Tag Archives: theory x

It really is about the PEOPLE

18 Nov

oscar the grouch

There’s a great google search ad doing the rounds – its about reunion post partition between India and pakistan. I think by now most folks have watched it, but if you havn’t, click here. (It even got written up in mashable).

For me, it drove home something I’ve been thinking about on and off for a few days – that, we sometimes tend to get so wrapped up in whatever we are doing/ seeing/ making – whether it is technology and all its accoutrements, parenting as a job, management strategies, that we forget a very essential point of any exercise – the people it affects/ for whom we are doing it.

Think about it –

Big Data – Cloud – Hadoop – Analytics – e commerce – social collaboration – smart meters — all big buzzwords of today. Many big names chase this – IBM/ Cisco/ Microsoft/ Google/ Facebook – everyone. But it feels sometimes like the chase overwhelms the purpose – the process/ the technology – whatever is almost taking over the final reason FOR the tech. (It parallels the age old “features vs. benefit” marketing debate – you know, better agitator vs. whiter clothes/ purer chocolate vs. smoother texture). To some extent, some advertising is changing – IBM’s smarter planet / (erstwhile) Nokia’s connecting people – were all attempts at getting to the raison d’etre. Thats why I like the google ad – its not about better/ more precise/ faster/ more relevant search, but the reason behind the search. Lovely!

I like that a lot of healthcare is moving towards this now – Sanofi just released an app that gamifies blood testing (you get more points the oftener you test your blood sugar) thus making adherence for diabetes easier for patients!

Most organisations are now moving from “product centricity” to “customer centricity” – run a google search on CC and you get some half a million hits…a few years ago, it was one tenth of this number!

customercentricity cartoon

Look at other aspects of this “people” thing – as I said in an earlier blog, enterprises are not run by processes – but by PEOPLE – if you can figure out how to motivate/ empower/ manage the people; you've got it made! I'm sure EVERY organization can cite examples of leaders who are maybe not so technically competent, but get better results than others because they are good with people – their people management skills are better! It’s heart breaking at times for those who do have the nuts and bolts, but not the guts and holds ..(over people that is 🙂 (ok, ok, very contrived I know – just felt like incorporating some rhyming stuff).This is what also makes for organisational culture (that intangible thing that defines many org metrics – retention/ values/ client service…see my earlier blog on org culture) Its one of the things an org “loses” when it scales to a behemoth – and one of the things that folks in start up cultures value – the fact of knowing everyone around – their happiness/ their sadness/ their strengths and weaknesses what makes them tick/ what hot buttons to press. It’s also one of the hallmarks of different leadership styles (read another blog on theory x vs. y of leadership – and which one works better)

Think about home – our kids have become “projects” almost – we are forever exhorting them to – get up in the morning/ eat breakfast properly/ go to school on time/ change, bathe, whatever once they are back/ go to whatever class they are enrolled for in a bid to get upskilled/ finish homework/ study for tests/ attend the birthday party…blah blah blah – in our timely and efficient execution of all these projects – we forget that the “subjects” are KIDS – and they WILL NOT be as good/ as efficient/ as task oriented as maybe we are trained and constrained to be. Takes the joy out of childhood somewhat eh?

child with mask

School kids can figure this out easily – my older daughter and her clan don’t like one of their teachers – and, the reason is not that she doesnt know her stuff, or is strict, or the usual anti teacher reasons, but that “she hates us”. After all, if a teacher doesn’t LIKE kids, its self defeating almost. I see live examples of effectiveness in the community schools I go teach in as a volunteer. One of the schools is making a huge success of the volunteer program our folks are helping them with – mainly because the principle is involved, interested, and she LIKES the kids, and likes US! Another school, is the exact reverse because the principle is a grouch!

Ofcourse, nothing brings this whole people thing home as well as just meeting old friends – despite everyone being in the ratrace – and attempting to “achieve” more and more everyday – one afternoon spent with friends – old or new (as i did yesterday), reminds you over and over again – it really is all about the people!

Carrot Power! (Or, Do you really need to twist and shout?)

24 Jan

Carrot and Stick :)

For someone who didn’t lift a finger till a month ago at anything that even closely resembled physical exercise (actually, thats not really true – coz the only parts of my body i did move were my fingers as they tapped away at the comp/ iphone day in and day out), it’s surprising how much inspiration my daily aerobics class is providing me!

Every morning, from 8 – 9, picture me – wayyy shorter than normal, wayyy more obese than normal, – in company with folks who remind me of Erma Bombeck’s (yes, you have to excuse me, I’m re-reading her nowadays) famous one – “I exercise with women so thin that buzzards follow them to their cars”. But, as I huff and puff my way on the steppers and floor exercises, what keeps me going is the few words from Niru the instructor – all she has to say is – “Good job, Sangita!” – and I’m ready to pump a few more weights! This, despite the fact that I KNOW I’m not doing even a passable job – forget “good”. But i guess, as all leaders/ coaches/ mentors know, positive strokes don’t hurt you, infact they only inspire your teams to work harder.

It reminded me of an appraisal I had done for a mid level manager a few months ago – He was someone new we had hired via an internal company transfer from our larger (by far!) parent company. His biggest worry about his career was that all along, he had been given feedback from his previous managers that he “lacked aggression”. He thought this could potentially be career limiting. Now, this was a bit of a surprise to me – as – according to me, he had displayed a fair amount of aggression in terms of getting business, leading his ops team, flagging issues and coming up with suggestions to senior management. But then i got it – what this boy was, was mild mannered – he didn’t scream and shout at his team. Unfortunately, he came from a culture where success equated with features of “sternness of big leader” – i.e., if your team wasn’t shaking every time you uttered something, you weren’t a “good”/ “aggressive” leader!

This is classical Mecgregor’s Theory X vs. Theory Y isn’t it? And modern management principles teach you that Y is better than X (infact, Theory Z – which is a kind of derivative of Y and says that what drives most employees is self motivation (as assumed in Y) but with active and empathetic company support) is what most pundits propound. Unfortunately, it looks like most managers do believe in the fear psychosis to get work done.

Now i have a theory on this – I think Theory X as a CULTURE has been propounded and lauded of late in companies that have grown really big really fast. Think large BPOs/ IT companies – we know that the outsourcing industry, while it propelled India into the next wave of growth, gave rise to large corporations with a very YOUNG workforce. Because of the exponential rates of growth witnessed, young employees had to become managers very fast – and didnt get the chance to garner appropriate ORGANIC experience and maturity – most of which, by the way, comes from handling many and many more people situations. But the growth of the industry mandated that they had to deal with responsibilities way earlier than they were ready for it. Ofcourse organisations invested in training of all kinds – soft skills, managerial acumen, project management, people management – etc; but the fact remains that there were 22 year old Team leads needing to manage 25 year old associates. They obviously didnt have that much extra experience, so the only way they had to assert superiority was – fear! (translated to screaming and shouting!). As the orgs got bigger and bigger this culture got so ingrained that everyone thought it’s THE way to get work done – instill fear, use sheer “muscle power” – become “Laxman” instead of “Ram” in Hindu mythology…(btw, I think Ram was a bit of a wimp myself and Laxman was way more interesting, but…). To be fair to them, that was also probably the only way you could afford to deal with LARGE groups of people – so large, that they are not people anymore, just statistics and metrics (He is an E performer, while she is only A!!!)

You know what this results in — people in large organisations start managing not so much by a sense of “what is right”/ “what needs to be done”, but by their sense of “what will the boss like”, or, taken to an extreme – “what will make my boss not yell at me!” I was myself in a bizzare situation as a result of this – we were, in a group, deciding pricing for a big (I’m talking 5 million USD) bid, and ofcourse it was controversial. We had to get clearances from the boss – guess what the finance guy told me – “why dont you talk to the boss about this, he’s less likely to yell at you!” (I think that day cemented my decision to not work in a large company 🙂

So, am I saying that everyone should always be honey and sugar, sweetness and light? That’s a foolish deduction, and you know it 🙂 Also, if I’m naturally autocratic, should I become “anti-me”, thus rendering a Jekyll and Hyde type personality and confusing everyone, including me? Certainly not! The answer, which boringly is really really obvious, and everyone knows, continues to be – one has to be situational – stick with what is commonly “you” – be “true” to yourself largely (and if u do it well enough, you WILL lead successfully in general); but temper your “Y” style leadership with some sticks (note the picture above has “angry birds” on the stick! appropriate, I thought 🙂 ), and your “X” style leadership with some empathy…This, remember, is not really a treatise on personal leadership styles – we know successful people of all kinds – but a diatribe against people who think its the “right”/ “done” thing to do to always yell and shout, irrespective of what state of Maslow’s hierarchy the employee in front is/ what the situation demands..

By the way, (and don’t even get me started on this – this post is too long as it is), the situation becomes many times more complicated when it is women managers. Remember Sheryl Sandberg’s (I love her, btw!) famous TED speech on “successful women are NOT liked”? I think that needs to be the topic of another post.

While you think about the above, decide whether you want to “smile and shake” or “twist and shout”, I’ll go do a few more bench presses with Niru telling me – “way to go Sangita”!! Happy hunting!