Getting Through 2021 “Quote-fully”

2021 continued to be the rollercoaster year that demanded adaptability, flexibility and an anti-fragile mindset. Hybridity became the buzzword, a reality we continue to live through in various capacities. The quality of resilience, along with the mindset of balancing between letting things be and taking up charge got most of us through this year of improvising and adapting.

There are also some quotes which we are sure got us through. And we are sure they would resonate with our readers too. The thing with quotes that have endured and still retained their meaningfulness is that they help us put in words what we might be already going through.

So, as we welcome 2022 and say goodbye to 2021, here are some quotes that gave the much-needed anchor to our lives and which shall continue to provide a solid foundation to our thoughts and decisions.

“Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible, and suddenly, you are doing the impossible.” 

Something that was said by a mystic, Francis of Assisi from 10th century still hold true. Continuing on the unpredictability of 2020, we found out that no matter how impossible it felt, just beginning, just taking the first step was enough to get the ideas rolling, to get the seemingly impossible done. Going back to the office after 2020 in the uncertainty of the hybridity of 2021 sure gave us all some anxiety but we soon figured it out, and what felt like an impossible setup to work with was made to work smoothly by many a organisations and companies.

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”

Surely a fun twist to the adage of opportunities knocking doors given by American entertainer Milton Merle. 2020 put some of us in the fight or flight or just-zoned-out-I-have-no-idea-what-I-am-doing mode. The trials and tribulations of that year led us to a newfound attitude in 2021. Learning from the anxiety of 2020, learning from having to wait on things to progress, some of us would have found a certain courage and attitude to come to this realisation. Realising that life is too unpredictable to just sit and wait for opportunities to knock on our doors, we got up build doors for ourselves. Side projects were turned into full-time businesses, pipe-dreams were turned into realities, thanks to the lessons learned in 2020 that were realised in greater capacity in 2021.

“Remember, no one is stopping you from lighting a lamp in a dark night.” 

So well put by poet Harivansh Rai Bachhan, this quote surely makes us realise the contagious power of positivity and empathy. In the initial months 0f 2020 when the world was putting up a fight against the harsh realities of the pandemic, it was the power of the individuals who were continuously- and with great intentionality- spreading the light in their own ways which helped everyone get through. From sharing resources to cope, to learn, to help, to being solid pillars of strength to others, we all know or have been these individuals at various points. We understood the power of our shared humanity and how much it means to even simply reflect the light which can light up dark caves.

“The only people who see the whole picture are the ones who step out of the frame.”

A quote by writer Salman Rushdie which makes us realise the power of looking at the big picture, it sure is a good anchor to our thoughts when uncertainty takes over. Stepping out of the negative frame of thoughts amidst the chaos of the world is what was needed. It is only when you pause and take a step back that you realise the extent of possibilities.

The year 2021 was sure a time when lessons learnt in 2020 were put into use. These personalities may have given us these quotes long ago, but they sure have helped and will continue to help us grow through what we go through.

Team UHR wishes everyone a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2022!

Transition to a New Role with Meaningfulness and Intentionality

You have recently had a promotion, and your role within the company has changed, perhaps something along the lines of what we discussed in one of our earlier articles. Or maybe, you have switched companies and with the promotion comes the need to undergo a transition of roles among other such changes.

In either case, or any other similar scenario of changed gears, success needs some patience to show up. Best case scenario, the transition of roles will be trickier than you expected, and a few fumbles and trials later, and with truckloads of patience and persistence, you will find a way to succeed in the new role. Worst case scenario, you will see the entire decision as a colossal mistake, and the thrill of a new challenge will be replaced by the unpleasant realisation that this is another dead-end job and a set of never-ending challenges one is dealing with. One doesn’t have to go through the latter option while going through a transition of roles. And one can make use of the first scenario in a more meaningful and intentional manner.

Those are the key words: intentional and meaningful. While switching roles, the script is often repeated as to how one can simply apply some skills from the older role, how one can always learn on the job, how one can always find mentors, supportive colleagues to lean onto and learn from. How exactly does one do this? How does one successfully transition into a new role? It’s all about intent and meaning.

Filling in the Gaps:

Perhaps you clinched the new role because of your knowledge, skill and expertise. But it is a new role ultimately and there are bound to be gaps. A generic understanding tells us that we should be mindful about the gaps in our skillset which we carried over from our previous role. But how does one fill these gaps? With an intentionality to find the gaps in the first place, along with finding ways in which you can add value with the skills you already have. An article by Harvard Business Review gives the example of one such person:

Consider Gary, a manager in an industrial firm, who was promoted to an executive role for his knowledge of a particular product line. He was a 20-year veteran of the organization who was staying within his area of expertise, and yet he soon realized that he was out of touch with some of the terminology being used in his unit. Instead of pretending to understand, he made a list of 33 terms he’d heard but didn’t know and asked his team for help. One phrase in particular—“But is it A and K?” which meant “But is it awesome and kewl [cool]?”—opened his eyes to a new way of thinking about the production line. It was said half in jest, but it reflected very real concerns about the company’s ability to make its factories more appealing to young workers.

Gary had a vast knowledge of the product line found. Transitioning into the role of the executive, he found the gap which he needed to fill in his own thinking; here in this case it was about helping the younger employees get a better understanding of the expectations. He had started the path to fill in the gaps in his thinking. And how does one start on this path? Let us go onto the next point.

Meaningful Networking:

‘Networking’ is a word that is often thrown at us from all directions, whether one is talking about a new job, a new role, or a new workplace. An intentionality in networking is what does the trick as opposed to networking done just as small-talk, in the hopes that some reward will come out later from the interaction. While that has its own place, a more intentional networking would be something what this person did (or what someone in the previous example also did), again an example given by the Harvard Business Review article:

Consider a manager we’ll call Holly, who took on the challenge of improving workforce planning in her global professional-services firm. This was not a formal promotion, but it was an important transition. She saw that she needed to talk to helpful and passionate experts who had been thinking about the topic for a long time and weren’t afraid to float unusual ideas. Within six weeks she met with dozens of people across various groups to understand the business environment, how the groups operated, and each person’s most pressing concerns. Importantly, she ended every conversation by asking for the names of others with whom she should meet or work.

…for example, after convening members of the HR function to discuss current processes, she asked each of them to name one or two people in the business units who were well-connected, were frequently tapped for help, or seemed to make a real impact in meetings. She then met with each of those individuals to hear their perspectives on workforce needs. She quickly began to build a broad network encompassing her group, the larger HR function, and people in other business units, corporate functions, levels, and locations who might have a disproportionately positive or negative impact on her success in implementation. She set out to ensure that their impact was uniformly positive.

The point here is that this person not just engaged in networking for the sake of networking but actively sought out connections from within connections. She started to transition in her new role through a very intentional form of networking where she took active steps to ensure she made full use of her new role.

In addition to remembering the reason why we switched roles, and finding meaning in the job itself, it is also important to keep the learning process and the networking just as meaningful, mindful and intentional.

The Magic of a Positive Attitude

In the past few months, the value of having and developing skills and expertise has been proven. There was a limited scope for providing training. With the need to go virtual, there was also a limited scope for conducting interviews as thorough as old school, offline interviews offered. The skills, the resume spoke for themselves. Be it a hard skill which reflected in the experience listed or a soft skill like the ability to communicate well virtually, it was all self-evident. Skills are self-evident.

No doubt, skills and competence speak for themselves. Organisations want people who can get stuff done, use their experience, get deals finalised and contribute to the company culture and prestige. There is one more key ingredient which determines how successful an individual is likely to be.

That key ingredient is attitude. And it almost works like magic.

The Magical Ingredient:

Let us take a look at this story shared by the noted author, cultural commentator and public intellectual at a keynote note at the Skillsoft Perspectives 2021 address. An article by People Matters has summed it all up really well.

The story is about an assistant security guard; he didn’t have much exposure. People might be thinking- what does an assistant security guard has to offer in terms of skills and expertise? Within six months of working on the night shift, he had managed to have a great influence on everyone- so much so that people started to work in late.

He was always eager and curious, and with that eagerness he started to improve upon his English, learnt to make tea and coffee. With his curiosity, he figured out a way to operate the company’s telephone system. Eventually from an assistant security guard, he became a telephone operator. He retired as a director.

He didn’t even have a college degree. But that didn’t stop him from advancing at work. The lack of a college degree, and the so called ‘lack’ of skills and expertise did not act as hindrances.

His biggest asset was his attitude. The eagerness to learn, the curiosity to explore. A willingness to keep learning and contribute in whatever way possible.

The More Difficult Acquisition:

It won’t be too far from truth to say that this attitude of willingness is even more difficult to cultivate than acquiring skills and expertise, as an article by sums up:

 “With the right attitude and enough effort most new skills can be mastered quickly. Whereas improving attitude is often about changing behaviours which is always much more difficult to do, as people need to want to change and without the right attitude this is unlikely to happen.”

It is ultimately attitude which determines how well someone would fit into the company culture.

Skills determine how well the employee is likely to work on the job. Attitude determines how well the employee is likely to engage with the work. And that is the difference.

If you are an employee trying to find the edge amidst everyone who has similar skills and expertise, it is attitude that will help you stand out. If you are an employer looking for someone who not only works but engages with their work, it is the kind of attitude they have that you also want to look for along with the skills.

The Role of Laughter in the Office

Gatherings of friends and family are punctuated by bouts of laughter and good-natured humour. The sounds of everyone having a hearty laugh light up dull days and gloomy evenings. But when it comes to laughter in the office, people tend to be a little prudish. We have written about the do’s and don’ts about humour in detail in one of our earlier articles. That was all about humour. Here, we are talking about laughter.

As we have mentioned in the article, a professional space has a much stricter code of conduct and a sense of decorum. Instances of humour might be around the office all the time but laughter, or loud laughter is something that is not heard very often. The tone of our voices remains hushed, and we try to keep a straight face for every interaction. In fact, expressing any range of emotions, forget laughing out loud is something that is often frowned upon. An article by Harvard Business Review charts out the experience of an executive. The executive was at a restaurant with his boss and a few investors. The boss might have said something funny and the executive let out a hearty laugh. To his surprise, everyone around him was taken aback by the laughter. Later when he asked his boss if the laughter had ‘embarrassed’ him, the response was: ‘It was pretty loud.’

Is there no space for a good hearty laugh in the office environment? A good hearty laugh is rare, and something that is rare shouldn’t cause embarrassments and problems, right? Why do we hesitate to laugh out loud in the office? Is it something we should keep in check, like our negative or overwhelming emotions?

Let us delve deeper and look at the angles this has.

Relieving the Tension, Boosting Productivity:

Simply put, the act of laughing out loud not only improves the atmosphere (even momentarily) but also induces various physical and psychological responses in the body. When we laugh, we increase our oxygen intake, release endorphin (the feel-good hormone), stimulate circulation and reduce the physical symptoms of stress. In other words, when we laugh, we take the focus away from the stress, and bring the focus to the present.

When the focus is on the present, it is naturally going to lead to an increase in engagement and productivity, spurring collaboration and creativity, boosting mental clarity and focus. An occasional laughing out loud not only relieves the tension at an individual level but also at a collective level. Where laughter is not frowned upon, there is a safe space to express ideas and drive them forward. This brings us to the next point.

The Humane Touch:

We often make assumptions and mistakes. What we thought was the perfect strategy might turn out to be not so perfect after all. In such situations, laughing at our own selves is sometimes the best solution to soften the blow. This could work especially well for leaders and people in upper -management positions. Laughing at one’s momentary incompetence and lapse of judgment humanises us. It lets the other team members and colleagues know that we are all humans at the end of the day, and prone to making mistakes. Laughing out loud about it can thus ease the tension and make the space feel safer as mentioned above. Laughing out loud is like laughing at the problem and telling it that no matter what, we shall not get bogged down.

But beware!

While laughter in the office space is not something to be frowned upon, and happy employees do the work happily, one should make sure that this happiness is shared by all. In other words, there are times when it is appropriate to laugh. But there are times when laughing out loud might reduce the confidence of a person, or it may make them feel disrespected or it might be just too crude a thing to laugh about. Context matters, as we pointed out in our earlier article as well. The point is to make a safe-space with laughter; the point is to laugh with someone, not at someone.

Laughing out loud in the workplace is a great tool to boost the three Cs: camaraderie, collaboration and creativity. It is a tool that can encourage a free flow of ideas. And simply, it can be a tool to relieve tension at an individual and collective level, humanising us all, and realising that no problem is insurmountable.

How to Advance in Your Career Even if You Aren’t the Boss Yet

Is there a way to advance your career even when you are not a manager, the BOSS yet? Career-advancement is a topic which often just relies on titles and the number of rungs one has climbed on the corporate ladder. In such a scenario when titles on paper matter so much, one might end up feeling stagnant even though the value one attaches their work is high.

Some people might be quite content with their current roles and they might be fearing a certain stagnation; they might be thinking: is this the limit to what one can do before their nature of work changes? Is there no way to continue doing the work they love and still advance in some other way?

Take for example a journalist who might enjoy reporting, and might be fearing the supposedly higher position of an editor where they will have to put a stop to their regular reporting, and actually manage teams and departments. Or a salesperson who loves to interact with clients and engage in selling, and as they become managers, they have to forego the sales part and end up handling administrative responsibilities.

There are many people who might be willing to take up a new challenge and yet, also might be fearing the new kind of responsibilities that come with such a higher, management position.

Is there a way to get over the stagnancy, to advance, without having to embrace a managerial position?

 Is there a way to advance in your career even if you aren’t the boss yet?

Turns out there are a few ways. Let us take a look at a few of those.

Look for In-Role Growth:

When a promotion to a managerial position seems to be on the horizon, it is a good idea to talk to your seniors and mentors within the company and be honest about your values and what kind of advancement means more to you. There are roles and opportunities which can be tailored especially for you. There are roles like an in-bound consultant and/or the expert, where you can have a ‘promotion’ within the role, get around the sense of stagnancy and yet continue to do the work that you value. All without or with very minimal managing to do.

A way to stay in the company, get promoted without having to take up a managerial position is to become a mentor or a trainer for new joinees. You will not only get to use your expertise, but also impart it to others. This can be as “satisfying” as the promotion you didn’t go for.

Looking Elsewhere:

You can be a ‘bigger fish in a smaller pond’, or you might as well look for a ‘bigger pond’. As an article by the Muse goes on to explain, one might need to take a leap and look for other options where there is scope for growth in other aspects. Growth and advancement in career can be found in:

  • A leap to a bigger company/brand
  • A leap to a bigger market
  • An increase in your client pool

In simple words, it could be as simple as switching to a company that has a larger reach and more prestige. But if that sounds like a turning your back on your current company that has given you so much, and a risk at your well-earned independence, then the next option might look more pleasant.

Take the Independent Route:

If one feels that they have enough experience, networking skills and potential clients ready, a great step into career advancement is consulting. An independent consultant will have the autonomy and hands-on work to learn more and more on the job. They will have the liberty to pay attention to their work and their clients. At the same time, they will also have a better sense of control, as opposed to someone who might be on managerial position constantly needing to check on their team members.

And consulting is something that can be done full-time or part-time: it could become a side hustle, and eventually, perhaps a full-fledged retirement plan.

The position of the ‘the boss’ comes with its own perks and advantages. Some of us might be game for it, while some of us might be looking for growth and advancement in other ways. Some of us might be getting a little impatient and looking to overcome the sense of stagnancy. At the end of the day, it is all about being honest about the kind of work which has more personal value for you. It is about keeping the learning curve rising. Any kind of role, whether that of a managerial or non-managerial kind will have its own set of challenges; it’s up to us how we want to shape our career using those challenges.