It takes years of hard work and dedication to build a meaningful career in any industry. No matter what field you choose to work in, building a successful career involves working through countless challenges: you need to constantly upgrade yourself, challenge yourself, navigate complex relationships and organizational culture and much more. In his over 20 years of career, Yasir Azman, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Marketing Officer of Grameenphone, has experienced this up-close from his time as a failed startup founder to BATB to his successful career at Grameenphone.
Mr. Yasir Azman is considered as one of the finest business leaders in the country. Within the Grameenphone, he is regarded as a transformational leader and change maker with superior execution capacity. Throughout his career he has worked in many different cultures and geographies both in Asia and Europe, representing three different multinationals.
It is often perplexing to navigate the career path because it is full of challenges and uncertainty and we don’t like either. In an interview with Future Startup, Mr. Azman shares his journey and trials and tribulations he had to endure in order to come to where he is today. You may read his full interview with Future Startup click here.
Below are eight lessons Mr. Azman has used to navigate his challenging career path and build an expansive network and to accomplish meaningful work. While they are aimed at people who are starting out and looking forward to building a successful corporate career, it remains equally relevant to anyone looking for a guide to build a meaningful career in the field of entrepreneurship, private or public sector.
There is a proverb that goes: ‘yesterday is a history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift’. Often we spend an unnecessary amount of time regretting our past missteps and worrying about the future calamities despite the fact that we can not change our past and know our future. Neither of this exercise helps us to move forward. As Seneca puts it brilliantly thousands of years ago about our fear of future: “there are more things … likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”
Since we can’t change our past or the future for that matter, what we can do is living today, trying our best today that will eventually influence our future. As Mr. Azman suggests: ”Focus on the present and work hard instead of looking for shortcuts to win”.
Feeling bad about your past will give you nothing and no one knows what will happen tomorrow. So one should focus and work hard today thus he can make his future better.
Leading is a complex job. In order to be effective as a leader, you have to do things that are not essentially popular but important for the growth of your people and the institution.
Similarly, as a leader, you often get to deal with things that many of your team members don’t have access to but may need to know.
In both instances, your responsibility is to inform your people about decisions and changes that are pertinent to them. It allows you to be consistent in your action and talk which is incredibly important in order to build an ecosystem of trust within in the company.
Transparency is the quality of being easily seen through. Culturally, transparency is not a common practice in our corporate setup. In many instances, we tend to resist the idea deeming that it may lead to a negative outcome. But Mr. Azman suggests otherwise:
“As a leader, if you are not honest and consistent in your communication you will eventually lose your credibility. Even if something is not popular to act or say, being transparent helps build the trust and collective emotion.”
Although this is a common advice, it is hard to overstate the importance of thinking big. It is critical because it allows us to break out from our self-imposed psychological limitation and pursue greater ambition. As Mr. Azman says:
“The idea of thinking big sounds cliche an advice but if you want to be the person who brings about the change, transform and lead greater success for a company, you should cultivate the ability to think big.”
Relax and let it go. Instead of Competing within the team, collaborate.
Life in general no matter whether you are an entrepreneur or a professional is difficult. There will be ups and downs, conflicts, politics, competition and many more challenges. But one should not react to every challenge and take it personally, rather relax and let it go.
“Instead of fighting and competing internally over small differences, people who have the capacity to overlook internal competition and politics and focus on the real work will ultimately succeed”, says Yasir Azman.
Respecting people regardless of position and situation creates a virtuous cycle of more effective collaboration and teamwork. At the same time, it inspires people to work hard because it sends a message of equality and justice.
It is one of the important strategies that Yasir Azman has shared. As he puts it:
“Every person has something that he or she is good at, as a leader your job is to put the right person in the right place. In my long career, I have seen time and time again people and an entire team to fail miserably and then again the same people to come out with great success.”
An effective leader is a person who creates an inspiring vision of the future, motivates and inspires people to engage with that vision. He not only leads a team but also supports a team.
“Sometimes leaders make mistake by riding on team’s success”, says Yasir Azman. “As a leader, it is your job to give credit and visibility to your team, make them shine, and help them build confidence. Allowing your team to take credit for the works often helps build trust and eventually help build new leaders.”.
“You can’t and should not expect that your position is a certainty and would save you if you don’t improve and change yourself, says Azman.
This is an important reminder for everyone of us that complacency has no place in today’s world. You have consistently work on improving yourself. “You should invest in your personal development and learn daily”, says Mr. Azman.
"I have seen in my early days in FMCG industry how important it is to focus on execution excellence”, says Mr. Azman. The world has developed an unhealthy fascination with great ideas. We are constantly looking for the next big ideas.
While ideas are important, Mr. Azman reminds us that execution is equally important, if not more. “No matter how brilliant your ideas are, if you don’t put them into work they would bear no fruit”.
Modern life is an all-consuming affair. We are always connected. Always busy. Always involved. This ever-connected nature of our life has a cost, we lose connection with our inner-self and we forget, at times, our priorities and in the middle of barely managing our chores we fail to see things we are missing. That’s why it is so important to take a break, sometimes and ponder.
”Don’t just run”, says Mr. Azman. “Take time off, think and rejuvenate. Spend time with your family and friends. It is hard to avoid captivating nature of life but we need to actively cultivate stillness into our lives in order to see better angels of things and to ensure that our center is solid”.
(Ruhul Kader contributed to this story)