This Director's 8 Leadership Principles are a Must-Read If You Want to Balance Empathy & Results

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Photo Courtesy of Nutrien.

Photo Courtesy of Nutrien.

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Rohini Panjrath takes a measured, researched approach to most things in her professional life. She orders her to-do list along the lines of Steven Covey’s seven habits of highly effective people, defines her leadership style with principles she wrote herself, and regularly uses the path-goal model to lead her team to success. 

It’s this studied practice, combined with a career of professional experiences and educational achievements, that makes Rohini a successful Director, Digital Product at Nutrien Ag Solutions. She’s able to masterfully combine innovative ideas and healthy risk with the ‘why’ that’s necessary to create products that matter. 

After all, that’s why Rohini joined Nutrien: To do work that counts. While she’s worked at numerous illustrious organizations, it was Nutrien’s mission that attracted her to the company. 

“Nutrien’s purpose is to grow our world from the ground up, and I am doing just that by investing my time and experience to enable growers and employees alike,” she told Fairygodboss. “It offers me the sense of purpose I seek in the roles I take on — helping the farmers who in turn feed the world sustainably and responsibly.”

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In a recent interview, Rohini shared the approaches that have made her a Director who’s able to balance a busy schedule with the individual care required of strong leadership. She also provided insight into how she moved from graduate school to an impactful role, and the advice she has for women who want to achieve more. 

It turns out that being true to yourself and values— and teaming up with other women who are sure of themselves — is an important piece of the puzzle. 

How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously? 

I have been at Nutrien for six months. Prior to joining Nutrien, I was a Product Management and Operations leader at Sam’s Club and Walmart. I spearheaded Sam’s Club and Walmart’s strategic initiatives on customer success across product experiences. While I was at Sam’s Club, I also pursued an Executive Master of Business Administration from Haas School of Business at University of California, Berkeley. 

Tell me a little about your time at Nutrien Ag Solutions thus far. What about the organization first made you want to join?

I am ecstatic to be at Nutrien Ag Solutions. Nutrien’s purpose is to grow our world from the ground up, and I am doing just that by investing my time and experience to enable growers and employees alike. I am responsible for the next generation of tools our growers and employees will need to be successful in optimizing their yield and profits. 

The organization’s mission and its potential offers me the challenge to apply my experience from Walmart, eBay and Intuit to the agricultural industry, something I had never done before. It gives me a platform to help shape the agriculture industry, which is so essential for human need, yet so neglected.

Additionally, it offers me the sense of purpose I seek in the roles I take on — helping the farmers who in turn feed the world sustainably and responsibly. On reviewing the company values, I was impressed by the fact that Nutrien Ag Solutions is always in search of a better way, focused on innovation and improving processes and products. It is important for me to be a part of such a culture. 

What first got you interested in pursuing a career in technology? 

As a little girl, I was always breaking things apart and figuring out how they came to be. I grew up and landed in arts – I majored in marketing and communication. While I was a Media Planner, I was crunching numbers manually to optimize my spend and reach. I said to myself: “Gosh – there has to be a better way for us to do things,” and I found a master’s program in management information systems at University of Houston. I applied and got accepted. The rest is history. I moved into eCommerce technology after graduation, and I have been developing my technical and business acumen since. 

How do you prioritize and deal with your to-do list each day?

I am a believer in Steven Covey’s seven habits of highly effective people. I create a list of all the items I need to focus on and differentiate the big rocks versus the pebbles. Then, I assess my deliverables based on difficulty and outcome. It is often the case that the most high value items are the most difficult and, as such, are most critical for the success of the organization. I take those first and pepper the day with the pebbles to balance the two. At the end of the day, I re-assess the list – to evaluate my decisions and make a plan for the next day so that when I sit down at my desk, I have a plan. 

How would you describe your leadership style?  

My leadership style is that of a leader or coach. I believe that having deep empathy for your teammates and your peers is extremely important to be an effective leader. I have a list of management principles that I share with my team members. Some of those principles are: 

  1. Be an excellent coach.

  2. Empower your team to make independent decisions and coach them to take it one step further if needed.

  3. Express deep empathy and interest in your team members’ success and well-being.

  4. Have a bias for action, and be results-oriented.

  5. Be a good communicator and an equally good listener. 

  6. Help your employees with life skills and career progression.

  7. Share your teams’ success, and take the accountability. 

  8. Create a safe place for everyone to work. 

What’s one strategy you’ve used when managing an individual (or team) that you think has been particularly effective?

Be empathetic, and listen carefully to what is said and unsaid. I also use the Path-Goal model, a theory based on specifying a leader’s style or behavior that best fits the employee and work environment in order to achieve a goal. The Path-Goal theory can best be thought of as a process in which leaders select specific behaviors that are best suited to the employees’ needs and their working environment so that they may best guide the employees through their path in the attainment of their daily work activities and goals.

What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?

Invest in a coach. Very few people will tell you this. If you really want to grow inside and out, get a coach.

Also, a career is like a marathon, not a race, so don’t treat it as such. Be a student always. The best advice I ever received was to be a lifelong learner, no matter what stage of your career you’re in. 

What advice do you have for women who want to take their career path to the next level?

Support other women just as you’d like to be supported. Support yourself. Believe in yourself – focus on your strengths – always. Don’t be shy, and don’t be afraid to take risks or make mistakes. Establish your credibility with self-belief and confidence. Most women feel strange or uncomfortable mentioning their accomplishments. Women should champion their work and not be afraid to advocate for themselves and other women alike. Get out of your own way and stop overthinking things. 


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