How trust and empowerment lead to success and happiness
Seena Mohan, Senior HR Business Partner, UST
The sense of trust can work magic for employees for their development and ability to innovate and take risks without fear of failure.
Seena Mohan, Senior HR Business Partner, UST
Loving what I do makes me happy, which has been the core of my life at UST. Time indeed flies. Before I realized it, I was celebrating 18 years at UST. Like many others, even my son asked me what keeps me going here, and that made me reflect on my choices and the journey that has changed my life. Memories of my early days at UST are still so clear that I can close my eyes and see all the smiling faces, feel the adrenaline rush, and hear the loud laughter from the cafeteria. The journey has been phenomenal and a story of ‘trust, empowerment and happiness.’
Empowerment that leads to success
In my first few months, as I explored the world of immigration services, I was exposed to much training and learning. But these were training with a difference. Having started my career in banking, I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by how genuinely flat an organization UST is. It immediately made me feel included and at ease. The training sessions were not one-dimensional like others. I wasn’t just following instructions but was continuously encouraged to contribute my ideas and thoughts.
I remember a stand-up with our functional head, who was briefing us about an important meeting he was invited to attend at the US consulate for a few select corporates. He pointed to me and said, ‘You will be representing UST this year.’ He was a senior co-worker who did not differentiate between team members and believed in providing equal opportunities to everyone. I couldn’t believe he said, ‘Yes, it’s you, Seena,’ and the biggest cheer in the room was from my manager, who would have been going if UST was like any other organization. Leaders like these have empowered all of us and made this such an incredible place to work.
Even more motivating was the functional head sharing what outcome he expected from the meeting, but no directions. All he said was that it was for me to decide and drive how to achieve the objective. His faith in me motivated me and pushed me to work hard and drive success despite being a newbie.
Meta-analysis of empowerment
Trust and empowerment can work wonders in bringing the best out of people. Harvard Business Review published an interesting meta-analysis of 105 studies on 'empowering leadership.' Here are a few learnings that inspired me, and I would like to share them with my fellows.
Leaders who empower their teams and employees more effectively influence employee creativity and citizenship behavior. They are likelier to be trusted by their subordinates than leaders who don't empower them.
Empowering leadership had a more powerful and positive influence on the performance of employees with less experience in the organization than employees who had been in their jobs for longer.
As organizations strive to find the best programs to engage and retain employees, the solution lies to a great extent in enabling a culture of trust and empowerment.
How the early years shaped my career
Returning to my story, I can still feel the adrenaline rush I felt entering the session with the Consulate General. The room was full of VPs and functional heads from various companies, and here I was - a trainee with less than six months of experience, but my eyes shone the brightest. The sense of achievement I felt after the successful event was so unique that it remained in my heart as one of the best memories of my professional career.
My journey over the years
The journey after that was full of events that kept the adrenaline rush going with immense learning and growth across functions. Be it my first international travel to the US, living by myself in a new city, or being part of the leaders' lunch, I cherished every experience. Most of all, I was proud of leading the functional area I once joined as a trainee within 4 years of my corporate career.
The journey from packing couriers to US Immigration lawyers to creating a functional strategy was special because I could see myself in the driving seat from day one. It was the underlying empowerment and trust that drove me toward success.
Trust and empathy form the foundation of UST
The special thing about ‘Trust’ is that the more you get more you reciprocate. Just as my leaders placed so much faith in me and my abilities, I learned how to trust my peers, team, and organization. cliched as it sounds, I strongly believe in my UST family and that it will stand by me in good times and bad, just like my own family. Trust is a very complex feeling cemented in my journey with UST with hundreds of stories, some mine and many that of others.
- The sense of trust can work magic for employees for their development and ability to innovate and take risks without fear of failure.
Carrying it forward
My reflections were not just about the past. I was drawn to the present and our impact on each other's lives. I received an email from a junior associate thanking me for our talent intervention and what it meant for his career. It was a simple note, but it filled me with satisfaction and happiness. And there's that word again - happiness. A word that has time and again come to my mind, and I am sure so many others at UST.
I paused to reflect upon happiness and what makes one happy at work. Happiness is feeling a sense of satisfaction when you know you have made a difference in someone's life. It is about knowing you are trusted and empowered to drive what is right for the organization and its people. It is the feeling of being cared for and being recognized for what you bring to the table. Happiness is all about having 'fun@work' and creating memories with your colleagues. An organization that does not look at gender, skin color, or ethnicity lays a strong foundation for happiness. It empowers all of us to make an impact and influence others.
‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.’ - John Quincy Adams