Game Changer at Emirates NBD
In 2015 and 2016, Emirates NBD won the Human Excellence Award crowning Dr Nelson D’Souza’s success in pioneering work with multiple dividends.
By Sujata Devadas, May 14, 2016
“Turn this way”
Dr Nelson D’Souza joined Emirates Bank in 2005. Three years later, it merged with the National Bank of Dubai to become Emirates NBD. Employees of his calibre were given the opportunity to opt for a vacancy to work in. Dr D’Souza made a selection. A global American organisational assessment firm subsequently made an elaborate assessment of these choices. Dr D’Souza, they intimated was not right for the selection.
They went one step further. He is a seasoned leadership professional’, they concluded, based on his entire life and career trajectory, from childhood onwards. Affable and amiable, Dr. D’Souza grew up in Ashok Nagar, a suburb in Mangalore, Karnataka, India. He graduated in sociology, then completed Masters in social work, a degree in law, and received a doctoral degree in social sciences in 1991 from the reputed Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.
Emirates NBD picked up the recommendation of the global assessment firm promptly and began a leadership and management development unit, placing their full trust in Dr D'Souza to head it.
“I wish to see results”
Dr Nelson D’Souza is now Vice-President in Leadership and Management Development (LMD) at Emirates NBD. Driven by vision, passion and results, Dr D’Souza’s work at Emirates NBD received a citation for Excellence in Practice from the Association for Talent Development (formerly ASTD) headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, USA. With this, Emirates NBD gained global repute for the first time in the learning space - the first in the bank’s history of 50 years. Deeply motivated by this significant achievement, Dr D’Souza encouraged the bank’s L & D team to pitch for a string of global awards.
From 2013 onwards, the bank’s L & D team (guided by Dr D’Souza) consistently won awards. This January and the year before, the Human Capital Management Academy, Brandon Hall Group, based in Orlando, Florida, awarded Emirates NBD the bronze medal for its Certified Associate Program (CAP) behind Credit Corp Group, Intuit and Oracle, and Hewlett Packard who won the Gold and Silver medals.
Emirates NBD gained a silver medal too for it’s Managerial Blended Leadership Program behind HCL Technologies Ltd., Acibadem Healthcare Group and Ooyala Inc. - a public acknowledgement of Dr D’Souza’s skill at designing, implementing and demonstrating impact. He raised L & D’s role in creating value, setting a benchmark in the region for organizations to follow.
“Invest in people from grassroots up. Strengthen the foundation - the individual contributor or salesman, to a first-time team leader, then a first-time manager, up to a middle level manager, a business leader, a strategic leader and an enterprise leader (CEO and board-level leaders). A robust, systematic, progressive framework to create a leadership pipeline in an organisation with a long-term vision. It took four years for this whole framework to evolve.” says Dr D’Souza, the architect for Emirates NBD’s leadership development effort.
The conservative view of leadership was that it emanated from life experience, fostered further by skill-acquisition and credentials. Routinely, industries conduct workshops for a day or two to foster it. It never stuck - shrugged off as ‘routine’ or ‘insignificant’ by many. “With over a decade as a training consultant in India, South East Asia and Australia plus nearly another decade in human resources development at Emirates NBD, it dawned on me that THIS is a wasted philosophy.” says Dr.D’Souza.
“The learning MUST stick.” he insists. “So I devoted my time to develop and devise a transformation programme, a journey of‘events’ to experience, for implementation. I knew of hidden talents and strengths in my Emirates NBD colleagues. Drawing this out became my consuming passion, my mantra for action. Research involved several divisions. The transformation programme could take three or six months to complete - to learn, then implement in real time to progress further up to become a socially responsible leader within Emirates NBD.”
Dr D’Souza uses multiple methods to deliver the course as the architect and curator for crafting the learning solution in partnership with world-class providers such as Harvard, IESE, RBL and INSEAD. Dr D’Souza has successfully navigated through the transition from traditional classroom training to blended programme to suit the convenience of time-challenged managers. He ensured that every programme offers the learner an opportunity to acquire new knowledge, to practice and integrate it at the workplace delivering value both to the learner and the organization. “That makes the learning stick” says Dr D’Souza with confidence.
Despite the global financial crisis, Dr D’Souza got full support from Emirates NBD management. The result was that around 60 to 70 percent of the programme participants became more visible as the transformation showed. They took on higher responsibilities. “Given the excitement of establishing a robust framework and solutions, I had no reason to leave. My place is in industry. I had taught as adjunct faculty for over 15 years at B Schools across continents and I had a full time teaching offer in Sydney when Emirates Bank offered me a job in 2005” he says. “All said, it made great sense to me to create and leave a legacy - design a programme, implement it and witness the results rather than pursue academics. Organisations with a long-term vision do invest in people. In tangible and intangible ways, evidence of financial and qualitative success showed at Emirates NBD four to seven years later.”
Some of the reviews from LMD programmes attendees were:
“Leadership is a critical skill. The LMD team teaches people practical skills to apply and enhance leadership strategy.”
“Yes, this programme equips managers to excel beyond their career performance. It influences personal lives too.”
“Even lunch fails to peter out the energy and enthusiasm in discussions and exchanges.”
“Even if candidates back slide, the LMD unit still drives the course with passion and sincerity.”
Aligned with the vision
With the Human Excellence Awards from Association for Talent Development, Brandon Hall Group, USA and recently LearnX, Australia, Emirates NBD has been consistently making a dent in the global arena. It took courage and concerted effort to be vindicated by the results.
Dr D’Souza’s efforts aligned with the bank’s vision to be globally recognised as the most valued financial services provider based in the Middle East. Affiliated organisations in the region have taken a cue to showcase their own meritorious work and win awards.
“Colleagues urge me to write a book ‘Nelsonomics’ on my accumulated knowledge & leadership experiences - lessons from the trenches, ” Dr. D’Souza says with a smile.
”Converge each person’s innate gifts with appropriate training, then home in on the market potential to enjoy earning an income, instead of dragging yourself to work. Enthusiasm and fulfillment at work simply becomes natural at this sweet spot,”says Dr. D’Souza. “Attune yourself to nature, place your talents and passions in the right environment to flourish and prosper.”
The freedom to choose
‘Social convention hoists ’powerlessness’ early into young minds, obstructing the freedom to choose. “A childhood friend of mine (based in Singapore) was the Captain of a ship. He quit his job to become an entrepreneur. He confided that he chose his first profession as ‘instructed’ by his father (who was an engineer in the same ship). Similarly, I have met umpteen people: a nurse, a dentist, an engineer, a chartered accountant, a teacher, a banker, a flight attendant, the list goes on….… ‘unhappy, but earning an income’,” Dr D’Souza says with regret. He now helps such distraught people to respond to their ‘calling’ by giving pro bono presentations.
15 or 16-her-old teenagers are often at the crossroads about their future prospects. A wrong career choice inevitably results in a lot of corrective measures through the rest of adulthood, heightening unemployment possiblities and unpleasantness in life. It is all about the freedom to design your own life. Create your tomorrow today - your ticket to happiness. You will sleep better and live healthier.
In 2000, Dr D’Souza volunteered at the Sydney Olympics. While chauffeuring competing athletes and champions around, he learnt the best way to accept failure. “Since it was a passion, whatever practice they put in to reach the Olympics was not viewed as wasted even if they lost the medal. They told their coach ‘we will make it in four years.”
NO can stand for ‘Next Opportunity’.