Monday, February 23, 2004

Managing Career & Expectations

Thanks guys ....

For reminding me that me too am a blogger ....
I had some ideas for blogging ... and then theu were lost ...

the spate of blogs created today reminded me of this lost forgotten world ...
thanks again to you guys ....

Here is something to read .....

Managing Career & Expectations - Talk at IIM

These are the personal views of Mr. R. Gopalakrishnan, Director - Tata Sons.

Great Stuff from a great ex-HLL manager. A Story on how to manage

your career & your expectations by R. Gopalakrishnan

There is a Thai saying that experience is a comb which Nature gives to man

after he is bald. As I grow bald, I would like to share my comb with your

people, about their career ahead.

1. Seek out grassroots level experience

I studied Physics and Engineering at University. A few months before

graduation, I appeared for an HLL interview for Computer Traineeship. When

asked whether I would consider Marketing instead of Computers, I responded

negatively : an engineer to visit grocery shops to sell Dalda or Lifebuoy?

Gosh, no way. After I joined the Company and a couple of comfortable weeks

in the swanky Head Office, I was given a train ticket to go to Nasik. Would

I please meet Mr. Kelkar to whom I would be attached for the next two

months? He would teach me to work as a salesman in his territory, which

included staying in Kopargaon and Pimpalgaon among other small towns. I was

most upset. In a town called Ozhar, I was moving around from shop to shop

with a bullock cart full of products and a salesman's folder in my hand.

Imagine my embarrassment when an IIT friend appeared in front of me in

Ozhar, believe it or not! And exclaimed, "Gopal, I thought you joined as a

Management Trainee in Computers". I could have died a thousand deaths.

After this leveling experience, I was less embarrassed to work as a

Despatch Clerk in the Company Depot and an Invoice Clerk in the Accounts

Department. Several years later, I realised the value of such grassroots

level experience. It is fantastic. I would advise young people to seek out

nail-dirtying, collar-soiling, shoe-wearing tasks. That is how you learn

about organizations, about the true nature of work, and the dignity of the

many, many tasks that go into building great enterprises.

2. Deserve before you desire

At one stage, I was appointed as the Brand Manager for Lifebuoy and Pears

soap, the company's most popular-priced and most premium soaps. And what

was a Brand Manager? "A mini-businessman, responsible for the production,

sales and profits of the brand, accountable for its long-term growth, etc.,

etc. I had read those statements, I believed them and here I was, at 27,"in

charge of everything". But very soon, I found I could not move a pin

without checking with my seniors. One evening, after turning the Facit

machine handle through various calculations, I sat in front of the

Marketing Director. I expressed my frustration and gently asked whether I

could not be given total charge. He smiled benignly and said, "The

perception and reality are both right. You will get total charge when you

know more about the brand than anyone else in this company about its

formulation, the raw materials, the production costs, the consumer's

perception, the distribution and so on. How long do you think that it will

take?" "Maybe, ten years", I replied, "and I don't expect to be the Lifeboy

and Pears Brand Manager for so long"! And then suddenly, the lesson was

clear. I desired total control, long before I deserved it. This happens to

us all the time - in terms of responsibilities, in terms of postings and

promotions, it happens all the time that there is a gap between our

perception of what we deserve and the reality of what we get. It helps to

deserve before we desire.

3. Play to win but win with fairness

Life is competitive and of course, you play to win. But think about the

balance. Will you do anything, to win? Perhaps not. Think deeply about how

and where you draw the line. Each person draws it differently, and in doing

so, it helps to think about values. Winning without values provides dubious

fulfillment. The leaders who have contributed the most are the ones with a

set of universal values, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King for example.

Napoleon inspired a ragged, mutinous and half-starved army to fight and

seize power. This brought him name and fame for twenty years. But all the

while, he was driven forward by a selfish and evil ambition, and not in

pursuit of a great ideal. He finally fell because of his selfish ambition.

I am fond of referring to the Pierre de Coubertin Fair Play Trophy. It was

instituted in 1964 by the founder of the modern Olympic Games and here are

two examples of winners.A Hungarian tennis player who pleaded with the

umpire to give his opponent some more time to recover from a cramp. British

kayak teams who were trailing the Danish kayak team. They then stopped to

help the Danish team whose boat was stuck. The Danes went on to beat the

British by one second in a three-hour event! What wonderful examples of

sportsmanship! Play to Win, but with Fairness.

4. Enjoy whatever you do

Sir Thomas Lipton is credited with the statement, "There is no greater fun

than hard work". You usually excel in fields, which you truly enjoy. Ask

any person what it is that interferes with his enjoyment of existence. He

will say, "The struggle for life". What he probably means is the struggle

for success. Unless a person has learnt what to do with success after

getting it, the very achievement of it must lead him to unhappiness.

Aristotle wrote, "Humans seek happiness as an end in itself, not as a means

to something else". But if you think about it, we should not work for

happiness. We should work as happy people. In organizational life, people

get busy doing something to be happy. The more you try to be happy, the

more unhappy you can get. Your work and career is all about your reaching

your full potential. Working at one's full potential, whether it is the

office boy or the Chairman leads to enjoyment and fulfillment. A last point

about enjoyment. Keep a sense of humor about yourself. Too many people are

in danger of taking themselves far too seriously. As General Joe Stilwell

is reported to have said, "Keep smiling. The higher the monkey climbs, the

more you can see of his backside".

5. Be Passionate about your health

Of course, as you get older, you would have a slight paunch, graying of

hair or loss of it and so on. But it is in the first 5 - 7 years after the

working career begins that the greatest neglect of youthful health occurs.

Sportsmen stop playing sports, non drinkers drink alcohol, light smokers

smoke more, active people sit on chairs, starving inmates of hostels eat

rich food in good hotels and so on. These are the years to watch. Do not, I

repeat do not, convince yourself that you are too busy, or that you do not

have access to facilities, or worst of all, that you do this to relieve the

stresses of a professional career. A professional career is indeed very

stressful. There is only one person who can help you to cope with the

tension, avoid the doctor's scalpel, and to feel good each morning - and

that is yourself. God has given us as good a health as He has, a bit like a

credit balance in the bank. Grow it, maintain it, but do not allow its

value destruction. The penalty is very high in later years.

6. Direction is more important than distance

Every golfer tries to drive the ball to a very long distance. In the

process, all sorts of mistakes occur because the game involves the masterly

co-ordination of several movements simultaneously. The golf coach always

advises that direction is more important than distance. So it is with life.

Despite one's best attempts, there will be ups and downs. It is

relationships and friendships that enable a person to navigate the choppy

waters that the ship of life will encounter. When I was young, there was a

memorable film by Frank Capra, starring James Stewart and Dona Reed, and

named IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. It is about a man who is about to commit

suicide because he thinks he is a failure. An angel is sent to rescue him.

The bottom line of the film is that "No Man is a Failure Who Has Friends".


My generation will never be twenty again, but when you are older, you can

and should be different from my generation. Ours is a great and wonderful

country, and realizing her true potential in the global arena depends ever

so much on the quality and persistence of our young people. Good luck in

your journey, my young friends, and God be with you.