50 Shades of Grey !

Its Appraisal time (My Company follows a Oct – Sep cycle). I am getting ready for a discussion that always comes up as an ” area of improvement” –  consistently in the last 20 years.

Here are some lines that I picked up verbatim from my Appraisal reports. “You  are too DIRECT”. “Life is not Black or White, its  GREY”. ” As you grow in a corporation you need to be comfortable with Shades of Grey” . ” Give the other person some space to maneuver”.

My answers have always been the same. I thought that was my strength! Isn’t it  good to be straightforward and take the no nonsense, no BS approach? (Apparently Not)  I am not a diplomat or a politician. After some years I gave up and told myself that I would never make it to a CEO / Country Manager unless I change my DNA and incorporate some shades of Grey. (I am happy doing a planning & execution job , being one level below a CEO – Less headaches , more peace of mind , better work life balance)

Way back in the early 1990’s a young and passionate Azim Premji (AHP) used to conduct a two hr session for all new Wipro recruits at the Chowdiah Memorial Hall. He used to talk of Wipro Beliefs and later touch upon the importance of looking at all things in life as Black & White.

His famous quote was “There is nothing Grey – If its Gray its Black ” . To me AHP is the epitome of Integrity and his words on looking at life in Black & White has stuck over the years.

On a slight deviation – was discussing this topic with my old Wipro colleagues a few weeks back. (A lot of old Wiproites have moved on to MNC sales organizations). A quick back of the envelope analysis revealed that 90% of MNC Country Managers in India originate from areas that are N of the Narmada. While 90% of the Top Management in IT Companies like Wipro , Infosys , TCS   etc originate from S of the Narmada. So the question that begs to be asked is there something about the culture of different states  & territories that influences the art of “Grey” in an individual.

Lets move to Circa 2012 – Aug 1st. I was at the airport  and had a few minutes to spend at the Crossword store. A book with the name ” Fifty Shades of Grey” beckoned me  – It was a bestseller too. The cover had the picture of a Tie – A corporate Look – and I thought here is the answer to my woes – maybe there is scope to ingrain some concepts of “Grey” into my personality – with a long flight to Delhi ahead of me , I intuitively picked up the book without even reading the back page summary.

This is what happens when you do something impulsively. The title & the cover had no correlation to the problem I was trying to address. How could an author & a publisher do this ? The first 100 pages of the book is  Mills & Boon and the last 200 is Hard Porn.

Who in his wildest dreams would have thought that a book with the name 50 Shades of Grey and a nice Corporate cover would turn up like this. (If you are still interested in the book grab it fast before someone from the moral police brigade in Managlore reads it. Be rest assured that it will get banned after that)

Maybe its a good idea for the IIM’s & other leading MBA schools to have a subject on ” Incorporating Shades of Grey in your personality for a successful career path ” – not much research has happened in this field  – so its virgin territory and a few Phd papers could get written on this. Because Shades of Grey (Or crudely put elements of JUGAD) are  today not just the core competency of Politicians and CEO’s , but qualities that you see even with representatives in your building association management committee.

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