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What got me the Best People Manager Award Twice...

People often ask me this question on the secret of winning this award twice and I don’t think that there is a secret to this. It is just few disciplines that one needs to follow rigorously. I am sharing them and I hope it will be useful to all managers who have people responsibility :
45 Minutes
No matter how busy you are in your day to day work or no matter how big your team size is, the first discipline is to spend 45 minutes with each new joinee in the team ideally on the day he or she joins your team or max in next 3 to 4 days. The meeting should be a nice inquiry with genuine interest starting with where the employee did his schooling, college, his first job and jobs till he came to your group, family front, hobbies, passion and finally the discussion should end with why did the employee quit his previous job or project. This will give you a subtle sense of what kind of work this employee will flourish or what needs to be done to make this employee flourish. So for example if he has been a person who organized events, conferences in his college times then he is the one you should put on initiatives that needs lot of co-ordination. On the other hand if he had strong academics with gold medals then you can think of putting him on intiatives that needs research, exploring new technologies etc. to use his gray matter or if he has handled complex clients in his previous assignment then he can be your trouble shooter and so on.
Assign if there is a choice
With the 45 minutes meeting you also get a sense of which assignment will best suit from a constraint perspective. So for example if there are any major personal constraint like someone is sick at home or some other constraint because of which he or she cannot immediately travel and on the other hand there is someone who is eager to get onsite returnee stamp on his or her passport so that any pending matrimonial gets closed you can assign the project accordingly. Imagine you push the employee who wants to stay offshore for onsite and the person who has joined your group to go onsite is put at offshore. On knowing what types of projects the employee has done also will help in assigning the right project if there is a choice. This will create a great impression about you as the best people manager taking care of employee aspiration and if you cannot meet their aspirations atleast you can have this converation with a promise to address that in coming months. Most employees are not upset that they have not got what they aspired for but they become upset when they get assigned wihtout any conversation / rationale.
Put him in the Network
While we all should be global and not do any regional groupism but when a new employee joins a group it really helps to get him in touch with people of the same region especially if someone is coming from another city. I can give an example…there was an employee who joined my team from Kolkatta and it was Durga Puja time and when I introduced him to few folks from Kolkatta they immediately took him to the Durga puja happening that evening in the Bengali Samaj alongwith his family. The person who was so worried about how his family will settle in a new place got completely relieved as the group took care of him really well. The employee thought I am a great caring manager but I was thinking that I can now spend time on other employees as the group will now take care of him. Win Win for all.
Share the Game Plan
Any new employee is always curious to know the game plan of the group as there is a natural enthusiasm to contribute. So sharing the game plan makes the employee start contributing from day one. Always keep atleast 3 or 4 initiatives that are beyond project work running and involve each such new employee in those intiatives. The employee then starts seeing a purpose in coming to your group and starts seeing you as a person with purpose and passion. It is similar to a newly wed bride if involved in the kitchen from day one settles faster than someone who is kept in the bridal costume for many weeks geting frustrated sitting in her room all alone.
Open Door Policy from 11:00 to 1:00
Letting your team know that they can meet you between 11:00 to 1:00 will help you focus on your work on other times with minimal interruptions only for emergencies. Since all the issues will get compressed in those two hours you will learn to decide fast, employees will not do any time pass with you as the next employee who is waiting outside will force the previous one to move out fast. They will also come prepared to discuss as they know they need to get the resolution done in that Window. Over the period people will feel very comfortable on getting this access to you everyday and you get more time to think about developing competencies of your team, planning trainings for them, planning new initiatives etc.
Lunch and Learn
There is a natural tendency for us to go for lunch with our peers and which is fine but two to three days in a week you should go for lunch with different teams or individuals of your group. You will learn about issues and under currents that even the formal reviews cannot tell you. The teams will think that you are a nice manager spending so much time with them and you will get lot of insights in what is happening in your group.
Snack and Solve
While you may resolve many issues in your 11:00 to 1:00 window but it is important that your next level also learns all your above people management skills and you get an opportunity to resolve issues of teams with your next level. Since time will continue to be a constraint you can use evening 5:00 to 5:45 thrice a week as a time to interact with your next level to do this.
The above were the few disciplines that helped me and my next level to create a great team and helped me win the award twice.
finally a name with a unique identity of your team will also help. We had named our team as “Many Hearts One Beat” and you can think of a unique name for your team that energizes them every day when they come to work.
I was born and brought up in Mumbai and these lessons were learnt by me from a Udipi Hotel close to my home in Mumbai at a very early stage in my life. I had presented these lessons in the Chief Learning Officers Summit in Mumbai on the best practices at Wipro. While this is a longish email but I am sure you will find lot of value from each lesson.
First Lesson “Owners Eat Here” – This to us can be translated as “Practice what you preach”. So I told the audience that whatever you see in my presentation is what is implemented in Wipro and there is no “hawa” in any of the slides.
Second Lesson “If You Like it Tell Others Else Tell Us” – I use to be a ERP Consultant for many years and always use to help people on coming up with solutions to their functional and technical issues. Most people would then say that Yogesh is a very helpful guy, always ready to support etc. but in reality I was enjoying the learning I would get from solving people’s problem. So I use to tell them that if you like my solutions tell others so that they can come to me with their problems (more learning for me) and if you don’t like my solutions tell me so that I can think of some other solution (again more learning). Isn’t this a great lesson from the hotel to learn throughout your life and also help people.
Third Lesson “Coin Exchange” – The waiters in the hotel would get award for coming up with ideas jointly. When I was speaking to the owner of the Udipi hotel he shared this coin exchange lesson. The dosa at that time costed Rs. 1/- and he said to me that if you have Rs. 1/- coin and I have a Rs. 1/- coin and we both exchange the coins we will have one coin each but if you have a idea and I have a idea and we exchange ideas we both have two ideas each. Isn’t that a great way to keep learning and adding more and more ideas to our life by exchanging ideas.
Fourth Lesson “BROKEN BANANA LEAF” – As usual when I was having my Rs. 1/- dosa on the banana leaf (there were no steel plates in this hotel) and there was a customer on next table shouting at the waiter for giving him a broken leaf. Given the reputation of the hotel where the owners also eat there, the waiter was arguing that usually that does not happen and it was just a one off case but the customer would not budge. The owner came to the table and pacified the customer by saying that he will ask one of the other waiters to bring 15 banana leaves and if even one of them was broken, his lunch will be free. So when the 15 leaves arrived and customer started pulling out one leaf after another he could not find even a single broken leaf and on the 6th leaf he apologized with the owner and said that I now trust you that it was just a one off case. The learning from this is how confident are we about the solutions that we give to our customers. Can we do a check for broken banana leaf whenever we deal with our customer. Not only this, after this incident the owner took the waiter on the side and said that a customer should only call you to say “Thank You” and for everything else you should anyway be there on his side which to me meant a lot in the level of service we should give to our customers (checking for broken leaf every time we serve our customers). And now as trainers are we ensuring that like the Udipi customer our participants are calling us only to say “Thank You” and for everything else in the session we are there always with them.
Hope you found the above lessons useful.

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