Business Today 14th January 2018 - Page 98

The Best Management Lesson I Learnt Think of a stonecutter who hammers away at a rock, perhaps a hundred times before a crack shows up. When the 101st blow splits the rock into two, he knows that it is not the last blow that resulted in the outcome, but the entire series of them. Success is an aggregation of small endeavours, repeated resolutely day in and day out into two, he knows that it is not the last blow that resulted in the outcome, but the entire series of them. Success is an aggregation of small endeav- ours, repeated resolutely day in and day out. Bill Bradley said: “Ambition is the path to suc- cess; persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.” Persis- tence comes into play in multiple ways. T he first example that comes to mind relates to something the banking industry has been dealing with for the last few years – stressed assets. In my earlier role, one of our clients had run into rough weather, and while exploring possible so- lutions to the problem at hand, I thought of looking for a buyer for his asset outside India. A promoter – a prospective buyer – I approached was not keen on the transaction since more than anything else, the asset purchase would get him into a potential conflict of interest with his sibling. But, in a series of follow-up meetings, I managed to convince him of the benefits and showed him a way to offset the apparent conflict. The asset was sold at zero ‘haircut’ for the bank. This called for a great deal of home- work and steadfastness to see the deal through. Another example I recall was soon after I took the decision to join Standard Chartered Bank. There was a lot of media buzz about my ‘bold’ move. I remained steadfast in my decision. When I came on board, I found there were two urgent needs at the bank: one, rebuilding the existing engines of growth with better asset quality and less concen- tration risk, and two, launching/scaling up engines like retail banking to diversify revenue streams, and becoming a sharper and meaningfully competitive player in the banking industry. It took time to get everyone aligned to the tasks. We also ensured we had the buy-in of the management on the invest- ments we wanted to make to build a more diversi- fied, sustainable and profitable business model and put in place a large number of process efficiencies. These were significant changes for any organisa- tion. But we made them. I persisted in making sure everyone was aligned to what we were trying to do and it is very fulfilling to see that the persistence is bearing fruit. This has steadily helped build the credibility of the top team, and grown our confi- dence in completing the last mile. Internal cam- paigns were launched to reward and recognise em- ployees – contests on innovative ideas to customer service awards (and focus on service parameters) were initiated to strengthen internal engagement levels – and drive our agenda further and deeper. This brings me to another aspect of persis- tence – persisting in creating a cultural or mindset change. Often, this is subtler, takes longer, and is, therefore, tougher to bring about. Take, for exam- ple, exploring new and better ways of doing things and driving efficiencies. It was persistently commu- nicated at every forum or meeting that each indi- vidual in the company needed to look a t what he or she was doing and challenge the status quo – was there a better way to do the same thing? This kind of change obviously does not happen overnight. It takes weeks and months of reinforcement and persistence and making people come together to deliver. I ensured that we start encouraging and ca- talysing change. Through reward and recognition programmes, we pushed up the engagement and interest in change significantly. 98 I BUSINESS TODAY I January 14 I 2018