Are You An Outlier At Work?


We have several stories of few smart employees making the cut. What impacts their effort? They are the ones, who can finish a project, close a neat deal and even help in shooting up the share prices of a company, just as Scobble did for Rackspace or a Mark Zuckerberg for Facebook.  When these ideas were already tried and tested by others with moderate success, what helped these few to strike gold

What makes an employee such an Outlier? Are they, super humans or they are the ones, who know how to get around and align their strengths to the organization’s needs? There are some employees, who take the risk and call the shots. So here comes the question, are they really valued or taken as mavericks until they prove their points? Do the organization silos drain their energies and boot them out or the competition within your company buoyants them up?

What makes an Outlier at your workplace? Do they need to adhere to the rules and achieve targets, or they are the ones who bring in a breakthrough? I had attended a seminar at National Metallurgical Institute, where the scientists presented their thesis on- solutions for everyday life. This event was focused on sustainability. The session shared innovative techniques from all over the world, which worked perfectly at the home ground. These scientists had almost traveled to every great seat of learning.  However, their solution was so close to home. The inductive thinking and goal orientation were their winning formula. The capability to, focus from the current need, zooming out to a larger picture and then working backwards to implement a solution is what has worked for them.

Let’s apply this to your everyday life. Lets see how such techniques can help you be more successful right where you are. It would need effort to nurture its growth. As mentioned in Malcolm Gladwell’s book we would need 10000 hours of practice to make the cut. His book identifies two areas, including opportunities and legacy that create the success story. At your workplace, you may find opportunities through troubleshooting and then build your own legacy to establish your success. Here’s a list, of what makes you an outlier.

An incredible vision: It may not make any sense when an individual starts out his career, but an impossible dream is what it takes to make a mark. It’s something that gets you on your feet even on a lazy day. For instance, you have been planning for a PhD or an MBA from a premier institute, you may not write it in your Career- Goal Plan sheet. You may not even discuss it with your boss and peers. However, the fact that you are aware, of what you want, helps you stay centred. For you, it’s not about the 10000 hrs of practise , but being at it till you achieve it.

Work through every opportunity: There are times that teach us, that even if we continue to make small gains through every opportunity which comes to us, we eventually strike gold. A series of constant achievements builds on the self-efficacy. The personal choice of not holding any effort lowly sums the point. As shared by Indira Nooyi, who had once, worked as a receptionist in Minnesota to be able to afford a business suit for her interview.

Be able to tell yourself a story and believe it: When we embark on a journey and start learning a new skill, we are sure to hit by roadblocks and bottlenecks. This aggravates when we compare ourselves to others. Most of us have seen, that we may not have fared well in a few subjects when we were at school, yet we managed to deliver in those areas, later on in life. This tenacity of putting up with the limitations and trials takes one ahead. Suppose, just as your day is coming to a close, your boss sends you a large excel sheet and asks you to prepare a report to be presented the next day. Your brain which was programmed to rush home is now, suddenly jolted with work. Even though it may be an important task, you would find it hard to feel motivated. During the time when your brain is busy with these thoughts, your boss asks you to mail it to the senior leaders who would be reading this report.  This reminds you of the visibility, you always ached for. That becomes the sole motivator, and you prepare a report with not just an analysis but suggest brilliant solutions! This increases your visibility and rewards you with the satisfaction that you wanted.

Identify the schemas and syntaxes: How well do we read what information we absorb? Are we just forming our conclusion at random, or there is a definite web that works as we collect and scheme through information? How much did we identify with the syntaxes that we fed our brain? Suppose your favorite colour is blue. Is that the reason why most of the important cells in the excel sheet you prepare, are blue? How and why is this information important? Well, the more we know what information our brain absorbs, the better would we be able to identify our next response. Next time, when you hear your colleagues’ murmur, if you are gauging the information, you are less likely to be angry. You would acknowledge their back biting. Gather your focus on what they are likely to be discussing and how would you troubleshoot, in case there is any escalation from it. As outliers, the strength to stand beyond the current situation to make sense of the information and use it rightly for the future becomes your vantage point.

Deal with morbid fears: We all question what we deliver. At times, it helps us to keep a check on what we produce. Though, it often ends in self-criticism, resulting in limitations. The outliers, are either pushed to the brink not affected by these doubts, or at times they are smart enough to turn their weakness into opportunity areas. Let’s assume, you have been managing payroll for months with almost zero defects. Suddenly there is an upgrade to the time office software, without any intimation to your team. This makes your entire calculation erroneous. You may lodge a blame game with the Software team. Nevertheless, that would not rectify the errors. At this stage, being able to control your insecurity and take corrective actions would develop as your priority. Furthermore, informing everyone about the upending inaccuracies, which would be corrected through the next month’s payroll would establish you as a leader. Your prowess to pull people around you in the time of need and keep them focused on the solution may even land you the next promotion!

A fostering environment or an absence of it: If your environment factor remains vindictive, it would continue to hinder your growth. You may not get the next promotion or be nominated for the training program that you have been eying so far. Being a true outlier, you are likely to take a step back and create a connection with what you want and how it would help your ecosystem. Ensure that there is complete clarity on how fostering you would act for everyone’s betterment. As you work your way through this maze, you are sure not just to reach the goal but make far better use of yourself. In Malcolm’s word “What we do as a community, as a society, for each other, matters as much as what we do for ourselves. It sounds a little trite, but there’s a powerful amount of truth in that, I think.”

Tell us if this is how you find your way through. We are listening. Tell us your story!


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