Sisyphic Condition

Our relationship to work hinges on motivation. The motivation defined in terms of recognition for the effort. When we are not recognized for our effort, we are de-motivated and inefficiency creeps into our work life. We do have tools to motivate the experienced working at higher echelons in the organizations but the

The expectation of being recognized holds true, across all hierarchies, in an organization. I was interacting with a Chartered Accountant working with a large Company for last 8 years. His salary had grown 15% y-o-y and awarded one promotion as well. But he had decided to move-on and was keen to look for a change. “I have nothing new at my job there- same set of people, same work, nothing new. I did contribute to an idea of cost reduction, and that was implemented. But, this was a few years back.”, he said in response to one of my questions. He suffered from Sisyphus condition.

In another context, I asked my young colleagues, with work experience not exceeding a couple of years, to share their expectations from their employer and most mentioned ‘appreciation’ as a key criterion. Most of them perform monotonous jobs where critique for failure is more probable than an occasional pat on the back. They too suffer from Sisyphus condition.

The word ‘Sisyphus condition’ emerges from the name of a king named Sisyphus in Greek mythology who was punished to carry a heavy boulder up a steep hill only to roll it back the moment it reached the top and keep repeating till he died. In modern world, Sisyphus condition is used for tasks that can be labelled as laborious and futile. Why do we end-up having jobs that are at best tasks? This has something to do with the way we create jobs and define roles.

Valentine’s day

We celebrate 21st anniversary of proposing each other on Valentine’s day today. Its been two decades since we ended the ambiguity about our relationship and still the excitement is afresh in our memories.

But that confession never meant that we may not have anymore valentine’s in our lives. But this may not have been obvious/ desired twenty years back when we had fenced our world between two of us. No one mattered us more than each one of us. We had, even limited our parents involvement in our lives.

But with every passing year, as we grew being more confident about our relationship, we ventured to spread and add more of us- crazy lovers- but I added far less than what she did.

But the crux of every such engagement was to live and live fully this life of ours.

I won’t mind including individuals in my valentine who were of same gender as me.

Burhan Dalal- he completed my assignments submission at college when I dated her. He pure to heart and full of respect for us till date.

Malik- my junior as a cyclist who lied to his elder brother to let me date her.

Simran- my sister who did not ask me for a refund. She paid for her trip to Indore when we got married secretly.

Rahul- for all his subtle support except when he drove her to nearest bus stop to elope with me on his LML Vespa two-wheeler.

Debraj- his blunt advise of quality of our married life and having a kid so early. Debraj, pls do not mind, it was not as explicit as mentioned here by me. You blessed us by visting us last week.

Manik- for being our first family friends. Manik and Shalu shared a similar rebellion history as ours.

Shalu- you being so practical but never so when it came to welcoming us at your place and feeding us with hand-made delicacies.

Shivam- a toddler ( son of Manik and Shalu) who made me experience being an elder brother (Pal Bhaiyya).

Pushpal- a down-to-earth but highly sensitive professional at work who fell for me to let his subtle care fall on me.

Reeta- most trustworthy at work and went on to be a great family friend. Daughter to two twins, she carries an unique aura of selfless (coupled with cautious) care and attention, only for us. I cannot forget the first and only lunch at her place.

Anjali- how can she be so similar to my own sister who shares same day of birth? She has to be warned, alrerted, and cared for at times , but simply out of my insecurity/possessiveness about her.

I am in Chandigarh since I turned 40 and yet to have a valentine here. But both of us have found our parents as valentines’, caring and demanding and yet so subtly.

I am grateful to you all. Never is a valentine owned only for selfish purposes.

Art of executing well

Actions measured/rated for ‘Outcomes’ are at best tasks. This was my underlying thought in response to my wife’s query on how can kids deal with stress during exams. In my personal life, I am known to be fixated in my thoughts, deliberative and contemplative. This is what my spouse thinks about me and she is right.

When I introspected further, I realised that I am an ‘outcome’ focused as well. For instance, brushing and taking a bath is a task for me. Diving further, into my contemplative-mind, I could relate how exercising is a task for me and hence easily built into my daily routine. Over the years, writing a few sentences in my personal diary is also a task.

Anything that does not need much forethought is a task for me. Quite rightly, Daniel Kahneman talks about ‘System 1’ and ‘System 2’. We can be productive if most of our decisions shift to ‘System 1’ of our brains. Daniel lists quick/fast as a trait of using System 1.

Last week, my boss was upset when his marketing executive replied that she was working on social media strategy. He was upset with the use of ‘strategy’. He would have been delighted if she instead, shared the list of tasks she completed. My approach at work is same. When the purpose is clear, there cannot be anything else to think except to execute well, using ‘System 1 and making it happen.

Learnings from my daughter

The ease with which my younger daughter transitions into new environment, new roles and new responsibilities is commendable.

I have seen her spending more time with tasks she is not comfortable or at par with others. She may have defined some target. I am not aware of the same.

I personally avoid tasks that I am not good at, justifying the same as ‘priortizing’ on what I am good at or rationalizing under pretext of limited time and resources. 

I will be attempting to observe her more keenly and try mastering some of her traits for rest of my life.

My pitch to a recruiter!

 

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I wholly understand the desperation and criticality of a start-up to not end-up being reckoned amongst those who hire and then fire. As a potential employee I need to appreciate the ‘risk’ and hence the inherent ‘expectation’ that an entrepreneurs builds around his hiring decision. He is well aware of the fact that an individual’s contribution may not be more than 10% in total scheme of things yet he bets on falling into the trap to hire – hire in hope of being party to the ‘luck’ that may come with a potential recruit who has been ‘lucky’ in his past employment. Even if it’s all random, it’s more about cracking the code.

So all start-ups some wisdom on your business (of course only if it’s funded by the PEs):

a. They are to ‘milk’ your idea. Remember not to fall into trap of higher growth just because more money is available on table.

b. “Equity” is precious. Never offer it instantly to any new hire. It reflects that you value your own ‘idea’ (since it’s still not a sustainable business) far lower than the ‘pitch’ used to reach the target audience.

c. Remember the fact that ‘randomness’ is a fact and luck will play a significant role. If that’s what is accepted, choose to grow at a pace that is sustainable. After all firms gain ‘competitive advantage’ as function of time more than anything else.

So when out to hire, some caveats:

1. Try not to be an optimizer

2. Be careful on bias the causality may bring when reviewing the profiles and

3 Remember the inverse rule – no super heroes exist and if they do it’s only random

If you find me interesting, I will ATTEMPT to be rewarding as well 🙂

 

Management Leasons from Photography

Photography is NOT synonymous to snapshooting (random clicks without a defined thought). ‘Management’ is as ‘generic’ a skill as clicking using a camera. But then the difference emerges when some key traits are exhibited in the effort.

A goal achieved or a perfect photo clicked, motivates and pushes us to review it in detail and then try repeating it. 

I have been into photography and have been trying to review what is in it for me to learn. Some of those learnings are listed below for benefit of all:

1.  Knowing center of interest- When setting out, a photographer is able to find its center of interest – what is it?; why is it so? In management this is defining objective and setting goal(s). Its not being futuristic. Its well within the scope of execution. It means finding relevant frame or pattern (photography) and objective (management) amidst chaos (photography) and piles of information (management).

2. Composition- Its about what to include? Its also about what to eliminate? A good composition gives balance to the picture but shows relation of subject to objects. When in management learning to priortize and selecting a team that works harmoniously for the goal.

3. Trends, patterns, lines, shapes- All these help framing and adding meaning to a picture. In management its about having diversity but which exhibits cohesiveness and a purpose. For instance good photographers avoid mixing circles with squares in their pictures. They actually add to chaos and weaken the composition. 

4. Timing- I learnt about ‘relaxed attentiveness’ in photography. You are not getting into details but still paying attention to all details. This helps a photographer to pre-empt a moment and hence master the timing. If its not, the same event rarely repeats.

In management we need to know that there is randomness despite all efforts, there are events that are beyond our control. Timing is what makes the difference to achievement of a goal.

5. Chance- In photography every great click is by ‘Chance’. Despite all efforts and adherence to rules, its finally a probability. Similarly we should continue to strive and success is still a matter of chance.