Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Of Payroll nights and Shining Diamonds

He was a different kind of guy. I met him 15 years ago. It was almost 11 PM and I took my briefcase (those days, office-goers had these things called briefcase), and was headed out of my office (those days, no work from home flexibility). As I was going out, I saw a light in the corner of the large work bay. Out of curiosity, I walked towards it and heard some humming and foot tapping. He was the lone guy there, printing reams of paper. Payroll slips, he said. He had some radio in the background, which he switched off, out of respect. Those days there was plenty of respect.

I was new and asked him about his background. He said he did his MBA from a place I had not heard of. This was not going right. For me, a premier institute guy, and an arrogant one at that, it is difficult to absorb this. A one-year program and the institute shut shop after he graduated, he added happily. I winced. He said he graduated in history. My impression of him headed south. And his marks—I will never forget this—48%! Third class, he said with a smile. He said he was glad his college was over. LOL!

Let me call him ‘M’! I asked M why he was working late. He said that it was very important to ensure quality and he was checking everything. It was difficult to ignore this guy. M seemed so happy doing what he was doing. Moreover, he was passionate about doing it right. And he had a sense of humor. My impression about him was melting as he took me through some details. His excellence in his work was shining through. He had a glint in his eye. He looked confident. I started to like this chap. I left the place deep in thought. Excellence is all around if you choose to be aware of it.

The next day, our Regional Manager-West, called me and was pounding me for not finding a right HR lead for the West. I told him I found such a person, and that he was my right hand man. He was my best and had to be empowered, I added. Next I called M, and asked him if he was willing to go to Mumbai as the Regional’s HR head. “Happy to,” he said, adding, “Naukari kari, toh na, na-kari’. Loosely translated - never say no, if there is a job to be done. I had every confidence in him. The best part, he was not even a Manager at that time.

M turned out to be a winner all the way. He was voted the best HR Manager time and again. I had the privilege to be working with him for a few years and then he left. He grew rapidly in a short period of time. His mantra: “Stay positive, be passionate at work, never miss an opportunity, and stay ahead of the game – always.”

M called me recently to let me know that he was going to some faraway fun place — Hawaii. Said, he was chosen as one of the top 1% of performers of one of the top U.S. computer firms. Said, he was going for the 4th time. I forgot all about his background and his third-class marks in college.

You can never put a good man down. What a diamond! We don’t care which mine the diamond came from or its pedigree. Diamonds sparkle in the darkest nights and in the brightest of times. Diamonds are Diamonds. Forever!

Ah yes, I forgot a minor detail, Mahi is an HR Director in that company.