Nikita Panchal, Global Head - Organization Development, Talent Management & Development, D&I, ACG Worldwide

Nikita considers herself as an agent of transformation and it thrills her to constantly push the edge of consciousness in herself and in others. She is an Executive Coach and a Global Leader with HR experience of over 18 years. Most of her momentous work is in the space of Organization Development, Talent Management, Diversity & Inclusion and creating future-ready organizations. Her work contributes to enabling strategic management, leadership pipeline creation, scaling up & streamlining of business and culture building. She has worked with reputed organizations like TATA AssetManagement, Motilal Oswal Securities and is currently associated with ACG Group.


What is your relationship with your work? Like the world linearly defines the one of an employer and an employee. Where the currency of exchange is money for effort or skill. Come to think of the multiplicity of life do you think that’s the only linear exchange you had thus far, perhaps No! We bring to work our entire beingness. The exchanges at work are hence higher valued than the figure on the paycheck.

Our relationship with work is symmetric to the relationship we have with ourselves. Alongside coming to work for making a living we often experience people walk into the closed doors of office in search of new hope, meaning, contribution, engagement, expression, letting go, love, forgetting and more. Work is just a medium which makes all the rest happen. Interestingly enough when we talk about work, we often only hint towards performance, potential, excellence, growth and all other parameter that the cognitive mind defines impact. Only to realize that the relationships are much deeper than what we often shy away from claiming.

Allow me to ask you this question yet one more time, what is your relationship with your work? Do you see a shift in your response? What shifted the response? The awareness or the energy with which you answered it. When we change the way in which we look at things, things change. One suddenly discovers new potential ways of re-establishing what anchors them at work. An anchor which enables them to discover the person or in corporate parlance the leader within them. There is a leader in each one of us which shows up best when we are in harmony and alignment. Especially in moments when we are in greater balance. 

What does balance look like for you? I am alluding to topics beyond the work-life, burn outs, career breaks and more. Inching more towards bringing in higher alignment, harmony, and balance within. How can people create balance not by stepping outside what they do, but by going inwards? Exploring the potential of learning in the flow of work and shifting the way they do things. Wonder if it changes their relationship with work and themselves? 

In discovering my own relationship with work, I realized that every organization is a small expression of the world we live in. A world which is constituted of the five elements of nature, the earth, fire, water, air, and sky. Did you know that each one of us have these same five elements and these elements work as the hidden energy in building our personalities? We have all received feedbacks at several levels to be more of something. Leaders globally are often asked to be more clam, be assertive, let-go, delegate effectively, be empathetic, think creatively, act with humility and more. While these delf discovery dialogues soon move into building skills for each of these virtues. What is often not worked upon is their own beingness. Hence the skill at times is short lived, not sustained, does not feel natural and on many occasions feels not authentic. The question is how does one make real change happen? The answer for me can be summarised in two words – alignment and balance. 

However, the first step towards alignment and balance is discovery. Knowing has always been the first steppingstone to change. How do we know which of these elements are playing a more active role? Is it making me functional or dysfunctional? Let’s see how it often plays out – We see a person aggressive in a meeting and we know that fire element is dominating the individual’s expression. In a moment of ideation, a person’s intuition brings an unimagined thought. The sky elements suddenly showed up without a knock. We see people operate with ease; they are ones most comfortable to get along with. We often don’t realise the ocean full of the water element they carry within themself. Then there are care givers who offer moments of compassion and empathy with their air element finding its self-expression. While it is liberating to play by one’s strength, it is equally limiting to only operate by a single element. 

As you look at yourself in the different moments at work, which of this element is present in abundance inside you? I am sure you have more than one and perhaps your mind is already arranging them in sequence of high to low. The beauty of knowing something as a human being is that we quickly move towards measuring ourselves on it. Let me give out a secret, that even before you discovered this you already had each of these elements finding their way to express themself. Yes, there are conditions, past experiences, beliefs, and more reason why some elements find their way easier than the other. But the good news is that we have them all.

True alignment and harmony would happen in those moments where one is in complete awareness of which element is dominant with in the person before its expression. It’s like a micro-second of self-check to quickly align and ask oneself, what does the moment truly require? which element do I need to tap into to fulfil it? Hence having the access, capability, and ease to demonstrate the expression of all elements is the key. 

How often do organization spend time in helping people build these aspects of their beingness. Imagine the potential if each employee could be more mindful before they act, pause to harmonise some of their dominant elements or simply build capability to act out of their comfort zone. This would perhaps open doors for lesser conflicts, more innovation, deeper relationships, better team climate, managerial feedback with empathy and more. As an organization we are conditioned to work on the outcomes and for years we have only focused on them. Just ones if we were to work on the aspects which made the outcome happen. Do you think the results could be different? 

  • Helping the person get in touch with their passion when you don’t promote the person for lack of drive – a moment to nurture the fire element in the person.
  • An aggressive leader with high team attrition and low engagement scores – a moment to build more empathy and compassion. Fostering the air element in the person
  • Indecisiveness, tentativeness in decision making. While it’s an opportunity to help the person have more clarity, it is also an opportunity to build more grounding and deepen the anchors.
  • Enabling a veteran leader to dial down the boundaries of holding on to knowledge and share it unconditionally. Supporting the letting-go process by building the abundance of the sky element.
  • Enabling a tough leader to facilitate a performance improvement dialogue with compassion and empathy. Helping the leader to manifest the air element within.

In a parallel world alignment often feels like all employees moving ahead in a conveyor belt, one direction, one approach, one size fits all mindset. But in a real-world alignment is an expression of our uniqueness. It is about working with what makes each person come alive. It is about working with the aspect which is waiting to blossom and grow. If the world is moving towards hyper-personalised experiences, shouldn’t we create one in the way we develop and grow people.

Research indicates that in 2020, there were about 900 million people (67% of total population) in the working age group of 15-64 in India, which is expected to expand by another 100 million by 2030, despite a declining trend in fertility rate. Imagine the potential if each of these individuals were to work with complete alignment and balance. We can make it happen, only if we deepen the intent with which we develop people.

Discover, Develop, Distribute (3Ds) are the foundational elements to go deeper in this journey. If this discovery has excited your curious self, do tune into this space to know more on the other two Ds, Develop and Distribute. Eager to write and share more in the time to come. Until then stay tuned to the emergence inside you and discover the play of the 5 elements in your life.

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