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7 Questions on Leadership with Mahesh Iyer

Name: Mahesh Iyer

Title: DirectorFounder, Startup Growth Advisor & CEO

Organisation: Roarr Consulting Group

Mahesh Iyer, an esteemed host of the "Mr. Iyer's Digital Dialogue" podcast, is a beacon of leadership in the SaaS, Sales, and Digital Transformation realm. From establishing a thriving BPO and outsourcing company to steering organizations to global success, Mahesh's repertoire of skills encompasses profound AI understanding, driving sales strategies, and influencing markets in APAC, North America, and EMEA. Mahesh’s journey has evolved from seeking personal transformation, showcased in his initial best-seller "Self Help Junkie to Action Hero", to guiding organizations towards professional excellence with his upcoming "First Principle Thinking - 8i Framework". His latest venture, Roarr Consulting Group (RCG), embodies the First Principle framework, assisting tech founders with their Sales, GTM, Marketing, and Digital Transformation challenges. With insights from his diversified career, he continues to inspire and foster a new age of leaders.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Mahesh's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

Leadership, like a fine art, requires nuance and adaptability. Over the years, my biggest challenge has been ensuring that every team member feels genuinely valued, understood, and empowered. When leading an organization, especially one as dynamic as Roarr Consulting Group (RCG), founded on the First Principle Framework, there are diverse personalities, skills, and backgrounds to consider. It's imperative to create an environment where innovation thrives, but ensuring that the innovation doesn’t overshadow individual growth is equally essential. I've always believed in the philosophy, highlighted in my upcoming book "First Principle Thinking - 8i Framework", that for a company to succeed, every individual within must succeed first. My strategy? It's a mix of empathy, continuous learning, and applying the first principles thinking to every situation. This ensures that decisions aren't just based on precedents but are rooted in fundamental truths, thus helping develop the next generation of leaders who think critically, challenge the status quo, and inspire personal and professional transformation.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

My leadership journey is a testament to the age-old adage: leadership isn’t merely about titles or positions but influence and impact. Surprisingly, my trajectory wasn't mapped out from stellar academic accomplishments but rather from a deep-seated drive for real-world, practical experiences.

At the ripe age of 23, my entrepreneurial spirit propelled me to establish a BPO company. Managing a force of 400 professionals was a mammoth task for someone at such a young age. It wasn’t just about numbers and profit margins but about people. Our BPO wasn't just another name in the market. We stood toe-to-toe with the big players, distinguishing ourselves with superior people management and consistent delivery. Our reputation soared as a formidable competitor to the leading BPOs of the time.

Transitioning from a corporate role to entrepreneurship and then circling back to corporate was akin to surfing giant waves – exhilarating highs and challenging lows. These transitions gave me a rich tapestry of experiences, shaping my leadership style. As I matured, my approach evolved. Where once I was hands-on, doing the nitty-gritty, I began leaning into delegation, placing trust in my second and third line of leaders. This shift was pivotal, allowing me to focus on strategic growth and innovation while ensuring the ship ran smoothly.

Being an eternal student is a title I wear proudly. Even though I didn’t have the privilege of direct mentorship, books became my mentors. Reading about illustrious leaders' journeys, challenges, and strategies fueled my growth. And while money never served as my compass, personal satisfaction did. My voracious appetite for learning steered me towards newer horizons, whether mastering the intricacies of AI and Blockchain or emerging as a SaaS and Digital Transformation expert in recent years.

My journey is a continuous evolution and learning story – from an ambitious young entrepreneur to a seasoned leader. Always remember: It's not about where you start but how fervently you keep moving forward.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

My daily routine might not align with the typical early-riser adages of success manuals, but it’s been tailored to my rhythm, and, most importantly, it works for me. As I’ve mentioned in my debut book, "Self Help Junkie to Action Hero," success isn’t about merely knowing good habits but diligently integrating them into our lives.

I commence my day at 7 a.m. It is not the crack of dawn but offers a serene beginning. The early hours are about grounding myself – I meditate for 15 minutes, allowing my mind to find its focus and clarity. This isn’t just a one-time morning ritual; I revisit meditation two more times throughout the day whenever I can spare a moment.

As an ardent football and cricket enthusiast, sports and workouts are instrumental in my daily schedule. Although my workouts aren’t grueling, they’re consistent, ensuring my body receives the needed stimulation. And when time permits, I dive back into my love for cricket.

I have a penchant for gadgets, which helps me maintain a meticulously organized schedule. This digital prowess ensures I’m punctual, a virtue born from an experience of missing a crucial flight and, consequently, a client. That one incident instilled in me a commitment to never be late for an appointment – a promise I've kept for over two decades.

Yet, like anyone, I’m not immune to the occasional lazy day where routines get disrupted. But three constants remain – meditation, reading for at least 30 minutes to an hour, and writing at least a page daily.

Professional mentorship might have been elusive in my journey, but I’ve always sought guidance in various spheres of my life. My spiritual guide has been a pillar of strength for nearly 17 years. Likewise, for fitness and meditation, I trust experts to guide me.

My workday typically kicks off at 10 a.m. Given my extensive dealings with North American and EMEA clients, my work schedule is strategically crafted to align with their time zones. Depending on client interactions, my workdays sometimes stretch into late hours. However, sleep is non-negotiable; I ensure I get at least seven hours, adjusting my wake-up time if needed.

Above all, one of my inviolable principles is responsiveness. Whether it’s an email, message, or a call, I ensure no one is left hanging. Even if the response is a 'no,' I believe in communicating promptly. It’s not just professional etiquette but a reflection of respect and transparency.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

Leadership lessons often manifest in the subtlest of interactions. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with the Managing Director of a renowned Global Fortune 500 Tech Company. It was a holiday in India, and as the discussion progressed, I noticed that the leader, who hailed from India, chose not to turn on his camera. While technological hiccups are commonplace, his overall demeanor indicated a probable lack of engagement or a divided focus.

This seemingly small gesture was a profound reminder of the significance of presence and respect in any interaction. Leadership isn’t just about the decisions one makes or the knowledge one possesses, but it's also about the respect one extends to others, irrespective of their rank or stature. No matter how elevated our position might be, acknowledging the time and effort of another individual is paramount.

This incident only reinforced a principle I've always held dear: valuing everyone I come across, be it an employee at a restaurant ensuring a pleasant dining experience, a diligent worker in a parking lot, or even the CEO of a major corporation. Everyone deserves respect and acknowledgment.

Furthermore, another lesson I have come to appreciate is the importance of consistent learning and adaptability. No matter how advanced or seasoned a leader might be, the business and human interactions landscape is ever-evolving. It's essential to remain a student, eager to adapt, learn, and grow. In essence, the heart of great leadership lies in humility, respect, and the constant pursuit of knowledge.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

One book that has profoundly reshaped my leadership philosophy is "Elon Musk" by Walter Isaacson. The narrative delves into Musk's remarkable journey, painting a portrait of an entrepreneur whose audacious vision often defied conventional thinking.

One of the standout concepts that resonated with me from Musk's approach was his deep-rooted commitment to "First Principle Thinking." Instead of relying on established norms or analogies, Musk breaks down problems to their foundational truths and then rebuilds solutions from the ground up. This method challenges traditional paradigms and paves the way for innovative solutions to revolutionize industries.

The essence of Musk's First Principle Thinking illuminated my understanding of genuine innovation. It made me realize that transformative ideas often stem from questioning the status quo and dissecting complex problems to their core. This pivotal epiphany inspired me to adopt a leadership approach centered around this method and develop a comprehensive framework around it with great confidence. My forthcoming book, "First Principle Thinking - 8i Framework: Innovating & Solving Problems," delves deep into this concept. It serves as a manual for organizations and leaders, outlining strategies to harness the power of First Principle Thinking to drive innovation and effective problem-solving.

Furthermore, Musk’s leadership style, accentuated by his unwavering determination and hands-on approach, reinforced the significance of leaders being deeply involved in their ventures' intricacies. As described in the book, his life epitomizes the blend of vision, resilience, and execution.

Walter Isaacson's "Elon Musk" offers a revealing insight into the life of a revolutionary entrepreneur and has instilled in me the power of First Principle Thinking. This book has had a profound impact on my leadership journey, inspiring me to challenge conventional boundaries and consistently seek innovation.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Embrace continuous learning. In this fast-paced world, adaptability and curiosity often lead to the most significant impacts. Leadership isn't just about guiding; it's about evolving, questioning, and listening.

Prioritize respect in every interaction. Whether speaking with a CEO or a casual acquaintance, give your full attention. Every individual, regardless of stature, deserves esteem. This mindset strengthens mutual trust and understanding.

Communication is crucial. Always respond to messages or emails, even if it's a "no." Understand that behind every communication is someone with hopes or expectations. By being clear and respectful, you foster trust and solidify your standing as an effective leader.

Leadership thrives on continuous growth, respect, and clear communication. Hold these pillars close, and they'll serve both you and those you lead exceptionally well.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

When I started my BPO business, it grew really fast. In a short time, we had lots of people working with us. As the leader, I was proud because we made sure everyone felt welcome and did their best. I always believed in using numbers and facts to make decisions, and something happened that made me believe in this even more.

One day, an employee who was an Operations Lead approached me with feedback. He presented an analysis showing that while our overall average call response times were well within industry standards, there were certain periods during the day when we faced delays. These periods coincided with a drop in employee morale, often post-lunch or late evenings. He suggested that short, scheduled breaks with some recreational activities during these times might boost energy levels and potentially bring down response times.

Initially, it seemed counter-intuitive. Why would adding more breaks make us more efficient? But trusting my team and the data presented, I decided to pilot the idea. We introduced a “Power Break” of 15 minutes, during which employees could play a quick game, engage in some light exercises, or simply relax and chat.

The results were astonishing. Within a month, the data showed that our response times during the typically slower periods improved by 18%, and overall employee satisfaction shot up by 25%. But more than the numbers, the atmosphere in the office changed. There was an evident increase in camaraderie, collaboration, and overall joy. It became one of the hallmarks of our company culture, and competitors began to take notice.

This incident taught me several invaluable lessons. First, the importance of listening to your team – they are the ones on the front lines and often have a pulse on operational intricacies. Second, always be open to unconventional ideas. Innovation doesn't always come from the top. And lastly, the power of data in decision-making. Without his data-backed approach, we might have dismissed the idea as just another suggestion. It underscored for me that good leadership is as much about humility and openness as it is about vision and direction.

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