In the inaugural session of the SheLeads programme, Gitanjali came across as a serious, reserved, composed young lady. Starting her career as an individual contributor in a role that needed strong negotiation skills, she grew to lead a six-member team across two countries. She came to this programme looking for some inputs that would help her be a better leader. She had not bargained for the depth of change that was ahead.
Gitanjali was someone who revelled in ensuring her customers got the solutions they were looking for. While this made her a great negotiator with third parties, those skills seemed to make a strange disappearance when she needed to stand up to people inside her own ecosystem! This especially happened in her interactions with senior or older colleagues.
Our sessions on intra and interpersonal skills as well as the module on stakeholder management proved to be a game changer for Gitanjali. Supported by coaching sessions, she understood how her upbringing that focused on being ‘respectful to elders’, affected the way she interacted with certain members on her team.
If someone was older and more knowledgeable, she found it hard to give them direction as a leader. It did not feel right to her and she often paid the price but still could not get herself to call them out. Her conversations with her coach helped her make this connection and she also realized that ‘respect to elders’ extended to being respectful of authority as well.
With this new awareness, Gitanjali built up the confidence to call out one of her team members who was ignoring an SOP. He was older and more experienced and she had feared upsetting their equation. While she was nervous and uncomfortable, she mustered up the courage to initiate the difficult conversation. She quickly realized that the senior gentleman seemed unaware of the impact he was having on the department. She explained to him how his way of operating affected her ability to manage the team. Much to her surprise, he understood her point and was happy to comply.
Gitanjali came away from that conversation with two lessons. First, that senior colleagues were willing to listen to her and actually appreciated her inputs. Second, she realized the importance of communicating the ‘why’ of her decisions.
As Gitanjali regained her confidence through this new perspective, she was able to find joy in her day again. She started connecting with colleagues not just at work but also outside of it. She enjoyed this new bonding and how calm it made her feel.
It took a lot of strength and work throughout the four months of the programme for Gitanjali to challenge her long held belief. She went from a tentative leader to one with purpose and focus; from a serious introvert to somebody who took joy in reaching out to others. Her Coach describes her deep transformation quite poetically – ‘A flower had unfolded its petals and smiled’