Manju joined the SheLeads programme with her first baby arriving soon! She came across as a confident and mature leader who was curious to explore the programme’s offerings and see what she could take back from it.
At that point, she was heading a department and had some memorable and successful projects under her belt. What gave her a sense of purpose was the idea of creating tangible and lasting assets, that make a real difference while being socially impactful.
In SheLeads, one of the first shifts that happens in our participants is when we ask them about their dreams for the future. Many realize they have not thought about it at all and were just focusing on surviving each day. Manju was different. She aspired to move to the executive level, heading the entire division.
In the individual coaching sessions that are an integral part of the programme, Manju started to realize that her aspirational goal was in fact, something that she was quite capable of achieving. As conversations with her coach went deeper, and beliefs and assumptions were unpacked, she realized that nothing was holding her back but herself.
Once that moment of epiphany happened, she moved from an ‘either-or’ mindset – especially when it came to her impending motherhood, to an abundance, ‘both-and’ mindset where she decided she was not going to give up her career aspirations just because she was having a baby!
She had help at home, a supportive spouse and a role model working mother. She realized that on one hand, it was easy to rationalize why she could choose not to do many things. But on the other, when she cleared what she called ‘the cobwebs’ in her mind, she saw no reason why she could not become the head of her function. She wanted both – motherhood and a career…and more!
As Manju participated in the workshops which explored both interpersonal and intrapersonal factors that affect one’s decision-making process, she arrived at the action plans she needed to achieve her goal. She decided that she needed to improve her visibility inside the organisation as her role currently required her to deal only with external stake holders and her boss.
She therefore identified key internal stakeholders she’d like to start developing a relationship with, as they were crucial to her being seen as a potential candidate for the executive level. Manju also chose to work on domain strengthening skills that would be needed to take on the next level. She planned it in such a way that this goal could be met during her maternity break!
She made rapid progress when she successfully helped another department collect pending dues from an institution, building her credibility with others in the organisation. She started getting routinely called in and consulted on matters that were not part of her portfolio earlier. She was looked upon as a solutioning partner, even for other departments in the organisation.
As Manju worked on her aspirations and dreams, she discovered her many strengths and began to leverage them. Situations that she would have earlier accepted as something she had no control over, now spurred her on to try new things and move out of her comfort zone. Her reward was finding opportunities that were fulfilling both personally and professionally.
At the end of the programme, she had this to say. “I am very confident that no matter what life throws at me, I can find the strength in me to cope. I am extremely comfortable with ambiguity now, something I wasn’t at all, earlier”
It’s been two years since Manju attended the SheLeads Programme. The fact that sustainability measures put into every coaching engagement actually work is apparent when today, Manju has exited her comfort zone and taken up a completely new role. A person who struggled to deal with ambiguity is now enjoying embracing it.
She is a woman in control of her destiny, baby and all!