Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lecture at CMR IT, Hyderabad - A BusinessLine Initiative

As part of its lecture series for Management colleges, Businessline organized a lecture at CMR IT, Hyderabad and invited me to speak on the 18th of March 2011. I chose to speak on 'The Successful Manager's Mindset' which is something I love to speak upon because it gives me an opportunity to dwell on issues close to my heart. I also cannot pass by an opportunity to speak to 200 students at one go, more so because I feel that they need not make the kind of mistakes I did with my career. They can go through feeling a lot more empowered as they go about the course and their career afterwards.

The MBA is more or less seen as a tool that is more likely to fetch a job than a mere degree by most students. Few appreciate the fact that they can, as with any other course, leverage it to make a successful and satisfying career by applying themselves and getting their core concepts right. Mostly they seem to think, again specially in the B and C grade colleges, that the degree will itself give them some job, that it is probably the responsibility of the college to get them the job and all they need to do is attend college and maybe pass. This is a mindset that is totally dependent, completely unempowered and far from the kind of finished material one would expect from an MBA. Instead you do end up with several half baked MBAs who are happy even to take up clerical positions in secure jobs.

To me the mindset of the successful manager needs to be far more enterprising. He should be bursting with ideas, with the desire to learn and imbibe, to practice what he has learnt, to bring freshness, energy and new ideas to the work place. The successful manager is one who brings value to the table, who has the mindset to deliver, who produces results and not excuses. And for that, the students better prepare themselves before they enter the real world.

Gist of my talk:
"'The Successful Manager's Mindset' is applicable to any walk of life because it deals with the mindset of a successful person. More so to MBAs because they are looked upon as if they are superheroes. MBAs are expected to know things others don't, to be able to manage things better, even when they have not yet finished their course. However most MBAs, with the exception of the A schools, seem to be going around with the notion that just getting your degree is enough to and a job, that you are actually doing a favour to the company by just being there, and that you can learn at leisure on the job. To me that is not what the MBA is supposed to do, what a successful manager is supposed to do. As an MBA who is aspiring to be among the best, the successful, you need to be able to add value to the organization, you need to be able to take a fresh perspective to the situation, make minor changes that improve systems and profitability. Now if you can show some of this stuff in the interview stage itself you are a sure winner. If you can identify the problem areas, offer solutions, save costs, increase revenues...well the job is yours. But what is it that makes one do this? How can one be a fully baked MBA as opposed to a half baked one? There is only one word and that applies to anyone - be it the A school MBA or any other MBA - preparation.

As PG students it is time for you to understand that the period of handholding is over. You must now figure out what is good for you, what you want to add to your repertoire. This period is for preparation for the real world. How prepared are you? As an MBA you will be expected to manage companies, people, funds. But before that I ask you, how have you managed your own life? If you have never thought of it that way I suggest you start thinking because this is what we look for. The application of theory to life. The state of preparedness from the MBA.

So what do you prepare for and how? You will be expected to know all your theory well. The core concepts well. In the general management subjects and in your area of specialisation. Now on hears of the IIMs and the ISBs slogging away for 12-15 hours a day. Now as opposed to that see how many hours you are putting in. It is work but it must be done, so start pushing the hours during the rest of the time in college. Get your basics right before you head out for interviews. Now if your theory is iffy and you are good with about 60% now, push it to 75 or 80%. That is an improvement still. And do it for yourself. You are the judge.

Secondly, apply what you learnt as theory in your life. All the principles of management, of finance, of HR, of marketing can be applied to daily life. Start doing it. Take up small projects and see how you are coping. The building of a wall, the handling of finances, investment decisions, handling people, an event. Start small commercial ventures with no or low capital. These are indications of an active mind that is willing to learn and grow. And this is also one area where you can beat all else - putting theory into practice.

Thirdly, participate in life more actively. This throws up more opportunities, you meet more people, encounter new situations and that is what confidence is all about. The attitude to handle any situation as it comes up. It also makes you a well rounded individual.

As MBAs, you are expected to deliver precisely what you promised. Only the slightest deviations may be allowed if at all. That is how you have been trained. All education is scientific. But how is it then that what we say we will do in projects, we do not want to do with our lives. Why are our lives so fatalistic? So dependent on external factors? That is because you are not applying what you learned. Of having a clear goal, a plan, of acting on the plan and achieving it. It can be done. It has been done so many time before. Even you can do it.

There are many opportunities ahead of you. Form your opinions, be clear of what you want, your ethics, your goals, your vision for yourself, your country. Much is expected from you. We all believe you are capable of wonderful things. The important thing is that you must believe the same. Good luck to all of you. Thank you.'

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