Leaders Who Thrive//

The 3 Ms of Keeping Burnout at Bay

Massage, meditation and movies help the executive director of Emcure Pharmaceuticals Thrive. Namita Thapar on the rigours of being an entrepreneur, the things women should have on their not-to-do list and more.

Photo courtesy Namita Thapar
Photo courtesy Namita Thapar

I know I am depleted when I get an upper back pain or when I start snapping at people around me. It is extremely important to be aware of these signals and course correct.

A background in finance has not limited Namita Thapar’s interests as an achiever. The Executive Director of  Emcure Pharmaceuticals is a chartered accountant from ICAI and MBA from the Fuqua School of Business and manages multifunctional portfolios in Finance, Domestic Marketing and HR. She is also on the regional board of the Fuqua School of Business (Duke University), and has founded an education company, Incredible Ventures Ltd, that teaches entrepreneurship to 11 -18 year olds in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Chennai and Ahmedabad. A recipient of multiple leadership awards, Thapar is part of government initiatives such as NITI Aayog’s Women Entrepreneurship Platform and the ‘Champions of Change’ programme initiated by PM Narendra Modi for G2B partnership in policy-making. 

In an e-mail interview with Thrive Global India, Thapar candidly shares her little hacks for life (including the tongue-in-cheek secret life hack to “marry well”). For a leader whose favourite work-related philosophy is to “hire people much smarter than you and then empower them”, the insights are extremely useful. Here are the excerpts: 

Thrive Global India: What is the biggest myth about leadership or the corner office?

Namita Thapar:  The biggest myth is that only the smartest sit in the corner office. Often people who get the coveted promotion, get it due to their high EQ and not just IQ. 

TGI: How can leaders promote well-being at the workplace, especially now that the “workplace” has shifted to working from home? 

NT: People need to be given more flexibility in terms of working from home. Counselling sessions, meditation sessions and other employee engagement activities will be a must to demonstrate that the company has empathy. 

TGI: Women are burdened with elaborate to-do lists. As someone who is so invested in women, what do you think should be on the not-to-do list?

NT: This is always my favourite question. Women are great at time management but terrible at guilt management. They end up adding several time and energy guzzlers that are not a priority to their ‘ to do’ list and they do this entirely out of guilt. They need to delete such items from their list asap and put one sentence on their ‘ not to do’ list—I will not take on irrelevant and unproductive work out of guilt. 

TGI: What is the best professional advice you’ve ever got? 

NT: Become a better listener. 

TGI: What’s an efficiency or time-saving hack that has worked for you?

NT: I start my day with a ‘to do’ list in order of priority and systematically work towards crossing off the items. I delegate as much as possible so my mind is free for more strategic thinking and work. 

TGI: Crazy schedules and lack of work-life balance are inevitable for an entrepreneur. Do you agree? 

NT: I do agree with this as being an entrepreneur is a 24 by 7 job. Very often I have had to miss my kids school events or a family function due to a work priority. I ensure that I make up for this ‘missed event’ by doing something extra special for my kids and family/ friends when I do have that additional time. People who genuinely care about you will understand and look at the big picture rather than judge you for that one missed event. Others who don’t understand are probably not worth your time anyway. 

TGI: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed? 

NT: My cup of tea made exactly the way I want it and my morning newspaper Economic Times starts my day on a positive note. 

TGI: What’s your personal warning sign that you’re depleted? What do you do to course correct? 

NT: I know I am depleted when I get an upper back pain or when I start snapping at people around me. It is extremely important to be aware of these signals and course correct at such times. 

I relax in three ways—massage, movies and meditation. I ensure I schedule time for this on a routine basis so I don’t reach that breaking point.

TGI: What is your personal policy towards gadgets? 

NT: I am addicted to my phone as so much of my work happens over e-mail and Whatsapp and I enjoy Twitter and podcasts. However, I make sure not to carry my phone to meetings. It is absolutely disrespectful to the speakers if you keep checking messages while they are presenting and I am very particular about my work ethic which must reflect basic manners and a certain class. My son commented how much I am on the phone and since that day I try to check my messages only once every hour when I am at home. I am trying to extend this to once every two hours. 

TGI: In the 24×7 global workplace, how should a business leader deal with midnight teleconferences or urgent 3 am emails?

NT: First you need to figure out if the call is truly urgent, very often it is not and we over react. I have started meditation on a regular basis and this has helped me to get tremendous clarity of thinking around such matters and bring a much needed balance in my life. 

TGI: If you could give your younger self any life advice, what would it be?

NT: I was too much of a nerd and gave up all my extracurricular activities to ensure I always stood first in class and completed my Chartered Accountancy along with my B Com by the time I was 21!  I wish I had invested more time in cultivating at least one or two productive hobbies when I was younger like playing a musical instrument or learning to get really good at one sport. 

TGI: How does sleep (or the lack of it) impact your productivity and energy levels at work?

NT: I ensure that I get at least seven hours sleep every day. For that I make sure I have a fixed time to sleep and don’t over stimulate my mind with online streaming platforms right before sleeping. Reading half an hour before falling asleep is the best way to ensure you calm down and get a good night’s sleep. At times if I have not slept well, I make sure I take a nap over the weekend to catch up and refresh. 

Sleep is extremely important for leaders to have a sharp and focussed mind. Just like fitness, sleep needs to be prioritised and properly scheduled on a daily basis.  

TGI: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it? 

NT: I have learned to invest more time in meaningful relationships. If I have 15 minutes, I call my 14 year old or nine year old son or some friend for a quick catch-up. These small gestures are important to demonstrate that you care. 

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- Marcus Aurelius

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