Monday, July 03, 2017

Basics to Lead in Any Career: 4 Cs Model

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Many of my students keep asking me - 'How can we improve ourselves; how can we lead in our career; how can we communicate better'. I have grown with similar such questions and found the answer from within. I am sure many of the students pursuing studies and looking for opportunities, many of them in the first phase of their employment and many who toil hard to grow with the organization, might be facing similar such questions. For all of them this small piece might be helpful.

I keep telling the students – ‘You need to concentrate on 4 Cs, viz., Communication, Content, Clarity and Confidence.’ And then we get into some conversation about all these 4 Cs in detail. I have experimented with many of my students over the years. In around three decades of my career and around a decade of growing in school, college and university, I have lived with these 4 Cs and expanded them for the benefit of larger and specific audience as the case may be - for business leaders, teachers and students, entrepreneurs, government officers and civil servants.

First C is Communication. Communication is becoming more and more important these days as workplaces are getting transformed and work behavior is fast changing. Competition is driving expectations and so are the competency challenges. Indira Neoyi of PepsiCo believes in strong power of communication and says that in order to lead a successful life one needs to learn how to communicate well.

It is very important that one is able to communicate what one knows. It is of no use if one is not able to tell others or share one's understanding of issues with others. It is not necessary that one has to be great in verbal communication, one could choose to develop oneself in writing and share what one feels about issues. But it is an advantage if one is good in oral communication as well. Command over language, diction and delivery makes communication effective. Not necessarily that one has to know many languages, but what is important is command of at least one language in which expression is smooth, clear and convincing. People need to love listening to you. Your sense of articulation and comprehension in the best known language must be able to communicate the message that you intent to send to the other person.

Whatever be the case outlet is important, expression is important and that cannot happen until one is good in communication. There are many ways that one can develop good communication skill.
Speaking can never happen in isolation of listening. So the first important step is to lend an ear to others. Listen to people to whom you like listening. Start reading aloud for at least 15 minutes a day. Record what you speak and then play the recording and try finding gaps for improvement. If possible speak in front of a mirror. These are few ways that one can follow to develop better communication skill but it cannot happen in isolation of Content. That is second C.

So in order to communicate well as well as to focus on one's career and life goals, one has to have content. And for having content, one has to invest in the habit of reading, thinking and retaining. As Virginia Wolf correctly said - read thousand books and see the words would flow like river.

Content is primarily knowledge about what one intends, what one has employed oneself in, what one wants to communicate. As Francis Bacon wrote – knowledge is power, one has to develop interest in knowing more and thinking about it and may be if required to make proper notes about it so that one is able to retain what one has learnt. One has to enjoy the power of knowledge by rich and relevant content. I keep telling my young friends that you must develop good friendships so that you can share what you read. By sharing you would be able to retain what you have read. It would hit your cognitive space and get saved in your hard disc with proper encoding. By sharing you make several copies of the message and whenever you need it, it comes handy, your memory drive gets prompted and feeds you.

Content also can come through experiences and notes, discussions and discourses. Make a proper reading list and keep preparing handy notes in order to provide you ready feed. Rich content can be developed through getting little deeper into the issue through research that one is trying to get to know about.

Better content leads you to enjoy confidence and clarity which is must in order to get the message communicated effectively as well as to lead better in career. It is observed at many workplaces that when a particular issue comes, one is referred to a specific person in the organization. It is because of his communication and articulation about his knowledge related to that particular issue in which he/she specializes, in which he/she has developed overtime by acquiring related knowledge and expertise. Can we at least develop ourselves in one such domain that we have edge over others, so that whenever any issue concerning that particular domain comes forward for resolve, all eyes of expectations are directed towards you. It is important as it provides a sense of positivity and being helpful to others.

No career can push you up until you possess good content which could be based on knowledge or skill. One needs to keep working on learning new skills as well as to keep acquiring new knowledge. It is also expected of people to develop new knowledge. I get reminded of what Gary Hamel mentioned in his book entitled - The Leading Revolution, he wrote - you cannot find a new place on an old map. So we need to keep creating new places on the map. We need to create new knowledge for tomorrow.
Organizations always prefer people who have strong sense of learning and are new to new knowledge. Satya Nadella of Microsoft says that he has learned many new things as well as developed better perspectives through attending Coursera. There are companies which ask - what have you learnt in last six months. So having learning attitude and developing content is very important in order to excel in career vis-à-vis life.

Next C is Clarity. Clarity is a very important component for leading better career goals. At times we are faced with a situation when we have lot of information and knowledge but we are not able to package it perfectly. We are full of content but we lack the art of organizing that knowledge or information and do not possess the art of condensing it for a particular use. That is a real challenge.
Packaging is a skill not many concentrate on. But it is very important as it makes the audience or receivers develop interest in what one is intending to share or communicate. Packaging the content is such a way that it connects with the audience and convinces them. It works as a link between content and intent. As mentioned earlier it is not important to know everything, what is important it to be able to communicate what one knows. That is where clarity helps.

Organizing the thoughts with appropriate choice of content makes you a confident communicator. In order to have clarity one has to plan what one is going to speak or write about. It is always better to look and relook at the intent of communication, the nature and background of audience, and the message that needs to be communicated. This planning shall help one to get organized better and to have clarity of thought. Many a times we come across people having lot of data and information but they fail to communicate what they intent because of lack of clarity in intent and expected outcome. So apart from getting clear idea as to what is the emphasis of message, one has to also comprehend expected outcome at the end of the expression which would further strengthen clarity and boost the confidence of communicator.

When one is planning one’s career, one has to have fair idea of what one intends to pursue. One has to look at one’s long term life goal and accordingly has to plan course of action accordingly. Clarity helps in marrying career goal with life goal. Clarity of purpose combined with the meaningfulness of efforts has to move together in order to drive the process further. Many a times the nature of work and physical stress builds pressure and results in creating confusion which disturbs clarity; many a time unnecessary interventions and external engagements distract focus. This is where one has to have some system of getting prompted through warning signal so that conscious decision may be taken to build clarity and dust out confusion. Taking a pause from work and spending time with near and dear ones might provide freshness. Spending time with oneself, may be through some small meditation sessions might help build clarity better.

After one is able to know the language in which one shall express oneself, the concentration would be on content and clarity as mentioned above. But the communication shall not be effective if it is not put forth confidently. Also it is important to be confident about oneself, about what one speaks, what one does and what one aspires. So the next and the forth C which needs to be concentrated is Confidence.

One builds confidence through language command, proper backup of content and clarity of message and intent. However it is also seen many a times that one lacks confidence when it comes to body language and the way one carries oneself. It is much to do with the comfort level of the person. Just one small spot in your dress that only you are aware of, shall pull you down when it comes to interacting with others. So wear the best suitable and comfortable dress that you possess, carry yourself in a very easy and composed way. It does not matter whether you are wearing the costliest and most fashionable brand or a local brand, what is important is how comfortable you feel in what way you are carrying yourself.

The way you walk, the way you talk, the way you smile, the way you laugh, the way you respond, the way you articulate, everything contributes to your communication of confidence. You should be confident about yourself and about the content that you are going to get across to others. Your comfort level with audience shall also determine your confidence level. Your knowledge about audience and their knowledge about you shall help you build a connection with them. Talking eye to eye is considered best when talking one on one but when the size of audience is larger it is equally important that one is able to involve through the movement of the eyeballs with people sitting at different places. It portrays your confidence about what you are communicating.

Confidence is the key for building one's career and achieving greater heights. Content is the prime driver of confidence and your personality is the secondary factor to build confidence. As they say - personality is the sum total of habits. One needs to work on developing good habits which provide you positive energy and help you build confidence. It is better to spend time on nurturing at least a hobby which provides positivity and helps in building confidence. In order to be confident one has to practice, rehearse and do mock tests. One must avoid interacting with negative people and should develop art of controlling emotions. At times it so happens that by just one small intervention, one loses confidence and spoils the whole show. One has to be very careful about it. That is where it becomes important that one is thorough with the content and has fair idea about the action that he/she is going to take. One has to believe that there is no shortcut and opportunities do not knock always. It is the practice which makes the man perfect.
So young friends next time when you are faced with trouble in dealing with yourself, look around and see whether you are able to communicate better. Work on these 4 Cs and experiment for some time and see whether you are able to move ahead in life and career or not.
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