Nidhi Raina: Creating the Next Generation of Thought Leaders and Conscious Businesses

WOMEN

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TCS

“Success and happiness need not be two different choices for any leader, in any organization, in the world,” opines Nidhi Raina, Global Head, Cultural Transformation in Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the second largest Indian company by market capitalization. The Indian multinational information technology service & consulting company is headquartered in Mumbai and is a subsidiary of Tata Group, operates in 147 nationalities across 46 countries, and houses 400,000+ employees.

Nidhi is a business, technology, people and purpose enthusiast. She is a firm believer that growth is multi-disciplinary and multidimensional. While business efficiency, technology usage for accelerated scale is imperative, she advocates that human experience, enablement, augmentation, and evolution are key to unlocking the future of business.

Currently she is engaged in re-imagining next-gen organizational culture and workforce effectiveness for organisations and entrepreneurs alike. For her efforts in providing substantial business returns through people interventions, using physical and digital models for scale, she’s been named one of the ‘30 Women in Conscious Business’ ,Women Economic Forum’s ‘Exceptional Women of Excellence, 2018’, International Executive of the Year, Female Executive of the Year in Asia. She has also won multiple awards across business, product innovation, leadership and HR including Business Innovator of the Year, Product Innovation of the Year, Best New Business or Service in Asia among others.

"I learnt to measure success as a formulation of - degree of happiness, degree of purpose lived and degree of inner evolution"

The Business Innovator

After 15 years of upwards business & IT career trajectory, rising quickly through the ranks at TCS as Head of Growth and Innovation. Nidhi, an INSEAD Alumnus, in 2015 moved into HR because of a realization.

Early in her life, as a consultant to fortune 100 organisations, Nidhi worked across functions and industries. Success meant solving business problems and navigating the people through it, quickly. She realised that even though technology was fast enabling the business strategies, it was the people and culture that really differentiated the leaders from the laggards.

In the current era, while most organizations have embarked on digital and agile reskilling, very few organizations have had success in creating or recreating cultures to match the rapidly changing business strategies. Large scale organizations and entrepreneurs alike, often find it difficult to pivot to newer industry demand, often struggling to create competence in newer technologies as well as a connected highly aligned energetic workforce, thus losing significantly on the abundant synergies of the two – together.

Nidhi was convinced that these were not two mutually exclusive problem sets. She felt strongly the next evolution of business lies not just in enabling the workforce to meet current business goals but in surpassing them. With the intention of accelerating people and cultural transformation to address and eventually transcend, the rapidly changing digital transformation landscape, Personal Excellence Academy was born.

The Academy mentored executives from all roles and experience levels, through a staggered approach of personal, leadership, business, and customer mastery sessions. Despite no prior HR experience, Nidhi broke all myths of transformations and pioneered in creating the largest corporate academy in the world. It hosted 500 participants at a time; with engagement rates of 92% across all 8 months of the academy. The measures showed 70-80% movement across metrics set for personal and professional transformation; as well as ROI of 150% + through new deals, sustained accounts and increased customer satisfaction.

No wonder then, the Academy introduced a paradigm shift, ground up, in the personal, business and social of its leaders. “The leaders saw much more collaboration, communication, creativity at work- most definitely – but they also saw improved relationships at home and increase in social projects with the less privileged. Almost as if a whole new person had emerged from them.”

PE created the culture it had set out to do, too – an energised, productive and purposeful culture. It took the best of management support, best of HR practices and vivacious altruistic teams to come together, to deliver the magic of PE. “Sustained belief, support, stepping outside held-beliefs and visioning beyond the short term, by all stakeholders, including the CEO, were the key ingredient to its success”.

While the content and design was definitely a winner, what won the hearts of the leader participants was connect, warmth, fun, inspiration, and exemplification that Nidhi brought to the program. In the last 4 years, the Academy has changed the lives of many leaders and won Nidhi 20+ international awards. Shares a participant “Initially we came for us, then we came for her. She invested and infused a lot into each one of us”.

The Inspirational Executive

Taking an organizational culture and attempting to align it again, is however, no small feat. All along the way, Nidhi says she found her strength by looking both inwards as well as outwards. “Outer strength came from inspirational leaders, exemplifying mentors and healthy meaningful relationship with the ecosystem (including work and family) while the inner strength came from sound cultural environment, strong inner beliefs, and faith in meditational practices,” shares Raina.

After years in business consulting, to then move to HR and push for organisational change of this nature and scale, must have felt challenging. What kept her forging ahead was “Purpose” prompts Raina. “To help ensure that business, technology and human evolution matched each other equally. With technology looking to augment humans, we humans need to live in full potential – externally and internally. Set the standards high. That goes for humans as consumers or creators of the new future.”

Most change initiatives fail to continue and persist, especially as success is long and illusive. Yet, Nidhi finds it liberating. “By redefining what success meant to me throughout PE. I learnt to measure success as a sum total of – the degree of happiness earned, the degree of purpose lived and the degree of inner evolution experienced,” smiles Raina. “I had learned, wrongly, that success meant going as high as you think you can go, but thinking is conditional and limited to your experiences and exposure; so by definition, it limits you eventually.” says Raina. “True success is going deeper. Ironically, the deeper you go inside yourself (your essence, purpose, values, and strengths), the higher you can go outside (success, abundance, and social impact).”

Nidhi Raina Global Head, Cultural Transformation, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS)

Being a mother, daughter, wife and also a manager undoubtedly add their fair bit of challenge for any executive. She finds work-life balance “By cross leveraging both,” Raina elaborates. “Work should be an expression of self and add excellence, collaboration, diversity of perception, and challenge to my life. Life should be a celebration of self and add joy, lateral thinking, deep retrospection and purpose to my work. Much like a bicycle.”

This didn’t happen automatically though. It meant sacrificing certain things until she eventually learned to strike the best balance. “When you don’t know how to do something well enough, then sacrifices are definitely involved - initially. A focused effort has to be made to learn well and learn fast. As an example, spending time with my child got sacrificed initial years of developing the Personal Excellence product, till I learned better time management, quality engagement & deep listening within the time I did have with him,” says Raina. “There were other things that I sacrificed that I willingly chose to do since they paled in comparison to what I knew I would produce at the end. ‘Choosing’ to sacrifice empowered me.”

The Woman Leader

Nidhi is also a strong voice for the advancement of women. She mentors thousands of women through the program. “There is a strength to every species, every gender, and every existence on the planet. Women are naturally geared towards communication, collaboration, coaching, creativity, and compassion. Much needed in today’s world and an asset for the future,” asserts Raina. She personally always looked up to her mother and sister as mentors and shares that Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, and Mother Teresa always had a huge influence on her thoughts. She also recommends others to join Conscious Media Company, Women Economic Forum, The Indus Entrepreneurs, SheEO as some of the growth accelerators that also helped her embrace the entrepreneurial spirit and bring it to work

More and more women are now joining and acing in terms of leadership roles, and in roles throughout the ranks, actually. This is, in fact, the need for the future of work as well. “Skills of compassion, empathy, collaboration, communication are being sought far more than before, as we move into the fourth Industrial revolution and beyond,” emphasizes Raina. At the same time, “We will have more responsibility as a woman leader to set the right precedents because so many more women across the world, could use it as inspiration in this area. So no shortcuts for us,” says Raina. “We will also have to be bolder, authentic and out there, more than most, because the faster we cut through the thick of it all, get to our purpose and win - the more women leaders we will have at the top. So no time to dwindle!” In addition, the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind her, she adds optimistically, will be “To fill in the large footprints of good work, we would have started, for a much better world.”

To help them achieve more prominent roles in their organizations and countries, she suggest that women look at “Being yourself first. Freely question cultural, societal, parental norms at home and hierarchical, stereotypical, gender norms at work (or any other imposed constraints about what is acceptable). Then slowing reconstruct yourself, keeping only that which feels true to you, outside the noise of what others are saying” observes Nidhi. “Authenticity to yourself should be your best compass till purpose comes along.” Her advice to aspiring women leaders are first and foremost to “Give your 100% – into every role,” concludes Raina. “Do it by being authentic - true to yourself and true to your purpose.”

The Ever Evolving Student

When Nidhi is not pursuing her professional passions, she is embracing her personal ones. In her spare time, she can be found painting, dancing, gardening, writing, playing chess, swimming, traveling, sculpting, poetry, and anything new she can get a hold on. If she could reverse time, she would spend that in conversation with the saints of India like Adi Shankaracharya, Paramahansa Yogananda, NeemKaroli Baba followed by some of the world changing artists or businessmen such as Leonardo Di Vinci, Nicholas Tesla, and Einstein. “Primarily, to understand the essence that drives human evolution from the former; and the audacious nature of imagination and execution excellence from the latter,” gleams Raina enthusiastically.

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