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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

How to keep career blues away

Every business goes through a cycle of birth, growth, stagnation and regeneration. The same is true of people who are at their jobs and professions for long. They could be sportspeople who suffer a feeling of insecurity, every time they do not play well or even students who are tired of studying because they feel their doing it all the time!

To keep going, you need to find renewed inspiration and sometimes a bright spark could just turn into a great business idea. New strategies can be planned, tried and tested during this slowing down period. Then when the pace picks up, you are already ahead of the pack because you started your homework earlier.

Chairman, Godrej Group, Adi Godrej told CNBC-TV18, "I don't think you should wait ever, even when things are going well. Change is very necessary all the time and improvement is something that should be continuous, whether it is in cricket or in business. So I think an improvement orientation is very important. But I don't think that one should react very negatively when things are bad either. It's the time to get the troops together, get morale improved because bad morale can create a vicious circle. I think good leadership and good strategy allows you to prevent too many slumps."

Former cricketer Javagal Srinath agrees that for performance to be good, being prepared is essential. He says, "There is a glimpse of hope when we go abroad. There is a chance that Indians can do well abroad. But fresh ideas need to come in. I think every cricket team starts working out the other opponent in the dressing room itself. That homework I think has been done excellently by most teams. I think the Indian team is probably lagging behind in this aspect, that's because for the last six months, some of the main batsmen are not in the form, so they are more worried about their own game than thinking about the opponents. I think seniors should sit and (discuss/debate) strategies for opponents in the dressing room first."

Godrej adds, "I think innovation is very important. It's a key to success and as more and more of the standard leadership and strategy issues become fundamental, innovation is what really works."

Businesses and sports, both need to keep grooming fresh, young talent to fill up any vacancy and also to keep pipelines moving with better products and ideas. Says Godrej, "I think it is extremely important. I think the greatest asset of any good company is its people. Even when you talk of companies with great brands - the brands, after all, have been created by the people. So how you manage people, how you encourage people, is extremely important. There should be training programmes too. I think in India we spend far too small resources on training. In fact, I feel there should be as much spent in a good company on training, as on R&D, even more perhaps. Unfortunately in India we don't do this, it is increasing but not enough."

In the context of cricket, Srinath said, "The feeder system into international cricket is not well defined in India. The Indian 'A team' touring abroad, I think, has brought some credibility to the feeder system. And number two, is the National Cricket Academy, which is doing something substantial. I think Ranji Trophy is not really producing the necessary things for international cricket or to the feeder system. We need to address the issue at first class cricket. Once it is done, you will probably find some solution."

Godrej reiterates, "What I would like to see is much better leadership in the management of cricket in the country and management of sports generally. I think it's poor. There is a lot of political interference. It's not professional. You should have a very highly paid CEO who runs the cricket board. He should be one of the best CEOs of the country and then you give him a three-year contract, let him run (cricket), extend the contract if he does well. But we don't see much professionalism in the way (the various) sports are managed in this country. While cricket attracts lot of money and it could easily be able to afford this professionalism. I don't see it."

Another hazard of any profession is that brands need to be worked on and perfected over time, which may not always occur. Success may breed complacency and no improvement may be in the offing.

Godrej elaborates, "I think in business, we don't focus enough. Many businesses do things, which are not their core competence, try and build too many brands. I think it works much better in business if you focus on what you are good at, add value to the strong brands that you have. Build new brands only when you must, not because you think you just need to do that. I think cricket is a little different. Strategy in business and cricket, or any other sport, is differentiated by the fact that in one you have to take the strategic decisions very-very soon. In business you have much more time, so I would say business strategically is much easier than sports."

Srinath added, "Innovation is extremely important, as important as for corporates. I think it is extremely important in the sporting field as well. We introduce technology into sports. Now when you introduce technology, it gives different pattern of information. How do you work on it? There is new talent coming up, how do you really sustain the talent? There are different ways of handling pressure situations. You got to change the batting order, bowling order etc, these are what innovation is all about. You got to bring in new physical training methods, you got to bring in fresh ideas from the psychologist. These are the innovative things and these are never ending. It can probably go on and on."

Finally, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. People are called into account, mistakes made are acknowledged and corrected. But where does one draw the line at non-performance and deal with it, be it on a corporate team or sports team.

Godrej replies, "We do two things. We evaluate the person and then give him a chance, coach him, guide him, set targets and targets must be achieved. If targets are not achieved. We have a policy in our company, we rank everybody in terms of performance, especially managers, the bottom 5% must leave the company every year. It's only a relative ranking, that's the only way we can encourage the lowest 50% to strive not to be in the bottom 5% and in the top 10-20%, we give them a very strong career path. So I think you must have a system, which incentivises performance very strongly, which I think our cricket lacks."

Written for www.moneycontrol.com

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