About Vikas Tiku
Vikas Tiku has over 30 years of experience with large, global businesses in the US, Asia Pacific, and Africa.
Vikas served as Representative Director, Head of Transformation, Chief Financial, and Strategy Officer for Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Holdings Inc. He was voted as the ‘Best CFO in Japan’ (Food & Beverage sector) by Investor Weekly publication in 2018.
Vikas started his professional career with The Pillsbury Company. He subsequently served as COO and CFO for Source Precision Medicine; a start-up medical technologies company based in Colorado. He joined The Coca-Cola Company in 2005 as M&A Lead for Asia Pacific before going on to serve as CFO Africa (2006-2008), CFO Japan (2009-2014), and CFO Asia Pacific (2015-2016).
Vikas has a Bachelor of Electronics and Electrical Communication Engineering degree from Punjab University in India and an MBA from the University of Minnesota. He attended the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School in Spring 2019
Lesson 1: What brought you here isn’t necessarily going to get you there. 5m 26s
Lesson 2: Be true to who you are. Be authentic 09m 09s
Lesson 3: Decide quickly when stakes are not high…Decide carefully when stakes are high 12m 28s
Lesson 4: Create possibilities and don’t close options too quickly…they have value 18m 33s
Lesson 5: Conflict by itself isn’t good or bad. Your reaction makes it so 25m 16s
Lesson 6: Listen more than you speak 30m 44s
Lesson 7: Your career highlights will never make it to your tombstone 34m 27s
Lesson 8: Once you’ve made a choice don’t second guess 38m 42s
Lesson 9: You can’t do something without actually doing it. 41m 44s
Lesson 10: Be Humble. Nobody knows everything 44m 07s
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:00:00] Hello, welcome to our podcast, 10 Lessons it Took Me 50 Years to Learn where we dispense wisdom, not just information, not mere facts to an audience of future leaders at any age around the globe. In other words, we will be talking to interesting people about their interesting experiences.
My name is Siebe Van Der Zee and I’m your host. I’m originally from the Netherlands and I’m currently living in the state of Arizona in the United States. Also known as the Dutchman in the desert. My company is involved in executive search and performance coaching and Oh yeah. In my career, I’ve had the opportunity to live in four countries on three continents.
This podcast is sponsored by PDF. The Professional Development Forum and PDF helps up-and-coming professionals accelerate their performance into modern workplace. I hope you will enjoy this program.
Our guest today is Vikas Tiku welcome Vikas.
Vikas Tiku: [00:01:01] Hi Siebe
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:01:02] I’m so glad you’re with us on this podcast, you have an amazing background.
Vikas Tiku is an accomplished CFO, chief financial officer with an impressive track record into global food and beverage industry. He has worked for companies like Pillsbury Hershey Coca-Cola. He has an extensive business experience in North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Australia. He has served on the board of directors with Coca-Cola in Japan for eight years, and he was voted best CFO in Japan into food and beverage sector by investor weekly in 2018 and in 2019.
Vikas currently serves as group CFO, head of strategy and operations for Encora and leader in software, product development services for leading edge global technology companies. Welcome Vikas, we are very happy that you are joining us.
Vikas Tiku: [00:02:00] Siebe thank you, a terrific opportunity to share with you my perspectives and wisdom such as it is, you know, gathered over my 35-year professionals career.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:02:10] Very happy to have you. And we’re going to be talking about the 10 lessons that you have learned in your life and your career. And before we get there, I’m just curious. I want to ask you a question that I think is very helpful for the audience.
What is the first lesson that you have learned in your career that you think should be shared with other people?
Vikas Tiku: [00:02:34] First lesson if I reflect back on the time that I first came to the United States from India, way back in 1987, you know, I come from a middle-class family in India.
Didn’t have all the resources required to pay for an education in the U S and yet I took a chance to come here. Almost saying I’ll figure it out. When I first arrived in the U S I had no idea how I was going to pay for my two years of graduate education. So, finding an opportunity to pay for my graduate education was the most important thing on my mind.
I remember writing to a lot of departments within my university, from India, before I came here, looking for assistantships internships or anything of that kind that would help you with that. And from most of those, I got a form letter that said, you know, let us know when you get here, but you know, we don’t have anything right now.
And yet the first thing that I did when I got to Minnesota, University of Minnesota at that time was go knock on those doors and ask people had anything changed. I think the 15 or 16 door that I knocked, somebody said to me, you know what. Yes, something has changed, and you go to the first person, who’s come ask me about it. So, it’s yours.
So, the lesson that I learned with this was I had plenty of chances to give up, but I never gave up until I finally found that one opportunity that has paved the way for my success for the rest of my life. So perseverance pays off, you know, ability to stick doggedly about it, objective in mind that, you know, right. That has meaning for you. You should never give up on something that easily. So for what it’s worth, that’s an important lesson I learned when I first came to the U S way back in 87.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:04:06] You almost make it sound easy, but I know what you’re saying. When you, when you come from your native country and you go to another country and I’ve done the same, of course Perseverance is very important and it’s not always easy. And you have to, you have to stick with it, but obviously again, looking at your incredible career that has been an amazing journey. Very impressive, indeed.
Vikas Tiku: [00:04:31] Actually. Yes. You know, sometimes I do reflect on something in hindsight, it looks easy. I can assure you. If I put myself back in the shoes that I was in 1987, it looked far from easy at that time.
And there were days when you were wondering, you know, did I even do the right thing or you think about yourself, but then you would quickly lose perspective on that and move on and try to make whatever decision you had made successful. And so, yes, reflecting back on it now you know, it, it was, it was an important part, important time in my life and my career, and it set me in the right frame of mind for the future success.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:05:03] Great segue to the first lesson that you gave us here. What brought you here, isn’t necessarily going to get you there.
Vikas Tiku: [00:05:12] Yes. You know, I tried to play, put some interesting play on words and some of these lessons just to make them more interesting, but really what I mean by that is and again, this is based on my own personal experience, but I suspect a lot of people in the audience would probably identify with it. Everybody has, it’s multiple inflection points in their life and their careers. Some more than others, depending on how active alive did you lead? In my personal case, I’ve always found that when I reached that inflection point and I reflected on what were my goals for the future? What did I want to do for the next stage? I realized that almost invariably, I realized that the skill set that got me to that stage of my life, that stage of my career, whatever it was while it was still important for me to carry that forward, it was no longer sufficient to allow me to get to my next level of performance or next level of achievement.
And I don’t mean just in monetary terms and just any terms that I had established for myself. So, the ability to reinvent yourself or in part or in hold and multiple times during your life is quite important for sustained success, both mental and financial wellbeing. Over your career? Too many people get stopped doing the same thing over and over and over again and eventually it becomes very boring. So the ability at appropriate times in your life to reach that inflection point. Reassess and reset your goals and then reset learning goals as well, so that you acquire some, some new dimension to your, your skillset is quite important for long-term sustained growth in my mind.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:06:44] Now it’s somewhat unusual for individuals like you like me, right? To live or have lived in multiple countries and have obviously worked in multiple countries. Most people, I would say I don’t have the statistics, but they stay in the country in which they were born and raised and, and got their education and they got the job, et cetera.
You were obviously. Going places. Was that something that you anticipated early on in your career or was it something that happened over time and you got a new promotion, you got a new job and you ended up in a different country, or was that something that you were interested in from the start?
Vikas Tiku: [00:07:25] Truth be told in the beginning, no, I was not, it wasn’t something that I consciously sought out. It just happened. But once it happened and I began to see that I have a skill set and I can talk about it in one of the lessons as well. I had a skillset that lent itself well to being able to adapt to different customs and different cultures around the world and figure out how business is conducted and still be able to get things done.
That that was something that had value. It had value to me, it had value to the organization that I was part of. And I, I learned that as I experienced myself going through the different stages of my life. So therefore, towards the end, I actually actively sought out such opportunities. So, it started off being, you know, somebody got somebody thought somebody might have seen that in me and decided to put me into one of those assignments. But over time I began to see how I could be good at it. And if I could be good at it, then I could probably prosper and do well with this thing. And that’s kind of how my career has gone.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:08:21] That’s pretty interesting. That’s interesting. Many times, people sort of have that on their mind from the start to say, Hey, I want to work in foreign countries or a specific country, but in your case, it evolved. And then obviously you became an expert. You became very successful. You’ve lived in so many countries and had senior level positions interesting to the next next lesson lesson number two, be true to who you are, be authentic.
Vikas Tiku: [00:08:47] Yeah. You know, it’s, it’s more than just, you know what I call a platitude in the way I say it.
So the lesson that I have a life that I’ve dealt with, a lot of people who, and sometimes I fall into the trap myself is you try, you want something so badly that you conjure up in your mind, what does it take? What will it take to get, to get that? And you change yourself or you change something about yourself to fit that, you know, whether it’s a job, it’s an assignment, it’s a relationship, you know, whatever, a new contract, there’s all kinds of different ways people want things in life, and you change yourself temporarily. To fit what do you think is, is a need to get that thing done? And as soon as it has done, you sort of go back to your normal behaviour. I found that when you win things in that way, they’re not really sustainable in the long haul. You are kidding yourself if you think that getting something like that, is it worth keeping. either you will lose your own you know, your own credibility or people will lose credibility in you. It’s much, much better in my mind to be authentic about who you are. And if something is a good fit, it’s a good fit. If it’s not a good fit, recognize it’s not a good fit and then find sometimes somebody else who might be a good fit for it. Don’t try to put a round peg in a square hole or vice versa as the saying goes. Because you will discover after you’ve done it, that you have more steel regrets and not a feeling of euphoria that you’ve got something. So, my lesson in life was, you know, I am who I am you know, to some extent my personality is what it is.
It fits certain things. It doesn’t fit other things. If it doesn’t fit something well, recognize it, you know and move on as opposed to try and continuously try to reinvent yourself unless the reinvention is real. So that’s why I said to my first year after we invent yourself, if it’s real and you reinvented yourself truly, then it’s fine.
Yeah. If you’re doing on a temporary basis just to get something don’t, don’t bother it.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:10:43] I like that. It has to make sense in, in of course in situations, sometimes people go through specific experiences that changes who they are, the point to be authentic, I think is extremely important.
Vikas Tiku: [00:10:57] Yeah. And that’s when the authentic part comes in right.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:11:00] Exactly.
Vikas Tiku: [00:11:01] We don’t think so. Most people don’t think it’s possible, but. Most experienced people can tell whether somebody is authentic or not. If they speak to them for 10 or 15 minutes, at least they’ll form an opinion about you. And if you they’re trying to pretend to be somebody or not, they will they’ll sense that whether that’s right or wrong, they will sense that.
And if they sense that, then it changes the dynamic of the significantly. So, you’re much better off. And I said, being authentic, being who you are. Again, as I said, these are personal lessons from my standpoint, they may or may not apply to everybody out there, but certainly in my life, I’ve found every time that I tried to do something that was, I wouldn’t say deceiving somebody, but at least I was trying too hard to fit something on a temporary basis. I learned later it wasn’t worth it. And my lesson in life is if you get something by being authentic, it’s worth having, if you get something by being something other than that, you will probably realize afterwards it wasn’t worth it.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:11:57] Yup. I see here, lesson number three, decide quickly when stakes are not high, and decision is reversible decide carefully when the stakes are high and a decision is not easily reversible if at all.
Vikas Tiku: [00:12:15] Yeah. And the lesson there is, you know, a lot of people that I run into, like have one speed of decision making, you know, they just, they, they, they make decisions quickly or they take forever. And both, both I find incredibly frustrating and I’m sure people will say the same thing about me.
My lesson in life is that, you know, every decision is not equally important in life. You know, what I have for breakfast this morning is not the same thing as you know, which car am I buying is not the same thing as you know, which woman am I marrying or, or where, where my son is going to call it. Those are very different decisions.
Some are, you know, I can have French toast tomorrow, today. And if I don’t like it, I can have scrambled eggs tomorrow it’s not the end of the world. On the other hand, who am I going to marry? It may not be a completely reversible decision, but the culture that I come from it is pretty irreversible. So, you bet you want to think more carefully about it for saying yes.
Right? So those, I make that distinction to illustrate that there are certain things that you can decide quickly. And even if you got it wrong, it doesn’t matter. The world is not going to come to an end you reverse it, you move on, you learn something, and you move on and you learn that you didn’t like French toast, you know, have scrambled eggs tomorrow and move on with life.
Other things. Yes. You need to think a little bit about more carefully. It doesn’t mean you take whatever, but you need to think a little bit more about it because you are making a commitment of some kind of personal or otherwise. Do something to make it happen. And you want to make sure that you could follow through on that commitment on your part, that you don’t have any reservations, because if you have reservations, then it doesn’t do you any good to say yes. Only to afterwards then start backpedalling or not, not be fully committed to that decision. So don’t have one speed of decision making. Things that are not that, not that critical, every decision is important, but that, that, that it reversible make it quickly move on, learn, move on.
Others, take your time in the business world for example, acquiring a company, that’s a, that’s a, you know, that’s not an easily reversible decision.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:14:05] correct.
Vikas Tiku: [00:14:06] Finding the right fit, finding the right team, et cetera is so critically important. Versus launching a line extension of a current brand. As an example, I, you know, you launch a line extension of a brand.
It didn’t work. The consumers didn’t like it. As long as you didn’t do something crazy with the brand, you’d launch another one next year, move on. But sometimes people will take five years to study how to do launch a line extension. It’s not that important guys. You know, there are 10 ideas like that floating round, go get it launched.
On the other hand, I am the company, you know, take the time to do due diligence to it’s time to think about it carefully. So that’s, that’s, you know, in my life I found, you know, if you can separate that spectrum and then make decisions accordingly with the speed of decision making accordingly. You’ll find that people will engage with you in a lot, lot easier way in a, in a more, a cohesive way to help you get, get the outcome that you’re seeking for.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:14:58] It’s a great point Vikas, and at the same time, I think of situations where people are under pressure to make decisions or they are overloaded with their work. They have so many things to do and Oh yeah. They also have to make a decision on another item. And in, in our coaching practice, sometimes we use the term reduced flexibility because there are people that when they’re under pressure, they react in a way that perhaps later they would regret.
And so I, I truly think what you’re saying contains a lot of wisdom again, because it’s important for people to think that through, they have to allow themselves to take the time necessary to make that decision would you agree?
Vikas Tiku: [00:15:44] Yeah, exactly Siebe what happens under pressure in my experience to people is that there are some people for whom the decision becomes very difficult because they always wondered, did they miss something? Right? And then they keep analysing something forever. Now, when I’m helping those people would saying is, look, you can analyse everything, forever, truth, be told, but for some decisions. It’s not worth it. So recognize if it’s just a simple decision, make it, you don’t need to have a hundred percent of the information, make the decision.
On the other hand, there are some things, if you under pressure, you feel pressure to make a decision, all stays, you know, you have to come, you didn’t get the acquisition done this quarter. I expect you to have it done, you know, resist that pressure because that decision is not that easily overturned, but if you have to do it and so take the time to study that carefully and having the confidence to be able to separate those two out and be able to deal with pressure like that. If you put everything in the same bucket that has been very difficult, you have to be able to segment decisions and deal with the pressure differently in different situations.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:16:44] Do you take the time to go through your, your thought process from time to time to, to, to say, okay, I have all these things that I’m working on and do you allow yourself moments because more time is probably not available, but for you to realize the different decisions that you have to make and that you can put them in order. Because again, if you’re rushed, if you have to make decisions, you may say, yeah, I, you know, whatever works for me. But sometimes you have to put it in a bigger perspective. Do you give yourself the opportunity for that?
Vikas Tiku: [00:17:17] There was a time in my life, early on when I would almost put a T account. Right? So everything on the left was not that critical. Everything with the bank was critical and I would actually make a simple T account from my accounting days, a list of things. So in a very high level compartmentalize the decisions I was making, I don’t do that anymore, but I suspect somewhere in my brain, there is a, a T account that classifies decisions accordingly.
And, and with experience, you learn to recognize these in a much simpler and easier way than, than you do at the beginning of your career. So, yes, in the beginning I had a very conscious talk process about it now. Not so much anymore, but the outcome is still the same. If that makes any sense.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:17:59] It does. It does. Lesson number four create possibilities and don’t close options too quickly. They have value.
Vikas Tiku: [00:18:07] Yeah, this is, you know, I’m a CFO. So, in the end I have to have a financial angle to one of my lessons. Right. So, this is the only financial lesson that I will angle that I’ll put on any of my lessons.
Option value is the most least understood in my mind. Whenever you have to make decisions you know, it’s, it’s a long list of decisions that you have to make it a tree. And the, the people think it’s much better and easier to get to a final outcome as quickly as possible. And in so doing, they ignored possibilities because they are quick, they’re they want to get to the final decision as quickly as possible.
And my learning in life again, is that, you know, make the decision that is in front of you, but don’t make decision that you don’t have to make for another three years today. Because in allowing that time theatre to pass that time period and the possibilities that will emerge in that time period, has a value to you.
Don’t close them off too quickly. The decision that is in front of you make that. Just because you can see the decision that you might have to make in three years’ time, it doesn’t mean that you have to make it today. Don’t close that possibility, recognize the decision, put it in your brain, but in your mind and reflect on it, but make it when you have to make that decision.
If you make it sooner than that. Very likely you will have closed out certain possibilities and certain options that could have created value for you. And that’s a lesson in personal as well, professional life for me. So those who we believe in option theory, et cetera, will tell you, we know every option has value.
Sometimes it’s not so obvious to people as to what the value is. It only manifests itself over time as those possibilities are merged, but you need to give yourself a chance to take advantage of those when they come. And if you’ve made the decision too quickly, you won’t be able to do so.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:19:45] It, it would give you peace of mind as well right? If there are decisions that need to be made, but not right now short term, but maybe medium or long-term. If you can put that. In that sense away for that moment, that may create that peace of mind to say, okay, I have what I have right now. These are the decisions I need to make that other issue. It will come up it’s important. It’s serious, but I don’t have to act on it right now. And that gives a lot of peace I would imagine.
Vikas Tiku: [00:20:14] Yeah. And just using my personal life experience as an example, you know, sometimes I, I got a little bit ahead of myself in thinking about a next level decision that I would have to make based on certain assumptions that I was making about how the world would evolve from where I was sitting at the moment, but I didn’t leave open the possibilities of the world could evolve in a completely different way. And that was beyond my imagination at that point in time. And so, by only having made that decision I would have closed out all kinds of possibilities but because I left myself left that decision open. When the decision actually confronted me, the world looked very different than what I imagined it would when I was forcing myself to think about it.
So, in some cases, therefore, it’s okay to live with that ambiguity of not having made every decision instantly. But the decision that is in front of you make that anything beyond that, unless you have an absolute necessity for it, let it go for now, let the world evolve because there’s only so many things that you can control in your life, let the world evolve and where do you have to make the decision, make it in the context of how the world has evolved. And you might find yourself choosing a different option than you would have done. If you had made the decision. Early in the process.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:21:25] Does this apply to the world we live in right now with the COVID issue to healthcare problem, worldwide certain things that we were used to we cannot do right now here in United States and perhaps other countries, we talk about the new normal is that part of what you look at and say, I cannot control it and we have to keep distance, for example.
Vikas Tiku: [00:21:48] Yeah. Well, you know, I’ll move very simple, but maybe very common example that a lot of people like me are facing in the world today.
When I joined my current company, we were faced, we were looking at a decision about how to extend a lease and a very important office of ours for the next five years. A thousand people working in that office every day, coming into work in at their workstation, et cetera. And in normal situation, that would have been a no-brainer decision. We want to be in that space. We have clients we want to serve as we will always have a thousand people in that office. Therefore, if you’re getting a good deal right now, sign the lease. It’s not that complicated a decision, but here we are. You know, when I, when I suddenly saw how the world is devolve in the middle of last year, June, July, that occupancy in our office was zero.
And yet my business had not faltered. One bit. We were still servicing all those clients. We were still doing everything for them, yet the office occupancy was down to zero. So now we went from, in, in, in, in three, four months, I went from a no-brainer thousand people working in the office every day. To no impact in the business, 0% in the office, right? Now, the truth is when we come back to normal, my sensitive will, will come down somewhere in the middle.
It wouldn’t be like, like it used to be before. It won’t be everybody working from home either, but it changes the possibilities altogether. Now I’m using that. This is, this is perhaps a, not a great example because in this case, you know, things happen that are outside of my control, but it’s an illustration of how things can happen.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:23:15] Exactly.
Vikas Tiku: [00:23:16] So if you don’t have to make that decision right now, because we didn’t have to agree to at least for the five next five years, the current lease ran for another one or two years. And so, I could have easily said, you know, No. I want to lock in the lease for the next five years right now at this good deal where I could have said no, the current lease expires it two years’ time, six months, nine months before the lease expires. I will think about it that time, depending on how the situation is. I actually chose that decision because the deal that we had on the table that was not that good. And it turned out to be a fantastic decision. Because now we are rethink about that office completely.
That’s a, that’s a real life example of how something that I could not have possibly imagined happened. If you had asked me, you know, in January, February of last year, that what we experienced all of last year would happen. I would have kind of said to you, forget it. You know, you don’t know what you’re talking about, but we all lived through it. We all lived through it together. We were still living through it.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:24:09] Well, and it’s a good lesson for anticipating the future, which we don’t know. Right. We know what I always say, we know what the weather was like yesterday. We don’t really know what to expect tomorrow.
Vikas Tiku: [00:24:21] Yeah. And hence my thing, you know, so give yourself not 100, a hundred percent of the cases, but where options can have significant value, don’t close them off too quickly, or at least at a minimum. Think about them consciously before you make decisions.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:24:34] Yeah, I like it. Lesson number five. I see there’s a lot of wisdom in there. Conflict by itself. Isn’t good or bad only how you react to it makes it so. I had to give it some thought, but it’s definitely very, very smart. Your, your thoughts on that place.
Vikas Tiku: [00:24:52] Yeah, there are two kinds of people that I’ve run into life. And I’ve probably been one of those two people as well, and at different stages of my life, you know, there are people who seek conflict because that’s, that’s how they think they want to interact with people. And then there are what I would call conflict avoiders, you know, people who will say anything to get out of a conflict. And, and my sense based on my experience Siebe, is that conflict means, at its core conflict basically means you have two competing ideas. You have one way of doing it. You have another way of doing it, or at least one other way of doing it maybe multiple ways of doing it. That in itself isn’t bad. It just means that people have different perspectives on that same decision. There is nothing inherently good or bad about that. It’s just that there are multiple choices from their perspective. Now how you react to it. Whether you ascribe values and judgements and other things to it, or you use whatever means you use to make a decision that can be counterproductive at an organization.
So how you deal with that conflict. So, one of the burdens of leadership in my mind is to allow conflict to emerge within an organization, because that means you have people with ideas and, and the energy that they care about that decision to bring to the table. Your job as a leader is to allow that, give it air so that the consensus can emerge over time.
Or at least it’s become obvious to you, which one is the right approach. And it’s not a hundred percent always that this person’s right or that person’s right. Which is which idea is right for the organization.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:26:21] Yes.
Vikas Tiku: [00:26:21] But if you don’t allow it to have the breathing space, you will never, you will, you will have, again, closed out that option, quickly right? So, conflict by itself, you know, people say, well, I don’t agree with him. That’s fine. Not agreeing with something. It’s not a bad thing. It just means that you have a different approach. Fantastic. I want to know why you don’t, I don’t care about you. You don’t agree with him as a, is a statement. I want to understand why don’t you agree with him?
What is it about that decision that that person was going to say or do that you don’t agree with? So, get to that nugget, if you will. And if you get to that nugget, then suddenly the possibilities become much more obvious to you. Right? So burden of leadership in my mind is to allow conflict to first emerged and that get aired out in the right way to allow people to make the right choices for the organisation.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:27:08] Yeah. I like it. What you’re saying. And I was thinking before we had this conversation, conflict can present itself in, in, in so many different ways. And that’s why I appreciate what you’re saying, because what you’re saying is clearly in a corporate organizational fashion where conflict, it depends on how you deal with it. You cannot avoid it, but how do you position yourself to deal with the conflict?
Vikas Tiku: [00:27:32] But beyond, beyond the corporate world, I found it a very healthy lesson to have in my own personal life as well, just in my family life. Right. I’ve got a very, very strong-willed wife who has very good ideas about what she wants to do is not always aligned with mine.
I have two sons who are quite independent thinkers that have their own view of the world, et cetera, not always aligned with mine. That doesn’t mean that I’m right or they’re wrong or they’re right. And I’m wrong all the time. It just means that we have different views of the world. And what I found it helpful is to just have an open dialogue about it.
Don’t judge somebody’s opinion too quickly ask them the question as to why they have that opinion. And suddenly out of that whole discussion, invariably, nine times out of 10, we ended up with the right answer for the family anyway. So, it, it works for me, both at the personal settings, as well as in a corporate organization setting.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:28:21] I, I had a thought that entered my mind. It has to do with Dutch people and I’m one of them, as you know we talk about if you have two Dutch people in one room, you get at least three opinions. So, I can learn from this. I appreciate it. That’s a good lesson to have indeed in, in some cultures, as you know, people tend to be very direct and open and at the same time, for people other than let’s say Dutch people that can be somewhat conflicting because it’s like, wait a minute are they arguing? Are they? No, we’re just laying it out there. And some cultures are in that sense, more direct, but I think the wisdom is clearly there and I, I like it. Yeah.
Vikas Tiku: [00:29:00] Yeah, there are cultural norms that you also need to follow, right? So how you do it is very different in Japan and Netherlands, as an example, you talk about how, how you deal with that situation with two Dutch people. And I’ve worked 11 years in Japan, and I know how I would deal with it in Japan. I dealt with it for 10 years. It was very different, but the outcome that I was seeking is still the same. It’s just the way you go about it is very different. How you, how you elicit people’s opinion, et cetera, is very different in Japan.
But the outcome that I was seeking, which is get people to talk about why is it that they’re saying what they’re saying, not what is it they’re saying too many people focus on the, what they don’t focus on why. why are they saying it? If you can get to that, there’s, there’s all these solutions possible.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:29:45] I think your global expertise really helps in that, right? Because you have seen behaviours and cultural values that are different. Like we just talking about. Japan, for example you have been able to experience that over many years in many, many countries, but it is very helpful and it’s good to share that, that wisdom. Lesson number six, boy, it’s close to my heart and I’m really ready to listen and learn. Listen more than you speak. Very important to me.
Vikas Tiku: [00:30:16] You know, again, a lot of people feel that the way they contribute to something is by making sure that their ideas are, are, are influencing whatever group they’re a part of and so they need to speak about those ideas to, to influence people, which is, there’s a lot of truth to that undoubtedly. you can’t convince or influence anybody if you don’t have words to express your ideas. But I think it’s equally important when you’re in group settings, especially that you recognize. There is experience and wisdom in the group collective versus each, each person individually. So as you’re, as you’re reflecting on what people are saying, there are ideas that will come out in your own mind as to possibilities.
If you’re only interested in communicating what you have already thought about, then you are shutting yourself off from all the possibilities that could be happening because you’re not taking advantage of the group around you. They have, you know, if I, if I come to the table with my 35 years of experience and I’m sitting across the table of five other people who have equal years of experience or thereabouts, I should be taking advantage of in that setting, learning from them.
I only know what I know it’s already in my head. So, if that’s all I’m going to communicate that I’m not getting anything out of that, our conversation, I’m just telling people what I already know. For me to gain something out of that conversation. And hopefully you over time contribute to them to that discussion is to learn for what others’ experiences have been all about.
Where do I identify with them? Where do I don’t do you know I do not identify with them why I don’t do so. So therefore, one of the learning for me to me, you know, finding that balance. Between being able to communicate what’s on your mind, but also being able to listen and relate it to what you already know and therefore build those connections and be able to build on those ideas is just equally important and you can’t do that without listening.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:32:05] Now Vikas, have you always been like that, that you realized the importance of listening? I had to learn and over time there is, you know, I refer to as a brain muscle when I tell myself be quiet and listen, I can do that. I won’t do it now because we won’t have a conversation anymore, but you know what I mean. Is that something that was part of you early on and you are simply consistent or was it something that you learned over time and said, this is very important because it is very important to listen and not.
Vikas Tiku: [00:32:39] Yeah, I think truthfully in this case, this is something I’ve learned over, over my lifetime. Again, if I reflect back at the start of my career, you know, in any conversation, I was probably an 80% contributor talker and 20% listener roughly speaking 80 20 rule at this stage of my life I’m probably more like a 30, 70 where 30% is when I speak. And 70% is when I’m listening in most conversations. So, it’s not quite 80, 20 that fully diverse yet, but I’m closer to that than I was at the beginning of my career. So, it’s something that I have evolved to over the years. It’s not an, it’s not an overnight fix because some of it is personality type that you, you know, you are who you are as well.
So this is, this is one of those main ones. When I talked about earlier being authentic, you know, this is something that takes a lot of training, especially if it’s not, it doesn’t come to you normally it takes a lot of mental strength and training to pause and reflect and think, and listen, as opposed to just be in, rush to communicate, whatever ideas are coming in your head. So, I would say yes, in my case, it’s a, it’s a learned trait rather than a inherent genetic trait that I had.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:33:43] Yeah. Makes sense. So that’s a, that’s a good lesson. Lesson number seven, your career highlights will never make it to your tombstone.
Vikas Tiku: [00:33:52] Let me tell you an interesting story when I, that I lived through In one of my mentors is the former CFO of Coca-Cola his name is Gary Fare, tremendous, tremendous executive, you know, one of the all-time great people that I worked for in my life. And you know, one of those people who, if they ever called me again and any time in my life to say something they wanted to do, they wanted me to do for them. I would go drop everything I was doing and do it in a heartbeat.
He, he had come to Japan one time and we were doing a town hall with my entire team. So, you know, four or 500 people in the, in the audience, if you will. And here is Gary and I’m introducing area and, you know, speaking very nicely about him, et cetera, et cetera, you’re not setting the stage. And then the first question that he got from somebody was Gary, how do you stay humble?
You know, you know, Vikas just gave you this amazing introduction. You would almost think you’d walk on water and you are Mr. Coca-Cola in Atlanta. You know, we all look up to you, et cetera, et cetera. How do you say stay grounded? You know, tell us what’s the secret. And this is exactly what Gary did say about this is not, this is a true story, right?
He reached out into his wallet and he took out his business card and his business card said Gary Faire, executive vice president, chief financial officer of Coca-Cola company. And it had Coca-Cola company logo on one side and his name and his title, everything else on one side of the card. Right. And he literally tore the business card in front of the audience into two.
And he said everything that you heard Vikas say about me, et cetera, is there because he’s talking about Coca-Cola. I am privileged to be part of this organization. I’m privileged to represent his brand. All of that is true. But that is not who I am. I’m not 130-year-old, iconic brand. You know, that’s what Coca-Cola is.
I am right. I am Gary Faire, executive vice president, chief financial officer. It could be with any organization and I remind myself every day. That is how I interact with people. That’s how I need to come across all kinds of doors open up for me today because I represent the Coca Cola company in the world.
That doesn’t mean that they open up for me. They open up for the Coca-Cola company and the brand. I just happened to take advantage of it and reflect and be there in the moment. And so that was an incredible lesson in humility. And, and, and for me to realize that humility is important. And sometimes we identify so much with our career highlights that we almost take on the persona of the brand and the core organization that we use to represent that we feel like we are one in the same thing.
In the end, you need to have your own perspective in life and who you are and be grounded and principled and who you represent. And don’t, co-mingle those two. And what I mean by that lesson that I said is recognize that when you pass away, it doesn’t say on your tombstone executive vice president, chief financial officer at Coca Cola company. It won’t say that you won’t say that for me, it’ll say something about what I was born when I died and who, and who’s memory am I leaving. It’s a family, it’s an immediate relationship, et cetera. And find the balance in your life to recognize that you don’t get taken away by the bigger organizations that you’re a part of while that is equally important.
Recognize who you are and take the time to put as much attention to those relationships in your life, as you do to, to the broader you know, commitments, et cetera, you’re making for professional career purposes or otherwise, right? So, your family, your immediate family, et cetera, and other things that are personally important to you are, are what people will remember you for. Not necessarily whether you are a big executive in a major company. It has a role don’t get me wrong, but it’s not what they will remember you for. They will remember you for other things that you cared about with that lesson. What I was trying to point out is think about things that your legacy and your legacy is more than just your work and your legacy should be equally important to you, whether it’s on your tombstone or not. And take the time to make sure that you think about that as it goes through your life as well.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:37:50] Yeah, I like it. And I can think of people in my mind that I think of, of those values. I, I think that’s a good lesson. I appreciate it. Lesson number eight, once you’ve made a choice. Don’t second guess instead, use your energy to make the decisions successful. Kind of connects to what we were talking about earlier.
Vikas Tiku: [00:38:10] It does, you know, there, there is a common team that you can see a lot of in my lessons about how you make choices in life.
Again, the way I would characterize this one is that sometimes in life you get a black and white decision and those are very simple to make. And you don’t second guess ever again. Right. But a lot of choices in life are not. Not black and white, then what I call very varying degrees of shades of grey. And sometimes they’re really grey, which is, which is it’s a tossup decision, 50-50, 51-49, 58-42, recognize that when you’re faced with a decision like that, there is no right answer there.
And if you, you can spend a lot of time and effort trying to figure out that one or two percentage point difference, and what is the right answer there, but what I’ve learned in life, and I’ve made this mistake a couple of times, this is, so this is as much a learning as a lesson learned. In those situations, if I had spent the same amount of energy, but I’ve tried to figure out which is the right answer here, versus just making a choice and making that choice successful.
If I had spent the same amount of energy, I wouldn’t be much more successful. So, when you have decisions at the margin, make the choice, the don’t second guess, should I make the other choice? Should I make this choice? Right? So simple simplest example would be to say, I want to have French toast or scrambled eggs for breakfast this morning.
Right? Once you’ve made the decision to scrambled eggs, you know, make the best scrambled eggs that you possibly can make. Don’t go halfway through making scramble eggs and thinking, Oh, maybe I should have had French toast today. Right. That just takes your energy, your mental strength away from what you need to be focused on and start thinking about something else that is irrelevant to what you’re doing at the moment.
So my, my lesson is. Like make the decision and then put it aside, right? Go a hundred percent, all your efforts into making that decision successful. And it’s particularly true as I said Siebe to you, particularly true, for decisions that are what I call tossups where there is no right or wrong answer either way it could be fine. What you make of the decision is more important than which decision did you.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:40:06] but then we all make mistakes. Is there something wrong with changing your mind?
Vikas Tiku: [00:40:12] Yeah. Second guessing is not the same. Second guessing in this context, what I’m saying is not the same thing as changing your mind. If you did something, if you make a decision and then you did it wholeheartedly and didn’t work out recognizing at that point in time, it didn’t work out and doing something else no problems with that. What I’m trying to guard against is that moment before you’ve given it your full attention, you’re already beginning to second guess your decision. Hey, maybe I should have thought about it differently. That that to me, drains you or emotional and energy to make the choice that you made successful.
So, it’s in that moment that I’m talking about that if you can actually go and push that agenda as seriously, as you possibly could to make it real is more important than trying to figure out that you make the right choice.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:40:57] Yeah, it’s a good one. Lesson number nine, you can’t do something without actually doing it. There must be a story behind it.
Vikas Tiku: [00:41:06] This my friends at Coca-Cola will probably kill me for this, but you know My experience at Coke was very rewarding and various, very lifting in a lot of different ways. But because of the unique nature of the franchise model that Coke has I invariably ran into a lot of people at Coke, that thought that if they had a good idea and they communicated that good idea to somebody on the, on the franchise side, who could, who could execute, and their job was done.
And they sort of checked that box and said, okay, you know, mission accomplished sort of saying, and I’m like, no, no, just because your thought of an idea doesn’t mean that the consumer in the end got the benefit of your idea, because there’s a, so many steps that need to be taken between your right wheel to when the consumer got the benefit and the only source of value in our businesses better, the consumer got the value or not.
Therefore, it is your job to make sure that you follow through that idea all the way until the value is created. And don’t check the box too quickly in the process that my job is done I’ve handed it over to somebody else and they’ll figure it out. Own your idea, stay with it, make sure that it gets done and it gets done right.
And don’t check the box too quickly. So, this is a guarding against. W, you know, sometimes people think that their job is done just because the thought of an idea and thinking of something and actually doing it are two different things. Execution. People talk about strategy versus execution and I’ve, you know, I’ve always maintained in a strategy without execution is just a nice PowerPoint slide that looks pleasing to the eyes but doesn’t do anything.
So, the fact that you have an idea, it doesn’t mean anything if you can’t execute and if you don’t have the ability to get it done. So therefore, focus as much of your effort on how you are going to get it done. As opposed to thinking about new ideas.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:42:42] it’s very consistent your lessons. I must say it’s very consistent and definitely helpful.
Vikas Tiku: [00:42:48] Yeah. So, you know consistency is one way. Maybe there’s a common as I said, there’s a common team to some of them. It’s a lot about choices that you make in life. And when you’re confronted with choices, what frameworks do you use to make choices in life? But a lot of my life lessons in life or have that common theme.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:43:02] I think it’s extremely helpful as a guide for people, including myself to say, you got to be consistent. You got to stick with that and can do something without actually doing it. You got to demonstrate, you’ve got to execute, et cetera, et cetera. Lesson number 10 be humble. Nobody knows everything. How do you do that?
Vikas Tiku: [00:43:22] It’s easy because you know, when you reflect and you look at the, you look at all the wisdom that is out there in the world in people with different experiences in different ideas, et cetera.
Any one person to think that they have a monopoly on all of that. And they think that they are the only ones with the right idea is too full of themselves is what I call it. Yes. We’re all shaped by our experiences. We all believe what we believe, and we believe we are right. So, this is not about having confidence. You should always have confidence in what you believe it but be humble enough to realize that there are things that you don’t know. And when you are confronted by that, instead of. Trying to figure out a way to communicate, convince somebody that you do know something about it as a way of showing confidence. It’s better to be humble enough to say, you know what? I really don’t know much about that topic. Tell me more. That’s what I meant by, you know, by listening to ideas, by, you know, asking questions, et cetera, it’s much more important to do that then to pretend like, you know, the answer to something and, you know, square peg in a round hole type of situation. If you feel like you’ve done it right. So, humility is important, and I think people will respect you more in life. I have found if you are humble enough to admit what you don’t know, but, but ask questions to engage so that there is a way for you to get to know more about it. So just saying, I don’t know more about her than shutting off is also not a good idea, right.
Saying, okay. I don’t know more about them, but tell me more, tell me why you think that way. And in drawing out that conversation, there is a way to build on something that you already know that that can also be meaningful to the other person. Right? So, humility and confidence are to me, you know, two, two sides of the same coin and they need to be carefully balanced as you come across relationships.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:45:07] I have a follow-up on that one. Are there any lessons or a particular lesson in life or in your career that you have un-learned that you decided I’m going to change this? I’ve been doing it this way. I got to change it. Anything that comes to mind on that.
Vikas Tiku: [00:45:25] again, not sure how this will fit perfectly, but Siebe, when, when I started my professional career, I was a financial analyst. Right. And more often than not what you learn as a financial analyst is that most things in life have a correct answer. I’m an engineer also. So, in engineering you learn, there’s a correct answer. So, you learn how to find that correct answer.
You spend all kinds of analytical prowess to try and figure out in any given situation. What is the right answer? And I spent a lot of time and effort and skills at the beginning of my career, looking for that right answer. As I went through my career. And so that was, that was ingrained into me as an engineer, by training as a financial guy. You know, if I didn’t feel like I had the right answer and I felt like, okay, I’m not contributing enough to do any conversation with the meeting to the meetings, what were over my life. I’ve learned that as, as I progressed that as decisions became more and more complicated, that you know, very few situations in life have clear answers, clear, right answers. It all depends. And you have to understand what it does. What does it depend on to be able to, to be able to communicate effectively and so dealing with, instead of finding, remember the beginning of my life and you were probably, but people used to put in their resume problem solvers, then we say, problem solving is a skill?
You won’t find problem solving on my resume as an example, I’m not a problem solver because not every problem can be solved. I’ve learned in life. Some problems are just paradox has to be managed. There are competing thoughts in your mind that both equally, right? And they’re both equally wrong and you can’t pick one or the other.
And you’ve got half the people who believe in one thing and half the people who believe in the other thing, your job is to continue to advance the discussion without having to make a choice, whether you need half the people. How do you do that? What skills are required? What learning scales, what empathetic learning, listening skills, empathetic organizational skills are required for you to manage that ambiguity and still advance the agenda of the organization.
So, I un-learned the lesson of looking for it to be a problem solver. And I learned the lesson to how to be a. What I call it a paradox manager in life, as opposed to a problem solver.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:47:32] Very interesting. The way you put that in truly very smart. Some problems can be solved, but not all, but you can manage problems. That’s what you, what you mentioned. I, I think that’s extremely interesting to consider truly a wisdom and very fitting for our interview, our podcast, when we talk about wisdom, because that’s important, not every problem you just said can be solved, but they can be managed. And, and I think that’s a very helpful too, to learn for everyone.
Vikas Tiku: [00:48:02] Yeah. And when I interview people or different roles at senior levels right now, this is an important metric and a barometer that I used. And I asked them about which problems they have to solve, that they’re most proud of. And I asked them which problems they are unable to solve. Do you have any problems that they’re mad at in their career that they were unable to solve?
And if I get an answer from somebody that says, no, I don’t have any problem like that. At a senior level, that’s usually a red flag to me that this person is probably not with the right mindset, you know, because I can come up with at least four or five examples in my life right now, of things that I could not solve there, there was no solution to them.
It’s just something that needed to manage. The solution was so difficult it was, it was not possible to do so therefore and you, that you still need to do to move the ball forward. So, it’s a, it’s an important indicator in my mind as to mindset of people, can they, can they hold competing ideas in their head and not lose their mind? Right. Get, you know, instead of choosing black or white or they have to live in both and a black and white world and still be able to lead and communicate. That’s a great skill to have in my mind. And other people who can handle that.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:49:14] It is. I want to thank you for participating. This was a very interesting 10 lessons that we learned from you, and I really appreciate it. I know how busy you are with your company and the fact that you took the time to participate. And I want to thank you for that. I wish you the best and thank you for joining us today.
Vikas Tiku: [00:49:34] Well, thank you, sir. I really want to thank you and the organization for giving me the opportunity to share my experiences and my thoughts on the topic that you had, hopefully some of it will resonate with the audience and if people will get some, some value out of the conversation that you and I had personally, I’ve enjoyed it tremendously because it makes you think about certain things in ways that I hadn’t previously thought about. So for that, I, I really want to thank for the opportunity that I had. Thank you again.
Siebe Van Der Zee: [00:50:01] Well, thank you. I appreciate it. You’ve been listening to the international podcast of 10 lessons. It took me 50 years to learn produced by Robert Haas Surrey. And sponsored by the professional development forum PDF VDF provides webinars, social media discussions, podcasts, and parties.
For more information, please visit professional development forum.org. Thank you. And stay safe.