Employees at the Pittsburgh headquarters of UBICS Inc. know their boss isn’t looking over their shoulders. Because for most of the year, Sunil Patil, the president of global operations, works out of the company’s office in Pune, India.
So naturally, empowering those 100 employees — and another 400 globally — to act without supervision is a priority for Patil and UBICS, whose U.S. operations of the IT and business process outsourcing company posted 2008 revenue of $12 million.
“If I waste my time micromanaging what somebody else is supposed to do,” he says, “I’ll never be able to do the job that I’ve been asked to do.”
Smart Business spoke to Patil about how to empower your employees.
Q. What’s your advice for empowering employees?
To believe in your employees, you have to first believe in yourself.
When you have a clear thought process [and] you have a clear vision, it’s a lot easier to communicate and make your employees part of it, as opposed to you having a very sketchy picture and communicate that, ‘OK, we’ll get there and then we’ll see what we do next.’ That’s a sure formula to kill any achievement, any performance or any aspirations.
Unless I’m 100 percent sure what we want to do and how we want to do it, I put a lot of time in, I collect all the information so I know. Once I’m clear, it’s really easy for me to let everybody else know what is expected and then it becomes clear for them also.
As far as achieving something or being successful, I don’t think anybody can be 100 percent sure. There are significant components that are outside of your control. What you can be 100 percent sure of is your plan to go and achieve it.
Q. How do you empower your employees?
Responsibility and freedom come together. It would be unfair to ask any employee [to do something] and dump a ton of responsibilities on him without giving any freedom on how to get it done. That’s when you are going to basically kill his creativity and kill his productivity, and you’ll have nothing but a mushy man to work for you.
Instead of telling anybody how to do it, I will tell them what needs to be done. Basically, ‘This is what I want you to do. And, in fact, not only do I want to see you succeed, but probably I’m going to learn something from you.’ In some cases, I would say the way I would do it, but not necessarily would I come down and say, ‘Well, this is the way I want you to do it.’
Plus, I’ve always believed that each and every employee in the company is there because he does something that I cannot do. Letting him use his strength and talent to achieve that not only addresses the question of motivating them, but letting them achieve in ways that I’ve not seen, I’m not used to or I’m not expecting is a new way to learn for all of us.
At the end of the day, we also need a sense of achievement. I don’t know how much sense of achievement I’ll be able to cultivate if I give a Plan A to Plan C to somebody and say, ‘This is the way you’re going to do it.’
Say, ‘What we’re looking [at] is the destination, the end result. But we have the flexibility to achieve it in the best possible way.’ The biggest difficulty would be if I asked each and every one of them to take the same path that I think is right. That will only ensure that this company will never grow.
If I want this company to grow, it is important that the employees grow. And for the employees to grow they have to be given the freedom to try to achieve something their own way — which could be a better way of doing things going forward.
Q. How do you avoid micromanaging?
You have to trust their capabilities and their expertise. Second, you have to have confidence in them. And third, most importantly, is the employee or the manager himself has to have confidence that you are supporting him 100 percent.
You can appreciate as you try to go global how important it is that you get out of this micromanagement and let your managers run it. I would say the challenge is not even whether I should micromanage or not. That’s not even the question. The question is: It’s important for me to teach my managers that they shouldn’t be micromanaging. Otherwise, our growth will stop at a certain level.
Q. How do you make sure empowered employees stay on track?
When I’m in India, I’m in constant touch with my team in the U.S. They know that if they’re doing something, they have full authority to go ahead and do it because they know what my views are, my vision is and what the company interests are.
Managers report to me on a formal basis. Every week we’ll take stock of what we’re anticipating to do, what are the challenges and so on.
But on an informal level, it happens every second. Anytime you’re working on something, you will see whether they are on the track or not on the track.
A lot of times, the results themselves speak of it. That could be your closure whether you’re on the track or not. If, for example, the results are not what you are expecting, then you know there is something wrong. You need to intervene. You need to take a look at them or maybe the expectations were not right. Either way, there needs to be some change that has to come in.
How to reach: UBICS Inc., (724) 746-6001 or www.ubics.com