Venkat Kumaresan

Leadership is not RACing ahead of others. Leadership is CARing ahead of others. – Venkat Kumaresan

Interview with Venkat Kumaresan

Venkat Kumaresan

Author (Father of your team), Thought Leader
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Q1. Please share your Inspirational journey with us?

I was born in a middle class family. Yet I had an elite-class childhood. My parents decided to educate me at one of the best and pricey schools in our neighborhood. Even as both my parents had government jobs, visit to the nearby pawn shop was a regular affair whenever paying Term fees at school came closer. My parents had a reliable group of friends who lent money. Knowing the value for money, I studied responsibly and spent money judiciously during my college days and early in my career.

My mother studied in a government school in a village, with Tamil being the medium of teaching then. Yet, she became better in English as she started to read my text books in each grade with undeterred focus on my academics. She memorized almost every chapter in my books. One of the evergreen dialogues from my English teacher Ms Meena Suresh was, “If your mother had written this exam, she would have scored higher”.  

Continuous learning and enabling my team toward continuous learning by gifting them books, discussing details of the chapters, setting up formal meetings during office hours for them to share their learning from the book, asking them questions from the book to check how well they apply the knowledge became a part of my routine at work.

I studied in Balalok, a school which enormously encouraged talent building beyond academics. That influence has left a deeper impression on me. When I started leading teams, spotting talent in people and creating means to bring them out became a habit. 7 years ago, there was a young chap in my team who posted movie reviews with a punch. “Why don’t you record videos and upload?” I asked him curiously. “I don’t have a good camera sir”, he admitted. I gave him mine.

Over the next few months, I was overjoyed to see his ingenuity with every review. People have a storehouse of skills. They may not have the energy to use their unique assets after retirement. Organization may not have roles cut out for leveraging them. The inspiration from the school drives me to see people getting recognized for talents beyond what the role requires.

When I take a journey to any city, there is someone eager to invite me home and do anything to make my stay pleasant. I have a speed dial to access the best experts in varied industries like Sports, Telecom, Real estate, Education and many more.  I am not with Rotary Club or Country club. Yet, do you know how this is possible? They have been my team members before. Some of them have worked in my team 18 years ago. I practice ‘Leadership for lifetime’ and view my team as my own children. While many leaders in corporate lead a life of pressure, I have a life overflowing with contentment.

While many staff in leadership positions faces pressure for getting their teams to perform, I continue to derive contentment from people who are no longer part of my team. Your team members can become your client tomorrow, could be in a position to influence a business deal or your child’s college admission, and could become your sounding board, business partner or an investor down the line. Staying connected with them and acting in the interest of their well-being ushers in unforeseeable benefits to the leader.

As quoted in Father of Your Team, ‘Achievements of the past that don’t give you contentment today are meaningless and irrelevant’ 

Q2. You are the Author of the Life Guide Book “Father of your team” which was ranked the Amazon US No. 1 New Release. Please share a brief about your book and what did attract you to write this book?

Father of Your Team is not a run of the mill self-help book. It is a fascinating leadership life-guide book that helps those who lead teams to leave a legacy and lead a life of contentment.

  • ‘Father of Your Team’ is the world’s first book on implementing ‘Paternalistic leadership’
  • Demode, the International lifestyle magazine listed ‘Father of Your Team’ in the Top 10 Must Read books in 2020
  • Certified by senior leaders as the super valuable guide for managing millennials.
  • Rated 4.9 stars on Amazon by global readers.

In his book, Megaliving Robin Sharma reflects, ‘The deeper your relationships, the more effective your leadership.  Before someone will lend you hand, you must touch their hearts.‘ Fortunately, you don’t come across Business-self help books that focus on the deeper relationship and connect. That offers the first-mover advantage to ‘Father Of Your Team’

While they help in readers getting doses of motivation, most readers do not find them adequate to solve their day to day problems at workplace. This enormously engaging book is loved and practiced as it provides out of-the-box solutions for most significant challenges that leaders face like keeping up with team’s aspirations and interests, uncertain business  prospects with external changes and acquisitions, handling staff vulnerable to internal politics, uncomfortable working chemistry, sustaining motivation despite organization constraints, work-life balance and many more.

You will be spellbound by the way Freddie, the Father Manager leads his team through these current day’s practical challenges that you encounter. What changed in his life? What happened to his team? The mesmerizing screenplay transcends you to an office in San Francisco. You can relate the characters in this book like Martha, Vishy, Valerie to people you see at your workplace.

The 8 natural stages of leadership model is a highly creative, progressive and simplified analogy of team engagement from a team member entering into an organization, and…. it continues all thro life. The distinction from other models is that the relationship with the leader is perennial. There is an interesting linkage between parenting & leadership.

For some reason authors had failed to notice it. You will see a stark resemblance between the Baumrind’s parenting styles and the popular 4 leadership styles. Anything that’s hard to remember is hard to follow. This sequence is easy to remember and has a natural flow. So it’s called ‘8 natural stages of leadership’.

These stages were segregated based on extrapolating an evolving relationship between a father and a child. I discovered that this turned out to be so appropriate to the leadership levels of engagement and challenge the leader and the team faces typically in workplace today.

Photo Credit : Venkat Kumaresan

A leader can leave a cascading impact on people and generations, when they follow the ‘Father Manager’ belief system. My vision is to see millions of ‘Father Managers’ who concentrate on such a holistic wellbeing of their teams.

More than months of research ,this book required months of retrospection to offer an appealing, engaging and unique experience to every reader. I don’t like to read anything that’s uninteresting, however great it is. As the Amazon reviews indicate ‘Father Of Your Team’ is one of the most engaging page-turners in Business self-help book. It was made possible with the mentoring of Mr.Raja Singho, the Asian Guru of Authoring .

Q3. You have multiple experiences like a Corporate leader, Author, Workplace problem-solver, Public Speaker, Coach and many more in your long span of career. Which one do you like most and why?

I experience the ‘state of flow’ when I create material for coaching and conduct coaching sessions. I have been a coach for long regardless of my role and experience.  When I was in the higher secondary, we had a very hardworking and passionate Physics teacher at school. He memorized and, rehearsed his explanations till late in the night since he was not too good in English.

I loved him for his thirst to get better and give the best to the children. I used the last few pages of my physics notebook to write the grammatically incorrect expressions he used during his lecture meet him personally after school hours and tell him the right way to structure the sentences.

Corporate leaders and coaches solve problems. Any successful author has to solve a problem too. If you think it applies only for research and self-help books, it is not. A fiction book author solves the problem of boredom. Being an Author is just a means to make the practices perennial. I see Author as someone who uses print to leave an imprint.

I solve the same domain of problems related to happiness arising out of workplace through each of these roles.

Q4. You have been handling multiple leadership job for last 22 years. What do you think that Leadership Skills comes in any person by birth or is it possible to develop it by learning?

Leadership is influencing lives of people positively by seeing the world through their eyes. Every new person that we come across is unique in some way. Even the aspirations, and outlook of the same person changes over a period of time. Leadership requires calibrating and upgrading owing to this variety and changes.

Even when people have a genetic edge or early parental influence in grooming leadership attributes like service mindset and risk taking ability, their effectiveness gets an ‘expiry date sticker’ when they stop learning from situations and people around. I was not adept in handling team conflicts when I started my career. I became better at it with experience, reflection and mentoring.

A quote from the ancient Tamil text ‘Viveka Chinthamani’ goes like this – ‘ Even crow that resides in a Kalpavriskha tree gains access to elixir. Those who are in the company of skilled leaders thrive’ If leaders don’t learn and upgrade themselves, they are doing injustice to their team. Only when the leader is well-informed, mature and retains holistic focus, the team gains through the association.

Q5. Which is the toughest part of job for any Senior Management Professional in company?

Both employees and investors, seek 2 things from the leaders – growth and stability. They desire growth that does not upset the stability. The toughest part is in

  • Making them see the reality
  • Appreciate the constraints
  • Acknowledge the progress

If I am to articulate this toughest part in two words – ‘Satisfying aspirations’

Q6. How do you use Data Science and Robotics in your Projects? Is it helpful to get better results?

One of the unfair perceptions associated with Robotics is that it takes away jobs. You know that ‘Underutilizing intellect’ is the eighth waste in Lean. Performing repetitive tasks is not the best way to keep our neurons fired and staying motivated. Have you ever seen people discharging the same tasks ascending or holding a higher self-esteem?

Robotics removes this monotony from people and restores the thinking job. Staff who review forms day in and day out and enters data has to now limit themselves only to stages of the process where the machine requires human intervention. This means staff’s competence is valued higher than that of the machines.

I have seen the transition of people getting intellectually stimulating assignments when data science and robotic process automation became an inseparable part of delivery.  From providing training to staff, the trainer upgrades to providing instructions and rules to the machine. From evaluating people and certifying their competence, a Quality professional evaluates algorithms and models.

Just like how people are provided simpler tasks and they take on more complex tasks upon proving themselves, the level of automation steps up through a cycle of learning and evaluation. If you have to handle performance of someone who assists you effectively, you may have to think like how he thinks. Isn’t it? Similarly, when we use systems with algorithms, there is a need for the project team to understand how it works and the limitations to be able to extract effective results.

I recommend these 2 interesting articles for additional reading-

Q7. Tell us about one of the moments which changed your perspective towards life?

That’s a 23-year-old flashback!

I joined a large Indian Automotive manufacturer as a fresh Engineering graduate. The IT Boom hadn’t started. So working for that company gave a sense of an exalted identity.

I was a 22-year-old management trainee then. It was necessary for the trainee to work in different units in that huge manufacturing facility. They had a strong trade union. The Union negotiated and got a host of benefits for the factory workers. As a result the starting salary of a factory worker who finished a course from Industrial Training Institute (ITI) was higher than a fresh BE graduate. 

A senior factory worker with a few decades with the company could get his son or son-in-law on rolls. I specialized in repairing furnaces. As a trainee from electrical maintenance, I was deputed to repair electrical faults of machinery in any of the shop floors when the need arises. I didn’t realize that I will come across a sweet surprise that day. 

When I saw that machine operator in the Chassis assembling unit from a distance, I could not believe my eyes. He looked very familiar. I noticed him from a distance and walked across the bay behind him to confirm my assumption. I was careful not to get so close that he recognized me.

His charming smile with that uneven row of teeth in the lower jaw, lean frame and his convo style revealed that it was him. I was a fan of his animated expressions, his dressing sense, his unique pronunciation and the funny mnemonics. He was my Maths teacher at school.  “How could he be here””, I wondered.

Over the next many months, I behaved like a stalker. After my lunch hour, I used to take a diversion and cross that Chassis assembly to see him. I avoided meeting him eye to eye and did not feel like talking to him.  I had a dilemma. I didn’t know if he seeing me there as a management trainee will hurt his pride or will make him proud. I didn’t want to take a chance. About 2 years passed. It was my last working day. It was 11.55AM. I located him.

I found him working with the same machine. I was waiting for an opportunity to meet him on the way to the workers’ canteen.  As soon as the siren sounded, I followed him as he left his workplace chatting with the other machine operator friends.  As he was slowly washing his hands, I touched his ankle and started, “Ravi sir” . He was overjoyed to see me.  Our looks hadn’t changed much, so an introduction was out of place.

After a heartful of conversations, I asked, “How did you get here and why?” . In a casual tone, he stated “My father in law worked here. I got this job in his quota. This is a stable job with a great salary. There is job security. So it’s a great place to settle down”. I was shocked. 

Venkat Kumaresan

I thought he settled for something lower than what he could have. I felt he settled down early. There was no challenge. He was in his mid thirties. To me the transition from a teacher inspiring thousands of children to a machine operator was hard to digest. Isn’t satisfaction important?  I realized that he had set his target too low.

I decided not to get limited by comfort a job offers and not choose one that is more comfortable. I took time to spot challenges and chased them even if I could have been assumed to be successful without doing that. I adopt this perspective with my teams too.

Q8. What are common traps for aspiring writers?

I consider benchmarking against established writers and belittling themselves is the biggest trap. Many people have brilliant stories, yet they don’t feel confident to write. They don’t know that like any other skill, once they start to practice, writing will become unimaginably better.

They don’t realize the first draft of great books is a shabby script. The aspirants hardly know that successful writers use the best copy editors to make their writing impressive. Ignorance on these confines them to ‘aspiring writers’ rather than becoming inspiring writers. 

Q9. What is the meaning of success in your terms?

Success is when people start to claim your influence as an ingredient of their success. Higher the number of people attributing your role in their success, the more successful you are.  When you accomplish something great in life and there is no one to celebrate it, how do you feel?

When your success is celebrated as their own success by many others, it means that your success has become meaningful.

Q10. Which one thing do you want to change in yourself and why?

Each of us has a plenty of options with using time. Those who chose the right priority become super successful. When there is a choice between ‘Doing what is important’ Vs ‘Doing what is interesting’, I tend to chose the latter at times. I am prioritizing on getting better with prioritization.

Photos Credit : Venkat Kumaresan

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