What is your biggest strength and area of improvement?

“The art of communication is the language of leadership” – James Humes

During most of my childhood days, I was mostly an introvert with my social circle limited to my immediate family members, and only a small bunch of classmates. While this never became a deterrent during my primary education, I realized an inherent gap in my personality when I got exposed to the multi-cultural vibrant community of my undergrad institution. From there on, I decided to overcome my limitation of effective communication and networking, and turn it into a chink in my armor. Over the next few years, I immersed myself in as many social events and student activities I could take part in college. In the final year of college, I was unanimously elected as the president of a student body, as part of which I championed several initiatives involving students, faculty and alumni.

During my professional career, as I took up increasingly challenging responsibilities, my communication style evolved – from being someone who was good at connecting with people over verbal discussions, to someone who is able to not only come up with compelling presentations, but also tactfully drive multi-stakeholder communications towards a common objective. My experience of working with high impact official development project required me to communicate with people of different nationalities and also of different socio-economic strata. I also learnt to tailor my conversations with people from both developed countries like Germany, the United States, Australia, Japan and the Netherland, as well as developing countries like Bhutan, Nepal & Pakistan and emerging economies like China and India. While some responded to extremely objective and succinct communication, others preferred subjective communication. To get concrete information and manage the projects effectively, many a times I had to switch from extremely formal way of communicating at high-level boardroom meetings to informal means of communication to get information from the site level officials or the villagers. After such conversations, I would create a list of issues and corresponding incentives specific to stakeholders at every level. Making this comprehensive list helped me aware of the scale of the problem and prioritize items. At the back of customized communication approach, I have been able to successfully resolve conflicts, convince international bodies to fund local projects, motivate and retain talented team members, win the confidence of people from economically deprived segments, and complete projects with tangible business outcomes.

A byproduct of my hands on approach of problem solving is my subconscious resistance to task delegation. My quest for perfection in every task often lands me in a situation where I end up taking the bulk load of all the responsibilities. The negative impact of this was amplified by the fact that not only am I not able to utilize my time effectively towards broad organizational objectives; the growth of my team members also is hindered. Many a times, after devising initial strategy, ideally I should have delegated tasks to team members according to their skillsets, but instead I ended up doing the entire heavy lifting including – conducting both primary and secondary research, supervising micro level deliverable etc. Over time, I have made a conscious effort to segregate between micro and macro level tasks, and assign independent ownership of tasks to team members, develop trust in individual contributor’s capabilities, and focus more on broad team objectives. In the process, I have also taken periodic feedback from my supervisors to streamline tasks.

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