Crisis times calls for leaders with multiple skills. One such critical skill is communications, which itself is a multi-faceted subject. While everyone recognizes the importance of more communications in this pandemic situation, Vighnesh Shahane, MD & CEO at IDBI Federal Life Insurance, has a slightly different take. He believes in informality as more important than just the quantum of communications. And this is just one facet of his leadership strategy.
In a free-wheeling interaction, Shahane discusses various aspects of leadership that can significantly make a difference in an organization as it passes through such critical times and lists things that he considers relevant and unavoidable in a leader’s journey in taking his organization to the safe shores.
Informality, he emphasizes, helps break down communication barriers; it also helps to breed knowledge and improve the speed of communication. “When the ecosystem is formal and bureaucratic, you can have whatever communication you want, but you won’t get the required information or trust,” he explains.
Shahane also believes that informality is a necessary condition to think and talk beyond work related issues and encourages it at IDBI Federal Life Insurance. It does not mean, he says, putting your legs up on the boardroom table and having a cup of coffee. It is breaking the barriers of politics and bureaucracy and ensuring speed in decision making.
“But I do not believe in taking informality to the level where all kinds of personal problems are discussed between office colleagues – informality should not go beyond a particular point. A lot of leaders recommend increasing communication skills and I cringe, as communication happens in various forms,” says he.
WATCHING BODY LANGUAGE
Watching body language is another facet of his leadership. He explains that in an office, it is easier to listen as you can also watch body language. “Leaders listen to what is not said or what should be said. Some people are very open and frank with me. But there are always some people who are not. So, I am a perceptive guy. When you walk into my room, I can tell whether you are in a good mood or bad mood. This is an instinct I am born with. More than that, I lay a lot of stress on body language. Sometimes body language speaks louder than what the person is saying. Secondly, I always create a network of people. Not all my colleagues are going to come up to me openly. Everybody has their own network in the office with whom they confide in. So, I have encouraged the senior leaders to form a network that keeps them informed about their team members who are feeling down or discouraged, and who need to be spoken to,” says Shahane outlining his strategy of how to be informal without a virtual show of it.
He adds that at IDBI Federal Life Insurance, there is no new people strategy post-COVID. “Our pre-COVID strategy, built upon informality, non-bureaucracy, non-political and open, honest communication is holding good for us. Anyway, a sudden change in strategy would not have been possible. This has to be done gradually as it takes a lot of effort,” says he.
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