On life…and learning

Posts Tagged ‘Organization, Talent & Change

What I Learnt From My ‘Not-So-Great’ Bosses…

with 7 comments

Lessons Learned RRGwrites

We all love to talk about our Bosses, don’t we? And Lord knows, a minority of of us would regard our bosses as good leaders. When I wrote my earlier blog – ‘What My Great Bosses Taught Me’ – many of the readers asked me, “Hey, what about the bad bosses?”

So here it is…

The matter of fact is, I never had a really bad boss. Truly! That said, I have had my fair share of bad apples – a very insecure boss, another one who was ill-mannered and one who was simply incompetent for his job. However, none of them were awful enough for me to either loather or run away from them. In fact, I performed better under a couple of them, and was more successful under one of the tougher nuts.

There are many things I learnt from my great managers. The earlier blog enlists those. However, I learnt lot many more things from my, should I say, not-so-great bosses. A learning that proved invaluable in my later years; both, as a professional and as a people leader. Some of them were very simple, practical things and few were too profound a learning…

They are:

  1. Don’t reply to an unfavourable email in a hurry; wait till evening at least. That helps my hyper-reaction settle down and choice of words become calmer!
  2. You may be really intelligent and smart and all that, no point over-fighting your peers – functional or cross-functional. Even though they may not be able to score a point over you, they will end up despising you – something that won’t do good to the professional image in later years. From this boss, I learnt the value of building a truly well-knit peer-group, which may not be my besties, but wouldn’t despise me either.
  3. No one comes to work to do a bad job. No one joins office thinking they will give their worst that day. Keeping this in mind made me practice empathy and statesmanship, even when I was right and others were grossly wrong.
  4. Harsh language never helped the cause. If you are younger and more successful than your peers, you need to not oversell it. Success is a lousy teacher and it encourages arrogant behaviour and as rash tongue. Worse, even if you are right in what you say, how you say that will be picked, and surely used against you. Here, I learnt to be firm, yet stay polite. A learning that has held me in good stead since then.
  5. I learnt the craft of managing very senior management employees from one of my most difficult bosses. He was really good at this. I learnt the art of polite persistence, presentation skills to a senior audience group as well as how to handle tough questions from them, specifically those whose answer I didn’t know!
  6. Never work for a powerless boss. This is a great life/career-saving tip I received from one such a boss. I have written in detail about this learning here
  7. One must not feel insecure when your subordinate’s stars are shining brighter than yours. I once had a very insecure manager, who, despite being extremely competent functionally, was extremely inhibited in front of smarter juniors. He would simply feel threatened! My learning was a life-long one; that the key to success for any deputy is to do such good work that his boss gets promoted and recommends him for taking his spot! I have written in detail about this learning here…


with 2 comments

TatalogI wish to share with you all a superb book that I just started reading – ‘Tatalog. Today, I completed the first two chapters and am impressed! Written by Harish Bhat, MD of Tata Global Beverages Ltd, and published by Penguin, this is a collection of “hitherto untold…eight modern stories from a timeless institution.”

For readers who don’t know ‘Hindi’ language, ‘log’ is a hindi word for ‘People’. I got drawn towards reading this book only because the foreword was penned by one of my all-time favourite authors, R Gopalakrishnan. You would recall Gopalakrishnan through his bestseller books – ‘The Case of The Bonsai Manager’ and ‘When The Penny Drops’. However, now that I have read the first 50 pages and learnt about the untold story of the ‘Tata Indica’, written so aptly by a Tata insider, I am so looking forward to reading further… about Tanishq, Tata Finance, Tetley, EKA, about ‘second careers of intelligent women’ and Tata Steel.

I will surely come back with a detailed book-review in few weeks’ time for you. Till then, I am leaving you with what Gurcharan Das opined about the book; do note the power of the last phrase:

“This is not a hagiography. In the tradition of the best business books, it teaches something about the way the world works. It explains why the Tatas have endured for 150 years: not because they did not make mistakes, but their errors were portals of discovery.”

 So apt, isn’t it?

I would recommend this to all who follow writings on organization & change and who wish to learn from the massive human effort called ‘TATA’.

%d bloggers like this: