What is that one thing you shy away from doing and are embarrassed to confront? Being a Gujarati, I loved being part of the Navratri celebrations and attending the Garba nights but I used to be more of a bystander. Having two left feet never supported my cause to be part of the formations and I largely became the bag keeper. I was embarrassed to try the steps and join the groups with the fear of being laughed at and judged in case a step went haywire or I crashed land on the person ahead of me.
This year had to be different and I did not want to go without knowing the steps – so had to learn them beforehand. But how? Join a dance class. Again, that overthinking brain of mine was scared of embarrassment thinking I would be the worst member of the cohort. Yet, I decided to join a class (without informing anyone) and took a place in the corner away from the instructor, trying hard to follow the steps, fumble, and yet try again. To my surprise, everyone around me was supportive and gave me hacks to remember the steps and how to get comfortable with the movements.
While I am still a beginner who can do a few steps with full confidence; the fear of not trying anymore has subsided – just a little self-pull to make the change happen. Years back while pursuing Chartered Accountancy I was told to ‘stop pitying yourself’, and that still holds with me. A little introspection and acceptance that I am not good at something analyzing the situation to believe that I need help and acting upon the thesis has helped me move a step forward. What is holding you back?
In my previous organization, where we were managing more than 1000 consultants, I was tasked with turning around the company. The question was, how do we build a win-win situation for all stakeholders – it was not always possible to get everyone on the same page; we faltered at times. What was important was building trust within the team – and being willing to walk that extra mile with them (maybe even work 70-hour weeks). The initial few days of consensus building were difficult as what I proposed was a major turnaround approach completely different from the existing operations structure.
There are times I go in a shell to introspect on my action, rewinding to the day I accepted that role and the trust my seniors placed in me, realizing what I want to achieve is a larger goal and putting twice as much effort to bring the company back to the path of profitability. What I started off as a change was an open-door policy where any employee at any level could come and discuss anything with me – good, bad or ugly – and gradually the confidence and trust levels started shooting up. It was surprising for them at first since this was a drastic departure from the typical corporate structure they had grown accustomed to. Three months of efforts later, we turned the company cash flow positive and everyone gradually started coming on board and believing in the vision. Keeping an open communication channel, being honest with the dire state of affairs, and building confidence in the vision helped me build an unassailable fort. It is important to accept our shortcomings and act on them.
All that mattered to me was trust and integrity. Yet, no matter how honest you are in your dealings, there will be times when things do not go as planned – we live in a VUCA world. The point is you’re doing your best at that position and that point in time. There are days when even Virat Kohli doesn’t score a century; take a break. Accept the fact that leadership is not all roses, analyze your actions with your core team, and act upon the vision you set on Day 1.
When I got elected as District Director, I wondered what is that I could do to make the member experience better, have more members embrace the stage – either as a communicator or as a leader; build more opportunities, and celebrate every success story. We recently kickstarted a campaign to send welcome letters to all new members and level completion certificates. We also wanted to ensure a more transparent manner of functioning and increase the frequency of our communications and we are trying to do that one step at a time – and seek help to build the culture and community.
We recently conducted our second District Officers Training Program to equip the District officers with more ammunition and energy to support the clubs better. We ended the long weekend with a team bonding exercise and a walk in the park. The team is now gearing up for Cycle 1 of the Division Conferences and looking forward to meeting you there.
District Director | District 98 | Toastmasters International