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5 reasons why good Generalists are like potatoes

A man in pin-striped business suit looks happy looking at a bowl of potato fries, a bowl of potato wedges and bowl of potato chips

I was never a fan of potatoes growing up. I thought they were boring, mushy, and bland. But in the last 20 years and having moved 16 cities, I realize they are the perfect food! They are the ultimate all-rounder: mashed, fried, baked or boiled. Top it off; they go with everything, including cheese, egg, or meat – not to mention veggies too! As a bonus point: they are inexpensive and available across the globe!

I never liked potatoes as a kid because they looked too bland and mushy. But in the last 20 years, I have realized that they are the perfect food.

Rajesh Soundararajan

Potatoes do not discriminate against any other ingredient or cuisine. They can be enjoyed in any shape and size chips to fries to wedges, without discrimination! Also, Potatoes are versatile and are a must-have in different cuisines.

Much like the Generalists who can just work in any organization and culture. They have the unique ability to adapt themselves according to the needs of a team or an organization without discriminating against anyone. Like potatoes, they imbibe its values or culture of their workplace.

Generalists are like potatoes. Like potatoes, they do not have a distinctive snob factor. They usually do not cost much to hire while delivering immense value to organizations when hired well!

Like potatoes that are easy to prepare, Generalists can quickly be onboarded across industries because they possess skills which are applicable across domains

Generalists are the ultimate all-rounder, like potatoes.

Potatoes are versatile and adaptable and can be cooked in various ways. You can have your mashed spuds straight up or make them into chips, wedges or even potato gratin. These versatile tubers can be used as the main course or as the side dish—they are equally good either way!

A good Generalist is similar —they are the ultimate all-rounder who can take on any role you give them, no matter how big or small. A true Generalist will always be your second-in-command (after all, they are exceptionally good at taking orders). They are also more than capable of stepping up to lead projects if they need to do so—and sometimes even when they do not need to do so because they want some more responsibility!

Generalists are wildly versatile – mashed, fried, baked or boiled. Oops.

Have you ever noticed that potatoes are versatile? They can be mashed, fried, baked or boiled. You can use them as a side dish or main course. You can even make potato salad out of them (and who does not love potato salad?).

Just like good Generalists! Good Generalists are versatile, and they can be used in many ways. They can be used as a team lead, a project manager in the main course, or as that go-to resourceful guy.

Top it off; they go with everything, including cheese, egg, meat, or veggies. A good Generalist can be put in any department – project, product, sales, operations, or finance. They can be worked with in many ways, go with many departments and are not too pricey and accessible.

They can be your side dish or even your main course.

Like potatoes, a good generalist can be your “side dish, or even your main course” (sic). The potato and the generalist are both versatile. They can work on projects requiring technical skills but not too much specialization—tasks called “the 80%”. If you are looking for someone to take care of the back-end development of your website or app, great! Oh wait, did you say your Operations team have quit en masse? Look for a few generalists. That is yet another area where they will shine, not outside their boss. And after all this, they will probably still have time left to help with other things like graphic design or marketing (if you need it).

The bottom line is that if you need something done quickly and well—and do not mind having them around after they are done—good generalists will always be there for you.

They are also not expensive and accessible across the globe.

Yes, they are not expensive, like some Yartsa Gunbu, Spanish peas, Wasabi roots or pink lettuce. Potatoes are accessible across the globe and inexpensive. Well, there may be some La Bonnotte Potatoes, but they are more exceptions than the rule. They can be grown in most countries, which means they are available all year round, unlike other foods with strict growing seasons. Potatoes contain a valuable source of carbohydrates, vitamin C, potassium, and fibre, making them ideal for people on a budget or with dietary restrictions. Even more importantly—they can be stored for months!

Well, the generalist is produced in most countries, universally available, and significantly less constant skilling and grooming. Generalists are a valuable resource for contextualization, standardization, and cross-functional and cross-industry innovation…Even more importantly, they have a long shelf life unlike some of the tech industry, where the skills courses/certifications they attempt to gain are already ancient by the time they finish a course!

A Generalist is like a potato – good in everything but rarely gets credit for all the goodness.

Yes, a lot of things, well, from being a Patient Care Assistant or a Police Officer or a President, but they rarely get credit for all the goodness that comes from being a Jack of all trades. A Generalist can be hired for any project or team because they are usually capable in many areas. It is high time we see their versatility and pay attention as they should. From fries to wedges to chips – they are everywhere

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and found it helpful in shaping and shifting your career. If you are a Generalist like me, do not worry. We have lots of time ahead of us to prove that we are good and the best at what we do!

Follow me on LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/rajeshsound/

A man in pin-striped business suit looks happy looking at a bowl of potato fries, a bowl of potato wedges and bowl of potato chips
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Leadership Lesson

What if you were your team’s biggest problem?

A fascinating coffee shop conversation:

An expressive canvas painting of a conversation between two male colleagues at a coffee shop

What if you were your team’s biggest problem? How will you even know? Let alone fix it.

My friend and I were talking about what it means to lead a team. He runs a hands-on small business, and I do CxO on Tap consulting, usually working with CEOs and Founders on boring stuff like “business transformations”.

My friend talked about his challenges with his team and how he could improve the performance of his employees and his business. His team was talented and hard-working, but they weren’t meeting their company’s goals or delivering the high-quality work he expected.

We talked about all sorts of things he could do differently. He could change their workflow and different tasks, give them new tools, fire some, hire more people with expertise in specific areas, delegate more responsibilities to them and so on…

Then at one point, I heard myself blurting loudly – “Hey, What if YOU are your team’s biggest problem right now? Then how would you fix yourself?”

My friend was shocked at my brutality. I was stunned myself that I said that.

He immediately replied, “nothing”. Then there was radio silence on both sides for 2-3 minutes. Both of us said nothing—dead silence.

Then he got up and shook hands, left the meeting as suddenly as possible. He said, “Thank you so much… that last question …wow! … it was a killer. I don’t know why I didn’t ask myself all along…. I will call you back as soon as I crack this… thanks a bunch”, and he just left.

What would you do? Did it ever happen to you? What if you were your team’s biggest problem? How will you even know?

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Leadership Lesson

Role, Respect, and Resources – the three Rs to building a successful team.

RRR

Introduction

A successful team is not just about brilliant people and good ideas. There’s no point in hoping to be successful with a bunch of individuals who don’t have clarity on what they should do, don’t have the independence to do what they should be doing, or don’t have the resources to do the things they should be doing.

Many teams can function better if these three key factors are fixed – role clarity, respect for their independence, individuality, innovation, and resources to succeed.

Role clarity

Role clarity is the first step in building a successful team. Role clarity is about knowing what to do and what is expected.

Clarifying roles involves defining responsibilities, accountability, and authority. It’s important to remember that role clarity has three main aspects: who does what, who owns what, and how decisions are made.

Each member of the team not only needs to understand not only their role but also how it fits with the other people on the team or project.

Ask yourself:

  • What is the role of each person on your team? Who’s going to do what, and why?
  • Have you ensured that everyone has clear expectations about what they need to accomplish and how they’ll do it?
  • Are there any gaps or overlaps between roles that need to be addressed?

Respect for their independence, individuality, and innovation

Each individual on the team is different, with their strengths, weaknesses, and personal interests. They would do things differently to reach almost similar outcomes. To build a team that works together, you need to respect the differences in your team members and give them independence. 

Respect also means being flexible and adaptable, seeing things from another person’s perspective. A successful leader will empower their team member to do their job by listening to their ideas and suggestions, letting them be themselves, and supporting them when they fail and succeed—wilful stepping back under watchful expertise. 

Ask yourself:

  • How do you respect your team as professionals and individuals and give them the independence to do what they need to do?
  • How are you respecting them for their intelligence and their abilities to complete the task without your micromanaging?

Resources – both tools and skilling being made available to succeed.

Resources are the tools that they need to do their job. These resources include:

  1. The technology—computers, phones, software, etc.— and tools help them do their work more efficiently or effectively.
  2. Training programs teach new skills to be more productive at work (and stay relevant in this fast-moving industry).
  3. Coaching from managers who provide feedback on how to improve performance and achieve goals faster.

Ask yourself:

  • What resources would they need to build efficiency and effect in what they do?
  • What can you provide each team member to provide with the skills and resources required to do their job and do it well?

The three Rs to building a successful team role clarity, respect their independence and resources to succeed

In conclusion, we can see that the three Rs to building a successful team are role, respect and resources. This is not just a catchy phrase but a solid framework for how you should think about your team members as individuals.

By understanding their strengths and weaknesses (role), respecting their independence and creativity (respect), and giving them the tools to succeed (resources), you can create an environment where everyone feels like an equal member of the group.

#team #teambuilding #teamwork #teamleader #teamplayer #teamplayer #teamplayer #role #respect #resources #respect #role #teambuilding #respect #teamplayer #teamleader

team building, team success, team meeting, cooperation, conflict resolution, building a successful team, leadership skills

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Leadership Lesson

Imagination – Why will dreamers rule the world?

Imagination is underrated

An imaginative mind is an active mind.

An active mind is multi-dimensional

A multi-dimensional mind explores all possibilities.

More possibilities mean more creativity.

More creativity is more innovation.

More innovation makes the world a better place.

An imaginative mind is key to making the world a better place.

In a world full of uncertainty, imagination plays a more pivotal role than ever before. Imagination allows us to innovate and change the world for the better.

Rajesh Soundararajan

Imagination is underrated

We should use imagination more often and in more ways than we do today. But then, isn’t it weird to try to just imagine something out of thin air? At least, that’s what I thought for most of my life until I learned about the ‘power of imagination and how it works.

Instead of asking “Why?” all the time, why not we start asking “Why Not?”; instead of “What?” what if we used “What if”? Could these open ourselves up to new possibilities?

Imagine this: You are standing on the edge of a cliff, looking down at your own body lying motionless on the 100ft below you on the ground. How would you feel? Would you be scared or excited? Would you want to jump or stay put? What are you feeling now? What are the thoughts running at that point?

Imagining things from various uncomfortable perspectives and possibilities helps us understand ourselves better. And we gain new insight into our own lives by getting outside ourselves for a moment—the above was just one bizarre (imaginative) example!

Instead of asking “Why?” all the time, why not we start asking “Why Not?”; instead of “What?” what if we used “What if”? Could these open ourselves up to new possibilities?

An imaginative mind is an active mind.

An imaginative mind is a mind that can think of many things at once. Imagination is the ability to create new ideas, experiences, and situations in our thoughts. Imagination helps us to solve problems and make decisions. It’s also vital to foster creativity!

The more we use our imagination, the better it works! We have seen this happen before: When someone tells us a story about something they did with their friends or family, do we imagine what it would be like if it happened to us? This is because our imaginations are highly active all the time!

An active mind is multi-dimensional

All minds are active minds. An active mind is multi-dimensional. An active mind is multi-dimensional. It can work on many ideas at a time; it can hold multiple ideas in its grasp and turn them over like so many stones, seeing what lies beneath the surface of each one. Is it a surprise then that an active mind is so powerful:

The active mind can consider the different facets of an issue without feeling overwhelmed or having to choose between them. Instead, it can look at them all at once and see how they relate to each other individually and as part of a larger whole.

This is why a multi-dimensional mind is invaluable—it can take the most complex problems and simplify them to become manageable.

A mind is like a garden full of flowers of different hues and colors, with different blooms and fruition cycles. Still,  they co-exist. And like in a garden, where each plant needs specific attention, one’s multi-dimensional mind needs specific nurturing to each of the dimensions.

All minds are active minds. An active mind is multi-dimensional.

Rajesh Soundararajan

A multi-dimensional mind explores all possibilities.

All of us have a little voice in our heads. It’s the one that asks “what if?” and “why not?”. We call it our imagination. It keeps us asking questions, exploring options, and thinking outside the box. It’s also the thing that makes us human.

Yes, sometimes our imagination can feel like it’s getting a little too loud in our heads—we get overwhelmed by all the ideas we’re trying to juggle at once. We start feeling like we’re just spinning wheels on everything because we don’t know where to start. What if we practice quietening the mind to co-exist with those multiple ideas like a garden full of beautiful flowers?

The test of first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

More possibilities mean more creativity.

The more possibilities there are, the more creativity we have. Resources are finite, but our mind is infinite. We can create something out of nothing while using our imagination to help others and ourselves.

Innovation and creativity are at their highest when we have an open mind to the many possibilities to arrive at a solution. As our society becomes more dependent on technology, we will need more people who can think outside the box, look at more possibilities and draw patterns. This is precisely what humans do with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning – exploring increased possibilities to find hidden intelligence.

So, what do human-made machines do, can’t humans do better?

More creativity is more innovation.

In a way that creativity and innovation are two sides of the same coin; it is like art and science.

The creative mind is more open to new ways of thinking and perceiving; it sees things in new ways, bringing about innovation. Innovation is an integral part of human progress because it enables us to create tools, products, systems, and ideas that help us live better lives.

Innovation comes from a combination of imagination and knowledge—it’s not enough to know how something works if we don’t also have some insight into how it could be used differently or improved. This is where imagination steps in: if we can imagine a better way for something to work, we might be able to make it happen!

More innovation makes the world a better place.

The world is a complex place. There are infinite problems that need to be solved, and we need creative solutions to solve them. So the more imaginative and innovative people there are, the better our chance of making things better for everyone.

Innovative people come up with new ideas, which lead to new ways to solve problems – be it products and services; these things create jobs, create a better standard of living, feed the poor, cure the diseased, and a lot more.

But innovation doesn’t just stop there! It also means being able to help out those in need by finding better ways of doing things so they don’t have as much pain or suffering anymore. This is good for saving the planet since we use fewer resources and are more efficient.

An imaginative mind is key to making the world a better place.

An imaginative mind is key to making the world a better place. A good imagination is critical and can help us achieve our dreams and goals. We must imagine ourselves achieving them before they become a reality, so we must know how to use our imagination properly.

We need more people with imaginative minds to make the world a better place.

Rajesh Soundararajan

Maybe the United Nations should hire fiction writers?

You can find more articles from this author at https://in.linkedin.com/in/rajeshsound

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Leadership Lesson

“Why do you want to do what you want to do?

“Why do you want to do what you want to do?

In my interactions with clients, they come with an absolutely ‘clear ask’ on the requirement and want us to fulfil that ‘immediately’.

It is most comfortable for me to give them what they asked. However, I almost always pose this question.

“Why do you want to do what you want to do? Not that we cannot do that x thing that you ask for, but would love to understand the why of it is the right thing to do.”

7 in 10 times, during the process of discussion, their ‘clear ask’ has now changed a few times, and the new request is more practical and commonsensical. Sometimes that ‘urgent need’ itself is nullified, and I have possibly lost that ‘immediate business’ of what they were initially planning to give us.

I do this because I put myself into the shoes of my customer’s business. And gives me a vicarious experience of ‘being a core part of their business’ during those conversations.

That is the value I seem to bring to the table. It has often, at times, saved millions.
But more importantly, asking the right questions, seemed to be the right thing to do.

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Leadership Lesson

Why Making Mistakes is Important in Life

I have written about Of learning, failure and my perspective. I had also spoken about it on Prodcast on Leadership Lessons – Learning to Fail and Preparing for a Fail .

There was so much interest that I have tried summarising the same with 9 reasons on why making mistakes is okay, and 6 ways on how to recover from a mistake.

  1. Mistakes are an unavoidable part of life and are vital to a person’s growth.
  2. Everyone makes mistakes.
  3. Mistakes make up most part of our lives. And it is because of the mistakes one learns. A child makes mistakes a thousand times and falls as many times before her first step.

Reasons why making mistakes is okay

  1. Mistakes give you valuable life lessons.
  2. They say mistakes are life’s way of teaching you. Behind each mistake is an important lesson to be learned.
  3. You are only human, and humans are not made to be perfect. It is what makes each of us unique.
  4. Mistakes help you grow. The first time that you will smell success is after the last time you learnt from your earlier mistake. Mistakes they say is a steppingstone to success.
  5. Mistakes push you to do better, be better. They help you become a better version of yourself.
  6. Mistakes help you know yourself more. It allows you to figure out who you are as a person.
  7. Mistakes do not define you. In fact, errors do not stand for anybody.
  8. You will never find anyone who has never made a mistake in their life. If someone said they did, that not telling the truth.
  9. When you make a mistake, you know one more way in which it should not be done

How to recover from a mistake

  1. Accept it – Accepting that you have made a mistake is the first step towards correcting it. What you do not accept, you cannot correct. Accept that mistake. Learn from it.
  2. Know what you did wrong. Understanding your mistake helps you make amends and rectify the situation.
  3. Remember the lesson
  4. Mistakes are normal. Fret not! Everybody makes mistakes.
  5. Accepting the mistake is the first step towards correcting them in the future.
  6. Do not be afraid of making mistakes. It should not prevent you from taking risks or doing anything worthwhile.

“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow.” – Mary Tylor Moore

Here is a Spotify Prodcast on the subject

Spotify Prodcast on Failures

83 -second Video on Making Mistakes