Words matter

This is a post that I had written a couple of years ago and never published it. Here it comes as my first post on my site

Words make a big impact. Some famous words have inspired generations and shaped history like that of Neil Armstrong “A small step for man is a giant leap for mankind” or Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream….”.

I had one of my work-life changing moments too with one statement made by a leader several years ago. He probably does not know his words made such a big impact on me. I never have met him again nor could I ever tell him that. I am very grateful to him for saying those words and changing my behavior at work place.

My Manager and I met this leader over a meeting that was quite late into the night. After the business meeting we had a few minutes of gossip time. My Manager was friendly with this leader as they had spent some time together on an international assignment. This leader led an important function of the company that I worked for in the past. He had several hundreds of people working in his organization mostly working in the night shifts from India catering to US clients. My Manager asked him as to why he had to work late into the night when he had the option to delegate tasks to many of the managers working for him and end his day earlier. The leader had to also attend executive meetings early mornings on most days which meant really long days for him. I couldn’t disagree with my Manager’s observation.

This is when the leader uttered those impactful words that altered the way I approached work. He said “Naukri karni hai toh nakhre kya”. This is a Hindi language statement which means “Why throw tantrums or carry baggage when you got to work“. Honestly the English translation does not do justice to the Hindi context of the statement. After he made this statement, he added that it was his need to work, he had bills, he had loans, he had to take care of his family. So when he had so many needs he better be dedicated and work without tantrums or baggage or ego or personal constraints. Until then I would throw the occasional tantrum or carry some baggage of ego or arrogance. This one statement changed my work behavior for life. I have never since thrown a tantrum nor been inflexible.

Most people who worked in my teams have heard this story and some have told me it changed their approach to work as well. This statement made me value my job more than I ever had in the past and to not take things for granted. And also the words we utter make a big impact on our teams and we don’t realize that often. It reminds me to be careful with words to my teams.

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