From Engineer to Entrepreneur: The Story of Ashish Manchanda

From Engineer to Entrepreneur: The Story of Ashish Manchanda

In a world saturated with stories of engineers turned entrepreneurs, we often skim the surface of their journeys, passing judgment on their career choices without truly delving into the heart of their struggles and victories. Today, we’re breaking that mold as we unfold the story of Ashish Manchanda.  Ashish began his career as a software engineer in 2004, delving into coding and software development for five years. He then pursued an MBA, gaining skills and diverse experiences from working globally under different leadership styles. His career took a turn for the better when he used the exposure and co-founded a bootstrapped startup called Culturro. As the saying goes, personality is the sum of our experiences, which rings particularly true in Ashish’s case. He has gleaned lessons from his journey’s triumphs and tribulations and transformed those insights into the foundation of a thriving company. His path was dotted with highs and lows, but his keen, observant nature and inquisitiveness have guided his journey, shaping him into the leader he is today. However, he still likes to say that he is a “work in progress” with a lot to learn.  Beyond leading and strategizing the next big move for his company, he finds joy in trekking, engaging with people in meaningful conversations, and coaching people. Now, let’s dive into Ashish’s story and explore how he wanted more from people management and impacted the professional journeys of hundreds.

From Experience to Excellence: Ashish Manchanda’s Leadership Lessons in Feedback and Growth

While many leaders and managers might express reluctance in handling the responsibility of managing teams, for Ashish, it’s a different narrative. Unlike those who find it stressful, he stands among the few who genuinely relish guiding and nurturing team members. In his eyes, managing people isn’t just a duty but the most rewarding and fulfilling experience as a leader. He attributes his leadership success to the lessons learned from his experiences with his managers. Those early experiences became the foundation upon which he built a more refined and effective approach to his leadership. 
My first manager was a godsend. He was supportive, caring, and performance-focused at the same time. Ashish Manchanda
He credits his people management style to his first manager back in 2004. He considers himself lucky to have worked with a supporting and understanding manager. Ashish credits his first manager to teaching him the basic nuances of team management. How to guide an individual, and how to give them autonomy. How to allow your team to make mistakes and put them in situations where they can learn. Giving them visibility inside and outside the organization. Giving them credit for their good work and building their case for growth inside the organization.
I still remember how one of my managers gave feedback to me. He was blunt regarding what you are doing right and what you are not doing right. Initially, it hit me hard. But when I reflected, it all made total sense. Ashish Manchanda
As an individual contributor, Ashish was always keen on self-improvement and eager to engage in the take of feedback. As a manager his knack for providing constructive feedback took root from a manager who had a systematic approach. Ashish recalls that this manager was refreshingly straightforward, not beating around the bush when it came to both strengths and weaknesses. No guesswork – just clear, direct insights coupled with actionable advice on how to grow and tackle challenges. Ashish acknowledges that this upfront and critical approach might initially sting, but he personally found it a catalyst for reflection and improvement in his own areas of development.
I adopt the same feedback style but do it subtly initially. Ashish Manchanda
When it comes to giving constructive feedback, his approach is slightly different. Ashish has a two-tiered approach. Initially, he opts for a more subtle and gentle feedback style, ensuring it’s not overly serious and critical for the receiver. However, if he observes that the feedback isn’t absorbed, he transitions into a more direct and blunt mode. The underlying motive behind his feedback is crystal clear: to foster growth and improvement in performance. Ashish’s feedback strategy is not just about pointing out areas of development but fundamentally about nurturing individuals to thrive and enhance their capabilities for the future.

Culturro’s Genesis: How Negative Leadership Inspired Positive Change

Throughout our careers, we encounter different managers – some serve as catalysts for growth, while others provide valuable lessons on leadership pitfalls unintentionally. Ashish Manchanda shared a noteworthy experience that influenced his leadership philosophy, teaching him what not to do in a leadership role.
One of my managers believed in an approach of raising their voice, demeaning team members, and needlessly applying pressure when it wasn’t needed. Ashish Manchanda
Reflecting on the past, Ashish vividly recalls a distressing period during his consulting days when he worked under a manager with a leadership style that caused significant agony. This manager employed tactics such as shouting and applying immense pressure for output, contributing to a toxic workplace environment. Resulting in employees having unpleasant and stressful experiences marked by micromanagement and toxicity. Not only did it have a negative impact on the performance of the team, but also led to significant employee turnover. Ashish knew that he had to shield his team from this toxicity to have a team that kept on performing day after day.  Micromanagement as a style may have worked well in the past, especially with a workforce that is not very evolved in its thought process. In today’s day and age, working with knowledge workers, millennials, and Gen-Z, it just doesn’t work. As per Ashish, it is a sure-shot recipe for disaster and failure.  
After this experience, the genesis of Culturro unfolded, driven by the purpose of aiding companies in establishing positive and thriving cultures. Ashish Manchanda
This experience taught Ashish Manchanda how toxic leadership harms team morale and productivity. This inspired him to start Culturro to create a positive and respectful work culture. The mission of Culturro is to create an environment where team members feel supported rather than pressured. For Ashish, effective leadership involves creating an environment that fosters growth, collaboration, and trust, steering away from fear and stress.

Learning Leadership: Ashish’s Key Takeaways from Feedback

Earlier, as a manager, I had a method of immersing individuals into challenging situations, much like throwing them into the deep end of a pool, to see how they would navigate. And only provided assistance when they struggled. Ashish Manchanda
Since the beginning of his career, Ashish always enjoyed autonomy in his roles. He thrived in situations where he was given a task by his manager, and he came through with it. Early in his days as a manager, he adopted the same. I.e., trying to give full autonomy to his team on how to get the tasks done. This approach worked mostly until it didn’t. Ashish had a crucial revelation through conversations with one of his interns. One of his significant mistakes was that waited until the end of their tenure to seek feedback on how he did managing them. During the final catchup, the intern highlighted that they struggled initially when Ashish handed them challenging tasks but provided little guidance and handholding.  This feedback became the motivation for Ashish’s transformation, highlighting two pivotal lessons. Firstly, he learned about the criticality of seeking and giving timely feedback, realizing the importance of early and regular check-ins to ensure a continuous dialogue.  Secondly, Ashish understood that cookie cutters don’t work well in feedback. Every person needs guidance and autonomy up to a different extent. This recognition prompted a positive shift in his management style, where he became more attuned to understanding people’s working styles and providing tailored support, even if it meant stepping out of his comfort zone. 

Ashish Manchanda’s Pro Tips for New Managers

Over the decades, Ashish has learned the ins and outs of leadership with hundreds of professionals. There have been mistakes on the way, but more than that, there are some evergreen tenets of effective leadership that his experience has unveiled. So, let’s check his tips for budding managers below.
Firstly, master the art of doing one-on-one conversations. That is extremely important. Ashish Manchanda
For budding managers, Ashish underscores the importance of mastering casual check-ins, which is often undervalued but fundamental in effective leadership. These check-ins go beyond mere feedback and discussions, focusing on building deep bonds and relationships with team members. At the core of this approach, one-on-one conversations involve connecting emotionally and creating dedicated space and time for meaningful interactions. Ashish advises managers to view these one-on-one conversations as a holistic approach that encompasses feedback but begins with establishing strong connections.
 The second is learning how to give constructive feedback. Ashish Manchanda
Another invaluable tip for managers is to master providing constructive feedback from a place of care. Striking a balance between offering guidance without hurting team members’ feelings while ensuring clarity is crucial. Let’s consider an example to illustrate this point: Consider a situation where a team member has submitted a project with some errors. A manager employing the principle of care in feedback might say, ‘I appreciate the effort you put into this project, and I see areas where we can improve for next time. Let’s work together to address these issues.’ On the contrary, a less considerate approach might be, ‘This project is full of mistakes. What were you thinking?’ The difference in approach can significantly impact the employee’s perspective. The considerate feedback addresses the issues and acknowledges the effort, fostering a positive and collaborative atmosphere. In contrast, the blunt feedback may demoralize the team members, potentially hindering motivation and future performance. Ashish emphasizes that conveying a clear picture without causing unnecessary discomfort is pivotal, especially at the outset of a managerial journey.
I practice a tough-love approach with my team, combining care and support with clear expectations and direct feedback. Ashish Manchanda
Additionally, Ashish practices the “tough love” theory, drawing inspiration from parenting. He recalls that after years of reflection, he realized that his first manager had the same approach. This approach involves caring deeply for individuals but being strict when necessary to focus on performance. He shares that while this method may include providing unconditional support during challenges, it also entails setting clear expectations for performance. Managers can also benefit from embracing tough love by balancing care, connection, and approachability with setting expectations, creating a conducive environment for growth and accountability.

How can Risely help?

Ashish Manchanda has developed their leadership style by working globally and observing different types of leaders, an opportunity only some aspiring managers may have. But here’s the thing: we miss out on the nitty gritty and don’t always have the support to overcome similar challenges. That’s where Risely steps in as a solution. Risely is an AI buddy for managers, offering the guidance that every manager needs to unleash their true potential. With tailored steps and insights, Risely empowers you to solve challenges in simple steps: 
  • Identify your challenges: The journey begins when a manager starts by defining their challenges. From 50+ challenges, managers and team leaders can identify the issues hurting their team.
  • Test your skills: In the second step, skills and qualities, such as expectation setting and prioritization skills, are tested with the help of leadership skill assessments to see how well you have achieved these critical functions. These assessments help us create detailed reports for skills and abilities.
  • Start growing: Now comes the good part: where your progress becomes Risely’s agenda. Managers can start making progress with the help of daily nudges, toolkits, and the interactive AI coach – Merlin, who is there for you through thick or thin, whether day or night. 
Sounds exciting? You can start a free conversation with Merlin now!

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Learning from mistakes is great. But what if we skip them? Find the loopholes in your skills with Risely’s range of assessments today.

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Author: Suprabha Sharma

Suprabha, a versatile professional who blends expertise in human resources and psychology, bridges the divide between people management and personal growth with her novel perspectives at Risely. Her experience as a human resource professional has empowered her to visualize practical solutions for frequent managerial challenges that form the pivot of her writings.

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