Shilpa Chitre, Head Human Resources – Grey Group India
Shilpa Chitre has over two decades of experience in the HR domain. Primarily, she has worked with advertising agencies, such as Everest Brand Solutions, PerceptH, Leo Burnett India and Rediffusion-DY&R. However, in between she also managed the HR function at companies, such as Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), where she was Vice-President, HR, and KPIT Cummins Infosytems Limited. She choose to pursue a career HR because her heart was already in it. By the time she graduated, she had decided to work in a field which allowed her the opportunity to work closely with different kinds of people.
Shilpa holds a Master’s degree in labour studies, organisational behaviour, HR and psychology at work from the University of Mumbai. Her career permitted her with unique opportunities of handling teams that are diverse, working through challenges of integrating different work cultures, creating robust processes which are future-proof, being responsible for setting up a healthy and energising culture. “What I achieve through work is the satisfaction that I solve problems and enables others to do what they do best”, says Shilpa.
Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Why?
I would firstly name my father. He was the one who got me interested in people, how they think, what motivates them, and how mindsets and behaviour will lead to outcomes. I remember dinner conversations about psychology, games people play or about transactional analysis! The idea that one could not just understand the human mind, but also influence and change it was mind-blowing and I was hooked for life.
I have also learnt a lot from my managers and particularly would mention 2 of them as big influences on my career. One gave me the mantra of “what’s the worst that can happen?” as a fantastic tip on moving forward, rather than stagnating at any point. As a leader, it reminds me that it’s okay to take a risk, when all the pieces aren’t in place.
The other one helped me transition from being a manager to becoming a leader. When I was struggling with a difficult, high stakes decision that would impact more than 4000 employees, I went to him for help. He simply told me that it was my decision to make and implement. I went away from that meeting energised, excited and confident. We went ahead with my decision and it worked beautifully!
What parts of your job do you find most challenging?
The decision and conversation to let someone go is still the most challenging part of my job personally. When an individual’s performance is consistently sub-par and doesn’t improve in spite of support or role changes, then the decision to part ways with them does feel justified.
There are also business reasons, where multiple employees lose their jobs over a period of time, while the business aligns to its new realities. Financial strategy requires this kind of realignment, but it’s never easy to do. One needs to handle such scenarios with respect, empathy and sensitivity.
What is your philosophy of leadership?
There’s a quote that I aspire to follow “You don’t inspire your teammates by showing them how amazing you are. You inspire them by showing them how amazing they are.”
I believe that a leader is as good as the team with her, and the better the team, the better the leader can deliver. In my experience trust, transparency, flexibility and focus are the key tools of exercising leadership.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
It is really difficult to pick one, from a career spanning two decades! Thankfully there are several high points to look back on, and hopefully a few more to look forward to.
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
While I don’t regret anything, they say hindsight is always 20-20! So looking back, I can see I could have worked more on networking. Interestingly, this is something that many women leaders mentioned in a survey I did. Making sure that you are visible in the fraternity or the industry is only one part of networking. It’s a great source of learning where you can draw from the experience and wisdom of a wider group of leaders and peers.
What would you like to achieve in the coming years?
I have recently discovered the power of Coaching, and I’m a convert. I have mentored younger professionals and freely shared career advice from my experience, but Coaching is a whole new ball game that I am learning about.
Coaching has the ability to change potential into performance, an emerging leader into an effective one, while being an authentic and genuine sounding board. I am excited about this parallel journey where I can channel my skills and learning into enabling another’s success. It’s a great match for me!