Source | ValuingValues
How have you evolved in professional life i.e. your professional journey?
After 12th, I opted to study engineering more because we lived in a small place where it was the most socially acceptable option. However, no regrets as it made an impact on me having stayed in a hostel for 4 years. Everything that I did later, was my choice. For Masters, I applied for XLRI and that too in HR. Many years later, in a school reunion a friend remarked that in school itself I seemed to have mentioned my desire to be in a field related to people. My preferred employer was ITC, but I missed narrowly, and instead started my career with TVS motors in 1988.
I worked with TVS for four years and when an opportunity to join ITC presented itself in 1992, I grabbed it and worked in different roles and assignments till 2000. In 2000, I had to move to Chennai for personal reasons and joined Murugappa group. After working for three years there, in 2003 I returned to ITC. So, almost 29 years as a professional in 3 great organizations, of which 22 with ITC.
What do you think is the role of Values in leadership and in life?
One thing that is constant, universal and timeless is Values, both in personal and professional life. They’re relevant regardless of the context, level, personality or character of a person. Values is what you are, or what you are not.
If you look at the organizations I chose to work for, I made sure that the values of the organization and my personal values are in alignment. I figure this out by putting my options through certain filters, before I make a decision. This works even whilst making decisions on whom to work with at an individual level also, if at all you have the option to do so!
The first filter is my perception of the organization based on my reading and research. The second filter is what I pick up (listen, meet, observe) from the interactions with company personnel. The third filter is the impact my decision would have on my family, mentors and well-wishers – would they be proud of my choice. The last filter I consider is how low is the possibility of me regretting the decision I make.
Which are your top 3-4 values without which you feel you cannot do as a person?
- The first value I cannot do without is respect for people. Respect for people as individuals, teams, organizations and on a larger level, a country.
- The second one is humility. You see the companies I’ve worked for are quiet large and successful, but all of them maintain a relatively low profile. So that is one value that was in alignment when I decided to work with them.
- Co-existence is another value that I give a lot of importance to. I believe it’s not about the “or”, but it is about the “and”. What I mean by this is how inclusive you are. So when in a situation where you’re talking to a doorman and a CEO walks by, can you make them both feel included or will you give more importance to the CEO only.
- Another value that is very important for me is the value “giving”. For me this value is anchored on 4G’s – Gratitude, Grace, Giving Back and Growing. For me giving back to society, profession, friends, institutions, etc. is not about losing something, but is about growing in the process – Growing yourself and helping others grow. The key is doing it with grace.
One story or anecdote from your life, either personal or professional, where living by values in a testing time gave you a positive result?
This anecdote may sound very simple and trivial, but demonstrates the power of values. In one of the organizations that I worked with, we had a major employee relations problem leading to violence within and outside the factory. Typically when one is faced with such a situation, we go into confrontational mode and when that happens, we tend to ignore the fundamental value of respect for people. It becomes very easy to treat workers and unions as your enemies and look down on them and ignore the tenets of ‘respect for people’. One can argue that if they indulged in violence, is there a space for respect and niceties. I’ve always believed that there is a place even in that context. This particular situation had escalated to a level, wherein I had filed a case against some of the workers and outsiders in the court / police station. I knew that one of the employee’s child was in a critical health condition. In one of the hearings, when I met him, immediately and instinctively asked about the child and told him, “because of disciplinary action taken against you, there is not much that can be done, but I would still like to know how is your daughter doing and if there is something I can help with, do let me know.” He was stunned. Two days later he came and met me and apologized for what he had done and said, “I cannot undo what I have done, but I will try to be a better individual going forward and not stray into the line I had taken.” To me that’s the power of 4G.