Under The Hood


If you follow Cricket this example will somewhat suffice. Sachin was a genius player, Saurav was an above average player, but Sachin was a below average captain while Saurav was certainly the much better captain. True blue, pedigree, high potential, are some words used to describe the best in class.

Yet when they make it to leadership, many don’t make for great people managers. Supreme talent sets very high standards of efficiency for themselves. They not only have a superior thought process, smarter vocabulary, but also super intelligent data modelling skills. They can slice and dice data and present it any which way you like. They will make sure the optics are just perfect and will “outlogic” you in most cases.

Despite the top talent running their business, some organizations still struggle to get to their goals.While some with regular talent do wonders. Ever wondered why?

One would imagine,if an organization hired the best of the best, all its problems would be solved.Being best, means you know better than the rest. You know what to expect, when to expect, and do what is needed ahead in time, so as to never get into a hole.

Yet the fact remains, despite their brilliance, organizations still fail, departments still shut, projects still derail all the time. That is when their smart tap runs dry.

Sometimes,supreme talent never experience failure in their journey to the top,or if they do, its only theoretical, best guess estimates.So when the real deal happens a.k.a SHTF , they crack up big time.

They get super upset when the person responsible, fails to deliver on what was meticulously planned,thought through, double checked, committed,promised,backed up whatever the case may be. They are appalled at the fact that despite so many layers of checks and balances,the work never got done or the forecast was still missed or the deadline lapsed! They just don’t like these people. Period.

But here is the twist to the story: these leaders don’t go away after a sub par result. They stay and make others go away!

Their frustration,anger & subsequent desperation leads them to fire people. This in turn destroys team culture,induces stress,anxiety,mistrust,and forms the bedrock of politics in the company. Finger pointing and one-upmanship take center stage and pulling a fast one is what everyone is looking to do.

Those can’t put up with it any more, quit or are strategically asked to move out. They leave with a very bitter experience. For the purposes of civility and optics ,these employees are-branded and justified in closed board room discussions with HR as cry-babies, sore losers, bad performers or even playing the victim card!

It is ironical then, that these same employees were promoted,praised, clapped ,awarded,rewarded until recent memory, and then something happened, that they suddenly turned bad! Hmm. A good player cannot become a bad player overnight! An organization which distances itself from a disgruntled employee, after spending years awarding or rewarding them for stellar performances, sends a message to the rest of the employees, that all the praise,accolades, awards etc. were a farce. Knowingly or unknowingly they just laid the foundation for people politics and group-ism right there.New camps will be formed.

But hey, the optics still look good. Company shows a 10% YoY growth and stakeholders clap, world applauds, and those on the inside keep their jobs till they get in the path of Superman. In reality though, the company would’ve done say 20% YoY , lands up achieving only 10% YoY. That is a huge loss to the organization strategically, while shareholders lose that money, stakeholders lose the growth to competition, employee lose incentives, and dissatisfaction index hits an all time high.

After the outcome of the fiscal is more of less decided by a few good men and women inside a closed room, these brilliant leaders find a new agenda. They don the “savior” cap. With carefully designed optics, designer presentations , some data masking, a new plan is formed,a new agenda is forged, promising the world a path to the mythical garden of Eden! The entire chain of command sings in unison and the circus continues for ever after.

One might argue , what choice does a leader have when there are such high stakes, tight opex control, pressure of time and return of investment? Besides,no one really cares where a few hundred employees go, there will be twice as many who will gladly jump off the cliff if there is a job offer at the bottom of the pit, so there will always be availability.

These are no longer unique situations restricted to a few organizations, these are more rampant than you think. So when you go shopping for your next top leader,be careful on how they handle/manage the rest of the not so supremely talented people, because they are the majority. I’d ask a presentation on what difference you’d bring to the failure culture in the team? How would you manage flaws,drawbacks, shortcomings, or would you rather not have it in your agenda?

The fact is there is always a choice. Doing it the right way. Yes it is tough but it helps in the long run.Besides, it is certainly more profitable. A happy employee gives 100%. And if you can maximize happiness it directly correlates to results. So this is not just plain English, there is math to prove it.

Great leaders manage failures as well as success and grow the business optimally.

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