Straight Talk with Farzaneh Majed

Being a passionate advocate of diversity and inclusion, Farzaneh is known for her empathetic approach to unlock the hidden potential and synergies from diverse teams and organisations. She has successfully leveraged this approach across numerous organisations internationally, guiding clients on the journey from strategy formation to implementation and sustainable change management. She thrives on driving change, with a key focus throughout being the measurement of the bottom-line impact and community engagement on each project.

Here is my interview with Farzaneh Majed, CRP, BSMP, KPIP, Strategic Partner and Advisory Board Member – Balanced Scorecard Institute and CEO & Managing Partner – Transform Alliance

Who or what has shaped you to who you are?

My “Top Hill” is made up of the country where I was born (Iran) and its beautiful characteristics, the country I was educated in and spent my teen years (the UK) with its systems and processes and the country that has been my home and host for the past 28 years (UAE). Apart from my parents who taught me honesty, integrity and compassion, I was always “in love” with my teachers. A teacher is anyone who teaches me something new and opens a window in my mind. Iranian revolution happened when I was a child but created a thirst for knowing more and exploring the reasons for inequality in our societies. I was fascinated by Gandhi, Martin Luther King, slavery and human behaviour.

What are you most passionate about?

Education as a tool to bring Financial Inclusion to our imbalanced world. My husband and I have been sponsoring a couple of students with their university fees to secure their future. I want to teach people how to fish not to give them a fish for a night. I have always wanted to be “the voice of the unheard.” I am blessed to have had the opportunity of living in different parts of the world and want to be a bridge that connects the East with the West, embracing our similarities rather than focusing on our differences which actually make the world more colourful.

CEO Activism is a growing trend. What is your focus area?

As an individual I have always been an environmentalist and I focus on waste reduction. In 2020, I have become interested in Food Security and have been assisting universities with their pledges to build food forests in UAE which has a desert climate.

What are some of the workplace pledges you have implemented?

We run many Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives especially when our clients need our services but cannot afford us. We established the strategy and performance management system of a private hospital which in turn saved 185 jobs. We offer training programmes to a school for handicapped children. I personally donated my hair to have a wig made for children who suffer from cancer in Oct 2020. We offer internship to students and unemployed to increase their skill sets and enhance their self-confidence.

How much does online reputation matter to you?

We live in a connected world now when people share their most personal and intimate moments online. Reputation management is vital for personal and business continuity. Be mindful of what you share of yourself and whether you have permission of tagging or posting others which may hurt you. Remember that once a post has gone online, it can always be retrieved even if deleted – be wise in why and what you put on-line – everyone is watching. Not all who follow you are your friends!!!!

Active is better than passive. What is your take?

If you are referring to an online presence, it’s a personal choice to be active or passive and I don’t see anything wrong with either. Don’t get obsessed with posting everything you wear, eat, see or do. It will consume your life. Talking of life, I would say proactive is better than active. Plan your life or be someone else’s plan. Take action towards your goals and keep going even when the going gets tough.

Tell me about an accomplishment that shaped your career?

I have won many awards – Chairman’s award, One Million Dollar Round Table award, Innovation award, Best Research award and a few more. However, the biggest accomplishment for me was to gain the trust of my general manager after two months of employment to allow me to work from home after my baby was born so that I could nurse and raise him personally. Her trust despite the company’s policy, gained my loyalty for 23 years and I never entertained any head-hunters or recruitment agencies. I worked from home for 18 months after the birth of our son, never missed a deadline, was the most productive and profitable producer for many years.

What do you hope to accomplish within the next year?

My first book – Generation Inclusion – was published this year and I am planning to establish the curriculum for Inclusion Academy to raise awareness on this critical issue, educate corporations and governments that they can have a positive Return On their Investment from this concept.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career? How did you overcome it and what did you learn from it?

As a woman, I was told that I could not travel to Saudi and I believed it without challenging it. My male counterpart climbed up the corporate ladder and made critical decisions which impacted our business. Having attended many Women in Leadership conferences, I decided to overcome the challenge and pushed the barriers one by one. Having overcome this, I learnt not to take a No for an answer and build a door when another door is locked.

Define your communication style

I watch people’s behaviours and pay more attention to their actions rather than their words. I’m a good listener and stay calm during stressful situations. My team used to tell me that they would get worried when I talked to them quietly, because they knew that they were in trouble! They were allowed to make mistakes and learn from them, but I wasn’t very kind if they made the same mistake twice. I compliment people in public but criticise in private.

Describe a time when you’ve had to make a tough decision. What did you do and what was the result?

The only mistake I made on a recruitment was to hire a conference producer based on her previous work without meeting her face to face. After a week of her joining the company, I knew that I had made an error, but she had moved countries to join us and I felt a great sense of responsibility. I coached her, sent her on training, spent ample time with her but her priorities were elsewhere. After three months into her probation period, I met her and went through her lack of performance and asked her if she in my place, what she would have done to her. In my astonishment, she told me that she would have killed her if she was me because she didn’t have my patience!!!! We laughed, and parted ways.

Another time was in 2008 when I had to make tough decisions to make colleagues redundant due to global economic crisis. People were using this time to get rid of staff who were negative or critical. Based on my actual hard Key Performance Indicators, I saved someone’s job when everyone else had “voted” for her to go. I was then interviewed by our HR Director and my line manager and was asked if I had to choose between her job and mine, which one would I choose. I replied: “You can try me.” They took the matter to our CEO and when I presented my business case with actual KPIs, I won the argument and kept my team member.

Managing failure: Failing forward?

To fail forward, we must do or try something new which we are afraid to do. We have to step out there, even if we don’t know where the path will lead. This is one of my mottos in life. I moved to the UK as a teenager without speaking a word of English, applied for a couple of jobs without previous experience and excelled at them, managed thought leaders and gurus and pushed the bar of excellence continuously.

How would you foster greater innovation?

Through Inclusion: Generation, Gender, Racial

Removing barriers and providing enablers

Allocating time, resources and budget without which this is just a lip service

Embracing failure and not blaming anyone for mistakes.

How do you communicate the purpose of life so effectively?

Lead by example, walk the talk and be true to your values. We can always justify our actions but deep down our conscious would tell us if we are on the right path. Do not sacrifice humanity for greed which would never be satisfied.

Does reputation really matter in taking your vision forward?

Our reputation is a very strong enabler. Be Balanced – don’t become obsessed by what people think of you all the time – this will ruin your life. Be true to your values and let your actions build your reputation. If you make a mistake – and we all do as humans – admit to it, apologise and take corrective actions.

The views and opinions published here belong to the interviewer and the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sameera Fernandes
Sameera Fernandes is the Director of Ecosol Global and Chairperson of External Affairs - Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCIC). She is also the former Director – Strategy, St. Francis College, Bengaluru.

She was conferred with the Nirbhaya Award and also the ‘Woman of Influence’ Award by Archbishop Dr. Peter Machado.

Her past stints include Sun Microsystems, Nokia (UAE), Jet Airways, Al Ghurair Investments (UAE) and has been a regular contributor to the Friday Magazine of Gulf News.

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