Your approach matters more than your age
By DINESH DORAI RAJ
We live in an era of information explosion surrounded by many intelligent, self-driven, talented and determined young people who are hungry for the opportunity to make a difference in the workforce today.
Despite this, most of us have encountered a situation where we had amazing perspectives to challenge a discussion but shied away in the presence of senior colleagues, thinking to ourselves, “Well, they have over 20 years of experience than I have and they might rubbish my thoughts.”
I can imagine two scenarios here. First, you have been shut down when you voiced an opinion just because you were a “newbie” and second, you suffer from a sense of inferiority because you never believed in yourself in these moments. Fret not – you are not the only one; most of us have been there too.
Last year, I took up a role in Leaderonomics to lead an internal incubation process as part of our strategic initiatives to scale the organisation’s performance capability.
This means, if something has no strategic pathway carved ahead, I need to address it with the support of my team members.
This required daily conversations with multiple stakeholders, especially those with strong professional backgrounds and experience, and on several occasions, I was caught in the second situation mentioned above before it struck me that I need to overcome my self-doubt and fear.
I went through several conversations and made deep observations – especially among the senior folks with vast experience – and as I tried emulating some key behaviours, I received reaffirmation that being young is not really a shortcoming in the workplace.
I picked up several lessons from three key influencers in my career last year and these lessons have certainly made a huge difference in my life.
Lesson from key influencer 1: develop real passion
Develop real passion for your job and the organisation, and constantly build a deeper interest in it.
Passion leads you to be selfless yet have a compelling enthusiasm and desire to succeed that echoes a saying, “A desire fuelled by passion will bring out the greatest results in life.”
You will always be willing to go beyond the set threshold to achieve something you are passionate about and these are the qualities that leaders and successful organisations seek in their people.
You’ll always be willing to go the extra mile to accomplish something, seek answers and challenge the incumbents, and these qualities will help you gain a competitive edge despite your limited professional experience.
As psychologist and author Angela Duckworth puts it, “A passion is more developed than it is discovered.”
I decided to put this belief statement to the test when, together with my colleagues, I started exploring areas that weren’t my forte in order to develop organisational and people development solutions for clients.
I took the initiative to get involved in brainstorming solutions along with my colleagues, and I unexpectedly became a lot more passionate about what I did. This passion led to greater credibility which turned me into a sounding board for others.
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Lesson from key influencer 2: Do your homework
Do your homework, gather your facts, be biased towards data-driven conversations and offer a look out beyond what you can see.
Ever been intimidated by “high-level” conversations among senior leaders in your organisation and found yourself thinking, “this is too much to digest or too much experience for me to match”?
Take a closer look at these conversations and you will realise that they are backed by valuable information that may have been gathered through various levels of interaction and experiences in dealing with organisational issues.
Among the generations in the current workforce, we are especially privileged by our facility with the unlimited knowledge around us. We need to make an effort to leverage on this content.
This was reinforced when a colleague, who is younger than most of us, left all of us – including the senior ones – in awe after her presentation. When I asked her the key to her impactful and inspiring few minutes, she simply said, “Preparation is key to success.”
Lesson from key influencer 3: Be accountable
Accountability is one of the most desired traits in any organisation and it is often overlooked at the workplace.
Being accountable starts with basic things like notifying your colleagues that you will be late for a meeting – even if you are delayed by just five minutes.
Accountability fuels a gradual increment of respect and confidence among your colleagues before you are given the freedom to decide and challenge others to a better performance as part of your journey of becoming a better leader, even at a young age.
I remember missing an important deadline that I promised one of my directors and during a weekly meeting, he brought it up just to reinforce the importance of accountability.
That led to an important personal development within me in terms of accountability and before long, I was given more room to lead and provide opinions and gained a sense of respect among the senior folks. Walk the talk. This needs to be instilled from the beginning of one’s career.
You are observed on how you do things at work. It’s your approach that matters, not your age, and as you rise through the hierarchy, you will realise that despite having bigger digits for your age, you will not be seen as a credible leader to be heard from if you do not learn and apply the basic essentials mentioned above. Start the practice of making an impact as a young leader now!
Dinesh wants to prove his credibility as a business and people leader and is willing to go all out to make it a reality. He continually learns from the leaders around him and enjoys the pain of growth along the journey. He strives to inspire and build more credible leaders around the world over time. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts on this story.