Abhijit, who is chief learning officer, Wipro group, talks the same language, says his wife is his inspiration, critic and support. In different occasions Ive met the couple, I found Dalinian indications in their fresh, friendly relationship. As though still dating, Nandini would excitedly make boyfriend Abhijit taste something she liked over dinner. The impulsiveness in their bond would surely bring out the writers inner essence.
Such spontaneity over the new is what Abhijit describes as personality in his new book. In fact the crux of his human resources brushstroke for talent hunting is personality, understanding what the candidate will do in future: A lot of hiring is done by the resume. Thats quite useless because its about something already done. For Abhijit, a candidates personality comes from his urge to mix with unconventional pieces of life, not be stereotyped in any aspect, not even the food he eats or friends he mixes with. My takeaway from Abhijit is that regular life is anti-formula for developing a personality, only a discomfort zone has ingredients to be absorbed for success in the corporate world. Once you have multiple changing experiences, your eco system allows you to be flexible and adjust, which is not the same as having an accommodating attitude.
I remember a long time ago, after a new product development presentation for Danone that was to start from Belguim as the pilot market, I became good friends with Marc Verhamme, Danones managing director there. Our discussions spilled over to a Brussels restaurant where Marc asked how I get my creative team thinking so differently. I explained we have people of different nationalities and a wide variety of professional fields working together. Then Marc enthusiastically shared his own unique method of recruiting top management, he takes them through a driving session. His point was that when a person is on the steering wheel, you can gauge many important factors. You can measure his patience, confidence, what kind of risk he can manage, his judgment, behavior under stress and his speed. Marc talks on diverse subjects that require some thought to reply intelligently, so he finds out if the candidate can tackle multi-tasking while driving. He said hes applied this driving metaphor for recruiting senior management several times, and its always been effective.
For interviewing senior talent in an organisation, Abhijit has a personality pyramid. The three enveloping elements are adjustability, interpersonal sensitivity and sociability. I suddenly realised that these are the exact three qualities an Indian bride in an arranged marriage needs to have. Take adjustability. Its top priority when coming to live in a joint family, aside from apprehensions and thrills of adjusting to a husband you dont know. In business, adjustability is the psychological reference of managing uncertainty. For a new senior recruit it involves aligning with both top management and reportees, yet perform with cool judgment. Sociability is what a new bride cant do without, whether placating a little nephew-in-laws tantrums or being gracious even when the grandmother-in-laws nosey-parker friends give her the once over. In an office environment, the new boss has to enjoy working with different people, sycophants and rebels alike, aside from managing the complex external environment. Interpersonal sensitivity means being perceptive to how other people receive you. The new bride worries about how shes measuring up to everyones expectations in her new home. The senior level new hire frets over how he/she is perceived in the organisations wide spectrum, works out how to extract employee allegiance and quickly take charge.
My curiosity about how he came to conclude on personality made Abhijit candidly reveal his own experiences. His father ran projects in the railways, so they traveled across India. I grew up constantly reinventing the world around me, not living in the past, he says. Frequent relocations made him adjust to different places, people, food, yet discouraged his making friends, As well move again tomorrow, and then its harder to keep in touch. He became a bookworm instead, reading voraciously in English, Hindi and Bengali. His father ignited his writing habit by insisting he record important experiences. If I wrote we saw Qutab Minar and returned home my father would get very upset. Stories are about discovering the uniqueness among the mundane and the everyday glimpse in the unique. His writing focus later resulted in two sequelised novels, Mediocre but Arrogant, and Married but Available, both adorning the MBA tag on dreams, careers, relationships of B-school students in the backdrop of Indias economic liberalisation.
What about personality development time for entry level people, I asked Abhijit. He said most people choose careers at age 15 by selecting science or arts stream. After class 12th, will it be engineering, medicine, or any other So at work the first two years goes in figuring out what you like. Only after four-five years of job experience does a person know what he/she is best suited for. Unless you are good at work you dont really enjoy it, says Abhijit. In effect a fresher needs four-five years of absorption period to establish his business personality. This gels very well with my column two weeks ago (http://www.financialexpress.com/news/foie-graslike-training/1026388/0) that absorption time is the most critical to crack the entire learning curve. Personality can be trained, just like a bride picks up adjustability, interpersonal sensitivity and sociability. If youre a Chinese food eater, begin by ordering a Chinese dish youve not had before. The next time, just try the Mexican or Lebanese restaurant. The idea is to go from the familiar to the unfamiliar.
Shombit Sengupta is an international Creative Business Strategy consultant to top management. Reach him at www.shiningconsulting.com