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Posts Tagged ‘Management’

ashokbhatia

In an earlier post, we had looked at the various leadership styles which emerge from an upgraded Blake Mouton Grid which has three axes: Concern for Production, Concern for People and Concern for Ethics. One of the styles we came across was that of the Charmless Charlies.X Y Z upgraded

These are hapless souls who could not care less for getting results, or, for that matter, for the people who slog their butts out for them. Issues of ethics or improprieties involved in any decision-making do not appear to affect them.

They rank poorly on all the three dimensions – Concern for Production, Concern for People and Concern for Ethics. In terms of an upgraded Blake-Mouton Grid, they would earn a rating of 1,1,1. These are CEOs who, having reached their level of incompetence, exemplify the Peter Principle.

In large organizations, these could be very senior managers who carry a rich legacy of…

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ashokbhatia

What is the best Christmas present a CEO can give to her organization?

In keeping with the Yuletide spirit, the best gift could perhaps be a resolve to take decisions based not only on commercial considerations but also on sound ethics and values. Decisions which would serve the strategic interests of the organization and would never lead it to a situation of public disgrace and compromise.

An upgraded Blake Mouton Grid

If one were to take the liberty of modifying the Blake Mouton grid, the leadership style of such a CEO would qualify for either a 9,9,9 or a 5,5,5 classification.X Y Z upgraded

Here is a quick rundown on the various leadership styles which emerge from a grid of this nature:

1,1,1: Charmless Charlies

One can only wish their organizations the best of luck.

9,1,1: Road Rollers

They would achieve a target by ruthlessly crushing anything that comes in their way.

1,9,1:…

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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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Saint Thiruvalluvar was a humble weaver and an enlightened soul who gave us the Thirukkural, one of the finest specimens of Indian spiritual literature. It carries within itself eternal values and wisdom which could guide a lay person as well as a professional in all spheres of life.

Thiruvalluvar

Thirukkural captures the three-fold direction of life – Aram, or virtue; Porul, or wealth; and Inbam, or love.

The sage says that the life of a householder is superior to that of someone who opts for renunciation. He goes on to describe the duties and responsibilities to be discharged by a householder in great detail.

While describing the duties of kings, Thiruvalluvar touches upon the art of management and governance in very clear terms. This aspect has already been captured in some detail here.

Thirukkural speaks of matters of the heart with great elan. It gives love as much importance as ethical behaviour and righteous conduct. Feminists can take heart from the fact that it highlights the need for respect of women in unequivocal terms.

Thirukkural is an enduring example of the eternity of values, ethics and a humane approach to problem solving.

 

(Related Posts: 

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/management-lessons-from-thirukkural

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/06/23/management-lessons-from-india)

 

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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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The cultural ethos of an organization is essentially reflected in the way the top honchos conduct themselves. It also manifests in the manner in which the organization handles its relationships with diverse stakeholders.

Empathy is a critical component of the ethos of an organization. The trait of being able to put oneself in another person’s shoes and arriving at business goals and decisions by consensus helps the organization to be more efficient.

Understanding and empathizing with the perspective of the party of the other part also makes it easier to negotiate and successfully close tricky business deals. As an example, when one tries to finalize an order with a customer of Japanese origin, one discovers the value of empathy and mutual trust, because the latter is apt to ask for a detailed costing of the product on offer, a prospect often disliked by most businessmen hailing from a different culture.

Unfortunately, empathy and consensus do not always form a part of the arsenal of business owners and CEOs who are considered successful. Quite a few business leaders have brought to fore a leadership style which tolerates no dissent and abhors a natural impulse to seek consensus. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos are some who have demonstrated that a leadership style which celebrates conflict, disruption and dominance is not only a virtue but possibly also an enabler of sustained creativity, technological evolution and advancement.

Of humility, consensus and culture

However, it appears that CEOs with a Western mind and an Eastern heart are configured somewhat differently. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, sounds passionate about leadership and transformation, but the route he chooses is based on ethos, empathy, empowerment and democratization. In his book Hit Refresh, he concludes that ‘the choice of leading through consensus versus fiat is a false one.’

He goes on to propose that the ‘C’ in the CEO represents culture, thereby implying that culture building forms the core of his leadership style. In his leadership paradigm, hubris gives way to humility and envy to empathy. A CEO is as much responsible to the investors as he is accountable to the citizens.

A transformation in the offing?

Brand Microsoft has never been about empathy. Rather, its operating style has always been that of crushing the competition. But then, why would it allow Linux applications to run on Windows as well? Perhaps, rapid progress in the realm of technology is making friends out of foes, leveling off the field and making diversity and inclusion the critical components of a business strategy.

How this transformation plays out in future would depend on many factors. The way the market environment shapes up. The degree of freedom truly enjoyed by a senior person at the helm of affairs. The collective consciousness and value system of the core team which supports the CEO in steering the business, possibly based not only on a commercial compass but also on a spiritual one.

The argument one often comes across is that when satisfactory business results are coming in, what is the need for management to deploy such soft practices as empathy, humility and consensus in their operations?

In his book entitled “Be Unreasonable”, Paul Lemberg argues that when a top honcho believes in being reasonable, the business only gets buried deeper in conventional wisdom. He goes on to demonstrate how unreasonable strategies can bring one unconventional success.

This does seem like a workable proposition, especially when one is working in a highly competitive and disruptive environment. However, such a materialistic approach is open to challenge in some ways. One, the long term sustainability of business itself could come under a cloud. The success can then be fuelled only by a perennial outpouring of disruptive innovations, a feat which many businesses may find difficult to achieve. Two, the human capital of the business is likely to remain underserved and underexploited. It is almost certain that team members working under such conditions would not be happy souls who put in their best performance.

A feminine touch

In yet another noteworthy piece of work entitled Shakti Leadership, authors Nilima Bhat and Raj Sisodia argue that too many people have bought into a notion of leadership that exclusively emphasizes traditionally ‘masculine’ qualities: hierarchical, militaristic, win-at-all-costs. They propose that this approach has led to corruption, environmental degradation, social breakdown, stress, depression and a host of serious problems.

They show us a more balanced way, a leadership that is generative, cooperative, creative, inclusive and empathetic. These are traditionally regarded as ‘feminine’ qualities, but are worthy of emulation. In the Indian yogic tradition, these are symbolized by Shakti, the source that powers all life.

Indian scriptures speak of the concept of Ardha Naareeshwara, a form which is an eclectic mix of masculine and feminine features. This is what could turn out to be a better recipe for sustained success in the decades to come. A leadership style which is based on both masculine as well as feminine traits.

The technology explosion

Much like capital, technology in itself is soulless. However, American author Tracy Kidder has held that ‘technology is nothing more than the collective soul of those who build it.’ One would therefore not be wrong in surmising that even in the face of the technological explosion that we experience in our times, human beings – and as a logical corollary, human values – shall always play a definitive role in shaping the society along more just and humane lines.

The power of social media to shape public discourse and reform political decision making is already on display. Yes, there is always the danger of people getting manipulated by an overt use of the same social media. But surely these are short-time blips on the dimension we label as time and cannot last too long.

The future holds hope

Empathy appears to be kicking in. So-called feminine traits like creation and inclusion are taking centre stage. Competition is giving way to collaboration.

A noteworthy feature of organizations which believe in the virtue of empathy is the intention to give back to society some part of what the business gains from it. What follows is a keenness to offer products and services for the overall good. That is the kind of approach that Microsoft and many other enlightened businesses take.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/super-leaders-the-near-perfect-ceos)

 

 

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