Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Art of Negotiation...

An MBA education teaches you a lot. Apart from the obvious subjects, it teaches you to work with a diverse bunch of motivated students with cut-throat competition on their minds. It teaches you to get along with BIG egos. It teaches you to be political at times. It teaches you to navigate your way thru a maze of problems and issues. On the lighter side, it also teaches you to read a 1000 page book in a single night. But frankly, these were things that I expected out of the MBA. What I dint expect was to learn so much from fellow classmates. Sometimes from interacting with them, sometimes from listening to them and sometimes from simply watching them. Its amazing the things you can pick up.

When you watch people from a distance, you pick up a lot of cues on mannerisms, some good, some not so good. You get to see how really capable people get things done and how incapable people cry for attention. You get to see who among the group is most likely to really go on to becoming good successful managers. You get to see who you can trust and who you cannot. You get to see cry babies. You get to see those few who are, as Prof. Venkat says, “Sheep Lions” (meaning they are really dynamic Lions, but do not realise it themselves... They think they are just sheep).

You also see people who are “Wolves in Sheep skin” - the bad type. You will see a few who will take advantage of just anyone, use them, and then throw them away – the worse type. You will also see outright vile cheats who will stop at nothing to meet their end and even cheat you of property – the worst type.

And then among all these, there are those few Gems, those normally quiet few who can, with one swift effortless sweep, get their things done without causing damage to anyone or anything around them.

A case in point happened a few days back when our Executive Director, PGPM, Prof. Rao and Executive Director, Great Lakes Institute of Management, Prof. Sriram had an informal chat with the entire batch to allay any issues that we faced (Great Lakes is good in that way – the administration listens to the concerns of the students.. Well, atleast most of them :D ). OK, before I recollect the incident let me ask you this – If you don’t agree with certain policies of your institution, how do you deal with it?

If you are like most people, including me, you will raise the issue, you will fight (sometimes to death, coz its the right thing to do or whatever), you will debate on it, sometimes you will close your ears to others logic, fight, fight and more fight – basically you will become a 4 year old child crying for a much wanted toy. I find that most people, young and old, fall in this category. So, is there a different way of getting your way? Yes. And I got to learn that from an expert himself.

Well, let me tell you the story. We get a lot (and by that I mean a LOT) of guest lectures at Great Lakes. Its basically industry people coming over to share gyan or anything that they want to talk about. These are not regular classroom sessions. The takeaway from the talks are varied depending on the speaker and the college puts in a lot of effort to get these going. Since some of these clashes with our regular classes for some sections, which ever section is free gets to sit thru the sessions.

Now, we know that even Amruth in large quantities is bad. During Term 1, students from Section 2 (E2) got to sit thru most, if not all, of the lectures. Things got to a point where they had to sit thru one of these lectures right before a Term Exam! Obviously, tempers were high and lot of resentment was in the air. So when Prof. Rao and Prof Sriram addressed the entire batch we were expecting a flurry of questions regarding it and expected it to be obviously along the lines that I previously mentioned.

At this point, before anyone raised the issue, Mr Ranjit Shankar, a classmate and friend, stood up and said
“Sir, I have a concern regarding the scheduling of the Guest Lectures” And I was thinking – So, the deluge begins... But something quite unexpected happened then.

Mr Ranjit continued “Sir, E2 section has had the good fortune of attending all the Guest Lectures, both scheduled and adhoc. While it is really great that we get to be part of all the Guest Lectures and learn so much from them, I feel that we are getting undue advantage here. The other sections also have an equal right to be part of the guest lectures and I feel we are depriving them of these wonderful opportunities. I hope that all future lectures will be scheduled so that the other 2 batches, E1 and E3, will also be be able to take full advantage of it. Infact, E2 is more than willing to sacrifice the opportunities and advantages for a while so that the other batches can catch up with us!”

All of us understood what he was hinting at, but the way he said it made us all sit up and take notice. Even Prof. Rao took the hint and replied in equal finesse:

“It is not that we have a plan to give the E2 section special advantage by depriving the other 2 sections from enjoying the benefits of the guest lectures, but it just happened that the time slots that we got from the guest lectures happened to clash with the schedules of the other sections. That’s all... Hence forth, we will try our level best to give the pleasure of the guest lectures to the other sections too. Please bear with us on this until we sort this out”

And in that smooth move, Mr Ranjit laid to rest an issue that could have brought the students locking horns with the management. And if you are wondering, he got results too. Not that there are any less of guest lectures to be content with, but nowadays E2 does not get “undue advantage” alone... The rest of the class gets to enjoy it along with them!!!

Many thanks to Mr Ranjit for showing me an alternate path in The Art of Negotiation...


1 comment:

Ranjit Shankar said...

Thanks dude....sometimes even i dont know how i come up with such statements...