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Posts Tagged ‘Yes Men’

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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It makes sense to follow the golden rule, ‘the boss is always right’, even when he is absolutely wrong and is a perfect fool. However, sycophancy has its long-term limitations. Once in a while, if you do not agree with the boss, find the courage and the right time to register your disagreement. This way, you end up becoming a more effective and a healthier manager.

Beware of juniors who are ‘yes men’. They could be pretty dangerous to your career progression in the long run.

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

(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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XEROX

There are innovations which have an irresistible mass appeal. A brand name thus ends up becoming a generic name of a product class. Xerox is a ready example in the same genre. All those who take creativity and innovation seriously would notice that such developments happen only because someone identifies a latent demand and proceeds to do something about it. An organization culture which enables such endeavours deserves to be complimented and replicated.

X, Y and Z

The art of managing people has been analyzed in great detail by theorists in the past, and commendably so. McGregor was bang on target when he came up with the X and Y approach to managing people. Also, Robert R. Blake and Jane Mouton came up with their Management Grid concept, where the X axis has “Concern for Production” and the Y axis has “Concern for People”. This proved to be a very useful tool to classify leadership styles.

Yes-Men

Yes-Men

With due respects to the brilliant work done by those mentioned above, one would like to make the concept of a Management Grid more contemporary by adding a new dimension, Z. This axis covers our “Concern for Ethics”.

When it comes to corporate governance, most businesses are driven more by greed than by the norms of propriety. Compliance with statutory provisions and indulging in tax avoidance rather than blatant tax evasion are given a short shrift. As a repercussion, we end up having more controls and complex laws, thereby making non-compliance even more attractive.

The good news is that there are indeed enlightened businesses and right thinking managers who score high on the Z axis as well. Such businesses have been around for more than a century and have done well for themselves; they have also given back to society in terms of advanced medical facilities, support to fine arts and sports and several other CSR initiatives.

YES-MEN

They are to be found in all spheres of life. They have perfected the art of boosting the sagging morale and 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.

Zombies

Zombies

ZOMBIES

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 life-style.

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.

ZOO ORGANIZATIONS

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.ZOO ORGANIZATIONS

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 he/she is subjected to ends up creating a market ambassador the organization could surely do without.

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India can justifiably boast of a long history of culture, tradition and values. Scriptures of Indian origin are a treasure trove of nuggets of wisdom. These continue to be relevant in the current context and also find ready application in the field of business management and administration.

Here are some of the areas where I believe Ramayana can inspire management14 practitioners.

  • A Premium on Values

Sticking to some core values which are steeped in righteousness eventually leads to success. The main protagonist, Rama, is depicted in Ramayana as an epitome of virtue. He is an ideal king, an ideal son and a pragmatic person. He sets high ethical standards in warfare and invariably sides with dharma, or righteousness.

A random sample of all successful business houses which have been around for more than a century now – Siemens and Tatas, for instance – is ample proof that ethics in business do pay dividends in the long run. Names of such business houses enjoy tremendous brand equity in the market; understandably, that rubs off on their products as well.

  • High on Motivation

To me, the Ahalyaa episode is all about a good leader enthusing a team of demoralized members who have become zombies over a period of time and have stopped delivering results. Once ‘woken up’, they are fully charged and start performing along expected lines.

Rama wages a war on Lanka with very limited resources, backed by an army which is pretty out-of-the-box or unconventional. It is an army which is highly motivated, expecting minimal facilities. Goes on to show the superiority of motivation levels over the availability of physical resources.

A CEO who is out to increase his market share needs the back up of a highly motivated sales staff which – if motivated well – would go all out to win the hearts and wallets of the company’s customers.

  • Mergers and Alliances

When a merger is based upon a congruence of basic value systems of both the parties involved, long-term benefits accrue.

The alliance between Rama and Sita is a turning point in the Ramayana for more reasons than one. Sita is brought up in the household of the sage-king Janaka. When Rama gets banished to the forest after their marriage, she displays a clear absence of any hedonistic tendencies and chooses to accompany him to the forest. Without a synergy of this kind, the sequence of events could have been quite different!

Likewise, the friendship of Rama and Sugriva sets a good example of mutual cooperation between two people facing a similar predicament in life and career. What follows is Sita getting traced in Lanka and Ravana eventually getting vanquished.

When Etihaad decides to team up with Jet Airways, or when Tata Steel ties up with Corus, the parties involved are looking for synergies in their respective core strengths, so as to tap their joint business potential better.

  • Succession Planning

Dasaratha’s plans for installing Rama on the throne of Ayodhya do turn topsy-turvy, but the existence of a clear succession plan can never be denied. This is meant to ensure continuity in governance. It helped that besides being the eldest son, Rama was liked by all and hence chosen to lead the kingdom once his father passed away.

As per Raghuvansham of Kalidasa, when the time comes to relinquish his body, Rama divides it equitably between his two sons – Lava and Kusha.

All well-managed companies ensure that the career development plans of their top performers are directly linked to succession plans. Ideally, good leaders invariably groom at least three managers under them. When one gets promoted to the coveted slot, it is quite likely that two others may seek greener pastures elsewhere. Whatever happens, the goals and the processes involved in achieving the same enjoy uninterrupted continuity.

  • Leaving the Comfort Zone

When Rama gets ordered to remain in the forest for a span of fourteen years, Sita and Rama take it as an opportunity to engage with the ordinary citizens of their kingdom, rather than remaining confined to the comforts of their palace. This helps them to understand the ground realities better.

CEOs and marketing honchos of today who travel through the hinterland to get a better first-hand feel of the customer’s pulse do a far better job of servicing the market.

  • Excellence in Execution

The plan to locate Sita gets brilliantly executed by Hanuman. The wisdom withRamayana 3 which he conducts the search and the single-minded pursuit of the goal is an example worth emulating by managers at all levels. While crossing the sea, he declines an invitation from Mount Mynaaka to take some rest on the way.

The manner in which he assures Sita of his genuineness exhorts managers to conduct commercial negotiations by first setting the anxieties of the opposite party at rest.

  • Concern for Environment

For three days, Rama prays to the god of the sea to grant a passage to his army. Nothing happens. Rama then shoots arrows into the bosom of the sea, whereupon the sea-god appears and explains that he is bound by the laws of nature, just like earth, air, space, light and all constituents of the universe. Creatures living under his shelter he cannot forsake, but surely a shallow area can be shown where a causeway can be built.

Rama accepts the sea-god’s apology and orders the building process to start. Thus, the objective is met without damaging the eco-system.

In the current context, governments all over the world are realizing the importance of striking a judicious balance between economic growth and environmental concerns. Rama’s approach inspires us to strive to find the middle path and ensure that Mother Nature is not unduly disturbed to pave way for crass commercialism.

  • Dependence on Yes-men!

Ravana is a highly learned and accomplished person. One of the reasons for hisRamayana 2 downfall is to neglect the advice of nay-sayers. His wife, Mandodari, brother Vibheeshana and grandfather Malyavaan – all advise him to return Sita to Rama. Instead, he chooses to listen to his courtiers who play on his ego and pride and advise him not to do so.

A couplet in Sundara Kanda of Ramcharitmanasa clearly advises us to ignore the advice of a paid deputy, a doctor and a teacher who speak positively out of either fear or expectation of a gain. A king who acts upon such motivated advice loses his kingdom, his body and his righteousness (dharma) as well.

  • Humility in Victory

When Ravana is on his death-bed, Rama exhorts Lakshmana to learn the tenets of good governance from him. Lakshmana approaches Ravana rather haughtily first and fails. Rama then advises him to approach Ravana with due humility, whereupon Ravana speaks of the pitfalls of procrastination and shares his knowledge about statecraft and diplomacy.

  • Power of Attorney

The sincerity with which Bharata takes care of the kingdom’s affairs while Rama is away speaks of true values of follower-ship. Upon his return to Ayodhya, Bharata informs him that the kingdom’s revenue had gone up ten-folds during the fourteen years he was away.

Here is an excellent example of a kingdom held in trust and good faith, much akin to the present day concept of a power of attorney getting appointed to take care of administrative and legal matters of a business when owners are not readily available.

  • Make Haste, But Slowly!

Rama has won the war and is on his way back to Ayodhya. He decides not to rush back. Instead, he stays back at Sage Bharadwaj’s ashram for a night and makes enquiries about the state of affairs in Ayodhya. Also, he sends Hanuman upfront to break the news of his imminent arrival to Bharata who is living like an ascetic in Nandigram. He moves to Ayodhya only after receiving adequate feedback about its current situation.

  • Leadership Traits

With the possible exception of his handling of Sita upon her return from Lanka, Rama conducts himself in an exemplary manner throughout the narration. Whether it is befriending Nishaad Raaj, refusing to return to Ayodhya when Bharat approaches him in Panchavati, conducting the last rites of Jataayu, accepting Vibheeshana in his fold or even when reuniting with his mothers and brothers upon his return to Ayodhya, he sets a high bar for humanity in general.

In the corruption-infested times we live in, his leadership traits inspire managers to do their best even under the most trying circumstances.

  • Ram Rajya

The concept of being fair to all is the bedrock on which modern management is based. For those in power at the top, an impartial conduct of those in authority is a sine qua non for the morale of the people. Sita gets banished to the Valmiki ashram when an ordinary citizen casts an aspersion on her character. Rama’s role is not much different from that of a true-blue CEO whose loyalty to the company’s overall welfare is unflinching.

Skirt-groping CEOs who have a roving eye and managements which look the other Ramayana 1way just because they accord a higher priority to business goals than to the character of their top honchos could take a leaf out of Rama’s conduct.

There are several instances when management has to divulge information on a ‘need to know’ basis. However, if the basic practices are perceived to be fair to all, even management policies which impact the employees adversely – like a down-sizing – are not taken amiss across the company.

Ramayana is rich with several other narratives which could be useful to management practitioners. Also, each narrative may be interpreted in several ways, depending upon how one goes about analyzing it.

References:

Ramcharitamanas by Goswami Tulasidas, Valmiki Ramayana, Ramayana by C. Rajagoplachari, Raghuvansham by Kalidasa, Adhyatma Ramayana, Series on Ramayana by Narendra Kohli.

Illustrations Courtesy Internet

http://attachment.benchmarkemail.com/c117651/July-Augusl.pdf 

(Related Posts: 

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/07/12/management-lessons-from-mahabharata

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/management-lessons-from-the-life-of-lord-krishna)

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Quite a few of the managers I run into are frustrated because they could never make it to the top slot. The corner office with plush seating and an exclusive wash room has somehow always managed to elude them. I admit that the power and pelf a Number One slot bestows upon a manager is alluring as well as intoxicating. But I believe that being a Number Two is also not too bad a proposition; in fact, it could be more rewarding, instructive and exciting!PROMOTIONS

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating a drive against perfection or excellence in whatever you do. I am only trying to say that there is divine contentment in being a Number Two as well – relish it!

The Perils of Being a Number One

Being a Number One is rewarding as well as challenging. Take it from someone like me who has been at the top of a pyramid several times in his career. There are obvious drawbacks to reaching the top, and let me sum these up.

  1. When one does get to occupy the corner office, one gets no one to talk to freely. One may be lucky to have a few unsuspecting souls whom he can use as a sounding board for his ideas. But there is no denying that such team members who listen to the top boss respectfully could very well be those who believe in merely being ‘Yes Men’.
  2. Even if one gets a nay-sayer, there is no guarantee that he does not suffer from a tendency towards premature ejaculation, spilling the beans to a group of his own confidantes, thereby nipping all well thought out plans in the bud. In other words, one may be commanding fake respect, but not necessarily genuine loyalty.
  3. The sheer pressure of being a part of the rat race is rather high. Ensuring that one remains unchallenged in one’s top position brings along a level of stress that many may not be able to handle for long. If they do so, it could be at the cost of either health or quality time with their near and dear ones.
  4. One has to constantly watch over oneself to ensure that the ego does not balloon into something unmanageable. If humility does not come to one naturally, the stress builds up faster.

Being Number One does not necessarily imply that one is happy and satisfied. If so, one may be making good money but not having fun. Could it be really worth it?

The Perks of Being a Number Two

You Are Responsible, Not Accountable

The boss decides the overall paradigm and the goal to be achieved. Like the captain of a ship who has a better and wider perspective on things, he decides the course to be taken. Your own task becomes simpler to that extent. Sure enough, you add value by providing operational feedback which could alter the course quite effectively. In other words, you may be responsible, but it is he who is accountable!

Extra Time on Your Hands

The poor guy also takes the rap for all the failures. So, that leaves you with enough time to catch up with other pleasures at the work place – like, hob-nobbing with the HR guys to keep an ear to the ground, sweetening up the Accounting devils to ensure that all your claims get settled fast, chatting up with the legal eagles to ensure that your operations are free of any blemishes, and to network with other departmental heads so as to derive synergistic benefits for your own area of work.

Managing Insecurity of Your Boss

You know how insecure some of the top bosses are. Of course, this is internal to them and is never meant to be displayed publically. At times, you might have felt that your salary is getting paid only to ensure that his mental balance is always under control – a unique privilege, to say the least. Many a times, a boss gets so worked up about an insignificant issue that you need to intervene without delay – either taking the responsibility of resolving the problem yourself, or by simply diverting his mind to another pressing problem.

Some Role Models

Being a King Maker (and not a King) has its unique advantages. When you offer yourself as a sounding board, you can give sane advice as and when asked for. In our scriptures, you might have admired the sage counsel of people like Vidura (of Mahabharat fame) and Chanakya (advisor to Chandra Gupta Maurya).

In literature, if you have been introduced to the chronicles of Bertie Wooster, you would have admired the feudal spirit of Jeeves who invariably comes to the aid of the young master in his hour of peril.

These people could perhaps be the role model for those of us who are relegated to a Number Two slot in our careers.

Continue Honing Your Technical Skills

There are professions in which an elevation means getting away from honing one’s technical expertise further and instead getting bogged down with administrative hassles. Ask a doctor who has become a Medical Superintendent or a teacher who has risen to the level of a Principal; in all likelihood, they would readily attest to having experienced this syndrome.

You Always Try Harder

The best advantage you drive from being a Number Two is that of immense learning and untiring efforts towards improving your own performance. You cannot afford the luxury of being complacent. You always try to work better, because somewhere deep within you, you cannot get rid of the desire to attain the top slot some day!

I believe this logic applies to companies as well. Decades back, Nirma gave sleepless nights to HUL. Samsung is now beating Nokia at its own game. There are several David-Goliath type cases in the industry which justify this belief.

Being Number Two means that you always have a high testosterone level in your blood stream, thereby making you more aggressive and a highly focussed achiever.  The fire in the belly remains unabated.

The Flip Side

On the flip side, by being Number Two, you run the risk of becoming a scape goat at times. Too long a sojourn in this slot could either mean that the company has stopped growing, or that you have overstayed your welcome. If so, seeking greener pastures could be a solution.

A Disclaimer!

My arguments in favour of being a Number Two might have made you jump to a conclusion that I am a lazy bum, devoid of burning ambition and a fire in the belly! Or, I am a manager who believes only in abdication and not in delegation. Or, even worse, that I am rudderless drifter!

With all emphasis at my command, I deny all such insinuations! Rather, allow me to urge upon you not to lose sleep if you have just missed that coveted elevation to a Number One slot recently!

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