When the wallet grows, but not the heart

lsd1Published in Corporate Dossier, ET, March 22, 2013

I run an FMCG business and due to the extreme growth of the business the organization has grown extremely fast. I have always had a philosophy that companies should grow their own timber. But what I find is that every time I promote people they change, and often for the worse. Am I going wrong in selection or there is a deeper message here?

On Day 1, you hire a babysitter. On Day 2, you expect them to be a tuition teacher. Day 3, you expect them to be a chef. Will it work? For every job you need a set of skills and these cannot be absorbed through osmosis. Yet we promote people without preparing them to take the job and expect them to do the job brilliantly.

Can they say “no, they will not take up the job unless you give them training”? They cannot. They will appear like fools. So they take up the position and perhaps even delude themselves they can do whatever it takes, quoting ridiculous clichés like: impossible is i-m-possible.

And then like Prince Uttar, in the Mahabharat, after all the bravado, when they finally face the Kaurava army, reality dawns. They realize their stupidity and run for cover. But this running for cover takes place mentally, not publicly.

Privately their fear is intense. They are trapped. They cannot admit not being able to handle their situation. They cannot admit their failure. They cannot show weakness. They cannot seek help.

What does a cornered animal do? It snarls and bites back, it snaps. Cornered humans blame the world for the problems. They neither empower nor enable, because they do not feel empowered or enabled. Who will empower and enable them? Can they turn to you? But you abandoned them after promoting them, assumed the big fish of the small pond will perform as well in a big pond, not realizing in the new paradigm he is a small fish.

If you get talent from the outside, they will resent you even more. They will resent the outsider, and do everything in their power to pull him down.

As organizations grow, we often think only in economic terms (Lakshmi growth). We not think of the impact on emotions (Durga); the associated loss/gain of power. We do not think of the impact on imagination and thought (Saraswati). So we end up destroying past relationships and making good talent go sour and bad.

The responsibility is yours as yajaman. You need to work with these people you promoted, and help them cope with their new responsibilities. Do not expect them to cope on their own or thrive autonomously. Not every one can do that. Not everyone is self-reliant and self-motivated. You need to reach out, not abandon them midstream. If people grow, your organization grows. You are thinking of people growth quantitatively; in time you think qualitatively too.