Can you Think Yourself into Your Desired Level of Success?


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During the days when I taught management courses, many a student has asked me, “How do I become as successful in life as I possibly can?” In some cases, the question was, “How do I become as successful as I want to?” The de facto answer was, “Work hard.” And there were several others such as establish goals, pursue them diligently, dream big, focus, plan your work, work your plan, etc.”

Now, in hindsight, I would have given a more introspective answer for them to reflect upon. Not that all said above is untrue; it surely is a requirement for success. But, there are several intrinsic behaviors and patterns that determine the level of success you achieve in life.

It’s often said that in order to be successful at what you do, know your strengths and weaknesses and surround yourself with people who are strong in your weak areas. As a result, you develop a circle of strength from which to operate and find positive results in your endeavors.

However, how do you determine your level of success? I mean, how do you ensure you make a positive impact in the lives of thousands of people versus a few hundred or even tens? How do you build a business that is multi-national than locally or regionally focused? How do you build a billion dollar corporation than one that plays in the hundreds of thousands? How do you land the job you desire in the field of your choice in the organization you aspire to work for? How do you grow your career prospects as you gather experience? How do you move into your desired lifestyle? The answer to this lies in the daily life you cultivate and nurture. In other words, your daily interactions, the people you interact with, the books you read, the inspiration and thoughts you cultivate and the rapport you share with those that have done it before.

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Dreaming big and executing on a roadmap to realize your dream is just not enough. You need to build and interact with the right network, develop a nourishing atmosphere so that you can constantly draw inspiration; all your interactions, thoughts and actions need to be a sum total of this. Draw inspiration to chart your own path, the way you see it. Talk, read, and contemplate on what you aspire to do every second, every minute of your existence. Build on the intensity so that your thoughts are shaped by it which shows in your decisions, your actions and finally in your results.

It’s also often said, “When in Rome, act like the Romans.” Well, this is not about acting like Romans, but about getting to be the King of Rome. Not when in Rome, but on the way to Rome, so you arrive King!

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Who do you work for?


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When asked the question, some of the common answers are – myself, my family & my company. There are those that refuse to acknowledge they are working for anyone, be it a person or an organization and use the word “with”, I work “with” xyz. Semantics, I guess. And then, there are those that state they work for their boss.

We all work to provide for our dependents and ourselves. The question is not what do you work for, but who.

If you are an entrepreneur and pride yourself in working for yourself, there is some truth to that, but ultimately, the superior power that determines your actions lies with your customers, suppliers & investors. They can dictate the terms of your work. If you work for an organization, ideally your work and its attributes should be focused at fulfilling your organization’s obligations toward its customers and shareholders. Each of us that works in the corporate world falls somewhere on an organizational ladder with a “boss” that we report into. The boss has the power to determine your paycheck, your upward mobility within the organization and responsibilities you’ll handle. Some bosses are company focused which means your expectations fall in line as well. In such situations, there is more transparency built-in between levels i.e. employee reach extends beyond the immediate boss and through a couple of levels above. This is healthy as hierarchical stress is not as much and opportunities open up for those truly talented and doing the right thing. Others are self-serving and that’s when conflict may arise. That’s when one may end up working for a boss. Corporate politics can dictate where ones’ loyalties lie. Much depends on the employee-boss relationship & the personalities involved therein. Many employees are in the process of pleasing their bosses than in the actual performance of their job to meet the objectives they signed up for. And, these employees cannot be blamed altogether for it since they are acting in defense of their position and in many a case, they themselves are the only defense they may have.

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There have been arguments that state flat organizational structures may be the answer to curb such influences, where employees work in teams and natural leaders emerge as a part of the execution strategy. The emphasis is on actually getting things done to meet common objectives sans a hierarchy within the organization. Well, it may work to an extent in smaller organizations but flat structures are not scalable for growth. As organizations grow, flexibility & controls need to be established using the hierarchy model. And, in every mid to large organization, there are numerous rungs on the corporate ladders. Then, what is the optimal strategy for ensuring that the focus of every employee is truly on corporate goals and not hijacked by personal corporate politics? A strong HR policy propagated by a strong HR team with the support of top management can achieve this to an extent but in a complex business environment, it is difficult to altogether do away with it. Again, having an HR team that functions independently is a difficult thing to achieve in an organization. The HR team too falls on the corporate ladder. There will always be employees serving bosses for various reasons. Although, not completely healthy, this is a true fact in the corporate world and should be managed to optimize it.

When faced with such a predicament, employees who find it detrimental to their principles & career might look for other opportunities so as not to sacrifice their potential & aspirations catering to the whims of an overbearing, self-serving boss. There are also employees who do the boss’s bidding and focus on keeping the boss happy in order to safeguard their jobs. In both cases, it’s detrimental to the corporation, whether through the loss of productive employees for the wrong reasons or by having unproductive employees stay just managing their supervisors. But, at the same time, such bosses are a more serious predicament since their influence and its effect tends to be on a larger scale. It’s the prerogative of every organization to take this issue seriously and work through its channels to monitor and minimize such situations, if not totally eradicate them to ensure optimal productivity of the employee base. Much of it comes from encouraging true transparency throughout the organization irrespective of reporting relationships. And such transparency can be propagated through frequent top-down-top communication, more objective 360 degree performance appraisals, employee reviews as well as supervisor reviews, career pathing, ensuring employees with the right skills are not in wrong jobs etc.

That’s a starter list of ways to nurture healthy employee-work dynamics within organizations. I look forward to see you add to it.

Do “nice” people make poor leaders?


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Definitely not! Well, let me start with that so you know where my sensibilities lie right at the beginning.

Niceness is a very valuable trait in any person, something that is becoming rare in today’s competitive environment.

“Nice” character traits most generally include agreeableness, trust, being a straight shooter, modesty and kindness. A person with niceness as a part of their personality generally tends to stay the same through life. Character traits are the blue print of a person and very rarely change unless the person experiences certain very hard life situations. As a result, the person develops a shield that they try to use to cover up their original personality fearing a recurrence of the bitterness that affected them.

It’s also a fact that more often that not, nice people are taken advantage of. But, that is where the use of personal charm comes into play so as to ensure that one is not abused. People in general are subtly biased towards niceness and feel that a nice person wouldn’t mind being pushed a little. Again, being nice is one thing, but you should also hold your stand and be firm. Niceness is not a weakness; it’s a virtue that is bolstered by being firm.

So, being nice is not always about putting others before you but is about putting yourself before others where it would benefit you as well as the others.

Leadership is about setting example, being a role model and leading the way towards mutual success. What better example to set than being nice yet being firm for a leader’s traits tend to permeate through the organization.

Any organization has

  • a responsibility towards its shareholders, employees and customers; its corporate responsibility;
  • a responsibility towards the community it thrives in and where its people resources live, its social responsibility and;
  • a responsibility towards the business it is in, towards the intellectual capital used; which in today’s time translates into intellectual responsibility.

It’s a leader’s duty, no matter at what level within the organization to safeguard and work towards the fulfillment of these responsibilities on an ongoing basis.

There are leaders that consider that corporate responsibility trumps it all. Again, there is bias towards the shareholders or the customers over employees and vice versa.

If employees feel neglected, their morale goes down and as a result, customers and shareholders suffer. If customers are neglected; no matter how much you may focus on the employees, the business as a whole suffers paving way for not being able to support those employees at all. If shareholders suffer, it has a ripple effect on the well being of the employees and customers.

Not one of them is exclusive. Hence, sound decisions have to be taken in consideration of the business as a whole. That is where the trait of niceness kicks in. A “nice” leader tends to see the big picture and contemplates about the morale and well being of the employees, the health of the business, the focus on shareholders as well as the top notch service that the customers deserve. The key is business health, not purely the financials or what the shareholders seek in terms of financial gain; which can at times happen at the expense of employees or customers. In such unharmonious situations, the rewards are short-lived.

Investing in the community where the organization lives and safeguarding and investing in the growth of intellectual capital are equally important to the long healthy life of a corporation.

As a business leader, it is important to have a sound mind and make sound decisions. There are 2 schools of thought; one that suggests the importance of empathy in business and the other, which states that business decisions are to be devoid of emotions.

I am of the opinion that a balanced approach to decision making is important. Too much or too less of anything can hurt. After all, a business is not just about money. It’s about the knowledge capital invested, the people and their skills that come into play to serve the customers that pay and expect the best possible service for their dollar. Each of these is vital and more important than that, the harmoniousness of their coming together to form the corporation and all that results from it is unique and truly admirable.

Someone who truly understands this and keeps it top of mind while imparting their duty makes the most ideal employee, the most ideal leader.