Today’s youth is head over heels in love with instant gratification. It has got addicted to two-minute noodles even when it has the option of savouring elaborately cooked delicious noodles in myriad flavours and tastes. But the young seem to be in a tearing hurry especially when it comes to climbing the success ladder.
I find nothing wrong with this aspirational race but at times wonder at the shortcuts young managers take to rise rapidly. I feel equally saddened when I find many of these high climbers falling flat fast and hard. In the mad rush to get higher designations they forget that with every designation comes higher responsibility which demands solid experience, maturity, knowledge and skill-sets. How will you have all this when you have been busy hopping from one post to the next higher one, caring little to learn on the way?
What happens if you go in for a 100-metre dash without a warm-up? If you are lucky you develop just cramps. Otherwise you end up damaging a ligament or tendon banishing you from racing for months. Only the supremely stupid will try the Everest ascent without undergoing the customary acclimatization at the base camps. Career planning and growth in business management are no different.
A leading mentor to young business managers in the US was rather shocked when told by some of her mentees that companies should increase layers of management to ensure frequent promotions. The suggestion was not just ludicrous but also self-serving given the fact that the corporate world is fast moving towards flatter organisations, and hierarchical structures are being slashed.
The reigning wisdom is that managers should be known and recognised by their work content and job profile rather than by mere designations. On a more philosophical level, a manager should derive greater satisfaction from the value they are adding to the organisation and to their personal self than from their high sounding designation.
India’s largest automobile maker Tata Motors Ltd. has from this April reduced its 16-level hierarchy to a flat five-level structure. Similar exercises have been in progress in Tata Steel’s European operations and its behemoth IT unit TCS.
Delayering is a world-wide trend and is not restricted to our region. In fact, it has been far more aggressive outside the sub-continent. Even a totalitarian country like China, which is also the world’s largest growing economy, has recognised the benefits of making its companies adopt leaner and flatter management and employee structures.
Not too long ago, there was a proliferation of vice-presidents in Western, mainly US, businesses. This was evident all the more in IT companies. IT and ITeS companies in the Indian sub-continent too copied their Western counterparts till there came a time when people started joking that very soon there would be VPs for toilets, office décor and coffee stations as well. The designation lost its dignity and gravity.
This happened because employee attrition levels used to be very high in the IT industry till not so long ago. Fancy designations were doled out to managers and IT experts to keep them within the fold. There was little correlation between a manager’s designation and his actual role in the organisation.
However, the more stable and down-to-earth manufacturing sector did not fall prey to this pernicious trend. No wonder, managerial designations there continue to command respect. The posts clearly signified the actual role, knowledge, experience and position of the person in the company. VPs were few and far between in the biggest of manufacturing companies. It is still so.
Are designations or “external sign posts” real measure of success? Isn’t the mad race for acquisition of these external marks a sign of insecurity and the unwillingness to learn and grow on the job?
While only an in-depth socio-psycho-anthropological research may offer a plausible explanation of this conundrum, I can certainly share with young managers the pitfalls that bedevil the rat race for success (read ‘flashy designations’).
I have come across many young managers in perpetual state of hurry. Some of them were fairly bright too. But their vaulting ambition knew no bounds. They wanted to climb ranks virtually every six months. Left to themselves, they would have ardently longed to become CEOs of major companies within 6-7 years. They are the ones to get lured by run-of-the-mill or upstart outfits the fastest. The glitter and pull of the fancy post is overwhelming. Once tempted and trapped by such outfits, these so-called CEOs find themselves compelled to perform petty jobs in a limited arena. They discover that they are worse off than the middle level managers in their previous organisations. And since they had never cared to learn real skills by remaining in their jobs for long enough so far, they now find no route for escape. Which company worth its salt will like to take back a 29-year-old ‘CEO’ from such upstarts?
Many managerial careers have been ruined on the altar of over ambition and impatience. A tree needs time to bear fruit. But if a sapling or plant has different ideas, then only God can save it. Learn to desire once you deserve. And to become deserving you need to spend appropriate time to equip yourself for higher responsibilities.
Before I conclude this piece, I would like to share my views on the concept of professional success with young business executives. Now, it is not for me to tell what success should mean to you. It is a very personal and subjective issue. It is directly related to your mind and heart. It is shaped by your world view as also the world you want to create for yourself.
I, therefore, feel that managerial success cannot be and should not be measured in empirical terms. It certainly cannot be the sum of your promotions, increments, special bonuses, official commendations, et al.
Success should be something far more profound and deeper. Does your managerial career satisfy you? Does your managerial work make you happy? Does your role make you feel that you are contributing to your organisation, its stakeholders and the society at large? Is your managerial position, at whatever level it may be, enabling you to become a more accomplished professional? Is your managerial office in sync with your personal life and goals?
If you find yourself saying ‘yes’ to most of these queries, then you are successful. You do not need any external sign posts to announce or endorse your success.
Classical business theorists may find this definition rather bizarre. What about the balance sheet, P&L account, EBIDTA, NVA, quarterly targets, production and sales figures, etc. etc., they may ask?
But little do they realise that all the above figures are mere by-products of the pursuit of excellence. And who shall pursue excellence better than managers who find their work interesting, satisfying and joyous! Such managers know that rise up the managerial ladder is but natural for them.
These are the managers with wings. They are the high flyers. They are the ones who are remembered for the standards they have set, the teams they have built, the talent they have nurtured, the missions they have accomplished, the new vision they have created for the company and the service they have rendered to the society. They are the ones who are revered in the annals of a nation’s history.
Nepal needs such managers.