The title of this piece would alert readers associated with the Financial Industry, since the acronym, KYC, is part of their everyday jargon. No business, in fact, can begin without knowing, who you are dealing with. It is of critical importance. We commonly ask about background of people, in many areas of our everyday living, ranging from hiring a support staff for our homes, to finding details about suitors or even would be brides, to our children. Know the devil, as is commonly said. This sentence is exclusive and independent of the previous sentence. No provocation is intended. Of special significance in the financial world, is establishing the bonafides of the counter parties; this practice of enquiry is commonly referred to as, ‘KYC’, or in full, Know Your Client/ Customer. But this piece is KYC of a different nature, but of equal importance.
In the following article, I would dwell on “Know Your Colleagues”. Why? The need stems from the same basic premise, who are we dealing with; applies to both existing colleagues as well as those who are likely to be hired. A complete check on their antecedents is a must. Some organisation, to establish the credentials of prospective employee, go to the extent of hiring, specialised agencies to undertake this task. In many jurisdictions, for regulatory positions, the official investigative agencies prior clearance is a necessity. It is so, here, in our country too. Sometimes the enquiry is so deep and extensive that, one begins to wonder, whether by heading a commercial organisation, are you being keys to critical and strategic assets of the country. The centrality of this piece is to view this exercise in a positive vein, however the need to look at negative aspects, cannot be ignored, completely.
To do so, the analysis is being narrowed down to the need of the manager/leader, “Knowing his Colleagues”. Is it important to know colleagues? Yes. Indeed it is. The reasons are manifold.
The purpose to know full details about colleagues is a rightful prerogative of the supervisor. At the end of the day, the supervisor is responsible for the ultimate results of activity, hence, the manager must know how the unique skills of each member of his/her team, to exploit them, for the achievement of the corporate goals. If the skill and talent remain undiscovered or even remain in shrouded mystery of the unknown, it is to the complete disadvantage to both, the supervisor and the organisation. A good manager is considered to be so, only, when, the available pool of talent is utilised to its full capacity, by his ability to recognise, the potential. A leader collects around himself people who have the ability to deliver goods. No leader likes to have bandwagon of non- performers, around him/herself; the only exception is political leadership and their respective parties where, failures are rewarded. (this phrase I have borrowed from a colleague of yester years, when in introducing the organisation, that I had then recently joined, he used to describe the culture of the organisation … my response that he represents the condition well, did not go down favorably).
Managers demand to have a team of individuals who look at work, where they would remain in debt to their profession. In order to build such a dream team the manager must discover the colleagues extensively and in very good time. No manager can or should attempt to do everything him or herself, for ensuring a perfect performance. In case this attitude prevails then the very appellation of manager doesn’t fit and suit such individuals... the manager has to develop people around and make them productive units of energy, whose performance should be no less than the best. Failure to delegate and develop is the primary cause of many highly skilled managers, who meet their Waterloo, earlier than, mother nature would otherwise have desired. Lord Finchley, tried to mend the electric light, himself. It struck him dead; and serve him right! It is the business of the wealthy man to give employment to the artisan, so wrote Hillare Belloc (his essays are my personal admiration). Now replace the wealthy man, with either manager or leader, and read again; it follows that the job of a manager is to hire subject matter experts (SME’s), and not deny a chance to the possessor of specific knowledge or skill required for a task.
Assigning the right task, to the right person, is the job of a manager. The skill set available must match the requirements of the assignment; in the event there is dearth of that peculiar or particular skill, then, either such person should be hired or any available staff, that has passion to learn must be put to rigorous training. Contrary to this, is the, regular practice, of many a leader/manager, to place round pegs in square holes. I have witnessed occasions when an individual who is excellent in his work, for purposes of recognition, is actually promoted to new assignments, of which they do not have the slightest clue; the misbelief prevailing here, is that if a person is good at work, X, he/she, would automatically, be good for work, Y. A recipe for disaster.
Manager must indulge in finding out the strengths of their teammates. Corporate leaders, quite unlike politicians, prefer to surround themselves with people, who have command over their respective subjects, who carry the expertise, coupled with specialised knowledge. Corporate managers are on the lookout of generalists, who have profound and varied knowledge base, alongside specialists, to carry out tasks. In this search, they focusedly, develop skills to discover and know their colleagues.
Managers delve into seeking information about the state of emotional quotient and balance of their colleagues. It is important for efficient and smooth functioning of departments, that staff is assessed, for their attitude of care and empathy, towards, colleagues.
If there is talent present, the work environment has to be made such by the manager that, it further polishes; and for any deficiencies, the effort must be to have them plugged by training or by redeployment. This can happen only when, the manager, knows his colleagues.
Discovering colleagues to know about the presence of any negative traits is equally important. On the shop floor there are people acting surreptitiously against their bosses, managers and supervisors. This is done blatantly. Some operatives do it through subterranean activities, while the bold and daring, do fairly openly. From a managers perspective it is easy to handle the later ones; the handling of the earlier ones who camouflage their pursuits is the challenge.
It is not unusual to find colleagues who prefer to take the bread of idleness, and not by the sweat of their brow. To mask this, such indulge towards creating misunderstandings, so that a cobweb is spun, in which, the manager gets entrapped and hence is unable to discover the mischief makers. About such individuals, Benjamin Disraeli, remarked (he said so in political context) “To do nothing to get something, formed a boy’s ideal of a manly career”.
Managers must remain alert to telltale signs noticeable in their colleagues. An air of arrogance in attitude, a life style that is incompatible with the known resources, a living beyond means, etc must be nipped in the bud. (Politicians must perennially remain exempt from these signals, to be used, against them. Such luxuries of thought are meant for the followers). The violations of the Code of Conduct must be dealt with severe punitive action. No exceptions. No clemency. No right of appeal. They must be punished forthwith. Again, only knowing well about teammates can help the process of identifying these corruptible individuals; action must follow through knowledge gained.
Managers have to remain wary of those who will choose to mislead him, so that he perishes himself by walking up the garden path. These persons are either in the race to take their supervisors position or else are those who have been neglected for obviously right reasons, for any climb up the corporate ladder. Caesar had Brutus to declare,” Et tu Brute? “; Charles I, had no opportunity to make any exclamation to his Oliver Cromwell … In corporate history there have been several Brutesus and Cromwells! Several supervisors have been victims of their confidants. The hand that feeds must be bitten first, is a human instinct of animalistic proportions. Often in trust, we find rebels and rebellion.
With best of efforts, managers fail to identify and discover the fifth columnists within the rank and file, for this oversight they end up paying a heavy price. The presence of fifth columnists could very well be a Greek gift, from the employers, to the management. No manager can afford to trust blindly; distrust in fact most of the times becomes the only weapon of defence against betrayal. Managers must watch out for those who excel in running with the hare and hunting with the Hounds; such are fence sitters, who lie in wait, to watch and sense, which way the wind will blow. Never forget as Supervisors that many colleagues lurk in the corridors waiting not give you the Judas Kiss.
In as much as it is significant to know and learn about your business counter parties, it is no less important to know your colleagues. An Urdu verse, loosely translated into English, is, “discover your friends, thence, you would begin to love your enemies”.
The author is a senior banker and a freelance columnist