Monday, December 12, 2016

Old proverb “Silence is golden” does not apply to the corporate world !

He was much sought after due to his position in the industry built over a period of time with credible success across his stints in various industries. The companies he collected were big brands that added value to partners who provided solutions and basked in reflected glory. The industry loved him for his articulate style and ability to engage in discussions across a wide range of subjects. Oft quoted and a frequent speaker, he build a brand for himself which also brought him accolades internally and externally.

People reached out to him to seek advice, listen to his lateral thoughts, introduce new ideas and solutions, bounce off theories and hypothesis, new startup pitches; the flood of requests ensured that his time was always packed from dawn to dusk. His Assistant acted as a gatekeeper to whatever extent she could, a task made difficult because of his popularity and direct access that he allowed to many. He always responded back to cold calls, unsolicited emails, or requests received through the peer network.

It did not matter whether the company was big or small or a startup, same applied to whether the solution was relevant to his industry and company; he empathized with the troops of sales people who were always in a spot when attempting to approach CXOs. He gave them half an hour to present their pitch, listened and gave them candid feedback on applicability of their wares to his company and industry. He was approachable but at the same time maintained professional distance in his dealings.

She was always busy and rarely had time for anyone – internally or externally; her career of similar length had been built without any fanfare or evidence of noticeable contribution. And then suddenly she was in a position of high visibility which required her to connect across levels and participate in industry gatherings to represent the company’s interests. Speculation was rife on her rise while her past remained a mystery, in the position she now occupied she was expected to learn the ropes and hit the ground running.

Business leaders within her company sought her audience to discuss new opportunities, solutions to existing problems, solve operational challenges faced with her team; she was always accompanied by another team member who was left to field the questions and face the heat while half way into the meeting she would disappear as the phone rang. It is not that she did not have the expertise required for her function, her colleagues realized that her unorganized way of working resulted in double booking and general chaos.

Vendors, partners and solution providers too did not have any success, she was reluctant to meet with them and whenever she did, they met with similar fate ! She rescheduled or canceled meetings at the last moment, or she would turn up late to the meeting and then again excuse herself with the phone coming to the rescue. The smaller vendors hungry for the business continued their attempts at getting her attention, the larger players decided to focus their attention on other more professional customers.

Industry events fared no better with token attendance at best in a rare appearance; her company was one of the leaders and thus there was always participation by other functions in their relevant meetings. Unfortunately her team was also rarely found in such gatherings following the example set by her and the infrequent approvals for the same. The enigma lived on with resultant adverse impact on the company reputation and ability to leverage the innovation network that competition gained from.

The two personas represent stark opposites with some exaggeration to bring out the differences; the former is not someone you find easily while many traits of the latter exist in the corporate world. Unanswered phone calls and emails – especially cold calls and emails – have become the norm for the busy executive who is largely running from one fire to another or shuffling priorities between the urgent and the important. This results in overcrowding of mail boxes with reminders and follow ups from the seekers.

1.      Best way to avoid a meeting ? Don’t respond !
2.      Don’t want to do business with someone ? Don’t answer calls, messages, or communication !
3.      Confirm when someone is insistent, back out later citing urgent/important exigency !

The list can go on; in a hyper connected world, communication failure is rampant ! Respect for time is disappearing. What is the impact of this on corporate performance, cost of follow up, cost of waiting for others to turn up, opportunity cost, and finally individual credibility and reputation ?

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