Friday, May 13, 2016

A Business Leader’s Soliloquy: When Management Jargon Becomes Communication Bandwagon!

People need language to communicate. Over time, management experts have developed a unique business language; one interesting, it has now become annoying.  It helps communicate something odd about them, rather than help them communicate evenly with their colleagues. This business language comprises several phrases and epithets which have achieved a cult status in managerial and leadership circles. Strangely, this language is not affected either by gender nor generation. It is pretty universal. Developed once upon a time (but not so long ago) for impact, much of the business language has become cliché-like, annoying jargon. Not to be deterred, self-appointed masters of business communication continue to revel in its use; and some are sworn to it. Here is one such soliloquy!

As I wake up each morning, peeping out of the window, I remind myself of my high-flying penchant for blue sky thinking. Sure, I will be aided by my consultants landing today with their own helicopter view of affairs here. While they may urge me to do some out of the box thinking, I will demonstrate to them how I can pick low hanging fruits by myself ahead of their developing a strategic staircase. As I take shower, I do get my idea showers too. I realize my team does not have the required bandwidth but I consider it my responsibility to cascade all my ideas and create core competencies in my team. Surely, I will run up the flagpole a couple of my ideas and see whether they would help me square the circle!

Thinking of teams, I would like to get all my ducks in a row but with the kind of team I have, I am as dead as a duck in facing the competition. I tell my Human Resources (HR) team members repeatedly to look under the bonnet but they hardly are able to move the needle on this. Going forward, I need to synergize with my HR head so that we can get to the table the best talent, but I am unable to get my message over the wall even with him. I am unhappy that instead of running with this concept my team keeps moving the goal posts. At this rate zero revenue will not be a ballpark figure for my next budget. I need to induct some really best of breed talent to achieve a paradigm shift in our thinking and performance.

Indeed, I touched base with my CEO about this troubling situation. Instead of facing the issue squarely, he dropped the ball when he said that we should take this offline. Much as I want to take to the next level my team’s performance, pushing the envelope, here is my CEO who is not even reactive, let alone be proactive. People think that he and I are joined at the hip, and that I have a lot of face-time with him; but this episode shows our convergent divergence! I am not going to be put off by this; I am going to hit the ground running, putting the pedal to the metal. I want to give my 110 % to my leadership role. I know that our company is debt laden; all the more reason why I should leverage my intellectual capital. That is a win-win paradigm for boundless synergy of intellectual finance, signifying deep-bonding of equity capital with bank debt. I know all our stakeholders will be thrilled with the ROI all this will entail!

I am one who would like to drill down, in fact, deep drill down, on issues, benchmark against competition and crystallise solutions. Some team members may play hardball but I have enough support to bulldoze them. I want that every one of my team members should sing from the same hymn sheet but I know that there some who don’t still get that I am results driven. I have decided to bite the bullet and take such people out of the loop. After all, what can be a greater party than all of my team members toeing the party line? The bottom line of my management is that when the push comes to shove I will not be hesitant to look at the one throat to choke. Actually, that is the million dollar question!

Each day, from my 30 thousand feet perspective, I look for the ideas that have got legs, with the hope that even if I can’t sprint to my goal posts, at least my ideas will! I know I do not have enough boots on ground but it is all about synergising and leveraging available guys so that we can do more with less. I am not a micro-manager but I have a hands-on style; I would like to put a record on, and see who dances. I view my people in buckets; performers and non-performers; mind you, I do believe in incentivizing performers. In all this performance appraisal process, however, I don’t wish to wait the whole year as it is not good to let the grass grow too long under me.

I want to engage with my people as they are my moving, and also removable, assets. Every day is a new beginning for me with them, and I treat every issue as a new horizon. I believe in root and branch review that helps me with hits and misses. I am not married to my team irrespective of performance; actually I believe in asynchronous engagement and conscious uncoupling, as far as employee relations are concerned. I am issue-focused, data-driven and results-oriented, with a stage-gated approach. You see, I am a visionary, and whenever my team members struggle to keep pace with me, I encourage them to do some white space thinking, and try to cross the chasm to reach me.

It is not that I don’t encounter failures; every time we fail (as is usual most of the times!), we go back and sharpen our pencils – so much so that on most occasions we have no pencils left! That said, I know how to manage the optics of failure. I believe in disruptive technologies, and creative destruction, with a fuzzy vision as a highway of growth. I know it is radical philosophy and there are not many who can step up to the plate with the leadership USP I have. I believe in kicking up a perfect storm, every now and then. That’s my formula for a balanced ecosystem, whatever it means. I don’t like people who keep saying that it is not our core competency or that we should stick to our knitting. You see, heart of heart, I believe I am a one-off leader. I take a ready-aim-fire approach to problems.

Long back I worked in a food corporation where I was told silos are very important (to store foodgrains, of course!). Now, in this organization, breaking silos is my thematic template and cultural anchor. I don’t mind sounding like a broken record here (about breaking silos, that is!). I keep telling my people – business is all about building value not building silos! Having failed in that I coined a new organizational mantrabridging the silos! We do face some headwinds there but I am an eternal optimist; it is all a question of seeing the glass half full or half empty! Transparency is always the big elephant in our meeting rooms. At the end of the day, we as leaders need to walk the talk; if there is no talk how can we walk? I wear two hats, therefore, one that of an optimist, seeing a door where there is a wall, as I said earlier, and the other that of a pessimist – seeing a wall when there is a door!

I would like our meetings to be fun at work! I want to keep an open door system and I don’t want hard stops but I can’t help being time-titrated as I am busy like a bee. As we take up each problem, I want to peel back all the layers of the onion. I wish to go granular in analysing problems and be scalable in providing solutions. I want my team to be chained to the concept of value chain, on a holistic basis. I want my people to be intrapreneurs. I admit that my tenure has seen more problems than solutions but that’s how irony of life is! My job is managing the paradoxes. I rely on my 80-20 rule to action on the right issue. Of course, I have my 2 cents of opinion on every issue but I need to manage expectations that I can provide solutions to problems, with white board and zero base approaches. I want to keep everyone in loop and circle back even when I miss my meetings. At times, I feel that I have too many chefs in the meeting room. I honestly want to do a level-set of my team every now and then.

I am the boss but I am a team player. I don’t want my people thrown under the bus. Yet, I carry too much on my shoulders, but mind you, my team members seem to have a chip on the shoulders that they are the victims. I feel I am actually the victim here! Probably, I am used to drinking from the fire hose! I keep telling my people to put our game faces on but there are not many who are ready for the game. They don’t realize that business is all about basic blocking and tackling. I try to inspire people by talking about the next big thing. I like calibrating me against myself! Comparing me with anyone else is certainly not an apple to apple comparison (of course, I am the apple)! Someone said that it is impossible for my team to study me; he asked, after all, is it possible to boil an ocean?

I am a firm believer that we should be more focussed on go-to-market and first-to-market strategies each day, rather than be preoccupied with go-to-home and quick-to-home habits. I want to be customer-focused and technology driven.  For that I look for bleeding edge technologies; leading edge ones are passe’ to me. I believe firmly that Sunset industries require Sunrise technologies. Technology gets us a greater mind-share from our customers. And with some tailwinds in business, we can do great. I want my team to get its arms around the technology animal. I know that technology is just one aspect, and that there are lots of moving parts in business management, but technology is the burning platform for most companies, including mine. Sure, technology strategy requires crystal ball gazing but I punt heavily on my capabilities in this. By way of housekeeping, I keep a laundry list of all the potential growth triggers, though. I may sound immodest but I would like to be called technology evangelist.

I have decided to solution-architect my organization to meet the challenge. I have the ‘D’ and ‘R’ for this as the leader. First of all, I will deploy horses for courses, keeping technology and business separate. I will create a SWAT team to identify the technology direction, and a Tiger Team to actually source the technologies. I will establish a swim line of communication. I will go for high-impact technologies and reach out to every director to support. I want my firm to have its own silicon valley even as it grasps every external window of opportunity. But at the same time, I do not wish to reinvent the wheel.  If after all this, there is no buy-in from anyone, so be it; it is what it is! I want my organization move from good to great. If needed, I will right-size it but I will also get next-gen people and practices. I know it is not plug and play but I think I can have an energising effect, and electrifying impact for empowering people. This is my big challenge and this is where the rubber meets the road!

I keep telling my people that if they are able to wrap their heads around my challenge and colour outsides the lines, they should do not be keeping their ideas in the parking lot. I am eager to monetize their inputs with my delivery. I will never make my employees out-of-pocket with me, I assure them. Still, I am unclear why they do not appreciate that I am putting a stake in the ground here. If only they are aligned with me, my performance can indeed go viral! I just need a few quick wins. It is no brainer, really. I am not clear why my people do not appreciate my game-plan. I thought my communication is always so crystal-clear!!!

Posted by Dr CB Rao on May 13, 2016

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