Business Today 14th January 2018 - Page 100

The Best Management Lesson I Learnt Self-belief is crucial for women at work. It is knowing you are no less than anyone in any way; that even though you might feel the task ahead is uphill, it is not going to shake you. Self-belief is a magical talisman before which difficulties dissolve and obstacles vaporise into thin air W hat truly constitutes persistence? In my view, there are four core dimensions. The first is obvious – hard work and perseverance. Persistence comes from putting in the hours and effort. And when you think you have given it everything, giving more than you thought you could. For example, I was a seasoned corporate banker – thanks to the variety of roles and chal- lenges I had taken on – when, one fine morning, I was asked by the then CEO of ICICI Bank to roll up my sleeves and start the agri-business of the bank. Now here I was, a pure bred wholesale banker, not knowing even the basics of agri-business and credit, catapulted straight to ‘ground zero’ of an un- known and complicated business. And ground zero was the hinterland of India, to which I had to travel to make sense of the business by engaging across the supply chain – from farm- ers to distributors. To add icing to the cake, I was a woman, born and raised in the city then called Bombay! I didn’t have too many people either in my team to start with – just seven or eight persons. At the end of three years when I moved from agri- business, we had a team of 800-900 people in the division. I had many moments of fulfilment in that role – starting the first rural ATM in India, turning around loss-making branches, disbursing loans to farmers through cards – way back in 2004 – and other exciting stuff. The most fulfilling part was that I could paint my own canvas. Self-belief is the second dimension, which is espe- cially crucial for women at work. Self-belief is know- ing you are no less than anyone in any way; that even though you might feel the task ahead is uphill, it is not going to shake you. Self-belief and perseverance are magical talismans before which difficulties dis- solve and obstacles vaporise into thin air. And this self-belief can only come from knowl- edge and expertise, the third dimension. When I took on the role of CEO at Standard Chartered Bank, I knew that the varied roles I had undertaken hitherto, the experiences I’d had and the discoveries I’d made, had shaped my banking acumen and understanding of how the ecosystem behaves. My years in wholesale banking had en- abled me to build strong ties with leading corporate houses in the country, and get a close feel of how Indian companies function – their requirements, problem areas as well as resolution mechanisms. My stint of building the agri-business from scratch had helped me believe in myself. My movement across roles and portfolios gave me an aerial view of the banking ‘map’. It helped build my perspec- tive, gave me insights, and it is this collective knowledge and expertise I had that have helped me in my current role. T he fourth dimension I would include is ad- herence to one’s core value system. One of the first initiatives we took after I came on board was becoming cost conscious, but we did this by reducing process costs and ensuring that there was little or no adverse impact on the people engaged with us or their morale. It was not just about better budget management; it was more about building a cost conscious culture in the company. It was about making people accountable for the costs they were incurring, and that in turn meant instilling a sense of ownership in the organisation. It is very impor- tant to walk the talk and hence it was something I, too, observed. Every time we have introduced ma- jor change, we brought everyone on board – be it through town halls, communication or workshops. This helps boost transparency and create an open culture where leadership is trusted and aligned to. In summary, I think this quote from author James N. Watkins most aptly describes the best management lesson I have learnt, “A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.” 100 I BUSINESS TODAY I January 14 I 2018