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Monday, December 29, 2014

An open letter to Virat Kohli


Video link: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=cric:549fe266e4b06f60a616db35

Dear Virat Kohli,

Your press conference has disturbed us a lot. Because we have learnt from our childhood that we should be humble even if we are winning. Even Ajit Agarkar said that your comments in the press conference were 'immature'. Sunil Gavaskar said that you must 'control your emotions and let the bat do the talking'. Commentators in the room were quoting how Rahul Dravid and V Laxman were so 'humble' after scoring so many runs.

It seems that we are are confused due to two reasons.

All of us want to win, so i guess that we cannot be afraid of winning. So are we afraid of  your wearing of your confidence on the sleeve, even before we won. Because wearing confidence can be so risky. If you lose the match you will be proven wrong. You will be laughed at. Our parents have taught us that 'one should not be so cocky, because destiny is waiting to prove us wrong'. So your cardinal sin probably was showing that you are so confident even before you won. Like you said in your press conference "You can say anything if you win. How would Australians behave if they were 1-1 instead of 2-0".

I also have another, much deeper, question. Like Sunil Gavaskar said " Virat Kohli's aggression can be counter productive for Indian team". But psychologist have a different view on this. They say, that if you want to win, you must first 'believe' that you will win. They call this Self belief. Before winning, Self belief of 'winning' has to exist. So, when you showed your confidence of giving back to Johnson, you were also helping Indian team to instill 'self belief' in themselves. You were telling them that , irrespective of outcome, you must first believe that you are good enough to 'give back' . So should we thank you for instilling Self belief in the Indian team, or should we worry about the 'losing of face' if we lose this match?  Should we thank you for instilling Self belief in Indian team that will help them win many more matches in the future, or should we curse you for forcing us to eat our pie if we lose this match?

We are outcome oriented people. If you win this third match, then we can understand your aggression. So, next time, when you show your aggression, please do it after winning. That is more easier to digest. For us, everything is acceptable only after we win. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Meditation is just the first layer of Self awareness

Self awareness is preached as a Mantra by many professionals. It is supposed to be a door towards Enlightenment. The routes suggested to achieve self awareness are different. Some take a simple route of meditation. Some offer Vipassana, a 10 day retreat of silence. Some join movements that promise the path towards self awareness through Yoga. Some join non-religious associations that take you to villages for self-help work in a rural area or help you vitalise your 'kundalini'. Some gurus take you to Himalayas to deliver Enlightenment.

But all these movements of meditation are just the first, even if they are the most important, step towards self awareness. Journey of self-awareness involves moving from one layer to another until you are 'comfortable' with your Self, the way it is.

I have been able to discover these four overlapping layers in the journey of self-awareness:

Layer 1: Self-observation
This is the first layer where we start seeing our own actions, thoughts, opinions, evaluations as a third person. This is a tough step for many professionals because we often are so busy in 'running' that we rarely 'pause' to see ourselves. Some, like my friend, may initially run away from this 'meditation' silence.

Many professionals however remain at this layer , believing that meditating for an hour is the ultimate goal. Some even practice mindfulness, trying to be present in their daily activity. Many feel that 'emptying mind' is enough to achieve self awareness.

If you want to leave this 'practical world' and go and stay in Ashram for the rest of your life, this layer is the last layer to engage. But if you want to use self-awareness to find your happiness in the practical world, then you have to move to the second layer of self-awareness. Because the first and second layer overlap, the first layer is difficult to negotiate simply because it exposes the 'black part' of our Self, which is part of the second layer.

Layer 2: Self-criticism ( Knowing the black side of ours)
The moment we become self-aware, we start seeing the black side of ours. For instance, sometimes we have not helped our friend, when we could have. Or when we felt happiness when our friend was not promoted. Or when we were jealous of our friend's beautiful wife. Or when we could have spoken our 'mind' to our boss, but did not. Or when we acted very selfish with our parents. And on and on.

We all do so many things in our life of which we are not proud of. Sometimes, this list is so long, that facing these sins of omission and commission may lead to depression. Due to this awareness, most of the professionals get stuck in this layer itself. But sooner or later, one needs to move to the third layer.

Layer 3: Self Appreciation ( finding the white side of ours)
After knowing so many negative parts of life, it is so difficult to appreciate ourselves.

Many professionals take an easy route to negotiate this layer. For instance, they try to adopt new beliefs propelled by self-styled gurus.  For instance, they tell us believing that you are 'unique' helps you to balm the wounds. Or believing that 'you must forgive yourself' helps you appreciate yourself. But these change of beliefs is like a 'change of clothes'. It does not work for a long time.

But negotiating this layer is difficult because appreciating oneself involves peeling our own behaviour and understanding the dynamics from which it got invoked. For example, many of our wrong behaviours help us understand the power of 'situation' in which we committed the mistake. Like when we 'bribe' to save time. It also forces us to appreciate the fragile nature of our Type-1 spontaneous mind ( of emotions and biases) that often misdirect our desires and actions. And more importantly, our bad behaviour also uncovers our basket of beliefs (that we have unwittingly adopted from the society around us) that are ruling our daily lives. Such as the belief that 'You can win only if you are honest'. 

Layer 3 overlaps a lot with Layer 2. Only when we start appreciating our Self, the more we are willing to accept our mistakes. In a way, layer 2 cannot be negotiated independently of Layer 3.

Layer 4: Self-acceptance  
Only after we can accept our 'white and black' parts of our Self, we are in the position to accept our Self. Otherwise we either keep on changing Our Self and get attracted to many self-help books which promise you to change any of your faults. Or we live with a false 'sense of bravado' where we think we can do anything.

Only after we accept our self, we can be comfortable in our being alone without fearing the loneliness. When we accept our Self we can be 'happy' with the way we are, or else we constantly try to do something to prove ourself to others. When we accept our Self, we can find what we truly desire without the pressure of friends and well wishers. And only when we accept our Self, we can do what we want because we are neither overexcited by our strengths, nor overwhelmed by our limitations.

Summary

Although self-awareness is important to achieve better results in job, it cannot directly help you produce the other two outputs, work outputs and relationship outputs, that are critical for your success in career.

We should remember that self-awareness is not a magic potion of career success that many self-help books profess to be. Instead, if we understand that self awareness is an important milestone that links all the three outputs, we can find better ways to achieve self awareness. For instance, dense relationship with our partner has perhaps a  much better chance to achieve this 'self awareness' than meditation.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Develop your career framework (not your career plan)

Career framework is a framework that helps you take actions 'today' to achieve your 'goals' tomorrow. It is therefore a map you have created to take you from your current 'location' to desired location , leading finally to your final destination. It is a map based on the current understanding of terrain. 



Your career framework ( which i earlier called Career script in my blog of 4 years back. Looking at that blog, i was surprised to find that it has taken me 4 years to build a tool to develop a career script now.) therefore should include at least five elements: 
  1. Choice of intermediate destination: Your desired achievement and the period that you would like to give yourself to achieve it. Also list your current destination and reasons for choosing this intermediate destination.  
  2. Achievement Milestones to ensure that one will reach destination
  3. Expected hurdles in reaching the destination ( achievement milestone)
  4. Expected internal hurdles: We force internal hurdles such as emotional distractions, regular habits, stress and emotions that compel us from taking the actions that derail us from our goals. 
  5. Unexpected hurdles:One cannot achieve one's career goals without preparing for the unexpected hurdles. We shall talk about unexpected hurdles later.
Point 1: Intermediate destination is based on work-path you have chosen. It includes choice of domain (Software, Banking or anything else), function (product innovation or technology), and Role ( Doer or Synthesiser). Work-paths exploit your inputs and by dense engagement convert them into 'strengths'. Work-path takes you from current destination to another intermediate destination ( desired achievement). Desired achievement also helps you write down the results that you would like to produce.

You should also write the reasons for choosing your current work-path. Why? While choosing a work-path, we often forget that we have used our then-current beliefs and limited information. Recording this information helps us re-visit the decision later and understand our method of choosing the work-paths. I have observed that professionals discover great insights through this documented record. For instance, while choosing work-paths, we plan to overcome serious limitations we see it in ourselves. But later, we forget this and fret over our decision.

Point 2: Achievement Milestones: Without setting intermediate achievement milestones, there is no way to find if we will reach the desired destination according to our schedule. Achievement Milestones should be set at least for six months, if we schedule is to reach our destination in 5 years.

Point 3: Anticipated hurdles: Personal transitions such as marriage or having a child distract us from the efforts we take in work-achievement. Relationships can often consume lot of our efforts, because it requires a different kind of mind - I call it farm-mind - to deal with it. And nor we can ignore our relationships because relationships are our biggest source of satisfaction.

Point 4: Having distractions is normal. But ignoring these distractions is a bigger problem for a professional. And more than often, these big distractions derail the professionals. The biggest distractions and most invisible ones are our habits.

Summary

Our Career framework ( our set of actions to achieve the desired achievement milestones) keeps on changing as you gain more information about your Self and outside environment.

If you want to take charge of our life, you must have a document that helps you compare your outcomes with the planned decision. If you do not do this, you will become victim of 'outcome-based thinking'. In outcome-based thinking, we evaluate our 'actions' based on the outcome. If we achieve the outcome, we evaluate our actions as right. If we do not, we evaluate our actions as wrong. Big achievements take lot of time to fructify. One cannot evaluate them every day.

When you are trapped in the outcome-based thinking, you only take the 'last relevant' action that produced the recent outcome, ignoring the combination of actions/variables that you invested earlier to produce the desired outcome. If you want to succeed in a long term, you need to focus on the 'process' of producing your achievement outcomes, not on producing 'miraculous breakthrough actions' once a while. 

Friday, October 03, 2014

Without a strategy of producing work-output, we leave our dreams to luck and chance

Every professional works, but very very few professionals can take a coordinated set of actions that are required to produce desired work-output. Everyone naively believes like Dan, that willpower, sheer muscle power, positive thinking and luck can somehow produce desired result. Everyone agrees that producing work-outputs is key to a successful career, but no one has a strategic framework to achieve this. This is like going to a war without a gun and hoping that one can somehow win the war.

Producing work-output consistently, whether it is Roger Federer or Nandan Nilekani, is a similar challenge, if not the same. It requires a robust ' strategic framework' to take the right actions in a coordinated manner. It should also enable the professional to take quick and purposeful corrective action when the output is not produced. A Strategic framework, in short, enables a professional to coordinate a set of actions consistently across a period of time to achieve desired work-output.

A strategic framework to produce work-outputs is a necessity, not a luxury, for a professional. To produce work-outputs, every professional has to go through these four steps. 

Four steps of Strategic framework ( ORIS) for producing work-output 






1. Output Zeroing : Zero on a work-output based on your work-path. (Do not confuse work-path with career-path). Work paths in knowledge work are distinctly of four types: Path of doer, Path of synthesiser (manager), Path of teacher (or trainer), Path of Researcher or new knowledge creator. Defining work-output is not straightforward as you think. Use this 3-step approach in deciding on the desired output. If your work-path is of a Manager, defining work-output is even more difficult.
2. Resource mobilisation for producing the requisite output: This step involves bringing the resources together to produce the requisite outputs on a given work-path. Many professionals however have very limited view of resources. They assume that their knowledge or degree is their only resource. A professional can use other resources - people, passion, values and traits - that are more powerful that just knowledge.It is the synergy of traits and knowledge that is important, not individual traits.
3. Innovative ideas to produce outputs: Innovatively using resources to produce the desired output or re-configuring outputs is both required to produce outputs over a long period of time on a given path. For example, producing the output on the work-path of Project manager has so many innovative possibilities that you may need a mentor to help you choose one of the option.
4. Sustaining Outputs on a given work-path: For instance, it is important to earn good reputation if the the long-term work-output is not sacrificed. Or a professional cannot sustain his outputs when he cannot monetise the work-outputs he is creating. For a sportsman, these sustaining strategies are very crucial, because he has to remain in the same sport for quite a long time. Even professionals like lawyer and doctors, who remain on a work-path for quite a long time, find these strategies useful.  

Summary

Enlight strategic framework of producing work-outputs is first of its kind. As you would observe, this simple framework helps you compare your work-output with others and understand what you can adapt from their career, instead of copying from their career. For instance, only if you are pursuing a vision, you can use the sustaining strategies of Roger Federer ( step 4). Or if your requirement of money is not being met, you can use the strategies of 'monetising' the work-output, not excelling in the work-output.

Professionals often lack Innovation (Creativity) in their career, not because they are less creative, but because they lack a 'framework' to apply their creativity. Without a framework like Enlight, they ask wrong questions.For instance, if you have defined wrong output like Rohit Sharma, any amount of creativity cannot help you produce the desired result.If you are unable to succeed in producing work-outputs in a current job, any ideas of modifying work-path are not helpful. Without a strategic framework, a professional cannot use his creativity to find his own solutions.  

Saturday, September 06, 2014

To succeed in career, you have to ride two chariots


People-life chariot

Work-life chariot

Work-life chariot

This chariot helps you achieve work-life outcomes. The four horses of work-life chariot are Negotatiating corporate system, Using skill market to build skills, Understanding skill arithmetic to build skills and Self awareness to run the chariot in a chosen direction.

We need work-life chariot because we want a first-hand experience of our mind's competence to deal with reality. Even though our physical survival is not dependent any more on our mind's capability to deal with external dangers in the environment like our ancestors, our mind still needs the 'first hand assurance' that our mind is competent enough to understand the reality and use the available resources to survive 'mentally and physically'. 

We need to ride the horse of 'skill market' because we must monetise the skills we build. When we use skill market to make 'money', it offers us the freedom to live our life on our own terms. Independence is just a concept if we cannot live our life without depending on others. This is why, housewives who work at home ( and therefore do not produce any marketable work-output) do not have the required self-assurance to feel better in their career. Even Socially-useful outputs ( when we work in NGO's) are useful to give this feeling of self assurance.

Relationship chariot 

This chariot helps you achieve relationship results. The four horses in this chariot are Negotiating 3 relationship systems, Understanding the arithmetic of development relationship skill, Using the work-life chariot to develop relationship skill and Self awareness.

More importantly, we need to ride people chariot because our happiness index depends largely on dense relationships, one of the crucial relationship system. In the Grant Study that has been done to identify the formula of 'good life' over 75 years, George Valiant says that "only thing that matters in life is your relationships" with other people. Friendships are better predictor than any other variable ( even better than money) for determining our overall happiness (1). In other words, happiness in Career surprisingly ( although it is not surprising given that man has survived due to relationships) depends on our dense relationships, which includes family relationship and close friendships.

But there is a catch in achieving these results. We simultaneously engage in other 2 relationships - transactional relationships as well as collaborative relationships in work-life - to achieve our results. This confuses us, because these three relationships demand different adherence of rules to produce results. We are blind, because we cannot see the 3 relationship systems.

Self awareness - self understanding - is the common horse in both chariots

Last month, I met a very successful professional, Rajiv, age 45, who has got everything going in his life. He has all the required assets, is happily married and also has children of which he is proud of. But he approached me for coaching because he want to know 'what is the purpose of his life?'.  

As human beings, we give 'meaning' to our lives. We either ascribe personal meaning to our work-achievement or derive it from our work-achievement. We also change our work-outputs because it helps us in expressing our personal meaning that we have given to life. Initially, we may ascribe similar meaning to our life like that of our friends and neighbors. But  when we can fine 'personal' meaning of our life, it helps us even when we are young. But if we do not personal meaning for our life, we remain unhappy like Mr Phatak even at the age of 50. In a way, this is the most invisible output.

Summary

Both chariots - work and relationship - should be mastered to feel that we have succeeded in our careers. The mix between two chariots varies from person to person, and also from one age to another in the same person. That is why we always say that career success is determined  by every individual.

These two chariots help us understand many mysteries of career success: why career success is difficult for men and easier for women, why self-awareness learnt from people-life is useful for succeeding in work-life, why ignorance of arithmetic of skill development can derail career progress and so on.

1.Isaacowitz, D.M., et al. “Strengths and Satisfaction across the Adult Lifespan.” Int’l J. Aging & Hum Dev 57, no. 2 (2003): 181-201.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Problems, not opportunities, determine our progress on work-path

Work-life Problems are of two types

In work-life, professionals face two types of problems: Simple problems which can be tackled with minor adjustment and deeper problems which require 'deeper adjustment' to overcome. 

Simple problems can be corrected on the fly.They can be solved by the philosophy of "You learn to swim when you jump in the river". They require minor behavioural adjustment ( like listening before talking) or some deeper thinking adjustment ( for instance, how to write a resume that highlights your experience). For a cricketer, the problems of adjusting with a 'swing bowler' or a 'spinning track' can be the minor adjustments. These problems can be tackled using Corrective approach: Correct the problem when they appear. Do not think about them in advance.

Deeper problems ( some researchers call them messy problems) require deeper adjustment and therefore require longer time of preparation to resolve them. When a batsman, for instance, keeps on getting out to the swing bowling, he requires a major adjustment in his stance, grip, place of guard, or other areas. He needs 'time' to readjust to a new 'method'. Deeper problems can be tackled only by using Preventive approach: Anticipate the problem, prepare for it and tackle it. Why prepare for deeper problems?

Because, in sports and life, time is of essence. If, for instance, the batsman is unable to readjust well to counter the swing bowlers, he fails to score. When he fails 2/3 times, he is dropped from the team. When Vinod Kambli. ( the cricketer who played with Sachin Tendulkar in the same school and was supposed to be as talented as Sachin) failed, he was dropped. He could not ''readjust' in the available time-window. By the time he got ready, someone had taken his place in the team. He could not find the opportunity to come back in the team. Therefore, if deeper problems have to be tackled in time, they must be anticipated.

Therefore, a successful sportsman has to do both: he must tackle emerging simple problems quickly as well as get 'ready' to tackle deeper problems by anticipating them.The difference between great sportsman and good sportsman is the way they tackle deeper problems. Like any other great sportsman, Sachin Tendulkar managed to 'anticipate' the deeper problems, get ready in advance to face them, and tackle them in the available time window. 

Corporate professionals are not even aware of their deeper problems

Unable to distinguish between simple and deeper problems, many corporate professionals make a big mistake. They assume that all the problems are 'simple problems' which need corrective approach.

For instance, only when they face difficulties in getting support from their colleagues in other departments, they start attending the seminars of 'team building'. Only when they do not get the desired promotion, they start looking for the causes in their current job situation. Only when they are unhappy about their job, they start the search of 'job satisfaction' at the age of 45.

When they have longer 'time-window' to respond to these deeper problems in their work-life, they are lucky. They can still progress on their work-path. But, if they are unlucky, they may have to change their work-path: change employers, industries, locations. In extreme cases, the problem is even deeper. They are not aware of what they 'problem' they have. In such times, they go to psychologists to cure their depression, go to Himalayas to find their balance, or embrace Spiritual gurus to deal with their internal chattering voice. When they fail to respond appropriately to the problem, they keep on losing precious time of their career. In our life, only time cannot be recovered. 

Six tips ( plus one) to anticipate deeper problem

Because deeper problems do not come with a warning label "This is a deeper problem', a professional has to be smart enough to detect a deeper problem.  Here are six tips:

a. Work-life transitions generally present deeper problems, whether the transition is from one employer to another employer, or from a role in the lower hierarchy to higher hierarchy, or when one is shifting career paths drastically. Even personal transitions present deeper problems: bachelor to married, married to being a father and so on. Whenever transition is happening, be ready to face a deeper problem, even though the transition is a positive one.

b. People problem ( especially chronic problem) also indicates presence of a deeper problem. The problem could be with relationships upwards, downwards, or in lateral position. For instance, the problem could be managing a difficult boss, or managing the reporting team. Both problems, if not tackled well, can drain so much energy that the progress in career-path is hampered.

c. Do not get influenced by others in naming a simple problem: A 'simple' problem for one person can be 'deeper' problem for another person. One commonly found example of such problem is that of readjusting to the role of a manager when a person is promoted from the doer role. Typically, when a doer ( such as salesman, programmer, or an engineer) is promoted as a manager, he thinks he can adjust easily, because his friend has. Some make this 'role-shift' easily; because it is a simple problem for them. For some professionals like Madhukar, adjusting to the new role of manager is a deeper problem. They take years to 'readjust' to the new role of manager , because they have to make many changes. 

d. Check out your beliefs that mask a deeper problem. Beliefs govern lot of actions. Therefore wrong beliefs promote many incorrect actions. For instance, the belief that 'Find your strengths and exploit it' is double edged. Your strengths can also create problems when the situation changes. For instance, even self awareness can become a liability in many situations. 

e. Simple problems, if mishandled, generate deeper problems. Many professionals think that they are doing a wonderful job in the current role. But very few professionals are aware that they are supposed to produce deeper results. Due to this ignorance, they often create deeper problems for themselves. 

f. Do not misuse plug-and-play solutions to handle a problem. If you open a self-help book, you will find countless problems and corresponding strategies like 'Learn communication', 'Build network' or 'Use ten steps to become a leader'. But they may not be useful for you or your situation, because plug and play solutions of self help books are not generally helpful in most of the cases. 

If you do not want to go through these six tips of tackling a deeper problem, find a good coach for yourself. All successful sportsman do it. 

In the next blog, we shall understand why opportunities are difficult to exploit in career.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Second leg of Sustaining Job Results: Manage the reputation within team

                                    
I met Rajneesh six months back. This is his story.

Rajneesh has been working in one of the top 3 IT companies in Bangalore after he finished his Engineering 3 years back. He is a BITS graduate with a degree in computer science. He is technically very sound. He was doing well in terms of job growth, and money, he said. Because his parents were from Bangalore, he had less pressure of  earning money for buying a house. He met me six months back to decide on the job change. He had already decided to change. According to him, he had at least 3 options: Should he change to another IT company? Or should he move back to his core mechanical engineering? or should he do MBA? 

Many professionals assume that if they do something very well, they will automatically achieve in their work. For instance, Rajneesh believed that because he can write beautiful programs and that too in half the time of other team members, he will always achieve big results as a professional. So when he met me, he told me proudly that " I am way ahead of other team members. I have no problem in job".

Or, if someone can solve difficult income tax cases, say in a field of tax, she believes that she is bound to achieve good results in the job of Tax consultant. Of if one can play brilliant tennis, one can easily achieve big wins as a tennis player. This assumption is naive and simplistic. Ability to do a part of task is just one 'small' requirement to achieve any result in life.

Successful professionals produce at least three tasks in their current job to achieve consistently in a job: Produce direct results in the job, Earn the right reputation within their group to sustain the achievement and satisfy the Systems owner to use more options to produce results. In this blog we shall focus on one task: Earn the right reputation with the team.

Earn the right reputation within the team

Rajneesh is a good programmer who has learnt programming from a degree in computer science in one of the best colleges. He focuses on producing the right program given to him. But a company requires a team to deliver a quality program to satisfy a customer. 

An employee therefore is expected to earn reputation of four types: Being trustworthy or reliable, Gain credibility, be known as competent and be cooperative. In the corporate language, this is called becoming a good team member. Let us understand why. 




A programmer is not alone in delivering a good program to the client. His other team members have to be also good in producing results. His team members were Client coordinator, Business Analyst, other junior programmers in the team, Unit Testers who test individual modules and Final testing member. Rajneesh can deliver results when all the team members perform well enough. See these three examples of Rajneesh: 
  • In the early stages of the project, Rajneesh did not cooperate with the team member to help him in his difficulty. As Rajneesh got branded as 'unreliable', he slowly lost 'trust' of other team members. They ensured that they did not support him when his programs bug were to be tested till midnight. Many times, they withheld key information from him. This, in turn, confirmed earlier impression of Rajneesh that other team members do not deserve to be helped. Vicious circle had got formed! That is why, even if one is brilliant, one cannot play too long in a football team, when one is labelled as untrustworthy or unreliable.   
  • I also found that his 'style' of disagreeing was offensive. Every team follows a protocol of negotiating 'conflicts and disagreements'. When someone bypasses these protocol that person breaches the fundamental rule of team functioning. He gets labelled as 'difficult'.When I asked Rajneesh about the team protocols of disagreement, he was not even aware of this protocol. It is but natural that Rajneesh was facing this difficulty with every team !  
  • In one of his earlier project, Rajneesh has used his boss's authority to get quality compliance from Quality team member in the program that he was doing. Rajneesh lost his credibility ! In the next project, Quality team forced him to do lot of documentation to comply with the quality norms and refused to accept his 'verbal compliance'. Rajneesh had one more reason to blame other team members !  
Why are these failures in earning right reputation critical in sustaining achievements in career? Your career success does not depend on achieving one result in your life, or delivering one project in time, or achieving sales target of one year. A football player knows this well. You need to consistently achieve in numerous assignments and projects before you are considered as successful.

When i asked Rajneesh about his reputation in the team, he was frank enough to say that he was labelled as a 'loner'. He also said openly that he did not tolerate sloppy work of others .and did not mince his words in berating his colleagues openly. He was good in programming, but he also used every opportunity to belittle other's contribution to the team achievement. Even after 3 years, he had no friends in his company. When i tried coaching Rajneesh in correcting some of the mistakes in the current project, i realised that he did not even possess the skills of correcting such mistakes.

In their careers, brilliant professionals often over-focus on their personal results like Rajneesh. They feel that their job is just 'technical'. However, in a job, you are working with 'people'. That is why job-system is socio-technical. And when any system has people, it includes multiple perspectives, views, priorities, and biases. And that is why, it is important to manage this 'social' system of corporate job. In my 7 years of coaching i have noticed that, absence of right reputation blocks a professional's career growth in a far more damaging manner than the absence of techncial inputs.

In order to achieve consistently, a professional must create at least earn four reputation : reputation of being a trustworthy member ( you can be relied without any doubt), of being credible (what you say is accurate and right ), of being competent ( please remember that being competent and having the reputation of being competent are two different propositions) and cooperative (you understand the team protocols and adhere to them).

Rajneesh was partly lucky, because in IT company after one finishes a project, one works in a new team. However, after 3 years in the company, his reputation perhaps was preceding him, and he was increasingly finding it difficult to get 'attractive' projects. I also discovered that his desire to leave the current  job was also caused by this factor. Many professionals like Rajneesh , who are blind to people-outputs, do not even notice that they are failing in a war, although they are winning battles. They are like a frog in a hot water, who does not know that he may die soon because the temperature of boiling water is rising very slowly. (boiling water syndrome)

Conclusion

As you would have realised from the above case data, Rajneesh was not changing his job to achieve his goals or fulfill his aspirations. He was changing job because he was running away from his current 'job' that was becoming increasingly difficult for him to perform due to his 'bad' reputation within the team.

With no idea of what wrong is he doing in the current job, he is more than likely to make the same mistake in the new job. After 10-15 years, Rajneesh may perhaps meet me to complain that despite hard work, brilliance and ambition, he did not achieve enough in his profession. Do you see the way professionals unknowingly shoot in their foot?  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Why willpower and skills are not enough to sustain achievement in Work?

I met Adi last month. This is his story.

Adi is working in a quite large private bank in India in a town closer to Mumbai. He did his Engineering and MBA from one of the Tier II MBA institutes in Pune. He passed both degrees with first class. He joined as Relationship Officer (RO) for small and medium business (SMB) accounts from his college. He has been working as a RO for last one year whose job is to find SMB accounts and give them loans. His bank had given him a target of disbursements to SMB accounts.

He is attached to one of the local branches of the bank in the town. He had worked hard. He used to make a dozen cold sales calls in his territory, he connected with all the current account opening officers in his territory although the bank did not encourage it. He followed various trails triggered by the database of accounts which ended in dead ends. He almost signed up three/four accounts which did not get sanctioned because of bank policy. 

When asked for more information, he shared that none of 8 ROs , who joined last year, achieved their targets. Only one managed to sign one new account, which got sanctioned, but not disbursed.  He was tense because he had not signed a single account in one year and wanted to 'leave' the bank before bank 'pushed' him out. 

What would you advise him?

Seeing through the lens of Enlight output framework 

A person uses his inputs cognitive abilities, character traits and conative traits to produce results. But what happens when a person cannot produce results, because the output-producing system of the organisation is defectively designed ?

When I checked with Adi, i realised that the 'team output' system of his bank was 'designed' to ensure that the result cannot be easily produced. ( Surprisingly, this is quite common in organisations !) For instance, branch had no targets of signing new SMB accounts so there was no interest for branch managers to cooperate with ROs. Officers opening Current accounts were not supposed to share data with ROs.  And more importantly, the 'type' of the service being sold was not compatible in producing the desired result

For instance, a bank can have the targets of  'opening of accounts'. But bank cannot have targets for opening new loan accounts to lend loans? It is like doctors trying to sell their 'advice' by meeting patients door to door. In other words, the service of  opening new 'loan accounts' cannot be sold by making cold calls. Such kind of service-selling requires 'indirect approach' ( like calling customers in seminars they may be interested) which consultants like Mckinsey use. Whatever new accounts the bank was getting, it was due to chance encounters triggered by lucky events ! In short, when a system is inadequate to produce the desired result, it is almost impossible to perform in your role, whatever your willpower, skills or motivation !

But what happens when Adi does not use a framework to guide his work-achievement?


Like we discussed in the earlier blog, one pays the the price if one is not using a framework to guide one's actions in career.  Without knowing the result framework, Adi's mind concluded that he is a poor performer. Even after knowing that 8 other ROs have not performed in their roles did not help him change his mind. And he felt so bad, that instead of convincing his bosses to change the 'badly designed system', he wanted to 'resign' In absence of a result framework, automatic sense-making apparatus of his Mind made him conclude that he is a poor performer. Instead of Mind directing him, it starts getting directed by this automatic sensemaking

Surprisingly this automatic sense-making of Mind further leads to another error ! When i asked Adi where does he want to go after leaving his current job, he said he is planning to join a Nationalised bank ( because he had already given exams for those!). But, unaware of the result-producing systems, he does not even know that many of the result-producing systems in Nationalised bank are designed to 'not perform'. In other words, Adi may join another similar bank with poorly designed output system, and realise later that he has moved from one 'ditch to another'. More importantly, this will further hurt his already weak 'internal confidence'. He may start questioning his own calibre. Even if he is lucky to find another job later, he will take long time to believe in his capability and revert back to normal use of his 'skills and knowledge base'.

Without a Result framework, even successful professionals suffer sooner or later 

Lack of Result-oriented framework like Enlight also affects those who achieve desired results. Without knowing how the output system benefited their individual performance, good performers believe that their performance was good because of their skills, hard work and willpower. Infact, i meet many such individuals who perform well due to the 'rightly designed output systems' for so long a time that their 'Minds' start believing they can do anything. They suffer from grandiosity and overconfidence !

They are inflicted with Virendra sehwag syndrome. Not bothering to know how systems help them achieve their results, they conclude that they are doing everything right. This does not expose their weaknesses and therefore does not give them a chance to correct their flaws. So when they fail, they are surprised and take long time even to acknowledge their own flaws. They get stuck.

On the other hand, if you understand the framework of producing results in your work, you become aware of the result-producing systems. You understand the way in which the system ( i.e through the colleagues present in the system ) is filling the skill-gaps. You discover the 'policies' which are motivating all the system elements to produce the desired result. In short, you understand your exact contribution in producing the result, as well as the system's contribution. This enables you to take both the approaches: either pick the right system that complements your skills, or appreciate the gap in your skills and strive to gain that skill. With a framework of work-achievement, your mind is in the driver seat, it is the director, not at the mercy of someone else. And only when your Mind is a director, you can achieve anything meaningful in life.

Do you still want to manage your work-achievements without a framework?