Learning to Fly
In 2006, fresh out of University after completing Master’s Degree, I had the intimating task of choosing a career path. In those days, there were limited options in Nepal; either become a part time lecturer, join a non profit organization or go abroad in the name of further study. I was not interested in teaching or going abroad inthe name of further study. One of my relatives suggested that I do a work placement in I/NGO to gain experiences for some months. I felt that it was a good idea. I applied for it, in an INGO and was accepted for 6 moths paid internship. I was assigned in documentation and research. I liked the professionalism, made new friends who were very much senior than myself. One of the senior men was a development scientist from Austria. Soon, we became very close; he was very interested to know about myself when I talked about by birth place. One day he asked me about my future plan after completing internship. I told him, I was seeking for employment in development management. He smiled at me and said” If you really want to sink and swim in development management than you need to start from the difficult project Rameswar” I simile at him and told that I dare to take any risk in development project management. The scientist informed me about the recent vacancy announcement in a national daily newspaper and told me to have a try by applying it. I applied for the post announced, I was called for written test, presentation and the interview and finally was selected to work as the Project Leader at the age of 28.
Being a young Project Leader I had to work with the staffs senior to me by age. In our project team the senior technician, Shreenath was as old as my Dad. He had the children who were already grown ups like myself. Our field office was located in a remote area and there were only two dormitories for sleeping . One was allocated for ladies staff where as another one was for the gents. I occasionally visited the field office and Shreenath shared the room with me. Shreenath had very bad habit of smoking, chewing tobacco,sharing silly jokes in the bed room. Though I was his immediate line manager I was as young as his son. Every evening he was disturbing my sleep as he made room smoky. Moreover, he was always drunk in the evening and made unnecessary vulgar jokes which really irritated me. It was really difficult for me to sleep in the same room, but there was not any option as it wasa remote area and there were no houses or rooms nearby. So, I thought of communicating my problem with him on the next day.
Early in the morning next day, I called him to have a morning tea with him. I asked him about his job and he explained all the progress he has been making. I wanted to change his bad habit without annoying him in a short time. I don’t want to hurt him because he was an important asset of our team, responsible for designing and estimating Drinking Water projects in the villages. It was very much difficult for me to convince a man senior to me by age. So I though of starting by talking about his strength, end with weakness and further motivate by showing him big picture and making him feel that he is an important member of the team.
I started by congratulating him for completing designing and technical supports that he was providing to the communities and told him that the project was proud to have such a good man like him. He was very much happy to hear compliments from me. I also praised him for his other positive qualities he had before explaining the negative qualities he had. Finally I told him that he would be the best employee, if he did not smoke, drink alcohol and start dirty jokes in his life, especially in public places and sleeping dormitories. I explained him clearly that he was losing his friends, prestige, and damaging the image of the organization. Shreenath smiled with me asked for the forgiveness and promised me that he would change his habit from that day. I further told him that we have been working in the social services, non profit sector for the well being poor people and being the senior member of the team he should teach everybody how to behave with each other.
From the following day Shreenath naturally stopped being drunk and speaking rough in the evenings .Slowly he also controlled himself from having excessive alcohol and cigarette. Gradually he had improvement in his health and got socialized with other people. Everybody in the team started to love him and take care of him. The team and the organization we were working was so much inspired by the improvement in his attitude in a very short period of time. He burst into tears when his name was announced as the best employee of the year in 2007.After receiving the award he was highly motivated to work for the project and was very much thankful to me.
By the end of year 2008, in successfully completed the project and handed it to the local communities. We had very good team building with in the project team. There were 13 members in our team. We used to support each other in whatever way we can. Being the project leader I always respected the dignity and self esteem of the team members, whether they are old, young, man or women. I always encouraged them and appreciated for their efforts with positive energy. I always tried hard to enable an environment in the office that work not just a work but it as a fun by involving everybody with clear cut roles and responsibilities.
I joined next organization in 2009. We missed each other after the completion of the project but are in still in contact. Among the 13, was able to link 4 them with other organization for job 5 of them managed to find job themselves in other organisations. I wanted Shreenath to be always in my team as a problem solver in design and estimation of drinking water projects. I tried hard but I failed as it was already time for him to take retirement and rest. Shreenath is a retired man now happy with the family members now. Whenever I meet him we recalled our togetherness in the past and become thankful to each other. Whenever Shreenath becomes thankful to me I feel that I have at least learned to fly and still I need a lot of practice to fly higher and higher in people management.