I would describe my communication style in the office as friendly and informal. In my line of work, I meet a lot of people who are not used to that style, so I switch gears immediately and become more formal. I like to read the person and where s/he is coming from, and adapt my style accordingly. I also believe in setting the tone in partnerships very early. For example when my CEO Sagar Chhabra and I are in a room full of people and even if we don’t agree with each other’s point of view, we never make it visible. I also swear by two rules: One, never openly diss someone. Two, never scream at an employee in front of his or her co-workers.

Communication basics

You have a fair understanding of people you work with and their backgrounds. I’m slightly more sensitive to the creative people in my team, especially young girls who have come to Mumbai from other cities to build a career. There are ways to put across the fact that a design/ idea might not work without crushing their spirit. I usually hire people who are team players, inclusive and can have conversations even in most stressful situations. For example, my CEO will never tell a creative person in the team: “I’m the numbers guy. So just shut up and listen!" I dedicate a lot of time understanding the thought processes of people I work with, and that helps me to communicate with them effectively.

I have also created multiple WhatsApp groups—a design group, a production group, a store managers group and a social media group—for easy communication. When I’m travelling, all my work gets done via WhatsApp. But, putting the right people in the right groups is crucial. One thing that I am very particular about is that WhatsApp groups cannot be a battleground and employee cannot go after another on them. If people have issues with each other, they can discuss them offline.

My rules for texting, emailing and social media include not leaving an email unanswered for over 12 hours.

I believe in clear communication. The tone has to be formal. I always check for spellings and grammar before clicking the send button. This is something I urge people who work with me to do.

We have a social media deck for House of Masaba. It has guidelines in terms of how to write captions, colours to be used while designing a post, the number of store-related posts and Instagram stories from the office that need to go up on a weekly basis. I insist that no slang terms should be used on social media platforms because it is best to be formal and accurate while communicating with followers and customers.

Listen not hear

It’s important to be a good listener. But you need to listen to things that are only relevant to you and let go of the things that don’t matter.

One thing many young leaders have to do is make it clear: “I’m friendly but I’m the boss." You need to communicate that in a cold, seamless fashion and that makes a big difference in the way your staff approaches you.

Sometimes it is challenging to be a young boss because you come with your own insecurities and temperament issues. I, for example, haven’t had a boss to look up to because I’ve been on my own since I graduated. However, I’ve learnt a lot from Sanjay Kapoor, founder and director of Genesis Luxury. I remember on one occasion I was angry about a design put out by another label and he told me, “Whatever you do, just don’t put it on Twitter". I have learnt from him that there are solutions to all problems, and you don’t need to focus only on the problems.You have to set the rules right at the outset in order to get people to listen to you.

The body language of a leader is important too. It speaks volumes and strongly impacts the perception people (both employees and buyers) have of you. For example, walking into meetings in flip flops no matter how creative you are is unacceptable. As old-fashioned as it may sound, dressing appropriately is tasteful. You also have to be careful about the kind of jokes you crack at workplaces. You don’t want to set a bad example for your juniors.

Masaba Gupta is a fashion designer and founder and creative director of House of Masaba.

As told to Sandipan Dalal

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