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02/10/09

Leadership Lessons from 2008 – About Networking, The Prophet and Planning

Those with a sense of inclusion usually also find it easy to network. And that’s my second learning from 2008 – the power of networking. Success comes to those who are well networked, those who can influence others, those willing to negotiate. What is networking? Networking is the nurturing of a rich set of relationships that one can tap on for diverse causes. Networking can be critical to success, particularly in a crisis, but the investment for this should have been made earlier. I have personally seen how much success depends on my ability to network. In the larger national context, too, networking comes under the name of diplomacy.

When I joined the computer industry more than 20 years back, it was not the most common thing to do. Only those who were bitten by the computing bug were attracted to this profession, so motivation was not an issue. Today, this industry is very attractive as a large job provider, so everyone wants to study computer science, information science, EC, EE, EEE. MCA, …. I have not been convinced this is the best thing to do. I believe one must do what they want to do, what they’d enjoy doing. When our interest and our work are the same, it’s a happy coincidence and we are bound to do well. Industries have their cycles, and if we persevere at what we are good at, we will survive the cycles and meet success. Such thoughts led me to organize a panel discussion for students (and their parents) who had qualified in the premier engineering entrance examinations earlier this year. The panel had computer designers, an architect, and academicians from science and engineering. Parents questioned us – if not software, then what? I realized this was a genuine question – in reality, we are not so well informed on the diverse opportunities that exist for our children today. I know we cannot attribute this to just one discussion, but we do have a significant number of bright students from Bangalore opting for physics this year. I believe we need to do a lot more of this, and not just for the filtered set as we did this time.

I have been thinking about and looking for that silver bullet that will transform the leadership team at Mindtree, and during this year, I seemed to have hit upon the target. It is a lovely concept that focuses not on building this skill or that, but on influencing your being, by helping you dive into who you are. Such programs usually find it difficult to be accepted in a corporate environment, so I was careful. There was plenty of plotting and planning, and I introduced five influential leaders to a two-day snapshot of this program. They were thrilled, and I was excited I was making progress! I distributed books on this concept, and that was a hit, too. Next came what I thought was the clinching move. We had the author of this concept (and the leader of this organization) come over and talk to our leadership team. His talk was a disaster! He didn’t get the pulse of the audience, just failed to connect.

I was back to the drawing board. I found two lessons here; sometimes, the prophet may be more effective than God. In this case, the messenger of God impressed us every time he interacted with us, and I am confident he would have connected well with our leadership team; but God did not. My second lesson is as important – probably, I planned too much and worried too much about what will pan out. I should have just followed my heart and gone ahead, without all the elaborate planning.

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