Published in Corproate Dossier ET, May 17, 2013
I own a mid-sized auto parts company and now I am trying to mentor my son to take over. He has his own style of working which is very different than mine. But I believe I still can teach him a lot about how business is done in india. He has had an Ivy league education. How do I manage the balance, give him his freedom and also mentor him without conflicts? Any lessons from mythology?
Let us ask the fundamental questions: why did you give your son an Ivy League education? Did you assume they would teach him something that you could not? Did you feel they would complement what you had to teach or supplement it? Do you find that currently what he has learned is almost a substitute to what you know? Isn’t an Ivy League education supposed to teach him the best practices, so where is the problem?
Typically, say the scriptures, all creatures have three qualities, or gunas, in different measures: tamas, rajas and sattva. In tamas, we are too lazy to think and figure things out; we choose to mimic and follow unconditionally. In rajas, we function in fear and so see all things from our point of view. We follow or lead conditionally, only if we benefit. In sattva, we transform, because we pay attention to the other and lead unconditionally.
When you sent your son for further education did you come from tamas zone (everyone is doing it), rajas zone (I will benefit from it) or sattva zone (he will benefit from it and so I will benefit from it)? If it was from the sattva zone you would be eagerly learning from your son, observing what he has learned which is different from what you already know and that dialogue will expose him to your reading of the market and you will converse on why he and you see things differently. The conversation will be like those of Upanishads of yore, intimate and mutually constructive.
But you foresee conflict: his way versus my way. Why? Is his style working or not working? Are you judging it negatively only because it is different from yours? In the Mahabharat, Kahoda curses his son Ashtavakra to suffer physical deformities because he dared challenge his father’s interpretation of Veda. Kahoda saw his son’s view as a threat. Make sure, you are no Kahoda, opposing your son only because he is different. If you impose your view on him, he will resist. He will see you as a threat and reject you. Or he will pretend to listen, and end up doing whatever he wants to do.
You need to respect your son as another person with an education different from yours, an education you sponsored and that, you discovered to your horror, does not value your business practices. And you need to make your son slowly appreciate that you established the business without that education using intuition. You need to work with him to show how lessons learned from his B-school can enhance native intelligence and approaches that you will teach him. The two can be complementary. There is no need for conflict.