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Life Skills & Values for Success (Lecture by Mr. Venkat Changavalli, Management Consultant and Leadership Mentor at NITW on 10.08.2013) Authored by Nithiya Anil Changavalli, Technical Writer based at London “Learn as if you were to live forever” is a simple, powerful quote underlining the message that selfeducation is eternal. Successful people never cease to learn and this message is strongly propagated by Mr. Venkat Changavalli, the ex-CEO of Symrise Ltd and EMRI (Emergency Management and Rese
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  Life Skills & Values for Success (Lecture by Mr. Venkat Changavalli, Management Consultant and Leadership Mentor at NITW on 10.08.2013)Authored by Nithiya Anil Changavalli, Technical Writer based at London “Learn as if you were to live forever” is a simple, powerful quote underlining the message that self-education is eternal. Successful people never cease to learn and this message is strongly propagated byMr. Venkat Changavalli, the ex-CEO of Symrise Ltd and EMRI (Emergency Management and ResearchInstitute), who attributes his successful career to his never-ending passion to educate himself. In arecent address to the students at NIT (National Institute of Technology) Warangal, he emphasized thatschools and colleges lay a strong foundation of technical acumen but it is the learning beyond thisthat sets individuals apart from their less successful peers. There are skills besides academic learning,which have to be imbibed from early academic days and refined through years of experience. As agraduate in engineering from NIT Warangal and management post graduate from IIM (Indian Instituteof Management) Ahmedabad, Mr. Venkat emerged a confident, technically sound student at the start of his career. Learning from small experiences set the basis for a strong value system, which he continuesto adhere to and implement. It is his never-ending zeal to learn that also inspires him to regularlyaddress young students, which he consciously does so because paying heed to life skills comes by habitand needs to be seeded and reinforced into young minds quite early on.It is critical to start thinking, planning and working earnestly towards developing the right kind of skills.For instance, developing good networking skills at a young age will help to build relations easily in thefuture and it gets more difficult to do so as age progresses. Success is a result of self-discipline andsmartness. Not everyone is equally smart but everyone always has the opportunity to develop self-discipline, interpersonal interactions and various other skills. Not all successful people are academicallyproficient but have made the best of every situation and enriched their life skills. It is the constantefforts to educate himself, which helped Mr. Venkat clearly identify what he never wanted to be inlife – unsuccessful. He does not identify an unsuccessful person based on financial strength but interms of possessing a good value system and personality. Mr. Venkat defines unsuccessful people asarrogant, bossy, possessing poor communicative ability and tending to constantly making excuses,fault-finding, gossiping, disrespectful and lethargic. So what are the life skills that he attributes tosuccessful people? Mr. Venkat has categorized these into four groupings. The first one, CommunicationSkills, includes assertiveness, listening capabilities and verbal skills. The second, Inter-personal Skills,includes relationship building, conflict management, networking, persuasion skills and team work.Self-management Skills comprise anger management, happiness, positive thinking, self-awareness,confidence and expression, time management, health management and money management. Valuesare a set of ideas and beliefs that contribute to the fourth life skill, Personality Development. Each skill once developed will help one to strengthen another subset of skills. For example, learning tolisten helps one acknowledge and respect others’ perspectives, develop empathy and improve patience.The importance of listening skills is often underestimated unlike verbal skills such as speaking andwriting which are given more prominence in communication. Being a good listener clearly signifies animportant value system held by an individual, which is to bestow respect on others by willing to listeningto them. It is his consciously practiced habit to listen sincerely which helped Mr. Venkat developrelationships with fellow students hailing from different backgrounds. Since his tenure at NIT was hisfirst exposure outside his hometown facing hundreds of people from different linguistic and culturalbackgrounds, Mr. Venkat had to listen keenly to understand others and communicate with them. Thishelped him overcome all inhibitions and build good rapport with fellow students. Another important  communication skill is assertion. It is the ability to convey one’s thoughts in a firm yet inoffensivemanner. Assertiveness, as opposed to aggressiveness, is a hard skill to master and is especially difficultfor people of submissive nature. Mr. Venkat quoted a simple example from everyday life to signify theessence of this valuable skill. A person invited home for lunch having caused extensive delay does noteven bother acknowledging their fault. A submissive host unable to or scared to express their discontentoverlooks this while an aggressive host conveys their dissatisfaction in a manner that would offend andturn away the guest in the future. In either case, the issue remains unresolved and all that the guestwould remember is the bitterness exchanged or expressed. An assertive approach to this matter wouldbe a situation wherein the host conveys their dissent in a firm and polite manner, making the guestsrealize their mistake and not repeat again. As a result, the guest would stop taking the host for grantedcausing the relationship to strengthen and not deteriorate further. It is critical to learn to be assertiveand put the same to practice in one’s career also in order to achieve greater heights in corporatehierarchy.Interpersonal skills are essential for building and strengthening relationships. Skills such as conflictmanagement and team work become very significant from early years of college. Mr. Venkat recallssmall tiffs he experienced with some classmate and how he learnt to manage and overcome them later.This is just an instance of practicing inter-personal skills at a small level. A more impactful example of mismanagement of interpersonal skills such as conflict management is the handling of the Telanaganaissue by senior, experienced politicians. A simple and direct address by the concerned authority tothe citizens of Andhra Pradesh about the importance of the partition could have paved way for asmoother passage of the issue. Instead a piece of communication incomprehensible to the commonman was delivered, which instigated a lot of uproar and turmoil, hampering the unity of the people.Another subset of interpersonal skills is team management. It is a skill which enables people to growsteadily in their career. A good team leader is the one who is able to utilize the strengths of all teammembers smartly. Team handling puts a mixture of skills to practice including patience, assertion,networking, negotiation and conflict management to produce win-win results. Mr. Venkat explainedthat a good team is formed of members with unequal strengths, which are combined and molded toelicit a successful outcome. It was in NIT where Mr. Venkat’s team working skills were put to test. Herealized he had to join forces with people irrespective of their varying strengths or shortcomings andwork together. A good team leader can spell success in any kind of organization as can be witnessedin Mr. Venkat’s career where he thrived as a manager and CEO handling people at various levels; anachievement made possible mainly through exceptional team handling skills.Self-management skills play a critical role in shaping one’s personality and involves being able tomanage one’s temperament, have high aspirations irrespective of constraints, show respect, thinkpositively, be happy, be self-confident, exhibit good self-expression skills and time management skills,be hard working, organized, transparent and helpful, and constantly learn. Being positive and learningto be happy is what helped Mr. Venkat stay content despite frugal means of living he experienced asa child. As money will always seem limited for one’s needs, it is important to make the best use of available resources. Money management skills helped Mr. Venkat endure the hardship of a meagerincome initially in his career but his positive attitude helped him learn to save what he could and enjoyat the same time. He learnt to live in the present without worrying too much of the future. For instance,as a student, he focused on how good his campus was and made the best of his tenure at NIT, notfretting even once over not getting admitted into a more reputed institution.Values are imbibed from parents, siblings, friends, teachers, colleagues and bosses. An individual’s setof values usually gets formed around the age of twenty and needs to be nurtured and honed as years goby. One of the key values Mr. Venkat learnt from his father was to show appreciation to those who help  him. In 1996, during his speech on values at an IIM meet, Mr. Venkat publicly bestowed appreciationon his father from whom he had learnt important values. Mr. Venkat expressed to NIT students that hisfather became joyous on learning that he was publicly lauded by his son. Mr. Venkat advises studentsto imbibe this practice and communicate their gratitude or appreciation to those who help them andespecially do so when the person is living as that is when it matters most. Another important value heimbibed from his father was to be ambitious and make the best of life with whatever resources wereavailable, however constrained. His father motivated him to seek higher education despite being froma municipal school in a small town. This ambition drove Mr. Venkat to not only pursue higher studies inNIT and IIM but also to aspire greater endeavors in his career. Mr. Venkat firmly believes that only withstrong ambition or aspiration, one’s dreams can ever be fulfilled. The next important learning that Mr.Venkat advocates is to help others. Despite being a successful CEO in many corporate organizations,Mr. Venkat decided to quit and join EMRI, a non-profit organization, to get an opportunity to help savelives. He established 108 emergency services in India across many states. Mr. Venkat was motivated toundertake this change as he firmly believes that money is essential but not everything and one has toinvest time in helping the needy. Though it was a risky move to leave the comfort of his long corporatecareer, establishing EMRI remains one of his biggest achievements and gives him a sense of deepsatisfaction greater beyond all experiences. Respecting people is also an important value asset. Buildingrelationships with peers at NIT spanning different social statures taught Mr. Venkat to be respectfulindependent of one’s financial, intellectual and cultural status.Mr. Venkat contributes his achievements to the four life skills and values he constantly has beenpursuing over decades. They help Mr. Venkat stay humble amidst fame and success. The role of a CEOentitled him the authoritative power of a chief but as an officer he had to be in touch with reality andstay connected to people at various hierarchies. As an officer, he needed to continuously interact withpeople, be an excellent communicator and motivator. He was self-confident, knowledgeable, possessedexcellent inter-personal skills and adopted a very positive approach and was broad-minded. As a leader,he was honest, respectful, systematic, assertive, and perseverant, had good listening, networking andpersuasion skills, and could handle situations of varying complexities which required skills of conflictmanagement, resource handling and team work. As a CEO, he strove to set an excellent example to hisco-workers and aspired to be a role model to many.It is the combination of life skills and values that spells growth and success to an individual andsubsequently to their family, organization, society and country.
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