The Time I Didn’t ‘Excel’
Talking About Failures, Mistakes and Upskilling
Welcome to the next issue of Thought Shot - a newsletter on impact and leadership for next-generation leaders. And if you are not getting this in your inbox yet, you know what to do!
This week I want to share three thoughts with you about learning.
One - A story about a time I made a mistake at work and how my manager reacted. Two - A story about my daughter not listening. And Three - A tried and tested way to upskill yourself the right way.
Early in my career, I remember working with Pawan Mehra on an evaluation exercise.
We were looking at the sustainability initiatives of India's top corporates. Sustainability as a concept was pretty much a nascent concept then - so I was very excited about the work.
Folks who work with me now, know my love for Excel and Powerpoints. But at that time, I was young and new to the world of consulting. I knew little about tools, frameworks, and assessment methodologies.
And for some not-so-brilliant reason, I consolidated all the data on paper (in my notebook) instead of using Excel. Looking back, I can imagine the horror any manager would have felt seeing the futileness of the work.
I had spent hours putting it together. Imagine 8 columns of information for each of those 60 odd organizations meticulously written down - but useless.
There was no way to analyze the data, compare/contrast trends, or make any sense of it. In fact, looking back, I personally feel like kicking my past self for this mistake.
But I remember the day I showed it to Pawan. Most of all, I remember his reaction.
Instead of being angry at me, he just smiled. He asked me my reasons and explained why the work wasn't helpful.
Instead of ridiculing me in front of my peers, he appreciated the effort and guided me on how to fix it.
𝐆𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬, 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐨𝐠𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞.
Maybe the next time, a team member makes a mistake, pause. Try to go deeper and understand the why. 𝑇ℎ𝑒𝑦 𝑤𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑎𝑙𝑤𝑎𝑦𝑠 𝑟𝑒𝑚𝑒𝑚𝑏𝑒𝑟 𝑦𝑜𝑢𝑟 𝑘𝑖𝑛𝑑𝑛𝑒𝑠𝑠.
Last week, we went out for a family function after a very long time.
The venue was elegant with a row of fountains around the seating area. There was a shallow dry moat outside the fountain area.
As is expected of a pre-schooler, my daughter was running everywhere. She had a bunch of colorful balloons in tow. We all kept telling her to stay away from the moat but she wouldn't listen.
At one point, her foot slipped. My heart did a tiny leap as I saw her fall.
I caught her just as she fell into the moat, which was a foot-and-a-half deep.
Thankfully she was okay. But visibly shook at the fact that she fell down and could have been hurt. Of course, I didn't have to tell her again to stay away from the moat anymore.
Half an hour later, I saw her guiding all other kids to stay away from the moat.
She kept stopping and herding them away. And getting exasperated when they wouldn't listen.
When asked why she said 'I don't want them getting hurt as I did’.
𝐋𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐞𝐧 𝐚𝐧𝐲𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞, 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐣𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐥𝐚𝐬𝐬𝐫𝐨𝐨𝐦.
Upskilling Up The Right Way
Mastering new skills and deepening expertise is no longer optional.
In order to continue learning and growing, it is important to get uncomfortable by building new skills, working in new domains and functions. And the best part about being in the technology era is having instant access to knowledge.
Upskilling aids this learning journey, but it is equally important to upskill the right way.
1. 𝐃𝐞𝐟𝐢𝐧𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐩𝐮𝐫𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐞 - Are you trying to be a generalist or a specialist? Why are you trying to build a particular skill? (𝑅𝑒𝑓𝑙𝑒𝑐𝑡)
2. 𝐁𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐡𝐦𝐚𝐫𝐤 - Where does your skill set lie (beginner, intermediate, expert)? Is the leveling up really needed for your growth/in the field you want to pursue? (𝑅𝑒𝑓𝑙𝑒𝑐𝑡 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑒𝑎𝑟𝑐ℎ)
3. 𝐌𝐚𝐩 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐌𝐨𝐝𝐞 (online/classroom/video-based/cohort-based) - How do you like learning best? What would be the best learning mode for the skill you are trying to build? (𝑅𝑒𝑓𝑙𝑒𝑐𝑡 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑒𝑎𝑟𝑐ℎ)
4. 𝐒𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐭 𝐒𝐦𝐚𝐥𝐥 - What is the minimal viable goal for you? What is the time you would be realistically able to dedicate without getting overwhelmed? (𝑆𝑒𝑡 𝐺𝑜𝑎𝑙𝑠)
As we close for today, I would love to hear from you - What was the one thing you learned last week?
That's all for now. Go shine!
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