ÉLAN: A Management Perspective.”

1. ÉLAN is adapted from a French word which implies; Enthusiastic vigorous and liveliness coupled with a distinctive style of functioning. Having been through rigours of Army life for 38 years, I have had the opportunity to serve under various commanders who were military leaders in their distinctive style. I learnt good and practical management lessons from these senior officers during my career and tried to apply the techniques when I reached the senior management position in the military hierarchy . Sometimes one experienced bad management practices of some senior officers, however these also gave me lessons to avoid such practices. Military management lessons can be equally applied to the Corporate with suitable adaptation both during normal day-to-day functioning as well as under various challenging situations.
2. Based on my experiences of a long military career, I would like to interpret ÉLAN in a slightly different way. I would put ÉLAN as ” Efficiency with Relaxation”. I would support my postulate from some live examples from my Military days that I am going to mention. I would also quote an example of Opposite of ÉLAN to substantiate my views.
3. As a grade 2 staff administrative staff officer, I happened to serve under a very fine Brigade Commander, who was very efficient, organised, relaxed and above all a good human being. In fact this officer became my role model and a template of conduct in my later years of service as I rose to the higher Military management positions.
4. This senior officer was very punctual for attending office, training events and even informal functions; in fact you could synchronise your watches for accuracy when he came to the office. He was very friendly, informal and yet a hard task master. Ten minutes after he came to his office he would call all the staff officers of the headquarters to his office. On reaching his office, we would find a peaceful atmosphere; he would smilingly receive us and after exchange of greetings, all would get down to business over a cup of tea/coffee. He asked each one of us about the progress on various points of action and if any ruling was required from him, it  was given on the spot. This morning prayer was very crisp and would last about 15 minutes with a joke or two thrown in between the business issues. Thereafter, each officer was free to go about his job till close of the office ( 2PM). We were allowed total delegation in our work. There was no need to get approval from the commander on any letters that we issued. He trusted us and would always back us up for all our actions. He always appreciated our good work and often praised us. He was very approachable also, if we required his intervention or advice on something which was not covered during the morning prayer, we could either ring him up or walk up to his office. At precisely ten minutes to 2 PM he would leave his office so that we would wind up exactly at 2 PM, go home to have lunch and thereafter be on time for the Games parade at 4.30 PM. There were no unnecessary conferences or discussions except for the daily morning prayer. Even for parties and mess functions which are quite a few in the Army, he was punctual to the second and these functions finished in a reasonable time frame; there was no late night parties as Commander felt that these hampered next day’s routine. Later this officer rose to the rank of a two star General. Under his style of functioning our Brigade performed extremely well in tactical exercises, sports competitions and all other activities. None of the staff officers ever felt tired as we could get sufficient rest between the activities. Our team became extremely motivated and inspired. Therefore, I would call it an example of ÉLAN.
5. Now let me cite a counter example to my concept of ÉLAN. Earlier on in my service, I was posted to a Signal Regiment located in an operational area of Eastern India and our Commanding Officer (CO) happened to be a local from that part of the country. He was opposite to what I described in my previous paragraph. He was not communicative, difficult to approach as many levels had to be crossed before you could meet him. Never gave any decision, in fact he was a sort of Non Decision Leader who would always buy time by asking various irrelevant questions from you and evade the decision issue. He was a total time waster and was always late for any function. On top of it he had the audacity to say, ” Commanding Officers are never late, they are delayed.” In Army we have a system of informal feed back that is a CO has a monthly meeting of all the troops posted in his unit and addresses them followed by a question answer session; it is called ‘Darbar’ or ‘ Sainik Sammelan’. Such a function is supposed to be crisp, business like and may last for half an hour to may be one hour. The CO in question would invariably arrive at the ‘Sainik Sammelan’ about one hour late when the entire Regiment consisting of 800 persons was already waiting and would never feel sorry for his late arrival. He would then go on and on with his monologue for hours together without entertaining any questions. Most of the officers in the Regiment felt tired due to useless activities and lack of proper rest and their morale was low. Besides his time-wasting qualities, he was a not a motivator as he would never appreciate a good work done by any one, In fact he would pick holes in it. He also encouraged formation of groups in the unit , consisting of persons loyal to him. In fact half of the men in that unit were the CO’s moles and were spying on the other half. CO called this an effective feedback system to know the pulse of the unit. The result was that there were many management problems in the unit like dissensions amongst officers and formal complaints against the CO leading to many inquiries. Every one wanted to get out of that Regiment. There was neither any efficiency nor relaxation in that unit and thus ÉLAN was missing.
6. To sum up the discussion and draw meaningful pointers, for ÉLAN in any organisation ( be it Military or Corporate) the following characteristics in any leader/manager are needed to be developed.
A. Punctuality.
B. Need to curb time wasting activities.
C. Need for good Inter-Personnel communications.
D. Effective and open Feedback  System..
E. Approachability.
F. Leading by example.
G. Quick Decision making capability.
H. Being organised.
I. Delegation.
J. Trust.
E. Appreciation of good work.
Thus we see that Management of personnel in any organisation ( be it Army or Corporate) is both a Complex as well as Simple affair, depends on how the leadership treats it.
Guchi

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