How good are we? – Introspecting on the high road to success

We are born to lead. We want to be the best in whatever, we do. We strive for excellence through education, which precedes our work. As we raise the chart, we groom ourselves to lament and regret the leaders around us. The learning and experiences gained by working across the continuum helps us to decide on a benchmark of behaviors. We streamline a set of qualities and their standards, to define our paragon. No matter how positive we remain. We are bound to see the difference to what we believe it should be.
William Deresiewicz shared his view on ‘Solitude and Leadership’. His speech was about what it takes to inculcate leadership qualities in every individual.  He included three areas that are supposed to be the coveting qualities: 

  • The quality to jump the hoop – Defeat every competition that arises. They know how to excel in a class test or retaining an irate client.
  • The capability to keep the routine going
  • Maneuver the pole they climb – Manipulate their ways, find a fitting sponsor and do not let others rise higher.

Here are my experiences and things I learnt while working with the leaders.  I value them for their capabilities to think beyond the tactical measure and personal goals.

  • Values and valuations: A leader had once said “I don’t need my managers, if they can’t make non-performers perform”. Whereas there was another leader who was equally successful with his career and he said “I can get people at a drop of a hat. It’s the job of a reportee to manage their reporting managers” Strangely both of them belong to the same sector and have similar backgrounds with premier college education and experience with top employers. They are both good at maintaining the routine. However, differ largely on distributing the ownership to success. Ask yourself, under pressure how do your values work? You have just received a weekly report which shows the error escalations shooting through the roof. What action would you take and how? Would you call your team and give them a sounding? Alternatively, would you brainstorm with your team to identify the root cause and eliminate them forever?
  • Deliveries and takeaways: A global leader had once said that, his boss may allocate ten activities to him out of which there would be nine mistakes. Even so, it will not stop his work or stop him from trying out something new. Delivering work is not about the accuracies, but learning through mistakes and owning up to them. The work needs to get done. This attitude brings in the capabilities in delivery. When you delegate tasks to your time, what are you focusing on? How fast can you do the routine? Alternatively, do you weigh each task just as you do while calculating incentives and include the cost of learning from mistakes? How many times do you make a mistake and accept it? Do you choose to walk away with learning or hide it by blaming others?
  • ‘Do-it-all’, right now: The leaders are identified with their capabilities at multitasking. I was once told by a leader that as a manager, your job is to take updates and follow up. You can manage it through email, cell phone and one-to-one connect. He did cite examples from his meetings where he would be on a conference call, message follow-up through cell phone and email at the same point of time. He was excellent at it and the result would be, those who provided him the update, gave him their own versions of the work. Most of the time, they missed out discussing the bottlenecks. Worst this used to leave a lot of room for robbing credit. This was not detrimental to the leader as he got the updates and the work apparently finished. This created a gap in the understanding of what went at work without his visibility, fueling grapevines.
  • All in a row: The power of quick associations and dissociation is the key to success. As an HR Manager, how fast can you move from one appraisal meeting to another? How efficiently do you appraise the top performer and tear down an under performer? You may choose to rationalize their performance and make your feedback as constructive as possible. Even so, in this mad-rush, are you missing the cues, which shout out that the high performer was expecting a greater hike and is not happy with what you have offered him? Contrarily, the low performer has known that his prospects with the company are ceasing, hence he no longer finds a career path in the company. While you are expecting him to improve, he would actually be using his energies to find a new job. He would definitely use your words of wisdom, but to excel in his new role. Consequently, you stand to lose a talent, whom you have been training for a year, sometimes even more than that. On the flip side, you get to cut your losses. However, what are you contributing to in the long run? Better career for your talents outside your company? Alternatively, remain mindful enough to optimize their potential within the bounds of your company. What does it actually take to turn a non-performer to perform? A constant rebuking or firing? On the other hand, owning up your responsibility to employ them in the first place, enables them to perform. Not everyone can be a right-fit for every job. It’s only when they put themselves into it, they would sieve through and know what drives their energies. Do they draw their energies by delivering the job, or they feel drained?  Even when you see the misfit. What would you do to set it right? Firing at the earliest is easiest. What is the next step that you would take up as a leader, not just for the business but for that talent? Can you give credit to yourself for having done it ‘right’?
  • Credit and Credibility: How many times have we given credit to people around us? I am not asking for the star of the month award. What I wish to understand is when someone shared a step in a process or a minor information, did you acknowledge it? How many times did you have the courage to accept that every bit of what you know came from others? What you processed is your credit then what about those who enabled you to do it in the first place? When you are in a meeting next time, dealing with an escalation, try to name all the people who helped you resolve it the last time that escalation arose, rather than saying “I handled it all”! Feel that dryness in your throat. Nevertheless, the very next moment you would feel empty and rejoice at the same time. William mentions that every idea comes from a point. A thought has always been pondered by someone before you. However, when you contemplate on it and draw your own inference that’s when they become yours. Even so, the point of origination and the one who brought it to you, deserves credit. Recently, I was talking to Gautam Ghosh. He had always inspired me with the way he wrote. When I started writing, years back, I trail-blazed his thought-process. This made my work, perfect. However, I always knew where they came from. I have been endorsing him over the years, but that’s different with owning -up what I gained from him. During my discussion, when I shared how I have been taking notes from his work to form mine. I felt very relieved. It doesn’t matter to anyone else when you share the credit. It should only, matter to you.
  • Looking glass: Ponder enough to develop an idea. William puts it “Solitude and Leadership” go hand in hand. He puts it beautifully, saying that in solitude you find the company of your own thoughts. You ponder and voice what might be a profanity in the company of others. This allows you to think through situations and be emotionally prepared for it. The metaphor that he draws is that if you don’t push yourself to think hard enough on situations and wait for them to arise in your life to be able to handle them, its like waiting with an apparatus for a fire to start and then learning how to fight that same fire!
It doesn’t mean that you use self-righteousness to judge others. Rather, you put yourselves in their shoes and then think what you would do and how you would think differently? Think if you were the appraiser, who gave you a negative rating and put you in Personal Improvement Plan, how would you handle it? Remember you would have the same limitations and the pressure to put all your talent in a bell curve where you will have to put 20-25% in the red zone. How would you manage them and avoid attrition? Alternatively, take a bigger look and see how you would manage the merger of your company with the another where most of your employees can’t align. How would you raise fund differently for your company and approach the investor so that the equity for all the stakeholders stays the same? If you were the one to work for sweat equity in your company, how far would you push yourself to see that the targets are achieved no matter how unattainable you found them in the first place? 

  • Topsy- Turvy: We all have a dream job. How far are we prepared to take it? If we are already into it, what are we doing there? Are we just delivering it or living the dream in a true sense? There are roles for which we networked and shared our resumes endlessly. We might have even been rejected when we were interviewed, initially. We don’t give up. However, when we finally land the role, what happens to us after that? Do we live in wonder? We had been earlier craved for? Many of us, would love to Para glide or bungee jump, When we do it, we click our pictures and hang it in our living room. We make them our profile pictures in every online social network. We are a part of. Is that the reason why we did it? Just to brag it to others? Conversely, we wanted to experience flying, the feeling of being held by nothing, yet suspended in the air.
As William puts it, “taking your own counsel in solitude.” We don’t ponder until, and unless, we are with ourselves. You may not have the luxury to be in solitude. Even if you are driving, or you are in your office, take yourself to that sanctuary in your mind. It can be a session like this, just as you are reading this article. Take a minute, before you answer your next phone call or check your inbox. Leave yourself with the thought and refuse to get distracted for a while. You may not be able to find a conclusion to any of the questions you have in your mind right now. Just by allowing yourself to ponder upon them, you are building on your thought process. Allow it to culminate. Tell us how you brain storm. Do you always find the answers that you look for? On the other hand, the process develops on its own. And your counsel empowers to act, when it truly matters. Share your thoughts. We are listening.

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