Nuggets from Vinita Bali
Transitioning roles in a large MNC
Navigating your career in a large, complex MNC can often be challenging and confusing. Vinita talks about how she navigated her career across different roles in Cadbury's and the Coca Cola company.
Raising the game when it matters
Mouli talks about the concept of Learning Cycles and how it is critical for people to focus on completing large learning cycles to build significant distinctive capability. He also makes the distinction between major and minor learning cycles and talks about how effective leaders often kick their game up a notch when it comes to a major learning cycle. The concept of learning cycle is also relevant when we think about processing opportunities that come along in our journey.
Functional Leadership to General Management
Moving from a functional leadership role to a general management role is a big shift and Vinita argues that it is possibly the biggest transition that a leader often makes. She talks about how people should think about success in a General Management role and the need for an adaptive leadership style.
Transitioning effectively across generations
Meher talks about how the baton of leadership passed to her mother (Anu Aga) when her father passed away and how things changed even further when her brother passed away shortly after. She also reflects on the subsequent transition when her mother decided to retire as the Chairperson suddenly that pushed Meher to the saddle.
Business continuity across generations
Meher discusses her approach towards her children getting involved in Thermax moving forward. She talks about the distinction between responsible ownership and day to day management. She also talks about the criticality of external experience before starting within the company (something she misses in hindsight) in case the child wants to get into the management of the company.
Transitioning to a General Management role
Roopa talks about the transition to the role of a Chief Rating Officer being the defining transition in her journey at CRISIL. She talks about how the profile of her responsibilities and stakeholders significantly changed when she moved into that role. She also talks at length about how she recalibrated the relationship with her peers when she got promoted, something that a lot of people struggle with.
Flexing leadership style at Omidyar Network
Roopa talks about how she had to adjust her leadership style when she moved from leading a team of 4000 plus people in CRISIL to Omidyar Network which had about 150 people globally and about 15-20 people in India. She discusses the power of listening, learning and tapping into the internal network to come upto speed and build credibility with the organization.
Developing a sense of judgment
Roopa talks about she developed a sense of judgment in the new context when she moved to Omidyar Network. She talks about the fact that she now has to exercise judgment on entrepreneurs who in turn will exercise judgment on several topics that are relevant to them. She discusses how she went about acquiring that nuanced sense of judgment by understanding the world of the start-up entrepreneur and the world of technology.
Staying relevant through transitions
Vinay talks about how Narasimha Rao stayed relevant through the various transitions that he went through in his journey. He also talks about how he learns and grows when he did not gets a transition wrong. He also talks about how Narasimha Rao re-invented himself when Congress moved from the Indira Gandhi phase to the Rajiv Gandhi where the core group had several people from an Oxbridge background (far from Narasimha Rao’s comfort zone).
Transitioning roles within Dasra
Neera talks about how she has thought about her role as Dasra has grown and her plans for governance as we look to the future. She talks about the interconnect between the personal and professional life and how the role she has played in Dasra has been in the context of her personal context.
Leadership Development in Social Impact space
Neera talks about some of the common challenges that entrepreneurs in the Social Impact space face. She talks about founders often being “too mission driven” and thereby coming in the way of systems and processes that could build the organization sustainably. She also talks about the Founders not spending enough time on what they are distinctive in leading to spreading themselves across too many areas.
Reinventing oneself at 45
Arun talks about how he was a cross-roads when he had to move from a successful stint as an executive in Tata Motors to a role as a consultant with Arthur D Little in the United States. He talks about the circumstances in which he took the decision (including a nudge from JRD Tata) and how he had to adjust his style to be effective in a new professional and cultural context. It is not very often that you see a leader transition from being a Business Leader to a Business Consultant.
Taking stock of life after Bazee sale
When Avnish started Baazee, his financial goal was to make USD 2 Million. When he sold Baazee to Ebay for USD 55 Million, he had made close to 10x of his estimate. He talks about how he took stock of life and moved forward from that point.
Career planning 2.0 for graduates
In this rapidly changing world, Ravi has three main nuggets of wisdom for graduates who are thinking about their careers and professional life ahead. How has the view of a ‘career’ changed over time and what is the best way to think about it today? What qualities should one spend time cultivating and nurturing? Hear on.
Gig economy and careers
Ravi has had two long stints in Cummins and then Microsoft, after which he switched to a portfolio of opportunities. He talks about evaluating this deep root vs. wide branches approach to structuring your career. He also has important tips for organizations looking to attract good performers. Tune in!
Career Planning 2.0
Thinking about a career has moved away from a linear notion – educate, work, retire. Also the idea of working in one company for the rest of your life has become obsolete. So how should one think about their career in this digital age? How can people stay relevant? Abhijit believes that skills will become obsolete quicker and gives tips about how to navigate their careers.
Marrying passion with pragmatism
Follow your passion is bad advice says Cal Newport in his book 'So good they cannot ignore you'. How does one think about options and decisions when passion and pragmatism point in different directions. Atul talks about how one could look at adjacencies and be pragmatic about a career decision by looking at supply-demand trends in an industry that one is trying to enter.
Educating ourselves (and link with leadership of the future)
We are growing into a future where there are several unkown unknowns. Pramath talks about what sort of leaders would flourish in the new paradigm and how one should think about education in the context of this broad trend.
Navigating the sea of career options
"What should I do with my life" is often a question that we grapple with at different inflection points in our life. Vinita talks about the various dimensions along which she evaluates opportunities that have come her way at different points in her journey.
Careers - Paradox of choice
In a world exploding with choice, Barry Schwartz argues that consumers are often worse off due to the complexity in decision making and Fear of Missing Out. Rama talks about how one should navigate the world under such circumstances.
Building optionality during early career
Dheeraj talks about the distinction between process and substance in the context of making career choices. He also talks about how he built optionality at various points in his early career.
Perspectives around career choice
Dheeraj discusses his perspectives on how students and professionals should think about choices and learning. He underscores the criticality of having unfettered curiosity across disciplines similar to Da Vinci who showed equal curiosity to matters of art and science across disciplines.
Navigating your career
Anu talks about her moment of epiphany during an interview with a McKinsey partner that really pushed her to reflect on what she enjoyed and what she didn’t. She talks about how she has tried to get to the bottom of what gives her energy.
Early career choices - Medical Rep/Painting/Advertising
KV Sridhar (Pops) talks about how he thought about an early fork in the road where he had to choose between disparate options in front of him. One was to become a Medical Representative which was highly lucrative in those days, Second was to become a Drawing teacher and the third was to pursue art in the world of advertising. He discusses how he walked the tightrope where the mind and heart were pulling him in different directions.
Rejecting 3 jobs and painting in Goa
KV Sridhar (Pops) talks about how came to Mumbai to pursue commercial opportunities and cast his net beyond Hyderabad – where he grew up. He also talks about the fact that very quickly he got himself three offers (on the creative and commercial side) but decided to go to Goa to learn and reboot. He talks about how he led the life of a vagabond for a few months and how he landed the next role at Ulka.
Transitioning from Banking to PE
Amit talks about how he thought about the transition from the world of Investment Banking to Private Equity. He talks about taking stock of life after reaching the heights of the Investment Banking profession and also seeking more time to devote to some of the other elements in his life such as Social Impact.
Picking mentors thoughtfully
Mouli underscores the criticality of having sound mentors in todays world where there are more forks in the road and several choices to be made for all of us. Mouli also talks about his framework for how we all should think about selecting the mentors that guide us. He talks about how Mentors should have seen some parts of the “movie” that you haven’t and should be completely vested in your success with no conflict of interest.
Decoupling quitting & joining decisions
Mouli talks about how people often mix up the two decisions and how they can end up over-appreciating what is right in the new context and what is wrong in the current situation. He brings it back to the point that careers are driven by capability and not by role/title. He urges us to think hard about the learning opportunity in the current environment and carefully evaluate the pros and cons of the current and the new opportunity before taking a decision.
Choosing career direction post CRISIL
Roopa talks about how she took stock of options after her successful run in CRISIL. She talks about the process she went through to first eliminate what options may not make sense for her before she ended up choosing to join Omidyar Network. She talks about having informal discussions with ~45 people over a 9 month period to get directional clarity on what might make sense for her.
Changing orbit - HBS, Wall-Street and Dasra
Neera talks about her transitions to Morgan Stanley, Harvard Business School, UBS and then to Co-founding Dasra with her spouse – Deval Sanghavi. She talks about the mindset with which she started thinking about her HBS degree. She talks about moving from seeing it as an asset you could market to something she could leverage and extend to drive impact in the Social Impact world.
Making Directional Choices
Jayashri talks about how she made choices along the way, more specifically, the choice between going deep into Carnatic music versus collaborating with different art forms. She also speaks about how she has learnt from collaborating with other artists and how that has improved her core art form – Carnatic Music
Strategy and Careers
Tarun talks about developments in the field of Strategy and maps that to how individuals should think about their careers. He acknowledges the influence of Prof. Ben Jones (of Northwestern University) in shaping his thinking here. He talks about the fact that the world of knowledge is growing exponentially and we will know less and less (as a percentage) of what is to be known. He discusses how people should think about specialization and collaboration in this context and shares his perspective on the mind-set with which we should march into the future that can feel overwhelming.
Key career choices
Dr. Guha speaks about some of the key choices he made at various forks in the road that presented themselves in front of him. He specifically talks about the crucial role of his father and his wife in giving him the flexibility to pursue his calling without getting him to “play safe” or to seek commercially lucrative options at the expense of pursuing things that energized him.
Flex the current context or reboot
Stew speaks about how we should try and stretch the boundaries of our current context before we start thinking about drastic solutions including changing jobs. He speaks about the notion of the Theory of small wins that underpins that Total Leadership approach and also refers to the work of Herminia Ibarra – Author of the book Working Identity.
Taking the entrepreneurial plunge
Falguni speaks about the phase of life when she decided to become and entrepreneur after 25+ years post IIMA and after a successful run at Kotak. She also speaks about other businesses she considered (Professionalizing Nursing Homes, Creating a Market for second homes to name a couple) before proceeding with building out Nykaa.
Seeking and giving feedback
Mr Bhatt talks about the tact with which Board member should provide and seek feedback. He specifically underscores the criticality of the role of the Chairperson in ensuring that he/she doesn’t have a blind-spot in the way he/she is performing. He discusses how some effective Chairpersons find the subtle opportunity and timing to elicit timely feedback from some select Board Members.
Women and Board roles
Vedika talks about how women should think about approaching Board roles. Clearly there is an opportunity for more women to get onto Boards but there is a need for women to be thoughtful and considered about this to be in consideration for these roles when they come up.
Ensuring Board members add value
Mr. Bhatt talks about the criticality of a Board review to ensure Board members get tailored, actionable feedback that can raise the bar on the performance of the Board. He talks about the importance of the role of a Chairman in processing the feedback that he/she is given as part of the process and in how he/she leverages that to get the most out of each Board member.
Role Of Coaching In Development
Vijay talks about the role of coaching at various stages of a person’s life and how as a person evolves, the coach that works with you to help you go to the next level might change. He also talks about how much can get accomplished through sheer will power using the fascinating example of Richard Williams who (with limited background in tennis) through his sheer resolve coached Serena and Venus to become world champions.
Transitioning from Playing to Captaining
Viren talks about his journey from being a player to a captain including some of the non-game elements that are required to move from being a successful player to an effective captain. He discusses how important it is for the captain to lead by example. He also talks about how one has to use different approaches to motivate and develop different players with varying personalities.
Unlocking the potential
Prakash talks about what sometimes comes in the way of people achieving their full potential. He talks about the importance of hard work (however clichéd it may sound) but also talks about the key element of enlisting others on the “bus”
Evolving as a leader
Leading a start-up through all the change and complexity can be quite a challenge. Avnish talks about how he grew as a leader when he was at Baazee and shares some insights on how entrepreneurs could scale up with the organization.
Building the leadership muscle
We all know the traits and characteristics of a good leader but what does it take to become a good leader? In this nugget, Kartik enumerates three things that you can do or cultivate to harness your leadership potential.
Hyper-development of a leader in a Start-Up
Start-ups often grow at a rate faster than the rate at which people build the leadership muscle. This leads to the risk that your job may outgrow you. Hence, it is imperative to keep growing as a person and as a leader. Ravi lays down three aspects you should focus on in order to grow with the times and your organization.
Like everything else in the business landscape, leadership development also has undergone change in this digital age. Think of the instances today where augmented reality is being used for skill building! Hear about this and more way the digital realm is influencing leadership development in this nugget.
Scale-up and transitions at Infosys
As an entrepreneur, staying relevant as the company goes through turbo-charged growth can be a challenge. Nandan talks about how he had to reinvent himself and his style at various points as Infosys grew from a start up to IPO, to listing on the NASDAQ and when it hit USD 1 Billion in revenues.
Dealing with hyper-growth and scale-up
Organizations often outgrow the entrepreneur very quickly. Unless the entrepreneur is proactively thinking about scaling up himself/herself and proactively getting the right people who can drive scale, the start up can very quickly taper off. While 1 out of 10 startups succeed at a Venture stage, he talks about the patterns from the other 9 that don't "make it"
Scaling up the leadership muscle
Scaling up the leadership capability of the entrepreneur and the top team needs to go hand in hand with the business scale up for sustainable growth. Karthik talks about the role of vision, purpose and culture in the early years of a start-up.
Vedica Scholars Programme - Nurturing Women leaders
The fact that we need to have more women leaders at the top is well-known and there has been enough commentary around it. Pramath talks about the unconscious biases that still exist in the society and his attempts at making a difference through the Vedica Scholars Programme for Women.
Building leadership capability in entrepreneurs
Staying relevant is one of the key challenges that is facing the leaders of this generation. A few decades back, they could check into a career on graduation and check-out at retirement. Pramath talks about how leaders (entrepreneurs and otherwise) should think about scaling up their capability as they go through their journey.
Personal Board of Advisors
We all benefit from mentors at different points in our careers. Pramath talks about his approach to configuring his personal Board of Directors. He describes how he has leveraged his Board of Directors at various points in his career.
Women and careers
Vedika talks about her initial days at ICICI which has been a breeding ground for several women leaders in India. She also shares her perspectives on how women should think about building their careers and the common misconceptions there-in.
Women Leaders - a leaky pipeline
Zia talks about the leaky pipeline of women leaders and talks about the key inflection points where the leakage is maximum. She talks about the false glass-ceilings that women often have in their heads.
Tough work-life trade-offs
Zia talks about how, in her generation, the notion of work-life balance, didn’t really exist for ambitious women who wanted to make a mark in the corporate world. She candidly talks about the real trade-offs involved in her case and how that is changing.
Women and Leadership
Rama talks about how she has prioritized performance in a role over trying to belong. She talks about some practical tactics she uses to increases the chances of being heard adequately while operating in a forum full of men.
Leadership Development in a turbo-charged environment
Dheeraj talks about how he thinks about evolving as a leader and discusses the criticality of breathing and staying present even during challenging times. He describes his approach to pause and remind himself of the key elements that are core to him and his effectiveness. An interesting insight in the context of the overloaded lives that a lot of leaders are living.
Staying relevant in the future
Anu talks about her take on Leadership Development in the context of the Future of the workplace. She discusses the need for "start-up like" projects and initiatives that need to cut across functions and hierarchies.
Message to graduating women
Anu shares her perspectives on how aspiring women leaders should think about their careers. She underscores the point about the need for having the right mentors and sponsors along the way.
Grooming more women leaders
Meher shares her perspectives on what it would take to have more women leaders at the top. She starts with the challenges in basic education and sanitation and how that severely restricts the number of women who start a corporate journey. She goes on to talk about what organizations and women can do to ensure that we have more women at the top.
Developing as a leader
KV Sridhar (Pops) talks about the downside of being competitive in a space like Advertising where it is critical to create a climate where the members of the team can be creative and come up with impactful ideas that work. He also talks about how he has approached learning and his self-development as he has gone through his career.
Being effective in the Gig Economy
Devdutt talks about what it takes to thrive in the Gig Economy. At the surface level, quitting a steady job and taking the plunge to be a player in the Gig Economy can be attractive and seductive. Devdutt cautions people against the peril of ignoring Goddess Lakshmi in the pursuit of passion. He talks about the criticality of securing of a Gomata before diving into the wild world of marketplaces and gigs.
Building Habits vs Enhancing Awareness
Devdutt talks about the distinction between building habits and enhancing awareness. He mentions that habits are often relevant only in a certain context and it is critical not to become a slave of the habit. He also elaborates on the notion of “Darshan” and “Para-jiva” and makes the distinction between self-awareness and awareness towards the other. He urges us to think about what we would do when presented with Sophie’s choice (where you have to pick between two equally deserving alternatives).
Understanding fear to decipher beliefs
Coaching is often about understanding the deeply wired beliefs that drive leadership behavior. Devdutt shares that understanding people’s fears might provide insights into people’s beliefs. He talks about the fears that often puts people on a hedonistic treadmill with materialistic markers along the way. He also talks about the notion of staying relevant and talks about the notion of rendering yourself irrelevant consciously as we move through life, something that people are often not open to dealing with.
Institution building - Leading Type As
Amit discusses how he thinks about hiring and creating a nurturing climate for his team to deliver performance. He also shares how he invests time with each of his colleagues and help build their capability. He also talks about how he handles exits from Bain Capital. He talks about the realities of a corporate pyramid and stresses the importance of handling the people that don’t go up the pyramid with empathy.
Playing the 1st half of career to win the 2nd half
Mouli discusses that a lot of the wins in the first half of the career are often on the back of low hanging fruit but the wins in the second half are often harder. He mentions that apart from solving for successes in the first half, we should all build the muscle and resilience to be able to go after the complex win or the high hanging fruit. And that sometimes might require us to go slow and learn than run fast and miss out on building this muscle.
Early formative years
Roopa talks about how she grew up amidst nature in the North Eastern part of India and how some of her perspectives on working women started getting shaped right from an age of around 10\. She also talks about her first brush with Mumbai when she comes to pursue a B.Com in Sydenham College but quickly find the city overwhelming and goes back to Guwahati to pursue B.Sc in Mathematics. She also talks about the peculiar situation where despite clearing the entrance process for IIMA, she is unable to join. She decides to teach in a primary school and appears for CAT yet again.
Growing through the ranks at CRISIL
Roopa talks about how she drifted into CRISIL and how she was not necessarily career oriented in the early years of her professional life. She talks about the notion of focusing on excellence and on topics that are outside the realm of responsibility and how the culture at CRISIL ensured that her efforts were noticed and rewarded. She also talks about the transformative impact that one of her overseas stints had on her in terms of developing a “bird’s eye view”.
Women Leadership - The barrier no one speaks about as much
Roopa talks about the fact that there is a lot of commentary around women coming back to the work force after they start a family. She mentions that support structures and corporate policies are evolving and this problem is slowly being addressed. She discusses the barrier that shows up when women are in senior management roles. She talks about the notion of self-belief which often comes in the way of women raising their hand for top jobs and for a seat at the table.
Managing time, unfettered curiosity and resilience
Vinay talks about Narasimha Rao spent his time at various points in his career. More specifically, he breaks down the pie chart of time across different phases - when you are campaigning, when you are in power and when you are in opposition. He talks about how Narasimha Rao had unfettered curiosity that helped him indulge his curiosity when he was in opposition which helped him evolve as a person but also ensured that he did not make any hasty decisions in the short-term out of anxiety that would hurt him in the long run.
Getting people comfortable with the context
Deepa shares her thoughts on the trade-off between seen as a “different person” versus being seen as just another individual who can do most of the things that a regular person can. She talks about how it is about her taking the onus and putting the other person at ease rather than expecting the other person to react to her situation. She says “if I am OK with it, they are OK with it”.
Training for the Olympics
Deepa talks about her pursuit of excellence led her from one place to another and eventually to a medal in the Olympics. She talks about the 68 National Golds and 21 International Medals including medals from Asian Games, Para Olympics, World Championships and Common Wealth Games.
Picking an effective Coach
Deepa discusses her approach to picking a Coach while training for Rio Olympics. She mentions that given the uniqueness of her body condition and the training need, the traditional coaching approaches did not work. She talks about how she worked with a biomechanics gym trainer, watched her diet and worked on her psychology as preparation for the Olympics.
Balancing work and life
Jayashri talks about the challenges of being a performer who has to travel around the world and how she is often split between the two worlds. She talks about the criticality of the ecosystem around her including her family that has provided her the support.
Leadership in an open system
Arun talks about his perspectives on Leading in an Open System where you do not have money, authority or power to wield as a source of influence. As we move towards a world where more and more value is being added by an ecosystem of players around a corporation (rather than value chains residing fully inside the company), how CEOs of today navigate this shift and create the right culture in the organization is critical.
Being an effective Chairperson
Mr Bhatt talks about the criticality of the Chairperson to build good one-on-one relationships with each of the Board members so that he/she can facilitate effectively during a Board discussion. He mentions that the biggest contribution a Chairperson can make is to orchestrate the discussion in the room effectively to ensure that all the relevant voices are heard and the group makes a robust decision.
Making good Board decisions
Mr OP Bhatt talks about the role of a Chairperson in ensuring that good decisions are made. He talks about the situations where sometimes not making a decision and seeking more information is better than suboptimal decisions. He also discusses how he would handle divergent opinions on the Board by facilitating a more nuanced conversation that embellishes the issue and the nuances come out.
Attitudes that have driven his career
Mr Bhatt talks about how in every role he has done, he has tried to look for a “plus” which is an additional dimension beyond what is expected in the role. He also talks about the importance of understanding the criticality of the service you provide in the life of the consumer.
Turbocharging your growth – TMRR
Mouli talks the fact that the time people put in a job is not an appropriate indication of the experience they have gained. He outlines TMRR (Target, Measure, Review and Reflect) as a process through which people could derive a lot more experience than what the average person might get in that time period. He also talks about how people can build in the habit so that they practice it on a regular basis.
Being an effective Board member
Vinita talks about how she evaluates Board opportunities that come her way and how they are a part of her Learning and Development plan. She also talks about her thoughts on the opportunities for Indian boards to get more effective in the way they are staffed and run.
Chairperson versus CEO - Leadership nuances
Mr OP Bhatt talks about how the leadership context for a Chairperson in a Board is very different from that of a Chief Executive in a Company. He talks about the hierarchy in an organization with KPIs, Metrics and other variables that gives the CEO control over outcomes. He contrasts that to the context in the Board where individuals have to be nudged and cajoled to carry on tasks that might be critical for the Board.
Leadership Development in the Digital economy
Rich talks about how Google things about spotting potential and about Leadership Development. He quotes an interesting statistic from a piece of research by Corporate Leadership Council. He said that they found that that in 71% of the time people who are high performers were not high potentials but conversely 93% percent of high potentials are also high performers. He also goes on to talk about “Googliness” a term that encapsulates some of the softer aspects of an individual that flourishes inside Google.
Origins of SIY
Rich talks about the origins of the Search Inside Yourself programme. It started out as a quest for Googlers looking for a solution to stay agile and resilient while you are on a “rocket-ship”. He also goes on to talk about how SIY brings in wisdom from multiple domains ranging across Neuroscience, Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence to help people develop a new kind of intelligence that enables them to cope with the roller-coaster ride of a tech driven company
Positivity and Psychological Safety
Rich speaks about why we have a negativity bias as a default setting. He traces it back to human evolution and talks about the fact that for us to survive, it was critical to attach a higher weightage to negative signals in the environment than the positive ones. He links it to the criticality of ensuring psychological safety in a team (results of Project Aristotle in Google) to drive business performance.
Women and intense careers
Falguni speaks about how she juggled her family and her career at various points in time. She specifically speaks about the Maternity transition and says that women shouldn’t treat it as a P&L discussion where they are trading off the income with the opportunity cost of being with the child. She urges the women to look it as an investment in oneself that pays out over the future.