A do-it-yourself primer for young executives on the move
Managers get work done. Yes, that is a manager’s job, his work, his test. But how does he do that? Through self-management, the cardinal principle for a manager from day one!
But this is not an easy principle to practice. Getting work done from one’s team and a large number of external shareholders can be quiet challenging. Many young and mid-level managers have experienced this reality and rued why they did not focus on a vital competency like self-management in time. But it is never too late to begin the journey for betterment.
Only a manager, who has mastered the art of managing himself/herself, can marshal his/her inner resources to get work done by others. However, mere high intelligence quotient (IQ) would not make you a great manager. The aspiration for success demands that the young manager be fully equipped to deal with his physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual realms. He will be required to face challenges from any or all of these domains during his career.
Humility has been the hallmark of great leaders and managers. So, don’t let ego overrule your better sense.
Though help from seniors and mentors may be at hand, the young manager can shine in his company or industry only if he practices self-help. This is because only he understands his strengths and weaknesses the best. So it devolves upon him to improve his faculties.
Self-management is all the more vital today as the world has become a global village. Thanks to incredible advances in technology, a manager often has to do business with persons he may have never met personally. Many of his team members may be located abroad. This situation demands special abilities to get work done remotely.
Self-management needs perfect coordination between body and mind. Today’s strenuous work pace demands both physical and mental fitness. While young managers have woken to the need for physical fitness, they are largely clueless about ways to master the mind. How should they train the mind? Yoga is the answer.
In yoga, one should start with meditation. Sit alone in a quiet place daily and let thoughts enter and exit the mind. Gradually, try to focus on one thought which could be your deity or pure formless consciousness. There are various ways of meditation. You can choose one of them or take the help of a yoga instructor. With time, you will find that your mind has become better at focusing on the issue of your choice. Such mental focus will make your responses to managerial challenges more stable and sturdy. You will also not feel fatigued after a day of intense work.
Your attitude towards work will determine your performance. Attitude forms the core of karma yoga philosophy. Nishkaam karma is all about acting proactively and putting your best foot forward without calculating what you will get out of it. This is a call to abandon selfishness believing that all good action will result only in good outcome. Otherwise, you will be besieged by anxiety and spoil the quality of your karma. Maintaining such cool attitude in both success and failure is what has been described as equanimity (samabhav) in the Gita – samatvam yoga uchyate.
Leadership coach and author Susan Ritchie has elaborated upon some realistic and practical measures for self-management. Here is a summary.
Humility has been the hallmark of great leaders and managers. So, don’t let ego overrule your better sense. Do not brag about your accomplishments. Leadership is, after all, a mix of inspiring and motivating others.
It is natural to be less confident in the initial phase of one’s career. Young managers should remember that their low confidence level can be very easily noticed by their discerning team which may consist of persons senior to them in age and experience. It would be worthwhile to get hold of a seasoned mentor who ensures that you keep reminding yourself of your strengths. This can be an ever ready morale booster. Even then be prepared for mistakes to happen; nobody is perfect.
Build your support network – a confidant, a coach, a guide – that keeps inspiring you and helps you in keeping a balanced view of your strengths and successes.
Sharpen your listening skills. Listening attentively to the person in front of you forms the better part of communication but is, unfortunately, the most under-rated managerial tool. By listening properly you make the other person feel important. Your relationship gets stronger. So, listen, learn and succeed.
Remain emotionally cool. Losing the cool makes you look weak. Good managers are expected to be warm and strong, calm and in control.
The ability to prioritise your goals and actions is of paramount value. Do not get distracted by someone else’s agenda or your to-do list may not reflect your objectives.
You are the best judge of your time. Therefore, devise appropriate systems and processes so that you utilise your time judiciously and optimally. Convey it to your team as well. Educate your team about how and when you will be available. You need not be available all the time!
Be careful about your focus as you switch over to new roles. One usually wants to continue with tasks one is good at. But as you climb the corporate ladder your roles will change too. Alter your focus accordingly. Be prepared to move out of your comfort zone.
New roles and responsibilities demand extra effort. Getting acclimatised to the new environment can be tough and energy-sapping and stressful. You, therefore need to maintain, rather, boost your energy levels. Take small breaks during the day to overcome the pressure and tedium of work. Equally, significant is physical well-being. Proper nutrition, exercise and work life balance will ensure regular high performance from you.
Self-care and self-management go hand in hand. Yes, you can do it yourself.
Basant Chaudhary is a Poet, Writer, The Chairman of BLC and Basant Chaudhary Foundation. (firstname.lastname@example.org)