Thursday, September 06, 2007

Bosses and mothers ..

Teeny tiny cooking tip before i start the actual post: A super duper Bhindi cooking idea to not have to keep the damn thing on the stove for donkey's years. Just microwave the sliced bhindi for about 6 minutes to make it real nice and soft and ready to be spiced up with some oil on the tawa!!!

(Lalitha: Be proud. Be VERY proud.... Also, after the microwaving-potato-without-water story, tell your mom THIS and see what she says :D)
Now to the real subject of the post ...

For some time now, I've had P report to me at work. Having gotten promoted recently myself and to a different brand from the one I started out, you'd think I already have my hands full. Apparently, my manager/s didn't think so. So they handed me this bright enthusiastic young woman who's future now officially rests in my hands. Yeah, as if I didn't have enough to worry about!!!

2 months down however, I realize there's something to what they decided for me. (Managers at P&G are so highly regarded for good reason, I suppose!) Coaching someone is officially the best part of my new job. It's sometimes worrying, sometimes stressful but mostly its a rich rewarding experience that lets me come home with a smile on my face. Everytime I'm on the cusp of being overwhlemed by the little things, I look at P and tell myself, THAT's my biggest project, not this small stuff. Not the numbers and the one pagers and the reco roll outs to top management. And for those few minutes, it all seems worth it, coz it gets linked up to another living breathing person. :-)

I wonder, although, how good my boss A had to be to think that this would be the kinda thing that motivated me. It takes deep insight into another person to be THAT good a manager. With my kinda self involvement, my biggest fear is always that I'll forget about P's welfare at some time. That I won't see the times she needs help/ advice/ encouragement and that her enthusiastic being will be let down because of my negligence. But A was never like that. In the course of discussing my strengths and weaknessess, he did this incredible thing. He asked me if I understood why X was an opportunity area. I said yeah, and rattled off examples of times when I'd manifested the trait, looking really ashamed -might I add! And A shook his head and said "Yeah, but that's the symptoms right? I don't really think that's why you did so and so ... I think its for so and so real reasons". I must admit, he read me better than I ever read myself.

THAT's what makes a good manager. Knowing the mind and heart of the person who works with you. Knowing what makes them tick. Knowing that your style is just that YOUR style, and won't work with everyone, and hence developing a unique style to deal with every person who reports to you.

Like A had this tendency to ask me "To, kya chal raha hai life mein?" everytime we started a meeting. We'd spend 15 mintues updating each other on our most interesting stories. A is probably the only person whose been completely clued in to the happenings in my personal life for the last 1.5 years, more importantly the last 5 months. He's been supportive and smiling through it all, keeping me smiling and motivated in turn. I know there's times he's offered more than fair share encouragement on the professional front, simply coz he knew things were sometimes rotten on the personal front. Does that kinda relationship with a boss even appeal to someone else? It never mattered. It appealed to me ... and so he kept it that way with me. Now that's a FANTASTIC manager.

My 1st boss T was and will always stay my personal favorite. T himself a rather unique style of operating vs. most managers, and yet with his 3 direct reports back then, 2 girls and 1 guy, he had subtly different styles. With me it continues to be the constant leg pulling on a personal front coupled with demonstrations of high respect on a professional front. There was always just enough seriousness and just enough jokes. There was never judgement, yet lots of honest feedback. And it worked brilliantly for me. That's another FANTASTIC manager.

When I think about it hard enough, being a boss is in so many ways like being a mother. And this is meant in the best way possible. Mother's who read this blog, DO NOT for a minute assume I underestimate your role and relationship with your child. Point i'm trying to make is, in a people driven culture like my company's, a manager's role best mirrors that of a mother. Here's the parallels.

1. Like any mother ASSUMES about her child, good managers ASSUME and take for granted that the person reporting to them is innately capable and intelligent. That given the right coaching, he/she can become a huge success.

2. Like any mother, good managers struggle with drawing the line between letting their direct report make his own mistakes and giving him all the answers.

3. Like any mother, a good manager trusts in and stands up for his report, more so in public than in private.

4. Like any mother, a good manager is constantly alert for signs of trouble. Is the child demotivated? Not performing well? Not happy? Not liked? Not content? Not comfortable? There is always the tendency to watch out for the yellows before they turn into reds.

5. Like any mother, a manager has to cope with being harsh on a report when the situation so demands. It may not be pleasant, but if that's what makes most sense for the others' welfare, then that's what shall be done, no matter how bitter it feels.

6. Like any mother, a good manager is constantly trying to tell the world how good a job his report has done. His pride and joy lies in the accomplishment and success of his report.

7. Like mothers have to deal with kids leaving for studies and careers away from home, a good manager has to deal sometimes with letting go of someone - sometimes to another team, sometimes another function, sometimes another career. Nothing is as important as the happiness of the report. Even after all that time and care you invested in them, you always know they're not here to stay. And it still doesn't change how hard you work at making them successful.

Nayak once told me (and he wasn't the only one) that I'd make a better mom than a wife. Although he got kicked badly for that statement, and although i resent that kinda role comparison, I can only hope that the statement bodes well for P. :)


Anonymous said...

Wat a lunch reading. Wat a.


Vish said...

am going to give this post to my bosses, it strikes the right chord and is so much relatable to the situation faced by them.

SS said...

Will definitely try the Bhindi tip :) anything to cut down on slaving over the stove time!

Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you mean by feeling responsible for your report. I still feel like super mom-level proud when I think of the girl I trained while I was in my previous job. When she moved to a better job, more than her, I think I was shouting it off the rooftops :-)
- L

shiv said...

hahah - now now.. thats a compelling arguement for why women make good managers. Dont say no to what uve written but a cpl of considerations pop up:

a) The diff is. uve painted the picture of an avg./normal mom vs. an ideal boss.

b) How well a boss knows you is also a function of how well u want him to know you - i know of a lot of ppl who do NOT let the manager any closer than absolutely neccessary.

c) The other diff b/w the mom vs boss is who is a handle on the priorities. For a mom, no matter what her child is the priority, for a manager, the loyalty is first to the business and then to the people - and that typically causes the problem

d) For a mom, her childs success is the be-all-end-all of life. Her self image (and external image) is hugely dependent on that. Unlike this, a typical boss will have several bigger priorities and his success is very rarely purely based on his subordinates performance (it should be, but frankly isnt)

anyway, good topic :)

Eastertide said...

waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhH! ( u know why)
How cld i miss the Toddler joke!! It must have been 5 minutes of ROTFLMAO.

arvind said...

i wonder what was going through P's mind when she was reading this!!

unpredictable said...

Mbo: Thanks .. I do it for u, u know.

Vish: :) Like shiv says, some bosses, in some companies are supp to function like this, by all means do share, but i promise this wont apply everywhere.

SS: :) Yes i know what u mean!

L: :DD Wow .. ill be SO SO proud when that happens to P! :D

Shiv: Thanks for the effort at writing a long comment. :)

a. Yes, normal moms vs ideal boss. That too boss of a new hire more likely.
b. Already called out, the relationship is defined by you. Not everyone wants tht personal eqn, I did, not everyone does.
c. Depends really. Like i know with A, his loyalty was with the business, but in his own words, he was always more oriented to wellbeing than to achievement. How lucky can one get eh?
d. True. This i didnt touch upon. Insightful :)

Har: Yeah it was. ROTFLMAO so much so our tummies hurt and we had to stop talking for some time :) Next time i promise to invite you dear.

Mr Rayappa: I wonder if P read this though :) Thanks for dropping by :)

Anonymous said...

Like any over-indulgent mother, a painful manager is constantly micro-managing you by giving you feedback every hour and telling you how to do the simplest of things.

Even though both mother and boss have the same honest and good intentions, the poor kid cant do much, can he? :)