Friday, June 18, 2004

Highly Effective Habits for Wannabe Managers

Stephen Covey must excuse me for having the gumption to try and come up something akin to his best selling novel.

So here I am sitting at my desk, looking out of the window, staring at the sky wondering where the European summer was this year. The reply came within a few minutes in the form of a thunderstorm. Well so much for the summer.

Well let me get back to the purpose of this piece. I've been employed (gainfully, if I may add) for about 4 years now and although I am by no means a veteran career wise, I've got a fairly good insight into how organizations really work.

So here I am trying to educate all those poor souls who haven't (Thank your stars!)started their careers yet, on a very important topic (which they for sure teach at your business school): How to be an effective manager:

Err; before I start I would like to make it clear that the author doesn’t not hold himself responsible for any of the consequences that could arise for those who follow the prescribed methods below. On the other hand the author would be more than happy to take credit in all cases that turn out to be successful (grin)

So let's get down to business:

What makes a good manager?

Well I just happened to be pondering over this when I came across an outrageous quotation. Just listen to this:

"A manager is an assistant to his men."

What the &+%*!!! Excuse me????????????? Gulp and double gulp. This is just too hard for me to swallow. Well let me not deviate. (For all you folks wondering who on earth came up with this definition, it is a gentleman by the name Thomas J Watson. Poor old' Watson. If only he were to work in a 21st century, IT corporation).

Lookup for the term Management and here is what you get: "Management" (from old French, "management"="the art of conducting, directing", from Latin "manum agere"="lead by the hand") characterizes the process of leading and directing all or part of an organization, often a business one, through the deployment and manipulation of resources (human, financial, material, intellectual or intangible).

Well when you put this definition down in your examination paper, be assured that you prof walks up to you and kisses your hand and gives you an A or A plus.

Scenario 2: Try telling the same thing (if you can mug up this definition the night before) to your boss the first day at work, if you were asked about your views on management. Result? You'll probably hear folks rolling on the floor laughing (after you have left the bosses room or cubicle.). So much for management you think.

So if you want to dump all the jargon, get down to business and prove yourself to be a good manager. Here are the golden rules: (Please follow the prescribed prescription (now that’s a good phrase eh?) every day for faster results):

The habit prescribed below are results form painstaking research (undertaken by yours truly) that was conducted for almost 4 years spread over 3 continents (Asia, Europe and North America). Now for all you statistics freaks that’s a lot of input and as varied as the population can get. (I admit that the population size was however limited. But then hey all researches have their drawbacks don't they?). I'd also like to make a note that the prescribed habits are peculiar to (a very large extent ) IT companies. However should you go through them carefully, you can always find ways to alter or re-engineer these habits to fit the industry in which you work.

Habit 1: Keep your desk as untidy as possible. The dirtier the better. Always give the boss the impression that you're working damn hard on anything and everything. You may want to spice up the desk by including half bitten apples, orange skins that are atleast 20 days old, pits and pieces of your last burger, one or two stains of that tomato ketchup from McDonalds or Burger King.

Result: The boss walks up to your desk when your gone and says " Gee, if only all the other bums in the office can get working like this dude". Two weeks later, you get that long awaited bonus and maybe even a short vacation some place. But please don’t expect your company to pay for this.

Habit 2: : Always pretend that you have work to do: Now when you are in an IT company this can sometimes be an extremely difficult habit to master (especially for all those blokes lying in the "bench". Not a beach/park bench stupid, but bench as in the IT get what I mean don't you?). For all those novices (novices trying to be managers), the best would perhaps be to take help of MSN or Yahoo Messenger. Always make sure that you set your status to "Busy" after approximately 35 mins of starting your workday. The first 35 mins is of course to see your emails, chat with colleagues and most importantly fill up your thermos with kaapi. I personally find the most effective way to be to open Outlook/Outlook Express or whatever mail client you use and keep staring away at some long e-mail (Doesn’t matter if its from your grandma from Pudukottai). As soon as your boss appears in the horizon all you do is to hit the reply button, change the Subject name and type away something like:

"Thanks for the e-mail. We are currently trying to analyze the situation and see that on your servers, the IIS has not been configured correctly. This could be due to problems with your firewall settings..blah blah.." (I’m sure you get the drift)

Result:: Boss always sees you busy (if he used the messenger which I’m sure he does since he is chatting away with his wife or getting instructions on the shopping to do this weekend)and wants to see what you are upto:

Boss: What up buster?
You: Just replying to an urgent mail from Customer X saar. Seems to be a problem with their firewall configuration
Boss: (Often doesn’t click a jack of what you just said if he’s a non techie)Sounds good to me.(walks away in a hurry)

Habit 3: Catch those subordinates when they are fresh: If there is a single recipe for corporate success, then it is this one. Grab every opportunity you get to interact with all those freshers in your team. Make 'em feel at home and let em know that they have joined the best team in the company. Take em out for those last night and weekend parties and generally let them get the feeling that you are the best boss one can have. While you are at all this, (WARNING: Such activities may cause a drain on your financial resources in the short term but trust me, you'll be laughing all the way to the bank in the not too distant future) pick out a few innocent dues who really have this "josh" to make an impression on you. Also beware of new guys in your team who have already hopped jobs. These sharks can be dangerous and may beat you at your own game. When the work pressure builds up (basically read when your ass is on the line), make these frequent rounds to see what’s happening with the young ones. Look a little sad or gloomy when talking..

Result: They: What’s wrong Mr X or X?
You: Nothing much man. Got this sudden deadline from the boss. I hate that guy. Always does this to me. (Look very angry and peeved off)
They: (Thinking to themselves "Poor chap man he’s been so nice to us and look at what shit he lands up with") What’s the issue here.
You: Guys we need to get this job done in 3 days or else our butts are on the line. I’m sorry guys but looks like you’ll have to work this weekend. I got a meeting coming up on Friday and will not be in office. I want you guys to make sure that this is done.
They: Sure. We'll do our best (poor chaps always end up slogging and giving it a 110%). Don't you worry
You: Thanks a lot guys. I know that if there is anyone who can pull this off, its you guys (Welcome to the party suckers!!!!!!!)

In most cases you will be cursed at and given all kinds of names. But hey you get the weekend off and moreover get the job done too. Not too bad a price to pay eh?

Habit 4:The phone is your best friend: If you want to be a manager, you gotta be a big-time phone addict. The phone is the gateway to "corporate nirvana". Make sure that a phone is the first thing that you get into your cabin or cubicle. (Even the laptop and other accessories can wait). It is highly recommended that you spend atleast 3 to 4 hours a day over the phone (the list of people you call is of course entirely upto you and can contain anyone from your great grand aunt to Uncle Apparaos brother in law, if you knew him. When the boss comes ups make sure that you engage is purely technical talk or some other kind of corporate lingo talk (trying to pep up some body or giving someone advice). Once perfected this art could be your most potent weapon in: a) Your promotion b) Offloading jobs to others c) Convincing the boss that you have everything under control.

Result: Its 3 PM in the afternoon and the boss is wandering about in the office when he sees you gesticulating from your cabin. Wondering what the matter could be he walks up to your cabin:

You: Busy chatting with Rita about yesterdays dinner date, suddenly realizing that your boss is around. Change the topic. "Sara (short form for poor Saravanan whomever he may be.), have you followed up with the security team about the Trojan horse invasion that Abbas has detected yesterday? As I see it, we probably will get a complaint from the customer regarding the fatal errors that they see. Have you set the primary logging levels on out Admin servers to level 3?
Boss: (Totally bowled over. Hears something about Trojan and probably thought you were discussing about how Brad Pitt looked in the latest summer blockbuster.) Err...Err.. Is everything OK? (He cant seem to get more out of his lips)
You: (Hey Sara listen, Ill give you a call again. Keep the phone down and heave a huge sigh of relief.) Yes boss, I’m just taking the precaution of informing the network team to follow up on yesterday’s Trojan attack that seems to compromise Windows machines. (Now this is a fool proof technique of fooling your boss, given the fact that there are 1000's of these worms all over the place on the Internet)
Boss: Great job man. Keep it going. (Walks back wiping the sweat from his forehead). Saying to himself. " I guess I should give some of this high funda stuff to my boss the next time he catches me talking with my wife)

3 or 4 such incidents a month are enough to give you a sal hike for the quarter or if you are really good at bull shitting even a promotion!! (No guarantees please!)

Habit 5:Always keep the boss on Bcc on those e-mails: If there's a way to the bosses heart, this is probably right up there. Whatever the occasion always keep the boss on Bcc (Note the emphasis on Bcc). This becomes mighty easy when you try to deletegate work to all the subordinates who are already mighty pissed off with you by now. Poor chaps don’t have a clue that the boss is being copied on all the mails that are sent to them. Boss on the other hand is mighty pleased with your approach of having him "in the loop" . This reminds me: I deviate a little but here are useful situations in which you can impress colleagues and subordinates and the bosses with jargon:

To the subordinate: Keep me in the loop on this thing
To the Boss: Ok boss, I have everyone in the loop
At the team meeting: Guys we need to get everyone in the loop on this thing
Project gone wrong: Sorry boss, the planning and protocol was just not in the loop
Trying to analyze someone’s code: I see that the FOR NEXT loop is not in loop with the object model (Programmer thinks: What the ...)
To the HR Executive: Look, I want all candidates to be screened and then left in the loop (don’t ask me what it means)
At the Canteen: Yaar, looks like the menu always seems to be in the same loop
To your wife: Honey where is my belt? I can't seem to get my pant in the loop..

Result You've got so used to keeping the boss on Bcc that you set it as a default on your mail client. One day boss (who is in most cases slightly bald, in his mid or late 30's and married for 8 years) comes up and says: "Thanks for keeping me on cc on that mail. Ill be glad to join."
You: Don’t realize what email he is talking about. Hurriedly checks your "Sent Items" list. The last e-mail reads something like:

"Guys, Alok has arranged for the bachelors party at 8 tomorrow at Hotel Leelavati. heard he’s planning to bring two deadly Iranian chicks. Looks like its going to be fun. I suggest we hook up near Pizza Hut at 8. See ya then"

Double whammy! You just realized that you Bcc'ed your boss on this one too.

To the Boss: Errr...mmmmm..Su Sure thing you can join.

The next day: Your friends have disowned you. But hey look on the bright side, the boss had a whale of a time and this is just the time to talk about that long pending promotion.

Well folks I guess I’m turning this one into a novel. I have decided to make this a kind of mini series. Will keep adding to these habits as and when I get jobless again.


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