How to become a “Great First-Time Manager?” – An Interview with Dhananjay Singh


The Great Manager Institute® through Gunjan Chelani, Manager at Great Manager Institute had the privilege of interviewing Dhananjay Singh. He is the Director – General of the National Human Resource Development Network.  He has been a Management professional responsible for Strategic Planning, Board Collaboration, Regulatory Compliance and Leadership Development, Stakeholder Engagement and New Initiatives for National HRD Network for 11 years.

Before this, Mr. Singh was working with the All India Management Association. He defines himself as a social worker with the core competency of working with people and developing what he calls Collective People Power.

In this interview, Mr. Singh told us a little about his childhood and his inclination to people management. He was born and brought up in Prayagraj and mentioned how his grandmother encouraged him to study and educate himself. As a child, he was always keen on becoming a people manager. His father worked in the administrative sector and watched him solve all problems he faced through people-oriented strategies/approaches. It made Mr. Singh realise that since people make complex issues, the people are a solution to the problem.

When asked how he started his journey at National HRD Network, Mr. Singh elaborated on how much the network had done for India and the Human Resource sector as a profession that they have now set up an office in Singapore. He received questions from different governments like “Is it for Indians or is it of Indians?”. He responded by saying that “this is for HR and this is of HR by HR here.” He made sure that whatever NHRDN has to offer, it offers to all HR persons irrespective of their nationality. He spoke about how a person doesn’t require a high qualification to become a member of the network. All the person has to have is the potential to grow and contribute to the network.

What practices do the people of NHRDN follow?

At NHRDN, everyone works as a team, they keep their expectations realistic. An example he gave was that if he doesn’t show up on time to work he doesn’t pressurize his employees or ridicule them if they show up late. He stresses being crisp and clear in communication. He believes that being empathetic and compassionate are practices one must follow besides setting up goals or meeting targets. Mr. Singh explains the beliefs and practices he follows by keeping the current situation of the country, and the economy in mind. He says that “it’s not about being soft, it’s about being sustainable.” He talks about respecting employees’ privacy and freedom which would bring about excellent results.

When asked about how National HRD Network coped with COVID-19 and the restrictions it brought about, he said that covid did change the way people look at work and business. According to him, it did blur the lines between a professional working environment and life at home.  But it wasn’t really a problem for them. He said, “they were ahead of the curve as far as the logical shift was concerned.” They were able to make a smooth transition from offline to online, their employees were provided with all the facilities they needed. Their HR practices continued, like employees were helping each other offline, they continued to help each other even after working online. Conversations around/about Health and wellness became the top priority of the network.

We also asked him about what he would say to new upcoming Gen Z managers, does he see a difference between how millennials and Gen Z handle things? The advice Mr. Dhananjay Singh would give to new managers was broken down into 3 points-  

Firstly, one must invest in themselves.

He says ‘Your growth is your responsibility and that does not mean that you’re not responsible for organizational growth. If you have that sense of contribution and understanding of contribution, rest assured, you will contribute to the organization for sure.’ 

Secondly, always be a team player

Be a team player and always see where you can contribute, to the organization and to the society.’  

Lastly, take care of one’s own health and family’s health too.  

‘It does not matter how rich or poor you are. Covid-19 has taught us that there is no substitute for your health and relationships.’ 

He defined National HRD Network’s collaboration with Great Manager Institute® by saying that Great Manager Institute ® is creating competition between managers. It brings out the good in managers, quantifiable good in managers or people, that they themselves are not aware of.  According to him, GMI through its Great People Manager Study is providing managers with a platform where they are assessed and recognised  too.

He further stated that he sees these employees, and these managers as human resources, it doesn’t matter where they come from. From NHRDN’s collaboration with GMI, he is mesmerised by how GMI brings out the immense potential of these managers, which contributes not only to the growth of their organisation but to the growth of society as well.

To know more about Great Manager Institute® and Great People Manager study, click here.

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