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It is 8 pm, Sunday. Kamal is at home relaxing, sipping a glass of wine having returned from the gym an hour ago. Dinner would follow shortly, but for now, Kamal browses emails on the smartphone. Having skimmed through each email earlier, to check for any ‘urgent’ messages, it was only now, that Kamal started to read each mail more carefully. Sunday evening was a way to reset to the week ahead. The last two evenings were hectic – a Friday evening farewell dinner for a colleague, and party with friends on Saturday. Mulling over the party, Kamal reflected on the VUCA environment they had all animatedly discussed – seemed like Life was a bitch. There seemed to be so much of work pressure and feverish busyness all around. Was this something to one should accept without questioning? Kamal wondered if this was peculiar to India or similar outside as well. Colleagues working abroad seemed to have a more balanced work life and they seemed to enjoy taking vacations to exotic places.

There was much satisfaction of having a successful career as a Sales Director, and the benefits that go with it. The compensation was great and so too perks that came with the job. However, there was always a lingering doubt – am I enjoying what I do? And the feeling of being a bird stuck in a golden cage. For now, Kamal hoped that things would straighten out soon, but a lurking suspicion, it would get to be a lot worse before it got to be better. I wonder if I am living my personal purpose? Kamal smiled – at this point unsure.

Browsing through email, Kamal was reminded of the upcoming schedule for the fortnight. The Local office was expecting four global visitors. The Business Performance to be reviewed against Objectives set for the year. The boss was keen to review the deck and had reminded Kamal on more than one occasion about it. Kamal had a few thoughts but no clear plans yet, nor was a straw man deck ready for pre-discussion.

There were certainly many challenges and opportunities. Revenue was behind target for the half year by about 8%, on account of unexpected changes that had come about in the regulations, and by the time one caught up with mitigating this, the opportunity lost almost one full quarter. Again, competition had made some solid inroads in some of the regions. These weaknesses had to be breached. Kamal had made several field trips to fathom what was happening on the ground, had come back with a lot of notes on what actions needed urgent attention.

Kamal was a little disappointed with the team – they should have seen the trends, anticipated some of the events and prevented this from happening. Kamal was aghast at some of the inefficiencies discovered. It brought up concerns on execution excellence on the ground. Processes continued to be an issue that needed attention, but while this was an ongoing project it would take some months before the situation would change. Kamal was pleased that a few focus products were gaining traction, the investment made on them was paying off.

Kamal felt a lot less confident than a year ago although in role for past two years. More recently, feedback from the CEO pointed to be ‘more strategic’ (wonder what that means really). There was this issue of building capability, and finding ‘winning ways of working’ Kamal was defensive – and saw this simply as a result of sales lagging behind the target, and felt there was little appreciation for the competitive environment the business was facing, nor did Kamal see any support for internal controls and support that Kamal was expecting from colleagues especially from other functions. While technology transformation was clearly underway, it was throwing up a lot of angst since employees skills needed upgrading to cope with the digital age. Kamal had time discussing these issues with colleagues, even while keeping the Big Boss in the loop. Kamal felt, it was time for the Boss to step directly in and throw in his weight behind the needed changes and support. At times, it felt like each function were working in Silos, and missing the big picture. Kamal believed the role of all employees in the organisation was to ‘either Sell or Help Sell’. On the ground though, that was far from reality.

A few new products were to launch soon, and Kamal was keen to making sure the whole launch and post launch well executed. He had shared a few ideas with the marketing function. The life cycle of existing products was getting shorter – at best 2-3 years. This required a lot of work on renovation as well as innovation. Kamal felt that internal ‘ways of working’ needed to be fixed. At its core was communication and building trust. A senior off-site retreat planned soon, and Kamal felt this could be an opportunity to mention these issues there.

Flicking over a few more emails, reminded Kamal about the massive transformation in the organisation. All functions involved in change would certainly result in re-organisations and loss of jobs for many. In anticipation of this, there was uncertainty and insecurity and rumours. The promised benefits seemed like a long time coming. Kamal is clearly concerned. Good talent was taking flight or demanding better opportunities. Brighter talent had been demanding for better salaries. Kamal tried bringing this up with HR but not getting the support needed. There were a few non-performers to give feedback, and while Kamal was up to doing this, something within felt uncomfortable. They had lost two good direct reports and Kamal hoped replacements hired soon. No wonder, all this is affecting our employee engagement survey scores!

A few emails later – a grimace. Kamal was invited to a few committees and was wondering that while it took up much time, it was not adding any value to one’s direct job accountability. Kamal knew these meetings were best avoided – yet it would not be seen kindly by colleagues, so endure he must!.

Kamal read a few emails requesting for leave, travel, to attend a conference and moved past these. There was a deadline to complete the mid-year appraisal process, and some formats he had to send back to HR. Kamal wondered why HR could not be more of a Business Partner, than just be a guardian of processes.

Dinner was announced. Kamal puts down the phone, drains down the last dregs of wine, and walks to the dining table, preoccupied. In the pit of the stomach, Kamal felt the familiar stress revisiting. Soon attention moves to family at the dining table.

Did you enjoy reading this story? What does it remind you of? What dilemmas and challenges are appearing in a Covid world? How must we respond to a post covid ‘new normal’?

Please do not like and move on. Would love to have your reflections and join in the discussion.

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