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January 30, 2018

26 ways to success - V for Value - " Being Valuable – Excellence is not an act it is a Habit " article published in The Hans India on 1st July 2016

Being Valuable – Excellence is not an act it is a Habit

Each one of us wants to be indispensable. Everywhere.  At home, in the college, at work and in our friends’ hearts. We want to be labeled - valuable. It is now very common to have the most valuable player contest in any sport competition. The most valuable player is one who was most indispensable and who make that tournament his own irrespective of who won the title. The 2016 IPL will always be remembered for the exploits of Virat Kohli, the most valuable player. 

There is a huge difference between being a decent worker and being a valued employee. Most people fall short of expectations. People are generally judged on the basis of their potential, and only a small percentage actually meets or exceeds the ideal. Let us look at examples of how employees added value to their job.  

A customer walks into a shoe shop. He is distraught and fuming. He throws a shoe box at the sales person and screams “you gave me size 9 when I wanted a 9.5”. The sales person calmly picks up the shoe box and the sales receipt and disappears into the store. Fifteen minutes later he comes back and handles the irate customer a package and says “Sorry for the inconvenience sir, here are your 9.5 size shoes” Still muttering and visibly annoyed the customer storms off. The supervisor who was privy to the scene enquires “what took you so long? The customer was creating a ruckus”.

The sales person smiled “sir, our store does not stock odd size shoes and we never sold this pair.  I nipped across to our other store (located almost two kilometers away) and brought the odd size shoes for the customer. I did not want the customer to go home unhappy”.

The salesman was an epitome of what an employee should do. He went an extra mile to see that the customer went home with the right product. Please note that the customer was not happy at the end of the transaction, but the job was done.  It is immaterial whether someone appreciates the good work or not. Valuable employees work first for themselves and in that process make life better for everyone around them.

I had worked as a faculty member at a well-known university, Bahirdar in Ethiopia. Bahirdar is the birthplace of the Nile, the longest river in the world. My Ethiopian students were intelligent articulate and studious. But there was a problem. They were so poor that they could not afford to buy text books and the library did not stock enough books. I quickly worked around the problem. There was a cyclostyling facility that was available in the university.  Most teachers used this facility very sparingly. They would use it only to distribute course outlines or to set question papers. I took it upon myself to prepare elaborate study material running sometimes into hundreds of pages. I got it cyclostyled and gave free copies to all my students.

That was not the end. Bahirdar university had many extension programmes (part time programmes) and there was paucity of material. So along with the free cyclostyling for my students, 50 more sets were cyclostyled. These fifty sets were bound into sturdy books at my cost and given to the library. This was done for all the sixteen courses taught by me. A recent communication with the librarian made me very happy. The librarian told me that the study material was still very popular.  Many Ethiopian students were very curious about the Indian Teacher who took so much effort and care to add value to their library. It is great to be remembered in Bahirdar University even after 10 years of leaving! I added value to the University and got remembered. The following are the things practiced by people deemed valuable by their organization.

1.      They do more than expected: Like we say in marketing they “delight”. Valuable employees are known to delight the organization. They deliver more than what is expected.  In the bygone era, sales people were expected only to book the orders and the rest of the functions were handled by others. Now-a-days a salesman is a solution provider. He is all pervasive and has to take care of all the sales functions including customer care and being the company’s face 24x7. They have become all-rounders adept at doing multiple tasks successfully. They possess multiple skills and can seamlessly move from one job to another.

2.    They continuously upgrade themselves: Valuable people are willing to unlearn and relearn new things. Most of the time technology and the way things are done are continuously changing. Yesterday’s skills are redundant today and they move on and adapt to new skills all the time.

3.  They are great trainers and great motivators: Not only are valuable people great at upgrading themselves they help others to grow too. They are wonderful trainers and take great pleasure in bringing up others.  They tend to look at the bigger picture. Steve Jobs had said “Employ smarter people than yourself if you want your company to be great”. It takes lots of gumption and guts to accept that someone else is better than you!

4.      They are the first to accept new assignments: They do not wait to be asked. They volunteer on their own. Eager beavers, ever smiling, ever approachable, they are the life line for any organization. They can brighten up a meeting with their positiveness and go getter attitude.  

5.    They do not complain and move ahead in life: They live in the present and don’t dwell in the past. The past is a history and the present is a gift. They do not have massive egos. They are willing to subordinate themselves as long as the group goal is achieved. They believe that the end result is more important than the process. It is not that they don’t believe in the process. They are looking to fine-tune the process so that more can be achieved economically and with less effort.

6.      They are often the first to spot changes:  They read a lot and are good researchers. They are the first to spot the change and adapt to it. One of my friends was the first to envisage the IT boom in the late eighties itself. He quickly learnt Information Technology and ploughed a successful career for himself in the sunrise IT sector.

7.    They are proactive and not reactive: Reactive people react to situations. Valuable people are proactive people who anticipate issues and tackle them. They are neither problem creators nor problem finders. They are problem solvers and even better very adept at seeing that the problem does not occur in the first place. For example Southwest airlines personnel are adept at spotting customer unrest and nipping it in the bud before the unrest snowballs into a major controversy.

8.   Quick at decision making: Good thinkers and risk takers, valuable employees are quick at decision making. They do not procrastinate and take decisions as fast as possible. Yes some of the decisions might go wrong but that is the chance that all valuable employees take. It is better to have ventured do something and do it, rather than not doing it at all. One of my regional sales manager once quipped “It is better to ask the customers for an order as fast as possible. What is the worst thing that might happen? He might say no”.

But there is a continuum between a NO or a YES and there are many other options that are possible. Termed a trail close, asking for an order early in the selling process is a very good way of testing waters. If the customer is willing to bite the bait (willing to buy) why waste time? If the customer wants more information he would ask.

9.     They are effective rather than just being efficient: There is a significant difference between effectiveness and efficiency. Efficiency is doing the right things and effectiveness is doing things right. Most employees are efficient. They do what is expected of them. Nothing more, nothing less. Whereas valuable employees do things right. They not only execute what is expected, they add value to what they do. They make their own life and the life of all others around them better. That way the organisation benefits.

10. They are ready to accept that they have failed. They are willing to accept the failure and learn the lessons of failure and don’t repeat the same mistakes. The difference between a wise man and a fool is very subtle. A Wise man does not commit the same mistake twice where as a fool keeps repeating the same.  

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