20 Dec 2017 18:51 IST

'Leaders need a supporting ecosystem in workplace to thrive'

They need time to settle down in new organisations, says D Shivakumar, Chairman & CEO, PepsiCo India

To bring out a leader’s full potential in a new organisation, there is a need for a supporting ecosystem, said D Shivakumar, Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo India. This will connect him/ her with the workplace to help them thrive.

He was delivering the Raghu Pillai Memorial Lecture on 'Leadership in Transition' at the National Conclave on Coaching and Leadership organised by the Madras Management Association and Coaching Federation of India in Chennai today. Shivakumar said while leaders are expected to perform from the word go, there is not enough time for them to settle down without interferences. “It takes four to six months on an average to settle down,” he said. The leader should be given that time to understand the organisation culture and internal dynamics to give his best.

It is also necessary for leaders to understand the strength of their individual members and appreciate diversity in the team. They should be careful when bringing in their own team from the firms they worked in earlier to the new organisation. “This is a very American culture,” Shivakumar said, adding that one should take time to learn about the employees.

Another challenge is a lack of potential leaders in organisations. Says Shivakumar: “Earlier, each organisation had many general management roles that helped in grooming future leaders. But that is not the case now.” An organisation must prepare leaders by exposing them to cross-functional roles early in their careers, and give them opportunity to lead different project groups and shadow stints in other functional groups.

He stressed that companies should invest in coaching that will help groom leaders, develop their soft skills and be equipped for the new role.

Agreeing with Shivakumar during a brief panel discussion, B Thiagarajan, Joint Managing Director, Blue Star Ltd, said coaching plays an important part as one transitions to higher role in the same organisation. There are many challenges one should learn to handle, like dealing with individual directors and creating a level playing field, when you are still a newbie.

PV Jaishankar, Medical Director, Sundaram Medical Foundation, said unlike coaching managers, training specialists like doctors is a challenge, but it is necessary. “We are in a time where perception about doctors and hospitals is at its lowest. That is why they need coaching.” Doctors need to be trained to handle different sets of people like administrators, nurses and technologists and not just focus on their specialisations.