Sunday, March 20, 2011

Corporate Jungle Strategies

A few corporate truths that will help you survive the big bad jungle of corporate life.

  • You wont win as the lone ranger. There are no lone rangers. The ones who think they are lone rangers are stupid or incompetent. This may seem contrarian, but if you are a person who cannot take people along either through your ideas or other qualities, then you wont survive for long. You can try your luck elsewhere, but ultimately the answer is the same, sooner or later. Being a lone ranger is good in the movies, but bad in business,
  •  Second related truth. Your team wont win as the lone ranger either. Nothing can get done as one person or one team. Different people, different strengths, different skills - all come together to create a team. Unless you have a great team with you or you put in conscious effort to create a great team, not only will you not win, your team will lose too. The effort spent in creating a team and calibrating their strengths and allocating work as per their strengths is worth it.
  • The jungle is all about thriving - not survival. This might seem obvious or counterintuitive depending on whom you ask. But if you focus on survival, your strategies will be limiting, close minded and even detrimental to the company. The moment you think of thriving - you will open your mind, take risks and think about the good of the company overall. Think about it - you head a new team that might get shut down - it is well known. Think how you will go about it in a survival mode or a thriving mode. Yes, the latter has more risk. But without risk, can you get anywhere? 
  •  Which brings us to the next related truth. Take Risk. Because, not everybody can. Or wants to. Everybody out there is busy playing the survival game, playing by the rules, kissing up, pleasing people. Get out, take risk. Be that square peg in the round hole - bend the rules, stretch the boundaries, but don't break the rules or scale the boundary. There is a lot of space there, I assure you.
  •  Your work wont talk for itself - not in the way you expect to - unless it fits in with the objectives of the firm. Your work is required for you to showcase your manager. Your managers work will showcase for his manager and so on. Each of you better add "deltas" to the others output so that the final product is impressive, but every persons effort has to be a segue into the next persons effort. If you are working in different directions, it is diffused effort and wont get you anywhere. But everything you do gets noticed. Everything you don't do gets noticed. Every work you do is a stamp of you at work - it may not be a Michaelangelo sculpture, but it will bears your stamp. And if your work is anywhere as collectible as his sculptures, it better have that stamp.
  •  Reputation travels fast. Real fast. But if you focus on building a reputation it wont work. Whichever way your work heads, success or failure, one thing it will keep adding to is your reputation. Reputation is a byproduct of the work you do. Each piece of work you do, builds your reputation or takes a brick down from it. Either way, it will, in general, be relflective of those patterns we spoke about in a recent column.
  • That other thing is Perception. Reputation and Perception are what gets created out of your work. Your Perception and Reputation can go hand in hand if you are lucky, but it can be at loggerheads to each other too. For instance, you reputation may be that of a tough task master, but people may perceive you as being pushy. How will it work? You will find resistance while working with people and they may not share their best output with you.
  •  Play to your strengths - not to someone elses strengths. Figure out what your strengths are and build them. A stronger strength is always more useful than a patched up weakness.
  •  Unlike the real jungle, you can make mistakes. You are allowed to make mistakes. Provided you don't repeat the same mistake. And admit it right away and put in processes to ensure that it doesn't happen again. If you lucky to be in a place where you get a second chance to succeed, then take it with both hands and give it all you have.
  •  Last but not the least, stick to your values. This might seem obvious, but you will realize that many of us don't know what our values are and if at all we have any. Whatever are those values, stick to your values and they will stick to you. And expect your team to stick only to those values they see you enact - not preach. Hopefully you wont have to preach - nobody likes it anyway. Walk the talk or better still, walk the walk. Whatever else you do, don't do, mistakes or no mistakes - your values are what you will be known by. 
  • Finally, burn a few bridges if you want to, but don't burn all of them. No man is an island and you will need bridges to take you where you want to be.
(Published in Advancedge March 2011, slightly edited)

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