Saturday, February 14, 2009

Recognizing and harnessing genuine talent

Mahesh* had a flair for technology. It came easy to him. He was basically intelligent. He loved programming too. All this made for a deadly combination. He barely had three years of experience. Inspite of this, he could solve technical problems which people with double his experience could not.

I was his manager at Effigent for a few months. I recognized this ability early and encouraged him. I never considered experience to be the yardstick to measure ability. I gave him the toughest problems in our project to resolve. I would be sure he would not let me down. His ability along with this attitude were what I needed to get things done.

Unfortunately, many managers in the software industry consider experience to be the be all and the end all of ability. How incorrect they are! In my ten years in this field, I have seen that notion being proved wrong time and again. Freshers have often proved to be better than people with a whole lot of experience.

It is not my contention that all freshers are better than all experienced people. All I'm saying is that experience cannot be the only tool to measure ability. All too often, managers, people from HR make this mistake of judging someone by the number of years of experience he or she has rather than true ability.

This happened with Mahesh too.

Circumstances forced him to join another company. The "experience ruler" was pulled out to measure ability. He lost out. To start with he was placed below people with lesser capability. He was frustrated. Subsequently too, he was not accorded the respect he deserved.

Who is losing here? Everyone.

Mahesh himself, because his growth is being stifled. His self confidence is being eroded. He is getting increasingly frustrated. His manager, because he is not able to get the best out of him. Someone who can perform wonders in the technology is saddled with mundane tasks.

The role of the manager is extremely important in nurturing individuals. A manager is more of an enabler. A manager should enable his team to perform beyond their abilities. Encourage them. A gentle rap on the knuckles once in a way. Mentor them. Help them grow. A good manager can really make sure people in his team blossom.

(* Name changed)

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