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Part 2: Future proof your future

A performing asset today, what will it take to elevate you as the strategic player, protecting relevancy of your status, when everything goes on the uptick? This is the short answer: Leadership aptitude, critical proficiencies and a standout attitude with an eye on the growing momentum of Industry 4.0. The economic downturn may slow the 4.0 march a bit, there is little money for investing in transformative technologies and resources. However, for the big techs with deep pockets, investing in the smart manufacturing initiatives may be imperative to protect their market segments when the economy finds its feet. The sentiment of fear and uncertainty can be reset with the concept of living with the 'new norm' as a norm. Humankind always find a way up from down, it's in our DNA.

"Leadership aptitude? But I am not in a leadership position." Yes, you are in a leadership position. Right where you are. You do not need to have people reporting to you to be a leader. When there are people reporting to you, it does not mean that you are a leader. Leadership is not a position. Leadership is  aptitude and attitude. Leadership is about feeling ownership for the organization's vision and mission. It's about driving yourself and those whom you work with, towards enabling the vision and the success of the mission. 

Stand Out

A stand out would be able to align people behind common objectives, getting the right things done without having full control of the resources. The leader type will extract the essence of the vision with full clarity and have the ability to detail the process towards the team's success. This is the critical influencing skill that commands a high value.

The speed and complexity of business today, calls for a mindset that embraces ambiguity. The ability to make quick and accurate decisions on projects with limited information, deploying the right resources towards its successful completion is definitely a premium. Making quick and effective decisions based on information available has been the distinguishing skill of a successful leader. The premium over this is the ability to anticipate challenges and make sound decisions that result in positive impact across the organization. Strengthening your value would be cross discipline experience and the understanding of diversity, enabling you to be functional across geographies.

Another strategic expectation is the bias for innovative thinking and agility. These abilities are expressed through the constant experimentation and innovative approaches to increase efficiency and enhance business results. Actions to demonstrate the culture of innovation includes strategically challenging the status quo, testing new ideas and raising the level of performance expectations, both for self and others.

Your continued tenure might be sought if, in addition to charismatic leadership traits described, you are known to make tough decisions that favorably balances cost and results.

Critical skills, additional to those supporting your own discipline, are strengths that shield you from the vagaries of the current economic climate. Of course, you should not be be performance managed. If you are, you have to speed up the closure of gaps, get out of the manacle that put you at certain risk.

Whether they are external customers or internal stakeholders, those who use your service are critically important persons. Their feedback will be sought in your assessment. If you think internal customers are freeloaders, you are wrong. They are paying customers, the cost of your service is partially allocated to their cost center. Hence, their scores and ratings are used to assess your viability as a service provider.

One of the prioritized proficiency is customer orientation. You are expected to have a strong working relationship, even a partnership with your customers. Beyond the service level agreement, you are expected to manage their expectations. Effectiveness in this proficiency enables your organization to balance cost and results.

The nuts and bolts expectations include project management and problem solving skills. Analytical skills, a highly rated capability, cover logical problem solving, root cause analysis, and system design and improvements. 

Safety and compliance management expertise will make you a star. Besides other impacts, excursions in these two areas will diminish reputation and good will. Effective communication skills is the foundation for success in leadership and critical proficiencies performance.

You are on high ground if you score 80% and above. New employees within a year of tenure will probably be safe with a 60% score. Remember, your immediate boss will be tasked for the final rating, based on his/her assessment and inputs from a 360 degree survey.

Work Hard, Work Long

Fluid but important influence to your survival is the perception of your attitude. Go-to, accountable, can do labels might save your day. 

Be the face of a project, work with your industry group or a non governmental group. Volunteer, contribute and articulate. Be a trainer in your sphere of expertise. Aspire to be a thought leader in your field. However, be very accessible and helpful. To yourself and to others. 'Sharpen your saw' regularly.

Work hard, work long, work ethically and work well with everyone. Find a mentor. Be a mentor. Be known as a success enabler. Take position in high visibility teams such as the organization's emergency response set-up or the corporate social responsibility group. The fastest way to work up in the volunteer organizations is to take up a position that few want, a position calling for huge time and effort commitment. Offer to do the hardest work.

The agenda for this long conversation (rather more of a monologue) is boosting your chance of keeping 'a' job. Any job. If you are offered another job within, take it. If you are made into a 'green badge' or contract employee, take it. Don't play the zero sum game. It's not the time for it.

If you feel you are losing grip of the rope, make the best out of the situation. Work with influential people within your company to organize a job fair for those affected by the 'impending shed of the workforce.' Use the CSR or caring banner. There are few companies hiring but if you look hard enough you can find them. The last I looked, Tencent, the Chinese giant advertises more than 5000 jobs on its website. Delivery companies for food and online shopping will need people. Uber is said to be offering $ 7 billion to buy GrubHub. It must be a viable business for thefuture. Contact tracing service is a new job. At the time of writing, it is estimated that 100k to 300k contact tracers are needed in the US alone.  By taking on this task, you are helping yourself and others. Your leadership will be appreciated by many, including your  future employer.

If you, by luck or lack of it, are appointed to take one for the team, don't waste time lamenting. Start a small business. Online food is a sustaining deal. I foresee opportunities in personal buying service for food, fashion and the necessities. I can see a 'queue for you' as a service for a while in the new norm. Start looking at the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) job listing at O*Net Online. If you are not ready for the jobs. Up skill yourself and restart with Industry 4.0 opportunities. In many cities, there are government sponsored organizations offering STEM courses free or at a nominal fee. If there is no such service in your area, it's an opportunity. Work with a few such organizations, make a pitch with your local government representatives. Start one and create yourself a job.

It's Not Final until You Think It Is

This is unprecedented time. This is pandemic time. This is hard time. For you, for me, for almost everybody. I want you to be spared from the pink slip. Of course these tips do not have a vaccine-like power. They are designed to provide you reference , if you are in the dark, based on the selection criteria in the shedding events I have participated. Your boss will make the final decision. I want you to have a better chance at making it harder for him or her to let you go. Whatever happens, make sure that any decision is not final for you. It need not be. Stay safe.

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