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French Version

Contrast : Be like Bob !

Ten years ago, when my boss, Bob, called me into his office, I was expecting trouble. He had this concerned look on his face. “Ammar” he said, with a stern voice: “Are you interested in taking my place as leader of this consulting group?” Looking me straight in the eye as if he was searching for the truth through my facial expressions. Being the young consultant I was then, it was a tough and shocking moment. Here I am being asked by my manager, whom I admire greatly, if I was eying his position.

I avoided eye contact and gave him the answer I thought he would expect from me, “No. Of course not!” I said spontaneously, without even flinching. I admit that I had thought about taking over Bob’s position. It would have been a great career step for me. But how could I tell my boss, forever fair, respectful, and supportive, straight to his face that I am interested in his position? I said no, and hated myself for it, until I saw Bob’s reaction to my answer, which reflected total disappointment. That was my second shock of the day.

Looks like the guy wants me to take his position!” I said to myself. “I am surprised that you would ask me such a question,” I exclaimed. Bob explained that he had been looking for the past couple of years to find a replacement for himself, and felt I fit the bill. I was puzzled. “Why are you looking for replacement? Where are you going?” I exclaimed.

I need to move to bigger and better things…that can never happen if I do not find my replacement and fast.” Bob must have gotten an offer somewhere else, and he wants me to take his position so he can start at his new position as soon as possible. “So, where are you going” I asked curiously. Bob laughed and said “This is not about me leaving…I am not going anywhere. I have no offers or clear plans. I love what I do here. But it is dangerous to become comfortable in one’s position. This is why managers must start looking for their replacements almost as soon as they take on their position.

Let me fast rewind to five years earlier, as I was almost done with my first year of employment. I was part of another manager’s team: Carl’s team. Carl was an OK guy but not comfortable in his position; he was keen on shining at the expense of his own team members. I remember a request from a client to provide recommendations on certain internal processes. Carl assigned the work to me, on one condition: I was to work behind the scenes, and he would present all the results to the client as his own recommendations. I would be asked to sit at meetings, listen to conversations, and give Carl recommendations on what to say in the next meeting.
It was agonizing and painful to see someone else trying to take credit for my work. Carl’s behavior reflected his attitude towards work and his employees. He was insecure in his position, and he would not allow his team to take credit for their work as that might undermine his authority and value to the client and the parent organization. His position as a manager came first. What Carl did not know is that people are smarter than he thought; the client, the performing organization, and all the employees understood what he was doing. Soon, clients were taking shortcuts behind Carl’s back and things got to a point when a client requested that Carl be removed from the account, as he did not add any value. Fast forward fifteen years later, to the present time.

The contrast is clear in my mind and the minds of the people who worked with both managers. As for Carl, I am not sure what has become of him, but whatever it is he is doing is not visible to me or to any of the team members who worked under him. Bob on the other hand is the senior vice-president of one of the most prestigious consulting firms in the US. I eventually did take his place ten years ago. But obviously that did not hurt his prospects. On the contrary, everyone who worked with Bob has been impressed by his leadership abilities.

It was a pleasure working for him and I would be happy to be part of his team any day, anywhere. We are still in touch and I go to him for advice on regular basis. I learnt from Bob a golden rule that I will carry with me always. He used to say: “Ammar, always put results above status”. The work and the team come first, before a manager’s status, position, or security in his position. Bob is a beacon of light for every one who worked with him. As far as Carl…well…what about Carl? amango@methodcorp.com

Amar Mango
The Star

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