I think in our industry the only way is the way up. Leave aside growth, even for survival one needs to "sharpen his saw". If you fail to do it, others will trample upon you and rightly so, will achieve what was very much within your reach if you had done the right things at the right time.
I normally reach by 11:00 pm each day and I have made a promise to myself that I will not go to sleep unless I have fully utilized the 1.5 hour of "my time". I spend this time mostly surfing net and reading white papers and rummaging through various discussions on linkedin groups and responding to a few. This gives me a hang of industry wide challenges and how others are reacting to it. I have improved tremendously in my excel and MPP skills because of that. It has opened a whole new world of opportunities to me. I go to bed thereafter with a lot of satisfaction to myself. I look forward to that time the next day with plans made days in advance of what all I have to learn. It has re-ignited my hunger for knowledge and I am simply feeding it with my discipline to reach out to system no matter how tired I am and then it takes over myself and I most willingly give in to it. :)
Current Job description
I am working as Project Manager with Mercer India Pvt Ltd. The company is a world leader in HR outsourcing and consulting and caters to clients mostly featuring in Fortune 500 list.
My job is to manage a team of around 20 odd resources to build technology solutions for their HR needs. I lead the transition of this new work from US to India and everything from initiation to ongoing support is taken care of by me.
I think the right barometer to measure a leader's success is to judge him on his ability to get the job done. There are many misconceptions about a leader's job. Some say the leader needs to be people oriented, some say he needs to focus on the delivery. But the correct expectation from a leader is to balance it all out and dish out quality deliveries with ALL stakeholders happy. The word "ALL" is the key here as this includes customers, team members, senior management and business people. As a Project Manager I maintain my focus on project deliverables and do whatever is required to mitigate all negative risks. To meet that end, if I need to have regular one-o-ones with my team or I need to deliver certain hard messages or I need to discuss with my stakeholders, I'll do it. All these ancillary activities will eventually contribute to the larger cause of seamless, smooth quality deliveries.
A leader is expected to maintain his cool under all circumstances and should have the "ability to put himself in other's shoes" while taking all decisions. While talking to my customer or to my senior management If I can put myself in their shoes to understand what they are saying it makes communication a lot easier and ensures I do stuff exactly the way it is being expected. Well, it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t say a no when required. But you should ask all the right questions before categorically saying no. It helps you take an informed decision and the discussion can also enable the other parties to rethink if they really want that. It can also give you an opportunity to showcase your thought process.
If I can put myself in my team member's shoes, I will be better positioned to decide if he genuinely needs those leaves or if there is a team conflict or an extra demanding customer this technique has amazing results. It also propagates your image as one understanding and logical manager who takes very informed and calculated decisions.
Like I said earlier a leader should have the ability to put himself in the other person's shoes. One can best understand a grievance if he puts himself in their shoes and tries to feel(not just listen) what the other person has to say. This allows you to connect with the resource at a different level altogether and a sense of positivity pervades the meeting room making the discussion most productive. This also lends credence to your advice and the resource actually works on that since he/she can feel genuineness in words.But as a leader one needs to be aware of organizations demands as well and communicate those to the resource in straight but soft words. I have had several such cases wherein by amicably discussing alone the resource who walked in asking for 2 weeks of leaves to attend to his "life and death" problem went back happily with just 2 days of leaves :). Yes, that’s true, this approach has deadly results.
Managing personal and professional life
You need to devote some time to yourself to reflect upon your day and analyses what went well and what could have gone better. Maintain a personal document to keep a track of how you are faring against those points.I have a password protected document which I have named as Bible. I normally create that doc the first day I join a company and I note all my observations about resources in that sheet. Instances, incidents and discussions are all documented along with dates and an action tab around it. This helps me develop an objective data/incident backed perception about resources which can further be solidified by performance metrics.
There is another tab which I call as "Beacons" - this I use to record all process issues and "areas of improvement". When you are new to system/organization, you look at things with a fresh perspective and are full of energy but lack the depth of business/process knowledge judge the impact of change. A little later you loose the zeal and forget the process gaps as you have now started doing things "as they are done here" and that’s how you loose the opportunity to bring in a quality change. If you can note it down like me you have the flexibility to revisit it after a few weeks once you have adjusted to the new environment and now understand the project dynamics and are now best positioned to bring quality changes. Over a period of time, this document can serve you well in your annual appraisal as well.
Important career decisions
I think my decision to move out of average factory line was the biggest life turner I have ever taken. It enabled me to take calculated risks and constantly look out for such opportunities. It allowed me to try out different domains, technologies and areas of work and has brought me to the level where I am right now.
Choose your role models very carefully and maintain your identity while trying to incorporate success formulas of other people. No two leaders are same and each one of us has a unique way of working and achieving results. In fact our ideas of "success" also vary and thereby the means to achieve the same.
Before any step, pause for a moment and ask this question to yourself - "why this is being done" and "how can I do it better with sustainable results". There is always a better way to do things and we simply have to have the patience and zeal to find that out and implement it. Earn your respect and maintain it by taking sensible decisions. Identify your key stakeholders and keep them happy but follow the above steps to ensure that you are not pushed around.
My views on India Technical development
From childhood we are taught to work for "a roof on head and bread in stomach". In my days, we used to opt for careers based on their money earning capabilities. People joined merchant navy not because they loved sea but because of fancy money and seedy port calls. People want to become pilots not because they love flying but because of fat pay checks. That’s not the way of innovation. Only when you love what you do, can you come up with ideas to conquer it. You cant win over a practice by merely doing it as a rot.
But the times have changed and new breed is different and I can see a lot of people choosing their lines of career and many unconventional professions coming up. The social acceptability of such jobs has increased and candidates who take those up are no more stigmatized.
There have been a lot of small scale innovations at countryside so far but I expect to see a flood soon particularly aided by social media. With internet and FB people have access to methods and like minded people across the globe. This fosters knowledge sharing and boosts the morale and lot of such ideas are getting proper funding like this. There is a group of enterprising techies who support such innovations by organizing forums for idea exchange and provide funding for the ideas which look practically feasible in exchange of some profit sharing of course. This in itself is an idea.
I come from a middle class family from Bareilly(UP) and my father retired from SBI. I am the youngest of 4 siblings. Eldest brother and two sisters. I was educated in Christian missionary run school and grew reciting prayers of all faiths. I have done my engineering from Delhi University in year 2004.
A lot of impressive leaders came in my life but I have been enormously influenced by my spiritual guru - Sri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari. His theory of detachment is a perfect fit for the corporate world and I use it perfectly to take objective and merit based business and team decisions.