Monday, August 24, 2015

Hard realities of soft skills of current CXOs

Please call me back after an hour; I will call you back; send me an email and I will revert; remind me to send you the details; the list is quite long, so I will stop here. I am not even listing unanswered emails, requests to call back, text messages, and connects on various professional and personal social media sites. These are a few statements from busy CXOs running from one activity to another, meetings, conferences, review discussions, lunches, business trips, who have no time to catch up with work, forget time for their life !

I am sorry I forgot, I was too busy, my work has been killing me, there was pressure to complete for the board/weekly/monthly … meeting; and then there are those who believe that they are above the rest and don’t need to apologize for their silence. The resultant perceptions are generalized in culture (we are like this only) or end up labeling the person “that’s the way s/he is”. There is no reference or mention of the resultant loss of time or opportunity or the challenges such tardiness creates for the other stakeholder.

The multitude of channels has increased the complexity of staying abreast with the increased interest towards connecting with each other for various purposes; there are also cold calls and messages from interested parties to gain attention. Tools and technologies have also evolved to a stage that they can provide notifications, alerts, and alarms across all kinds of off-person and wearable electronic devices. Despite this interconnected scenario, at least 70% of reverts do not happen (this is based on data I have collated over the last year).

And then there is a minority who always get to meetings on time, call back when they have promised, send you a response when they said they would; they are apologetic if they miss their commitments and make amends as a corrective step. They use Assistants (earlier referred to as Secretary), technology, and plain and simple to-do lists to ensure that they don’t slip on personal integrity. They value their time and give the same respect to others time too. Driven by the clock at times, an appointment turning up late is not tolerated.

What creates these two distinct breeds of professionals ? Before we start analyzing their childhood and the foundation set in their formative years and then blame the past for their current behavior, I would say that internal stimulus is far greater than external stimulus to create any change. External factors like training, mentoring, and coaching do help in triggering internal change which when sustained becomes a habit. The bigger stimulus is failure or an adverse outcome as a result of self-behavior or lack of action arising out of habit (inertia).

When one falls hard, the natural reaction is to blame the other person(s), circumstances, rarely if at all looking in the mirror for the person responsible. It is an uncommon occurrence that a person accepts accountability towards suboptimal or undesired end results; they justify their conduct based on their perception of themselves and excuses based on level of activity that constrained them. It is almost inhuman effort to acknowledge a self-limitation, learning or improvement opportunity that gives the power to change results.

Representative issue, not isolated: A vendor sought inputs on getting through to a CIO; he had emailed, phoned, text messaged, and called her Assistant innumerable times without success; it was as if he was not relevant to her. She was an existing customer and the relationship preceded her elevation to the position. The same request also came from other sources wanting to understand how to get through to her or get her attention/audience. Talking with one of her compatriots it emerged that even internally within the enterprise the situation was no different.

There are no easy answers to change; it happens one step at a time and requires significant effort and active coaching. People who give themselves the freedom to explore the new world gain from the new world of possibilities; they rise from self-imposed mediocrity to taste success. People want to be associated with such individuals who are beacons of qualities that make them worthy of emulation. If you have been in any of the situations above, give yourself a chance, a small chance to make a difference to yourself.

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