Article: Let teams be creative and not act like programmed machines: Sunaina Mattoo


Let teams be creative and not act like programmed machines: Sunaina Mattoo

Bajaj Capital’s Chief People Officer, Sunaina Mattoo Khanna talks about the leadership lessons she has learned over the years and why she chose to continue with her very first organization for over two decades, in an exclusive interaction with People Matters.
Let teams be creative and not act like programmed machines: Sunaina Mattoo

Sunaina Mattoo is an HR thought leader and speaker with over 20 years of industry experience. She is presently Chief People Officer & Head - Transformation at Bajaj Capital, where she joined as an Executive Trainee and has over the last 20 years led a large scale workforce that scaled from 300 to 4,500 under her leadership. 

Her areas of expertise include managing all aspects of HR including Talent acquisition, Talent Retention, Performance Management, Training, Employee engagement and HR Operations as well. 

In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Sunaina Mattoo shares the leadership lessons she has learned over the years, discusses her insights on the hybrid model of tech and touch and touches upon her focus areas for Industrial Revolution 4.0.

What are the top three reasons you chose to continue with your very first organization all these years?

When I joined this company 20 years back, believe me, after joining, I thought that I may not be able to complete even 6 months here, there were a lot of challenges in terms of not having many processes and systems in place, so it was more like joining a startup as a Management Trainee. However, seeing an opportunity in every challenge was one of the reasons that I chose to continue here. There was immense learning as I had to work on every policy from scratch.  The immense support of promoters, at the time when the entire responsibility of managing HR was entrusted upon me within just one year of joining gave me wings to fly and prove my capabilities. 

Another reason for continuing here is that every employee in Bajaj Capital gets free space to perform, no micromanagement culture and a lot of support to excel in whatever one does. I never felt I was working for someone but always believed that I was working for myself as the environment was so much entrepreneurial.

What are some of the leadership lessons that guided you in your journey so far? Who is the one leader you look up to?

When one grows in experience, one learns from the mistakes. As a young, inexperienced and fresh from college graduate, I got to deal with the employees who were stalwarts in the company, and telling them what to do when it comes to human resources was a great challenge. But as we know, ‘it is not what you say but how you say’ which has an impact on the person, so, I learned that if you wish to seek respect and attention, try to give that first. 

Secondly, taking everyone along in the journey and making that journey fun-filled and rewarding is the mantra. I think every job these days is stressful and if one gets to enjoy it, performing and flourishing thereafter becomes seamless. Thus, creating an environment where one is enjoying, having fun and working hard goes a long way not only in creating but also retaining productive teams.

Lastly, having a personal connect with teams and having powerful listening skills really help in binding teams together and driving them towards one objective. Employees have a personal life too and at times, we really don’t know what they are going through in their personal life which does have an impact on their overall behaviour, productivity and interpersonal skills at work.

Being an empathetic leader, going that extra mile to support your team members during their personal crisis is crucial. 

One Leader that I look up to is our Founder Chairman- Mr. K.K Bajaj.  I see him as the only leader in the industry whose People Management skills are unparalleled.

What are the leadership lessons you learnt on the go as a People Leader?

Some of the leadership lessons that I learnt on the go are:

  • Leadership doesn’t come with designations or the profile you handle: As a People Leader, one must first learn to behave like one. I mean first be hands on with whatever your team is doing. You should have experience in everything. Employees respect leaders who get their hands dirty first.
  • Company First. No one is above the Company: Always do what is right for the company and not what is right for oneself. 
  • As a leader, one must be unbiased, transparent and never ever promote favouritism: Any leader displaying such behaviour is preparing a recipe for disaster. 
  • Be a leader who can encourage teams to commit mistakes but not repeat the mistake: What I mean is let teams be creative and risk taking and not act like programmed machines.

During our conversation you spoke about the hybrid model of tech and touch. Can you elaborate on the ideology and intent behind this model?

In the financial Industry, where we operate and deal in money matters, it is always better to adopt Tech + Touch model as there are still generations of investors who believe in handing over cheques to a face and not to a machine. And at the same time, there is a generation of investors like millennials, who believe in investing and spending online, so we can’t have one model fitting all. Investing is something that a person would continue to do throughout – no matter what age or stage. The intent is that all the generations get standardized services – be it tech or touch.

As a people leader, what support do you need to be able to architect and implement values, in a large organization like yours?

First, we need to be sure what value system we want to create in an organisation. Those values must be lived and displayed by everyone from top to bottom.

All the policies, procedures and rewards must revolve around the set of values that you want to implement in the company. All the stakeholders need to align themselves with this thought of putting values to life by living them every day, in everything they do.

How can leaders enable employees to adopt a risk-seeking mind set instead of risk-averse, in the digital age?    

Leaders must appreciate and encourage employees who display risk taking appetite and think out of the box. Intent and efforts of the person must also be rewarded other than the output. By fostering a culture where employees work freely and can experiment any new idea, we actually give birth to new businesses. 

What are your focus areas as you tread through Industrial Revolution 4.0?

Gearing up our people to adapt to digitization. At the same time, implementing technology that is easy enough to be adopted by the end users. Front-end technologies must be user-friendly so that people can use and adapt to it quickly. Using Facebook, Twitter or Instagram doesn’t need any special training, because of the ease with which people can use these platforms. We need a similar ease in access and use of technology in organizations.

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Topics: Leadership, #LeadTheWay

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