follows when people come first” - these words are mounted
in a frame on the wall behind the desk of the CEO and Managing Director of
CALTEX Australia - Mr Jeet Bindra - our column guest for this month. Mr Bindra
has been recently posted to Australia as the CEO of Caltex after serving the
company for almost thirty years in the US.
ideology above is not totally unheard of. We are all familiar with the
public speeches of the CEOs, MDs and other leaders of big corporate eliciting
about people power. Since top Universities started putting emphases on EQ
(Emotional Quotient) rather than IQ (Intelligence Quotient) in their MBAs,
empathy towards employees became the theme of the management policies. However
there were not many leaders who had the knowledge to transform this ideology
into an action plan or perhaps they were not really keen to do it.
there have been some exceptions to the rule. On 7th of November,
Sydney office of Caltex Australia organized a dinner for its employees in a
restaurant near Martin Place. Initiated by its CEO, the dinner was a combined
effort of the top executives of Caltex where CEO, being the head chef, cooked
mouth-watering food for the staff. The money went to the Starlight
Children’s Foundation. The message conveyed to the employees was: We
are one team of Caltex and we have to work together to achieve success as a
actions in the alignment of the ideology above from the top executives are
largely unheard of.
Jeet Bindra, is not only passionate about his ideas but is a great example to
those leaders who have yet to manifest their ideologies into actions.
vital for us as a leadership team to ensure our actions are totally aligned
with our words. Anytime our employees see a disconnect between what we say and
how we behave it
will be devastating,” says Mr Bindra. A great believer in humanity and
diversity at work, Jeet’s philosophy is that being a CEO does not change his
status from being an employee of the organization just like everyone else is.
natural humanitarian and a leader with a compassionate heart, Jeet has
travelled a long road to this title. This is shown in the inspiring story of Jeet
which I would encourage you to read along with other
vital links of information.
in the holy city of Varanasi in India, Jeet’s story is a message to those
who think success belongs to only the privileged ones.
Mr Jeet Bindra was not only a great experience intellectually but an
exceptional one for an insight into the alignment of our values with our
deeds. A few of the excerpts of our discussions are below.
When did you arrive here in Australia.
I arrived here in May 2002 on a four years’ posting.
After spending a long time in America, how are you finding Australia as a
place to work and as a society to live in?
I am delighted to be here as Australia is a great
country to explore.
is a misconception about Australians in USA that Australians are not very hard
working people. I have not been able to find a proof of it as yet although I
must say that there is much hierarchy in the work culture compared to USA.
People are not comfortable approaching the CEO. There is a cultural gap
between the juniors and seniors.
has not yet assimilated the minorities represented in the community into the
workforce. There are very few minorities in the executive positions.
Australian male has not yet crossed the threshold in accepting women as equals
and the talent of women has not been tapped to its utmost. There is also lack
of encouragement to students in getting technical qualification. Recently
Caltex had to look for technical expertise outside of Australia for some of
People at workplace are very kind although we had a closer neighbourhood in
Have you met many Indian Australians so far?
I have been to a few Indian functions but find the Indian Australians a
very isolated society, mostly clinging to their own communities. I did not
find many non-Indians at those functions, specially, Australians.
do not believe in socializing merely with your ‘own people’. Unless we
educate others about our culture we will not be able to gain respect from
them. Hate crimes occur because of ignorance. As human beings, absence of
information can mean the void is filled with negative thoughts. I believe in
over communicating than under communicating.
You have defined a very important aspect of success in one of your lectures as
“being successful is not merely reaching a top position in one’s career
but most importantly it lies in becoming successful parents, caregivers or
mentors to the young”. Being a proud parent of two successful boys yourself,
what is your perception in raising kids in a foreign land as this has always
been a great challenge for an Indian migrant in Western societies.
The fundamental aspect of bringing up kids in any society is the values
their parents imbibe in their children. We as Indian society have deep rooted
values, such as respecting elders, having faith in God, caring for our
extended families. These values should be preserved by the parents while
raising their children in a foreign society.
thing we, as Indian parents, must remember is that we have to abandon our
prejudices towards other societies such as Pakistanis, Bangladeshi, etc,. We
should not put that bias in our children’s minds as culturally we are from
the same heritage. If we don’t exhibit biased behaviour towards other
Asians, our children will learn the same thing.
parents, we tend to impose our beliefs onto our children. Being Indian
parents, we want our daughters to behave as ‘Indian daughters’ whilst
living in a Western society. We tend to forget that our children are the
products of this society. I am sure that this trend will be improved with the
second or third generation. This is not to say that the fundamental values of
our own culture should be ignored.
Talking about Western prejudices
towards Indians, how far are we responsible for it ?
Whilst living in an adopted foreign land, we tend to
forget that we have a duty towards this land as well. We should have the
tendency to become the local while preserving our roots simultaneously. We
should find ways to contribute to all the communities and not just Indian
community. We should create a better Australia by striking a balance.
Born in 1947, you have seen the
evolution of India from Independence to the current stage. If our country had
the treasure of leaders like Gandhi and Nehru who sowed the seeds of a
prosperous India then where did we go wrong along the lines of freedom. Why
aren’t we reaping the fruits of those seeds which Nehru or Gandhi sowed for
the generations to come?
India is still a poor society.
We were ruled by the British for so long that as a society, we did not think
of our social responsibility apart from our immediate family. Due to the fact
that Britishers controlled everything, we did not learn the responsibility to
take charge as an average Indian. Nehru started programs like five years plan,
building bridges which lasted only for a short time. As a result, we still
don’t think of the responsibility outside the boundaries of our home.
other thing happened after Independence was the gap between the rich and poor.
Based on the cast system and other hierarchical structures, Indians started
indulging in bribes in order to break the layers of hierarchy. Corruption
prevailed at every level of India.
have not learnt to go beyond our religious institutions. Philanthropy, we
don’t learn from the childhood. As a result, rich never cared for the poor.
As individuals, we need to do whatever we can do individually. This year I am
planning to go to Ranikhet, near Nainital to arrange a scholarship program for
five different schools.
You have also mentioned about CEOs not getting measured on their performance
towards social responsibilities because they failed to uplift the
Are you saying CEOs should encourage a ‘quota system’ for the
disadvantaged or the disadvantaged should be promoted as per their Merits to
rise in a competitive environment of today’s work culture?
have never believed in any quota system. What I mean by CEOs responsibility is
to create enough pipeline of qualified disadvantaged workers. We tend to hire
people aligned to our own perceptions, thoughts and beliefs in our teams. As a
manager, if I have a team of people who think like me and behave like me then
I will not be able to bring a broad network of thinking at the table.
Therefore I encourage hiring a vast variety of people preferably from
different cultures who together can enrich the thought structure of a team.
am sure the job descriptions are also not sufficient to encourage diversity in
a work culture.
You started an organization, called SAALT
in USA. Are you planning to start something of a similar kind here as well ?
This is too early to
think about that as I am here on a four years assignment and my first and
foremost focus is Caltex. I hope to work with other South Asian Australians to
contribute to future generations as much as we can.
Lastly, your message to the
- Maintain the highest
level of ethics and integrity.
- Breakdown the stereotypes of being Indian
- Never stop
learning in your life.
- Dream big and
work hard to get there.