Business as unusual: Managing through uncertainty

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Confused businessman on a tangle of winding roads

What does it take to lead in a time of flux? We ask diverse industry leaders for their take.

The world and life as we know it has been turned upside down in the past years, with concepts of normalcy being thrown out of the window as we grappled with the demands of a new world order. Industries too had to face up to a multitude of issues, all of crucial importance —caring for and inspiring employees; embracing purpose; fostering resilience; emphasizing diversity, equity, and inclusion; improving effectiveness; and so much more. But at the end of the day, it comes down to the captain of the ship to steady things and chart a course forward, and so we asked several captains of industry: how does one lead a team to success, during uncertain times or during business as usual? Their answers offered some great insights.

“We are traversing through one of the most challenging times, replete with uncertainties emanating out of the pandemic, which brought the world to its knees. Uncertainties have further accelerated due to relentless inflation, supply chain pressures across the globe, economic and geopolitical instability, and to some extent the technological innovations that are seemingly disrupting the way businesses are being carried out.

In order to navigate through these uncertainties, it is vital not to pass on these to the team members and instead of concentrating on what’s not working, focus on what is. To be able to have the conviction in self and have the fortitude and spunk to lead from the front is something which is crucial. In such times, speed and precision of decision-making is very important and at the same time act inclusively by fostering strong connection with the team members by binding them to a common sense of purpose.”

Sanjeev Vashishta
MD & CEO
PathKind Labs

“It is critical to be authentic in all your interactions and communication. This means while you accept upfront that this situation is alarming, distressing, and difficult for people; at the same time, you must have courage and conviction in your ability and the ability of those around you to navigate, emerge stronger, and shine through.

Leaders must see opportunities everywhere, every day and make the most of them. They must be open-minded enough to search within conversations and adverse circumstances for possibilities that will help better serve those they lead – beyond the obvious.”

Harshbeena Zaveri
Vice Chairman & MD
NRB Bearings

“While businesses still face a raft of challenges since COVID-19 struck, many of them are still trying to understand the ways to collaborate and communicate with stakeholders. The “Great Resignation” highlighted the focal discussion around difficulties in retaining talent, reviving employee-centric corporate ethos for successful businesses. It can also be considered an opportunity, as it was a lesson for future leaders that global disruptions can impact our businesses and stakeholder mindsets. Real organisational and personal resilience will only help to weather such future business uncertainties.

An organisation that prioritises a healthy work environment for its employees fosters content employees who are motivated to work better for the organisation. They always keep the organisation’s interests at the forefront and drive forward company growth and business with vigour.”

Balfour Manuel
MD
Blue Dart

 “In today’s dynamic and ever-changing world, the role of a leader changes rapidly. To succeed, any leader must follow core principles. In my journey, I have followed a few key principles that have helped me navigate challenging times, such as adhering to the vision of the company and what we stand for, doing business in a way one can be proud of, setting aspirational but real goals (both long-term and shortterm), carefully nurturing the culture we build in the team, and following the principle of caring and giving back to the society we live in, and to the people we work with. This aspect of being there for another is critical for the emotional and physical well-being of the society at large.”

Puneet Gupta
MD & VP
Netapp

“Personally, I do spend a lot of time preparing, analysing, and assessing possible contingencies. My goal is to have no stone unturned before I make a decision. I always ask myself the following question: have I done my due diligence, and what will be the impact of my decisions on our results, our valuable customers, and our team?

Our long-term strategy keeps me awake at night, sometimes, as I try to plan and discern how to make the right decisions now and for the next 3-5 years. As a rule, I believe in promoting a happy and healthy workplace where each member is valued for their contribution as “Together Everyone Achieves More.”

Gaurav Gupta
MD
DSV Solutions

“In my formative years as an insurance professional, I was advised by my then mentor to cultivate the rare quality of being ‘resilient’, in both my professional and personal endeavours, citing that life and career, can be a tad unpredictable. Little did I know, back in the day, how impactful, this singular word would prove to be through my journey. I would emphasise greatly today to all my employees, as also to new and upcoming leaders, to be resilient and perpetually aim at rising as a phoenix.”

Biraj Sinha
MD & CEO
UNISON Insurance Brokers

“Customer centricity is one of the major driving forces behind all success stories across brands and industry. At Fenesta, customer centricity is one of the core values and all our activities are driven with the sole purpose of providing the best experience to each and every customer. In a rapidly changing landscape of the fenestration industry where product differentiation is merging, customer service is the only edge that can drive preference and trust. Another crucial element for success in today’s time is following sustainable practices and solutions. Customers see brands with a lot of optimism and expect them to do something meaningful for a cleaner and greener environment.”

Susmita Nag
Marketing Head
Fenesta Building Systems

“The corporate landscape today is very fast-paced and ever evolving. With newer trends and practices being introduced to improve the efficiency and quality of services, as a leader it is very important to have a dynamic viewpoint and an open mindset to adapt and implement these practices. Staying relevant with the times along with keeping our legacy intact is a key aspect to building a culture that is suitable for growth for the organisation as well as our employees.”

Atul Boda
Chairman, J. B. Boda Group

“To me, business isn’t about wearing suits or pleasing stockholders. It’s about being true to yourself, your ideas and focusing on the essentials.”

Sir Richard Branson
CEO, Virgin Group

“The distance between number one and number two is always a constant. If you want to improve the organisation, you have to improve yourself, and the organisation gets pulled up with you. That is a big lesson.”

Indra Nooyi
Former CEO and Chairperson of PepsiCo

“There’s an entrepreneur right now, scared to death, making excuses, saying, ‘It’s not the right time just yet.’ There’s no such thing as a good time. I started an apparel-manufacturing business in the tech-boom years. I mean, come on. Get out of your garage and go take a chance, and start your business.”

Kevin Plank
CEO, Under Armour

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

Warren Buffett
CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

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