Skills can be learnt, attitudes cannot, success depends on right attitude


People learn something the hard way! They know that theoretically, a dog can be taught new tricks, but can’t straighten its tail. This analogy holds for humans as well. Maybe, “A tiger can’t change its stripes” is more palatable though it means the same thing.

Over the last seven years, a leader had the privilege and good luck to build a reliable team. Great professionals who put in their heart and soul into the company stood by this person like rocks during the current crisis. This led the leader to ponder.

People can learn skills like – how to speak, dress, code, write proposals, run a machine, use software and so on. But if they lack the confidence to speak, however good their vocabulary might be, their talents will be of no use. People might have the most fabulous wardrobe, but if they can’t carry it off, they will come across as gauche and awkward. They might know how to code, but if they do not know how to use coding to solve problems, coding will not get them anywhere… and so on.

Likewise, people might go to the best institutes, come from the most privileged backgrounds, be exceptionally well-read, knowledgeable, creative, but if they lack the following, they will never feature on any talent list.

1. Professional ethics- This is a term which is fast losing relevance. What does it mean? Keeping one’s word? Meeting one’s commitments? Being available to an organisation and team? All of these. Irrespective of whether one is a full-time employee, part-time employee, gig worker, or freelancer, if one is committed to delivering an outcome to a manager, customer, or client, it needs to be fulfilled on time.

If there are exigencies beyond one’s control, communication channels need to be kept open so that other team members can pick the dropped balls. Once a team had a knowledgeable member, from an excellent institute, who belonged to a good family, had everything going for her, and had the complete support of her team. But her lack of professional ethics, tendency to vanish from work without communicating for days at an end, cost the organisation its reputation with clients and led to a loss of business. Eventually, she absconded, leaving the team in a lurch.

2. Employees need to get rid of a sense of entitlement- Employees should not walk in having a sense of entitlement. Employees should not believe they deserve to earn X because they are so well educated, or have X years of experience, or come from a premier institute, or even because they are an employer’s friend. At the end of the day, what matters is what they bring to the table? Are they earning your salary….like really- are they contributing enough to deserve that salary? Once there was a team member who wanted all the benefits of working for a small firm- flexi timings, unlimited leaves, fixed salary irrespective of revenues… but when it came to stretching, learning to deliver tasks, she would raise her hands and surrender. And when she was finally let go, she spewed an avalanche of emotions!

3. Responsiveness- Everyone values their time, and gadget detoxing is great. But people live, operate and earn in an ecosystem that requires them to be responsive. Imagine how people would feel were they to try and get in touch with their HR SPOC over some details about leaves or clarification about salary and S/he does not respond or bother to call back. People will be quick to judge- that their HR is unresponsive and not good enough.

Think of when a manager calls an employee for an update, or when a client tries to reach an employee, but the worker is indulging in personal time, which is his or her right… the employee sees missed calls and being a weekend doesn’t bother calling back. Would it be fair to judge such a worker as a non-credible, non-dependable team member? Is that what a manager would want in his or her team?

4. Inability to balance between personal and professional lives- Everyone toggles between personal and professional demands. Everyone has a family life; children are born, parents fall sick, some relative needs support and so on. It does not mean they stop focusing on other elements in their life. Children are born, which is a life-changing event, and new mothers are expected to return to work full guns blazing in 6 months. People lose a spouse/ get divorced, and pick up the threads of their life and maintain financial independence. It is not about prioritising work over personal life, but about ensuring that we do not let the balls drop. And this requires people to balance personal and professional demands.

5. Integrity and trustworthiness- People may hate to hear this, but it’s true. When employees stay long enough in an industry, they soon realise that it’s a tiny world. In this small world, issues of integrity are not forgiven or forgotten easily. An employee might be able to walk off from one organisation in an unethical manner, but certainly, it will impact their career in the long run, because people don’t forget. And people want to hire high integrity trustworthy people in their teams. So whether a worker is an individual contributor or manager, their reputation lingers for far longer than they would like.

The author is Sonica Aron, Founder & Managing Director, Marching Sheep. Views expressed are personal.



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