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Change of State!

Another weekend and I am travelling to Trivandrum to visit relatives and friends. It was a warm afternoon the rain that had flooded the city last evening was gone; the train I boarded was called Raptisagar Express. Just as I was contemplating a nap and some quality time with the Mandela life-story I had brought along a friend from the past made his appearance. We’ve known each other for 25 years – in our bachelor days we used to trek, do star-gazing and birding and indulge in many other things that young adults enjoyed doing. Fast forward 25 years and now our kids are young adults at the doorstop of careers – we are closer to retirement now and talk hovered a bit on savings and nest-eggs!

A lot had changed …. and some more would on this very day!

But before that let me mention the things that hadn’t – my friend was still an enthusiastic traveler and adventuresome; he has been that way from the time I first knew him and even recently he had done a fair bit of paragliding and trekking. He spoke about numerous treks in Himalayas and the special one he made to Mount Kailas. Not bad at all!

When we spoke about work he said now the bank (he was Branch Head at a Nationalised Bank) considered him one of the senior resources in the state and bigger roles beckoned. He also was the President of the Officers’ Association. I was surprised to hear that because Union leaders (especially in the nationalized banks) had the image of being hindrances than that of a catalyst for growth. It seems that wasn’t true anymore! How?

For the next hour or so I was given some insights into new thinking in the old banks. My good friend said now he enjoyed taking on the leadership role – and this was the guy who many years back, working as a clerk, used to crib about the system. This was a different man – he was waxing eloquent on the essence of leadership and the need for performance.

I listened rapt while he delivered some interesting and valuable messages:

1. Where others see problem I see opportunities!

Instead of treating the role of Union President as a hassle my friend took it on as a challenge – it took him close to the powers-that-be and put him in the limelight. His peers and juniors considered him their leader, he went around the country now,  listened to people as they shared problems and concerns, then mediated on their behalf and found solutions and he had the opportunity to initiate change – the position gave him influence, power and leverage my friend said!

2. Only when we are productive we can negotiate!

He was only warming up – next he spoke about the need to be meet targets and profitable. “Our success lies in the success of our bank” he said. Wow! And when the bank succeeds everyone gets a better deal – so he felt that if the management was to be influenced to offer benefits, the team had to show themselves in the best light and that meant quality performance. When you aren’t achieving results how can you get what you ask for, he asked? Compel the other man to accede to your demands by proving your worth – I liked that idea a lot.

3. All product lines need to be sold, only then the organisation will achieve robust growth!
“Hello! You are killing me, my friend.” I wished to shout out. This guy was behaving like Tom Peters on steroids. “You work for a Government owned bank, my friend; so behave!”

But my friend said that by selling the convenient, fast-moving products the bank cannot expect profit and growth. The team had to sell the entire range. Yes, it meant more work and need for better prospecting but the result was there for all to see – he pushed his team constantly to achieve targets across the range. Whoa!

He was not done yet.

4. “Why should I represent the non-performers?”

That was the icing on the cake. My day was done … Too stunned to speak I asked what he meant. (In the past) Unions usually worked against what the management stood for – the guiding principle was that the employee had to be protected from exploitation by the management. But here was a Union leader saying that he would deny the non-performer. He said that the yardstick for recognition and support was performance – no place for shirkers in the system. Take a bow, my friend! There is hope for the Government sector yet.

Early on in our conversation I felt my friend was sharing lessons picked-up from some management book he had read recently but now I was convinced. So much has changed! People working for Public Sector undertakings are realizing the need to step on the gas. They don’t wish to be left too far behind.

Oh! I must share one more thing. Unlike most of the other Corporate Sector Managers I’ve met in recent times (including those working with leading Private Sector organisations) this man reads too. We discussed biographies, popular science literature and some self-help books too.

Four hours went by in a blur and soon it was time to alight at Trivandrum – I stepped off a different train, isn’t wasn’t the one I boarded at Cochin; this one had travelled on a different track –  a faster, higher and smarter one.

Inspirational leaders working with the Government agencies can help “fast-track” growth in this country!






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  1. Ajimon
    May 13, 2012 at 5:46 am

    It’s a prejudiced mindset about Govt officials that make us all think like u did. At times I also have also came across personalities who just made my eyes rolling because of their unpredectictive and unexpected calibre and performances as Govt officials. Some of them are too good. The fact is that most if them are talented and posesse good calibre too but attitude wise they take things for granted. Lack of specific goals, motivation and high demotivation from seniors etc makes a mess for themselves and eventually to the total system itself.

    • JayadevM
      May 13, 2012 at 12:19 pm

      Hello Ajimon

      Thank you for the response. I agree that there is no lack of knowledge or skills and that lack of accountability and goals are the big reasons for non-performance.

      That non-performance caused untold amount of agony and delays for those who dealt with Government Departments.

      I am happy to note that change is happening, albeit slowly!

  2. Jamy
    May 13, 2012 at 6:25 am

    Great read Jay!

  3. Sunish S
    May 13, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Jayadevji, I also fully agree that there is no lack of knowledge/skills/experience in Government environments. But, from my limited experience with Government Departments, I feel that although lack of accountability and goals are indeed reasons for non-performance, the single, biggest reason is probably the hostility shown towards performing individuals by the non-performing lot. In some instances, it is shocking to see the level of conspiracy that happens to ensure that a performing individual is cornered, demotivated and finally the performing resource is left with no option but to join the non-performing lot or to quit. I have seen at least a couple of cases where Government sector has lost high calibre individuals simply because they were seen as a threat to the non-performing group and the non-performers spared no effort to ensure the exit of the performing resource. Of course, this scenario is changing; thanks to some officers at the top of Government Departments who have noticed this trend and are taking steps to protect and encourage resources who do well. Hope the change happens faster…

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