I am sharing some of my thoughts on what some of the expectations that we probably need to have on our own self and expectation that some of our stakeholders would have in our existing and emerging leadership roles. Irrespective of what ‘we feel’ about ourselves and the environment around us these are some areas where we need to be conscious about. We probably are aware of what all is being said here and may be the master of our own self but these thoughts could be considered as reinforcement of what we are probably good at already.
This might look silly, but unless we get this one thing right, we will have difficulty in most areas of our professional and personal life. If I have to quote from Wiki, the definition is “Self-discipline refers to the training that one gives one’s self to accomplish a certain task or to adopt a particular pattern of behavior, even though one would really rather be doing something else” . Our current lifestyle has probably spoiled or taken away something as simple as this over years. So in some sense we probably need to unlearn some of our acquired bad habits. I am personally an advocate of the philosophy ‘as long as work gets done’ why should I worry about anything else and in all probabilities that argument is a very fair and reasonable argument. But the counter argument is if we have a team looking up-to us then we have a fairly bigger responsibility than what probably we could have imagined.  We can be fairly sure that we will be seeing the adage ‘as we sow so shall we reap’ being lived upon.  One simple way to start cultivating this is by coming in office to time, clocking in the required hours and leaving in time. We could argue we are not machines, that we spend some weekends, we stay after office hours for emergencies, we take calls after office hours, but those are exceptions rather than rule. If they are rules then we have something more fundamental to correct and we should attempt correcting that. I am fairly positive that this one single thing will bring in more predictability, consistency into our own self and the teams we command. We can ignore this if we are working on ‘creating the next Google or face book’ though that requires a lot more self-discipline that what we generally are capable of pulling off. Please remember as someone said that discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments.
Managing Commitments
If we have said that we will do something on certain time to someone then we need to do it.  It is perfectly alright to say ‘NO’. The Infosys model of ‘Under Committing’ and ‘Over Delivering’ is not a bad idea. We build credibility and trust by doing that repeatedly and that thing we accumulate over years can be broken easily with one failed commitment. People would be tolerant once or twice of ‘failed commitments’ but subsequently they will fail to take us seriously.  Kindly remember that ‘someone’ can be ‘anyone’ that we made a commitment and they need not be people necessarily higher up in the hierarchy. Do not bring up last minute surprises to people whom we have committed as they would have made some commitments based on our commitments. In our roles we interact with a variety of stakeholders and all stakeholders are to be treated with equal respect. Please do not expect people to ‘whom we gave commitment’ to ‘babysit’ us in reminding about those commitments and also do not spend time in exercising our cerebrum on thinking about ‘excuses’. In my personal view nothing can get more embarrassing than that. If I have to summarize this is one sentence, please always remember ‘we are as good as our word’. PERIOD.
Creating Value
As we move along the hierarchy it is important to do ‘things right’, but we need to move from doing ‘things right’ to doing the ‘right things’. I am sure we would have heard this one thousand times but hearing it one more time will do us ‘no harm’. While it is important to retain and continuously strengthen our foundations and take the occasional pleasure in ‘yes, I fixed this bug today’, or ‘I solved this problem today’ or ‘I managed to avert a crisis today’ or taking that deep breath and saying ‘amma, no escalations today’, our real role is to shape a better tomorrow for us, our teams and the organization at large. This comes by serious, conscious and consistent investment in the following
·         Self
·         Team
·         Larger Picture
Investing in ‘Self’
Generally we seem to take our positions and growth for granted just because of the number of years we spend in an organization. In an economy where we live in the number of years we put in has ‘zero relevance’ and what probably has ‘relevance’ is ‘what’ has gone into the number of years. Unless we pay serious attention to how we ‘stay relevant’ we can be dead sure that we will float along till we sink. Nothing ever will guarantee our permanence except ‘continuous’ and ‘relevant’ learning.
Investing in ‘Team’
Swami Vivekananda said ‘Each human being is potentially divine’. I agree that we probably are not in the business of extracting divinity but we need to give a fair chance to each one in our team. This comes by investing quality time with them. We need to see their SWOT and work with them in ensuring a mutually enriching experience.  We are where we are because of our teams and we will be where we probably should be because of our teams. Unless we are willing to expend energy in terms of engaging our teams towards excellence, we will be mutually destroying each other’s aspirations. I would like to paraphrase some text from Jim Collins ‘Good to great’ book where he stresses that ‘The people come first’ in any kind of success that we wish to achieve. Here is a quick summary.

First Who, Then What

The good to great leaders understood three simple truths. First, if we begin with ‘who’ rather than ‘what’, we can more easily adapt to a changing world. If people join the bus primarily because of where it is going, what happens if we get ten miles down the road and we need to change direction? We’ve got a problem. But if people are on the bus because of who else is on the bus, then it’s much easier to change direction: “hey, I got on this bus because of who else is on it; if we need to change direction to be more successful, fine, with me.” Second, if we have the right people on the bus, the problem of how to motivate and manage people largely goes away. The right people don’t need to be tightly managed or fired up; they will be self-motivated by the inner drive to produce the best results and to be part of creating something great. Third, if we have the wrong people, it doesn’t matter whether we discover the right direction; we still won’t have a great company. Great vision without great people is irrelevant.
Investing in ‘Larger Picture’
It is important to have a ‘point of view’ in the area in which we are working. That is an acquired skill as well. We need to understand where our product is heading, who is the competition, what is the ‘competitive advantage’ that we offer, ‘Productivity Metrics’, ‘Customer Satisfaction’ , ‘Quality Metrics’ ‘Elevator pitches’ and the equivalent. We may think this is not our job or why should I care, but if we do not care, we can be sure there will be very little people who will. Unless we are the greatest salesman of our work and are geared to back up that ‘sales performance’ with ‘product performance’ we will be bordering on the edges of fooling our own selves.
In the long run we would be remembered for the tangible and intangible value we helped create.
Managing conflicts
Conflicts are ‘necessary packages’ that we need to ‘exist’ with. At many a times we will find ourselves in situations where our values conflict with organizational values or we may be at cognitive dissonance with what we are being asked to do. A typical example would be the pressure to comply with bell curve in performance ratings. While there is no easy answer on these and similar type of conflicts what we need to ensure is that we have made our case without making ourselves or the others around us miserable. Debate is essential for society to progress and as long as we have done justice to what we believe is right, we should leave it at that. It is perfectly ok to disagree without being disagreeable. It is a chain of managing stakeholder expectations and though we pride about ‘Being Boundary less’ etc, in real life boundaries exist and we should learn to live with and respect those boundaries.  There are two sides to a coin and we should form our judgment only after seeing the two sides. The question we need to answer is ‘Did we do our damned best?’ to resolve conflicts in a ‘win-win’ manner.
Linear Programming
All management typically boils down to a problem of “Linear Programming’. We need to ‘achieve something’ subjected to ‘certain constraints’. We will never live in an ideal world where we are going to be given what all we need. We need to cultivate a ‘possibility thinking’ and evolve ‘there has to be a way’ before coming out with ‘how and why’ we cannot do certain things. We have to deal with a lot of ambiguity, be willing to do mid-course correction many a times and have an obsessive focus on results. We will be mercilessly judged by our ability to ‘Deliver on time, with budget and quality’.
Purpose of Existence
This might sound philosophical but we need to begin with the ‘end in mind’ as Stephen Covey would say. We probably are in a way lucky enough to be where we are and unless we spend our energies in meaningful contribution to us and everyone around us, we are in the danger of falling into the ‘also ran’ trap.
This note is just intended to share areas where we have to be probably aware in our existing and emerging leadership roles and for those of we who are already aware it can serve as a reinforcing function. This note would probably sound abstract without concrete examples but I am sure we all have plenty of real life experiences to fill in. Before writing this I thought how I would fare with respect to the above areas on a scale of 5 (1 – being low and 5 – being high) and the results are as below.
Managing Commitments
Creating Value
Linear Programming
Purpose of Existence
We could probably as well share with me on what we think about my ‘self-evaluation’ and do this exercise on ourselves or amongst our peers.
Alvin Toffler’s said that “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”.  I hope we would be able to break free of our comfort zones in our respective roles, re invent ourselves and carve a future that has purpose .
Stay Tuned and Have Fun