Early on in life, Swati Yadav was allowed independence and through her journey learnt to be a risk-taker. She is now passing those lessons onto the people she leads.
“Whenever I am presented with something that seems difficult to achieve, I have been tuned to say this to myself: this is not impossible; if I focus and consciously work towards a solution, I can accomplish the task at hand.”
Swati was raised to take risks, push boundaries and be bold. She credits her parents and her grandfather for shaping her work ethic, while also teaching her independence from a young age. It’s no surprise that as a working professional, Swati made a conscious decision to continue challenging her limits and expectations.
“As a fresh management trainee in my first job at ITC Limited, I was asked to be sent to the factory. That wasn’t the normal thing to do at that time,” says Swati.
When she moved to her next job at Johnson & Johnson, she was offered a leadership role to drive a new business strategy. “That was a scary moment. I was a HR professional and didn’t know much about business strategy. But the moment I felt that discomfort, I knew I had to push myself to do it and not turn down the opportunity.”
Now, as the Director of People and Culture at Roche India, Swati passes on that drive to her team as well; always encouraging them to reach their full potential.
"But the moment I felt that discomfort, I knew I had to push myself to do it and not turn down the opportunity"
“I am certainly not the kind of leader that says, ‘Do what you are comfortable with.’ I want my people to identify their strengths and potential, and then I push them to their limits to leverage those to the fullest,” she shares.
Nudge them along
“I believe if you nudge people a little, they will surprise you significantly.”
But that form of leadership developed over time. Swati admits she started out as a “helicopter mum”, always protecting her staff by not giving them tough assignments or challenging situations. She realised she had to change her approach as they became too dependent on her.
"I believe if you nudge people a little, they will surprise you significantly"
Though pushed, her staff are always assured of her support. “The second thing I share with them is that if they fail, I will be right behind to back them, so they should not fear failure.” She says she benefited from similar support from her family. When she initially left home to further her studies at 18, her father supported her even though many told him it may not be the right decision.”
“He stood like a solid rock behind me and said, ‘Go take a risk and do what you have to do.’ That psychological safety is essential for people to take up challenges in life.”
Matching interests and potential
At Roche today, Swati focuses her efforts on “building the capability of our people”. “I do not focus on one’s current role, but I find where their interests lie and then develop them for the long term”.
She cites an example of a person who was extremely creative but was in a governance-led role. “We gave her an opportunity to work on the transformation story which allowed her creativity to shine,” she says.
Roche also gives opportunities to its staff to move outside of their given roles through its projects and communities network. “I might be in HR, but if I have interest in marketing, I can sign up for a marketing project,” she reveals.
“We are saying, do your current role, but there are avenues where you can start moving towards where your interests lie and where you would want to build your career. We want a network-based organisation where people organise themselves to find solutions.”