What makes your job as a General Manager – Sustainability meaningful?
I am passionate about bringing change and visible impact to the lives of the community I work with. Making them “partners of progress” is my major area of focus.
The strategy for smart business is to map community aspirations, aligning them with my business goals while ensuring their participation in designing and implementing development programs.
Introducing a structured community consultation framework that includes stakeholders’ engagement plan along with grievance redressal mechanisms are some of the key strategies to achieve my goal. And my community engagement approach remains proactive instead of reactive, offering me an upper hand in dealing with all sorts of conditions. While my goal is sustainable development of the society, I focus on managing livelihoods, health and education indicators of the area that would substantially contribute towards the sustainable development goals.
As a business, while empowering and developing communities, what are the challenges one should be aware of?
The biggest challenge is to work in the rural areas for sustainability. What I have learnt from my current work is that it is rather tough to explain self-sustainability to the population living in rural areas. It is quite a challenge to perform in such circumstances, as it is an alien concept for them.
The only solution is to show them the power of sustainability through your lens, because once they understand the worth of this concept, only then we will succeed. Also, instead of giving them a fish to eat, we are teaching them to fish on their own and at the same time, we need to innovate the methods of fishing.
Our rural incubation model works with changing the mindset of people first, to bring their thought process from dependency on Government and aid to entrepreneurship. And we do this by setting examples of creating individual and group entrepreneurs from the people of their own community, enabling them to believe in the process.
How do businesses that focus on the community – connect People, Profits and Planet?
In my perspective, the planet, its people and the profits are all inter-related and interconnected. If you think about it, eventually it is the planet that we are working for, through different corporations that make profits that eventually benefit people.
In these unfortunate times, when the whole world is under lockdown due to the Covid-19 epidemic, businesses are taking a toll. The result is, profits are plummeting, and people are suffering, eventually, the planet is coming to a halt from the economical point of view. To sustain the planet, we need to sustain people and their profits, and it is only possible by sustaining businesses that focus on the community.
QUOTE IN FOCUS
“To me being single or married doesn’t affect anyone’s leadership ability to achieve success in her career.”
How can leaders develop strong interpersonal skills and how can they incorporate this within the teams they lead and serve?
As a leader, it is our responsibility to proactively showcase the skills and behaviours that we expect in our people. This is a responsibility that I take to heart and some of the things I do proactively are:
Knowing people personally and professionally: Leaders need to devote time to know the people in person. This can be done through regular interaction with their co-workers and subordinates and knowing their families, interest areas, hobbies etc.
Being Social: Active participation in social events increases the attention of co-workers and team members towards you. It further helps to develop a comfortable image and respect towards your personality.
Active listening and responding: Careful listening in all conversations is a vital part of developing your interpersonal skills. Be mindful of what the other person is saying and repeat what he/she said in your own words. This will develop confidence in you and puts them at ease with you to share their ideas and views, creating a better work relationship.
Maintain a pleasant personality and positive body language: Keep smiling in your conversations and try to maintain a pleasant personality, along with positive body language in all your interactions.
Update yourself with current affairs and news: This helps you to be a person of importance when you are interacting in a group. Sharing ideas and views on latest current affairs will add value to your personality. This also gives a chance for your fellow workers and subordinates to learn from you and in turn develop a sense of respect towards you.
Efficient Communication: You should be a smart and efficient communicator with precise and meaningful communications.
Empathy to colleagues: You should be empathetic to people in the workplace. Listening to the concerns and grievance of co-workers and counselling them with best possible solutions is an art to develop an interpersonal skill.
Example: Human touch has been effective for me because without walking in the shoes of the person I am dealing with, I cannot devise plans to help or assist them. I need to get into the mind and soul of the person to understand the needs and griefs, and only then would be able to assess the gravity of the situation and plan further.
Working with the miners, I visit their households to meet their families and spend time with them to understand their plight, and this has helped me to plan effective sustainable strategies for them, which would have been impossible otherwise.
In these uncertain times, consciously managing your network helps you manage the grey better – what are your specific suggestions here?
There are many ways to widen our networks. However, I suggest following 3 effective ways for a leader to widen their network
Hosting an Event: Rather than attending events, you should try to host an event of your industry or your related domain of expertise. This will give you a platform to become the person of importance and certainly widen your network. As a host you would able to draw attention of your internal as well as your outside network.
Active Presence in Social Media: Using social media network in an efficient and meaningful manner is another way to widen our network. Posting of your ideas and views in the form of articles in LinkedIn, blogs, Facebook and Twitter would enhance your reach and followers.
Leverage on influential connections: In every organisation, there are people who have better contacts and connects with the Government, private agencies etc. The leader must identify all those influential connections within the organisation or from his/her network and start working constantly on those to leverage them smartly.
For women leaders to scale and succeed is being single better or being married helps? What would you like to say to aspiring women professionals who get bogged down by unconscious biases and self-limiting beliefs?
To me being single or married doesn’t affect anyone’s leadership ability to get success in her career. Ms. Pratibha Patil, Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman, Ms. Neeta Ambani, Dr. Kiran Majumdar Shaw are among the leaders who are married and have achieved highest positions in their path. On the other hand, Ms. Mamata Banerjee, Ms. Jayalalitha, Ms. Ekta Kapoor are among those who are unmarried, but still reached the desired destination in their path.
It’s completely dependent upon the person to handle the situation and ability to face challenges. I would suggest the aspiring women to work on the following things
Focussing on life balance: Its always important to maintain a balance between your work and life. Sometimes you may not get an ideal situation and a favourable work environment to maintain this. In such situations, you need to prove your worth and excellence to your seniors with your smart and timely work. And similarly, you need to do the same with your family through unconditional love.
Aligning family members towards your goal: This is the most crucial thing to align your family towards your goal. You need to give them a larger picture of your career prospects and convince them to contribute their share into it. It would make your life easier.
Manage the surroundings: Circumstances may vary for single or married women in the workplace. You need to manage the surrounding carefully. Your marital status should not affect your peers in social and business gatherings. However, you always need to fix your limit and draw a line of your behaviour and closeness with your superiors and subordinates.
Dr. Lopamudra Priyadarshini
General Manager, Sustainability and Community Relations at Aditya Birla Group and a Certified Corporate Director
From strategies for conducting smart businesses to taking sustainability to the grassroot level and what leadership demands, Dr. Lopamudra Priyadarshini discusses it all with us. She endorses the classic concept of teaching people to fish rather than feeding them, which is the truest form of sustainability. Her interview gives us valuable insights on how to build a network and bridge meaningful partnerships.
In this exclusive interview Hema Mani gave for Global Coaching Lab, she walks us through her career journey and its inflection points – At each stage she learnt to adapt herself to situations and leverage opportunities that she was able to create for herself. Specially her thought process on being boundaryless throws light on how working professionals can take specific actions that will prepare them for the future.