Emotionally yours

October 11, 2010

Sarwar Ahmed
Late at night, my mobile phone beeped with an SMS alert. I was startled and then enthused by the content: Sorry, my mom was around. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Please don’t get mad at me. Love you too.
Poor thing. She must have been in a hurry to send this text and fumbled with wrong numbers with her mother hovering around.
When it comes to business, we frown on such starry eyed displays of emotions. Business is all about being cold hearted, cool thinking and rational decision-making; there is no place for emotions.
Interestingly, it is exactly the opposite that makes a business tick. If you want your associates to go the extra mile, emotions are needed to make that happen. As much as we down play the importance of emotions, it is this essential human ingredient that makes us different, special and do things impossible.
In the work place, our emotions unfold around our boss’ behaviour, company culture and colleagues. Our bosses not only impact our lives, they also set the tone for company culture.
A recent McKinsey article by Stanford management Professor Bob Sutton states that bosses matter because many studies show that for more than 75 percent of employees, dealing with their immediate boss is the most stressful part of the job. Lousy bosses can kill you, literally.
A 2009 Swedish study tracking 3,122 men for ten years found that those with bad bosses suffered 20 to 40 percent more heart attacks than those with good bosses. Senior executives’ actions can reverberate throughout organisations, ultimately undermining or bolstering their cultures and performance levels.
Sutton says, as the boss, you are the most important person in the organisation, and subordinates monitor, magnify, and mimic your every move. You need to stay in tune with this relentless attention and use it to your advantage. You need to create a company culture where you, as a leader, need to boost your associates’ performance by boldly defending their backs, making it possible for them to learn, take intelligent risks and feel pride and dignity along the way.
A major reason a person leaves an organisation is not because of money; it is their boss’ behaviour. With the scarcity of talent, we cannot just shrug it off if key people leave our organisation, and that too, because of events that are under our control.
Is this a tough call? Not at all. As a boss and a leader, first of all, you need to be really aware of our own behaviour. You are the role model. As such, you need to exude a sense of enthusiasm and positive energy. This will ripple down your organisation. This is true anywhere in the organisation, especially first level leaders who have their troops bringing in the revenue flow or providing services, and keeping customers satisfied, happy.
Another great way of evoking emotions to work for you is to tell stories. Story telling was the means of communication and preserving history before writing was invented. Thus, story telling is in our genes.
Even our three-year-old son will go to sleep every night only after he hears a story, especially as he is the protagonist of it. What kind of stories should we tell in our corporate lives? Look at all the successful things that happen in your organisation and share it as a story. This not only brings pride, but also creates cultural values.
For example, I tell the story of one of our colleagues, Jalaluddin Saber, who was bringing our products from Chittagong in a truck during the floods of 1988. Having reached Meghna Ghat, which was without a bridge then, he found the ferries moored, unwilling to risk the turbulent waters. The river had turned into a vast sea with the other bank hardly in sight. Moreover, it was impossible to drive on further towards Dhaka as the highway was submerged.
Saber hired an engine boat at the ghat, loaded our products and cruised through the treacherous current to Tongi. As he neared the adhoc landing area, a gun-toting hijacker accosted him. A quick tussle and Saber had the hijacker swim for life. We share such stories of heroism that energises us.
We are burdened with negative and toxic doses of frustration, cynicism or sarcasm every day that literally pull us down emotionally. We do need to reverse these deadly behaviours and bring in a sense of positivism and optimism in our organisations. The starting point is with you as the leader.
Begin your day with a smile, a can-do attitude and the humility and graciousness to accept mistakes and build your colleagues and culture with compassion for the sustainable growth of your organisation.

The writer is the managing director of Syngenta Bangladesh Ltd.

 

Original article on The Daily Star

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