Values in Organisations – An Interview
An exclusive interview with Mr. Uttam Routh, Vice President, HR of SHV Energy (Supergas), an MNC with its presence in over 40 countries. Mr. Routh has been with the company for over 15 years now. The theme of the interview is: Values – How they Affect People Personally and Professionally.
How have you evolved in professional life i.e. your professional journey?
It’s been an interesting journey of exploration, experimenting and discovering oneself not just professionally but personally too. This I believe has been a result of my need to evolve, experiment, experience and explore (E4).
Taking it this way keeps me alive to the changes that are happening and adapting to them becomes part of the DNA. When the need to change and grow comes from within it is an exciting space to be.
What do you think is the role of values in leadership and in life?
The first thing that comes to mind is Enron. You could have the most exotic or basic of values but then that doesn’t mean that those are what you live by. Values unless lived and visibly practiced are of little use. If practiced they can give the business and its people strengths which can be game changers.
With the business environment being in a VUCA state, our values take on additional significance and their need is felt more than ever before. With the changing times they become like sounding boards which we use to ensure that our direction is in keeping with our values. They are timeless!
It is essential that the leadership exhibits the organisational values. They should be able to connect with them naturally so that the people sense it as being part of the organisational culture. It is only in scenarios like this that a strong organisational foundation is built which can weather any storm.
Having said the above, it’s not something which happens naturally. It takes time, belief and courage to be able to build on the values that you want yourself and the organisation to live by. For example one of the values that we live by is “keep things simple” and it is one of the most challenging things to do because of the complexity that exists today. Thus it takes time and effort to be able to develop values, at least if you want to practice them.
Which are your top 3-4 most important values without which you feel you cannot do without as a person?
Most important is respect for an individual irrespective of the situation. It is paramount. Respect irrespective of the situation, person or hierarchy. Another would be keeping things simple. That is something I always try to work with. Investing in people is another that comes to mind.
A story or anecdote from your life, either personal or professional where living by values in a testing time gave you a positive result?
As an organisation we believe it is important to invest in our people. Few years back a business abroad was winding down. A suggestion was to provide specialised training sessions that would help the people understand their skills such that the out placement becomes easier. This additional support was provided because that is something we believed in, Investing in People irrespective of the circumstances. The impact was strong and left in people a deep sense of belief of a company that cares.
What in your opinion is the contribution of values in organisational growth? Is there a tangible/meaningful contribution or are values overrated?
To build a sustainable organisation which can weather all storms it is essential to be grounded in values which the organisation believes are essential for its being.
When an organisation operates in different geographies and locations, values are a binding force that keeps people connected. They may have different business challenges and operating environs but one thing that remains common is the values. So the way people interact and connect is not very alien in terms of talking and doing things.
The bigger purpose is that, it helps us make decision in the most challenging and ambiguous of situations for which there are no precedents. Values are like a light house providing a guiding light keeping us safe from the rocky beaches
What are the challenges in practicing value based leadership and what are the ways to get people to practice them?
I think the only way to do it is to practice it yourself. When people see you do it with a genuineness and authenticity it becomes part of the culture of the organisation. It is important that the vocabulary also reflects this.
New employees who are inducted into the organisation are taken through in detail about our values and corporate philosophy and stories shared of how we have lived and live it now. In the work place where interactions with the external world abound we are challenged as to how we still function in accordance with our values. The strength people need then is to be able to take the path of greatest advantage and not least resistance.
As an organisation what are the kind or training and development initiative taken by you to enhance alignment, competence and performance of your team members across various levels i.e leadership level, mid management level and executive level?
We believe that people form the bedrock of our business and investing in them is essential for the long term success of the business. Our philosophy on people development can be said as “We will invest in developing the talent of our people for the purpose of growing each of our business activities and providing challenging and rewarding career opportunities”. So there is a very conscious link between providing development opportunities and growing the business simultaneously.
As a philosophy we would like to grow our people from within. So a focused approach towards training and development exists. There are structured programs for all levels starting with the Graduate Trainees to programs for Senior Management. Keeping in view the constantly changing needs, these programs are evaluated on a continuous basis to keep the learning in sync with the changing times.
Your message to executives for their growth
Be willing to experiment and be curious to learn and discover.
To learn more about Values Driven Leadership please visit www.abhivyaktitraining.in
Interviewed by Vikramaditya Duggal