Emotional Investment Leads to Success


It’s been said that hindsight is 20/20… and it’s certainly true that taking a moment to ponder the outcomes of the projects and activities of the year is useful. I’ve had wild successes, as well as some equally fantastic failures. As a project manager, I’ve always believe that if my team did not accomplish its goals, it pointed to a failure on my part.  Learning from both the ups and the downs is the first brick in building a firm foundation that will allow an organization to stand the test of time even as change accelerates everything around us.

Technology is evolving quickly and the world is getting smaller. In the best organizations, the work environment is becoming inter generational and multicultural. Some people are even positing that robots and artificial intelligence (AI) will reform the workforce even more.  How can you build a great team even amidst change? How do you avoid failure as much as possible? How do you turn adversity into opportunity in those moments when failure does occur?

Most of us start as individual contributors doing technical (as opposed to strategic). For example, I started as a software developer, focused on the technicalities of the product. I always knew, though, that I aspired to being entrepreneur and I kept that in my mind as I made every decision. When I bought my used Toyota Corolla, I tried to take lessons from the experience about how to buy used machinery or tools once I started my own company. I continuously looked for transferable skills. I even learned from my failed ventures.

A big part of starting a company is solving problems. To do that successfully, you must learn the business. Traditionally, IT experts like me have mostly played supporting role, developing, deploying, or supporting a system. They do get pulled into business discussions but they don’t have direct responsibility for solving business problems. When I started my company, I switched roles to become a functional expert, playing customer-facing roles solving business problems, addressing operational challenges, and understanding the key goals for a business.

So I took on wild projects. That may sound counter intuitive for someone wanting success, but it’s a strategy. I wanted to grow into a director leading a professional services organizational. To prove myself, I knew I needed a track record of achieving the highest revenue or most billable hours. There are two possible avenues to that outcome. First, I could pick a bunch of smaller projects so that if one or two failed, I would still be on top. The other was to go after high profile projects with big name companies which would lead to strong relationships and lots of recognition.

By accumulating experience, I had examples to look at to see what the successes had in common.  I tried to learn what I could from the failures. Those lessons let me transform myself. Once I was tasked with helping a hardware distributor expand its supply chain network. I loved it. My role was to work with the IT group to customize the system, but I went further and went to the distribution center floor to spend time with the end users and design and modify systems based on their requests. I built relationships and got quick results. Most of all, I was emotionally invested. I cared. I felt at home with this customer and enjoyed every minute.

The next marquee project I did was a major warehouse management system (WMS) for an e-commerce distribution center for a major consumer goods retailer. The project was fun because I was leading it. I was working with a great team.  One technical manager taught me a lot. He gave a lot of leeway to the people who worked for him. By trusting them, he won their trust. They felt so invested that they went above and beyond to get their work done. I felt the same way. I was emotionally invested.

I also had a couple of projects that did not go well because I was not emotionally invested. I did not feel welcome. I felt like my ideas were shot down without being heard.  The biggest difference between these projects and the winners were that sense of emotional investment.

This realisation changed the kind of leader I wanted to be. In business school, I learned from a case study that there are two types of coaches: the yellers and the encouragers. The yellers would let chairs fly, use foul language, and generally terrify everyone. These coaches got a lot of things did, but the players reacted out of fear.  The encourages were more mellow, and worked hard to make his players feel like family. This leader’s players did things out of trust, respect, relationship, and participative leadership. They understood that the coach was emotionally invested.

So how emotionally invested are you in your work? Have you reaped success out of that? Let us know in the comments section below.

Originally published at Smartgladiator.com on Feb 29, 2018.

Puga Sankara is the co-founder of Smart Gladiator LLC. Smart Gladiator designs, builds, and delivers market-leading mobile technology for retailers, distributors, and 3PL service providers. SG LoadProof is a patent pending Centralized Enterprise Photo/Video Document System on Cloud for Supply Chain. SG LP is built on the fact that photos & videos are vital docs as important as POs/SOs/Legal Contracts/Fulfillment Orders that reside in ERP/WMS/TMS systems, that serve as compelling, conclusive, unequivocal proof of crucial, critical, vital operations executed in Supply Chain within/across orgs when fulfilling customer orders as well as meeting contractual obligations between orgs as merchandise is transferred between different parties that partake in Supply Chain functions & operations. And these photos/videos data should not be stored in someone’s Smartphone or Email Inbox or in their personal/work Computer, but should be stored in a Centralized Enterprise system, where such data can be pushed into super-fast, stored securely, accessible to all stake holders (CFO/Sales Reps/Customer Support/AR/AP) in an org, as well as facilitates super-fast retrieval/sharing. LP is an Enterprise System of record for Photo/Video docs & is as important as an ERP which is an enterprise system of record for POs, SOs, Legal Contracts between parties etc. that have huge legal ramifications, also as important as a WMS (Warehouse Management System) that hold indispensable shipment & fulfillment data on orders. Like how Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat etc. have evolved into social media platforms/systems that enable individuals to showcase their beauty/pretty clothes/lovely cosmetics/hep coolness etc., LoadProof is an Enterprise system that holds similar photos/videos, but for a different reason, not for show off, but to serve as compelling, conclusive, unequivocal & indisputable system of record and proof that can be presented even in the court of law, when there is a dispute between parties while they execute many facets of the Supply Chain functions & operations. Puga is a supply chain technology professional with more than 25 years of experience in deploying capabilities in the logistics and supply chain domain. His prior roles involved managing complicated mission-critical programs driving revenue numbers, rolling out a multitude of capabilities involving more than a dozen systems, and managing a team of 30 to 50 personnel across multiple disciplines and departments in large corporations such as Hewlett Packard. He has deployed WMS for more than 30 distribution centers in his role as a senior manager with Manhattan Associates. He has also performed process analysis walk-throughs for more than 50 distribution centers for WMS process design and performance analysis review, optimizing processes for better productivity and visibility through the supply chain. Size of these DCs varied from 150,000 to 1.2 million SQFT. Puga Sankara has an MBA from Georgia Tech. He can be reached at [email protected] or visit the company at www.smartgladiator.com. Also follow him at www.pugasankara.com.

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