The company launched two major internal projects simultaneously. Upon the success of both those projects depended the success of a major initiative to be unleashed about a year later. Two young managers, Arup and Mandaar, were put in charge of one project each. Both were smart, young men with MBA from good B-schools. Both had shown promise in their work and enjoyed good reputation with the management. But one project headed by Arup did very well, while Mandaar’s project dragged on somehow, so much so that the management had to look into the causes of its failure and ask a senior manager to take over. Both the projects offered a sharp contrast of leadership style.
Arup believed completely in democratic functioning. He did not take any single decision all by himself. Whenever he wanted to make a decision, he took into confidence his senior colleagues and asked for their suggestions. Any junior, too, could approach Arup and make suggestions, which Arup was prompt in picking up if they were good.
This process seemed to take a long time, and Arup’s project proceeded at an easy pace. Some seniors in the company complained to Arup, but the young man only smiled and ignored their opinion. He seemed sure that whatever he was doing was right.
In Mandaar’s project, things were different. Mandaar was a good person, but believed in keeping things to himself. He never opened his heart out to his colleagues, and never talked to them in detail. He spoke only some words, and his meetings often ended in just a few minutes. At the end of each meeting, Mandaar’s colleagues were left in a state of confusion since nothing was made clear to them about the task at hand. Mandaar was quick in making decision and very fast in execution. People often felt impressed at the speed at which Mandaar executed.
Yet, Mandaar’s project did not do well, while Arup’s project proved to be qualitatively far better. The management was pleased with Arup’s project and included it in the proposed initiative, while they asked a very senior executive to mend matters for Mandaar. The CEO was a woman of much substance. She formed a committee of three of her directors to examine the reasons of success of one project and failure of the other. What the committee found was very revealing from the point of view of management. In Arup’s project, colleagues felt that they led the project, since they were invited to take part in decision-making process. They felt energised all the time because their opinions mattered. So, whenever any bad moments came during the execution process, everybody felt responsible and worked more diligently than ever to ensure that things go on the right lines.
In sharp contrast, in Mandaar’s team, colleagues often felt left out in a lurch without much clue as to what needed to be done at which moment. In times of crunch, all pointed fingers to Mandaar who found himself irritated because none of his colleagues took initiative. Mandaar did not realise that he had bred a non-functional work culture in which nobody felt an integral part of the team. Here, internal communication had become dysfunctional, and personal connect was missing.
In Arup’s project, the picture was different and far more positive. There, all felt responsible for the success of the project, and worked hard to ensure it. Here, everybody felt linked to one another and enjoyed full communication. Due to Arup’s style, personal connect of the team members was complete and such teams never fail.
Such stories abound in workplace. The leaders who are able to establish personal connect with their team members succeed. Those who cannot achieve that have a problem at hand. Yet, this wisdom — of complete communication through personal connect — is never insisted upon by most managements. It is one area in Indian business arena that needs a careful attention of top management.