Foundry / Machine shop that is focused on Auto sector has to realign itself to other Industries.
When a Slowdown happens, it is not that the whole Business has disappeared. You are not growing. But there may be several other Companies that are growing. Indian Economy is growing by 5% right now. You are not aiming to capture the whole Economy. It is just fine for you if you are able to capture a few more new Customers. Every Prospective Customer is looking for new ways to save money and reduce costs in this environment. How can your Team deliver this to these Prospective Customers? If you are skilling up your Team, you can ask them to deliver this result for you. If you are firing them, then there is no one to deliver this result for you!!
If you have been rejecting RFQs that are 20% below your Price expectations, then can you challenge your team to start reducing the Costs and accept more of these RFQs?
05. Re-engineer your Products: Use this time to align with your Customers much more. Every Customer wants the same product at much lesser price. You may be having ideas for reducing the Cost and come out with a new Family of Products. But you would have been postponing it due to the pressure on the Factories and R&D Team. Now, the Factories are not having the Pressure. Focus more on New Product Development, come out with the Family of Products that may be Priced 20% cheaper and most of the functionality.
This is the time to teach ‘Frugal Engineering’ concepts to your New Product Development team and become more attractive to your Customers.
Fill your Company with Positive energy
There may be many more Initiatives that can be taken up. What I am suggesting is that you should use this time of Slow Down to energize your Employees and ask them to take your company to the next level in terms of Competitiveness.
Use this time to create some World Class Benchmarks!
In the last few years, we can see a very good Start up culture across the Country. We can see Youngsters and Older people alike getting in to some Business or the other. Industries across India are in a ‘Correction mode’ where they have stopped recruiting as they used to and are in the phase of improving People Productivity. So, the Jobs are not available in plenty. This is also pushing some people to go on their own.
I consider this as a highly positive development. People of India have the choice of going on their own. Many Professions are gaining the respectability that they deserve. Some years back, selling food on the Road side may not have been preferred by Educated youngsters. But, now the Food Trucks are well respected and you can see well educated youngsters getting in to it. This is how a Society develops. More Capable people enter in to every area and generally there will be an upliftment of the work concerned with Customers getting better Quality for lesser price.
You can see this happening in Politics too. More Educated people are getting in to Politics. You can see some good examples like Nandan Nilekani who are prepared to throw their hat in to serve in a field. I am sure this will lift the arena of Politics and Politicians. We need more to happen in this area.
Job or Business ?
I notice that there are atleast Four types of People around us.
01. Early adapters: These people may be second Generation in a Business Family or they may be first generation Businessmen / Women who chose to go on their own immediately after Education. I personally like this category very much as I feel they have chosen their Mission early on.
02. Planned adapters: I see a lot of people coming in to Business this way. They earn some money and experience before they make up their mind to do what they want to.
03. Better Late than never adapters: These are the Professionals who would have put in 15-25 years in the Industry and then decided to leverage their long experience to do something on their own.
04. Second Innings: These are perhaps people who start doing something after gaining lot of experience and saving some money.
I belong to the third category above. I personally feel there is nothing wrong with any of the above categories. We are all what we are ! Each of us have our own Priorities and Compulsions in our lives.
Why do we want to go on our own ?
It is perfectly okay to Work in a Job or Be on your own. We need to understand what drives us as individuals.
Some of us are quite happy working in a 9 – 5 Job. We get adjusted to the demands of the Job. We find our peace in it. We build our lives around the Companies that we are working for. Some of us may not be working in a single company. We may shift our jobs. But, we are quite fine with working in a job. We build our homes, educate our children and we keep progressing in our lives. This is perfect as long as you enjoy what you are doing.
There are some of us who are not happy doing the 9-5 job. You always have this burning desire to do something more and something what you always wanted to. This person also has the same needs as the person discussed in the previous para. But, this person is motivated by something more. Initially, this person may not have his Goal clearly spelt out. This person may be unhappy many times at the job. There may be nothing wrong with the job. But, what is causing the struggle in his/her mind is his/her own ‘nature’. He wants to do something on his own and Create something in a different manner.
Put your finger on it..
I request those ‘Own Types’ to recognize this desire in them. It requires some amount of reflection and soul searching to find this. There is no point in blaming the job you are in or your colleagues and your Boss. What is causing the discomfort is ‘your own nature’. Recognize this and take steps to fulfill this in a nice manner. For all you know, you may be able to do something for the Company that you have been working for.
What to look out for?
Having been on my own for the past 6 years, I have gone through the metamorphosis of being in ‘Senior Positions’ to being ‘on my own’. I would like to share my experiences on being on my own and what you can look out for:
01. Leave your ‘I am Boss’ feeling in your last job: When you work in a fairly Senior Position in your Company, you would have gotten used to being pampered by your team. You get a lot of respect whether you deserve it or not. That comes with the Position you were working for. When you come on your own, you have to EARN this with every single person that you meet. Your ‘Past’ can get you somewhere. But, not everywhere. So, clearly ‘What got you here, won’t get you there’ !
02. Learn to do small things on your own: When you work in a Company, you would have gotten used to getting things done by your Team. There would be a Battery of people to do several small things like booking an air ticket, booking a taxi, preparing a presentation and so on. When you come on your own, you need to learn to do these things very quickly.
03. That ‘Secure’ feeling: When you are in a Job, without you realizing it you feel very secure in several situations. You know the Company would take care if you fall sick or if any of your family members fall sick. You may have a Mediclaim when you get on your own. But, still the ‘Secure’ feeling will be missing. You would have been getting the support of the Company in several areas without you realizing it. Like a quick word from the MD for admission of your Kid in to a good school / college or the help of your Colleague to get appointment in a Busy hospital and so on. These are all small things. But, your family would have gotten used to all these. Now, you will not have this ‘warm blanket’ around you when you get on to your own.
04. Have you really ‘been there and done that’: Many of us may not realise that the Big wins that we had in our career would have been contributed largely by the team that was working with us. You would have been a good aggregator working at the top end ! If you did not get in to the Shop floor and implemented the practices yourself, then suddenly you may find that you cannot really help a client or yourself when you get in to the Shop floor to repeat it when you are on your own!! This is a serious problem. You have to measure yourself on this scale even before quitting your job !
05. Can you Slow down and empathize with others: When you are trying to help others as a Consultant or trying to get something done with your team in your own Venture, you have to be able to Slow down and get down to the speed of others. You should be able to measure progress on their scale and not on your scale. This ability decides how far you can help your own team or your clients.
06. Can you Cross Pollinate: You would have experience in certain industries and certain situations. You would not have covered the whole gambit. If you have selected to do something in a field you have been working all your life, then you are relatively safe. But, if you have to get in to other Industries and help them, then your ability to transfer your learnings in to another set up and make them work is very important. For example, Can you bring your learnings from dealing with a Dealer network in Capital Equipment industry, modify them to dealing with Dealer Network in an FMCG environment?
07. Do you like Bungy Jumping: When you leave your job and go on your own, you may not know whether you would be successful. You may not know whether you can be successful consistently. If you are consulting like I have been doing, you would not be sure of ‘Good billing’ every month consistently. If you have set up a Restaurant, you would not know when you would get pushed off the perch by a competitor across the road. So, there is more adrenalin involved in being on your own. You will get used to it over a period of time and you may start enjoying it. I equate it to Bungy Jumping. Only difference is you do not know whether the rope is tied properly or not!!
08. Can you really build a team: Those of us who worked for a longer time in a job have to be aware of one more basic skill that we need. We need to attract a team and retain them for a reasonable period. When you were in job, you would have done it day in and day out. But, at that time the BIG COMPANY was behind you. Now, you are the BIG COMPANY. You need to change yourself to succeed here. You can’t be saying ‘IF this guy leaves, HR will get one more’ !! You are the HR !!
These are some of the ‘Look outs’ for those of you wanting to get on to your own. I will share more on the perks of being on your own in next article.
Critical: If you are continuously being unhappy at job, recognize that it is not about your Job/Boss/Colleagues. It is about you wanting to do something more!! Respect that feeling. Analyze it. See if you are ready to take that plunge! Otherwise, it may explode in your face sometime!!
I can help you if you need help. What are friends for?? JJ
I have seen many Leaders who thrive only on their Authority and not really display Leadership Qualities. These Leaders typically want to be the author of every success around them. Somehow they would feel insecure when someone from their team comes up with a suggestion that is not thought out by themselves.
The characteristics of these Leaders are:
- They have a misconception that as Leaders they have to bear the responsibility for every success of their team and only they have to do it.
- These Leaders feel they are losing out when their team members are actually stepping up and starting to flower.
- As they feel they have to come up with the Best ideas, they do not think any idea of their team member is a good one.
- They try to look for ways to appropriate the credit for the good work of their team members as they feel as Leaders, only they should be coming up with all great ideas.
- They would like to get rid of all those who are not ‘falling in line’ with their thinking as they feel these team members are disturbing the ‘team work’.
- These Leaders typically complain that their Team members are not stepping up and they are passing on everything to the Leader..
The effects of this type of Leadership are:
- Team members will be endorsing every idea of the Leader.
- Those Team members who feel uncomfortable will leave the team.
- The progress of this company gets limited by its’ y leader. Over a period of time, only those who are better than the Leader, leave the Company. Even those who stay ‘learn’ how to not mess with the Leader.
A good proportion of the Leaders that I see fall in to this category. This is generally a ‘Disabling Leadership’. There are very few leaders who can scale up / scale down their own Leadership based on the situation on the ground.
I heard one definition of Leadership from my ex- Boss which stuck to my mind. ‘A Leader should be like a missing piece in a puzzle. Any piece can be missing at a given point of time. A Leader has to constantly modify himself to become that missing piece of puzzle’. So that the team always succeeds.
A Leader needs guts to adapt this Leadership Style.
This Leadership Style is defined by the following:
01. Longer Term Objectives: This Leader is not worried about the short-term results and he is always looking to achieve the longer-term objective. This Leader is not worried about his own contribution. He wants whatever is required to achieve the longer- term objectives to be done. He looks at himself as an enabler of these actions and not necessarily as a person who has to do everything. This is a higher point of view.
02. Tolerance to Diversity: This Leader is tolerant to diverse opinions. His only Objective is to ensure progress towards goals. He is so Goal focused that he can ignore himself in the process. He gets alerted when he hears drastically different ideas. He looks at them as opportunities to find new ways to the goals of the organisation.
03. Confidence in own abilities: This Leader is absolutely confident of his own abilities. He knows he can raise over anything to give a good direction to his team. He knows he can transform himself in to that missing puzzle piece to complete the puzzle.
04. Ability to learn on his feet: One very important quality of this type of Leader is that he can learn very actively on his feet. He is capable of Learning continuously towards the Goals of the Company.
05. Basic trust in Human ability: This type of Leader adapts a Growth Mindset. He believes that People around him are capable and if they do not know something they can learn. He enables them to learn and succeed. As he believes in their abilities, they deliver with their abilities.
I call this an ‘Enabling Leadership’ style. Leaders need to raise up to this Leadership Style. Leaders normally evolve in to this type of Leadership Style over a period of time.
For the journey to begin, one has to know and accept that this higher plane of Leadership that exists. Then the creative tension may set in.
Ram is the Head – Sales & Marketing for the company and he is in the Weekly review with Manufacturing head. The other functional heads are also there in the meeting. Ram is struggling to get the commitment from Manufacturing head for the deliveries that need to happen in the next week.
Individual Problems and Collective Suffering
The Problems of the Manufacturing Head seems to be unending. There are several Part shortages on a daily basis as the Customer demand is going up without notice. There are Quality problems in the New Products introduced and the Process is not yet stabilized for a big number of Products introduced in to the Manufacturing in the past 6 months. The Machines are having higher break down hours as the Preventive Maintenance is not happening regularly. The list is long.
The Quality Head, Materials Head, Engineering Head spoke about their own problems. All the Problems sound genuine. No one seems to have a good solution with some time lines to implement. The Weekly meeting ended with a few arguments, blaming each other and without a proper solution to the problems on hand.
This is a very common situation in many Manufacturing Companies that I have seen. These weekly meetings go on without end and normally gives the same output as explained above.
What is the solution?
How to ensure a good team work happens in the company and the Customer is serviced much better?
I think the Root cause lies in the way the Manufacturing Companies are Operating. We seem to be pushing the Functional teams away from each other and this is resulting in lack of team work and lack of respect to the internal Customers and bad service to the external customers.
There are five essentials to ensuring good Customer orientation in the company and promote Team work in the company.
01. Stabilize the Routine: If the Routine is well defined and stable, the teams will have less flash points. The Routine in each function has to be defined in terms of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). This is a continuous journey for Indian Companies as the growth is higher in our companies and things keep changing on the ground every day. A Company should recognize this need and put effort on stabilizing the routine.
02. CFT Culture: The Cross functional Team culture has to be promoted in the Company. Some critical elements in the CFT Culture :
a. Goal deployment: Goals that have to be achieved together have to be deployed to ALL the relevant team members across the functions.
b. Working methodology: The CFTs should have a strong Work ethic and methodology. The methodology should promote a systematic achievement of Goals.
c. Peer assessment: The team members have to be assessed by the Peers in addition to the Bosses. Peer assessment is very powerful and a Group assessment technique has to be used for this purpose.
d. Internal Customer rating: The company can promote the culture of rating by Internal Customers for all the Internal suppliers. This way the Internal Suppliers will get periodic feedback from the Internal Customers and they will have to act upon it.
e. Process based teams: It would be good to seat the teams as per the Process. For example, the team that fulfills the orders of the Customers can sit together in one place. This team may consist of members from Sales, Purchase , Stores, Dispatch etc. This will ensure that the team understands each other and gets formed as a ‘real team’.
03. Functional orientation of Senior Leaders: The Senior Leaders are one of the main reasons why the Silos gets built up in the Companies. The attachment of the Senior Leaders to their teams and to their own Functional Points of view is a big issue. Functional point of view is important. But, the administrative point of view is a daily issue in any company without which the result will not happen. The role of the Senior leaders is to build Functional Competence in the Company. They should allow their team members to work along with the other Functional team members freely. The Senior Leaders should play a subtle role at the back ground to build the Functional excellence. The teams are more than capable of achieving the goals of the Company. If they play their teams too close to their chest, they would be doing a disservice to the company.
The Leaders of the Company have to build this work culture in the Company. The Senior Leaders may need some help in this aspect.
04. Training as teams: If the Cross Functional Teams have to stick together and work together, they have to be treated as teams in every sense. They have to be trained in Leadership skills together as a team. While they may learn Functional skills individually, they have to be brought together as a team for teaching Leadership Skills. This would help in building them as a team. The Training should encourage talking about the working methodology of the team.
05. Assessment and Rewards: The Cross Functional Teams should get assessed as Teams and a good part of the reward has to be given as a team. This would push the team members together. They earn as a team or lose as a team.
A company has to learn the art of getting results from their teams. They can speed up their learning if they go about it in a systematic manner as explained.
Vithal is sitting near the table of his younger colleague Shyam for last half hour waiting for Shyam to finish the Power Point that Vithal would be presenting in the Monthly review. Vithal never managed to learn Power Point very well. He says he had been trying for the past few years. But, somehow not able to learn all the nuances needed to put out a good presentation. The frustrated Boss of Vithal put him on to Shyam- a youngster so that Vithal will not be an odd man out in the monthly review. Vithal had been in the company for the past 22 years.
You would have seen people like Vithal and with some similar qualities in your companies. People who had been there in the company for long long time and somehow fell behind in skill improvement and a few other areas.
The Stagnant Water
Majority of ‘Vithals’ in the industry would have become ancient and stuck at a particular level in the organization without further promotions. Every year when the Performance appraisal comes in, the ‘Vithals’ are wonderful staple for the ‘Solid citizens / Meets Expectations’ category. Sometimes a frustrated Manager may push them to the ‘Below Expectations’ category too. But, somehow with their ‘connections’ in the company they will survive without being pushed out.
It is not uncommon to see some of these ‘Vithals’ being asked to go too.
Many a times, the young Managers who come in to the Company find it very difficult to manage the ‘Vithals’. The age is a factor. Then, the ‘Vithals’ feel they have been in the company for a long time and the young Managers are ‘Bachas’ (Children) who don’t know what is what.
Very often the ‘Vithals’ hold on to their knowledge, do not share it and use it as a weapon to proclaim their relevance in the organization. The Young Managers may find it difficult to fight them. So, very often they succumb to them and carry them on their shoulders. There may also be cases where the Young Managers struggle with them for some time and then manage to push them to another department and get rid of the trouble!
Should we purge the ‘Old Timers’ ?
Should organizations get rid of the Old Timers? Should we prescribe a time limit for the people to stay in the organization?
As I am talking about the Manufacturing Organizations right now, I feel it is very unwise to put a Time limit for people to stay in the organization or purge the old timers.
The strength of a Manufacturing Organization is its’ people. People who had been in the organization for longer time would have accumulated a lot of experience in the organization and they are priceless if used properly. The Organizational experience in manufacturing the Products is invaluable. Companies become much better at their products with experience. They build great relationships with Customers over years. They give wonderful after sales service with the help of the experience. All this experience in most cases reside in the people in the Organization.
How can we get rid of these people who are repositories of knowledge?
If we say these people have become outdated / worthless and a burden for the organization, then it reflects on the Organization. Not so much on the people who are products of the Organization.
Developing the Old Timers
How do we prevent this from happening? How do we help the Old timers / Long Timers in the company to continually develop themselves?
A few essentials:
01. Formulate Systems and don’t depend on the people: Periodically the Companies should formulate systems in each function and don’t just depend on the knowledge of the people in the function. This may sound counter to the argument that we should preserve the old timers. We should never let people get stuck in one area. Water should flow continuously. You know what happens when water does not flow and gets stagnated. It stinks!! Same thing happens to people who are stuck in one place for long time. When the organization is not dependent on the people, they will look to learning something new. Otherwise the Organization becomes comfortable in same people doing the same thing as they don’t have to teach anyone else. People become comfortable as they don’t have to learn anything new. Then, it starts stinking. Downloading the knowledge of people and making them in to systems periodically helps both the organization and the individual.
02. Rotate People periodically: Rotate the people in to different functions periodically after you build the Systems in each of the functions. If you do it without having strong systems, then the organization will get in to trouble as the new person will start doing things in his / her own way.
03. Grow the People in to new roles: How many companies have a strong system for growing people? Growth is a two way street. Employees should participate actively. But, I would put the onus on the organization to make this happen. There should be Developmental initiatives to grow people. I have not seen many companies focused on this. Some wonderful exceptions are there who focus on medium term development of people.
04. Expose the people to companies outside:You can do this by periodic visit to other Bench mark companies. You can take people to companies on a paid tour that are arranged by companies across the world. You can visit companies in Japan/ USA / Europe to show how World class companies work. Nothing better than actually looking at things working.
05. Have a growth agenda in the company:A company that is not having energy within and not having an agenda for Growth will not be having people who are energetic! A Company should always have Growth Agenda and should create some energy in the Organization.
A Company needs to have higher expectations from itself, from its’ people and enable Growth of the Company and the People. If People are becoming worthless by staying long in the Company, then it reflects on the Company and its’ Leadership !
While a Company can manage its ’Old timers’, how can the Young Managers manage the ‘Old Timers’ who are not highly skilled and who have become ‘heavy’ for them to carry them?
The Old Timers have to be moved to start Learning something new. That is our objective. ‘A moving stream of water’ is our objective. We don’t want water to stagnate and stink.
01. Look for what is good:When people stay in a company for a long time, they will accumulate something good. There may be something that you don’t like. But, what do the Old timers have that is good? Recognize it , Use it and appreciate it. Only then you gain a right to point out to something that is not there. Many a times the old timers have good knowledge of the Products / Processes in the Company. You can ‘Down load’ it from them and make them in to ‘E-Learning’ Lessons that can be useful for the whole organization. The Old Timers can be the center piece for the Knowledge Management System in a company.
02. Give genuine respect:Experience is traditionally respected in our culture. We bow to people who are aged and experienced. Honor this tradition in your company genuinely. These are principles and should be followed strictly.
03. Expose them to new areas:The Old Timers can get a ‘New Comer’ feeling if they are put in an unfamiliar territory within the Organization. But, this should be tried only after you use their experience. Otherwise they would get a feeling that they are worthless and being shunted around. We want people around to feel good about themselves. We don’t want them to feel they are worthless. A Mature Leader would agree with this approach.
04. Give them higher responsibility:Let them handle a few areas by themselves as they are experienced. They may fail. But ,that is the way to make them move. By putting your trust in them, you would be showing your good will. If they fail, they will ‘feel’ about it. A Creative tension would start within them to ‘Grow’. Put your Trust in the ‘human nature’.
05. Earn their respect:The Young Manager should not look to bossing over the Old timer due to his/her designation only. The Young Manager should earn the respect of people around him/her with his/her work culture that may be biased towards action.
06. Team feedback:It would be good to let the team give the feedback to each other. If there are 10 people in a team, each person should get a feedback from the other 9 on Commitment, Coordination and Cooperation. Peer feedback is very powerful. If the person feels that only his/her boss is not happy with him/her, the Corrective action may not be strong. But, if he/she knows that 7 out of 9 people are asking him/her to change, then you have a better chance.
07. Don’t make it ‘we vs them’:Unknowingly ,the Managers may push the Old Timers in to one group making it more difficult to themselves. Partner with the Old Timers genuinely and as you may do with anyone else. Do not create groups in the organization with your actions.
I feel the Old Timers in a Manufacturing Company are very valuable and every Company should manage them actively.
During my career, I have met many wonderful Managers/Leaders. Loved working with all of them. When I observe their growth and performance in their careers, I notice that there are very small percentage of the Leaders who are highly effective on the ground. These are the System Builders / Trail Blazers. Others also would have been successful in their own scale. But, on my scale a very small percentage of people are able to deliver on a scale that will help companies / Functions to transform themselves. These are the people who set their own standards around them. They are not satisfied unless they push the boundaries of Excellence.
Indian Manufacturing needs such Leaders in Thousands. We are a Country that is obsessed with Cricket. In Cricket as we can see the Team has transformed itself over the past decade or so and the type of Cricket that our team plays is based on Aggression and Self-Confidence. We need Kohlis , Dhonis and Rohits in our Indian Manufacturing! We need to develop the Confidence that we can set the BEST standards in the world and maintain them. We need to believe that we are no less than anyone else in the world in terms of Quality and Excellence.
So, what makes the small percentage of Managers different that they are able to deliver much more than others?
In my view, the following are essential for a Manager to Deliver ‘Life Transforming’ Improvements to Companies.
01. Good People Managers: These Managers or better to say Leaders are good with People. They are not ‘Popular’ Leaders who try to either please the Boss or please the team. They are highly focused on the task with a perfect blend of concern for People. This concern for people is different in that they do not try to just please them with small things. They are concerned about the People and want them to step up in their life. So, they are happier letting the team work hard, stretch and set a new standard. There is nothing more motivating to a Team than achieving some big result and becoming part of a ‘Winning team’. Each of us may get such experiences probably 2 or utmost 3 times in a career. Let me say that you would have a better chance to participate in such experiences if you are a Coach !! JJYou can touch that many more People / Companies.
02. Translocating learning: These Leaders are good at Learning in one context, taking the learning to another context, modifying it to suit the situation and implementing the learning to get Big results! This is a very rare skill and I have not seen many people possessing it. Many of us are good at Learning or so do we think. I would say someone is a good learner if he/she can use the learning in a different situation with some modifications. You would have learnt TPM / TQM principles in your life. I have seen many people who try to implement the principles very rigidly saying ‘this is how it has to be done’. But, the Effective Leaders know how to modify their learning to suit the new situation.
03. Having Vision and Clarity about next step: Many of us are either good at envisioning the future or we are good at doing something today. Very few Leaders are clear about both. The Effective Leaders can envision the future clearly and also be clear about the steps that we have to take today / tomorrow / next week and so on. Linking the present to the future is a very important skill that is not seen commonly. This is the big reason for companies to be rooted in future and routed at work on a daily basis !
04. Hands on : Effective Leaders are always hands on as required. They know when to get in to the Shop floor and when to bring people to the Conference hall. Most often they get in to the Shop floor (Shop floor for a Sales Person is the Market) when they introduce some new approach. They would like to work along with the team to see whether the new practice will work.
05. Passionate: Effective Leaders use their heart. A Leader who does not have his/her heart in the work cannot deliver superlative results! Treating a Job as ‘Just a Job’ that gives monthly salary is not okay. The Effective Leader will motivate his team to work with heart. The heart has to motivate us in the right way. We have to use the Positive energy of heart and minimise the negative energy.
06. Can Learn on their feet: Today the Businesses are changing very fast and the environment around us is changing very fast. Effective Leaders are capable of Learning on their feet. They adapt to the new situations and help their teams to adapt easily. They are not stuck with ‘one best way of getting results’.
07. Holding on to what they believe in: While the Effective leaders are not stubborn people, they have to be holding on to what they believe will bring result as they are the trail blazers. They often chose path less trodden or never trodden. That is why they get superior results. They are the ‘aberration’ in otherwise ‘Boss/Team pleasing’ crowd around them. Many of us may feel they are stubborn people. But, otherwise they can’t be different and produce ‘different results’. Bosses would be wise to encourage such people.
Are you an Effective Manager ? How can you improve yourself ?