24 March 2016 13:34:15 IST

Dear boss, walk a mile in my shoes

Getting the boss to step into your shoes can help solve many a problem

Every time Arvind walked into the sales review meeting he felt a sense of trepidation and regret.

It was over a year since he had left Tata Motors and joined another company as Head - Institutional Sales for trucks and buses. He was sure that, just as in the previous review meetings, today too he would be at the receiving end of Arjun Khandelwal’s ire.

His big regret was not listening to his previous boss and mentor, who had advised him against leaving.

Arjun Khandelwal, Director-Marketing and Sales, was five minutes late. Quite unlike him.

“Sorry, gentlemen. I was with the MD, who is very upset with the shortfall in our numbers,” he said, as he took the chair.

The review meeting started with the four zonal heads making their presentations. Most had met their numbers. The ones that did not had valid reasons that were accepted by Khandelwal.

Live to fight another day!

It was time to review institutional sales. Arvind likened this to an avalanche — gentle start, soon gaining momentum and leaving him devastated in its wake.

“So Arvind, where are we this quarter? I see that, as usual, you are way behind in your year-to-date targets?

“I was hoping the State Transport department would close that large order last month.”

“When will that close now?”

“Honestly, the way they are going, there is no clarity on this.”

“What do you mean by that? You are the Head of Institutional Sales here. If anybody has to have an idea it must be you.”

“But Arjun, you also know Government sales are never predictable.”

“Surely, the environment is the same for our competitors too? How do they do well in this?” asked Arjun.

Arvind sensed it was time to live to fight another day.

“Okay, will do my best”

“That’s good. But remember, if we don’t meet our numbers this year, somebody will be looking for a job soon and that will not be me.”

Mentor's advice

As Arvind sat in his room feeling helpless, his phone rang. It was his ex-boss.

“Hi Arvind, thought I would just call to say hello.”

Sometimes coincidences could turn out to be providential!

Arvind shared a special and trustworthy relationship with his former boss, who was five years his senior from SIBM, Pune.

“I was just thinking about you. I regret not having heeded your advice when I left. I feel I have moved from a mentor to a tormentor,” said Arvind. He then went on to apprise him about how the State Transport department kept delaying its procurement decisions and he was being blamed for it.

“I am sure every cloud has a silver lining, Arvind. Just imagine, if you could somehow make your superior walk in your shoes I am sure he will be more appreciative of your constraints.”

“How do I do that? He has never handled institutional sales in his whole career.”

“Why don’t you take him to your next meeting with the State Transport Department?

“How can I? Those guys are so unpredictable and discourteous. They cancel meetings with no intimation. And you know there is not even a decent waiting place out there.”

“That is exactly my point. Let your boss experience what you go through, and things will be much better. Trust me.”

“Okay, let me give it a shot. Thanks for your call. I feel much better now,” said Arvind

Actual experience

As advised, Arvind convinced Arjun that his presence was crucial at the next meeting with the Transport department as a final decision was expected to be made.

The meeting with the Secretary was scheduled for 10 am. As they walked in ten minutes early they found every chair and bench in the stuffy waiting room already taken by contractors and transporters. An antiquated ceiling fan struggled to keep the air circulating. Arjun and Arvind were clearly over-dressed in their business suits. Arvind tried to make some space on one of the benches for Arjun, who said he would prefer to stand.

They were ushered in at 3 pm. Arjun offered his business card that was not even glanced at.

The Secretary addressed Arvind, “I don’t understand why you keep following up. I have told you that once we take a decision we shall let you know. Your competitors have offered us 8 per cent discount. I hope you understand what I am saying. Come back only if you can better that.”

Before either Arvind or Arjun could say a word he hit the large brass bell on his table.


The PA ushered them out.

Silver lining

Neither of them spoke on their way back to office. Arvind felt guilty for subjecting Arjun to this treatment and was worried about the repercussions.

In subsequent sales review meetings Arvind found Arjun to be very accommodating. Part of Arvind’s targets was allocated to the zones to enable the company meet its annual targets.