All through my career, I have seen how emotions can work wonders but also cause turmoil in the mind. I am not excluded from that internal battle. As I was reflecting on my career, I realized a few such moments are stuck in my mind. There may not be much for the readers to learn from this post but I hope they can relate to these moments.
Veil of calm
It was 1981. Right at the start of my career as a trainee programmer, I found myself in the middle of this turbulent project in a manufacturing organization. After four months into software development, there was very little progress and accusations were flying in all directions. The CIO called for a special session to ‘chat’ with the team, the lead and the manager. As a wide-eyed fresher, I could not believe how the meeting was proceeding. There was a veil of calm and everyone was very impersonal. After listening for 30 minutes, I just blurted out “everyone is a good person but they do not seem to trust each other. They are always complaining about each other’s work”. The CIO looked at me appreciatively and looked around the room seeking an explanation – veil lifted and floodgates opened. After 15 minutes of productive un-calmness, a few useful improvement actions were identified. After the meeting, I thought ‘a veil is a veil, good or bad, but it needs to be lifted’.
It was 1984. Every now and then, I would notice managers with a ‘terror image’. There was an operations manager who every operator feared. As part of my production support role, I asked one of the computer operators to change a standard instruction given by the ‘terror’ manager. Although he did what I asked him to do, he warned me that there would be consequences if the feared manager found out. For the next 10 days, I did not sleep properly – just the possibility of getting fired by this ‘terror’ was too much to cope. In hindsight, I realised that my fear was completely unfounded although very real. I wonder if you have gone through such situations.
Seed of doubt
It was 1992. I was in Australia working as a lead for a high profile development project. I had joined the organization recently. I decided to start with a meeting with a senior director in the user organization. After 30 minutes, I left the meeting in a state of daze – not knowing what transpired. I guess I did not know how to interact with a senior leader – more so in a foreign culture. Next morning I got some ‘feedback’ from my manager – there was a clear vote of no confidence in my ability! Fortunately, my manager decided to keep me on the project but the seed of doubt had been sown. Doubt plagued me for the next one year – I avoided interactions with this director and stayed focused on meeting the expectations of the managers in the user group. It took almost two years for the senior director to acknowledge my ability. Here is what I learnt – ‘when in doubt, get on with work!’.
Wonders of passion
It was 2000. E-commerce was the craze. I was with a start-up. A young, inexperienced team was assigned the task of building a fashion portal. The team struggled with many new technologies and concepts. However, the aura around such development outside and inside the organization was big. We had a dynamic team working on the supply chain, logistics and marketing. The team was excited. With three weeks to go, the team was yet to figure out how to get a few key components to work. The founder announced that there will be hoardings and newspaper ads promoting the portal. I still remember what he said: ‘I will wake up at 5:30am on the go-live day and sit with my coffee and newspaper at 6am. I will see the half-page ad in the newspaper, log into the portal and order a shirt’. The visual really gave the team much-needed boost. Don’t know how – but everything fell in place. At 5:30am that morning, the portal went live. It was a moment to cherish.
Debilitating feeling of insignificance
It was 2011. I had a lot of successes under my belt and was in a leadership role in the organization. Yet – a sense of insignificance clouded my thoughts and behaviour. I had adequate management support and resources to carry out my plans but it felt like no achievement would make a difference to the organization. Strangely I lived through this feeling for nearly two years and unsurprisingly I achieved very little. I was mentally drained at the end of it. I don’t know if you have experienced such a phase in your career when you just went through the motions for a long period.
So what, you may ask… This post is merely some reflections from my work life and it highlighted the importance of emotional intelligence for a successful career. I hope it brought back a few memories from your own journey. Please do share them.