Getting employees to view themselves as CEOs of their own jobs is integral if HR wishes to boost productivity in their organisations. Rohit Dadwal, managing director Mobile Marketing Association APAC, talks to Akankasha Dewan about the benefits of treating employees as leaders.
How did you get to where you are today with the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA)
I have worked for about 18 years in digital and marketing space, and I’ve always tried to make sure I get involved with everything that is new and innovative. Joining the MMA was a personal choice for me as well; I was very keen to give back to the advertising industry by helping build a broader framework, within which companies could operate and leverage all the new opportunities that the mobile medium presented them with.
When I joined the MMA five years ago, we had seven members in APAC, all of which were global companies. None of them even had local APAC representation. We now have over 200 members in APAC, or nearly 30% of MMA’s global membership coming from this region. We also have local operations in China, Vietnam, India, and Indonesia. So yes, we’ve come a long way.
What’s your leadership style like?
I think I have a hands-off leadership style. I believe in building a great team that can fully take charge of their individual responsibilities, and also in giving them the authority to make decisions that they feel are right for the business. In a nutshell, I work towards leading a pack of leaders.
Of course, it starts with finding the right people, but once you have you need to trust the person to grow themselves, the organisation, and you. I think that this ties into another aspect of my personal work and leadership style, which is independence. I prefer to work in an independent role where I’m in a position to try new things, both in terms of management and day-to-day jobs. I like to create a similar environment for my team. Ultimately, I want them to be the CEOs of their own jobs.
People help position you as a leader, which is to say that if you have a great team, you are a good leader. If you don’t have a great team, if you are not trusting your people enough or putting enough energy behind their development, then you can’t be seen as a great leader either. To be a leader it’s more important to invest time in your team, than to be out there actually doing things and ‘leading’, per se.
Ultimately, I want [my team] to be the CEOs of their own jobs.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love the job that I do, because I consciously chose to do it. I enjoy the challenge that the every changing media landscape presents to the industry and the fact that I am always on a learning curve. In fact, the industry is growing so fast, that I’m unable to keep pace, even though I try. When I wake up in the mornings, I’m always looking forward to new opportunities, challenges and ideas on how to manage them.
The people are another reason that I look forward to work every morning. I think that your colleagues are the most important element of a good job. Even if you like the work and the environment, if you don’t have a good set of people to talk, mingle and share things with, I don’t think you can be happy. I’m blessed with a great team and I can honestly say that I enjoy being around them.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make as a boss?
As it is usually my last resort, the toughest decisions are always when I have to let someone go.
While it has been rare that I’ve had to ask someone to leave, it has always been with a heavy heart. I truly believe that there is always something that can be done if a person is unable to perform in a certain role, and that it is up to the organisation to figure out how their strengths can be leveraged for something else.
What have your learnt through those difficult experiences?
My biggest learning has been to recognise the need for change at the appropriate time. There is always an opportunity to take corrective action and if taken early, it can sometimes alter the end result. This is now something I practice very consciously as I move forward.
The other thing I’ve learned is to recognise that these staff members are still your spokespeople. I do everything in my power to ensure that they still view the organisation in a positive light, and realise that their contributions are valued. I also take a lot of pride in supporting them to achieve their future goals.
That HR leaders only deal with the superficial parts of the business, or lack business sense and an understanding of the numbers, is a completely misguided notion that the business world needs to rid itself of.
When you’re struggling with stress or a bad day, how do you unwind and re-energise yourself?
To unwind you need to have both time with yourself, as well as time with your family. I look forward to my weekends at home and the time that I get to spend with my family, whether it’s spending time with my wife, watching a movie, having a bite to eat, or at a birthday party. My favorite way to de-stress is to play with my two young daughters. I enjoy the routine of putting them to bed. Of course, it’s only when they’re asleep that there is any hope of getting time to myself!
Going for a walk or playing golf gives me the time to collect my thoughts. Time spent on the golf course especially helps me relax. Because golf is a tough game to play, and demands all your attention, you’re forced to put aside everything else that is bothering you. I believe that you’ll never be able to play a good round of golf if your mind is still in the office.
How do you engage and motivate staff when they are struggling?
There are various levels of motivation. First and foremost is recognition – you need to recognise your staff’s achievements, abilities, and their limitations, and you must help them overcome these. This is, of course, complemented by financial compensation, rewards, and other extrinsic motivation.
I also believe that motivation doesn’t necessarily come from the work itself but from the drive to demonstrate the leadership qualities that are required to succeed in a particular role. Employees don’t want to be just employees, they want to be leaders. So the most important thing to remember is that if everyone on your team is expected to be the CEO of their own jobs, then they need to be managed with that perspective and treated with the same respect.
Do you think many HR leaders could make it to a CEO level?
Yes, definitely! The talent crunch is becoming more acute and in people-dependent organisations, HR leaders are perfectly placed to take on the top job.
From interns to CEOs, HR works with people across the entire breadth of the organisation. HR leaders can leverage their in-depth knowledge of business and performance challenges to drive positive change within the organisation.
That HR leaders only deal with the superficial parts of the business, or lack business sense and an understanding of the numbers, is a completely misguided notion that the business world needs to rid itself of. Besides, people can easily learn and grow to understand the areas with which they may not be as familiar.
Your colleagues are the most important element of a good job. Even if you like the work and the environment, if you don’t have a good set of people to talk, mingle and share things with, I don’t think you can be happy.
How can the HR function become more strategic, in your opinion?
HR’s role is not limited to hiring and firing. It is a key function, vital for long-term business success, as it fuels the growth of an organisation by finding the right people. To be more strategic, I think HR needs to be collaborative and work more closely with the C-suite to build the right talent acquisition and retention policies.
There is also some level of education still required among the C-suite regarding the business impact of HR policies, so HR leaders should never shy away from the opportunity to demonstrate the value added to the business and to take credit for their successes.
What’s the best thing about HR in your organisation?
We have a very lean team at the MMA, and we don’t have an HR function or policy, per se. I think the best thing that we have together been able to achieve has been to establish a culture where each individual is a leader in the business, has the authority to take action, and feels valued as part of the team.