On being proactive
Yes, being proactive could result in efficiency, initiative, interest, appreciation from others and an overall satisfaction leading to enhancement of your knowledge and confidence level. This will thus create in you an attitude of ‘come what may, I can easily handle the situation.
I was selected for the post of Personal Assistant to Director of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, superseding some of my senior colleagues in terms of length of service. Believe me, the day I took charge, the Director was away on tour. Normally, one would wait for the boss to tell you, and give a briefing, by way of initiating. But, I took this opportunity of his absence of two days to familiarize with the umpteen files in his office stored in some ten filing cabinets. How do you know what all is there? Well, I opened up each drawer of each of the ten filing cabinets and looked at the files and documents contained in them. Having been blessed with a somewhat ‘better than normal’ memory (I can at the age of 76 still boast of remembering nearly 200 odd telephone numbers, including mobile numbers) my task appeared simple. To a large extent, they were almost instantly transferred into my mind’s ‘store’. Two days later, when my boss asked for certain papers. I had no difficulty in giving to him what exactly he wanted. (there was a special look at me by him!).
My boss travels a lot for official purposes. He has naturally to claim Traveling Expenses incurred and submit them to the Accounts Department. Contrary to the practice of his ex-secretaty waiting for his return from travel and give details of the claim, I took a proactive role – the claim used to be ready on his when he is back from tour; and very often, this would be the first paper he would sign that day.
Again, while working with Prof. Menon, I had to give him some relevant material for his speeches. Initially, while I just used to give what he asks for, by deliberately reading the many magazines, journals etc. that he regularly gets, I could gather lot of information, even before he gets time to go through them, with the result, I could myself suggest to him as material for his speeches which, of course, he appreciated. Over a period of time
having given him such useful and relevant material, I could myself attempt a good article on S&T which, to my surprise and jubilation, got published, within a week after I sent it to Economic Times, as a centre page article! Not only that, the Secretary of the Department of Science & Technology circulated this to all HODs in the Department!
When Prof. Menon moved to DST, he told me, ‘you will continue to work with me’,
Though, it was a good news for me, I wanted some more challenging job, and mentioned to him that I was no longer interested in continuing as his P.S. He understood and also believed in my capabilities; so, he got a new post of Staff Officer to Secretary. (first, and even now only perhaps in any Department), in a higher grade.
As for the job, I had to go through all files and papers and brief him properly so that, based on that briefing, he could clear the files. The arrangement worked perfectly both. for him and me. For him, no need to go through the file himself; for me I could understand the files better and could suggest to him suitable course of action. As for the many letters that came to him, even before he tells me, I used to prepare draft/final replies – all of this simplified his task and saved time for him.
On the last working day just before leaving abroad, he was particular to clear maximum amount of work. For, this invariably I used to give him a ‘to do’ list priority-wise which, very often, he had meticulously followed.
He was Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Cabinet ( SACC) and to really understand how such meetings are conducted and to help him in correcting the draft minutes which comes for his approval, I took the initiative of actually attending the meeting (though I was not required) and this helped me a lot and I could easily correct (again no one asked this to be done by me) the draft minutes, making his task easier.
I was once invited for a presentation by one of our attached offices who dealt with quality aspects. The head of the office talked on quality and it’s importance. Even while traveling by the car to attend the meeting my thoughts were focused on quality and I thought of what the word ‘quality’ itself could really mean quality. All this was working in my mind. And, when the question-answer session started I requested the head of the organization to permit me to say a few words, where I elaborated what each letter of the word stood to mean quality. This was appreciated by the head of that organization and later he wanted a write up on this to be published in their in-house journal.
If you are interested and want to try out new things and innovate, there are many things one can do; the only thing needed perhaps is continuous thinking. Well, following this
principle, I thought of bringing out a digest of the various government orders, office. The idea was to inform all people in the office about the new orders that keep coming, in a nutshell, giving reference to the detailed order which, anyone can look at, as necessary.
Again, regarding the so-called scientific departments/institutions, there were ever so many orders with the result one never knew the full details with respect to the autonomy they enjoyed. To make all such orders available at one place, I made a compilation of these into a booklet which was appreciated both by the Secretary of the Department but also by people in the Department of Science and Technology, the nodal ministry concerned.
The promotion of scientific personnel in the Department of Electronics was covered in the S&T Personnel Policy. But to implement this in terms of annual appraisals of eligible personnel, it was not that easy. Hence, I decided to bring out a booklet on ‘How to Conduct the Promotions’ which turned out to be a perfect guide, even for a newcomer to carry out the exercise in a step-by-step manner.
While I got the self-satisfaction and joy through this proactive approach of mine, the actions by me were useful to many.
As Chairman of the Science Advisory Committee to the Cabinet (SACC), Prof. Menon used to meet and brief the then Prime Minister, Smt, Indira Gandhi. On these, on my asking, or sometimes on his own, he used to tell me what really transpired at these meetings, How great I used to feel on such occasions. My own, little, broad interest in S&T further developed through these.
Over all, I benefited a lot through being provocative. When you know that you can do something on your own, don’t hesitate, jump on it. When such acts get appreciated you can certainly enjoy the thrill in work.