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Redefining Benchmarks

champion in an entrepreneur
The Champion In An Entrepreneur
February 12, 2018
Becoming A Leader
February 12, 2018

I was at times dismissed as a student for asking questions in class. Some teachers, during middle years till even undergrad, did not like me much as I was not the ‘best’ student. I was never part of the race for academic grades.

Eight years after completing my undergraduate degree from a recognized private engineering school, I went back to the institute. But this time, I was performing a different role. I was an ‘instructor’ (I prefer being termed as a ‘mentor’ though).

The ‘rules’ I have in my classes are different than what I was expected to observe back in the old days or students still are adhering to in other courses.

Snacks are allowed in class. I engage them in discussions and facilitate them to derive a conclusion. I believe they must be given enough ‘comfort’ or ‘relaxed’ environment if they are to learn. There are no points for attendance. Instead, the student who misses a class is invited to have dinner with me J. Since, I am not very ‘likeable’, kids prefer to attend the session instead!

Moving to the other side of the table, besides enabling me to empathize with the students, has at least taught me ‘what not to do as a teacher’. At times, that means changing the set benchmarks.

The discussion is re-marked. By posing discussion questions that have a larger scope than just the theoretical implication and have no definite ‘correct’ answers in black or white only, I encourage the students to think outside the box. Learnings that cannot be unlearnt will only act as a hindrance in their lives as it will make them stay within their comfort zone.

Being in ‘control’ of the national future, as the students are to take control of in the next ten years, we must empower them today to explore, so they can surpass that benchmark. The ability to think places them at a higher level playing field as human cognition is ‘tested’ in a more effective way. 

The next step in life is the shift from student life to the professional world. And the transition is usually not as was expected, certainly not as smooth! The ‘real’ world welcomes with surprises, setbacks and at times with a strike at our ego. Most of us are not in a position to respond and therefore, the monotonous and often disappointing cycle of a corporate life begins. A ‘worker’ is what is left of us.

As seniors in our professional roles, we must move sides around the table occasionally to realize the circumstances of those ‘dependent’ on us for we are supposed to ‘lead’ them.

I am sincerely thankful to my first supervisor at professional work for teaching me the essential of being an effective ‘manager’ – always remaining a ‘human’! I learnt ‘what not to do’ as a manager from him.

Empowerment does not mean overloading a team member with work but respecting his skill set and delegating work accordingly so the member with the skill set most suitable is handed over the work. Put simply, it’s about having the right person for the right work. As a manager, you must give enough space to your team member so that he explores, innovates and therefore, exceeds his own expectations. It is only then that the pre-set benchmark can be ‘raised’.

The motivators, intrinsic or extrinsic, are usually not uniform in a team. Therefore, to bring all on the same page, I usually create a common goal that all work towards achieving. A dream like picture is painted where each has a ‘perfect’ role to perform. The ‘benchmark’ is attaining that goal not for an individual but for the collective good.

As a result, the benchmark is by default ‘raised’ for the new entrants. They enter with the understanding that a manual may not always be provided and they are expected to explore new ways.

In the role of a manager or leader, you must act in accordance with facilitating the new benchmark. Reduce distractions for your team members so they may become more focused and work with absolute clarity.

Speaking of clarity and focus, these two elements need to be present in our collective acts as a society too if we are to grow and become great. Competition is usually taken to be ‘threatening’ and therefore, we strategize to ‘eradicate’ the opponents. Does that add value to the result you offer?

A more effective strategy would be to enhance the internal controls and re-define benchmarks so you become ‘better’ than your opponents; become the market lead and set higher standards for others to follow and learn; and evolve to strengthen, re-define standards and have an impact.


Photo Credits: Cam Adams on Unsplash