Category Archives: Leadership

Millennials and workplace

Standard

 

Since I have 4 millennials in my 6-member team, I am interested in this topic. I found some interesting points in an article by Asha Bhandarker in Indian Management, which are jotted below:

Gen Y has been termed as selfish, disloyal, careerist, low commitment to organization, materialistic and money-minded.

Study by MDI, India found that millennials want

-freedom for experimentation

-opportunities to take initiatives

-encouraging idea generation and innovation

-appreciation of performance

-recognition and rewards

-fairness and transparency at workplace

-opportunity for growth and development

They are concerned about the style and behaviour of the executives they report to.

They look to work with those seniors who are humble and listening , accessible and available, empowering in approach as well as favourable.

A leader who is a good mentor and develops people by giving them valid and honest feedback.

Who is smart and clear thinker

An inspiring role model

Able to bring people together and build a team

Instead millennials have typically reported to executives who have been imposing, critical, ordering rather than guiding along with being close minded and rigid.

Mistakes of Juniors

Standard

This week has been unique in that two of my juniors have managed to make mistakes on two consecutive days.

First it was Lucky. Actually we had to get 2 books printed on an urgent basis. So we made the specs and scope of work for inviting bids from advertising agencies. She prepared a draft note based on our discussions and mailed it to me for checking. She also sent draft letter that was to be sent to agencies after this note was approved. I read the note and found that she had got the two books confused and jumbled up the specs. I corrected the specs and asked her to make same changes in the letter. She got the approvals and sent the mail. Next day when all the sealed bids had been received from agencies, she said one agency guy had called and pointed out the error in specs, as she was telling him something different on phone. She was very hassled, so I told her to calm down and we will see what can be done. I thought over it for few minutes and decided to tell to our boss and ask for her directions. Now I could have gone alone and put the entire blame on her, but I did not do that. I took her along and told boss that there was a mistake and explained the thing to her. She understood did not make too fuss about it and asked us to invite fresh bids. We did so and the issue was resolved. Since Finance was also involved in initial bids, I called up finance guy and said- Lucky had sent mail by mistake and this was how we were tackling. He said ok. Though Lucky sits in front of me and she was not listening. I felt bad in taking her name in front of finance. I had not taken her name in front of our boss. Secondly, I was apprehensive she might have heard in the open hall, so I wanted to come out clear, and said to her- I told finance ur name., though I did not tell ur name to boss. She said-why not sir, when I have made a mistake. Then I realized that I had broken the unwritten code of good conduct by bragging about it. I felt ashamed.

Today, Bob made a blunder. A few thousands calendars had been printed. Bob had supervised the job and today someone pointed out that there was a mistake, so the whole cost was wasted. Bob came to me and told. I kept cool and asked him at what stage the mistake had occurred. He said from the beginning. Bychance boss was not in office and was in a meeting. We asked the printer if the calendars could be salvaged, he said not really. I don’t know why but I was not very perturbed. I told him to remain calm, we will tell boss. It so happened that till late evening boss was in a meeting. So we decided we will tell later. Because if boss comes to know from some other source, she will not like that. And I had learnt from an earlier boss Jim that give negative news to boss first, positive news can wait.

Now I was in fix as there was not much fault of mine. Bob had seen the proofs, sent the okays, checked the final version. I had even asked him if he wanted any help, he said confidently no it’s all in control. Knowing myself, if i go to boss with him, I will end up becoming equally guilty if not more for the fault due to my modesty and definition of leadership. I do not want to be seen as ditching my juniors when they are in trouble. I don’t want to be seen as saying-he made the mistake. He is the culprit, let us hang him. I would rather say-we made the mistake. Boss will automatically believe what I say and consider me equally guilty.

But if I ask Bob to go to boss alone, he will feel deserted and secondly he may say anything to save himself. But that way burden of proving his innocence will be on him. Then I won’t jump and claim role in the mistake. Besides, I always encourage my juniors to go to boss and take responsibility. So they have to go when they make mistakes also.

FInally I have decided that we will go together and I will be cautious in jumping to grab the blame. If boss asks why you did not check- I will tell the truth that I asked him all is well and if my help is required, and bob said no all is well. Besides if every time I save them by sharing the blame equally, they will not get the lesson and become casual. Bob had earlier also made a mistake and he did not learn the lesson since I protected him.

Let us see what boss says.

If the issue does not become too complex, I am also taking it as a learning experience. Since I will have to face many such situations in future. Delegating jobs to my juniors and trusting them. They will make mistakes and I will have to face the brunt. Let us see how Tina tackles this.

BTW, an aside, I told Tom about his profile of activator, and he was not very happy with my assessment and told me so. He though profile fitted Jim and not him.

 

My Junior Tom

Standard

Out of my 4-5 team members who are all millennials, Tom is the most challenging to tackle.

Today only I gave him some task, he did it very fast and mailed it to me. I mailed back-well done. His response mail-Like.

SO that is Tom for you, as millennial as one can be.

I got to know two comments he had made about me to others.

Dick always dumps all jobs on juniors and sits idle all the time.

DIck keeps reminding me of pending jobs all the time so I don’t want to sit near him.

I let it be known to Tom that I know about these two comments he made about me.

He became very edgy and tried to get more info out of me, saying who can make such comments about you.

He also told others that I favour some people because they are close to top management. He even said that I watch videos in office all the time.

He prefers getting close to top bosses and our seniors, even at the cost of bypassing me. If boss assigns a job to me and him, he will gradually hijack the job and start discussing jobs with him, and not me. A stage will come when boss thinks whole job was done by him and nothing by me.

He keeps bitching about me to to my seniors and juniors.

He is so careless that he makes a mistake 5 times in repeated drafts. I have stopped signing his drafts without reading each draft once.

He keeps surfing the whole day, goes for tea-break 3-4 times.

The other day he was making cheap comments about our boss, who is double his age.

I have tried all formulas with him-carrot and stick, but nothing works.

Recently he attended a training, and after that he is trying to improve relations with me, let us see if this goes anywhere.

 

Likes & Dislikes in Bosses

Standard

Top 5 dislikes

ENIGMATIC We hate it when we don’t understand the boss. We want to know where we stand and what the rules are. We hate it when leader is inconsistent, or plays head games.  (Yep, my boss Jim was like that.)

THREATENING We don’t like the sword of Damocles over our head. We don’t like to see co-workers in that position either. Scapegoating, the art of torturing a subordinate for the sins of all, is a big no-no. It’s entertaining to a point, but no one wants to be the next line for humiliation. We expect our leaders to be able to discipline their passions and keep control of their emotions.

HYPOCRITICAL If you are an evil person, please let us know. We will be able to tell soon enough if you are self-serving. But please don’t say one thing and do another. It’s very confusing and gives virtue a bad name.

PEDANTIC Attention to detail is one thing, but let us do our jobs. When you are down in the hold rearranging the baggage, it makes us very nervous about who is steering the ship.

WASTING OUR TIME We understand the need for meetings. Hey, you are the boss. But we have a job to do here.

Top 5 Likes

COURAGE We love it when you take risks. We will feed off your confidence, and make you a legend. But we also want to see that 3 o clock in the morning courage, the courage to keep fighting when the whole thing seems to be coming down around our ears. We love fighters.

OPENNESS Let’s communicate. We can tell whether you want the real answers to your questions, or you are just showing off. How much noise you can handle. Challenging the prevailing wisdom always is. Openness means  making yourself a temporary equal once in a while and listening for the information that only the lower ranks can give you. (I think  I do it at times)

DRIVE TO WIN Sure, we all have different levels of commitment but at heart we all want to be winners. Set clear goals for us. We will block, carry the ball, or whatever but we want to know what the goal is. We want to see you committed to victory, however you define it.

FAIRNESS We know life is tough. Not everybody is going to make it. But we want to feel like we all have an equal chance to succeed. Mentorship is one thing, cronyism is another. Just be fair.

TRUST At the end of the day, we want your trust. If you give us the benefit of doubt, we will live up to your highest expectations. The greatest gift you can give us is your trust. If you can’t give it at least let us earn it.

(By Mark Bender)

Management styles

Standard

For last one week I have been closely working with a person on finalization of our company’s annual report. Now this person has verbal diarrhoea and can’t stay mum for long. But he does talk sense most of the time, though his own names invariably crops up in each incident he describes. So coming to the point he discussed a lot about our seniors and our CEOs.

First he shared his views about my ex-boss, let us name him Shawn for this blog. So he commented how Shawn had mostly done liaisoning work all his life and knows only sucking up and buttering up. With people like him in CEO coterie, you can understand the value of these people and the working style of CEO. He guessed how Shawn would behave in tricky situations, and to my utter surprize, he was right. Actually I have a love-hate relationship with Shawn. He did a lot for making my work count and getting me visibility and expsoure, he even ensured I get a coveted award, but he did a lot of bad things with me also. He asked me to draft a charge-sheet that was intended to be issued to me (it did not happen luckily), he blamed me for things I did not do, he expects me to do his errands even now, he expects me to risk my relations with present boss, let us name her Hale. Now even I start doubting Shawn’s intentions of helping me, I at times think SHawn must be having some hidden selfish motive in doing that for me.

Okay, now to Hale, this guy described Hale also pretty well. He said- SHe might have taken 30 days to judge each of the team member and her future action would have been guided by that. If she feels you can be relied upon, you talk sense, then she will value your opinion. Because she has risen through the ranks, has done hard-core marketing, she understands constraints and timelines. She won’t expect you to do unreasonable. And this guy was right about her.

Then he shared his experience with another CEO. This CEO always asked these guys to do what they felt right. So in a case, when the controlling Ministry expected this guy to commit to an unrealistic deadline, this guy politely declined. The CEO had instructed them to always be polite and dignified in conveying their problems. The issue was escalated to CEO level, but CEO backed him up and the job was done in real-time. Basically this guy wanted to prove how back-up from top motivates you to do more.

While talking about another CEO, he said- Once I had gone with a file to him. CEO wanted to check if a particular point discussed with my senior had been included. Then he talked over phone to my senior, who assured it has been included. So CEO signed. Our guy, to impress CEO, tried to find the para, but could not. CEO said-no worries, I have signed. Our guy came out, found the para and went inside again. Now the CEO told him- There was no need of this. When your boss has assured it has been included, I believe him. I am not supposed to get into these things. And I trust you people, you won’t cheat me. In future, keep this in mind. Then onwards our guy always checked notes 2-3 times before getting sign, knowing that CEO relied on him.

For annual report, we also had to work with two other guys from a third department, This guy explained how these two guys had a tuning between them as team members. They covered each other’s faults and never fought with each other, to impress boss. He related one incident also as to how the mistake was hushed up and rectified at junior level, without going to CFO level. I nodded to him, but thought to myself that this was at the cost of organisation. Their camaraderie was for their selfish motives, not for company’s interest. But I kept mum. 

These two guys also shared their view on management style. They had a bitter experience with a third CEO. Actually I was trying to understand the concept of hedging from them. This reminded them of a past incident. A group of them was monitoring the currency fluctuations over a period of time, and recommended a particular time when the deal should be frozen to benefit from favourable exchange rate. Luckily their prediction was right. They were happy and thinking that management will appreciate their work, What happened instead was that the CEO called for all such dealings in last two months and asked them why these deals were not done in this manner. Such is the management in our company.

Okay, back to the first talkative guy. He was discussing about a past CEO, and I told him how CEO’s anger and tantrums were good for company as most people in public sector responded to fear. But this guy gave a logical argument, and I had to agree. He said the CEO behaved this way with everyone, it would have been better if he could assess who asked for the lecture and who did not. Besides, after some time everybody got used to his anger and ignored it or laughed at it. This percolated down to all levels and resulted in demotivation at all levels.

Then we also discussed how TAs and others reach at director level and start having unrealistic expectations and talk nonsense. 

He talked a lot more, but rest some other day.

Critical feedback dialogue

Standard

Lucky (The female junior, early 30s)- Sir, what happened to that job we discussed last week. How do we do it?

Sunny (the male boss, early 40s) – I remember telling you clearly that estimate had to be taken from agency and an approval note made.

Lucky- (in a plain tone) I don’t remember.

Sunny- (getting irritated)- Well, I remember exactly, and you even said- one agency is charging reasonably, so we can get it done from that agency.

Lucky- (same tone) I don’t remember

Sunny- (with fuse blown, but in a clenched-teeth voice)- I remember 500 % that I told you, it is a separate thing that both of us forgot after that and the job was not done, but this was discussed.

Lucky- Sir, what happened, I wanted to ask you…..

Sunny- Let us not get into that in the morning, we will discuss later.

Later in the evening, Sunny calls Lucky and asks diplomatically- yes you were saying something in the morning.

Lucky- Sir, for last one week, you have been behaving differently , so I wanted to ask you what happened?

Sunny- Okay, first things first. About today morning incident, you know I hate lairs, and when someone directly or indirectly implies that I am a liar, you can imagine my problem. So when you said in the morning- I don’t remember, you were implying that I am lying, so I did not like that. This you have done once or twice in the past too, but I did not say anything. But when you did it again today, I lost control.

Lucky maintained deliberate, intelligent silence  and let Sunny finish, she just kept nodding.

Sunny then added- As for last week’s changes, let me start from the beginning.

See, as a team leader, I feel that I go out of the way to give visibility, exposure and opportunities to my juniors. Sometimes I feel that it is at my own cost, but I still do it. Secondly, I have told you earlier that my funda is clear, if one of us can do a job, I will not insist on both of us wasting our time on that. So you or me will do that. So I always try to create a positive work environment. Lastly, I asked during your appraisal this year, are there things you don’t like about me, and asked this again 2-3 times, you did not say anything, So I presumed that you are okay with my working and management style. And since I went out of the way to create a good team culture, I expected you to reciprocate that by being a good team member.

Lucky- And yes I always tried that. As for feedback about you, when you did my appraisal, I had worked with you for 2 months only so I could not tell much. But what happened last week, that changed your behaviour, which was confusing to me.?

Sunny- (Realising that her logic about 2 months working is solid, went to next topic) Well, you see, it is really good that you asked. Otherwise I was thinking that I had made a wrong image about you. After last thursday, I had stopped giving any agency work to you, and to show my anger, I was doing all agency related work myself. But when you did not react, I was puzzled. I would not have tried to have shown my anger this way to other guys. I did it to you, because I thought you were a thinking person, well-read, and you would notice the difference. So when you did not say a word, and acted normal, I was confused as to how do I manage such a team member. Because your non-reaction could mean only two things.

One, I was wrong about your emotional quotient, and you were plain Jane,a dumbo, who could not notice the difference in my behaviour, or

Two, you notice but you did not bother about my mood, anger, or reaction.

In either case, it was problematic for me. So I was confused how to handle you as a manager.

But by asking now, you have solved part of the problem.

Lucky- No, I noticed it Monday only, and in the evening I asked my mom also, and she said wait for sometime, you will get to know, but when it continued on Tuesday, Wednesday also, I was like what the hell. I did not want to ask as I was afraid it might make you more angry.

Sunny- Okay, so last Thursday, both of us knew, next three days were off-days, and we might have to work on all three days. I asked you given a choice, which days you would like to come, and you replied very curtly- If I have to come, I don’t mind what days?

That made me very angry. Here was I, a senior, who could have dumped the whole three days on you, willing to share the load, and offering you first choice. I was being generous and a good boss in my mind. And what do I get in return, an attitude and almost disobedience.

Then you said, you had to go home urgently, and I said-use official car for going. You were hesitant, but I insisted saying that we invest our holidays and all, so we deserve this much. You said okay.

I did tell you, that come what may, do try to come back, which I thought to myself, was a bit harsh, but I did tell you later that you could avoid coming if situation demands.

Aniways, you went and took a lift from another person, sms’ed me. I was okay with that. But then I went to agency and sms’ed you to use official car if you decide to come back to office. You sent back sms 2 hours later- I have taken a taxi and I have come back.

That really pissed me off, so I decided then and there not to call you on next 3 days.

On Monday also, my anger did not subside, I did not want to make an issue of it, knowing that my anger will go away in 2 weeks, so I decided that I will do all agency-related work and keep mum. This I thought will convey my anger to you. I wanted to convey two things to you.

One, I am self-sufficient and can do the work on my own, if required. If I ask you to do the work, it’s because I want the whole team to work together.

Two, If I end up doing work on weekends, I can jolly well do the work on weekdays too.

Lucky- Sir, I did not mean to hurt you, my anger was directed at the other departments who were working slowly and spoiling our weekends. Though I get it that my words did not convey this. As for car, while going home, I got a lift, and since I had already taken a taxi from home for the personal work I had, and I had to pay him aniways, so I came back by taxi.

But you could have told all this to me on Monday, you know how these things disturb me.

Sunny- No but it was intentional and I wanted you to realise how angry I was.

Lucky- I get that, but now you owe me a coffee, and please please in future do tell me if I say something wrong.

Sunny- Okay, deal.

(This is a real conversation I had with my junior this week. Thought to write in a dialogue form to make it interesting reading)

What say??

Junior this!

Standard

You can get a lot done, if you don’t mind who gets the credit, thus goes a quote. And I firmly believe in that on a day to day basis. Though I did have a conflict in my mind when I was assessed as not-the-best performer. So I can’t say I live by this quote 100 %. But to be frank, on a daily basis I act on it. However once or twice a year, when it affects my assessment, it hurts me but I come to terms with it soon enough and get on with my life.

So this junior who was feeling singled-out and shared that with me, who was feeling hurt by comments of a friend and shared. In both the cases, I took remedial measures, so that she does not feel singled-out and feel hurt. She reads a lot of books, talks sense most of the time, but last week she behaved very oddly.

We have been working on a publication for last one month. I have given her full liberty, exposure and visibility. So I was feeling good that we were working as a team. But when it came to a long weekend, when I asked her to share the load, and choose the days she wants to come, she said-If I have to come, I will come any day. Then same day, she also disobeyed me when she did not act on my advice to use office car for some urgent work, instead hired a taxi on her own. Same evening happy told, that she would tell something this junior said about me. All this made me very very angry.

So I worked on 2 full days on weekend and did not call her. Then I debated in mind if to tell her how upset I am. But then I remembered she is the same junior who had cried before others, when I corrected her draft and made a silly comment. So I decided that I will not say anything. But I was still not at peace. I kept on thinking, and found that her daughter was not well that day and I had insisted that she comes back to office. She might have disliked that, but what the hell.

So on Monday, I did not say anything to her. I kept myself under control though it was very difficult. I felt like making satirical comments or sharp taunts, but I kept mum. Strangely in that state of mind, I subconsciously took a decision that for this job, I will not send her to agency. If I have to work on weekends, I can very well work on weekdays too. She appeared to take it very casually. But somehow I am liking this sudden decision on my part. Though I know this will not work with all colleagues. But since she appears to be well-read and sensible, maybe she realises that she hurt me. Though there may be possibility that she would be carrying grudges against me, which I don’t know, but I don’t feel like asking happy right now.

Maybe in 3-4 days, my anger will cool down and things will be back to normal.

Let  us see.

Denial

Standard

Denial can be very funny and disturbing when you see it in other person. Of course denial in ourself is never easy thing to accept.

I am witnessing denial in a person, an ex-boss to be precise and it is very irritating. Whenever you speak to him, he will always project himself as holier than thou, and the most simple person on earth. The reality is he is very scheming and complex personality. His present job profile is such that he has to do some jobs which he used to do as our boss. Now that always results in obvious conflict with our present boss. They are most of the time at loggerheads. Present boss is well-mannered and rarely wears his emotions on sleeves. But the ex-boss does. Specially when ex-boss is with me, he keeps criticising present boss and ends every sentence with- Have I ever done anything bad to him? And what can I say but yes sir.

Ex-boss in reality never misses a chance to earn brownie points with CEO, and takes every opportunity to show present boss in bad light. Always keeps comparing his tenure and downgrades present team, which also includes me. Only I know, how I swallow all this. I just keep mum. The ex has this capability to tear apart the present boss and his work, and also claim his innocence in one sentence. He is the height of hypocrisy.

The ex had to go out from the department under unpleasant circumstances beyond his control. But he kept on blaming me and other people for his ouster. Now when mistakes during his time are noticed, he unabashedly puts the blame on me and other juniors. At the smallest of reasons, he starts shouting at me and abusing the whole department, how it has gone to dumps, how it was the best of times when he was heading it and all that. He is the perfect example of a manager in denial. On one occasion he said- When people needed promotions, awards, favours, they came to me, and now all ungrateful bastards are useless. I felt like shouting at him and telling him go f yourself. But I respect age, and he did a lot for me, though for his own selfish interests. He needed me as his sounding box, as his confidant and as his man friday and also for writing his speeches, articles and letters. So he squeezed me full and threw me some bones, which I did not ask for. And now he has the face to say he did it all without any self-interest. As if I don;t understand his shenanigans. He can be in a state of denial himself, but I can see through most of his game-plans.

Such people treat other people as tools and toys, to be used and discarded.

Optimism by Daniel Goleman

Standard

Anne, once head of Amex’s Optima Card division, was demoted in 1991 when 5 of her employees were revealed to have hidden USD 24 million in bad debt. Anne, though not responsible, was accountable, and so lost her position as GM of the division. Though devastated by the setback, she felt a basic confidence in her abilities and rallied to another challenge she was offered at a lower level, salvaging merchandising services, a failing division of Amex.

Optimists can more readily make a realistic assessment of a setback and admit how they contributed to it. Anne, e.g., re-examined her perfectionist, sometimes overly critical management style-even considering that it might have cowed her employees into hiding losses. She underwent executive coaching to soften her style, becoming more patient and a better listener. And under her direction, the failing merchandising division reached profitability within 2 years.

From- Working with EI

Mentoring by Daniel Goleman

Standard

It was a small lesson, but one with lasting impact. As a high-profile, fast-track editor at a national magazine, she had a problem- I was prone to snap decisions, committing to projects in a moment of enthusiasm, then having to suffer through a torturous series of rewrites with authors that ended in their articles being killed. It was emotionally draining for me, and it created too much animosity and just plain pain.

But then she told me, my editor in chief taught me a phrase that has helped immensely.

What was that phrase?

“I will think about it.”

That simple bit of advice exemplifies coaching, which lies at the heart of developing others. Excellence in this competence is emerging as second only to team leadership among superior managers. For sales managers, developing others is even more important- the competence most frequently found among those at the top of the field.

This is a person-to-person art, the heart of coaching and developing is the act of counselling. And the effectiveness of counseling hinges on empathy and the ability to focus on our own feelings and share them.