“Calmness lasts; its veneer peels off fast”- 10 April 2012
When Sri Kant joined the company as General Manager, he created sensation of sorts. For, he was very young, in his late twenties, and with an MBA from a really big B-school. His scholastic credentials were so good that he could not be hired for anything less. Naturally, every watched him with a sense of awe and even envied him secretly. There were no grudges, of course, but loads of envy.
Sri Kant started his work in right earnest. He called his section heads’ meeting every day at 9 in the morning. After that half hour of discussion, everybody got into a fast track of completing that day’s task which Sri Kant had assigned them. Things started looking up for the unit in a very short time of a few months.
Yet, things were actually not what they looked. On the surface, there was calmness, and a sense of achievement. Underneath, however, there was a time bomb ticking away. Everybody felt that Sri Kant was hustling the people rather too much. They did not mind higher target to achieve and harder work to make it possible. But nobody appreciated the manner in which Sri Kant ran the show. He did not shout. He did not bark his orders. On the surface, he looked so composed, and he spoke with such quiet confidence that all got an impression that things were in absolute control and Sri Kant was an epitome of calmness. Yet, for those who observed things minutely, there were unmistakable signs of a silent mental discomfort in Sri Kant’s personality.
So, one day, a section manager in his late fifties called on Sri Kant at his home. And as they sipped coffee which Sri Kant’s wife made, the elderly manager asked him a straight question: “I am sorry Sir, but is everything all right? Am I wrong in sensing some trouble at some level and you have no answer to it?”
For a few seconds, Sri Kant’s face became very taut and rather angry. But soon enough, he calmed down and said slowly, “Yes. There are problems. I keep getting some vibrations of a storm under the outward calm in our office. I do not know if I am right in my observation. Can you help me?”
The manager said to his young boss, “Young man, I have come already near the end of my service. So, I have nothing to gain or lose if I tell you some home truths. I only hope that you would not misunderstand me. But let me tell you that things are really not all right. You are a very demanding boss. We all realise that you also work very, very hard and for long hours. We realise that you have specific ideas to improve the volume and earnings of our business. Yet, when you set targets for the company, you have only yourself in the mind, that is you think that everybody is or should be like you — smart thinking, quick acting, very clear about goals to achieve. But let me tell you, others are not as young and energetic as you are. So, when you demand high levels of efficiency, our people start developing serious doubts about their own abilities. Of course, they all try their best to work according to your agenda. Yes, you are the boss and all must follow your edicts. But they feel unsettled. I came to meet you because I felt you should be privy to such an information.”
The manager’s candid observation set Sri Kant thinking hard. He realised, that outward calm means nothing. What counts most is the inner calmness that comes from a sense of well being. ‘Perhaps, I may be disturbing my people’s sense of well being. Let me see how I can change’.
This positive approach made all the difference. Sri Kant realised that he has to soften the achievement targets and lower his expectation-levels. He also changed his tone while talking to subordinates and started treating them with greater respect. Of course, it was not easy for Sri Kant to change almost totally. So, he worked systematically at it and got it.
That really worked wonders. For, in a few months, the atmosphere got cleared. The colleagues started working with greater enthusiasm, and more diligently.
Then Sri Kant realised, previously, what he read as calmness in the company’s atmosphere was only a veneer of calmness, which could get peeled off easily. He also realised that currently, what he was experiencing was a real calmness.
On a personal level, Sri Kant realised something else: He did not have to make any more any special efforts to stay calm. His outward calmness, he realised, did not make him calm. On the contrary, it made him feel miserable inside.
But as he changed his leadership ways, a sudden real calmness descended upon him and he started getting a sense of fulfilment or a higher and deeper variety.