While gyaan (Knowledge) is not the most revered word amongst many today since it largely has a connotation of a boring lecture, unwanted sermon to the reluctant. This teachers day, I spent time thinking about my “Teachers and Mentors” and what I learned from them. The list is long as there are many who have helped shape my thinking and approach to things on not only how I work but to some extent also how I live. All this has happened through the knowledge (gyaan) that was absorbed directly or indirectly and therefore the importance of gyaan cannot be underestimated. While a lot of learnings have come from individuals and institutions there are also learnings from things like sports that demonstrated the unfailing characteristics of how a team is always above the individual and the ability to be down but not out.
Here are some of the things that I have learned from my teachers and mentors over the years:-
1. Right Values as a foundation
o Values form the building blocks and provide for a sound foundation to build up on and there for are far more important for sustained success than anything else. In fact longevity in a career and an organization can be built on top of a foundation of shared values that match well for both the individual as well as the organization. Organizations like Infosys have been built on this very foundation.
2. Think Big, Experiment and create a vision for others to follow
o Seldom have incremental things enthralled people to put their all into it. The important aspect is to see that there is enough directional validation and move rapidly to create an aspirational view of the future. People like to see the big picture and then follow through to achieve it. While course corrections happen along the way as you feverishly and passionately experiment, it’s important that there is a vision created for everyone to see right up front and there is tangible movement towards the end goal consistently.
3. Challenge the limits
o Hindsight is 20/20 or so goes the saying. There are enough tales of regret where people have failed to live up to their potential and capabilities and many a times it was just the reluctance to try their best, try harder, challenge themselves and give it their best shot. Success and failure may be out of our control but putting our best effort and constantly challenging ourselves to do the best is definitely in the individuals hands and can never come in the way or be allowed to be put under a question mark.
4. Do it and learn it for ever
o This was one of my earliest lessons, whatever I read and heard, it was always insisted that we try things out on our own. In the manufacturing world, it meant standing in front of a machine that had cylinders with temperatures in excess of 120 degrees and in our world it means for some of us zero distance to code, clients etc. The best way to learn something is to get in to it and do it, if something does not kill, it may be worth trying after all!
5. Invest in good people even when constrained
o Our biggest asset is our people and I never have had doubts about this another early learning. The most important investment therefore is on people – good people. It also means having fast and effective processes to identify, nurture and invest on the right talent by challenging them to push themselves towards the shared aspirations and goals.
6. Be the change
o Quite often what we expect from our teams is not what we ourselves commit and follow, this could be simple operational things like being on time, submitting reports, timesheets to more tactical and strategic things like picking up a new focus area that is business relevant each cycle. It’s important to not only talk but also walk the talk ourselves before we expect others to follow.
7. Build strong networks
o In the knowledge economy investments are made and deals are done based on references and the network that you are in, it can’t be more compelling in our times. It’s important to have the right connect and this does not remain restricted to leadership roles anymore, today an architect or a developer would benefit equally from the network as much as anyone else in the leadership roles.
8. Have no room for negativity
o Negative thoughts and the impact they create can be devastating to the individuals personal health, wellbeing and overall growth. It also saps a lot of energy from everyone around. It’s therefore important to have a positive frame of mind irrespective of the situation and also ensure that you have good number of positive people around. Try and stay away from skeptics, gossip mongers and negative folks as much as possible, it can be one of the best things you can do to yourselves.
9. Create a culture of improvement
o Each year (every couple of quarters if possible) try and pick up an area for improvement either on the personal front or on the professional front. I have personally benefited from this over the past few years, I have been able to improve my work life (became an early riser), my communication (especially presentation skills), writing ability and several others. It’s important to invest in our own selves and continue the process of learning through simple and effective goals for improvement.
10. Compassion for social causes and helping others
o Our bond to the roots and the society around us is what keeps us grounded and it’s important that as we grow in our careers and as humans we do our bit for the society. It need not always be through donating money, while that is the easiest for most of us to do and there is no harm if we want to start that way, but stay focused on causes that matter and contribute in any small way that you can through your expertise, effort as a volunteer, donations etc.
Like many of you, my early influencers include my teachers and professors, cousins and friends who through their talk and actions inspired me to not only challenge myself but also be at it in spite of failures. Once I joined the work force, the early influences came from managers who had tremendous knowledge of their craft and specialization but were always willing to share voluntarily and that made a lot of difference. Today the learnings come from all round 360 degrees, our managers and leaders continue to influence, at the same time there are new people that bring something strong and credible to the table that influences one and the takeaways are powerful enough to ignore at your own peril. Last but not the least, not to forget some of our family members who aren’t behind in what they teach us every single day.
Who do you think are the key influencers in your life and how have they influenced you? Do drop a note and I will be happy to discuss with you.