Build a team of Avengers to win at work

Build a team of Avengers to win at work


In the smash hit Avengers: Infinity War, a team of superheroes comes together to defend the world from a threat they cannot tackle alone. If we had to draw a real-life parallel, it is kind of like building a successful team consisting of a group of people with the right mix of professional skills.

While we all have our unique abilities, personalities, and motivation, at work, some visions are bigger than one individual and some challenges are too major to face alone. By pooling in our talents, we can go on to achieve great things.

Here’s the team of superheroes you need to assemble to succeed at work:

Iron Man                         

Superpower: Confidence

Confronted with Thanos’ crew wreaking havoc as they search for the Infinity Stone, Tony Stark aka Iron Man delivers his signature cocky line. “You can’t park here, buddy. Earth is closed today. Take your tractor beam and skedaddle.”

Every organisation needs an Iron Man, a genius whose self-confidence stops short of arrogance. He treads that thin line between being self-assured and believing that you are above everybody else. His style of confidence – a recognition and assertion of his own abilities and qualities — can inspire others and help get the job done.

Captain America

Superpower: Control

What makes Steve Rogers the best choice for captain of your team? His calm demeanour, coupled with strategic prowess. The Marvel universe, where there seems to be a short supply of adults who act like, well, adults, is not unlike the real world of work, where ego clashes and bad behaviour commonly occur between team members. Captain America’s ability to suppress his impulses and master his emotional reactions is his greatest strengths. Take this situation in the film, when Thanos’ army surrounds Wakanda. “Thanos will have that stone,” says the evil Proxima Midnight. “That’s not gonna happen,” is Steve’s measured response. A solid, grounded leadership style like his can bring any group with a common goal together.

Black Widow

Superpower: Diverse perspective

Natasha Romanoff is strong, resourceful, skilled, good with computers and conversation…all in all, a people’s person. But most importantly, as one of the few women on the team, she brings a unique perspective to the group. When Bruce Banner points out Thanos is after Vision’s stone, the latter’s immediate response is, “We have to destroy it.” But she says, “We have to protect it,” and that’s the route the team eventually takes.

The fact is, non-homogenous teams are just smarter. Working with people who are different from you helps you see things from a fresh perspective, and forces you to sharpen your performance. Black Widow may have the same abilities as the men on her team, yet the unique perspective she offers is her most important contribution.


Superpower: Strength

Remember how Thor responds when Rocket Raccoon tells him that Thanos is “the toughest there is”? “Well, he has never fought me,” says the mighty hammer-wielding god.

Having a dominant personality like Thor on the team is always a plus. People like him make strong leaders, especially if there is a crisis. They’re always willing to take on new challenges and are great at handling stressful situations and heavy workloads. The energy a personality like this exudes can encourage fellow team members to stay focused on their tasks and targets. They aren’t afraid to take risks and often come up with bold, creative solutions.


Superpower: Team player

To become a successful leader, you first have to become a successful team player. And there’s no better role model than Peter Parker, who swings into action the moment he sees a giant alien spaceship. Being quick on the uptake is just one of the teamwork skills Spiderman excels at in this movie – he’s also open to the other superheroes’ ideas and perspectives, appreciative of other people’s work styles, adapts quickly to every threat they face, remains personable even under the most trying circumstances and is completely focused on the team’s goals. “I got you. I got you. Sorry, I can’t remember anyone’s names,” he says while rescuing the other Avengers from Thanos’ attack. After all, a team player never lets you down.

Doctor Strange

Superpower: Learning agility

Fourteen million six hundred and five — that’s the number of alternate futures Dr. Stephen Strange views when he goes forward in time to see all the possible outcomes of the conflict with Thanos. Every team needs the learning agility, or ability to incorporate new material quickly, that is Dr. Strange’s greatest strength. His strong problem-solving skills, ability to read people and learn on the fly, demonstration of perspectives, pursuit of personal learning, command skills and leadership qualities are all traits necessary for a team’s success.

Black Panther

Superpower: Courage

T’Challa’s fearless confrontation of challenging odds to fight for what he believes in are traits you want to see in a team member. Among his most admirable qualities is his willingness to charge headlong into dangerous situations — like lowering Wakanda’s shields to let the enemy in. He is willing to sacrifice his life for the ideals he believes in and the people he cares about. It’s his courage backed up by action that makes him such a powerful hero worth emulating. “You are in Wakanda now,” he tells the other Avengers to prepare for an epic battle. “Thanos will have nothing but dust, and blood.”

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Are you suited for a startup or a corporate job?

Are you suited for a startup or a corporate job?

There was a time when scoring a first job in a big corporation was considered an early career triumph. Today, times have changed, and so have perceptions of success. “I want to promote those who have the courage to fail,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the launch of the Start-Up Action Plan in January 2016.

India is transitioning from a 9-to-5 work culture to a start-up environment, where employees are consciously forgoing stability in exchange for the promise of accelerated growth. According to Nasscom, start-ups accounted for 80,000 jobs in 2015 while the number of active investors in start-ups more than doubled from 220 in 2014 to 490 in 2015. The media is awash with stories of how bright young IIT and IIM graduates are leaving well-paying jobs to turn entrepreneurs.

As a new graduate looking for work, you need to ask yourself – are you ready to take risks or are you more comfortable with safe rewards?

Here’s how to know whether you are suited for a corporate job or start-up:

Are you set on a career path or are you still looking?
Unlike in established companies where responsibilities are clearly defined, employees in a start-up are expected perform several roles at once. With fewer people on the team, everyone is expected to pitch in wherever needed. This can be great when you have no idea what you want in a long-term career. Learning first-hand what you enjoy doing by performing multiple tasks will help you arrive at a more focused job description later on.

However, if you already know the role you aspire to or career path you wish to take, a corporate job may be more suitable. With its structured workflow and specific deliverables, you’ll be able to hone your skills without being sidetracked with additional responsibilities.

What do you need to succeed?
In a start-up, chances are your boss won’t have much more experience than you do. You’ll be thrust into a leadership position before you’ve had a chance to be mentored yourself and may need to rely on your instincts and self-learning to master the tricks of your trade.

In a corporate job, on the other hand, you’ll have a great deal of handholding in the early years.

So ask yourself – how do you learn best? If you’re comfortable with trial-and-error, you may not need a corporate job to succeed. On the other hand, if mentoring and systems will help you advance into the position you want, a big company may be your best bet.

Do you want to make an impact…now?
Do you find it frustrating when you’re not involved in decision-making processes? That’s what happens when you start at the bottom in a strictly hierarchical corporate structure. In a start-up, owing to its size and newness, you’ll be given more authority and visibility.

Are you a risk-taker?
Start-ups are risky because you’re building something from nothing. If the company receives funding, salaries will be raised and you may inch towards your market rate. However if the start-up doesn’t do well, you’ll be out of a job when the company runs out of money. It’s disheartening, but remember – you are in the early stages of your career, so it will be easier for you to move on.

A corporate job, on the other hand, involves little risk. So if you don’t have the stomach for uncertainty, this may be the right choice for you.

Are you flexible about pay?
Compensation is a key differentiator in the start-up versus corporate job debate. Many start-ups offer intangible perks, such as flexibility and a unique culture, in place of a steady income and benefits. And while the likelihood of you being offered equity or ownership of the company is higher with a start-up, to make a financial killing, you need to be among the first few employees. Who could forget Infosys, who is well known for making its early employees millionaires, so much so its drivers, electricians were among the few who made it big.

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Overlooked for that promotion you were waiting for a year? Now what

Overlooked for that promotion you were waiting for a year? Now what

Being passed up for a promotion is extremely painful. You think you’ve been working hard to move up the professional ladder only to feel invalidated at the workplace.

But – like all other bitter experiences in life – it’s important not to let an episode like this overwhelm you. Use it as a trigger to take a long hard look at yourself. Objectively analyze why it happened and what you can do to change the situation. Anger, frustration and disappointment are natural but don’t let these emotions get the better of you.

Here’s what you can do to ensure that you deal with the situation in a mature manner.

Cool down
Acting in haste is a recipe for disaster. Resist the temptation to walk into your boss’s cabin. Demanding answers, talking ill about a colleague who’s been promoted or snapping at colleagues isn’t a professional’s reaction. You will damage relations and be branded immature and unable to handle anxiety. Think calmly and go over all facets of the episode over the next couple of weeks. Only then will you be able to formulate a sensible plan of action.

Get feedback
It is hard to conduct an honest assessment of yourself so ask others why they think you were passed over. Speaking to the boss is a good idea. Express disappointment but never be rude or offensive. Be open to criticism; don’t get on the defensive. Ask what you can do to achieve the promotion next year and enlist your boss’ help to reach your goal. Use this opportunity to learn about your organization’s policy on promotions so that you can do better next time.

Speak to the senior manager
Office politics is a reality and there may be the odd chance that you’ve been glossed over because your immediate superior sees you as a threat. If you suspect this, speaking to that person won’t help. Seek an appointment with your manager’s superior and have a frank discussion about why you were overlooked. But keep things civil.

Factor in other reasons
A missed promotion is not always a judgment of your professional abilities. You may have lost it because of a host of reasons beyond your control such as a specific company policy or the nature of your job. For example, a sales executive will have greater direct impact on the company’s P&L than an HR executive, thus increasing the former’s shot at a promotion. Get to the reason and don’t be unreasonably hard on yourself.

Be graceful in defeat
Don’t vent your anger on colleagues or subordinates and always be courteous to your boss. If a colleague has landed the position you were vying for, congratulate that person and offer your cooperation. Life is full of victories and defeats; graceful acceptance of defeat is a sign of maturity and refinement.

Explore your options
It is a good idea to start exploring other options. Update your CV and start sending it out. This will give you a much-needed confidence boost and provide you with a back-up plan in case you’re really unhappy. However, never quit without an appointment letter in hand.

Being overlooked for a promotion isn’t the end of the world. Don’t react in anger; choose to look inwards and contemplate. Once you’ve thought things over, speak to your boss and find out the reasons for being overlooked. Enlist his or her help to address your shortcomings. Through it all, remain polite and courteous. This is a good time to update your skills and ready a Plan B. If you do decide to quit, never do it without an appointment letter from another company.

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5 tips to ensure you are paid equal

5 tips to ensure you are paid equal

Looking forward to that day when men and women are paid equally at work? You may be waiting a while.

According to reports, no country in the world has closed the gender gap when it comes to salary. In India, the Monster Salary Index (MSI) on gender for 2017 revealed that women in India earn 20% less than men. The gap has narrowed by about 5% points from 24.8% in 2016; however the gender pay gap widens with experience and is highest at 25% for talent with 11 and more years of experience. As many as 69% women at Indian workplaces feel the management needs to “walk to talk” when it comes to gender parity.

Instead of stewing in the unfairness of it all, or waiting for organizations to catch up with the times, here are five things you can do to get even:

Choose a male-dominated career

The choice of career may have far-reaching implications on your salary. If you choose a traditional female occupation, chances are that you start off on a lower salary rung. Helen Russell, associate research professor at Economic and Social Research Institute, says: “International research shows that female-type occupations tend to pay less and have lower status [than male-dominated occupations]…There is a strong argument that jobs involving care work have been systematically devalued.”

Over the years, teaching and nursing have become female-dominated professions while engineering and software development tend to be male-dominated. So choosing a career in software is sure to get you started on a higher salary than teaching kindergarten. Harvard labor economist Claudia Goldin has found that college grads moving into such professions can eliminate an average 30-35% of the wage gap.

Negotiate from the start

According to a study at Carnegie Mellon University, only 7% of women negotiate their first salary. Compare that to the 57% of men who make a case for better pay, and you see why women set themselves up for lower salaries and lower salary bumps through their work life. “A lot of getting ahead in the workplace has to do with being willing to raise your hand… If we as women don’t raise our hands in the workplace, we’re not going to get the same opportunities men do. Because men keep their hands up,” says Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, in Mika Brzezinski’s book, Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You’re Worth.

Failing to negotiate your salary from the start is a mistake that will follow you and be compounded over the years. So do your research to figure out what you are worth and make your ask.

Make it a point to negotiate smarter

In her 2012 book, Pushback: How Smart Women Ask — And Stand Up — For What They Want, top leadership consultant Selena Rezvani discusses how women miss promotion opportunities, plum assignments, and higher pay by not negotiating. She says men not only initiate negotiations four times more often than women, they also set higher targets, and so benefit in the long run. “So while women attempt to negotiate equitably — so that the pie is split in half — men tend to ask for a larger part of the pie,” she says. It’s a fact that women find it tough to negotiate aggressively. When they do, it often tends to be held against them. Try being collaborative; using words like “we” and “our”, and trying to take the company’s perspective is often more effective to get yourself a pay raise.

Make a push for promotions

Early-career promotions are important to put women on the growth track, but women at entry level tend to be more likely than men to spend more than five years in the same role. PayScale, a website that provides information about salary, benefits and compensation information, states that women’s pay growth “stops outpacing men’s at around age 30, which is when college-educated women typically start having children”. So it makes sense for women to try and scale the corporate ladder before they start their family. Speaker, trainer and career consultant Emilie Aries advises painting a clear picture of what the future could hold for the company if you got the promotion. “Why would everyone’s lives be better if you got your promotion? Seriously, make the case for how you would be better equipped to do more for them,” she writes in an article. Ask for your supervisor’s time, make your case, and present it to the best of your ability.

Blow your own horn

Women and tooting their own horn doesn’t go hand in hand. But, it’s imperative to get ahead. Peggy Klaus, a business coach and author of BRAG! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It, says: “Bragging is something that everyone needs to do.” A study at Northwestern University revealed that women’s tendency to downplay their successes at work may hold them back. Paola Sapienza, co-author of the study and a professor of finance at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, writes: “Men tend to overstate how well they do relative to women. And the people who are making decisions after hearing everyone speak tended to take most people’s statements at face value. You’d think that people would discount what men say somewhat and inflate what women say about themselves. But in reality, they didn’t do that.” If you don’t want to just brag, take along a self-evaluation that spotlights your skills, achievements, and reveals how your performance has benefited the organization’s bottom line.

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How women can make an Oscar-style #PressForProgress

How women can make an Oscar-style #PressForProgress

The Shape of Water may have taken home the Best Picture trophy, but the real winner at the 90th Academy Awards ceremony was diversity and inclusion. From statement lapel pins to powerful speeches that championed equality, the conversations that dominated the star-studded evening made it clear that the women – and men – of Hollywood have recognised that personal activism is the best way to #PressForProgress.

As the popular saying goes, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’. To that end, here’s how this year’s Oscars can inspire you to take action for gender equality at work:

Time’s Up, so close the confidence gap

Several references were made to the “winds of change” blowing through Hollywood throughout the evening. But actresses Ashley Judd, Annabella Sciorra and Salma Hayek coming together to “salute those unstoppable spirits who broke through the biased perceptions against their gender, race and ethnicity to tell their stories” was a clear show of strength. The accompanying video, featuring actors, writers and filmmakers talking about the importance of equality, was a much-needed motivational boost for people in the audience and at home.

close the confidence gap

What you can do: Women tend to undervalue their strength, doubt themselves more and back themselves less than many men. It’s what behavioural experts call the ‘confidence gap’, which Judd cited as one of main reasons why it has taken so long for the women of Hollywood to “speak their truth”.

Closing this gap will take time, as it involves unlearning years of conditioning. But until you take the first step, it will never be bridged. Start by doing one difficult task every day. Action boosts confidence, which in turn inspires more action, and creates a positive cycle of growth.

Fight for change as equals

The many brave and outspoken supporters of movements like #MeToo, and Time’s Up, weren’t just women. Actors Bradley Whitford, Justin Paul, Benjamin Bratt and The Shape of Water director Guillermo del Toro were all spotted on the Oscars red carpet wearing a signature pin to express solidarity with the Time’s Up movement. Host Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue referenced it first comedically, then seriously, when he said, “We can’t let this behaviour slide anymore”.

Oscar 2018 - Fight for change

What you can do: Women aren’t the only ones who believe that creating a safer, more inclusive and equal work environment is important. According to the Women of India Inc. Survey by as high as 40% women expressed that men fear being judged by their male peers and choose to support gender equality only in private. However, the good part is that 44% men confirm that they can be effective advocates for gender initiative programs at workplace.

Men are your allies at work, but in the current scenario, they are unsure about how to engage or even express an opinion. Research by the Lean In organisation reveals that almost half of male managers feel uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman like mentoring, working alone, or socialising together after the #MeToo campaign went viral.

Don’t penalise men for their gender. Talk to them about your experiences and challenges, and enlist their support.

Know that women are good for business

Wonder Woman didn’t receive any Oscar nominations, but it was one of the biggest talking points of the night. The critically-acclaimed film, directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot, became the highest-grossing superhero origin film of all time in 2017, and the box-office clout of women filmmakers and film goers was brought up by both presenters and winners.

Oscar 2018 - Women are good for business

What you can do: Whether it’s to do with leadership styles, or the diverse viewpoint they bring in, all research points to the fact that women are good for business. Keeping that in mind, if you’re in a leadership position in your organisation, work towards creating a pipeline of female managers to follow your lead.

Lift other women as you climb

While accepting her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, Allison Janney made it a point to thank yesteryear star Joanne Woodward, who had mentored her to pursue acting seriously. Later on in the ceremony, Best Actress winner Frances McDormand’s rousing speech where she called out for an inclusion rider – a legal clause that Hollywood actors can include in their contracts, to request “more diverse representation in background actors and extras” – was one of the biggest reveals of the night.

Oscar 2018 - Lift other women

What you can do: Don’t pull others down to prop yourself up. Instead, women need to start looking out for one another more. Start by listing down a handful of women in your immediate network and think of how you can support them in some way. Make an introduction, volunteer to share a useful resource, share a few words of encouragement over a cup of coffee or praise them in the presence of a decision maker.

Looking for more tips on how women can get ahead at work? Find them here.

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