Read About Our Philosophy in Dr. Ranjit Nair's book, 'The Potluck Culture'


Everybody needs a D.I.S.C.

Dr. Ranjit Nair
Dr. Ranjit Nair Founder and CEO

As an Indian American who was raised and educated in Hong Kong, choosing a career was a decision I left to my parents to make for me. Big mistake! The “double-whammy” I experienced was that my fellow students and classmates – all Chinese or Asian in some respect – had similar experiences. Yes, we all had “Tiger” parents and directed and dictated what was best for us. We kids had no choice as the choice of what we were to embark on as a career would be made for us. Success in a career was lectured to us and was painted as one being a physician, engineer, scientist or architect. It was well-understood that a degree in the medical sciences or analytics such as engineering, technology or mathematics was the golden path to success for everyone. Short of this, spelled failure. I felt lost as a child since I enjoyed writing, reading, art, music and history.

So, when I moved to the USA as a foreign student in the early 1980s, I selected a business degree with a concentration in accounting. I did this because then as a foreign student my parents were paying very high tuition costs plus the cost of books and not to mention living expenses. Fearing that if I chose anything too fun and to my liking, I opted for the hardest major available in business – Accounting. Well, that way, my parents’ money would be totally worth the investment, right? I was poor in Math and did not enjoy dealing with numbers and certainly was not analytical. I enjoyed music, arts, color, cultures, stories, movies, literature, history and prose. There in front of me was a perfect recipe for a career disaster and I had not the slightest clue. As an Asian, I had no choice but to finish college and give my demanding parents the dream they wanted – their son to be a successful accountant in the most prestigious company in the world – Price Waterhouse. Well, I accomplished just that. I worked at Price Waterhouse – later became Price Waterhouse Coopers – for almost 10 years and all the time there I was miserable and never really enjoyed work. I had no idea why.

Finally, in 1995, one of my managers who to this day remains one of my mentors told me that I would be a good HR professional. I scoffed at this and laughed it off as a cruel joke. I wrote about this in my book Potluck Culture: Five strategies to engage the modern workplace. He implored me to take a personality assessment and I did so. I had no idea what these were and how taking this test would change my life forever. After taking the test and having my mentor review the results with me, I found that I was really good at making presentations, engaging and influencing others, building relationships, collaborating, and truly caring for other people. I enjoyed color, beauty, and harmony in the world and appreciated nature. I also learned that I was not so good at detail and analysis and minutia. My mentor told me that these were excellent traits for a strong human resource management professional – and he added that my business background and acumen in accounting and business would give me the extra nod needed to be the bridge between people, process, senior management and productivity. I took him up on the offer to enter the world of human resource management and this triggered the launch of a long and successful career in HR. I attribute this to the assessment tool I completed. By the way, the assessment is called EverythingDiSC by Wiley.

Now I had all the necessary ingredients to make a good career choice – albeit quite late in my career – a mentor who counseled me and advised me with unfettered and tough counsel, an assessment tool with results based on proven research in the behavioral sciences and a whole new mind free of parental influence and guilt. As a good book that I could never put down, I found myself constantly reviewing my assessment report (20 pages of relevant good stuff) over the years. I would refer to it for guidance when I was faced with difficulties at work, or dealing with a complex work problem or a client that was demanding. Most of all, I referred to it to help me understand how I could change my communication style to build relationships with people on my team and those whom I interacted with at work.

If I had a time machine DeLorean, I would have gone back in time to Hong Kong and truly made a well-informed and sound process to determine my future. Sadly, I don’t have such a luxury, so I now want to impart my own experiences and approach to the future leaders who are in the same predicament I was. The major we end up selecting is arguably the most important decision we will make in life, especially because it can affect our career choices after graduation. Statistics and labor research show that between 30% and 60% of students start off as undeclared for their college majors. These early years may be perfect time to explore one’s interests and figure out the right college major. Of course, the earlier this is one – ideally before graduating from high school – the better. Here is my counsel how to approach this:

1. Complete a behavioral and motivators assessment

There are numerous career assessments available today. Many can be found and used for free on the internet. Some assess your abilities, some test your personality, others evaluate your interests, and another set helps gauge your workplace values. While those free web-based tests may provide you with some interesting insights, the full assessments that are available through test administrators have typically been through rigorous validity testing and are based on scientifically based published and widely accepted behavioral research. It is best to find one that looks at your natural and adapted (how much do you adapt to fit into certain environments, say, at work) behaviors, and those that look at why you do what you do (motivators). I would recommend the Wiley assessment which, in my opinion, has the best leadership and behavioral style tools in the marketplace. They are comprehensive, easy on the eyes, easy to read and understand and is extremely accurate. In sum, you will need an assessment report that tells you the following:

What your natural behavioral patterns are and how and if they change when you are in the workplace

• What excites you in work and life and what does not

• What motivates you to do what you like doing and what does not

• How you like to be communicated to

• How you identify and recognize the behaviors and motivators in others

• How do you modify your communications style with others once you’ve identified their behaviors and motivators

• What skills (leadership) are you best at and what are areas you need to work on

There has been tremendous improvement in recent years on the types of assessments, or instruments, that are available to help people develop their self-awareness and to gain a much, much deeper understanding of what they do, how they do it, and why they do it, and then to be able to leverage that knowledge for greater performance and leadership effectiveness. For students, this is a vital step that is often ignored that can help greatly in choosing the right major for them.

2. Think strengths not weaknesses

Management scientists used to erroneously advise us to pay close attention to what our weaknesses are rather than what really needs to be focused on – our strengths. It is vitally important for students first know themselves through the aforementioned assessments tools but then to rally around their strengths but then also to neutralize his or her weaknesses. Unfortunately, society often forces us to focus on what we are not so good at. Teachers, professors and, of course job interviewers typically still ask us to share what our weaknesses are. In fact, there is a tremendous amount of money spent on trying to fix people than on trying to develop their strengths.

That said, an emerging trend that students can take stock of is that there’s more and more of a move to recognizing that uniqueness and developing according to the strength and the talent that one already has instead of trying to put something in there that’s not there. For example, if someone is a quick decision-maker and another person is a deliberate decision- maker, instead of trying to change them and say that the fast decision maker has to slow down and the slow decision maker needs to speed up, students should reject this notion and accept their tendency is what it is. If somebody is a deliberate decision maker, how can we make her the most precise, the most analytical, and the most comprehensive deliberate decision maker? How do we help people to leverage those tendencies, because we need all kinds of decision makers? Instead of trying to change people, the opportunity is to help them become the very most accomplished according to their natural style? Therefore, organizing leadership development around the college student’s strengths rather than trying to change them is recommended.

3. Evaluate your beliefs and core values

People tend to experience greater fulfillment in life and work when they live by their espoused values. When we do not respect and honor our values, our mental, emotional, and physical state suffer as a result. Even as a leadership coach myself where I pride myself in helping others understand their true self and values, sadly I have experienced this in my life too. Values are a part of us and they help guide what we stand for and represent our unique individual essence pf who we really are and what we want to be like each and every day we live. Values guide our behavior and provide us with a personal code of conduct. When we honor our personal core values consistently, we experience fulfillment. However, when we do not, we are incongruent and are more likely to escape into bad habits and regress into childish behavior to uplift ourselves. This hold true for selecting a career and/or choosing a college major.

So how do we know what we value and what our core beliefs are? It is true that most of us do not have the slightest clue of our values. We do not understand what is most important to us and, instead, we focus on what our society, culture, and media values most and we erroneously try to emulate that. Can you articulate your top 5 to 10 values that are most important to you? Without undergoing a self-discovery process, it is challenging to identify our own personal core values. While you can understand your own values on your own, having a qualified coach to assist is the best approach if you apply self-honesty, patience, and determination. Here are the simple steps to take:

Select a list of about 20-25 core values (You can Google and find a list of over 500 online). Which values were you experiencing when you had the best experience of your life, when you were the happiest, when you were most satisfied? What values were you harboring during these times?

• Categorize these values you selected into like groups or related themes. Values like accountability, responsibility, and timeliness are all related. Values like learning, growth, and development relate to each other. Connection, belonging, and intimacy are related too. Group them together.

• Highlight the central theme in each group. If you have a group of values that include honesty, transparency, integrity, candor, directness, and truth, select a word that best represents the group. For example, integrity might work as a central theme for the aforementioned values listed.

• Identify your top core values. To do that, you should ask yourself which values are essential to my life, which ones represent my primary way of being, which are essential to supporting my inner self? Draw upon our known (see above) strengths and weaknesses to appreciate which values matter most to me. It is going to be hard but come up with 6-7 values and rank them in the order of importance. You may have to think or sleep on it to really whittle the list down to the real core few.

• Finally, test the efficacy of your list. How do they make you feel? Do you feel they are consistent with who you are? Are they personal to you? Do you see any values that feel inconsistent with your identity (as if they belong to someone else, like an authority figure or society) and not you? Check your priority ranking. Do you feel like your values are in the proper order of importance?

4. Get counsel and feedback

It is always wise to hire and pay for (money well spent) a leadership coach or adviser to help guided you in your career choices. This may also be a professor or instructor you really like or who has given sound advice previously say, in a classroom discussion about work life. While it is ultimately up to you to choose your academic path, your friends and professors could also be great allies. If you select a professor to give you feedback and guidance, look for those who have inspired, motivated, and encouraged you to work hard and be passionate about your academic experience. Once you have used these human mirrors to be sounding boards, be sure to seek also help from academic advisers and career counselors. They can help you create a roadmap for the remainder of your college years. Finally, through the power of social media, you can network with true and real-life professionals working in the careers you are interested in to provide advice and ask them about what it is like to be ion that field, career or industry.

5. Follow you dreams

When students major in subject areas that truly interest them and they feel passionate about, they are more like to engage fully with the material they are learning in the classroom and during studies. This development, more than the particular college major itself, makes them marketable in a competitive workforce. When choosing a major, it is vitally important to do and immerse yourself in what you love. Some students choose to apply for medical school or law school or even pursue business because their parents perceive that those majors [and] careers will guarantee jobs after graduation. This is what I did more than 35 years ago, and I’ve told you my story. The challenge is that no matter how much money is out there to be made in those fields, if you cannot complete the curriculum successfully or are miserable in those classes, you will never be employable or, more importantly, be happy. So, talk this through carefully with the professors, friends, coaches or counselors and share your concerns with them as they are often willing to help you find the right opportunities for your interests.

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