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Home » Blog » Lessons to Surf Through Change Without Bruises

The xMonks Drive podcast welcomes D Shivakumar. He is a management mastermind. An inspirational leader. Shiv Shivakumar shares his wisdom and experiences from his long and illustrious career as one of India Inc’s longest-serving CEOs.

Here is an shortened version of podcast transcript. Listen to him at the podcast.

Keeping Your Head Clear in Rough Times

The moment we hit a rough patch and things were not going well. Suddenly we see toxicity coming into the system. And from my point of view, which is, when things go badly in an organization, then every man plays for himself. There is no teamwork anymore. And it’s worse when leadership starts doing that, as leadership starts fanning that it’s even worse.

The next day, but you need to, you know, stay relevant. And also how great companies stay great is by relevant leadership and rewarding things all the time. And I would say, as a big lesson, when things don’t go well watch for toxicity in your company, managers get toxic. Teams get toxic. Leaders get toxic. Everybody starts blaming everybody else without actually asking the question. Is this the right strategy? Yeah. Are we doing the right thing?

Dark Faces While Making A Career Change

Leaving a company is never easy, because you’ve invested so much emotionally in that organization. Because we have mustered physically, emotionally, everything etc. I remember there was a time when one of the companies I worked in was very reluctant to change. You know, the price value of the offerings that we had. And I was pushing the system to change it, because I was saying that there’s a new paradigm in town, there are new price points, etc. and the company was unwilling to change. And it was unwilling to change because most of the people felt comfortable with what was there in the past. But they were not able to see the future. And when we are pushing them to the future, the system resisted it more and more. And that’s a very bad system.

And today, when I look back. I actually pushed the system to do it. I don’t look back to take in any kind of unhappiness. I look back in a sense of pride saying, “Here’s a bunch of people who are totally wrong. Okay, my team and myself did what was right.”

And that is what is helping them continue to survive and do well, even today. You know, that’s the bread you must take always not to say that, you know, they didn’t listen, they were bad, etc. Whatever set of reasons in an organization, there’s always an inertia and not to change. And that’s where good leaders are always sensing the future, and saying we need to change before somebody else forces you to change.

Believe in Transformational Leadership

Leadership is about transformation. Or they are transforming your business or in a way you’re transforming people’s mindset and attitude, especially people who work with you. You’re moving them from mindset, to mindset be, you’re giving them the view of the future. So a lot of leadership work is about transforming something. Okay? Other people are the business. And I think you can only do that as the leader. If you are self aware and self reflective. I think very few leaders sit back and look at their calendar, look at their activity, look at what they’re doing and say, is this really worth it? Is this really transformative? I think a lot of leaders are sucked up in the day to day work. And hence, they’re playing what I call the day before yesterday’s game, for yesterday’s results. And I think that’s the real challenge of leadership. You have to play tomorrow’s game for the day after tomorrow’s reserves.

I think good leaders are able to look at what’s going right and what’s going wrong in themselves in their results in their management of the team, every single thing. And only if you’re self aware of what your strengths are, what your challenges are, and how you tend to behave in some situations. And only if you reflect on them, will you actually take it forward. And if you want to build an organization, you want to build people, you want to make people succeed, etc. You need an abundant quality of that, because that’s the only way you will help people change to a better world.

Why Does Someone Over Promises?

So is that a pattern I’ll tell you when this happens. Either this person has an overestimation of his or her capability. And that’s why he’s over promising and under delivering. The other reason people do is they over promise to get away from that meeting or the challenge of the question. Then they go back and they come with a long list of resources they need in order to deliver it completely out of whack. No company can serve them. And they give that as an excuse.

The third thing people do is they over promise through the month or the week or the month or the year they start pointing out to you that competition is doing something more. Something has changed. Indian economy has gone into a tailspin, the global economy has gone into a tailspin.

Credit is a problem. They give you all the excuses. So the thing I always look for is what is in the control of that person? Is he doing that right? If he is maximizing what is in his or her control, then I’m fine. Externally events will always happen, okay, and things will get done. But as long as you control the things you do well, and you maximize that I’m okay with that.

Believe In Your Idea

If your idea is good, or your concept is good, your business concept or idea and some and the pond expands, the business expands and many more people come in damn good. If your worry is somebody else might snatch it up. Then it basically is a very important point you raise. Somebody is executing it better and targeting it better than you are doing. So, go back and ask yourself “I have a great idea. Somebody is copying me means my idea is good. How do I refresh the idea to go to the next level to the next step?”

I think we know people can take anything away from us and people do. Because we live in a world which is ultra competitive, people pull down each other, people spread canards about other leaders, that’s natural. Those are the failings of human beings. You have to learn and live with that.

Never lose your spirit. And as long as you don’t lose your spirit to stay relevant and doing the right thing, you will always be fine. Don’t measure your life by titles and money and this and that. Measure your life by the Spirit you have day in and day out. Are you waking up every morning with the same energy to contribute to society and the institution?

About The Speaker: D Shivakumar

D. Shivakumar, or Shiv as he is popularly known, is a Bangalore born leader and a management thinker.

He is currently the Group Executive President, Corporate Strategy at Aditya Birla Group. Previously, Shiv was the Chairperson & Chief Executive Officer at PepsiCo Holdings Private Limited, India. Prior to that he was CEO for emerging markets at Nokia.

Shiv started his career as a management trainee in the Consumer Products Division at Hindustan Ciba Geigy before shifting to Hindustan Unilever Limited where he spent 19 years in sales, marketing and general management positions. He moved to Philips, India as Chief Executive Officer of the consumer electronics division in 2003.​

Shiv joined Nokia in 2006 as the Managing Director, India. Under his management, Nokia built its entire services portfolio, including Nokia Life Tools. He was also instrumental in pushing low-cost mobile devices across rural India; making Nokia a dominant brand in India. He is credited for driving Nokia’s brand from No. 71 to No. 1 in the country. He was instrumental in making Nokia one of the top most trusted brands. Shiv moved as Sr. Vice President, Emerging Markets (India, Middle East, Africa) in 2011. This market accounts for 40% of Nokia’s global business and comprises around 90 countries. His contributions during this time have become case studies at Harvard University, ISB and other Ivy League Institutes.

In 2013, Shivakumar was appointed as the Chairperson & CEO of PepsiCo Holdings Private Limited, India where he managed brand portfolios across beverages, snacks and nutrition. He has been the driving force in bringing PepsiCo’s nutrition portfolio to the forefront with new launches under the Quaker and Tropicana brands. He is known for being the key driver for portfolio transformation and deepening consumer engagement with flagship brands. Apart from overseeing India operations, he also managed PepsiCo’s franchise business across Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

​As of January 2018, Shivakumar has joined Aditya Birla Group as the Group Executive President, Corporate Strategy. Aditya Birla Group is one of the largest Indian conglomerates with businesses spread across telecommunications, cement, chemicals, mining, textiles, financial services, retail and e-commerce, among others, in 36 countries. ”

What is toxic leadership?

In every company, people start pointing fingers during a rough patch and start playing for themselves. And when the leadership becomes the same – Toxic. It is called toxic leadership

What is transformational leadership?

Leadership is about transformation. Or they are transforming your business or in a way you’re transforming people’s mindset and attitude, especially people who work with you. A good leader moves them from mindset, to mindset be, you’re giving them the view of the future. So this is transformational leadership.

Why do people over promise?

The reason why people over promise is to get away from that meeting or the challenge of the question. Then they go back and they come with a long list of resources they need in order to deliver.

What are D Shivakumar’s thoughts on believing in your ideas?

D Shivakumar says that if the idea or the concept is good, your business  expands, many more people grow. So to move forward, believe in your ideas and trust yourself.

How to deal with career change?

Leaving a company is never easy, because of all the emotional investment. The reason being that people view the past as comfort and forget what the future beholds. This makes the whole career change process difficult.

Push the system towards change and view it as an opportunity.