Name: Rajeev Arora
Title: Board / Business Adviser, Senior Consultant
Rajeev is a career banker, avid business transformation driver and a turnaround specialist. Currently in UAE, as a Trainer, Senior Consultant and Board / Business Adviser, he continues to passionately mentor and enable strategic business development / transformation, digitalization, growth and delivery in the BFSI and Fintech space.
He started his banking career with HSBC in year 1996 where he was awarded as the 1st Super Star of India for his customer service & initiatives. Ever since then, he has never looked back and has achieved greater accolades and recognitions across his more than 25 years of successful & progressive experience in India, Oman, UAE and DRCongo (Africa) across Retail / Business / Corporate banking, Cards, Products, Payments, Wealth management, Service Quaity, Consulting & Insurance domains.
Rajeev’s forte of strategic planning, operational excellence & execution, cross-functional collaboration & people management, entrepeneurial leadership & engagement style across stakeholders, coupled with his functional skills in business delivery & growth, product / project / program management, service delivery, data analytics and process / quality improvements, has catapulted large scale digital & business transformation in associated organizations across geographies and industries.
Prior to moving to UAE he was in Oman as the Head – Business (Corporate, SME & Retail), Transformation and Strategy with Muscat Finance leading the organization to extensive quality and high yielding business delivery along with creating considerable digital footprints for the bank, basis his strong strategy execution and result orientation.
Former Head for Retail Banking & Strategic Initiatives with Bank Sohar in Oman, he was not only instrumental in spearheading the progressive business transformation,
launching Wealth management, Cards (Issuing and Acquiring), Bancassurance, Segmentation, Process-reengineering, and Digitization within a short period of 2 years, but was also responsible for turning around the loss-making division into a highly profitable one leading to highest P&L growth amongst all conventional banks in Oman.
Earlier, he was responsible for the Retail and Branch / Business Banking, Corporate B-B-C program, and driving quality new business leading to a superlative market growth of Yes Bank, making it one of the most respected retail banking franchisees in India today.
His innings with Max New York Life Insurance, HDFC and ICICI Bank in India, just after his stint with Rawbank in DRC Africa, where he not only associated with IFC & IDI but also launched Retail Banking & Cards, saw multiple successes in market growth, business delivery, and human capital development initatives, partnership & alliances, making these organizations one of the strongest pillars of the industry in respective countries.
Rajeev has obtained his MBA in Finance & Marketing, CAIIB 1 & AMFI from India. Certified in Digital Banking, he has also done his Digital Marketing, Projects, Strategy & Business Development accreditions from Google, PMI & IDI (Ireland / UK) respectively.
Rajeev is known for his core strength of 5 Es – Execution, Engagement, Entrepreneurial, Ethics, & Energy. He has well recognized enabling behaviours of proactive attitude, excellent interpersonal & organizational skills, proven abilities in building successful businesses,and is adept at leading multi-cultural teams/projects across geographies.
His LinkedIn profile is https://www.linkedin.com/in/rajeev-arora-8278006/
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
We’ve gone through the interviews and asked the best of the best to come back and answer 7 MORE Questions on Leadership.
I hope Rajeev's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. As a leader, how do you build trust with employees, customers and other stakeholders?
As a leader, building trust is most critical and important to fostering positive relationships with employees, customers, and other stakeholders.
Some of the key principles that have always guided my approach are :
Transparency and Open Communication - I believe in open and honest communication, maybe outright blunt at times as well. But keeping everyone informed about the organization's goals, challenges, and successes establishes transparency and builds confidence.
Consistency and Reliability in actions and decision-making is crucialthereby creating an unbiased, stable and trustworthy environment for my team and stakeholders.
Empathy and Active Engagement - Understanding the needs and concerns of others is vital. I practice active engagement across all levels and empathize with the perspectives of employees, customers, and stakeholders. This has always helped in building strong relationships and in addressing their needs effectively.
Accountability and Responsibility - The buck stops at me for my team ! Taking responsibility for both successes and setbacks alike is a key aspect of leadership which I have tried to always imbibe. No wonder my teams have always stood by me through thick and thin.
Recognition and Appreciation - Work Hard and Party Harder, gets reverberated across all my career innings across organizations. Rewarding, recognisizing and acknowledging the contributions of individuals and teams in any form and format fosters a positive culture and makes strong team bonding. I always make it a priority to recognize achievements and express appreciation for the hard work of employees and the support of stakeholders.
Adaptability and Learning - We are not God ! I never shy away from accepting if I am not aware of something to my own liking and learning the nuances from my team members at any level. The business landscape is ever-evolving. Being adaptable and continuously learning demonstrates a commitment to growth and also inspires confidence in your team helping in building a positive innovative culture, navigating challenges and building trust in the organization's ability to adapt to change or any demand.
Ethical Leadership - This is most important to me. Uppholding ethical standards is non-negotiable. Your teams are watching you always and you need to be their role model. Demonstrating organizational, unbiased and ethical behavior builds trust over the long term, both internally and externally. No short cuts ever !!
2. What do 'VISION' and 'MISSION' mean to you? And what does it actually look like to use them in real-world business?
To me, a vision is the aspirational destination that guides an organization towards a desired future state. It's a compelling and inspiring image of what the company aims to achieve in the long term. A vision statement should be forward-thinking, motivating, and serve as a beacon that aligns the efforts of every individual within the organization.
In contrast, a mission statement defines the organization's purpose, its reason for existence. It outlines the fundamental values, goals, and core priorities that drive day-to-day activities. A well-crafted mission statement provides clarity and direction, acting as a roadmap for decision-making and strategic planning.
In the real-world business environment, vision and mission are not just words on a wall; they are the foundation upon which a company's culture, strategy, and actions are built and to my mind, should be imbibed in everyone's DNA within the organization.
As a Leader it is important to ensure that every decision, project, and initiative aligns with the core values embedded in the mission statement. This ensures consistency and helps build a strong and authentic organizational culture.
One needs to regularly communicate the vision in a way that inspires and motivates the team. Create a shared understanding of the long-term goals and the impact each individual can make towards achieving them.
Use the vision and mission as a strategic compass for decision-making. When faced with choices, evaluate options against the long-term vision and ensure that decisions are in line with the organization's broader purpose.
It is most important to involve employees in the vision and mission. Encourage them to see themselves as contributors to something larger. This engagement fosters a sense of purpose and belonging.
At the same time, while the core values of the mission should remain steadfast, be open to adapting the strategic approach to align with the ever-changing business landscape.
3. How can a leader empower the people they're leading?
As a leader, empowering individuals is at the heart of my approach to leadership. I believe in creating an environment where each team member feels valued, motivated, and capable of contributing meaningfully.
Actions speak louder than words and I believe some of these are strategically the key to your success.
Encourage and foster a culture of open communication where team members feel comfortable expressing their ideas, concerns, and feedback without any fear of backlash or politics.
Empower individuals by giving them the autonomy to make decisions within their areas of responsibility. There could be temporary setbacks, but you need to back them up.
At the same time, clearly define roles, responsibilities, and expectations. When individuals have a clear understanding of what is expected of them, they are better equipped to take initiative and make informed decisions.
Provide opportunities for learning and professional development. This could include training programs, mentorship, or challenging assignments that allow individuals to expand their skills and knowledge. My formal team reviews were always a platform to not only drive competetiveness but also a training ground and a platform for sharing best practices to continuously move the benchmarks higher.
Acknowledge and appreciate the efforts and achievements of team members. Public recognition not only boosts morale but also reinforces the idea that each person's contributions are valuable to the team's success.
Be a mirror and a shoulder at the same time, provide constructive and unbiased feedback and encouragement to help individuals grow.
Demonstrate the qualities you wish to see in your team members. Lead with integrity, resilience, and a commitment to continuous improvement. Your actions set the tone for the team's behavior.
Challenge the status quo, identify and eliminate obstacles, politics and any behaviours / agendas that may hinder individuals from performing at their best. This could involve addressing issues related to processes, resources, or interpersonal dynamics. People Engagement than Management is the key.
Last but not the least, is your team alligned ? one needs to inspire a shared vision that aligns with the organization's goals. When individuals see the bigger picture and understand how their contributions is valued, appreciated, and contributes to the overall success, they are more motivated and empowered.
4. Who are some of the coaches or mentors in your life who have had a positive influence on your leadership? Can you please tell a meaningful story about one of them?
I have been extremely lucky and blessed to have worked under able guidance and mentorship of some of the best in my 26 years plus of career journey across geographies like India, Congo (Africa), Oman & UAE, and industries like Banking, Finance, Insurance, Fintech; from my humble beginning in HSBC in India way back in 1996, till date.
Have had excellent learnings & guidance from all my bosses, many of my peers and even my team members who all possessed a wealth of experience and dimensions.
Their openness about their own experiences created an immediate connection, and I found comfort in knowing that even the most accomplished leaders had faced moments of uncertainty.
They didn't just provide guidance but empowered me to find solutions on my own. Instead of giving direct answers, they asked thought-provoking questions that guided me to analyze the situation critically. This approach not only helped me solve the immediate problem but also cultivated a habit of strategic thinking.
What stood out most, however, was their genuine belief in my potential, seeing strengths in me that I hadn't fully recognized myself. Their encouragement gave me the confidence to take on challenges I might have otherwise hesitated to embrace.
Throughout our professional relationship, and even otherwise, have always maintained my connect and relationship with all of them and they continue to be my well wishers and a source of support, offering guidance and encouragement during both successes and setbacks.
Their mentorship not only influenced my approach to leadership but also instilled in me the importance of lifting others as we climb.
Their impact has not only shaped my leadership style but also fueled my commitment to paying it forward by supporting and mentoring others in their professional journeys.....and I continue to strive to be always available to them in any form and format they would prefer, come whatever challenges or any hardships I may have in the process.
5. Leadership is often more about what you DON'T do. How do you maintain focus in your role?
In the dynamic landscape of leadership, maintaining focus is not just about what you do but equally about what you choose not to do. Very Difficult to say the least but Not Impossible.
What I accordingly try to do to my best of abilities is to ensure that my attention remains steadfast on the most impactful activities - remember the Arjun and the Bird's Eye story from Mahabharata !
I start by clearly defining organizational and team priorities ensuring that my time and energy are directed toward what truly matters.
Delegation is a powerful tool for maintaining focus. I delegate tasks that are better suited for others, allowing me to concentrate on strategic decision-making and high-priority responsibilities. This empowers team members and leverages their expertise.
Establishing boundaries is crucial. I prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance, and I'm disciplined about avoiding activities that do not contribute directly to organizational goals. This includes being mindful of unnecessary meetings and distractions.
Learning to say 'no' is very important though frankly speaking I have never been able to Master it as much as I would desire to considering how much I strive to be collaborative and supportive.
The business environment is dynamic, and priorities can shift. Regularly reviewing and reassessing goals and strategies allows me to adapt and refocus as needed. It ensures that our efforts stay aligned with the ever-changing landscape.
Embracing technology tools helps streamline processes and communication. By leveraging project management and communication tools, I reduce time spent on administrative tasks, allowing for more focus on strategic initiatives.
Staying informed about industry trends and best practices is crucial. Continuous learning helps me make informed decisions and avoids getting caught up in outdated or ineffective approaches.
I try to ensure that my actions align with the organization's core values. This alignment serves as a guidepost, helping me avoid activities that may compromise the integrity of our mission and vision.
6. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Everyone plans differently. How do you plan for the week, month and years ahead in your role?
Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail...each of my team members would surely remember this coming from me.
Effective planning and reviewing against those plans is very critical and the cornerstone of success.
One has to approach planning with a strategic mindset, understanding the importance of balancing short-term objectives with long-term goals and aligning the teams thought process and actions likewise.
Here's how I have always tried to strcuture my plans for different timeframes:
At the start of each week, I take time to review the previous week's accomplishments and challenges. I set clear, achievable goals for the week, aligning them with broader team and organizational objectives. This includes prioritizing tasks, scheduling key meetings, and allocating time for focused work. Regular check-ins throughout the week help me stay agile and make adjustments as needed.
On a monthly basis, I engage in a more comprehensive review for self and team / functions. This involves assessing progress towards monthly goals, evaluating key performance indicators, and identifying areas for improvement. Monthly planning allows me to address emerging trends, adjust strategies, and ensure that I and the team remains on track. It also provides an opportunity to plan for larger projects or initiatives that may span multiple weeks.
Annual planning is a strategic exercise that involves aligning organizational objectives with the broader market / industry landscape. I have always set ambitious yet realistic goals for the year (though my teams found many of them impossible in the beginning, but trust me, the same teams delivered magic and year on year we over-achieved against set targets), breaking them down into actionable steps. This includes identifying key milestones, allocating resources, and outlining major initiatives. Collaborative planning sessions with team members ensure that individual and team goals are integrated into the broader organizational strategy.....Execution is the Key !
While planning is essential, I acknowledge the need for flexibility. Circumstances can change, and plans may require adjustment so one would need to build in flexibility to adapt to any unforeseen challenges or opportunities....or many times - higher demands from your bosses.
Ongoing reviews are crucial. Weekly and monthly reflections provide insights into what's working well and what needs adjustment. This continuous feedback loop is invaluable for refining strategies and optimizing performance.
7. What advice would you give to a young leader who is struggling to delegate effectively?
It is but natural for a young leader to struggle initially with delegation .... but one would need to be thrown in the water to learn swimming, and that is where you would need to come in the picture to mentor suitably....and nothing succeeds like success !
Delegating effectively is a skill that can take time to develop. One cannot do everything on his own, so you would need to emphasize the significance of delegation in leadership. Delegating tasks not only lightens the leader's workload but also fosters team growth, empowerment, and skill development.
Encourage the young leader to assess the strengths and weaknesses of team members. Delegation works best when tasks align with individuals' skills and interests. Understanding the team's capabilities is key to effective assignment.
Stress the importance of clear communication. Clearly articulate the expectations, desired outcomes, and any specific guidelines related to the delegated task. This helps avoid misunderstandings and ensures alignment with overall goals.
Remind them that trust is the foundation of effective delegation. By demonstrating confidence in their team members' abilities, leaders empower individuals to take ownership and responsibility for their tasks.
Suggest starting with smaller, less critical tasks when learning to delegate. This allows both the leader and the team members to build confidence gradually. As trust and competence grow, more significant responsibilities can be delegated.
Ensure that the team has the necessary resources, information, and support to successfully complete the delegated tasks. Lack of resources can hinder performance and lead to frustration.
Create an open communication channel for questions and feedback. Team members should feel comfortable seeking clarification or providing updates on their progress. This promotes a collaborative and supportive environment.
Remind them that effective delegation is a skill that develops with experience. Encourage self-reflection and a willingness to learn from both successful and less successful delegation experiences.
Lead by example. Demonstrate effective delegation in your own leadership role and share examples of success from your past. This shall reinforce the trust and faith in the approach.
Highlight the long-term benefits of effective delegation, such as increased team morale, improved efficiency, and the leader's ability to focus on high-priority tasks that require their specific expertise.
As long as one is groomable / trainable, trust me, its just a matter of time when you shall see the young leader blossoming into a formidable mentor and leader himself.
Critical thing is the right set of Attitude.....aptitudes can be built, Attitude can't !!