IntroductionThe Captain of the Indian Cricket team, Virat Kohli, often refers to one phrase that defines his way of competing on the field. He calls it "killer instinct". Taken literally, such a phrase may signify violence, but it does not. It is merely a signal to put in one's best, to understand the weaknesses of the competition and play intelligent cricket. Once this is done, the rest will follow. Sort of automatically.
This is true of your life and your career as well. You need to be prepared both technically, and with what is now called "soft skills". The later is more delicate and does involve a huge amount of practice and hard work. It never comes easy. It comes through practice, through observation, and through practice. There are so many dimensions to it. Apart from this, you need to be aware of the entire "ecosystem" pertaining to your specialization in both knowledge and where and how it is put into practice. For example, if you have a specialization in Marketing in your MBA. and aspire to enter Unilever. The only way you can aspire to enter the same is through lateral recruitment with solid experience in companies like Asian Paints.
So, what does it take to get there? Yes, you need to rub shoulders with someone from the same organization, that is Unilever, in some conference or seminar or whatever or look around for a guy who lives in some part of the city. You need to understand the different ways of marketing of the MNC giant and then systematically acquiring those very same skills in Marketing, either in Asian Paints or by jumping to organizations like the Marico Industries.
Be that as it may, the drive to acquire a big competitive spirit entails a) Looking around to gather and document all scope everywhere b) Looking for skill-sets particular to goals and doing a SWOT analysis c) c) Learning from the best managers and experts and d) Having a never-say-die attitude for a lifetime and e) Develop others through your efforts.
Looking around to gather and document all scope everywhere This starts with your long term goal. If your goal is clear, the path to acquiring the competitive spirit becomes that much easier. For example, if your goal is to become Vice-President of Marketing in a good FMCG within ten years, you have given yourself a good arena to play in. Your playground is big and okay. But the path to get there is no cakewalk. It requires attention to detail. What FMCGs will you target and where? For example, if your target is FMCGs in Mumbai, your focus is far sharper. You can jump from one FMCG to another, rather easily. For instance, you could jump from an organization primarily manufacturing chocolates to another manufacturing a range of products that goes into kitchens and bathrooms. Whether the product is Indian or foreign matters very little. What matters is your depth of experience. You have to ask: a) By joining here, will I be the real boss or should I play second fiddle? b) Am I adding value to my resume and career by taking up this job?
All such minute detail and analysis is a must. If you are a fresher, you need a big focus on qualifications. Sometimes, skills only come through experience. For example, there are cost accountants who are also successful Fund Managers with Mutual Funds. Experience and hard work take them there. So, much will depend on your goal. It should be crystal clear. You cannot afford to have a confusing goal.
Looking for skill-sets particular to goals and doing a SWOT analysis There are several aspects of competitive spirit and getting all the skill-sets required for success is one important thing. For instance, whether you have specialized in HR or Marketing, there is every possibility that you will be employed in an organization where SAP has been implemented in these domains. No matter what the configuration is, you will have a major role to play. If you would tell them that you do not know SAP, you are gone. The trick is to do a basic course with some private institute and then acquire the vital experience. If you are lucky when the organization goes in for SAP, you stand a bright chance of being part of the big action. That is if the organization had not as yet implemented it, but you got a scent of it during the interview since they asked you about your qualification. You just need to milk that part of your competitive spirit with this organization, keep on adding value and then even move out. Of course, you are bound to face huge problems from some old bosses who are not interested in SAP at all. In HR, you will find the so-called Industrial Relations bosses for whom their day is achieved if they talk to the stupid inspector of factories and keep him in good humor.
However, your competitive spirit should also encompass skills in managing a range of people, including such bosses. The SWOT analysis will also throw up likely directions in which the particular skill-sets will start moving in the coming years. If SAP is going to be part of cloud computing ( in the USA, this is reportedly the case), then you need to acquire skill-sets in cloud computing as well. So, the SWOT analysis has to be done once in six months, for you to stay glued to the latest developments. If you slip a bit or take it easy, you are as good as finished.
Learning from the best managers and experts The best example of this in the industry is the practice of some senior HR professionals to spend as much as four lakh rupees to acquire qualifications in what is now called Executive Coaching from the likes of Marshall Goldsmith, an internationally known expert in Executive Coaching. This is a big plus and illustrates the competitive spirit. They jolly well know that when they turn 60+ in age, they can use all their functional experience and combine that with the kind of skills that form the nitty-gritty of executive coaching. This is exactly what is required in any situation and does augur well for their leading by example.
Just look around for such examples. Once you learn from such experts, you will have acquired more of the competitive spirit.
Having a never-say-die attitude for a lifetime Mumbai is where all the action is. Look at any professional from this city. Their grooming and their body language. Their knowledge and skill-sets. Their eagerness to learn more and their ability to stand up and deliver. This author has seen this never-say-die attitude in hundreds of managers in Mumbai. They are never people who give up. They wade through ten feet of water on a rainy day and still manage to reach their workplaces. They will have three sets of dresses in the office and will quickly change over. The women do something similar. They never waste any minute when they travel by trains. It is action and more action. It is very much essential that you learn from Mumbai and its people, at least for around three years.
Develop others through your efforts Sundar Pichchai, the big boss of Google is on record of saying that it is a big challenge working with people who are smarter than you are. This will always happen. That is the reason for you to up the ante and always be raring to go. When you know something, you are actually learning when you impart the skill to someone else and develop him or her. You will be respected and adored for this skill. Remember, the world is never going to stop at any time. Everything is going to change. But your leadership skills will come to play when you develop others. Just do it.
ConclusionThere is actually no full stop to this article. The competitive spirit in action is such a big subject. Only some dimensions have been discussed above. Get into the action right away and you will positively acquire it as you go along. All the very best.
Today we have a large number of qualified people but comparatively, there are limited jobs and that has already created a cutthroat situation in the industry. In such a scenario the competitive spirit counts much and is the sole criterion for success. Competitive spirit requires the will to fight even in the extreme adverse situation, ability to work hard, the capability to focus on identified objects, identifying the required efforts level and comparing them with the established benchmarks etc and all these elements can help in getting success in the competitive environment.
Competitive spirit is not occasional. It is a long process embedded in the career making programme throughout the working years of an executive. There are no breaks or rest days in it. It is a continuous process and is to be pursued in that spirit.