Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Pleasure Principle!

“How are you?” – an informal, routine ‘asking after’ I did with my cousin holding a serious, strategic and stressful position in the Navy had him telling me instantly, “I am really enjoying my job.” He could have answered this commonplace question variedly but this was his instantaneous response.

I’ve had my spouse’s temperament, mood, behaviour vacillate with the periods of highs and lows at work. From euphoric to ebbed, delighted to devastated, sunshine optimistic to solemn, the dynamics at our places of work manipulate us like puppets on a string.

With anywhere between eight to 10 to 12 to 18 hours spent at work (depending on the outpost you man in which corner of the globe), and with work related matters or its influences lingering on the remaining 12 or eight hours too, it is our professional lives that have such a stranglehold on the rest that remains of us.

In general, everyone’s life and work-life has its share of crests and troughs, sometimes fair, many times not so.

With so much at stake on the work table, it only makes wise sense to create a set of pleasant, happy experiences in that all-important zone.  Let us look at the times we ride the high wave and reflect on the reasons and contributing factors intently, so that we can endeavour to extend the ride for greater times much more than the lows we are bound to hit upon.

Here are my examples and the related influencers that have helped me enjoy my work to the hilt and stay happy in my other roles as well. Each of them have created a deep sense of pleasure that then translates into enthusiasm, commitment, dedication and desire for excellence. See if they resonate with you too!

1. Faith –

I have been wildly ecstatic and driven when my employers or bosses have shown their faith in me, my perspicacity and the entire package I bring in.

Earlier on in the day, I was somewhat disenchanted with the proceedings at a Diplomatic Mission I used to work for and applied for transfer to another department whose chief was trying to poach me for some time. My immediate boss had a closed door with me where he conveyed what he felt about my contribution. He further added how he foresaw a long and productive career for me in Public Relations, given my inclination and skill set. On hindsight, I am, today, grateful for his faith in me and glad that I listened to him.

Another time, while with a leading hotel, I was dealing with a snooty Celebrity Fashion Designer who was just so full of himself. That would have been fine, if he had not tried to take advantage of the hotel’s association in hosting his Annual Fashion Show. He wanted to short change the hotel on branding opportunities, take away the Backdrop exposure, tilt the number of guests in his favour………basically he wanted to  get away from his part of the deal and wished for free hosting. I dug my heels; he felt offended and threatened to speak to the Owner of the hotel chain to get the door shown to me. Mind you, he did carry out the threat once the show was over. In stepped the General Manager, my immediate boss, who conveyed our side of the story to the Owner - an intelligent, impartial and objective man.  Both of them showed faith in my loyalty to the Company, my sincerity towards the responsibility entrusted in me and my track record in handling guests with sensitivity. As a result, I continued working for the Brand for a sizeable time, felt duty bound and principled enough to give it my best at all times and once I stepped out, I continued to harbour a great feeling for the Brand and its people so much so that I carried on being the unofficial ambassador of the chain.

Aren’t we all good ambassadors for the great companies we get to work with even when we are no longer with them, on account of our experiences? On the flip side, we will seldom have good things to say about places that have sent us to hell and back!

2. Value –

 This factor works in two ways. We must bring unique value to the table to gain recognition and feel a deep sense of employee engagement. On the other hand, the system must be fair and the sheriffs wise to value good work and cherish good people.

Every time I have felt valued, I have gone beyond the brief to deliver much more than what is expected. Contrary to this, if my work and efforts have been viewed with a jaundiced eye and under the shadow of biases, I have felt my enthusiasm sapped and my energy depleted.

At a certain hotel of repute with a substantial marketing budget, the General Manager asked me to conduct Focus Group based surveys and develop a tome on ‘Image Study and Positioning Analysis’ for the Brand at large and three key Points of Sale that influenced the image and brought in revenue. I felt so valued and well-regarded that for a period of little more than a month, I burned the midnight oil at work (pretty late even by hotel standards!) crunching numbers, drawing charts, analyzing responses to develop a Study that would be benchmarked against in the times to come. My boss, like the proud mentor, presented it to the Board and the positive feedback that gushed down to me created a huge reservoir of pleasure and satisfaction.

Not only did my boss convey his belief in me but also showed conviction in my ability, so much so that I tapped resources and nous and reached up to such levels of competence that I did not know existed within me.    

3. Respect –
There was this indirect boss I had once, who would storm into my office, sit in my chair, take something I wrote to the MD and present as her own, not introduce me to industry folks she would meet along with me, behave like a Diva at Press lunches and ignore the lesser known media.

Her behaviour was such that it always felt that she was utterly disrespectful. Whether it was insecurity or a swollen head or greed for more power and control, the lady was seen to be insufferable and lacking respect towards others. And she was definitely one of the top reasons why I decided to move out from that hotel, despite her pleading and promising to mend her ways.

On my first real job, two years down the road, I was part of the integral team organising Australia’s first ever and biggest country promotion in India. As part of the big plan, I found myself on the media team of Australia’s Foreign Minister. At the end of a highly successful media briefing that was extremely well covered and beyond the Minister’s expectation, Minister Downer (the F.M then) turned around to the Counsellor Public Affairs to thank her publicly in front of the entire august assembly. I was taken by surprise when the Counsellor told the Minister that it was not her but I who was responsible for the show and deserved the credit. She needn’t have done so because I was just doing my job and was part of her mega team. But she did, openly and proudly. She not only showed that she was consummately confident and self-sure but also displayed a fine attribute of leadership, thus imparting a valuable lesson for life – that she highly-regarded good work and more importantly respected her colleagues regardless of the corporate rung they stood on.

The pretty, dynamic, fair and knowledgeable Public Affairs Counsellor became my first mentor and I am so proud to state that she has left behind such wonderful lessons single-handedly that even text books of profound theory and practicals at other places of work have failed to imprint collectively. 

4. Bonhomie with other team members

Because we spend so much of our time at work and with colleagues that it would be counter-productive and unhealthy – both for the body and the mind, to work in unfriendly, unhappy, stressed and strained environment.

Whether it has been spending a little time joking around with people from the other teams, bonding at the Bowling Alley, having a colleague step into my chamber to coax me to have my daily fill of water or share anecdotes from his latest business trip, spending the extra few minutes at lunch exchanging notes on strategies or shopping sales with another set, having a co-worker good-naturedly pull my leg about a common incident, stepping casually into the Financial Controller’s office to informally learn how to read the balance sheet but at the same time getting to know his wife and new born just that tad better, enjoying an impromptu pizza party after a serious day of inter-departmental training programme, making plans with a bunch of like-minded people to catch that wonderful art exhibition after work – the riding spirit of bonhomie has created a sense of joie de vivre, helped beat inherent stress, led to better work relationships, facilitated smooth working on common projects and has been instrumental in ensuring less absenteeism and more happy work days.

5. Positive challenges

For most of us our work must be stimulating, exciting and far removed from the cookie-cutter hum drum of monotonous activity. And for all of us, there have to be experiences that we learn from, that stretch our skills and knowledge to fascinating limits which help us expand our base.

The milestones - when I first imparted media training to talents in the hotel, handled research for launching the new Patisserie or Spa, designed my first Newsletter or Menu, wrote the Keynote address for the international Chain’s Top Dog, wrote my first manual, scripted the Art Tour for the historic property I worked with, created a unique Celebrity endorsed event to garner greater sales for a sagging restaurant and all the others - are etched in the positive zone of my mind. They have created happy memories, delightful mnemonics and such wonderful pockets of pleasure that I enjoy re-visiting them often and reap the learnings repeatedly.

For retention, for extraordinary performance, for employee commitment and involvement, for overall learning and development and for sound organizational health, companies must throw up positive challenges that the best people will shine in, the somewhat weak people will gainfully learn from and the weakest links will fall off from, thereby reinstating a fruitful balance.

6. Growth

Most of us, in our distinct areas and diverse companies are standing on different steps of the ladder from which we must grow, horizontally and vertically. Growth is sought as much by the entrant as by the General Manager of the Hotel, Chief Executive of the Company or Owner of the Chain of hotels.

In face of all the problems, trials and tribulations, vicissitudes, rough patches and coarse paths that beset our journey on way to our respective goals and destination, it is the promise of growth that keeps us tilling the fields. It is the prospect of growth that pushes us to keep the soil fertile with the knowledge gained along the way and our set of rich experiences to, then, be able to reap the fruits that come in the shape of satisfaction, success, rewards and recognition.

It is the elements of growth that bring us back to our work stations day after day. Even when we hit the lows, it is the aspect of growth that ushers in positivity of hope and helps us tide over the difficult times making sure that we do not waver our glance from the fish eye in the bigger scheme of our life and career goals.

What is rather nice and satisfying is that when we move up we grow; also when we acquire a new skill and increase our base of knowledge we still grow horizontally. When we must leave a familiar area and are coerced to chart a new course in a direction not tried before, we have to reinvent ourselves; and that again means growth.

Growth, then, becomes the life blood of our existence and is the foundation for our sustenance.

Would you agree with me that these six essentials of pleasure principle not only help us ride the crests with enthusiasm and aplomb but also send gusts of wind beneath our sails and give us wings to fly over any situation, how hard or harsh it may be!

Picture courtesy - Google Images