Article (July-2017)


Mini pearls of wisdom…

Anita S Guha

Designation : -   VIO Talent Advisor

Organization : -  IBM India Limited, Bangalore


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It is an honour to be in such august company. If I've achieved anything, it is truly thanks to the people that surround and support me. And so, today, I want to share some of the mini pearls of wisdom that I have gleaned from them over the last couple of decades in the corporate world. Through this, I hope I can help you avoid the mistakes I committed and see further by standing on my shoulders. There are three core suggestions I would like to make: (1) Nurture your identity, (2) Believe in yourself, and (3) Find joy in what you do.

Nurture Your Identify:
All of us has an identity along with multiple roles. At its essence, our identity is the answer to the question, "Who am I?" - a question that will probably take us an entire lifetime to answer. On a more practical level, I can become aware of facets of my Identity by paying attention to the things I enjoy doing. It could be a hobby or interest. I like music and enjoy singing with a choir. I like philosophy and contemporary poetry. These were not subjects in which I majored in college but through MOOCs (massive open online courses) I have had a chance to indulge my fascination for them. Enjoying something for no reason, save the joy and fulfilment it gives you, is probably a clue that you're in the 'identity ballpark'.

If identity is the core at the centre of a circle that represents my being; then my multiple roles make up its circumference. These roles are varied for each of us. Mine include the role of mother, wife, IBMer, learning professional, talent advisor, church member, leader, sister, daughter and friend. We do service to fulfil our roles - as a mother, I take care of my child/ren; as an IBMer, I fulfil my checkpoint goals; as a daughter, I look out for the well-being of my parent/s, and so on. And there is some reciprocity in the service though in some cases, I may give more than I receive; in others, the opposite may apply.

Women have a tendency to neglect the Identity in favor of the multiple roles. We put all our energy into being the good mother, the good daughter, the good employee, etc., and then, we wonder why we feel so enervated at the end of each day. We don't realize that if we give time to fulfill the needs of the self, the identity, we will have the energy to service our multiple roles. So when I say, "Nurture Your Identity," it is not a call to be selfish, it is a necessary part of strengthening your core. I am reminded of the instruction provided when you are getting ready to take off in an aircraft. Are you told to first place the oxygen mask on the child sitting next to you? No! First you must give yourself oxygen; only then can you help another. Nurturing your identity is like taking in oxygen - it is essential to your wellbeing and enables you to also fulfil your multiple roles!

Believe in Yourself
You will be surprised at how listening to the negative self talk that we carry within, can pull us down. I am my worst critic but I have learned to consciously counter that negative tendency. We need to give ourselves and our colleagues positive strokes. It doesn't take a huge effort; positive thinking is often the key to overcoming the obstacles that come in our path and to winning the battles ahead.

Building Relationships & Influence is a workshop I facilitate for IBM women worldwide. Its objective is to help high potential women leaders aspire to executive roles. In the workshop, we introduce the character of the "crow" - that negative inner voice that pulls us down. Women tend to give more credence to that voice and, unfortunately, it diminishes us. We must learn to shoot that crow or replace it with positive self-talk that reinforces our self worth.

Believing in yourself also implies taking responsibility. As someone aptly shared, "it's not the glass ceiling, but the sticky floor!" Rather than complain about the obstacles that come in our path (the glass ceiling), we need to recognize when we might be unwittingly limiting our own power (let's get off the sticky floor!). Finally, you must surround yourself with cheerleaders who encourage you to practice believing in yourself!

Find joy in what you do:
The traditional imperative is to do what you enjoy. But I've learned that there will always be some part of our work that may not be the greatest fun. And it's possible to choose to find joy in it. I said "choose to find joy" and it bears repeating. The motivational speaker, Leo Buscalgia, said: "Love is a verb". It may sound trite but when we get stuck thinking that love is a feeling, we keep waiting for that feeling to happen. But feelings are ephemeral. As soon as we accept that love is a verb, it becomes an action word that requires an active commitment to make it real. And as true as this principle is for our relationships, so, at our work, we can choose to love and find joy in what we do. This is especially important in the context of a VUCA world: our careers can take many twists and turns. Using the metaphor of the jungle gym versus the corporate ladder helps us to embrace change versus fearing it and thereby, to find joy in what we do.

Following these three mini pearls of wisdom, I will conclude with where I began: to thank all those around me - my amazing family (husband, mother-in-law and my parents, daughters, siblings), my hardworking bai's (cleaning women, cooks, and children's nanny, now retired), my trusting managers (who helped me to stretch, to learn, and to grow), and my colleagues and my friends (who continually cheer me on).

About the Author

A Harvard graduate with a proven track record driving growth and transformation by influencing organizational culture, Anita SinaiGuha's experience spans a range of industries and locations including public sector, pharmaceutical, shipping, beverages, & Information Technology in India, Japan, & Austria. Formerly a member of the Tata Administrative Services, management cadre of the Tata Group, Anita has demonstrated strong capabilities to lead global teams, effectively implementing complex strategies that require interlock with stakeholders & clients, inspired teams to excellent results & performance, while finding areas of improvement & efficiencies. Currently, Anita is the Talent Advisor of the Virtually Integrated Chief Information Office at IBM based in Bangalore, India.