As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” we had the pleasure of interviewing R. P. Singh, founder and CEO of Seasia Group of Companies™, that helps business resolve IT their conundrums, while empowering them to enhance their core business strengths. In addition to his groundbreaking work and successfully executed projects, he has also received honorable mentions for his standout work on “Thoughtful Leaderships” and “Purpose-driven Businesses”. An avid golfer and wildlife enthusiast, R P shares his unraveling interest in knowledge-based sessions and weekly newsletters.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I do appreciate for your warm, welcome! I am R.P. Singh, CEO of the Seasia Group of Companies™, a diversified group of tech companies.
I’m the alumnus of the London Business School and Punjabi University, Patiala. I received the credit of the total 11 research papers. Being an all-time enthusiast, I incept in various fields from teaching to admin to being a CEO. With time, my technology insight and operational expertise have consolidated the innovation with the back of my team. When I got back here in India, I searched for entrepreneurs and found none back that time. There was no startup culture at all. With the multiple projects in my mind, I anticipated that with the decrease of the screen size, the functionality will increase every day. It was the time I decided that I need to focus on digitization. Over the time, I have observed that IT is so flexible that it can craft solution and cover every single aspect of the industry. There was this time when I came in contact with a fleet company whose operation was spread out in the entire North America. Everything was going good for them but risk management is as poor as it can be. I introduced them to my team and then they come up with a solution of geo-tracking via beacons which help them not only pinpoint the location of the fleet but also identify best route to deliver fast and smooth service. This is the power of IT technology.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Initially, when I was too curious and excited about the things and even, I’m today too but some learnings have fully changed my vision towards businesses and market. It usually happens when you are too young to manage such things. The times when we don’t think about prioritizing the roadmap but end up saying yes to every request coming from all sides. Although this is a very common problem but I took it too seriously after one such incident. Once I got a task from my client that looked nearly possible to me but with my eagerness, I kept on saying yes.
I agree that clients love to listen the tone of yes, but they are always delighted when the final outcome is delivered. With a blind sense of saying YES can trap not only you, but it also affects the experience of your client which I believe is far more important. I agree that saying NO can be disheartening but many times such honesty is always appreciated by the prospects and they become more open with you in future discussions.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Look, I’ll always be grateful towards my mentors who pushed me hard to achieve this success today. I have always carried a strong relationship with my mentors to challenge myself, improve and grow. At first, I thought it was really uncomfortable for me to approach a mentor, but I realized there is always something to learn about, no matter your seniority level. In today’s date, if I’m capable of networking efficiently and continue to educate myself on various events is due to the great work ingested into me by my mentors. Not just mentors, it is my team too who never led me back! I give credits to my employees, partners and mentors who recognized the motto of our company and never step back in their help to build outstandingly successful venture.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
So, we were incorporated in the year 2000 at the offshore development center of Hewlett-Packard-State and Local Government Division, the leading IT services provider for US State and Local Government Entities. In the following years, we did spearhead work for the US Government Entities and arranged large and multi-year programs for them. With this experience, we built up the structured delivery processes, data security, and intellectual property rights. In the year 2009, we offshoot as an independent entity and delivered our services across the globe. We built firmly on the processes, acquired a CMMI level 3 certification in 2007, and gradually achieved CMMI level 5 in 2013. Our whole purpose behind our business is to serve all the explicit and implicit requirements of our clients. Our only vision and goal are to become the dominant IT software solution provider.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
I know 2020/2021 has been the most challenging time for the entire generation. From the impact on daily working lives, this pandemic has entirely changed the work operation of businesses. I’m monitoring the team while channeling the emotions of Seasians at their peak. All the anxieties require a balance and “a good support system” is the only thing on which the current situation can survive with good consciousness. Indeed, my positivity-filled emails around sleep, nutrition, and exercise boost up the team self-care model around this uncertainty period. We also conduct fun activities weekly to alter the routine behavior and optimize the positive outcomes. I personally made call and ensures about certain things to my team. Yoga and exercise have certainly shown its new AVATAR in the lockdown period. So, our company turned to virtual yoga sessions with different platforms and made them put the work aside for a while. This way we are still working on the better lives of team during this pandemic.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
I remember the wordings of one of the successful leaders of all time, Oprah Winfrey and that is, “the greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change their future by merely changing their attitude.” You know the intensity of the CEO’s job is like no other in the organization. It is infinite. Amidst the responsibilities, it is obvious that I’ve to keep myself fully charged to deliver on my commitments. It is all about the right set of attitudes, activities, and behaviors that keep up the motivational charge. I’ve never thought of giving up, and that is the only key that sustained my drive till today and in the future, of course.
While looking at the great leaders of the time, I feel inspired. I faced many downsides in my business but I never gave up because of the wonderful team with me. At last, I would say it is the dedication and love of my team that helps me sustain my drive.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
Look, I demonstrate empathy that abets the commitments and the efforts. For example, when our employee feels low for the ways they perform their work, I give them plenty of time to let them make peace with themselves while not forcing them to complete their work. Whether cognitively or emotionally, the empathy factor is vital in a leader to support people through difficult times, and that what I try to carry always. On the other side if we see, a boss always has an urge of doing micromanagement but only true ones can control this urge well. This is what differentiates a leader from a boss. I deliver the best that gives inspiration to my team and that’s where I feel I’m leading them from front.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
Future is always uncertain, but if one wants to keep their head in the positive direction, having faith on the team is important. You know it is very easy to blame tools and the processes when the team won’t be able to focus or feel disengaged. However, it is just the positivity and the motivation by the leaders with which the working team aura can be easily maintained. I always insist my team convert this ongoing stress or fear into the opportunity and see how they can perform outstandingly. It is certain that with the leaders’ enthusiasm, employees get much motivation and see the rise in the performance of the employees. In fact, it is challenging to find the positive when everything seems to be falling apart. Amidst those rough patches, I always communicate transparently about the situation and provide them the best possible solutions, and that’s what leaders are for. Therefore, I feel constant communication can do the trick.
What are the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
When we don’t agree with the situation or the received decision, it is really hard to convey. Usually, I break the ranks, and with the utmost transparency and without any sugarcoating, I announce the things. It is obvious to feel ambivalence but navigating the situation is vital at some point in the situation. Putting all ducks in the row, I take out the conversation by explaining how the decision was made up and the total rationale backing the final outcome. In fact, I’m the kind of person who avoids making mixed messages and being straightforward. I just laser focus on the situations and the decisions and take a further step over why it’s the final call. Once I delivered the news and announce the decision, I indeed ask the individual or the group for their reaction to it. I just don’t stop there but listen to their concerns, and it is my role that I have to understand both parties in a good manner.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
Yes, it is true that predicting the future is not just tricky but is impossible. Generally, our response towards the unpredictable is not just pointless but profoundly dangerous. It can only be turned out valuable if the planning is done better with the only aim of equipping the organization and the team to deal with the unpredictable. Understanding the landscape, paying attention to learning, and creating an environment of success are all a leader wants a team to know. To cross high barriers to make an outstanding entry, all you need is a strategic planning process. A plan definitely requires a process, and it starts with the active observation, in-depth understanding of the organization’s core competencies, scenario planning and the “if-else” observations like making Plan A and Plan B and also applying permutations and combinations, clear direction that ingests core values, and the continual evolution of the process. We, at Seasia, don’t predict without any future action in hands. It will cease to happen as we believe plan need to be meticulous practical and not should be in discussion mode but in the record that can be counted well. This way, genuine plans can be made up.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Let us take the example of the current scenario; if we say it is the most fearful one, this still will remain an understatement. You know one principal cannot drive a business in the difficult times, every business needs. So, I guess shedding away fear-based decision-making can help every leader to cope up with the situations. It is best if you know what to act on, how you should be approaching your actions, and the anticipated results yet to arrive. Simply strategizing what is under control and what is not can lead to a significant change. You know life always puts everyone into tough decisions, but if we continually hand over our caliber to the fears, we are definitely going to miss opportunities, and that can only lead to regret. With such combinations, you can pass through any ups and downs. No doubt, the consistency in communication is necessary and it can lead to best results both for a company and an individual.
It is better to make that specific downfall time into the future opportunity where we will be proud of making a good chance from the temporary discomfort of uncertainty.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
Yes, businesses often make such mistakes, and that can only be learned from the experiences, growing slow and growing fast, both are huge problems, however, poor growth rate can never be justified. Demands are turning too high, resources are becoming overloaded, and that would obviously result in inconsistency. It is essential to have a balance, and only then a business could achieve consistency in the experiences. The second thing is you should never underestimate your competition. You must never get too much sure about your processes; it needs to change with time, and never ignore to keep an eye on the market. Therefore, with differentiation in your business, you can make your service more appealing. A generous pace is suitable for both the business and the employees. Last but not least is not giving investment into marketing. Never think this way that products are so revolutionary that only relying on PRs and word-of-mouth recommendations can work.
Leaders must have a note on these common mistakes:
- Always keep their employees over-occupied and leave no more space for innovations.
- Less to nil investment in emerging technologies.
- Always afraid of perfect competition. Not taking a single step fearing the fall in the level of possibilities.
- Very less investments in sales and marketing. When you don’t invest, you miss the power of automation that can save ample of time and time of your resource and client onboarding process.
Such mistakes need to be avoided.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
You know the master strategy is giving value to your clients and along with that, maintaining financial ability is also important.
Look, if I am the most stable person, then my team will also be. Strong and effective leadership means generating situations for other people to think clearly and timely. My simple strategy is to examine the emotions of the situation and recognize the triggers. Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, our team has managed well for their work routines and balancing work from home with the realistic and provided strategies.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
In recent years, the role of CEO for me has undergone stubborn and too much challenge, all due to the COVID-19 crisis. All the approaches have been altered following the pandemic. Nobody would have ever thought of and even prepared for this situation as of the social and economic disruption. Although there is no lack in the attributes, let us talk out of the five prominent key attributes to remain profitable in the post-pandemic drive.
1. Maintaining Transparency: Depending on the context of the crisis response, communication can take several forms, but the most important qualities for honest communication are honesty, empathy, and transparency. If you leave out one or more of these factors, your communication will fall flat. Once a strategy has been developed, leaders must communicate it to their team in an open and honest manner to avoid misunderstandings and fear. The adoption of total transparency by leaders is crucial.
2. The dogged factor: The proliferation of both good and bad information grows, clouding any possibility during times of crisis. To gain a hold on such things, leaders must endeavor to drown out the background noise of unsubstantiated rumors and focus on the cold, hard facts. To gain a hold on the issue, leaders must aim to shut out the background noise of rumors and focus on the actual facts.
3. Prepared for the crisis: Nobody could have imagined the devastating social and economic damage caused by COVID-19 on a worldwide scale. Crisis leadership, on the other hand, must deal with the uncontrollable and unpredictable with a unique plan. Effective leaders must be prepared for crises and uncertainties that have the potential to distort anything. Great leaders should always be prepared for the worst-case scenario.
4. Keeping consistency in communication: I embrace it more than anything and do not let a single day go in vain. With the certain communication channels, I’m open to hear the employees concerns. It is the leadership that must prioritize the needs of their employees in crisis management.
5. Thinking beyond trends: When you get an idea that doesn’t even match the trend, you must execute it behind that momentum; it can actually drive a brand forward. This can always help them in creating new opportunities and out-of-the-box solutions for the people in need.
If one keeps these five points in their mind, it can create a history, and yes, trends always follow the leaders.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There are many quotes that may inspire everyone in the lives. But once a leader found a motto of their life, that is undoubtedly followed throughout one’s life. I love to read such books. So, I picked my life lesson quote as, “The first and most important choice a leader makes is the choice to serve, without which one’s capacity to lead is severely limited” by Robert K. Greenleaf. He has a series of books on leadership and this beautiful quote is from the series of Servant Leadership book. Once I was returning to my town after dealing with some clients and penned down an extra service map for their business growth and sent it to the client. I was glad to know after few hours that my idea made a profound impact on their work and lead to more connections. Sometimes, the idea should not be just having monetary benefits; being a leader, it is to serve how much I can.
How can our readers further follow your work?
I’m always active on LinkedIn. You can follow my posts and our great work at https://www.linkedin.com/in/r-p-singh-1911a210/.
Here’s our link to website: https://groupseasia.com/
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