Thursday, November 26, 2009

ISIS (Finishing School) Morning Walk Sessions - When, Should you be feeling like an Executive/Officer?

When, Should you be feeling like an Executive/Officer?

My father was heading a Tea and Rubber Estate of Shaw –Wallace where more than 400 families lived and he was treated like “God” by all the workers. He had the power to dismiss any one or take any one on work. I do not remember a single incident where he had asked someone to be dismissed but there are innumerable incidents where people have come at odd times and got employed. Still one incident remains green in my mind at all times. This is about one called “Seerpadam” who got a job for his family, married to the girl who looked after my young sisters, used this to promote himself and to survive and then turned against my father causing immense unpleasant moments and then became a lunatic(mad) but was treated by my dad again to make him alright. I had answers for the question why the estate people were treating my father as God but I never had an answer why my father used to run whenever he hears the sound of Estate Superintendent’s car coming into the Estate. Many a times he has left his food and ran off to meet the Estate Superintendent in a strategic place, saluting him with great obedience even though he had not done anything wrong nor was having food at home during his working hours. My mom used to comment saying “This person selects odd and out of working hours to visit the estate and trouble us, given an option we should leave this place and go away the next day”.

I have seen people queuing up to take my father’s blessings on “Tamil New Year Eve” but the same man bends backward when he faces his boss.

When I questioned my father for his approach towards his people and the boss, he used to say

“When you become responsible for somebody’s happiness you will realize”

For me, the superintendent named Fonseka was an executive and not my father because he was controlling my venerable father.

May be this was the first time that I have thought about an executive.

On 17th Feb 1977, I was attending Air Force recruitment and I was rejected from the final interview due to underweight. One Sergeant Balbir Sing saw me standing in the group of rejected people and asked me “ What happened to you, you have done your written test exceedingly well” When I told him that I was under weight, he pulled me out of the group and took me to Wing Commander SK Bhalla and told him “ Sir this boy has done his test exceedingly great, should we reject him due to underweight? Let him eat in our mess for a month then he will become alright. He is underweight because he is poor and not able to feed himself full” WG Cdr Bhalla not only recruited me but also recommended extra diet for three months. For my fellow this was a mystery and now if any one remembers this after reading this will realize why I got special treatment then.

I found a new meaning for executive on that day by understanding the power to transform one’s life and destiny for good.

Not only Sgt Balbir and Wg Cdr Bhalla changed my life but saved a family of 8 that day.

The next encounter happened when I was working in Air Force and deputed to a place called NAL near Bikaneer. I was supposed to be appearing for my AMIE papers and leave was denied due to non availability of a replacement. I had given up hope and cursed my luck for losing one more year. Two days before when the exams were suppose to be started, I got a call from one of the senior most officer and my immediate boss “Gnana please come to the officer’s mess with your luggage immediately”. I started to shiver and did not know what wrong I did that I am asked to report to the parent unit and that too by a senior officer. I took Jonga jeep and went to the officer’s mess thinking what would have gone wrong. On seeing me Sqn Ldr SN Shukla was saying “ My son why are you so much worried and scared, why do you think that I am calling you for something negative, think positive this Squadron Leader is your replacement for the next 10 days, go complete your exams successfully and come back. I have already informed the pilot of the AN32 to take you” All the best and be on the runway exactly at 15:00 Hrs”. Later I realized that Sqn Ldr SN Sukla missed his marriage anniversary and came to relieve me.

On that day I met another executive who was ready to sacrifice his comforts and position to ensure that his subordinate did not miss a critical milestone in his life.

Later I joined Infosys and was doing well. Between 1992 and 1997 I got the best increments and promotions at time double. I had not failed a single time and always got appreciations from customers. Then my annual appraisal for the year 1998 came in my boss Binod was taking it. As usual to Binod he had chronicled all the tasks that was given to me and we analyzed every single aspect of my work. After an hour or so I was so happy to find no negatives or any failures. I did expect a A+ and a recommendation from the Boss. “Gnana you have been doing well and I did not find a single failure or unpleasantness nor a customer has come back with any negative comments” I am sure I should be giving you a A- , I was shocked and thought for a moment he was joking. But was realized when he penned the same in the papers and signed I knew that this is for real and I lost the opportunity for the next promotion and the annual increment’. In his inimical style Binod told “Gnana you have not failed nor something went wrong in your work, which means that you are not trying anything new. You are continuing to do the same thing again and again and no innovation happens in you. So this year you are not eligible for anything”. OK, it’s time for a dinner lets go for the dinner. That dinner meeting gave me another perspective of a boss and I accepted the negative remarks and challenged myself thereafter to do things differently and become worthy of Binod;s group.

On this day I met another executive. An authoritative executive , one who ensured that status-quo is not rewarded but growth through innovation is rewarded.

These incidents solved the mystery around exactly what an executive did, the same that intrigued me when I was a kid, and I wondered if someday I could achieve my way to being one.

Since then, I started to look at all those supposed to be executives who had a wall divider between them and their employees. For the company, they owned the strategic goals but never got along with those who are supposed to execute the same. Many a time during critical meetings I used to find many of them will be focused on something that was not on the agenda. They were executing something that was asked by their bosses to be completed and they did not own it or was internally responsible for the same.

And when I promoted BBSSL, one thing that became important to me was the welfare of each and every member of the family. I forgot my lunch, my family and nothing existed. I realized one day when my daughter said “ Daddy, I was better off when you were in Infosys, I could ask to apply for leave and be with me. Now all your promises of spending more time with me when you become your own boss is not true I don’t find you on Sundays also, even if you are at home you are stuck to your computer” My instant reaction was ‘ Abhi now I am responsible for somebody’s life, they depend on me for their comforts so I am doing what I feel is right and your's next”

” With that I realized “Oh I have become an executive now as I have become responsible to execute things that will create happiness to others to whom I am responsible”. Of course it has come with a cost; the time that I have could have spent with my family ignoring the financial risk that was taken. No responsibility comes without a cost, but the happiness that I derive and now along with my family is immense.

The realization of being an executive is the one of accepting responsibility. It is like growing up from a child to an adult. From being taken care to a level where one takes the responsibility of taking care.

So what type of an executive you want to be? Mr.Fonseka or like others who’s names and initials and permanently etched in my life.

Take away for the day:

Power alone will not make you an executive, the power to enable and create happiness to those who depend on you and the sacrifices that you make or the cost that you pay to shoulder the responsibilities of an executive will make you a ..