CONSULTANT ARTICLES - Ronesh Puri, Managing Director

Factor in career growth, not just pay, while picking offer | 25th Aug, 2021 | The Times of India
Everyone wants to be successful. Most professionals enter the corporate world with big dreams. They want to make it big and look good in their own eyes as well as those of peers, friends and family. The fact of the matter is that most of us enjoy being a hero. That’s nothing wrong, as it does motivate us to work harder and smarter. However, having met over 5,000 candidates in my career, I have noticed that often a number of very talented candidates do not attain their potential, simply because they do not strategise their career well enough.

Several candidates just look at opportunities in isolation and not make moves that will help take them to their goal. We do not realise that reaching the top position in our career is like playing a chess game where every move must be thought through and the potential of the opportunity to take us a step closer to our goal is important. Unfortunately, a career is not a 100-metre dash that some of us think it is. The moot question is, what can help accelerate your career? Are we focused on game-changing opportunities and their potential to help us take a quantum jump?

Fix a huge problem

Yes, the biggest opportunity for you is when you can fix a huge problem. If you are hungry for a huge opportunity, look for a huge problem that you can solve. Remember, no one wins a Nobel Prize by doing ordinary work. You need to excel, and bigger the problem the bigger the opportunity. A lot of capable professionals look at a problem and get scared. Life does not offer easy choices. So, if you think you have the capability to deliver, then seize the opportunity. Do be prepared to work hard and smart and, if you think you can fix a problem, do seize it with both hands. Yes, if you are successful, your career would move to a different orbit — you would have arrived and would be in huge demand. In reality, there is paucity of professionals who have fixed huge problems and, if you are one of them, the corporate world would woo you and you would command a huge premium. High risks, high gains. You will be a hero in the true sense. The world looks very closely at what you achieved for your employers, and you would reap huge rewards.

Give more and take less

Sometime ago, a very successful CEO of a very large company told me his secret of success. He felt it always pays to be underpaid rather than overpaid. It is funny but true that when you take money out of your equation, more game-changing opportunities fall into your lap as money is a distraction that confuses most people. I have noticed several professionals missing out on game-changing opportunities when they perceived money being 5-10% less than their expectations. They just missed the big picture as they gave more importance to money now and less to the opportunity to make a huge difference and reap rich rewards in the future. Strangely, I have noticed that people who make the most money are not chasing money, but instead focus on the quality of the opportunity. People who chase money often make suboptimal career decisions as they just get too tempted by increase in money.

We must remember that everyone looks at ROI (return on investment) of people and being overpaid can be both risky as well as dangerous as expectations and pressure increase manifold. Many of us find it difficult to perform when the pressure is huge, especially now in the post-Covid world. Thus, it pays in the long run to be not out of sync with market compensation. Being underpaid will ensure you can consider far more opportunities that in the medium and long term could be far more lucrative.

Leverage your strengths

It is very important to have high self-awareness and be equally conscious of our strengths and weaknesses. Believe me — self-awareness is not very high. If you don’t agree, just ask people to list out their areas of improvement and you will find most people will struggle beyond 2-3 at best. This, even though we all know The best of us have minimum 9 weaknesses. Therefore, if you are not aware of what you are not good at, you will make bad career decisions. The trick is to be aware of your strengths and take assignments where you can best leverage on them. Also, know what you are not good at to ensure the job demands are compatible with your strengths and weaknesses. You do need a platform to best exploit your talent. So, look for opportunities where your talent can flourish uninhabited. Suppose your biggest strength is out-of-the-box thinking and you work with an organisation that is bureaucratic, slow-moving or risk-averse. You will then not get a platform to exploit your potential, leading to suboptimal output and frustration.

Stay Humble and likeable

It is very important to stay humble and keep your ego at bay. Laugh at yourself to enable you to not take yourself too seriously. We must remember that we may be awesome at our work, but if we are not humble or likeable, we will miss out on the most important opportunities as arrogance is the biggest put-off. It is also not easy to stay humble as, bigger the success the bigger is the larger-than-life picture that the world will paint of ourselves. Staying grounded will not be easy. Better to have critics around you than flatterers. Seek areas of improvement and shun praise, but welcome criticism. Please, also do avoid ‘yes men’ around you as they will both fuel your ego as well as manipulate you.

Creditable track record

Ensure that your track record at every organisation you work for is commendable. Everyone wants to back a winning horse, and not losers. Ensure you leave a creditable performance track as it will comfort your prospective employers when they know you are a performer. Ensure cordial relationship with your previous employers as it will help you. It will help if you are perceived to be dependable, a good performer, professional and ethical. Our trail always remains, and sometimes catches up with us at the wrong time.

Some of us just get bitter about previous employers and mess up our reputation, not knowing the damage it could cause us in the future. Bad references about you will be very detrimental for future opportunities. In majority of the cases, the past catches up with us. Do not cause any damage to your previous employers as it is neither ethical nor prudent. I have noticed a number of careers getting destroyed as individuals, in trying to teach a lesson to their previous organisation, ended up spoiling their reputation of dependability and loyalty. Individuals can never be larger than organisations.

Hence, to be a hero we need to do heroic deeds. We should create our brand to be one of consistently delivering, ideally of a problem-solver, dependable, good value-for-money, aware of our strengths & weaknesses and best leveraging them. Sometimes a good game plan helps propel the career and takes it into a new orbit. Plan your career as you do plan a chess game, thinking about the consequences of every move. Let every move count and take you closer to your goal, which should be crystal clear in your mind.

Full Coverage:The Times of India: Factor in career growth, not just pay, while picking offer

The Times of India - Indian cos will do better with mix of MNC, non-MNC talent | 16th Dec, 2020
There are over 40,000 MNCs with more than 2.5 lakh overseas affiliates. The top 300 MNCs control over 25% of the world economy. Thus, they are a talent powerhouse and have a large role in the global economy. In India, we have had a long history of dealing with MNCs. Our tryst with them began in 1600 with East India Company being the first to hit our shores, followed by Dutch East India Company in 1602.

India Inc owes a lot to MNCs as they have had a large role in professionalisation of Indian management ethos and have brought the best international management practices to India. So, we just cannot ignore MNC talent.

MNC talent has helped India Inc compete with the best in the world. They helped Indian promoters look at the big picture and compete with the biggest MNC in their backyard. Decades ago, most really talented professionals were from MNCs as they not only attracted the best but also invested a lot in developing and shaping talent. However, there is no doubt that MNC talent today has lost some of its sheen. The gap that was prevalent in the past does not exist today as non-MNCs have really upped their game for both — attracting and developing talent. In fact, they have taken the best practices from MNCs and customised them to suit the Indian mindset.

Like candidates from any ecosystem, MNC ones are generally good at some things and not so good at some others. They are not an answer to all problems as decades of working in an MNC does tend to shape an individual’s thinking in both positive as well as negative ways. However, depending on what stage of evolution a company is in, there is no doubt than MNC talent can be very beneficial, especially if a company wants to globalise.

In any organisation, the ideal is a mix of MNC as well as non-MNC talent as there are huge gains for having diversity of talent. This has become even more important today as every company needs to reinvent and challenge old paradigms. Some organisations look down on MNC talent as their experience of hiring such candidates was bad. This is not fair, but there is a tendency to either be a fan of MNC talent or be very sceptical about it. Strangely, some MNCs today want to only look at non-MNC talent for diversity.

In fact, one of my large MNC clients specifically asked for talent predominantly from professionally run Indian corporates as his prior experience of hiring from professional family owned business was great. He felt they were more hungry, nimble footed and understood Indian consumer psyche better. Trust the world has moved a full circle and perceptions/misperceptions about a candidate from MNC/non-MNC exist far more than some of us realise.

Some just don’t want to touch MNC talent because of a bad experience and tend to label all MNC talent to be arrogant, too structured, too slow on decision-making or unable to work in ambiguity or simply roll up their sleeves. This could be true for some, whether from an MNC or a non-MNC, as everyone’s DNA is different. But thinking all MNC candidates have these traits is just not correct. There is no doubt that the mindset of a predominantly MNC candidate is different as the demands from an organisational standpoint also differ. It is also true that some great candidates from an MNC with a commendable track record have totally bombed in an Indian company with heart burning and loss of face on both sides. There are several exceptions, of great success as well, so nothing is universally true. However, it may be beneficial while hiring to dig deep on the DNA side of a candidate as well as validate a few other things that are most important, but commonly ignored as they don’t get flagged on a psychometric assessment. It may be beneficial, therefore, to reflect on what to expect from an MNC talent and where the strengths can be leveraged…

* High process-orientation: MNC candidates generally score well on this point as everything is well laid-out and all employees have to follow it, as otherwise there will be avoidable repercussions. Tolerance to breaking rules or cutting corners is minimal in an MNC as everything works on a template. To survive and move up, you need to be system-oriented. A candidate from a non-MNC moving to an MNC must know that high process-orientation is imperative and, if it is not part of his/her DNA, then it’s best to think hard before moving to an MNC. However, a candidate from an MNC moving to a family-owned business must understand that he/she should not expect a well laid-out process orientation of the same magnitude. I have noticed several candidates from MNCs getting frustrated and quitting in a hurry when faced with this scenario. Therefore, if you want to work in a highly structured environment only, validate this aspect about your prospective employer. Fortunately, today a few non-MNCs are also very system-oriented, but it is not universal.

* Presentation skills: These in a candidate from an MNC are generally good as they need to present to different stakeholders on a fairly regular basis. These skills get more sharpened as presentations may be to different geographies and some demanding stakeholders. Interestingly, 25-30% of the time in an MNC is spent on meetings, discussions and presentations. It may surprise some, but several candidates want to move from an MNC because some of them dislike the huge quantum of time that gets invested in aligning various stakeholders at different time zones and having to make multiple presentations, sometimes at odd times. Yes, not everyone enjoys this. So, do reflect on this and understand if your DNA is compatible.

* Higher bandwidth: Generally, MNCs have talent that is intellectually bright as most of them hire candidates from the best B-Schools/educational institutions. As a result, they get used to operating in this ecosystem as well as get quite dependent on working with bright individuals/subordinates. Some MNC candidates struggle when they transition to working with peers and subordinates not as intelligent, but having other skills and competencies of a superior nature. Unfortunately, high intellect can often breed arrogance or a superiority complex. A few MNC candidates fail in a non-MNC because of this trait and most are also oblivious of this side of their own personality. In a family owned business, you just cannot win hearts of your team or gain respect of the owners unless you are humble and down to earth. MNC candidates must validate this aspect of their personality when changing jobs.

* Better execution skills: Candidates from an MNC are generally good at execution as the implementation of policies, systems and strategy is relatively better monitored as they emanate from the HQ. They have no choice but to implement what is given to them by the system/bosses. However, MNC candidates are not the best at creation as a fair bit of thinking about what to do is handed to them by their bosses/HQ. They sometimes get fairly dependent on someone else thinking, and therefore creating something from scratch may not be their core strengths. MNC talent also is used to relatively slower decision-making as they are conditioned to an environment of alignment of multiple stakeholders, which takes time.

* Straight speaking: MNC candidates are also used to speaking their mind and being intellectually honest. They don’t mind challenging their bosses. This is conducive to better decision-making as the quality of discussions is good. In a culture of ‘boss is always right’, MNC talent sometimes struggles. Some owner-driven organisations having a subservient culture have struggled with retaining MNC talent for this reason. Owners hiring from an MNC must therefore realise that they need to be prepared for open discussions and the employee disagreeing with them. The evolved owners who realise this are better able to attract and retain talent .

Hiring MNC talent can be very beneficial, as mentioned earlier. But it is prudent to also understand that MNC talent may struggle with ambiguity, and an unstructured & unplanned business strategy. They need a good back-end and high quality of subordinates to deliver. Expectations also must be well laid-out as they get uncomfortable with fuzzy and moving targets. As their values are good, they often get frustrated when they are expected to cut corners or when structures within an organisation are not well laid-out or articulated.

In my opinion, companies will do better if they have a mix of MNC as well as non-MNC talent as then you get best of both the worlds. Organisations need both to survive and grow. So, having different mindsets may be an advantage. However, having preconceived notions about the merits or demerits about MNC talent is also not fair as not all talent is the same. But while hiring MNC talent in a non-MNC, validate their adaptability, humility, ability to roll up their sleeves, as well as working in ambiguity and a relatively unstructured environment. If the boxes are ticked, the chances of good hire are good. If you wish to globalise or bring more structure and process to your organisation, hire an MNC candidate with right DNA.

Full Coverage:Indian cos will do better with mix of MNC, non-MNC talent

The Economic Times: Organisations can not afford to have average talent | 23rd September, 2020
Industries will demand candidates that are nimble-footed, fast on the uptake as well as the ones who capitalize and leverage on how the consumer and customers’ demands are changing, says Ronesh Puri, Managing Director, Executive Access.

With the global disruption in place, organisations across the spectrum are deliberating the strategy to take their operation and goals to the pre-Covid level. But what the time demands is an agile leadership. Organisations across boards are hiring executives having a dextrous outlook and a spirit of getting things done.

Speaking on the current trends of executive-level hiring in the light of companies’ restructuring drives, Ronesh Puri, Managing Director, Executive Access, said, “They (companies) cannot afford to have average talent; so, they ease out the same and hire the talent which can move and shake things and give them results in these challenging times.”

While selecting the right executive for a specific job, Puri advises companies to look for the capability of the candidates in driving change. “It should be the best fit and not necessarily the best candidate. Great candidates in one organisation may not be fitting into the ecosystem of the other company. Therefore, you have to look in terms of competency,” he said.

Puri further said, “Depending on what the company wants to achieve from a candidate over a period of 3-5 years, you go backward and see who’s the best candidate who can deliver and help the company reach milestones.”

All industries are looking for executives with one added focus

Sectors like FMCG, services, BFSI, manufacturing, IT, healthcare, life sciences, and pharma, among others are looking for hiring senior executives. But one area remains common among them: They want to ride the digital wave.

Companies across sectors are looking for candidates, “with one added focus which is in terms of improving the digital footprint. Companies are looking at somebody to up the ante in digital which is right across the industry. They are looking at all the functions like CFO, CHRO, or COO,” Puri said.

Taking an optimistic view, Puri believes business is likely to get better in the coming two months and will take a little while to reach the pre-Covid level.

Commenting on the emerging CXO level hiring trends, he said, “The quality of hiring will continue to get better because the stakes are higher. Companies can't afford to make a mistake because obviously in this challenging environment if they get a wrong person for the job then obviously the repercussion of that is much more.”

“But it is also an opportunity. I think companies will try to look at different talent to what they already had. Because the playing condition requires very different kinds of people to what was earlier the case,” he added.

Puri further said that industries will demand candidates that are nimble-footed, fast on the uptake as well as the ones who capitalize and leverage on how the consumer and customers’ demands are changing.

“Companies have to forget the old world and look very closely at the new world and then course-correct,” he concluded.

Full Coverage:Organisations can not afford to have average talent

Times of India: Be ready to roll up your sleeves in a startup | 05th August, 2020
India is now the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world with thousands more born every year. We have over 9,000 operating in technology alone in India, with as much as 1,900 added in just 2019. We have 30 unicorn Indian startups (valued at over $1 billion each) and there is a good chance that the numbers will continue to grow.

Hiring the best candidate is never easy. Statistics reveal that more than 50% of the hiring is ‘mis-hiring’ in any industry. For a startup, this percentage is even higher because the demands are very different. Some time ago, I met an owner of a wellknown startup on a flight. When I told him that I was a headhunter, he started sharing his disappointment on the vast percentage of his key hiring going wrong in spite of using well-known large international search firms.

He bemoaned the fact that he hired candidates with stellar track records, and yet they failed to deliver. The candidates either left him or he had to fire them, leading to a huge waste of money and time. The owner had hired candidates who had excelled in structured organisations with great systems and processes, but were just not suitable to working in ambiguity and an environment that was 24/7 and required rolling up of sleeves.

Great candidates with impressive credentials and track record sometimes are just not suited for a startup ecosystem as their DNA is very different. Fact of the matter is that no one, however great, can be successful in all environments. Both the candidates as well as organisations must look at compatibility of the individual with a very different ecosystem that has different rules and demands. The first thing to remember is that candidates must figure out whether they would enjoy working in a startup culture, as a wrong move can set a career back by years. A number of candidates are struggling today because of making wrong career choices.

Here is a checklist to keep in mind:

* Working in ambiguity: First, you need to enjoy working in ambiguity and getting energy from forging ahead in chaos. Just don’t expect well laid-out systems and processes along with a discipline to adhere to it. Expect chaos and fast-changing priorities. If you are not cut out for it, do not enter this ecosystem as the startup world will not change to accommodate your mindset. Sure, the degree of chaos and ambiguity will differ from what phase of evolution the organisation is in. However, you are most likely to encounter this to some degree. Some candidates thrive in working in such environments, and for them it is great place to work and grow, as rewards on great performance are truly much more.

* 24/7 world: If you are a 9-to-6 person, forget startups. They require a person who is truly passionate, workaholic and for whom work is worship. It is a high-energy and intense environment where you can expect a high degree of self-actualisation. However, you must forget work-life balance as the hours as well as timings can be crazy. You will get frustrated if you get energy from pursuing other interests as your calendar can go crazy at the worst of the times. Yes, rewards are tempting, and being part of making history is heady and satisfying. If the company flourishes, you may make more money than you can spend. But like most things in life, it comes with a cost.

* Working in a flat structure: The startup world does not believe in layers and layers in an organisation. It believes in keeping the team lean and mean. If your mindset is all about span of control — the number of employees reporting to you, how many layers of organisation do you oversee, or how much respect your designation and title carry — then, my friend, the startup world is not made for you and you are not made for the startup world. Some candidates get frustrated when, in a startup world, even a new entrant can challenge your brilliant idea and offer a better solution. Some get frustrated as they view this as a challenge to their seniority or authority and find the culture devoid of hierarchy, hitting their self-respect. You will enjoy working in a startup if you do not need to showcase your power and authority and love a close-knit environment where you enjoy the lack of frills. Yes, you will also be expected to roll up your sleeves as anything and everything is your responsibility and everyone’s job is equally important for the team.

* Problem-solving: You also need to be great at problem-solving. Some of us truly enjoy it and it gives us a lot of energy to solve problems. If you flourish in such an environment, you will get a lot of opportunity to showcase your talent as you do need to fix more things normally in a startup. The job satisfaction is, therefore, much more if you are compatible with a startup ecosystem. In addition, you do need to think on your feet as speed of decision-making is relatively faster and you will normally find that your bosses are short of time. It works best when you cut the crap and get to the main point, solution or idea — without too much of an introduction.

* Self-actualisation: The startups provide possibly the best opportunity to attain self-actualisation, and a huge number of candidates love this opportunity. The potential to give vent to your ideas is huge, as startups are very hungry for ideas, challenging old paradigms. The acceptability for new game-changing ideas is huge. In addition, decision-making is very fast, so you do not encounter bureaucracy or love of status quo from colleagues or your bosses. The rewards for your game-changing performance can also be huge. In addition, the culture is informal and friendly and, generally, you will notice that employees are very passionate and young with big dreams in their eyes. In short, a perfect environment to implement your ideas and make history.

The reality is that most human beings can work better in certain cultures/environments and will struggle in some that are not suitable to their mindset. It is a misconception to suppose that we can do equally well in any environment as we are adaptable. To play to your inherent strengths is prudent as is knowing what plays to your strengths and what does not. I have noticed a lot of brilliant candidates make the mistake of making career decisions that were just not prudent as they were simply not cut out for the environment, culture or compatible with working with certain mindsets.

Remember, a wrong move can push your career southwards just as a wrong hire can result in an organisation losing crores as mis-hiring is atrociously expensive and yet unfortunately very common. To attain your dreams, choose opportunities that play to your strengths and work in environment that you are compatible with.

Full Coverage:Be ready to roll up your sleeves in a startup

India Today: Resetting the agenda: Here is why restructuring, re-skilling is needed to survive in a post-Covid-19 world | 30th July, 2020
The organisations which leverage the moment as an opportunity to "build back better" will be able to recover rapidly and lay the foundation of a new world of work.

The ongoing pandemic has wrecked lives around the world. The widespread and months-long lockdown have thrown the global economy into a severe crisis - massive job losses, slashed incomes, the shutdown of many organisations and GDP experiencing the biggest falls. While the changes caused by Covid-19 may prove temporary, the world after the pandemic will clearly be different.

One thing is sure that the coronavirus crisis has hastened the arrival of the "future of work". From widescale remote working to a global revaluation of the care economy and increasing automation, the pandemic has dramatically transformed the world of work. Business leaders across the globe are therefore facing a major challenge around how to deploy people in these unprecedented times.

There is an opportunity to rebuild the business in a few areas:re-skilling and up-skilling; prioritising redeployment and re-employment; resetting education and jobs systems for the recovery and re-evaluating essential work and improving the quality of jobs.

The organisations which leverage the moment as an opportunity to "build back better" will be able to recover rapidly and lay the foundation of a new world of work.

Talent Management

A report by McKinsey suggests that in diverse regions like Europe, Africa, and the United States, up to a third of the workforce is vulnerable to furloughs and reduced income as a result of the crisis. It predicts that many millions of jobs could be lost permanently.

It has become crucially important that business leaders now identify the critical roles, map the skill requirements, and prepare the workforce for the evolving world of work. They would have to work in coordination with the other stakeholders like the government, the employees and related associations.

The process is broad and vast which requires building on the broad views of the sections, functions, and occupations at risk and emphasising on the roles that have become more significant and relevant amid the pandemic.

Re-skilling and up-skilling

In 2020 Global Human Capital Trends survey by Deloitte, 53 percent of respondents agreed that between half and their entire workforce will need to alter their skills and capabilities in the next three years.

Yet the organisations are also not well informed and updated as 59 percent of them said they need additional information to understand the readiness of their employees to meet new demands, and 38 percent agreed that identifying workforce development priorities and needs is a hindrance to workforce development.

In recent years, organisations have begun to prioritise the need for upskilling and reskilling to better prepare for the industry disruptions. As it has become quite clear that the pandemic will accelerate automation and digitisation across a range of industries and sectors, it calls for new mechanisms for skilling.

The surge in online education and training industry during lockdown signals the need for employers to double down on re-training workers and for governments to proactively build provisions around the same into the fiscal stimulus they are injecting into the economy to best prepare the workforce for the post-pandemic economy.


The pandemic has produced an opportunity for organisations to reinvent their workplaces. The recovery process of each organisation will serve as a bridge between their immediate response to the outbreak and what its future will look like. The biggest challenge that organisations will likely face while they design their recovery model is the tension between getting back to routine work and rethinking work while embracing the new reality.

Organisations must keep in mind that transformative change can be unsettling for many workers, therefore, they must effectively accommodate diverse expectations of workers to build and retain the future of trust in their organisation.

How organisations handle post-pandemic recovery will significantly affect their brands, workforce and customers and ultimately define whether they are really operating as a true social enterprise.

Summing it all up

World Economic Forum, in January 2020, announced the creation of a Reskilling Revolution platform focused on improving education, jobs, and skills for a billion people by 2030.

Considering the current situation, it has now dedicated this platform to supporting governments, educators and companies to help students and workers and build back better skills and jobs systems for the post-pandemic recovery.

The pandemic has exposed more radiantly than ever before the inadequacies in the system of the past. Subsequently, it brings focus on the fundamental value of human potential, human life and human livelihoods. The crisis is the window of opportunity to invest money, time and effort in our most precious asset: our human capital.

Full Coverage:Resetting the agenda

Family biz must respect top execs’ views for best results | 12th Feb., 2020
Over 80% of businesses worldwide are family-owned. In India, it is estimated that 90% of the businesses are family-owned, and about 80% of the NSE’s m-cap is with such enterprises.

It is a matter of pride for Indians that as many as 12 Indian businesses made it to the list of 50 most profitable family-owned businesses in Asia. Therefore, they are far important than is commonly believed. As larger MNCs hit the headlines more, a number of professionals do not realise that opportunities in a family-owned business can be very lucrative.

Candidates specialising in working for a family-owned business can command a huge premium as well as have far more opportunities open to them because the size of the cake is far bigger. From the owners’ standpoint, the true potential of an organisation is only realised when organisations have professionals helping take the company to the next level.

Look at some of the most successful organisations today — they grow exponentially when they truly professionalise. However, it is very important for the owners to realise that the organisation will grow far faster if they ensure some of the points enumerated below. Most of the top family-owned businesses have done the following:

* Give adequate empowerment: It is not easy for owners to trust a professional easily, and that too immediately. Therefore, sometimes it can take a while for sufficient trust to develop. However, it is very important for an owner to understand that a professional will only be able to give results if he/she is trusted and sufficiently empowered. Building trust and giving sufficient confidence to a candidate that their talent is respected and they can change the status quo is very important. Several candidates complain that the feeling they get from the owner is, though they want quick results, they are not so happy with making far-reaching changes. Owners must realise that unless the status quo is changed, results will not be very different. It is therefore prudent to concentrate on results, leaving the how of it to be the prerogative of the professional. Best is to give empowerment with accountability.

* Respect the professional & his/her views: It is very important for the owner to treat a professional with respect and encourage the professional to speak freely. Fear of expressing an opinion or speaking their mind must be prevented. Owners tend to have ‘yes’ men around them who rarely speak their mind. Therefore, an atmosphere of open communication must be established by the owners by encouraging a professional to speak freely and even challenge their thinking. A number of organisations are starved of great talent because their organisations have a very subservient culture and, unfortunately, a perception exists that talent is neither respected nor is the freedom to speak freely given. A culture where professionals are respected and encouraged to speak freely gets best outcomes.

* Communicate clearly what is expected: It has been my experience of working with over 100 family-owned organisations that, very often, there is a gap in communicating clearly what indeed are the expectations and what are the dos and don’ts. A number of organisations presume that a candidate is well aware of the same when in reality there is fuzziness on this. Ideally, after a month, there should be a discussion with the candidate on the expectations and everything should be in black-and-white, leaving no room for lack of clarity on this. Also, if there are behavioural, cultural and style of management preferences, it is great if these are communicated by the owner directly as it helps if the rules of the games are clearly spelt out.

* Getting top talent without cost constraint: Whenever a small- or mid-sized company moves to the next level, a call that needs to be taken is — Should they get the best talent with cost constraint or without? Most family-owned companies start with employees who are loyal and can be trusted. They normally are not the most qualified or paid high salaries. Though it is not necessary that the most expensive candidate is the best, it must also be realised that paying more for a better candidate is far more prudent than compromising and hiring the second-best because of a cost constraint. Ability to innovate and hire anybody at any price is an advantage that family-owned businesses enjoy. So, it’s best to leverage on this key differentiator. You will notice that family-owned businesses that have grown exponentially have often taken the hard call to hire the best and then the company has just moved onto another trajectory. Business is all about having the best talent. The company with the best talent has the best chance of winning. Family-owned businesses are great to work for as there is so much that one can do and accomplish. However, owners must realise that they need to empower the candidate, respect the individual and encourage them to voice their views as well as make the changes.

Owners must articulate their expectations clearly as well as be obsessed with hiring the best talent for their company, who will adjust to their ecosystem well. Many more organisations can be taken to the next level if they have the best talent.

Full Coverage:Family biz must respect top execs’ views for best results

Family biz may not find right fit in successful MNC CEOs | 1st May, 2019
Hiring a CEO for any company is very important as it can take it to a new growth trajectory or bring it hurtling down. Nothing is more important for an organisation than getting the best CEO as it is a make or break decision. There are hundreds of examples of organisations leapfrogging competition or losing their game. It is not an easy decision as the quantum of mis-hiring of a CEO has only been increasing. For a family owned business, the stakes are even higher. We do need to look at a variety of additional facets as hiring a CEO for a family owned business is very different from hiring a CEO for a multinational company.

The following are some pointers based on my experience of hiring around 100 CEOs or heads of institutions:

Understand the DNA of the owner/s: For a family owned business, it is imperative to first of all understand the mindset and DNA of the owner/s. They are likely to have far greater passion and emotional involvement in a business than a professional, and therefore there will be areas that one needs to tread with caution and sensitivity. This is because where there is emotion, there is likelihood of sensitivity and a soft corner for protecting the core values of the company and what is sacrosanct. This is more pronounced in first-generation owners as they have incubated the company and led it from start. Each company is unique as is each individual. Therefore, having a deep understanding of both is very important. The owners are unlikely in most cases to appreciate erosion of the core values of the company or what they believe has helped the company reach its present position. This is precisely what happened in Infosys when Vishal Sikka was hired as a CEO. It was a case of mis-hiring as it led to an early separation and caused a lot of controversy that harmed the business as well as the image of Infosys. It was not performance that led to the separation but attempting to change the DNA and core values of a great company that was truly admired.

Chemistry: Another important facet is chemistry between the owners and the CEO. It is really important to understand the kind of individual that gets along well with the owner. If the chemistry is not good, the parting will be early and the results will be suboptimal.

The compatibility and alignment between the owner and the CEO is thus very important. The reality is that all of us get along better with some type of people and struggle with some. It is simply a case of compatibility. Hence, this must be factored in first and the competencies must be looked at subsequently. If the chemistry is not good, results will always be suboptimal.

Adaptability and people skills: It is also very important that the candidate possesses good people skills as relationships are normally deep in a majority of family owned businesses. A warm individual able to cultivate relationships is more likely to succeed. It is therefore critical that the candidate has an ability to strike deep relationships with multiple key stakeholders in the company and outside.

Alignment with key outcomes desired: Finally, it is important that there be certain meeting of minds on what is needed to be achieved. If bottom line is more important than the top line, the kind of candidate best suited would be different from someone who excels in increasing the top line. I feel focusing on the three key objectives to be achieved in the next three years’ time frame brings a sharper focus on who is the best candidate. Three objectives are adequate in number as everything cannot have equal importance and it really helps to get the priorities right. Hiring for any position is not about getting a good candidate for a position but is instead about the who and why would he/she be best for you. Just as a good candidate for a startup is very different from one that is good for a scale-up. Similarly, the best candidate for a family owned business is very different from one that is the best for a multinational as the two cultures are very different.

In a word it is not just competencies and innate ability that determines success. Hiring for a family owned business is like a marriage, where compatibility is most important. After validating this, it’s best to ensure alignment on what is needed to be achieved as leaving it vague is not prudent.

Full Coverage:Family biz may not find right fit in successful MNC CEOs

India Inc is not creating inclusive workplace for LGBT employees | 24th Nov., 2018
“Every organisation is at the risk of facing disruption, and the best way for you to safeguard yourself is by making sure that your organisation has the ability to look at every issue from different perspectives, rather than just have clones who all come from same backgrounds, same experiences and will mostly have the same viewpoints,”

Full Coverage:India Inc is not creating inclusive workplace for LGBT employees

Recruit right, or pay a big price for wrong choice | 14th Nov.,2018
The rarest ability is the ability to recognise ability. It is never easy to gauge a candidate’s ability through an interview of a couple of hours. Unfortunately, even though interviews do not really reveal everything about a candidate, they are still used universally to gauge ability as nothing better has been discovered yet. Therefore, it is fairly certain that interviews will continue to be relied upon for decades.

In spite of an increasing number of sophisticated psychometric tools, these are not the answer as their results are dependent on the respondent answering questions truthfully. This does not happen as candidates are smart and give appropriate non-contradictory responses. With mis-hiring increasing and now accounting for over 50% in the top 100 organisations of the world, the stakes are high for improving interviewing techniques, especially as mis-hiring costs an organisation more than 26 times a candidate’s package.

Here are some Dos and Don’ts for interviews...

Meet candidates more than once: It is critical for an interviewer to understand a candidate’s DNA and what s/he is like as a human being, as the softer side is important too. Therefore, it is prudent to meet the candidate more than once. In the first interaction, understand the candidate’s DNA, and in the second interaction focus on the competencies. For a CEO position, in fact have three interactions — it will help in the third interaction if you focus on what the plan of action the candidate has if you hire him/her.

Ask for examples: Candidates love to talk about their past in glowing terms and their endeavour would be to present themselves in the best light. Therefore, expect exaggeration as well as the candidate stating what the interviewer wants to hear. Therefore, it is important that an interviewer strives to ascertain the truth. To get to the truth, it will help if we focus on the following: (a) How the results were achieved? (b) What was the strategy? (c) How were the roadblocks overcome? (d) What was the candidate’s individual contribution? Then, we should ask the candidate to give examples on which we can probe deeper.

Focus on gauging key drivers of a candidate: Actions of every human being are governed consciously and subconsciously by what are the key drivers of an individual. Understanding these will reveal a lot about the candidate, which often helps us gauge what actions the candidate is likely to take at a job.

Understand what candidate is not good at: More than strengths, it is really important to understand what a candidate is not good at. Also, discerning weaknesses is not easy as candidates will try to hide them. However, as every candidate is likely to be not good at a minimum of half a dozen things, it is important to know some of them as forewarned is forearmed. Also, it will help you provide a support system to help the candidate succeed. We must realise that every human being has more than nine weaknesses. So, however great the candidate is, understanding that everyone will have his/her share of idiosyncrasies is important. Therefore, it will help to focus on this, as it will give us a far sharper perspective about a candidate. While on this, do probe the failures of the candidate and do understand the learnings from them.

Don’t focus only on the past too much: Often, we tend to spend a majority of the interview on the past and what the candidate did at every assignment. It is indeed important, but do realise that it is not everything as the experience is the past and our interests are more determined by the future. The past is dated, as it then was a different world with far less complexity. Do understand about the candidate from the past, but it is more important to co-relate it with the future and what we want achieved. Finally, we must understand that the purpose of the interview is to understand the DNA of a candidate, what are the candidate’s key drivers in life and career, what the candidate is truly passionate about and what are the strengths as well as areas of improvement.

Full Coverage:Recruit right, or pay a big price for wrong choice

Cross-Industry hiring may double in a year | 9th Nov.,2018
Nearly 30% of his firm’s client companies are keen on cross-sector hiring. This number was merely 10% a couple of years ago.

Full Coverage:Cross-Industry hiring may double in a year

It’s raining salaries: Mirror takes a look at the cash-rich corner offices of corporate India | 4th Nov., 2018
CEO salaries are going through the roof in India. “There’s just one word for it: talent,”. “There is such a paucity of it at every level, that you want to attract the best you can get and hold on to him or her. Compensation will have to go up accordingly.” And organisations, especially family-run ones, when they hire a CEO from the outside, want everything in the same person. “Competence, a great track record, great values, vision, a hunger to grow, the ability to solve problems — these are all a given,”

Full Coverage:It’s raining salaries: Mirror takes a look at the cash-rich corner offices of corporate India

Payback Time For CEOs | 15th July, 2018
Boards, therefore, are turning to longer-term CEO remuneration vehicles such as stock options, restricted stock and longer term performance awards. In the last few years, CEOs are being awarded through stocks while fixed pay and annual bonuses have been conservative. "The rationale is to put more compensation at risk so that the rewards are aligned with the company's performance," .

Full Coverage:Payback Time For CEOs