Business Today

Mongoose issues

Shamni Pande        Print Edition: Jan 22, 2012

If you have grown up on Amar Chitra Katha comic tales, you probably know the story. A couple keeps a mongoose as a pet and both love the animal, but they also have a baby. The wife sometimes worries if her child is safe with the mongoose around. One day when she is out, the mongoose spots a snake near the baby and kills it.

The mongoose feels it has done a good job and dashes out of the house, blood dripping from its mouth. Just then the wife returns. Observing the animal's gory state, she believes the worst. In a fit of rage, she kills the poor creature before entering inside and discovering the truth.

Shamni Pande
Shamni Pande
The lesson in it for managers? A bad image can destroy you. It is extremely important to project the right image, and this is not simply a matter of cosying up to the boss. "There is nothing wrong in doing that either, provided you are doing your basic job right," says Rashmi Datt, Human Resources practitioner and author of the recent book, And the Lion Smiled at the Rabbit.

But many who deserve to be applauded and promoted for their work ruin their own chances by shrinking from the spotlight or worse, displaying bad attitude. They complain; they endlessly find faults. Some of their complaints may be justified, but the workplace demands solutions, not whining. Datt relies heavily on such stories to build emotional intelligence in managers. "People connect to them. They make things easier while dealing with sensitive personality traits," she says.

So here is my own understanding on some of the popular stories. Of course, do read what Datt has to say - she says it well.

The lion and the rabbit: What can managers learn from this story, where a smart rabbit beguiles a powerful lion to jumping into a well? Smile and accept praise gracefully, but do not let it go to your head. And if you are the boss, watch out: is your rabbit leading you down a suicidal path?

The rat, the fawn, the crow and the turtle: The story is about the four forging an unlikely friendship and saving one another with their respective skills. Lesson? Build bridges with people very different from you; they bring strengths that you lack.

The thirsty crow: A crow manages to drink water from a narrow-necked pitcher, by stuffing it with stones and raising the water level. Likewise, you too need to find solutions to problems.

Man carrying a donkey: Is your situation similar to that of this man who kept responding to every suggestion? So, he lets his son ride the donkey, he rides it himself, he even carries it, following every suggestion made to him. The takeaway: you need to know the key issues and have your focus aligned to your organisation's vision. "Businesses today need people who not only execute jobs, but can also foresee issues, the bigger picture," says Ray Carvey, Executive Vice President, Corporate Learning, Harvard Business Publishing.

Maybe you need to go back to such tales you already know, and put them to work. But at all levels, ensure you are addressing the mongoose issue of projecting the right image. If you are not, it is not too late. Wish you a happy new start!

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