29 Jun 2015 15:47 IST

B-school grads need to be prepared for grunt work

Organisations are shrinking and becoming nimble with fewer support staff. New managers have to multi-task and achieve goals on their own

Well, this is not a movie review, but more serious stuff for B-school graduates to ponder over. Today, organisations are shrinking to create value. They are shaping into smaller, smarter and more nimble firms. The luxury of leaders taking decisions and letting others slog their way to executing these decisions no longer exists. The thinking and doing are becoming more integrated and performed simultaneously.

In many business schools, there is still this fantasy that you enter the executive suite, work on your laptops and churn out decisions for folks down the line to implement these decisions.

Santa Claus Fantasy

And when the reality strikes these new recruits that they have to be ready for their share of slogging to get the decisions implemented, it brings in a bit of disbelief and disappointment. The fantasy that there will be an army of ‘man Fridays’ or assistants soon melts away. I call this the “Santa Claus Fantasy.”

This involves expecting a whole of lot of staff moving up and down the corporate corridors cheering up the managers and doing the grunt work for them. Executive assistants and personal secretaries are fast diminishing in numbers, if not disappearing. Where they do exist, they do a much higher level- job: crunching data, making analytical presentations, addressing customer issues and doubling up as recruiters and HR partners. The gizmos like a dictaphone is not around any more either to talk to and pass on for action.

Change of mindsets

It is pretty simple and straight forward. It is very often doing a complete end-to-end job from thinking to doing. For example, you convene meetings, circulate an agenda, run the meeting, note and circulate the minutes and follow through where necessary. This really calls for a set of skills discussed briefly below, but more importantly a clear change in mind set, one of personal involvement for delivering results. Skills needed are:

-Influencing without authority

- Planning and prioritising

- Persuasion skills and gaining buy-in

- Attention to details

- Networking to get things done

- Dealing with disappointments and disapprovals

- Objection handling

- Interpreting issues and putting them in the organisational context

- Reciprocating support

- Gaining and retaining respect at all levels


It is not as if these skills are anything new, but learning the ropes quickly enough and putting them into practice is becoming more and more critical. One of the challenges most managers experience today may rightly be called “learned helplessness.” You are not used to the grunt work and you find it hard to move the action ball closely enough to the closure net. And soon frustration ensues. Finding a mentor at work, for sure, helps. But a mentor can only guide you through the complex navigation process by mapping it. Managing it is still your baby. The complexity of organisations today demand that all of us do one job left, one job right and one job up and one job down!

Building a strong network of senior leaders has always been the focus of rooky managers. Now, building a similar network of peers and juniors has become even more critical to delivering results. Being hands-on is key to survival and success. If this is true of CEOs in most organisations today, it is even truer for young managers aspiring to become CEOs!

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