Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tinku’s tennis racket…

One of the employees from our vendor visited us for the discussion. I asked her about her tenure in the company. She was working almost for 8 years. Off course, topic diverted to retention of quality employees.
I asked her, "What are reasons for staying so long here?" She took the question and slowly, with her voice almost breaking, said, "It was the 750 rupees tennis racket." She told us that she originally took a junior officer position as an interim while she looked for something better. On her second or third day, she received a phone call from her nine-year old son, Tinku. He needed a tennis racket for his school tennis class. She explained that as a single mother, money was very tight, and her first salary would have to go for paying rent and other bills. Perhaps she could buy his tennis racket with her second or third salary.
When she arrived for work the next morning, her manager, asked her to come to his office. She wondered if she had done something wrong or left some part of her job incomplete from the day before. She was concerned and confused. Manager handed her a gift wrap. "I overheard you talking to your son yesterday," he said, "and I know that it is hard to explain things to kids. This is a tennis racket for Tinku because he may not understand how important he is, even though you have to pay rent and bills before you can buy this racket. You know at this juncture our salary structure is low but we do care, and I want you to know you are important to us."
The thoughtfulness, empathy and love of this convenience manager demonstrated vividly that people remember more how much an employer cares than how much the employer pays.
Important lesson in employee engagement.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Are you a right follower?

Managerial roles are always misinterpreted. Functional expertise is considered while hiring the person, his experience is also considered. But other dimensions required are not considered. Every manager has four areas to perform. These are as under:
Functional expert: We hire people for their knowledge and skills. Their functional expertise is important. But at managerial position, employee has to play different roles. If the person is in finance, he is expected to be the expert in finance and it is applicable in all functions.
Administrator: Managers need to plan activities, assign tasks to sub-ordinates and get the job done. Staffing, planning, coordinating and executing are his common duties. Sometimes, he sanctions leaves, plan his manpower and archives his targets. This is administrative role he plays.
Most of the times above two roles are considered. Managers are expected to perform above two roles effectively and they are evaluated based on above dimensions only. However other two dimensions and roles of the managerial disposition are always ignored that these two dimensions are leadership and followership.
Leadership: Leadership is important and must be focused well, but we should also understand the personality limitations of leadership. At specific roles, always try to develop the person as leader. Coaching and mentoring help a lot here.
Followership: “You cannot be a leader, and ask other people to follow you, unless you know how to follow, too.”
Most of the time we give the weightage to the leadership, but followership is grossly neglected.  In the organization everybody has to follow certain things. Managers follow top managements philosophy. Everybody in the organization is independent and also accountable for each other. Juniors (by position) are more dependent and also accountable to seniors (by positions). Hence juniors are expected to follow the strategy, vision, mission and instructions, directions thereby.
Even if the person is not manager, most of the times he is expected to play the role of follower. And hence right perspective to the followership is needed.
Kelly and Robert (1992) explained in details this followership model which I really like.
This is two dimension- model for followership behaviour. There are active and passive employees and other hand they are dependent & uncritical and independent & critical. We have the choice what type of behaviour we would like to model.  Based on this there are four types of followers.
1. Sheep: Haven’t you seen the people who are like sheep? They don’t use their brain. They are passive and uncritical. They do not play an active role at all. They simply comply with any order given. They are not even Yes Boss people. They are disengaged. “you tell what I should do” is the common reaction from them.
2. Yes People: Only one good thing is these people are active. They are energetic but don’t use their brain. They are active and uncritical. You must have seen the people who readily carry out orders uncritically. These people’s behaviour can be dangerous if orders contradict standards.  These are the people who always say what they think leaders want to hear.
3. Survivors: These are very political guys, always ready to save the skin. They are right in the middle. Rarely committed to the task. They are mediocre performers clogging the arteries of an organization
4. Alienated followers: One good thing is that these people are critical thinkers but don’t take in right perspective. They are disengaged and passive in nature. They will ask questions, challenge and always critical but will not offer any support.
5. Effective followers: What we want in the organization are effective followers. These are potential leaders and experts. They are very active and other side they are also critical thinkers. They ask questions, challenge to the conventional though but will come forwards for the active support. They give the right solution to the problem. Actually ideal followers. They reflect on organizational tasks and even not hesitant to bring concerns to leader/bosses. They are energetic and proactive. They know their own limitations and their own territory but do not hesitate to go extra mile if required.
Now you may have understood the different types of followership. Where you will put yourself and then your team?

Saturday, March 09, 2013

How you go at home from office? Cool, it’s simple….

Travelling back to the home form office is always another struggle. Sometimes I feel that most of the problems are created by human. To make the life easy, they manufactured vehicles so that we can commute easily from one place to another place. However as usual, he never planned to face consequences. The fuel prices and congested roads are the consequences. To take care of these consequences, human made industries so that people earn more money spending on such things. This is a cycle and we lost our sleep. Pollution, noise and stress are the part of our life.
The question is how to make this journey meaningful. You can’t hire the driver so that you rest at rear seat and read some good books, or just take a nap. If you hire a driver, still he will make you feel that you have made the mistake and at last you have to drive on your own. I made this experiment and then came to the conclusion that by hiring driver you make your life more complicated. Finding good driver is impossible.  
There are certain ways to make this daily journey meaningful. You can listen music, audio books or Vedic chants. Meaningless radio jockeys from FMs are also there to make your driving enjoyable. But then you get bored listening same songs and foolish commentary of radio jockeys.
After doing this all, I came to conclusion that you yourself have to take the charge of your life. Off course, I never speak on mobile while driving and even don’t use the hands free. I have seen people who plug hands free to the ear and don’t miss a single call even while driving. I always surprise why people keep themselves so busy even while driving. Great two –wheeler riders sometimes put their and others life in danger by doing this.
For driving, only driving skills are not necessary, if you want to make your life simple and stress-free, you also need to be great saint on roads. I tried this lot and I have accepted that in any condition, I need one hour to go home for 20 KM distance and I am not in hurry. I enjoy my ride back to home. When I stop on a red signal, sometimes person behind me bangs his horn without any effect on me.
I give the way to the pedestrian on zebra crossing. Once when I stopped, the group of small children waived hands towards me. Their smiling face made my evening. Near Hotel Sarja (Aundh, Pune) crossing, there is always a mess. During pick hours traffic wardens enjoy their paan and ghutka at corner paan stall. And you know, people are always in hurry crossing the road, banging the horns. They are more aggressive on road. Few days back, on the same crossing, I put my hand outside the window asking another person to stop so that I could cross the road. Surprisingly he stopped and as another people saw him stopped, they also stopped.  It was my duty to thank him. I did by it by saluting him. Next day the same car was coming, I thought the person yesterday stopped, let me stop today. And he waived his hands thanking me. Now we both know each other at least by face and help each other to cross the road without pushing our accelerators. Someday I do, next day he does.
Off course, the traffic problem is still there, but whenever coincidence happens and he is on the road on same day, we both make our life simple, juts by respecting each other. This is working.
Why always be aggressive when not required. Apply the mind and let’s be human…

Sunday, March 03, 2013

CSR Intent

Companies should have the strategy for CSR. But before that, they should have the intent of CSR. There are few companies, who just ask their employees to stand on the signal with play cards and preaching to the other people for following traffic rules. And they make the big story and ensure that it is published in media. I really don’t see much intent in such initiatives. Recently I requested one of the fellow HR professional to bring into the notice of their MD one of the initiatives for supporting one of the causes for blind girl’s school. However still I am waiting for the response. Such organizations are not sensitive about their employee issues; it is unlikely that they would respond to the society. They see cost in every initiative and don’t have the vision of seeing ROI on such initiatives. These companies even don’t bother for Level 1 CSR.
I see CSR as one of the employee engagement initiative as well and their connect to their own value and society. Hence I think CSR initiative should have impact on the society and it should be long term. Employee will not be fascinated by participating in march, distributing sweets, or standing on the signal, they want more concrete CSR intent of the company.   
Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are the foreign example but recently Azim Premji donated 2.3 billion dollar for education purpose and this requires courage. ( . Off course, this is not the first time, he is doing this, and his foundation is doing well in different perspective at Level 3, CSR. He is really making the impact to the society. Off course, employees, in the organizations much be proud to work with Wipro.
In another example, Tata Group has been involved in all level CSR. Infosys is doing well.
I personally am proud about the CSR activities of Royal DSM. DSM has the strong association with World Food Programme of United Nations. This global initiative is going well and DSM is making the impact to the third world. (  They are doing well in India as well. There are all level examples like supporting blind girls at Alandi, near Pune. (,, building the School for underprivileged children at Village, near Pune ( are some examples of what they are doing in India.
Our value system is very strong; we are taught that we should share some part of our earning to the society. “If you give, you get more” is the feeling behind this. Employees relate this learning and value system to their own organization. I have seen the huge contribution from employees (without asking) for such projects. They are ready to give money and time for such activities. And believe me this makes them proud.
If you want to see your employees engaged and want to give the feeling of pride, just have a look on your CSR intent….

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