Friday, June 13, 2008

Does your personality fit your organisation’s culture?

Sport can offer a lot of learning about life and managing businesses, but that’s only if we pay attention, assimilate the lessons and follow them consistently. My knowledge of sport, sadly though, is restricted to cricket for which I have an obsession, to put it mildly.

Thanks to the Indian Premier League, there was a lot happening on and off the field which could teach us some lessons. There has been a lot of controversy about the poor performance of the Royal Challengers team and the owner, Vijay Mallya’s obvious and publicly stated unhappiness with his team’s performance. The CEO of the team was “summarily dismissed” and if rumour was to be believed, a few other heads were on the block as well, Rahul Dravid’s included.

Let’s take a look at the two principal actors in the drama — Mallya, the owner of the Royal Challengers and Dravid, the former India captain (and the captain of the Royal Challengers team) — and analyse their respective personalities based on what we have seen, read and heard about these two personalities and see if there is a match of personalities at all between the two.

We should remember that the two were forced to come together in a commercial venture to create a winning team unlike what happens in the corporate world where people can choose the company they join, and owners too determine who works for them. When Mallya won the Bangalore bid he had to sign Dravid on as the captain and Dravid had no option but to represent Bangalore.

The king of good times
Mallya is a successful businessman with a flamboyant lifestyle. His brands are famous, some of them leaders and a few global. His diversification into airlines, if not commercially profitable yet, has demonstrated his understanding of diverse businesses and delivery of quality service to the most demanding if not the most discerning customers. He is in-your-face in the media.

Contrast this with Dravid, an educated middle-class professional whose cricketing ability has given him international recognition. Even in the cut-throat world of modern cricket he has been a gentleman. He seems to be a knowledgeable, intense, introvert who loves to spend time with his family when he is not touring and who is more comfortable with a book in his hand than with a glass. Now tell me where is the fit between the two?

Companies have cultures
It is important to remember that companies have cultures, some strong, some not so well defined or tangible. I have spent a fair amount of time in advertising agencies and I can say with a fair amount of certainty that the culture of advertising agencies is very different from your normal, staid company.

I remember an induction statement often made at ad agencies “Welcome to the zoo!” While that could be argued about, what is certain is that only a certain type of individual would be comfortable in the advertising agency, where creative types come to work in torn jeans, pony tails and earrings.

In fact, I frequently tell my students who wish to enter advertising to do an internship in an agency to help them decide whether they would fit in or end up being fish out of water in the chaotic environment typical of an agency. I am told the BPO industry could give the agency business a run for its money in being an industry for mavericks.

While we are talking extremes in these examples, it is still important for people who wish to join companies to understand what they are getting into in terms of management style and working environment. So, do your homework, talk to your seniors, acquaintances and just about anyone who can give you information about the industry, the company and the working environment.

So where is the fit?
So let’s get back to our cricketing example. Mallya has publicly gone on record saying that he would have picked a different team. The common complaint is that Dravid picked a test team. Whether he has or not, he has certainly chosen people he is comfortable with. People like Anil Kumble, Sunil Joshi, Wasim Jaffer and Jacques Kallis who are culturally and emotionally suited, perhaps, to his own disposition. People who are understated, but performers in their own right.

I for one have no idea what is on Mallya’s mind. But if one were to do an academic exercise, I am sure Mallya would have chosen people who would entertain. A few who would have interested the business tycoon — Shane Warne the king of spin, with a cigarette in one hand and a can of beer in the other and with a track record of amazing success and astounding controversies. M. S. Dhoni, the charismatic captain of the Indian team with his flamboyant batting style and matching hair style. Andrew Symonds, the dreadlocked hero, Harbhajan Singh and maybe even Sreesanth… I know all of this seems funny, but I do think that there is some, if not a lot of, truth in the statement that people work better for companies and people they like and are comfortable with. They flower in environments where they have “freedom from fear” and “the freedom to fail.”

Do you have the freedom?

(The writer is CEO Brand-Comm and also the author of One Land One Billion Minds.)


Ramakrishna Sunder said...

A very good piece - I completely agree with what you say, although in many cases, especially in large organisations, while the organisation has its own culture, the people who lead it are not in sync with the ethos and are very often the ones who lead it into a quagmire. So more than employees down the line, I think while recruiting at the seniromost levels, it is vital that there is a cultural fit. I can say this very truthfully from my own experiences.

Ramanujam Sridhar said...

Yes It becomes more difficult in large organisations and is dependent on the individual.I agree with you one hundred percent on the importance of matching when it comes to senior people.

Sam Chandar said...

I greatly appreciate your insight on personality fit with org.culture.
I would'nt bat for Mallya....that's for sure!

Ramanujam Sridhar said...

Yes I thought that he has handled so many things wrong in this exercise at least that it will be difficult to find anyone to bat for him, least of all Rahul Dravid!