25 Apr 2019 18:48 IST

Learn, accomplish and keep growing

A blend of academic knowledge with management and leadership skills will help you achieve key goals

Benjamin Franklin, in Poor Richard’s Almanack, wrote, “There are three things extremely hard — steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” Predicting change is very difficult these days in the VUCA environment because everything becomes more connected and complex, be it political, economic, social, technological, environmental or legal issues. All these increasingly complex factors mean that, to be successful, a sharp focus on self-development is imperative.

To keep yourself competitive, acquiring and fine-tuning behavioural, management and leadership competencies are critical. Core academic skills with a high CGPA alone will not suffice; millennials also need to develop skills in multiple domains, such as cognitive, interpersonal, intra-personal, core values and leadership attributes. But the current education system is highly focused on developing chiefly the core technical/vocational skills (hard skills) allowing minimal time for the millennials to develop the essential skills they need to face real-world challenges confidently.

Michigan State University emphasises on continuous, ongoing self-development to achieve ideal effectiveness, as formal education only imparts specific knowledge and information that can be communicated in words, demonstrated, or logically deduced.

The Wheebox India report (2018) highlights the need to acquire skills relating to cognitive abilities, systems, complex problem-solving, content, and social — all of which will be key requirements across industries.

What is expected of you?

The corporate, business and industrial sectors require a blend of management and leadership skills to ensure excellence in performance and achievement of key deliverables.

The widening industry-academia skill gap emphasises obtaining the desirability of value-added qualifications beyond the core area of work/study, especially if one is to become a domain expert. Individuals who have the urge to constantly upskill themselves professionally will always have the edge, be it at the workplace or in business.

Develop yourself

It will help to asses oneself regularly, in order to understand one’s innate potential, recognise key strengths and identify areas needing further work. Development is a long journey in which you may need a mentor/coach to guide and travel along to help you reach your goals. Mentoring is a process which goes back to ancient times, as told in our epics. Some illustrious mentors are Dronacharya and Krishna for Arjuna, Chanakya for Chandragupta Maurya, and, in the recent years, Vikram Sarabhai for APJ Abdul Kalam, and Ramakant Achrekar for Sachin Tendulkar.

Mentors are capable of bringing about a tremendous transformation in one’s capabilities and performance, by setting and achieving short-, mid- and long-term goals.

Associate with a professional network within your domain to be updated with the latest happenings, innovation and techniques in your field. Acquire hands-on skills by enrolling in workshops, events and relevant training programmes. Share your know-how with peers to polish yourself.

Are there proven ways to develop?

The world’s leading consulting firms, such as McKinsey, Deloitte, Accenture, and BCG; leadership development gurus such as Zenger Folkman; and such organisations as CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel Development) and SHRM, have designed many case studies in grooming people for high performance organisations. Accenture’s ‘cross-training’ delivers multiple learning experiences with a focus on reinforcing various areas of competencies.

Among the many ways to effectively achieve the blend of skill-sets is to make a plan in alignment with your goals, committing yourself to certain time-bound goals. Set a SMART objective (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time) and ensure all necessary information is available. Act with determination to succeed. Challenges are common and you should develop the perseverance to face the challenges confidently without giving up. If your efforts are not yielding the desired results, it is time to seek the support of a mentor and work for the best possible solutions.

Adapt changes, lead others

Continuous benchmarking will make you realise how effective and updated you are. Adapt to changes and strive for excellence. This will bring rewards and recognition.

On achieving the above, you should then be prepared to lead others. The blend of your domain expertise coupled with business, behavioural and leadership skills are essential components of your journey to success.

A classic example is of a mechanical engineering graduate who decided to pursue MBA immediately after graduation. After completion, the candidate got the dream job with a handsome salary. In the third year of his job, reality started haunting him, with a feeling of dissatisfaction at the lack of growth in his career, which left him dejected.

Luckily, an experienced colleague, after a long discussion, identified the innate passion of the candidate and identified that the problem was the wrong choice of career. Acting as a mentor, he guided the candidate on to the right path, and the candidate put in the right efforts and achieved tremendous success in the next seven years.

Skill development should be holistic and aligned to reality if it should lead to success. Enrolling in long-term development programmes that offer a blend of assessment, mentoring, e-learning and individualised teaching will give you that edge you seek.

(The writers are part of Talentpepz.com, a web portal focusing on holistic development of the younger generation with new-age skills.)