Maintain cordial ties with people at all levels
APURVA SEN is a whiz kid. He's been a whiz kid for eight years. And all that time he followed sage advice and showed himself to be the most cooperative, obliging jack-of-all-trades the company for which he worked ever wanted. He was indispensable. Why, he is still indispensable. So much so that when he went to his boss and said he'd had enough and would like to quit, they all but went down on their hands and knees and begged him to stay. They even doubled his salary. And he's still there. Today. And he's still doing what he started out doing. Oh, yes, did I mention that he's still very unhappy, despite the money and the appreciation. Why? Because he is still at the same level he began. No upward mobility at all and those that had joined after he had were all deputy managers though he was paid more than any of them. He came to me asking what he should do, and I felt responsible because he said he'd read all my articles and he thought he'd followed my suggestions to a `T'. He had, only too well. So well that he had painted himself into that most unenviable position in the world - the corner farthest from the door to success.
I told him that the reason he had come to a full stop position was because there was no one to take over after he graduated to the next level. If he were to suddenly `not be there' he would leave a void that no one else could fill, and to avoid that horrendous situation, his managers conspired to keep him there, throwing him monetary sops regularly to help assuage their guilt.
For getting a promotion you truly deserve, you really need to see that you have developed someone who can do it as well as you can and can take over when the time is right. To be truly successful, I told Apurva, it would have been best for him to have trained several people to do the several things he did so that there were a number of people that could take up at least one of the roles he was playing. In this way he could have built up a team that he could in a year or so run for the company as manager. He would have been even wiser if he trained two people to do one job to correct for attrition, which is natural in most companies. It is also wise to make sure that if there are two people for each post, they should try and outperform the other so that finally the best one is chosen and will be a worthy successor.
Apurva should take care not to be too open and frank about his plans on choosing the final person. The reason? Because once the blue-eyed boy becomes aware that he's the next in line, the first thing he'll do is undermine Apurva to demonstrate how much better he is. A premature announcement of his intention, would have led to his own redundancy or, in short, blue-eyed to green-eyed is a natural phenomenon.
Most people hire their potential successor wrongly. There's an understandable reason for this. Nobody likes to feel that someone he has hired is sidelining him. As a result, one `likes' a candidate that wants to work with you - not one that wants to take your job. A feeling of threat prevents the best hiring from happening, and so a team of sub-standard successors gets hired and the higher-ups find it difficult to relieve you! And so, it defeats the entire process. Apurva, and everybody in his position, must look for the right candidate and develop them to take over - when they are ready to hand over the reins.
Apurva must give feedback because if he were to go along with everything his shadow did, he'll lose the shadow very soon because the new inductee is interested in his own progress, just as Apurva is in his own. Also some people are cagey about introducing their apprentices to their management, because they think that the young inductee will get a chance of interacting with the boss group. Actually, this will hardly ever happen at all because the inductee will be so intimidated by a meeting with the Big Boss that he will never dream of unassisted contact. And such introductions will be a subtle way of telling the management that you have a person that you are grooming to eventually take your place when you move further up the corporate ladder. No better way to introduce the topic than to let them know in this subtle way. Like this, when the promotions board meets, several top bosses will know that there is someone who can under your supervision take your place and ergo, you can be elevated suitably.
Apurva was worried about the feeling of jealousy from colleagues senior to him in rank, but junior in salary and perks he said. This is quite understandable because everybody knew that Apurva was beloved of the Managers on High. He had easy access while they had to take appointments. This is natural and unless he took proper steps to mitigate the envy he would certainly suffer when these people became senior enough to play around with his growth. To defuse this negative feeling I felt that he should interact also with this level of managers as well and meet them socially. Besides, if he were to oblige them in some way or the other, they would certainly not throw a spoke in his wheel when he was considered for promotion.
Apurva, I am relieved to say, took my advice and is now, two years later, a Chief Manager, having skipped the rank of Assistant Manager and Manager to get there. He is well liked and valued by his company, and his managers and assistant managers. Most of all he is dearly appreciated by the line workers to whom he is always ready to lend a hand and get their work done. As always, it is great to lead, by letting your people know that you are right behind them all the way, always there when they need you.
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