Heavy is the head that holds the crown: How Head of One Team Sales in IMEA & NAM, Mithila Nalawade, has gone from annoying to the queen of asking constructive questions by embracing the power of 'why'.
Growing up in a traditional Indian household, I always knew I was different from the other kids in my family. I was far more curious, never immediately did as told, I asked too many questions, and easily rebelled against any form of bias.
Most of my sentences began with why. Throughout my adolescent years and well into my adult life, my persistent use of the word earned me labels little to be desired – a difficult child, the black sheep, annoying – but it also taught me how much power a simple one-worded question can hold.
A mistake that mattered
Bright-eyed and eager to please, I joined Maersk in 2007 as a management trainee. I still vividly remember the first time I made a mistake at work: I did something asked of me without understanding the reason behind it. In response, my manager told me that it was my job to “never assume, always ask why”. In that moment I knew that Maersk was where I belonged.
Over the years, the culture at Maersk emboldened me to harness my inquisitive nature and turn it into a superpower: Asking why unlocks knowledge, asking why not creates possibilities.
All about the answer
A simple why has led to important follow-up questions, to discoveries that saved or made us money, to amazing collaborations. It has changed plans for the better and strengthened empathy, creativity, and growth for both company and co-workers – not to mention myself.
It has helped me to understand issues and people intricately and has made me a better leader because why makes me pause long enough to listen and learn from the very best – my colleagues and team members.
Jumping into adventure
I consider myself lucky to be part of an organization that encourages us to ask questions, and that is an equal opportunity provider, not just on paper. Within my 15-year journey in Maersk, I´ve had the chance to explore seven diverse roles across four cities – in different areas, headquarters, and service centres. I’ve switched paths from Finance to Sales, from Customer Experience to Strategy and Improvement all the while bringing relevant and valued experience from past roles.
Shooting questions was what made me succeed in these transitions and challenges and the catalyst for some of my life’s greatest adventures; applying for new job roles, moving countries, taking on projects nobody else wanted to touch – not to mention bungee jumping from the highest bridge in the world.
Why not give it a try?
The why and why not moments have shaped my career and my life. Most recently, while at the peak of my career, why not gave me the courage to take a sabbatical from work to focus on my well-being. My response made me return even stronger.
In my new role as Head of One Team Sales for Maersk in IMEA & NAM I continue to challenge my assumptions and discover new perspectives with the art of asking.
The word why in itself sounds simple, but it has raised and answered very big questions, transformed my life and taken me far, why I sincerely hope that it can Inspire you as well. I encourage you to embrace the power of asking why and why not in your own life. Let curiosity be your guide, and never stop seeking answers.
Lessons learnt from frequently asking 'why' :
- Be respectful. It’s okay to be annoying, it’s not okay to be rude.
- Be genuinely curious with an intent to learn; keep an open mind and hear out alternative opinions.
- Ask why until you know it well enough to re-tell. Don’t give up when you’re told: “That’s just the way it is”.
- Ask yourself why when you feel strongly about something. It often unlocks doors to your imagination and to a world full of possibilities waiting to be discovered.
- Welcome and encourage why questions from others.
The culture at Maersk emboldened me to harness my inquisitive nature and turn it into a superpower: Asking why unlocks knowledge, asking why not creates possibilities.
I encourage you to embrace the power of asking why and why not in your own life. Let curiosity be your guide, and never stop seeking answers.
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