Category Archives: Customer Centricity
There are some buzzwords which will not go out of fashion in the business / corporate world. “THOUGHT LEADERSHIP” is one of them. When I first heard the word more than a decade ago at the start of my professional career, I was in “awe” as the word sounded important and impressive.
My first thoughts were “Don’t we all have a zillion thoughts zooming in our minds every single day, so what qualifies for thought leadership? How can anyone demonstrate leadership with their thoughts? Who decides that it is thought leadership? How does one demonstrate thought leadership?”
With time and experience, I found these answers. Today, “Thought Leadership” is an integral part of my professional responsibilities.
And here’s the thing|
1) It is still in vogue to be associated with this “T” word or / and have it in your professional resume
2) It is still important and impressive to an individual / organization
According to Wikipedia, the term ‘Thought Leadership’ was coined in 1994 by Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of the Booz & Co magazine Strategy & Business, and used to designate interview subjects for that magazine who had business ideas which merited attention
“Thought Leadership is simply about becoming an authority on relevant topics by delivering the answers to the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience.” By Michael Brenner
I think Thought Leadership is many times about asking the RIGHT QUESTIONS too. In fact many times the questions are more important than the answers – as they get one to think and provide the direction for your strategy and plans.
“Thought leadership should be an entry point to a relationship. Thought leadership should intrigue, challenge, and inspire even people already familiar with a company. It should help start a relationship where none exists, and it should enhance existing relationships.” By Daniel Rasmus
I fully concur with this definition. The only thing is that very many times “Thought leadership” is incidental or accidental, and consequently so are the relationships which is possibly and probably not a good space / place to be in for any business.
According to a Forbes article,
“A thought leader is an individual or firm that prospects, clients, referral sources, intermediaries and even competitors recognize as one of the foremost authorities in selected areas of specialization, resulting in its being the go-to individual or organization for said expertise.”
“A thought leader is an individual or firm that significantly profits from being recognized as such.”
I agree with this view. The most challenging part is to become a Thought Leader, or the big HOW? I’m not so sure if Thought Leadership always results (directly) in increased profitability. It can – provided it is marketed / positioned well, and reaches the right audience / reader.
Wikipedia says that “Thought leadership is often used as a way of increasing or creating demand for a product or service. High tech firms will often publish white papers with analysis of economic benefits of the product as a form of marketing”
Agreed! It is really about putting your voices and views in the marketplace and promoting it on multiple online / offline channels that your prospects view.
Why is Thought Leadership important today?
Simply because it is a competitive marketplace and every individual / organization has several thoughts on a periodic basis. Establishing “continuous leadership” on your thoughts is a direct testimonial to the kind of team that you have and a clear ‘market message’ that nurturing and sharing these thoughts is important to you / your team and your organization. Thought Leadership can sometimes be your one and only “key differentiators” in the GTM (Go-To-Market) Strategy. Hence it is imprative for organizations to build, nurture and demonstrate “Thought Leadership”
How to demonstrate Thought Leadership?
With your content. With you communications. With your conversations (online / offline)
Who should drive Thought Leadership?
The beauty of Thought Leadership is that it
Integrates with a SME (Subject Matter Expert)
Integrates with content and social media functions
Integrated with marketing functions
Integrated with Leadership
And so it really is a collective collaborative constructive responsibility of an individual / team / organization to showcase / demonstrate Thought Leadership over a period of time.
And lastly who determines it to be “Thought Leadership”?
This is a tricky one since it depends on who is the addressable market for your offerings / solutions / services / products and who is the (potential) target customer. What may be “Thought Leadership” to one may not be “Thought Leadership” to another. The point is that there should be an “industry / community / group” of experts who “publicly” ratify a thought as “Thought Leadership”…
Agree / Disagree? Leave a comment to let me know
Let’s start with questions | Are you 30+? When did you last learn something new?
Some of you may respond with all your wisdom by saying “everyday” as there is learning in every experience, and every day is a new beginning. Indeed that’s true. You can learn from people, observations, interactions, reading, mistakes, emotions, thoughts, actions, events, conversations, social media (FaceBook, Twitter, et al.), books, food, movies and life itself. It all depends on your thirst for learning, your ability to assimilate and absorb the lessons from everyday experiences and internalize these learning’s.
Some of you may respond with silence.
Let me now modify the question | Are you 30+? When did you last learn something new ‘formally’?
The vast majority would respond with a silence. This was my response too last year. Looking back at my own life, after I completed my management education at IIMB way back in 2006, I’ve not really formally learned anything new!
Here’s the thing | For many of us who are 30+, you are somewhat settled into things and an everyday way of life. Life pretty much revolves around work / career and family / friends. There’s really no time for anything else – especially if you are a woman or a working woman or a working mother!
Being a working mother myself, I was no different. However, the silence bothered me for a long time and I decided to take action. So here’s what I did. One, I enrolled for a paid professional technical certification exam. This meant intensive reading, learning something new and a tough examination to crack. Thankfully, I cleared and that enhanced my knowledge and resumeJ. That done, I registered for a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) on Social Media Analytics. Being online and self-paced with only an end date to meet, this was again a great learning experience for me. The good part was that it also had an online assessment and I was awarded a certificate at the end of the course. Lastly, I took up a structured course on “Creativity”. And I loved it!
The whole practice of “formal learning” has been a wonderful personal experience over the past few months [apart from the fact that it also inspired this post :)]
So what did I learn from all these experiences?
You learn because you really want to learn – Up until you are 30, you mostly learn because you have to learn and because you don’t really have a choice. But for most of us after 30, formal learning actually becomes a matter of true personal choice. So you can learn what you love and what you really want to learn. And there is immense joy and great personal satisfaction in learning a subject you are deeply passionate about.
One of my closest friends wanted to learn a musical instrument formally for years but it just never happened. Now in her mid-30’s, she is well settled in her career and life and decided to take this up. So she enrolled into one of the best music institutes in the world to pursue her quest for this learning. At this phase of life, you can afford to fund your own learning and you may be able to afford the best-in-class teachers and best-in-class institutes. Looking back at my own life, I can definitely say that learning from the masters in any field is truly unique and an unparalleled experience. And if you can afford it, then it is worth your time and money!
There are so many things to learn – Whenever I speak to my peers and friends well in their 30+’s about formal learning, many of them ask me “But what to learn?” followed by “How to learn and Where is the time?”. I had these questions too. But as I discovered over the past few months there are just so many things you can learn “formally” based on your personal interest, even after you turn 30.
Let me list down things you can learn (apart from the things you need to learn for your career / work) – Cooking, Driving, Painting, Photography, Doing make-up, Puppet-Making, Pottery, Baking, Dancing, A musical instrument, A sport, Yoga, Aerobics, Calligraphy, Sketching, Caricature, Writing, Programming, Stoy-Telling, Marketing, Social Media, Public Speaking, Communication, Personal Grooming, Management, Magic, New Languages, Designing, Technology . You name it, and you can learn it – both offline / online. For e.g.: 10 years back who would have thought that the common Indian could learn dance from Madhuri Dixit. Today, you can from her online dance school Dance With Madhuri.
Another childhood friend of mine has always loved art and paintings but never got around to take this up seriously. Now that she is well into her 40’s, has teenage boys who are independent and is the Vice President of an international bank, she dedicates her week-ends to her art-work. She has a home tutor who teaches and guides her in her learning process. When I recently saw some of her paintings I was blown over! Each one of them was a true masterpiece.
There is value in formal learning – The best part of “formal learning” is you actually learn within a stipulated time-frame. So your knowledge base expands and your comprehension of old and new things is significantly increased. Of course, you can informally learn lot of things, and I don’t discount it at all. But for many of us in this phase of life, the challenge is that we start with great gusto and are just not able to keep up with the informal / self-learning for an extended period of time even if we are deeply passionate about the subject. So if you learn formally you are more focused and do make/ take out the time .The icing on the cake is that if you are awarded a certificate of course completion that is definitely a feather in your cap.
Now I know that value is personal and subjective, and to each his / her own. But there is something else that I do know for sure – Formal learning can add value to your resume, to others perception of you and most importantly, to your own perception of yourself. All three matter and do make a difference in the long run.
Learning provides opportunities for building new friendships and networking – In your 30’s, I can’t decide which is harder – making friends or keeping friends. Both have their issues and challenges, and many of us let-go of friendships and after a point we wonder who our friends really are!
One of the best things about formal learning in your 30’s is that you get to meet and interact with new people who have an interest in a common subject. So you can build new friendships and networks due to a common passion.
Last but not least, you feel good when you learn something new. Like the runner’s high, there is a “learner’s high” – I speak from personal experience here. You just feel happy, energetic, positive and really really good when you learn something new. After my first innings of my learning high last year, I have made a formal list of things I want to learn in the future, and I am pleasantly surprised to find the list size is increasing by the day! Honestly, I am fine if I learn one thing at a time or even one thing a year. But what I know for sure is this – I do want to be a lifelong learner.
And if this post inspired even one reader to learn something new, then that would be the best return gift in writing this!
Happy Learning. Learn, Laugh, Love – It is one life to live!
Originally published here
Looking back at my life for the past few years, the one thing that has made a REAL DIFFERENCE is CLARITY on my PRIORITIES.
I don’t think I was so clear about my priorities till a series of events (which included loss of a loved one, becoming a mother and a couple of other “life-changing and thought-provoking” events) compelled me to introspect and reflect on my own life.
As I go down memory lane and look at my own life; and also see people around me, I note the following:
(1) A vast majority of individuals DO NOT have clarity on their priorities in life – Be it as a part of their personal life or professional life. So if you ask yourself or someone to list the Top 3 Priorities for the day / week / month / life / home / work, majority will struggle to respond. And those that do will not be so sure about their answer.
(2) Those individuals who do have clarity on their priorities in life don’t translate these priorities into everyday action. For e.g: In my priority list, health and fitness was a TOP Priority. However, if I looked at my everyday routine, I had not really factored any time for any physical exercise. So, there was a fundamental gap between Thought and Action.
(3) A vast majority of individuals have too many items on their list marked as TOP Priority. And hence over a period of time (say monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc.) – They are not able to show or see or demonstrate any visible / tangible difference in progress. And hence wonder what went wrong and where?
The other important aspects about PERSONAL PRIORITIES are:
- Your priorities are personal to you – No one can decide them but YOU!
- Your priorities WILL change as you journey through life – Be aware of these changing priorities and model your life accordingly!
How can CLARITY on your PRIORITIES help YOU?
Having clarity on your priorities can help you in umpteen numbers of ways. From my personal experience, the most important one’s are:
(1) Focus: If you are clear on your priorities, it enables you to focus better on what you’re doing. Simply because you know what’s TOP on your priority list and what’s not can be truly empowering; and can aid you to focus on the task at hand.
(2) Decision Making: Decision Making becomes a lot simple and easy if you have clarity on your priorities. You know whom to say Yes / No to and Why?, You know what can / can’t wait and Why?, You know
(3) Letting-Go: Many times we hold on to things simply because that’s how it’s always been or because we don’t know any other way or because we don’t know what else to hold on to. But the minute you have crystal clear clarity on your priorities – You will recognize what you really need to hold on to, and letting-go becomes a lot easier – in the emotional and intellectual sense.
(4) Expectation Management: Many of us live our lives living up-to “expectations” of others. Nothing wrong with that, but maybe it is also good to live of our lives up to our own “expectations”. And your expectations of yourself become a lot clearer if they are driven by your priorities of life!
(5) Saying NO: NO are two simple letters, but form an extremely powerful word. NO can make our life so simple if we just use them more often. And yet the fact is that most of us complicate our lives way too much simply because we find it so hard to say NO. And why are we conservative in the usage of NO? – Because we are not used to saying it or we worry too much about the implications of saying NO.
But when you have clarity on your priorities, it is a lot easier to say NO. Simply because you know that what’s being asked of you does not figure in your priority list, so it’s better to refuse! This one benefit is probably the most liberating!
The fact is all the above are critical for anyone playing a LEADERSHIP ROLE. And hence being clear on your PRIORITIES is of paramount importance for any LEADER
Call for ACTION Now
(1) Write down (on pen & paper preferably) your TOP 3 priorities for your Personal Life
(2) Write down (on pen & paper preferably) your TOP 3 Priorities for your Professional Life (Ignore if you don’t have an active professional life)
(3) For each of these priorities, ask yourself
- “Are these PRIORITIES taking you closer to your GOALS”
- “Are you taking any specific action on a regular basis (daily, weekly, etc.) to address these priorities?
(4) If yes, Great! You are on the right path. Best Wishes and Good Luck to you
(5) If no, then Pause & Reflect. And make the required course corrections. It is NEVER too LATE!
As I end, I’d like to leave you with a few quotes on prioritization from the wise.
“Action expresses priorities.” BY Mahatma Gandhi
“Good things happen when you get your priorities straight.” BY Scott Caan
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” BY Stephen Covey
During the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to interview several potential candidates for hiring against a specific job opening. Most of these candidates had an overall experience of 3 to 6 years ; and in their own assessment / as per their resume – They have the required technology knowledge, skills, expertise and experience to qualify for the specific job opening.
Unfortunately, when I interview them , I find HUGE GAPS.
If I had to summarize the key areas where the gaps were evident, I’d list the below areas:
(1) Gaps in “What their Resume said” and “What they said” : Let’s be clear! For starters, if you are applying for a job opening, your resume should be updated (up-to-date) and reflect what you are actually doing / did! So if your resume said something, and you say something else during the interview process – There’s a good chance that you’ve filled the interviewer with a ‘seed of doubt’. And once this doubt is planted, its hard to regain ground!
(2) Gaps in Communication : A glaring issue is on the basic communication skills of the candidates. Its common knowledge that majority of the interviews would typically start with the interviewer asking you to share details about yourself and a summary of your work experience. Suprisingly, about 80% of the candidates I interviewed were not able to articulate even this clearly! Giving them the benefit of doubt (And the fact that they may be tired or nervous or that many of us find it hard to speak about ourselves), moving on to the technlogy questions. Again! There’s a huge GAP! I don’t know for sure if they don’t know the answers, or they are not able to articulate. But here’s what I do know – A lot of work is required in the “Oral Communication” aspect
(3) Gaps in Technical Knowledge : Again if you apply for a job posting and claim to “know” a particular technology, you should “know” the basics in theory, and be able to explain what you know. Unfortunately, a BIG GAP in knowledge as well!
(4) Gaps in the understanding of their own past project experiences : This I find very suprising and interesting. I’d assume if someone has worked on a particular project, he / she should be able to explain atleast questions like “What was the problem you were trying to solve for the client?”, “Why did the customer want to do this project?”. After all, if anyone is working on a project and building a “technology solution”, there has to be a “problem to solve” – Right? And if you’ve worked on the project, would it not be natural for you to find out “What the REAL problem is?” – Even out of sheer curiosity? Sadly, most of the people I interviewed did not know the big “WHY?” of the project! And had spent years working on these projects! A big GAP again in my view. Technology is an enabler to solve problems, but if it is making you blind to the problem itself – Then something is really WRONG here!
(5) And the biggest GAP is the Gap in Expectations – What can I say here? Interview is barely over, and comes the list of expectations which go like “I want to go onsite as soon as a I join” – yes! sure : provided you have the skills that are required for onsite (read as communication skills, technology knowledge, relevant experience). “I am expecting an X% salary hike” – yes! sure : provided you demostrate during the interview process the value you bring to the table. “I want to lead a team” – yes! sure : provided you demonstate you can lead a team
Welcome to the Interviewers World! If you thought taking an interview was easy, No – Its NOT! Because everytime you say Select / Reject – You are in some way influencing / impacting / affecting someone else’s career, someone else’s life..
And with so many GAPS that exist, its somewhat easy and yet so hard to take that final decision…
What’s your view on this subject? Leave a comment to let me know..