In the previous blog, we discussed the right way to think about work (its place in the framework of Country, Work, Family, Society & Self). As I reminisce about my grandfather’s teachings, I remembered another anecdote he used to often tell me (one of his many ways of imparting important business and work lessons early in life), which has to do with Cats!
This is how the story goes. One day, my grandmother came to my grandfather asking for a favour (yeah! in those days wives asking “for favours” was still a thing). She requested to promote her brother to the open position of a senior manager at the organisation that my grandfather founded. My grandfather instead wanted to promote another much more qualified junior manager (who was not a member of the family) and thus as expected, an argument ensued between the two.
As they were unable to come to an agreement, my grandfather came up with a solution. He said he will assign both the candidates (my uncle and the junior manager) a task and whoever fulfils it best, will get the position. My grandmother reluctantly agreed.
My grandfather called both the candidates, asked them to go over to a friend’s house, who’s pet cat had just delivered a litter of kittens a day or so ago and tasked them to count the exact number of kittens. Both candidates went over the assigned place, counted the kittens and came back the next day to report their findings. Based on their report and much to the dismay of my grandmother, the promotion was given to the junior manager. When she asked what they reported, he answered that both reported the correct number of kittens - 8!
My bewildered grandmother, couldn’t understand that if both reported the correct number then why did her brother not get the job? To this, my grandfather replied as follows, “even though both reported the correct number, when I asked for the colour of the kittens, your brother couldn’t remember the number of kittens of each colour, whereas the other junior manager accurately reported 3 light brown and 5 grey kittens. This is the difference between an average and a great manager.”
I hope this simple but powerful anecdote helps you shape your outlook on how one should think at work. This simple but profound story has always motivated me to dig deeper, work harder and think through the next steps of any assigned task. Each time we take on a task or have one assigned to us, we should always try to think through the next steps and the purpose that the task will fulfil. We should anticipate what follow-up questions could our superiors (or even colleagues) ask us next and next and next and do our best in addressing the follow-ups in our first response itself.
I hope this helps you Shoot to the top!