Essentials for excellence in 2021: Twenty-one points to ponder | Sunday Observer

Essentials for excellence in 2021: Twenty-one points to ponder

3 January, 2021

A refreshing 31,557,600 seconds in 2021 are with us. Covid-19 is still with us and perhaps will continue to be with us. Yet, the refreshing spirit of a new year invites us not only to have brand new thoughts but to convert them into grand actions. As usual, people tend to have New Year resolutions. My suggestion is to go beyond scant resolutions, to have specific reinforcements. As an appetiser for a productive new year, I would like to share 21 thoughts for 2021 as essentials for excellence, especially with the Sri Lankan managers in mind. 

1. Efficient

We all complain about lack of time. Even though, there are seminars, workshops, trainings and lectures on “time management”, we really cannot manage time. It is finite and fixed. Instead what we can do is to “manage ourselves” in getting best out of the given limited time. Only way to do that is to be efficient in our tasks. It involves minimising the wastages, reducing the defects, curtailing the deviations etc. Let us be efficient in the year 2021.

2. Effective

Being efficient is not enough. We can efficiently climb a ladder placed against a wrong wall. Effectiveness is results related. It deals with the outputs and the outcomes. That’s where we need to being with the end in mind. The mistake we do sometimes is trying to be super-duper efficient, losing track of the larger goal. Let us be effective in the year 2021.

3. Empathic

As we know, empathy is getting into others shoes and walking like them. In other words, it means having the ability to look at a problem or an issue from the other’s frame of view. Sri Lankan managers and administrators can improve vastly on this. Rather than jumping into conclusions merely looking at one side of the story, a mature broad approach of being empathic is required. Let us be empathic in the year 2021.

4. Energetic 

We need to be “corporate athletes” in maintaining healthy mind-body balance. Energy flows out not by consuming more “energy drinks” but committing to exercise regularly. Unfortunately we see quite the contrary in the corporate world, where most of the things are remote-controlled. Finding quality time for physical exercises on a regular basis will be one sure cure for physical inactivity. Having a healthy dietary pattern, in opting to be fit than fat, is another vital need.  Let us be energetic in the year 2021.  

5. Enthusiastic

Happy employees are productive employees. That’s what the research says. Interestingly, that’s why some enthusiastic enterprises have resorted to measure “laughs per hour”.

There are ground realities one cannot ignore. Either one has to find the work he/she loves to do, or love the work he/she has to do. Having a positive approach to work is an absolute must. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “do what you can, with what you have, wherever you are”. Let us be enthusiastic in the year 2021. 

6. Envision

“Dare to dream, dare to act, dare to fail, dare to succeed”. So goes an old saying. Everything begins with envisioning.

As Walt Disney said, if you can dream it, you can deliver it. Unfortunately we see more “day dreams” in Sri Lankan workplaces, especially after lunch. The need of the hour is to be more growth-oriented in terms of working towards long term goals. Let us envision it in 2021. 

7. Enhance

We need to enhance our knowledge and skills. With the internet as a vast ocean of knowledge offering a variety of informal learning approaches, learning has become a part and parcel of our lives.

Unfortunately, we visit the internet to find “figures” instead of “facts and figures”.  Sharpening ourselves with cutting-edge knowledge is an absolute must in facing competition.

As Socrates said a long time ago, we learn from “the womb to the tomb”.  Let us enhance ourselves in the year 2021.

8. Engage

Employee engagement has already become a buzz word in business circles. It captures the essence of employees’ head, hands and heart involvement in work. It refers to an employee’s psychological state (e.g. one’s identification with the organisation), his/her disposition (e.g. one’s positive feeling towards the organisation) and performance (e.g. one’s level of discretionary effort). In brief, it captures affective (feeling), cognitive (thinking) and behavioural (acting) dimensions of an employee. We need to engage more in order to excel. Let us engage more in the year 2021.

9. Explore

This is essentially about being creative, in thinking “out of the box.” It reminds me of what our veteran writer Kumaratunga Munidasa said a long time ago. “A nation without innovation will not prosper, but will lie lamenting, being unable to beg”.  Innovation has paved the way for many countries to succeed in becoming globally competitive. 

Where are we with regard to innovation? How many new patents Sri Lankans register annually? Nanotechnology and Biotechnology can be sited as promising areas where innovation has begun to yield dividends. Let us explore this in  2021.

10. Empower 

As Lao Tsu said a long time ago, great leaders are “leader breeders”. Such a transformation can only be possible through empowerment. It involves, on the one hand, delegation, Assigning tasks to others to handle, whilst being accountable. On the other hand, it involves development. The fundamental mistake we do is to simple delegate tasks without developing the team. Let us empower in 2021.

11. Endure

This is all about continuation. We start things with a big bang and discontinue half-way through. Sustainability has become a critical factor in the midst of business failures. Chaotic weather patterns across the globe are a grim reminder that eco-friendly practices of work need a lot more attention. What matters are not only profits and people, but planet as well. Let us endure in  2021. 

12. Embrace

In a rapidly changing well-connected world, we need to embrace best practices, and perhaps the “next” practices.

Take recruitment for an example. Rather than having an interview by a panel of senior members who have no idea about what real interviewing is all about, the time has come to move towards professionalism. There are new techniques to conduct behavioural interviews.

Required competencies to a job against actual competencies of a candidate can be accessed through a well-designed assessment centre. The starting point is to acknowledge the need to change in appropriately adapting the new practices. Let us embrace more in 2021. 

13. Enrich

It is a broad term capturing the physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual facets of life. We need enrichment in a balanced manner in all above fronts. Sadly but surely, what we see in the world is quite the contrary.

There is imbalance with the mad rush for material acquisition. As I saw in a poster somewhere, “we gain wealth by sacrificing our health and we regain health by spending our wealth”. Let us enrich more in 2021. 

14. Engross

It refers to get involved totally, with complete participation. It differs from engagement to the extent where you need to be holistic and be willing to capture the fullness of a situation. Half-hearted, half-baked approaches with shabbily completing tasks are the quite opposites.

The Asian term, mindfulness aptly captures what you need to do fully in living in the moment. Let us engross more in meaningful activities in 2021. 

15. Erase

When Nelson Mandela was released from 27 years of rigorous imprisonment, first thing he did was to forgive his enemies. Then he said, “Reconciliation begins now”. It invites us to forgive and forget. In brief, it refers to the erasing of negative memories. The sooner we erase the negative memories, yet retaining the lessons learnt, the better it is for us to experience inner freedom. Let us erase the past negativities in 2021.

16. Elevate

We need to continuously elevate our standards in order to stay competitive. It is voluntarily raising the bar.

“Kaisen” invites us to continuously improve in challenging our  past performance and raising the targets for future  performance. As the famous quote goes, “Aim for the sky and you’ll reach the ceiling; Aim for the ceiling and you’ll stay on the floor”. Let us elevate ourselves in 2021. 

17. Emancipate

This is comparatively a subtle aspect. It deals with practicing the values.

The numerous stories we heard ranging from global credit crunch to Golden Key chaos, call for the need of ethicality.

It is not achieving short-term gains “either by hook or by crook” but something much deeper, grounded on solid principles. Ethics is difficult to define in a precise way. In a general sense, ethics is the code of moral principles and values that governs the behaviour of a person or a group with respect to what is right or what is wrong. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, says the golden rule of ethics. Let us emancipate in 2021.

18. Enthrall

This is the logical extension of emancipation. You radiate “positive energy” to energise and engage others. Leaders should enthrall their team members towards a clear purpose so that they become committed collaborators. It is the capacity to persuade others for a worthy cause.  Let us immensely enthrall in 2021.

19. Engulf

There is a growing optimism about a better political culture with higher accountability at all levels, in moving beyond conventional power boundaries. Engulfing involves complete covering of something or someone. Integrity should engulf Sri Lankan institutions where corruption has been rampant, with a clean slate of transparency through professionalism. Let us positively engulf ourselves in 2021.

20. Exclaim

I thought this is something we need specially in battling with a planetary pandemic. Having positive vibrations of resilience (of course not becoming COVID19 positive) is required at all fronts.

The doom and gloom of a pandemic should be overcome by the boom and zoom (yes, with “Zoom” thanks to Eric Yuan, Chinese-born American billionaire businessman).

It is to show the positive and constructive response with confidence to a challenging economic reality. It is also responding  to VUCA 1.0 (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity) with VUCA 2.0 (Vision, Understanding, Confidence and Agility). Let us exclaim our resilience, recovery, and revival in 2021. 

21. Excel

This is the culmination of all above Es. Excellence is all about being exceptionally good. When applied to enterprises, it involves exceptional achievements in a consistent manner. “We are what we repeatedly do; Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” So said Aristotle a long time ago, which has much relevance for today and tomorrow. 

The dawn of 2021 offers us another opportunity to have a fresh look at our lives. Embracing the twenty thoughts for a terrific “twenty-twenty” will ensure the exceeding of expectations with excellence as essence.

May 2021 be a year of excellence for you, as an individual, as an interactive team member, as an institutional employee, all above as an integral player in an island of ingenuity. Let us excel in 2021.