“I love learning,” declares Sonica Malhotra, the joint director of the education- to-hospitality group MBD. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, the 38-year-old says she takes time off for educational sabbaticals. “They stimulate me,” says Malhotra, who along with her sister Monica has inherited the MBD empire and is now leading the group’s ventures in hospitality and mall development. She also looks after the group’s legal and financial affairs, and keeps an eye on branding and positioning as well. Here’s her take on

Dealing with disruption

The best way is to go back to bare basics. Also, personally, I am very receptive to change, and it’s ingrained in our organisation’s culture. All my team members are open-minded and receptive to change and constantly do an analysis of competition, imbibe the best and get it on the table.

Also, you need to look across verticals to see what is happening and draw inspiration. If I am looking only at my industry, I am limiting myself. Look at how Samsung changed the game in mobile phones at a time when Blackberry and Nokia were leaders. Samsung, which was a commoditised mobile, saw style and design was where the industry was moving towards and changed its DNA.

Getting oneself up to speed

I have a multi-pronged way of doing this. Although I lead the organisation, I consider myself a trainee and am always in learning mode. I love getting into brainstorming sessions with team members who are experts in their areas, and assimilating their ideas. I would like to be a trainee leader always – even when I am 60!

I also constantly study – it’s a personal passion. I insisted on doing an MBA before joining the family firm. And then five years later I went to do the Programme in Leadership Development at Harvard Business School, which was very good exposure for me to take up a leadership position in the true sense of the word. And then meeting people on the ground is always another way of being up to speed.

The need to multi-task constantly

I think multi-tasking adds a lot of fun as all the time you are agitating your mind. It doesn’t bother me. I like switching from one thing to another. I could be doing legal reviews one minute and then discussing hotel strategy next. But I draw out a 15-day schedule where every one hour there is something slotted.

I make sure I give my team enough time to prepare for meetings, and never call them for impromptu chats. This way it works out beautifully as it turns out to be a healthy and constructive discussion. I am very particular that my team should come prepared and tell them that if they are not they should tell me and request a rescheduling. Otherwise it’s a waste of time.

A management mantra to follow

You have to be hands-on all the time. And be personally engaged. If your passion is not reflected the team will be not be motivated. If you are hands-on, your learning is also higher.

De-stressing after work

First of all, work does not stress me out. I love being in the company of motivated professionals. There may be stress for the team but I try to make it fun for them too. What will stress me out is if I am out and not connected on phone.

I am a simple person at heart so what I find really unwinding is to have a cup of coffee and a long chat with my sister. I do this once a week at least. I also love driving – and my mother was kind enough to gift me a Lamborghini. I also try and hit the gym daily – usually it is at 11p.m. and I do yoga in the morning.

Employee engagement

Teams get motivated by a lot of things. You may pay them well but respect and love count for a lot too. I try and do a combination of these three things. I treat my core team like a bunch of friends. And with the younger members try and become a kid with them.