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Manage the crisis. Manage the budget. Manage the meeting. Manage the demand. All of this is the core of managing organisational functions. That is how professional management came about.

Traditionally, there were five functions in it of Planning, Organizing, Leading, Staffing and Controlling. This brought about a discipline in the organizations and for a long time was taught and practiced widely across.

The management vocabulary that is common is hiring, firing, training, etc. They have served a great purpose in times when information was scarce, organizations were dispersed and disconnected, and people needed a uniformity of approach to enhance better management and productivity. Times have changed radically.

There is an information overload. There is global connectivity. Even if you are in the air, you are accessible. Technology has created such software systems, where most back end organizational work will be done by Artificial Intelligence systems. This requires a major redo in what we think and say in organizations.

Words and titles play havoc with psychology. Words have a huge impact on our mental and emotional state. They shape our behaviours and responses. Words create thoughts that lead to feelings, that lead to behaviours.

Traditional language of management in many ways has become obsolete as the resultant responses have not led to the desired outcomes. The desired outcomes have also changed. The problem is, an overwhelming number of organizations are still stuck to these words.

They still call people “superiors” and juniors “subordinates”. Just imagine the impact on mindset of those who are superiors. They go into the thought process of superiority versus inferiority, which results in a non-inclusive, belittling behaviour.

Similarly, the word “fired” has the most destructive connotation. That is why the management world needs some rethink, reflection and recreation of professional codes. Some food for thought for our management scientists:

  1. The Multigenerational White Elephant — Very few companies are doing something about the elephant in the office. Some are aware, some are not. Some are talking about it, some are mum. But the reality of the matter is that the office place is now more divided over age and eras than ever.

The zeal to spot young talent and prepare them for the future ends when the young talent finds itself imprisoned by the tags and labels that precede them. Gen ZEE has become a stigma for companies who consider their age-old practices being challenged by these new kids on the block.

The tech-savvy kids and their tech averse managers are busy finger pointing at each other. There is a culture of friction rather than passion. This white elephant needs to be addressed not by managing them, but by coaching them.

You manage things, you coach people. Coaching is not just for the younger lot to blend in with the established players of the company; coaching is for the older lot to understand, include and synergize this diversity. The whole focus has shifted from responding to understanding.

That given the hierarchical nature of management systems is delegated to people below you who should be the ones to understand the people above. People above are supposed to command and then control if not obeyed. This is not possible with this generation.

They know a lot. They ask a lot. They want a lot. When you try to put them into the cage of job descriptions, they rebel and quit. Many times physically but many times mentally and emotionally. They are a new reality that needs new ways of leading.

  1. Conversations of a different kind — The Coaching conversations are different. They require a new mindset. The thought process has to radically change. It requires mental disruption. Firstly, the intent of the manager is of paramount importance.

What is his or her agenda? Is it to prove that this person is not fit for the job or assignment? Is it to try to understand what is preventing him or her from becoming engaged to the workplace? Is it to “fire” him? Or is it to ignite the fire in his belly? These are the main questions to be answered.

Whatever the agenda is, the result will be accordingly. Thus, the first coaching will have to be the coaching of the coaches. They need to first of all understand the importance of understanding. They need to first of all accept the need to learn anew.

They need to first of all accept that coaching is not about speaking and sermonizing; it is about listening and questioning. While the coach has to have pure motives of enabling the coachee, that alone will not suffice.

He needs to learn the skills of a coaching conversation. The coach has to be part therapist and part healer. The skill to empathize is paramount. The ability to hold on to your tongue and brain and not be judgmental is key to these conversations.

The hardest part is that instead of managing others, it is more about managing your own talk-and-tell habit. The skill to be learned is to listen and then listen more. Even after the person has told all, you need to ask solution guiding questions to make him or her arrive at their own solutions. That requires some resolve and plenty of practice.

  1. The Being Human Approach — Artificial Intelligence is the next big thing. Trillions of dollars are being spent on it. However, the real challenge is still unaddressed, i.e. human intelligence.

If one hundredth of what is being spent on artificial intelligence was to be spent on understanding and mastering human brains, may be the world would be a more peaceful and prosperous place.

So much is being written, researched and invested in machine learning capacity, but so little on human learning capacity. The oddities of human behaviour are to be dealt with by counselors, therapists and psychiatrists.

Being human means that leaders/managers address all four parts of being human, i.e., mind, body, heart and soul. Any part of being human that is uninvolved creates underperformance.

If the body is there, but the mind is elsewhere, imagine the output. If the mind is there, but the heart is uninvolved, imagine the outcome. To create extraordinary performance, the spirit has to be engaged. The coach has the ability to activate and motivate all four parts through skilful questioning and solution oriented discourse.

Human beings resent being told. Human beings resent being told off. Each human has a brain that needs to be given the chance to think of problems and develop solutions for themselves.

Imposed solutions will never have the same commitment as self-developed one. Half the battle in any professional and personal relationship is the inability to understand each other.

Coaching is one way of giving the opportunity to the other party to be heard, to be understood, to be valued, to be able to come up with their own solutions. Allowing them to “be”, will win half the battle of being human.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Andleeb Abbas

The writer is a columnist, consultant, coach, and an analyst and can be reached at [email protected]

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