Does your designation define your incompetence?

Well, after slogging it for around two decades and meeting intelligent and dumb people on the go, this has been one question that has always played on my mind! So much so that eventually when it came to start on my own- and when my CA asked me what designation I wanted to have (as part of the company formation process requirements), well I was left with even more predicament! This piece is not to prove anything or discount away the merits of having those wonderful visiting cards (that give you that high every time you give it to your extended cousins at an Indian wedding! or when you give it to people – especially when no once cares and no one is requesting for one!), neither is it about deciding what’s wrong or right- it’s about having some fun by sharing the observations that we make and try to engage with the limited supply of common sense that we have to decipher is any of this really makes any sense!

Way back when I was into sales, a part of my job involved reaching out to enterprise clients and offer business solutions – the first thing that struck me (while I was meeting representatives of a private bank) was very interesting! This was the time when, if you were an MBA (from any college) in India- you were the next big sensation! Well when I went into the meeting (as a designated Sales Manager – the only one from my organisation), I was greeted by 7 youngsters (all young hotshots averaging around 25-26 years), I was around 32 then, and the next big surprise came, when I learnt all were there to meet me! and you know what, as we exchanged the cards (as was customary then) each of these 7 people were Associate Vice Presidents (AVPs)! I was like, “WTF”. Eventually as the meeting progressed a lot of things got clear, none of them had the authority to buy a ball-point pen forget evaluating a business solution for their bank, none of them had a team and guess what two had already resigned! None of them had technical understanding and I had to eventually just meet up with their Head of Department later (who was twice my age and technologically challenged – as expected- that was the beginning of technological up-gradation in Indian banking system then!

As years’ went by, this instance always remained with me and every now and then flashes of corporate level incompetence could be seen across as people flashed their business cards with all the heavy English words that they could think of- at times I wondered if these companies had hired Copywriters in their HR team even to come up with those jazzy designations which on ground meant almost nothing! In another interesting case, once while I was working with an advertising firm, we had this whole family of designations (which was, I believe created when the industry was doing really well and warranted those many clinical details on business cards) but, me being me, when I asked a person what was an AVP (Associate Vice President) doing differently on a said account then a CSD (Client Servicing Director) or a VP (Vice President) and what was the “Group” referring to in the designation of a “Group Account Director” when the individual was slogging on a single client all through the year (that also on one aspect of marketing communication challenge- namely- BTL (Below The Line)! – there was only one reply- silence and a smile! Finding no sane replies, my observation and informal chats with people helped to connect the dots and get a complete understanding about the ecosystem that we call as “Workplace”

Well it turns out, like with everything else, all things started well, whether it was the banking sector or the advertising agency space, all of them were shaped on best practices that came with international alliances or international standards and norms as the case would have been- but what got left out very importantly was – the generous use of able discretion to award or present a specific designation and attach it to a particular task/role. This got compounded as Incompetent designations met Incompetent people (which was the function of limited ability to purchase real talent at a real cost). So, no surprises what happened next! Eventually if you hire a chef, who has experience in oriental cuisine and ask that person to dish out Italian- well you will be served for sure- but with a twist and that’s where the whole work arena has landed over! Walk into any office today and what you see is two hundred designations, three hundred people and no one sure enough of what they really do, not knowing where to start and where to end – with regards to the designations that they carry! So is this all really gone wrong or are these just odd cases! For that, I request you to consider a few more sane examples!

I am sure you always admire your law enforcement agencies and defense forces- you should- they do keep the dark forces away!- Well irrespective where in the world you are- one thing is common these are disciplined forces- Each team player exactly knows what they need to do in a particular situation and they know exactly when they need back-up and when they can handle things by themselves- yes and they too have designations and follow command! So how come they are so clear headed and sure and there seems to be no ambiguity? Before I answer this for you another one example to make things really simple!

We have all visited a doctor at one time or another, what do you see in hospitals and clinics?- There is direction- The moment your consultant thinks- that you are really messed up beyond his cognitive abilities- a senior doctor will be brought in- to understand how badly you have screwed up yourself- why does this happen- well experience yes (experience as in not spending more time at the hospital- but in context of having worked on complicated and more number of such complicated cases!)

So if you see, in the case of our defense forces or doctors- when they add the designation as “Group Captain” or “Colonel” or “Senior Cardiologist” or a “Senior Surgeon” one thing you can be sure- they will not be 25-26 year old’s and they want be faffing around about what they can do- because these are the people, my friend – who know for sure- that they are last people standing between your miserable existence on earth and your flight to after- life!

Well to make the point simple- Designations have to be reflective of “What you do”, “can do” and are “allowed to do” with regards to your workplace. Importantly organisations need to wake up and understand , gone are the days when people could get intimidated by reading “President” and “Senior President” on cards- well frankly no one cares- because the other person getting your card is also part of corporate slavery in equal measure like yourself- so it’s time to knock off all the falsified egos and get the blinders off! Unless this is done business cards spell out incompetence towards the designation or the individual as things become apparent through business interactions!

Through my limited experience, when business cards match personalities of the people who carry them and sense of completeness is achieved (not getting a deal or a sign off), rather a space wherein there has been an intelligent exchange of ideas which reason why things can move ahead or otherwise- it is then that justice has been done to the designation and the person who upholds it!

It is very simple to remember, keep designations aligned to the work and the people who they are being awarded to- until that happens each one of us can continue calling ourselves “CEO” of our own lives!

Think and simplify!-Incidentally, this is also one of the few things that we do as part of our consulting offering-adding common-sense to businesses! Until next time Ciao! Do write to me at and do let me know what you would like to read next!

Rescuing Imploding Polarized Societies.

No matter how hard I try to avoid writing something this serious, well, the politicians globally and locally seem to ensure I end up writing a piece around this topic, at least once- whether or not it helps us to be a bit more sane or otherwise!

What we see around us, is a figment of the society that we live about and trust me, it has noting to do with how affluent you are! Money can never guarantee you any safety if you continue to flirt with danger; thinking money will rescue you while you live about in polarized society is equivalent of thinking that the Tiger will not eat you, because you do not eat a Tiger!

Polarized societies work to the advantage of the political class, the bureaucrats and the big blue blood tycoons who want to exercise absolute control (which borders on the thin line of becoming a global psychopath- like Hitler and other friends’ of his were). The question is why do these idiots want to exercise so much control and what is that they want to do with it?

Revisit recent history and start connecting the dots; Arrive at AD 1910 and start from there- as fruits of rapid industrialization and accessibility of resources and land started to become a reality , with it flowed the cardinal sins of greed, gluttony and all that goes with it. When greed coupled with an infinite access to money becomes a reality- power is but a slave and this cocktail is by far the most deadliest and damaging one! This is indeed the seed that has flowered into different tress and worn different overalls- sometimes polarizing societies by camouflage it as a call of a religion, community, gender, caste, belief systems, value systems, ethnicity, you name it and you will find an example somewhere on the 30% of land that we move around on! At times I feel so grateful that water covers close to 70% of our planet, else just amplify the nuisance even two fold- its just outright spooky and needless to say outright dangerous!

Through evolution we have been hardwired to hold on to our community and individuals emerge as leaders within the pack, in the earlier times, being seen as a leader, King, Captain, Head of a group, needless to say would provide the individual with the best that the clan or the community would have had to offer, be it luxurious foods, the most sought after part of a steak, ability to choose a bride over others, wear rustic ornaments without any questions, set rules and regulations (which were always binding on others); well all this happened when we were tribal communities or farmers surviving from one meal to another, but the question still remains, “Why would majority of other members yield into this?” I will answer this in a bit; just see what is happening around you in the modern context, irrespective whether you are based out of the US, UK, some country from the EU, India or any place that you can think of- look closely- who are the people running (or ruining your nation and society)? Who are they? What are their backgrounds? What are their belief systems, values, affiliations and causes that brought them into the space of public domain- what is that they are hiding in plain sight? I won’t be surprised if you feel awkward that the society you are moving about is at times directly or indirectly creating subtle or direct divisions within, using one garb over the other. Few nations allow it camouflaged (by suggesting certain benefits are for some sections because they have been “deprived” – well sure deprived- but, “who deprived them”, to begin with!; when each part of the society started together as one- “What was happening all the time which was not visible!?

No matter which society you are a part of, polarization is an ongoing threat- it could be religious, economic, access to societal benefits of development, access to opportunities for advancing lifestyle, ability to express oneself- it could any of these or all of these depending on how bad and faulted the society is turning out to be! Coming back to the million dollar question-“Why do majority members of a society tolerate this?” -When individually they know is unwise, collectively why do they seem to be frozen! This is because Unless there is a proven alternative which can demonstrate loud and clear, an ability to lead and assure members of the society that they will be safe and secure always- this societal freeze continues.Once an alternative has been found and established- the society wastes no time to overturn its earlier choice (read revolution) and that’s how when a society says, “Enough is Enough” (even as the self-obsessed drivers of society seem to ignore everything around)- A new order comes into play!

If you are trapped in any such society (we all are frankly speaking to a smaller or greater extent), there is absolutely no need to be overwhelmed, rather you can choose your responses at an individual and a community level by collaborating and coordinating actions which are lawful and non-violent to ensure that the balance is struck and a mid-way is achieved which serves the majority of the population – Something that helps them to achieve equal access to their aspirations, economic, social and perhaps political. Detailing on how you go about it, step by step will simply not be possible – because these will change based on ground realities and contexts and vary community to community even withing nations!

The blue print is simple- Identify the arena from where the headwinds of polarization are coming in, seek the source and reason behind it- expose the ill found reason and create a more acceptable and powerful alternative narrative that will simply douse out the ill found earlier narrative! Sustain and no matter what- never go down to the level of hate that an opponent brings along- for that just takes away all the legitimacy that you try to bring to the society as an alternative. Keep going and be forward looking and rest assured your alternative narrative will eventually come out as a winner and will ensure you are able to create a new order which is all encompassing and more inclusiveAs any society should be- which presents equal opportunities to everyone irrespective of who they are to live a dignified life! A simple way to start at your own individual level would be cut the cord with everyone around who thrives on division and hate and tries to sell you the idea of one section of the society being better then the other by virtue or how much money they have or by virtue of their lineage or faith and belief systems! This, one small step will ensure sooner or later we have more able minds and warm hearts that are keen to build societies which are more inclusive and futuristic where “duty of care” is at the center of everything that we ever plan to build and develop!

I will leave you here, with these thoughts, take a step today and do what you can do with what you have and do it well!