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The CEOworks Team December 1 2020 9 min read

Following the River of My Talent to Value Part II: Shefali Salwan

This is the second and final installment of Shefali's Talent to Value journey. If you missed Part I you can read it here.

In 2012, the Salwan family relocated from Singapore to America. Shefali’s husband, Sumeet, had been promoted as head of HR for Unilever, North America. In a crowded and competitive market, fresh off a financial crisis, establishing a coaching practice felt like a swim upstream, without commensurate returns on impact or gratification. Shefali turned to coaching—for herself.

Five Pillars make a Portfolio

The byproduct of this guided introspection was the Five Pillars model: a methodology for life and work that spliced time and engagement into multiple outlets. For Shefali, family and professional growth were critical buoys but so was work. But the levers of work and professional gratification did not have enough diversity. All of it was leaning on a highly market-dependent executive coaching career. This, and the conflict between life and work demands created dissonance. In a dual-career household, two sets of ambitions and aspirations have to be aligned and one partner always carries the burden of this (mis)alignment asymmetrically.

Shefali Salwan's 5-Pillar Model

“Creating value from scratch is hard. Every time we moved to a new country, a new ecosystem, it felt like a new job, a new role. And where I did not see market validation, I was quick to blame myself. The problem was alignment. There was a conflict in my Jobs to be Done™ between life and work.”

In the discomfort of a new chapter of existential emptiness, emerged a new pillar of growth and purpose—investing. With its demands of due diligence and focused attention, investing brought the intellectual rush back. Investing also planted an important reminder of the generative power of entrepreneurship, as creating employment and a means of livelihood. Work can be a valuable outlet for actualization, a means for self-expression and relevance.

In 2015, Shefali made a pivotal investment in HR Tech through the HR Fund, an accelerator in India that invests in technology startups that combine the future of work, HR practice and workforce management. In its portfolio companies, Shefali witnessed the alarming speed at which capital follows technology and its far-reaching and transformative influence on talent management.

Coaching Talent to Value

In 2018, the Salwans received a call from Sandy Ogg, to come on board as co-founders of CEO.works. After Unilever, Shefali had stayed in touch with Sandy as a thought-partner and had witnessed his journey into entrepreneurship, the outcome of which would be the launch of CEO.works in 2016.

From the HR fund, it was evident that there was a whole generation of HR tools that focus on the employee, from learning and development to payroll administration. “There were not as many tools focusing on CEO’s and business leaders—to help them identify the most critical roles that are proximate to value-creation.” Joining forces with Sandy to continue the work initiated at Unilever many decades back was exhilarating. It was a rare opportunity to go beyond looking at talent in isolation and amplify instead the purpose of placing talent within the context of value-creation.

“Our framework elevates an HR leader’s role from that of a talent allocator to that of a value-creator.”

Traditional HR frameworks match talent to roles by assessing fit and suitability with job descriptions that highlight roles and responsibilities. What is missing in a job description is contextual outcomes required to drive value-creation and an evaluation of role-risks. Is the role equipped with the right set of decision rights, budget and resourcing to carry out the work?

A well-designed role is set up for success. It is assembled at points of value creation and is supported by the ecosystem in which it operates. The Click is resounding when a talent’s superpowers are uniquely aligned with the context-specific requirements of work, drilled down into differentiated activity systems called Jobs to be Done, a set of 3-5 tasks with measurable outcomes.

The Human Cost is Enormous when the Click goes Missing

“Relevance is a fundamental human need, not just a driver of organizational bottom-lines. When the value puck is moving, talent can get disconnected from value, it stands the risk of being disconnected from relevance. If this gap is left unattended, it can translate into redundancy, waning productivity and job-losses.”

Shefali speaking at a Value Coaching event

At CEO.works, Shefali’s Capability Building practice is instrumental to training CEO’s and senior business leaders, through an intensive immersion-based pedagogy. Working closely with management teams in a mentor-apprentice model, the CEO.works team facilitates a learning journey where the five-step framework is implemented within the context of each organization. This capability transference is an important differentiator of value-coaching.

“Empowering business leaders to pixelate their wisdom and organizational ambitions into a concrete roadmap for change-making is extraordinarily gratifying. If our work is done well, it should result in organizations full of Clicks.”

Arriving at the Click of My Talent to Value

For Shefali, arriving at her own talent to value has been a long and undulating journey. The early years were pin-point focused on execution—creating value as the market demanded it. The second half has been about designing the right interventions to ensure alignment across 4 critical pillars of her life and work. “I am a proud mother and wife, executive coach, investor-entrepreneur, and non-profit advocate. When asked about the fifth pillar, Shefali is quick to answer— “Writing. The creative in me will find a voice someday.”

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“Arriving at My Talent to Value has meant calibrating and re-calibrating the compass, adjusting and course-correcting, finding the right interventions to arrive at My Click. Each country, each city, each new addition to the portfolio, has been a valuable experiential datapoint.”

Through all of this, Shefali’s compass has been unwavering. “Impact first. Ambition second. Learning ties all of this together. My kind of learning has been about navigating uncertainty, letting go and starting from the ground up, and not being so quick to blame myself.” At CEO.works, with her inner compass steady and with an extra set of weights around the waist, Shefali is ready for the next dive.


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The CEOworks Team

Articles created by the CEOworks Communications Team are based on content from Sandy Ogg, Sumeet Salwan, Shefali Salwan, and other team members.

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