Advice from a person who hails from Udaipur and went on to manage a large multinational company is always a pleasure and adds imminent value to a students or professionals perspective. Arif Sheikh has traveled across 72 countries, won awards globally, has been a mentor to students and businessmen, written books and over 100 articles and has been telecast on prime time on almost all leading TV channels. He was part of the AIPL/Capita team as President, when he got Celebration Mall to Udaipur.
Last morning, a team of students from 9 different colleges met Arif Sheikh over tea and bombarded him with questions. Following is the excerpt of the Q&A. All who are reading are welcome to post their questions and we will soon publish top 10 Questions and Arif’s responses.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Dishonesty.
Where would you like to live? Heaven.
What would your super power be? Mind control.
What makes you unhappy? Lack of sleep.
What does love feel like? Like rainbows .
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? “I can’t talk right now, I’ve got Shahrukh khan on the other line.”
What has been your biggest disappointment? That I spent so many years outside Udaipur.
How do you relax? By sleeping.
What single thing would improve the quality of your life? Getting more sleep.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you? Hard work will get you very far.
Where would you most like to be right now? Having dinner with my Udaipur school friends at my favorite restaurant.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Feelings of superiority.
What do you owe your parents? Everything , from a sense of humor( more from my father), perspective, and determination. I feel like we all become our parents in some ways, even they both no more , they are still alive. I have plenty of memories of my parents and I was able to, in some ways, continue my relationship with them by watching my family around.
What do you most dislike about your appearance? I’m 5ft 6in, so would like to be taller.
What is the worst thing anyone’s said to you? “You can’t!”
To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why? Lots of people in Udaipur- my friends, my family , mainly for being so absent from their lives while I was concentrating on my career.
Which word or phrase do you most overuse? “Awesome great job , keep it up.”
Where would you most like to be right now? I’m very happy where I am. I love where we live, I love what I do;
When were you happiest? I am happy now.
What is the worst comment anyone’s said to you? “And you are…?”
Arif Sheikh for working people in Udaipur
There were lot of requests received from working executives in Udaipur for Arif. Excerpts from a few selected questions…
Any advice for new managers?
When I became a manager I did it for the wrong reasons. At the time, I thought that everyone should be like me: a workaholic
That lasted about 3 months until I realized that the point of management was to figure out what was best about every person on my team and get them to highlight that.
For the good of humanity, only become a manager if you love people and you love teams. Don’t do it for ego or status.
Mistake new managers make ?
The most fun part about being a manager is getting to know your team members but you have to keep some level of separation. It is extremely difficult to performance manage people you are good friends with and that’s the biggest mistake I see. New managers might overlook errors or avoid giving negative feedback when they like a team member too much. A new manager might also be afraid of acknowledging a poor performer because they think it will reflect badly on their management style. But as a manager, it’s not your fault if you have an unrecoverable poor performer. It is your fault if you keep them around. You’ve got to try and build the best team you can. Your team will thank you for it.
Role difference between manager and director/CEO/President/Owner of business ?
When I got my first director promotion, my boss said to me “Congratulations, your feet are off the ground!” It took me a while to understand what that meant.
Managers are still on the floor with the troops and directors are looking at the larger battlefield. As a director you don’t get to focus entirely on the fun part of management: working with people. Instead your job is to shape and run your part of the organization to achieve business goals. It means that you have to care more about how the company applies its resources toward specific business goals than you care about the day-to-day of specific individuals on the team. This was as an insanely difficult transition for me. I absolutely love the people aspect of management. As a director you use different — broader — tools to make decisions and communicate goals. Spreadsheets, start to dominate. Implementing a decision more often consists of moving people or entire teams around.
How can I become CEO?
As CEO, you are a completed package. That is to say, over time you have developed a standard set of tools and practices for building, leading, and driving teams that has worked for you repeatedly. During an CEO level interview, you don’t do a whiteboard exercise, you don’t pontificate on management theories, you simply say: my program for operating an organization looks exactly like this. My methods have been proven effective in the following situations. Here’s how they might help your company, take it or leave it. You will be hired on the basis of whether your leadership style fits the needs of an organization.
Why did you get an MBA?
I’ve always been aggressive about personal growth and wanted to get an MBA almost immediately after I finished grad. But I could not I started working as I was told continually by peers and managers that getting an MBA wouldn’t be worthwhile. Turns out they were wrong.
An MBA gives you polished management and product skills, it’s also a strong indicator to your leadership team that you are seriously committed to upward mobility and self-improvement. MBAers have hustle. By the time I completed my MBA my yearly take-home pay had roughly tripled and the caliber of jobs I was approached for jumped from junior to management level ( It does not happen now a days and if it does not with every one )
I can say that I see some Udaipur business owners making mistakes around market sizing, competitive analysis, and product design that would have been avoidable with people in their team with more formal upfront education (or to be fair, experience at established companies).
People learn in lots of different ways. Don’t dismiss MBA’s out of hand. Do what feels best for you. Just don’t stop growing.
Do you believ in Values if yes the core values you bring to a team?
I have been a CXO for 18 years and used almost the same culture formula every time I start a team. The values I try to instill are: independent-thinking, fearlessness, growth, responsibility, and teamwork above all else. As a result my teams always seem to have a hint of irreverence and rebellion while also being high output and fun. (rock on!)