Saturday, November 27, 2010

The hard side of addressing the soft issues

The hard task of addressing the soft issues

Everybody in the board loved Chandrasekhar. He carried himself with grace and was deeply human in the way he came across to people. He seemed unhurried despite his busy schedule and was always approachable. The CEO Ravichandran had assembled a team of great of experts who were quick to address technical challenges and redress customer complaints with remarkable ease. However, the workplace was very machine like and lacked any energy or enthusiasm. Where could he be going wrong? He valued the difficulty of keeping people motivated and was anxious not to allow the enthusiasm of the youthfully capable team to come down for any reason.

Chandrasehkar listened for a while.

He asked the CEO if he could be permitted to walk about all alone, unescorted by the senior managers, across the shop floor and the offices of the middle management? The CEO saw no reason to object and let it happen.

Chandrasekhar went about in his natural style shaking hands, meeting a cross section of the people enquiring them about their welfare and work. He apologized for dropping unannounced and took permission from people if it was all right for him to talk while they worked. In some cases, he waited until the operators and staff finished their work and got free to talk to them. He graciously accepted the insipid tea and soft biscuits that were offered to him and demonstrated enjoying it with great relish. After touring the workplace for almost three hours, he returned to the CEO’s room for lunch.

The CEO expected Chndrasekhar to say something about the mission he had undertaken in the morning but the discussion seemed to include everything but the topic that was far too dear to the CEO. That after noon Chandrasehkar asked for the services of the CEO’s secretary and dictated a brief note on his findings.

What junior employees wanted their senior to do:

  1. State expectations clearly: Bosses are often vague about what they want and often fore away instructions to juniors without telling them the significance of the task they are being asked to undertake.
  2. Be reasonable; do not expect miracles: Target are set so high that the seniors manage to raise the blood pressure and anxiety levels rather than the enthusiasm to exceed expectations.
  3. Give us decisions with the same speed you want to get results: Avoid creating interruptions to work by delaying decisions making them wait in suspense.
  4. Find the time to ask me how I am doing instead of pouncing on me in the last minute: Managers vanish from the scene indefinitely into meetings only to appear at the last minute and create excessive rework for them.
  5. Do not set me up to fail or knowingly let me down: Sometimes they wonder if the boss is really their friend and would like to see them succeed.
  6. Be honest: If yo do not trust me, say so: some of them believe their bosses merely suffer and tolerate them.
  7. Don’t lie; we are intelligent enough to make out: This is self explanatory and erodes trust completely.
  8. Shoot the messenger: “We are afraid to ‘bell the cat’ because we know we will be shouted at for brining, not creating, the bad news.”
  9. Micromanaging: Sometimes, the boss better leave us to ourselves and not be hanging around waiting anxiously for us to complete the work.

What the senior managers expected the junior employees to do:

  1. Inability to say “No”: Say ‘No’ if you mean NO. Don’t say ‘yes but’
  2. Anxiety to please at all costs: Why do they say yes to everybody creating a lot of confusion?
  3. Over commit and under deliver: Why be shy to admit what yo cannot instead of building an expectation and disappoint at a later stage.
  4. Admit ignorance upfront: No doubts are raised when the instruction is given; all problems come up only when they sit down to execute; why not do some anticipatory thinking?
  5. Withhold resources: Knowing full well they need resources, no one releases surplus and idling resources. People enjoy merely holding onto them.
  6. I don’t know: Please do not pass your half baked opinion freely n every subject.
  7. Allow problems to fester until it blows up: Let the boss find out culture has to go. Please should if there is ‘fire’
  8. Safely stay in the middle: don’t be a middle of the roader and forever feel shy about taking sides.
  9. Over communicate please, rather than holding back: If you do, err on the side of speaking more than not speaking at all.

When Ravichandran read it, he said, “This is fine; how do I implement it ?”

“Whenever bosses and juniors exhibit the right behavior, give them a chocolate. Count the number of wrappers at the end of each month to know how many of the positive behaviors they exhibited.

Measurements help change behavior.

Positive appreciation helps change happen faster.

It is easier to manage technology; the soft side of business is harder to walk on !”


No comments:

Post a Comment