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Competence masks attitude :(



I have had no maid attrition in nearly 12 years. Molina came to do the household chores in 2003 and has been cleaning the house since. She is outstanding and the house remains clean for a couple of days without further cleaning.

Last month one of the residents in our condo complex wanted her to clean her house for a month as her regular maid had taken a month off. She had continued with Molina for ten days after her maid came back, but had to let go as she didn’t want to pay Molina what she asked for and yes Molina took nearly five days off last month in one go. But just yesterday the resident has again asked Mom if Molina can come and clean her house once a month or so :):). Just fascinating to see how people chase competency, in all professions.

Everytime I have been asked the question on increments being low in townhalls, my usual reply has been, “work on becoming more competent, and money will chase you”. Think of all the competent people – Dhoni, Sachin, Messi, Modi, Jack Welch … The list goes on. They all worked on becoming more competent and everyone chased them, giving them money, power and accolades, even during economic downturns. As Devdutt Pattanaik might say, “Lakshmi follows Saraswati”.

In Jack Welch’s farewell speech at GE, he asked the new leadership to find the high performers who kiss up and kick down and throw the ******* out. Wise words from a wise man, but so difficult to follow for most managers. I have come across several high performers whose brilliant performance blinds people to their attitude. These high performers are high handed, rude, nasty… With people parameters screaming red, but they keep getting promoted for their competence !! Remember Phaneesh Murthy and the string of sexual harassment cases against him ? Or our great (pun intended) ex-finance minister Chidambaram, who was brilliant, but arrogant and opinionated, not letting any idea except his to be implemented ! And this will be a shocker for many people but rumors say that Mr. Narayana Murthy was almost dictatorial when he was the Infosys CEO, refusing to even acknowledge his co-founders. He is a great man and Infosys was built by him and his co-founders into a great company. Who can forget the “crore-pati” driver of Infosys ? But the thought does come to you that what Infosys is going through today seems to bear out the rumor somewhat, because the dictatorial attitude will not build strong leaders down the line 😦

How watchful are you of your superstar performers ? Does their brilliance hide bad attitude ? What could you do ? Take colleague feedback seriously, look at the promotions that have happened on this person’s watch, checkout any rumors of favouritism, don’t promote them when they are expecting it and see how they react, get them a 360 degree assessment… There are many ways to identify this type of superstar who kisses up and kicks down. What you do with them will also decide how your organization flourishes in the long run. Sometimes you allow business results to overshadow your decision regarding such people, in the process losing a whole bunch of potential leaders. These folks will not allow naysayers and people who think differently than them to flourish. So there is always a price to pay for every decision.

Watch out for the allure of competence minus the right attitude, the damage it causes is huge !

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Categories: Corporate musingsTags: , , , ,

3 comments

  1. Brilliant connections , Bindu

    I have observed in 100% of situations that right ‘attitude’ is a given for building those magic competencies

  2. Good post Bindu – and resonates!

    Shalini Sahay Bose | Internal Communications
    Aon Hewitt
    Tower A | DLF Centre Court | Golf Course Road | Sector 42 | Gurgaon 122009-4 | India
    t 91.124.415 5325 | m 91.99102 71887
    mailto:shalini.sahaybose@aonhewitt.com

  3. Loved the way you bring the comparisons from moulina to our corporate world. Truly Lakshmi follows Saraswathy.. “high performers who kiss up and kick down and throw the ******* out” what a beautiful way to put it

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