As a part of our talent acquisition engagements, we ask our clients how they define “top talent” and how they would assess those traits in the interview process. Reflecting on the insightful comments we hear every day, we thought there would be great value in a new blog in which senior executives/thought leaders share their “Take on Talent.”
This is the eighteenth in a series of blogs/interviews with senior executives who are thought leaders in the areas of Talent Acquisition, Career Development and Leadership who will share their perspectives on this ever present question.
Ritesh Idnani, President, Tech Mahindra
Ritesh is a seasoned executive with more than two decades of experience in technology and technology-enabled business services. He has worked across IT and business services, BPO, SaaS/ BPaaS, outsourced product development and automation/ cognitive computing businesses. He has worked in startup, growth and turnaround environments and has grown businesses from scratch to multi-billion dollars businesses at industry leading margins. He is one of a few executives globally with exposure to both services (applications, infrastructure and process) and product businesses as well as all industry verticals. He has worked in large public companies as well as in VC/ PE backed private companies.
Ritesh joined Tech Mahindra in 2016 where he is responsible for driving the Business Process Services organization globally. Prior to TechM, he was an independent advisor to Boards/ CEOs and leadership teams of a number of public and private mid-size businesses across different areas of value creation (strategy, growth, go to market, sales enablement, marketing and branding, capital raise and operational improvements). He also advised a number of PE funds on pre-investment due diligence in technology and technology-enabled services assets and post-investment value creation. He was also a senior industry advisor to a top strategy consulting firm (for their IT, BPO, SaaS/ BPaaS and outsourced product development clients) in the areas of strategy and sales enablement. In addition to this, he was also an independent board member to the largest ground cargo handling and passenger handling company in the Americas, Consolidated Aviation Services (the company was sold to another PE sponsor at 3x returns). Prior to that, Ritesh worked with a few VC-backed SaaS and business services companies as CEO in the healthcare and residential mortgage business services sectors. Ritesh spent 12+ years prior to this at Infosys (NYSE:INFY, $10 billion+ revenues, $36 billion market capitalization) where he was one of the members of the executive leadership team which helped scaled the business from a $100 million revenue business in 1999 to a $8 billion revenue business in 2011. During this time, he helped build the Financial Services business and the BPO business (both multi-billion dollar business units today). Ritesh spent the formative years of his career at PwC and Citigroup in various leadership positions. He lives in Basking Ridge, NJ with his wife and identical twin boys.
Please share with us the top five characteristics (in priority order, first to fifth) of the most talented people you have encountered during your career, and your definition of each. The following are examples, please add or modify as you see fit.
To me, there is nothing more important than being driven to excel. Passion comes with purpose and I believe the most talented people are self-directed to drive outcomes. They don’t need to be told what to do, they navigate through environments and make stuff happen. They spend time getting to know the nuts and bolts of the business while at the same time keeping a keen eye on the external environment around them. They are constantly looking for ways to not just do different things for the betterment of the business but to do things differently.
Comfort with ambiguity
The most talented leaders are comfortable with the unknown. They know how to simplify complexity and bring structure out of chaos. They are able to do that because they keep a keen eye on the external market environment and that allows them to have an outside-in view and determine the most appropriate response.
Superior analytical skills
In today’s day and age, information asymmetry is non-existent. You have to assume that the customer, competitor and every stakeholder knows as much or more about your operations. People who know how to leverage data to craft strategies for success can truly turn it into a competitive differentiator whether it be for employees, competing in the marketplace or adding value to customers.
The importance of being able to take multiple points of view and being able to place oneself in the shoes of the other person cannot be emphasized more. Emotional maturity brings with it the ability to reject good alternatives in search of better alternatives. It allows you to be open minded and help address not just the question “Am I right” but “How do I know I am right”
With the changing world around us, the need to unlearn and relearn has never been more important. People who are basking in the glory of the past will do just that – remain in the past. The world around us is changing rapidly and the one thing people have is the opportunity to learn new things, new skills and reinvent themselves in the process. I have seen that the more people are open-minded and willing to learn, they exhibit a growth mindset and have many more frames of reference which helps in decision making. Today’s business portfolio in any company is not linear in nature, rather non-linear and being able to recognize different patterns so that one does not have a fixed mindset comes from curiosity and an innate desire to learn always.
How do you communicate these characteristics to your HR and senior management team?
The best way to communicate is by demonstration. Some of the key folks who have either been hired or moved in the roles emulate these characteristics so that they come to life. Hiring the right attitude fit with the company and its people makes all the difference to the work environment because the penalties and long term damage for hiring a misfit or putting the wrong person in the wrong role are huge to the business growth (given long hiring and replacement cycles). If the person is not a natural fit with company’s culture and its speed, hunger, energy levels and passion, I don’t try to look beyond as it just won’t work out. That’s why I tell my teams that the “WHO” is more important than the “WHAT”. Hiring right makes all the difference because the penalties for hiring wrong or putting the wrong person in the wrong role are huge. When I evaluate folks, I typically put them in 2 categories – they are either “more of the same” or “do different”. And there is nothing wrong with either set. Organizations typically need both profiles to be successful. The problem arises when you put someone who prefers the status quo and is risk averse into a role that demands significant innovation and entrepreneurship. So my message to HR and the entire leadership team is take time on key roles and match the person to the design of the role. Think through which values, abilities and skills you are looking for (in that order).
How do you handle challenges to the existing culture by talent you have brought in?
In an environment which is fast paced and dynamic, we find our Culture and Values as the biggest support foundation. We have a culture code that we have written on the things that matter to us. This reflects our broader “Ways of working”. It goes one step further to articulate the behaviors that are acceptable and those that are not. This allows any new talent to come in and assimilate into the organization. At the same time, we are governed by the Mahindra Group’s RISE values – accepting no limits, alternative thinking and driving positive change. The people who integrate well are those that understand that we are a $5 billion revenue company with the mindset of a start up in the way we operate.
How do you handle challenges to the existing culture by talent you have brought in?
In an environment which is fast paced and dynamic we find our Culture and Values as the biggest support foundation. We have a culture code that we have written on the things that matter to us. This reflects our broader “Ways of working”. It goes one step further to articulate the behaviors that are acceptable and those that are not. This allows any new talent to come in and assimilate into the organization. At the same time, we are governed by the Mahindra Group’s RISE values – accepting no limits, alternative thinking and driving positive change. The people who integrate well are those that understand that we are a $5 billion revenue company with the mindset of a start up in the way we operate.