Kishore Jayaraman, India & South Asia president at Rolls-Royce, loves technology but is careful to not become a slave to it. Take for instance, the various productivity tools that claim to make life easier for users. Delhi-based Jayaraman does not find them that efficient. In fact, he’s wary of being dependent on them and therefore, memorises his schedule for the day instead of depending on the calendar; he solves calculations in his head instead of reaching out for the calculator.
Jayaraman, who has spent a decade growing Rolls-Royce's business in India and South Asia, has earlier worked with GE across varied verticals. In an interview with Lounge, Jayaraman discusses why he keeps his calls short, his fascination for biographies, and more. Edited excerpts:
Who do you consider your mentor and why?
I remember way back in my career, I was a field engineer in Taiwan. We were having dinner with one of the senior leaders, James Bendel, who was visiting the site. He was five grades above me, and here I was sitting next to him at dinner. Little did I know how important such evenings are in life.
Five years later in 1996, I decided to change jobs and move to a commercial role from a technology role. I went to meet Mr. Bendel and requested for his support. He helped me get a small project management role to determine my capabilities. I performed and grew in the role and within 18 months went from rookie to senior project manager. When I went to thank him for the opportunity, he said, “The conversation we had at the dinner in Taiwan told me that you would be good, and had the capability. You just needed the guidance, and here you are.”
He did not make me feel he was mentoring me or that he was pushing me to grow — he waited for me to display the hunger to achieve something and when I made my choices, he just stood by me, guided me and supported me. To me, that is true mentorship.
One major insight you worked on with your mentor's guidance?
Get to the truth as soon as possible so that there’s no misunderstanding. It provides clarity so that action can be taken to achieve the desired results. In many cases, you don’t solve problems because you are not focused on getting to the root of the issue and bringing clarity. We often mitigate symptoms than eliminate the root cause. I find that people keep moving from one task to another — calling it multi-tasking — without taking time for reflection and getting to the root (of a certain task). That, to me, is a miss for any leader or for that matter, any professional.
What does being a mentor mean to you?
I believe in being the conscience, the voice that challenges and guides, the catalyst that enhances, and the coach that embraces.
What's your morning schedule like?
I wake up at 5.30 am and start my day with a prayer followed by a cup of coffee. I spend some time thinking about the day ahead and prioritise things in my mind. I also try to get in some stretching exercises and a short walk. Then I have my breakfast and head to work.
What are you productivity hacks?
One thing I have learnt over the years is to respond to emails as soon as possible so that people don’t feel ignored. I usually answer mails within 24 to 48 hours. The other thing I do is to limit my calls to half an hour. I schedule short calls as I feel one explains things in the stipulated time. These are basic hygiene habits that, I believe, increase my productivity. It saves time and you can choose what to do with that time.
As for productivity tools, I think they are more unproductive than otherwise. For instance, I generally remember my schedule instead of completely relying on calendar.
What’s your personal north star?
To know where you came from and what got you here. It allows us to figure out what we can and should do. No one achieves success overnight but it’s important to have this framework.
Any book you would recommend about mentorship and workplace growth?
There are many books that can help you focus on what you want to learn. Personally, I pick up a lot of biographies as the successes or failures of a person’s life can bring you great insights and learnings.
One of my favourites is the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. It’s full of examples of grit, persistence, creativity and hard work. It also highlights the weaknesses of being human and how important it is for one to be connected with oneself.
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.