There are a rising number of people who ask me the question: How Can I Improve (HC2I)? Being a management consultant, I am the best person to guide them towards finding the answer to this age-old question. What if your bosses asked this question? What if your subordinates asked this question? What if your peers asked this question? What if your clients asked this question? What if your suppliers asked this question? What if your stakeholders asked this question?
Wouldn’t your world be a better place? If everybody asked this question (HC2I) but you were the only odd one out and didn’t ask the magic question; what would happen? On the opposite perspective: what if you asked the million-rupees-question (HC2I) but no one else did; what would happen?
The point I am making here is that we no longer can afford not to improve ourselves. Not only at work, but also in daily life; the world around us has become too complex to live in. Our present level of self-development (SD) is not enough. The following stories will explain why:
Story 1: SD by 360 feedback
Mr.A had a successful banking career with a government bank. Time had come to retire. However, he still needed a good stream of income for his growing family: he had married late. On top of that he still had energy. So he jumped onboard a private bank. He spent 30 plus years entering data manually in registers, using calculators to make reports, and relying on long authority chains that ensured foolproof operations. He was among the revolutionaries in the old system. He confronted poor practices, sluggishness and unaccountability in this old government job.
Yet nothing prepared him for the dynamism and leadership, communication and team building skills required of him in his new role at the private bank. Somehow he picked up on the IT skills needed to operate his branch. However, his level of self-development fell short of the expectation from others.
What choice does he have? He could push through the opposition and lend a deaf ear. Yet, he could not be content with that option. When I was giving management consulting to Mr.A, he was all ears. I was completely surprised at this elderly banker’s attitude towards enhancing oneself and closing the gap between what his followers expect from him and what he has been delivering. So I took a 360-feedback assessment for him. It simply means asking everyone (seniors, subordinates, peers and clients) around him:
- What do you think of him?
- What should he improve from your point of view?
- What do you like about him?
- Any complaints?
- Any particular incidents that shifted your perception of this person for better or worse?
- What unused potential do you see in him?
After taking all these interviews, I have all the data needed to coach Mr.A into becoming a better manager and leader of the pack.
The coaching is different for every person but the outcome is the same: confidence, realization and self-development.
Story 2: SD by Mentoring
At the opposite spectrum of the life continuum, Mr.B is a young man who has been thrown in the lion’s den of leadership partly because there was no other option but mainly because the management saw potential in him. At stake is his entire career: he cannot screw up this responsibility to manage. Yet he knows deep inside that he has plenty of leadership, motivation, conflict management, communication and decision making skills missing. The operational part – he can ask the head office, but usually in most organization there is no department called, ‘self-development department’, or is there?
For him and many others like him, I am there. Yet it is not a universal solution since I am not omniscient. The best option is a concept called, ‘getting a mentor’. This person is one you respect and who will guide you through decision making that is more than standard operations. He is someone with much experience in the job that you are holding. He is someone with a sound track record of high performance. He has got a good reputation of positive attitude. Such a person is your ticket to a safe and sure ride to success.
Just recently I match-made a budding CEO with a proven counterpart from another institute into a mentoring relationship. If you need help, you need to ask for help. Is not the future of your organization, millions in profit and ovation of the market for your super performance worth more than a few thousand bucks for management consulting and a step down for your ego in order to recruit and engage a mentor(s)?
Story 3: SD by natural means
This is a true story that is playing in my life, involving real characters, real problems and real unfolding of events. It is a story of imperfection, of adaptation and of change. It is a simple story yet it tells us that the journey of self-development is unending. It is a story that reinforces that fact that life throws us problems not only to chide us; not only so that we become resourceful by solving them; but that we develop ourselves by deleting, adding, multiplying, dividing, integrating and differentiating our thinking, skills and behaviors.
My house is on the flanks of a main-road of a semi-commercial area. It means more people are calling that area their homes than the location of their office or shops. In a period of 2 months, just opposite my house, a dance bar opened up.
So what is the problem? At first nothing, but when night fell, the music got louder and louder. I was not the only directly affected, there were about half a dozen homes directly affected by this noise pollution.
It seemed like a bad dream. Everyone wished to think it would go away as every bad dream does. I did not have the leadership know-how to handle this matter. I am a management consultant and trainer; yet I have groomed to bring change in a group of willing people gathered within a bounded space. I have no experience of instigating change in the wild open with no boundaries of area, time and intentions.
So like Mr.A and Mr.B, I too am faced with the irrefutable requirement to develop capacity of leading lest I wanted to say goodbye to sound sleep forever or to migrate to some housing colonies.
His name is ranking in the top four most searched words in Google.com. Why? It is the reforms in policies he promises or the force of ‘change’ that he has branded himself as? Most non-Americans like myself could not care less about all this political issues. What keeps us glued to his speeches or simply his presence is the personality that he wears. From a coach’s point of view, he represents the epitome of self-development. So I ask myself, how would someone at that level of personal development deal with the situation I am faced with?
Life and rebirth
Scriptures tell that human existence is a journey towards perfection, towards god-hood. At first we are placed in the body of animals. With associations with higher beings like men, even as animals our level of consciousness expanded. Then we died. Because of our raised awareness, we now could fit into the body of humans. Even our first human birth was a lowly one requiring more physical labor and less intellect or morality. Again with associations with men and women of higher understanding of life, we climbed the echelons of consciousness. Repeated successively over millions of years, we have reached a stage of self-development where I am writing and you are reading these very words. But is this the end? If not where does the road of personality development culminates for us?
In the banking industry this name has become synonymous to success and a high level of mastery of self and of the banking mechanisms. He started from humble beginnings and rose to star status: this fact in itself adds charm to his personality. To an outsider he might be perfect and yet to himself he might still be struggling with the next level of consciousness required for him to master in order to find himself in his full totality. Even Obama inside must be fully aware that he will need guidance if and when he wins, in order to take charge of the White House. We all know too well that it is one thing to win the war and another to run the nation after that. If Anil Shah was the mentor the Mr.A and Mr.B, what would they become? How would their performance be?
Asking for help
For many this is one of the hardest tasks. Imagine a pyramid with multiple layers. Physical activities such as cooking, cleaning, masonry, sewing etc are at the bottom. Next are less obvious activities such as accounting, programming, calculating, studying, teaching, writing and all profession related activities. Still higher are abstract activities such a communication, leadership, teambuilding, decision-making, motivation and the plethora of similar management related activities. At the highest are the most mysterious activities such as meditation, disillusionment, spiritual realization and other mysticism related activities.
The higher we go the harder we find it to ask for help and even if we do, it is even harder for anyone to help.
Case study: the Bar’s music Vs MMS’s sound sleep
At least my profession had prepared me to that level of consciousness to start my mini-war with the following premises:
- This is no personal grudge between the bar owner or house owner to rented it out and me.
- I must come out of this without a broken bone and wasted time.
- No one will be hurt at any levels (physical, mental or emotional).
- It must be smooth.
- I must take my family (wife and mother) together using the participatory approach.
- As stated earlier is life and rebirth, I take this problem as an opportunity to find a new side to my self.
- I must take into considerations the lack of rules, law and order or even of a security system that is prey of disrepute. Even if I wish it were not true, I must accept that people’s perception may be true.
- My actions will not lead to failure and thus frustration.
- I will use this story in my workshops and writings in order to motivate my clients.
“The bar owners were the villains. They can not be approached. Were it not the case, this noise pollution would not occur.” This was the first assumption. The second assumption, “The owner since he owns this building must be reasonable and willing to do so something since he is a member of the community.”
Skills required: ability to gather intelligence, and influencing skills
Action plan: contact the owner and complaint
Expected outcome: he would pressurize the tenant with threat to evict unless the noise was reduced
Actual outcome: no change. That is intolerable noise at night.
“My neighbors are courageous at least like me and will tell the owner that they are disturbed.” This was the assumption.
Skills required: networking, socializing
Action plan: contact them all and create group pressure
Expected outcome: we would all get together and in a strike fashion protest peacefully and get peace at night.
Actual outcome: all neighbors complaining at the back but unable to speak in front and unwilling to form a protest group. Noise at night persists.
“Since nothing works, let’s meet the bar owner. That is the last option.” This was the first assumption. “They can’t be inhuman. They must be rational and must possess the basic social etiquettes of politeness that is common in all Nepalese. Why should they different?” This was the second assumption.
Skills required: participatory management to get the support of family, leadership, conflict resolution, and negotiation.
Action plan: contact the bar owner and make him sense the need to communicate from within rather than externally through me. Then wait for him to initiate dialogue.
- Big showdown at midnight when the noise at the highest. It went all politely.
- Bar party Vs my family party shared each other’s misunderstandings about one one-an-other
- The air was cleared
- Solutions were brainstormed
- Bar people made commitment
- Negligible noise level since the Big Showdown
Mental shift: Both parties realized that the other one was not as bad as they imagined. They thought we wanted them out of business and we thought they were ruthless. Both discovered were wrong and a new bond was established.
My next challenge: Now I know how to lead outside the safety of a workshop, I aspire to lead like Borak Obama one day and move millions of hearts and minds towards new hope and a new future.
Moral of the story: the Self-development Loop.
I wanted to show how self-development occurs. I coach managers and leaders but I too need help. I have a unique learning style though, otherwise how could I have a unique training style? The above story shows the steps that you too can use:
- Identify a challenge or problem
- Define your premises (conditions, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, objectives, constraints, mental frameworks, expectations, philosophies)
- Equip yourself with the skills, attitude, personality and social behavior required for your plan of action. You can do that using your internal compasses or asking for help from a coach like me.
- Do something: take action. Start with what you think is the right thing to do.
- You felt it would work. Now check the facts: did it really work?
- If it did not work out as intended ask yourself, “Why? How?” and then “How do I need to do it differently? What did I lack: resources or aptitude? What changed in me? How it affect my next actions? Why not start out again right away?”
- Keep running this self-development loop until you are grown to the level of mastery that can meet or solve type of the challenges or problems you started with.
- Yes you have passed this course towards perfection and godhood. Next move on and find the next challenge or problem.
- Now you can be the next Obama, Anil Shah or even reach still higher levels of competence.
What if everyone practiced this SDL (Self-Development Loop) religiously like turning of prayer wheels by Buddhist and the daily puja’s of Hindus? We would have a society of people all wanting and working towards becoming better people. What impact will it have on the economy of Nepal? Such a cultural shift towards SD from ‘the fight, flee or freeze’ mentality, is the call of the day for Nepal. Besides in professionals and students, I have also started sowing the SDL seed in the most unassuming population of Nepal: taxi drivers, waiters, laborers, and unemployed people. Together we can make this country the best place to live and work in the world. So join me in spreading the seeds of self-development.