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Encounters with brighter minds invariably leave an author invigorated. When managers, whether the practising kind or the aspiring kind, ask searching questions based on what one has proposed in one’s books or blogs, the writer’s thought process also gets enriched. The more pungent the query, the more fulfilled one feels.

Over the past few years, yours truly has had several opportunities of interacting with youth who aspire to be future managers and entrepreneurs. The topics have been wide ranging, like Work Life Balance, Management Lessons from Movies, Management Lessons from India, Ethics and Values in Business, Managing Interpersonal Relationships, Four Pillars of Integral Management and Surviving in the Corporate Jungle.

Here are some of the outfits which have been kind enough to grant such opportunities:

  1. Catolica Porto Business School, Porto, Portugal.
  2. Department of Management Studies, Universidade Europeia, Lisbon, Portugal.
  3. Madras Management Association, Pondicherry Chapter, India.
  4. Sri Aurobindo Center for Advanced Research, Pondicherry, India.
  5. C K College of Engineering and Technology, Cuddalore, India.
  6. Sri Manakula Vinayagar Engineering College, Pondicherry, India.
  7. Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow: NOIDA Campus, India.
  8. International Minds in Finland, Finland.
  9. Madras Management Association, Chennai, India.
  10. Department of Management Studies, Pondicherry University, India.
  11. Department of Management Studies, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, India.
  12. Great Lakes Institute of Management, Gurgaon, India.

And mentioned below are some of the frequently asked questions yours truly has encountered in the recent past. Against each query, you will find a short summary of the response.

What precisely is Spiritual Quotient (SQ)? How does one develop it?

Those who have a high SQ have this uncanny ability to be creative and insightful in their approach to problem solving. They build up their level of self-awareness and there intuitive faculties. They realize that there is a realm of intelligence which is beyond the five senses that our physical bodies are endowed with.

SQ has several components: gratitude, self-esteem, self-awareness, consciousness, compassion, surrender, service and ego.

Meditation can help develop our Spiritual Quotient. So can heartfulness and mindfulness.

When you speak of the ‘Draupadi Syndrome’ in management parlance, you are speaking of managing multiple bosses. How does one handle such a situation?

Organizations are becoming flatter. Functional silos are breaking down. This means working in multi-disciplinary teams and reporting to multiple bosses at times.

Tact, patience and a better understanding of the psychology of each boss can help a manager to handle many bosses at the same time. Bad-mouthing one in front of the other would not help. Playing one against the other could also land one in a soup.

Due to parental pressure and financial insecurity, can one take up a job which is with a company which is marketing a dubious product?

It is not advisable to go in for a job where your value system does not match with that of the organization. You will not be able to put your heart into it. This may result into your being caught in a low-result and lower-rewards vicious cycle, undermining your self confidence.

If you are absolutely with your back to the wall, you may do so for a very short stint; be ready to change to the next one at the first possible opportunity.

 

You advise us to avoid being a Yes-man. How does one convey one’s difference of opinion to a senior? How does one say ‘no’ to one’s boss?

Politely. By marshalling your thoughts and sharing those with the senior at an appropriate time. Be open and respectful to his views. Registering dissent is a responsibility we all carry on our shoulders.

Please give examples of Eustress, the positive kind of stress you speak of.

When you are rushing for a meeting with your girl friend, or going to a movie, you feel a kind of stress which is positive in nature. When the end result is likely to be a pleasurable experience, you feel Eustress.

It follows that when we handle an assignment which connects us to a cause we happen to be passionate about, we experience positive stress. We enjoy doing it.  

 

According to you, interpersonal relationships have a half-life of their own, much like that of a radioactive substance. How can one increase the life span of a relationship?

I believe this can be done by avoiding anger, greed and a tendency to bad-mouth the party of the other part, especially when he/she is not present. Anticipating the needs of a person and assisting him/her in achieving a goal helps.

 

Ethics and Values in business: For an entity which is geared for generating a surplus for its equity holders and boasts of a great market valuation, just how practical is this concept?

Most businesses run on a quarter to quarter basis, with a focus on guideline values. But those which care about developing their brand equity operate based on a compass which is configured on a basic set of ethics and values.

In the Indian context, why do we respect Tatas? Because the group has a 150-year old tradition of good thoughts, good work and a basic sense of decency and honesty. They continue to do so much for the society, mostly in fields which have no direct connection to their diverse businesses.  

Any general career advice you would give to us?

Five years down the road, do you not see businesses becoming more dependent on technology? So, the writing on the wall is pretty clear. Be ready to embrace change. Learn digital skills and be ready to play a relevant role in the business, whether your own or that of someone else.

Do not be scared of bargaining for a better work-life balance. Remain connected to your inner self. Introspect, do a SWOT analysis, and create a USP for yourself. Invest in a good image on social media.

Build credibility. Observe company culture. Volunteer willingly. Build healthy relationships. Keep improving your skill-set.

Book cover English Front

Each interaction proves to be a good learning opportunity!

(Wish to look up my profile? You can find it here.

Related post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/04/01/about-me)

 

 

 

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Organizations where the top management believes that any suggestion for improvement in a department emanating from another department amounts to interference and sacrilege tend to become like zoological parks. All subject experts get confined to their ‘cages’ or ‘enclosures’. Forays into another’s territory are frowned upon. This is a sure shot recipe for nipping creativity and innovation at the work place.

The biggest casualty of course is the hapless customer who has had the misfortune of buying a product which turns out to be defective. The incessant running from pillar to post a disgruntled customer is subjected to ends up creating a market ambassador the organization could surely do without.

(Excerpt from my book ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’, the English version of which was released recently. Here is a video clip which captures the journey of the book so far:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/10/14/surviving-in-the-corporate-jungle-a-video)

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A vast majority of professionals decide to be ‘passengers’ and not ‘drivers’ in their careers. They are happy to behave like headless chickens, strutting about sounding very busy but with meagre results to show. Typically, they outsource the thinking part to brainy birds around them and lead a mentally sedentary but self-contented lifestyle.

Call them file-pushers, clock-watchers, head clerks, or what you will – they do serve a useful purpose in keeping big bureaucracies running like well-oiled machines. They can also be groomed to become devoted followers for charismatic and dynamic leaders.

(Excerpt from my book ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’, the English version of which was released recently. Here is a video clip which captures the journey of the book so far:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/10/14/surviving-in-the-corporate-jungle-a-video)

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They are to be found in all spheres of life. They have perfected the art of boosting the sagging morale and flaccid ego of their superiors, thereby securing better perks and intangible benefits for themselves. Due to close proximity to their bosses – whether perceived or real – they end up being king makers.

Smart bosses easily figure out how to remain at an arm’s length from them. The tricks they use to steer clear of yes-men: a discouraging body language, asking for hard evidence for all the charges being levied against someone who is absent and generally berating them on select occasions in public.

(Excerpt from my book ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’, the English version of which was released recently. Here is a video clip which captures the journey of the book so far:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/10/14/surviving-in-the-corporate-jungle-a-video)

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Neglect this vital part of your life only at the personal risk of your well-being – mental as well as physical. Take time off for your kid’s parent–teacher meeting due next Saturday. Cultivate a hobby which helps you retain your sanity while handling the whirlwind operations that you try to manage at the speed of light.

Remember,

E = mc2

Here, E represents your energy and/or enthusiasm, m is mental peace, and c is your capacity – mental and physical.

When you achieve a better work–life balance, you improve your mental peace, as well as your capacity to do things. Your energy levels remain high.

(Excerpt from my book ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’, the English version of which was released recently. Here is a video clip which captures the journey of the book so far:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/10/14/surviving-in-the-corporate-jungle-a-video)

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Vacations

Not to be neglected. Do not give in to the temptation of believing that the whole organization would collapse in your absence. Plan for the same in advance and delegate while keeping your boss updated. You would be surprised to find that your team turned in a better performance while you were away to the Bahamas.

Companies like Daimler which facilitate a real ‘off’ from office would win in the long run. Incoming mails get deleted from your inbox and get diverted to someone else.

Before going off on vacation, an auto-reply mail along the following lines may come in handy:

‘Hi, I am on the Mars these days, missing Wi-Fi or cell signal, shall get in touch once I am back!’

The absence of a good manager is never felt, because his team is trained up so very well!

(Excerpt from my book ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’, the English version of which was released recently. The Portuguese version of the excerpt follows.)

FÉRIAS

Não devem ser negligenciadas. Não ceda à tentação de acreditar que toda a organização entrará em colapso na sua ausência. Planeie as férias com antecedência e delegue as tarefas, mantendo o seu chefe informado. É capaz de ficar surpreendido ao constatar que a sua equipa teve um desempenho
melhor quando você estava ausente nas Bahamas.

Empresas como a Daimler, que facilitam um verdadeiro ‘desligar’ do escritório, ficam a ganhar no longo prazo. Os e-mails recebidos são apagados da sua caixa de entrada e reencaminhados para outro colega.

Antes de ir para férias, convirá redigir um e-mail de resposta automática, mais ou menos deste tipo:

“Olá, atualmente estou em Marte, sem Wi-Fi, nem rede detelemóvel. Entrarei em contacto consigo quando regressar!”

A ausência de um bom executivo nunca é sentida porque a sua equipa está muito bem treinada!

(This is how you can lay your hands on the Portuguese version of the book, launched in Portugal during March, 2016.)

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Most of the management events we get enticed to attend are very much alike. Somebody gets up and introduces the chair person and the speaker of the evening. Then, the chair person mumbles a few words designed to cheer up the speaker. The speaker of the evening then goes on to describe at great length what he thinks of the scandalous manner in which private sector managements behave or exposes the inefficient goings-on in the public sector.

The hapless soul tasked to chair the session makes sympathetic observations about the subject at hand. He makes brief notes in a studious manner. Later, he uses these to wrap up the proceedings as quickly as norms of society, dictates of behavioural sciences and standards of politeness would allow.

The speaker of the evening is invariably dressed in an impeccable corporate style. This is merely to mask the inner shivering he experiences at the prospect of facing a firing squad. Externally, he exudes confidence. Internally, he is all of a twitter. Unfortunately, many speakers are blissfully unaware of the technique of public speaking unwittingly perfected by Gussie Fink Nottle of P G Wodehouse fame – that of getting adequately braced with generous helpings of a strong tissue restorative prior to delivering a speech.

While he tries his best to convey some serious messages to the unsuspecting audience, he also attempts to induct some humour into the otherwise listless and sombre proceedings. This helps him to sugar-coat his dull message to the unsuspecting audience.

The audience upon which the speaker’s verbosity is unleashed listens in a state of polite resignation, often suppressing a yawn or two. With an eye on the wrist watch and a nose trying to detect the faint aroma of snacks and coffee being served outside the lecture hall, they bide their time, hoping for the ordeal to end soon.

From time to time, some members in the audience rise and ask carefully rehearsed questions, which get answered fully and satisfactorily by the speaker. Often, when a question gets asked in the pure spirit of proving to the assembled group that the questioner is smarter than the questioned, the latter either ignores him, or says haughtily that he can find him arguments but cannot find him brains. Or, occasionally, when the question is an easy one, he answers it.

When the discussion gets out of hand, and the speaker is found to be twiddling his thumbs, the chair person rushes in to conclude the affair, thereby bringing joy and relief all around.

The speaker is delighted that he has been rescued just in time and looks upon the chair much like a typhoon survivor would look upon the US marines when they arrive to rescue him from a disastrous situation.

The audience is happy that the trauma is finally over. They look forward to grabbing the vitamins laid outside the hall, so as to keep their body and souls together and also to overcome the state of depression induced by the presentation.

The organisers breathe easy, having saved their furniture and other items from any damage. Someone from their side quickly offers a vote of thanks to all and sundry, lest the speaker change his mind and go on to bore the audience any further.

A smoothly conducted management meeting is one of our civilization’s most delightful indoor games. When the meeting turns boisterous, the audience has more fun, but the speaker a good deal less.

The book presentation session at Madras Management Association recently was true to form in more ways than one. Save and except for the following:

– Being chaired by an exceptional business person who is practising the art of true social responsibility.

– The presentation of some portions of the book was more of an interactive session which never tended to be boisterous.

– There was a singular absence of any rehearsed questions from the audience.

The session had attracted around forty odd souls who suffered the trauma of listening to yours truly and others for about forty minutes or so. Perhaps Einstein’s Theory of Relativity kicked in and these forty minutes felt like forty hours to them, because when it was time for the Q and A, they pounced on an inwardly shuddering yours truly with much glee.

As luck would have it, much light was generated in the discussion that followed the brief presentation. The heat generated was perceptibly less; thus, no fire alarms went off in the lecture hall. The brainy coves assembled for the evening proved their mettle by coming up with astute observations and insightful comments. An enlightened soul in the audience even went on to enquire as to what precisely is meant by Spiritual Quotient, and what could be done to shore it up.

Leadership styles got discussed. Tips on managing Lion Bosses got shared. Dignity of women at workplace came in for a mention. The delicate art of dishing out selective favours to those who really deserve support was brooded upon. Several other topics of contemporary interest were discussed, including the recent boardroom battles which played out at Infosys and at Tata House.

One is grateful to Madras Management Association for having provided this opportunity to share one’s thoughts with their brainy members and honourable invitees.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/07/31/a-tale-of-two-countries-and-a-book-launch)

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