You may be hurting your people, unknowingly…

Gaurav, an IIT Engineer and IIM post graduate, worked with a big stock broker firm, since last 3 years at a middle management position. He liked the firm and its progress. Somehow, he did not like his boss (sounds familiar?). He left the job last Monday. Why?

You may be surprised for the reason. But it is worth pondering over…

Last Sunday, his boss, the famous stock broker and founder of the company, was invited to speak at a gathering. Gaurav had helped the boss putting together the presentation and drafting the speech. He also accompanied the boss to the function. Both of them were dressed in heavy formals. During his one-hour speech, the boss paused in between and said “Gaurav, can you get some water?”.  Puzzled, Gaurav did not understand how to react, but finally, hesitatingly went and handed him a glass of water. After about half an hour, the boss said again “Gaurav, can you get some water?”. This time, too, he unwillingly obliged.

After that Gaurav was very upset “Is this what I am supposed to do here after IIT-IIM? Can’t he ask for water from somebody else? Asking a manager to get some water? In front of 400 people? And both the times, this man did not even have the courtesy to say Please or Thank you. This is the height of rudeness. I don’t want to work with such thankless people.” The next thing he did after the function was shoot his resignation mail to his boss from his Blackberry.

Of course, telling your middle manager to bring water in such public function is not appropriate and Gaurav had all the reason to feel offended. The boss could have just said “Can I get some water?” and whoever attending to the stage at that function may have arranged for it. By unnecessarily commanding his brilliant assistant to fetch some water for him, he unknowingly offended Gaurav. People do not like to work with those who undermine their self-esteem. As the head of the company, some wisdom and basic level of courtesy is expected. In the absence of that, we may unwittingly lose good team members, for our cultural illiteracy.

In our schools or in our childhood we are taught to say “Please, Sorry, Thank you” promptly and generously at each occasion where it is warranted. These are the basic expressions of courtesy. But, if we forget what we learnt in schools, we may not be able to keep those team members who may have returned from IIT-IIM.

Poor execution can waste big money spent on PR

Last Sunday, a doctor friend of mine was invited to an Exclusive Seminar by an equity investment broking firm, to educate them about their premium products for HNI (High Networth Individual) clients. It was a privileged invitation and only a selected number of successful doctors were invited to the seminar, she was told. The selected venue also was a posh new banquet hall which had great interiors and equally great food. They had arranged for a great musical evening following the seminar. The firm took extra care to make her feel special and confirm her participation.

Her experience was far from special. Here is what spoiled her evening and her opinion for the firm that invited her :

1) On Sunday she reached the venue, sharp at appointed 4 pm, only to discover that the main hall on the first floor was jam packed, the event had already started and there were no seats available. Finally, she was taken to the second floor where they had arranged a screen display through live camera coverage of the event from the first floor.

2) The sound on this floor was too loud and the AC was too chilling. She requested some attendants there to correct the volume and the cooling, but they refused to act saying “If somebody from hosts tell us, then only we can do it.” And, all the hosts were busy on the first floor…!

3) The great “musical evening” turned out to be a solo performer crooning some old songs while playing audio tracks on his laptop. After 1-2 songs, it became unbearably boring. She got up to leave. On her way down, some executives spotted her and requested her to stay till dinner was served.

4) She waited till 8.00 pm and finally went to the dinner counters. From there she was sent back and told to come at 8.30, because ‘hosts’ had not yet given green signal to start serving dinner.

5) Finally, when the flood gates were opened at 8.30, she saw a long queue at the dish counters, going down from second floor to all the way on the ground floor…! She could see the hard struggle by the guests for getting food items. There was no space for 650 ‘special’ guests to eat simultaneously at this ‘exclusive’ event…! She could not understand what was exclusive in this event ?

6) Annoyed and angry, she returned from the event without eating and decided not to entertain any offers from this broking firm.

We may spend lakhs of rupees to woo HNI clients by holding exclusive events. And then also invite all-and-sundry, because we could not say ‘no’ to anybody. Then we subject them to tortures of various types and make them stand in queues and struggle for food. Which HNI client would come to us?

If we want ‘exclusive’ clients on our list, we should learn to execute better. Grand strategies on paper fail, when execution on ground is weak. It is not rocket science, it is pure common sense.

Leadership lessons from young CEO Tarun Katial

The young CEO of Reliance Broadcast Network Ltd (92.7 Big FM) recently shared his experiences as a young leader. Here are some of his insights :

Culture building is the key thing : The leader’s job is to build a strong culture in the organization. A company is known for its culture. When an employee leaves, he may come back to our company, if he can’t adjust to the culture at the new organization.

How to win confidence as a new leader : A leader’s success in the new organization depends on his success with the people. Insecurity in people’s minds must be addressed quickly and surely. When a leader goes to the new organization, he should not bring ‘his’ people from outside or from his own circles. He must try and understand existing set of people and let them perform at their optimal potential without fear.

How a leader should take decisions : The values that our parents teach in childhood like honestly, transparency, humility etc. must be always remembered because these basic moral values can be our consistent compass and they can always help us in handling crisis and challenges of our work life. According to Tarun, when in confusion about taking some important, sensitive decision, one simple method can be to ask yourself “Would my parents do this to me?” or “Would I do this to my child?”. Answer to these questions may clearly provide you a way out of the dilemma.

How to identify winners in the team : Just like any sports game of Cricket, Football etc, there are two types of people : Players and Fans or spectators. Players are those who work. Who put in hard work. Who don’t run away. Who provide stability. Fans are those who look for failures and excuses for not doing or getting things done. Find out the players and fans in the organizations. Players must be nurtured. Players will provide stability always whether we may win or lose a particular game. Fans will crib, live in the past and will eventually quit. Keep the players. They provide stability, which is very vital for the success of an organization.

How to develop people : Give time to people as much as you may need to complete a task. Don’t sit on their neck. Don’t create favorites. Treat all with the only yardstick of performance. A leader’s job is to make sure that everybody in the team wins. With people, be transparent, not translucent, because your duality will become apparent soon and you will lose trust of your people. Develop an ability to be empathetic and to look within by regularly spending some time with yourself.

How to get accepted as a leader of the people elder to you : Humility is the only approach to win confidence and co-operation of people older than us. With them, we should not use Ego or Position Power. Tarun said he always calls the older people respectfully by addressing them “Sir” even if they may be structurally reporting to him.

Really, the young CEO of Big FM gave some Big lessons on leadership. May be only because of his humility and commitment towards people  development, he has moved ahead rapidly in his career. Tarun has not given up his adolescence as far as seeking guidance form parental teaching is concerned. If the child in us remembers his childhood and its learning, many of the problems of adulthood can be resolved.

How to execute? These ADMI students can teach us.

Well, ADMI stands for Alkesh Dinesh Modi Institute for Financial And Management Studies. I attended an MTHR Global event hosted by ADMI at its beautiful auditorium within its vast facility inside Mumbai University campus on Saturday, 27th August, 2011.

On that day, whole Mumbai woke up to a rain-drenched daybreak due to incessant rain since previous night. The morning was no better. After a brief respite, the very heavy downpour had restarted. All the planning for the whole event was facing a possibility of complete failure, because of the heavy rain. But the event went very well, despite all the natural odds faced. It was all due to the great work by the management students of ADMI. Their work on that day was in true sense exemplary. Following are some of the very obvious things which made this challenging success possible.

Plan… Plan… Plan… : As one entered the venue, it became clear that the entire event was meticulously planned.

  • Right at the road leading to the campus, ADMI student volunteers were standing to guide the participants, expecting the question marks on the faces of the visitors looking for the directions and guiding very promptly. Signboards at all turns helped one reach fastest.
  • All the volunteers were given clear roles and responsibilities and the whole schedule of the day and arrangements were well-planned.
  • In fact, the event was planned and executed just like an event management company might have done it (after charging a few lakhs of rupees, of course), but these young people did it themselves, with meagre resources.

Team work works : The entire team of students worked as a single unit. There was continuous interaction and communication among them, as the day progressed and newer challenges kept coming. They solved all challenges by being together and working in unison. There was no boss here, but I think it did not matter, the event was the boss and they respected and responded to its demands…!

Pour your heart into it : Whatever they did they did wholeheartedly. Their complete involvement was inspiring.

  • Every guest was respectfully escorted with umbrellas in the heavy rain.
  • All the needs of the guests were attended to promptly with smile, respect and grace.
  • When the guests entered the walk ways which had become slippery due to rain, these boys and girls politely alerted the guests to take care. I was alerted at least 10 times during the day, by different people, every time, just in time to prevent me from falling…! So were other guests.

Enthusiasm is infectious : Despite the inclement weather and the innumerable and unexpected challenges thrown by it, these boys and girls performed with alacrity. Their enthusiasm was rubbing off positively on each other. This enthusiasm kept them up and running throughout that rough day.

Empowerment gives powerful results : The young students did not have many resources at their disposal, but they operated perfectly in spite of those constraints or limitations. One of the reason for their excellent output was the powers and freedom given to them. They did not have to go to anybody or ask anybody while fulfilling various needs and requests of the guests, some of them may be unexpected, but came because of the rain. They took instant decisions and did whatever was possible to do. The credit for this perfect empowerment must go to their director and the placement officer, who were representing the institute administration at this event.

Take on a crisis as a challenge : Any planning could have gone haywire on that day, due to the very difficult rain conditions. The guests could not reach in time, the speakers were stuck due to rain, the food to be served was two blocks away, and the rain was pouring like cats and dogs. These ADMIs took that all in their strides and did whatever was needed. They converted this crisis into a challenge and overcame it.

It made me thinking : Money may be able to buy many things. But, can it bring in such remarkable enthusiasm? I think, it is difficult to buy. And the organization which has such ADMIs inside it, can overcome any challenge, natural or otherwise. I thank the students of ADMI for showing us the way to perfect execution no-matter-what….!