An interview with the author Elango R., Chief Human Resources Officer at MphasiS
1. ‘You Don’t Need a Godfather’ is being hailed as the new age ‘hatke’ management book! Could you tell us a bit about the title? Does this book encapsulate all that you have learnt practically from life, and your own work place? Time tested methods?
This book is a collection of practical advice, lessons learnt and ideas on how we can have more control over our career and its destination. “Godfather” refers to all those things that we tend to look to for our advancement – our boss, the stars and planet alignment, the lines on our palms… when we should all be looking at ourselves and taking control.
YDNAG definitely captures some of my experience but is not a rendition of my greatest hits for sure. As part of my journey, I have had the vantage point to observe and coach people across the spectrum of their careers – from the fresh, wet behind the ears graduate who thinks he can change the world, to the jaded manager who hit the glass ceiling midway through his career, along with star performers and successful executives thrown in between. This book is a reflection of that.
2. Your style has been described as conversational, with doses of humour and sarcasm! Do you feel these are effective weapons to create a rapport with your readers and harness their interest in your writing?
I feel there are enough management books out there that espouse theories and jargons that sound good in interviews. They run hundreds of pages and at the end of them, the reader is no more in control of anything than before having read it.
What I would have found useful when I was traversing the corporate ladder is simple language, achievable ideas and sound advice. For example, if I didn’t get that promotion I wanted, the only thing most of us do is blame the boss, the system and the colleague across the cubicle who always sucks up to the boss. But that doesn’t get me anywhere…if someone had shown me a mirror and asked, “What steps did I take for my advancement?” – did I invest in my development, did I take on challenging projects, did I try and LEARN the business…I might have gotten that promotion. And those are things all in my control.
I have written the book in a way that hopefully builds a rapport with the readers – most of whom are from a generation that is highly independent, doesn’t have time for long thesis’ but at the same time, is open to feedback and wants to excel. And, who appreciate a bit of humor to lighten the read.
3. What do slit chillies have to do with personal branding? Or a monkey eating ginger with you letting go? These and other interesting questions are part of a book that thrives on interesting chapters that have names like ‘Appa! I hate Ireland!’ ‘Walk like a Baby’. What do you hope to achieve from this, your maiden book?
I hope that those who use their hard earned money to buy this book find in it some practical ideas that they can put into action for their success. It doesn’t matter how many books I sell, what matters is how many people find value in it and are able to learn and execute the advice I have shared.
What would be great to see is if people read this and connect with me to tell me their own journey and how perhaps, in some way, this book has made it a little easier for them. Or that in some way, they have managed to avoid some of the pitfalls that the people in this book had faced.
4. You also possess immense knowledge of Banking, Financial Services, IT, Manufacturing, Consulting and Hospitality. Is there one underlying principle that fires all these professions, maybe that of dedication, diligence, imagination and the willingness to keep learning? Do elaborate.
I think any profession that one chooses to embark on, commitment and the desire to learn has to be key. No matter how successful we get, we have to keep learning. That is the theme of my last chapter on Success Traps. The minute we stop learning, we begin to fade. We start looking backwards to protect our empire instead of forward to grow it further.
Success Traps talks about an individual, Amuleek Bijral, who has seen success in many ways and in many roles. Yet, he strives forward, each time re-inventing himself. That is what I have enjoyed as well. From the multitude of industries I have been a part of, each one has taught me a new lesson and each has challenged me.
5. Are there more books in the pipeline?
I am always working on something. There is a book idea I have been toying around with. This one is about how to be a good boss – not to be confused with being liked, but with being respected. There is a difference in this that many don’t realize. I allude to it a bit in my chapter “Managing Monsters Inc.”. This chapter talks about the different kinds of bosses there are – the never say no ones, the irritable ones, the suck ups… it’s a good chapter to understand how the type of boss you have will influence your work…and how you can manage them to your success.
6. What advice would you give people starting on their career or deciding which job to take?
I remember when I was fresh out of college and how I made my decisions. There were only two variables – Money and Friends (not always in that order). I looked at what pay package I was getting and what my friends thought, and mind you… I didn’t have rocket scientists for friends. We all shared the same level of intellect
Looking back, that may not have been the wisest. All of us were just focussed on who was getting offered more money, who was getting to travel. Not the best way to make a long term decision.
My advice to those reading this would be to avoid the temptation to compare with friends. Look at options that you have from your own perspective. If you are just starting your career, you should value a company that has a good grooming program, that will invest in your learning and who give you ALL the work! Money and designations will all come in time, but if we base our decisions on those, the next level of learning will take a long long time.