Sharu S Ragnekar

Sharu S Rangnekar is a popular management speaker and writer.

Deep-Shikha Managers

Sharu S Ragnekar

DeepShikha Managers - Copy


We have come to recognise a special class of managers – the Deep-Shikha Managers. The word Deep-Shikha comes from a simile of Kalidas, who was famous for his similes, earning him the phrase ‘Upama Kalidasasya’. One particular simile has given him the nickname ‘Deep-shikha Kalidas. He used this simile in Raghuvansha, describing Indumati, who was choosing her bridegroom through a swayamvar. A number of kings were seated as she went around with the Varamala (marriage garland). Kalidas paints a vivid picture of how the faces of her suitors lighted up and: ‘She (Indumati) was moving like a flame in a dark night. Wherever the flame approaches, the area brightens, when the flame recedes, the area darkens’.

Some managers are like that. Wherever they go, the situation brightens – they do a great job.  I have been trying to find out why these managers, in whatever situation they are placed, are able to do an excellent job. These managers can be seen at all levels of management – right from the first-line supervisors to the Chairman/Managing Director level. I have found three things these managers seem to create –

– Sense of Mission

– Sense of Action

– Sense of Loyalty

Sense of Missionmission

Now let us look at the ‘Sense of Mission’. You have heard the word missionary – there are missionaries all around us. They come from Belgium, France, Spain, England, and America – from lands thousands of miles away! They seem to have a very strange idea; they want to sell a new God. They say the heathens here worship a wrong God, and that they have access to the right one. To me, this seems a strange pursuit, because I have never found a person who wants a new God. I have met people who want a new scooter, car, refrigerator, air-conditioner, TV, etc. But I have never met someone who says, “My God has become old, I want a new God!” People always seem to be satisfied with whatever God they have. Consequently, it seems strange to me that anybody should try to sell a new God altogether. Particularly in India, where most people are Hindus, and the God offered is a Christian God. So, people should normally experience a sense of hostility. Some people are hostile, but most people have respect for missionaries. When I ask them as to why they respect missionaries, they say, “They have dedication!” It is interesting that the dedication is not confined to the missionaries only; it goes down the line and seems to change the organisation they work for.

A friend of mine who had his son in an English medium school once told me, “I want to put him in a convent school.” I asked, “Why?”

 “The education there is a little better,” he replied. Now think about it. How many missionaries are there in a convent school? Three, four or five! The rest of the teachers and staff are non-missionary, mostly Hindus. However, some of the dedication seems to permeate to them, and the educational process seems to get a little better. Similarly, you take a hospital managed by a mission. Supposing somebody, who is near and dear to you falls sick, and you have a choice to make between a government hospital and mission hospital. If it is your mother-in-law, you pick a government hospital; otherwise mission hospital! Why? Again, the feeling is that the treatment there would be relatively better. In a mission hospital, how many missionaries are there? Three, four or five! The rest of the doctors, nurses, ayahs, ward boys may be Hindus. However, the ward boy who works in a mission hospital seems to have a little more dedication than his brother, who works for the government hospital. This percolating sense of dedication is very important. It creates a feeling in the organisation that we are doing something great. Everybody needs some glory in his job.  Just getting a salary, perquisites, and amenities is never enough. In addition,  these people want a halo, the glory – a feeling that enunciates in ‘I am doing something great!’ to the extent that people feel they are doing something important and great, and they get the ’Sense of Mission’.

I remember I met a Unilever salesman in Africa, a very buoyant chap. I asked him, “What are you doing here?” He said, “Selling soap.”

I said, “If you are selling soap, why are you jumping so much?”  He replied, “Do you know what soap is?”

 “Of course I know what soap is.” I said, “I have used soap for years.” He said, “No, you don’t really know what soap is. Per capita consumption of soap is an index of civilization! I am not merely selling soap, I am selling civilization!” And he believed that. Everybody must feel that he is doing something great. Everybody needs a pat on the back and the sense of glory, and Sense of Mission inculcates this in them.

Sense of Action

The second aspect is a ‘Sense of Action’. Let me describe the exact opposite of this to make it clearer – the sense of ’inaction’. The very first time I went to a government office to see a friend of mine, I saw files on his desk marked urgent’, very urgent, immediate and very immediate. I said, “Sorry! I came at a wrong time; I’ll see you some other time.” He said, “Why? Sit down, have a cup of tea.”

 I said, “But you are so busy!” “Who told you?” he asked. I answered, “The labels on your file.”  He said, “These are labels! They have been here for the last three weeks. What are you worried about?”

At that time I was working in a multinational subsidiary. I would get a paper marked urgent may be once a week, but I never got a paper marked very urgent. The prefix ‘very’ was not required. As soon as I got a paper that was thus marked, I would get up from my seat and did not sit down till I did whatever was required, or went to the person who sent me the paper to inform him as to why it could not be done. This is very important: the feeling of urgency, the ‘Sense of Action’.

Many times people assume that if it is a government or the public sector, a Sense of Action is not possible. Couple of years ago, I went to BCCL, Dhanbad. I travelled by the Kalka Mail from Howrah and got down at Dhanbad Station at midnight. I was expecting a car with the BCCL label on it. But there was no such car!

There were five-six cars at the station; a lot of trains come at night to Dhanbad. I thought that one of the drivers could be a BCCL driver and that he might be sleeping. I tried to wake a driver up to ask whether he was from BCCL. In Bihar, if you wake up a driver who is not for you; he tells you a lot of things about your ancestors that you never knew. After a couple of such experiences, I gave up. I took a taxi to take me to the BCCL guest house. The public sector has a very interesting guest house system. They never have just one guest house; they have a guest house, a VIP guest house, a VVIP guest house, and so on. By the time I found my guest house, it was two O’clock in the morning. I went to sleep. At eight O’clock, the training manager came in and said, “I am very sorry. The driver, who was to go to the station to bring you, never went.” I said, “So what are you doing about it?” He replied, “What can I do – public sector, that also Bihar! Nothing can be done.” I said, “Please call the driver.” He retorted, “What can you say to the driver? You are not even an officer of the company…” I insisted, and the driver came; I asked him, “What’s your name?” He introduced himself as, Tiwari. I said, “Tiwariji, yesterday at midnight, I came as your guest to Dhanbad and up to 2.00 am. I was wandering around here! Is this the way you treat your guests?”   He said, “Saab, this won’t happen again!” After two months, I went there again – the driver was on the platform with a placard! To create a Sense of Action you do not have to threaten with suspension or issue a show-cause notice. Just put your finger where it will hurt him.

Many years ago there was an oversimplified book on management called One-minute Manager. It gave three interesting messages. It said that a ‘One-minute’ manager must convey the goal in one minute; if the subordinate does it well, he must tender him with appreciation within one minute; if he does not do it well, he must have him reprimanded within that one minute as well. Let us see what managers normally do. Many a times, a manager allots multiple tasks to a subordinate at one time. For example, if a subordinate is given five tasks and he comes back in the evening and says, “I have completed four tasks, only one is remaining.” What does the manager say, “Oh, no! I required the fifth task to be executed today itself. You could have finished the other four tasks tomorrow!” This is something the manager should have told him in the morning. Many times the manager describes the job in so many words that the person gets confused. One job at a time, if described in one minute would facilitate a good chance for the subordinate to accomplish the task well. And if he does it well, give him that one minute appreciation. Often, the manager forgets to express appreciation. Sometimes he thinks that the subordinate is paid for doing his duty, so why is there a need to appreciate? He feels that if he appreciates his subordinate, the latter may ask for an increment or a promotion. So, he avoids it altogether. However, when it comes to reprimanding, he takes the subordinate to task with a lot of talking. Just the other day I heard my wife scolding my servant who did something wrong. She said, “Not only have you done something wrong today, but you made a mistake yesterday as well!” It went on for a while, right from the date of his appointment, she handed him a long list of his mistakes.  At the end she said, “It is not your fault. It is my fault! Knowing you, I should not have given this task to you!” Can you see what this does? A long-winded reprimand which ultimately communicates that ‘Not only what you have done is wrong, you are wrong’. There is very little scope of improving a person like that.

If we have to create a Sense of Action, we must use the one minute goal, one minute appreciation, and the one minute reprimand. I find the army does that. When a soldier does a good job, the Commander only says two words ‘good show’, if he doesn’t the Commander says ‘bad show’.  When he says, ‘good show’ the soldier is on   cloud nine; when he says ‘bad show’, the soldier doesn’t sleep well that night!

Sense of Loyaltyloyalty

The most important thing is the ‘Sense of Loyalty”. What is loyalty? I am sure if you look back at your own career, you will find that there has been some boss to whom you weren’t able to say a ‘no’ to. Why? Now that’s a sense of loyalty. How can we get it?

I remember an experience of mine from decades ago. I had gone to the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre for the first time. Dr Vasant Gowarikar was the Director at the time.  I found space scientists there working from 8.00 am to 8.00 pm every day, including Saturdays and Sundays.  I always like to ask inconvenient questions, so I asked them, “Why do you work on a Sunday? After all, you are government servants. You don’t have to work on Sundays.” They said, “We have no option, the boss is tough.” I asked, “What can he do to you? Can he sack you for not working on a Sunday? (Many of the space scientists had appointment letters from USA: join any day at ten times their current salary). What are you worried about?” They said, “You won’t understand.” One of them explained, “Four months ago, the Director called us on a Sunday and started giving us an assignment. I protested. I said, ‘Sir, we have been working every day of the week for the last four months. We have never got an off. Today I have promised my children that I’ll take them to watch a cartoon film at 6.00 pm.” The Director said, “OK! Who stops you from finishing your work by 5:45 pm? – The show is at 6 pm’.” One cannot argue with that. He started working, finished his work, and looked at the clock — 8 O’clock! He rushed home, opened the door, found his wife quietly knitting; no children around! It was a very explosive situation; you can’t ask where the children were, that’s lighting the fuse. The wife looked up at him and asked, “Are you hungry?”  He didn’t know what to say; any reply could get one in trouble. She said, “If you are hungry, I can serve you dinner right away. If you can wait, you can have dinner with the children.” Then he asked, “Where are the children?” She said, “You don’t know! The Director came at 6 O’clock and took them to the cartoon show.” Now that’s loyalty. The Director was looking at this chap:  At 5:45 pm when he checked, the person was still working, he won’t go home. He said to himself, “if this chap has promised his children a cartoon film at 6 O’clock, they will get to see the cartoon film at 6 O’clock.” He took his car, picked up the children and drove them to the film! He didn’t have to take everybody’s children to the movie. Once loyalty is established, the word spreads.

A gesture like that is not unusual. A boss calls his subordinate and says, “I am caught up somewhere. If you are free, will you please do this for me?” Of course, the subordinate will make himself free. Even a colleague would do so if asked. There is always quid-pro-quo. But a subordinate cannot call a boss and say, “Are you free? Will you please do this for me?” Here the boss has to take the initiative. If the he is ready to do so, then loyalty is established. In fact, I would say one thing from my experience: If you do anything for the boss, he may forget it by the next evening. But if you do anything for your subordinate, he is likely to remember it for years. Let me also share another personal experience. It so happened that when I was in Kolkata, a subordinate of mine from Bombay got married and relocated to Calcutta. One fine morning at 6:00 am, I got a call from him informing that his house was burgled. Somebody had broken the lock, entered the house, opened the trunk and taken away ornaments worth five or six thousand rupees. He said that he had phoned the police, but nothing was happening, probably because he was not a local. Actually I was also not a local, but my landlord was a Bengali with a lot of influence in our area. So I went up, dragged him to my car, went to the police station, roped in the sub-inspector  and went back to my subordinate’s house with the police jeep following. When we reached there, the police took some finger-prints.  I soon forgot about this incident because the ornaments were never found.  Years later, when neither he, nor I was working in the same company, somebody came and told me, “I met your erstwhile subordinate; he said you did a lot for him.”  I said, “I did a lot for him? I don’t remember.” He said, “About some burglary of some ornaments.”  Then I realised that although he did not get the ornaments back, I had done something for him. He was a newly married man and had come with his wife to Kolkata. The ornaments lost were not his, but his wife’s. She was looking at the husband: the husband rang the police; nothing happened. She wondered what kind of husband she has! But then the husband rings his boss and in ten minutes the boss comes with the police. She says, “Well, my husband is a somebody!” I did not give him his ornaments, but I saved his face and that was very important. This is what had him remember me after all these years. This is how people earn loyalty.

If you get this Sense of Mission, Sense of Action and the Sense of Loyalty, the results come automatically. You do not create results – you just follow this three-point plan: Sense of Mission, Sense of Action, and Sense of Loyalty – and the results will follow! This is what Deep-Shikha managers are comprised, and irrespective of wherever they are; they forever brighten the place with results!

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