Monday, 30 June 2014

Book Review- Championing the Bosses

If I remember correctly it was in the year 1998. The karnataka chapter of NIPM (National Institute of Personnel Management) had invited its members to an evening meeting in Bangalore, the main agenda being the release of the book "Management parables" written by Mr Moid Siddiqui a practicing HRDian who was then working as GM (Personnel) in HMT Ltd.

It was a pleasant evening. The chief guest presiding over the ceremony and the author spoke, followed by the formal release of the book. At the venue during break, the fresh new book was displayed and was available for sale. My colleague & I picked up a book each. Two days later I was traveling on official work from Bangalore to Mysore. As the journey time was a solid 3 hours, I was carrying with me the newly purchased book to keep myself occupied during the journey.

I casually started reading the book but soon became engrossed in it. Here was a book as its name suggested, relating to us true tales from the corporate scenario in a simple free flowing language with a lot of learning. The book for me was for me a breath of fresh air with no complicated management jargons or charts. Before I realized it, I had almost completed reading the book as the train reached Mysore.
The book I was referring in the previous para was Moid siddiqui's second book. The book I am reviewing in this post is his 15th book. The author has subsequently written many more .To date he has written 25 books mainly on management, with around 6 on spirituality. But why am I recalling an earlier book while reviewing "Championing the Bosses"? It is because this book has a lot in common in terms of style, tone & tenor with the parables book that I had like so much! In other words "Championing the bosses” is filled with a lot of experience sharing- of incidents & anecdotes from the work life of the distinguished author spanning over 3 decades.
In the book, the author has described 14 types of bosses. He has given a detailed description for identifying each type and tips as to how to associate with each of them for attaining the maximum benefit & sustaining the minimum damage. Interestingly, he has also given tips to the bosses (e.g. the Stone Age boss or the paranoid boss) as to how they can come out of their limitations& become more effective. This approach of the author, Moid siddiqui is heartening & refreshing in the sense, the aim of the exercise is not merely to criticize & condemn but to guide both the bosses and the reportees to desirable and enabling behaviour.

In order to give a taste of the quality & power of Mr siddiqui's descriptions, I am quoting below his take on the 'Heroic' bosses:-
“The prime characteristic of a heroic boss is ‘Urge for visibility' coupled with ‘Over confidence'. A big 'I' is his identity. The pronoun 'We' does not find any place in his vocabulary. Heroic boss has a big ego and is highly ambitious. His urge for visibility is so high that he becomes myopic & fails to make a distinction between praise & appeasement. He over counts himself & under counts others. Heroic bosses are disaster hunters. They feel uncomfortable if there is no crisis. If the crisis is not there, they would create one, as crisis management gives them visibility. They are team destructors.”

For dealing with such types, the author has suggested technique of 'creative aggression'-The heroic manager is like an unguarded missile. We need to look at ways for harnessing their energy creatively so that instead of harming, it becomes beneficial for organizational needs. The other technique suggested is 'supportive confrontation'- confront his 'egotism' and support his intellectual impulses' and ‘energy'. The description is supplemented by many incidents& tales from thework situation.  

The other bosses discussed are busy bosses, paranoid bosses who are always suspicious & trust none, chocolate cream bosses who do not want to displease any one, stone age bosses who centralize power, narcissistic bosses who hunger for praise, crooked bosses, micromanaging bosses & its opposite abdicating bosses, Gotcha bosses who are happy catching you do something wrong, Mohammad Tuglaq Bosses who are ahead of their times, Baba yoga bosses who are patriarchal using the command & control approach and the last two which exhibit positive qualities namely Pygmalion bosses(caring & loving yet keeping the bar of achievement high) and achievers somewhat in the mold of Maslow's self-actualizers.
What makes the discussion insightful, entertaining yet enlightening are the live stories drawn from the experience of the author. On completing the book the one thought that comes to mind is “if only I had this book to guide me a little earlier in my career, dealing with bosses & being a boss oneself could have been so much easier.” I enjoyed reading all the chapters, maybe some a little more than the others given the kind of situations I myself encountered in my career.
The chapter on Baba yoga bosses had new information in the form of sharing a Russian fairy tale of a cannibal witch, Baba Yoga who treated her subordinates with an iron hand cruelly & without respect and yet managed to get their absolute obedience until she met her match in the heroine of the tale, Vasilisa imprisoned by the witch with the aim of eating her for supper. But before she returned, Vasilisa politely and with respect requested the servants of the witch to help her escape & they did because they experienced for the first time courteous behaviour- “I let her pass for she was polite to me. I served you for ten years, Baba Yoga, but you never gave me any love or affection” The Baba yoga of the Russian tale characterizes a typical patriarchal boss who gives precedence to self-interest and self-esteem over the company’s objectives. The reign of fear & phobia snuffs out creativity, ingenuity and intuitive reflexes. Needless to say that there was a lot of learning in this chapter. Yet, after completing the chapter, there was a feeling for me of something missing…. I examined the reason for this and finally came to the conclusion. This chapter did not have a single tale or experience sharing from the author.
I conclude this review reiterating the observation that in “Championing the Bosses” published by Prism books, a wealth of learning is assured for the reader who can also enjoy the free flowing lines, anecdotes & incidents drawn from real life!


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Stories From the Work Place- Unforgettable Incident

In my post "Stories from the work place" we had discussed the power & impact of  stories and how stories from the work place can energize employees.. I published the same in our company's intranet also and exhorted readers to start sharing their stories from the work place. The first person to respond to my request was Mr  S.Saravanan, Assistant Supervisor working in Transmission-QC department. Naturally I am thrilled and am excited to share this with readers. Mr saravanan has written this piece beautifully in Tamil,even quoting lines from Thirukural ( a classic of couplets authored by poet Thiruvalluvar around 30 BC) .Those of my readers who are blessed with the ability to read Tamil may go down & read the article straight  from the horse's mouth. For the benefit of others, I have translated this motivating story- Enjoy...

Story From the work Place

" Kooramai nokka kuripparvanenjandrum
 maaraa neer vaikum kani"

Meaning: A person who is able to understand from the face of another what he is thinking,even when the other person has not spoken a word will become the ornament of the world

Unforgettable Incident

I feel happy & proud of the fact that I am working in our company for the past 13 years.I have had lot of experiences during this period. Of these I would like to share an incident that particularly touched my heart.This was in the year 2006.

I joined the company as a technician in 2001.Since this was my first job,I was anxious & fearful in respect of most matters. My supervisor was Mr Prabhakar.He used to interact with everyone freely & naturally.He would discuss with us and give his guidance & support in all matters whether pertaining to work or personal life. One day, on seeing my upset & worried face, he took me aside and asked" What is the problem? You seem to be upset. Can I help you in any way?" I then shared with him the injustice faced by me..

In 2006 I bought a new motorcycle.Even after 10 months, they did not give me the RC book.Although I followed up & visited the RTO office a number of times, it was all in vain.After understanding my problem Mr prabhakar searched for a solution on the internet and found that the website ICRPC was available where we could registter complaints. He taught me  the method of registering complaint online at a time when I had no idea or experience of the internet..

Later, I pursued the case as adviced by him in  the consumers' court without the help of a lawyer and came out successful after two years. This incident came to my mind in April last year when I attended a training program, BEES( Becoming an efficient & Effective Supervisor) on beingpromoted as asst supervisor. In the program Mr Rajeev facilitated a detailed training session on the importance of understanding nonverbal cues.I was able to relate to this incident immediately and appreciate its importance.

What are  nonverbal cues?

It is understanding the mental state of a person by observing his face & body postures/gestures. On that day my supervisor was able to guage my mental state by observing my face and then help me. This has become an unforgettable incident for me and it also served in enhancing our relationship with each other.

The training I received in the BEES program & my own personal experience related above, is helping me in my relationships with others as I am able to understand their feelings (sadness/ happiness) and respond.....


கூறாமை நோக்கக் குறிப்பறிவான் எஞ்ஞான்றும்
மாறாநீர் வையக் கணி- குறள்: 701


ஒருவர் சொல்லாமலே அவருடைய முகத்தை நோக்கி அவர் கருதிய குறிப்பை அறிகின்றவன் எப்போதும் உலகத்திருக்கு ஓர்அணிகலன் ஆவான் மறக்க முடியாத


நான் 13 வருடங்களாக நமது நிறுவனத்தில் பணிபுரிகிறேன் என்பதில் மகிழ்ச்சியும் பெருமையும் அடைகிறேன். இந்த காலத்தில் எனக்கு நிறைய அனுபவங்கள். அதில் குறிப்பாக என் மனதை தொட்ட ஒரு நிகழ்ச்சியை பகிர்ந்து கொள்ள விரும்பிகிறேன். இது நடந்தது 2006-ஆம் ஆண்டு.....

2001 ஆம் ஆண்டு டெக்னிசியனாக பணியில் சேர்ந்தேன். அப்பொழுது எனக்கு இதுவே முதல் பணி என்பதால் அனைத்திற்கும் பயம் கலந்த பதற்றம். என்னுடைய முதல் Suprevisor- ஆக திரு. M பிரபாகர் அவர்கள் இருந்தார். அவர் எப்பொழுதும் சகஜமாக பணி இடத்தில் பேசி பழகுவார். எங்களுக்கு பணி சார்ந்த மற்றும் பணிகள் அல்லாத அணைத்து விசயத்திற்கும் தக்க ஆலோசனை மற்றும் தேவை இருப்பின் தானே முன்னின்று செய்து கொடுக்கும் தன்மையுடையவர். ஒரு நாள் என் பணி இடத்தில் மிகவும் சோர்வுடனும், கவலையுடனும் இருப்பதை பார்த்து என்னை தனியாக அழைத்து என்ன இன்று உன்னிடம் ஏதோ விரக்தி தெரிகிறது, உன் முகத்தில் பொழிவு இல்லை, ஏதாவது பிரச்சனையா? நான் எதுவும் உதவி செய்யட்டுமா என்று கேட்டார். அப்பொழுது அன்று எனக்கு ஏற்பட்ட அநீதியை, ஏமாற்றத்தை அவரிடத்தில் கூறினேன்.

அதாவது 2006- ஆம் வருடம் நான் ஒரு புதிய மோட்டார் சைக்கிள் வாங்கினேன். 10 மாதம் கழித்தும் R.C Book தரவில்லை பலமுறை அலைந்தும் பலன் இல்லை என்பதை அவரிடத்தில் கூறினேன். பின்னர் அவர், அடுத்த நாள் online- ல் அதற்கான வழிமுறைகளை ஆராய்ந்து வந்து ICRPC . ORG என்ற வெப்சைட் பற்றி எனக்கு கூறி, அதில் என் குறைகளை பதிவு செய்யும் வழிமுறைகளை கற்று தந்தார். அப்பொழுது Online மற்றும் மெயில் அனுப்புவது பற்றி அனுபவம் இல்லை. பின் அவர் கூறியபடி பதிவு செய்து, நான் வழக்கரிஞரின்றி நுகர்வோர் நீதி மன்றம் சென்று 2 வருடம் வழக்கை நடத்தி அதில் வெற்றியும் பெற்றேன்.

இதை எதற்காக சொல்ல வந்தேன் என்றால், நான் கடந்த Aprtl மாதம் A.S-ஆக (A.S->Asst.Suprevisor) பணி உயர்வு பெற்று நமது L&D ஆல் நடத்தப்பட்ட BEES Program-ல் கலந்து கொண்டேன். அதில் Mr ராஜீவ் அவர்கள் Non-Verbal Cues பற்றி விரிவாக பயிற்சி அளித்தார் . அப்பொழுது எனக்கு ஏற்பட்ட இந்த சம்பவம் நினைவுக்கு வந்ததுடன் இதன் முக்கியத்துவத்தை நான் உணர்ந்தேன்.

Non-Verbal Cuesஎன்பது

ஒருவரின் முக பாவனை மற்றும் அவரின் செய்கையை கொண்டு அவரின் மன நிலையை புரிந்து கொள்ளுதல்.

அன்று என்னுடைய Suprevisor அவர்கள் என்னுடைய முக பாவத்தில் இருந்து என் மன நிலையை புரிந்து கொண்டு எனக்கு உதவிய விதம் என் வாழ் நாளில் மறக்க முடியாத ஒன்றாகவும் எனக்கும் அவருக்கும் நல்ல உறவு முறையை ஏற்படுத்தியது.

தற்போது BEES Program-ல் கிடைத்த பயிற்சி மற்றும் மேற்கூறிய எனது அனுபவம் இரண்டும் எனக்கு மற்றவர்களின் சுக-துக்கங்களை புரிந்து கொண்டு அவர்களிடத்தில் பழகுவதற்கு ஏதுவாக இருக்கிறது
Thanks & Regards
Saravanan S

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Stories from the Work place

Stories have been known to make  a big impact on our lives. As children, if  we were told stories of valour & courage,They inspire us to exhibit such qualities in  later  life.  Similarly messages of love, compassion or empathy are best imbibed through stories.Yet, over the years there has been a dearth of stories. In the changed scenario, grandmothers no longer live under the roof of nuclear families.Working mothers & fathers do not have the time for stories. Children have moved to other sources like video and computer games to engage themselves. It appears that we have  lost the fine art of telling stories which came easily & effortlessly to our ancestors.

What is true of the home, is true of  the corporate scene. In the day to day struggle of meeting targets, maintaining the quality standards and besting the competition, we do not have the time to share stories of how we came up trumps in a tough situation, how we combined beautifully as a team to deliver the best results, These stories told & retold could have become folklore of the company that inspires not just one but generations of employees.Today, on the few occasions executives address employees, the examples taken are of  Bill Gates and Warren Buffet or at best of  Narayanamurthy or Dhirubhai Ambani  & what they did to achieve success.There are  hardly any stories  from one's  own company...

At the valedictory session of training programs and during the one to one reviews one month after the program, I have been appealing to the participants to practice the learning in day to day work and then share their success stories of  its application  in our intranet ( knowledge management site). But there are hardly any takers in view of the reasons already discussed in this post. However in the training program on core values of the company facilitated by the Manager, Learning & Development Joshy Thomas, a separate session is devoted exclusively for encouraging participants to share stories wherein the five core values of the company viz customer, collaboration, challenge, people & globality were articulated by them or colleagues in the course of day to day work. Joshy told me that in one such program V.Bimal, Senior Manager Sales (Logistics) shared a very inspiring story that happened when he was working in the   Regional office (Sales) in Chennai.. 

I decided to meet Bimal  personally and hear the story from the horse's mouth.Although I had gone to him to listen to one motivating story, as I interacted with him I realized that I had hit jackpot & that he was willing to tell me more than one story from the work situation- Yeh dil maange more!
Bimal's  story goes back to the year 2000. He had sold the Santro car to a customer.Once sale is completed, normally the job of the sales person is over & in case of any hiccup subsequently, the customer contacts the after sales person.But this customer decided to call Bimal whom he knew rather than a stranger. He was stranded on the middle of the road in Nungambakkam Chennai with his wife & two young kids at around 8 PM in the night.As the customer sounded frantic, Bimal told him to wait in the same place & that he would drive down personally to take a look.His residence being close by he reached in about fifteen minutes.On taking a look at the car, it was evident that it will need to be attended in the workshop.While the customer was digesting the impact of this bad news and pondering as to how he will take his family home, Bimal offered to give his  personal car to him for the night.He said he would try to take the customers's car by driving it slowly to his residence as it is nearby, arrange for it to be attended to in the workshop the next day and have the car delivered to the customer's residence.

The customer was both surprised and happy by the offer. The fall out of this unplanned, unexpected encounter was that this customer translated his happiness & satisfaction into referring a number of his friends & acquaintances to Bimal. This continued for about three years until he shifted residence to Bangalore. Bimal then said "There is one more thing I would like to add.It had not come to my mind when I related this story during the training program- About two years prior to this incident, our Regional Manager (sales), Mr Y.J.Ahn, a Korean was travelling on the Chetput bridge in Chennai at around 5 PM when he noticed a santro car on the road surrounded by a few people.He asked the driver to slow down & on coming to know that there was a problem with the car, he insisted that the customer be dropped to his destination in his car.He waited on the road until alternative arrangements were made from the regional office for his pick up. The next day our entire regional office was abuzz with discussions & small talk appreciating the gesture of our leader to a customer. Come to think of it, this gesture knowingly or unknowingly may have influenced my decision to offer my car to the customer"

Needless to say, I was thrilled by this story.But before I could fully appreciate its impact, Bimal related the story of another customer,a lady whom he now referred to as 'aunty' as  today she has become like a family member.Their relationship however had initially begun as between a customer and the sales manager. As a customer who had exchanged her car for a Hyundai car, Sophia was entitled to an exchange bonus.The dealer collects the relevant documents & sends the recommendation to the Hyundai Motor India sales headquarters in Delhi for sanctioning the payment. As there was delay in getting the bonus & the dealer was not keeping her informed of the exact position, Sophia who lives in Cochin contacted the regional office Chennai which had the administrative jurisdiction for south & was connected to Bimal. After going in to the details, Bimal not only kept her informed of where exactly her papers were at that point of time( allaying any doubt as to whether she would be denied her rightful claim) but also expedited the process.This initiative resulted in a life long relationship with the customer. After that periodically whenever Sophia wished to change/upgrade her car, she invariably called Bimal for advice and continues to keep in touch till date.

After relating his inspiring stories, Bimal remarked "in the initial stages when the company was growing, we were all charged up and all the activities & initiatives were done by us in the normal course of work.We never felt that we were going out of the way. I doubt whether today's youngsters would care for these stories or whether these priorities matter to them." While thanking him I told Bimal that I beg to differ with his view on this matter. Had these & other inspiring stories from the work place been told and retold over the years, the enthusiasm & excitement would have been still alive in the same measure in the company no matter how much bigger we have become  in the scale of operations or employee strength.A  story from sales or production department would not only inspire employees in the said departments but employees across the board, in all departments of the company!

In her book "Whoever tells the best story wins"Annette Simmons draws attention to the power of telling stories and also gives tips on how to use your own stories effectively  for different purposes and situations. According to Simmons "stories help people feel acknowledged, connected & less alone. The stories you tell & the stories people tell  themselves about you, your product or service enhance or minimize your ability to deliver satisfaction."

I believe that the time is long over due for us HRDians to take the initiative to collect stories from the past, encourage people to tell success/ inspiring stories from the present and nurture an organizational  culture that facilitates story telling. After all, as Annette Simmons says "Whoever tells the best story wins"!