As a leader, you have worked through a variety of roles, how has your view of leadership changed with these multiple roles?
There are lot of changes when you move to a leadership role. Your confidence and good work may have got you the opportunity to lead, but now people respect you and look up to you for vision, inspiration and positivity. So, there is a paradigm shift. But as you move onwards and upwards, you are now creating a strong set of values like integrity, discipline, resilience and of course, setting a large vision. Leadership at the top is about anticipation and this is an important hallmark of a leader. Also, as a leader, you must create a work life balance for everyone. As you climb up the ladder, you start to realise that your most important assets are your people and creating a great environment for them is important.
How do you build the courage to think big and set large goals?
It is not about setting a goal; it is about commitment to the goal. There is a lot of research that says that companies that have lasted long had commitment to their goals. Goals should be huge, stretched and maybe even unreasonable and these need to be set with a 10x mentality. There is a story about the Spanish conquest of Mexico, where the commander told his men to “Burn the Boats” giving them no option but to either conquer or die. Visions should not fade in the light of day-to-day problems. Take your time setting your goals, but once done stay committed.
What have you learnt about choosing the right people for your team?
There are two ways of choosing your leadership team. One is through internal promotion, and I prefer this method. I like people who fit into the BMC culture. When I look for people inside, I look for people who compete hard, have a positive attitude and a constructive approach. I also look for behaviours people exhibit in tough situations and how they respond to authority in their current role. I then earmark, coach them and build them up. I truly believe that it is not the smartest people who build the organisation but the ones who are the most motivated. However, when you do an external hire, judging all of the above becomes difficult, so then I get more leaders involved. I believe in looking at industry references. I also have some non-negotiables and one of them is integrity. Whoever is careless with small matters, cannot be trusted with important matters.
How do you develop your leaders, so they become magnets for talent?
The first thing I teach the leadership team is that although the business pipeline is important for their success, they must regularly keep hiring. They must constantly watch, create forums, attend meetings, do some shows and keep looking and hunting for great talent. Once they have hired key players, then they must be given a great experience, and this is how the leadership team becomes a magnet for talent. This is a critical part of success. Organisations must realise that when you spend way too much time to hire someone, you lose that much business opportunity and that is a huge price to pay.
I truly believe that it is not the smartest people who build the organisation but the ones who are the most motivated.
How do you become a better leader?
Learning will always continue to be the biggest part of my agenda. Doing our everyday priorities keeps us busy, but we must consciously keep learning. And I am also inspired by not just great leaders but anyone who has a different way of looking at things. Humility is a virtue that all leaders should embrace. The more you see, the more you realise what you don’t know. I read a lot and there is also a lot of content online that I can go to. Within BMC, there is a culture of enablement and there is a wealth of content to choose from.
Where there are people, there will be politics. What have you learnt about having constructive politics instead of manipulative politics?
There is always a lot of dynamics within an organisation. The important principle that I follow is that it is not a zero-sum game. It should not be that if I win, the other person loses. The culture should be that – If I win, then my customer wins. If I win, my colleague or the organisation wins. When you negotiate with your customer, you do it with the mindset of helping them achieve their goals. When this culture seeps into the organisation there will be less of manipulative politics. Communication also plays an important role. What we say is half as important as how we say it.
The future belongs to the right, what has been your experience in using the right side of the brain for leadership?
I think we have become over organised, and this reminds me of something I read in a book where parents put their children in various organised classes or activities after school. Through the day and throughout the week we leave very little time for the children to be alone, thinking. So, unless you have spare time, there is no time for creativity. I always have blank spaces in my calendar, and I use this time to think. All my leaders also have blank times in their schedules to do nothing but think.
What role does Diversity play?
I think diversity, equality and inclusion is fundamental and all organisations must adopt it. We make sure of that in BMC. What we need to look at is talent. My team is a mix of culture, gender, education and experience and this pays rich dividends. It brings a whole spectrum of values and views that makes us better. It also encourages growth. So, we should just focus on hiring for talent.
How do you balance and nourish your mind, body, heart and soul?
I find a lot of value when I talk to people. It nourishes me when I speak to people and understand their values. I also take care of my body through yoga and pranayama. I spend a lot of time with family, and this helps me become a better person and a better leader.
How did you discover your larger purpose?
There are a lot of times when you sit back and think. When you have reached a certain position and you have spent enough time in your career, you start to wonder – what have I contributed to society? I spend a lot of time doing social work and participating in CSR activities and this drives me forward and makes me who I am. I met a Coimbatore based businessman and he was a simple unassuming person. When I speak to his employees, they say that they feel secure in his presence. He takes care of his employees and tells them not to worry about their finances. I hope one day I will build an organisation where my employees feel safe and happy, and then maybe they will spread the happiness and joy around. That is the actualization that I am looking forward to.