All posts by Yasir

I was intrigued by the question of ‘who am I?’ for a long time till one day, when it occurred to me that now since I am, what do I do with it? What do I do with my life? Suddenly, ‘What’ sounded more interesting and action oriented than ‘who’! So I set upon the journey of ‘creation’, such that when I leave this world physically, I leave behind something of value, tangible or otherwise. To enable that vision, I chose writing as one of the tools. I thought, it is one effective way to reach out to people, share thoughts, connect and grow. Also, perhaps I get to express myself more through writing. So here I am! I have been writing since I was 16. It was in 2008, though that I got into writing for a few websites. I write at leisure as it allows me to stay connected with myself and often renders clarity in doubt. Well, for my name, it is Yasir; I was born in Kashmir and currently live in New Delhi, India. I work as a learning & development manager in a retail organization. My work involves facilitating learning programs; I enjoy it and my participants enjoy being with me. Sometimes I teach them something; often I end up learning more.

Life Lessons I Learnt Working With My First Boss

Sometimes life lessons often come from where you expect it the least and it is often in hindsight, no rx when we steal a look into things that went by, site that we get present to the beautiful lessons we learned.

I mentioned in my previous write up about my first boss who I disliked for some stupid reasons. Although, I worked with him for a small time, he taught me those first lessons I required as a fresher.

Here they are:

Slog: I started with an assumption that success comes easy if you are smart and intelligent. A good degree hanging by your neck is all you require to succeed. The way I was taught right from my school to the highest qualification I acquired made me believe so!

Now this manager had built his career selling and one thing he knew for sure was the importance of slogging every single day in the field. His performance (whether good or bad) the previous day or the previous month never stopped him from taking action.

If he failed yesterday he would work doubly hard saying that since the last effort did not fetch him the result he was looking at, it meant that the effort had to be twofold today.

Similarly, if he had a great last day he worked doubly hard saying that he needs to build upon the momentum or that he can’t afford to become complacent.

Most of us, when we start working get misled by the ‘get successful quick’ scheme of the day that stresses upon smart work (cutting corners as one my friends commented on the last post). We want the keyboard shortcuts of cut, copy & paste to be equally true for our real lives!

Unfortunately, while our education system keeps updating on the academic curricula, trying to make each degree / course relevant to the needs of the industry, it fails miserably when it comes to developing the right mindset for growth and teaching the importance of slog!

More and more organizations are looking for people with the right mindset (the ones who can be coached) instead of those who are talented or stamped the best by the best educational institutions. They want people who are willing to roll their sleeves up than those who look for cushy jobs working indoors.

There is nothing called ‘failure’; all there is, is an ‘outcome’: Immaterial of whether he succeeded or failed (as we call it in our language) he would often say there is nothing called as success or failure, all there is, is an outcome. Profound indeed!

We live in an environment where we are trained not to fail. Failure is looked down upon and all our lives, most of us get conditioned to join the rat race.

When we are young we are expected to outshine every other student in the class. As we grow physically, the competition gets tougher, the number of friends decreases sharply and by the time we enter the world of work it gets difficult to spot a real friend around!

We compete against each other, forgetting that the only competition is against oneself only because there is a constant fear of failure in our hearts!

Consider this now, if you start looking upon everything as an outcome, the fear of failure overwhelming you diminishes drastically. When you focus on the process of doing something (of course keeping the end result in mind) without worrying about the outcome, you start living more in the current moment than any hypothetical moment in the future.

I tried this and focused on doing the task at hand to the best of my abilities and it helped. It gave me more freedom and confidence and most often the result is positive, empowering.

Took me some time, but eventually worked for me and I am sure it will work for you as well!

Means metamorphose into the end: I was as confused on the question of ‘ends or means’ as is anyone else on earth. Since, I started my career with sales, the way our organization worked and most of the sales organizations work, taught me that it is the end that counts. I lived my life with this belief for quite some time.

Bosses, their bosses and the top bosses and everyone else spoke of target versus achievement. Achieve and you are lauded, you are a hero; fail and you get screwed, royally! That’s how it is in direct sales specially where there are daily targets to meet.

We didn’t require any training to understand that it is the end that counts and immediately we began chasing the end.I lived with this for quite some time, before the boss shifted the paradigm for me. He told me one day that ‘ends and means’ cannot be different; these are different names for the same thing. In fact, it is the means that metamorphose into the end.

You don’t sow seeds for mango and reap apples! Do you?

He went ahead to say that the quality of your work during the month reflects in the month end when we sit with your achievement in hand.  One part of your work, as it completes, makes way for the other and each stage requires conscientiousness and diligent effort to ensure the result is close to what you desired!

So these are some of the lessons he taught me. I am sure about connecting a few more dots in future and discovering few things more I learned from him. These, for now, have become the anchor of my life and I hope you will benefit in equal measure.

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How My Outlook Changed As I Went From Being A Fresher to An Experienced Professional

So you are in a job and looking for ways to get noticed.

Dress Well.

Work hard

Work beyond your role (in steps)

Leave on time.

This is your chance – even at the start of your job – you should set the path straight. Do hang out at office till late at night.

Be nice to people.

Offer to help. (But help yourself first.)
Change is the only constant!

We get to know this very early in our life, healing
almost all of us. However, erectile
often, it takes us some time to gather experiences which puts it in perspective; before we really understand change and how it impacts us.

A very close friend and guide suggested writing an article about the change in my outlook about career as I moved from being a fresher to somebody who has spent 4 years working now. So here I am with whatever came across my mind.

Now before I come to the change in outlook, I think it makes sense to give you a brief background about how I started my career and the journey so far.

The Beginning

I started working after completing a professional degree. Like many of us, I walked out with a world view limited by the download I got from various sources who I would lend my ears to and from my own limited understanding of whatever I looked at.

I carried many notions, opinions and walked out with arrogance. The worst was that I was ignorant of my arrogance then!

My first assignment was with somebody who had built his career selling. I used my senses to selectively choose a few things, filter the rest and created a very distorted and useless opinion about him, something that wouldn’t help me get along with him.

Someone told me someday, ‘your reporting manager is not a graduate even’; this made things worst between him and me. He didn’t really fit my mental map of the first boss I wanted to work with. Little did I know then, however, that this man would teach me the greatest lessons of my life! Those lessons later on this blog

Ignorant about my arrogance, as I mentioned already, I operated that way for a long time. I dismissed people and their advice into a trash bin often labeling them unintelligent!

Given the way I was then; what was I destined for? A great fall and a great lesson!

Did I fail?

Yes, I did!

I quit my job in the third month! Do I need to go into reasons?

Given my attitude then, I failed to get support from my team and often when they offered it, I sent them signals that I don’t need it. I was underperforming and unaware of those key principles of performance. Unfortunately they don’t teach all that in an MBA!

What followed was a period of a very deep frustration. I hesitated talking to people about that. ‘How can I go and share this with people’, I thought.

‘What will they think of me; after all they know me as somebody’. Seeking advice would be belittling!

This continued for some time a month or two before I decided to re join the company, I had quit after an argument.

This time, however, I worked in a different office with a different reporting manager. Made friends with him and my team and things started getting better!

Performance went up but it wasn’t long before I decided to move on and work with a startup in the field of life skills development.

Life skills, I needed them the most (I realized this then)! I got to work with the sharpest brains in the business. My reporting manager was the founder himself, an IIT, IIM – A product.

Wow! I was in awe. Just the kind of boss I had thought of. He was closer to my perception of a manager, intellectually at least. Worked with this company for a year and later went on to work with another organization in the field of human development and most of my life / work lessons I can attribute to that gentleman.

Though I am not sure, whether, I can prefix the word ‘gentle’ before the man for him, I am certain that I got my best lessons working with him. The one’s that will stick with me throughout my life!

He was the most difficult boss to be with and yet a very good human being at the same time. I worked with this organization for 2 years. Currently I handle learning & development function of a retail company.

This summarizes my brief career so far.

Career – Then and Now!

When I look back, a lot has changed for me vis-à-vis how I look at my job / career and my engagement with the work. Allow me to summarize it in the following points.

1. From believing ‘career happens’ to ‘career is created’: when I started working I believed that your educational qualification is a passport to success and financial well being and that growth happens automatically.  Over time I have realized that career cannot happen by default. In fact it does not happen; you need to make it happen.

Your qualification may just catalyze the beginning, what matters later is how much of yourself do you invest constantly in your work. What matters is sincere application, persistence and hard work NOT smart work (the current fad).

2. From ‘casual and careless’ to ‘sincere and mindful’: When I look back at my initial days in the first organization, I can recall situations at work where I can easily say that I worked with a casual and careless attitude. It was difficult to realize then.  A sense of ownership was missing, in fact as Steve said it ‘truth be told’, I didn’t know what ownership meant.

I was naïve enough to believe that clocking in and out amounts to work and all the while I approached everything casually before I realized that they mean serious business here!

Now, I believe in sincerity at work and often keep reminding myself of being mindful, keeping an eye upon the objective, not losing sight, staying on track and installing reality checks along the way.

To put it simply, ‘if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well!’

3. From ‘acting responsible’ to ‘being responsible’: In early days of my career I was more focused on the ‘I’ than the work. Be it client interactions, work place involvements, the focus was exterior often – looking professional than being professional, acting responsible than being responsible!

There is whole lot of difference between ‘acting’ and ‘being’. Acting I think is the outer garment and being is the inner character. I often tried to act and show that I am responsible. How do I know that? Because, I often wanted people to appreciate my work and commitment!

I have now come to realize that people need to be trained on ‘being’ responsible. What is that?

You do something and the very thought of people noticing that work of yours is absent. You do something because you believe that it is the right thing to do at that moment and NOT because you want people to take notice and appreciate. You do something because you see it in fulfilling of a larger objective and a purpose that transcends beyond the self and that is what brings you to work every single day!

4. My work is my life: In my second organization, my senior (the boss) would often say that work and life cannot be different, they are one. There is no room for duality, these are and have to be one. In the next company, the gentle – man boss taught me ‘my work is my life’. Well, that was sufficient reason for me to start mulling over the idea.

Hard to stomach when you hear it for the first time. How can work and life be the same? There is a life beyond work after 5 pm in the evening. 9 to 5 is work, boring and sulking!

Sooner, I started to see (and believe) that you are what you think and do, day in and day out. It is your work that lends expression to your life. We know people by their contribution, the work they do; which may be community service, running or being part of a business or government, being involved in social development or something  that adds value to anything existent or creating something of value, innovating.

Whatever you do, you are your work!

5. From accountability to boss to accountability to self:  While I worked, I realized that I was more accountable to boss than to self. The paradigm I worked with was ‘will he (the boss) approve of it / will this make him happy?’ It was acting like a puppet, being driven by mandates, organizational rules, policies and processes and often failing to visualize beyond instructions. It was more mechanical.

Sooner I began to ask myself.

–          Is this something of value?

–          Will this contribute to or enable the result we are looking at?

I respect policies, mandates and instructions today as well, however, I also believe that we need to learn to go beyond instructions and empower ourselves to deliver without supervision of the boss. We need to learn to be more accountable to self than to anyone else.

6. From Boss designing your engagement to looking at ways and means of keeping yourself engaged: I once remember asking one of my seniors whether I could leave for the day (at about 6:30 in the evening, if I can recall it right).

‘Why are you asking me? If you think your work is done, you can leave; if you want to stay back you can stay back, the choice is yours’, came the reply.

I looked at him with puzzle and before I could say a word, he started again in a low voice with a gaze fixed at his work desk, ‘you have joined recently, you should be focusing more on understanding the business here and nobody will guide you on that, people have their own work to do.’

He taught me a lesson that I cannot depend upon anyone to design engagement for me. The HR may hand over the KRAs (Key responsibility areas), it is but ‘me’ who has to ensure that I stay engaged productively during my career.

Later, I came across ‘managing oneself’ by Peter Drucker that had appeared long back in the HBR, my belief got stronger!

7. From ‘reporting problems’ to ‘enabling solutions’:  I now have a set of people (small in number though) who respond (report) to me and what puts me off often is when they come to me with small problems, seek solutions and demand my intervention.

What can’t people deal with things themselves? Why do they always have to pass the buck, expect that he will solve it for us? I keep asking myself. Often the answer that comes back is that you also acted the same when you were at that stage! They teach me a lesson every single day.

I ‘now’ increasingly believe that to be effective in the modern workplace, it is extremely critical to be solution oriented than problem minded (search for growth mindset versus fixed mindset on Google for more insights).

Solution orientation requires commitment, ownership and a habit of coming up with new ideas frequently. And then the ability to design an action plan for implementing solutions and get work done, rather than report obstacles or excuses.

We all know it! Don’t we?

So these are some of the ways in which I think my outlook about career has changed in small but significant ways. I live my life with these principles and I am open to change if I come across anything better.

Though I may not be practicing everything I mentioned above daily but often I remind myself of renewing my commitment. I fail often but I have learned to rise up each time I fall.

Good luck!

If you have reached here, I owe you a thank you already! You may agree or disagree with my viewpoints. I would be glad to hear from you, how your outlook about career has changed over years.

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