Category Archives: self assessment

Strategic Lubrication

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I was stumped with a term ” strategic lubrication” coming from a close friend, also known for his sycophancy. ” What’s that?” I inquired.” As I go up the ladder, I realize the futility of oiling all and sundry. So I concentrate my lubrication power on a few key persons having a bearing on my career, ignoring the lesser mortals. That is the source of this term” he replied with a naughty smile.

Above lines are from the FB wall of a friend. But the truth in these lines is not far from reality. There are people who do all this. Though I avoid doing this, but I can understand if other people do it to their seniors. I am not sure though where to draw the line between genuine relation-building with boss and sucking up.

For example, I have seen people giving sweet packets to their bosses, when they are promoted or have some good news to share. I am not able to make myself do that, if I have to share sweets, I will give equal to all-seniors and juniors. Not party-pack to boss and single-pack to others.

There is this colleague whose husband is working abroad. I asked her to get some material on payment basis. She did not. but I saw her getting things for others. At that time, she was not reporting to ,me. After some months, she started reporting to me, then when her husband came to India, she gave me gift.  I politely refused but she insisted. I could not make myself tell her about her two faces.

I have seen people opening car doors, carrying boss’s luggage, serving them meals. But I can’t.

Rather I deliberately avoid giving any gifts to seniors lest they think I am sucking up. There is one senior to whom I am grateful for what he did for me personally. So I go to his house every year for gifting sweets in festive season. But that again I started when he had left our department, and now he has retired also. Till the time he was our head, I never gave him any sweets and gifts.

As for promotion or holidays, I don’t see any reason for specially bringing gifts for bosses, other than for sucking up, which I can’t.

What say you?

My boss and me

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In last one week, 2-3 things happened which resulted in this post.

My boss Tina is very forgetful and sometimes absent-minded. So I am not surprized when she gives credit for my work to other people in front of me, or claims credit for herself. So it was a pleasant surprize when she acknowledged my suggestion. What happened was that an event was to be organised and two booklets were to be printed for the event. While designing was going on I suggested that we can avoid mentioning event date on the book cover so that if event is rescheduled, booklets are usable. She agreed to it. And 2 days later, government announces austerity measures and disallows govt. programmes in 5-star hotels, so our programme is cancelled. Boss expresses happiness that we did not print date on books. In a moment of sucking-up, and since it slipped out of my mind that it was my suggestion, I said- Boss, your foresight was bang on dot. She said-you only suggested it. I ended up having a mix of emotions- guilt for appearing to be sucking up, happy that she accepted my idea, surprized that she acknowledged me and so on.

But in another incident, we were to launch a redone website. So she planned it all with my junior happy. I was also okay since I trust happy, who is boss’s technical advisor and best-rated executive of our department. Happy lined up everything as discussed by her with boss. But being nice she kept me in loop and informed. So on the day of the launch, I let happy and ann manage all the work. Aniways I was not involved in the discussions also so i was a bit upset also. When the launch happened, i was asked to join. Post the function,Tina called me and said- Why don’t you supervise. I told her, happy had discussed with you, and moreover she will think I am interfereing and trying to grab the credit. Tina said-no you need to get involved, i can not go everywhere. I said okay.

Next day she calls a meeting on website, where senior officers from different departments come and take part. She calls happy, ann and others but not me. I am again confused what is her working style. She discusses work directly to my juniors, assigns tasks to them, and then asks me about progress. Am I supposed to beg juniors to tell me what all jobs boss assigned to them. Tina can always tell me and then I can assign. It’s all very confusing.

An aside, yesterday I went to a printer for some urgent job. He remarked-Sir, you are so polite in your dealing that I can not say no to you for any job. It made my day.

Mistakes of Juniors

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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

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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.

 

Boss Management

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Bad bosses happen. To tackle that, you should be looking for things to like about the boss.

If  he is not involved, that gives you latitude.

If he is a bit of a dunderhead, that makes you the smart one.

If he is driven, that means you are along for the ride.

Find things to like about the boss. Let him feel the love. Show some respect. Adopt a wee bit of humility.

Late in my career I had an office right across the hall from the boss. After every cup of coffee he barged in with a new, great idea. He was killing me. In my next job the boss was 200 miles away. I got a little lazy and sloppy from the lack of stimulation.

In the first instance I eventually realized that of the 20 or so officers that the boss supervised, I had the inside track. I was closest to him and, despite the constant distractions, I always had his ear and I always knew what was going on. I came to see it as an advantage.

In the second instance I eventually woke up and realized that distance gave me the freedom to be my own man and run things my way, without the constant interference. I just had to work order to keep the boss informed.

Rarely, if ever, should you say no upfront to boss. Even if it is a dumb idea and not your job. Just say yes, even when it hurts.

You can always say no later. After you have done some work, set up counter attack, and the boss is less emotionally invested in her great new idea.

If boss wants your opinion, she will ask for it. But when bosses are passing out taskings, they are looking for yes-men.  Give her-three bags full mam.

Follow the leader, not the led.

-By Mark Bender

 

Self-appraisal

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A BEAUTIFUL STORY ~

*A little boy went to a telephone booth which was at the cash counter of a store and dialed a number.

The store-owner observed and listened to the conversation:

Boy : “Lady, Can you give me the job of cutting your lawn?
Woman : (at the other end of the phone line) “I already have someone to cut my lawn.”

Boy : “Lady, I will cut your lawn for half the price than the person who cuts your lawn now.”

Woman : I’m very satisfied with the person who is presently cutting my lawn.

Boy : (with more perseverance) “Lady, I’ll even sweep the floor and the stairs of your house for free.

Woman : No, thank you.With a smile on his face, the little boy replaced the receiver. The store-owner, who was listening to all this, walked over to the boy.

Store Owner : “Son… I like your attitude; I like that positive spirit and would like to offer you a job.”

Boy : “No thanks,
Store Owner : But you were really pleading for one.
Boy : No Sir, I was just checking my performance at
the job I already have. I am the one who is working for that lady I was talking to!” *

** This is called self Appraisal”** Give your best and the world comes to you!!!!!

source-internet

Critical feedback dialogue

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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??

Denial

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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.

Mood swings

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Mood is a strange animal, very difficult to control. One day it is on, one day it is off. At times I know the reason of my mood swing, and at times I don’t. Now I can’t blame it on hormones, or can I. Then mood can be interpreted as nothing but a state of mind, which also affects other organs of the body resulting in fast heartbeat, headache and what not.

But for every person, reasons for mood getting off-track are different. Thanks to Daniel Goleman, M. Scott Peck and Dale Carnegies of the world, I am trying to understand the working of my mind these days, and so trying to guess reason of my off mood today on this fine Sunday.

Two things really I could pin down on.

One is the fear of an important person being angry with me. Actually this person if the spouse of a big shot in our company. I was asked to assist them in a printing job, which I did last year also. But this time I could not give full time to it, and had to rely on another person who is formally the editor, and it seems this editor backbited and sullied my image. I don’t have any confirmation yet, just hunch because I was not called to their last meeting. So I am feeling cheated. Seeing in a big perspective, after 3-4 years, these things won’t matter, but then why is my mood off. Actually there is a function to formally launch the publication next week, and I am not sure I will be invited or not, and if invited I should go or not. Besides, another reason for that spouse being upset is that last year I made my spouse a member of their club, and told the friend who mediated, that why my spouse was not called for their get togethers. It seems this cunning, conniving friend might have complicated the things by passing on the things with spice to big shot spouse. Again this also is a hunch. What I could read from this situation is more than the loss of face, what worries me is the choice dilemma-I go or not go, I take interest or not. So Choice or decision, that too associated with a tricky situation upsets my mood.

I told you about a junior of mine, who was not very keen on coming to work on weekends even for an urgent job. Now the confusion, whether I tell her about how angry I was with her attitude, is again perturbing me. So here again the choice is making me upset, not the act itself.

I was thinking of telling another junior also about two of his lapses. Till the time I was thinking, I was not okay. But when I told him, that issue is out of my mind now. There was other issue also, but there I came to a different decision, and that also led to peace of mind.

Life is really simple, if you make it so.

Experience

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As is said, experience comes from failure, and failure comes from experience.

But there is no denying that experience is valuable. One learns a lot with time.

But the extent of learning depends upon the frame of mind. If one observes things and people keenly with a positive frame of mind, learning is better. However if one considers every job as a burden, and is always in rush to finish the job at hand in a negative frame of mind, the learning will definitely be limited.

Then there is a level of general knowledge and subject knowledge, which determines how much and what one can learn. All other factors being same, two individuals with different knowledge levels will have different kind of experiential learning.

As I have mentioned in one of my earlier post about Daniel Goleman and emotional intelligence, intuition is nothing but expertise coupled with presence of mind. So experience can take many shapes and forms.

There can be honing of people skills or emotional intelligence. This will happen with those who take more interest in people either because the job demands or their inclination. For example, people in HR or Sales for that matter need to gain experience of this kind, else they will not attain heights of success.

Domain expertise is another kind of experience that comes with time. For example, in Finance, PR and other niche areas, after a few years, it’s all been there, done that kind of scenario. Such experience enables people to visualise possible scenarios in every situation. They will know what can go wrong in a particular situation. Of course they can not predict the future, but they can minimise the risk factors using their experience.

And if I may say so, experience can make people optimists/positive or pessimists/negative, depending upon their outlook. After going through a crisis, one person can decide to celebrate the success and look forward to newer challenges, whereas another person can curse his luck for being trapped in such a crisis and attribute success to luck. Latter kind of person will try to avoid facing such crisis situations in future.

I have seen experience making people sweeter or bitter, clearly an outcome of their filters and goggles. A simple analogy can explain this. Say, a heavy drinker has two sons.  It may so happen that one of them follows the footsteps of his father and becomes a heavy drinker like him. Another hates his father’s addiction having seen his pitiable condition, and pledges to never drink in his life. In this case, all conditions were same, but one son emulated and the other son did just the reverse, depending upon how they perceived their father’s actions.

I have friends and family members who are so rigid that you would never find them accepting their mistake. They think they are always right, and even if they realise they might be wrong, they behave as smart asses and try to fool others.  Such people will have very limited learning from any life experiences, because their minds are closed to experiential learning. On the other hand, there are people who keep on reading, discussing, observing and are always in learning mode. Such people learn a lot from all kinds of experiences.

Even in my team, I have seen a range of learners. When I pointed out mistake of one person, she did not take it positively. She even bitched about it to other colleagues, which I came to know. From then on I have stopped sharing whatever I know at least, and it is entirely her loss. So by her adamant behaviour she is losing out on experience that I could have shared with her. On the other hand, another colleague was more than receptive when I pointed out few errors. She pointedly asked me to let her know in future also, if some improvements are possible. So clearly she will gain more experience from me, at least to the extent of my limited knowledge.

Another factor that helps of hinders the learning experience is sincerity of the person at work. 1-2 of my team members take ages to complete a job, are not meticulous and are careless. So anytime I have a choice, I avoid giving them new assignments, because I can delegate the work, but responsibility and accountability is mine. So I would rather get the job done by a sincere, careful and methodical person. So careless person, even if he has inclination to learn and improve, will lose out on experience gathering.

That was my experience speaking, what is yours?