So, it has been three years since we have started School of Excellence. And retrospecting the past few years, I have learnt a few things. And in this article I am going to share what I discovered.
As I remember three years ago, my ‘tech’ network told me, “You are a born genius with programming. Don’t throw away your talents.” My family was shocked that I had just abandoned a promising career. A few startups and investors couldn’t come to terms that I wasn’t taking in the fancy CTO position in their firm and some who didn’t know me at all thought I was just another wannabe kid who wanted to ‘start’ something.
The reason it fascinates me to think of this beginning is because it helps me connect closer and empathise with some of my team members, when they go through a ‘bump’ in this journey.
I remember a friend who quit his job at Wipro and took up sales in SOE. We called him ‘the Wolf’. He would sell our program to anyone he meets, with style. But for over a year, he had to really work his way to convince his parents, who were shocked as well, that he just left a promising corporate job for doing sales in a company whose fate was unknown. What delights me is, today, his parents are proud of him. His elder brother is our Alumni and a sincere well wisher. They say he has evolved as an individual.
And this is what delights me! Each member of our team brings back news about how their family is happy with the ‘Glow’ in their face and with the ‘new’ individual they have become. And how their parents or spouse believe they have become a smarter, better and more dynamic individual.
And some of them come and thank me. But here is the truth that I learned. Who they have become in these months/years is because of who they were already! SOE may have given them a playground, a context or the opportunity, but they made use of it because of who they are as a person inside.
Because these are the kind of people who get stronger in difficult times. Their eyes are fixed on the final prize — the infinite happiness of hundreds of millions of lives touched and SOE at the pinnacle of the Excellence Installation Industry. They may not know when this is going to happen, but they surely do know we are in that direction of making it happen.
And over these years, I have learned that when you recruit team members, these are the kind you need. The quality I am pointing is called ‘Congruence’, in the terms of Neuro Linguistic Programming.
I am going to define congruence, by elaborating on incongruence. Consider JIM, he is a hardworking boy, sometimes. He has this cycle of working hard for two months and being careless for another two months. And he tends to repeat this pattern over and over again. John and Richard (Founders of NLP) defined such incongruence as sequential incongruence. And then there is the other kind, Jack, he tells his wife how much he loves her. His words are sweet but his tone (that he is not aware of) sounds like he is bored. This is called as ‘simultaneous incongruence’. Congruence is the lack of both such incongruence.
Why is Congruence so important, for a startup?
- They Make things Happen: You will always have people who will tell you they can do ‘it’. And they really mean it. But they will jump out at the first instance of trouble. On the contrary, when you have people with congruence, they will go out of their way to make things happen.This is a story, I remember: SOE was going through a very tough financial stretch many months ago. An elderly team member walked up to me and said, “You are like my son. You have my apartment at your disposal. It will fetch you Rs. 80 lakhs, if you need it.” I still remember the look in his eyes. He believed the cause. He believed in me. And he believed in the business. I smiled and told him, “We will find other ways to accomplish this.” And thank God, we did.
- These are the people who will join you for the right reasons: They are not there because they need some job or for time pass or social status. People with congruence join you for the right reason. Recently, we had a person join SOE. He was in a quite senior position before, and as a startup, we were not in a position to offer him more than 1/3rd of his previous salary. And I told him frankly, “I don’t know what that means to you in terms of your career.” And he said, “I know I will grow here and I trust that.” I can still hear his voice; it had such conviction and such unfaltering spirit. Imagine how this man feels when he comes to office everyday. And how significantly valuable his contributions will be.
- They Keep the Spirit Alive: People who are congruent remind you the purpose of what you are doing. And they bring in the joyful spirit. I remember sometimes our Alumni commenting on some of our team members, “You are so lucky”, “you work for SOE” and “no wonder you are glowing and growing so fast.” Yes, SOE is fun. It is amazing each day. The kind of stories we hear, the love we get, the happiness it brings and the thrill of being the frontier of an innovative and revolutionary technology. Yes, all this is true but it doesn’t come easy. At SOE, people travel back to back, they work 18 hours, they have trouble telling their friends what they do and some still have to win acceptance of their ‘new’ job from their family members. But I guess, it doesn’t matter. When you have people with strong congruence, the day is always joyful.
- They will Stick: There is a girl in our team, who about a year ago got a job as a ‘corporate trainer’. This was her dream job. And to top it, it came with frequent travel to Europe which she loves and a package that was twice our offering + travel expenses. These are the kind of offers our team gets almost every month. But when people are congruent about why they do what they do, they will stick to make that dream come true. About a few months ago, a product we launched caused us a lot of effort, but we quickly realised we had to do it differently. It was a tough time. I was deeply concerned. I remember a friend, a team member of SOE, assuring me, “No matter what happens you can count on me to support you.” People with congruence don’t need you to motivate them. Instead, they improve everyone’s morale.
- They will be your Brand Ambassadors: As part of our one-to-one coaching service, I meet some very well established celebrities and top performers through my team members. And one thing that is common is they have heard more of me than I could ever tell them. The team member who introduced us are so passionate about what we (all of SOE) do, that he/she talks about us everywhere, everytime! I remember once a young girl telling me, “For a while, I couldn’t take it. My mother and my sister keep talking about ‘this’ all the time. And now, it seems like, I am a part of it.” This is what happens when your team members are congruent in their love and passion of the stuff you do. In fact, we even have people who spread SOE in their art and music that they produce in their own free time.
What it means to you?
Although the above examples have been about team members and specifically about my team, I am sure you may, as you read them, find examples from your own life, that connect to one or more of the five points mentioned above. And congruence is not only important in that sense for hiring. It is also a key component to consider when you are considering your own future. Today, everyone wants to ‘try’ something that seems attractive. Some want to be an entrepreneur, some a coach, some an SAP consultant, some an image consultant and some a trainer. And when people ask me to coach them to make a right choice, I teach them just one thing. I teach them to check for congruence. Do they have it in them to endure? Because everything requires effort and a fervent spirit to persist, to keep finding ways to make things work. Maybe it is a new project you want to work on. Or maybe it is a new city you want to move into.
The question I ask is “Do you believe you will make it happen, congruently?”
Following are two parables (Analogy without conscious explanation on purpose) I have borrowed from the Bible:
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?”
“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?”
How to detect congruence?
Finding passionate people is not good enough. Passion may pass. You need to find people whose passion will sustain and grow with time. And that is why it is important to catch incongruence. And here are some ways to do that:
1. Simultaneous InCongruence is very easy to spot. The trick is to pay attention to the whole person. A lot of people focus their attention on the eyes or the face of the person they are speaking to. If you can train yourself to look at all the parts of the body individually as well as the person as a whole, you will easily be able to spot when they offer mixed response. If your attention is only on the face, you will most likely miss this. However, when you become good at it, the differences in the face will also look amplified. For example, you may start noticing people, where one side of their face is smiling and the other side of the face is tensed. They look deceptively similar both sides, but your trained eyes can catch them.
2. The other way to catch ‘simultaneous incongruence’ is to pay attention to the person’s tonality. Does it convey the same information as the words used and the body posture or is it different? Most people who are not trained on NLP or similar skills are not very conscious about their voice, and hence it can be a very easy give away. Watching talk shows in a language you do not know can be used as an aid to train this skill by focusing your hearing on the tonal shifts and in-congruencies instead of the content (words) of the speaker.
3. The more advanced skill is to detect ‘sequential incongruence’. I use a technique from NLP called ‘future pacing’. This means that somewhere in your conversation, as you are talking about a possible future, you shift the tense of the verb from future to present. We call it the future present. Such a subtle change in tense, done artfully, produces an hypnotic response. You will start noticing the non-verbals of the person shift, as if they are really in that time frame. If you take the time to train your eyes and ears, so that they open more to notice finer distinctions, and if you are able to do 1 and 2, you will also be able to detect sequential incongruence when future pacing.
Practicing the exercises mentioned above will help you develop improved abilities to detect incongruence.
There are some ‘ways’ of thinking that Richard and John proposed in the early days of NLP, that can aid in communication and application of Neuro Linguistic Programming. And one of my favourites from that list is ‘There is no failure, only feedback’. What it means is that a good NLP practitioner will always act and behave as if there is something he or she can do with the ongoing situation that will produce a different result than the previous attempt. And I personally believe, congruence is the fuel that feeds the feedback to feedforward to continue moving ahead! This is why I love my team. They are Congruent. I dedicate this article to the Lovely SOE TEAM.