I had just joined British Telecom after my London Business School MBA. MBA was a lesson in humility for me, but there are levels in that too – so, when the time came to lead my first ever workshop to identify root cause issues of incidents, I was super elated. It was a three-day workshop with five other people who were probably working even before I was born or was in school.
I prepared for the workshop with a plan stating that we should have covered X number of items by lunch. Now, I am grateful that I have some skill at reading the room, and I got the sense that something was missing. I tried to push through items, but it was hard either because people wanted to talk about other things or were dependent on information that would take days to get.
At the end of the first day, I was frustrated and told my boss about how the day went. I was expecting feedback on how I could make it more efficient; instead, my boss, who had years of experience, just said, ‘this will be a good bonding exercise.’ The second day, I had no plan, so I just let the meeting go how it wanted to go and enjoyed listening to their stories, just hanging out. And guess what? We got a lot more done in the next two days. And I remember one of them commenting at some point, ‘Now, you are thinking like one of us.’ I remember inwardly thinking – never, I have an MBA; this is not how things work. Fast forward, those meeting attendees turned out to be my best friends at work – my first ever network.
And I had learnt my first corporate lesson without even knowing – that things go at a certain pace, and if you want to accelerate it, you have to start at that pace. And there are many such lessons that I imbibed naturally at BT watching others. And I am very grateful for that because what it did was humbled my ego into the stark realization that sometimes you cannot do what you want, and you have to do what is possible, however small it might be. If you think about this – it is an important life lesson. Sometimes in life, you are pushed into a corner, and the only thing you can do is swallow your pride, ideas and do what is needed at the moment – in the NOW.
I watched the Bollywood movie – Newton about elections in a remote tribal village in India with terrorist activity. The election officer is very new and wants to do the right thing. The police officer is experienced and doesn’t want any trouble. And villagers themselves have never heard of the people they are expected to vote on. Interesting use case, right! one of the election officers is a local, and she says, ‘Change does not happen overnight – they have lived their lives with terrorists and police day in, day out.’ Sometimes the only way to bring about change is to join them.
What change are you trying to bring about? Are they ready for a change, or is it better for you to join them first?