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Career self reliance

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Career self reliance

  1. 1. Learn, to Lead!Page 1 of 13In October 98, when we were enteringthe period for annual appraisals, thePPDP Training mentioned that one ofthe areas of focus that year was onhow to become self-reliant in ourcareers.I felt this was something everyoneknew, but did not understand. We didnot know HOW to become self-reliantabout our careers. I could imaginesetting a career objective as simply as,say, “I will be doing what our MD isdoing, in 10 years”. However, I couldnot define ANY action plans that wouldtake me there. I could not defineanything that I should do now, whichwould help me achieve that.I started talking to my team about allthe things we could do, and I realizedwe could define some actions now thatwould make us self-reliant in ourcareers. I put these into apresentation, which I could run on aone-to-one basis with differentindividuals. It took me about half anhour to prepare the presentation sinceI was simply putting down myreflections on my experience.I ran this presentation across my teamof eight senior managers and addedthe learning captured during thepresentation. The presentation tookapproximately 45 minutes.I subsequently ran the presentation ona one-to-one basis for over 200people, and what I have put downhere is the cumulative learning fromall these sessions.I thought it would be good if we beganby understanding some fundamentalconcepts in the same way.Let’s try to answer these questions.Take the first one. “What is a Career?”How would you define a career? Asyou realize, the definition of a careerthat you came up with just now is inyour mind. How do you know it is thisdefinition that everyone has for acareer?Similarly, consider the other questions,such as “What is Growth?”What you should realize is that if agroup of people is not working with thesame definition or understanding, theexpectations of different people cannotbe met.These questions led me to some veryinteresting answers. In fact, this
  2. 2. Learn, to Lead!Page 2 of 13presentation was a result of thesequestions and the subsequentanswers.I found some answers in the Webster’sDictionary.On the net at http://www.m-w.com/(Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary) Ifound these definitions for the variousmeanings and implications of the term‘Career’.Let’s keep #3 and #4 in mind.Thekeywords in #3 are “a FIELD forCONTINUOUS, PROGRESSIVEACHIEVEMENTS…”.This is another meaning of Career andsome of us do follow this type ofcareer as well .Well, essentially #3 and #4 of theprevious slide seem to be whatconcern us so let’s take a closer lookat what we can get from these.If “…continuous, progressiveachievement…” in “…a field…” is acareer, then thinking about thedevelopment of this career, you needto first select the field, and then makesure your achievements arecontinuous and in logical progression.This implies we have to focus onchoosing the field or the ‘career’ as in#4 and then on continuous,accelerating, growing achievements.To achieve more, we will also need toidentify and develop skills and abilitiesin ourselves, to let us achieve more.Let’s first look at how we choose ourcareers, which will sensitize us to howwe can improve the choices we make.We’ll then look at how we can achievemore in the career we have chosen.
  3. 3. Learn, to Lead!Page 3 of 13These are some facts about ourchoices in careers.Some of us do have access tostructured, competent, andprofessional career counseling help,but it’s a fact that 99.9% of theprofessionals don’t receive anystructured counseling help.Typically, the time when we select ourrespective fields, in classes 8 to 12, wesolicit and receive advice from ourparents, relatives, elders, and oursocial circle. Usually, our parents aremore concerned about the field wechoose. This is certainly changing,and children now are more consciousof what they need to do. Peerpressure, which is growing, has alsoadded to this.Bullet 1: Working on the careerdefinition that we arrived at, theprogression for each one of us isunique. No two people in the worldhave exactly the same career. Theymight have the same field, but theprogression characteristics differ.Then, why do they differ?Bullet 2: They differ because we makechoices that affect our career orprogression. Every time you decide todo or not do something, you changeyour progression. We exercise thesechoices whenever we get theopportunity. For instance, I mightchoose to take a break, or meetsomebody, or finish something rightnow.This also highlights the fact that everydecision we make affects our career.We’re probably making career choicesup to four times a day!We use our personal vision, mission,or values to decide on our choice. Wemake a choice that would, we feel,take us on the progression towardswhat we want to be in the world.Then, how do we build and think aboutour vision, mission, or values?Bullet 3: We build our vision/mission/values based on our value system. Ihave a personal statement that defineswhat I value about myself, and I haveexpectations from differentorganizations. I expect that they willvalue various relevant strengths in methat will contribute to their growth.We inherit our initial values from ourparents and family and later from ourfriends and peers.Let’s look at a structured approach tochoosing our careers. I have a feelingthat none of us follow this approachconsciously, but many organizationalsystems do exist, which facilitate thisapproach unconsciously. Maybe thereis some benefit in consciously usingthis approach as well.
  4. 4. Learn, to Lead!Page 4 of 13In the first part, I list down all thethings I value about myself.For instance, I might value my abilityto be punctual, to complete things ontime, or to play a game like an expert.I then list what I don’t value aboutmyself, but what other people and theorganization seem to value.This is actually a list that shows youopportunities. You already have thesestrengths, but you don’t value themunlike others.For instance, I might not value myability to sing but somebody elsemight. Alternatively, I might not valuethe fact that I always look at thingsoptimistically, while others might.Now, I think about what theorganization values about itself,including its people, which includesme.Some of this might be what I don’tvalue but the organization does.Finally, I think about what theorganization does not value but I do.Thinking through all four of these‘value’ questions gives me a very goodidea of the fit, conflict, andopportunities I have.After going through the previous fourlists, I take my decision. This decisionis what defines my career choice.We must realize that we never gothrough structured questions andresponses as shown here, but imaginethe enormous improvement in ourarea of choices.
  5. 5. Learn, to Lead!Page 5 of 13I have not discussed ‘Choosing yourcareer’ further in this presentationbecause that’s a different story, and Iassume we have already made achoice that we like.After talking about choosing yourcareer, let’s take a closer look at thesecond part of Career Development,which is Achieving more.Let’s see how we can achieve more.We can achieve more most simply bybeing good and better at what wehave to do. This is the most obviousstrategy and often the only strategythat we identify for our growth. Andthat is where I think we fall short.Apart from achieving more by beingbetter at what we do, how can weachieve more? Well, by enablingothers to contribute to ourachievements. This multiplies ourachievements and is the other largestmethod to achieve more. Others whocontribute to our achievements couldbe people, events, or processes.We also need to become visible orknown. Visibility is important to theextent that whoever needs to knowand can benefit from knowing aboutyou should know so that moreopportunities come your way. This issomething like – “I might know how toswim, but I’ve never shared the factwith anybody, and therefore, when aneed for the ability comes by, I am notthought of.We should also broaden our activitybase to be able to widen our vision.Finally, we should take moreresponsibility, and value ourselves.Let’s spend some more time on eachof these points in the following slides.To be better at what you do, you needskills, knowledge, experience, andpassion, among other things. Passionis what drives you to do better; thestronger the passion, the faster youachieve. It accelerates theprogression of your achievements.Being better at what you do increasesyour personal power.You are also managing yourself byobjectives (MBO) when you are betterat what you do.One opportunity is to do the commonthings uncommonly well. To standout, most people are worried aboutdoing uncommon things well. A huge,
  6. 6. Learn, to Lead!Page 6 of 13simple-to-achieve opportunity is to dothe common things well. And becauseeveryone is anyway worrying aboutdoing uncommon things, they miss outcompleting the common things. Whenyou do common things well, itbecomes uncommon.Why is it important for you to enableothers to achieve more? Because youare a factor in what the teamachieves, and what you achieve isaffected by what the team achieves.For instance, you performedoutstandingly but the team achievedonly satisfactory results. Yourachievements are going to be dividedby the teams. On the other hand, ifyou achieved only satisfactorily, butthe team achieved outstanding results,you are definitely going to bask in theglory.This (enabling others…) is the essenceof ‘people management’. It is alsoessential to manage yourself. You alsoneed to enable yourself to performwell.This is also when you are managing ateam or others by objectives.Why is visibility important? This is afrequently trivialized andmisunderstood aspect. It can be,quite often, confused with arroganceor misrepresentation.Visibility is important for you so thatyou become a PREFERRED NODE ofREFERENCE for other people to referto and for them to WANT to refer toyou. It is important for people to wantto refer to you because that keeps you‘alive’ while you contribute to themthrough the value you add by beinggood at something. In all likelihood,you will be a node of reference forsomething that you do better thanmost people.A simple way to gain visibility is to getinvolved in a ‘high-impact’ project.Because the world’s attention is on theproject, people see more of you. Tobecome the node of REFERENCE,however, you need to do well also inthe project.Of course, you will become a real nodeonly when you do something well. Youmight say you are good at somethingand people should refer to you, but ifthey feel they are not getting valuefrom you, they will stop referring toyou, and you will stop being the nodeof reference for them.
  7. 7. Learn, to Lead!Page 7 of 13You need to broaden your base, orwiden your experience, of doing avariety of things, and doing them well.This is important because as yourcareer progresses, and you get intoteams to lead them, you will beexpected to have a ‘vision’ of theground realities. You cannot have abroad vision without a broad base.If you don’t have a broad base andyou are a ‘specialist’, you run the riskof becoming a pillar instead ofstanding on a well-supported platform.And we all know that pillars have adelicate equilibrium, depending ontheir height and base.Take it on. Unless YOU takeresponsibility and own it, there’s nopoint in running the risk of giving it toyou and you not owning it. If youdon’t accept responsibility once, youwill not take charge when othersexpect you to, which will lead todisasters.You need to manage yourself byresponsibility, and believe in the twoprinciples of MBR (Management ByResponsibility). The first principlestates that, “You are hundred percentresponsible for what happens to you.”And the second one states that, “Youare hundred percent responsible foryour reaction to what happens to you.”Look at it like this. If you don’t believein either of these principles, you arenot taking responsibility. And if youare not responsible, how can you begiven the responsibility. You HAVE tobelieve and act according to theseprinciples for you to be given anyresponsibility.As you take more responsibility, youwill be faced with risk. And you willneed to discover whether you are a‘trader’ or an ‘investor’. Traders reactto market situations and requirementsand follow what the ‘market’ says.Investors, on the other hand, invest intheir ideas, principles, and output, andstay firm in spite of contrary marketindications, risking failure while theywork at succeeding. Each of us, atvarious times, is either a trader or aninvestor, to varying degrees.Trading is simple, but to invest, youshould know the market trends, yourown abilities, and your confidence inwhat you know.Finally, to get more responsibility, takeit! The simplest way to takeresponsibility for a situation is torespond to the situation. And thereverse is also true. The surest way tolose responsibility is to stopresponding to the situation.
  8. 8. Learn, to Lead!Page 8 of 13Periodically, you need to value yourselfand evaluate your value for theorganization. You must evaluate yourcontribution to the organizational teamto ensure that you increase yourcontribution and value towards theorganization. Do this by observingyourself and your achievementsobjectively, standing beside yourselfas you look at yourself.Once you are satisfied with yourcontribution to the organization, youmust depend on the fact thatsomething that is valued is alsoprotected…just like your expensivewatch or camera.When I first made this presentation topeople, at this point they said thatthey got actionable knowledge out ofthe presentation. And that’s whatprompted me to add this slide becausethis is something we are very good atdoing. We revel in the knowledge thatwe have the ability, but we never actwith it.So, if you think these points are worthyour while, then just start working atthem. Build your personal systems totrack where you are on each of themand keep at it.This is how I see it.We begin with Self Esteem, which weget from our parents, in the earlyyears of our lives. This is also thesingle most important contributionparents make to their children – ofteaching them self-esteem. Withoutself-esteem, we don’t even ‘learn’ atschool. And learning is the next thingthat we start on.We go on learning, more and more,until our learning starts spilling overinto the Do phase of our lives. Here iswhere we follow instructions fromsomebody, to actually do something,and to carry out an activity tocomplete a task. We get better atmeeting commitments made bysomeone else like our teacher ormanager.As we get better at meeting thesecommitments, made by somebodyelse, we start making our owncommitments and meeting them. Aswe get better at meeting our owncommitments, we develop the Just DoIt value in ourselves.If we acquire the ability to make andmeet our commitments, we have the
  9. 9. Learn, to Lead!Page 9 of 13opportunity to help other peopledevelop the same ability, and wemultiply into more people to get intothe Manage stage. At the same time,we also start working at improving ourPeople Management skills.At the base once we have the threeattributes of Self Esteem, Just Do It,and People Management, we can saywe have Personal Power, and we startworking at Visibility, Broadening ourBase, and Taking more Responsibility.As we take up more responsibility, werealize we are taking responsibilitythat nobody else or very few othersare taking. That is when we are at theLead stage.As growing trainers of NIIT, we havebuilt some paradoxes for ourselves.I’m describing one below.The first is that we, as trainers, knowthat all training is defined by theTerminal Objectives defined for anaudience. By knowing more about theaudience and the terminal objectives,we arrive at achievable actionsEnabling Objectives for the training.These enabling objectives are what areaddressed by the training, and oncethese are met, we assume that theterminal objectives are also met. Wenever address the Terminal Objectivesdirectly.Then why is it that in our careers, weset the terminal objectives - as inmoney, power, position, and authority,– without a clue as to ourselves, or theenabling objectives? We then don’thave any actionables to work at, andwhen we don’t achieve we feel we’velost out. If you think about it, whatwas your plan to achieve what youwanted and how predictable were theresults of what you did?Set Terminal Objectives but also knowthe audience, yourself, and theenabling objectives you have toachieve. Train yourself!Your responsibility is to develop yourability and look for opportunities whereyou can contribute to the organization.The organization’s responsibility is torecognize your abilities and identify orcreate opportunities where you cancontribute most to the organization.
  10. 10. Learn, to Lead!Page 10 of 13You can see growth in different ways,and I articulated three ways in whichwe grow.I named them Apathetic, Sympathetic,and Empathetic.ApatheticThis is when the leader ‘grows’ leavingthe team behind, usually by addingnew people at intermediate levels.This is when the leader’s growth isapathetic to that of the team.SympatheticThis is when the entire team growstogether with no relative differenceperceived in relationships between theleader and the team, but the entireteam doing better work and takingmore responsibility.This is normally not perceived bypeople as growth because no relativedifference is perceptible. But it isgrowth for all.EmpatheticThis form of growth occurs when theleaders empower their team membersto do better than them. This is themodel all the trainers have to grow in.Your teacher in Class 10 empoweredyou to do better than her. In theprocess, she grew in her impact onpeople, although her ‘position’remained what it was.This is also the model all thegrandparents use to grow. Thegrandfather is not concerned about hisown achievements. He is veryconcerned about how he can help hisgrandchild achieve.How We GrowYou can now probably identify with thepeople who follow each of thesemodels of growth at various times intheir careers or lives.They might have grown apatheticallyat the beginning of their careers when
  11. 11. Learn, to Lead!Page 11 of 13they were on a faster achievementtrack than their teams.Midway into their careers, they werelikely to grow sympathetically becausetheir teams were likely to be moremature and capable and grew orslowed down at the same rate as theydid.Towards the later part of their careers,they focused more on how they couldempower others to grow, even beyondthemselves. They would have, bythen, achieved what they wanted.If you come to think of the ONEGrowth that we all work towards, inview of all the above discussion, youwould realize that all the visible signsof growth are mere enablers for thisUltimate Growth. This UltimateGrowth is the “positive impact onpeople”. Positive impact on morepeople, and more positive, greaterimpact on more people.We tend to relate growth with ourposition in the organizationalhierarchy, which is our position in thestructure. Let’s see why this seems tobe completely irrelevant.If the two parameters, growth andstructures were related, then everynode in the structure would have avalue assigned to it, with the highernodes at a greater value and the lowerones at a lower value. This would alsoimply that the organization isstructured around the growth orvalues of nodes.Surprisingly, nothing could be furtherfrom the fact. Organizations are notstructured according to the values ofnodes. Then, how are they structuredand why? Let’s see…An organization is structured to deployfunctions.The organization needs to be effectiveat carrying out its functions efficiently.Therefore, we should ensure thatorganizational structuring avoidsredundancy of skills and functions,retains effectiveness over a span ofcontrol, and facilitates communicationand mentoring.I thought of at least two approachesthat could be used to structure anorganization.
  12. 12. Learn, to Lead!Page 12 of 13One could be a Role Based approach,when the organization is structuredaround the need for roles, with theabilities of people getting a very smallconsideration. The IAS is one suchorganization, and you might find manygovernment organizations followingthis approach in the socialist countries.The other is the Function Basedapproach, where the organizationstructures around the functions thatneed to be carried out. This is theapproach that most of the functional orfunctioning organizations take.Well, you can’t just define thestructure and forget the rest.Structures need to change because of: Changing market requirementsleading to changing functionalrequirements, Growing capability, visibility,and responsibility of the people Growing maturity of the peopleand the business.Essentially, structures need to changeto account for and drive all the peoplearriving at different points on theLearning Curve.Let’s see how the Learning Curve canbe understood.This is how we’ve seen learning curveswith the slope very high in thebeginning declining over time to a lesssteep slope.What do you think happens beyondpoint X?This is what I think happens beyondpoint X in our learning curves.Learning actually starts acceleratingbeyond X instead of becoming static orslowing down.It is only these ‘learners’ who go intothe Leading and Envisioning stages,beyond the Learn-Do-Manage.Here, the obvious question is: What isit that predicts this inflection of theslope at X? The answer seems to be inwhen we get the ability to leadourselves, when we become sensitiveto our productivity of learning, orwhen we start learning from ourselves- when we learn to lead ourselves.
  13. 13. Learn, to Lead!Page 13 of 13This is a corollary to the learning-curves discussion. I realized we mighthave some loopholes in how wedevelop our people.The upper curve is for a ‘senior’, in theaccelerating-learning mode while thelower curve is that of a ‘junior’ whojoined the senior to be managed andmentored.In the beginning, the slope of thejunior’s curve is steep because thesenior provides instructions, values,guidance, and training so that thejunior develops and performs. All thetime, the junior is following hislearning curve with the slope declininggradually.The senior ‘feels’ the change in theslope, but misinterprets it completely.By the time the senior perceives thathis and the junior’s slopes are aboutthe same, the interpretation is that thejunior has now achieved the same rateof learning as I have and so he will beable to keep pace with me. They don’trealize the junior is actually slowingdown not speeding up.By ‘leaving’ the juniors to learn ontheir own at this stage, we lose theopportunity we had of the juniorsfollowing the seniors’ learning curveclose behind. Instead, the juniors nowfollow their natural, further slowingdown of acceleration of learning toeventually going through theinflection. So what does this tell us?Until when should a senior mentor hisjunior?The development of the junior mustcontinue until the junior crosses theinflection; is able to lead himself, issensitive to his productivity oflearning, and learns to lead.Let’s now see how we can chart thecareers that we impact. Our owncareers impact the organization’scareer.This presentation applies completely tothe organizational career as well.Let’s Learn, to Lead!

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