How CEOS can align the lead­er­ship team with cor­po­rate goals

KNOWL­[email protected]

Business Daily (Kenya) - - TOP NEWS -

In or­der to be a suc­cess­ful CEO, it is more im­por­tant to re­cruit highly mo­ti­vated peo­ple in­stead of con­stantly fo­cus­ing on mo­ti­vat­ing the team, said the CEO of Mpha­sis, a Ban­ga­lore-head­quar­tered IT ser­vices firm with an­nual rev­enues ap­proach­ing $1 bil­lion.

Rakesh as­sumed the role in Jan­uary 2017 from pre­vi­ous CEO Ganesh Ay­yar. Once that mo­ti­vated team is in place, the CEO must in­volve it in shap­ing the com­pany’s goals and de­vel­op­ing strate­gies to achieve them.

In that process, con­sen­sus should not be con­fused with agree­ment. Ev­ery­body on the team must com­mit to de­liver on the agreed-upon goals, even if they do not per­son­ally buy into them or it hurts their per­sonal am­bi­tions, Rakesh said.

He has im­bibed those lessons over a ca­reer that in­cludes his roles as CEO and pres­i­dent at Syn­tel and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at Moti­wal Oswal As­set Man­age­ment Co. He shared his in­sights into what makes for a CEO’S suc­cess in an in­ter­view with Knowl­[email protected]

Here is the in­ter­view:

YOU BE­LIEVE THAT A CEO’S JOB IS NOT TO DE­FINE A STRAT­EGY, BUT IT IS TO DE­RIVE IT BY WORK­ING CLOSELY WITH A TEAM OF HIGHLY EN­GAGED IN­DI­VID­U­ALS. COULD YOU EX­PLAIN WHAT LES­SON YOU HAVE LEARNED HERE?

It’s fairly com­mon prac­tice to as­so­ciate the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer’s job with that of the chief strat­egy of­fi­cer. I don’t think it’s fair to have that faith and be­lief from all stake­hold­ers, es­pe­cially share­hold­ers, the board, and em­ploy­ees. [After join­ing] Mpha­sis as CEO, when I met em­ploy­ees and other stake­hold­ers, it wasn’t un­com­mon for me to hear them ask me in a Q&A ses­sion, “What’s your strat­egy for Mpha­sis?” That got me think­ing about a cou­ple of things. Firstly, it seems fairly pre­sump­tu­ous of some­one to hand a com­pany a set of strate­gic choices, when there has to be a strong cor­re­la­tion and a con­gru­ence be­tween ca­pa­bil­i­ties and con­cep­tu­al­i­sa­tion of the strat­egy. Strat­egy is not go­ing to be ad­e­quate un­less it is com­bined with ca­pa­bil­i­ties and cul­ture of the com­pany. Sec­ondly, the best way for peo­ple to em­brace or be­lieve in a strat­egy is when the CEO in­volves them in defin­ing it. That’s the best way to cre­ate buy-in. That’s the most ef­fec­tive way to cre­ate a con­sen­sus-driven ap­proach. You have to share the process, guide it, and shape the strat­egy. The best an­swers come when you get a team of highly en­gaged, tal­ented peo­ple in the room, and have an open di­a­logue and de­bate and dis­cus­sion about strate­gic choices. In the end, you put your stamp on a way that it’s con­gru­ent and you can mea­sure the progress, and you can come up with an op­er­at­ing plan. You then have a team with peo­ple that have al­ready bought into it, be­cause they feel part-own­ers of the strat­egy.

HOW DOES THE PROCESS OF DEFIN­ING A STRAT­EGY WITH THIS COM­MIT­TED GROUP OF PEO­PLE WORK?

The best way — at least it’s worked in our ex­pe­ri­ence — is to have a number of what we call “white­board” or “brain­storm­ing ses­sions,” typ­i­cally start­ing with the client or the cus­tomer or the prob­lem that we’re try­ing to solve, put through the lens of the here and now. Typ­i­cally, you have mul­ti­ple ways to de­fine lim­ited pri­or­i­ties and then try to marry them with the di­rec­tion that the busi­nesses are mov­ing in. We also get a re­flec­tion of our clients’ busi­nesses, given that we are in tech­nol­ogy ser­vices. It is about map­ping where we stand to­day – what are those changes and the forces that our clients are deal­ing with, and how can we equip our­selves to be­come able part­ners with them? In this process, you do sce­nario plan­ning, but more im­por­tantly, you try to map where we are to­day with out­lines. Where are our clients headed? Iden­tify those com­mon themes. Iden­tify the up­ward trends, and take a bet on what are those choices that you will have to make from a tech­nol­ogy per­spec­tive, and de­rive those an­swers. Then again, you set strate­gies within a set of choices. What things would you choose to do, and what would you choose not to do?

IT IS OF­TEN BE­LIEVED THAT THE JOB OF A LEADER OR A CEO IS TO MO­TI­VATE PEO­PLE, BUT I UN­DER­STAND YOU THINK THAT’S WRONG. HOW SO?

This is one of those lessons that was hard for me to learn. I al­ways used to be­lieve that as CEO I al­ways have to be mo­ti­vat­ing peo­ple who work for me – peo­ple who own those P&LS and busi­ness units that make up the com­pany. Then I re­al­ized that the real an­swer re­ally is not in try­ing to mo­ti­vate peo­ple all day long, but to get a team of self-mo­ti­vated peo­ple to­gether, set their pri­or­i­ties and then let them free to work their magic. All this while, you con­tinue to give them guid­ance and an­chor them. You then put in place some con­trol mech­a­nisms. But more im­por­tantly, get­ting a team to­gether of highly self-mo­ti­vated in­di­vid­u­als is a much bet­ter way than try­ing to mo­ti­vate ev­ery­body on the team that may or may not have the self-mo­ti­va­tion.

HOW DO YOU DE­FINE THE AT­TRIBUTES OF PEO­PLE WHO SHOULD BE ON THE LEAD­ER­SHIP TEAM? WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR?

As you get into the con­cen­trated times that we are liv­ing through right now, with dis­rup­tion at its core, [we need] peo­ple to be self-mo­ti­vated, [and] be ex­cited about the change that the world is go­ing through, be­cause that’s when they will em­brace the change and try to make the most of the op­por­tu­nity. Sec­ondly, from that abil­ity to see it as an op­por­tu­nity comes the pas­sion to work for the clients and for the em­ploy­ees. Thirdly, to marry those two, [you need] the abil­ity to ex­e­cute on the vi­sion, which means to align with the vi­sion and the goals. Op­por­tu­ni­ties are ex­e­cuted in a way that you can make some­thing hap­pen for the busi­ness, be­cause in the end, we do work for our stake­hold­ers.

The best way for peo­ple to em­brace or be­lieve in a strat­egy is when the CEO in­volves them in defin­ing it”

--COUR­TESY

Nitin Rakesh, the CEO of IT ser­vices firm Mpha­sis.

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