I spent this week training around 400 employees from an established Malaysian insurer.
The company is a strategic partnership between a local banking conglomerate, and a leading global provider of insurance, annuities and employee benefit programmes that is headquartered in New York, with operations in nearly 50 countries and a 145-year history.
My engagement with this group was focused on helping to create a sense of awareness of what success might mean to them. And, it was a lot of fun being with this gregarious team.
The subjective and personal nature of what success may mean to each person makes defining it rather tenuous. But to say that success means getting what you want, is not too off the mark.
However, what does success mean for you, at work?
To answer this question, you need to start by being clear why you actually go to work. I asked this question in my programme this week. The categorical response I got was, “I work for money.”
But is this strictly true?
If I offered you RM100 per month more than what you are being paid now; will you leave your job and come to work with me? Perhaps not.
While I am sure that you have a figure which may entice you to think about leaving your current job; it is not just the money that is to be considered, but a combination of factors.
The next question I posed my trainees was to ask them how they spent their money each month. Let me ask you to think about this. How much of your monthly salary, do you use only for yourself?
Remember, that the car that you drive or the mortgage you have for your home, does not count in this equation. Those things do not benefit you alone. You cannot tell your spouse or your kids to take the bus, because the car is yours. These are things that you spend as much for your family, as you do for yourself.
My question is about the money you use purely on yourself. For things like clothes or entertainment or food and so on.
There is no rigorous empirical research in my assertion, except for anecdotal evidence based on feedback during my training programmes over past 15 years or so, but, most people who answer this question have suggested that they spend only between 10 to 30% of their monthly income, on themselves.
How ironic is this? You work really so hard each month. You spend 8 or more hours each day at work. You endure hardships and all manner of struggles at work, but the bulk of your earnings go to others.
Why do you continue to work, nonetheless?
For many of you, it is because you want to provide for your family. These are relationships that you have accrued of your own volition. Your spouse, your children, your pets, all depend on you. You also continue to work because you want to maintain your lifestyle. You must like the home you have built, the holidays you take, the car that you drive, and so on.
This is why you continue to work.
When you connect with this reality, your awareness of how to achieve or measure success becomes clearer. Once you can cognize this, you can become focused on purpose.
Work is no longer a chore. It becomes a means to an end, rather than an end by itself. You will see your work as an enabler for you to choose and maintain a certain standard of living.
Being connected like this will make you work with enthusiasm.
I can assert that successful people are wired like this. People who go above, and beyond what is expected of them at work, are those who are clear about why they come to work.
Last weekend, I witnessed an excellent example of someone who is obviously very connected with their work. My wife and I frequent a Japanese restaurant in Kuala Lumpur called Rakuzen.
The combination of delicious food, affordable prices, a convenient location close to our home, and decent service, takes us back there repeatedly, for meals.
Last Saturday, I was in Singapore for a meeting. While there, I received a text message from the assistant manager of this restaurant. He messaged me that a fresh shipment of premium tuna belly had just arrived in store, and asked if I wanted some reserved. I had forgotten that I had even given him my number.
Now, this is not a small “mom and pop” restaurant that needs to drum up business. This is a restaurant chain with over 15 outlets nationwide, serving hundreds of customers each week.
Yet, the assistant manager, Justin Lee sent me a thoughtful personal message, alerting me to the availability of my favourite delicacy. Why? Because he is connected with why he comes to work.
Wouldn’t you want someone as connected as Justin working for you?
SHANKAR R. SANTHIRAM is managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”