Q: What was the problem that you were grappling with?
A: In my previous organisation, I had taken on a global role for the Gillette-P&G integration, one of the biggest in the FMCG world at $56 billion. "People integration" became an important focus area for me, in addition to getting the acquisition economics right, getting processes integrated and having a road map of next 10 years, to name a few. This involved looking at what the new organisation design will look like, which roles can be scaled, which can be optimised, and the most difficult, who will stay and who will not. I realised I was spending lot of time talking to each individual and prioritising it versus other work, which was difficult.
Q. Who did you approach and why?
A: I shared this with my line manager Chip Bergh, the current CEO of Levi Strauss, and who was president of the newly acquired male-grooming line at that time. He also had extensive experience dealing with complex deals and was an accomplished coach.
Q: What was the advice?
A: His advice simply put was that to be more effective in people management, by definition one has to be inefficient. All the things that we have to spend our time on in knowing a person well, in checking on how they are doing, in having multiple and close connects, time spent in talking about "other stuff" than just talk shop may seem to be an inefficient use of time.
Q: How effective was it?
A: One of the definitions of a leader is one who can bring out discretionary energy from individuals. I learnt that till the time you are not genuinely connected with people as individuals, the magic does not happen. We have seen this at play whenever we have started teams and spent time in building a personal rapport as a team (not just team building activities, but genuinely knowing individuals at and outside of work).