Practitioners Perspectives // October 22,2021

The Importance of Mental Models and Creating Possibilities

Featuring: Gauri Das , Vice President & Head HR - India Factoring & Finance Solutions Pvt Ltd

Featuring:

Gauri Das Vice President & Head HR - India Factoring & Finance Solutions Pvt Ltd

GAURI DAS is an engineer turned HR Professional with a keen interest in Human Psychology. She calls herself a ‘Possibilitarian’ and helps organisations and individuals discover possibilities where they see none. Gauri has received many awards and accolades, which include TAPAI and Economic Times Young HR Leader – top 70, LinkedIn person of the year 2020 and HR 100 under 40. She is a passionate speaker and has spoken in many national and international forums.

Can you tell us 3 stories from your life that others can learn from and grow?

My first story takes me to my childhood days where I learnt my most important value – Respect. I’m from a small town in Western Uttar Pradesh and women are not respected there and are not highly educated. But my mother, although she only finished middle school, had this aura around her and she gained the respect of others, and this taught me to respect myself. But what took time for me to learn was how to respect others. When I was 10 years old, I was disrespectful to the house help. The first 2 times, my mother tried to teach me to show appreciation and value people, but the third time that I was disrespectful, she taught me the lesson in a different way. She started to disrespect me. At the age of 10, I could sense the disregard, and that taught me a lesson that if I can feel this way with my own mother, then I should think about how others who are not related to me and are older must feel. And since then, this lesson of respect has been deeply embedded in me and that is also where my respect for time comes from.

The second story is about asking for help. I had this Super woman syndrome and felt I must do everything on my own just like my mother did. Then I got married and had a baby. I had 2 breaks in my career and then we moved to Mumbai, and I restarted my career. Everything was new to me. We were a nuclear family, there was no support, I was taking care of my daughter and I felt I was in a constant rush. During this time, I never reached out to my husband to ask for help. I felt he should be the one to reach out and offer support. But then, like me, he also saw the same thing at his own home where his mother did everything and he never realised that he could offer assistance. A few years down the line, when I got wiser, I asked him for help, and at this time he told me that because I never asked for support, he didn’t realise that I needed it. So, asking for help is something I have learnt in my journey. We must not assume that just because someone is in your own home, they would know what you require. This is a ‘Mental Model’. I created a mental model of asking for help and he created a mental model by offering help.

My third story is about making mistakes and mulling over them over a long period of time and not taking action. In my previous assignment, we submitted a proposal to the board. The proposal was approved but the way I explained it led to a misunderstanding. When the approval came, we were shocked to find that the approval was not what we had asked for. Now I had two ways to go from here, I could have lamented and felt bad about making a mistake with the board, but I decided that if I must move forward, I must go to the board, explain what happened and get it changed. The lesson I learnt here is that you can focus on the mistake, but the next time you might not have the confidence to present yourself in front of people. Or you can accept that you are human and that you make mistakes, and you can work on improving yourself. Don’t take yourself too seriously, learn the lesson and keep moving forward.

You wear multiple hats – you have an engineering background, HR, psychology, professional speaker, etc. How did you build these multi-disciplinary skills?

I was academically very good and in the village that I was in, the only options were Engineering and Medicine. I chose Engineering only because my drawing skills were very poor, and I knew I would not pass my exams. Even in school, my biology diagrams were done by my sister. I was not sure at this time, what my inclination was. When I went to Indore to pursue my Engineering, I got a lot of exposure and I got connected to a lot of people. There were a couple of papers in Management and one of my professors told me that I should pursue Management. The professor knew that I was not enjoying Engineering or sitting in front of computers. He also talked to me about Dave Ulrich and how he was writing about modern HR. He felt I would make a good HR leader and that things were changing in that space. What was then Personnel Management became Human Resources and is now called Human Capital.

When I forayed into this, I realised I need to know people more and more. But how can I make this happen? I was an extreme introvert, but I started connecting with people and I slowly started enjoying it. I did my Masters in Psychology, which helped a lot in understanding people and that is when I started sharing my thoughts. I felt that there are lots of people like me who feel they have limitations and who think they cannot create more possibilities for themselves. So, I felt I must share my thoughts, mentor them and encourage them. I do receive lots of messages in LinkedIN that if I can do it coming from a small village, studying in a vernacular medium school and now becoming a TedX speaker, then they can do it too. And that’s how the professional speaking journey started. I saw many challenges that women who were coming back to work were facing including unconscious bias. I became part of the LeanIn circle and there are 115 women and we come together and uplift each other.

Are all these hats keeping you busy or are they defining some meaning and purpose for you?

If you don’t have purpose, you will not be able to move things forward. You will start something, but midway you will falter and not have sustainable long-term results. For me the purpose is to support others and give back to society. Learning agility is another purpose, so I’m sharing my thoughts, learning from others and creating a mark for myself. I tell women to create an identity for themselves. Women do lots of things, but they do not showcase it.

There are a lot of introverted experts. How do you amplify their voice? How did you do it?

Years ago, I underwent a psychometric test, and I was surprised as it showed my inclination to be different to what I thought. I could have decided to remain as I am or switch professions, but I thought that there is nothing that cannot be changed. My boss was an extreme introvert, but he was a highly respected leader, and he became the trigger for me to change. The test made me more self-aware, and I decided to do two things – One was to immerse myself in books, and the other was to uphold my value of giving respect to others. When I am with others and I keep quiet, then you would think that I am disinterested and maybe even disrespectful. So, the test, my boss and my value of respecting others is what made my inner voice come out.

You are a LinkedIN influencer with 13000 followers. How did you manage that?

This journey started after my psychology degree, and I learnt how the mind works. The kind of resonance that people got from my posts made them connect with me in multiple levels and through various platforms. Some of these relationships have been deep. They have become a sounding board and it has all happened on LinkedIN. It is all about connecting at a deeper level although I have never met them, and it has only been online. Connecting at the same level, having same thought processes and adding value to people is how I became an influencer.

They say India lives in the Villages. What would it take for more women from our villages to become like you?

Things are already improving. The pandemic has become a catalyst and companies are hiring from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. Internet is widely available and there is no location barrier. The one thing we could change is to give them more exposure. For me, I could not stand in front of someone and speak. Being from the village and being an introvert meant I was always inside my shell. Schools should have some way of getting people from the cities to go and speak to them.

QUOTE IN FOCUS

You can focus on the mistake, but the next time you might not have the confidence to do anything yourself. Or you can accept that you are human and that you make mistakes, and you can work on improving yourself. Don’t take yourself too seriously, learn the lesson and keep moving forward.

QUESTION IN FOCUS

What is preventing people from tapping into their greater possibilities?

 

First, I realised for myself that I am from a village, and I don’t know English, so I was conscious. In college, we had a Business Communication paper, and I would request my friend to help me. The first couple of times, she helped me but then she told me that I will not pass, and I should not waste her time. Even after moving to Mumbai there was a lot of demotivating comments about how I would never be able to get a job. So, these kind of statements can make you create a mental model that you would not be able to accomplish much. You feel that it is by god’s grace that you were even able to get an education and reach this level, but beyond that, nothing is going to happen. But when you start breaking those mental models you create your own path, and you don’t need a certification from anybody. As I said in my TedX talk, it is all about self-leadership. I saw this in myself, and I see it others as well. When I coach others, I see this hidden block and they are not able to break the shackles and fly.

GauriPhoto Gauri Das

Vice President & Head HR – India Factoring & Finance Solutions Pvt Ltd

GAURI DAS is an engineer turned HR Professional with a keen interest in Human Psychology. She calls herself a ‘Possibilitarian’ and helps organisations and individuals discover possibilities where they see none. Gauri has received many awards and accolades, which include TAPAI and Economic Times Young HR Leader – top 70, LinkedIn person of the year 2020 and HR 100 under 40. She is a passionate speaker and has spoken in many national and international forums.

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In my career leading and building high-performing teams, I enjoy inspiring & coaching employees to unlock their potential for maximum performance. The team's success is my deepest delight. Global Coaching Lab provides the platform to put this into practice every day and fulfill my passion of making others great.




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