Time for change in Islamic finance

Reading the article Why are we seeing so many corporate scandals?  
By Prof. Dr. Amit S. Mukherjee  I liked the questions that Prof. Amit raises.
The queries resonated with the planner in me and I found them to be interesting. I say interesting because, whilst the erosion of trust has impacted quite heavily on the financial sector and probably enabled the growth of technology based financial solutions or FinTech, these questions are very valid across all industries including the Islamic finance industry.

Here are the questions Prof. Dr. Amit raises:

  1. Have we rethought how we work in a digital age when work increasingly requires large doses of unseen discretionary effort?
  2. Have we redesigned processes and structures to surface problems before these become crises?
  3. Have we allowed the free flow of key information to distributed decision makers?
  4. Have we created collaborative, learning-focused cultures?

Looking at the environment, in which the Islamic finance industry is operating, currently makes these questions quite critical, from an organizational perspective, with regards to sustainability of the various business models
in operation.

There are three key issues that get highlighted when one runs the above mentioned questions through business continuity thinking.

Starting with talent management & development and its allied areas of
learning & development, given the necessity of managing increasing numbers of Millennials, entering the workforce, along with providing gender diversity and equality coupled with ensuring professional development of the existing employees, the need to develop and incorporate digital and its various usages in work and its processes assume significant importance.

This leads into the second key issue of leadership competency.

On one hand erosion of trust, in financial institutions is at an all-time high, on the other technology in the form of social media has made the world a very small place where real-time personal engagement and word-of-mouth recommendation is given preference over any corporate statement or communication. This has created a need for a different type of leadership competency requirement. The control & command leadership style of yesteryear simply does not work in a world where knowledge and technology are driving the comparative advantage for an organization. There is a serious need for industry leadership to be empathetic and transparent in order to create engagement with society and employees simultaneously in order to develop social capital for the organization, from a business continuity perspective.

Thirdly is the issue of technology and its impact.

FinTech, in its various forms, has already impacted the conventional financial sector greatly by disrupting the historical business models. The driving force behind this technology usage and acceptance is the development of the smart phone technology and the need for the layman to have direct and quick access to finances. Add to this the developments taking place in the Islamic economy industry verticals, such as the increasing demand for innovative financing by the start-ups and entrepreneurial ventures, and you have a potential scenario of the Islamic finance industry losing out on big-time growth opportunities as these opportunities will get fulfilled by new financial start-ups who are agile and able to collaborate faster, as maybe required, with the changes in the regulatory landscape.

Whilst asset growth, increase in Islamic social responsible investment and convergence of ESG and Islamic finance are occurring  we, the individual organizations of the  industry, need to create strong sustainability and continuity plans to protect ourselves from further economic upheavals which are still bound to happen. 

Quoting Dave Ulrich‘Wars are won through organisation and you have victory by being in it together.’

This can only happen when we focus on people—employees, customers and partners—and look at the experience we deliver to them and the social issues we solve in order to create and retain engagement and build social capital in our mission for business sustainability.




The relationships you build provide the organization with strength

courtesy: www.pinterest.com
courtesy: http://www.pinterest.com

Last week I was catching up with my eldest son and a couple of his friends all of whom are millennials. One of them asked me –
how can we contribute, to the organization, as employees outside our functional roles. This post is a result of that chat.

For an organization success is measured by differing metrics depending on the nature of business and industry. One common thread is the fact that employees make all the difference between success and failure due to the extent of their engagement and involvement with the organizational goals.

Whilst employee engagement is the responsibility of organizational leaders, employees, too, have an individual responsibility in developing healthy relationships with their co-workers.

Whilst an organization may have product or service advantages, innovative patents and technology in use, at the end of the day the strength of any organization is in the relationship its employees have within themselves.

It’s the people who make all the difference.

Developing strong and rewarding inter-personal relationships come about from the way we are socially conditioned to make friends, network and influence, communicate and give value to each other. This is where communities and groups emerge from.

So as an employee how do you go about creating beneficial relationships?

  1. Interact: Use the official events, such as team building sessions, training, sports, employee parties and community services, to reach out and connect with employees from other divisions. In large organisations one of the key issues is that people don’t know who does what in which divisions. So provide your fellow colleagues a-face- to- a- function so that they know they can reach you when they have the need.
  2. Volunteer: Step up and volunteer for projects that are not in your functional area. These project teams, usually, are set up to deliver key goals for the organization and is a great way to:
    — Get yourself to interact with the organizational leaders and show       additional initiative that goes into your annual performance.
    — Helps you identify possible mentors and work functions that you may want to move into in order to grow within the organization.
  3. Talk: In any group meetings there are always issues being discussed. Put aside your fears of looking stupid, in front of your bosses and peers, and speak up. Make sure you understand the context, of the issue at hand, and then put forth your suggestion.
    On a personal level, when you see a fellow colleague from a different unit at any time of the work day, stop for moment and ask how he or she is and how their families are.  Share a minute or two connecting on common personal areas.  Be careful when you do this. Do it meaningfully and not in passing.
  1. Help: If another colleague, either from your own unit or otherwise requests for information or assistance, help them. Not only would you be earning respect and gratitude of your colleague but you’ll be communicating to the leaders that the interest of the organization is what matters to you.



I’d be happy to know if this post is useful to you.  Do share your views on ways in which you have nurtured  internal relationships for the benefit of the readers.

Cultural Impact of Leadership


How often have you sat in a meeting where there were only three key issues for discussion?

  1. Impact of leadership on the organisation
  2. Evaluating key technical & behavioural competencies of the employees that has delivered the results
  3. Exploring the benefits and negatives of the work culture in operation

Chances are your response would be—“once” OR –“not at all”!!

This doesn’t surprise me, as in the Asian context, these are quite sensitive issues to discuss and are always swept under the carpet as being not directly related to business activity. But that’s where we make a mistake!

Leadership, the people in the organisation, and the culture—all three– are key elements in how the organisation brand is perceived and in its sustainability or its’ ability to be profitable over time and keep delivering value to its eco-system.

I have written earlier on how leadership affects brand sustainability and on work culture and how it creeps in  and on the importance of having engaged employees.

Leadership styles in the C-Suite have a direct correlation with profitability of an organisation. The correlation comes through the attitude and performance of the senior management team who are tasked with the strategy development & execution.

If the leadership style is one of humility, empathy and authenticity there will be clarity of purpose and a team that’s well-engaged in the business mission. This results in positive behaviour manifested as a working culture of interactiveness, co-partnering  and healthy team participation across key projects for the organisation.

On the other hand if the leadership is a control & command’ style wherein the C-Suite is aloof, unapproachable, not-present and indecisive there will emerge a serious gap between the leadership & the senior management. This gap will foster a lack of clarity on strategic goals & in communication. This can, and usually is, disastrous for the organisation from a business growth, employee morale & brand reputation perspective.

As a leader a key requirements is understanding the prevailing culture and in using specific leadership styles to influence employees to generate engagement and buy-in from the employees.


Why is buy-in critical?

A leader is given the mantle of leadership. This is a responsibility and in the corporate world, it usually is associated with designations.

Yes, always, the head of an organisation is the leader by virtue of the C-level designation and yes, the buck stops there with regards to reporting of organisational performance to the board.

But neither the designation nor the reporting process provides the leader the buy-in of the employees or the people who are the face of the brand.

Obtaining buy-in from the senior management & rank and file takes some hard work.  A few key attributes that are “must-haves” in this hard-work area are:

  • empathy
  • humility
  • getting hands dirty

These three attributes, by far, are the ones that endear a leader with the team. When people sense and feel that their leader understands, listens and is willing to work together to get the job done well, most throw in their lot behind this type of leader. Net result is an engaged and energized organisation where the authentic energy is palpable by the respective stakeholders as they interact with various people from the organisation.

Does all of this sound too esoteric?

It’s not. The key here is authenticity & communication.

Authenticity demands you to be human i.e. show vulnerability, be yourself and acknowledge that without the team you can’t achieve. In other words, show appreciation and recognition.

Communication, based on this authenticity, resonates strongly with people across an organisation as it’s pitched on an emotional level. People are emotional beings by nature and operate from the perspective of ‘feel—think—do’.

So can an organisation get this going in a beneficial way?

Yes! It’s very possible to do this provided the leadership commits its time and prioritises this as a primary project. If done well the cultural change will result in a regular productive behaviour over time.

In my next post I’ll share with you my 3-steps for aligning leadership style with organisation culture.


The Magic Word is Involvement

Teach me


A brand experience is the sum total experience one has with an entity and the perception one has of that entity. One of the key areas where this experience is strengthened or destroyed is the way the brand’s eco-system– its consumers, partners, vendors– perceive the brand through their interaction with the employees of the brand. This interaction has the maximum impact on a brands’ reputation than all the brands’ combined advertising.

So how do we ensure that key employees deliver the desired brand experience?

Current corporate cultures are, still largely, governed by ‘command-and-control’ practices. Such practices tend to alienate the employees instead of engaging them and making them the focal point  for a brand in developing  relationships.

By putting employees at the center of the brand experience, a few important processes are impacted upon:

  1. Change in organisational culture— employee engagement & participation in developing the brand vision become a team process that leads to employee recognition & reward based on the positive customer experiences delivered.
  2. Employee  Performance– Being engaged enables the employee to align personal career growth through the desired performance to that of the organisational goal.
  3. Delivering the Brand Vision– By having employee at the center of the brand, the core values and key brand messages, get aligned with key organisational deliverables.

Yet, in-spite of the oft spoken line of ‘people are our main asset’, the road to employee-service-profit chain, success is mired in obstacles.

If employees are distrusting and alienated from their organisations, what are the chances that they will provide customers and colleagues alike with a positive brand experience? And a positive experience is a must in order to have a repeatsale/usage of the brand and, more importantly, to get referrals.

So how do we get employees to build trust with the brand and be engaged and involved with the organisation?

Engagement programs are just that—i.e.: they provide a one-way street of communication. Commanding what should be the perceived brand image communication. Providing content to gain a buy-in.

But not really providing any means of engagement or involvement from the employee.

Involvement, is the critical element.

Intuitively we all understand what involvement is and how powerful (a force) it can be. When we are told to do something, we do it and then tend to forget about it. But when we are involved in something, we tend to be possessive and own it on an emotive level. And when emotion comes into play, passion comes out. Where there is passion there is a strong and enabling experience that takes place, leading to formation of trust. When trust grows, relationships are strengthened leading to repeat usage and referrals.

When looking to enhance the brand experience managing the cultural change becomes a top priority and a must in order to ensure that the end result of a positive brand experience is achieved.

In order to be successful in this, it’s critical to get the employees’ involved. This involvement requires that a strong group process is in place. A process where the meetings and interactions take on a deeper meaning than just to meet in order to agree to the content of the meeting. A deeper meaning where one focuses more on honest conversation, high involvement and participation leading to strong and trusting relationships.

All simple, effective and yet in a corporate set up, at times, hard to do elements.

The key here is to get a strong group process is in place. A strong group process impacts on creating  strong relationships based on individual involvement. Then implementing the rest of the brand experience plan, in terms of content and communication channels and programs, is not hard.

By virtue of the ownership that each engaged employee will bring into their function role, the brand vision will be communicated with warmth and honesty.  All of which lead to having a positive brand experience output.

Taking Ownership Passionately

Title of this post is courtesy the training program run by Global Dynamics.


For two days, this past week, I was closeted with 19 other colleagues of mine from various functions in a training program that was all about “taking ownership passionately”. I’ll come to the “TOP—Taking Ownership Passionately” in another post.  First let me share with you two realizations that hit me during the sessions.

 The first realization was from my work perspective–the realization of the importance of “mental alignment” or in the words of the training program— “RMA: Right Mental Attitude”.

As with all training programs, as the program unfolded and the participants engaged more and more, there emerged a strong camaraderie and bonding among us participants. There was a clearly visible emotional and mental alignment of attitudes though we all hail from diverse cultural and social backgrounds.

The second realization was—with rank & file undertaking this training, it’s that much more important for the leadership of the organisation to undergo the same.

Firstly if the leadership does not go through this attitudinal change understanding and stay at the point where they are, the rest of the organisation will be moving in one direction, but the leadership will not be aligned with the team!

Secondly such training scenarios provide a fantastic environment for leaders to build camaraderie with the staff! It allows them the opportunity of being emotional, through the activities that need to be done, and thus present a human side of themselves to their teams and yet, they have the excuse (if they want) to brush off that emotionality under the pretext of doing that activity.
But then that’s not being authentic! That’s another story for another post.

As a business sustainability expert, I’ve always looked at the engagement level of staff with their leaders in order to gauge the climate of an organisation. Though they don’t yet teach this in negotiations or sales (not that I’m aware of), being able to gauge the engagement between an operational person and his/her leader helps me to know the extent of honesty in the partnership a potential organisation will bring. 

Leaders set the behaviour of an organisation. Behaviour? Yes i.e.  the culture. By displaying empathy, care, the right positive attitude and coaching leadership skills, they can obtain high engagement from the staff.  This leadership behaviour starts from the top. Not from below!

Many leaders subscribe to a fallacy– that intimacy has no place in leadership or business. But as leadership coach Lolly Daskal states in her article—Leadership—The Fallacy of Intimacy—”Leaders subscribe to this view out of fear and a need to protect themselves.”

Research studies show a clear correlation between a warm caring culture and high levels of satisfaction and teamwork and in her article—why you should care about your company’s emotional culture—author Stephanie Vozza quotes Tom Gimbel—CEO of La Salle Network a Chicago-based recruitment  firm—“People join companies but they quit managers”.

Coming back to my realization—if the leadership of an organisation does not prioritize the need for cultural, emotional and attitudinal development and be present, in person, with their team through such programs then expecting the teams to work magic is going to be akin to wishing for a lunar flight but not knowing how to build a rocket!

So leaders—get out there in the trenches with your teams and give some authentic, emotional and meaningful appreciation and feedback —and see the magic of human engagement take shape!

How Work Culture Impacts on Brand Reputation

Visual Courtesy: http://www.businessofsoftware.org

In today’s era of rapid globalization, organisations operate both on virtual and physical multi-cultural teams. Multi-cultural team processes and culture is, in itself, a separate topic. As organisations reach their brand to various parts of the globe, there is an image & an identity that goes along with it. This is the brand image, personality and identity.

Physically this manifests as a logo of the organisation, the people representing the organisation and the contents being offered. But interestingly, the external manifestation and representation of the brand, is totally dependent on the value system that the organisation believes in and alignment of the same with its employees.

Coming from different corners of the world, individually, we carry with us our own baggage of diverse cultural beliefs into work. Whilst most self-development books and managers’ guides tell us to operate, in what’s possibly two silos—a personal self &  a professional self—in reality that’s a tough call. Tough because we are governed by our emotions and our emotions come about due to the habits we have. Habits, in turn, are behaviors that we project every minute of the day.

Having worked across industries and countries and developed a quite a few multi-cultural teams, in my opinion, an organisational work culture comes about from a collection of beliefs and the resulting behavior from it. These beliefs come about:

A) From the organisational processes and the purpose of the specific processes for e.g. monthly management meetings and purpose of those meetings

B) From the way senior management manages these processes i.e. the individuals own work-style personality that is expressed in the meeting

These, in turn, result in certain behaviours which directly impact employee motivation and engagement, as well as the quality of output of the work. Overtime this set of behaviours, becomes the unwritten norm for the organisation in terms of:

• Interaction within colleagues  i.e. internal brand representation &

• External interaction with stakeholders i.e. external brand representation

This behavioral environment, of the work process and its execution, represents itself as the character of the organisation through its staff and becomes the organisational culture.

Why is work culture so important for an organisation?

It’s important, because it’s the work culture and the underlying behavior (of that culture) that allows you to know if specific changes can be brought about successfully. In leading a change management process the single most critical aspect of the change process is to have full comprehension of the organisational culture present.

How does this help?

A) It can help identify specific leadership behaviours and work group climates that benefit the organisation.

B) This, in turn, results in a review of which processes are effective based on specific desired behaviours.

Lastly if a change management program is on the cards, undertaking specific behavioral changes prior to the implementation of the change management program, enables the organisation to re-train key executives on both leadership style and processes. This has a direct impact on doing things differently in order to get the planned results.

A word of caution–whilst training is one thing, enforcement or ensuring that they use the new learning is another.

We human beings are creatures of habit and habit comes about through the discipline of continuous behaviours. To bring about desired behaviours some amount of dis-comfort would have to be created through meticulous enforcement. As only through continuous enforcement will behaviour change. When behaviours change, habits are impacted upon.

Thus, if there is a long-term approach towards the business and its operations, behavioral change that impacts on work culture change, can be brought about.

CULTURE AND CHANGE: Why Culture Matters and How It Makes Change Stick

Courtesy: Booz & Co

A lot has been written and a lot more has been said about the importance of organisation culture and its impact on a business in terms of productivity, employee engagement, profitability and sustainability.

I loved this infographic from Booz & Co on why culture matters and how culture makes the organisational changes become habit and stick on as best practices.

Why Culture Matters