When I first began my career 40 years ago, one of my bosses took me aside and gave me two pieces of advice which today may be seen as racial profiling, but it was not.
First, he said I had to learn to become more comfortable with America rather than stick to my immigrant heritage. Stop being so Indian, he said, you are in America, so you better get comfortable with American sports, hanging out with colleagues at bars and shooting the —- rather than talking about cricket, being serious, and running home after work. You came to America not just to be physically present; you also need to be here mentally. He then offered to help me by having folks take me to sports events, and he had me join an exclusive club and the like.
Second, he said you should find your voice. Not what you think you should believe but what you believe, and then you should speak up and speak out.
Today, I advise everybody, particularly immigrants, that there is no need to choose between cultures. To be successful and be happy, you need to understand, empathize, align and appreciate where you are while being true to who you are. You can do both and having to choose is a false choice.
Finding your voice is particularly important today because people follow people and not titles. They genuflect in front of senior leadership but do not align with them emotionally. Today 40 percent of employees according to a recent YPO survey do not trust their boss. Being authentic to yourself but being empathetic and resonating with who they are is key. You must find your voice.
Another reason finding your voice is key is that it is important for successful businesses. We all know diversity is key but diverse faces are not the same as diverse voices. Having people around the table or in the room where decisions get made is a first step, but do they speak, and do they speak truth to power?
Over the years, I find that successful people have found their voice and live according to it. They do not live in other people’s minds aligning their futures to expectations, but rather to what fulfills them.
Recently, I finished a book that combines my observations, experiences and readings over the past four decades on how one can be truly human and real and help business. The book, published by Harper Collins, is called Restoring the Soul of Business: Staying Human in the Age of Data. You can find it here.