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Chandramouli Venkatesan (Mouli) has a strong corporate track record of over 25 years. He is an alumnus of XLRI, Jamshedpur and spent his initial years in Sales and Marketing in Asian Paints, GE Capital and Onida. He worked with Cadbury’s from 2005 till 2016. Over that time Cadbury metamorphosed to Kraft Foods and Mondelez and his last role there was Managing Director for India. In his decade-plus time there, he has worked across areas including Strategy, Marketing, HR and General Management across India and Asia Pacific. He now works with Pidilite Industries as CEO, Special Projects with the mission to create and set up a new business for them.

Mouli recently authored the book - Catalyst which was published by Penguin RandomHouse. It is a synthesis of his reflections around how leaders should think about the two questions - Where to go & How to grow - as they go through their respective journeys.

In this podcast conversation, Mouli talks about the notion of TMRR for leaders to turbocharge their personal growth, the concept of learning cycles when it comes to thinking about experiences, sowing the seeds for the second half in the first half, decoupling a quit decision and a join decision, impact of life on work and the role of values in personal growth and leadership. Published in May 2018.

Genesis of the book - CATALYST

Mouli talks about the context behind writing the book which is a combination of him finding time across multiple flights to Singapore to pen down his thoughts given a Regional role and a desire to take a break and take stock of life. He also discusses how he wanted to contribute to social impact in a way that leverages his skills rather than do on-ground field work where he may not have any distinctive value to add.

Turbocharging your growth – TMRR

Mouli talks the fact that the time people put in a job is not an appropriate indication of the experience they have gained. He outlines TMRR (Target, Measure, Review and Reflect) as a process through which people could derive a lot more experience than what the average person might get in that time period. He also talks about how people can build in the habit so that they practice it on a regular basis.

Raising the game when it matters

Mouli talks about the concept of Learning Cycles and how it is critical for people to focus on completing large learning cycles to build significant distinctive capability. He also makes the distinction between major and minor learning cycles and talks about how effective leaders often kick their game up a notch when it comes to a major learning cycle. The concept of learning cycle is also relevant when we think about processing opportunities that come along in our journey.

Playing the 1st half of career to win the 2nd half

Mouli discusses that a lot of the wins in the first half of the career are often on the back of low hanging fruit but the wins in the second half are often harder. He mentions that apart from solving for successes in the first half, we should all build the muscle and resilience to be able to go after the complex win or the high hanging fruit. And that sometimes might require us to go slow and learn than run fast and miss out on building this muscle.

Picking mentors thoughtfully

Mouli underscores the criticality of having sound mentors in todays world where there are more forks in the road and several choices to be made for all of us. Mouli also talks about his framework for how we all should think about selecting the mentors that guide us. He talks about how Mentors should have seen some parts of the “movie” that you haven’t and should be completely vested in your success with no conflict of interest.

Decoupling quitting & joining decisions

Mouli talks about how people often mix up the two decisions and how they can end up over-appreciating what is right in the new context and what is wrong in the current situation. He brings it back to the point that careers are driven by capability and not by role/title. He urges us to think hard about the learning opportunity in the current environment and carefully evaluate the pros and cons of the current and the new opportunity before taking a decision.

Evolving views on the notion of success

Mouli talks about how the early years were often focused on achievement, which later gave way to an orientation towards Mastery and the last phase being driven by purpose. He talks about how he found his purpose along his journey and how it has impacted the choices he makes in everything he does whether it is a market visit or writing a book.

Impact of Life on Work

People often talk about Work-Life Balance and the rhetoric is often around “Life” being the residual figure after work has consumed you. Mouli flips this argument around and says that there is a lot to be gained on the work front by organizing your “life” carefully. He talks about passionate striving hobbies that push you towards excellence at work and also talks about how some of the social impact initiatives he pursues enhances his empathy when he is at work.

Cultivating "Lodestar" values

Mouli talks about the notion of Values as something that has a significant upside over the long run and challenges the current narrative which is often around showcasing the downside of people who display poor values and are punished. He also talks about the need for us to have an absolute view of this versus a relative view.

Overemphasizing fit in a career choice

Mouli talks about how he has made some of his early career moves based on the notion of fit. He also acknowledges that there is often an information asymmetry here and uses surrogate sources (profiles of others who have gone there and succeeded) of data as a means of determining if he would belong. He also emphasizes the criticality of focusing on learning rather than earning to drive professional growth over the long-term.

Winning the Second half of career

Mouli talks about how people need to consider evolving the metrics with which they measure their success as they move towards the second half of their career. He strongly advocates the notion of helping others succeed as a means of driving your own success.

In Summary - Playing to Potential

Mouli talks about the notion of Potential being an infinite term and not something finite and well-defined. He uses the phrase “you get what you deserve” to make the point we are better off focussing on the deserving than the getting. He also underscores the point about enjoying the ride and therefore playing (not necessarily working) towards our potential.

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