“A better understanding of the business helps you to be a more well-rounded HR head”

CAN AN HR MANAGER EVER BECOME A CEO?
CEO OF CARBON BLACK BUSINESS AND DIRECTOR – GROUP HR, ADITYA BIRLA GROUP, SANTRUPT MISRA DISCUSSES HIS DUAL ROLE WITH VIREN NAIDU

QYOU ARE AMONG THE VERY FEW SENIOR EXECUTIVES ININDIA TO SHOULDER TWO ROLES: HR AND CEO. WHAT ARE THE KEY CHALLENGES YOU FACE WHILE JUGGLING THESE DIVERSE RESPONSIBILITIES?
Sometimes, your role as head of HR can conflict with your role as CEO in certain areas/aspects and one has to do the most optimal thing without compromising on the principles and interests of either. However, it also creates opportunities; for example, when you are on a business trip, you can fulfill assignments from the point of view of both roles. Similarly, a better understanding of business issues and pressures helps you to be a more wellrounded and responsive HR head.
QARE THERE ANY KEY LEARNINGS DERIVED FROM ONE ROLE THAT YOU CAN IMPLEMENT IN THE OTHER AND VICE-VERSA?
Certainly. From my role as a CEO, I learnt to be more deliveryfocused, ready to be adaptive to rapid external challenges and be more ‘numbers-driven’.These are the value-additions I bring to the HR domain from my CEO experience. From myHR stint, I count my knowledge of team dynamics and change management to bring about course-correction in the business and build global teams. But there are a few stark similarities too.The similarity in the two roles is that, both have to deal with a significant amount of people issues and both roles require a long-term perspective, vision and strategic thinking. However, the time horizons and delivery requirements can be different and HR is a more functional role whereas the CEO’s is a more integrative general management role. In the Aditya Birla Group context perhaps, the HR director has more opportunity to learn about many businesses.To that extent, the CEO’s role can be limiting.
QWHAT TIPS WOULD YOU OFFER A SENIOR HR MANAGER ASPIRING TO BE A CEO AND WHY?
Any HR manager or any other manager wanting to be a CEO must answer the fundamental question – why do you want to be a CEO? Also, you need to understand the challenges and rewards of being a CEO and the trade-offs one has to make. And once they have concluded why they want to be a CEO, the question of preparation arises. A few ways to gear up for the role of a CEO are listed below: Take an abiding interest in different aspects of the businessother than HR; Build a reasonable understanding of one other key function other than HR; Take on a rotational assignment, if possible, in operations, marketing or sales; Get a good grounding in finance and accounting; Get an understanding and exposure of corporate governance and have a knack of managing the external environment.
QDO YOU THINK, IN THE NEAR FUTURE, INDIA INC WILL BE PREPARED TO WELCOME MORE ‘PEOPLE MANAGERS’AS ‘BUSINESS MANAGERS’? ARE THERE ANY GAPS THAT COULD HINDER THIS?
I think many a times, people are under a mistaken notion that not many HR people have got an opportunity to lead businesses. As a matter of fact, there havebeen many examples in the past and several leading businesses even today. Ithink India Inc is ready and I think there is an increasing number of HR managers who are also ready. The question is whether you are at the top end of the competitive set or not. One has to compete with managers from other functional areas to get to the CEO’s role. Some will get a chance and succeed, others will get such a chance and fail and some may not ever get a chance. However, CEOs need to be equal opportunity employers and must remain sensitive, so that leadership and expertise can flourish anywhere in the organisation.

Sources – The Times of India
Date – 21-8-2013

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