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Professional worth helps scale peaks

The basics of being successful have not changed; the ingredients of ensuring success have evolved. As organisational hierarchies get flatter, it is important for you as an individual to start displaying the right skill sets.

ET Spotlight
Ever wondered why people often complain that their bosses are not good, yet, the bosses continue to retain their position and even grow? Ever encountered situations where a technically brilliant colleague of yours was denied a promotion and some mediocre executive scored over again? Ever contemplated as to why experience often becomes the first deciding factor before assigning new responsibilities? Well, if you have ever said to yourself that the system is not fair and it cannot be ever set right, read on.

Let us quickly introduce a specific term ��� professional worth. All of us have certain professional worth, but it is not to be equated with the salary that we draw, though many of us might be tempted to measure the professional worth this way ��� that will be incorrect. Choosing to be a bit insensitive here, worth can be equated to the timelessness of Taj Mahal, and remuneration is equivalent to the fee collected from gate passes annually.

My proposition is that people with higher professional worth should do better in their careers, than those with lesser worth. Now this would be a pretty simple theory to accept if there was an efficient way of measuring professional worth. So instead of rushing to go through the hundred-odd self help books in your neighbourhood bookstores, why don���t you decide your professional worth yourself? It could be a straight forward assessment, if you could channelise your thoughts this way: Professional Worth = function of Knowledge in (Subject, Ecosystem, Cultures)

The easiest to understand of the three, ���knowledge of subject��� refers to knowing your trade well, the tools, the practices, and the natural aptitude, both inborn and acquired skills. So, for a software developer, it would be his analytical skills, problem solving capabilities, knowledge of algorithms, familiarity with programming languages and ability to learn to work on the new advanced platforms. For a cricketer, it would be his technique, his understanding of the conditions, his ability to adapt to different pitches, his temperament, to name a few.

Everybody recognises these skills instantly and in many circumstances, they play a key role in establishing your professional worth and the rewards that come along with it. A subject matter expert after all is what enables the organisation to keep its products or services ticking consistently.

Understanding of the ecosystem is as important as it could ever get. Effects of globalisation do not keep us insulated ��� the ripple effects impact us considerably and we need to identify the impact hits carefully. Very often talented individuals don���t seem to make the cut and it is blamed on destiny. Do we know what is happening in the world that will influence our work tomorrow ? Do we know what skills will remain relevant in the foreseeable future? Do we understand our customers��� pain points that may not be easily identified?

Do we have time to think of disrupters that will change the entire game, if not the rules of the game? This clairvoyance helps us to preempt and prepare ourselves for the surprises that we could encounter. You would not want to be the one who has laid miles and miles of telephone cables, while the cellular mobile companies multiply their reach just setting up with signal towers.

History is rife with cases where trendspotters have cashed-in on opportunities that were missed by well-established and often complacent firms and individuals. In India itself, our generation saw the switch from regular cameras to digital cameras, from PCOs to mobile recharge counters, from stationery stores to computer accessory shops. Just look around ��� it is not about size and strength alone; it is about flexibility and nimbleness as well. And who better to acquire these traits than the ones who proactively look out for developments and changes around them.

And finally, the one factor which takes longest to appreciate, though it is the strongest of influencers, especially when difference between individual skills is so little, is knowledge of culture. People work with people. Organisations thrive if people are compatible with each other and fail when there is disconnect. The world is full of examples of leaders who compensated for their lack of understanding of the first two elements by surrounding themselves with very smart people.

Coming back to the example of cricket, it is popular knowledge as to why Mr Greg Chappell remained under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons for most of his tenure as coach of the Indian cricket team. A cricketing legend himself, and a respected icon, Greg Chappell should have come out trumps instead.

In spite of all the knowledge of the subject and that of the ecosystem, something seemed to have been amiss in his approach and style for Indian cricket. He couldn���t seem to convince our ���stroke-makers��� to take singles. Players cringed when asked to get to the ball in the outfield faster, and selectors banked on past glory for team selections instead of form and performance. Perhaps, the Indian way of approaching cricket was different from the way Australians approached and hence the clash of cultures was evident.


The requirement on all of us as a professional is not an easy one, especially when the common notion is that being professional implies having no personality variations. It is about being sensitive and staying intuitive without typecasting a person or a group, and that is an art that can only be developed with much effort and time.
Now let���s look at where we began from.

Your superior scores because he has effectively utilised his knowledge about the ecosystem, thanks to people he interacts with. Your technically gifted colleague is perhaps going to lose out because his unidimensional knowledge of technology, lacking completely on the cultural sensitivity is working against him. People continue to put a premium on experience, simply because the knowledge of culture is an invaluable asset to have, and there is enough reason to believe that this cultural understanding grows with time.

The basics of being successful have not changed; the ingredients of ensuring success have evolved. As the world gets flatter , organisational hierarchies get flatter ��� it is important for you as an individual to start displaying the right skill sets to competence, foresight and compassion. Your professional world could be a lot fairer to you, just that you need to identify your worth. It can help you scale new peaks, conquer new vistas and establish yourself as a leader to reckon with.

(The author is MD, SAP Labs India)
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