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My journey as the ‘CEO for one month’ for the world’s largest HR solutions organization

By Anubhav Das, CEO for One Month, 2018 – The Adecco Group, India.

My journey as the ‘CEO for one month’ for the world’s largest HR solutions organization

Thursday July 05, 2018,

7 min Read

The attention too, that this designation attracts is usually accompanied with thoughts ranging from the implied intellect or business acumen of this ‘CEO’ to his or her rank in the society’s elite. And as every young ambitious professional would agree, the drive to become the CEO of a large company one day, is among the most potent motivators in their professional careers. 

But the question still remains that, what are the traits of an individual which makes an individual a CEO of a company. An interesting approach is to use the components of a behavioral benchmark which is defined as executive presence. In an article by Forbes magazine, it is best defined as the balance between knowing and sharing expertise through humility. Key factors in determining the executive presence of corporate leadership involve the following common yet often misunderstood traits:

• Emotional Resilience

• Opinions sans fear of error

• A tone of Voice accompanied by crisp and clear articulation

• Body language or non-verbal cues

• External demeanor

Though subjective in nature, some of these pointers provide a framework to sharpen the blurry image of an ideal CEO and perhaps as you read this, a few examples would have definitely popped into your head or if not this, then the ideal scenario of oneself as the CEO would definitely be a thought here. In essence, the culmination of a carefully proportioned mix of appearance, communication, and gravitas tailored in an individual, is what makes a person justify the tag of a CEO.

Perhaps the allusion of this image and a desire for business right from my childhood, I decided to take the plunge trying to first understand industries and organizational structures before I could embark on becoming the CEO of my own firm (AIE Services Pvt Ltd, featured in YourStory in the year 2016). Over the course of time, the business acumen strengthened and the company grew exponentially. However, I did realize that I still was nowhere close to the image of the CEO as I had envisaged. Following my exit from the business, the need to rise to the upper echelons evolved from being a wish to a necessity. With these thoughts, I chose to interact with as many companies as I could at that time – Be it in the capacity of a consultant or as a service vendor.

In doing so, I happened to chance upon a trending initiative on social media by the global HR solutions giant, The Adecco Group for their hunt for their next ‘CEO for One Month’ and the announcement of the program. Understanding a little more about this initiative, I realized that this was a global program that saw participation from over 45 countries. With the opportunity to work with an Indian CEO and potential of than working with a global CEO of The Adecco Group, showed me a glimmer of hope in my search for mentorship and I signed up with gusto.

The selection process indeed was rigorous with close to 8 rounds of interviews and discussions combined with presentations on different topics culminating into a final round of a ‘Boot Camp’ with the country’s top six finalists selected from over 19,000+ applicants. The boot camp was a two-day workshop where every individual was given tasks to showcase their final presentations and with last round of interviews a panel of judges who were the topmost leaders of the organization. 

This boot camp also gave us the chance to interact with the Adecco leaders and business teams, providing us with invaluable insights of navigating through staffing industry and I personally grew to know more about the future predictions of the job market scenario in India. The conclusion of this intensive two-day camp saw the conclusion of the final announcement and my happiness knew no bounds when I was declared the CEO for One Month, The Adecco Group (India) and I had the opportunity to get to the next level.

I shadowed the Country Manager & MD of The Adecco Group, India, Mr. Priyanshu Singh, and the training regime revved off at the first meeting I attended. Throughout the course of the programme, I spent time not just directly with the CEO but managed to run across the huge Adecco India HQ, meeting different business leaders and department heads and trying to understand every aspect of the industry from the team of the world’s largest staffing company. The benefits of such a programme were manifold; however, the two major ones were as follows:

1. Possibly the best perk of the internship was being able to continuously bounce off ideas, questions and even suggestions, across the length and breadth of the organization ranging from CxOs & senior management to SMEs and last-mile enablers; helping me understand that differences and thoughts in not just opinions but also the structured approach to situations which comes in after years of experience

2. Given the expanse of Adecco’s clientele, sector spread, and industry portfolio the practical learning and insights which I acquired were not just confined to one industry/sector but also I also drew from the experiences by the leadership in various fields ensuring that I get to learn as much as I apply; which is a rarity when it comes to other and/or similar internship programs.

The program having been structured in a format to provide unfiltered access to all the activities undertaken by Mr. Priyanshu Singh (Country Manager & MD, Adecco group India) perhaps sums up the idea of experiential learning at its best. One might be familiar with the teachings on experiential learning by Chinese Philosopher Confucius who said: I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.

Being a firm believer in the philosophy described at the core of experiential learning and driven by the availability of mentorship with a top-down view of the industry and the organization by a person emulating all the characteristics I shared in some these above points, if not just a dream come true, definitely it has brought me much closer to my goals in a crunched span of time.

However with the image of a CEO also come the challenges associated with the post. With Hollywood immortalizing the line, “with great power comes great responsibility”, the practical implications of those words can be best observed following the actions of a company’s or an organization’s CEO. 

Perhaps to an outsider, a CEO’s job might seem the most glamorous or lucrative job, however, the dramatizations often fail to depict the daily hustle over long periods of time to actually reach the top, often mired with multiple pitfalls and roadblocks along the journey of becoming a successful CEO. 

The essential bit to remember while glancing through the curriculum vitae of an individual with the word CEO on it is that when it comes down to the wire, he remains the only person answerable to every question put forth towards the company. From resolving relationships with clients to ensuring a harmonious management of talent force; to optimum utilization of resources and finally ensuring that the organization remains compliant to legal and ethical codes is truly a job which requires a hands-on approach.

Working alongside Priyanshu, offered me a rare glimpse into his ability to analyze every situation posed before him through various viewpoints (at lightning speeds), before coming up with a solution. And even realized the amount of steadfastness needed to execute tough decisions on a daily basis. Working as a CEO helped me develop a holistic perspective of how the different departments, functions, and roles work cohesively as a whole aligned with the company’s goals and strategy. 

It helped me appreciate both the macro and micro perspective and how essential they are to a firm’s success. Perhaps looking at the challenges faced by the head of a company and his process of executing solutions for them, I have imbibed a completely different outlook towards tackling issues both personal and professional and I consider it the CEO for One Month program one the most pivotal foundation stone of my career.

Mindful of this journey’s final stage of possibly bagging the opportunity to shadow and work with Alain Dehaze, the global CEO for The Adecco Group and optimistic about the trend where almost all CEOs for One Month being absorbed in to the organization, I thank Adecco for this differentiated opportunity!