It’s all about knowing when to let go of what…
Lal was the Chairman of a global corporation. Being a jet-setter made him experience different time zones month after month. He had to counter challenges in different geographies, cultures, economies and laws. Amidst all this, he would handle the routine humdrum of top management ego, union problems, his time to the family, meeting political leaders and the daily drill of routines too.
We had the honour of meeting him and learn growth lessons from him directly. Lal had agreed to spend a few hours with all of us. We were decked up with our formal attire, attaches, and we carried gifts of gratitude.
As the hands met in the clock, he entered with a backpack. We expected he would arrive with an entourage of secretaries, advisors and helpers. Instead he came alone, and set up his laptop, saw his calendar and came towards us with a smile of a child. The initial steps gave us a sigh of relief as he made us very comfortable while we expected to feel intimidated.
‘What is the secret of his success?’ we sought. After the initial pleasantries, the question popped out of one of our voices. He smiled and assured that he would reply in the course of the interaction. He rose instantly and we got up in a reflex.
He had seen a lot more decades than any of us, yet he was the quickest to move. We all followed him and a few hefty ones amongst us were gasping for breath to keep pace even at the physical realm. As we were walking, he walked past the work area to reach the next building, where we were supposed to sit.
As he moved to the work area, he could see three people amongst the thousands having a perplexed look at the screen as if it were a horror show. They seemed to have faced a major technical glitch and the Chairman occupied his chair for a few seconds. He could understand the entire issue in a minute and gave simple and short instructions, which brought an instant smile in the geeks. We wondered, ‘Lal is a global leader, he could solve even the problem of a desk like a geek’. Lal uttered, “I had worked on these machines burning midnight oil for a long time. When I started the organization, I was the ‘doer’. I used to ‘do’ everything. Be it a coding, system architecture, accounting, administration, back office or business development, I was solely responsible. That was the stage I was a ‘doer’.
We moved towards the conference hall where we were supposed to be seated. He had a conference call with the SBU heads spanning across six countries. Lal spoke about the global launch, IP strategy and the higher echelons of business. He could move from the doing domain to the strategy domain quickly. We saw the video call with awe, where group dynamics, marketing thoughts and many other agenda bullets were discussed amidst translators, technology, timing difference and different views.
We could see the swift transition from the technical issue to the global perspective in a matter of a few minutes.
Lal described his two decades in a short sequel of sentences, which appeared to be the foundation of his success story. Lal narrated:
I was a ‘doer’ when I started. I used to do everything. That phase helped me to sustain, as I had to curtail costs. It also helped me to know all the nuances of the business. Without that stage, I would’ve never understood higher management thoughts. He continued, a Finance Director should have been an accountant at sometime of his career to perform effectively. I used to do the most talking as a ‘doer’.
Then I became the ‘Manager’. Managing people also meant teaching them work, coupled with balancing their egos. I had to undergo transition from a doer to a delegator in this phase. I used to delegate work and monitor the work progress. Most work issues escalated to me, and I had to be a good listener at this stage. Without being a good leader earlier, never I would have been an effective manager. As a doer I talked a lot, while as a manager, it had to be the listening part.
The organizations grew, and many managers reported to me. Time to migrate as a leader had come. I had to lead the managers, inspire them to reach the goal of the organization. Here I had to undergo transition to be a motivator and guide them. Without being a good doer and a popular manager, I would have never been an effective leader. As a leader, I was just like an orchestra conductor; I had to just sync all the activities towards a common goal.
Now, I have been a mentor of this organization. My doer days taught me to act. My manager days guided me to manage. My leader days made me to create managers and now my mentor days are to create leaders. These leaders will lead the organization.
We realized that Lal underwent a transition at every stage. He was a doer and grew up to be a manager. This graduated to the role of a leader and finally the mantle of a mentor followed this up. He had to change as a person in each of these roles. He had to change his thought process, his attitude and communication. All the roles are important.
Each of us needs to figure out in our business as to where we are positioned. Many small enterprises get married to the ‘doer’ syndrome and the company would remain small. Many others would get plastered to the ‘manager’ role. A few of them move to the ‘leader’ role, which is a whole lot of communication, group strategy and skills of leading and motivating. It requires a tremendous brain to be a leader. A mentor would be moulded out of compassion, selflessness and visionary. Every characteristic is important.
A doer is like a baby learning tiny steps, the manager is running together, a leader is directing a large number of people in a run while a mentor is creating a vision to all the runners and taking them there.
The size of the organization grows depending on how fast, smooth and clear the transition of the entrepreneur is.
A doer can be a mentor; this growth phase has to be embraced in every organization.