Work style and ethics have been changing over a period. Life was much more straightforward in historical times, until as late as before the industrial revolution. The revolution has started new products, new facilities, new systems, and modern ethics. Round the clock availability of electricity has changed everything upside down. In olden days, one was required to go home before it became too dark. Dependence on sunlight decided many things including lighting and heating needed in winter. We take for granted many things that support the workplace to run round the clock. Hence, we have started thinking that work must be done 365/24/7 by individuals. Looks like time has come to take a relook at how we handle these changes.
From olden times there have been people who were very efficient and extremely sharp. There have been others like you and me. The super smart or go getter-gang can do things maybe 50% better or faster than others. They rise up in the hierarchy quickly. The people reporting to them are fascinated and tend to hold back. The downside of this is that “others” don’t grow because they never get the opportunity to develop; the boss has already done their work. There is a line of people for getting instructions from the boss. The boss never waits for others, the task is rarely delegated.
A typical example is that of a Banyan Tree. When Indira Gandhi died, it was said that no other leaders developed under her. All were followers, they became good party workers. Indira Gandhi helped many people to survive, somewhat like the Banyan Tree provides shade to many. The earth beneath the tree does not allow anything else to grow.
There are other fruit and flower trees like Banana Trees, Apple Tress, and some Berries, which start giving fruits and flowers in six months to one year. These trees have a minimal cycle of production, but they also help many birds and others like butterflies. This quick recycling creates a clump of such trees around. Unlike the Banyan tree, other trees are allowed to grow in their vicinity.
The Banyan tree type of leaders create many followers or support people, but no leader is allowed to grow, there is no successor. This is because they do not enable the generation of leaders. But when the time to replace Banyan tree comes, there are no candidates.
I have known of an organisation chief who observed a Banyan Tree type leader in her organisation. The leader was giving tremendous results, and his area showed promising results. But the boss realised that under him, no new leaders were coming up. Another aspect she observed was that the leader would always go home late, sometimes as late as 9 pm. He would drag all the group to work in this fashion. A couple of smart people resigned and went elsewhere. In exit interviews, they wrote that they could not handle the daily routine of 9 am to 9 pm work. People started depending too much on the leader and work would suffer in his absence. The leader forgot the principle that the efficiency of your department is really seen when you are absent. The owner felt that such a status was not good for the organisation as well to the individual.
She called the leader for a one on one meeting and discussed everything threadbare. The leader was a nice man and agreed that the things on the home front were not so good for him; he had two kids. He was rarely present for any programs, celebrations or sometimes on weekly offs too! The boss explained to him the issues surrounding the methods of the leaders work. The boss told him about the possibility of burnout. Then a plan was chalked out. It took almost six months, but it worked out in the end.
The master plan started with a delegation of work, but that was obvious and essential. Slowly the leader started reducing the time spent in the office. Well, he started going home on time, began delegating work. In the initial phase, he would check if his colleagues managed things well. One more thing the leader started was letting things go. He realised that some meetings were not very important; so he started excusing himself from such a meeting for 15 minutes, to attend another quick meeting. While doing this, a colleague would cover him in the original meeting. With this tactic, he became available to more people; colleagues also started going home on time.
One more important thing he started, was finding out from his colleagues about the area where they wanted his help. One of the colleagues told him that she wished for his suggestions on new projects. For running and routine projects, he started getting updates on email. Additional time was now available to him.
The top boss also realised after his discussion with the leader that, the leaders never complain of overload. They just keep on accepting the load and doing it. But many times they just go away without any hint. Overload does affect lives is a fact of life. It is for the senior management to track the fast-rising stars and nurture them carefully so that they don’t burn out.
Infosys had a great leader in Narayanmurthy, who had formally written to all employees against working more than regular stipulated hours. If you get a customer call late, the organisation should decide the cut-off point, beyond that time, the call should be handled on the next working day. Of course, there can be an exception. Exception handling should be a transparent and fast process.
There is a downside to the frenzy. Service and Support organisations in the IT field started a new system. When taking up projects, they commit, say, 100 people. The contracts are made such that an additional 20% of people are held in reserve. These (20%) poor souls have no work. When projects are completed, sometimes it takes months for people to get the next project. Obviously, there is no work. There is a pay cut. But the employee must complete their xx hours every day in the office doing nothing! This is the other extreme of the frenzy I was talking about. Some people start getting used to the “Bench.” The most important aspect is that these are humans, individuals first and the company employees later! These matters need to be handled with sensitivity; I am aware that there are commercial matters involved. But for all companies human assets are vital.
I read a case study of a lady, who was really a go-getter; she was smart and a bit abrasive. She was extremely efficient, so she started going up the ladder fast. She did everything very fast and every day at 4.30 pm would call a meeting of her team. She was ready with the “To Do” list for all. At the end of the session, she would update the lists, if required. She expected others to complete their work. But she would leave the office every day at 5 pm because she had finished her work. Senior management found it difficult to handle her. She now runs her own business.
Superstars need to remember that they should not try and take over every project, learn to say no, extend work hours as not all can handle these hours, force ideas on others. At least once in a while, use someone else’s opinion though it may be second best.
Superstars also should prioritise demand on their time, avoid overwork and burnout, and most important remember that there is a team; you are not the only one!
A different view of looking at go-getters!