People & Culture: The Value System

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One morning a team member walked into my open office, “Rajesh, I need 5 minutes to discuss something.” “Discuss” and “Something,” meaning the joy in seeking to understand the unknown, a yearning to unravel what and why. I ushered Shahid in and we got talking. He wanted to write a book on a technical subject, about which he was passionately curious about. All ears, I listened and we agreed that it addressed his deep inner belief to learn and explore this topic, and that I would happily support some flexible work hours. A year later, Shahid’s book – Roaming in Wireless Networks–was published by McGraw Hill, and continues to sell for USD 116/-; he is officially a guru in the industry. The book turned out to be a strong reference book on the subject, also helped our business as his voice earned him a seat at every table, sometimes even allowing for him to chair said meetings!

 

That being said, let’s dive deeper into some of these keys aspects and characteristics in order to better understand our learning/teaching model as well as the type of people we look to work with within the business.

First, we look for core deep domain skills when we hire people. These skills and attributes come from years in honing them; be it education, industry knowledge or professional knowledge. This generally involves what someone really loves, else one would not have learned them.  Let’s call this the “creative core.” The individual in my opening story has a fabulous engineering degree from a reputed university and solid industry (telecommunications and R&D) experience, implying an obvious lovefor engineering, telecom and technology. We can address this aspect from an existing approach: the “T”

 

T- Shaped People:

The CEO of IDEO, a design thinking firm, highlights their approach to hiring “T” shaped employees. Here, the vertical stroke of the T can be perceived as the creative core; people with deep skills that allow them to contribute to the creative process.

 

The next thing we look for comes down to the broader aspect of one’s behaviour – the quality that describes how one reaches out to various groups to connect, collaborate and communicate i.e. the horizontal part of the “T”. Let’s explore how they separate and integrate.

 

  1. Empathy drives one to listen to others. Listening as a skill allows one to see things from others perspective. Why? So that they develop an emotional sensitivity towards others. This comes from the heart – EQ. To see things from other’s perspective one has to listen.

 

During a client meeting in Japan, our ace technical consultant went quiet amidst the hum and haw of the sales people. Instead, questions were directed from the client towards the technical consultant. Curious, I asked why this was the case? I learnt that over time he had earned the respect in the Japanese culture by taking a step back. In that, his best skill was “active listening,” to speak less and listen for cues. In doing so, when he spoke, he hit the chord every time in recognising the client’s needs/problems.

 

  1. Curiosity drives learning and exploration i.e. knowledge; the part that develops the brain and consequently, IQ. Reaching out to connect with various departments, asking questions and trying to learn from others are some traits to watch for. Curiosity and learning go hand in hand, hence the “learn” that sticks at the other end.

 

TOP Model:

Back in Hewlett Packard I remember we had a TOP model for hiring. Let’s test the “T” model against that of the “TOP” model.

 

  • T = Talent. Akin to the vertical stem of the “T.” Core domain and deep skills developed as a result of one’s love towards the area.
  • O = Organisational alignment. Akin to the right branch of the “T.” Curiosity drives the desire to reach out and connect with people, to learn and seek alignment, to ask questions and find answers that involve collaboration.
  • P = Passion. Akin to the left branch of the “T.” Empathy stirs the emotion to listen and understand from others’ point of view.

 

What a match! It’s the same genie in a different bottle.

 

L3V2 Model:

Now let’s lay our (my team’s) sub culture model – L3V2. Listen, Learn, Love. Voice & Value.

 

It began 3 years and 3 months ago, in August of 2015, when our leadership team got together and asked WHY do we exist? WHAT is our belief system? An early blog back then: The Love for Fish and everything else.

 

One idea stacked atop another, and the next, so on and so forth. I did not realise until recently that this is what PIXAR studios follows – they call it “plussing,” a process that involves building on ideas without judgment. It was amazing how we built the spring board that is our strategy today! We try to focus on people and hone our skills, our abilities, in the front end with what we can control. Thus came about our very simple language:

 

  • Listen to your client’s requirements. Focus on them not yourself, not your product. Two ears and one mouth. The empathetic, emotionally sensitive left side of the horizontal stroke of the T. Empathy and listening hones the EQ.

 

  • Learn about their environment. What matters and why? Seek to understand by asking relevant questions. The exploratory, curious right side of the horizontal stroke of the T. Curiosity hones the IQ and produces learning.

 

  • Love what you do and what you want to get done. The creative core, or the vertical stroke of the T. Creativity hones the LQ for in order to develop the core. LQ? Yes, the love quotient, as coined by Jack Ma, President of Alibaba.

 

  • When these 3 forces blend and are sustained, they evolve, developing into a true and holistic Voice that can and will be heard at the table. Additionally, a differentiated Value will become realised and recognised – development of a “stickiness.”

 

We continue to develop our L3V2 sub culture till date. Our reward and recognition systems have been established and yet continues to evolve. We have created tools and procedures to develop skills and cultivate behaviours. The crucial point is maintenance– as hard as it is to break a bad habit, it’s equally hard, if not harder, to form good habits.

 

In summary:

 

  1. EQ, IQ and LQ: The triangle that brings constant innovation.
  2. The shaped profile: Looking for a balance of the creative core/the gut, the empathetic heart that opens the ears, and the curious mind that shapes the brain.
  3. The TOP hiring model: Talent, Organisational alignment, and Passion
  4. L3V2: Our sub-culture that connects the strategy to execution and builds a living framework in emulating the above i.e. EQ/IQ/LQ models, T, and TOP.

 

Credits/References:

  1. IDEO CEO Tim Brown: T – Shaped Stars.
  2. Alibaba CEO Jack Ma: LQ
  3. Friend and Master at his work: Shahid Siddiqui
  4. Image credit: Free vectors, all-free-download.com

 

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