Available at: www.kzr.co

Available at: www.kzr.co

Available at: www.kzr.co

Available at: www.kzr.co

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Kamran Rizvi, Navitus
November, 2013

Managers who are motivated only by job security, by perks and compensation levels, by a higher status or position in society are driven by their egos rather than principles. They are ‘net-takers’. They tend to cling to power, play on personal loyalties, and seek out subordinates who are subservient. Sounds familiar? Such managers are bad for business.

It’s high time we realized that organizations today are no longer in a position to provide people the comfort of job security. This was a practice of the early 50s and 60s when the business environment was more stable and predictable. This is no longer the case. The fact is that people come and people go. The sooner we realize this, the better. Times have changed radically.

Loyalty in the past was seen as number of years served in an organization. While loyalty as a quality is still valued, its meaning has shifted dramatically. Today, a loyal professional is viewed as someone who adds value every day, takes personal responsibility for self and career development, keeps relevant colleagues, including HR in the loop with plans, finds and grooms successor, in order to move on to a new role or level within own organization or outside.

It is hard to believe that only a few decades ago, organizations chose not to invest in people for fear of losing them to competition. Now, it is exactly the opposite. You’ll lose talent if you don’t provide them with the opportunity to learn and grow. In fact, HR departments in leading organizations now proudly proclaim that they help employees improve their CVs. They also state that every job has an expiry date!

Leadership practices aligned to the laws of nature are more likely to be sustainable. No self-respecting and aware employee would like to stick to one job for too long. It is therefore important to acknowledge the need for change and plan for staff turnover. This not only ensures having continuous inflow of new blood into the system, but also creates a motivating and challenging environment in which people don’t get the opportunity to fall into their comfort zones.

What gets rewarded gets done. This often-used phrase warrants serious reflection. It has been a long-held tradition that employers, in their desire to attract talent, inadvertently play on human weaknesses. These include: security of tenure, desire for status and attractive compensation packages. As a result, terms like 'golden handcuffs' became fashionable. Instead, we ought to, Reward reliability and execution of strategy AND those who are honest about failures. Recognize and promote emotional intelligence, and make every leader face up to and deal with failures, lack of effort or dishonorable behavior.”[1]

Why retain managers who are not adding value? No wonder such employers suffer dissonance when they find managers hired on this basis, ill-suited to meeting the challenges of the rapidly changing and increasingly competitive business environment. Such companies find themselves over-managed and under-led. They end up becoming unresponsive to customer needs and inflexible. 

The message is loud and clear: Focus on employability, by investing in your people. This way you will build their capacity to deliver and contribute value. As the word spreads, others seeking growth will be attracted to your organization.

Managers and leaders today need to constantly reinvent themselves. An attitude of responsibility, flexibility and commitment will make your enterprise more adaptive, competitive and resilient.

To this end, build an enterprise culture. This demands a high degree of daring and risk-taking, combined with a vital dose of wisdom and emotional intelligence.  How do you find such people? By playing on their strengths that match yours! Look out for people who will help create and nurture a high-trust and a high-performance culture where empowerment and leadership at all levels are very evident. This is particularly true if you are in a fast growing and intensely competitive industry like the telecoms, pharmaceuticals, FMCGs and banks.

To attract the kind of talent you need, look for people who exhibit passion to embrace challenges, show keenness to contribute by making a positive difference, and are committed to continuous learning for their personal and professional growth.

It is not surprising to come across examples of disgruntled employees who are caught up in a quagmire of mismatched expectations. Tragically, there are many companies that demand receptivity to change, while their managers seek to protect their hard-won turf. This kind of perpetual internal tussle causes acrimony and waste of valuable energy and time.

What can be done about this self-inflicted dilemma? Employers, whether commercial enterprises or non-profits, need to revisit their recruitment strategy to ensure the right fit between vision, strategy and people. I recall a meeting with a board member of a sizeable non-profit engaged in healthcare. He shared the difficulty his organization was facing in hiring and retaining a CEO. In the previous five years, five CEOs had come and gone within one year of joining! On enquiring as to why this may have happened, I got a confused response, “You see, we have tried our level best to attract a suitable candidate. We have researched CEO salary packages of top multinational pharmaceuticals and have tried to match it. Despite our efforts, we just can’t seem to find someone who is committed enough to serve in our organization!” What we can glean from this example is simple. If you attract people on the basis of high pay, they’ll leave as soon as they get a substantially better offer. It’s only to be expected. The very premise of hiring was flawed.

During a selection interview in an inspiring organization, a candidate was asked, “Other than your personal/family circumstances, what job-related factor/s would cause you to leave this company?” The candidate answered emphatically, “If you don’t let me grow and express my talent, I’ll resign.” fifteen years on, this gentleman is continuing to grow the business, while furthering his career ambitions in a variety of entrepreneurial roles within the organization. He is achieving this by empowering his team and giving them all the headroom they need to perform magically.

Managers who are motivated only by job security, by perks and compensation levels, by a higher status or position in society are driven by their egos rather than principles. They are ‘net-takers’. They tend to cling to power, play on personal loyalties, and seek out subordinates who are subservient. Sounds familiar? Such managers are bad for business.

Find ‘net-givers’ instead. These are individuals who don’t see loyalty as the number of years served, but by the value they add each day. Net-givers share their knowledge with their colleagues freely and encourage candor in their subordinates. They are always on the look out for successors, so that they can delegate and move on to higher levels of responsibility within, or outside their organization.

Net-givers find security in their skill and competence, instead of assurances of job security and the next promotion from their seniors.

When ‘net-givers’ go to the next level or a new role, they leave talent behind that not only continue their legacy, but improve on it.


[1] Excerpt from  The Business General, by Deborah Tom & Richard Barrons published by Random House.


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No matter how big your organization gets, continue to empower your people at every level to deliver. Only this way will size lead to advantage.

It is always useful to explore the history of any company to understand how they got to being what they are today. Corporate success usually follows some combination of visionary entrepreneurship and luck. When companies acquire early successes and achieve a dominant position in some market or markets they become profitable and usually follow a steep growth trajectory in their early years.


With the passage of time, however, pressures on managers come mostly from inside the firm. Building and staffing a bureaucracy that can cope with growth is the biggest challenge. External constituencies are neglected. The firm needs, hires, and promotes managers, not leaders, to cope with the growing bureaucracy. Top managers allow these people, not leaders, to become executives. Sometimes top management actively prevents leaders from becoming senior executives. Managers begin to believe that they are the best and that idiosyncratic traditions are superior. They tend to become increasingly arrogant and aloof. The problem is compounded when top management does nothing to stop this trend and often ends up exacerbating it.


A strong, insular and conceited culture develops. Managers fail to acknowledge the value of customers and other key stakeholders. They behave in an inward-looking, sometimes political fashion and fail to acknowledge the value of leadership and the talent available at all levels that can provide it. They tend to stifle initiative and innovation. They behave in centralized and authoritative ways.


Consequently, as organizations grow, whether in terms of sales, number of employees, range of products and services, market share, or whatever, they start to lose the advantage they once had. According to John Naisbitt in the book Rethinking the Future “it is the small companies who are creating the global economy, not the Fortune 500. And these days a small company can be as small as one person.” In his book, Megatrends 2000 he gave the example of his neighbors Linde and Lito who have a publishing company called Western Eye Press. He continues, “It’s just two people and they publish wonderful photographic and guide books. They create them on Macintosh computers in their basement in Telluride. They printout the camera-ready pages on their own high resolution laser printer. Then they FedEx’ed these pages to Seoul, South Korea, and the printer there manufactures their books and ships them to distributors all over the world. Western Eye Press is a key player in the global economy and its just two people on this little mountain perch in Colorado.”
Large corporations and global conglomerates, if not careful, end up becoming highly bureaucratic, over-managed, rule-driven and inflexible by virtue of their size. In this day and age of cyberspace and nanotechnology, fetish with size of a business can become an impediment. This is particularly true for organizations that have grown significantly in scale in terms of revenues and market share. Organizations like Citibank have lost touch with their core constituents. It  may be a major player with a strong brand image, but customers interacting with its frontline employees are often disappointed by their state of helplessness in resolving routine problems. This could be on account of slavish adherence to archaic procedures. Often, individual contributors in big companies don’t take the initiative needed to listen and understand customer requirements with the intent to ultimately delighting them. There is a lot to be said for systems and processes, but if they are not customer oriented and responsive, the game is as good as lost.  
Quality can now be replicated anywhere in the world. China is leading the way in this respect. With the falling of trade barriers and dropping of quotas, the Chinese have taken their global market share in textiles from 16% to over 50% in less than a decade. In recent years, the Pakistan market has been flooded with Chinese products (mostly electronic, light engineering) that are low priced and in much demand.
We no longer live in a world of big mainframes. We live in a world where the real power is large networks – a lot of individuals connected together – Facebook & Twitter are pointing the way. A network does not have any headquarters. Chinese excel in this field and have spread their global business through this means. Naisbitt cites Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) as a great example of a huge company that thrives and grows through networking. He quotes Percy Barnevik (Former CEO at ABB) as having said, “We grow all the time, but we also shrink all the time.” As the network gets larger, the nodes get smaller. 
So, no matter how big your company gets, continue to excel by empowering your people at every level to deliver. Building agility and responsiveness is the key.