We are in the middle of the mango season. Here’s wishing all of you several weeks of ripe mangoes, mango salads, thick mango shakes and fresh mango ice cream. But have you wondered if there are some important lessons office-goers can learn from mangoes?
While the serious types look to Socrates and Peter Drucker for guidance, we turn our eyes to mangoes for equally relevant lessons. Some of these lessons are for bosses, others for the aam janta (oops, pardon the pun).
Let the fruit ripen fully
The first lesson we learn is to avoid eating mangoes which are yet to ripen. There is a world of difference between an unripe mango and a ripe, soft, heavenly mango. We smell the fruit, we feel it, we ensure it is golden enough before we slice it. Managers should do the same with several strategic problems they face in office. Let the issues ripen, don’t ever address them prematurely. When a problem really ripens, it begins affecting many stakeholders, and therefore everyone who matters gets down to resolving it. When it is unripe and affecting only a few people, you will never get such spontaneous concentration of minds.
Make the most of varieties
Each mango variety deserves special treatment. Alphonso mangoes from Ratnagiri have to be eaten with respect on special occasions. Raspuris from Karnataka are best used for juices. Avakkai mangoes from Andhra Pradesh are best used for pickles, and totally unsuitable to desserts. And so on. This is exactly the same with people in our offices. There are many distinct varieties of employees, and managers have to utilize their team’s strengths where and when they are best suited. Don’t ever try to make a Raspuri out of an Alphonso executive—that’s an impossible task, unless you are an expert in genetic engineering.
Bite into a mango
Slicing a mango and eating small cubes with little forks is nice. But the best method to eat a mango is to bite into the fruit, the old-fashioned way. That is the time-tested method. Hold the mango in both hands. Peel off the skin with your teeth. Then eat the flesh, with single-minded relish. Finally suck the last bits of flesh off the seed. At the end of it, you are likely to have mango pulp on your mouth, but you would have enjoyed the fruit fully. That’s the best way to work in office as well. Bite into a problem or task, rather than waiting for it to be served to you in dainty little pieces. Suck out the last bits of the task, even as you address the job thoroughly and fully.
Take your time, eat slowly
No mango deserves to be gulped down. This exotic king of fruits has to be relished slowly. You have to take a bite, then sit back and roll the golden flesh around in your mouth until all your sweet buds come to magnificent life. If you are hard-pressed for time, don’t eat a mango. Keep it until you have a few leisurely minutes later in the day. This applies to the most important bits of work in our offices. You need to give such work dedicated time and attention. Only then will all your creative faculties come to the fore, and help you address such critical tasks with all the focus they deserve. If you are in a hurry, you can always complete work which is more routine.
Relish the flesh, throw away the seed
Every sweet mango has an inedible and bitter seed. You relish the mango and throw away the seed. You never complain about the seed, or the fact that it is taking up valuable space within the mango, which could otherwise have been occupied by lots more sweet flesh. This is always the case with our co-workers, with all of us. We have to relish the strengths which each person in our team brings to the table, and it is mostly futile complaining about the bitter failings or drawbacks that he or she presents. Indeed, it is best to realize that there can never be a mango without a seed.
Remember, the season is short
The season of mangoes lasts only two-three months. In a similar way, the most delicious opportunities at the workplace often have short time horizons. If your company has offered you a new role, decide fast, otherwise the role may go to someone else who appears more eager. If you think you deserve a pay raise or promotion, speak up and let your boss know before the season of salary increases or promotions commences. If you don’t maximize the season, you will end up eating bananas, which are available throughout the year. This is what monkeys do.
Pick mangoes with care
At today’s astronomical prices, every mango is worth a fortune. Therefore, picking mangoes well at the market is very important. Unlike bananas or grapes, which come in big bunches, you can pick and haggle over individual mangoes. Unlike large papayas or melons, it is also possible to feel the entire mango with your hands, and get a very good sense of how it may be inside. This art is very important for managers when recruiting people. These days, each person is worth a fortune, and a bad recruitment (like a bad mango) is a very expensive mistake. So when you sit on an interview panel, smell them, turn them over, feel them (I mean this strictly in a figurative sense)…but decide on hiring the person only when you are absolutely sure!
Harish Bhat works with Titan Industries Ltd, where he has held senior management roles. He is currently on a sabbatical. His final thought: In the midst of a hot summer, mangoes are best eaten chilled. You need to chill too, from time to time, for best results.
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