Article (July-2018)


Wonderland of ambitions and determination

Sonal Jain

Designation : -   HR Director

Organization : -  Johnson and Johnson, Mumbai


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Life for me is a wonderland where there are explorations, dreams and opportunities. I have been very fortunate to have parents and society for whom girls and boys are one creation of God and the concept that girls are treated differently did not exist.
I had all resources, friends, education and confidence to make me believe that life indeed is a wonderland. Realization that all times are not great, came slightly late in my life. Sometimes there are situations and people we experience which make us stumble and fail. For a while, I thought it was them (situations and people) who made me fail but I soon acknowledged that it is not about them but it was about my ability to handle them, myself and the situation. The beauty is that every time such an event happened, I emerged as an Individual with enriched and different perspective.
I love the HR function because I firmly believe that it has the capacity to change dimensions of business and people. As an individual and an HR leader, there are three values which are important to me.
1. Authenticity -
This is about being who you are. It is about 'What you see, is what you get'. It's about being fearless and courageous and ability to live with trade-offs in tough situations. The underlying assumption is that I have joined an organization whose fundamental values matches with mine. This trait has helped me in multiple times. To narrate one such example; I was leading a global transformation, one of the toughest assignment which impacted many employees across the world. There were many dynamics which came to the front due to involvement of multiple stakeholders and an uncertain future.
By virtue of being authentic during the design, engagement, decision making and stakeholder alignment stages, helped me to stay true to the larger objectives and lead the transformation successfully. Being true to yourself across organization levels, helps decode effective results and channelizes the energy to make powerful impact. HR function should create opportunities for businesses to create authentic vision/purpose, brands, strategic roadmaps, reputation and culture so that customers, communities and employees are aware what to expect and not live in a world of deception or feel cheated when decisions are made. Organizations today are facing issues on unethical practices and corruption because while the strategic roadmap is authentic to organization purpose, in day to day life, the tactical decisions and actions are with shortcuts and not true to the vision of the organization.
2. Learning from your discomfort -
The moments I learnt the most and grown as an individual and professional is, when I failed, when I refused to see what's uncomfortable or when I didn't know how to bounce back after a tough time personally and professionally. However as human beings we have infinite capacity to learn at each moment of our lives. In one such instance, I went through a personal health crisis and after being at the hospital for a month, I was advised to stay away from work or best to connect from home; for a long period of time. I felt very uncomfortable since this was the first time I was physically away from the office, teams and the fear of not being able to deliver surrounded me. Some of my biggest learnings came from this experience. I learnt how to manage my emotions, working only virtually with stakeholders who otherwise were co-located, prioritizing and focusing on key deliverables. Additionally, my team stepped up to collectively deliver what we committed.
HR leaders play an important role to create a learning culture which makes organization agile, resilient and ready to take up new challenges. First, Leaders should not be trapped in only creating incremental learning environment but should make space for disruptive learning which pushes people out of their comfort zones. This is where challenge comes up for HR leaders to allow people to fail fast and learn faster. Second, Apart from all traditional ways of imparting learning, organizations should put structures to encourage peer learning without letting insecurities creeping into them.
Many organizations work in silos, with functional agendas that becomes a block for the immense learning opportunity which can happen through sharing of knowledge/expertise and experiences. It's about inviting others to learn and be a learner at same time. This will allow employees to have End to End perspectives, drive inclusion of diverse teams and co create solutions for business. Third, Mentors could be of immense help to embed the culture of learning from your discomfort/transformation/changes.
3. Building networks and connections -
In my perspective, life is about energies we transmit to people around us. The world today is evolving at a very fast pace and is all about connections and networks (even BlockChain is also a network!). It's about new ways of learning, getting and doing things together. The connections which seem to be one on one are actually one to many due to inter-connectedness. Investing in true connections and networks does require effort/time and most importantly the true feeling with which it is established; which is of care, genuine interest and positivity in the other person. I am fortunate to have mentors inside and outside the organization. Some of my mentors have been there from last 13 years, who helped me at various stages; unearth the answers for doubts in my mind.
HR Leaders should inspire and motivate employees to capitalise power of connections which can also act as a support mechanisms to learn in good and bad times. I read an article which highlights the power of high quality connections which says - We rarely grow alone. We can have more control over our learning at work if we make building high - quality connections a priority. They're the connections with other people in which we feel positive regard, mutuality, and vitality. Positive regard is the sense that someone sees the best in us, even if we are only connected for a short time. Mutuality means we feel a sense of responsiveness and openness from another person. Finally, vitality captures the heightened sense of energy we feel when deeply connected to someone else - as if we are more alive in the moment.
These are values which are important to me as an individual and as an HR leader. It gives me immense sense of purpose of living a life which is fulfilling and be grateful every day. All these learning help my wonderland grow more beautiful day by day.