Beyond Salary & Designation: The Wealth That Matters

“What keeps you going?”

A former colleague asked me this when she learned I completed 18 years in my current workplace.

“A few things, but mostly, it’s the team,” I replied.

“Like how,” she asked.

“It’s heartening to know that my words and actions have positively impacted their lives.”

She seemed to get the picture but was curious to know more.

“It’s overwhelming when a team member tells you I am a big reason why he comes to work with a smile on his face or that he didn’t consider a job offer that paid a third more than his current salary because he felt it was not good enough not to have me around,” I concluded.

Making A Difference

Last month, after learning he’d no longer report to me in my restructured role, a colleague gifted me a book.

It had a signed note from him.

Rajen col note

For over two decades as a leader, I’ve been privileged to receive similar messages from others.

Eight years ago, a team member who moved out to start his venture sent me this:

“You may not have realised how in more ways than one, you are responsible for the person/professional I have become today.

You helped me believe that a boss doesn’t have to boss over his team to be a boss.

In many ways, you have been one of the best things that could have ever happened to me for probably like forever.”

From Colleagues to Lifelong Friends

I am lucky to have many such, but for this piece, I have consciously picked the ones from former colleagues who remain connected years after checking out.

Here’s one more I received over a decade ago:

“What should I say? ‘Thank you’ is so inadequate.

You reposed faith in me and allowed me to work in my own space and you were always there whenever I felt doubt. I value your advice and turned to you even when it was not directly related to work – and it never failed me.

I pray to God that we stay in touch and I get another chance to work with you

Deeply heartfelt thanks for everything!”

I am fortunate to receive some from outside my team. A colleague who led another team and sat nine feet away at work fondly remembers our time together.

I was deeply moved to read what she sent me on the day she checked out:

No goodbyes.

Because this wonderful relationship is forever. Because in life, when you find an exceptional human being, you hold on to him for life. Because it is rare to find someone so truly honest, so truly warm.

I have learned so much working with you and not just TV skills but managing teams and reaching out to individuals. Looking out to structure work such that each one gets a chance to grow and be recognized for the work they are doing. And I have seen your team try and emulate your passion and commitment.

I have worked, laughed, stressed, danced, ideated and done so much more with you. Every moment is a happy memory and I will ensure that I will keep building this “Moments with Rajen” memory bank.

I treasure my relationships with each of them and many others. We may no longer work in the same place, we may not meet often, and we may not speak much. But when we do, the connection ignites, and we seamlessly take off from where we left.

You may measure the impact of your professional work on the end user – whom we call – the audience or the customer. But, equally valuable is the effect of what you do on your colleagues. You may not always know how your audience feels, but you are more likely to find out how your colleagues respond to your words and actions. When you understand and value this, you will engage accordingly.

Batting Straight at Work

In all my years as a professional, I have slept well at night, knowing that I never tread on other toes or do anything to upstage others. No deceit or gamesmanship. In cricketing parlance, it would mean ‘playing with a straight bat.’

It’s funny how in cricket, I play cross-batted shots. My style has been unconventional. But at work, I’ve played straight. That has earned me friends for life.

What’s Kept Me Going

This week, I completed 18 years in my current workplace and entered my 29th year since I started working. I cherish the human relationships I have built and the difference I have been privileged to make in the lives of those I have worked with. This is my professional wealth. This is what has kept me going.

Money can’t buy THIS.

Shifting Focus from Position to Purpose

I’ve never worked primarily for a salary or a designation. I can’t remember going to any of my bosses even once to talk about either of the two. My role has mattered more, and with it, the opportunity to better the lives around me.

It amuses me to see those who engage in chicanery in their hanker and hunger for a position or role.

‘To each, their own’ is a phrase I use often. But when I see such behaviour, I don’t wish to give it legitimacy by this phrase.

If only they spent their time impacting the final product, service they are working toward or the colleagues they are working with, their world would be so much better.

Did I just say “their world”?

It’s our world too.

It’s ONE WORLD. And we have ONE LIFE to make a difference.

I will sign off with a line from the living legend Kapil Dev. When journalists covering the 1983 World Cup asked him if he hoped to win, he quipped:

‘What else we here for.’

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