Thought Leadership Interview: Anil Keshary ShahThe chief executive officer of Nabil Bank on leadership and management.
The Post’s Himendra Mohan Kumar spoke to Shah.
What is your formula for getting things done?
I wish there was one formula that enabled me to get everything done, but life is never so simple. I have found that how I best get things done is to first see who are the people I have to work with, what are the resources I have to utilise and how much time I have to get the task done. Keeping these factors in mind, I prepare a strategy on the best formula to get the task completed by maximising the resources I have and the strengths of the members of my team. I have found that most of the time if we give ourselves adequate time and effort to stand back and plan, rather than just rushing headfirst into a task, no matter how simple or complex, the chances of sustainable success is far greater. A simple example is crossing a road, your chance of safely crossing the road is increased if you stop, look on both sides and then cross rather than just running blindly across the road. Yes, the former may take a little more time, but the latter could just as well get you seriously harmed, if not killed. This, in my experience, is the best way to ensure a greater chance of success in getting anything done.
What do you look for when you’re hiring employees?
There is an array of things that I look for before adding an individual to my team. But first and foremost, I determine whether the individual I am considering knows their core competencies and strengths. The first step towards being a value addition to any team is knowing what you excel in. For instance, if someone comes to join a football team, the first question a coach asks is what position do you play in. If someone says they play in all positions, the chances of them being included in the team are minimal, but if the individual clearly states that he is a goalkeeper or plays defence, midfield, or is a striker then his chances of getting on the team improve. Along with that, I look at the individual’s attitude. For me, attitude is as important if not more so than aptitude. In my experience, one can teach skills much more easily than change an individual’s behaviour. So a right mix of attitude and aptitude is very important for me. And finally, I look at the individual’s communication skills. In today’s day and age, no matter what job you are doing, your ability to articulate and communicate is of critical importance. So in addition to technical competence in your domain of expertise, the above are some of the attributes I look for before welcoming anyone to the team.
How do you build allies, not just within your organisation, but in the broader industry with other leaders you compete with?
When building allies, I firmly believe in the philosophy that you might be able to fool some people occasionally, but you can’t fool everyone all the time, so to build allies, one must build relationships of mutual benefit. Whether it be in your unit or team, within the institution as a whole or with others within the industry, the main foundation to initiating and building strong allies is to foster trust. Just think of the people in your personal or professional lives you consider to be your allies and think a little deeper why you consider them to be so and you will find trust at the core. So I strongly believe that if one wants to build allies, one needs to stop being myopic and looking at just getting short term benefits just for one’s self, and have a more long term vision of building relationships of mutual benefit. Trust me, when you build allies with this philosophy, you will build bridges that will last a lifetime and be there for you professionally and personally, whenever you may need them.
What’s the hardest decision — personal or professional — you’ve had to make?
Professionally, the hardest decisions have been to change organisations and move to a new institution. After 13 years in Standard Chartered Bank Nepal, I moved to Nabil Bank. Because I had to decide between leaving the institution in which I had started my career or leaving the country, I still remember the pain as if it was yesterday.
It was a difficult move as I form a personal bond with the people I work with everywhere I go and become very passionate about the institution I am part of. It becomes my life and the team, my family.
On the personal front, the hardest decision I made was leaving my daughter Aarya in New York when she joined Barnard College last summer, now that’s a pain that will always cut very deep into my heart.
How do you cope with criticism?
I look at criticism as free advice for improvement. When I receive criticism either on a professional or personal level, the first thing I do is see who is giving it to me and why. From that, I determine the ‘value’ I need to give the feedback I am receiving and from that determination, I objectively reflect inward to see how ‘true’ the criticism is and how I can incorporate the feedback within me to improve myself. This may be very easy to say but is extremely difficult to do because many a time our ego stands as the biggest hurdle in doing so. Often, I may not publically agree with the criticism that is being made about me, but always in private, I will go through the above process to determine how genuine the criticism is and how I can utilise it to better myself.
Why do you think the private sector is better than serving in public office?
I don’t agree with the motherhood statement that the private sector is better than public office, I think that determines very much on the individual. I know many people who are suited for public office that would be miserable failures in the private sector and vice versa. Whenever I talk to the youth, I encourage them look at what would make them happy in life and the dovetail their unique happiness formula with their strengths and core competencies when determining which life path to journey on and if this path takes them to public office or government bureaucracy or any other field, to have the courage to follow that path. For me, the private sector was the path I chose to walk on partly due to the fact that there were not many paths available to me when I first entered the workforce. But the youth of today have a multitude of paths they can choose to journey through life on.