Creativity Is The Key To Sustainability As A Great Manager
In this edition of the chro Insights, we have Harjeet Khanduja, Senior Vice President Human Resources - Reliance Jio. In his conversation with Mr. Rahul Mahajan, Country Head of Great Manager Awards, he shares with us his key insights about his journey and leadership.
Senior Vice President Human Resources
Rahul: What would you say is your leadership style?
Harjeet: I have a situational leadership style. My leadership style changes with the people. I adjust myself based on the needs of people I work with. Fundamentally I believe that every person should be treated with respect and should be given opportunity to participate in the organization building process.
Nowadays, leadership is more about creativity than anything else. How you are creating the future is entirely in your hands. I encourage people around me to ideate, challenge the status quo, solve problems in creative way, leverage technology, and look at the world with fresh eyes.
I believe in development of the people. Development can be done by creating opportunities, empowering people to make decisions, channelizing their energy, making them effective by aligning them to organization goals, encouraging them to learn, and leading the way in creating the world of the future.
‘I feel each and every employee has an opportunity to shape the organization in a very different manner; everyone brings a unique touch.’
I have learned that if somebody in the organization is not able to perform, it is generally the leader’s fault, and not that person’s fault, because either leader has not communicated the expectations or have not enabled the person to do that kind of work, be it physical infrastructure or skill sets, whatever the case may be.
Rahul: What would you say is the most critical competency required of a great manager?
Harjeet: The role of a manager is becoming more creative and more strategic in nature since the operational part of the role is starting to wear out. Earlier. managers used to spend most of their time in the operational part of the role i.e. allocating and monitoring the work. It appeared that work allocation and monitoring was the most critical competence for managers. As technology matured, work allocation and monitoring started getting automated.
This is when people realised the critical competencies of a great manager were hiding behind. The top five competencies for great managers are ambiguity tolerance, creative engagement, digital thinking, problem solving and communication.
Rahul: What would you try to gauge to decide whether the candidate is the right fit or not?
Harjeet: Guaging a candidate is a big responsibility. The most important part of gauging a candidate is often a clear understanding of the role and the competencies required to perform the role. I believe that competencies should be assessed before the interview. If a person meets the desired competencies required for the role, only then can the gauging process should come into picture.
Once you are satisfied with functional competencies, then is the time to focus on the softer aspects. Some of these aspects include things like – Does the candidate understand the role? Is the candidate willing to work in the organization? Why does the candidate want to work with the organization? What are the career aspirations of this candidate? Will the candidate fit in the organization culture?
The larger idea is to ensure a win-win for the candidate and the organization.
Rahul: What is it in the HR field that still holds your interest?
Harjeet: My heart lies in HR. This is an ever-changing field. The best part about it is that it is ambiguous and when there is ambiguity, you have a lot of work to do. Another bonus is that whatever you do, you improve quality of life of people. This makes for a huge amount of job satisfaction.
Recently, the HR job has become even more interesting, as it not only impacts the top line or the bottom line but also the survival of the organization. With the advent of technology, the HR job has become more digital, more creativite and more psychological.
I love it because it continuously allows me to paint my thoughts on a canvas, it makes difference to the lives of people, it impacts the business and gives meaning to my life.
Rahul: What are some of the qualities that you would be looking for in a successor?
Harjeet: There are four qualities of an ABLE successor.
“A” means aspiration, whether a successor has the aspiration to make a difference.
“B” means business acumen, whether the successor understands the business drivers and business dynamics.
“L” means Learnability, whether the successor unlearns and learns quickly.
“E” means Expertise, whether the successor has expertise in the related domain to be successful in the role.
Remember that a successor is not the replica of the incumbent. Each successor has its own strengths and area of improvements. One must see a successor in context of the role, and the ability of the successor to deliver for the role rather than comparing the successor to the incumbent.
Rahul: If you were to advise a company in terms of building a succession pipeline, what are a few guiding principles that you would share with the firm?
Harjeet: You should be aware of your critical roles. Critical roles don’t necessarily lie in the top management only. One must figure out which roles have the maximum impact on the organization. At times, people in product management or revenue management get missed out if succession planning is restricted to the elite in the organization.
‘After identifying your critical roles, making sure that you have a talent pipeline for handling those kinds of roles is key.’
However, succession planning is not as easy as it seems. Succession planning is not just about finding a set of successors. It is about investing in the successors so that they can take up the next level of roles. Another guiding principle is that one must be dispassionate while doing succession planning. If ABLE successors are not there within the organizations, then one must not make compromises, it takes away the competitive ability of the organization in the marketplace.
Rahul: Why do you think Leadership Development programs fail?
Harjeet: Leadership development programs fail due to the lack of commitment from multiple stakeholders. Firstly, the people who are actually running the program are not clear why they’re really running the program. Secondly, the participants who are participating in it take it as their birthright.
Also, the design of the program is a big factor in defining the failure rate. If the program is a bunch of branded events, chances of its failure are higher because such kind of programs create a lot of buzz but do not really impact the behaviour and thought process of the participants.
The effective programs focus on developing microhabits and need hard work from the program facilitators as well as participants.
Rahul: When HR leaders join a new setup, what according to you should be the initial short-term action plan?
Harjeet: Anyone joining a new organization must make an effort to understand the business. Understanding the business means understanding the revenue streams, products, customer personas, flow of work, performance drivers, business priorities, cultural sensistivities, key issues, key roles, and key people. While understanding the business, one must build relationships to co-exist with people.
Next step is to prepare an aspirational HR operating plan for the organization in alignment with organization objectives addressing key business and people issues. After preparing the plan, build consensus around the plan and go for implementation. Focus on few low hanging fruits to build confidence. That’s it. Your short term will become long term.
Rahul: What is the most common piece of advice you find yourself giving to the Gen Z population?
Harjeet: Each generation is innately smarter than the previous one. That is how humanity has progressed and come to this level. Each Olympics we see new world records, because every four years we keep becoming better than our previous selves. Gen-Z population is born with technology, and hence technology comes naturally to them.
As businesses step up in the digital arena, having Gen-Z on their side creates a distinct advantage. The CEOs of new-age start-ups are able to understand that difference because they are able to think in a digital environment. Instead of giving advice, I would rather listen to Gen-Z more because their ideas are different, fresh, and radical.
About Rahul Mahajan
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