3 Humbling Lessons I Learnt from LinkedIn’s First Hire in Asia

Earlier this week, I was privileged to have the opportunity to sit across the charismatic Hari Krishnan, Managing Director of LinkedIn Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) to interview him as a CEO Contributor for my book, INSPIRIT – How Asian CEOs Inspire Action From The Stage.

As an Executive Public Speaking Coach, ‘INSPIRIT’ is a book where I interview leading Asian CEOs on their insights on engaging and connecting with a largely Asian audience and also, how they leverage the platform to maximize impact and influence for both their corporations and themselves.

Though it wasn’t my first time visiting the office of what is one of the fastest growing companies of our times but it definitely was my first time sitting across LinkedIn’s first employee and hire in Asia and the man who’s responsible for growing the company across the Asia Pacific region and shaping a ‘culture of perpetual learning’.

In my hour interview session with Hari, I took away 3 timeless and humbling lessons on speaking, leadership and professional development.

1. Creating Value Is Your Priority

This is a definite frame and intention that guides Hari when he gets invited to the platform to speak. With some of the executives I see presenting during trade shows or industry conferences, you know they are up there just to sell blatantly or engage in the endless aggrandizing of their company or self and ignores for the most part, the interests and needs of the audience.

Hari shares with me that whenever he gets invited to speak; he always assesses the opportunity in terms of the total value that can be created through that engagement:

Total Value = Value for (Organizer + Audience + Ecosystem + Self)

The key for him is to look into what are the exact learning needs for the different stakeholders, asking questions about the demographics and psychographics of audience, success outcomes for the organizer, big picture for and direction of the industry and what are the core needs of the ecosystem he is contributing into.

He finds that some of his best engagements occur when the total value is being maxed out for all these parties.

2. Preparation As The Most Basic Form of Respect For Your Audience

According to Hari, investing time into preparing your presentation for your audience is the most basic form of respect for your audience investing their time into being present for and listening to your presentation.

Hari takes great pride and effort in preparing well and ahead for his presentations including researching new content and finding out about the entire event schedule, who are the speakers setting the stage prior to and after him, learning objectives for the audience, customizing the tone of the presentation to that of the event and also deliberate practicing and rehearsals among many others key preparation points.

And despite all the preparation he puts into his presentations and the consummate presenter he is, he still professes to have ‘butterflies in his stomach’.

We both concur that it happens because, he still cares enough for the agenda and his audience.

3. Learning – Your Biggest Payoff on Stage

Coming from the top executive who leads a global organization that prides itself on a ‘Culture of Perpetual Learning’, it is no wonder to hear this from Hari,

“The value for myself when I deliver speeches and presentations is learning. On the platform, you learn when you prepare new material and create a sense of freshness in your delivery even when presenting to a similar crowd. Like what one of my teachers shared, you can learn immensely when you impart knowledge and I think that is one of the best attitudes you can have”

The value of learning in LinkedIn cannot be overstated when Hari shares vividly about how he has been deeply inspired by two leaders he had the opportunity to learn from namely, Jeff Weiner (CEO, LinkedIn) and John Chambers (CEO, Cisco systems). They were likewise leaders who gone the extra mile to lead from the stage.

From Jeff, he learnt the ability to effectively and skilfully deliver both good and bad news to rally change and action from your staff and from John, the uncanny ability to inspire greatness from his employees and create a strong sense of likeability.

And as if that isn’t enough, Hari sees the value of cross-learning and as a former sportsmen who has led teams, he is always intrigued when he observes the body language of the players in sporting leagues and also, the conversations that goes into the ‘huddles’ to fire the players up before they hit the field with the fervent desire to win.

With all these knowledge and learning, that’s how he likewise constantly calibrates his approach into inspiring his employees as an executive leader. Yet he’s quick to qualify, “I’m still learning all the time, myself”

As I wrapped up my hour interview session with Hari, I ended the conversation by asking him,

“Hari, what has been one highlight of your career at LinkedIn so far?”

He thought for a while and a warm smile surfaced.

He said in looking back, he is perhaps most proud of helping to shape and build LinkedIn in Asia to its current state and what stood out most for him, is this culture of transparency where he believes that his people are truly empowered and the implicit trust they have in the company and their leaders.

When we adjourned for a photo shoot and took photos of Hari mingling with a couple of LinkedIn staff in their spiffy pantry, I looked on quietly as an observer and appreciated the natural camaraderie that they all shared with one another.

What Hari shared in his final poignant reflection point – I couldn’t help, but agree deeply.

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