In 2003, it was quite by accident and very casually that I was told that a colleague aspired to be like me. It was a tipping point for me personally and I became very conscious. Suddenly, my sense of responsibilities multiplied. Up until then, I was simply in a job and doing what I was told to do.
Now, I felt more than ever the need to demonstrate a sync between what I say and what I do. I was responsible to channelize an aspiration in the right direction. I felt there was pressure to also be a better version of myself every day. This is what got me thinking of different people and mantras that have been my guiding stars.
I consider myself to be very fortunate to have been surrounded by impactful managers and leaders. Not just that they played an important role in shaping my career, but they have also made me the person I am today. This article is a compilation of 9 mantras that I have learnt from my mentors which I continue to apply every day.
1. When in doubt don’t
When something doesn’t seem right and your gut tells you to stop, listen to it. We may not always have the luxury of time or complete information while taking decisions but it is essential that all aspects of the problem and impact of decision are taken into consideration before firing the bullet. Like they say, we must be convinced to convince others. Next time you find your inner voice telling you something doesn’t seem right, just pause and rationalise.
2. Treat employees as people first
Business is all about maximizing profits, controlling costs and clocking in high sales. High stakes and high pressure in office are the new normal. In all this, somewhere it is easy to overlook that employees are people first. The quality of human interactions and values such as respect in the office decide if people look forward to coming back to work or if they are after-hours job seekers. Next time you feel like writing that nasty email to a colleague or notice a colleague derive sadistic pleasure when a peer is having a rough day for no apparent reason, just stand up for human values.
3. Leave an impact in every human interaction
I can’t help but notice how one of my mentor leaves a unique impression on every person she interacts with. Whether it is meeting with a CXO of a fortune 500 company or simply leaving a smile for the valet driver, she is blessed with unique ability to connect with people around her. Even when she needs to be firm with someone, she will make a lasting point and drive self –realization versus general reprimanding. Leaving an impact on people comes from being composed and in control of the situation and environment around you.
4. Respect can only be earned
I was once playing mediator to a manager-subordinate conflict. After the manager repeatedly said, ‘You must listen because I am your Manager’, I had to take the manager aside and explain to him why he needed to take the designation out of his head. People respect because they acknowledge a unique skill, appreciate the journey of the person and sometimes even because they are able to openly disagree without being left with a feeling of being belittled or shamed. Respect earned purely on the basis of a designation or a uniform or a badge is temporary. It will at some point or the other translate into fear or opposition.
5. Always respond to communication you receive
Some of the first few things I learnt early on in my career was to acknowledge every call and email because it came with a hope for a job. Likewise, every communication we receive every day comes with some hope. It is easy to respond when it is something that benefits us or when we need it. The key is to be able to respond even when there is nothing in it for you; at times, you may have to give ‘no’ as an answer or at times simply redirect the communication to the right person.
6. Devil is in the detail
It is easy to oversee our own mistakes because on the surface it all looks fine. It is only when we dive deep and we look at our actions inside out is when we are able to move towards perfection while considering all finer aspects. The success of some of the biggest and grandest project is only because even the smallest of the component is taken care of as if it was the most important. Ask an architect and he will endorse this for you.
7. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it
Sometimes I have this urge to ‘do something new’ just because it is old. It took me sometime to control this feeling in the interest of not disrupting a process which seems to be serving its purpose. While it is great to be proactive and take initiative, it is essential to pause and ensure that you are not breaking open a Pandora’s box. Do take a look if a change is really required in the first place. In most cases, a no-tech problem doesn’t need a high-tech solution.
8. You can’t do everything
This is what my boss told me as my career transitioned into me becoming a manager. It is essential for a manager to acknowledge this in order to be successful. Delegation and control is an art. It is also perfectly okay to approach colleagues you trust and seek help. It is better that tasks are done rather than keep them pending. Team output is larger than sum of its parts.
9. Have a life outside work
Missing a family function once in a way because of work seems okay but if that’s happening too often and if it is making you upset, chances are that you will feel miserable and burnout quickly. Also, in some cases, just because it is okay for you, doesn’t make it okay for your team. The time is now. You are not going to be 30 or 40-something year old again. So, while you can still walk without a stick, go to Leh for that dream trek or simply take some time to look at the sky while it is still blue.
My mantras may not be your mantras, but you certainly operate on a few. Take time out to know your mantras; it is like finding your tent pole and henceforth, pitching every tent satisfactorily.
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Author Profile: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.