Few years back, I was part of a ‘merger/acquisition management’ project. These projects are unusually stressful. As a professional, you are not sure of your next role for weeks or months. It’s like the phase after an exam and before the results. One just waits, and waits.
I met Rob*, who was the Head of Strategy for the organisation being acquired. Unlike his peers, Rob was calm – very atypical in such situations. Since I was meeting almost everyone from the CEOs (acquired organisation, acquiring organisation) to business and functional heads, I could see that there is something different about Rob. So I asked Rob one evening after work, “How are you managing your stress so well, compared to others?”
“I remind myself about D.O.S.E. and the 5 rules of deeper connections I learnt from my mentor.”
This was Rob’s response then. He made these as part of his ‘Principles for long-term career success’ and I am glad that I learnt these from him that day. I like stories of people like Rob. They are successful enough to take inspiration from, but not so successful to feel like out of reach.
3 insights of Rob
Before he shared about D.O.S.E. and the 5 rules, Rob shared about one more insight that gave a context for his belief in these 2. “My mentor told me to give equal importance to success and fulfillment. Success is science, while fulfillment is an art”. Success is like fuel for motivation, effectiveness and productivity. Fulfillment – the state of being complete, is what keeps us joyful and at peace, before and after success. I remember the last time I was wildly successful. The feeling of accomplishment lasted 1 full month. That’s it. Learning to feel complete and joyful, however, has been part of the process much before I achieved success. I think that’s what helped Rob during the stressful phase – it wasn’t about success, it was about feeling fulfilled no matter what the outcome was. On to the other 2 insights.
There is science behind why success and fulfillment are both important. Rob shared that when he focuses on professional goals, he gets a ‘high’ while making efforts and he feels satisfied when the smallest of tasks is ‘completed’. I can relate to both. Rob explained that every time a task is completed, the brain releases a chemical called dopamine and similarly, endorphins are released when we make efforts. So the brain supports us in making efforts and also provides us motivation every time we finish a task.
There are two more chemicals that Rob explained. Both of them take longer time than the previous 2 to get generated. One of them gets generated when we feel being loved, are around friends or feel being trusted. The chemical is called Oxytocin. The second one gets generated when we feel proud of being liked, respected or when those who we care for make us proud. This chemical is called Serotonin. Oxytocin and Serotonin together, seem to be behind the complex feeling of fulfillment.
In the stressful situation of the merger, Rob focused on connecting with people – his team, his boss, his counterparts in the other organisation. The intention was to build or strengthen trust. The science supported him by releasing Serotonin and Oxytocin.
D-opamine, O-xytocin, S-erotonin and E-ndorphins make the D.O.S.E. for Rob. I was aware of the importance, but didn’t know that we are all wired for this by nature, till Rob shared this. It made even more sense when Rob shared the 5 rules for deeper connections.
5 rules for deeper connections
We all want to be liked, and build meaningful relationships. My struggle used to be in putting a method behind professional networking. Rob’s 5 rules helped in putting one framework for this. He recommended reading “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek, a book suggested to him by his mentor. Here are the 5 rules I learned through Rob
- Schedule in-person meetings: Rob fills his quarterly calendar with ‘in-person’ meetings with everyone who matters. This was like ‘duh’ till Rob asked me to look at my calendar to check if I ‘met’ everyone who matters in the last quarter. I did not. Many were just Whatsapp check-ins, some were emailed and few were connected just by phone calls. In-person meetings create a depth, that can’t be replicated by a virtual method, as per Rob
- Rule of the Dunbar Number: How many connections should I chase for meaningful relationships? Science says that number is 150. Knowing who those 150 in your network are, is important to follow the other 4 rules. It also helps shift the focus from mindless network expansion on LinkedIn, Facebook etc. to something more meaningful
- Meet the customers: Customers or who benefits from your work, deserve a special place as per Rob. Meeting them is different from those Rob meets as per Rule #1. Rob said that after every customer meeting, he gets clarity on ‘Why am I working’ in a way that is very different from what he would think of on own.
- Time over money: Rob found that people with whom he spent time with, during difficult times and during special occasions, had deeper connectivity with him. This was the case in comparison to those on whom he spent money (and not time) as a help or a gift. Time and energy are much more valuable in a relationship, compared to money as per Rob.
- Time to trust: Trust takes anywhere between 7 days to 7 years of effort, to build between 2 people. This is what Rob assumes in new relationships and existing ones. Rob spent the weeks of post-merger process to build trust, knowing that it won’t happen fast.
Simple rules, most of them do not create any surprise or ‘aha’ for most of us. For me, the impact was through how succinctly Rob explained to me about them and more importantly, his success in applying them in life. For a richer explanation of these, I suggest reading the book by Simon Sinek he has recommended.
As another action item, think about how the relevant insights of Rob could become part of your process for success – and for fulfillment, if I may add now!