Ashish Bisaria Show Notes
Ashish Bisaria was leading a transformation team that needed to take thousands of people on a change journey. But one of his peers struggled with being able to take a large strategic vision and turn it into tactical steps. That’s when Ashish did two important things that helped the organization to get over the hump.
Ashish was born and raised in New Delhi, India. The elder of two boys, he was destined to follow the path of his father, who is a successful pediatrician. Little did they know that Ashish wanted to blaze his own trail. And did he blaze his own trail! He left India at the age of 22 and, at last count, has lived in seven countries, and traveled to 99 countries as of December 2016.
Ashish’s passion is in driving change. His personal and professional life both are a reflection on his comfort with change. After all, you would not live in different parts of the world and work for six different employers in twenty two years of your professional career if you were uncomfortable with change, would you?
The lens Ashish uses for driving ‘change & innovation’ is ‘customer experience’. Companies often look at change from an internal, financial and growth perspective. Ashish helps companies change the filter and drive change from a customer’s viewpoint. From his early career as a junior consultant with a Big Five firm, he discovered quickly that to be heard in a room full of senior executives he needed to bring something different to the table. The customer experience lens was his trump card.
Ashish has led multi-billion dollar mergers, helped companies go public, transformed 40 year old business models and has grown companies exponentially. While all this may be his professional legacy, what is less known about him is the leadership qualities and his personal brand with which he leads. Multiple team members have moved jobs or relocated their families in order to continue their growth under his leadership. His legacy is building very strong relationships and future leaders of the world. Ask him what he is most proud of, and he will rattle of a list of leaders who have gone on to do great things professionally and personally.
Ashish drives change by respecting the past work the people have done to create the present platform on which change can be built. He leads with passion and complete focus on people and bringing them along on the journey. He is most proud of purpose driven leadership for which we was recently recognized by the Atlanta Diversity Council. His brand is reflective on his blog titled ‘Life Reflections’.
Ashish currently resides in Atlanta, is a single guy, allowing him to have a single digit handicap in golf. He has two sons, 16 and 12 years of age, and they are the center of his world. And his proudest accomplishment so far is that he is creating two responsible citizens for the world in his boys.
Tweetable Quotes and Mentions
“We always have headwinds; people willing to row get to the other side.” -Ashish Bisaria Click to Tweet
“There’s a myth in the world that change causes fear.” -Ashish Bisaria Click to Tweet
“Change leaders often forget to respect the legacy people have created.” -Ashish Bisaria Click to Tweet
“Build change on top of the success the organization has created.” -Ashish Bisaria Click to Tweet
“Build change that allows people to come with you, not to them.” -Ashish Bisaria Click to Tweet
“Building change on appreciation is a far easier change model.” -Ashish Bisaria Click to Tweet
“Define the future as being built on the success of the organization.” -Ashish Bisaria Click to Tweet
“Curate ideas of the team to become the narrative of change.” -Ashish Bisaria Click to Tweet
“Good change leaders direct the pieces in a way that results in change.” -Ashish Bisaria Click to Tweet
“The worst thing we can do as an outsider is to use a SWOT model which reinforces fear.” -Ashish Bisaria Click to Tweet
“Start the journey from the appreciative side and you’ve won half the battle.” -Ashish Bisaria Click to Tweet
“Rather than talk about what’s broken, talk about the moment of delight.” -Ashish Bisaria Click to Tweet
“Talk about the things we are good at because we need to build on those strengths.” -Ashish Bisaria Click to Tweet
“Work on change and transformation with a customer experience lens.” -Ashish Bisaria Click to Tweet
“The best way to predict the future is to design it.” -Ashish Bisaria Click to Tweet
“People is the hard change manage problem.” -Ashish Bisaria Click to Tweet
“When there’s a leadership disconnect do not fix it in a public forum.” -Ashish Bisaria Click to Tweet
“Find ways to get aligned and understand what that person is thinking.” -Ashish Bisaria Click to Tweet
“Future can be tangible and long-term.” -Ashish Bisaria Click to Tweet
“You cannot code imagination; technology is about zeros and ones.” -Ashish Bisaria Click to Tweet
“History gives me perspective but I do not obsess over it.” -Ashish Bisaria Click to Tweet
Hump to Get Over
Ashish Bisaria was leading a transformation team that needed to take thousands of people on a change journey. But one of his peers struggled with being able to take a large strategic vision and turn it into tactical steps. That’s when Ashish did two important things that helped the organization to get over the hump.
Advice for others
Bring appreciation to change projects.
Holding him back from being an even better leader
Over curiosity. I spread myself too thin.
Best Leadership Advice Received
Anyone can cook.
Secret to Success
Best tools that helps in Business or Life
Looking back and looking forward.
Resources and Show Mentions
Appreciative Inquiry Commons – is a worldwide portal devoted to the fullest sharing of academic resources and practical tools on Appreciative Inquiry and the rapidly growing discipline of positive change.
54 Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Competencies List: Emotional Intelligence has proven to be the right kind of intelligence to have if you want to move onward and upward faster. Get your free list today.
Show Transcript:Click to access edited transcript
113: Ashish Bisaria: Are we doomed right out of the gate
Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader Podcast, where we explore convenient yet effective shortcuts that will help you get ahead and move forward faster by becoming a better leader. And now here’s your host, customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligence practitioner, Jim Rembach.
Need a powerful and entertaining way to ignite your next conference, retreat or team-building session? My keynote don’t include magic but they do have the power to help your attendees take a leap forward by putting emotional intelligence into their employee engagement, customer engagement and customer centric leadership practices. So bring the infotainment creativity the Fast Leader show to your next event and I’ll help your attendees get over the hump now. Go to beyondmorale.com/speaking to learn more.
Jim Rembach: Okay, Fast Leader Legion, today I’m excited because we’re going to get a chance to talk some good customer service and customer experience with somebody. Ashish Bisaria was born and raised in New Delhi, India. The elder of two boys he was destined to follow the path of his father who is a successful pediatrician. Little did they know that Ashish wanted to blaze his own trail and did he blaze his own trail. He left India at the age of 22 and at last count he had lived in more than seven countries and traveled to 99 countries as of December, 2016. Ashish’s passion is in driving change. His personal and professional life are a reflection on his comfort with change. After all you would not live in different parts of the world and work for six different employers in 22 years of your professional career if you were uncomfortable a change would you? The lens Ashish uses for driving change and innovation is customer experience. Companies often look at change from an internal financial growth perspective. Ashish helps companies changed the filter and drive change from a customer’s viewpoint.
From his early career as a junior consultant with a big five firm he discovered quickly that to be heard in a room full of executives that he needed to bring something different to the table. The customer experience lands was his trump card, Ashish has led multi-billion dollar mergers, helped companies go public, transform 40-year old business models, and has grown companies exponentially. While all this may be his professional legacy what is less known about him is the leadership qualities and his personal brand with which he lives. Multiple team members have moved jobs or relocated their families in order to continue their growth under his leadership. His legacy is building very strong relationships and future leaders of the world. His brand is reflected in his blog titled Life Reflections. She’s currently resides in Atlanta as a single guy allowing him to have a single digit handicap in golf. He has two sons 16 and 12 years of age and they are the center of his world and his proudest accomplishments so far is that he is creating two responsible citizens for the world and his boys. Ashish Bisaria, are you ready to help us get over the hump?
Ashish Bisaria: Let’s get it done.
Jim Rembach: Ashish, thanks for joining me today. Now I’ve given our listeners a little bit about you, but can you tell us what your current passion is so that we can get to know you even better?
Ashish Bisaria: Besides my passion, to still compete with my 16 and 12 year old boys in golf, it is about leading change. There’s a Latin proverb that has defined my life it basically says, “If the wind will not serve take to the oars.” And what it really has done is it reminds me that we always have our best professionally, personally. And people who are willing to beat the oars in the water and start rowing will get to the other side. And that passion is what drives me.
Jim Rembach: It very easily could be too that when you start talking about change and driving change that the whole human component really gets kicked to the curb as they say. So, how do you actually maintain or accentuate or really bring those people along with you without sacrificing them?
Ashish Bisaria: Jim. I think there’s a big met in the world that change causes fear. People are resistant to change because of fear. Here’s my experience, when you are brought or somebody’s into change they forget to respect the legacy that this people have created in that organization. What change lead us often forget is the platform on which they are building are created by the hard work, blood, sweat and tears of the people they get to lead. The difference for me is recognized that, celebrate the platform and the success that the organization has created to that point, and then build change on top of that. It allows people to come with you rather than doing something to them.
Jim Rembach: And so for me what you just described is really the change management focus when you use appreciative inquiry. Appreciative inquiry is based in positive psychology it’s been around for decades but unfortunately we don’t look at positive psychology and appreciative inquiry as a method by which we would actually cause change to occur. But you just described it so I have to ask, are you a student of appreciative inquiry?
Ashish Bisaria: I am, not by design. I think in my career early on many humps happen and you learn very quickly. If you’re paying attention that changing the filter and being appreciative and building upon that is a far better, easier, sustainable change model who says come outside as a consultant and try pushing.
Jim Rembach: One of the things that made it stands out is a quite different approach. You’ve just start looking at strategic planning and business approaches as a whole and the traditional practice being what, we talked about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and it’s really negative and fearful in connotation. But appreciative inquiry doesn’t take that approach it takes a little bit different approach, can you share that with us?
Ashish Bisaria: Absolutely. I will use three words that I use, futurist, curator and director, and I’ll elaborate. As a change leader and as an appreciative inquiry student define the future which is built upon what the organization has provided? It’s an important differentiation I want to make in the word futurist one is this 5, 10 years our future who nobody knows whether we’re going to colonize Mars or not. And then there’s the tangible future which is six months, 12 months lead by defining the short term future which is built on the success of the organization already.
Second, when you’re trying to define that future people come up with ideas, solutions, processes, technology and you have hundreds of idea and just like a curator of a museum you’ve got to make sense out of all those ideas and curate them into a theme which becomes the narrative of the project. It’s important that that narrative is created by the people who have to come on the journey. It is their narrative and the leadership is doing is curating it into a logical sequence.
And then the final part is what I call the director. And the analogy is a movie director, you have artists, you have support staff, you have audio visual people, everybody has a role to play on the project. And good change leaders can then direct the pieces, the players, the costs that they’ve been dealt with in a way that results in that change. So, those are the three words I’ve leveraged in my career, to take appreciative inquiry into a tactical implementation model.
Jim Rembach: I love that model. I also love the flip side of the SWOT model with appreciating query and they use SOAR which is strength, yes, we definitely need to know our strengths and I talked about using tradition to propel your tomorrow. What got you where you are or core things that you need to preserve and oftentimes and looked to enhance in order to help you get where you want to go? And then the other thing is your opportunities, so don’t think about weaknesses think about the opportunities that currently exist based on those strengths and then think about your aspirations because all of that needs to feed into where you want to go. Opportunities, aspirations and then think about the results, the results that you’re going to be able to obtain based off of all those things and where you want to go. And it aligns much better and more positively if we’re already using our core, our power core, what we’re good at. Instead of thinking about where we need to move because we’re fearful of getting taken out or whatever.
Ashish Bisaria: Jim, I loved your concept of SOAR, I just love it. And building on that as a change leader there’s always a fear and skepticism about you when you’re coming from the outside. The worst thing we can do as an outsider is to use a SWOT model which only reinforces the fear of art and what’s wrong with you rather than start on the appreciative inquiry side to talk about what’s good about you. And the part that people forget I raised my hand to join the organization obviously there was some strengths and some opportunities an upside result of why I wanted to be part of that story board. So, if leaders understood that and embraced and started the journey from the appreciative side you won half the battle of all the skeptics who are looking at you, are you here to fire me? Are you here to change my world? Are you going to completely cause chaos? So, I love your model I’m going to be starting to use the SOAR model more and more.
Jim Rembach: Definitely I didn’t invent it this comes straight out of—you can go to appreciative comments or appreciative inquiry comments and look up the SOAR model it’s been established for a long time and to me it’s one that I choose to use instead of SWOT. Because I don’t want to get people to focus on what you’re talking about, focus on fear I want them to focus on what are the opportunities are where we can build upon that we already have because I think what you’re talking about with anything new whether it’s an internal or external change process, meaning a consultant coming in is they start looking and saying, we need to fix this because it’s broken. You’ve messed up that if that’s your first step. I mean you’re already going down a hole and all you’re going to do is just dig it bigger as you go along the way.
Ashish Bisaria: Completely agree.
Jim Rembach: So, when you start thinking about this from a customer experience perspective and everybody’s talking about customer experience, customer experience, we need to do customer experience, we need to do to me it’s like—okay, enough is enough let’s start getting this some action. How can people take what we’ve been talking about here for the last few and initiate customer-centric change.
Ashish Bisaria: Same around appreciate inquiries. We have spent years and decades of our life as an organization serving our customers and we start by asking how are we doing? What is wrong with us? What do I need to fix? And good organizations do something about that feedback. Average organizations use it as a vanity score, I call it. If the scores go up by doing a few things they celebrate success and then some organizations don’t care. We can change that approach, historically, there are two very radical approaches I’ve used.
One, is the positive reinforcement. Rather than always start about what’s broken about us let’s talk about the moment of delight. Ask the customer, when you were doing business with us when you’d experienced our service or a product, what did you really enjoy? That’s what our organization and our people also need to hear. We’ve told them all the things that are broken but let’s talk about all the things that we are good at. Because we need to build on those strengths I am not discounting the negative feedback I’m not discounting the traditional survey all I’m saying is there’s a place for a different survey also in a life of an organization, so that’s one.
The second more radical thing I’ve done is at some level customers are tired of telling us the same problem. I’m tired of telling the airlines that your peanuts don’t do anything for me, and they continue still doing the survey. In a couple of rows instead of going to the customers and asking this question we actually rattled out. The analogy is opening a kimono we said here are the top 10 things you’ve told that are really bad. I know we don’t do a good job on these 10 things, guess what, I can’t fix all 10 and I need your help my customer. What is most important to you? Rank these 10 things in what’s the worst impact to your business or your life and let us work on them and we’ll work on our transformation and our change and that we’ll adapt. So, I’m connecting my job and my role. I’ve left transformation from a customer experience lists rather than asking my CFO, how much cost you need to cut? How much revenue you need? I’ve gone to the customers and says, here we are we are broken. I want to work on a transformation roadmap over the next three years and you my customers are going to help build it and we’re going to start with the worst thing to the best thing.
It is kind of an appreciative inquiry where we are telling the customers, I am bad, I acknowledge it and I want to do it right by you. And those two things have been powerful transformation roadmap because now your customers are bought into the journey and if you’ve done all the other parts that we talked earlier with your people your people, your people are board in, what a positive environment that creates where everybody is aligned to the transformation.
Jim Rembach: You know I would also add to that, thanks for sharing, I would also add that a lot of companies won’t address the things that they aren’t going to change. Meaning that, okay, so we picked out these 10 things and you’re saying that we’re not doing well at these 10 things, well you know what, the first three we’re not going to do anything about because that’s not who we are. And companies are like, we’ve got to be everything to everybody. No, you don’t. I mean you have to pick your lane and you have to stay in it. So, going back to the airline’s example if I’m going to pick a particular airline, say the Southwest, everybody loves them but I know I’m not going to serve you that particular meal on that particular flight at that particular time because we’re a discount airliner we’re not going to do that that is not who we are, so if you want that we’re not the right fit for you.
Ashish Bisaria: And then that takes a lot of courage for an organization to be that honest because we rather avoid that tough chat with our customer then be honest. And I agree Southwest is a perfect example they made it very clear to their customers who they are and who they are not. And their multiple successful organizations made it very clear. I used Cirque du Soliel, they agree that they’re not going to be cheap, animal-loving, corner show, they’re going to charge premium rates, rates that are not affordable by most, they’re going to put a show which is very different than what a circus looks like and they’re going to use people to create that same ambience of what animal and human could do for them. And I love examples like this where the companies are very, very honest about it.
Jim Rembach: Very true. So, I think this goes back to a different viewpoint of transparency that we often don’t consider is saying who you’re not going to be even if it upsets a certain sub-group or group of customers, and it’s okay to do that. Pick your lane, know who you are, be true to yourself, be transparent about that and really take that core strength and use it to move forward. Now what we’re talking about here is just loaded with tons of passion, and one of the things that we look at on the show are quotes to help drive some of our own passions internally and as a collective. Is there a quote that you can share that help give you some passion?
Ashish Bisaria: Yes. There are two quotes, one is external which I remind when we are doing transformation. I’ll start with the story but then I’ll tell you the quote. Often early in the transformation I’ll ask people this question: Are you willing to bet your entire salary that you can predict the future? And an audience of hundred people zero hands are up because nobody is willing to predict the future. And it goes back to my concept of futurist and I turn that on the court I say, the best way to predict the future is to design it and that’s what transformation is about. We’ve been given a unique opportunity by a company who’s willing to invest certain amount of dollar to create our future. I can predict it by designing it and that’s one code that I use externally a lot. Internally for me I have worked with high-tech, dot com, telecom, automotive now I’m in a financial services.
So, if you look at industry, I’m agnostic to industry, I’m a student in every new job. I’m learning about the industry, I’m learning about everything, so I have to tell something to myself that creates the confidence because you can’t lead submission if you don’t understand the business, the business model, and the business fundamentals. I’m going to quote from a movie Ratatouille and the main character Remy the rat, there’s a line in it that says, “Anyone can cook, and while it may have been lost here’s what it made sense to me, here’s a movie about a rat the last thing you want to see in your house less in your kitchen cooking for you and here’s a rat who believes that anyone can cook and actually goes on to become a chef in France. And it’s a good reminder to me to say that if you have the curiosity, the passion, anyone can cook. So, I may not be an expert in financial services or automotive or dot com or high tech but if I dig deep and if I’m curious and if I’m passionate I will learn and I’ll be able to lead better.
Jim Rembach: I love that quote, good point. So, I know with being someone who grew up, left India, left the parents, and the prodigal following being a pediatrician and moving to all these different countries and being will all the different companies and family, we have humps that we have to get over and I am sure you’ve got had to get over a lot with all that transition. But can you share a particular story that really made a difference for you?
Ashish Bisaria: There’s a specific story that I can think of again and again in my career. I’m sitting in early on with my peer group and we are sitting and discussing how does this transformation going to take place and the transformation we all know has three major legs, things around people, things around processes, and things around technology. The process leaders are clear, smart, industrial engineers they can break a process 20 steps look at base, errors, remove this, remove that very tangible, very tactical you know what that means. People on the other side is the hard change and everything but somewhere in between is technology. And I remember my peer, the chief technology officer sitting and pontificating about transformation talking about this future world of putting cars on the and colonizing Mars and everything with no specificity, with no clarity, and here is the leadership team that needs to now walk out of a room and take thousands and thousands of people on a change journey without any specific examples. And I know I cannot be successful if my partner in crime, the technology leader, cannot take this broad vision into very tactical steps. That moment is when you sit back and you look and say, “Are we doomed?” right out of the gate because no one in the room is really translating what we are asking into tactical steps. And the analogy I use is if I’m a bicycle manufacturing company and I want to colonize Mars I cannot just talk about colonizing Mars without understanding how to go from bicycle manufacturing to rocket manufacturing to safety to putting a man in the rocket and taking there, that was one clear moment in my life that I have to use again and again to fix.
Jim Rembach: So, what happened?
Ashish Bisaria: Two things, side conversation with that leader is an important part. And what I’m trying to say here is it is very important that when there is a huge disconnect in a leadership room you do not start in a public forum fixing it, find a one-on-one with the person that you think is missing the point. And find ways to get aligned, find ways to understand why that person is thinking, what they’re thinking, see if they understand the challenges you will see and also try empathizing on what they are dealing with. So, my four step was to step out of that room, catch the leader, spend some over the next couple of weeks really trying to make sure that did I miss read the information or do we truly have a problem. Unfortunately, in this case I had a problem with the leader. Here’s the leader who’s truly not understanding how to translate a broad vision into execution now I have to turn that around because I have to work with this leader.
This is where my history of three worst futurist curator and director comes in where I sat with this leader and said, okay, got it, we got to go colonize Mars, what’s the first thing we need to do in your area that we can go out and get done because we are not going to a bicycle manufacturing to colonizing Mars in one broad step. And nobody’s giving us five years in a black box to go create something in five years from now come out and say, voila, here’s magic. Helping the person to understand that future can be tangible and long-term was the next step, weeks of discussion with him and his team to break it down into tangent pots. Now I want to be very careful of not painting a broad brush in technology. I have another court over here, you cannot code imagination. Technologies about zeros and ones they have to be hard-coded, operation change leaders have this imagination and this dream that they are articulating in broad words and it’s tough to automate that. So, here’s my leader saying, I get it that I’m talking big high level things and you need more specificity but your dream is also not very specific, so can you break your dream down. This is the part of futurists where you have to get very defined both on what is that operation dream, the process dream, the people we’re talking about and then talk to the (23:40 inaudible) to say, what is that technology that matches that? That process was our first step to get over the hump. Painful, long discussion, some territorial fights that time, lot of blame game, not a victim mentality of old architecture cannot do this and I’ve been given cost that I can’t play with and that hump can take weeks and months at time but no point jumping onto the rocket if we do not solve that.
Jim Rembach: When you start thinking about—I mean, you got a lot of things going on trying to get that handicap down lower, a lot of change management activities, when you look at one goal, what would it be?
Ashish Bisaria: Look back and look forward. History gives me a perspective of what worked and what did not work. And I absolutely spent time with that but I don’t obsess about it I don’t ruminate over it my job personally, professionally is to look forward, that’s what I do.
Jim Rembach: And the Fast Leader Legion wishes you the very best. Now before we move on let’s get a quick word from our sponsor:
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Alright here we go Fast Leader listeners it’s time for the Hump Day Hoedown. Okay, Asish,
The Hump day Hoedown is a part of our show where you give us good insights fast. So, I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward faster. Asish Bisaria, are you ready to hoedown?
Ashish Bisaria: I am ready to hoedown.
Jim Rembach: Alright. What do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today?
Ashish Bisaria: Over curiosity. I spent and spread muscles ten on reading, on travel, on golf, on kids, at work, I think there are times I need to really focus.
Jim Rembach: What is the best leadership advice you have ever received?
Ashish Bisaria: Remy from Ratatouille, “anyone can cook my friend.:
Jim Rembach: What is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?
Ashish Bisaria: Incredible curiosity.
Jim Rembach: What do you feel is one of your best tools that helps you lead in business or life?
Ashish Bisaria: My blog, which is about looking back and my calendar notebook which is about looking forward.
Jim Rembach: What would be one book, and it could be from any genre, that you recommend to our listeners?
Ashish Bisaria: Strongly recommend people to read The Art of Possibility by Ben Santa.
Jim Rembach: Okay, fast Leader Legion you can find links to that and other bonus information from today’s show by going to fastleader.net/ashishbisaria. Okay Ashish, this is my last Hump Day Hoedown question: Imagine you were given the opportunity to go back to the age of 25. And you have been given the opportunity to take the knowledge and skills that you have now back with you. But you can’t take everything back you can only choose one, what one skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why?
Ashish Bisaria: Explore your passion. At age 25 I did not appreciate my passion outside of work. I have passion in music, sports, life, friends, and I became too singularly focused on a single professional goal rather than exploring my passion.
Jim Rembach: Ashish, it was an honor to spend time with you today, can you please share with the Fast Leader Legion how they can connect with you?
Ashish Bisaria: The best way to connect with me is my LinkedIn profile, you can find me as
Ashish Bisaria. And my Twitter handle which is @ashishbesaria.
Jim Rembach: Ashish Bisaria thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom the Fast Leader Legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump.
Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader show today. For recaps, links, from every show special offers and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already, head on over the fastleader.net so we can help you move onward and upward faster.
END OF AUDIO