Guest AuthorPrabodh Sirur

Great managers – P K Sawant et al

By Prabodh Sirur

Ultimately I could locate Mr P K Sawant some ten days back. I wanted to thank him for something that he did to all of us, his team members. I could finally thank PK after forty years.

PK was our manager. He was always after our blood to read books. Most of us were in late teens or some in the early twenties. And we had no spare time for such nonsense. But PK persisted. He would bring a big heap of books for us to read. The first book I remember to have read was Albert Camus’ Outsider. This book was a shock to my young mind (the first line of the book was – Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know). Then I graduated to reading Ayn Rand; then to Gone with the wind and to War and Peace (I think this book had two volumes and some 1,000 plus pages). All this reading contributed to shaping our thinking. Mind you, PK had no business to make us read books; after all, we were working in a government organisation. Nurturing employees is never a remit of a manager in state-run companies. PK did it, for our good.

Terry was MD of my next company. He called me one day (I think it was in 1997) and said, “I learnt something called mind mapping during the weekend. I want to show you how it works.” He spent about an hour to show me how our minds think, jumping like a monkey, from one branch to the other. I still remember each word that he shared with me.

Asit, my colleague and a great manager himself, once told me about his manager. I forget his name. He was the CEO of Asit’s previous company. Whenever this CEO had appraisal meetings with his reportees, he would meditate for 30 minutes before starting the meeting. He sure must have been a great manager as I could gauge from Asit who was groomed well by him.

My next story is about one more great manager. We used to have all staff meeting every month. I was responsible for managing it. In one of the meetings, I saw an employee in the lift sitting in a wheelchair. I knew this person. He had had an accident a few months back that had reduced him to paraplegic state. His manager, Narendra, had allowed him to work from home. I wondered why this person took the trouble of attending the all-staff meeting coming all the way from his home. When we got out of the lift for the meeting, he stopped me and asked, “Can you give me five minutes to speak? I want to talk about Narendra.” I said yes. After the CEO’s address, we wheeled this person onto the stage. He was full of praise for Narendra. He narrated the whole experience about his accident and how Narendra helped him at every stage. Listening to him was an emotional moment for all of us.

Sushil, our HR Head, was a great champion of a concept called StrengthsFinder. What they do is conduct an online assessment of employees’ strengths. Based on the assessment, they recommend appropriate career paths. During the discussion with me, the consultant gave me some good advice on how I should progress leveraging my strengths and also said that my strengths profile was well suited to be an author. When Sushil saw the report, he called me and asked me to take leave for ten days and come back to office only after writing a book. Can you believe this? This task had nothing to do with my work. Sushil did this only for my sake. I went on a ten-day vacation, worked day and night; and came back with a book (of course it had only 35 pages which later became a full-fledged proper book after a year).

These are my stories. Stories about some great managers I met/ I heard about. I am sure you too have many such stories to share. Please do. Many of you would be great managers yourselves. Please share your magical moments.

My salute to all the great managers. You may not realise; your small acts of goodness remain in the hearts of people for a long long time. Keep doing what you are doing.


Innovation and challenging the status quo was the spirit of the Impressionist painters of the latter part of 19th century. Today I want to write about Edouard Manet. He was one of the pioneers of the Impressionists’ art movement.

Manet broke all the rules of painting to dismantle the expectations of art. This painting titled ‘The Luncheon on the grass’ was painted in 1863. The first shock to the viewer is the nude nymph from the Renaissance era sitting with two men wearing proper gentlemen attire. The second shock is that she is not a nude nymph but a woman who disrobed herself as you can see from the blue crumpled dress thrown on the grass. This painting sparked a lot of public notoriety/ outcry. There are many more shocks for the connoisseurs of art. But my objectives is not to shock you but to remind you about practising innovative thinking and challenging the conventional thinking.

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