Be open to criticism


Nobody likes to be criticized. The word “criticism” often has a negative connotation. People don’t like to be criticized, especially at work. On the other hand, constructive criticism is a good thing. It helps employees improve their performance, often positioning them to take on more challenging tasks and roles. Do you know how one of my friends defines criticism? – Constructive criticism is when he criticizes me, but destructive criticism is when I criticize him.

If you are a leader, I am sure you are well acquainted with this word. Especially if you are brought up in a kind and loving environment where criticism is not a way of life, it will take a while to get used to criticism. Anyone determined to do something or say something important has always been criticized by others. Leadership and criticism go hand in hand. We need to remember leadership is not a popularity or friendship contest. It is always about doing things in the organization’s best interest. Leaders always get paid to make difficult decisions. A leader should always focus on the organization’s goals and objectives and the people they serve rather than wasting time trying to satisfy others’ agendas. Many leaders use their authority to run their hidden agenda rather than yielding their influence over adverse circumstances.

As a young leader, I quickly realized that leadership requires mental toughness. If you are not being criticized for your actions, you cannot guide the organization to grow, innovate, and explore endless possibilities correctly. Often young leaders don’t understand that they are not in the friendship business but in the leadership business. It would be best if you were strong and open to whatever criticism people throw your way. My leadership style is always confronting the conflict head-on and moving to the next opportunity. Momentum is a leader’s best friend. Momentum is a problem solver, and lack of momentum is a problem showstopper. If you take every instance of criticism that comes your way to the heart and start revalidating your decisions, you will lose momentum and opportunities.

There will always be a few people in every organization who will try to take you down. They may envy your success and try to slow down your momentum by criticizing your decisions. But if you feel confident that you are on the right track, don’t worry about such criticism. On the other hand, not letting your mind acknowledge and consider criticism and not doing anything about it, even if you feel there is merit at the root of criticism, is not an option for a successful leader. During the early stages of my leadership journey, I used to push back any suggestion that was not in line with my thought process. Though not everyone can say it out loud, I can’t reflect upon contradictory thoughts, and I was not a credible thinker. But let me tell you this, the more you carefully consider others’ perspectives or thoughts different from yours, the more wholesome and credible your conclusions will be.

If you know yourself well, you can easily detect whenever criticism is aimed at you or your position. If it’s something to do with the weakness you have already discovered, you will easily accept the criticism because you know it is legitimate. Don’t be offensive. Search for a grain of truth in the criticism. Make the necessary changes and always take the high road.

One thing I picked up from my boss over the years is not to delay having a tough conversation with any of my team members. A good rule of thumb is to have a tough conversation within 24 hours. Delaying the dialogue will allow people to keep doing the same thing over and over. You are either building trust or creating distrust every time you interact with your people. Unfortunately, it isn’t happening with those with whom you are talking but also with those who are watching. Every interaction of yours with your team will either increase your influence or decrease it. I have seen someone interacting with another person many times in my life, and their conversation caused me to distrust them even though they had never even spoken a word with me.

Before you go…

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ESG, in essence, is all about embedding the Environmental, Social, and Governance aspects in the business decision-making process and organization cultureSustainability initiatives for corporates are no longer under the “good-to-have” category. Now they are under the “must-have” category driven by customers, employees, investors, and regulators. 

As part of the HYEA ESG Forum, I had the opportunity to conduct an event on “Business sustainability imperatives in the new normal.” The meeting is well attended by Senior Business Leaders and COO/CFOs of the IT industry. The following topics have been deliberated as part of the event.

  • Government ESG Initiatives
  • ESG/Sustainability and Net Zero Way forward 
  • ESG Reporting
  • Industry ESG Experience
  • Innovation in sustainability in the start-up ecosystem 





Pleasing People To Challenging People

Thank you, Calway, for allowing me to talk about one of the essential changes every leader must embrace – Pleasing People To Challenging People. 

Pleasing people is not the same as leading people. That was one of the first important and difficult lessons I had to learn in my leadership journey.

During the early years of my professional career, I was uncomfortable challenging people or helping them to do better, be better and become better. If someone in the team didn’t like me, it must mean something was wrong with my leadership, and I needed to fix it. That thinking motivated every action I took and every decision I made.

My goal had been to get people to like me enough so that I could gain the confidence to ask them for commitment. If they declined, I simply worked harder to get them to like me more, thinking it would solve the problem. My desire to be liked by others was deeply rooted within me to the point where my best days in leadership were the ones when people affirmed me. I craved that affirmation every day. No one told me that affirmation is not equal to leadership accomplishment.

So in the process, what am I doing? I am giving my time and energy to the unhappiest and least committed people, even though they are not contributing to the vision and mission of the organization. I was letting the tail wag the dog instead dog wagging the tail.

This happy stuff is beginning to wear me out. I started wondering how long I could keep up with making everybody happy. It took a while, but I finally realized I wasn’t leading people. I was trying to make them and myself feel good. I wasn’t moving the organization forward. I was in the friendship business, not the leadership business.

I wasn’t helping my teams to do better, be better and become better. I was determined in my mind that I would try to become the leader that the people really needed, not just the one they wanted. I started working on shifting from pleasing to challenging people.

I had the opportunity to participate as a speaker in the Hyderabad Software Enterprises Association’s most popular and flagship program – The 39th edition of . I have delivered an interactive session on “” highlighting the essential changes every leader must embrace. The active participation of attendees made the experience all the more special to me.





The Rabbit & Tortoise Story

# Fast and consistent will always beat slow and steady: 

As soon as you read this statement, our childhood version of the race between rabbit & tortoise will flash into your mind. The story with which we’ve all grown up. A tortoise and a rabbit argued about who was faster. They both decided to settle the argument with a race. The rabbit was complacent and fell asleep, and the tortoise won the race. The moral of the story is that slow-and-steady wins the race.  

But we were not taught that the rabbit was disappointed at losing the race and did some thinking. Rabbit again challenged the tortoise for another race. This time the rabbit remained focused and finished the race way ahead of the tortoise. The moral of the story is fast and consistent will beat the slow-and-steady. 

# Focus on your core competencies: 

The tortoise was upset and thought there was no way he could beat the rabbit in this race; hence after careful consideration tortoise challenged the rabbit to another race. But this time, the tortoise gets to design the race route. The rabbit sped off just as focused as the last race but arrived at a broad river. The turtle arrived later, swam across the river, and reached the finishing line. The moral of the story is to identify your strengths and change the playing field to suit your core competence.

# Teamwork first

By this time, the rabbit and the tortoise had become pretty good friends, and they had done some thinking together. Both realized that they could have run the last race much better. So they decided to run the race again, but this time as a team. The rabbit carried the tortoise for the first part of the route, then the tortoise swam across the river with the rabbit on its back and finally finished the race together. The moral of the story is that pooling resources and working as a team will always beat individual performers. Also, working in a team helps harness each other’s core competencies. 

Legal Acumen for HR Leaders

National Academy of Legal Studies & Research (NALSAR) University Hyderabad partnered with the Society of Human Resources Development, SHRD India, to conduct a 6- day workshop on new labor codes, titled “Legal Acumen for HR Leaders.” The workshops and discussions were designed with Seasoned academicians from various universities, labor law experts from top law firms in the country, and industry conducting seminars and peer learning activities.

On the final day, I had the opportunity to deliver the keynote address titled “Leader Shift“- Leadership changes that will positively enhance HR professionals’ careers. The day ended with the convocation ceremony by Dr. Tamilisai Soundararajan-Hon’ble Governor of Telangana, and Hon’ble Lt. Governor of Puducherry.