Interview by

Priyanka Ghosh

n my line of work, I speak to business leaders nearly on a regular basis, and almost always, I end up talking about walking the talk because people cannot be what they cannot see. Each one of us loves winning. We love doing things with amazing people. When we are in roles that allow us to do these two things, we feel satisfied. So, if there is an underperformer in the team, it is for a simple reason - that person either does not love what he/she does or lacks the capability necessary for that function.

Here are three basic algorithms for success I would like to offer:


Design your talent strategy backwards from your business strategy. Go and hire the talent you need to win rather than retrofit your strategy to the talent you have - there are no second chances in some of the fast- moving markets. Plus, if you start with the teams that you have, you will be limited by their skill set, and you will go only as far as they can go. So, start with where you want to be. When I talk to companies about what their workforce should look like, I start talking to them about what their customer base looks like. When you build products for regular people, who come in a ton of variety, you need to have people in your company that represent those users.


Next, people tend to promote and hire those who resemble their own selves! And that's how we end up with homogeneous organizations where everyone is similar because the assumption is that all smart people look like the smart person who started the team! I'd advise leaders to look around, and promote the amazing people sitting not so far from you. It's easy to identify them - they are the ones who get stuff done. Interview people different from you every single day. If you practice it, you will get better at it, and your vision will broaden. Just hire women! Do a survey of all the women in the organization who have leadership potential, and train them.


Do not stereotype people based on age, gender, etc. Millennials are not just 20-somethings, with a cell phone in their hands. View employees in your organization as people who are in different phases of their career trajectories because I know for a fact that some 40-somethings are less mature than some 20-somethings. Be focused on leveraging knowledge, which will mean true transformation. It will help build a more agile culture. You see, culture is the language that you use, the rituals that you perform, and the way you act (not what you say).

People tend to promote and hire those who resemble their own selves! And that's how we end up with homogeneous organizations where everyone is similar

Common practices that need to expire

I hate performance improvement plans. I would say RIP to the annual reviews and the performance improvement plans! They are such a waste of time. If there are people in your team who you don't want, you can tell them. Radical honesty is effective, efficient, and kinder than keeping the truth from people. No one will develop new skills in three months' time; it's code language for saying - we want to get rid of you. And, it's not as if those people are not qualified or talented, they are just wrong for the specific job profile.

A great practice is when companies are no longer asking people how much their current salary is to determine their next starting salary. Determine what the positions are worth at the beginning. It's tough to catch up if you start out being underpaid. Also, look at the workforce that you have and map their salaries against new joiners. This will help keep up with salary levels. It's very common for companies to end up losing people because over time, they've become underpaid. Compensate employees based on their ability to create value, even if it means turning traditional wisdom on its head.

The significance of size

Culture is ever evolving, so the way to actually change culture is to act differently at a leadership level. And, you have to keep at it. Of course, the culture of a 50-people firm is not the culture of a 5000-people or a 50000-people enterprise. Culture changes over a period of time, and it has to be both top-down and bottom-up in order to be most effective. You can't just decree something, and expect people to change their behavior overnight; they have to believe in it, and change at will. I do think it's tough for a large company to change. Sometimes, change in a tiny area can go viral. That being said, there are some good examples such as GE. GE is founded on Jack Welch's principles of management. This core value system serves as a strong foundation, which the company can tap into all the time, and tweak processes if they want to. Levi Strauss & Co. is another good example, with more than 100 years of history but always catering to the whims of fashion sensibilities.

Closing the loop on gender pay gap

I do not like the word empowerment. It means you once took away something from someone, and now giving it back to them somehow qualifies as a best practice?

Gender pay gaps are surprisingly easy and simple to fix if you have the commitment. The lasting value that it creates far outweighs the cost of writing the check that levels the playing field for pay. So, just write the check! It's not brain surgery! There is no big data we must extrapolate from; we don't have to go to some cloud to determine that women are paid less than men. If it exists in your organization, fix it.

It will make a difference in how people feel, and the strength that they feel they have. We tie our worth to how much we are paid. I also think that a real difference now will be brought about by the young workforce. Both men and women now want to be part of their children's lives, and I think men will insist on time at home, which will revolutionize dynamics.