13 thoughts for 2013

| by Ajantha Dharmasiri
( December 31, 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) A brand new year is ahead of us. As usual, people tend to have New Year resolutions. My suggestion is to go beyond resolutions, to have specific reinforcements. For that, I would like to suggest 13 thoughts leading to thorough tasks, especially with the Sri Lankan managers in mind. As usual, I have this tendency to brand them. Let me call them ’13 Es of Excellence’.
Excellence through 13 Es
Excellence is all about being exceptionally good. When applied to enterprises, it involves exceptional achievements in a consistent manner. For that to happen, employees have to excel as well. In doing so, they would demonstrate productive practices. I would like to identify 13 such action verbs.
We all complain about lack of time. Even though, there are seminars, workshops, trainings and lectures on ‘time management,’ we really cannot manage time. It is finite and fixed. Instead what we can do is to “manage ourselves” in getting best out of the given limited time. The only way to do that is to be efficient in out tasks. It involves minimising the wastages, reducing the defects, curtailing the deviations etc. Let’s be efficient in the year 2013.
Being efficient is not enough. We can efficiently climb a ladder placed against a wrong wall. Effectiveness is results related. It deals with the outputs and the outcomes. That’s where we need to being with the end in mind. The mistake we do sometimes is trying to be super-duper efficient, losing track of the larger goal. Let’s be effective in the year 2013.
As we know, empathy is getting into others shoes and walking like them. In other words, having the ability to look at a problem or an issue from the other’s frame of view. Sri Lankan managers and administrators can improve vastly on this. Rather than jumping into conclusions merely looking at one side of the story, a mature broad approach of being empathic is required. Let’s be empathic in the year 2013.
We need to be ‘corporate athletes’ in maintaining healthy mind-body balance. Energy flows out not by consuming more ‘energy drinks,’ but committing to exercise regularly. Unfortunately we see quite the contrary in the corporate world, where most of the things are remote-controlled. Finding quality time for physical exercises on a regular basis will be one sure cure for physical inactivity. Having a healthy dietary pattern, in opting to be fit than fat, is another vital need. Let’s be energetic in the year 2013.
Happy employees are productive employees. That’s what the research says. Interestingly, that’s why some enthusiastic enterprises have resorted to measure ‘laughs per hour’. There are ground realities one cannot ignore. Either one has to find the work he/she loves to do, or love the work he/she has to do. Having a positive approach to work is an absolute must. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “do what you can, with what you have, wherever you are”. Let’s be enthusiastic in the year 2013.
“Dare to dream, dare to act, dare to fail, dare to succeed”. So goes an old saying. Everything begins with envisioning. As Walt Disney said, if you can dream it, you can deliver it. Unfortunately we see more ‘day dreams’ in Sri Lankan workplaces, especially after lunch. The need of the hour is to be more growth-oriented in terms of working towards long term goals. Let’s envision in the year 2013.
We need to enhance our knowledge and skills. With the internet as a vast ocean of knowledge offering a variety of informal learning approaches, learning has become a part and parcel of our lives. Unfortunately, we visit the internet to find ‘figures’ instead of ‘facts and figures’. Sharpening ourselves with cutting-edge knowledge is an absolute must in facing competition. As Socrates said a long time ago, we learn from “the womb to the tomb”. Let’s enhance ourselves in the year 2013.
Employee engagement has already become a buzz word in the business circles. It captures the essence of employees’ head, hands and heart involvement in work. It refers to employee’s psychological state (e.g. one’s identification with the organisation), his/her disposition (e.g. one’s positive feeling towards the organisation) and performance (e.g. one’s level of discretionary effort). In brief, it captures affective (feeling), cognitive (thinking) and behavioural (acting) dimensions of an employee. We need to engage more in order to excel. Let’s engage more in the year 2013.
This is essentially about being creative, in thinking ‘out of the box’. It reminds me of what our veteran writer Kumaratunga Munidasa said a long time ago: “A nation without innovation will not prosper, but will lie lamenting, being unable to beg.” Innovation has paved way for many a country to succeed in becoming globally competitive. Where are we with regard to innovation? How many new patents Sri Lankans register annually? Nanotechnology can be sited as one promising area where innovation has begun to yield dividends. Let’s explore in the year 2013.
As Lao Tsu said a long time ago, great leaders are “leader breeders”. Such a transformation can only be possible through empowerment. It involves, on the one hand, delegation, Assigning tasks to others to handle, whilst being accountable. On the other hand, it involves development. The fundamental mistake we do is to simple delegate tasks without developing the team. Let’s empower in the year 2013.
This is all about continuation. We start things with a big bang and discontinue half-way through. Sustainability has become a critical factor in the midst of business failures. Chaotic weather patterns across the globe are a grim reminder that eco-friendly practices of work need a lot more attention. What matters are not only profits and people, but planet as well. Let’s endure in the year 2013.
In a rapidly changing well-connected world, we need to embrace best practices, and perhaps the ‘next’ practices. Take recruitment for an example. Rather than having an interview by a panel of senior members who have no idea about what real interviewing is all about, the time has come to move towards professionalism. There are new techniques to conduct behavioural interviews. Required competencies to a job against actual competencies of a candidate can be accessed through a well-designed assessment centre. The starting point is to acknowledge the need to change in appropriately adapting the new practices. Let’s embrace more in 2013.
This is the subtlest aspect of all. It deals with practicing the values. The numerous stories we heard ranging from global credit crunch to Golden Key chaos, call for the need of ethicality. It is not achieving short-term gains ‘either by hook or by crook,’ but something much deeper, grounded on solid principles. Ethics is difficult to define in a precise way. In a general sense, ethics is the code of moral principles and values that governs the behaviours of a person or a group with respect to what is right or what is wrong. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, says the golden rule of ethics. Let’s emancipate in 2013.
Prosperous 2013 through practicing the 13 Es
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” So said Aristotle a long time ago, which has much relevance for today and tomorrow.
Tom Peters and Robert Waterman wrote the bestselling book, ‘In Search of Excellence,’ way back in 1982. As Peters and Waterman reflected in marking the 20th anniversary of their seminal work, it was all about organisation and people. How best to utilise people to achieve organisational objectives.
At a time when Sri Lanka is progressing in multiple fronts towards excellence, our managers have a greater role to play in contributing their fullest towards national prosperity. The dawn of 2013 offers us another opportunity to have a fresh look at our lives. Embracing the 13 Es will ensure the exceeding of expectations, leading to excellence.
May the 2013 will be a year of excellence for you as an individual, an interactive team member, as well as an institutional employee.
(Dr. Ajantha Dharmasiri is a learner, teacher, trainer, researcher, writer and a thinker in the areas of Human Resource Management and Organisational Behaviour. He is also a regular columnist with the Financial Times, a daily based in Colombo, where this column was originally appeared. He can be reached on ajantha@pim.lk.)

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