Transformation through People-First Leadership

With Reddy Mallidi at Autodesk VP, Global Ops

Transformation through People-First Leadership

 Listen to the Podcast Here

In this episode we hear from transformational leader, Reddy Mallidi, that people really do matter. We learn that a focus on people, as much as the business element, can absolutely drive success.

With Reddy & Vic both being fans of Scott Heron (CFO at Cisco) we know we’re in for a treat. As the Head of Operations at Autodesk, it was fascinating to hear Reddy’s perspective on people-first leadership combined with driving successful operational transformations.

It’s easy for all of us to get so bogged down on the business, that we forget the people element. Reddy provides a welcome reminder on what’s important.

Here is a breakdown of the topics and the approximate times when they are discussed in the podcast (Reddy, thank you for noting these.)

  • Intro/Career Journey 2-6:30
  • Transformation 10-13:30
  • Automation 16-18
  • Prioritization 19:45 – 24
  • If you are starting over 28-34
  • Three Key takeaways 35:30 – 39:30
  • Book Recommendation 40-41

A little bit about Reddy

Interestingly, Reddy started his career on Wall Street. After earning his MBA, he moved into management roles and shares some great stories. We particularly liked hearing about his experience as the Product Manager for the Intel Pentium 3 processor and how plans don’t always go to plan!

Reddy’s journey took him to China to start a channel business unit where his leadership focus shifted to setting direction and empowering other leaders. Reddy is currently VP of Global Operations at Autodesk.

Listening to Reddy talk about his latest role, Vic comments that “you talked about the importance of team at the start and at the end, with the business bit in the middle.” (That made Vic happy.)

Reddy’s approach is a case study in people-first leadership best practice.

Transformation and automation

McKinsey states when equal focus is placed on the people as well as the business element, success rates of big transformational projects increase from 30% to 80%.

Reddy agrees with this,

“Coming to a transformation, people are hugely important. You have to bring the people along. You have to align people on the strategy and when it comes to execution, teams have to be aligned. You have to march towards the same goal.”

The approach Reddy takes, sees ideas coming from all areas. Reddy tells us that through the success of many automation projects over the last 2+ years they’ve been able to automate around 200,000 manual hours.

As Sam points out, “long term that must help with employee retention as they’re able to work on the most interesting stuff.”

This is such an interesting area for discussion – we’ll need a separate process automation podcast!

The challenge of prioritisation

Talking about the success of clear goals, Vic references our Tech Leader Survey which highlights (as Geoffrey Moore pointed out in 2015) that we’re still in a crisis of prioritisation.

Vic gets quite passionate talking about this bit!

“[As business leaders] we’ve been starting in the wrong place. We start with looking at the priorities when actually let’s get the team dynamics bit right and then make sure everyone has a voice. Then we can actually have a decision rather than just the loudest person talking.”

Reddy adds,

“Over the last 25 years I’ve worked for three different companies. This is a huge challenge for organisations and leaders. If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. Geoffrey Moore was so right. It’s a crisis. Companies are realising, especially with Covid, that it’s very important to set top priorities that give you a guidepost, especially when resources and budgets are constrained.”

I think we can all agree that things don’t always go to plan.

By having clear priorities, Reddy explains how he was able to allocate resources to the right project by understanding the number one priority for the company.

“Top priorities helped guide us on where to compromise rather than stretching people thin when everyone is working so hard.”

Stack rank your priorities

Referencing Patrick Lencioni Vic tells us, if at leadership level there’s more than one degree of separation on how priorities are stack ranked, you’re creating competition further down the organisation as it passes down. People end up competing against each other and silo’s form, slowing the organisations down.

“The Aha moment in our conversation with Geoffrey Moore is that it’s ok to have priorities, but please stack rank them.”

Have a plan but be agile!

Reddy and Vic discussed that sometimes you need to go slow to go fast. Whilst planning is super critical, you need to have flexibility when things don’t always go as planned.

Listen to Reddy’s story when he was the Pentium 3 product manager and how they overcame an issue when something went wrong when there was no plan B.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

This was an easy question for Reddy,

“Soft skills are hard and they take a long time. I would focus more heavily on the softer skills.”

While there isn’t a manual for human beings Vic says you can learn them and part of it comes with self-awareness. It does take effort.

You can enjoy Vic’s gardening analogy at this bit. Hopefully she’s stopped waving her gardening fork around now.

What are your key takeaways?

  1. Always treat people fairly – Being a people-first leader takes patience. It takes investment in time. Balance business needs and people needs. We need to keep the human element at the top of our minds.
  2. Know that most people have good intentions.
  3. Be humble regardless of what your accomplishments are.

What would be your book recommendation?

Trillion Dollar Coach. Anyone who wants to be a people-first leader should read it.”

Here’s a great quote from the book,

“Your title makes you a manager, but your people make you a leader”

Sam closes succinctly with “Stay humble, stay fair and treat people well”

Thank you Reddy. This was such an insightful conversation and one that we will be referencing for some time.

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