Posts Tagged ‘People’

This breed of CEOs is not as rare as one would believe it to be, provided the canvas is not restricted to the private sector alone. Consider some non-government organizations working in the social sector. Or, look at some government-owned companies or research outfits. In many such cases, one is apt to run into CEOs whose Concern for Production is not inspiring. Nor is their Concern for People. They are primarily driven by their Concern for Ethics. Their work ethics are drawn from a value system which places a high premium on discipline and procedural compliance. A feudal approach comes naturally to them. Their passion for perfection could easily drive others around them crazy.

In terms of an upgraded Blake Mouton Grid, they rank closest to 1,1,9.X Y Z upgraded

CEOs of this kind thrive in environments where the control over resources provided is not very strict, where excuses and justifications for lapses are readily accepted and where norms of accountability are poor. Situations which involve results which are not easily measurable, say, in the realm of social change, attract and retain such talent readily.

Some of these could be brainy coves who are brimming over with ideas. Often, they rank high in terms of their IQ levels, but pretty low in their EQ levels. They lack the ability to compromise. For their team members, it is either their way or the highway. Publically dressing down those who under-perform – in their view – is a habit with them.

What makes them handicapped in realizing their true potential is their inability to organize things and to handle people.

If they decide to become stand-alone entrepreneurs, they take off well. But after the business has grown to a certain level, they are neither able to delegate tasks, nor able to build up teams to support them. The business continues to chug along with high attrition rates, sans any major growth.

The private sector views them with the healthy contempt they deserve. They never quite make it to the much-coveted corner office. Once they hit the proverbial glass ceiling and prove the veracity of the Peter’s Principle, managements find ways to either get rid of them or park them in a relatively harmless spot of the organization.Peters_principle.svg

They could be stand-alone zealots equipped with technical knowledge of a superior kind. They could be great leaders in such areas as Product Engineering, Research and Development, Innovation and the like. They could also make great Executive Assistants – loyal, sincere and devoted. Some could even get to head such functions as Internal Audit and Finance and prove to be a perennial pain-in-the-neck to all and sundry.

Such CEOs are saint-like souls who have to willy-nilly manage to keep their body and souls together. Driven by altruistic motives, their conduct is often an object of ridicule. Often, they happen to be known as GFN – Good for Nothing fellows.

Note: Inputs from Ms Somali K Chakrabarti are gratefully acknowledged. She can be found at Scribble and Scrawl (https://prepforum.wordpress.com)

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This is the most commonly found breed of CEOs. They are crazy about getting results. They plan well. They execute even better. People rank high amongst their priorities. They protect them much like a tigress would shield her cubs. But when it comes to ethics, values and systems, they could not care less. Auditors cannot be faulted for labelling them as arsonists.

Managements love them. The efficient ones amongst their team members adore them. The sloppy ones dread them. Their Concern for Production is invariably high. They are often sharp when it comes to adapting newer technologies in the organization’s processes. Their Concern for People is also high. They can be found praising their people in public while ruthlessly ticking them off in private.

However, when it comes to Concern for Ethics, they rank very poorly. Their value systems are driven by commercial goals alone. Systems and procedures are merely the dust beneath their chariot wheels, leaving Finance honchos as well as auditors aghast and exasperated.

In terms of the modified Blake Mouton Grid, they rank at 9,9,1.X Y Z upgraded

Under them, short-term and medium-term goals get achieved. In their heydays, the Goddess of Success courts them. But harsh arrows and slings of an unforgiving commercial world bring about a day when their Guardian Angels are no longer in a benevolent mood. Regulatory agencies catch up with them and demand their pound of flesh. They get trapped in the intricate web of deceit, evasion and non-compliance they have woven around themselves. Brand image of the organization takes a hit. Competitors swiftly move in to occupy the mind-space of customers. Market valuations drop. Stakeholders and employees start seeking greener pastures.

Gradually, they start getting transformed into CEOs whom we could classify as Charmless Charlies.

A deeper malaise

A charitable way of looking at Arsonist Achiever CEOs would be to say that they happen to be the product of a system which thrives on greed and avarice. When they get results by using unfair means, managements feign to be in a state of blissful ignorance.

In general, the business world does suffer from this omnipresent affliction. When it comes to perpetrating a fraud on unsuspecting stakeholders, human ingenuity has never been found wanting.

If America had Enron, Lehman Brothers and Tyco, UK had Barclays. If Norway had Nortel, Portugal had Banco Espirito Santo. If Switzerland had UBS, India had Satyam and Kingfisher Airlines. Germany has just had Volkswagen.

No specific industry could lay an exclusive claim on such man-made disasters. Be it banking, insurance, mining, automobiles, energy, commodities, IT or real estate, all have set examples of devious plans to deceive the gullible stakeholders.

Human greed and avarice are obviously the root cause. The sheer pleasure derived by a minority in making some extra gains at the cost of a silent majority apparently has a sense of gratification which surpasses all else.

CEOs of the kind discussed here symbolize this deeper malaise. However, this does not mean that their acts of omission are worthy of being condoned. Apparently, there is a flaw in their innate character – they accept cheating as a way of life.

Correcting the myopic vision

What is it that makes a business owner or a CEO to put his conscience to sleep and take a decision which could impact the whole organization a few years down the road?

There could be several factors at work here. A trade-off between extraordinary gains in sight and the risks involved. A hope and a prayer that a deviation would never get caught. A major investment that cannot be written off merely to make a process legally compliant. A gut feel that the regulatory agencies are invariably open to manipulation. The need for a tight squeeze on costs which makes them shift a part of their operations to distant but cheaper pastures, at times ignoring the interests of the local community. The option of using speed money to get the necessary approvals from concerned government agencies.

More often than not, continued success in meeting business goals proves to be their undoing. Arrogance creeps in. Self-confidence brims over. Few Yes-men around them add fuel to the fire. In their relentless pursuit of business results, they develop a myopic vision. Everything else becomes the last priority.

Smarter ones, however, would take a longer view of things. They would have a 6/6 vision. Their decision-making models would invariably take into consideration the moral and the ethical aspects of a situation at hand.

Yet another solution could be to support them with a Conscience Keeper!

Note: Inputs from Ms Somali K Chakrabarti are gratefully acknowledged. She can be found at Scribble and Scrawl (https://prepforum.wordpress.com)

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One of the professional hazards CEOs face is that of giving in to relentless pressure and becoming Road Rollers. Quarterly targets have to be necessarily met. Stakeholders have to be kept happy. Auditors have to be kept in good humour. Regulatory agencies have to be held at an arm’s length. Star performers have to be kept excited.

Amidst all this razzmatazz, CEOs run the risk of caring about results alone. They would achieve targets by ruthlessly crushing anything that comes in their way. Concern for Production gets the top priority. Concern for People takes a back seat. Concern for Ethics gets dumped. In terms of the modified Blake Mouton Grid, they end up being slotted at 9,1,1.X Y Z upgraded

Such heartless hard task masters end up neglecting even the genuine needs of their team members. Employees have to be dealt with in a stern manner. Shorter working hours are held to be injurious to employee’s health. Trade unions have to be manipulated. Signs of a white-collar mutiny, if any, are to be handled severely. People are like spare parts in a machine, simply to be replaced at the first signs of trouble.

In their jaundiced view, someone asking for some time off to ensure her kid makes a successful bid to enter a prestigious academic institution simply lacks commitment to organizational goals. A person wanting to leave office one hour early so as to be able to celebrate her marriage anniversary is merely offering an excuse to shirk her responsibility.

In the pursuit of excellence on the bourses, accounting norms evolve to loftier levels. Window dressing of financial information becomes the norm. Customer billings get preponed and get squeezed into the last few days of each month. Hapless auditors are kept busy highlighting Receivables and Customer Returns which get deftly swept under the carpet. Auditors keen on not losing a prestigious client easily get persuaded to fall in line.

Since the entire focus is on quarterly guidelines being exceeded, the organization suffers from Corporate Myopia. Vision Statements remain a set of pious intentions and can be seen only where these belong – on office walls and on display shelves.

When it comes to complying with a plethora of rules and regulations, the regulatory agencies have to be simply ‘managed’. Records need to be fudged, wherever necessary. Testing software and instrumentation has to be rigged, so as to show results within the legal parameters. Liaison officers need to be appointed so the inspectors could be kept in good humour. Government seniors have to be molly cuddled, so that they look the other way when violations are brought to their attention. Lobbying for suitable changes in government policy invariably assumes top priority.

When Road Rollers rule the roost for a long time, organizations often end up sitting on a dormant volcano which could erupt any time. Attrition rates gallop. Key performers get burnt out. People lack focus and work merely to show off. A sense of lethargy pervades. The percentage of employees of the Y-kind plummets. Managements concerned about lack of employee morale and motivation keep calling in experts to cheer up team members, with minimal results. MICROMANAGING

Often, micro-managing skills are applauded. Thus, grooming of future leaders assumes a lower priority. This leads to an absence of succession planning.

When faced with smarter government agencies who either sense a loss of public revenue or a scandal which might sully the image of the political party in power, such CEOs often invite greater trouble for their organizations. In one stroke, financial gains made over several years get wiped out. The organization’s brand image gets sullied.

Most of the times, such CEOs behave like pilots about to press the eject button in their cockpits. However, their reputation precedes them. Parachuting down to greener pastures becomes a challenge.

Have you ever had the good fortune of working with a Road Roller CEO? If so, and if you survived for a long duration, sincere appreciation is in order. You have already developed nerves of chilled steel, a trait so very essential to success in business. What you need now perhaps is a crash course to boost your Emotional and Spiritual Quotients, so your organization and your team members can breathe easy!

Note: Inputs from Ms Somali K Chakrabarti are gratefully acknowledged. She can be found here.

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Here are some key ideas which emerged at a National Seminar on Industrial Safety, Health and Environment organized by the Regional Labour Institute, Chennai and the Madras Management Association recently at Pondicherry in India.  

  • Businesses today face three kinds of challenges:
  1. Increasing digitization and the spread of internet which is fundamentally changing the way a    business interacts with its customers and suppliers.
  2.  As the world’s economic power and consumption of goods and services gradually shifts from the developed world to Asia, a host of new business opportunities present themselves.
  3. A value-based culture which takes into account socio-economic realities is becoming increasingly necessary to succeed in business. Businesses have the choice of being proactive while shaping future policies and goals. In the long run, this would avoid their facing pressure from either the community, or the government or the society at large. DSC_4999
  • Growth in business has to be consistent, competitive and profitable. A business also has to be socially relevant. A renewed emphasis on S-H-E alone can achieve this.
  • Following the tenets of S-H-E is not only about companies creating a separate Department to drive these goals. It is also about better regulatory compliance. It is also about calculating the carbon foot print. It is also about a change of attitude. It is about putting people and planet alongside the drive for profits. DSC_5025
  • Unless companies imbibe a culture which encourages all managers and executives to work together to achieve their goals by adopting sustainable methods, continuous growth may be difficult to achieve. Ensuring safety of all concerned is an important responsibility of the business. Many business leaders realize that a healthy employee contributes better. Work-life balance needs to be taken care in such a way that the employees are always happy as well as healthy. Businesses also need to ensure that they give back to Mother Earth more than what they draw from it. taking care of environment is an important issue which facilitates sustained growth.DSC_5109
  • All over the world, businesses are gearing up to ensure that their operations take place on a sustainable basis. There are already companies which have started reporting Environmental P&L Accounts.
  • In India, the government is now talking of shifting subsidies from chemical fertilizers to organic fertilizers. MNCs like BASF are talking about Product Stewardship, meaning compliance right through the entire supply chain to its end-use customers. DSC_5124
  • According to a recent study done by KPMG, India has emerged as a leader in the field of sustainability reporting. In the Asia-Pacific region, India has recorded the highest growth in sustainability reporting since 2011 – 53%. Chile is the next, with 46% increase, followed by Singapore (+37%), Australia (+25%), Taiwan (+19%) and China (+16%).
  • The safety of an employee should also cover the duration he or she is not on duty. The concept needs to be extended to the life outside, at home, on the road – practically in all spheres of life. DSC_5158
  • When companies think of a SHE culture, they should not ignore the safety and health of their women employees in a much wider context. They need to feel empowered to report misbehavior of any kind. At the work place, the need is to treat them with dignity and respect. As part of a progressive society, males need to examine their attitudes towards women at home and in public spaces.

The day-long seminar was attended by over 200 participants who benefited from the expertise of several subject experts and thought leaders from the field. It was inaugurated by the Lt Governor of Pondicherry.  

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Businesses all over the world chase profits, and rightly so. However, when they do so at the cost of the planet we depend upon or by usurping the legitimate rights of communities they operate in, there is a cause for concern.

All professionals who care for probity in corporate lives, stand for sustainable living and detest relentless pursuit of profits would heartily welcome the recent initiative taken by some of our far-sighted business and community leaders. These leaders have pledged themselves to work on an alternate paradigm for business which puts people and planet alongside profits.

Planet, People and Profits

Known as The B Team, the initiative is a global nonprofit venture co-founded by Sir Richard Branson, and Jochen Zeitz in October 2012. It brings together international activists and business leaders to “make business work better”. The “B” in The B Team represents the need for a “Plan B” for Business. By implication, “Plan A” is the current framework in which corporates are driven by commercial greed alone.

Branson has stated that business has had many positive impacts on the world but needs to move away from a focus on immediate profit to one where it invests and operates for the long-term good of people and the planet. The B Team intends to achieve this vision by dividing an Agenda into Challenges, which will be acted upon and implemented by B Leaders in their own organizations.

Upon its formation, the group assembled a collection of young influencers and gathered feedback on where and how The B Team could have the most impact and pinpoint the roadblocks that prevent businesses from contributing to the greater good.

The B Leaders

On June 13th, 2013, at an event in London, the full list of sixteen B Leaders was announced:

  • Sir Richard Branson, Founder and Chairman of Virgin Group comprising around 400 of its business entities, and Co Chair of The B Team.
  • Jochen Zeitz, Director of Kering and Chairman of its board’s Sustainable Development Committee; Co-Chair, The B Team. He has worked on the first-ever environmental profit and loss (EP&L) for Puma.
  • Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland is an international leader in sustainable development and public health. Under her leadership, the Brundtland Commission had defined the word ‘sustainable development’ in the 1980s. She served three terms as Prime Minister of Norway (1981, 1986–89, 1990–96), and has served as the Director General of WHO. She now serves as a Special Envoy on Climate Change for the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
  • Shari Arison, the owner of the Arison Group, is an America-born Israeli businesswoman and philanthropist and is one of Israel’s wealthiest women. She is the owner of several business companies, the largest among them being Bank Hapoalim. She also manages several philanthropic organizations which are subsidiaries of The Ted Arison Family Foundation.
  • Kathy Bushkin Calvin is President and CEO, United Nations Foundation. She joined the Foundation in 2003, following a diverse career in politics, journalism, public relations and business.
  • Arianna Huffington, Chair, President & Editor In Chief, The Huffington Post Media Group, is a Greek-American author and syndicated columnist. She is best known for her news website The Huffington Post.
  • Dr. Mohamed “Mo” Ibrahim is a Sudanese-British mobile communications entrepreneur and billionaire. He worked for several other telecommunications companies before founding Celtel. After selling Celtel in 2005 for $3.4 billion, he set up the Mo Ibrahim Foundation to encourage better governance in Africa. He also created the Mo Ibrahim Index, to evaluate nations’ performance.
  • Guilherme Peirão Leal is a Brazilian billionaire entrepreneur. He is the co-chairman of the Board of Directors of, and owns a 25% stake in, Natura, Brazil’s leading manufacturer and marketer of skin care, solar filters, cosmetics, perfumes and hair care products.
  • Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and chairman, of global telecommunications group, Econet Wireless. He currently serves on a number of international boards including the Rockefeller Foundation, the Advisory Board of the Counsel on Foreign Relations, the Africa Progress Panel, AGRA, the UN Sec General’s Advisory Boards for Sustainable Energy, and for Education.
  • Dr.  Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a globally renowned Nigerian economist best known for her two terms as Finance Minister of Nigeria and for her work at the World Bank, including several years as one of its Managing Directors (October 2007–July 2011).
  • François-Henri Pinault, is a French business person and the CEO of Kering. He is the son of the company’s founder, businessman Francois Pinault. Often nicknamed ‘FHP’, he is also Director of Financière Pinault, as well as the President of Artémis’ executive board.
  • Paulus Gerardus Josephus Maria Polman is the CEO of the multinational Anglo-Dutch food and detergent company Unilever. He is committed to transforming Unilever, its customers as well as supply chain partners, into strict followers of sustainability.
  • Mary Therese Winifred Robinson served as the seventh and the first female President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997 and as the UN Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002. Robinson returned to live in Ireland at the end of 2010, and has set up The Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, which aims to be ‘a centre for thought leadership, education and advocacy on the struggle to secure global justice for those many victims of climate change who are usually forgotten – the poor, the disempowered and the marginalized across the world.’
  • Ratan Tata, KBE, an Indian business person of the Tata Group, a Mumbai-based salt to software conglomerate. He was the Chairman of the group from 1991-2012. Since 2012 he holds the position of Chairman Emeritus of the group which is an honorary and advisory position. The Tata Group and its companies & enterprises are perceived to represent India’s best-known global brand within and outside the country as per an ASSOCHAM survey.
  • Zhang Yue, Chairman and Founder, Broad Group of China, which is one of the few Chinese manufacturing companies that has been widely recognized for its green policies and commitment to countering climate change.
  • Professor Muhammad Yunus is a Bangladeshi banker, economist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient. As a professor of economics, he developed the concepts of micro-credit and micro-finance. These loans are given to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans.

Team B therefore draws upon a wide array of skills, whether from business or from social activism side. There is a geographical diversification in the choices made, thereby bringing on board a broad spectrum of regional perspectives.

Challenges Aplenty

All the members want to first start practicing before they start preaching. In other words, they intend to start making changes at their own organizations first and then start motivating others to follow suit.

In an interview on the website of B Team, Ratan Tata touches upon the need to curb corruption in the corporate world. He also points out that 66% of the stake in Tata Sons, the holding company of the group, is held by Tata trusts which eventually plough the earnings back into charity. There is increasing realization within the group that the trusts’ activities should now spread globally, no longer restricted to India alone.

In the days to come, one would watch with considerable interest the way things shape up for the Team B. One hopes that fostering of values at the work place would be taken up as a serious challenge, as would be the task of developing future leaders driven by a strong moral compass.

Green Shoots of Cleaner Businesses

In a dismal scenario where not a week passes without us hearing of some corporate scam or other and where the memory of Lehman Brothers is still fresh in our minds, some recent initiatives sound like green shoots which have the potential of changing the business scenario by modifying the ways in which profits are pursued, as also by utilizing the returns from business for the common good.

Formation of The Team B is one such laudable initiative. In 2006, the World Economic Forum launched its Partnering Against Corruption Initiative. It continues to make progress by roping in more and more corporates from across the world. Earlier, in 2003, UN members had signed its Convention against Corruption. As of June 2013, there are 167 countries, including the EU, which are a party to the same.

If these initiatives bear fruit, most responsible corporates the world over would perhaps be e-publishing their EP&Ls in not too distant a future. More significantly, we shall have the collective satisfaction of handing over a healthier planet to the coming generations!

(Related blogs that you might find of interest on this site:

  1. Getting a Moral Compass would be a Sound Business Strategy for India Inc.’ published on December 9, 2012.
  2. Bidding an adieu to Mr. Ratan Tata’ published on December 27, 2012
  3. What would our Business Leaders be like in 2025?’ published on January 27, 2013.
  4. Combating the Cancer of Corruption’ published on April 4, 2013.)


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Negotiable only at the entry stage, and may not remain so thereafter! Also, the rate of growth of packages outside the company would always be better than the jumps you get in-house! Bear in mind that packages are worked out in relation to the company’s corporate ego (read brand value), and also the comfort levels offered. If you are willing to challenge yourself and move out of your present comfort zone, don’t grumble for long; find another exciting opportunity and move on!

As postulated by the Motivation-Hygiene Theory of Herzberg, packages fall in the Hygiene category of rewards. In other words, to use a medical analogy, their presence does not necessarily make a person healthier; on the contrary, their absence can cause deterioration in health. To put it simply, when it comes to individual motivation levels, packages have a rather short shelf life!


They are not spares of a machine, to be replaced once their utility is exhausted. Grooming them for higher responsibilities is the management’s prerogative.

The Two Factor theory established long time back that money is a poor motivator, boosting people’s morale only in the short run. Money is connected to material acquisitions and the mind. Intangibles appeal to the heart and make much better sense. A surprising word of praise from an unexpected quarter can cheer up an employee no end. A birthday greeting which goes out-of-the-way to enable an employee to spend quality time with his family may be far more effective. The intangibles build an emotional bond with the company.


At times, first impressions of performance are wrong. Some slow starters may become star performers; some could well be flashes in the pan who eventually fumble and attain a state of clueless bliss. Most jobs would need consistent performance, whereas some require short-term bursts of energy and attention.

Assess performance of people over a period of time, against the backdrop of the nature of the assignment handled.


Good planning needs to be exhaustive, but also flexible. Business environment is always in a flux, and a plan always has to be reviewed to ensure not only its own relevance but also the enthusiasm of the team which would be burning the proverbial midnight oil to implement it.

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