At People Matters, we aspire to advance People and Work as a lever for growth, success, and innovation. This year at our flagship conference, People Matters TechHR, we are inviting leaders to “Rethink What’s Possible” and look ahead in the post-pandemic era with a mindset of abundance, opportunity, and creativity as we tackle new emerging challenges in our business.
Today I stumbled upon a tribute to the late Professor Sumantra Ghoshal as part of my alma mater, Indian School of Business, 20-year celebration. This amazing speech connects directly with our vision to enable leaders in our community to become the answer, to shift “the smell of the place” as Prof Ghoshal calls it, for inclusive, sustainable, and prosperous enterprise.
Ghoshal's speech in Davos focused on the importance of corporate environments and the opportunities (and responsibility) we have as leaders to create a positive workplace. From his perspective, it is all about context and its impact on people's behavior. You cannot change people, but you can create the context that enables people to give and thrive. He uses a metaphor of downtown Calcutta in summer and how he becomes tired and lazy; the opposite is how he feels energized and active in Fontainebleau in springtime. Same person, different context, and different behavior.
His invitation is that as leaders, we need to focus on changing the context and not changing the people - what he calls changing the “smell of the place.” As culture designers and as organizational builders, we have the opportunity to create a “downtown Calcutta” where employees feel suffocated and uneasy - or we can create a “ Fontainebleau in spring” where our teams feel committed, energized, and connected to our impact.
He invites us to look at the following paradigm shifts:
A shift from Constraint to Stretch
Is our business strategy constraining our people? Or is it enabling them to stretch to serve our customers?
A Shift from Compliance to Discipline
Is our approach to planning, process and systems driving compliance? Or is it injecting self-discipline with trust and ownership?
A Shift from Control to Support
Is our role as business or HR leaders to control? Or is it to support and enable others to succeed?
A Shift from Contract to Trust
Is our relationship with our talent a contract? Or is it about trust to deliver the promise to the customer?
As I think about how this impactful speech reflects this year’s theme at People Matters TechHR, it resonates even more as we invite our community to embark on the journey to Rethink What’s Possible. What kind of context do we want to create for our workforce? “Downtown Calcutta” or “Fontainebleau in Spring”?