“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”
– C.S. Lewis
Raghav Bahl, Founder & Chairman, Quint and Founder & Former MD, Network 18, in the 1990s had went on to set up Network 18, which is counted among India’s top media houses. After going through a long phase of success and growth, Bahl's media group had a large debt, was running in loss. Soon after Reliance took over the media empire and Bahl left the Network18 group on 29the May 2014.
Now after more than 5 years, as Bahl stood on the stage of People Matters L&D Conference 2019 to give his keynote speech, he recalled this failure and said, “Good times and growth don’t last forever.”
He shared some key takeaways from his 25 years of professional journey and gave many HR leaders and business leaders present at the conference some tips on preparing themselves and their workforce for failure and adversity.
Too much of optimism is bad for business
When the business is experiencing success and the growth curve is on the rise, leaders often tend to get a little too optimistic and make irrational decisions that impacts cost and subsequently business in the longer run. Therefore, Bahl from his own personal experience suggested that at this high point of life as a professional or business, be cautious. Remember to pause and reflect. Ensure that you make rational decisions and don’t get carried away with the current success.
Confronting failure is critical
“It is easy to be in a feel good moment. But when the chips are down and when you have to confront failure, when you have to live through adversity that is when you are truly tested as human beings,” exclaimed Bahl.
To ensure a sustainable growth the important asks for every leader and business are: How do we handle adversity? Do we crack up? Do we maintain a balance? Do we maintain our objectivity?
Given the current rapid pace of change and the uncertain economic outlook the business are operating in, adverse experiences are inevitable. No matter how proactive organizations and business leaders become they can’t always avoid adversity. They must hence prepare themselves and the entire workforce for such hard times. Talent leaders should hence create learning and development strategies and programs to develop or harness the adversity quotient among the workforce.
Be brutally honest
Leaders often shy away from having tough conversations, whether it’s with themselves or whether its with their peers and employees. Bahl shared that as Indians also, culturally we have this attitude of ignoring a bad phase or an incident, and we tend to push it under the carpet, thinking it will all be fine. Instead such instances should be treated as indicators and should be addressed. He advised leaders to be brutally honest with themselves about the bad decisions they have taken and the mistakes they have done. Accepting one's own failure leads one to a better direction for themselves.
HR leaders and business leaders should hence work together in thus building a culture where failure is welcomed and not looked down upon or ignored. Enable the talent to make mistakes, accept their mistakes and learn from them.
Promote a culture of trust and accountability
“As leaders it is important to have faith in your talent and empower them, but never neglect the powers of verification and control,” said Bahl. For the holistic growth of business, it is absolutely critical to empower talent, give them opportunities to lead and thrive. It is important to instill trust in their decisions and believe that they shall excel in the work given to them. But trust should not be given way without the element of accountability.
The core lesson is that failures are the most important teachers, learn to accept them, confront them, understand them and deconstruct them and learn from them rather than looking down upon them.