The book Dream with your Eyes Open, by UTV founder and exemplary entrepreneur, Ronnie Screwvala, is a true eye opener for yearning entrepreneurs, for more than one reason. The book not only speaks of the failures and challenges that entrepreneurs face during their voyage, but spells out the mental make required by leaders for effective people management. The design for an excellent fabric of team management, employee engagement and mentoring that he weaves throughout the book can be summed up as the ‘Panch sutras’ of talent management.
Create ‘true-blue intrapreneurs’
An entrepreneur may be the brain behind the business but cannot be the whole and sole brawn behind the achievement of the dream. Employees who join this journey would take their own time to sync with the vision, mission and values charted out and a true leader should learn to be patient during this gestation period. The demand that each member should fire from day one is unwarranted. Furthermore, as Screwvala prescribes, entrepreneurs should ‘treat their employees as colleagues’ and empower them to follow their judgment and operational style. A strict authoritative style may mar the fundamental spirit of innovation and disruption that most start-ups cherish. This thought is very much in line with Hackman and Oldham’s ‘The job characteristics model’ which believes that meaningfulness of work in the form of task relevance and significance and a sense of autonomy are key to employee motivation, and thereby, engagement. Thus, all entrepreneurs should strive to create few strong intrapreneurs in the team who can join hands and help them achieve their dreams.
Communication is the currency
The next critical lesson to pick up from the book is the need to master the art of effective communication. This cannot be mistaken for impressive oratory, but calls for an unpretentious connect with employees. In fact, authenticity, genuineness and open-mindedness are the three pillars on which lies the tower of effective communication. The first two pillars create a heathy and positive work culture in the organisation while the third opens up vistas of opportunities for disruptive and innovative pursuits.
The true heartbeat of communication
The word ‘charm’ has countless connotations, which range from a negative manipulative to an extremely positive mesmerising interaction pattern. True charm, according to Screwvala, lies in the ability to listen to others with a deep sense of internal security, unconditional respect for employees and a spirit of inclusiveness devoid of a need to show supremacy and authority. Active listening and precise articulation are two sides of the same coin. Clarity of speech always succeeds clarity of thought. And listening is a tool, which provides great opportunity to build bridges with critical talent. Thus, an entrepreneur should develop the ability to connect with and touch the hearts of employees and thereby win them over.
Recalibrate after setbacks
Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster ride. The fun of the roller coaster is to have friends alongside in all highs and lows. A business roller coaster, therefore, needs the leader to ensure that the team sticks with each other to celebrate as well as to fire fight. During the course of action, if things go wrong, the entrepreneur should be the first one to share the bad news. When organisations struggle through challenging situations, the top management shuts themselves away from the employees, leaving them to tackle with the grapevine and Chinese whispers that are oftentimes infested with distorted data.
The only way for the leader, in such a situation, is to be proactive, lead from the front, share facts as much as feasible and present a survivor plan with enthusiasm and optimism. This sharing reduces the ambiguity of the situation and takes some load off the entrepreneur’s chest. It generates a sense of solidarity and security among the team that ignites the will to stand together in the face of adversities, do whatever it takes to turn the tide and emerge not just as survivors but as thrivers.
Make the team believe in your vision
A constant sharing of the vision and creating an enthusiasm around it is the best way to retain talent. While no employee is looking for a life-long association with the employer, each one wants work to be a very fulfilling and progressive experience. Today’s millennial employees are heavy risk takers when it comes to changing jobs or professions. In such an environment of high attrition and talent crunch, the entrepreneur’s skill lies in showcasing the big picture, creating a career progression path for team members and making their work experience enjoyable as well as enriching. The leader also needs to develop an eye for critical talent, identify long-haul players and make them feel a part of the larger picture. ‘That is the secret of team work, retention and staying on course; and mentoring and leading from the front, while creating a culture of ownership.’
Thus, all organisations whether multinationals or start-ups, thrive on the most critical capital—human capital. Connecting with employees, inspiring them, involving them and cherishing them are the best ways of engaging people. The ‘Panch sutras’ presented by Screwvala are the best approach to talent management. After all, the challenge in front of every entrepreneur and leader can be beautifully summed up in the words of Jim Goodnight, the CEO of SAS, “95 per cent of my assets drive out the gate every evening. It is my job to maintain a work environment that keeps those people coming back every morning”.
(The author is a consulting psychologist and Faculty of HR and Soft Skills at IBS Business School, Mumbai.)