How to get employees back to office: Challenges for the CEO and CHRO

Image Source: Unknown, please reach out for credit.

Post the COVID pandemic, the biggest challenge globally for the CEO, CHRO and other CXOs is how to get employees back to office. Most CEOs and CHROs consider it necessary to get employees back to office, for the in-person social interactions which, many feel is the bedrock of team work, collaboration, innovation, etc. But getting them back safely, creating a safer than before workplace and ensuring employee motivation and morale remains high, is going to be a likely challenge.

A “hybrid” model will be the new normal in future, India’s largest software exporter Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) will ask employees to come to work once the pandemic is over as social interactions are a social necessity

~ N Chandrasekaran, Tata Sons

Most companies are designing a hybrid model which will involve some employees permanently working from home and some working in office three days a week and two days from home. Of course it’s important to note that not all jobs, even office based, can be performed from home effectively. Therefore, clearly define what is the hybrid? Will it apply to all employees/roles? There are no clear answers at this stage and it remains a challenge from equity and fairness point of view.

“At Google, We firmly believe that in-person, being together, having a sense of community is super important when you have to solve hard problems and create something new so we don’t see that changing. But we do think we need to create more flexibility and more hybrid models.”

~ Sundar Pichai, Google

For the past one year plus most office based employees have gotten used to working from home and if you look into it deeply, you will learn what has changed. Let me share what I have learnt and observed from an employees perspective:

What people have started valuing the most:

  1. Office commute time, be it 30 mins or 2 hrs, it’s been eliminated and people have found more time available in the day.
  2. Flexibility to plan and juggle work and life demands, has gone up significantly as the factor/variable of going to office isn’t there.
  3. Constant supervision by superiors in a contained office environment has disappeared and that has given many people, who were heavily supervised a sense of ease, independence and freedom.
  4. Reduced expenses of commute, travel, formal clothing and accessories, etc has facilitated a minimalistic high quality living and increased savings.
  5. Freedom to move from large cities and cramped apartments to smaller cities/towns into bigger homes with family, parents, pets and loved ones has enhanced the quality of lives of many people significantly.
  6. The devastation and deaths due to COVID in the world has touched and rattled everyone in some way or the other. This has made people re-evaluate their priorities and many are choosing to give a higher priority to their mental and physical health vs wealth creation alone. People have started to evaluate and recognise what’s more important to them and are choosing for a more healthy and better quality of life over a career driven by purely aggressive ambition.
  7. People have built significant skills for using remote working digital platforms and technologies and have learnt to be more efficient and productive whilst working working from home.

A May survey of 1,000 U.S. adults showed that 39% would consider quitting if their employers weren’t flexible about remote work. The generational difference is clear: Among millennials and Gen Z, that figure was 49%, according to the poll by Morning Consult on behalf of Bloomberg News.

Employees Are Quitting Instead of Giving Up Working From Home

Now you see the challenge for the CEO and CHRO. So how should they go about doing what’s right for the organisation’s business and people in a balanced manner. Its only wise to recognise and address this challenge very carefully and thoughtfully. In my opinion the “Do’s” and “Don’t” are as follows:

Don’t:

  1. Don’t force any authoritarian decisions on your people and expect them to accept and comply. If you do it, you are bound to loose a lot of talent, in the short term but even more in the medium and long term. Talent will find opportunities and move to organisation that are more sensitive to their needs.
  2. Don’t be insensitive and dismiss people’s fears. Sensitive and caring leadership is the need of the hour.

KPMG’s UK chair, Bill Michael, had to resign after telling staff to “stop moaning” during a virtual meeting about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, where he also called unconscious bias “crap”.

Do’s:

  1. Request your CHRO and the HR team to independently gather insights about how your employees are feeling and what are their hopes and fears. Articulate and summarise them and present them unfiltered to the CEO and CXOs.
  2. Evolve a plan using clear lenses for objectively deciding, as far as work flexibility is concerned and what your hybrid model will look like. Lenses such as; a) List jobs that cannot be performed from home. For example jobs in manufacturing, sales, R&D labs, customer service, retail outlets, office reception, etc. are jobs that cannot be performed from home in most industries. b) Senior leaders at N-1 and N-2 are roles and jobs that are less effective when performed from home permanently. A few days in a week or month is okay. 3) Jobs that are usually outsourced and have little need for collaboration and socialisation in a workplace can be performed permanently from home, with some hot-desks for them in office. d) Since we are coming out of the pandemic, I suggest we use the lens of COVID-19 vaccination and safe behaviour protocol. Open up offices and invite people back when you have crossed some sort of threshold of 75% or 80% of your employees should be vaccinated with both dosages. That will help you create a safer workplace and ensure employees safety while they commute.
  3. Educate and train people leaders to rebuild the thinning personal touch and connection with their people. They have to learn to engage with people effectively in the new normal of hybrid working models.
  4. Transform the hiring and on-boarding process of the organisation to best suit your woking model. While hiring make sure the contracts are crystal clear to all stakeholders. Onboarding and engaging people who are going to working from home is a new challenge that needs to be addressed. Re-hire or re-contract the working model terms with the existing employees if necessary.
  5. Remember, many employees are eagerly waiting to come back to office. People are missing the workplace, it’s social network and experience. They are missing the travel, off-site meetings and all the fun elements that go with work in a great workplace. Welcome them back nicely and continue to build a superior workplace in all respects.

In conclusion, I suggest, what ever model you evolve and adopt, it should be positioned as a pilot, on a trial basis. Keep modifying and refining it based on learning’s and insights. The best model will be the one that enables an organisation to get work done effectively, retain its talent that will deliver superior business results.

Please do share your thoughts and views on this blog post. Me and my team are in the midsts of doing this in our company.

An organisation should not aim at filling its offices with people. Instead it should aim at creating a workforce that is highly productive and committed to delivering superior results (from office or home). The CEO and CHRO are predominantly responsible for this.

~Yash Mahadik

How to Command Respect in a Workplace.

Need for respect is a basic human desire and it plays a big role in your psychological safety and self-esteem.

Every human being has an innate need/desire for respect from their family, friends, workplace or society. I will share some of my thoughts on how to effectively command respect in a workplace.

Internalise and focus on your attitude, behaviour, knowledge, capabilities, values and ethics. Effective and confident people have a realistic assessment of self and are continually developing themselves on the above mentioned elements. If you lack in any of those elements then your need and desire will remain a wish. Instead of externalising and blaming others for not giving you respect. You need to begin by understanding as to what is required of you and if you are working on developing yourself for being worthy of commanding respect. Let’s discuss the elements a bit more.

Attitude and Behaviour. Don’t confuse attitude with behaviour, even though intertwined, they are two distinct things. Attitude is a person’s mindset, feelings, beliefs, or opinion towards something (situation or people). Behaviour is an exhibited action or reaction that a person presents in response to a stimuli. Stimuli often comes from situations and other people’s action. Effective people understand the golden link of Thinking – Feelings – Behaviour (Stephen Covey). How you think is how you feel, how you feel impacts your behaviour. Thinking is the lead factor and feeling and behaviour are it’s lag factors. Therefore, if you want to modify your behaviour or influence someone else’s behaviour then focus on understanding how and what a person thinks. To be able to command respect your attitude and behaviour has to be positive, constructive, calm, reflective, sensitive and most importantly respectful. Remember “respect is reciprocal”.

Refrain from externalising and blaming others for everything bad that happens to you. The constant “I am Okay and You’re Not Okay” (Eric Berne) mindset and communication state is a recipe for disaster. I have learnt myself and coached several others on how to apply the Transactional Analysis model of Eric Berne, Transactional analysis (TA) is a psychoanalytic method of therapy wherein social transactions are analyzed to determine the ego state of the communicator (whether parent-like, childlike, or adult-like) as a basis for understanding behavior. I would recommend that you read and understand it. Amongst several other tools this can help you analyse and correct the externalising de-railer and manage ones ego state . You may need a coach for it.

Knowledge and Capabilities play a big role in the way you command respect and sustain it. Knowledge gives you the the right level of confidence. When knowledge is applied and practiced, it start building skills and capabilities. Highly knowledgeable and capable people often inspire others and that allows you to command more respect in a workplace. Learning is key to gaining knowledge and building capabilities in one self. Effective people are constant learner’s and they have a good senses of their own learning styles and abilities. To command respect, pay attention to this important facet.

Values and Ethics are foundational for being able to command any kind of respect. If you don’t have the right set or values and ethics and have all the above mentioned elements then it’s guaranteed that you won’t command any respect at any place. Good beliefs that get founded in a person from an early age, lead to creating a sound set of values and ethics. For example if you have grown up with a belief that all human beings and animals needs to be treated with respect and care, then that, becomes your strong value system. Effective people have very sound beliefs and they constantly check and correct them as appropriate. As simple as it may sound, being punctual, objective, fair, delivering on your commitments to people, responding to people’s emails and text messages, giving credit and authentic praise when it’s due, being transparent and non-political, etc is what defines your work ethics. High standards and sustained exhibition of these work ethics at the workplace will make you a role model and commanding respect won’t remain a wish.

In conclusion, I would say, it’s a combination of all the above and none of them are mutually exclusive. Its very important that one manages his/her self esteem. Also there is a possibility of a chance that in certain situations and organisation, “You are Okay and Others Aren’t Okay”. In that case, do not ever take things lying down and to maintain your self esteem, walk away from that organisation. But, one important check – if you are finding the need to often walk away from many organisations and people, then there is good chance that you are externalising things and in the “I am Okay and You’re Not Okay” ego state. Another important check, if you are not able to command respect of your family, friends, society and workplace – either from all of them or even two out of the four – Well then, let me tell you, the problem is with you. In that case, do seek feedback and coaching from a objective person you respect and trust at the workplace.

Hope you find this useful and do share your thoughts and views based on your experiences. I am keen to learn from you.

Tribute to HR Professionals on International HR Day, 2021.

On this International HR day, let me compliment all my colleagues from the fraternity for rising to the challenge and leading from the front in managing the COVID-19 crisis. Proud of my HR fraternity.

Pic Credit: CIPD UK

March 2020, we all realised that a pandemic is gripping us and between March,20 & April,20 the world had shutdown. Only businesses under essential services and commodities were operating. Since, I work in Pharma and Healthcare sector, we continued to work with unprecedented challenges and since haven’t shut down for a single day. Like me most of my colleagues became responsible for Crisis Management – a role that earlier HR supported, were now leading it, with the support of others.

We witnessed the horror of the largest migration of workers of all skill levels, but mostly semi-skilled and low-skilled levels to their home towns and cities from large industrial/services megapolis’s such as Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Gurgaon, etc. We not only witnessed a humanitarian crisis but also faced sever shortage of labour at our manufacturing plants, research facilities, warehouses, etc. HR professionals all over rose to the challenge and kept the lights on.

There were sectors and companies that had totally shut down and are/were facing severe impact and losses. Such as Aviation, Hospitality, Education, etc. Cost conservation/reduction and hence job losses were the worst in these sectors. There also, HR professionals all over rose to the challenge and despite being impacted themselves, they managed and led the difficult exercise of mass severances with respect and care.

Like Government, Healthcare and Financial sectors that never shutdown totally – even IT services and other digital product and services companies came to rescue by servicing consumers and students locked in their homes. It wasn’t easy for the companies to work in 100% work from home model. HR professionals all over these sectors rose to the challenge and created a new model that works effectively in service of its customers.

HR professionals boldly took the initiative and led from the front. They have now clearly added disaster/crisis scenario planning and its management to their role. Even more hearting was to see, the increased level of focus that HR professionals brought towards health and wellness and especially mental wellness during this period. We are creating better value in our organisations by encouraging virtual collaboration, engagement and are enabling people to accept and adapt to a new normal.

During the recent second wave most companies have witnessed unprecedented levels of home isolation, hospitalisation, even deaths of their employees due to COVID. HR professional again led from the front and have provided all possible support to their employees and their families for arranging tele-consultation or proving Oxygen Concentrators during home isolation or finding them beds in the hospitals or evolving benevolent and new polices to support the family of the deceased employees. Well done fellow colleagues and I have never been more proud of being a member of the HR fraternity than now. I am sure this pride will only grow bigger.

Thank you and wishing you all a happy #InternationalHRDay #2021

Why we refuse to learn from History.

It seems Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918-19 had three waves, before the virus weakened and we humans built a immunity against it. We are dealing with the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic, today the Delhi HC has called it a Tsunami. It’s a shame that, after 100 yrs of Spanish flu pandemic and despite the stellar advancements in medical technology and practices – we didn’t learn much from the gory past. This is on all of us!

The second wave in India is peaking and it caught everyone unprepared. This wave will certainly flatten. Wisdom lies in preparing for the third one and not getting caught by surprise. So what do we have to do? I guess the following :

1) Get vaccinated – it’s your best defence and chance of survival.
2) Don’t let your guard down after this wave is over and make sure you maintain top health and keep practising social distancing, top hygiene and wearing masks at all times.
3) Let’s all pledge to build pressure and compel our government to invest heavily in our Healthcare infrastructure. We need more well trained and qualified doctors and healthcare professionals, more hospitals that are better equipped, easier access to health insurance and facilities, national stockpiles of critical medical supplies of medicines, vaccines etc.

Please remember this!

Lessons through the Lens.

Photography is my earliest/oldest passion, which I picked up from my father, whilst accompanying him through the forests of Central and Northern India, handling his Rolliflex camera in the 1970s. Photography equipment then was mechanical and analog. I started using digital cameras only from 2009. Today, I use professional level digital equipment (Sony Alpha Mirrorless and Canon EOS DSLRs). While technology may have evolved from Analog to Digital, the passion, creativity and joy of creating stunning images remains the same.

Wildlife & Nature photography is my favorite genre in photography. It is known to be one of the most challenging genres as one is at the mercy of nature with little control over the outcome. Pretty much like life, right? Over the years, whilst spending time in the jungles and  forests across the world, I have learnt some important life lessons from wildlife photography that can also be applied to Leadership & Management. Here is a list of my top 10 lessons:

  1. You cannot control everything: What you learn very quickly in wildlife photography is that you cannot control the subject, its background, its foreground, the frame, the lighting conditions, etc. What you can control is your equipment – so make sure that you know your equipment 100% and use it in the most skilled manner to create the image, with all the limitations. Your knowledge, skills and creativity will help you overcome all obstacles. Similarly, in life, especially in the corporate world, you cannot always control all important variables, such as people, external factors such as economic forces, government regulations, etc. If you apply your knowledge, experience, skills, creativity and act effectively in your area of control, you are likely to be very impactful. In-fact Steven Covey’s concept and advice for being effective is to act in your area of control instead of worrying too much about the areas of concern things that you cannot control. It seems to be a lesson straight from wildlife photography
  2. Focus and Exposure is very important: In photography, focus and exposure is critical. If you are not able to focus sharply or clearly enough on your subject, you won’t have an image. Also, the right exposure (level of highlights and shadows) of an image is a must. If you overexpose the frame or your subject, you will get a burnt image and if you underexpose it, you will get a very dark image. Similarly, in leadership and management, a sharp and clear focus on your goals and objectives is very important and making sure you expose yourself and your people in the right manner is equally important.
  3. What’s the story? Every image/photograph tells a story. A great image is a great story that people decipher, without being told. Therefore, creating images is the art of storytelling. While everyone can tell a story, only a few tell it effectively in an inspiring manner. In wildlife photography, when you create an animal portrait or an image of an animal in its natural habitat, or a beautiful landscape, you record a natural history moment and tell a very inspiring story. Similarly, leaders must act as storytellers to share a compelling vision with their team and then rally people towards achieving it.
  4. What you create will be critiqued: Every photographer loves his/her own work. But when that image is shared or promoted, not everyone will react to it in a similar manner. Similarly, as a leader when you take certain decisions, you will be appreciated by some and critiqued by others. I have learnt that it’s okay to be critiqued; if you listen to your detractors with an open mind, you only get better at your craft. Try it!!
  5. Virtues to emulate: Patience, Perseverance, Ethics, Humility and Teamwork are some of the common traits of a wildlife photographer and a corporate leader. Some of my best images have come after waiting for hours – that’s patience and perseverance and it comes from realizing that you cannot control everything, hence you have to wait, stay positive and hope for it to happen. It takes a lot to create one stunning image, but you cannot make it by compromising with the ethics of wildlife photography (such as disturbing animals or getting too close to them or by defying the laws and rules of the country and its forests). This has reinforced my belief in the ethics of doing things the right way. Wildlife photography is teamwork, I may be the photographer, the lead player, but I depend so much on my safari driver, guide, naturalist, tour organizer. It’s teamwork and if you do not value it, your experience and images won’t be any good. One last thing on Ethics is that as a photographer you learn to appreciate and respect others’ work and you never take credit for someone else’s work. Similarly, as a leader you give credit where it is due and take your team along with you.
  6. Lifelong learning & adopting new technologies is the secret of success: Photography is an art and craft, and in this craft your joy and success depends on how adept you are at continuous learning. Especially learning about evolving technologies of cameras, lenses, image-processing softwares, etc. Similarly, in leadership and management, if you are not a lifelong learner and an early adopter of new technologies, you are preparing for failure.
  7. Domain expertise is important: In wildlife photography, you cannot create stunning images of animals if you don’t know the animal, its behavior, its antics, its habits, its habitat, etc,. Similarly, it is important to be thorough and have expertise in your area of work to be an effective leader and guide your team.
  8. Compassion and Creativity are the bedrock: Without compassion for animals, their habitat and nature, you cannot become a good wildlife photographer. Creativity of a wildlife photographer lies in imagining and composing the image in one’s mind, much before its clicked. Same goes for leadership and management, isn’t it? Without empathy for one’s people and their compulsions and priorities, one cannot gain their respect and support.
  9. You compete with yourself and not others: I learn a lot from others wildlife photographers and admire their work, but I don’t ever want to compete with them. I compete with myself and my objective is to create a better image than the last one. Hence my best image will always be in waiting. That’s the reason, I loathe photography competitions and barring two (during my early and young days), I have refrained from participating in competitions. The biggest lesson here for leaders is to stop competing with others and instead, focus on improving yourself. Competition is fast getting replaced with Collaboration, Continuous Improvement and Innovation.
  10. Last but not the least, as a corporate leader, the most important lesson that I have learnt is that it’s very important to have a hobby and passion outside of work. It helps avoid burn out and maintain mental wellness. During my boyhood days at the Scindia School in Gwalior, there was a strong focus on co-curricular activities for all students. The reason for that is, when you present various avenues and platforms for expression, they develop holistically. Many students who lack in academics, find their strengths and talents in other activities. When they do well in those areas, it builds their confidence and that in turn makes them perform well in academics too. Why shouldn’t companies too encourage people to have a hobby outside of work to pursue in their personal time? It is bound to help the wellbeing of the employee and harness his/her potential.

CHROs need to be adept at Crisis Management and Business Continuity. During huge crisis of proportions like, COVID-19

This COVID-19 global pandemic and crisis has made me realize how crucial it is for the CHROs to lead from the Front, in managing an unprecedented crisis like this one. Especially, Leading the Crisis/Disaster Recovery and Business Continuty planning and it’s execution is now a key capability of any CHRO. For the past two weeks, I am working round the clock to ensure total safety and well being of all our employees and their loved ones and balancing it with business continuity. Best part, I am increasingly becoming more positive, passionate and relentless about it.

Pharma companies like ours, in India are under the essential commodities and services act. Hence, we have to keep producing and supplying medicines to our customers and patients in India and the world. We at Lupin are blessed to have colleagues who, despite the dangerous threat of COVID-19 are responding to their “call of duty” and are working in our manufacturing plants and other essential sites across the company without hesitation, like brave soldiers.

This is a war – the soldiers this time come in a different form, they are our Doctors, Nurses, Healthcare and Pharma Company Workers and Executives, Police and others essential services workers. We are working – so you can stay at home, please stay safe and at home responsibly. I have learnt that there are only two ways to break this COVID-19 virus infection chain 1) Social-distancing and Self-quarantine and 2) Test every person for COVID-19 who shows flu like symptoms and if detected positive then, isolate them and treat them. First one is preventive and second one is reactive.

We have been working very closely on a daily basis with India’s Central and various other State Governments (CMs, Health Ministers of the Sates, Police Commissioners and Collectors of various Districts, etc). It been a joy working with them, they are working hard and round the clock to manage and eliminated the crisis. I am seeing a commitment and will in these people, that is unparalleled and inspiring. Especially our Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray CMOMaharashtra and Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope, have been leading from the front and are doing an excellent job, so are other leaders in most other states. Let’s support them and not find faults in their actions. They are open to suggestions and are seeking support and cooperation from us. Let’s rise to the occasion, please don’t be negative, cynical and behave like a bad back seat driver.

Did you know: India has been in the forefront of fighting this crisis. We are one of the first early stage & fastest country to shutdown for social distancing and home quarantine, as compared to any other. India is now in the top quartile in terms of testing capacity and capability of COVID-19, worldwide. We aren’t a wealthy country and don’t have many resources like most other advanced nations, but this disease doesn’t attack or spread looking at the per-capita income. I am sure we aren’t doing many things right or could have done them earlier or better – but it’s important to trust or leaders and system, follow the guidelines and instructions they are giving and stay positive, constructive and behave responsibly.

Few negative and cynical people are continuously complaining, ranting, fear mongering or joking about the crisis and are only pointing out the faults of our governments response… Please stay away from such people, they could be as destructive and dangerous as this virus.

StayatHome #StaySafe #DontHideThisillness #BePositive #CrisisManagement #BusinessContinuity #COVID19 #Pandemic #CHRO #Leadership

People I Admire and Follow in The Art of Image Making, also known as “Photography”. Part 1.

Yash Mahadik Blog Template

I have been intending to write this blog for a long time. Like most photographers, I am self-taught. Meaning, I havent attended any formal school or certification degree or diploma program in the art of photography. Self taught means you teach yourself by reading, experimenting, obseving and also by following people on social media (from the content they keep sharing and posting). I divide my “To follow” list in three categories; One, The Legends. Second, the real contemporary experts from whom I learn the deep domian expertise in the art of image making, its mostly the technical stuff that they share and teach. Third, is people I befriend on social medai and they inspire me with their passion for the art of photography. So my three list include the following:

Legends of the past and present, who’s work I worship and learn from. All I need to do is mention their names, and they are:

  1. Ansel Adams
  2. Henri Cartier-Bresson
  3. Dorothea Lange
  4. Raghu Rai
  5. Kishor Parekh
  6. Steve McCurry
  7. Nick Brandt
  8. Ami Vitale
  9. Cory Richards
  10. Arthur Morris

Professionals you must follow to learn photography and its technical aspects. This will help you build deep domain expertise.

  1. Tony Northrup: Tony and his wife Chelsea have created tons of useful and classic content and they share it openly and most of it for free, via their website and youtube channel. This man is a class act and tops my list. He is on every possible social media channel and if you go to to his website, you can get connected to all of them: Tony Northrup
  2. Matt Granger: This Australian has recently moved to New York City and is clearly getting his fingers into many pies. Matt is a fantastic teacher of photography and is one of the most followed people on youtube for his content. His contet is par excellence. Do follow him on youtube and you wont be disappointed. link to his webiste is Matt Granger
  3. Gavin Hoey: Brillant teacher of photography, is also the main campaigner for Adorama, the photo store of NYC. Of course Adorama ensure that the content is topclass. Link to his website is Gavin Hoey
  4. Jason Lanier: A fantastic potrait and wedding photographer who also teaches photography. His content is good, very professionally developed and has recently moved from Nikon to Sony. He tries to oversell Sony and if you ignore that part then there is lots to learn from him. Link to his website is Jason Lanier
  5. Sudhir Shivraman: Sudir is a renowned Indian Wildlife Photographer and a few years ago he started to create, share and sell learning content for photographers. I bought his on-line courses once and found it useful. But for the money he charges the quality of the content isnt worth it. Its more studio based and home made content. He has been improving on it and I hope he can add more on-the-field content as opposed to studio or class room based content. I would definetly reccomend him. In India he has the best contet so far. Link to his website is Sudhir Shivraman

Friends I follow on Facebook, Instagram and who inspire me with their work, are as follows:

Meera Nerurkar: A young IT professional, who is currently based out of Dusseldorf, Germany, is an avid photographer. I love her composition skills and landscape images. She has won several awards for some of her photographs. I have promised Meera that one day we will shoot togther in Europe and soon. Eurpoe is my abs favourite destination for nature and landscapes. In case you want to follow her on facebook the link is  Meera Nerurkar on Facebook

Meera PhotoImage: Meera Nerurkar

Alok Mishra: Alumuni of IIM Ahemdabad, was my Boss at Johnson & Johnson, he is Singapore based. Alok is a life long learner, being a MENSA member only helps him learn faster than the most in the world. I am witnessing how he is fast learning photography. He loves birding, landscapes and street. His compositions and images are out of the world. Earlier as Boss in the corporate world and now in the world of photography he continues to inspire me. To follow Alok the links to his Facebook and Instagram are Alok Mishra on Facebook  Alok Mishra Photography on Instagram

Alok ImageImage: Alok Mishra

Rashmi Joshi: A resident of Ahemdabad, proud mother of a budding cinema actress, is a Tiger and Wildlife lover. Her passion for nature and photography is unparalled. She has worked on several Tiger conservation projects in India and Bandhavgarh is her favourite park. Her photos tell a story and its so easy and simple to decode that story. Over the years she has become a very good friend on social media and though I haven’t yet met her in person, I can tell that her positivty and energy is par excellence. We both plan to shoot together in Sasan Gir and Bharatpur sometimes soon. Follow her on Facebook Rashmi on Facebook

Rashmi ImageImage: Rashmi Joshi

Abhilasha Yadav: Married into the political family of Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav’s younger brother Shri Abhay Ram (father in law) is a busy mother and a dedicated social worker. Her interest in photography comes to her from her elder generations. She has done significant and inspiring work in her native state of  Uttar Pradesh at Dudhwa National Park , Pilibhit Tiger Reserve, Katarniya Ghat to promote , preserve and conserve wildlife. I am a big fan of her work and follow her on facebook and Instagram, in case you wish to do the same the Facebook link is Abhilasha Yadav on Facebook 

Abhilasha ImageImage: Abhilasha Yadav

Alok Dubey: Alok is a businessman from Indore, MP. He is a buddy and we often shoot togther. Ardent wildlife photographer, is self taught. We shoot together in Africa and India. I have learnt a lot from this humble and warm person. Our Canon equipment almost mirrors and so does our passion for Big Cats in the wild. Alok is mentoring his son Varchasva in the art of wildlife photography and he often jons us in wildlife safaris in Africa and India. Its heart warming to see this father-son-duo bond over photography. His lo-key images are to die for and in case you wish to follw him on facebook the link is Alok Dubey on Facebook

Alok Dubey ImageImage: Alok Dubey

I am indeed previliged to have the above people in my network and community as friends and fellow photographers. I learn a lot from them and very much appreciate their work and passion in the genre of nature and wildlife photogrphy, which is my favourite genere. My list doesnt end here, but this part-1 of the bog has to. I will share some more interesting facts and tips on how to learn effectively when you are a self-taught photographers and some of the people that I am going to mention and present to you in my next part of the blog, include; Usha Harish, Aparna Jain, Nirmalya Banerjee, Rohit Bansal, Harshwardhan and Poonam Dhanwatey, Nagaraj Taware, Chandrashekhar Kalayansundram, Jitender Govandani, Kunwardeep Sign Arora, etc, etc. Stay tuned and let me know if you found the information and recomendations useful.

safe_fb_share2Image Courtsey: Save Animals Facing Exctinction Organisation 

Organisational Culture a Formidable Enabler of Success

Authored by: Yash Mahadik, Mallika Galani and Sameer Kumar Agrawal


Organization culture is a formidable enabler of innovation, change and success in most organisations. Over the years culture has become a great coffee table discussion among leaders across industries. It’s formidable because its a sustainable competitive advantage that cannot be easily copied by competitors. Today culture as competitive advantage is helping companies attract and retain talent, drive innovation, remain cost competitive, etc. Last week, I was involved in one such HR leadership forum discussion organized by SpencerStuart. The discussion centered around ‘Harnessing the power of organizational culture’. It was my privilege and honor to chair the forum consisting of large company CHROs and other HR Leaders representing a diverse mix of organizations. SpencerStuart have a well articulated culture alignment framework of their own. It’s based on research and they have been validating it with many organisations as they consult with them. At the beginning of the session, Sahiba Singh from SpencerStuart explained the framework and model in detail. The details of the framework can be accessed via this link: Org Culture SpencerStuart

“Culture can become a ‘secret weapon’ that makes extraordinary things happen.”  – Jon Katzenbach, Booz&Co

In our collective and diverse experience, we observed that, culture is experienced and felt even in the absence of a well-articulated manifesto. Employees can clearly sense and feel the elements of their organisational culture, elements such as; how ethical and value based is the leadership in their organisation, what are they genuinely valued for, are their ideas welcomed, are their capabilities and contributions reflected fairly in their career growth and learning opportunities, etc, etc. Tone at the top and behaviour exhibited by senior leaders on a day to day basis especially during the crucial moments within an organisation shapes the culture. Little can a company achieve with a politically correct and well articulated statement hanging on the wall without the Leaders behaviour and attitude backing it up. So how does an organization create a culture that affirms the aspirations of its individual members while also inspiring the collective to add significant value towards the business?

Rohit Thakur, Head Human Resource, Accenture India, whilst sharing his perspective, said that, ‘the responsibility for setting the tone – the culture – rests with the leader of the organization’. We have often witnessed change in leadership manifesting a change in culture. Hence it’s imperative for a company or a team to be led by someone who places high importance on performance and results, acts with integrity and expects others to do the same. These leadership qualities engender a highly spirited organization and magic happens when leaders create the conditions for employees to contribute meaningfully. One of the key examples of this is the humility and integrity being the key cultural element at Sun Pharma and in this case it cascades from these traits being exhibited by the promoter and founder of the organization.

Rohit Kumar, HR Head Kelloggs India added to this by saying that culture at times is not organizational, rather its more functional or business unit led and this can be attributed to the unique leadership style existing in these silos.

Leena Wakankar, HR Leader, ASK Group, brought in a different flavour to the discussion by talking about ‘Aha Moments!!’ She referred to a popular quote “Every leader has his or her leadership moments and every organization has its culture moments”.During an organizations life cycle there come a few occasions when its fundamentals are tested and existential questions asked, and in such situations, only the organizations who are able to hold on to their basic cultural elements stand strong. 

Mona Hakeem, Head HR Emerging Markets and Talent Acquisition COE at Sun Pharma (Ex-GE employee), shared her perspective on a very interesting fact about the three most influential group cultures in the US, which are supposed to be that of the US Army, Kindergarden and GE. That’s GE’s proud culture moment right there! GE is well known for creating and sustaining a culture of performance, which in turn develops and provides top-notch world class leaders for GE and other industries. It’s well known how this culture emanates from their CEO and top leaders.

Organisational culture building endeavour becomes challenging at every life cycle stage of a company, such as, during the start up phase, during the scale up phase or during its perpetuity. However the biggest challenge is posed when two companies are merging as a result of an merger or acquisition. Assimilating two distinct organisational cultures is more complex as compared to building and nurturing one culture. During most post-merger phases, the harder aspects related to business and financial systems such as; portfolio & footprint rationalization/integration, financial system integration usually get addressed right at the onset and with relative smoothness as compared to some of the softer aspects related to people and culture. Our experience and research suggests that companies are able to create more value by integrating the harder aspects and the softer aspects with equal attention and urgency. 

We are very proud about how we are successfully integrating yet evolving the cultural aspects of two giant organizations – SunPharma and Ranbaxy by understanding and retaining the DNA and strengths of both the organizations. We (the authors of this blog) conducted a test exercise of deploying the culture model of SpencerStuart to run a diagnostic to understand the cultural orientation of the two legacy organizations (SunPharma & Ranbaxy) and to chart out the cultural needs and parameters of the unified entity (SunPharma). We have been able to identify three focal pillars on which we build the culture of our company. One of them being the relentless drive and focus on results. Second critical parameter is caring for one and all, be it our own employees or our patients and partners. Thirdly we shall continue to focus on holistic learning and development to ensure that we stay competent and grow stronger with every passing day.

R. Mahalakshmi, Head Director Human Resources, India, Mondelez added to this by sharing her experiences of being a part of two very interesting mergers, first one being that of Ernst & Young and Anderson wherein the two firms varied a lot in their consulting approach, clientele and employee base and the second that of Cadbury and Kraft and now Mondelez where in there has been a key shift from a definitive focus on being a caring organization to one being extremely focussed on results. 

Nathan S V, Chief Human Resources Officer, Deloitte India, also shared his valuable perspectives and gave a very good example of Deloitte. Deloitte is globally composed of 70+ different entities and the way they have managed to amalgamate the cultural aspects of each of these and yet maintain a distinctive Deloitte way of doing things. The way they go about doing this is by focusing on investing in learning. Learning for Deloitte is a major culture building anchor. How leaders as teachers focus on creating a learning culture and example of the Deloitte University and its role in building a organisational culture were terrific examples.

There is much discussion happening on the importance of building, renewing and evolving organisational culture and its direct correlation to business results. There is now a growing realization that culture is one of the biggest differentiators between organizations and almost as critical for attracting and retaining the right talent as their products or services are for winning customers. The question that we pose to our readers is, ‘how and when will we be able to understand the science and art behind organisational culture and make it a part of our strategic HR agenda and more importantly a business priority?”

In conclusion, we say that, “Free food, getting pets to work, casual dressing, working from home etc are often seen by many as important symbols of an organisations culture and its attractiveness. In our opinion its the icing and not the cake. The culture cake consists of solid fundamentals such as ethical and value based leadership, transparency and fairness, equal oppurtunities, socially responsible thinking/values/behaviors, environmentally sustainable actions and above all respect for human beings without discrimination. Once the cake is baked nice and solid the icing will make it even more attractive.”


“If you get the culture right, most of the other stuff will just take care of itself.” – Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com

Leadership is “The” Lead Factor” Rest are all Lag Factors

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Pic Details: Copyright @YashMahadikPhotography. Two Lionesses, Nashipae and Narisho of the Enokoyani pride emerging from the bush after their afternoon rest. Nashipae means attractive and a beautiful lady and Narisho means a skilled and ferocious huntress. Their names are given to them coz that’s what they are. These two were were protecting their seven cubs from a lion war that was on in Maasai Mara for their Pride and territory take over and hence had broken away from their pride. This image was created on 24th August, 2016 at 4.31 pm local time. Shot with my #Canon1DXMarkII Lens Canon f2.8 70-200mm @110mm f5.6, ISO 400, WB – Auto, 1/400s, Handheld shot, Zone cluster focus on AI Servo mode. For more details and images from the wild visit @yashmahadikphotography

Over the years, I have spent a lot of time in the wild observing, understanding and photographing wildlife. I have learnt many valuable lessons from mother nature. One for example is about Lions. The Lion may be “The King of The Jungle” but it’s the Lioness who is “the True Leader”. The Lion is big, masculine, roars loudly and plays a very important role in protecting its pride and its territory and is called the King of the jungle. However, the Lioness plays even a more important role which includes hunting for the pride to feed it, raise the cubs successfully (especially with very high mortality rate for lion cubs in the wild), methodically coach and train the future lions and make them adept for staying at the top of the food chain. Lioness are the ones who keep and grow the pride and ensure its perpetuity. Hence it’s not just the Lion who is the King or is more important, but it’s the Lioness who is equally if not more important to its pride. I give this analogy of Lions not because of its gender traits but to tell a story of hierarchy and its relative importance to leadership.

Similarly in an organisation it’s just not the CEO but it’s the CXOs and leaders at the middle of the pyramid that are crucial and important to organisations success and perpetuity. 

If engagement, performance, culture, values pertaining to an organisation and it’s workforce are an outcome (also known as lag factors) then leadership is the most important lead factor. There is a lot of wisdom shared on how to develop and grow leadership in large enterprises and many inspiring examples come from the armed forces too. In my perspective and experience the essentials of leadership to become an effective lead factor within an organisation are as follows:

1) Define:

As an organisation clearly define your leadership framework. Framework consisting of – Values, Competencies and Behaviours that you expect you leaders to imbibe, role model and develop themselves and in others.

2) Assess and Build:

First help leaders assess their capabilities and styles and identify gaps. Use validated assessment techniques and experts – avoid a home-made and untested remedy when it comes to leadership assessments.

Then, start to shape, influence, build and develop leadership competencies and capabilities from the top. CEO and CXO group should be totally aligned and committed to role-modelling and living them.

I would emphasise more on “shaping” and “influencing” by ways of coaching as compared to the traditional class room training methods to build leadership competencies and capabilities. Please remember, people are cast into unique and diverse moulds depending on the background of their upbringing and that’s mostly reflected in their style preferences. Never try to break and re-mould people, instead shape, influence and help them understand the effect of their behaviour on others. Educate them on how they should  best flex their style depending on the situation. Remember diversity of leadership traits and styles can be a strength. Don’t allow the CEO to start cloning people to match or look like his DNA.

3) Cascade Leadership building:

Most organisations in my opinion make the mistake of focussing their development effort only at CEO, CXO and their direct reports level (the top of the pyramid). Some call it their “top 100″ and other ‘top 300” depending on the size of their organisation. I have said it in point no.1 that top down approach is important but don’t restrict your leadership development to the top of the pyramid.

When it comes to leadership, “the fortune is at the middle of the pyramid” and I say this, coz of two main reasons:

a) Leaders at the middle level of an organisation have the maxim performance and productivity impact on people whom they lead and influence.

b) Middle level leaders are the pipeline of the future leaders of any organisation and they need to be disproportionately invested into.

In addition to the above, other important things to consider whilst you build leadership to be the powerful lead factor include as follows:

  1. Make sure the performance and rewards in your organisation are equally balanced on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the results. Many organisation recognise and reward their people on parameter that are more biased towards the what (High Sales numbers, low-cost of operations, brand ratings, etc) and nothing wrong in that. But giving equal weightage to how these results were delivered (compliance to standards and laws, by being ethical and honest, by coaching and developing people) is very important. Top-notch organisation always focus equally on the “What” and “How” the results were delivered.
  2. Lessons on leadership from armed forces are valuable and inspiring and there is a lot to learn from them. But, remember that the context and rules of the game in the Army and a Corporate organisation are very different and hence not every leadership capability and its context can be applied as it is. May be a separate blog later on this topic!!
  3. Dont overwhelm early in career leaders by expecting them to act and deliver like highly evolved senior leaders. Let them make mistakes, learn and evolve as leaders with their original style.
  4. Coaching and creating a culture of learning for leaders by action-learning is key. Traditional classroom training doesn’t teach corporate leaders much. The slum-dog millionnaire learning style is crucial.
  5. Attitude, character and thinking ability differentiates good leaders from others. Skills and capabilities as a business manager become threshold. After a point skills and capabilites do not differentiate leaders to be effective. Its attitude and charachter of the leader which comprises of many things such as honesty, ethics, sensitivity to people and cultures, ability to develop and grow more leaders, to be a life long learner, etc, etc.

We assess, hire and develop leaders based on their experience, skills and capabilities with such little focus on knowing their attitude, character and thinking ability. Hope there is better balance in every organisation on this front.

True Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders – J Sakiya Sandfifer

Understanding Light to Create Super Wildlife Images in Harsh Lighting Conditions.

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This is Loraine’s Cub, the Leopard of the Massai Mara Reserve in Kenya. How beautiful she looks in this B&W image. This image is special coz its shot at 12.30 pm middle of the afternoon in harsh lighting conditions. Most would refrain from trying to create an image in such harsh lighting conditions. I never give up any chance of creating a super image, irrespective of the lighting conditions (unless it pitch dark ofcourse). 

From Wildlife photography point of view, Massai Mara during August is the richest park in wildlife density but is most challenging in terms of light. The tall dry grasslands acts as a giant 360 degree reflector of the natural light and the Highlights and Midtones compete to fill your frame with equal intensity. The soft morning and evening light duration is very short. Lack of clouds and clear skies enable harsh lighting conditions for photography throughout the day. However, you can make such images if you are willing to experiment and shoot in monochrome mode in Manual camera settings of your DSLR.

Light is everything in Photography and here is a brief description of what effect light creates in capture of any image – especially for your camera’s sensor. Each frame comprises of Highlights, Midtones and Shadows. How you read the frame with naked eyes and assess it manually and then use your camera settings (depending on the features in your camera) will define how good a image you create. Next blog post on the art of exposure compensation for getting all the thre tones right to create that perfect image.

Hightlights: These are the whitest or brightest areas of the surface and often cause over exposure, it’s where a given surface on the subject is reflecting the actual light source most efficiently. The highlight is a reflection of the actual light source on the subject. In some cases you can see the light source itself in the highlight, For example catchlight in the eyes of your subject.

Midtones: As the name implies, this tone is midway in between the highlight and the shadow. It would show the “true” color and consistency of the object. The highlights are brighter than the “true” color, and the shadows are darker than the “true” color. The midtone is usually going to be the majority tone that is visible, the highlights and shadows are usually a smaller part of the tonal range. But the area covered by any of the tones will ultimately be determined by the shape, constancy and size of the subject and also the quality of the lights on the subject.

Shadows: Shadows are the darkest area of the surface and often cause underexposure. Shadows can have really sharp edges between it and the midtone or it can just sort of gradually blend into the midtone. How the shadow looks depends entirely on the surface of the object and also the quality of the light.

Get out there, shoot and experiment and you will master all of this. Understanding light for creating awesome wildlife images is the most difficult part of wildlife photography. If wildlife photography was any easy, I wouldnt be up for it. Take up the challenge and test yourself!!