B S Raghavan

Making lift operator think like CEO!

B. S. RAGHAVAN | Updated on July 04, 2013 Published on July 04, 2013

I could rephrase the title in several other ways too. Here are a few, and you can have your pick: Making the traffic constable think like the Director-General of Police; the bill clerk like the boss; the peon like the PM!

You, as the mighty mogul running an organisation, go up the lift every day, do you know what the name of the lift operator is, what his family is like, where he comes from, what language he speaks?

A DGP goes up and down the city, with his red light blazing, planning for disposition of forces, worried about law and order, trumpeting his commands, strutting in his uniform; does he know the name and the thought process of the traffic constable whom he just passed by and who smartly saluted him?

The Prime Minister sets his eyes every day on his liveried peons who rush ahead of him waving aside visitors and opening doors and pulling the chair towards him to sit without having to strain himself; does he know who they are, where they come from?

More and more tomes on administration, management, leadership, vision, mission, strategy and the rest of the prattle passing for profundities have been coming out in an unceasing torrent, and still more are in the works. Why, despite there being so many, are so many more still spewing out?

My short answer is: All of them are totally ignorant of the importance of the invisible man. Yes, there are invisible men of the kind I mentioned in every organisation. Top bosses do not even know they exist.

Mission statements, policies, strategies, oral and written exhortations and pontifications — all are proclaimed (in India most of the time in a language foreign to the invisible men) without reference to them.

MORALE BUILDING

The levels of contacts of those at the pinnacle stop with the second, or at the most, third tier of the organisation. Below those levels they don’t mix or mingle, don’t communicate, don’t ask for feedback and don’t think it worth their while even to return greetings. A barely perceptible nod, perhaps, and that too when in the mood, that is all.

The success of an organisation — be it the government, or a corporate or any collective human endeavour — is determined by how far down the boss is able to reach to establish rapport, to forge a one-on-one, human being to human being, relationship, to garner views and to unify the thinking at the top and bottom rungs, and how easy he shows himself to be in doing that.

I have seen this in old-time army Generals when they take charge of a new formation. They go down methodically to the last man, even the syce tending the horses, stop for a few minutes to make his acquaintance and get details of his family and problems at home.

The army’s mission, to put it bluntly, is to prepare the men to lay down their lives unquestioningly. Morale building in the armed forces for this supreme sacrifice cannot be done by issuing orders or by thumping tables.

The General must know his men, play and eat with them, and keep his ears to the ground.

It is only because of this attuning of the thinking of the General with that of the jawan that the Defence forces are so very efficient, effective and disciplined.

GENUINE SOLICITUDE

Come to Indira Gandhi. Let not your vision of her be coloured by your predilections and prejudices.

I have worked with her and seen her from close quarters from the time she was just the hostess looking after her father’s household to the time she was equated with India itself. How did she become so powerful? Simple: She was a great one to spot the invisible person.

In all the meetings, over which she presided, I had seen her again and again suddenly turn towards the minions sitting forlorn at a distance and ask them: “What do you think?” This she did, not patronisingly, but with a genuine solicitude, and often accepted their advice even when it flew against that of their seniors.

But can you guess the historical personality who first, millennia ago, reached out to the last, and invisible, person even though he was presiding over a sprawling Empire, with no paper, printing press and other such facilities? Give up?

It was Ashoka who made sure with his rock and pillar edicts in every nook and corner of his kingdom that the thinking of his last subject was aligned with his own.

And that is why he has no peer in mass communication till today.

Published on July 04, 2013
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