My company wanted me to contribute an article for the quarterly journal InTouch .Here’s my effort .Trust it will be published soon !
In the very early stages of my career , I came across this quotation ,attributed to Mao, which left a lasting impact on me ; “Where the enemy is weak attack in great strength and overwhelm him, where the enemy is strong, retreat.”A very emotive and decisive observation, isn’t it? We don’t often follow this apparently straight forward doctrine and pay the price for it, don’t you think? Mao goes on to say, in the Little Red Book, “It should be pointed out that destruction of the enemy is the primary object of war and self-preservation the secondary, because only by destroying the enemy in large numbers can one effectively preserve oneself. Therefore attack, the chief means of destroying the enemy, is primary, while defence, a supplementary means of destroying the enemy and a means of self-preservation, is secondary.” A truth most of us subscribe to is, attack is the best form of defence!!
I like to view all of corporate life in military terms and while it is not the intention to charge ahead swinging a sabre , the strategies of the battle field do seem to apply in many ways to the corporate world. More so, when you are in must win situations, the doctrines of war seem that much more applicable.
The strategies of Sun Tzu in the Art of War, which many of you may have read or heard about , have been applied not just in the battle field for all of 2500 years now, but from poker games to the corporate world amongst others ,and the doctrine continues to have relevance even today. Sun Tzu says, Victorious warriors win first and then go to war; while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win. The clear message here is that those who go into war with the desire to win, and a game plan, will always succeed against those who have no vision of victory at the outset.
Sun Tzu goes on to say in an even more telling way,
One who knows the enemy and knows himself will not be in danger in a hundred battles
One who does not know the enemy but knows himself will sometimes win, sometimes lose
One who does not know the enemy and does not know himself will be in danger in every battle.
Sun Tzu is telling us that it important to know the strengths and weaknesses of the enemy and our own, in order to plan a successful campaign. Therefore it is necessary to go to battle with a clear vision of victory, a balanced view of the battle situation and a game plan to play to one’s strength.
Playing to our strength requires us to get the best out of each member of our team and utilize their unique strengths and capabilities. This, as research work at the Wharton School of Management indicates, leads to a positive and energized work place that people, not just love to work in but contribute significantly to the organisations successes. “Allowing employees to focus on their strengths, rather than fixing their weaknesses, creates a positive environment. This positive leadership draws workers in, boosting performance more through the carrot than the stick……. If you see people who are really good at something, they are in a job that plays to their strengths. Some of them landed there naturally. Others simply started looking for ways each day to do more of what they enjoy most. Little by little, their jobs transformed into an ideal fit”( Wharton@Work Sept 2008).
In my very first “battle” for HCL in the then Hindustan Reprographics Ltd (HRL) ,I was appointed as a District Sales Manager(DSM) for Micrography Products in the Western Region .My predecessor had been asked to leave for poor performance and his two man team, which I inherited, had their probation extended with a warning that they may be asked to leave if their performance didn’t improve in three months. I was also in a difficult situation of sorts, as I was inducted as a DSM and not an Area Sales Manager(ASM), as I was not considered to have the right background and needed to prove myself. I also had to live as an enforced bachelor, as I couldn’t find a house to stay in Mumbai , very tough in those days , and the company never had a policy of special allowances or residential support . I had to manage as best as I could.
I was allowed to build a new team, if I thought it necessary .However I stuck to Harish Muthana and Thomas George and our humble but efficient Admin Assistant Edna D’Mello. We inducted an SMT, Sanjeev Saxena to add to the team .Then started a remarkable turnaround story that enabled us to clock more sales in the Western Region that year than the combined sales of the North, South and East Regions put together. It was thanks to Harish, George and Sanjeev that I won my spurs as a Leader, albeit the Commander of a Platoon.
If there is a single source of pride and satisfaction I retain, as I look back at my long career in the battle field of the corporate world, it would be that in some way or the other, I helped nurture and develop scores of individuals who fought alongside me in battle after battle… in times when we won and at times when we had to retreat. That many of them hold positions of responsibility in diverse companies today is an immense source of joy for me.
I read recently, a very interesting article about the Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell .Campbell did a lot of research into the lives of mythological heroes and also the world’s greats over the centuries. The Hero’s journey as per Campbell, starts with the Hero’s call deep within us and then the courageous move to beat past the Threshold Guardians and make the arduous journey that eventually leads on to a new threshold ,of achievement and service. Unfortunately many of us just ignore the Hero’s call and plod along in our respective lives. You can “Google” this to learn more about this inspiring and thought provoking study and perhaps heed your own Hero’s call and embark on a new phase of achievement and contribution.