Interview with Neaz Adnan, Co-Founder & CEO
- How do you describe your approach to leadership in an organization(s) with global reach?
Mr. Adnan: Firstly, I believe transcending my own cultural perspective and learning how business is done in different contexts is essential. It’s my biggest approach to leadership. You must have an intense interest in the lives and cultures of others, recognizing that your culture and background are not inherently superior, to master the global business arena. Secondly, When you have a global perspective, you think strategically about managing business using the best people from around the planet. Much of your ability to do this comes from a lifetime of networking at the highest levels in global boardrooms and your aptitude for seeing how various pieces of global industries play out internationally. To make strategic decisions for my company, I understand how the business world works on a global scale.
- Who are your leadership role models and how have they shaped who you are as a leader?
Mr. Adnan: Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela, Ratan Tata.
How have Steve Jobs shaped who you are as a leader? The secret is to organize your daily schedule (discipline) in line with your priorities and goals and to follow that pattern of behavior consistently. The more discipline you and your team employ, the more freedom you will have to practice. It may seem that having more disciplined procedures would take away freedom; but in fact, “discipline is that pathway to freedom.”
How have Nelson Mandela shaped who you are as a leader? Mandela looked ahead and could see that South Africa’s system of apartheid would not survive into the future. From his prison cell, he strategically assessed his moves and anticipated reactions. When offered freedom in exchange for renouncing opposition to the government. In my past experience whenever I took my organizational decision I strategically assessed the next moves, then I made the decision, it helped me a lot. Assessment is required to take any business decisions.
How Ratan Tata shaped who you are as a leader? He has always led people with a collective, teamwork-driven approach. He has dealt with people in his signature measured, gentle manner. He is a visionary. When he joined the group, it was barely doing any business outside India. Today half of Tata’s revenues come from overseas. He is a decision maker. A famous quote of his is “I don’t believe in making the right decisions. I take decisions and then make them right.” I believe knowing the strengths and weaknesses of every individual to effectively manage the outcome of a team is imperative for success. I have a great vision for my organization and use the human resources at hand to solve problems.
This three person changed my life. I studied them well in my past. Every day I read their quotes to learn something new. It helps me to be a leader in global context.
- What approaches to leadership have you found effective? Why?
Mr. Adnan: Yes, Team Management approach. I believe that it is my purpose as leaders to foster environments that will encourage creativity, task accomplishment, and employee morale/motivation. I also believe needs of people to think, to apply mental effort in productive work and to establish sound and mature relationships with one another are utilized to accomplish organizational requirements.
In my organization I cultivated diverse workforce in the following ways:
- Having a zero tolerance policy towards prejudice, sexual harassment and bullying of any kind
- Engaging in regular team-building exercises
- Being a positive influence that shows empathy towards employees for missteps rather than seeking to cast blame
- Rewarding employees for their work via positive reinforcement and other small perks.
- What approaches to leadership have you found ineffective? Why?
Mr. Adnan: I believe the autocrat pushes employees hard; often, he does not get loyalty and long-term commitments in return. High turnover and low satisfaction is expected, in response to this leadership style. So I found it ineffective. I am not organizing military force. Aggressive leadership is not my style.
- What was the most rewarding experience you had as a leader?
Mr. Adnan: Rewarding experience for me it’s achieve the common goals. I worked in top ranked International Hotel which had very unorganized and volatile environment, but I learned how to build a team and achieve the client satisfactions and I maintained company policy and above all a happy team. Success is not a day outcome. It’s the proper execution of small and long term goals with instant communication with dedication.
- What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your life? What inspired this learning?
Mr. Adnan: Never count the hours, do count the tasks and learn from mistakes and success both.
Now I can acknowledge my errors, I write down few tough question (i.e. what went wrong, what could I do better next time?) after that I can see the situation a little more clearly. Then I make a new plan, share with my teammates with clear vision. Recognize each mistake can be an opportunity to build mental muscle and become better leader.
- In what ways has your approach to leading shifted over the years?
Mr. Adnan: More Autocracy to strategic leadership. I have gone through autocracy to strategic. I learned a lot in the meantime. I always bring positive social impacts and invest on the mental health of my employees. I believe this is a desirable leadership style in many companies because strategic thinking supports multiple types of employees at once. I always accepts the burden of executive interests while ensuring that current working conditions remain stable for everyone else.
- COVID-19 is one of the most significant events to impact our personal lives and work lives this century.
Mr. Adnan: Yes. It is.
- What impact has COVID-19 had on you and your organization?
Mr. Adnan : COVID-19 elevates the social impact of every business and throws a spotlight on the nature of our company, our character and our programs. Everyone is going through a reset right now. Some innovations will be one-time business choices that reflect the true heart of the company. We are providing more engagement on online that inspirational program gives people of all ages the confidence to open up and keep negativity silent during the pandemic. Others program will be lasting commercial choices, unlikely to ever return to normal.
- What is the approach you are using to lead in a COVID-19 work environment?
Mr. Adnan: Our employees were working remotely even before the crisis, and many more have joined their ranks. I always share my optimism and hope to my employees, customers, suppliers and partners need to know what we are doing to face challenges, especially as social distancing increases, to face their own. Remote work is like a magnifying glass for underlying people issues in companies. Crises won’t wait for annual employee survey to roll around for my company. We send weekly pulse surveys to my employees to check on employees well-being. This keeps employees feeling cared for on a regular basis and managers on top of employee sentiment. We share news with all employees using an honest manner via email, WhatsApp, text message where both strengths and challenges can be discussed openly.
- What words of advice do you have about leading through crisis?
- Communicate frequently
- Get ahead of the issue
- Be empathetic to your customers
- Be creative in thinking of ways to resolve problems
Put yourself in the shoes of your customers, vendors, partners, and employees, and ask yourself: What would I want to know right now? What would I want to hear from this company right now? I think you got your answer.
- When you reflect on your future, what do you envision for your leadership?
Mr. Adnan: Leader with vision. I am not a person who focus on short term decorative achievement but a permanent problem solver. I believe in having adaptability to accept the change and grow the team according way in advance. I prefer hard work. I truly believe giving difficult or heavy projects will reveal my future leaders capabilities and capacities as well as develop their critical thinking skills and creativity when faced with unfamiliar tasks. They will learn new skills, and you’ll enhance their commitment to your organization by boosting their confidence in what they can achieve. I want to see my success in their eyes.
- What messages do you have for me and my MGM cohort as we prepare to lead in an organization(s) with global reach?
Mr. Adnan: Success is not all about making money, it’s about being a masterpiece of inspiration.
Interviewer: Representative, Royal Roads University (RRU), Victoria, BC
Interviewee: Neaz Adnan, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer at Your House Social Enterprise Inc.