Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Management by Teh Tarik

This past few days have been talking and thinking of my previous boss management style, what I term as Management by Teh Tarik. I noticed that this is a style used by my current boss too, but limited as compared to what my previous boss did.
What is Management by Teh Tarik. Teh Tarik is a cup of tea, that is thrown from one cup to another, to create a frothy tea, usually extremely sweet. It was my previous boss's favorite drink. Whenever we went out, that was his order. And we went out quite regularly, even during office hours, to sit and talk in a non-threatening environment, of things general and fun, to work details.
Initially, he was the boss, asking you out for a drink. Headache. What to do and say. But things were done in a pleasant and non-confrontational manner. We got to know of each other outside of the job, friends and family. I wont say I was a good friend of his, partly because I don't really become chummy with people and partly he shared but not all. We became acquantainces, enough to not be akward when he invited you over for Raya.
This instances outside the office was used to discuss various things. He got to know what was happening and we got to know what was happening at his end, from his dreams to the pressure's placed on him. Work was discussed yet no one took notes as we were having tea (unless cant really remember). agreements were made. You got a sense of what needed to be done, issues that was important then and how to tackle it, and sometimes point blank instructions of what you had to do. Sometimes it was a one on one, where you got scolded but in a nice way and boss pays for the drink, lol. Overall, it was a few friends talking over a cup of tea.
Yet amazingly things got done. You understood what was needed and everyone at the table (sometimes just the two of us, sometimes quite a lot of people) did their part. I know I didn't want to let the faculty down, nor this group of people or the boss himself. We were a part of a team. This system maybe worked because we were all academicians turned management...lol. At the office, if a form/document was passed to me that was not properly filled or I believed it was lacking if brought up to management, I would have my own tea time with the person or a phone call at the very least. I never pushed ahead something that was lacking, because I didn't want the faculty to suffer a lost.
We also seemed to meet with colleagues at our level for tea, to build support and coalitions, especially when bringing up issues to higher management. This time the tea was used for discussing ideas and building alliances or even hinting (sometimes directly) to someone that they were out of line. Things were discussed first before bringing up to top management, so everyone were usually aware of the issue before it was even formally discussed.
Now I miss that tea time with the boss and other colleagues. Once in a while when I reach the restaurant and see them sitting and having a drink I do join them, usually asking first if its OK. You can sense if its a meeting or if it is not, and especially if someone was getting a chewing out... don't want to intrude.
I don't really have close friends, mainly (if not all) acquaintances. Only a few people know the real me, warts and all (aside from my wife of course). This management system allowed for the acquaintance to be of a deeper level. It also got things to move, especially in the bureaucratic world we live in. Things got done. I like to believe that I had helped individuals as well as the faculty during that time, and still am even now.
Except now its black coffee for me. : )

Ernest
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