At the ICCO Global Summit 2006, one of the sessions was “Talent: Our Greatest Asset“. The Speaker was Jeffrey Fuller of Mercer HR Consulting, and the Chairperson (though I expected him to do a session as Speaker) was Bill Rylance – Asia-Pacific President & CEO of PR firm Burson-Marsteller.

My homework on Jeffrey Fuller told me we’d get a great global perspective on talent issues and management. And that this talk will not only touch upon human insights, but be backed by logical, scientific thinking as well.

My homework was correct, I wasn’t disappointed, and neither was the audience, by the sense I got in the hall. Jeffrey had covered most of the issues to do with talent.

Then Bill Rylance asked his first question. And gave the whole subject another angle, which may have been at the back of a lot of minds, but hadn’t ever been put so bluntly before.

As masterful as he is known to be, Bill Rylance pulled an ace out of his perceptive hat, and kind of said “all this is very well, to take care of people and their issues – but how do you deal with the fact that more often than not the root cause of all the problems and issues facing a company, is actually a bad boss?!”

And with that single statement, he made a point that “talent becomes irrelevant, when bosses become terrible!”

A silent hush ran through the audience, and I am sure everyone thought of their own boss immediately, and how almost every problem they faced, could be traced back to him or her!

It is true, and I am sure you all agree that the culture, the emotions, the workstyle of an organisation all depends upon the management and the environment it creates.

Good management, can nurture people and create positive productive, healthy believers.

Slack management, can create confusion, promote laziness and lower productivity, and at best mediocre performance.

Terrible management, will create chaos, hostility, lowered production, and many clusters of discontent!

In my seventeen years, I have had the honour and privilege of working with some of the finest bosses in the country – Sajid Peerbhoy, Abhinav Dhar, Nakul Chopra, Nirvik Singh, Arvind Wable, and Sanjeev Bhargava are the ones I can thank for nurturing and helping me grow – emotionally, as well as intellectually. Sure, we had minor issues like in every relationship, but we’re all still friends today.

And having not been obsessed with ‘boss problems’ of my own, I had the luxury of noticing other people’s bosses around me – in different business divisions, in client offices, in partner agencies, and even boss’s bosses!

There were a few good ones I came across – Ravi Kant (Tata Motors), Anil Kapoor (FCB), Sanjeev Chaddha (Pepsi), Marise Kumar (Whirlpool) and Prema Sagar (Burson-Marsteller) are the ones I’d rank as great bosses and people to work with.

You can always get a sense from body language of Bosses, as to how good or bad they’ll be. As well as know from the body language of those around them. Relaxed and good people, always have relaxed and good people around them – and together they do a great job growing themselves, growing their companies.

So while we must do all we can to manage our people well like Jeffrey suggested, the fact is as Bill pointed out – if we really want to do justice to our talent, we need to begin at the top!

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