Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Twelve tips to climb the corporate ladder

Being over-dedicated to your job may actually dim your chances of a promotion

If you talk to any successful entrepreneur, he will tell you that one of the ingredients of his achievements is hard work. But there are situations where hard work is counterproductive. The gadflies and drones of the company actually overtake you.

There are several reasons why this happens. There are people who work hard — much harder than their colleagues — because deep down they suffer from an inferiority complex. Often, they don’t realise it. They sacrifice family life to devote themselves to the corporate cause. You will find a lot of them in foreign banks. They run from meeting to meeting: from power breakfast to deal-making dinner.

Americans are particularly good at creating work for each other. The British have learnt to enjoy themselves behind the facade of hard work. Remember the five investment bankers from Barclays Capital who totted up a bill of £44,000 on one meal. (That’s what the wine cost; the £400 food bill was waived by the astounded restaurant owner.) Incidentally, Barclays was at that time cutting 1,800 jobs.

Away from the executive suites, why are people penalised for working too hard? The inferiority complex encourages some people to make themselves irreplaceable. An executive secretary with a top CEO says that she is the right hand person of her boss. So much so, each time he changed jobs, she moved with him. The money is not an issue; within limitations, she has been taken care of. But she recollects that she joined the job in the secretarial pool along a certain Ramona. The latter didn’t try to reach the big league by latching her wagon to a smart young executive. She was relatively lazy and was sent for training courses. Today, Ramona is sales manager in a rival concern and could even make CEO some day.

It’s not just secretaries who get wedded to their bosses. Some individuals get wedded to their jobs. They make themselves so valuable that they are impossible to move out or replace. If you are ever in such a position, you can bid goodbye to your chances of promotion. The other reason, of course, is that because of your insecurity, you take good care not to groom a successor. Remember the first IT types in companies when computerisation was a new, new thing. They made everything seem so esoteric. One of the few good things Bill Gates has done is reduce them to jargon-mouthing non-essentials.

Hard work also implies a lot of devotion to the immediate job content. The end result is that you don’t have the time to see what others are doing. If you want to rise to the top, you have to be a generalist. This is why industry puts a greater premium on MBAs than engineers.

But engineers and MBAs alike can fall into the hard work trap. And they have some evidence to prove that they are doing the right thing. According to a study by the Gothenburg University in Sweden, people who work hard tend to be happier. But the researchers add that the important point is to have a goal. Unfortunately for some, the work itself becomes an all-consuming goal.

Other researchers have pointed out that working yourself into a dead end happens more to women than to men. Some of the reasons are: overcompensation because of the need to handle multiple priorities; a greater sense of loyalty to the organisation and the individual; and a more responsible attitude to life. It may also be that job opportunities for women are limited even today. However, you won’t find HR people talking about this, as it’s politically incorrect.

The ultimate result of unstinted hard work is that you get taken for granted. The worker who expects to get rewarded for devotion ends up as the dogsbody around the office.

Pushing for promotion

Twelve tips to climb the corporate ladder

• Master your current job.

• Volunteer to take on (valuable) extra tasks.

• Make your boss look good.

• Stay in close contact with the HR department.

• Maintain positive relationships with the staff.

• Let your leadership skills shine.

• Groom a successor.

• Get a mentor.

• Take additional training.

• Look presentable at all times.

• Perfect your elevator pitch.

• Watch your timing.

Source: The Telegraph

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Good advice often comes like gentle drops of fine rain

Now days I'm reading articles of Mr R Gopalakrishnan who is the executive Director of TATA Sons , so here is another one-

All endings are also beginnings. It is just that we don't know it at that time. In a delightful book, 'The Five People You Meet In Heaven', Mitch Albom narrates the story of an 83 year old war veteran, who discovers people who affected his life without anyone knowing about it.

This is true for managers also. Views from casual acquaintances who are not formally assigned the role of being a well-wisher can be extremely valuable. Their ideas come like gentle drops of rain that fall around you without making their presence felt too strongly, nor being intrusive.

When I grew up in Calcutta, it was a premier mercantile city, still maintaining the famous boxwallah tradition. Any young person walking around the office areas like Fairlie Place and Brabourne Road would yearn for a management trainee job in those business firms-Andrew Yule, Balmer Lawrie, Bird and Company, and Martin Burn, names that have now virtually vanished.

I was completing my final year BSc course, resident at the college hostel. Father de Bonhome, the principal of St Xavier's College, asked me whether I would like to be recommended for a trainee's job at McKinnon McKenzie. It was a fine firm, he could suggest only two from the whole college, and the salary would be Rs 450 per month. I calmly said that I was honoured to be recommended; in reality, I was thrilled. I did not consult my father, who had by then moved to Bombay.

With a borrowed suit and soaring dreams, I interviewed at the McKinnon office. After being seen by two managers, I saw one Mohi Das, the managing director. He asked me several thoughtful questions. As I was getting convinced that I had done well and might actually get the job, he drew up close to me and asked, "Son, may I call you that way? Don't get me wrong, but you are just past eighteen. You can have the job; we can train you quite well. But, tell me, do you need the job? How is the family situation?"

I was a bit offended, what did my family situation have to do with the job? He clarified, "Well, I have spent my career in one set of circumstances, but you will spend your career in an entirely different set of circumstances. I feel you should get a professional degree. You can always get this kind of job, son-unless the family situation requires you to get a job right now".

How could he dangle one of the most prized jobs in front of me and then say what he did? I just did not want to listen to him. And I was quite clear about my future (or so I thought) without asking too many people!

Reluctantly, I decided after some further thought that I should mention to my father that I wish to accept the job. He was furious that I could even think of taking a job. My dream job ended like a collapsed balloon. I went on to study further and joined Hindustan Lever subsequently.

I never met Mohi Das after that encounter. He retired in due course. A few years ago, I learned that he had died in Coonoor. He would not recognize this story even if I had the chance to remind him. He influenced and counseled me about my career in a valuable way, but unknowingly.

Like gentle drops of fine rain that touch you but do not interfere with you, casual advice comes your way. You need to listen to and reflect on them. Then take your own decision. Particularly for a generation that is as blessed as young people are in today's India, this would be wise.
- Mr R Gopalakrishnan

Monday, December 04, 2006

Success is about direction more than distance

Many managers spend a lot of their working time, thinking about how to accelerate their promotions, how to impress the boss more than their colleagues, and how to earn money faster. The management world is indeed very competitive. So you feel that time must be spent thinking through such matters and taking appropriate actions--quite correct, but only in part.

The question to ask is whether it is the aim of a career to go far or in the right direction. Ideally, of course, you should achieve both, but that is not easy.

If you watch club level golfers, you will see the point. Some stand on the tee box with the longest club, and whack the ball with the might of an ox. They are the ones who want to see the ball soar away with an accelerating speed. A few seconds later, when they observe where the ball has landed, they curse and crib. The ball has perhaps been lost or has landed in a difficult spot from which it would be difficult to play the next shot. Other golfers take a measured approach of landing the ball on the fairway at a spot where they want to land. For them, the next stroke is as important as this first tee shot. Both are valid ways to play the game. If you are very talented, you may learn to do both i.e. go far as well as land where you want. Many club level golfers never achieve this.

The purpose of a career is to utilize your potential fully because that alone can give you satisfaction and a sense of self-esteem. This is so whether you are a chairman or an assistant. It becomes possible to achieve such satisfaction when you are surrounded by friendship and trust, which are essential for accomplishment in managerial tasks. Nobody can do a management job all by himself, this is a well accepted fact. It is the web of relationships and friendship that enables a manager to navigate the choppy waters that the ship of his career will constantly encounter.

There was a fine movie made by Frank Capra which I recall seeing when I was young. It starred James Stewart and Donna Reed and was named It's a wonderful life. The story is about a man, who thinks he is a failure. So he prepares to commit suicide.

An angel is sent to prevent his act and to rescue him. The angel finds that the man lacks self esteem and hence he thinks that his friends and relations do not much care for him. The angel takes him in an invisible form to overhear what his friends and relations think of him in reality. He is surprised that he seemed to be loved by them all and that he mattered to them. His own perception of his failures in his career and his business activities bothered them little, and their love for him was overwhelming. He feels blessed.

The moral of the film is that no man is a failure who has friends.

Well, it is the same with your career. You take your own successes too seriously, and your failures in the same way. Other people do not think about either with the same intensity, they have better things to do!

Philosophers say that a good question to ponder about is when you die, who will come to your funeral? When a loved man dies, lots of people come for his funeral out of choice. When a rich or powerful man dies, lots of people may come, but for the reason that they want to be seen to have been there.

If you aim in the right direction, the best possible distance will come automatically. That is a simple truth.

- Mr R Gopalakrishnan