Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Power Plays

Power Plays
(John O. Whitney & Tina Packer)

Taking up the issue almost all of us face in our professional lives – promotion or transfer, or new hired the authors reveal the one doesn’t necessarily get fired but one always feels the push and its neither subtle nor gentle. One needs to keep an eye on the peers and other executives just as King Henry IV did. One shouldn’t trust them blindly. Shakespeare makes it very clear that the life of a usurper is not at all easy. The new boss (could be you) is a foreign substance injected into a living organism. S/He is grain of sand in the oyster – will either be rejected or go on to become a pearl. Thus the words of King Henry IV should always be kept in mind

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”
As a boss you have an influence on the lives of your subordinates both official and personal. Thus the self conduct becomes very vital and should be impeccable. The two qualities that could see one through this not so friendly environment are being paranoid and an ability to make a lot of clever moves. This further demands a creation of one’s own team of loyalists which is not easy but is too important to be ignored. As King Henry IV advised his son that to unite the factions at home, find a foreign enemy; such an outside threat will keep people inside focused.

As observed by Machiavelli, while the leader’s best job insurance is to enlist the support of the people, which alone is not sufficient: watch the nobles. The masses don’t aspire to your position, but the nobles do. That apart, working with the people is important to assess people’s skills, commitment and future loyalty. Just as Prince Hal hung out on the streets to know the people of his estate and was able to get much information which otherwise never reached him.

Though it is an acknowledged fact that monetary rewards are important, they aren’t enough to keep people enthusiastic and committed. They want a piece of the intellectual action too. So the way is: give them tough challenges and give them the resources and room to do the job, then when they succeed, reward them with recognition and cash.

Given all this, one still needs to be wary of the people who helped one up. And to avoid such backstabbing, stay in touch, stay involved and reward your people as merit deserves. But make sure that your total attention is not just to that inner circle but extends to the people who do the real work – salesmen, technicians, machine men etc. It may seem to come in the way of cost-cutting exercises that are so prevalent all across. This can be managed by following what Robert Lear of Columbia Business School says, “Hire four to do the work of six and pay them like they were five.”

Now when you take up a job at a higher level, you might find that you need to fire/transfer some people. But these some people could be powerful people in their own right and it mayn’t seem easy, though it might be important for the company. Describing the mistake that Henry IV made by dismissing outright the people who helped him get the thrown and even going to the extent of referring them as servants – thus displaying complete lack of diplomacy and hence committing a tactical blunder. A new manager has a small window of opportunity when s/he first arrives. If s/he can identify those who are likely to make trouble and are not well respected, s/he should let them go immediately. But such firing should be tactical after considering all repercussions and the strength of the ground s/he stands on.

Second, one should keep in mind that one should be appearing larger than one’s boss – as the author says. “A duke can never upstage a King”. Just as it is important to acknowledge the good work of your subordinates by rewarding them with appreciation and money, it is important to pamper the boss by letting him take the credits for the world to know.

While we referred to encouraging people, make sure you are good orator and if not, learn to be one or at worst learn to imitate as one. Take a look at Henry V’s speech to his soldiers as they readied themselves to face the French who outnumbered them. The speech surely made his men’s passion many times more than that of French:

“This story shall the good man teach his son,
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by
From this day to the ending of the world
But we in it shall be remembered,
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”

Same goes with the famous speech by Churchill, which instilled passions when his men readied themselves to face the men of Hitler. Another instance is the speech of Antony in Julius Caesar whereby he wins over the riot of the people.

But, a leader needs a companion – friend, secretary, spouse, anyone – with whom the heart can be let out; something of a support system. A support to which one can go to at the end of the day.

Another very important point a leader needs to take care of is the succession which is not only important for the company but also for the leader him/herself. And as per authors, planning a succession is the most difficult task as it brings in sight the reality of one’s retirement/moving out thus lose of all the power one was gloating in. But even if one is able to conquer such difficult feelings, the choice of successor is not easy and often proves to be the point of fall for the organization. Authors advice that qualities to look for in the leader are the same since centuries: strength, resourcefulness, guile, knowledge, wisdom, empathy, energy, courage, curiosity, constancy, persuasion and vision.

6 Comments:

Blogger Ashutosh said...

Tejbir,

Sorry for the delay in response.

Yeah its indeed a miracle both in terms of volumes and the masses the system works (that too pretty efficiently).

Keep visiting :)

-Ashutosh

12 March, 2007 10:31  
Blogger disillusioned said...

nice ........and thnxxx for visiting my blog.....

24 March, 2007 14:47  
Blogger StandbyMind said...

i see a nice and some serious blog here...would come back and go through it!

27 March, 2007 01:15  
Anonymous Parul said...

ur readings havnt been updated since ages...
Too blue to read??? :D

21 May, 2007 19:54  
Blogger shimmer said...

c-o-o-l readings here ;;)

02 October, 2007 20:23  
Blogger deepanjali said...

Your blog is nice. I think you should add your blog at BlogAdda and let more people discover your blog. It's a great place for Indian bloggers to be in and I am sure it would do wonders for your blog.

05 October, 2007 16:19  

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