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BW Businessworld

Analysis: A Fair View

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The case brings out yet another perspective on Suyash which goes beyond the "I am good - and looking for attention" or " I am the one being wronged here"  to perhaps a deep seated fear of failure. Through the conversation between Maya and Tripti it appears that Suyash throws a spanner in the works - each time he thinks the team is aligned and getting to grips with a situation.  I wonder whether this is because the idea did not come from him or whether it is because he is unable to deliver to stretching goals.

As leaders we are often confronted by the question — " is this trait coachable or not ?"  The answer to that lies in two dimensions — one where the person might be blindsided by their actions and therefore with the opportunity to explore a different way of thinking and, with some clear feedback, is able to modify behavior to be more effective. The other dimension is a more difficult one to crack - and one which frightens managers and leaders a great deal. This is about really understanding the values, experiences and thought processes that define the individual's behavior and whether this psychological makeup is too deep seated to influence, change. As managers we can work on what can be changed. We are unfortunately not trained psychologists who can deal with the deep psychological processes. I think it is important to understand the difference between the two.

At various stages in our lives we create a recipe for success — which holds us in good stead for a period of time. If however, we don't work on being contemporary and learn new skills and challenge our own thinking, we could find ourselves becoming dysfunctional and failing in our own definition of success. This is even more relevant in the corporate world. From a reading of this part of the case, it would appear that Suyash is living out a self fulfilling prophecy … "the only way to receive attention is by being disruptive" , " I can make myself important by derailing the processes - and no one is smart enough to see through me " and somewhere deep down inside is the thought that " I am a small town guy who will never be taken seriously by the organisation so attack is the best form of self defence". Perhaps his success model has been driven by " No one will call my bluff because I am clever and  make it others' fault when things don't get done." Suyash knows he needs to change - but is unwilling to do so or does not know how to- that is always the conundrum of the "knowing-doing" gap.

Disruptive people also work on the basis that they can absolve themselves of the responsibility for their actions by following the decisions of others — and then making them look bad when things go wrong. This could be the game that Suyash is playing here. By making a habit out of being negative he is in fact denying his responsibility for being constructive and accountable for results.

It is time for Maya and the leadership in Morro to have the tough conversations with Suyash. I am concerned about the gender issue that Maya is bringing up. Is this something she is actually experiencing or is it a part of Morro's culture where" Morro" equals "men"?  Either ways, I can empathise with Maya who is doubtless concerned about her own success and growth in the company. My recommendation to Maya  though is that she deals with Suyash as a professional and fair minded manager  who is driving for results. She needs to set the organisation context and expectations clearly. The critical thing is that she should do so consistently, documenting conversations and providing feedback at every stage. Yes, she needs to find Suyash's strengths, but she needs to be steadfast in her resolve to hold him to account. Suyash is probably biding his time, and taking refuge in the fact that the leaders in Morro will never bite the bullet and have the tough conversation with him. Afterall that has been his formula for success! And that has been the pattern exhibited by Apurva and Rao both of whom seemhappy to pass the buck.

It is somewhat concerning to me that Morro as an organisation allows managers to be abusive and creative an uncomfortable work environment. This is not sustainable as the newer generations will not accept the traditional managers. I am surprised that the organisation has turned a blind eye to this. And yes, while the belief a couple of decades ago was that a woman should be "like men" in order to succeed - that is long since gone. There will always be differences in how men and women lead - but ultimately strong leadership is about much more than that. It is about balance. At the leadership table it is the professionalism and quality of thought and contribution that matter. Leadership is about building successful teams and creating a sustainable legacy for success. All professionals go through testing times, and those that succeed are the ones that are able to bring about the balance and be willing to challenge their formulae for success. I think the leadership challenge for Morro is clear. They need to examine their values and culture, what they expect of their line leaders and how they manage the performance management process. They also need to think about what support structures they have in place to help employees make meaning of the success criteria in the company and how they can adapt their own styles.

At an individual level we need to understand that we are adults and are held to account. As we define success, we must understand that there are choices to be made. Suyash needs to accept that he cannot possibly succeed in the long run without taking responsibility for his actions and that sooner or later he will outlive his welcome in Morro or any professional organisation. Maya needs to understand that if she is unable to go beyond her own insecurities, then she can at least use the people systems and processes effectively to set the standards of performance. If she is able to motivate Suyash to grow and develop beyond his limitations — she would have "turned him around" and if he chooses not to, then she makes the tough call  based on facts and evidence. In either case Maya stands to prove herself as a distinctive, courageous  leader who does what it takes to get the best out of her people and does what is right for the organisation.

The author is a regional HR director for a global company and is based in Singapore. She is passionate about people and organisation development

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 01-07-2013)