Bala V Sathyanarayanan: Visualizing Success with Meticulous Planning

Bala V Sathyanarayanan
Bala V Sathyanarayanan

With a clear focus on the goals, today’s leaders are executing effective strategies that are relevant and time-bound, ensuring that their vision becomes a reality. Setting up a robust foundation with innovation, leadership development, and succession planning Bala V Sathyanarayanan is a recognized thought leader who spearheads Grief Inc. as the Executive Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer.

Gathering experiences from his three-decade professional career, Mr. Sathyanarayanan has held leadership positions at global Fortune 500 companies, including Xerox, Hewlett Packard, Coca-Cola, and United Technologies. What makes him unique is his ability to maintain focus on business transformation through the intentional development and empowerment of leaders, which he believes is the key to delivering an engaged workforce to execute a company’s business strategy.

Conquering Challenges, Leading Effectively

Mr. Sathyanarayanan has moved countries and continents and moved across industries and functions from time to time. While each of these was personally challenging in itself, the support he received from his parents, his family, global colleagues, and a personal board of advisors has been immense, making him face, handle and thrive on any challenge thrown his way. He asserts, “Being resilient and learning and growing from crisis helped me become a more empathetic global leader who practices servant leadership to empower organizations and position them for global success.”

Mr. Sathyanarayanan expresses that he is privileged to hold leadership positions serving the HR industry and broader business environment through various organizations. He also serves as the Chairman and Board Director for Balmer Lawrie-Van Leer Limited, Board Director of the Columbus Council on World Affairs, Board Member of the Center on Executive Compensation. Bala is also a New York CHRO Community member and a founder of the PEER 150 HR Group. Stagnation is not an option. He says, “To improve as a leader, one must consistently learn and grow. I give and receive knowledge from these leadership communities by serving in these capacities and speaking in various forums and conferences.”

The Greif Way

Greif is a global leader in industrial packaging products and services and is pursuing its vision to be the best-performing customer service company globally. It exists to safely package and protect its customers’ goods and materials to serve the essential needs of communities worldwide.

Grief carries out its vision by employing its four strategic missions: Creating Thriving Communities, Delivering Legendary Customer Service, Protecting Our Future, and Ensuring Financial Strength.

Bala describes that Greif is guided by the principles set out under The Greif Way. The Greif Way outlines the standards for the company, its customers, suppliers, and shareholders. “We subscribe to the Servant Leadership model and break down silos within the organization wherever we find them. To be successful, we must all move in the same direction as One World, One Greif, and One Team,” he explains.

Grief encourages and embraces cultural, language, location, and thought diversity. It honors its history as it focuses on the future. It utilizes financial, natural, and human resources wisely without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs and is committed to improving for the betterment.

The company produces steel, plastic, fiber drums, intermediate bulk containers, reconditioned containers, containerboard, uncoated recycled paperboard, coated recycled paperboard, tubes, and cores, and a diverse mix of specialty products. It also manufactures packaging accessories and provides filling, packaging, and other services for various industries. Greif also manages timber properties in the southeastern United States. The company is strategically positioned in over 40 countries to serve global and regional customers.

Preparing for Changes

Mr. Sathyanarayanan shares that leveraging digital technology is critical for agile, world-class global organizations. Greif is constantly looking for ways to adopt technology to improve its communications and service delivery. It continues to drive its value proposition – leveraging technology to promote Greif as an employer of choice.

Over the last few years, the topics that gained momentum were thrust into the spotlight during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Bala believes the industry will scrutinize three topics in 2023 DEI, pay equity, and sustainability. Greif is leading the way by setting goals around these essential topics, which are outlined in its Sustainability Report.

Bala understands that the Human Resources function needs to prioritize agility. He adds, “We live and work in a VUCA world. Remote and hybrid work is the new norm for many. Businesses have been required to adapt quickly to the Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting, and now to Loud Layoffs – accompanied by fears of an impending recession.”

For HR to provide adequate support to the leaders, they must focus on agility in the face of change and turn uncertainties into opportunities for growth. Leading with authenticity and energizing your organization to deliver for your key stakeholders is something that HR will need to continually master.

What Lies Ahead?

Greif celebrated its 145th anniversary in 2022. “My responsibility as CHRO is to help set up this company for success for the future: this is Greif’s Build to Last strategy. I’ll never stop engaging, encouraging leaders and championing the cause of the global communities in which Greif operates,” Mr. Sathyanarayanan asserts.

Greif is committed to building a better tomorrow by giving back to its communities today. Following The Greif Way, it strives to create a culture that supports the common good by using our financial and human resources to support charitable organizations focusing on education, health, and social services.

Bequeathing Guidance

Bala advises aspiring people seeking a career in business to always be ready to adapt to change as it is the only constant and always comes with opportunities. “Take your seat at the table. Advocate for yourself, and find a coach, a mentor, and a sponsor who will advocate for you in your absence! Always be curious. Never stop learning; the day you stop learning is when you stop growing as an individual and a business person.

Get outside of your comfort zone. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable and stretch yourself not to the point of breaking but to the point of growth,” Mr. Sathyanarayanan concludes.