Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Business Class

A friend of mine asked me to to comment on this blog post. During the course of jotting down an elaborate comment, I realized that I had enough material to create a post of my own. So here are a collection of miscellaneous thoughts that I have on managerial qualities.
I have been watching the Star Trek series in my free time off late. I started with The Original Series (with Captain Kirk) and am currently seeing The Next Generation (with Captain Picard).

The 2 captains in TOS and TNG are a study in contrast. While Kirk was a person who lead from the front and micro managed everything, Picard is a master delegator who delegates all secondary tasks to competent personnel and only acts as the face of the Enterprise to the external world. Kirk was an arrogant person who pushed his subordinates to shot for impossible targets. He would even go to the extent of being rude in order to get the work done. He on more than one occasion disobeyed orders from his seniors. But Picard is more well behaved and trusts the ability and opinion of his subordinates. He is also more obedient towards orders from Star Fleet, even if he does not agree with them. But at the end of the day, both of them get the job done efficiently, and save the day for everyone. I am sure all of us have met managers in real life who are similar to Kirk and Picard.  

I have noticed some differences between Indian and American managers during my experience of working with them, which can be linked to the difference in social behavior between Indians and Americans in general. Indians tend to be more overt in exhibiting the following things than Americans (The Americans have these tendencies too, but due to the culture of the country, such things are not very overtly obvious.)
- Ego due to one's position
- Treatment of sub-ordinates with less respect
- Lack of appreciation of other peoples ability, ideas, interests and personal space

Some of the best managers that I have seen are ones that are able to maintain friendly relations with their subordinates (as opposed to bossy) as well as keep enough distant from them so that the subordinates do not take liberties. The key point here is that the connection needs to be genuine and not superficial. Many managers appear to be quite nice and friendly with the sub-ordinates at a superficial level, but actually use the "glib talking" to lure them into things they want them to do. These people are the most dangerous. I would rather have my manager convey the expectations from me in plain language, than coax me into a corner by giving some Gyan.

At the same time, one needs to understand that the job of a manager is not very easy. The resources at disposal (promotion slots, onsite opportunities, budget, timelines) are always limited. And the demands of clients and sub-ordinates are always higher. So most managers do not have any option but to "lie" their way out of sticky situations, making promises that they know they are not going to fulfill. Even Yudhisthira had to resort to an un-truth in the Mahabharat. But as a subordinate, would much rather prefer someone who is objective and honest, rather than someone who is not.

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