A lot of leaders have worked with you for a long time. What makes you this magnet for talent?
I believe in 3 things. First, there is a solution for every problem. I may not know the solution, but I know the problem can be solved. And when you give that confidence to your team and let them know that you have got their back, they feel comfortable working in that environment. Secondly, I make it a point to connect with my team on a personal level. I get to know their families, their personalities, likes and dislikes and this allows me to create an environment where we all function like an extended family. Thirdly, I never shift my focus from the outcomes that we need to achieve. I may empathise with people but not at the cost of what we need to deliver. I do not believe in giving 95%. One must give their 100% to work, 100% of the time and at 100% quality. If you drive these professional principles, I feel people are more comfortable and although they might feel that I am tough, they know that I’m good to work with.
It is important to create an environment where people can coexist, celebrate and enjoy while still delivering. My three principles are Trust, Compassion and Empathy. Trust with Compassion results in confidence. Compassion and Empathy makes people feel secure, and Trust and Empathy makes the system transparent.
I look at my work as my Karma. I view the organisation as a temple and the customer is god. The people around me (my team) are devotees who are coming to the same temple, and I must keep it sacrosanct and respect my fellow devotees. Because of this I never get flustered or frustrated and I do not require anyone to motivate me.
How have your mentors influenced you?
My mentors taught me to keep it simple and straight. I have had many mentors who have taken the effort to groom me, and I have had the opportunity to work with some great stalwarts such as Mr Lakshminarayanan (Ex CEO Cognizant), Mr Gokhule (CEO, Patni Computers) and many others who in some shape or form emitted some characteristic that I could adopt. I have also had bad bosses, but because I had several good mentors, I have been able to filter out the best and accept those. And since I am benefitted, I would like to share that with others.
My three principles are Trust, Compassion and Empathy. Trust with Compassion results in confidence. Compassion and Empathy makes people feel secure, and Trust and Empathy makes the system transparent.
How do leaders get better when they don’t have mentors?
Often people think that a mentor needs to be senior to you. A mentor can be junior to you as well. You can also learn a lot from the ecosystem. If the team knows that the boss is also learning from them and he wants to be just like them, then the mentorship can be both ways.
There is so much change happening all around. How do you keep up and keep learning?
I’m in the services business and in this business the customer is at the centre of everything. As the world changes, my customer’s needs also change. I look at the customer in 3 dimensions. First, the customer is an individual like you and me. They have aspirations, likes, dislikes, motivations and frustrations and I need to understand that. Secondly, my customer plays a role in the organisation, whether that is a CTO, VP or a Manager role, and this is a responsibility that they are undertaking. Third, they are representing an organisation that has a culture or a definitive path ahead. If any of these dimensions change, then I need to change too. So, if I keep the customer at the centre of everything, then it becomes easy to adapt to change.
However, sometimes the problem is not about change, it is about making others believe in the change. In that context, if I keep the team member at the centre, instead of the customer, then I keep the belief and the change going. If I can help people experience the delight of being successful, then they will automatically give success to the customer. Finding a balance between decisions that are employee centric and customer centric will drive business forward.
You have a team that supports you. How do you make this team better than you?
I am still figuring this out. I would like it if all of them could replace me as quickly as possible for their own development. I remember my maths teacher who would say that strong fundamentals will make it easy to solve any problem. I always try to make my team understand the foundation or fundamentals. And when I try to make them understand, I see a difference in them. When I say foundation, I’m referring to values and answers to questions such as – Do I understand what I’m working for? Do I understand what I’m accountable for? Do I understand what I need to deliver?
I would be wasting my time if I tried to find out people’s weaknesses. I want them to realise what their strengths foundationally are. And when I reinforce and expand those strengths, they could surpass me easily. At this point in time, people have the experience of facing multiple scenarios, but their inability to apply their strengths to those scenarios, is the only barrier that stops them from being in my position. If I can help them realise their strengths and widen that area, they can become better than me.
As a leader, how did you discover your purpose?
I have had both personal and professional debacles in my life. There have been definitive events of significant importance and significant impact that made me retrospect and wonder what my purpose is.
As more such events happened, I believe my skills got sharpened. These incidents also made me course correct and think about my purpose.
Whether I have a luxurious car or an ordinary car, they both will take me from point A to point B. But if with a luxurious car I travel alone compared to travelling in an ordinary car with 2 more people, then I would choose the ordinary car and enjoy the ride. I believe in forming connections and I have also realised that as you climb up the ladder, people observe you. They emulate you or idolize you without your knowledge. Therefore, the responsibility is bigger, and I need to acknowledge that responsibility and through that if I can make someone better, then that would be worth my while.