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How To Be A Better Manager

The B-Schools that have managed to become great institutions are those that cultivate creativity among the students and the faculty

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The premier management institutes of India were established in early 60’s to prepare suitable managers for the public sector enterprises, with active involvement of MIT Sloan School of Management and Harvard Business School. This collaboration set the tone for innovation in pedagogy – the case method of teaching; in the institute’s ability to provide education of the highest quality, in ideas like autonomy and self-regulation and in the value of alumni as ambassadors of the institute. 

Today, it is reported that, there are around 6,804 management colleges in India, out of which 5,478 are private management colleges in India. These schools reflect India’s diversity in the truest sense. 

At one end of the spectrum, you have the premium B-Schools where only the top elite can enter, then you have the fashionable B-Schools that rely totally on their brand imagery and advertising power. Thereafter there are B-Schools that are part of larger institutions and then there are those that pretend to be B-Schools. The key differentiator is the true purpose of these institutions. 

There are many B-Schools doing excellent research work and believe in inculcating values and there are others who believe in enabling the students to evolve, learn on their own. Yet some other schools continue to be a replica of Macaulay’s education system where the purpose of education is no longer acquisition of knowledge but instructions to become a salaried clerk. 

Rising expectations

The business management students are expected to be jack of all trades and master of at least one or two areas of 

management. 

There is a common expectation from the recruiter’s side that the intelligence quotient of the B-School students is above average rather than students who are doing their higher education in general streams. 

It is also a common anticipation that communication skills and presentation style of B-School students will be better than those who have not done MBA. 

However, the long term success (employability) of the management students is not these basic knowledge or skills. 

As Albert Einstein has said, “The formulation of a problem is far more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical and experiential skill. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problem from a new angle requires creative imagination.” 

The famous social science researchers McGrath and MacMillan made the following comment “The successful future strategists will exploit an entrepreneurial mindset …… the ability to rapidly sense, act and mobilize even under uncertain conditions.” 

Faculty is the key

Business management education is so dynamic that any particular text book or study material is really inadequate for the students to learn the subject.

The role of the faculty member is to provoke the thought processes of the students. The faculty is a facilitator who generates both convergent and divergent thought process in the students. 

Rishi Aurobindo has said that, “The first principle of true teaching is that nothing can be taught. The teacher is a helper and guide. His business is to suggest. He only shows the pupil how to acquire knowledge. He is not an instructor or task master. He only shows him how to perfect his instruments of knowledge”. 

According to Swami Vivekananda, “No one was ever really taught by others; each of us has to teach himself. The external teacher offers only the suggestions which rouse the internal teacher to work to understand things”. Thus the ‘Hundred percent case based teaching pedagogy’ can be the most suitable method to bring and discuss the corporate example in the classroom. 

Beyond the curriculum

The best teacher I had was a book, ‘Siddhartha’ by Herman Hesse, wherein many of my managerial lessons are learnt from. In the book, when the merchant Kamaswami asked the young monk Siddhartha what he had learned, he answered, “I can think, I can wait, I can fast”. 

Kamaswami wasn’t very impressed. He asked Siddhartha what good was that for. Siddhartha answered in his own way, but for me those words taught me many of life’s lessons and I want to share what they can mean for each one of us. 

I can think: I can do ‘value addition’ in every situation. Purposeful thinking distinguishes human beings from all other living beings. 

When I pursue a goal, it always starts with thinking. I register my current state, compare it with the desired state, and identify the steps necessary to close this gap. Then I act accordingly. 

Fundamentally all our actions have to be purposeful, thought out and not random – based on just feelings. I can and will leave the situation a better place than what is was when I walked in. 

I can wait: All books of self realization emphasize that it is the journey, not the destination that is important. It is always the patience, the process and the values that determine success, not the final outcomes or results. 

Doing a job well and failing, is success. And getting results without honourable methods is failure. 

Waiting also means being able to sit out adverse circumstances and waiting patiently until the opportunity is favourable. It’s not a passive wait but, it’s a deliberate wait. 

I can fast: It is much more than the ability to endure hunger; it is control over your senses, the mind over the body. In short, it gives the freedom not to have to do everything for money. 

When the stomach is empty, most people are willing to do anything for anyone on any condition. Who can fast is free of this pressure. There is no pressure for being in a top paid job, feeling comfortable in a luxury apartment and more importantly comparison with others. If you can renounce, you gain freedom. 

So young managers, find your own Siddhartha, and learn from it. 

For all of us, ‘Covid-19’ the pandemic, has been a great teacher – a cataclysmic event, that brought forth the criticality of human values to survive, sustain, and hope for a better tomorrow. 

Let’s take a look at some of the critical aspects which managers cannot afford to ignore. 

Interdependence

The pandemic brought out vividly the fact that we are all dependent on each other, to our community, our society, the ecosystem. 

Our survival was dependent on the advances of medical sciences, communication and technology platforms, global sharing of information, technology, understanding that unless we are able to help the impoverished; we will suffer in the end. 

B-Schools have to demonstrate and align its students to the interdependence of all constituents and resultant interconnectedness of fate. 

Agility and flexibility

Organizations had to learn overnight to be agile and flexible to be able to work remotely, virtually without reactive supervision and guidance. 

Policies, processes had to change overnight to manage the reality of distance-working. Technology had to innovate, and be made available on a large scale. 

Employees had to become tech-friendly, unlearn and learn the new way of working from home, work places just disappeared over night and along with that scores of professions that served them. 

Today managers need to understand, predict and implement re-skilling programs, enabling their team members to unlearn and relearn on a real-time basis, thus keeping them employable at all times. 

Resilience

Nothing has ever tested the individual more than this pandemic, suddenly everything stopped, people ran scared back to their hometowns, risking lives, family and leaving behind whatever they had saved. 

As lives were lost, jobs also were becoming scarce, individuals, managers and leaders had to become resilient, patient and critically evaluate their needs and options. 

Health

The importance of maintaining a healthy body & mind was absolute and people began to reprioritize their consumption patterns, behaviours and learnt that the Body is the only vehicle to achieve their individual goals and started taking care of it. 

Self-management

Remote working highlighted the need for individuals to manage themselves - there are targets, but monitoring is few and far. If they face issues, they have to find their own solutions on real time basis, there is no coaching – mentoring by a friendly co-worker available. It is very easy to procrastinate – slip away from targets. 

Thus managers and leaders have to learn how to plan, direct, control and motivate their teams on a remote basis, manage their performances and development. 

On the other hand, remote working could also mean there are no office timings, no lunch breaks and employees getting drained and exhausted. Managers need to ensure ‘work-life balance’ more proactively and empathetically. 

To summarize, management schools have a great and exciting time ahead of them, not just making great managers, but brilliant leaders, and more importantly, great human beings for whom  interdependence, resilience and self-management go hand-in-hand with their agility and flexibility of thought and action as well as a higher focus towards a healthy mind and body. 

The managers themselves need their own teacher, a book, a friend, a coach to learn from and to teach to.  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Magazine 11 Jan 2022 management management education

Arup Gupta

CHRO,Business - Reliance Infrastructure

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