Monday, August 29, 2011

Treating all equally

I was in a wedding reception. It was crowded with a stream of invitees coming in and going out. For want of nothing else, I started observing the people who entered the hall. Some lingered at the entrance for a while till they noticed someone important known to them and then gravitated towards them. They dismissed other lesser guys who greeted them with an insouciant smile devoid of recognition. A few who could not find any one known face settled in a comfortable seat waiting for their turn to felicitate the young couple. There was always an effort by everyone to look for friends or relatives who were distinguished with better position or wealth than them in the jostling crowd. Why this craving to be seen in better company?

It was then I observed, whenever a well known or famous man or woman amongst the circle entered the hall , a pronounced tendency amongst the crowd to crane their necks with a view to watch the celebrity and if possible to catch their eyes. A few who were chatting with me left their seats abruptly and went near one film guy who was entering the hall with a fawning crowd around him. This set me thinking why people attach importance to the fame or position of others and show a desire to be seen with them or exchange a greeting with them. A corporate honcho or a former top level bureaucrat or a filmy person or a sports star invariably attracts a crowd like the treacle does with ants.

In offices one must have noticed the extra efforts made to catch the eye of a senior official in a group or the undue high deference shown while talking to boss. Seeking favour by servile flattery or cringing behavior is commonly seen and encouraged by bosses But such a subservient attitude or undivided attention or respect is not shown by the same people to someone who is in lower position. There is certain casualness and high airs shown in the conversation with the subordinate. There is a tendency to give undue importance to titles, designations or positions in society or wealth as if people beneath such distinguishing marks do not deserve the respect or attention. We owe nothing to the men in higher positions in office except doing our job well and on time. We do not need to be obsequious or sycophantic. We need to be uniform in our attitude to all irrespective of position or power

The reason for this ingratiating and often flattering disposition could be an expectation that some good may come at a later date or the satisfaction to be in the good books of people better placed. The true test of one’s character is seen from the way he treats people placed in lesser circumstances. The respect and attention given, the seriousness invested in the responses and the sincerity in the conversation with them distinguishes the noble from the upstarts..

Friday, August 5, 2011

Where my mom failed

My mom though she had many children, both daughters and sons, slogged in the kitchen all day long, did lot of household chores by herself. She never distributed the work amongst the children at least such of those that can easily be done by them. As a result she missed out spending her time on her favourite pastimes. Likewise I had a boss who would insist on seeing all the files never delegating to his junior or middle level officers. He was an overworked man and constantly struggling hard to keep the deadlines. The motivations though were different as in the case of mom due to her affection for her children and in the case of boss due to some mistrust and a feeling that he alone was infallible. In either case non-delegation was not a desirable trait.

Delegation is not a matter of choice. It is an obligation and a responsibility that you owe to yourself and to others who are along with you be they the family members or colleagues in the office. It is also necessary for the good of the company you work for. As the family or work place expands with lot of responsibilities, one cannot do all by himself/herself with finite hours in a day. Many people do not like to lose control. To be successful, one has to employ the strategy of delegation. This will give a sense of participation and belonging to all besides motivating people to learn more. Productivity improves in the office. Home looks cleaner and better maintained. Things happen on time and well. The leader or the mom gets more time to plan and organize themselves better and devote time and energy to more important areas that need their attention

In my home each sister thought someone would dry the clothes in the clotheline, someone would wash the dishes and someone would set the dinner table. My mom had not assigned specific jobs to each of my sisters. As a result none did. The hallmark of a good delegation is clarity of the task, assignment to specific persons, fixing the time within which to be done and keeping direct communication. This applies to home or office equally well.

Theodore Roosevelt says “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” Andrew Carnegie put it differently when he said that “No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.”I would say my mom would have been a happier and more relaxed person had she known what things she had to do personally and how to get the other things done by her children instead of doing them all by herself.