Leadership lessons from BS Nagesh

▶ Yet another example of how art is being used to add cheer to the city

Retail stalwart BS Nagesh shares some of his simple yet effective management principles – you won’t find these in management books

  1. Starting TRRAIN was the first time when I was trying to do something where there was nothing in our zone of control. For Retail Employee’s Day we, along with RAI, encourage retailers to celebrate 12 December with their employees, which means TRRAIN has no direct access. That’s the tough part, you are encouraging NGOs to set up skilling and train the disabled and get them jobs – so our whole mission is only about being a catalyst and influencing others. Everything is in the zone of influence and nothing in the zone of control, including the funding. But if your product, or in this case, your proposition (like Retail Employees Day – “thank you bola kya?”) touches the hearts of people, it is good. If it is accepted, the marketing will happen on its own and it will work – even when things are not in your control.
  2. Even at the peak of my career, I never received more than 5 – 10 mails a day. Because I had a very simple philosophy: I had asked my team not to mark me in copies. If they wanted to keep me informed, they could send me a mail. I will read it, but not reply, because it’s supposed to be information, why do I need to reply? If someone wanted anything specific from me, they had to write – seeking approval, seeking guidance, seeking support – then I would answer. About 90 per cent of the mails were to keep me informed because people want to cover their backs. How many subordinates want to write to their boss saying I don’t know how to do my job, will you help me? Literally all the mails stopped. What was left was only 5 – 10 mails a day. It was my way of doing things. It helped me.
  3. People often ask me how I manage to work so much. I don’t do anything special. I just enjoy myself participating in what is happening. I don’t do a job, I am part of it. Most people want to do a job, that’s the problem. To me, you have to be passionate about it – when you’re doing something you have to give it your 100 per cent. That way you are getting 500 times productivity from a person based on his/her capabilities. Our biggest issue is that we underutilize every asset we have, including the people asset. People can do a lot more if they’re given the opportunity to do it. We don’t give. When Accenture joined us for a project, the first thing recommended was to get more people. I told them we would never have more than 14 — there are only 14 chairs in our office. We started with 7, we are 7 now. What Ameesha and team achieved in the first year to what they have achieved now is almost 10 times – 20 times more. More important than the number of people is the methods your existing people use, and how they use them.
  4. I don’t remember having lost my cool, ever. Because if you’re going to respond to anger and get the job done, then you’re not right for the job. Because for me to get work done from you, I have to be angry all the time. So anger cannot be the prod to make one work. Also, raising one’s temper has zero impact. Tell me when anybody can get things done by using anger? And if you get them done that way, then the other person is doing it out of fear. How can he do a good job? Anger is just your frustration for not being able to get something done which you show, it is never a tool to do anything else. On the other hand, if I am disappointed (rather than angry) then I have to sit across with the other person and figure what can be done.
  5. I like things which are made simple. I like to convert complicated problems into simple solutions. I also like to bring focus and it applies when delegating as well. Bring the focus, agree upon it, and then it’s left to the other person. If both of us agree on what is to be done and if that person is competent, he will deliver. If he doesn’t, either he is not competent or I am not competent to make him deliver. It can only be either of these. So either you have to change or I have to change or both of us have to change.

As told to Shiv Joshi

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Retailers Association of India (RAI) is the unified voice of Indian retailers. RAI is a not for profit organization (registered under section 25 of Companies Act, 1956), works with all the stakeholders for creating the right environment for the growth of the modern retail industry in India. RAI is the body that encourages, develops, facilitates and supports retailers to become modern and adopt best practices that will delight customers. RAI has a three charter aim of Retail Development, Facilitation and Propagation.