What I learned when I quit the rat race.

“A version of this post originally ran on the Lead Change Group site on 18th September 2017 and can be read at www.leadchangegroup.com.

 

“The future is called ‘perhaps,’ which is the only possible thing to call the future. And the important thing is not to allow that to scare you.”
Tennessee Williams

For thirty-three long years, climbing the corporate ladder was my only goal. Success to me was always being in the spotlight and reaching the top. To achieve my goal, I had worked hard and grown through the ranks. I had relentlessly pursued the dream of reaching the top. Yes, I did reach the top, traveled a lot, could make decisions, had power, influence, money, and everything that I had dreamt of. I loved my career.

But one day it all changed. After 33 years, the luster wore off. My job was no longer interesting to me. I felt trapped in the rat race.

I knew it was time to redefine my life and look at pursuing work that was more fulfilling. I decided it was time to call quits.

Transitioning to a New Way of Life

“20 years from now you will be disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

So, I  sailed away from the safety of my corporate job and was ready to explore and discover the new world. Once I had made the decision, I had peace with myself and finally felt in control of my career again. I had to redefine what success meant to me and found that it is not always about the money you make, but is also about the happiness in life you gain.

What happened in my case is not unique. Many would have gone through similar experience. Once we quit the rat race,  we find a lot of time available to us.  However, after the initial feeling of being a free bird is over, concern takes over. The thought of nothing to do can be quite daunting. Not having a clear idea of what you plan to do next, can be even more terrifying.

In my case, I had thought about this day for a long time. I had a plan. I was not sure about the robustness of the plan, but I was ready for the new adventure. During this transition phase, one also requires remaining optimistic. Having a plan to start something new can help maintain optimism.

The Adventure Begins

The security of the corporate life when enjoyed for a long time tends to make us risk-averse.  It is normal to miss the comfort zone of the corporate life.  Unfortunately, it does not prepare us for the big change in life when we transition from its warm comfort to a life which is full of adventures.

Many things that I had planned did not work the way I had dreamt of. I had to redefine not just what success would be, but also the way I work. I was always passionate about coaching and mentoring. Equipped with my three decades of experience in the industry and a Coaching certification, I decided to help women grow in their career. Help them follow their dreams, align with their values,  and enjoy their work and career.

I had to develop new relationships and leverage existing networks to get projects that I was passionate about. After many falls for several months, I finally managed to get work that was fulfilling and gave me immense joy.

Lessons Learnt

Thinking back on my journey of last two years, I learned the following important lessons:

  • Plan this day well in advance. Be absolutely clear about what your goals are for the next phase of your career. Do not make any rash decision.
  • Clarify what is important to you and what is your priority. Money, happiness, fulfillment.
  • Think about your key skills and strengths which can make you successful.
  • Choose work that you are passionate about.
  • Be agile. You would have to try several things, build new relationships, redefine your plans till you hit the jackpot.
  • Be prepared for all the obstacles that would be thrown your way and the many discouragements that you would receive.
  •  Most important stay optimistic, as that will see you through.

If you are working on achieving your goals and leading a life you want, then don’t let fears get in your way.

      Life is a one-way street. No matter how many detours you take,
none of them leads back. So enjoy life’s every moment as none of
them will happen the same way again.
— Unknown

Are you stuck with a bad boss? Do you know why…..

“The More choices you have the more your values matter.”- Michael Schrage

“Lasting change is a series of compromises. And compromise is all right, as long your values don’t change.” – Jane Goodall (1934 – ), English Anthropologist

As a coach, I often hear clients complaining about how things are not working for them and they get stressed. Many times in one’s career and in life we go through a feeling of disgust, frustration at something which is not in tune with our core values. It could be a bad boss or a toxic company culture.We then get into the blame game but we do not understand the real reason for this frustration.

Considering that we spend many hours at work, it becomes very important that the core values of the organization match with our personal core values. If it does not, then we will always be in a frustrated state of mind. You may do the job, but it would not be for the love of doing work, but the money that comes with it. The same is true if your values are in direct conflict with those of your boss. This causes stress and all the related symptoms that go with stress.

Conflict of values

” It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” – Roy Disney (1893 – 1971), Walt Disney’s Elder Brother and the Financier of his Effort

An example of how hard it is to have corporate values embraced is a personal one. In one of my jobs, I experienced the biggest conflict of values which left me completely stressed. The organization that I worked with had signed up for a major transformation program with one of its clients. This particular client had the most complex technology platforms for which my organization had no skills and therefore was struggling to meet the client’s expectations. The conflict of values came when I realized that my boss and his superiors have been making all false promises to the client. There was absolutely no honesty in their dealings neither with the client nor the internal teams. My values for honesty and transparent behavior felt completely violated.
I decided it was time for me to look for more meaningful work elsewhere.

Are you living your core values or are you fulfilling someone else’s values?

We are familiar with work-related stress. It is often referred to as a part and parcel of having a career. But if you think deeper and look at what is causing you the stress, it may be because of the disconnect between your core values and the values of the company that you are working for. If money is the greatest motivator for you, then probably you do not have a choice but to continue working under stress. You are then working towards fulfilling someone else’s values.
Marshall Goldsmith in his book ” Mojo” explains how some people do nothing to change the status quo. They prefer to remain miserable rather than be happy.
Having your personal values persistently ignored is not good for any individual.

Respect your values.

“Ideas are a dime a dozen. People who put them into action are priceless.” – Author unknown

Focus on your core values to be more effective in life and career.
Identify your passion and purpose in life. Ask yourself what is more important to you. Once you know what your passion is and what is your purpose in life, you will launch yourself on the path to success. Your values will provide you the required drive to work and be satisfied. It is very important that you respect your values and be true to your values. This may at times be difficult because your passion and dream may drive you to achieve something which is not always acceptable to everyone around you. But if you are true to your self, then this may not be a bigger hurdle to cross.

Shifting from apathy to being happy is completely in your control. It may look difficult at first, but there are several real inspiring stories which narrate how people have done it.
Hire a coach who can help you navigate the turbulence, challenge your thinking, provide you with different perspectives. Take control of your life and career and up your Mojo.

Marshall Goldsmith in his book ” Mojo” says the following
“It is your life. If your Mojo is suffering, no one can make the “you vs. it” decision for you. My only suggestion is that you become clear on your own values and make a thoughtful decision”

Are you clear on your own values? Ask yourself the following to identify your personal values
1. What is most important to you in your life?
2. What do you need in your life?
3. What motivates you in life?

Your insights may surprise you!

Why do I need Coaching?

 

” Who, exactly, seeks out a coach?…. Winners who want even more
out of life.” Chicago Tribune

Last week I received an email from one of my clients. Here is what she said,” our coaching sessions have been very useful. It made me look at my work approach in a different way and gave me new insights and perspectives of handling my role effectively.”

My client is a senior leader with one of India’s largest Insurance company. A dedicated, hardworking, result oriented person.She is a consistent performer.

Looking at her credentials and her performance one may wonder why she needed a coach.

Why do I need coaching?

Her managers brief was simple. He wanted to ensure that Revathi( actual name changed) could scale up, as her responsibilities grew.

Revathi herself was also concerned when her manager proposed coaching for her. She was consistently performing and achieving all her targets. Her team was happy with her, her stakeholders never complained.

Revathi’s performance was good for the role that she was in. She worked hard, managed her team well, led from the front. But if Revathi went on a holiday, the team found it difficult to manage in her absence. Performance would plummet immediately. There would be a huge backlog of work that would wait for Revathi’s return.

This was noticed by her manager. Revathi was not good at delegating appropriately. She would delegate, but would often look over the team’s shoulder to see if they did their job. This had, to some extent impacted the confidence level of her team.

Revathi defended her inability to delegate. She feared that the team’s execution may not be perfect in her absence.She liked training her subordinates but would prevent them from making mistakes. This resulted in Revathi working round the clock to ensure the team met their deliverables.

Self-Limiting Belief

“You begin to fly when you let go of self-limiting beliefs and allow your mind and aspirations to rise to greater heights”- Brian Tracy

In her current role, she was probably considered an efficient manager. She would meet her targets and was considered having excellent delivery skills.

But her inability to delegate effectively was blocking her growth. Her manager had seen it coming, but Revathi held on to the belief that she cannot risk leaving everything to her team.

Her limiting belief had to be challenged

How Coaching helped

“I don’t look to jump over 7-foot bars. I look around for 1-foot bars that I can step over.” — Warren Buffett

The role of coaches is to support and challenge clients to be their own experts. I had to partner with Revathi and help her address her emotions.I had to challenge her to evaluate the losses of holding on to such beliefs.

Through our regular coaching conversations, Revathi’s perspective towards delegations changed. She finally understood that through effective delegation she can improve productivity and at the same time help develop new skill sets within her team.

As a coach, I had to encourage her to pick up courage and bring the new learning into action.I continued to support her through this transformation. It was not easy for her.

She took small steps to reach her goal. She was committed to the coaching process. With practice and self-awareness, she overcame her barriers to delegation.

Do you have any such belief that is blocking your growth? Then take action.

“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It’s helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” _Tim Gallwey

 

 

Fairness and Respect for Women Executives

“A version of this post originally ran on the Lead Change Group site on 4th August 2017 and can be read at www.leadchangegroup.com.

Is there enough fairness and respect in the workplace for women executives? I asked this question to myself many times in the past several weeks.
In the last couple of months, most of the coaching cases and prospective clients that I was dealing with involved facing issues related to the workplace.
In one case the boss had changed and the new boss did not have much respect for the fairer sex. He wanted her to resign. He cited reasons of aggressive behavior and lack of diplomacy by her while dealing with the onsite team.
In another case, my coachee was perceived to be passive-aggressive in her behavior towards the team. In both the cases, the HR team had to step in to offer coaching intervention for behavioral change.
As I progressed further in understanding my clients, many things unfolded. Some of the behaviors from my coachee’s colleagues, peers, and bosses towards her were not new to me. During my career spanning three decades, I had encountered such folks myself and knew how to deal with them.
What made me sad though, was with so much of hype about diversity and inclusion (D&I), the needle has not moved for many organizations.

Inclusive Behavior Just Another Jargon

This left me to wonder if D&I initiatives are just lip services. Is inclusive behavior another jargon or is this something which organizations follow?
It is disheartening to hear some of the experiences that some of my coachees shared with me. The approach to D&I needs to change; D&I has become more of a rote phase in the industry.
Leveling false charges to stop or stymie the growth of female executives. Assertiveness getting perceived as aggressiveness. Questioning the ambitions of women asking for prime positions. All these and more added to the stress of my clients.
I like and agree with what the Chief Diversity Officer at eBay, Damien Hooper-Campbell has to say on humanizing Diversity & Inclusion.
“Folks, diversity alone isn’t enough. If diversity is getting invited to the dance party, inclusion is being asked to dance when you’re at the party.”
While quoting the above, Hooper-Campbell also talks about getting rid of all the noise that focuses on the diversity hiring and statistics. We all know that diverse workforce helps with profits and business. But is there anyone focusing on what actually happens in the workplace?

What Actually Happens In The Workplace

From what I have heard and seen in the last couple of months while coaching my clients, it seems nobody cares what actually happens in the workplace.
All that matters to the organization is tracking the gender ratio, conducting D&I trainings, or changing a few policies to suit female employees.
In one of the organizations, my coachee, a senior executive, was described as bossy, aggressive, and abrasive by her peers and colleagues.
I wonder if men who shout in meetings and do anything to have the last word in the debate are also perceived and labeled as abrasive, bossy or aggressive. Or are they held in high esteem because they know how to prove their point?

Impact Of Company Culture In Nurturing Women Employees

D&I initiatives and programs are important to create awareness. But organization culture plays a significant role in nurturing women employees.
Attitude and mindset of senior leaders and negative oafish comments belittling the women executives create environments that put off women managers from performing at work.
One of my coachees narrated an incident wherein her boss, a tenured professional in the industry, asked her to resign.He advised her to spend time with her children. He wanted to create an open position to promote one of her male colleagues into her position. Confronted with such bias, she felt victimized and harassed.
Besides D&I initiatives, companies should create an environment which is fair to both men & women. Unfortunately, some company cultures have a long way to go to fulfill such basic needs for fostering female talent.
Do you think there is any enough fairness in the workplace? If not, how can this change? Do let me know your views.

Six Qualities of Successful People

successful people

Six qualities of successful people

Chanakya Niti highlights the following six qualities for being successful.

  • Not Regretting
    Successful people never lament the decisions they have taken nor the time they have spent. They let go the baggage of the past. Remembering the past is futile.
  •  Greed for Money
    Money acquired through wrong means or by deceiving someone leads to a brutal end.Therefore never fascinate about power and money
  • Think deeply before speaking.Ask these 3 questions to oneself before making any decision to speak, What Do I Need To Do? What Will Be The Outcome? What Will Be Its Worth? Give full thought to each of your actions as it has an impact not just on our life but even of those around us.
  • Never jeopardize your stand. Chanakya explains a successful person, no matter how deeply in debt or suffering through a personal crisis, would never let display a hint in their actions or on their face. Never chase appreciation.
  • Remain focused on your work and success will follow.
  •  Never underestimate the weak. While you are at the peak of your success and riding high, never ever ignore the weak person. It’s not wise to turn you back on weak because they always patiently wait for the right time to strike back.