Sunday, March 10, 2019

Notes from Leadership Summit: Great Leaders Take Risk

This one's really a blast from the past. I had attended a Leadership Summit back in 2010, which had a positive impact on me. I remember this conference for a couple of reasons.

First reason was obvious- various sessions at this conference were chaired was industry leaders including a few luminaries. In addition to the learnings i gathered, it was a sort of fan boy moment to hear them live.

A more
inconspicuous reason was related to my note taking skills. I remember that I managed to note most of the stories and key points I gathered in this conference. It may sound like a routine thing to many and you may wonder why I feel proud about it. I have a perspective on this and I
wish to share it here.
I feel note-taking is one of the most underrated yet most effective skills. The fact that almost 9 years later I am reproducing my learnings via this blog is a reason enough to consider note taking as a serious skill. Without these notes, I may have had these learnings hidden at some corner of my mind but that wouldn't have helped me nor the readers- just because of sheer inability to reproduce them at the moment of need.

The session notes that I reproduce here from a session on risk taking. A cool thing about this panel session was that it was chaired by country heads of my current and the former organization.
Risk taking is an often talked about virtue and at the same time one of the least understood one too.
There are numerous examples about risk taking that one can learn about yet it is a concept that is hard to internalize with just reading theory. You got to take risks to truly understand what risk taking is all about.

Here are some nuggets from the session that I made note of. Hope you enjoy going through these as much as I did re-reading these again.

Great Leaders take Risk
Sridhar Jayanthi, Senior VP, Engineering & Managing Director, McAfee India
Rakesh Singh, VP, products and Managing Director, Citrix R&D India

My assessment notes:
·       This was again a panel discussion and quite enlightening of all.
·       This session was again not PPT driven and involved sharing of real life experiences around risk taking. This was moderated by Sridhar Jayanthi.

Key Takeaways:
·       Both panelists seem to agree that one of the biggest risk that a professional can take is deciding to start a Start-up operation.

·       In Start-ups, the major risks are around constraints and having to manage your new born business around those inevitable constraints.

·       In a Leadership team, Risk is a way of life.

·       There was a reference to the book- “Design of Business” in one of the discussions.

·       One striking quote- “If you don’t take risk, you are stagnant. And if you are stagnant, you are not going linear but falling back literally.”

·       Take risk to grow people and help them take your place.
o   One such risk story was narrated by Sridhar Jayanthi. In one of his previous organizations, they I think hired a person (who was a construction worker) to take care of cleaning/housekeeping stuff. This guy had not even completed his schooling but was quite passionate. One of the tasks that he was involved in doing was collect the printouts near the printer and ensuring that the place was clean. One of the things, he observed was that during every Friday, there were many printouts (around 100s) that were fired and the printer invariably used to give problems in printing the jobs on Fridays. This guy was a keen observer and he could figure out the problem and not only fixed it but suggested a very productive way of doing the routine job that not anyone else could think of.  Foreseeing his talent, One of the bosses there spotted him and took a risk of training this guy on programming languages and computing stuff. This person picked up the stuff quite steadily and started contributing a role of Engineer very soon. Within few years, he scaled himself as a Manager of Development and by the time Sridhar left the organization, he had scaled up as a Director of Development.
o   An Amazing story of a construction worker who turned out to be an immense success in technology areas. This happened primarily because some took a risk with him and considered him suitable for a technical role.

·       Building Risk culture requires-
o   Risk Enablers
o   People who are grounded having Inner peace.
§  Rakesh Singh narrated a story of founder of Runners High, Dr. Rajat Chauhan, who showed tremendous guts to leave the job (after a successful higher education in US) to do something he found more meaningful for life i.e. become a running coach. It takes great deal of peace with inner self to do something you really want to do especially when going against the tide.
o   Sense of humors
§  Rakesh Singh again illustrated an example of a Pakistan cricket player- Shahid Afridi. During the recent Test cricket series with Australia, he was faced with barrage of lightning fast bouncer deliveries in an over from Mitchell Johnson. One after the other, he was faced with balls that just whizz past his head, ears, nose etc. and he was all clueless about what was happening. After few such balls, in an unusual gesture, he took off his helmet and just laughed out loudly with mouth wide open (without worrying about millions who were seeing him) to calm his nerves. The lesser mortals who have succumbed to pressure but here was a rather unorthodox action to deal with adversities. What better way than to just laugh off the problems and face what coming next.

·       Create a risk environment in the organization-
o   What you rewards and how you handle failure determines the risk taking appetite of the organization.
o   There was a talk of organization which used to reward the Best failure. How many organizations do that ?

·       How can Managers become risk takers ?
o   First and foremost- One got to be a risk taker.
o   A lot of times success and failures in career is because of what opportunity one picks up. Great leaders grab the opportunity when they find it.
o   Get buy-in from the people. What people say about you and way they perceive you is important.
o    Be genuine and be visible-
§  People should be high skilled communicators.
§  Don’t be arrogant or boastful but be visible and market yourself and your achievement in a right manner.
§  Quiet achievers are very hard to find in an organization.

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