Thursday, 8 September 2016

24 Fundamental Principles to help you Stay Ahead!

Perhaps the strongest trait that I have carried with me throughout my professional journey is having a ‘Fresh pair of eyes.’ 

When I sought to move from an Embassy job to the hotel industry, Hyatt International took a chance with me, bringing a rank outsider into a team of experienced hoteliers. What helped was my deep sense of curiosity about everything around me, which translated into an eagerness to learn the ropes of a new trade, and to acquire the skills needed for me to ‘give my best shot’  in terms of the defined KRAs.

What is fascinating about a hospitality job - particularly roles in Sales, PR, Banqueting, F&B - is that it turns you into a first-rate multi-tasker. In a PR person’s day for instance, one might be doing multiple things: addressing a press briefing in the morning; working on a newsletter or advertising campaign; helping to organise a food festival; thrashing out the details of a marketing strategy with colleagues from Sales; hosting a Lifestyle Editor for lunch; organising a couple of press one-on-ones in the late afternoon; catching a quick drink with a hotel guest in the evening; and then getting ready to present a hotel event in the late hours. 

It is a chequered palate, and you must be able to handle all of these elements dexterously and with aplomb. A tall order indeed – but one that keeps you involved and highly satisfied at the end of the day.

Having enjoyed every moment of a breathtaking, 22-year-long roller-coaster ride thus far, I have picked up certain insights along the way on what it takes to keep things going, no matter what you do or where you work.

These rules have stood me in good stead at Indian and MNC companies alike, and have been further refined while interacting with a multicultural, multi-ethnic and multinational workforce.

Here, then, are 24 Fundamental Principles to help you stay ahead of the game, in no order of priority -

  1. Be virtuous and sincere: High levels of honesty, integrity and transparency go a long way – a very long way – in your career. Uphold these virtues, no matter what. 
  1. Be accessible: With technology in your palm and at your fingertips, there is really no excuse. Be there when people seek information. 
  1. Be reliable: You owe this not only to others, but also to the identity you have carved for yourself, and to the brand you represent. 
  1. Be source of rich information/ generate new ideas: Nurture the media, the industry and the young minds. Be nurtured by their exposure to a wide range of issues, and develop a winsome two-way information and knowledge-sharing street. 
  1. Be proactive: Give complete information, both to internal and external publics. Walk that extra mile to tailor-make it, and go beyond the brief. 
  1. Be respectful: After all, today's cub reporter will be tomorrow's editor, and today’s management trainee tomorrow’s CEO. 
  1. Be Punctual: Adhere to timelines, however acute they may be. This may be the single most important reason that keeps you ahead, and your competition behind. 
  1. Be genuinely friendly and not falsely flattering: Believe me when I say that people can see through the sham. 
  1. Be professional: Would you like to be any other way? 
  1. Be keenly interested:  In people, in issues, in the news, in your job. The six inquisitive men are your best friends for life. 
  1. Think Out of the box: Bring a sense of uniqueness to your role, put forth new ideas, look at things and issues from a new angle, develop new approaches – all, mind you, while staying within the overall company profile and the defined set of principles and practices. 
  1. Be the Brand you represent: In all aspects that define you – your physical personality, your ideation, your work ethic and professionalism, your communication skills – be the best brand ambassador of your company that you can be. 
  1. Idolise: Develop mentors along the way – your immediate boss, a person you have a dotted line to, the company CEO, an industry champion, and an international whiz kid in your chosen field – and keep on injecting doses of inspiration in the course of your work day. 
  1. Be a Mentor: Be a mentor to the people you manage or who are junior to you in experience. Be a friend, guide and philosopher to others. Set fine examples and get emulated. You will be remembered for years, and in the most positive fashion. 
  1. Be tech-savvy: Today, we live as much in the virtual world as in the real. Every day some other new technology or gadget is added to an already long list. Learn new software, befriend a new gadget; get on top of the game. 
  1. Befriend Web 2.0: Make this your strongest ally. Be seen, be heard, be read 24/7 and what’s more, be able to control what is seen, heard or read about you. Tailor-make, monitor, regulate and police what appears about your Company on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Blogs, YouTube, and all else that is out there. 
  1. Develop a penchant for the written word: Learn to write well - whether press releases, annual reports, speeches, backgrounders, letters to customers, PPTs, talking points, newsletters – the list is endless. 
  1. Get in sync with the spoken word: Hone your oratorical skills, blossom out behind the mike; make yourself and your company proud by shining out there. 
  1. Be a perpetual learner: Keep adding to your skill set. 
  1. Become part of a larger pie: A colleague or another department needs a helping hand on something? Be their go-to person. Be the resource your media contacts discuss story ideas with. Be well-conversant with and develop a reputation for discussing Company Mission, Vision and progressive game plan.  
  1. Tune in to the Trainer in you: Train and nurture the talent within and across your organization. 
  1. Crave for Knowledge: Know your industry well, and deep dive into the functioning of the other departments as well. 
  1. Network: Take part in industry seminars, forums, panel discussions. Network with relevant trade bodies, alumni or ex-employee associations. 
  1. Be Superman-ly: Learn to multi-task – that’s the nature of your role, after all. Wear different hats, learn to beat the stress without allowing it to impact your efficacy, deliver under pressure, and be a positive team-player and leader.

Work driven by these ethical standards and a persona modelled on these simple yet mindful cornerstones ensure a steady scaling up the ladder of personal and professional success in the most satisfying and permanent way possible.

Try it!

Picture Courtesy - Google Images

Monday, 5 September 2016

Why do Professionals GOSSIP!

Gossip, almost always, has a negative connotation. Yet, we continue to engage in it, both personally and professionally. While ‘small talk’ or ‘blether-blather’ on a personal level is detrimental too; on a professional level it begins to assume disastrous proportions.

Still, there continue to be hushed conversations at the Water cooler, free-wheeling un-bonafide exchanges in the Locker, unabashed and unsubstantiated chinwags in cubicles and perilous Chinese whispers that educate and inform little, entertain some and damage a whole lot more.

The most common definition of Gossip is that it is ‘idle chatter’ or ‘dirty linen’ and it is called so for a reason. We all know whose workshop an idle mind is and Chatter does not even have the respectability of conversation. So why do we still plunge into it?

Wikipedia gives the following formal definition of gossip, "Gossip consists of casual or idle talk between friends. While ostensibly value neutral, the term often specifically refers to talk of scandal, slander, or schadenfreude relating to known associates of the participants, and discussed in an underhand or clandestine manner." 

Nonetheless, all of us, regardless of our stature and station in life, dip into the dirt-pool of baseless dialogues; bringing our personal value down and putting a blemish on our professional face. 

“Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people,” said Socrates.

So why do we, at the risk of either facing the uncalled harm of gossip or ourselves fabricating the vicious web of grapevine, participate in it? 

A study of human behavior and an honest introspection into our own psyche would help us attribute the following reasons, for not just general folk but even seasoned professionals, to get into gossip - 

1. Misplaced priorities

Given the times we live and work in, we always have more on our plate than the time and tools to accomplish it. We subscribe to online lessons, enlist ourselves in management workshops, make diligent to-do-lists and pool in all our zest and zeal to prioritize a zillion tasks that must be completed.

Still, at the faintest hint of inducement, we give in easily to lending an ear or adding our voice to the titter-tatter that may be going around. 

We must not forget that professionals who are truly busy and result-oriented will never dither away precious opportunities by letting virtual or real-time chitchat come in the way. They would, rather, involve themselves in more useful and productive work.

“When of a gossiping circle it was asked, what are they doing? The answer was, Swapping lies,” Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

2. Misuse of time

We all lament about how little time we have to complete our important assignments, work on our essential chores and to create a healthy work-life balance. We chirp in about 24 hours in a day being too little and marvel at those who continue to climb mountains and run marathons while still holding important positions in their professions.

And yet, in the next second, we will stop the work at hand to add our two cents to an ongoing mindless debate on our social media platforms or hang around designated corners in office to network through the unofficial and ungainly channels of scuttlebutt.  

Professionals who are time-conscious and excel in time management will never allow this precious, constantly depleting resource to slip through their deft hold.

“The things most people want to know about are usually none of their business,” George Bernard Shaw.

3. Insecurity 

The overly used ‘FOMO’ – fear of missing out - at the center of our insecurities has, often, pushed us in the direction of gossip.

Are we the target of the over-the-cubicle exchange? What are we not aware of and should know; just to get on an even platform? Should we not be getting on this bandwagon to just stay in the loop, keep in the reckoning and perhaps be relevant?

Such thoughts dog us incessantly and feed into our insecurity. But this chain of thought is only for those who are not skilled, self-sure and steady on their own feet.

A true professional jumps over the back-fence talk, dives into the significant stuff and is steadfast in the face of any swaying sensationalism that may be at play.

“I maintain that, if everyone knew what others said about him, there would not be four friends in the world,” Blaise Pascal.

4. Sense of Power

Gossip-mongering provides us an affected sense of importance and power as we seem to be the holder of some information, however incorrect it may be. It gives you a false sense of a skewed social standing. “Isn’t it kind of silly to think that tearing someone else down builds you up?” asked Sean Covey.

Weak workers often resort to this tactic to bring one-upmanship to themselves, to make feeble attempts to get closer to the Top Dog and to pull the competition at workplaces down by attempting to soil reputations.

“Gossips are worse than thieves because they steal another person's dignity, honor, reputation and credibility, which are impossible to restore. So remember this: When your feet slips, you can always recover your balance but when your tongue slips you cannot recover your words,” Anonymous 

5. An inherent sense of curiosity 

People who employ themselves in gossip elevate it to the level of a social / interpersonal skill. “I have this story / information to share (and most often IT IS a rumoured story). So what's yours?” 

“So and so is getting promoted out of turn, really?” 

“Is she being sent to Geneva for the Conference? No surprise there. She has been brown-nosing the boss.”

“Is he really being offered all those extra perks with his package?”

“Is the GM being sent on a punishment posting because he sparred with the owner?”

And on and on we go – every day, at every given opportunity, with or without any stake in the matter.

“Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas,” Marie Curie.

6. Predisposing factors 

We may have, very well, seen our parents / teachers / family members gleefully take part in it and that may have conditioned us in developing a mindset that there is nothing wrong for us to enter the groove of gossip. A lot of our behavior is learned from our personal circle of influencers and it starts early from the time our cognitive abilities begin to take shape.

Given the rampancy with which we indulge in it, it appears that the less ethical, less strong and less professional among us are in a way wired genetically to behave so abominably.

But professionals who are self-contained, self-proud and actualized would seldom partake of such pitiable prattle. They would, instead, endeavour to create a cohesive workforce that delivers to make their organization the finest place to work in.

“Often those that criticize others reveal what he himself lacks,” Shannon L. Alder.

7. Entertainment value 

The habitual babblers, heck even most of us, see a high level of entertainment value in gossip. A lot of us find it more amusing than a good film or a good read or a good piece of music. After all, it is easily accessible, provides cheap humour, piques our interest and is absolutely free.

It does take willpower, practice and sanity to stay away from such spicy, slanderous slush and maintain decorum at no cost or compromise.

“Gossip is a sort of smoke that comes from the dirty tobacco-pipes of those who diffuse it: it proves nothing but the bad taste of the smoker,” George Eliot.

8. Habit 

We all know that old habits die hard. If gossiping becomes a habit for whatever reason, it is difficult to unlearn it. We, voluntarily, feed on it and allow the unprincipled habit to prey on our professionalism.

It takes time and tenacity to break or build any habit. Gossiping is no different. But it is in our own big interest to change if we have already succumbed to this ugly habit or steel up and steer away if we have not yet been sucked in.

“Gossip is the opiate of the oppressed,” Erica Jong.

9. Peer pressure

We see people in our subset of contacts at work and socially, enjoy a good piece of gossip and keep the ball rolling and we feel compelled to belong. 

Peer pressure has been a nemesis from the time we were young; pushing and pulling us into directions good and bad.

Regardless of our age and experience, the third rung on Maslow’s Pyramid continues to dictate the choices we make and the decisions we take.

To recognize such pressures, to identify the right set of people to align with, to lead with one’s ethical best practices and not follow as part of a herd is what professionalism is all about.

“And all who told it added something new, and all who heard it, made enlargements too,” Alexander Pope.

10. Negative trait / Devilish streak

Perhaps there is that, so far loosely defined, gene of negativity in all of us that urges us to hurt, harm and be hellish even when we have no concrete reason or motive to bitch and babble.

But the main purpose of an advancing person and professional, and the natural progression of any human being are to evolve, grow and realize one’s full potential. 

This is only possible when we bring in all our consciousness and channelize our skills and attributes into an upwardly developing value system; thereby creating and reinforcing a positive work environment for ourselves and others to thrive in.

“They come together like the Coroner's Inquest, to sit upon the murdered reputations of the week,” William Congreve.

As stated above, gossip is a negative energy that corrodes the very core of a good organization and shafts through healthy relationships among colleagues.

Bad organizations and fragile professionals temporarily thrive in gossip before being annihilated by its negative forces. Good organizations and strong professionals shun away from such malpractice and abolish it before it begins to bud.

“It is just as cowardly to judge an absent person as it is wicked to strike a defenseless one. Only the ignorant and narrow-minded gossip, for they speak of persons instead of things,” Lawrence G. Lovasik.

Why do you think we, as professionals, dabble in gossip? Do share your thoughts.