on board my ship i do HUMOR MANAGEMENT. it is the most powerful and effective form of management. AND LAUGHING IS NO ENEMY TO LEARNING .
but i do retain the option to dart to IRON FISTED NO NONSENSE MANAGEMENT when safety/ company image is at stake.
when a news reader on prime time tv says something controversial , questions will be asked in the lok sabha the next day. however if he talks to a muppet he can say the same thing and more and instead of getting crucified he gets applauded.
by the way when i was on derailed sichem pearl i got one year of work done in 4 months. it could have been done only by humor management with some sailor specific sex talk sprinkled in for good measure--- work gets converted to play. half the time the crew is confused whether they are working hard or playing hard.
here is my piece on ON BOARD MENTORING.
what is mentoring?
it is an inexpensive way to build up a high performance team on board , like a formula one ferrari team. HIGH PERFORMANCE TEAMS DO NOT HAPPEN--THEY ARE BUILT.
difference between OBT and OBM:
the mentor retains a STRANGE CONTROL over the trainee even after the session is over. for the trainer treats the mind as a vessel to be filled up, while the mentor treats it as a STACK TO BE IGNITED. sceptics pl consider-- capt vadakayil had mentored capt ajay prasad. does any body feel that he would not have joined selandia/ fairchem colt as per my wishes because he would get two thousand dollars more elsewhere. or capt sanjay mehta whom i had mentored will not jump from copenhagen pool to singapore pool when ever i want him to? in short the obt informs,--the obm INFLUENCES and MOTIVATES.
need for interaction:--
any idiot can evaluate knowledge by a written test. evaluating attitudes need personal interaction. ATTITUDES are beliefs and values. they are more sophisticated than skills and not easily influenced by a mere trainer.
example of a mentor:
the full bird colonel of rambo who keeps mouthing glib patronising talk like " what are friends for?".
it is a skill in itself. 'glib patronising talk' usually created resentment if the student is intelligent. the mentors personality is such that he gets the team excited about waht they NEED to learn rather than what they WANT to learn. he does not fight fire with fire.
qualifications of a mentor:
he must be SEASONED, COMPASSIONATE , FAIR and have character --only then he can be a role model. HIS STYLE MUST NOT BE DOMINATING (that is why the master is a misfit , he can aleniate the trainee who feels threatened ) but facilitating. there is no need to catch a cat by the tail in order to know more about it---unless the cat is real bad (tee hee ! ) since feedback is the fuel for improved performance, the mentor must be honest only to the extent that his feedback cannot be destructive. negative feed back without splitting hairs ,must not be untimely and unbalanced. negative feedback cant be in public. the feedback game is like a game of billiards. let me not digress--
the mentor MOULDS ATTITUDES and HONES COMMITMENT. an ordinary teacher can address only knowledge and skills. he cannot CHANGE BEHAVIOR like a mentor. greg chapell can be a good coach because he talks about mentoring. the team must delight in the self improvement process. unless it is meaningful fun doing all this , this process cannot work. he must get interested in the team and in the process the team gets interested in him. he will address crewmembers by their first names.
why on board? why not in the institute?
like the universal water the mentor must find the level of every member and float him up like how the panamax is floated up in the canal ( tee heee ! ). this is called PITCHING AT THE RIGHT LEVEL. the mentoring ENVIRONMENT is important. executive ship management has build a stainless steel tank with a framo pump inside in their training institute spending a fortune.
if the environment is not ok , the dialogue between minds cannot happen. remember the mentor does not bid you to enter the glorious house of his own wisdom--rather HE LEADS YOU TO THE THRESHOLD OF YOUR OWN MIND.(oops, have i been too profound about mind exploration?) the mentor is a PROBER NOT AN INTERROGATOR.
the mentor must not waste too much on time on spent forces. my chief engineer on sichem psv was a spent force. i stop short of calling him a loser. wet stacks can be dried and ignited.
food for the soul--
the obm must identify people who do not take pride in their work and encourage these misguided souls as long as they are not persistant story tellers who want company policy change to suit their needs.
while getting off the ship the obm must have the satisfaction of knowing that he has bridged the gap between what the team wants to learn and what they need to know. he must have with him a list of the crew's future training needs . he cannot get off with a conflict left to fester which he has not attempted to diffuse. I WOULD CALL A MENTOR SUCCESSFUL ONLY IF HE HAS ESTABLISED A CULTURE WHICH ENCOURAGES A CREW MEMBER TO STAY WITH THE COMPANY AND FLOURISH. he has done a damn good job if he has identified people who have a sense on belonging. for what is the use in sharing insight and experience with such driftwood.
MENTORING--- VIEWED INSIDE OUT
LAST TIME I GAVE A BIRDS EYE VIEW OF THE POND OF MENTORING.
THIS TIME I AM DIVING RIGHT IN.
--HERE I GO!!---YIPEEEEE!!!!
MID AIR LET ME DIGRESS—
PEOPLE WHO GOT MENTORED BY CAPT VADAKAYIL WILL CRY---“HE NEVER PRACTISED A DANG WORD OF ALL THIS”. I SHALL CONFIRM ---. YES THEY ARE RIGHT . I NEVER FOLLOWED A WORD OF ALL THIS FOR I DID “SPONTANEOUS HUMOR MENTORING”.
THERE IS NO CRASH COURSE TO THIS ART. IF YOU ARE NOT BORN WITH THIS ART YOU MUST BE A LIVING LEGEND LIKE MARADONA TO IGNORE WHAT FOLLOWS.
DIGRESSION CODE TWO—I WILL DELIBERATELY LEAVE MY PROSE DISJOINTED AND UNEDITED. THIS IS TO MAKE MY PIECE MORE POWERFUL.
SCEPTICS PL CONSIDER---WOULD ARUNDATHI ROY HAVE GOT THE BOOKER PRIZE FOR HER NOVEL ‘ GOD OF SMALL THINGS’ IF SHE HAD NOT STREWN THE STORY AROUND IN BITS AND PIECES FOR THE READER TO WEAVE-- AFTER READING IT AT LEAST TWICE?
First let me swim around and locate TRUTHS etched on rock. ---
Humor is a state of mind which can appreciate the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous. It instills a feeling of camaraderie. Human beings are by nature playful creatures. Leaders who are open to humor become more human and approachable. Only humor can save people who are on the brink of burnout.
Frivolousness or behaving like Mr.Super Dick (or prick for the matter) is just not the humor I am referring to..
Productivity increases when commitment increases. Committed employees value their existing work relationship so highly that they may even pass over another job which pays 2000 usd more. Committed employees speak well about the company to the seafaring community. Only people who are happy in their work can be committed. A heightened atmosphere of general goodwill exists on such a ship..
When you trust people they trust you in return. When a high level of trust exists sailors show very little concern about getting their share from a relationship because they know for sure the other party will not take advantage of them. People in low trust relationships are preoccupied with seeing that they get their share of the relationship -- ( like high wages , new ships) and the other party gets no more than a fair share.
Trust is fragile and can be destroyed in one single stroke. Trust is not being gullible to believe bullshit or be treated like a mushroom ( always in the dark and fed with lot of crap).
First loyalty is to yourself—this is the way human beings are made.
Employees have a right to be treated with courtesy and respect. Rewards have little meaning if respect is missing. ( I learnt this in Zodiac-- the only thing I learnt there other than sabbath) They have a right to expect the management to care about their happiness and safety.
Sailors are proud to be part of an organization that show ethical consideration for themselves and for society and even the environment (many superintendents develop a nelsons eye when they see the merlin pipe used to pump ho sludge overboard) . They get inspired to bond and commit to such an organisation.
Almost all new employees want to stay in an organization and do a good job.
Quality is a culture which must be built in –not inspected in semi annually.
Time is required to build skills necessary to meet quality standards. OBM cuts down this time.
Trust goes out of the window when you ask for ideas and don’t follow up on them. All that is required is to comment on unfeasible ideas. Or the next time you ask for ideas they crew wont trust you enough to give you time of day.
Commitment to a common goal is the foundation of success. Commitment and loyalty come from being included rather than excluded in decision making and information sharing (sometimes the crew does not know where the ship is bound for—thus starting the galley news bureau with the captains steward as the news reader). Commitment to the company improves when employees are recogonised for their contributions.
Negative attitudes are contagious.
The strongest drive in human nature is the desire to be appreciated.(don’t take my word for granted and call an ugly girl, gorgeous, for she will haul you over burning embers for sexual harassment ). If it is overdone with insincerity it becomes patronizing.
Patronisers compliment people to serve themselves and does not care for the dignity of others.. Loud praises of few people is bound to cause others to feel left out and will cause resentment.
Praise seldom improves “performance” rather in some cases it impairs performance. It may lead some duffers to believe that they are better than what they are. So instead of praise try giving them feed back which encourages them.
Two of the most powerful motivators are survival and security. Criticism threatens motivation.
Company seminars must not be used to pit workers against management. When respectable top bosses are put in the witness box on the defensive—even after the issues are settled , deep scars are left behind. Defensive blocking burns energy needed for constructive action.
The quickest way to destroy trust is to jump all over somebody who is doing his best.
Trust and delegation go hand in hand. This does not imply abdication or dumping—for delegation is built on trust –not abandonment.( or even micromanaging—hovering over. I did that on Sichem Pearl for 2 months ).
Departing employees take a great deal of knowledge with them. Losing good employees has a domino effect.
Burned out employees make huge mistakes ---the intelligent ones just simply quit. An unhappy ship leads to burnout. Vetting inspectors rarely punish a ship where the crew morale is high and ships management radiates pride.
Ships are run by men not machines.
Creativity involves people talking together—even at coffee breaks.
Job satisfaction is a major factor for an employees decision to stay with or leave the company. High turnover makes it difficult to build a chemical pool.
Communicating well is is one of the lowest cost but highest yielding things that you can do to keep employee retention.
Where there is low commitment there exists a mentality of every man for himself.
Now let me define VISION. It is always seen when in ecstasy. It is a deep optimistic expression of what is desired.
What vision should a standard company like TESMA hold for the future.—
Let me talk about the company ORGANISATION CHART.
When I was at the Japanese shipyard at Usuki I got familiar with the pyramid structure. Fine—but the pyramid base consisted of morons who made stupid mistakes. Another familiar structure is in the company manual consisting of many boxes.
Ideally the chart for the future should look like the anatomy of the nervous system of a human body. Sense organ messages from brain (or management) must be sent to only that part of the body (or employees) best suited to handle the job ( or change ). Individual talent and synergy of teamwork is utilized.
THIS IS WHERE THE MENTORING ASPECT COMES IN. Mentoring helps build the network and skills for such a proactively responsive organization. Mentoring is here to stay and will be a way of life in the future.
TESMA Singapore can take the credit for being the pioneer and discoverer of the term OBM . Mentoring must not be limited to ships , but should be a culture ashore too. The company realizes that mentoring is not a luxury but a necessity.
Knowledge and skills of every employee is harnessed to get the cutting edge. OBM will first be kick started on chemical tankers where know how has been scarce and hard to acquire. It is common place for seasoned chemical men to hide and hoard knowledge. They give fishes but don’t teach how to fish. The only reason could be to be one up on the rest and wrest falthu respect.
Ever seen a derby race winner who as a colt was suppressed, disabled and crushed?
Junior ranks must be empowered to discover their potential and play the best game. The mentor must fill in the cracks of their vulnerabilities. The environment has to be punishment free and congenial. It must be such that a sailor can meet his needs while meeting the needs of the company.
Topnotch standards of performance need to be developed both personally and professionally.
Performance failure must be viewed as a gap between what is needed and what id produced. The OBM must describe and measure this gap. A mutual plan needs to be developed for closing the gap.
Encourage employees to challenge the status quo. The OBM must convey companies standards and procedures.
Mentoring is also cost effective training for training can be done when time permits. Remember that ship runs round the clock. Audio visual aids are not required for training will be on the spot and hands on.
At the end of a successful mentoring programme it will be in order for a certificate of recognition to be issued to the mentee.
The image of the company should be such that employees want to remain with and outsiders want to be hired to.
Involve employees into decisions and discussions about budgeting.
Lack of competence tears down the infrastructure.
SINCE OLD STYLE TRADITIONAL LOYALTY IS DEAD THE OBM HAS TO STRENGTHEN THE EMOTIONAL CONNECTION BETWEEN SHIPSTAFF AND COMPANY.
WHAT MY VISION OF MENTORING IS NOT—
When I was in a government public sector company as a junior officer I noticed that anybody who made it had a mentor. People in power cultivated protégés as pawns in a power struggle. They sponsored their protégées advancement without regard to merit. They taught their protégées tricks of the trade such as skills to sabotage their competitors rather than develop their own talents. Such a person cannot be called a mentor.
A MENTOR CANNOT PLAY THE POWER GAME. The core value is not to have an alliance rather it is solely to develop the mentee. It is not a personal chemistry between 2 people or a training course. It is a deep trusting personal relationship where a two way flow of respect and kindness happens. OBM is a fresh set of eyes which see things differently.
A mentor must not inappropriately achieve a promotion for the mentee or advance the mentees cause with his friends.
SO THEN WHAT IS THE MENTOR WE ARE TALKING ABOUT---
The mentor is not expected to sponsor his protégée leading to favouristism , career climbing and internal politics. The playing field cannot be tilted by a true mentor in favour of the mentee. It is a one to one ,caring and helping relationship where the mentees professional growth is enhanced to prepare him for top notch performance and it rises above the mundane. If the mentee does not change for the better the mentoring exercise has not taken off.
In the classic HOMER’S ODYSSEY when Odysseus –king of Ithaca leaves to fight in the Trojan war he entrusts the care of his household to MENTOR (easy name eh?, it could have been Balasubramaniamsivaramakrishnan –tee hee!! In which case the title would have been OBB) who was the teacher of his son Telemachus.
In time the word mentor has become synonymous with trusted friend,advisor ,teacher and sage. Examples of mentors and mentee in history are that of Socrates and Plato, Freud and Jung. Fagin of Oliver Twist who took homeless children under his wing to pick pockets for his own financial gain is not a mentor.
A modern living legend who is a stern taskmaster can mould his protégée to be a winner. The crunch word is ‘care’. A mentor cares for the mentee. Mentor’s (of odyssey fame) job was not just to raise Telemachus, but to but to develop him for the responsibilities of a lifetime by touching every facet of his being. It goes beyond counseling or obligatory relationships.
Intuition , feelings , hunches –all come to play in this intense long term relationship. The mentor gives a chance to the mentee to vent his negative feelings and get therapeutic relief.
You will appreciate in a ordinary training programme getting things off your chest may cause you to be black balled or worse cause the trainer to go into a deep sulk.
So what is the difference between a incompetent overbearing constantly nagging captain and a true mentor. They are on opposite ends of the pole ( tee hee!!).
The mentor fills up performance gaps with information not nagging criticism. An OBM is a catalyst of change and creates synergy in the work force by proactively leading people to draw on their innate creative energy.
DO’S FOR A OBM:
Identify things that do not meet your company standards. See if things can be done in a better way.
Give insight to company culture, appropriate attitudes and special relevant insider knowledge that is not written anywhere.
Focus on career plans and open new vistas for the mentee
Go that extra mile in discovering needs and fulfilling only those needs.
Counseling that stretch the mentee must include personal experienced gleaned and distilled from past quality experience. All coaching must be consistent with organizational needs and values.
Discuss stress management techniques on chemical tankers.
Hone win win negotiating and trust building skills.
Strengthen communicating skills, team building skills and skills to bring people to consensus.
Identify personal negative habits and reduce them.
Build assertive skills ( not aggressive skills )and conflict resolution skills.
Show how to manage time productively by multitasking.
Build on positive thinking and optimism.
Create an atmosphere of trust.
Ensure the OBM programme is a loose structure and flexible to meet the mentees needs.
Focus on positive results of a transaction and encourage constructive imagination.
Allow mentee to unload their troubles to get emotional release.
Look out for creative ideas to improve the system.
Discuss values and priorities.
Create a focus for creative energy by setting short term goals.
Observe employees while on the job.
Establish time frames for corrective action.
Respond to complaints quickly. Your door must be always open .( this is not like holding a chair on top of your head when told to take a chair --Tee hee !!)
Focus on efforts and contributions rather than accomplishments.
Eliminate barriers which prevent employees from unleashing their talents.
DON’T’S FOR THE OBM:
Don’t argue. Usually people argue without listening. They will only listen to gather information to reinforce their own arguments.
Don’t expect instant change. Quick changes can be stressful and overwhelming. Remember you are there as an OBM to build a quality culture brick by brick.
Don’t lower the mentees self esteem by threatening him to adopt new ways.
There is no need to push a reluctant soul too hard.
Don’t take over a problem unless there is an imminent safety , pollution,
company image crisis. Rescuing a mentee from mundane matters is not likely to help him in the long run.
Don’t make any promises you cant keep. Don’t over promise and underdeliver.
Don’t encourage bickering or bitching.
Don’t show favouritism. It can tear apart the work force.
Don’t give negative feedback at the wrong time. Wrong time is not the time for a 2 way conversation.
Don’t hold sessions disrespecting peoples time.
Don’t win battles at the expense of losing the war.
Don’t allow a insulting berating culture on board.
Don’t compliment Dilton for his muscles and Big Moose for his brains (duh!).
Don’t produce your clone even if you are god’s gift to shipping and this planet..
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MENTOR AND MENTEE:
The mentee must feel comfortable with the mentor. Only then he will be willing to trust and open up the doors of his mind to receive solutions.
Like a psychiatrist’s professional code, negative things volunteered by the mentee must strictly remain with the mentor. This is why the mentor must have character.
Once a relationship is set up it can be carried on by email or telephone.
For such a trusting relationship the key words are –encourage, help, listen, fair, caring, friendly, tolerant.etc.
Share thoughts and act spontaneously.
Treat the mentee as an individual. Call yourself I --not WE as many superintendents do from their first day in office to rub in the fact that he is now the almighty company and dispenser of your destiny.
If you are a seasoned guy, make sure you reduce the awe factor by being friendly.
The mentee must feel that you derive pleasure by helping him succeed and you want only good things to happen to him.
If the mentor does not have an emotional attachment to his team all his techniques and smartness is of zilch use.
A mentor broadens the horizons of the mentee.
TIPS FOR ASPIRING OBMS:
Give right help at the right time.
Enable the mentee to solve his own problems.
You must be a volunteer (make sure you get paid too ) to this job—only then can you enjoy it. Before you volunteer ask yourself ” Am I a mature intelligent and qualified individual for this abstract job?”.
On an abstract mission things left unsaid usually speak more than what is said. Your commitment must be 100%. Your antenna must be tuned for reception. You must have a willingness to pause and listen. Do you have a freely giving nature or is your nature such that you give only when you get ‘fayada’ out of it. Can you stretch yourself to make a positive difference in the life of others?
Since this process is genuine , do not hesitate to terminate a mentoring relationship any time without assigning reasons. Remember you are a commitment building manager.
Spontaneous off the cuff interventions while on the spot provide memorable and lasting learning experience.
Feel for yourself if the work place gives nourishment to the soul and there is quality of life .
You must do constant self improvement. Spent forces and deadwood will not get a calling card with QM printed on it.
You must know the ropes of body language. Only then you can forecast that something is amiss.
Be aware that cultural differences complicate your task. Remember the coaching is OJT ( read that as on the job training )
When you get off the ship you must have done at least one thing to improve the happiness of crew on board. Even a simple thing like you were instrumental in getting a tt table or bad airconditioning repaired or procuring ergonomically friendly mattresses.
People resist change only if they see no gain from it. They see only inconvenience and more inconvenience. Mentoring cannot be forced. It is like magic—something like a religious conversion. ( not the type Dharmendra had to marry Hema Malini—tee hee!!)
ALSO ON THE UNSEEN AGENDA
Seek out individuals who are versatile, adaptable ( even to unfamiliar cultures ) and quick minded. Who are the guys who caught on right away?. Who are the marathon men? People who have energy ,vitality and enthusiasm pursue goals passionately. Energy included physical endurance and mental vigor.
Tap the talent of excelsior guys.
Maximize the strengths of the company and minimize the weaknesses.
Evaluation is an integral part of the job. Even evaluating if it was a happy ship, whether the employees are upbeat, whether there is any discrimination.
For evaluating the officers—key words are—action oriented, approachable, patient, time manager, courage, endurance, innovation, integrity, vitality, vision, honesty, accountability, decisive, effective, ethical, setting priorities, multitasking , self starting etc.
Who are the guys who walk on deck with a sense of purpose. A committed man rarely saunters around like a pregnant duck.
Celebrations and parties on board are an extension of fun.
To probe you need to ask open ended questions which cannot be answered with a terse yes or no. This is important to facilitate a meaningful discussion. A closed question terminates a conversation as soon as it is started . ( is beer a conversation opener? )
Virtually everyone has an emotional reaction (positive or negative )to certain trigger words. ‘psychological deaf spots’ often trigger an emotion reaction. ( better stick to the beer to open up the door of the mind --eh?)
Find common ground.
View the whole crew as the orchestra band with the master as the conductor. Is the music pleasant to the ears. Whose guitar has to be restringed or violen tuned? Who are the pretenders who are screwing up the divine melody and giving music a bad name..
The capacity to detect emotions and feelings and to respond appropriately ia a critical art of mentoring. Since feelings motivate people to do or undo things overlooking them or insensitiveness can severely limit the mentors effectiveness.
Respect independence. Offer not push. Stick to helping not interfering.
Practice the art of inclusion to build a stronger team.
Understand that hierarchy is not simply a matter of rank or placing people on an organizational ladder. There are more profound and powerful hierarchies of competence, knowledge, seniority, talent, strength, intelligence, experience, influence , abstractions (ethics , loyalty , honor ,respect etc )etc.
Don’t attempt to wish away this truth and learn things the hard way..
Even unpopular decisions are more easily accepted it they make good sense.
Maintain your sense of humor. Fun activity should never be to embarrass .
Don’t give quick fix decisions. Rather thank the guy for bringing it to the company’s notice.
Support and enable rather than restrict and oversee.
Ask questions to understand –not to challenge. Since you are not in the chain of command you can ask not tell.
Different people have different styles. Be sensitive to such differences.
Communicate, be patient, be passionate about the success of every mentee.
Understand what is the meaning of win win solutions.
Listen for absolutes like never , every time etc.
The master is usually a misfit for OBM for when the going gets rough he is more interested in saving his own backside than the mentee’s. Remember mentoring is an informal relationship outside the chain of command. Rank blinds us to the more subtle relationship required for mentoring. Also anxiety about performance evaluation stunts.
Here the crew does more with less under stifling conditions.
Many struggle with a feeling of overload. If they are uncertain about their futures crew will keep a low profile and constantly look over their shoulders.
Burnouts are common place. Micromanaging is undesirable on chemical tankers unless the crew are all green horns and pretenders.
Seagull managing is also not desirable—fly in, bitch at all quack quack, crap of every body’s heads and fly out.
THERE IS A REAL NEED FOR OBM ON CHEMICAL TANKERS WHERE CREW ARE CREATING THEIR OWN CAREER PATHS AND USING JOB HOPPING AS A SURE ROUTE TO PROFESSIONAL SUCCESS..
A teacher says “ see you later”
A OBM says “ keep in touch “
--- Don’t burn ze bridges.
CAPT VADAKAYIL ( 28 YEARS IN COMMAND )
QM ( qualified mentor)