Who am I?

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I am not religious, but I don't mind calling myself spiritual. Religion, I believe, has, over the millennia, been used as a prop to perpetrate a lot of human suffering. Faith is what matters. I don't believe in the definition of God as a creator. According to me, my God resides within me. Some call it conscience, some call it the sub-conscious, some call it the soul. I don't mind calling it God. So by definition I am not an atheist or an agnostic, but by essence, I may as well be. My God does not reside in a temple, church, mosque or gurudwara. It is right here, within me.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Decode Yourself Organizationally

This was a part of an Organizational Behaviour assignment. We were supposed to write futuristic answers. Although these answers are different for everyone, this is what I had to say about being in a manager's role in the future. 

1.  Which is more likely to increase learning: a winning moment with reflection and recognition or a classroom training experience? Which is more likely to aid in development?

There can be no doubt that a winning moment with reflection and recognition will be much more of a learning experience than a classroom training session. When you win, the adrenalin pumps in your body and your heart beat increases. But more importantly, you reach, atleast temporarily, a level of consciousness where reflection becomes easier and introspection becomes all-too-familiar. In such a state, when there is a heightened sense of accomplishment and positivity and optimism surrounds the person, it gets much easier to tell the person of his strengths and weaknesses, and the critical balance between the handling of these two that led to that person’s success. Moreover, the person will even listen, and will not get defensive on hearing his weaknesses. That is the power of victory – it makes you wiser, and it makes you a person much more receptive to feedbacks. If provided in the right manner, these feedbacks can form the backbone of a very strong character later on. There is a certain feeling of goodwill which envelopes you when your hard work is being recognized. This is a moment a person will be proud of his achievements. So one should try to use this moment to let the person know his worth, and aid in his development and learning.

Classroom training sessions give you a perspective. And I believe that is what MBA does too. And only that. It can add only a new perceptive to your belief system, but it cannot make you learn things. You cannot sit in a classroom and learn how you would behave with your team members in times of conflict. You cannot learn such stuff from books. Books cannot teach you behaviour. It can only be learned by actually interacting with people, or actually working in teams. This is the only solution. Books and classroom can only tell you how far you can think, how far great people who lived before you thought. So it tells you of the horizons of others, it tells you of the thought process of others. But it does not tell you your own potential. Your own potential can only be learned by actually going out there. And a winning moment of reflection and recognition can serve as a great learning tool.

2.    Are you diligent about talking with your employees about their progress? Mention what you would do and how would you do it. What ‘measurements’ would you use to track your progress; the progress of your employees?

Talking to your employees about how they have been performing is very essential. Consistency cannot be achieved if feedback is missing. When a person is not sure how efficiently he has been performing, or he does things and he does not know the ones which were profitable and the ones which turned into losses, how would he ever know how to choose between the two? He would never know the right decision from the wrong one if constant feedback is not provided. And providing this feedback is the role and responsibility of his superior, that is, I. I shall be very diligent about talking to my employees about their progress, because such a behaviour from my side will drive efficiency in the entire team. I would start a concept called The Progression. One Progression would happen every Friday, where we would first discuss the progress made by each of the team members during the whole week, and then I would talk about their progress in front of the whole team, as if it is something the whole team should know about. It is actually, as one team member’s performance can make or break the entire team. I need to know what is the progress being made on different accounts, and then I will give back my feedback and opinion of each member of the team. I will come prepared for it based on what I had noticed about each team member in the whole week, and also listen to the progress made by them which they will detail to the whole team at the start of each Progression, which would be held before the end of every week.

I would rate the progress on the following two factors (one that I would notice, one that would come from others): i) Sociability – What dynamics does a person share with his team members. This does not mean that he needs to have lunch with them, or go out with them, etc. But he should have a few people atleast who he gels well with and feels very comfortable around. Presence of such people is very necessary for a person to feel connected to a place, and if they are missing, the person might feel disenchanted by the place and may as well leave it soon. ii) Peer Feedback – I would like to see how the person is evaluated by his peers. This would differentiate the people who actually work, from the slackers and the sycophants. There are a lot of people in an organization who do not work much, but at the end of the day shoot a mail to the boss, and keeping everyone else in the CC, trying to take credit of someone else’s achievement just because they did a very insignificant part of it. Presence of such people would come out through this exercise. Also, there are always people who are disliked by everyone in the team. Most of the people do not want to work with them, and if paired together, would not like to share the responsibilities of the work with that person. Even if such a person is extremely profitable, his mere presence is detrimental to the interests of the organization as it kills team spirit. Thus weeding out such people is extremely important.   

3.    What development do you need to excel as a leader or manager? What do you need from members of your group to aid in your development?

I believe that one thing that I need, more than anything else, to excel as a leader or a manager is to learn to be empathetic towards my team members. Before we get lost in clich├ęs, I would like to explain what this word ‘empathy’ means to me. To me, it means being considerate towards others’ feelings, to know when and where to say the right thing, to try to understand what is going on in the name of ‘team dynamics’ within the team under you, who is feeling threatened, who is losing interest in the work, who is the champion who works without complaining and without being a part of the race to claim credit for the work done, who is the one who drives profitability the most, who is the one who makes the team gel together, etc. These things can only be known if a manager is empathetic. Moreover, I believe I can be a better listener, as listening to what the team under you has to say to you is very important. There are a lot of times when your subordinates have a lot of complaints from the system, and they feel they have been wronged. At such times, they should feel that there is someone to share their grievances. More importantly, you should leave your ivory towers and be approachable by your subordinates. Another challenge I feel the managers universally face is to balance strictness with openness. Today’s managers need to learn to love and be strict at the same time. What is important is to know when to be strict, and while being friendly, not to cross that thin line, or your subordinates might start taking you for granted.

One thing I believe would help me along the path of improvement, as a manger, would be to receive reverse feedback from my subordinates about my performance. I have not experienced this thus far, but I believe this can be a very humbling experience and there is a treasure trove of learning that needs to be unearthed here by digging at the right spot. 360 degrees feedback, if applied universally, can break the unjustifiably high egos of some of the managers, and would immensely help in keeping their feet on the ground. Also, you would know what your subordinates expect from you, and how well you are actually doing well on those parameters, rather than just believing that you are doing well. Moreover, getting a feedback from a subordinate would serve to break the barriers of formality and make that person open up to you better.  

4.    How will you create opportunities to communicate and discuss mission? How is mission important in the workplace culture?

“Mission” can be defined as the raison d’etre of an organization. It is the reason why whole organizations exist. Without a mission, organizations would be like a rudderless boat sailing in the treacherous sea of the business environment. It would become very difficult for an organization to survive if it does not have a purpose, and a reason for doing what it does. There should be a clearly defined goal, of what the organization aims to achieve, and that is delineated by its mission. Mission needs to be the lifeblood of an organization, and thus of every member of it. While working, each step that an employee takes should be justified by the mission of the whole organization. If it does not resonate or fall in line with the mission, it is futile, a waste of resources. As a manager, it would be my duty to make sure that each of my subordinates has one eye on the mission while they go about their daily activities. I will make sure that his every step integrates well with the bigger picture. I will organize monthly meetings where every one of my subordinates will be present and the bigger picture will be communicated to them – where the company is headed in terms of profits, what are the new markets the company is looking towards, what is its competitive advantage where it scores higher compared to competitors, and other strategically defined benchmarks. Having worked in an organization, I have realized that a disconnect occurs because most of the engineers working at the most basic level and doing all the actual work are not in the know of strategic aspects and the reason why they should be working on these things at all. No one involves them with this, and these discussions are limited to the upper echelons of the corporate hierarchy. Very few of the Team Leads or even Assistant Managers understand well the “why(s)”, all they know is the “what(s)”. I would like to rectify this mistake by creating opportunities to interact with my subordinates about the happenings at the bigger front.

Workplace culture is defined and created by the mission of the whole organization. A workplace should reflect the underlying ethos on which the organization was established and these ethos should be a part of how an employee conducts himself in the organization. I believe how a person conducts himself outside of the organization is equally important, as apart from “living his principles”, he is also representing his company tenets in his behaviour, and whatever he does an employee becomes the work of the organization, in the eyes of a layman. Thus it is important to carry yourself with grace and be morally upright.