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The brand called Jeeves stands for impeccable service. It signifies delivery of results which exceed one’s expectations, that too with due respect, politeness and sagacity. The methods may be rough at times, but the neat results obtained do provide satisfaction to all concerned.

On the flip side, the brand also represents cunning. An undercurrent of subterfuge often manifests itself. An excessive control over the affairs of the hapless and mentally negligible masters is a cost to be borne to avail of the service package on offer.

Residents of Plumsville often wonder as to how Jeeves, the well-known gentleman’s personal gentleman, acquired the traits that eventually made him an indispensable asset to the upper crust of English society – the art of shimmering in and out, the detailed knowledge of Debrett’s British Peerage, the knack of solving some tricky problems facing his blue-blooded masters or his pals, and, of course, a deep understanding of the psychology of the individual.

C. Northcote Parkinson, the proponent of the famous law so very well known in management and bureaucratic circles, in his inimitable whodunit entitled Jeeves: A Gentleman’s Personal Gentleman’ (ISBN 0-312-44144-4), unravels the kind of life Reginald Jeeves led, much before we get introduced to him in the memoirs of Bertie Wooster. For good measure, he also captures for us his life in the later years.

The making of the brand Jeeves

A rolling stone gathers no moss, the wise men have said. Jeeves, with his keen intelligence and a bulky head bulging at the back, uses each of his career pit stops to acquire diverse skills. Failures do not deter him. Instead, he uses these to learn and assimilate his knowledge, to be used for any future employer who might end up needing it.

Jeeves has learnt to beware of aunts. He has learnt to move silently, hear everything and say nothing. As a page boy in an academy for young ladies, he has learnt that all girls are to be avoided as much as possible and that those with red hair are especially dangerous. He has learnt that the ideal employer must always be, and should always remain, a bachelor. He has understood the nuances of flat racing. He has realized that a gentleman’s gentleman leads a more interesting life than that of a butler. He has discovered his talent in playing bridge and poker.

The repertoire of his skill sets is vast indeed. Regrettably, the narrative is completely silent on the kind of fish Jeeves is said to be fond of.

What makes Jeeves happy?

Intense introspection has led him to conclude that his inner happiness lies in resolving a tricky situation in such a manner as to merit a hearty round of applause from all concerned. The final scene has to belong to him. While all others are bewildered and confused, he would like to walk in, offering a neat solution to the problem at hand. He must be imperturbable, dignified and conclusively right. The solution may be such as to not only solve the main problem at hand, but also tie up a couple of other loose ends as well, thereby winning a warm approval from a wider cast of actors in the play. At this stage, the curtains may fall.

His keenest pleasure is in solving problems for people whose ability fell short of his.

Looking for an ideal employer

During the course of his long career, Jeeves has found that his preference is for prosperous and reasonably but not fanatically honest men. His employer must always be a gentleman, without a passion for horses, dogs, goldfish and parrots.

Pragmatic to the core, Jeeves does not boast of exceptionally high moral principles. Instead, he places a higher premium on social standards, excellence in sartorial tastes and polite behaviour.

Glisteroll in hair he does not approve of. Dazzlo toothpaste he scoffs at. Use of Seductor after shave lotion he does not recommend. Such are his exquisite tastes.

Bunter, the man of Lord Peter Wimsey, the detective, advises Jeeves to never work for a very clever gentleman like his own employer. After all, of what use is to work for someone whom one can never hope to deceive, someone who sees through every excuse and knows every trick? One has one’s own private life to lead. One should therefore find an employer who need not be mentally handicapped but should certainly be far from clever.

By seeking an employer who is stupid – good-natured, popular, but utterly brainless – he has the great possibility of making him dependent on himself. In his career, he aspires to be a Holmes to a Dr. Watson.

According to the narrative at hand, Jeeves goes out of his way to ferret out an employer who matches his expectations. Diving deep into the exhaustive journal maintained at the Junior Ganymede Club, he comes across one Bertram Wilberforce Wooster.

For Jeeves to identify his manservant Meadows and file a complaint against him for misappropriating his employer’s socks is the work of a moment. Meadows gets the sack and a vacancy gets created.

Two days later, Jeeves calls at 6A, Crighton Mansions, Berkeley Street, W1, only to find that there is indeed a vacancy for a gentleman’s personal gentleman.

The rest, as we all know, is history.

From valeting to buttling

Bertie taking a fancy to playing the banjolele marks the beginning of a phase where he and Jeeves start drifting apart.

Whereas a butler becomes the key figure in an established household, he does miss his days of roving the world as a bachelor’s personal attendant. ‘In becoming a valet the former valet admits to himself that middle age has arrived. He is about to settle down and put on weight.’

Jeeves accepts a position with the fifth baron Chuffnell, who is struggling to maintain Chuffnell Hall with his limited means. Once the baron decides to settle down with Pauline Stoker, Jeeves moves back to Bertie, when assured that the banjolele had been burnt in a fire at the cottage.

But this turns out to be a short reunion. Soon, the master decides to go off to learning the art of mending socks and Jeeves takes up the role of a butler to William Egerton Bamfylde Ossingham Belfry, 9th Earl of Rowcester, who is struggling to stay afloat at Rowcester Abbey, a picturesque ruin subject to regular flooding. Having assisted him in resolving his problems, Jeeves tactfully gives notice.

Jeeves yearns for permanence

Followers of Plum’s narratives would recall Jeeves returning to Bertie in the role of a valet thereafter. But Parkinson would have us believe that Jeeves has by then realized that to achieve stability and permanence in life, he has to settle down in the role of a butler, but not with some impoverished nobleman. A background of solid wealth is necessary. Eventually, he decides to return to Lord Worplesdon, who is now married to the wealthy Mrs. Gregson, Bertie Wooster’s formidable Aunt Agatha.

For many years, Aunt Agatha has avoided an inner urge to ask her middle-aged nephew to walk down the aisle. Results of her last attempt to do so, when a seemingly innocent girl at Cannes had turned out to be a gangster’s moll, had proven to be highly embarrassing. This time round, however, her attention is focused on Valerie Pendlebury-Davenport. Unbeknown to her, Jeeves intervenes and saves Bertie from losing his bachelor status.

Working with Aunt Agatha needs nerves of chilled steel, something which could be trying even for someone like Jeeves. Moreover, he now goes about polishing the silver with a dwindling enthusiasm and a growing dislike of the Countess, whose dislike for him is fully reciprocated.

Eventually, he puts in his papers and starts wondering as to how to use his many talents in some other field.

Support from a dashing Bertie Wooster

Meanwhile, with the death of Sir George Wooster, the Earl of Yaxley, Bertie Wooster has inherited the family estate, Wooster Castle, which also comprises Angler’s Rest. Countess Maud Wilberforce plans to return to her previous home in East Dulwich.

 

Armed with a title and property, Bertie enjoys a higher degree of self-confidence. He is now a justice of the peace and can no longer afford to pinch policemen’s helmets. No longer can he be considered as one being mentally negligible.

He decides to take a walk down the aisle with one of the most famous, though dreaded, characters from the tribe of the delicately nurtured, overcoming serious objections from her mother. One would not like to play a spoil sport here and reveal the identity of the new Countess, though.

Bertie also offers Jeeves the position of a landlord at Angler’s Rest. If one were to visit it these days, one can be sure of being told by him one of the several Hollywood stories concerning the two movies he had appeared in: Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Vampire of Vitriola, both produced by Perfecto Zizzbaum. Alas, Mr Mulliner has faded slowly into the cold and darkness of the night.

Brand Jeeves: Managing bosses

The character of Jeeves has a distinctive aura of its own. It teaches us the art of managing bosses. Significantly, it also teaches us how to manage our own selves better.

A brand stands for reliability and credibility. It signifies professional excellence. It delivers satisfaction to those it serves. Jeeves qualifies to be labeled as a brand on all these fronts.

The narrative dished out by C. Northcote Parkinson reaffirms the following to be the key factors behind his success in his chosen profession:

  1. Clarity as to what he loves doing in life, and a relentless endeavour to steer his career in that direction.
  2. Using his intelligence to introspect and understand the profile of an ideal employer to suit his temperament; taking adequate steps through proper channels to zero in on such employers from time to time.
  3. A keen sense of observation which helps him to anticipate the needs of his blue-blooded employers; ensuring continued dependence of his employers on him.
  4. Being a respectful and dignified listener, speaking only when necessary.
  5. Excellent learning ability; seeking advice from those in the know of things and following the same when it matches with his own values.
  6. Leading people by appearing to be a devout follower.
  7. Cultivating a boss who would take care of one in one’s sunset years.

Managers of all hues, sizes and shapes could learn much from the brand called Jeeves. An ability to introspect and strategize. Understanding one’s own strengths and weaknesses. Making the best use of opportunities that come our way. Using our inner resources to neutralize the threats we come across. Meeting the boss, dim-wit or otherwise, half-way through. Learning from successes as well as from failures. Being open minded. Choosing the company to work for with due diligence. Commanding respect and building one’s brand equity by delivering in excess of what is expected of oneself.

Those who are not blissfully ignorant of the existence of Jeeves can belong to two schools of thought. One, those who admire Jeeves and would love to have someone like him at their disposal. Two, those who detest him and would not like someone like him controlling their lives, even if it means their having to handle the harsh slings and arrows of Fate single-handedly.

But if there were indeed a Jeeves’ Academy of Boss Management, would you not like to enroll for a course thereat, irrespective of the school of thought you happen to belong to? It might add a unique sparkle to your career graph!

Jeeves by Northcote Parkinson

The fictional biography of Jeeves whipped up by C. Northcote Parkinson supplements the Wodehouse canon beautifully. It is built around characters and events that Plum fans are already familiar with. It captures the spirit of Jeeves’ character very well.

One is left wondering as to how Monte Carlo never came up with the idea of offering a honorary citizenship to Reginald Jeeves, following the example of Meringen (Switzerland) which has honoured Sherlock Holmes thus!

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/01/10/jeeves-seeks-a-placement

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/06/03/introducing-jeeves-saviour-or-snake

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/when-jeeves-takes-charge

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/when-jeeves-takes-charge-2-0

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/sherlock-holmes-the-honorary-citizen-of-meiringen-switzerland)

 

 

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There are Lion King bosses who epitomize terror at the work place. Insulting and demeaning you is second nature to them. As long as the task is in your hands, it would be top priority; once it reaches their own desk, you may not hear of it for the next two months. Some of them have agricultural inclinations – a suggestion made by you would get rejected with much fanfare, in full public view; after six months, it would sprout as ‘their’ idea and get marketed to the top brass.

Fight or flight? If you are sure of your ground and stand up to them once in a while, heavens will not fall. You could end up dealing with a less aggressive boss in the days to follow. The flight option gets linked to the status of the industry as well as your own Unique Selling Proposition in the job market.

When under such a boss, bide your time and hope for a better planetary configuration to emerge in the days to come. Or, quietly work through the grapevine to have alternate relationships and collaborations within the company, so the immediate boss’ sins get exposed to others who might be able to do something about it.

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

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Amongst other things, you also get paid for keeping your boss’ blood pressure under check. Pity the poor over-stressed guy and update him before he thinks of any project assigned to you. In other words, meet him halfway through.

If it is getting delayed, or worse, not getting done at all, make him an accomplice to murder by keeping him informed in advance. In case you are likely to meet your target, present him with a draft report/outcome much before the deadline.

(Excerpt from my book ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’)

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BEING UNREASONABLE

Taj Mahal was not created by a Mughal emporer who decided to be reasonable with the artisans. Great works of creativity, whether in the realm of science, fine arts or culture, did not get done by leaders in respective fields who decided to be mediocre in their approach. Nelson Mandela won over apartheid because he decided to be unreasonable and swam against the current. Of late, the Jasmine Revolution sweeping a part of our planet and the kind of social activism which we find blossoming within India, reflect social changes which could not have come about based on a doctrine of conformity and reasonableness. India can justifiably boast of business houses which have spurred the economy’s growth based on principles of fair practices in conducting their business and also a policy of pegging their business plans and targets much higher than what many would consider unreasonable in the present. The future is surely shaped by level-headed achievers who do not take “no” for an answer!

To quote George Bernard Shaw: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

BEING AN OSTRICH

Most leaders operate on early warning systems. Those who do not foresee a problem coming up often repent at leisure.

BIG FISH IN SMALLER OUTFITS 

In a smaller outfit, one can get a closer view of the core business processes. If you have an entrepreneurial bent of mind, and love the unbridled authority, go for it.

Small enterprises are generally leaner and fitter; in fact, too bare bones for executive comfort. The idea is to hire a single guy when three are required. As a result, the exposure one gets is pretty rich and multi-hued. In comparison, larger outfits tend to accumulate more flab and less muscle.

Be aware that in smaller enterprises, authority flows from a single person (or his/her kitchen cabinet). Thus, the level of authority required at any point in time could vary depending upon the whims and fancies of the top dog (or bitch, if you like). In larger outfits, one could draw authority from multiple sources, and thereby enjoy better survival prospects!

BOSS – MEET HIM HALFWAY THROUGH

Amongst other things, you also get paid for keeping your boss’s BP under check. Pity the poor over-stressed guy and update himBoss - Meet Him Halfway Through before he thinks of any project assigned to you. In other words, meet him half way through.

If it is getting delayed, or worse, not getting done at all, make him an accomplice to murder by keeping him informed in advance. In case you are likely to meet your target, present him with a draft report/outcome before the deadline. In case the target itself gets upgraded or modified, it would give you a clear advantage.

BRAND BUILDING

Creating and maintaining a good corporate culture, giving employees a sense of ownership, is the first building block. Long term investment in R&D, quality and innovation is another sine qua non.

Trusting and empowering employees helps. So does having a numbers target for all departments, leading to easier evaluation and a transparent reward system.

BURN OUTS

A mental state attained by those who believe they are working very hard, thereby catapulting them to the category of those who are hardly working. Three clear signs of attaining this state are exhaustion, fatalism (leading to cynicism) and inefficacy. Causes could be an information overload, unrealistic targets and perpetual “busyness”.

The antacid cures for burn outs could be delegation, focusing on important rather than urgent and counseling.

BUSINESS SCHOOLS

The academic exposure is great, and leads one to visualize the impact of one’s decision across varied functions. If one believes that academic brilliance translates into business success, one is miles off the mark. The former is directly proportional to one’s IQ and the latter to one’s EQ levels.

Formally educated managers often suffer from the Analysis Paralysis Syndrome. A smaller company hiring more than one MBA is quite likely to go bankrupt. A larger behemoth can surely afford the luxury, and cannot do without quite a handful of them.

When it comes to creativity and innovation, they could drag you down. HR departments need to remember that Newton and Einstein never went to a business school. Had they done so, we might have never heard of them.

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