In an IT company there are 2 types of managers – managers and damagers! While majority fall under the second category, there are very few exceptional people who literally own the first.
In the words of Azim Premji, employees leave managers and not organizations. If one ponders hard, he will realize there is every iota of truth in it. With employees spending most of their lives in the confines of their office and their 6×6 cubicles, the role of a manager has transcended from merely managing an employee to being a trusted confidant, mentor and guide.
It is very unfortunate that the managers of today are only managers due to their years of experience, and not for the skills they possess. They lack the essential skill of managing a team and an individual, which is clearly evident in their every action. The inability to plan, handle pressure, stand for their team through thick and thin, lack of belief in their team and create an amazing rapport between the team and themselves are perfect indicators of a manager who does more damage than good, hence the term ‘damager’. The so-called “management” of a damager leads to constant pressure on subordinates leading to low quality of deliverables, mistrust, lack of self-belief and zeal to excel, and growing distance between the team members; all contributing to high rates of project-level or even worse, organization-level attrition. Together, these make handling the team extremely difficult, often resulting in losses and bad blood, followed by terminations and resignations.
A good manager on the other hand enjoys the complete trust of his team which is reciprocal. He is clear in thought, calm under pressure and there for his team always. The team, in turn, is always loyal and without asking puts in extra efforts to excel, leading to a great working atmosphere and a win-win situation for all.
If you look around, you will find countless examples of damagers, but very few; a number you can count on your fingertips; managers. You may have, at some point or the other, worked under damagers and if lucky, under managers as well. And I’m sure you will know the difference. In my nearly 6 years of experience in the IT industry I have seen many damagers but the one person I would truly call a manager is Ramakrishnan Subramaniam.
Ram sir, as we fondly call him, was my first manager when I started my career. He was, for me and the 65-odd people under him the epitome of a great manager. The way in which he carried himself, styled himself and always responded and not reacted to a situation made him the calmest and by a long margin the most popular person on the floor.
Coming from humble backgrounds, Ram sir was an icon by himself. Filled with tremendous self-belief he sought excellence in everything he did and inspired others to follow suit. These qualities propelled him to the highest ranks in the organization within a very short span. But in spite of this, he was completely grounded. His cabin door would always be open, and open in event sense – ideas, suggestions, improvements and grievances – professional and even personal; which would for sure be implemented or worked upon. By this he commanded and not demanded respect.
On the professional front too Ram sir inspired me and everyone on the team to go all out in our work. And he didn’t do anything extraordinary, but simply through an appreciation mail copying everyone on the team and the senior management. The email, written in a very eloquent manner felt nothing less than an Olympic gold medal, which made the addressee a cut above the rest and the envy of others. Such was the craze for that appreciation mail that employees fought to receive it and have more of it.
Ram sir’s life did not only revolve around the office. He had a life outdoors too. Very passionate about running, he would practice day in and out to be fit and healthy to conquer every marathon he participated in – SCMM, Thane Mayor’s Run, Powai Half Marathon, etc. Every time he ran, he pushed himself to clock better than the previous time. This year he broke into the 2.5 hours mark at SCMM for the 21 km run; a feat in its own right. Extremely passionate about cricket, he represented India in the Rotary Club World Cup in England where his team defeated Pakistan. Not leaving football far behind, he would spend nights awake to root for Arsenal at the EPL or Argentina at the FIFA World Cup.
The experience of working under Ram sir for a year before he moved on left an indelible impression upon me. His genuine interest in my hobbies, specially writing, motivated me to write my first book – State of the Heart. Through that process too, he was a pillar I held on to. His constant feedback, suggestions and motivation made the journey a lot smoother and pushed me to write every story better. He was the first to buy a copy and needless to say, he was the first I invited for my book launch, and the one I chose as the chief guest.
Wanting to be like Ram sir, one day I asked him very candidly what drove him to be so good at everything he did. His answer made me greater fan.
“It is my mind which drives me…The mind is a combination of emotions and thoughts and unless my actions are in harmony with them I will not be able to achieve my goals. Second thing that drives me is Intuition…Research suggests that Intuition is a product of your subconscious mind so if I am at peace with myself I will be able to understand my intuitions”
No wonder, it is what drives us that makes us truly great.
Now, being a Team Lead at office for around a year, people often ask me how I manage to stay calm when everyone else around me is losing their head. My answer is very simple. I carefully chose my idol and emulate him in every way possible. I also publicly claim my principle of Work Hard and Party Harder is all thanks to Ram sir. He showed me that one need not raise their voice and throw their weight around to get things moving, a lot of things can be done in a very calm manner as well.
In spite of it being 5 years since Ram sir and I worked closely together, we still are in touch and if nothing else speak to each other on festivals and birthdays. Every person needs an idol to look up to, I am glad to have found mine. I hope we are able to maintain the rapport we share till the end of time.