Vineet Nayar discusses his revolutionary management approach of valuing employees before customers, inspiring them with a vision and promoting a culture of transparency. He outlines three steps for successful execution and shares the success story of HCL Technologies. TEDxAix.
The speaker talks about his experience as a leader and the importance of building trust with employees. He shares a personal story about his grandmother defining a vision for him at birth, and how he was once rejected from his first job. He discusses the importance of valuing employees and creating a vision that they can believe in. He outlines three steps for successful execution: creating dissatisfaction with today, defining a compelling vision for tomorrow, and attempting to do the impossible. The speaker also mentions a successful initiative where HCL opened a 360-degree survey of all their managers, including the CEO.
Transcriber: Bob Prottas Reviewer: Leonardo Silva
Thank you so much.
Just close your eyes for a minute.
Just go ahead.
Close your eyes for a minute.
that you're standing on the ledge of a building,
which is 3 stories high,
and imagine that the building is on fire,
and if you knew that the right answer for you is to jump
in the next 30 seconds.
How many of you would jump?
I guess everybody.
Imagine you are on that ledge of a building, with your entire team,
ten, hundred, thousand,
and the building is on fire,
and you are the only one who knows the right answer
is to jump in the next 30 seconds
for all of you to be saved,
and you turn to your team, and you say: "Jump!"
What do they do?
They jump, because you said so.
Or they don't jump, because you said so.
Think about it.
I was standing on the ledge of a building in 2005,
with 25,000 of my colleagues,
as the new leader, and they looked up to me
as to what to do next.
I knew that the right answer is to jump
but somewhere in my heart
I knew that we as leaders have done nothing
to win the trust of our employees,
and therefore, even if I say: "Jump!",
would they jump?
Did they jump?
I will come to that story in a bit, but let's rewind a bit,
and tell you a story about how did I get on the ledge of that building,
in the first instance.
In India, as is true with many parts of the world,
when a child is born, it is considered auspicious
for the grandmother -- I call her "Amma" --
to walk up to the child -- she is the first to pick up the child
and she picks up this child, in her hands,
and defines a vision for that child.
That vision has no data. That vision has no logic.
And she says: "Your fingers are so long, you'll be an artist."
"Your forehead is so wide, you'll be a NASA scientist."
Everybody in the family believes in that vision.
When the girl grows up that vision becomes her ambition.
Becomes her pursuit, and then becomes her reality.
I was fortunate to be born in my Amma's house.
Those days children were born in homes, not in hospitals,
on this huge bed, which could sleep 9 people,
My Amma picked me up,
and I guess I was waiting for this vision,
and she picked me up, and defined this vision, and said:
this boy is going to do good,
and he's going to have a steady job."
I guess my grandmother didn't see anything,
to say something more profound.
But not true.
Twenty three years later, armed with this MBA degree
I walked through the corridors of my first job at HCL.
Four weeks later, I was called into the room
with these 4 grim looking people
who had this single sheet of paper in front of them.
They sat me down, and said:
we don't think you fit into our organization."
I don't know what I was most disappointed about,
The fact that I was rejected,
or the fact that even that vision that my grandmother thought of me
I still remember that night.
It was very long, very painful, very frustrating.
But by that time the morning came, my life had changed.
With the sun rays I made 2 commitments to myself.
The first, that I will do everything in my power
to outsmart these self-proclaimed gods,
who believe in leading by rejecting,
rather than accepting.
that one day, I will be the CEO of this company,
and show them the way.
Somebody has rightly said:
"You need to be a bit careful about what you wish."
Two decades later, time had turned a full circle,
The chairman of HCL, who's a brilliant man,
with uncanny intuition and foresight,
invited me to be the CEO of HCL.
I was afraid, not that I was not happy to be a CEO,
but I was afraid, not because my first commitment was turning right,
but my second commitment, that did I know how to lead by accepting,
rather than rejecting.
And I said: "How would I know, unless I try?"
And that is the reason I was on that ledge of the building
with 25,000 other employees,
who were waiting for my direction to jump.
Because we wanted to transform HCL to be the best company in the world.
Transform is a very interesting word.
Changing the form of something permanently.
In my mind, you can transform the company in 2 ways.
First, by innovating in what you do, which is the obsession of the world.
To be a Google, to be a Facebook, to be a Tesla.
But it is a more interesting, human way of transforming yourself
using innovation about how you treat your employees,
about how you run your company.
By increasing the clock speed of your organization,
you can actually outperform all your competition,
with the same product, the same customer, the same market.
Why don't people get it?
Our journey of thinking about innovation on the how-axis
rather than what-axis started with 3 fundamental questions.
The first: what is the business we are in?
And our answer, we are in the business of creating unique experiences,
unique value for our customers, and the more unique we are,
the higher market share we will create.
Where does this unique experience, unique value get created,
and who creates this unique experience, and unique value?
Answer, it gets created where our customers and our employees meet.
In that interface, we call the value zone,
and our employees in that value zone create that unique experience.
Thus, the third question.
If our employees are the unique value,
are creating the unique value, which helps us grow faster,
then what should the role of managers and management in any company be?
And the obvious answer for us was nothing
but enthusing, encouraging, enabling those employees
to create the unique experience
so that we can grow faster.
What is not obvious about that?
And that is how employees first, customer second was born,
where the management is in the business
of enthusing, encouraging, enabling people,
and employees are in the business of customers first.
Ideas are great, but they are --
many, many of them fail under pedestal of execution.
Our study of revolutions, our study of Indian revolutions with Mahatma Gandhi
came to the shores of India in 1915
with this inspirational idea of non-violence.
He came to the shores --
In 1915 we had this inspirational leader, with the inspirational idea,
and yet it took 32 years for India to gain independence.
So we started revolutions, we started transformations on sports teams,
we started organization transformations, and came down with what we call
"three steps for successful execution."
The first was, create unhappiness with today.
There were so many of my colleagues on that ledge, who didn't want to jump
because they did not think anything was wrong with the company.
I'm sure that is not happening in your company,
that people are slicing and dicing the data to look good.
I don't think this is happening.
But if you're slicing and dicing the data to look good,
then how would that change happen?
It is important to say:
"Mirror, mirror on the wall, I am the ugliest of all."
A diamond cutter gets excited with rough diamond, not polished diamond.
A potter gets excited with rough clay.
What you need in your organizations to transform,
are those diamond cutters, the plumbers, and the potters,
who believe in challenges.
Then show them the challenge, and they will fix it for you.
So we throw all our dirty linen in public for everybody to see,
so that it was not about whether we are performing or not,
it was what can we do with this -- the word I can't say --
The second, is defining a vision for tomorrow, which is so compelling
that people with jump out their bed, and go work for you.
Where is that vision in our organization?
Why does an employee,
on a Sunday, spend his money, time, energy,
drive to a mosque, a mandir, and a church,
and feel good about it?
And why does the same employee
get paid to come to our organizations on Monday,
and feel bad about it?
Because organizations have a vision, and a purpose for themselves,
they don't have a vision, and purpose for that employee.
Employee first was and experiment to invert the organization pyramid,
by inspiring people to do what they wanted to do,
better than what we wanted them to do.
The question we ask ourselves:
If we could inspired these people to pursue a vision which is their vision,
and that vision is aligned with our vision, magic will happen.
And it did.
The third step was: How do we move from here to there?
We have created dissatisfaction with today, a vision for tomorrow.
How do we move?
And the answer was,
high performance teams attempt to do what others consider impossible.
So unless in your life and your teams you are attempting to do the impossible,
how can you ever think of high performance?
So 1 idea which worked at HCL
was the fact that we opened a 360-degree survey
of all our managers, including the CEO.
So all our employees did confidential surveys,
360-degree survey, anonymously of everybody including their CEOs
from 32 countries, and the results were published on the web for all to see.
With one stroke, we had democratized the organization,
we had inverted the pyramid,
and now the employees were owning the change they wanted to see.
So many asked me this question in terms of:
"Vineet, did this succeed?"
Honestly, I don't know.
But I do know for a fact
that 25,000 brilliant individuals
jumped that summer of 2005,
and when they landed, they were 100,000.
They grew the company six fold, in the peak of recession, in 7 years.
They were number 1 in customer satisfaction,
employee satisfaction, and did everything which others considered impossible.
The second question I'm asked is:
"Vineet, would this initiative outlast a leader?"
Remember my grandmother had defined a second vision,
that you would do good.
Me and my wife started a foundation,
and today we are reaching out to 2.8 million poor children,
in rural schools across India,
by innovating on how education is delivered to them.
And for these last 2 years,
HCL has outperformed whatever they did in my tenure.
So this story is not about me.
This story is not about those brilliant 25,000 or 100,000 employees,
but this story is about our grandmother's wish,
our grandmother's sense of leadership.
So can we hold this employee in our hands?
Can we define a vision for her?
Can everybody believe, and trust us in that vision,
and go work for that vision?
Can that employee trust us, and make that vision her ambition,
her pursuit, and then her reality?
Employee first is that leap of faith every single employee deserves
from every single manager in the world.
Please stand up, all of you, please stand up.
Please join me in making this commitment,
that we are going to make employee first a reality
for millions of people who walk through our organizations,
not just to get paid,
but to be inspired by the vision
you have for them.
Vineet Nayar, former CEO of HCL Technologies, shares his revolutionary approach to management and employee engagement. He believes that a leader’s main role is to inspire employees with a vision, rather than just paying them to perform tasks. He also explains how his philosophy of “management by trust” helped HCL Technologies triple its revenue and become the best employer in Asia.
Vineet shares a few simple ideas that can help improve employee engagement scores and ensure happiness, passion, and growth. Vineet Nayar’s ideas have had a significant impact on the way managers approach employee engagement and management practices. One of his ideas is to create a culture of transparency where employees have access to all relevant information. He believes it helps employees understand the bigger picture and feel more connected to the organization. Another idea is to provide employees with a safe space to voice their opinions and ideas, allowing them to feel valued and heard. His ideas have been widely adopted in organizations across the globe and have helped to create more positive and productive workplace cultures.
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