Inspire Someone Today

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E1 - Prabir Jha - Off to a Start

by Srikanth
September 13th 2020

We all look for role models to build our careers and conviction needed as leaders. Hear from a leader, who has built careers across sectors through the practice of simple but profound leadership tr... More

Yeah, work hard, very hard, very important but don't stop living. For those who are at the top, think beyond yourself just by ensuring that you are safe and protected. Don't quash people under you, grow more people and when you grow more people, your reputation will grow and when your reputation grows, everything else will follow. So you're not more large hearted, be willing to be vulnerable, you know, give more visibility to your teams, you know, bet more aggressively on on younger talent. Hello everyone. My name is Srikanth and the host of the show Inspire Someone Today. This podcast brings in personalities from a cross section of our society for which share the perspectives, learnings, hacks and experiences that can inspire all of us in our journey's. Come join me on this line. Yeah. My guest for today is an industry powerhouse, a man with varied experiences and eliminate some century France college and accelerating ship during his stint as ch chavo with the organizations.

He was part of enlisted as the top 10 best companies to work for in India. Currently on an entrepreneurial journey, his firm continues to make an impact with global organizations. The previous job people, advisory ladies and gentlemen put your hands together for playbill job on this show label shares his experience as theater one leading influences how to know yourself better things about building new age, curious comfort around and dignity and resilience eloquently articulating the opposition between leader and leadership. What does vulnerability in leadership mean? An experience that made me believe in the potential of this great country and one had a don't positive psychology, excited to launch my podcast, inspire someone today. Have heard about dream debut And I'm fortunate to experience one for myself on this auspicious day of the indian independence.

I'm not only launching this podcast but also privileged to have mr Travis job as my first guest on the show study. Welcome to the show and to Shaka the pleasure to be joining you on this and Happy Independence Day, Happy Independence Day to travel. You're one of those really breed of professionals having an experience across three different genres. Civil service is the corporate world and now an entrepreneur yourself and across industries from engineering to Rieti to hydrocarbons to retail, walk us through this amazing journey that you had. Sure because I don't know whether it's amazing or its checkered but yeah with hindsight I think it's been a rich experience and some of it happened by accident and maybe here and there by design and uh so I grew up as a partner boy and you know like anyone who knows bihar knows that if you're a bright youngster you know you need any set of initials behind your name.

So you PSC is almost a default uh aspiration as you know in Hyderabad everyone wants to go to the U. S. So it is like that for someone in partner. So so joining the civil service was a very logical choice and uh and I went to ST Stephen's deli predictably did history, wrote the exams, I was still in my masters, finishing my masters when I cleared the U. P. S. C. And that's how my trust with the civil service started very interestingly after almost a decade I left the government when I had never aspired. I had never known the world beyond the civil service because I also come from a family of bureaucrats and civil servants. So that's the only one that you and uh of course gone to accelerate jump ship board. And I left ironically for a very poor hR handling of my reimbursement claims of my accelerate education. It's ironical but bad nature and uh you know, and I won't get into the story but I felt that I was being taken for granted and I quit the civil service and joined the corporate world and tell max was my first corporate job and then it was tech mahindra than many years with dr Reddy's then Tata motors than all of reliance and then supplying a year of, you know back I said, let me experiment with doing things entrepreneurial soul.

So it's kind of been, you know, a live of meandering of experimentation of taking my batch and living what I call the chic on a life of convictions, not consequences, I'm not stuck on or hung on because you know my graduate is do you want to have so many stock options which I will be leaving on the table or I have a life a short post retirement, like in the government's, I have never played safe. I have just followed my heart and I followed my principles and so far so good. Let's see what and where life will take me from here on. Excellent. I think very relevant video varied experience. One of the questions that plagues a lot of the anxious is how can one plan for a long career? You know, I personally believe that we have actually framed the question wrong and that is why many people go through phases of stress, of disappointment. You know, our career is an outcome. You don't really planned for our career. It's an outcome in today's world which is so choppy as we see today with so many black swan events and also a world of such great possibilities and opportunities.

So I don't think that careers today needs or should be planned basis, just your education or your prior experience. Unfortunately, both recruiters HR guy Ceos in a line managers and individuals still continue to play the old world paradigm. And I think in that process they are missing huge opportunities of building a career, which is basically what it's a mosaic of experiences, like only when you build that mosaic of experiences, new learnings, you push yourself out of your comfort zone, you continue to keep yourself relevant and impact right? Otherwise you can do what used to be the earlier generation thinking where the world was more status score, the world was more stable And people could have traditional college and said the next 25 years is what I'm going to do. I don't think that is guaranteed, nor is it ideal. So with hindsight and the way you started this conversation, my career is a very checkered career on a very rich career, depending on the way you want to look at it, but otherwise it would have been a very linear, very flat boring a set of jobs where you know, you would have got some increments, you would have got some change of titles, but I don't think careers are about that careers is really therefore about building a set of experiences that are very, very a set of situations where you learn in big jumps and starts very disruptive.

And I think in the process when you look back your career would have got ship. So my belief and I do a lot of things around career design and I run many workshops. I coach a lot of people in this area. And your question is it's very typical of what I hear from most people because they are wanting to look at what I call a pediatric problem with a geriatric mindset, right? Looking at the new age problem with that old world mindset and that's why careers go through this, Oh, I'm I'm unemployed or get me a job, Why would you need to get a job, why would you need to do exactly what you've done for 10 years. So so that's how I personally would recommend people to look at careers. Stop us reflect, take your bed, someone will not go right force correct. And in the process your career which is very unique to you will get created and get more wonderful. You did touch upon creating your own career experiences all there's some ingredients around the water, some of the things that one can look for so that they can start building those career experiences that they would want to have.

Great question. Uh She can't, it's a great question. First thing that I think people should do is is to know themselves better. Unfortunately we build careers because someone told us to do science in a plus to, someone told us to do engineering or medicine after that and therefore we did this. I mean hardly, you know, in our socialization or hardly organizations spend their time, managers spend their time to help you understand yourself. So you have also never paused and ask yourself the question, what am I deeply embedded life interests? What have I created? Where do I get my module? So the biggest parameter to look at is not what the world thinks you should do, but what you believe you enjoy most you're great at? Okay, build a career on the basis of your passion and your strengths, you cannot build a career on on things which are not your passion, even if you're good at them or if you have a passion, but you don't have the requisite skills for it. So that's the first one. The second is, I think no nobility, you must have very high learning agility and therefore change of industry.

Change of functions, change of geography is change of lines all together. Very important because it keeps you all the time alert and therefore you're learning all the time and through learning and new experiences comes a very important in region of career ship Third is to comfort with ambiguity and resilience. You know, I believe the new age careers are not going to be an end of the tunnel reality. Most career opportunities are going to be uh on the fringes and if we get more comfortable with accepting that reality will look at emergent possibilities, emergent career options that are getting created, so comfort with their beauty and therefore taking those risks and the resilience to go through that life to that rough and tumble. People want to believe from day one, I will be, you know, cruising on an expressway, careers are not going to be like that, do what you make careers will have their little moments of down there will be potholes somewhere along the way, right?

Sometimes you may need to change from flying an aircraft, going in a train to getting onto, you know, a truck for a car or whatever else of getting onto a schema. So it is that ability to flex. Its that a willingness to experiment to learn and to follow your passion and heart that I believe new age careers will find absolutely essential ingredients for being shaped rest for all of the past. I don't think much of that will hold pulse through today and will hold true in the days to come. The excellent. I think in the same context, what are the things that you went through in your own the obvious career that you have had? What are some of the challenges that comes to your mind? And how did you kind of both come back? I will be honest. The first challenge was to confront my own mindset. You know, I told you I came from a background where if you're a bright guy, you spent you became a career civil servant and you retired as one, right? And that was aspiration. So to even want to go and study and do a full to your M.

B. A. Program. It was a big decision. All right. I don't know of many people who would have done it or who did it. And even today in the corporate world, people don't want to do it just to take a break after almost a decade or so. You go to a business school study with classmates were almost a generation younger because government adds many more years to your persona, right? And uh, and then I came back, I never thought I'd leave the civil service, but I did six months after it came back And with ₹15,000 in our common account, my wife's and mine, that was a big risk. And two small Children are arms. It was a big risk to take. So that was another big challenge. Because if God has been very benevolent people have been very, very generous in their support for me. But what if it had bombed? Imagine we gave up the one of the most privileged jobs in India, you know, being a top civil servant, you know, to take this chance. So that was the other big challenge that I faced. Third big challenge was initial mindsets, people would say, but probably you don't talk like a bureaucrat who don't look like a bureaucrat.

So, mindsets, because you come from a certain world, you will behave in a certain way. Of course it was proved untrue. But you know, the start position was you had to work that much extra hard to make sure no one ever has a reason uh, to find faults with you, right? So we worked very, very hard. And I remember that, uh, there is no shortcut to success. It's been and there's a price to pay. Sometimes I think it was not worth paying, But I worked very hard. The fourth challenge that one gets to is you start in a world where you know, no one I knew not a single soul in the corporate sector, I had not gone fathers in a manner of speaking. So you know, everywhere it was true, partly your own hard work and second what I believe has been uh, not a challenge for me, but I think can be a challenge is how do you build your reputation as a leader? And I think I would really drive myself being an outstanding leader, That is one little drag point. I will have the ability to spot talent, the ability to take bets with people, the ability to have the courage to question things ahead of their times and the luck to be able to pull it off, right?

Because you also need your shadow of uh luck and good fortune. So I think there have been moments of challenge and especially when you change industries, which is what I have done almost all my career, you know, in every company and every industry believes it's unique and I can assure people, no company is unique because I have gone across the entire spectrum and everyone believes they are unique. It is from an organizational nuanced perspective, people perspective, it is uh, your willingness to ask some questions and sometimes you can look very stupid, but it is good to be stupid. You're sitting on the management team and you're asking questions which everyone else who has been in that industrial company for a long time, wonders why is he asking, but asking stupid questions to me was a great sense of strength because only when you ask stupid questions you ask the more fundamental questions, Right? So these have been challenges of working with people. And of course the last challenge is if you do well, you will have your share of critics and your share of jealousy to deal with, right?

So I can't deny that reality. They are unwittingly. Some people start feeling killers, Some people, you know, start to pull you down all that. All those games happened. And uh, the important thing is they focused. Keep your conscience clear. I've slept very well all my life, right? So do an honest job and don't bother about what people will say because from my civil service days till now, I realized everywhere, I've only challenged status scope. And when you challenge status quo, people talk about wanting status code to be disturbed, but don't want status quo will be disturbed because that's where the power bases lie. That comforts like, well, I've done it and uh, you know, you have your share of critics and you'll take it in your stride. So, these have been different strands of challenges at different moments that wanted experiences. One third once. Very nice. And you are definitely not bragging when you said you have been in exceptional leader. Water has seen and available to you. People have worked with you like 15 years back, 30 years back, they still remember those nuggets of experience, nuggets of convenience across you would say that what wonderful leader, what wonderful person you have been going on that?

I think what took me very much was also your own personal role, which basically stated that to support each person in his or her journey to become a better professional and more importantly a more complete person, I think that's very, very performed. Uh again, if you can just very little more about it and what kind of want to pass on as a message. So obviously you've looked by linking profiler Africa. Uh, you know, I wrote that and like most of my writings, they are very spontaneous. I never revised what I write. You know, it comes from the heart of the mind, but I never Edit and revise and revise. I mean whatever you read is. So this was written as spontaneously whenever by linked in account was opened, I forget about 15 years, 20 years back, whatever it was. So I'm not needed to change this also because still, there are two important dimensions. One is the so called dimension that the world looks at the professional, the success, right?

And uh, but the journey is a painful journey. You know, you go through several moments of truth, you go through several moments of self doubt to go through several phases of jealous peers. You go through several people who just wonder why I keep getting what you're getting and so on and so forth. And therefore it is very important to stay very anchored and while you may get all your titles and money and rewards and awards, are you really growing as a complete person? And for me, the two cannot be divorced and unfortunately we find many successful career risks, well placed guys who never retire, who never market space, they will always be, they'll hang on the edge. Everyone else is very successful people, but they aren't necessarily people who've grown themselves, are grown people around them. And I think for me that is a very important bart of true development and my effort has been not only to help people or coach them to be better leaders, more successful managers, but also help them get to be better people get me more charitable, human beings get me more vulnerable people.

And uh and this is not typical that you see, you know, the world actually sees very uh macho image of a leader and everyone wants to be seen like one sitting on the high horse. But I can tell you that it's very lonely at the time, it's very lonely and the world respects titles and success because that's what they see. But what they don't see other challenges are their own struggles, their struggles with relationships. And I believe that uh whether as a Chr or whether your emotions cannot be left hung on the peg outside their corporate office, you carry those emotions, they impact your happiness. And at the end of the day, success is only one small dimension of happiness. And therefore in a lot of my coaching that I do now as a vocation, you know, I try and blend this because then only do actually have a symbiotic relationship success and feeding into happiness and happiness contributing to greater success again your journey that you've had so far.

Are there incidents stories that had had a performed impact on you on who you are as a person of who you are as a leader? There are many stories, you know, I observe a lot of people and I reflect a lot. So there are many nuggets self experiences either that one God directly for one song and you realize this is not the way I would behave with people, this is not the way. And also and there are certain times when and these experiences come from all kinds of characters, the local people, small example, I had just left the government and started with her max and we were at the College of Engineering in china doing on campus, hire a graduate engineers, right? And and I met this guy who was very good, speaking, very confidently, speaking very well answered all his functional questions, right? And I don't know, Mr as you may or face uh form, there must have been something with short to me many breaks in schools. So I was curious and I asked him like that, why are there so many breaks in your education?

All right. And he said, uh, you know, my father is in a transferrable job or it was moving uh cities. So I said, he's in a transferrable job, okay? He says, yeah, you know, he was moving around and I know what happened. So, I asked, what does he do? Is he with the government or a bank or you know, a company and she can't. He said, sir, he's a gardener today in a housing society. The guy had a brilliant record college of Engineering. I don't know where he is. A forgotten his name. I mean, I was so humbled what context people come through to get to where they are. I was very fortunate. God has been very benevolent. Right? So, I came back and remember telling my wife that this country has a future because this is how brilliant actually is able to still come to the top. So, I've had many such experiences of listening to stories and I listened to stories, and I also share many stories and every story has something Inspiring. I mean, I remember when I started off with the young 22, year old guy in the civil service, you start almost at the top.

You know, I've never been an individual contributor in my life, but for my last entrepreneurial one, you're and uh And these are people who are 20 years older too. And when you talk to them, when you see them in action and people might think the government does not work. I had a very different experience with my staff. They were the ones who were actually holding the ends up. We were the young brats, you're the new safe house, but they were the ones who were actually helping us. And there's so much to learn seeing their humility and the end of the day, you can't promote them, you can't give them a better increments. Right? Why? And how does that guy do his or her job, which ensures that the systems work. So, you know, every experienced record that I can go on and on has been a moment of learning something and if I am what I am today, it's because I think I have tried to learn from different people. The other day, I put out a post on linkedin on learning from union leaders. Now we think that as management, there are adversaries, I've had a very different experience. And again, God has been kind, I have never had provincial buddha, but in my career yet not once and I've had my share of conversations with union leaders, but I believe you learn respect, mutual respect, you learned the ability to influence from some of these union leaders.

So my episodes will vary, but I have learned from almost anyone and everyone, I have learned seeing some of leaders and managers who have been very toxic in their tones by seeing them. I've said don't learn this from them. I have so I've never raised my voice. I've never needed to shout because when you see that and you know what it is doing people across the table and you're still a junior. So I think it's been an amalgam of all these observations and experiences that somewhere has on select routes in Britain and I have many of my weaknesses I'm sure. So I have my share I think we can go all day long to hear some of these beautiful stories. Thanks for sharing that very powerful. So uh one of the piece that I kind of came across size variables. Profiling your profile was a very interesting comment that he had made was to look to complement at least one person every day while it looks simple and very profound. What was the idea behind that? So it was the I.

P. Is not mine actually. Now this was one of my bosses in the civil service days. You know I was walking out of his office one afternoon and as I was near his door and had a big office uh he says probably uh and I said yes sir can you come back? I went back to Sudan I said okay yes I want to tell you something. Now when the boss says I want to tell you something you can actually get bangs in your stomach. You know what is he going to tell you? So he told me that probably I have been observing you and I find that every day to complement at least one person. Now I was not conscious. And which is also to the point that not every feedback is negative right? But very few managers actually pick the moment and give feedback. And I learned from this also. So I became aware okay I was not conscious but then Isaac started he gave me some examples and I started reflecting. I realized yes it is true that uh and by temperament I'm more an optimist, I'm more a positive ist. I'm a very self a short person so I don't need to kind of uh like some people say you don't look vulnerable, you know why do you look so vulnerable?

And I'm saying because at the end of the day I'm not perfect. So this lion came from that episode and then I consciously started practicing it. So what was unconscious to me and maybe I was doing it given the speed back and I'm very grateful to MR Groupon for having told me what he did and I realized that this is positive psychology at work. I have not gone to accelerate and done an Mp of course in HR till that time what I realized but at the end of the day and remember this was a government, I mean I cannot promote a person, I cannot recognize the person, I cannot give him a bonus. I have no such powers. But what I can do is is to make people feel good about themselves and when you get them to believe that the manager believes and we values me right. The guy voluntarily offers is discretionary effort. So the more I consciously did the more I realized again that therefore that it became part of myself because that is how the stories I wrote a post hoping that it is some people will start practicing it because I've seen too many managers too many leaders, very senior leaders in my career.

Well very important. They are nasty. They are toxic. They are critical and it does no benefit to anyone. But it's just that they have their title and power and they can get away with it because the culture looks the other way. I think it's much better to practice a more positive psychology anchored leadership because you get far more and it doesn't take away your right to pull up a person. But there's a way in which you can even pull up a person. You don't have to kind of take his pants down in a full beating which I find many many details to even today. Beautiful. And there's also messaging that is you don't have to have everything at your disposal to kind of take care of somebody even between your own limitations. You can make a difference. I mean I mean I asked people I mean when was the last time you complimented your maid? Are you thank your driver. I mean you don't need your boss's approval for that. I mean, isn't it natural just to say thank you? You know, I like the way you do this for me. I like the fact that you come on time every day.

Imagine someone's day is also starting and when he or she goes back home, the person goes with warmth and therefore wants to come back to work rather than, you know, the minute the person starts to start shouting and howling and I I feel very strongly and that is part of my agony on persona or the wholesomeness persona. But I feel there's a crisis of leadership. We are obsessed with leaders when we should be obsessed about leadership and I think companies still don't get this, still don't get this and that is why I think we're living in a world of what Samantha Ghoshal would call a satisfactory underperformance, satisfactory underperformance. So probably there's a class section of people listening to your talk. Both budding leaders want to be leaders, leaders who have been at the helm for many, many years. What would be your two cents of wisdom for this group and what would be a inspiring someone today? Message to them. My message. I don't know whether I'm even qualified, but at least from where I sit and reflect for those who are at the top.

Think beyond yourself just by ensuring that you are safe and protected. Don't quash people under you, grow more people and when you grow more people, your reputation will grow and when your reputation grows, everything else will follow. So a lot more large hearted be willing to be vulnerable, you know, give more visibility to your teams. You know, bet more aggressively on younger talent, that's what I would tell them. Because now you're playing for your legacy, you're not just playing to europe is more, it's easier said than done. But very clearly, I think uh this is what differentiates people who will before clothes and some people who have made their money but are not likely to be. Uh so it's a choice that you make. So that's the one that have all the senior leader for the younger leaders. I think the important thing is be hungry, be hungry and be vulnerable to feedback, seek feedback. You know, many managers don't give feedback, but I asked a lot of younger people have you sought feedback and you start feedback from your friends, I just want people to your spouse.

Forget the manager. Have you even asked your manager ones, you're human not be getting to get back. So the question is when it becomes habit early in your life to accept feedback and therefore the process you become more vulnerable and you don't say I was the topper at my in Children in college or at my business school, it's not going to help you right, when you get feedback, we'll start processing the feedback without being defensive. And that is why I use the word vulnerable. I think you will prepare yourself better for the days ahead because the days ahead are going to be traded. They are not going to be black and white. Don't look for black and white answers, learn to be resilient, learn to prepare yourself. The other day, I was in some conversation on one of the social media platforms. This was about I can't choose my manager, someone asked, I said of course you can if you can't choose your manager, it is your helplessness because you've never built yourself to be able to walk out on your manager. The manager should be worrying about whether you will leave him or not.

You know, you should not be needing to worry about you know, what will I do with the manager throws near And that is very important, constant learning constant feedback, seeing yourself in the mirror and ask yourself some very difficult questions. You have spent five years in a job, but have you learned any new skills that I would do the same job, Your instrument may have happened. So that is a trap and that they must not do. So that's what I would tell the younger people and I'll also add one more line. Work hard, very hard, very important. But don't stop living. If I were to look back at my life and career, that's one thing I sometimes feel that, I mean I don't remember of course being in HR I never could plan annual vacations when annual revisions and performance cycles happen. But maybe with hindsight when I tell myself I would have lived life more completely and that is why every company I'm gonna have changed the leave norms. Where I've said stop holding leave, leave is meant to be taken, right? Because I don't think I was great at planning my leave and Palestinian if somebody were to write a book on travel job, what would you name the book as I would maybe right.

The man who looked dead and cared, that's what I would possibly suggest, you know, or didn't care, you know, I think because I do believe I have been quite the bank, I have thought ahead of times, I have been a challenger. I have been you can't rain me down. I always said you're looking for a court point poet, you don't hire me, I'll never be a jump shot. But I have been able to and that's the way I was at the same time care. So the reputation one. But it also was that, you know, there's no one who is there to listen to company profitable, definitely. So I there was a time in my life, I never had a lunch break because someone or the other wanted to see me and that's the agony aunt instinct in me. But even if you can't solve, you can at least pathetically listen and you're paid to do their jobs so they don't care what a wonderful way to title the book and the way to end This is the very first year of inspired someone today. The man who cared and dead thank you so much for taking time and sharing those wonderful nuggets with me today.

I appreciate your time and thank you so much. Thank you for having me on your show. Thank you so much. Good luck. Thank you for listening in to today's edition of inspire someone today. It's been a privilege to bring in these conversations if you like this episode and have any feedback or comments you made me add inspired someone today podcast at the rate gmail dot com inspiring someone is like creating ripples around us if you like what to listen, feel free to share them and let's create peoples of inspiration. Do not forget to follow me on my instagram. Handle activate inspired someone today podcast with all the latest updates. This is freakin your host signing off and until next time. Keep inspiring. Yeah, mm hmm.

E1 - Prabir Jha - Off to a Start
E1 - Prabir Jha - Off to a Start
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