Priti Mehra, managing director, Singapore and Myanmar at Millward Brown shares how HR plays a central role in the business by forming a bridge between management and people.When did you start out at Millward Brown?
I started with the Kantar Group in 1997 at IMRB in India and have been with Millward Brown for the past 10 years now. It has been an interesting and rewarding journey across three continents and different roles. I have always been very discipline agnostic –
I believe that consumers’ truths and brand stories need to come together and there are many ways in which we can get to that sweet spot; we do not need to define it by disciplines.
How was the experience working with the company across countries?
I worked with Millward Brown in Johannesburg for four years before moving to Singapore in 2010. South Africa was an amazing experience. The people there lived life to the fullest and have a genuine desire to push the limits. It is a great and challenging environment to work in.
Furthermore, South Africa is a very fertile ground for learning as there are many industry experts and the advertising industry has earned international respect for producing some of the most creative advertisements (in the world).
I also found South Africa to be a lot about relationships. The people I had worked with – my teams and my clients – are now my good friends and we still stay in touch and discuss the occasional business challenge as well.
And what do you enjoy most about working here in Singapore?
Singapore has been my home for the past six years and like many others, I have spent a lot of time at airports, but it has been an amazing window to other cultures and understanding consumers from a more macro multi-country regional lens.
Managing a business, which at last count had 16 nationalities, has been a great learning experience in coming together to meet common goals, despite different backgrounds and cultures.
How would you define your leadership style?
Inclusive and giving space for others to grow. I have always believed in unlocking the potential of people and guiding them along on their career growth.
I believe in confronting the difficult challenges a business faces and then setting a clear agenda on how we are going to overcome them. It’s also very important for me that I have the trust of my team as without a strong team by your side, no leader can succeed.
Having worked across three continents, did you tweak your leadership style slightly?
I think the communication style is the one which we need to adapt. Having said that, it’s important to respect cultural nuances wherever you go and that definitely reflects in the leadership styles as well.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Helping clients grow their brands. It is our mission statement, but that is what I have enjoyed over the years – the feeling of success and accomplishment when clients turned around and told us that we had helped them achieve what they had set out to do with their brands.
The challenges are diverse across the different industries and sectors we work with, but the sense of achievement remains the same. It’s this client partnership over the years that I really value.
How do you engage and motivate staff when they are struggling with work?
The first thing to do is to acknowledge there is a problem and spend time actively listening to staff. Too often we jump right into trying to solve problems without first understanding what the real problem is.
We have regular catch-ups with staff at all levels so it’s not a broad brushstroke one-size-fits-all approach. It’s also important for people to feel involved in decision-making and we try to ensure clear ownership of different initiatives.
What is your view of the HR function?
Human resources is a critical business function for a people-focused business like ours.
We need to identify the right kind of talent, provide relevant training, help map out career paths and reward and recognise our talent. None of this is possible without HR playing a central role in the business.
How can HR add more to business goals?
By being better business partners and keeping the management close to people-specific goals. Especially in tough trading conditions, organisations such as ours are highly dependent on our people. HR has a vital role in forming that bridge between management and people. Organisation goals and the HR function are inextricably linked in my mind.
What has been your most memorable moment with the organisation?
There have been so many. Over the years, my teams, my clients and my bosses have contributed a lot to my life personally and professionally. It would be difficult to cherry pick any one moment.