As soon as things opened up for people to safely open their offices, Ashok Reddy, managing director of Teamlease Service, a leading human resources company, eagerly went back to office. “The same level of work is very difficult at home,” he says. Over the months, the entire leadership team has been marking their presence in the office every day. “It’s more of a signaling value…to say that it’s safe to come to work. At any given point in time, we only have about half the staff strength coming to office anyway,” says Reddy. The one thing that he dislikes about work since the pandemic, is the drastic increase in screen time and not being able to travel for business. “Earlier, we used to travel two to three times a week either to meet colleagues in other offices or clients. I don't think we will be returning to that frequency of travel any time soon,” he says.
Bengaluru-based Reddy speaks to Lounge about being inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, his productivity hacks, and why he likes weekend getaways.
Who do you consider your mentor and why?
The person I am most inspired by is Mahatma Gandhi. Somebody who is able to achieve outcomes with the cards he/ she is dealt with is an important criteria to evaluate someone you get inspired by. I look up to a person or a mentor being somebody who may not necessarily have all the answers but directionally is able to put you on the path to finding your answers. Gandhi ji didn’t have answers or solutions on how to get Independence. But the ability to try multiple things and stay focused on the final outcome while staying true to the path is very important. He embodies persistence, patience alignment to long term goals.
An advice from a mentor that has kept you in good stead?
It’s advice my father gave me. Be true to the calling of the heart and work hard towards the goal and things will align to make it all work out. If it doesn’t, don’t worry, it builds resilience and character. This piece of advice has kept me going in my education, work and entrepreneurial choices and decisions.
What does being a mentor mean to you?
Being a mentor is about someone being able to give inputs from experience that help you to think through your course of actions and choices. Every stage of life or work has multiple roads ahead and the ability to make choices basis the inputs that a mentor provides, is essential. The final choice is the mentee's, but providing direction and confidence comes from the mentor.
How do you mentor your colleagues at work?
I work with transparency and dialogue with my colleagues. Being unbiased and being able to provide the inputs at different junctures enables the team to think and work the next course of action. We all come at a problem or an issue from different angles and ensuring that there is a framework for dialogue and decision is the key role.
What’s your morning routine?
I am an early morning person, not so much by choice but by force of habit. I like to get my workout done by 7 am and then sit down to read the newspapers with a cup of ginger turmeric hot water. After that I spend some time with the family at breakfast before I heading out to reach office by 9 am.
When are you most productive during the day?
I am the sharpest in the morning. So, I keep major strategy, analytical and number work for the first part of the day. I generally don’t have a problem with an afternoon slump because I have a working lunch by noon, which makes it easy to get into the rhythm of meetings afterwards.
What do you do to maximize your productivity?
I carry a yellow notepad with me during the mornings so that I can jot down the ‘to do’ list for the day. Digital calendars are anyway fixed in terms of meetings. But this is a list of things I want to close out. And I am quite clear that I don’t end my day without ticking those boxes. There are some tasks that are of daily nature, some are of weekly nature.
Another thing I am particular about is mail management. I don’t have more than 10-15 mails in my inbox at any point in time. And again, I respond to all my mails, which means I have viewed all the mails and deleted, responded to or forwarded, etc. And also having a structured calendar that lays out your day, week and month plans becomes very good to structure your time. To know what you need to prepare in advance rather than take it on the fly at that point in time.
How do you unwind?
I have a nine-year-old daughter, so as a family we play board games and card games. I also love to travel, and love the idea of taking weekend vacations. My wife has slowly gotten used to the concept. You feel rejuvenated and come back fresh.
A book/ podcast/ movie that you would recommend and why?
I love reading all kinds of genre and I probably manage to read two books a month on an average. There are two books that have stayed with me, and I keep extra copies of them to gift it to people. One is Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. It a philosophical but simple read about a shepherd who keeps looking for treasure, which could be anywhere, even under where he stands. But you have to travel the necessary course before you find it. The other is The Silk Roads: A New History Of The World by Peter Fankopan. It’s about the history of the world as distinct from how it has been portrayed by the western economies.
Monday Motivation is a series featuring founders, business leaders and creative individuals who tell us about the people they look up to and their work ethics.