by Sanjay Sehgal, Chairman & CEO of MSys Technologies
Pro Bono – I am sure most of us relate this word with free services, like charity with good reason.
“Pro bono publico” the Latin word that means ‘for public good’ is synonymous with charity and non-profit work. But what happens if we introduce pro bono techniques to management? I tried, and so far, it has proved to be a worthy decision for my venture.
Last year, when the uncertainty due to the pandemic put companies through a period of turbulence, that brought heartache and hardship to many, it made us realize that the only way we could contribute was by stepping forward to create and launch new technologies.
But the challenge was matching resources to expectations, and this is where pro bono played its part.
We started reaching out to trainers and professionals who were open to freelance with us and help upskill our teams.
Thankfully, there were good number of professionals who agreed to join us during the tumultuous times and are now permanently placed in the company.
In fact, we also ensured that we didn’t layoff anyone, and I am thankful for that decision, because had my team and I resorted to layoffs, we would have been in crisis now, when the market is up, and we need resources to pull-off the tasks in hand.
If your organizational management can include pro bono in its strategy, it will succeed in meeting project deadlines without having to compromise on quality.
I have to interject here; introducing pro bono does not mean replacing the full-time resources with volunteers. Rather, it is more about creating an inclusive management and culture.
Being a strong believer in the vitality of collective growth, the realization that no successful organization is a one-man show has never left me. I have always believed that ‘Inclusivity’ is an essential trait of successful management.
“A truly inclusive environment makes a company twice as likely to meet or exceed its financial targets. It’s three times more likely to be high performing. It’s six times more likely to be innovative and agile, and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.” Dr. Terri Cooper, Vice Chairman, External Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Deloitte
A culture where everybody feels that they are connected, where they can be their authentic selves, not only becomes the seedbed for successful future leaders, but also ensures a defined corporate image for the company.
Take the example of Ernst & Young (EY) which believes that “Only the highest-performing teams, which maximize the power of different opinions, perspectives, and cultural references, will succeed in the global marketplace.”
Introducing pro bono into a company’s culture means welcoming different opinions, perspectives and enhancing the prospects of cultural references.
In the last few decades, I have seen companies tapping into the power of pro bono service as a mode to accelerate talent. They use this technique to engage leaders from diverse backgrounds, to instill a culture of inclusiveness and diverse thinking. ‘Diverse Thinking’ today is the new frontier, and that the only way to incorporate it smoothly in your management is by using pro bono techniques.
Here are three ways through which pro bono supports inclusive leadership:
1. How pro bono supports Acceptance
Biased leadership is more like Achilles’ heels.
If you wish to grow and encourage diverse thinking, the first step is to create a culture of Acceptance.
The multinational pharmaceutical company Novartis believes that diversity is integral to their success, as it helps them understand the unique needs of their patients and look for innovative ways of addressing those needs. This is why Novartis has replaced the word ‘disability’ with “diverse-ability,” to indicate that disability is not a lack of ability but is more about having diverse skills and proficiencies.
This is the reason why Novartis’ Human Resources professionals are educated on topics such as unconscious bias, inclusive leadership, disabilities/accommodations, and compensation equity to encourage a culture of Acceptance and improving diversity hiring methods.
2. How pro bono supports Attentiveness
My spiritual guide Daaji (Kamlesh D Patel) always says, “Thoughts without our attention have no power”.
Our thoughts carry a lot of power, and hence we need to be attentive to our thoughts and ensure that no negative thoughts hamper the state of individual as well as a company’s growth.
It is therefore important to instill cultural intelligence in leadership, and pro bono has a role to play here as well.
Take the example of Marriott International, the American multinational diversified hospitality company that manages and franchises a broad portfolio of hotels and related lodging facilities.
As one of the ‘World’s Best Multinational Workplaces’ Marriott International made initiating LGBT inclusion in their workplace their top priority, to create a more inclusive guest experience. This positive step to change the thought culture within the workforce earned Marriott ‘Best Place to Work for LGBT Equality’ accolade as per HRC’s 2016 Corporate Equality Index. Marriot is widely considered a culturally intelligent organization, widely recognized for its diverse and inclusive policy.
And, by making their workforce more inclusive, they made their hotels more welcoming to diverse guests.
3. How pro bono supports Attitude.
Diversity and inclusion can only be harnessed by having the Right Attitude.
By harnessing the right attitude, the leadership of any company can push employees to create an independent, collaborative, and inclusive workplace environment – One in which everyone can thrive.
The first and foremost thing I look at while hiring my team of leaders is their attitude. And what helps me choose the right ones is my experience with Heartfulness, a non-profit organization that is mostly run-on volunteer-based services.
There is no boss here, and yet mega events are organized and successfully handled by volunteers, and the only thing that keeps everything in place is the volunteers’ attitude to successfully collaborate and work together.
Summing it up.
Inclusive leaders realize that people are most collaborative when they feel safe to contribute without fear of embarrassment. These leaders understand that power dynamics, dominating styles, and low tolerance of differences can stop team members from speaking-up.
Therefore, they focus on building trust across the group by establishing a set of guiding principles through pro bono values.
This is the best way to encourage people to contribute without fear, I feel.
What do you think? Do share your thoughts.
Sanjay Sehgal is Chairman & CEO of MSys Technologies. He is a proven innovator, serial entrepreneur, meditation instructor and a self-development enthusiast who has built and managed several companies. He is deeply involved with the Heartfulness Meditation and teaches this to seekers of inner growth and self-development.