Employees, Managers, and Owners

“I would like to add my name in the ‘people responsible’ for every activity in the school,” said Girija Hegde yesterday as we were discussing how to plan and track different tasks at SBV. Girija Hegde is the founding headmistress of the school and now the Co-Principal. She is instrumental in building a vibrant culture in the school, which has been converting even mediocre students to star performers. The four batches of 10th standard children who passed out of the school have made the school proud by their scores. The school, though small, in at the top in cultural and sport competitions even at state level. The school attracts many visiting faculty for regular teacher development programs and also to teach a topic or two to the children.

I can quote from two recent mails:

“Despite being ‘home’ in Chicago, I miss being in Bangalore very much and, in particular, the faculty, staff and students at SBV!  As I’ve said many times, my experience teaching and being at the school is my favorite part of my time in India. All is well with me.  I’ve been very busy with my job on the President’s Re-election campaign.” This is from Scott Speegle, a campaign manager for President Obama.

“We were mesmerized by the cultural program and had to pull ourselves out since kids were at home. … I envied the kids of SBV for all the right set of people
putting in their best effort for the students. Had we been living any closer, we would have admitted our kids here.” This mail is from Srinivas and Roopa.

The school is a cathedral, lovingly built brick by brick.

When I joined Rothwell Systems in 1996, Shivalingappa was all over – opening the doors in the morning, cleaning the floors, preparing coffee for the staff, running errands, and much more. He had some tragedies in personal life, which did not affect his commitment to work. He cared for the company and for the people. When HCL Perot Systems was formed, they acquired Rothwell Systems. I left the company in 1998.

When I visited Perot Systems three years ago to conduct a training program, there were only 3 people from the old crowd of 1998. I asked Shobha who was still with the company if I could find Shivalingappa. Soon he came in response to a phone call, hugged me with warmth, talked about family, good old days, offered to be of any help.  After he left, Shobha asked me to guess the position of Shivalingappa in the company. I could tell that he was doing well. Then she told me that he was an accounts executive and if I raised an invoice for my services, he would be the one to approve it! He was earning a decent salary of Rs. 5,00,000 per year. I was very happy for him and was very proud of him.

These are the kind of people who act like the owners of the organisation they work for. Monitory rewards, position in the hierarchy and career growth are not their motivating factors. They are with the origanisation – simply.

Then, there are managers who are conscious of their position and career. For every action, they weigh the consequences and often personal gains. If there is an opportunity, they would ask their superiors “tell me what exactly to do,” lest they should falter and fail. They quote rules and are conscious privileges and hierarchy, roles and responsibilities, authorities and accountability at their position. Pecking order matters.

We have employees, who are lone-wolves who care only about themselves. If they can save or make a few rupees that could cost the company a few thousands, it is acceptable to them. Only personal comforts and rewards matter, and they are not satisfied with what they get ever. They feel least appreciated and carry a hurt feeling of injustice mooted to them by the superiors and in general by life itself. Examples are many, but I do not like elaborate.

An oft quoted story:

 “A man came across three masons who were working at chipping chunks of granite from large blocks. The first seemed unhappy at his job, chipping away and frequently looking at his watch. When the man asked what it was that he was doing, the first mason responded, rather curtly, “I’m hammering this stupid rock, and I can’t wait ’til 5 when I can go home.”

”A second mason, seemingly more interested in his work, was hammering diligently and when asked what it was that he was doing, answered, “Well, I’m molding this block of rock so that it can be used with others to construct a wall. It’s not bad work, but I’ll sure be glad when it’s done.”

”A third mason was hammering at his block fervently, taking time to stand back and admire his work. He chipped off small pieces until he was satisfied that it was the best he could do. 

When he was questioned about his work he stopped, gazed skyward and proudly proclaimed, “I…am building a cathedral!”

“Three men, three different attitudes, all doing the same job.”


People like Girija Hegde and Shivalingappa are ‘cathedral builders’ .

At any position in the organisation, we can choose to feel and behave like mere employees, managers or the owners of the place.


About pgbhat

A retired Naval Officer and an educationist. Has experience with software industry. A guest faculty at different institutes and a corporate trainer with software development companies.
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One Response to Employees, Managers, and Owners

  1. kartik says:

    Heartwarming stories. I love the message here. Best regards to Ms Girija and Mr Shivalingappa.


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