The Focus Should be on Reskilling Oneself: Sudip Verma

"The key is that individuals will need to figure and share what works best for them. Policies don’t help here much. The focus should be on the quality of work rather than how many hours one has clocked – unless hours clocked are an output", said Sudip Verma, Consulting Lead, DDI during the latest interaction with BW People.


The art of managing virtual teams is an opportunity of a decade. What is the top 3 advice you want to give to be most efficient?

Yes, it is true that for the first time in the recorded history such a large proportion of the workforce will be required to operate virtually. Most of us are used to more touch and feel kind of human interaction. I don’t see that happening in the foreseeable future. Virtual is here to stay and therefore, managers will be required to engage and lead teams virtually.

My 3 pieces of suggestions will be:

- Set Expectations: Leading virtually can easily lead to triggering the instinct to micromanage. And as research suggest, micromanagement is not only good use of anyone’s time it is counterproductive. Therefore, Begin with the end outcome in mind’. Focus on the deliverables and leave the How part to the team member. Do check for understanding though.

- Be flexible: Leaders need to accept that these are unprecedented times for everyone. Therefore, a flexible approach goes a long way in helping team members. While working virtually, allow team members the flexibility to determine the schedule that works best for them. Remember most of us are double hatting in the sense we are working and helping with house chores as well.

- Support: It could be challenging to work virtually and not have anyone around to support you. Therefore, leaders must offer support to their team members. The idea is to not create dependencies but to show that they truly care for the wellbeing of their team members.

Working from home to be an integral aspect of work culture post lockdown. How are you managing to keep them engaged all the time?

- Seeing is better than hearing: Turn on the Video – as often as possible. It is always better to see that there is a living, breathing person on the other end too.

- Balance the Personal and Practical needs: Leaders must balance the personal needs of those they lead and the practical needs of the work at hand. Both matters. Yes, man is a rational animal, but man is also a social animal. Research suggests employees are willing to go the ‘extra mile’ for those leaders who they believe cares for the, ‘gets them, knows them’.

- Do not tolerate Family. Instead, Celebrate it: It is not uncommon for someone’s toddler to barge in and joins the meeting uninvited. Thankfully, there is a huge acknowledgment across that it is us who have encroached upon the family’s space and not the other way round. Within DDI, we realize that small things matter big times. For example, I was stuck in a different city for 90 days and then I traveled to meet my daughter. My leadership team was very supportive. My colleagues nudged for a snap of the moment when my 3-years-old daughter saw me after such a long time.

What 3 competencies would you recommend leaders to develop and demonstrate?

Three competencies that, I believe, when developed will help leaders immensely are:

- Building Self Insights: This comprises an ability to seek feedback with humility. Action feedback and reflect often. Unfortunately, most leaders would rather give feedback than seek feedback, which inhibits their own development as leaders. The truth is neither seeking feedback nor reflecting often is the default for most of us. However, these can be learned with practice.

- Emotional Intelligence Essentials: Emotional Intelligence is often construed to mean empathy. That is not true. While empathy is an important component, it is not the same as emotional intelligence. There are other aspects too that contribute to EQ – Demonstrating high emotional control, listening, seeking help, encouraging participation of others, sharing thoughts and feeling free, offering help, etc.

The thing with EQ is that it takes minutes to understand EQ and a lifetime to practice it.

- Positive Approach: Napolean said, and I concur, that “A leader is a dealer in hope”. People do seek guidance on the way forward from their leaders. I must clarify that I am not advocating ‘plastic positivity here’. A leader must face facts and share them in a manner that inspires others to better their lot than what it is. If evolution teaches us something it is this either gets easier through practice or we become stronger with time. So in any case we have enough reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the future.

This pandemic is causing lots of jobs to become redundant. What do you have to say to that?

Unfortunately, it is true that the havoc that pandemic has unleashed has implications far beyond health. As businesses come to terms with the uncertainty a lot of jobs have been impacted globally. No country and no industry seem to be insulated. I don’t wish to sound pessimistic, but I believe it will get a bit worse before it get better.

In the interim, the focus should be on reskilling oneself. I often get asked if this is this a right time to pursue some ‘certification’. Honestly, the kind of world that is shaping will put a lot of emphasis on skills rather than certifications. A lot of organizations have any way done away with the minimum criteria for academic qualifications. So a certification that doesn’t help build skills is pointless. A skill developed without a certificate is still valid and useful. Let us not forget that

Wright Brothers neither had the certificate to manufacture an airplane nor a flying license and yet they did. Skills matters!!

Another reason that I support skills over certificate is because as the world gets virtual some of the best institutions of the world are opening their doors and courses for anyone who is interested, the education is truly getting democratized. So make your money work better for you. Again, I am not suggesting that certifications don’t have value. The ‘Why’ of certification is often unclear. So randomly chasing some certifications because you have time and everyone else seems to be doing it may not serve your best interest.

With WFH pushing people to work beyond normal working hours, How can leaders avoid burning out?

Setting expectations and boundaries is important. For example, I know someone who has gently made it known to his colleagues that he would prefer not to be at laptop before 9AM and after 9PM. I think that is more than a reasonable window to get things done. The key is that individuals will need to figure and share what works best for them. Policies don’t help here much. The focus should be on the quality of work rather than how many hours one has clocked – unless hours clocked are an output.

As a person or professional, what are the most necessary and important things that keep you going even in these trying times?

I had previously worked on projects, processes, and products. It was only later I realized that people intrigue me. I subsequently discovered my calling and it is just 2 words– ‘Helping Others”. It helps that my personal purpose is in sync with my organization’s purpose of ‘Better Leaders. Better Future. In fact, DDI has been studying human behaviors for 50 years now. So yes, purpose keeps me going.

I am also consciously giving time to my hobby of reading because pre-pandemic I used to tell myself that I will read literature when I have time. I would have completed reading 10 books in the last 5 months that has been on my wish list for more than a decade at least. So giving time to my hobby give some joy and energy.

Tags assigned to this article:
Sudip Verma ddi learning & development


Around The World