Friday, August 10, 2012

Opportunities of excellence are missed due to ignorance

Let us compare case of Pravin and Angad. Here is a case of Pravin:

Pravin passed out as BSc graduate in 2004. After lot of attempts, he got his first job with a very big FMCG distributor as a Sales supervisor for an entire district near Mumbai. It involved going to different towns in the district, talking with sales representatives about their order situation, ensuring that the stocks are full in the retail outlets, ensuring that distributor is fulfilling the retail orders in time. The job involved visiting all main towns in a district and therefore involved travelling 22 days in a week. He worked for this company for 3 years. He left this company in 2008 and did a course of one year in Communication design. He is working in Web design now at the same salary.

Here is a case of Angad:

Angad passed out as BSc graduate in 2005. After lot of attempts, he worked for another big FMCG distributor in the same district as Pravin with similar responsibilities. Worked for 3 years. Changed the job to another FMCG distributor in the same distrifct with bare 10% increase in salary, but more responsibilities. Worked 3 years in the new job. He was sent for a short training program on retail management in 2011. In 2012, he got an offer from a big distributor in Mumbai at almost double the salary and with further more responsibilities. 

Why did Pravin missed the opportunity of producing excellence that Angad cashed on? If you can understand the invisible forces operating in the above cases ( i have purposely taken examples which are similar to each other), you will have learnt one of the most important lesson of career building ( or rather potential unfolding). So let us dwell on this and understand it better. 

To enable you to see the invisible forces, please understand the cycle of excellence before reading further

First step of Excellence : Choosing the potential skill set to focus

Both Pravin and Angad did not get the freedom of choosing 'which job to take' after their graduation. This normally happens due to two reasons: one, because the opportunities in the market are limited for a graduate, or when one is not sure of what potential he/she has in which area. Second reason is often the more dominant reason. The understanding of data to knowledge conversion is so inadequate in most individuals, that one is not aware of what 'potential skills' should one choose to unfold. Because one is not adequately prepared, one is forced to take up any opportunity that falls in one's lap. In this situation, we chose the first option that comes our way. 

In other words, we allow ourselves to follow a unfolding path offered by the market. Surprisingly, I have also observed some professionals who managed to make the most of the opportunity that comes their way. We will later understand why some can do this and why some cannot. 

Second step of Excellence cycle: Utilising the opportunities to strengthen the chosen potential skill set

There is big difference between Pravin and Angad in the second step: the step of utilising the opportunities to strengthen the potential area. While Pravin could not 'utilise' all the opportunities, Angad could do so. I have observed that a professional can tap his potential when he learns to understand and use the metasystem he is working and exploit the interconnections of it

For instance, Angad managed to help sales representatives to find more easier way of selling to retailers, because he understood the economics of retailers. Similarly, because he understood the economics of distributor better, he also could help the retailers. His ability to see and tie the interconnections between the various stakeholders - retailers, distributors, sales representatives - helped him perform in his job. On the other hand, Pravin complained about the 'difficult' retailers, 'impossible' distributors, and 'selfish' sales representatives. When a person cannot 'see and use the interconnections' , you will often find him blaming the 'people' behind the roles. Pravin was not aware of the basic lesson of systems thinking: People are not 'black or white', the roles make them black and white. 

Third step of Excellence cycle : Sticking to chosen potential skills for a long enough time 

Angad stuck to the domain of 'Sales management' long enough ( 3 plus 3 years) to convert his potential strength into some useful marketable 'skill'. Even though, he changed the employer with practically no raise, he stuck to his skill set of sales management. On the other hand, Pravin gave up in 3 years and moved to another skill. Ability to stick on one  skill set  is determined by one's ability to Regulate one's Self. 

Regulating Self also enables one to focus on something even when one is disappointed. For instance, i was surprised to find that Angad disliked the job of Sales as much as Pravin disliked it. But some professionals like Angad, despite being forced in a job which they do not like, still manage their "Self" smartly and stick to a chosen path for sufficiently long time to 'tap' their potential.


In early stages of career, it is important that one develops some 'marketable skill' quickly enough to 'unfold one's potential'. Angad is therefore right in his approach. Even though he may chose to leave 'sales domain' in the future, his ability to create a marketable skill early enough will allow him to 'identify and chose other potential' later.

On the other hand, Pravin, by choosing to shift his domain after 3 years has created a bigger problem for himself. After three years, he was not having a marketable skill on which he could bank. By choosing another domain after 3 years, he has reset the clock to Zero. He again has to 'tap' his new potential in Communication Design. If he fails in tapping it, he will have to again reset the clock to zero. As time passes, other pressure start building on: the pressure of marriage, the pressure of other's expectations, pressure of falling behind others. This pressure make it harder to regulate Self and therefore make it even more difficult to 'focus' on a potential path. Without focus, one fails to build a marketable skill. Bigger journey of unfolding of potential strength will never commence for him ! Even though for Pravin, he has chosen a wrong potential to unfold, his journey has started.

At what stage are you in your career? Are you on the journey of unfolding your potential strength or you still moving from one job to another with no idea of your potential strength?  Where are you stuck up? Is it at the first step or second step? Or is it the third step, where you know what you want to do, but cannot move from older potential area to a newer potential area? 

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