24 Sep 2015 20:48 IST

Ten Commandments for the new manager

Here are certain rules that a young manager should keep in mind to be successful

How should an ideal, young manager be? What are the qualities one must have when he/she shoulders such responsibilities? Punctuality, preparedness and participation, not to mention tactfulness and clarity, are just some of the qualities to be nurtured. Here is a list of Ten Commandments I’ve learnt by trial and error, observation and experience, which could make a lasting impact with world customers.

Thou Shall Be On Time, With All Deliverables

Punctuality, they say, is the virtue of kings. In the business world, everyone is a king. There’s nothing more unprofessional than strolling in late for a meeting without explanation or prior notice. On-time delivery of e-mails and presentations seems non-negotiable. Accountability for time and effort is given very high importance in the West and is the magic potion that will transform India into a powerful global entity.

Thou Must Come Prepared to Participate

Coming to a meeting, staying quietly in a corner, and going away without having spoken a word, just doesn’t work anymore. When we’re invited to a meeting, it’s a must to do our homework. Take note of the agenda, go through any material provided, and study the figures. Ask intelligent questions, give intelligent answers, and contribute valid ideas. Even taking notes and offering a concise recap at the end of the discussion is valuable.

Thou Shall Voice Any Problem Sooner Rather Than Later

Imagine you’re on an important project, and you know that a personal commitment will keep you away from work for three crucial days. If, instead of bringing it up immediately, you choose to keep quiet at the team meeting, and tell the leader privately later, it will mean changes all around, and the leader will be justifiably annoyed.

The same goes for suggestions you might think of. Don’t be shy; speak up during the meeting, and not later, because then, the Team Leader will need to get a buy-in from other team members, which might necessitate another meeting — a waste of time. If you are in doubt about your leader’s preference for open communication, say: “I have a suggestion on the software version for this project, may I share it now or offline?”

Thou Shall Not Be a Victim of the Jalebi Syndrome

Have you ever made a jalebi, the delectable Indian sweet? A stream of batter is twirled round and round before it’s finally brought to a point at the centre. Often, our replies to specific questions are in this format — we go around in circles before coming to the point. This habit is especially irritating to the Western businessman.

“What time can I expect the sales report please?” You reply: “I could give it by next week, but I’ll have to get some more input, then pull some information from the Net, and it’s a closed holiday at Hyderabad, I may have to ask some staff to come in specially, so maybe I’ll need to re-work things”.

“What time? What time?” the expat will bellow. It will be much better if you respond directly to the question first and then add details as needed: “Ideally, it should be ready by 5:30 pm, Thursday. But I still need some vital data, and I foresee some problems because Thursday is a closed holiday. So let’s say 5 pm on Friday, at the outside”.

Thou Shall Be Tactful and Diplomatic

The opposite of Commandment Four is also true. While being to-the-point is desirable, being in-your-face isn’t. We managers must take care not to go overboard with being ‘direct’. Take care to be polite, and respect the other person’s dignity and sensitivities.

Thou Shall Provide Effective Benchmarks

When you’re setting out your ideas and proposals, it always pays to give honest and convincing facts and figures to project your own worth. If you‘re trying to clinch a supplies deal, you could say: “We’ve equipped four other German companies over the last three years (giving names), so we know what you, as a German firm, are looking for in India”.

Thou Shall Quantify What Thou Can Do

Often, you will be asked what you propose to accomplish within a specific time. The global businessperson doesn’t appreciate vague statements like, “I’ll respond to some of the e-mail queries first, then see if I can call some potential sponsors”.

If you say, “I plan to respond to six e-mail enquiries first, and then contact at least 10 prospective sponsors today”, you’re talking like a professional. Then you must walk that talk. And then report back on action achieved. This is what builds trust and faith.

Thou Shall Be a Good Listener

Listening is a big requirement for participation. Pay attention to what others say. Use the Branch Technique for your own responses. This means picking up one word, phrase or piece of information, from the other person’s talk, and proceeding with that.

If, for instance, someone talks about advertisements for the souvenir while discussing annual day celebrations, echo the word ‘advertisements’, and discuss budgets and the people to approach. When you show you’re listening to others, they will be more inclined to value your inputs.

Thou Shall Honour Physical and Mental Space Definitions

Take care not to crowd people. Westerners are conscious about physical space. Draw an imaginary ‘D’ around you, and keep a hand-shake distance away from the next person. Also, give mental space; don’t interrupt when someone’s talking, and don’t rush in with a response. Give yourself and others a little time for what has been said to sink in.

Thou Shall Make a Good First Impression

And finally, let’s remember the 55/38/7 statistic: 55 per cent of first impressions depend on the way we look, 38 per cent on how we speak, and only 7 per cent on what we actually say. So paying attention to outward appearance and tone of voice could win a whopping 93 marks in a first impression. Food for thought, isn’t it?