Monday, February 13, 2017

Build trust and respect at work, it stays a long way !

A: Much feared and revered he had iconic status in the industry; a hermit who was rarely seen in any public forum, stories were abound on his persona. Everyone knew he was a workaholic for who spending 12-14 hours at workplace was normal; he was famously notorious for midnight meetings and negotiations in the wee hours. Stories spread on his passionate work style and commitment to the enterprise, he was not a role model but inspired a generation of workers; he was synonymous with the company he worked in.

He made few friends with his ruthless style, it was difficult to find people who could say that they knew him as a person. Little was known of his antecedents or when he would give way to the next level of leadership. Commanding respect he was enigma that the industry had not been able to solve. 80 hour work weeks can be punishing even to the fittest, it finally did take its toll leaving him incapacitated for a while; understanding mortality, he hired a trusted lieutenant who modelled himself in his shadow.

Providence or coincidence, the teammate fell to pressure faster with serious medical condition which was rare for someone that young; but by this time the superman was back in full force thus taking up the slack. Over time their collective success elevated them into role models with many attempting to emulate their success little realizing the price they had paid to rise to the summit. They had sacrificed their personal lives in favor of their careers – families that were well provided for but emotionally disconnected.

B: Envied by many his steady climb did not go unnoticed; well read, articulate and opinionated in a good way, he was always ready to help his peers. He was a prominent speaker across conferences and events – people loved his views and thoughts which were at times audacious but pragmatic enough to be followed. Rarely one to put in long hours excluding exigencies, he did not expect his team to burn the midnight oil, but work to a plan with efficiency which he demonstrated and expected of his vendors too.

His team revered him and trusted him to keep the flag flying high and pass on credit where due; he coached them and encouraged them to take calculated risks – ready to take the brunt of failed experiments. Vendors loved him for shooting straight, his candid talk and fair approach to value realization on a sale while negotiating to build relationships with shared success. Always open to case studies and references it made him a beacon for every company that he worked in and industry that he adopted.

His family could be seen beaming at his success openly in family gatherings as well as industry events which added to his persona. He dissuaded people from imitating him, his mannerisms or style; but he created many leaders from within his team who grew to prominence in the industry – some also acknowledging the role their mentor played in their success. Shortcomings if any stayed hidden or overpowered by his professional success and the fact that he was always available to Management Trainee or CEO alike.

The contrast between A and B appears to be extreme and exaggerated; their approach to work and life are quite divergent. Professionally both created success that set benchmark in their respective industries, both were sought after by the industry, both loved and thrived in the attention showered by big and small. Their paths crossed many times with each acknowledging the other; they knew about the differences between their approaches, neither commented on them and the industry took them for what they represented.

While A continued to stay invested in his professional life beyond the normal retirement age, B got off the corporate treadmill early to enjoy the fruits of labor and started his entrepreneurial journey. Many years passed by with A now taking a backseat and B fading away from the scene; providence arranged their meeting which brought them face to face again. His reputation had stayed firm even when A had taken a backseat in most matters; the meeting never took formal overtones with mutual respect demanding a different setting.

The transaction happened quickly, the relationship built on a strong foundation stood the test of time. For B it was a validation of the seeds he had sown carefully over the years – of treating people with respect irrespective of rank and position, of helping without expecting anything in return, of being the spokesperson when none ventured, of being a good human being. Life goes round in circles; invest in people and relationships, the returns over the long run are worth a lot more than you can imagine.

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