Leader in the Making:
Evolution of any leader in the most simplistic terms is by enabling people who you work with to take on greater and bigger responsibilities. This in a way will pave a way for you as a leader to keep moving forward. The biggest contribution any leader can make is to create more leaders and build a pipeline of ready talent and this has been the way for my moves, growth and evolution over these years. It took me a long time to understand this and remove the fear of failure if I had smart or smarter employees constantly challenging me for the job I do, however, once the clarity set in, offcourse with the help of mentors and coaches in my life, it became relatively easy and simple.
There is no right or wrong in terms of a career built around the roles in same/similar domain or a career in different domains as long as the career has been fulfilling to the person who has built it. Though, ability to spot and go for an opportunity definitely makes a difference. Personally, I have been blessed with most of my punts in terms of choice of roles turning out to be fulfilling and helping me grow & evolve and a big credit to that has been my willingness to step into the unknown and figure it out on the go.
Failures and Learning Lessons:
My answer is in your question i.e., every failure or setback has to be treated as a learning experience and a stepping stone towards the next big thing. Every time you fail, you gain experiences which could not have been gained otherwise and hence, when you start the next time, you start with those experiences already with you and in a way, a step ahead.
The key to getting up after a failure is the mental strength and the belief in one’s abilities. Both of these can come from within or from the people who you trust- in the form of friends & family or mentors. Sometimes you trust the process and your own abilities and despite the failure, you remain confident and the self-doubt does not happen. However, it is those moments where you lack clarity and are not able to understand the reason for failure is when support plays an important role. When you discuss your failure and, in a way, seek guidance from others, this adds a dimension which you may be missing and hence, make your understanding clearer. Do remember, you fail only when you stop trying!
Evolution of Customer Relationship:
There has been a long-standing debate on customer first or employees first. Famous quote by Richard Branson wherein he says "take care of your employees and they will take care of the customers" has further accentuated the balance.
However, as an HR practitioner, it has been simple as employees have always been our customers too and hence, it helps us to have a single point agenda of serving the customers be it internal or external. My mantra is to serve the customer and not manage the customer. ‘Manage’ is the most overrated word in the corporate parlance and the mistake that we make is to keep reinforcing customer management rather than teaching them customer centricity or servicing mindset.
The most important need is to establish a relationship with the customer on the basis of unwavering trust, transparency, and single minded focus on aligning to the customer goals. Most of the overly used corporate jargons whether sleeping with customer’s problem, stepping into customers shoes etc. all mean the same i.e.
>> respect the customer – they pay for our salaries by buying the products/services
>> trust the customer before you challenge – avoid the false start with the mindset of customer always being unreasonable.
>> align the goals – your goals can never be different from customer’s goals.
>> trusted partner relationship – it is not necessary to be friends with all your customers however, critical to have a trusted relationship in place
Retaining Individuality amidst new Environment:
By trying to be myself most of the times. Cultural alignment is a sign of respect and gratitude towards the people who we meet and like to be associated with however, what is important to remember is that those people also like you for being you, the way they know of you and not necessarily for you being like them.
For the last few years and more so in the last couple of years, my day to day requires working/dealing with more than 10 nationalities and it is impossible for me to be like each one of them. As long as there are common themes such as language, value system, and professional commitments, people are respectful towards you regardless. In the absence of such common themes, people get into trouble of which losing your own identity is just the beginning.
The HR Transformation Story:
No matter where the industry was and where it will be, the core of what we do as HR professionals is making our people (employees) and customers successful. The methods to achieve this outcome have evolved and will keep evolving, whether technology-led, process led or any other approach.
The core to any approach will always remain to be the ability to solve problems, build empathy and remove biases. As much advancement technology has made, there are areas, especially related to greater empathy and human sensitivities, which will continue to be supported by human interventions even at the cost of few subjectivities.
Powerful lessons from my mentors:
It is impossible to have answers to all the questions or challenges we face, that is why we continue to evolve regardless of our age, experience, role, etc. What may help in finding appropriate answers to more such situations is to have a trusted circle of people around us. Amongst such a group of people is someone who we identify as a Mentor or ‘the most trusted one’.
It is a huge effort to establish someone as a Mentor in the true spirit as it requires us to expose our vulnerabilities which is the most difficult thing for us as humans. And this is the reason, a lot of people including myself, either hesitate to identify a Mentor or take a very long time to find one.
In a way, I answered your question in the reverse order by sharing the lessons I have learned by having a Mentor. Opening yourself up and identifying the need to have a Mentor is a lesson in itself. Once you get past this stage, trust your instincts to follow the advice of the Mentor and build an honest and transparent relationship.
Ask for help and the universe will show you the way!