Me: Whose success Ravi, yours or the company’s?
Ravi: My global CEO had not set out any time lines for the change; I was the one who was anxious to make the change happen faster than what people around me were ready for. I did not take people around me along and build a compelling case for change which included their interests.
Me: I hear you state another insight Ravi, “compelling case for change & others’ interests”. How are you feeling now Ravi?
Ravi: I am feeling much better. This conversation is working for me. I love it.
Me: Great. Did you consider looking around and evaluating who around you in your MC & beyond could have been your partners in enabling your vision for the company?
Ravi: I actually wrote most of them off. I recall Amitabh bringing me something like this on a piece of paper suggesting an approach to include a few old timers who he thought could be leveraged. He felt they were key stakeholders who could enable the vision & strategy. I did not heed his advice.
Ravi: I missed an opportunity to include key stakeholders who would have enabled the change I wanted to bring about.
Me: You said earlier that you replaced many of them with your new hires. Did these new hires embrace your vision?
Ravi: I think they did, but they struggled to influence their teams. In hindsight the old timers might have done a better job if only I had listened to Amitabh’s advice and been a bit more patient with myself & people around me.
Me: Hmm… Ravi in your admission you have shared that you did a few things well. I heard from you that you probably missed a few key aspects, but you did communicate your vision & need for change across the Org. You talked to people & reached out widely in the Organization.
Ravi: Thanks Anand. Over the last few years, I have been living in some kind of self-pity. This conversation has helped me look at this episode differently and I think there is terrific learning as I now move on from here. As a leader if I had a trusted advisor, I might have been better off. I realize I made a mistake.
As I reflect on this conversation with Ravi, I gained some interesting insights & learning from this conversation as a coach.
- I noticed how little I spoke in this conversation. Most of the time, it was Ravi who was sharing his thoughts and feelings. I noticed the power in asking short but relevant questions.
- When a deep sense of reflection hits the client’s awareness, it is a difficult moment for the client. I noticed just being there and demonstrating empathy enabled Ravi to continue to share his thoughts & feelings.
- I had worked with Ravi in SPARTA but in this entire conversation I kept my judgment about Ravi and his tenure as a leader out of the frame. Suspending judgment and listening to the client was a powerful learning for me as a coach.
- Also acknowledging Ravi at times on what he did or was doing well made a difference to him, while he was feeling overwhelmed during the conversation.
Besides, coming to the topic of Change, as a professional I have had the honor of working with many great leaders and have learnt so much from their experiences. They are respected professionals, high achievers, people with great vision, lots of passion and drive, they may appear to have their follies, but you know what, they are human after all. The issue here is not if Ravi is a great leader, even if he failed in this one company he still is a great leader.
A big question that continues to plague me even today is
Change – Whose Job is it?
People often walk up to me and talk about what does not work in the company – issues, challenges, how things should be different, what processes are missing etc.? The only question I ask them – what are you doing about it? Somewhere deep within, one of learning is that – Change is everyone’s job. It is not that of the CEO alone. The CEO may appear to be the visible face of it, may lead it, may advocate it, build a case for it etc…
However, each one of us needs to stand up and be counted. As Mahatma Gandhi said,
we have to be the change we want to see around us.