First Published in Corporate Dossier, ET
One day, Narad asked Vishnu, with a bit of hesitation, “Why do you insist that the image of Garud be placed before you in your temples? Why not me? Am I not your greatest devotee?” Before Vishnu could reply a crash was heard outside the main gate of Vaikuntha. “What was that?” asked Vishnu. Narad turned to look in the direction of the sound. Garud, Vishnu’s hawk and vehicle, who usually investigated such events, was no where to be seen. “I have sent Garud on an errand. Can you find out what happened, Narad?” asked Vishnu. Eager to please Vishnu, Narad ran out to investigate. “A milkmaid tripped and fell,” he said when he returned.
“What was her name?” asked Vishnu. Narad ran out, spoke to the maid and returned with the answer. “Sharada,” he said. “Where was she going?” asked Vishnu. Narad ran out once again, spoke to the maid and returned with the answer. “She was on her way to the market.” “What caused her to trip?” asked Vishnu. “Why did you not ask this question the last time I went?” said Narad irritably. He then ran out, spoke to the maid once again. “She was startled by a serpent that crossed her path,” he said on his return. “Is the pot she was carrying broken?” asked Vishnu. “I don’t know,” snapped Narad. “Find out,” said Vishnu. “Why?” asked Narad. “Find out, Narad. Maybe I would like to buy some milk,” said Vishnu. With great reluctance, Narad stepped out of Vaikuntha and met the milkmaid. He returned looking rather pleased, “She broke one pot. But there is another one intact. And she is willing to sell the milk but at double price.”
“So how much should I pay her?” asked Vishnu. “Oh, I forgot to ask. I am so sorry,” said Narad running out once again. “Do not bother. Let me send someone else,” said Vishnu.
Just then, Garud flew in. He had no idea of what had transpired between Vishnu and Narad. Vishnu told Garud, “I heard a crashing sound outside the main gate. Can you find out what happened?” As Garud left, Vishnu winked at Narad and whispered, “Let us see how he fares.”
Garud returned. “It is a milkmaid called Sharada. She was on her way to the market. On the way, a snake crossed her path. Startled, she fell back and broke one of the two pots of milk she was carrying. Now she wonders how she will make enough money to pay for the broken pot and the spilt milk. I suggested she sell the milk to you. After all, you are married to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.”
“And the price of the milk?” asked Vishnu. Pat came Garud’s reply, “Four copper coins. One actually but I think she hopes to make a handsome profit when dealing with God.” Vishnu started to laugh. His eye caught Narad’s and Narad understood at that instant why Garud’s statue and not his is always placed before the image of Vishnu in Vishnu temples.
Narad had behaved like a reactive subordinate. Very obedient, doing what the master told him to, leaving all the thinking to the master. Garud behaved like a proactive subordinate, anticipating all his master’s moves and preparing for it. That ‘ability to aniticpate’ made Garud more efficient and effective and hence more valuable in the eyes of Vishnu.
Mr. Kapur, senor vice president, Operations, at a telecom firm has a simple method to distinguish the Garud from the Narad in his team. During all his meetings, he assigns tasks to all team members. And he observes who comes to him with an update without his asking and who provides updates only when asked. He likes those people who approach him and give him feedback on projects proactively. They do not wait for a crisis. They don’t wait for meetings. They don’t wait to be asked.
Some of the best secretaries in the world are Garuds – they know what their bosses want even before the boss asks for it. They know that when they say, “Book me a ticket to Jaipur,” they are expected to make the hotel bookings, the car pickups, update the blackberry with the appointments and reminders and alarms. They know what bills need to be processed at the first of the month, on the first Monday of every month, on the last day of every month. They know when the weekend parties have to be organized, when the stress levels shoots up, when the bosses are more relaxed. They are sensitive to the rhythms of the boss, the rituals they follow. And all this comes from the ‘ability to anticipate’.
Of course, insecure bosses can get annoyed, even threatened, by subordinates with the ‘ability to anticipate’. They feel that if he knows my every move, he may one day overshadow me. This is what happened to Jiten who went out of his way to update his boss on every thing he did, not waiting for his boss to ask him for updates. He knew the answers to every question asked to his boss. He seemed prepared for any argument or objection made by the boss. The boss said to himself, “This man does everything so brilliantly. It is almost that he does not need my help. He is merely informing me of developments. He seems to know what I will approve and what I will not.” It was only a question of time before Jiten found himself being sidelined and ignored in team meetings. The dumbest, the most obedient Narads moved ahead of him. To Jiten, Garud would say, “ While it is good to anticipate your master’s move, it must never seem like you are one step ahead of the master. That would make you look like an oversmart upstart. Remember, your master needs to feel that you need him, that your existence and validation comes from him. Never forget that you are the cog in his wheel, he is not the cog in yours.”