The move-on mindset

Sirajuddin Aziz
March 09, 2020

“Oh! Would that my mind could let fall its dead ideas, as the tree does its withered leaves! And without too many regrets” (André Gide).

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“Oh! Would that my mind could let fall its dead ideas, as the tree does its withered leaves! And without too many regrets” (André Gide).

Perhaps the only constant in life is “values”. These never have to undergo, the test of time or of expediency; their life is eternal; these can only be more refined for greater impact on life. The need and its intensity for everyday living cannot be ever lessened. As principles, they must remain nonnegotiable, uncompromisable, and uncorruptible. Besides, values, all things change and must change with the demands of the time and era.

One does accept the reality, that with changes emerging out from scientific discoveries and newest technologies, the methodology of imparting values would undergo a change, and this must necessarily change, to take advantage of the then present times, but the essence of the universally applicable values cannot and should not be altered. The process of educating a child say a hundred years back was obviously different, from present day techniques and it must indeed be very different, a hundred years from today. Any failure to do so will render the future adults (read leaders) incapacitated to deal, with the then prevailing or emerging changes. What follows from here is that with the exception of values (principles) everything else must change. Inertia in life means death. The halting of progressive mind would mean an end to enquiry. The need for new set of knowledge; the imperatives of finding alternate ways of doing the existing work, processes and acquisition of updated skills cannot be understated.

Absurdity of the highest order is the continuous refusal to change. Should any manager forget, “In the life of one man, never the same time returns” (T. S Eliot in Murder in the Cathedral)? Only those in asylums and cemeteries cannot change. The direction of mindset is far more important than its mere progress.

In the universe of business, commerce and industry, the major reason for the ultimate demise of an entity lies in its refusal to accept and adapt change. Those entities catapult themselves into the ambit of oblivion when the organisation’s centrality of thought is built on the edifice of remarks like, “…. this is the way, we and our forefathers have been doing it” or still better, “it is part of our tradition to do it, the way we are conducting ourselves and our work”. The obstinate refusal to acknowledge and embrace newer set of technology, a completely different mindset of working to achieve the most, in the shortest possible time at the least cost, without compromise to quality, is usually the reason for the wounding up of even the best and sound organisations. The managers are trapped inside their castles of old and static mindset.

Most of us think, either consciously or without focus, that the skill and talent that takes us upon a certain position on the corporate ladder are good enough to last for a lifetime and hence would remain sufficient for launching into still more senior management positions. No, it just doesn’t happen that way. Each level of progress demands enrichment or adoption of a new body of knowledge and skills. Let me illustrate an example from the banking world: an officer (young mostly) placed on the counter of a bank, to issue banker’s cheques or cashier’s orders, does his work diligently and efficiently. He/she is recognised through a nod from his/her supervisor and by obvious customer satisfaction. Over the next two weeks, he/she would achieve proficiency and meet with excellence the TAT (turnaround time) set up internally by the client satisfaction division, for such service. In the fourth week of his/her job, he/she is now merely repeating the experience gained over the last three weeks - there is for him/her nothing new to learn on the job- and if he/she does the same assignment for the next year or so; and for remaining highly efficient, he/she is promoted by the supervisor to the next level; he/she is kicked upstairs, with no preparation. Little does such an employee know or for that matter even his/her supervisor too, whether the individual is “prepared” for the new and next level assignment. And God forbid, if after promotion, he/she is expected to do the same assignment then for certainly his/her supervisor is digging a grave for the future burial of his dreams and aspirations. I have seen, so many of such corporate cemeteries, where a person say joins at “x” salary, as “officer-in-charge- export refinance”; over years of being “efficient and good”, he/she goes from one promotion to another, with higher levels of salary, and say at the middle age of around thirty five years old is now “Assistant-Vice President-Export Refinance”. She/he is now doing the same task that she/he may have begun to do, at the age of say twenty five years. Is this growth? Is this development of a creative mind? Or is it slavery to a beaten track or a ride to the summit of ignorance? They languish in such environment and when they do wake up from their corporate slumber, it usually is too late, for you cannot teach new tricks to an old monkey! This is enslavement of the naturally-blessed creative mind. The culture of the organisation numbs the mind. Do not think, but be the employee on the assembly plant, who efficiently only places brake-pads in the automobiles. Submission of creativity of mind is a professionally criminal act. Every intelligent individual must concentrate on the acquisition and development of new skills, talent and fresh experience, through newer knowledge. It would be absolutely foolish and pitiable to entrust your career into the hand of an “uninitiated supervisor” - the breed of managers who would take interest in their colleagues progress is dying or is almost extinct. There are no more the likes of Shaukat Mirzas to hold hands of the young colleagues like Asad Umar or the Aga Hasan Abedie, whose numerous beneficiaries of his managerial excellence, made a mark on the corporate canvass, but remained unsung and unrecognised, because, unfortunately his organisation after his health related departure, moved away from core values and hence ended up being defunct. So, therefore it has to be the individual, who must remain interested in his/her career development. Nothing in life is offered on a platter. You have to modify your skills to gain a new position. This change of mind-set is imperative amongst the young and the talented.

The reason many organisations lay great emphasis on the development of own specific custom made graduate management programme, is to ensure there is regular infusion of new blood into the entity. This very act becomes transfusion to replace old and worn out ideas. The old, without an argument or resistance, must give way to the new. That’s a natural law. All offspring become parents and no parent lives forever. That is the basic design of “Mother Nature”.

If the basic design recognises the replacement of old with new, then there is no reason, why organisations shouldn’t be aligning themselves completely to this natural notion, with faith and conviction.

The toughest task in the world is to think; especially think to alter and change mindset. Thinking, most importantly and necessarily governs all toil. Mind is the manager. A manager is but his mind. If you as manager don’t have a mind to change, you can never change. Fools refuse change. Wisdom demands manager to encourage colleagues to amend, alter and change. No person should betray nature’s demand upon us, by shackling our minds. There ought to be only a broad lens inside it and no space or residency for narrow mindedness. Managers must remain cognisant that understanding the growth needs of their colleagues/followers and getting their undiluted cooperation, is the cardinal principle of having followership to their leadership. It is such a beautiful and self satisfying act to put others into positions where they can bring fore their unique skills and latter feel good, when they win.

No manager should expect to reap differently from what he/she has sown. If as managers, you teach and train your colleagues, you can only expect good and better productivity. The mindset of the manager must be possessed of, what can I do now and today in making my colleagues, better workers and individuals. Emancipated managers, who have a fertile and thriving mindset, never set goals for themselves to harvest upon the good work of the team; instead they focus upon sowing the seeds of a better future for others. And, there has to be an impelling urge of understanding the principles that unless you improve yourself, you cannot improve anybody else. The joy of creating must transcend the joy of maintenance.

The writer is a senior banker and a freelance contributor

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