Turning a putz into a mensch

How do you make chut-ney out of chut-zpah. One shouldn’t. Sticky things have sticky ends. How do you make money out of your flamboyant savoir faire. You should not. One simply does not allow the flamboyance of the founder overtake the necessity of keeping up the reputation of the brand and the product.

Some of you are confused? What’s with the big words, little fellow.

What is chutney ? Chutney is a side dish in the cuisines of the Indian subcontinent that can vary from a tomato relish to a ground peanut garnish or a yoghurt, cucumber and mint dip

What is chutzpah? It  is the quality of audacity, for good or for bad. The Yiddish word derives from the Hebrew word ḥutspâ (חֻצְפָּה), meaning “insolence”, “cheek” or “audacity”. So Barack Obama should have written the book as ” The Chutzpah of Hope”. But Obama does not like Yiddish humour much.

What is a putz ? Schmuck is a name for someone who is mean, foolish, or inept. Putz is more offensive.  It means a stupid or worthless person. Actually it means phallus. What is a Phallus.  In India, we worship it every Monday. See Jimmypedia.

Who is a mensch?  It is a person of integrity and honour, someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being ‘a real mensch‘ is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous.

Are you a putz or are you a mensch? How does one train the alpha monkey on top of the organisational ladder. By definition, the alpha is the one with the 800 pound gorilla smile and the right swing. How do you make sure your company’s King Kong does not climb a tall building and chase air ambulances.

The tech world is full of two kinds of closed communities. Jewish people and East Indian people.  They have similarities and contrasts galore. One of their biggest similarity is the focus on knowledge, on argument, on education and of course on music and culture to relax. One of the biggest contrasts is how they treat laughter and a sense of humour outside and inside their community. And that is the end of that !

Phew! That was a close call.  Why am I talking culture. Because culture eats strategy for lunch. Your startup is the sum of its people’s talents and hopes and energies. Trust me, you lose people because of culture more quickly than you lose it due to strategy. How do you divert and keep focus the energy of your people to ship code ship code ship code than focus on stock options, missed opportunities, slights and fights.

I don’t know. Yesterday I talked to a database called Mongo. Today I talked to it and it’s behaviour is still the same. People change though. Yesterday I talked to Alice and she was happy doing what she was supposed to do. This morning Alice turned into malice and started singing a Dickensian Carol on where she wants to be and the places she wants to see and the code she wants to own and the bugs she wants to disown.

Irrational predictability is one of the joys of people watching. How do you use the psychology of your team to make them more productive is your startup’s Human Resource strategy.

Are you creating a team of putzs or a you creating a team of mensches? Time will tell. Grace may save you but your team will never forget it if you break your promises to them. Are you fighting with the man in the mirror or are you trying to work with him on his right jab.

Author: Ajay Ohri


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