July 11, 2020

Management through an ownership mind-set

Most of management is about managing your personal resources -time, skill sets and competencies. In the common lingo of daily management language we call the ‘owner’ -an entrepreneur, promoter etc. The employee is categorised as ‘professional’. The promoter or the entrepreneur infuses the capital and takes the risks while the professionals work a set of instructions or a roster of activities to fulfil some of the tasks to run the enterprise. This mental divide has ceased to exist in the last few decades. The increase of stock options and variable compensation of professionals have ensured that the professional of today has more invested in the firm and ‘skin in the game’. ‘Entrepreneurship’ or an ‘entrepreneurial mind-set’ is seen as an essential trait in successful managers.

So, what does this mean to the budding professional? A job today is beyond the call of a ‘job description’ or role-sheet, which HR of the past would dole out you. While metrics and key performance indicators will guide the time management principles and help you focus and prioritise on the activities in hand, the outlook towards work needs to be a lot more outcome oriented. The change in perspective of being outcome oriented is also to the need to align all activities to key outcome. All movement and action are not productive and a great guide to choose between options and actions is to see whether they are helping you reach your desired outcomes. Thinking of ownership and changes the mind- set to that of ownership –the feeling of complete undiluted ownership of whatever we do.

Performance has always been a management moot point for many years and most of management literatures have also its genesis in performance discussions. Is there a magic framework, a cure which can help everyone provide results? The answer of course is a plain ‘No’! But, a lot of conversations inside the boardrooms, walking the corridor and serenading the water cooler, gather a few common themes which are applicable in every walk of life.

The first theme is direction or vision. Wherever we work and whatever we do, there needs to be an individual direction. This may be completely your personal goal or that of the organisation that you are working in. There is a difference between drifting as deadwood in the rough waves and try to surf through the contours. There are the experts who say that one must be flexible and malleable –since change is the order of the day. But, change can only dictate tactical curves and roadblocks –it is up to you to navigate these to move in your direction.

The next key theme is alignment. If there is a mismatch between what you are trying to achieve and that of the organisation you are working in –it is an indicator of misalignment. If your actions don’t add up and are guiding you from your overall direction, then you are wiling away time and moving away for your priorities. Alignment is also a big booster. It clarifies and helps you to manage your thoughts and actions, and also helps you weed out the chaff and bring in deep focus into whatever you do and are trying to achieve. Alignment also does not come naturally –you have to personally take ownership to align yourself to your respective direction. No one can do this for you.

The third theme is improvement. Have you been able to do something better today? Have been able to introduce efficiency into something you do regulary? Even asking yourself a question –what did I improve today- is a great start. This theme is also not separate from the other two. It is direction and alignment that help you to focus on what to improve and whether an improvement is actually bringing in the necessary. Improvements will also help you get into details of actions, identify excesses, look at processes and build agility.

The fourth theme is choosing the right action. We often mistake activities and movement for concrete action. When we get busy with quotidian, repetitive tasks, we also pile up a series of prosaic and not so important tasks that buries our calendar. Time Management principles are popular and we have some very interesting frameworks including that of ‘7 Habits’ by the late Stephen Covey. But, what is useful is also a mental frame derived from the earlier three themes which help you guide your work life.

The fifth theme is your learnability! Most leadership gurus consider it as the mother competency or capacity. An open mind, which questions and porous to new information, soaks in more, adjusts and adapts to any variation around him. One has to take ownership for learning every new aspect at work and in life.

The subject of management has evolved through the years to be one of the most sought after as well as craved for academic area. The science or art debate has been one of the prolific debates that provide the fecundity and normative logic characteristic only to the subject. The root of the foundation may not be as fertile a topic as its diverse branching. The interpretations of the subject have itself been the prerogative of the individual himself. Cultural vagrancy, ethical structure, flora and fauna have all its impact on the way the subject is manifested. As they cliché goes “It is never Black and White but a shady Grey”.

A senior professional is not just about signing cheques and delivering high quality or dotting every ’I’ and crossing every ‘T’. It is about solving their problems, helping them achieve their vision and reaching and surpassing their goals. Anything that is helping them do this is –NOISE. It is no use thinking that you have delivered the final presentation or product when the customer still has the ‘problem’ on this table. This philosophy guides your activities, your time and your actions.

It is easy to get ‘lost in motion’. At times some of our lawmakers and politicians are lost in this quagmire of ‘activities’ … Speeding cars, aircraft being held up for their arrival or even a wide audience waiting for them to turn up, ‘Where are they going and what are they doing, we wonder !’ It would be interesting, if they sit back, think and figure out the best use of their time. It may perhaps also help them think differently and, more importantly, act differently!

Rajesh Nair







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