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Let’s Get Real: Q&A with author Binod Shankar

Binod Shankar is an executive coach, blogger, platform speaker, and chartered accountant. 

Binod’s general advice is that one should work on oneself before setting out to influence the world around them. In this no-holds-barred, fiercely inspirational, and relentlessly practical book, Binod dives into the essential areas to unfurl your career potential – knowing yourself, managing yourself, managing others, and managing transitions. 

In our Q&A session, the author provides guidance on transforming careers to transform our life…

What inspired you to write this book?

I learned a lot about myself and the world, and when I looked around me, I saw many struggling with the same career issues that I went through. Hence this book is a practical guide to help them get unstuck. 

What are your hobbies? 

Working out at the gym, reading, blogging, cycling, hiking, mountaineering and collecting scale aircraft models. 

What and how has your career been like?

It’s not been a straight line or a conventional career. I’ve been an accounting manager, a banker, an auditor, a finance director, an entrepreneur, a financial trainer, a podcaster, and now a published author, a board member, and an executive coach. 

The key is that I always quit when I felt something wasn’t working for me and quit to win. I followed my values and tried to be true to myself, which can be quite tough in a career. 

How does self-awareness help pursue the right opportunities?

A lot. It helps hugely if you know what you’re good at, what you’re passionate about, and what your values are. But this takes a lot of mental effort. You must read, observe, and be brutally honest in introspection to arrive at this state of self-awareness. You can’t do everything, but you can do a few things very well and that’s for you to figure out. That way you’ll attract your tribe and the right opportunities and will not only find your way but also be in a calm state of mind. 

If you want to get to the top, then get your head up and look around you. Could you please elaborate on this?

As you rise the ladder, the responsibility to manage yourself and others grows. That means shifting the perspective from the narrow (technical skills, managing yourself, tasks, and tactics) to the broad (behavioral skills, managing people, vision, and strategies). This wider perspective also includes knowing your company, the industry, and the country well. 

That’s a big jump that many don’t make due to their inordinate comfort with narrow technical skills, certainty, neat tasks, and so forth. 

Think of a leader as the caption of a ship. He has to be clear about where he is heading and why and whether he has the right team and resources and what else is happening around him in the ocean. 

How useful is this toolkit for senior managers and leaders?

From the feedback I’ve been getting from readers who are managers and leaders, they find it credible, relatable, and practical. A big reason for the credibility and relatability of the book is the articulation of my own flaws and failures and suggested ways for achieving success and avoiding failures.

If you aren’t happy with your decisions, it’s quite likely that you aren’t living your values. How can this be explained?

We all want to live our values because our values (based on the underlying core beliefs) largely define who we are and who we are not. Values also define our goals. 

When you’re not living your values, you’re living someone else’s life, not yours. That immediately feels fake to you, and you will get stressed and/or depressed at this limited life you’re leading especially when you know that you had/have choices. 

The great news is that this feeling of being stuck is helpful because it may make you move and get unstuck. 

How crucial is it to sound out one’s opinion?

I’ve found that some smart people are also quiet and rarely speak up. Their valuable business insights (especially if they’re dealing with clients on the front line) are hidden behind their unassuming and quiet exteriors. 

As a leader, I have repeatedly discovered the importance of asking every meeting attendee and junior staff for their views. 

How can one transform their career to transform their life?

Most of us spend 10 to 15 hours daily at work, including the commute. Even at home, we think a lot about work. All that adds up to an awful lot of time! This means that any major change in your career is effectively a major change in your life.  This means you’ve to be extra careful that you pick the right job or career. 

So, know your passions and abilities and pick a career that fits that; this would make your work fulfilling and enjoyable too!