Tales from work

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Another resignation and 3 promotions have been announced. While two were expected and there were rumors galore about them, the third one was unexpected. It doesn’t impact my life in any way because this person isn’t my direct reportee. And yet, am expected to have an answer on how and why. Because even though I was informed about the decision few minutes before everyone else, am supposed to know on what basis this promotion happened. I have to hide my surprise and find a positive spin to it. Is there a positive spin? I don’t know. But I have to keep the hope alive. Isn’t that what keeps us going? The hope? I am at the receiving end of all the negativity and ranting and I have to stay calm through it all. This is what all good managers I reported to, did.

My ex manager always says one thing “Let’s face it. We are here because we don’t have other options. I refuse to believe that you would be here if a better company paid you more money”. I know what he means. I am so tired of people who think they are doing an organisation a favour. If you leave, there will be ten others to replace you. That’s a fact and you should be realistic enough to know that. The organization isn’t doing you a favour and vice versa. It is a transaction. Simple and clear.

The last few days have been a rollercoaster. The 4 am wake up calls and dinner plans haven’t made it easier to deal with. I haven’t unpacked my bag yet. Usually, the first thing I do as soon as I get home from a trip (even a vacation) is unpack and do my laundry. An packed bag is a hint that things are not well.

Last night I realised am working with the wrong expectations in mind and it can only lead to disappointment. Work for the learning, everything else will fall in place.

 


Strategic career moves

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Unknowingly, I have made right moves in my career. Except for the beginning, nothing else was properly planned.

I have worked in 2 regions and in the Head office. I have worked in General Trade and have considerable experience in Modern Trade. Since my CV is highly skewed towards MT, the current role will balance it out with GT experience. I have handled 3 teams in different territories of the country.

I didn’t realise earlier how important all of this is to move up the corporate ladder. And if you are not mobile at the start of your career, it is so much more difficult to do after 10-15 years. Whether am happy with my current location or not, I won’t be making any hasty moves which are not strategic. A mistake at this stage could hurt so much more and am not going to take that chance.

No matter how difficult the next 6-12 months are for me and KC, the kind of weightage it will have on my CV is huge and am willing to stick it out. Sure, this means expecting mentors to support me when am feeling down, which is more often than I’d like.

Sometimes, the unfairness of the corporate career is too glaring to ignore. And yet, I don’t think I would have taken the short cut. I am ok with taking the slighter longer route which has more hardships but more learning. The hope is that it will all be worth it. 5 or 10 years down the line, this experience will lead to something big. Atleast, that’s the hope.

This role is giving me a long term view and am more reluctant to make decisions for short term decisions. It is as if am sitting on the other side of the table and have so much more clarity than before. Also have to be patient with people who still think about small wins they get today instead of focusing on the big wins 3-5 years down the line.

 

 


Doormat or ruthless?

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I realized that while I cannot influence too many things in my current role, certain decisions can be made basis my whims and fancies. All such decisions involve people, of course. Hiring, retention, exit interviews, entry interviews are a big chunk of my job. The other day someone wanted to join back. I took everyone’s views and realized that there is no logic needed to make the decision. There is no policy on which to base the decision. While this may sound good and gives you leeway to hire back people you want to, it also means people may end up taking the organization and it’s rules lightly. How do you balance? Should I be people friendly, which may also mean a doormat, or should I always use logic, which may make me seem ruthless, for people related decisions? Where is the balance?

I asked myself one questions “Do I want this person in MY team?”. Maybe not as a Branch Sales Manager (my designation), but as an Area Sales Manager, where I would have to interact with him everyday and get work done. Is this the person I would choose for MY team? That is the deciding factor right now. Everything else- family issues, financial issues etc etc only come into the picture if he passes this test.


Interviews- the torture

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I just finished with the interviews for the day and am exhausted. It is boring work. I hate taking or giving interviews. I sleep walked during the last set of interviews because I wasn’t sure what am supposed to ask or check. It has been a while since I last interviewed people (or gave interviews :P). But today was different. I had clarity in my mind. The question that I asked myself was, “Do I want this guy in my team?” I wasn’t checking for territory knowledge or if he can answer technical questions.

I asked each candidate 3 questions (mainly):

  • Why are you quitting the organization. If he is quitting because of unethical practices in the current organization, he is the kind of guy we need- someone who will follow system and practices and can take a stand.
  • Give me 3 achievements in this year. This helps ask leading questions and get an insight into the process followed for these achievements. A candidate who is lying will not be able to make up facts and figures on the spot. Atleast not, if you know the basics of sales. Someone who cuts rates to get sales numbers is going to get rejected.
  • What are your MBOs/KPIs/objectives for the year and what is the status till date? It is amazing how many organizations give increments without any appraisals for the employees. A good employee and at the executive level, only the best employees, will know the objectives and the status.

Do these checks work? Well, I have time to find out. I will update after 6 months if these parameters have helped me differentiate the grain from the husk.

Ciao. I am very late for the gym.


Tales from Sales- the sub distributor hunt

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I was in Ahmedabad for 2 days. I wasn’t there to add value to anyone but myself and am not talking about the after work partying I did. The objective was to understand the sub distributor operations better. Sure, I have done this when I was working in GT sales. It was my bread and butter. But what has changed in the last few years in FMCG sales is – from talking about results, organizations have moved to processes. Not all of them but the good ones. Actually, the good ones have been doing this for a long time.

Example – When I was an ASM, I would be told to get Rs ‘X’ business, how I did it was left upto me. As an inexperienced management trainee turned manager I depended on colleagues, reportees, other MT turned manager friends and sometimes my reporting manager for help on HOW to do it. Most of it was common sense. Now, a person will be told HOW to do it. And even if he/she does not get results, as long as the process is followed, the organization is ok with it. For NOW. I don’t know if this changes if results don’t come even 2-3 years down the line.

Sub distributor network. There are lots of villages where the company cannot supply stocks directly because of cost implications. In such cases, they appoint a super distributor in a big town, for example Rajkot or Bhavnagar or Surat or Baroda or Ahmedabad who uses local transport or his own vehicle to send stocks to smaller distributors (not directly associated with the organization) who supply to local retailers or wholesalers and in near by towns. We spent the day meeting distributors in towns like Randhwa, Balwa and Nadirpur. It also gave me the opportunity to understand a PSR’s day to day life. PSR is a salesman on 3rd party pay roll (not directly associated with the organization) whose job it is to ensure sales and hygiene in these towns. The SS channel has the maximum complexity and potential. So many things can and do wrong but it is a goldmine for business.

The PSR I worked with moved from Ahmedabad to Memdabad because the travel was too hectic. His wife works at Reliance Jio call centre. They wake up at 5 am, cook their meals, leave home at 7, reach work by 8.30/9 and come back home at 8 or 9 pm. That is their life Monday to Saturday. But this guy said he loves the work. He loves travelling to new towns, meeting new people and learning so much everyday. How many of us can say that about our jobs? This post was supposed to be about something else but I think this is a good ending for it.

 


Month end

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I am exhausted, so exhausted. I was trying to sleep since 8 pm last night but free time is rare and I decided to spend it watching Netflix, conversations with friends, conversations with strangers, reading etc. I am lying in bed drained and looking at a hectic, packed schedule which is all my doing. The last few days have been hectic and I haven’t be able to go to the gym, which is also why am feeling low.

Anyway, this is what I wrote on 30th but was too tired to post.

This is my first month end where am fully involved. Everyone is still in office. We have crossed our target but would like to meet the dream number without increasing the pipelines like a good (rare) FMCG organization. There is a contest where 2 team members can win and I have spent all day gossiping with colleagues in other branches to get information on the other contenders. Fun. Fun. Fun.

Also, somebody makes the PPTs for me now. Of course, I was given the responsibility for tomorrow’s PPT at 5 pm and am still waiting to see the final slides, without which I cannot leave office. I could finish some work but am pooped. Meeting someone for a drink would be nice but the idea of contacting people and making plans sounds really boring. I’d rather chat with Google assistant than go through the charade of making plans and later regretting them.

 


Bitch mode off. Bitch mode on.

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The most important task of my day yesterday was to take the female team member for chai. I love how chai brings people together. Smoking, too. But I don’t like smokers (kill yourself, why are you trying to kill me?) so I treat chai as the lesser evil. I don’t even like chai.

Anyway, X and I have interacted on and off since she joined as a management trainee. She is from my B school, a fact I keep forgetting. But since I moved into the new role, she has kept a distance. And since she doesn’t report to me directly, we have no reason to interact except when we talk about sales numbers. I, generally, leave it to the other person to take the first step. I will keep a distance if that’s what you want or we can hang out for chai everyday, if that works for you. But this doesn’t work when you are in a senior position, many people get intimidated (that’s what I’d like to believe, maybe they hate me, think am a bitch and don’t take me seriously) and don’t approach you. The onus is on me to take that first step. In fact, I have made a list of people am going to hang out with for chai to make them feel a part of the team.

X and I went to a nice chai cafe. Obviously, we weren’t going to stand at a tapri and have tea. Over her green tea and my iced tea (sugar water), I proceeded to ask her if she was doing ok, if the team who report to her treat her ok, if the team she is part of treats her ok, if she feels safe, what does she do over the weekends etc etc. I told her that while she doesn’t report to me, she can speak to me in case of any issues. Woman to woman. More importantly, I asked her not to tolerate any sexist shit that the team throws at her. And there has been quite a bit of it.

(I can already her APC saying ‘Not another rant. So NOT reading this blog again’).

Everytime we are in the meeting, I watch her get interrupted by the team (not everyone, just one or two people) because a combination of a young, smart, pretty, educated woman who knows more than someone who has been working in the field for 10 years brings out the worst in people. I keep remembering Trump interrupting Hillary.

This is an actual scenario that happened (I didn’t overhear it but got to know about it later).

S (to X) : You don’t drink? Why don’t you drink?

(I pull the leg of non drinkers and vegetarians and don’t differentiate between the genders of the people)

X : I don’t

Branch manager (to S) : You don’t drink, either, right?

S : No. I don’t.

Branch manager : Does your wife drink?

S (VERY defensively) : Of course NOT

Now I know this guy like a textbook. Now am not surprised he would try to pay for lunch or autos. He stopped when I told him “You are only offering to pay because am a woman. If I was a man, you wouldn’t do it”.

I can deal patiently with people who think they know their job better than me and don’t think I deserve to be in the position am in. I get it. All my colleagues (all male. Am the first female person in this role) have been through this. One person was promoted in the SAME region and his colleagues, many of them senior guys who were in line for the promotion, were now reporting to him. Atleast I moved channels.

But if someone thinks that I can’t do the job because am a female, well, I have no option but to turn on my bitch mode.

It is also hilarious how all the gossip reaches me even when I don’t actively seek it.


What the new role entails

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I have spent the last 4 days (excluding Sunday) in induction. KC has been laughing at me “Kitna induction chahiye tumhe?”. I was being sent to Bangalore only but then I requested for 2 days in Gurgaon as well. In all, I have spent time with 4 people who have different styles of working. I think I will stop feeling like a newcomer in my role when I know what my style of working is.

I am already feeling overwhelmed by everything and there is nobody who will understand what it’s like.

Here are a few ways my professional life has changed:

  • I have to be positive all the time. I cannot let any kind of frustration bog me down.
  • I have to be tough. Everyday. I keep in mind that am working with people like myself. I was a tough reportee and gave all my reporting managers hell. But I was good at my job so they took it in their stride. I have people like me reporting to me and around me.
  • Earlier, whenever someone from another division didn’t do their job correctly, I spoke to my manager and expected him to get things done. It is my responsibility to ensure people do their jobs and help my team out. And these are people who don’t report to me.
  • I have to prepare thoroughly for any meeting. If I don’t, I cannot add any value and am wasting everyone’s time by attending the meeting.
  • I can’t let my mind drift off during any discussion. I have to be attentive ALL the time. ALL THE TIME. FOR EVERYTHING.
  • I can’t be straight forward and I can’t confront people there and them. I know a person has lied to me but I have to wait for the right opportunity to bring it up and confront him. I have to be calm and patient till the time is right. All this patience is not good for my health.
  • I have to remember whatever tasks I have assigned to people and ensure they get it done. Which means, digging out week old mails and checking if the task assigned has been completed or not. This is the biggest part of my job.
  • I have to become approachable enough for executives to call me directly incase they have any issues. This is a very big part of the role. I should be able to list the strength and weaknesses of each of the team members.
  • I have to boost the team’s morale, get them to feel like a part of the team and get them to bond with each other. This is easier said and done and I don’t even know where to start. And this has to be done with people from other divisions as well. So, lots and lots of time spent with people during working hours means I want to spend lesser and lesser time with people after work or on weekends.

My mind is reeling and I don’t want to think anymore.

One big reason why am not missing KC or don’t mind Mumbai as much is because this is a turning point. I need to give it my all for one year and am going to change as a person- professionally as well as personally. I am also glad am in Mumbai because I know the city. The traffic, pollution, noise, tiny house, dirt etc don’t faze me out because I wasn’t expecting any different. I kept my expectations low from the city and it isn’t exceeding any of those.


Last leg of induction

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I was with a colleague who has been in the role for the last 4 years. I had specifically asked for the last leg of my induction with him. I thought to myself, “No matter how good I am, it will take me atleast half the time to get where he is”.

My question to him and his other colleague was “What is my role? What are the expectations from me? Where do I start?”. Maybe it sounds stupid to someone else, but they know what I meant. I am leaving for Bangalore on Monday with lots of gyaan and handy tips. One question that nobody can answer is “What kind of a boss should I be?” Do I get involved in every aspect of the reportee’s job? Do I give them a free hand? How much is too much and how much is too less? The problem is that I will be able to answer these questions through trial and error. Which means, there will be lots of screw ups and mistakes made before I know what kind of a boss I am or want to be. And the answer may be different depending on how am dealing with.

In my mind, there is some clarity and I know where to start. The rest of it is supposed to become clearer. Half the battle is in starting. More importantly, there are people who I can turn to for advice at any point of time. And since they have been managers first and then promoted as managers’ manager, they understand what am dealing with.

The most positive part is that I am pals with people who are still managers and at the same level as my reportees. I speak to them and understand their expectations from their managers.

 


Rajkot – As close to childhood as I can possibly get

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I have spent majority of my school life in a boarding at Mt Abu. We had winter vacations for 3 months and one month out of it was spent at my maternal grandmother’s house in Veraval. I looked forward to it and cried when I had to go back home. There were 5 houses in the same compound. It was bustling with kids, adults, gossip, stray dogs, coconut trees from which we had fresh coconut water, fights between kids, badminton games, sneaking away for junk food, movies in our own theatres, outings to Somnath and Gir. I have 7 masis (mother’s sisters) who stay in other cities and their kids visited adding to the chaos. Festivals, weddings, events were best celebrated here.

In 2008, I moved to Mumbai from Gurgaon for a sales role. I had to manage sales and distribution for Saurashtra and Kutch. My base was Mumbai but I spent maximum time in Rajkot. I left one bag in Rajkot everytime I traveled.

I am back in Rajkot for the first time in 7 years and it still feels familiar. You know when you just feel like you belong? That’s the feeling I get here. I know the language, the Gujarati spoken here has a certain sweetness. I have grown up with it. People are hospitable. A retailer actually served us water without asking for it. At every store, the owners were nice, laughing and chatting like they have all the time in the world. And they do. At 1.30 pm, all the shops shut and the city prepared for lunch followed by siesta time which would last till 4 pm. I never found it weird when my father, who is a doctor, came home for lunch and a nap. I thought that’s what everyone did around the world. The people are the same, the executive was around in 2008, so was the distributor, so was the salesman. It’s like time has stopped still and all the memories are coming back in flashes. I close my eyes and can see events of 2008. I can recall friends, conversations, events, incidents… so many memories.

The funny part is most of the people from that year don’t exist in my life in a big way anymore. It makes me wonder will the important people in my life right now be there 7 years later? Am I investing in the wrong people? Or it doesn’t really matter? Just give what you can and don’t expect anything in return. Nobody is going to be around any way. There is a reason why am a human- capable of love, friendship, kindness, conversation and not an animal. Right? Should I live to MY fullest potential instead of the potential of the people around me?

What do you think?