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Restless, clueless and... young!

IN MANY ways, George is `Everyman'ager. He is fresh-faced, energetic, aggressive and a born leader. He has just emerged from a prominent B- school and is bubbling with ideas and has opinions on every conceivable managerial issue. He quickly dazzles his bosses in his workplace with his youthful exuberance and keen business instincts, so, promotions have followed thick and fast and he has risen to his present senior position. There is an actual softening in the boss's eye as he looks on indulgently at his new protégé and it is quite likely he is thinking of the time when he too was mint new and bursting with new theories. Things are absolutely hunky- dory so far. Yet, although his bosses may be delighted, his peers and subordinates are not. It is not a case of sour grapes at all; it is a clear dissatisfaction of being treated in a cavalier fashion that makes them feel like gnashing their teeth in anger.

Soft (S)kills

Research has shown that the higher a man climbs up the corporate ladder, the more important soft skills are for his and his company's success. In their haste to reach the top, young managers often neglect this fact. Of course, they can discourse at length and bore you to tears on the importance of active listening and make impressive Power Point Presentations on the subject, but the truth is they really can't be bothered about all this at all. They rely heavily on authority that comes with rank but don't know how to influence people. Older managers are left tut-tutting sadly at their lack of these skills. At a recent workshop I attended I was in the company of several bright eyed and bushy tailed young people who hung onto every word and nodded sagely when the importance of good manners was brought up. Yet, when it was lunchtime these very people all but trampled over each other and me in their haste to get to the door!

One can only conclude that these bright young ones are aware of the importance of fostering relationships at an intellectual level alone. It is certainly not on their list of priorities. It takes several years of learning the hard way to develop the entire range of interpersonal competencies like empathy and openness for example. Old hands in the company see these new managers as remote, intolerant and self-serving.

O'er vaulting ambition

The new breed is terribly impatient. Everything is seen in terms of a problem and is treated as such in a cold clinical manner. If things are going on well, they get bored and look around for fresh worlds to conquer, new battles to be fought. This trait of theirs makes them yearn for quick promotions, which they do get, as, make no mistake about it, they are exceedingly good at their jobs. If promotions do not follow each other in rapid succession, they threaten to leave and bosses, who, petrified that they may actually do so, give in and promote them. A young MBA I know informed his boss that he would be looking at other much greener pastures if he was not sent on an overseas assignment with a promotion. Imagine the utter consternation at the organisation where he worked; one of the Directors actually flew down to placate the young man and assure him that all this would take place within the next six months and would he please never talk of leaving!

Disarming and charming

While it is tough to resist the charm, unbridled energy and obvious intelligence of the new managers, it is imperative to put them in perspective and look at the common good of all. Bosses should refrain from promoting them too quickly and instead allow them to grow and learn. They should also insist on deeper and more insightful feedback than the one in use. They should encourage peer networking on a regular basis. Young executives need to learn that there is much to be said about taking things slowly and being alive to sensitivities. MBA programmes and management tomes cannot teach them everything they need to know about management skills and people issues. Indeed, there can be no substitute for experience, deep reflection and practice. Executives such as George may make fine CEOs one day— but not just now!

JAYANTHI MURTHY

Jayanthi.hyd@cnkonline.com

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