Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective C-Suite Executive

Having a professional coach: Successful C-Suite leaders must be committed to continuous learning. Investing in personal and professional development is essential. This includes building new skills, seeking mentorship, and staying curious and open-minded. Talking about myself, I have had a coach multiple times in my career till now and I am grateful that I had because it helps be stay on track while channelizing my energies better.

As part of our series called “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective C-Suite Executive,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Ankoor Dasguupta.

Trained from Dale Carnegie in Mentoring, a CMO Council Member, Ankoor is a marketing practitioner, a knowledge manager, a thought-leader, an avid writer with more than 50 published articles and has multiple guest columns, one of which is Reputation Today .Ankoor is an established speaker and jury member for multiple esteemed forums including reputed B-Schools in India. Ankoor is also on the Advisory Board -Marketing Department at ISBR Business School. Recognized by DMA Asia as a marketing Ace, Ankoor is an advocate of social impact, driven by kaizen, he believes in the power of Energy and Energize while bringing to the table a pedigree of 23 years with a rare combination experience across the spectrum of media — print, digital, mobile, event productions & successful pilot projects. Worked across functions — ad operations, business operations & strategy, content, brand strategy, sales, events, media planning & buying and spearheading P&Ls. Ankoor has been part of six Sigma projects and worked in cross functional roles with — MNCs, media conglomerates and start-ups. A process expert, Ankoor has been part of the core pilot team of launching and scaling International IPs such as ad:tech, iMedia Summits, Modern Marketing. Summit and TechCrunch events in India. Ankoor has directed and enabled the winning of multiple pitches while actively involved in overall and tactical strategy. Ankoor is also on the Screening Council for MMA APAC and MMA Global for Smarties Awards. Ankoor is POSH Certified and has been selected to be part of core POSH Committee at two organizations during his work tenure till now. Ankoor is your non-status quo leader and puts people and values first.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I was (and still am a musician) at heart. I play the ‘Tabla’ which is an Indian percussion instrument. That includes understanding music, writing prose and poetry, appreciating art and reading about various things. I attribute my career progression to my ability to understand and have deeper conversations with people and effectively listen to their pain points, aspirations and how they overcame certain challenges. This practice has been the catalyst in my corporate life which I still feel happened by chance (a good one). I am thankful that I got a start with GE as their values, processes, and on-the-job training gave me a big push in polishing me up. Today, I realize even more that as a leader I have transcended beyond just skills, which is building high trust and high-performance teams. My love for media and advertising while making consistent efforts towards learning and practicing has contributed to my career progression.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I have been a musician. I play the Tabla which I started learning when I was four years and had been performing in shows and once also got to do a show on TV with three other Tabla players when I was in school. My parents and I were sure to make music as my professional career; and then a kind lady referred my name (under corporate referral scheme) to GE as her brother used to work there. I understand today that giving is receiving. So, the lady guided me to this walk-in interview, and I got her and her brother the referral amount. Well, that is just one part. The other interesting part is it was by chance that very year, maybe 3 months back I was getting my passport made for the first time in my life! Yes, I got my first passport just before joining my first corporate job and guess what, I got a call on our landline (ono one in our family owned a mobile phone that time) the next day after the interview that they need me to fly within next 10 days on a 5-month project to Australia. That’s how my first international travel happened. It was on the edge as in case I did not have a passport that time, they would have chosen some other candidate with a passport, for that opportunity. It has been till date an experience I cannot forget. First time away from home, writing letters to family, talking on landline phone once a week, co-living with colleagues in a fully furnished apartment and actually understanding the meaning of being accountable and responsible. This taught me , early in my career, to solve my own problems while living and working with different people who have different mindsets, temperaments and interests.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

One of my favorite is — “The only thing you can control is how you react to things out of your control” (Bassam Terazi)

Well, this is an everyday story that helps me channelize my thinking and energies which in turn helps me to craft wonderfully inspiring stories for myself 🙂

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your leadership style? Can you share a story or an example of that?

  • Limitless by Jim Kwik — this one is about how to train your brain as Jim is a renowned brain coach. His book has significant impact on how to think and live better. The book has practical examples and exercises that act as a ready reckoner for me.
  • Imagine it Forward by Beth Comstock- what a genuine story! Love every bit of how Beth has narrated nuances of her career journey and how she fielded her own vulnerabilities, challenges of corporate life. Worth a read more than once. More so because my career started with GE.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I’d say that our simplicity in thought makes it stand out. What we focus on is -are our people happy doing what ‘we do’ and do they understand and believe in our vision. We have an expert team for performance marketing, catering to the international market. There are a lot of players in the market and hence how we solve it is by focusing on both — the functional need and the emotional need of our clients. For functional need we attend global events to ensure we are present physically in relevant forums. Around the emotional need, we don’t service as a partner and spend time on solving any concerns with client delight as our objective, though we avoid a prescriptive approach. Our educative approach and operational expertise work magic.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

My intrinsic ability to being in the moment — the simple art of listening well and being in the moment with that person. Be it team member, boss, clients, or networking at an event. If I have one minute to just say hello to someone, I will say it meaningfully, by looking in the eye and using that moment effectively. While doing feedback or appraisal sessions with my team members, what they found trust inducing is that I let them finish, listen and then respond. For me, this communication skill has worked wonders as when people know that someone has a listening ear and shares authentic feedback or guidance, people would want to work with you or connect with you. This character trait has been one of my core strengths as this trait has always helped me with my storytelling while sharing my thoughts or observations.

Discipline — This is something that imbibed from my grandfather. It all started with starting my day early. I realized from early childhood that there is no shortcut to discipline and this trait till date helps me to perform optimally daily and helps me achieve my goals with clarity of thought. Infact while doing my thinking, I always ask the ‘why’ to myself.

Organized — this stems from my being disciplined. I start my day with making my bed, having a tall glass of water, making myself tea, reflecting on the previous day, making a to-do list bifurcated into priority 1 and priority 2 and then reading few chapters from my mini library. Also, I love keeping everything at my desk both office and home organized. It helps me to find my things easily. Being in senior leadership it is important that I start with an inside out approach, with myself.

Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader?

One key challenge in senior leadership that I have observed is that they must talk to each other more often that they actually do. Many a times arriving at a decision takes more time because say — the CFO, CMO, CTO are not on the same page, which is okay, however, many a times it is not about individual perspectives only but what is right for the business goal. In this process, the team suffers because they may be clueless about certain board room discussions.

This brings me to the second problem which is communication. It always matters when and how we communicate, percolate certain protocols to our larger teams. Communications broadly have two sides in language and tone — the first is clarity of information and the second is being empathetic.

The above stems from a situation in one of my earlier jobs where a certain technology was to be onboarded and it cost a few dollars more than our stipulated budget. The way we evaluate onboarding new technology platforms is basis client requirements and also optimal features and utility. The decision got delayed considerably simply because we as senior leaders were not able to arrive faster as our decision and during that time our client suffered and as well some of our teams as they had to deal the day-to-day conversations while we had to step into to escalations that suddenly increased. This took a lot of unnecessary mindspace to the effect of some of our team members putting in their papers. My learning from this situation has been to do whatever it takes to get the stakeholders together and get to evaluate and decide in one long meeting rather than 10 short meetings. This also helps our group heads with clarity, communicate better to team and helps with retaining talent.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a C-Suite executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what a C-Level executive does that is different from the responsibilities of other leaders?

The essential task of C-Suite leaders is in wearing the hat of the best in anticipation, best in handling complex decisions and best in looking at the panoramic view from the top that only they have access to. Along with this ensuring that the purpose of work is sustainable and that comes with experience, intent and charisma.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a C-Suite executive? Can you explain what you mean?

It is like in my childhood I used to think that making movies must be so easy. I never knew how difficult the job of a movie director is! Good question. Indeed, my experiences and observations are below sharing four myths-

C-Suite Executives Have it Easy:

Reality: The belief that top executives have an easy job is a misconception. C-Suite roles often come with immense responsibilities, high-pressure situations, and demanding work hours. Executives are accountable for major decisions that can significantly impact the company and its stakeholders. The complexity of their roles requires constant strategic thinking, adaptability, and the ability to navigate through challenges.

C-Suite Executives Only Make Decisions:

Reality: While decision-making is a crucial aspect of their role, C-Suite executives are also deeply involved in various operational aspects of the business. They work closely with their teams to implement strategies, oversee day-to-day operations, and ensure that the company’s objectives are met. The role requires a combination of leadership, communication, and hands-on management skills.

C-Suite Executives Have Unlimited Power:

Reality: While executives hold significant authority, their decisions are often subject to scrutiny and collaboration. C-Suite leaders must work with boards, shareholders, and other stakeholders, considering diverse perspectives. The power they wield is constrained by the need for consensus, ethical considerations, and alignment with the company’s long-term goals. Collaboration and effective communication are essential skills for successful C-Suite executives.

C-Suite Executives Reach the Top Quickly

Reality: Climbing the corporate ladder to reach the C-Suite usually involves years of experience, dedication, and continuous learning. Executives often accumulate diverse skills through various roles within the company. It’s not just about climbing the hierarchy; it’s about gaining a comprehensive understanding of business, industry, and leadership. Success at the C-Suite level is a result of a sustained commitment to personal and professional development.

C-Suite is a dynamic and demanding role that requires a combination of leadership, strategic thinking, and adaptability which comes with experience — including failures that are the best teachers.

What are the most common leadership mistakes you have seen C-Suite leaders make when they start leading a new team? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Love this question. According to my observations sharing few that I have come across –

  • Not knowing their own people well enough

Executive leaders must take time to understand the SWOT of their people which will enable and empower them further to execute better at all levels. Having outcome drive meetings is crucial rather than just blocking calendars.

  • Making drastic changes without understanding the culture

C-Suite leaders may make the mistake of implementing significant changes without a thorough understanding of the existing organizational culture. Abrupt changes can lead to resistance and hinder team morale. So, spending time to understand the culture as a first step definitely helps decide better on what changes to make priority wise as a roadmap.

  • Micromanaging — trying to control without control

C-Suite leaders may have a tendency to micromanage, especially if they have risen through the ranks with a hands-on approach. However, micromanaging can stifle creativity, demotivate team members, and create a culture of dependency. C-Suite leaders should trust their team members to carry out their responsibilities and provide the necessary support and resources. This fosters a sense of autonomy and empowerment within the team, allowing individuals to showcase their skills and contribute to the overall success of the organization.

In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

Without a doubt, it is people. Many a times I have observed that people get neglected which leads to poor performance. It also starts with having a proper framework for conducting interviews, empowering the HR and ensuring that people know the cause that they are working for. Leaders must also take time to understand the aspirations of their people.This leads to more cohesiveness, transparency and better work environment.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective C-Suite Executive”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.’

  1. Vision and Strategic Thinking: Effective C-Suite executives have a clear vision for the organization’s future and the ability to develop and execute long-term strategies.The capacity to make timely, well-informed decisions is crucial. C-Suite leaders often deal with complex situations, and their decisions impact the entire organization.
  2. Inspirational Leadership: Motivating and inspiring teams is essential. Successful executives can rally their teams behind a common vision, fostering a positive and collaborative work culture.
  3. Adaptability & Innovation: The business landscape is dynamic, and for C-Suite executives adapting to changing circumstances, flexibility and resilience are key to navigating uncertainties and challenges. Encouraging a culture of innovation is important for staying competitive. C-Suite leaders should be open to new ideas, technologies, and approaches that can drive the organization forward.
  4. Financial Acumen & Risk management: Understanding financial principles and having the ability to make strategic financial decisions is crucial. This includes budgeting, resource allocation, and financial forecasting. C-Suite executives must be adept at assessing and managing risks to ensure the sustainability and growth of the organization.
  5. Having a professional coach: Successful C-Suite leaders must be committed to continuous learning. Investing in personal and professional development is essential. This includes building new skills, seeking mentorship, and staying curious and open-minded. Talking about myself, I have had a coach multiple times in my career till now and I am grateful that I had because it helps be stay on track while channelizing my energies better.

According to me. these elements collectively contribute to a well-rounded and highly effective C-Suite executive.

In your opinion, what are a few ways that executives can help to create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?

HR practices in most places need better empowerment. In many places I have seen HR as a dummy team that is mechanical and exists for the sake of it, just to hire people. HR must involve a wider and deeper role in companies as they have the expertise to cultivate organizational values, ethos and ethics within their people as no one else can.

One good example was during my tenure at GE. We had a central HR there that used to effectively and consistently communicate with cohorts and larger groups. It was a Centre of Excellence (CoE) , non-judgmental and had more power than any other department. That is how it should be in my opinion.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Inspiring question. I would start a movement on — Sustainable Purpose, rather than just a purpose. So, imagine, if each one of us are a part of a community (or cohorts in a big community) that starts with our inner purpose and all purposes join towards one big goal of greater good of say -reducing carbon footprint or zero use of plastic, then imagine the impact we can create together. If even 50% of our marketing and advertising budgets are spent in having Sustainability as core theme of campaigns — be it Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas or Independence Day, just close your eyes and visualize the impact this movement can bring. Right now I see globally we are just at the tip of the Iceberg when it comes to ESG ecosystem. We need to talk, act and measure in this movement that I want to bring in.

How can our readers further follow you online?

Ankoor Dasguupta | LinkedIn

AnkoorNow | Twitter

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

I thank you for your time to do this interview.

About the Interviewer: Douglas E. Noll, JD, MA was born nearly blind, crippled with club feet, partially deaf, and left-handed. He overcame all of these obstacles to become a successful civil trial lawyer. In 2000, he abandoned his law practice to become a peacemaker. His calling is to serve humanity, and he executes his calling at many levels. He is an award-winning author, teacher, and trainer. He is a highly experienced mediator. Doug’s work carries him from international work to helping people resolve deep interpersonal and ideological conflicts. Doug teaches his innovative de-escalation skill that calms any angry person in 90 seconds or less. With Laurel Kaufer, Doug founded Prison of Peace in 2009. The Prison of Peace project trains life and long terms incarcerated people to be powerful peacemakers and mediators. He has been deeply moved by inmates who have learned and applied deep, empathic listening skills, leadership skills, and problem-solving skills to reduce violence in their prison communities. Their dedication to learning, improving, and serving their communities motivates him to expand the principles of Prison of Peace so that every human wanting to learn the skills of peace may do so. Doug’s awards include California Lawyer Magazine Lawyer of the Year, Best Lawyers in America Lawyer of the Year, Purpose Prize Fellow, International Academy of Mediators Syd Leezak Award of Excellence, National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals Neutral of the Year. His four books have won a number of awards and commendations. Doug’s podcast, Listen With Leaders, is now accepting guests. Click on this link to learn more and apply.

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