Securing stakeholder buy-in for Women Leadership Programs is critical in advancing gender diversity and promoting a more inclusive and equitable workplace. The importance of this support cannot be overstated, as executives hold the power to allocate resources, set strategic priorities, and shape organisational culture. Challenges can emerge when attempting to gain their commitment. Executives may be preoccupied with other pressing concerns, unconvinced of the business case for women’s leadership, or simply unaware of the potential opportunities.

How can People leaders build a business case for women leadership programs in their organisation? Why does women leadership continue to lag behind, what are some of the ground challenges that keep organisations from committing fully or scaling their Gender Equity efforts?

For our November 2023 edition of The Leaders’ Café, we had a special guest – Mathew Paine, a distinguished leader with over two decades of experience in human resources, organisational culture, and fostering women’s leadership. As the Executive General Manager – People & Culture at the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, Mathew is passionate about creating safe, inclusive, and productive workplaces where women can thrive and he shared some incredible insights on this topic with us.

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  1. There are 3 key challenges for women with career progression – 1. Women have greater carrying responsibilities outside of work, therefore, it’s the woman who have to sacrifice their career for child-caring responsibilities 2. Women apply less frequently for roles than men 3 Women are more likely to doubt their skills and the chance of getting a role
  2. Every leader must ask – does our workforce represent the community that we serve? Australia, in particular, is a very diverse country. And if we don’t see the diversity inside the organisation, and we’re providing a service to the general population, something’s not right. So we need to start from a data-led approach to gender equity or DEI at large
  3. Mentorship and Sponsorship – Women are over-mentored, but they are under-sponsored, there are a lot of opportunities for women to upskill a key support that women leaders need today is to have somebody open the door, use the network and get them the position that they deserve
  4. Business case for Gender Equity beyond profitability – In 2024, the Workplace Gender Equality agency will be publicly publishing the gender pay gap of every organisation, not government, but all private organisations with more than 100 employees. And whilst there’s probably some, some of those organisations that do have only males at the top, and there could be females that are more junior levels that will just showcase even more the gap between the genders the pay gap between the genders. So there’s a real business benefit of making sure that organisations are, first of all measuring what the pay gap is, but then analysing their data and looking at what they can do because organisations are also going to be under stricter media scrutiny and need to be mindful of brand reputation risks they run
  5. With the economic slowdown and budget cuts, why organisations need to keep women leadership on their agenda – Reputation and Brand are crucial – they can have a huge impact on budgets, as well as turnover, lack of diversity and leadership can also lead to missed business opportunities. It could be a limited talent pooling or the brand and the reputation of the organisation. If it’s very male centric, that it may be that women just don’t want to go and work there. And that’s becoming more and more popular in Australia, where the employee makes a choice as to where they would like to work. And so they should, and if they’re not seeing the diversity or the ethics, or the values that they adhere to, personally, then they just won’t go there. So that’s going to have an impact also on profitability. Ultimately, shareholders, particularly for the public listed companies, they expect a shareholder expects to see not just that an organisation is producing results and profits. But more and more we’re seeing shareholders wanting to see the ethical components, as well are upheld by the boards and the CEOs of organisations.



Sandra Colhando: Thank you, Matt. I want to start with your story. You hold the Chief People Officer domain, the role and there’s so much that comes under it from employee engagement, recruitment, and retention to performance, productivity, etc. Why is DEI so important for you?

Mathew Paine: For me, it really is about creating inclusive workplaces that then create a positive brand in the eyes of consumers and employees. Research shows that having a diverse pool of talent also brings about a variety of perspectives and that really helps to foster innovation, creativity, and ultimately boosting employee satisfaction and retention. And particularly in the HR world, a lot of the metrics that we use could be around satisfaction or engagement retention. And ultimately they also lead to no greater profits. And there are certainly shareholders and boards that are very interested in in seeing those metrics.

Sandra Colhando: Beautiful. And I know you’ve had this rich two decades of experience to actually see that happen. See that fruit refine in terms of results? When we look at some data points, for example, WGEA released a data set where they say that while women make up half of employees, about 51%, only 19% of CEOs of women, why do you feel is there a gap? Or what? What can be done to bridge this gap?

Mathew Paine: Yeah, it’s an interesting conundrum. I think if we step it up, and we think about from a global perspective, the World Economic Forum, every year brings out the Global Gender Gap index. And that benchmarks the current state, in the evolution of gender parity across a number of dimensions. And I just had a look at that this week. And for 2023, the number one country in the world out of 146, that they measure is Iceland, they’re doing a huge amount of work there. Australia is ranked number 26, which for a developed country, I would hope that it’s higher than that. And looking at India, it’s 127. So there are some huge gaps there. And if things keep going, they’ve been doing this for about 10 years. At speed, it’s going to take 131 years to bridge that gap. So there needs to be some quite drastic measures and initiatives put in place. And then if we think about more, Australia, in the UK, there is a gender pay gap in Australia of over 20%, about 22.8% To be specific, and men are twice as likely to be in the top income bracket as women and about boards. Only one in five boards have gender balance. So when I was when I was working in the New South Wales Government, there was a behavioural insights project that was completed around career progression of that was in conjunction with the Public Service Commission. The results found that there were four key challenges for women with career progression. And they were that women report that there’s more barriers to career progression. That women have greater caring responsibilities outside of work, therefore, it’s the woman that work or they have to sacrifice their career for child caring responsibilities, or also women apply less frequently for roles than men. And women are more likely to doubt their skills, and the chance of getting a role. Meaning a male may see a job and think, yeah, well look I am just here, but I’m going to apply anyway. Whereas a woman from this research that we conducted, was more likely to doubt their skills. So I think if you think about all that, together, there are probably a number of factors that still are at play. And we hear a lot about bias and stereotypes. There may be lack of representation also, of females in more senior roles in organisations; therefore, women may not envisage themselves to be in those roles. It could be that there is a workplace culture, or there’s practices in place that may lead to women not wanting to do those roles. For example, if there’s a really long working hours culture, if there is inflexibility of the work structure, maybe there’s no hybrid working or a lack of flexible working, all of those things can and those practices can really impact on the way women work. And then of course, things like unconscious bias when it comes to recruitment and promotion. There was a study recently actually in Australia, where it was for people and it’s not just women, but those that are working remotely. Could be overseen or over overlooked when it comes to promotions because they’re not in the office. And I think that there’s an overlay there. And then you know, other things like work life challenges. And in Maybe there’s even a lack of accountability inside organisations, you know, not holding CEOs or boards to account. So there’s probably a lot there. But that’s, that’s what I think.

Sandra Colhando: Beautiful. I am making notes and there seems a huge laundry list of why and what is the gap. I know there is work happening but in all of this, sometimes it just feels it’s so overwhelming. Where do we start? What’s the first step we take? With your experience and the background that you have- we are looking at recruitment, productivity, looking at culture, we’re looking at accountability, what will be the first step to take to start building this culture of gender equity?

Mathew Paine: Yeah, I think, like, where we need to start is thinking about the organisation, whatever organisation it is that that our listeners are working at. And I have always asked the question – does our workforce represent the community that we serve? Australia, in particular, is a very diverse country. And if we don’t see the diversity inside the organisation, and we’re providing a service to the general population, something’s not right. So we tend to start from a data-led approach. And it’s important to understand the matrix and how many, what is the gender breakdown, there might be some other diversity, and demographics that also organisations can measure and track, and then there’s the intersectionality of those two. So, you know, that may not be that it’s just male and female. But then if we add on other intersections, like cultural and linguistic diversity, could be an employee with a disability, could be that they identify as having a different sexual orientation. So there are many different factors. But I thiny understanding the data of your workforce is important. And that also really sets the the roadmap of where it is that you would like to go, and what’s the gap, and then thinking about some initiatives of how to bridge that gap. But I think if you don’t start with some type of a benchmark, it’s you need to know where you’re going. But you also need to know where you’re starting from.

Sandra Colhando: Absolutely, you’re connection is breaking up a little bit. So I’m just quickly summarizing – what you’re sharing is, you know, we need to look at where the organisation is, how’s the organisation representative of the clients or customers they’re serving. And how can we add in the sections and the diversity and work from there? I think what connected deeply with me when you’re, when you’re sharing this is setting the roadmap firs, before we jump into various initiatives, you want to see, what’s the road map for me as an organisation, which could be very different for another organisation at the same time. And what’s my way around it? And why do I need to have that included in our values? I think when you talk about the environment and culture of an organisation; it shouldn’t just be a tick in the box. It shouldn’t be just because it makes top-line sense that’s important for business, but it needs to go much deeper to create that sense of belongingness and organisation. And the decision-makers typically have that when you say the roadmap, are the executives, are people sitting at the board at the C suite level. That brings me to the question I know in an interview with HRM, you talked about selling diversity, and equity inclusion to the C-suite as one of the most significant challenges in this field. What do you think of what key elements should, say people cultural leaders need to include in the business case for women’s leadership programme to secure executive buy-in?

Mathew Paine: Good question, I think and you touch there about organisational values. So you know, really that there is alignment to values that there is an alignment to the organizational goals and emphasise how women leadership programs can align with the broader goals of the organisation, could be around improving innovation, diversity, and market competitiveness. And also the quantifiable benefits, there’s a lot of research out there that shows that a more diverse organisation has higher profits than those that are less diverse. But I think also it’s understanding the talent pipeline that you have internally, and helping to define what those success metrics are. Anthere are’s probably there’s pros and cons to setting targets. I’ve worked in organisations that have and have not, and I’m happy to talk about that. But I think, like I’ve mentioned before, you really need to know where it is that you’re going, as an organisation, and put it in, I think we can probably see the biggest change when we do have metrics that we put in place for the C suite, the executive team. And I’ve seen also where they might receive their bonus could be tied to those or their pay increases could be tied to particular metrics. And it’s not just financial, but also diversity metrics.

Sandra Colhando: That’s interesting. And you also talked aboutthe  pros and cons of setting targets. So in your lived professional experience, what could be a target that is a pro that makes sense organisation because it drives positive culture in making this change? And what could be a target? That could be a con, which you need to be careful, about because it may not be a driving impact. It’s a target, we’re moving in that direction, but it’s not driving the right.

Mathew Paine: Yes. Okay, so I’ll give you an example, when I worked in the New South Wales Government, the Premier of the State had set targets, under particular diversity targets for all employers in the public sector. So we were working towards 50% women in senior leadership roles. And then there were some other metrics for other diversity initiatives. So I think the positive there was that there was a goal, everybody knew where we were going. And those targets were set up to 2025. So it wasn’t just an immediate overnight initiative, there were, you know, well-executed planned approaches to several initiatives. But where I’ve seen these initiatives or targets fall is where the Why isn’t explained properly. Those that don’t identify in those particular demographics, then they may go for a role and feel that they didn’t get the role because of their gender or because their diversity doesn’t align with that. So I think there needs to be, you know, real merit behind recruitment and selection. But sometimes, through initiatives, particular programs that work, they can certainly help to develop people. So an example that I worked with in government was we had a few different initiatives. One was the women in the senior leadership mentoring programme. It was a specific programme, only aimed at women who had high potential to move into a leadership role. And they were mentored by another executive who had already reached that goal, who was already working at that level. And it was a 12-month programme. And it was extremely popular. We always had so many people that wanted to be on it, because they saw that there were real tangible outcomes. And it wasn’t that they were favoured, but through their mentoring relationships and also the education that they received, It helped to shape them to then on, on their own merit when they went for a role that they felt comfortable and were able to achieve the selection criteria. And another programme that we ran was the Open Doors programme and which was a career sponsorship programme. So the difference between mentoring and sponsorship is mentoring is more about being available and assisting and helping to mentor and coach whereas the sponsorship programme was opening doors, but very soon new executives, who are then able to use their own connections, to then open doors and connections to those people who were then able to grow and to develop and to really benefit from that and leverage those executives, senior leadership roles. So we certainly had great success with both of those programmes. And we’re able to see some demonstrable outcomes.

Sandra Colhando: Oh, those are great programmes you talked about, we keep talking about this, there be maybe enough mentorship, maybe women are over-mentored, but they under-sponsored. So happy to hear you talk about the open-door programme, because there are a lot of opportunities for women to upskill. But I think the biggest support that women leaders need that is to have somebody open the door, use the network, and get them the position that they deserve. What about skill building? Matt, what do you feel? Do we need a separate programme for women leaders for them to skill belt to reach those positions?

Mathew Paine: Well, the success that we had with the women in the senior leadership programme was also that every couple of months, there would be a skills development programme aimed at that cohort of women that were on the programme. So I think there was some great marriage in that, where women were able to come along and discuss some of the issues that they may be facing and hear from other women about how they’re overcoming that or in the groups that they’ve been allocated with their trainer, that they can unpack that. And some of it could be, you know, purely down to their own confidence. And other things might be around skills. But I have seen that particular programmes aimed at women have had great outcomes. Having said that, I’ve also seen other programmes where it’s mixed genders, and there are also great outcomes. So I think it will probably depend on the content of those skills programmes, but I’m certainly not adverse to them.


Sandra Colhando: Yeah, often, we are asked why we need to have a separate women leadership programme and why not a mixed gender and you’re right, there is merit for both. But I also feel they’re very unique challenges that women professionals go through, which are listed out beautifully earlier in our talk, whether it’s you know, carrying responsibilities as a doubt imposter syndrome, which sometimes a uniquely hire for that gender, and therefore having a program exclusively to take care of those challenges, helps in managing and not creating a safe space for them to feel we are not in it alone there other women professionals going through this challenge and this asset community that’s created for us to move ahead. What I wanted to talk about, and you shared some very interesting initiatives that you’ve run, especially with the NSW Government in terms of targets. What can we do when maybe you don’t have an organisation that has a very strong executive mind for women leadership? Let’s take an example. An organisation is already profitable, and doing really well. But there is very little gender balance of the leadership in the leadership’s executive C suite, how do you showcase the return on investment on women’s leadership to them?

Mathew Paine: Yeah, it’s a good question. I think, particularly these days, we’re seeing more and more media for and not always positive, sometimes negative media, where there are organisations that don’t have good gender balance or don’t have good diversity, particularly as they go higher. And especially in Australia, for the next year 2024, the Workplace Gender Equality agency will be publicly publishing the gender pay gap of every organisation, not the government, but all private organisations with more than 100 employees. And whilst there are probably some, some of those organisations that do have only males at the top, and there could be females that are more junior levels that will just showcase even more the gap between the genders the pay gap, I should say between the genders. So there’s a real business benefit of making sure that organisations are, first of all measuring what the pay gap is, but then analysing their data and looking at what they can o, because I havy no doubt that from next year, there will be quite a few media articles that will come out that won’t be positive in a variety of different organisations in Australia. But I think also, then it just goes back to thinking about Australia in particular, as well, actually, no, not just Australia, but globally, there’s an ageing population. So women’s economic workforce participation is becoming more and more important around the world. The more women that are working, and particularly moving into more senior roles, the bigger the impact it is for the economy, that of the country that they’re in, the more tax they pay, those taxes then have benefits for the whole country. So there’s, there’s real equity, measures them. And outside of that, it’s just the right thing to do. So I think from an ethical perspective, organisations these days have got a lot of measures around ethics and sustainability, and gender balance, particularly in senior roles should be on everyone’s agenda.

Sandra Colhando: While we have this coming next year, which is working around the workplace gender balance, in today’s economic conditions, and with so-called economic slowdown, organisations now are holding on to the budgets. What’s your take on the future of women’s leadership landscape, in this environment, in this mind space?

Mathew Paine: Well, look, think about reputation and brand and that can have a huge impact on budgets, as well as turnover. And lack of diversity and leadership can also lead to missed business opportunities. I know, a lot of the consulting firms these days, when they go out, and they target business projects, they do all of this analysis before they then go off and select the organisation that they might want to work with. So there’s some potential of lost business there. It could be limited talent pooling or the brand and the reputation of the organisation. If it’s very male-centric, that it may be that women just don’t want to go and work there. And that’s becoming more and more popular in Australia, where the employee chooses as to where they would like to work. And so they should, and if they’re not seeing the diversity or the ethics, or the values that they adhere to, personally, then they just won’t go there. So that’s going to have an impact also on profitability. And, yeah, I mean, ultimately, shareholders, particularly for the publicly listed companies, expect a shareholder expects to see not just that an organisation is producing results and profits. But more and more we’re seeing shareholders wanting to see the ethical components, as well upheld by the boards and the CEOs of organisations.

Sandra Colhando: Yeah, it makes sense because you’re looking at a whole rounded organisation that not just looking at profits, but looking at the culture that’s creating in the future as well, was the thread if we just continue unidirectional? How do you get executive buy-in with data? Do you feel that the onus is only on say the chief people, learning and development departments to create that buy-in? Can anyone else in the organisation play a role and how can they create that noise with executives to make this happen?

Mathew Paine: Hmm, that’s a great question. Look, it shouldn’t be led just by HR or L&D. I mean, there’s organisational initiatives. And ideally, they should be sponsored at the executive level. So where I’ve seen the biggest impact in these areas is when an organisation decides to go down this track, and they might launch, for example, a diversity, inclusion, and belonging strategy. And within that, there might be multiple silos or segments of diversity that they would like to work on. So there could be, for example, demographics of women in senior leadership, which is the topic for today, it could be people with disability, it might be LGBTQIA+ inclusion, could be other things. But then, it’s not just about having a plan on a page, it’s about bringing it to life, I would suggest that there are executive sponsors for each of those. And then within that, it’s also brought to life through the employees, what we call an employee resource group. So for example, there could be a shared agenda, a women’s employee resource group, there might be people with disability, and there could be other cohorts that those groups get together. And it’s not just about social connection, but it’s also thinking about from an organisational perspective, what can they do better? What’s their feedback? Are there policies or procedures that are getting in the way of workforce participation? Are there things that are a handler to, to the workforce? What are the other metrics, if the organisation is doing surveys, what’s the feedback from those groups being able to break down survey responses by demographic So ideally, I would see that there is executive sponsorship, employee resource groups, and an action plan that is regularly communicated back out to the organisation, and that the CEO is involved, or the most senior person in the organisation is involved in that as well.

Sandra Colhando: When you share this, is that there’s a story that came up for me when you talked about employee resource groups, especially women. And this happened around COVID, when you know, budgets were shut down organisations were not getting into investment mode. So there’s a client of ours and their organisation was severely hit by the COVID shutdown leading to budget cuts. But there was a women’s resource group that got together. So the women professionals just got together in the organisation and they decided to drive the agenda, they would fix these meetings, they would actually reach out to industry leaders, facilitators, coaches and create this once-a-month forum where they’ll invite a coach on a special topic, and they ran a program with zero budgets. Yeah, so that’s a great example of when you talked about women’s resource group, how they can gather resources and get that done. Hmm,

Mathew Paine: Yeah, totally. And I’ve seen that those grassroots initiatives where it’s not actually led by the organisation that’s led by the members of the group can sometimes have even greater impact.



Sandra Colhando: I’m seeing our questions here. So I’m going to jump right into the question especially there’s a question that resonates with the one that I had for you. Can you share a comparative view of how the public sector and private sector varies in gender representation in Australia? I think one of the past speakers mentioned that the public sector needs to up its game and has things to learn from some positive initiatives undertaken by corporate sector. Your thoughts, please?

Mathew Paine: Good question. I guess first of all, I don’t have the data right in front of me, so I wouldn’t be able to answer exactly the specifics. But what can what I can say is there were a few initiatives that were run in Australia that really helped to increase participation, particularly women in the private sector. And that was the male Champions of Change programme, which you may have heard of, and that programme really was a call out to male, particularly male sponsors and male CEOs. And looking at how they can make organisational change, that would then lead to greater female representation and the view through that initiative, which is still going. And maybe it’s not as popular as at what it was, but certainly still going, there was a very large increase of women participation, but equally in the public sector, which is where I also had experience, particularly New South Wales, when the premier set targets for 50% women in senior leadership, it really helped myself particularly as a chief people officer and in the role that I was in the executive director role also that I held, to be able to hold leaders to accountable and to say, every month, we would measure where we’re, we’re able to look at the gap, we’re able to then come up with some really meaningful programmes and regularly report that data, and how we’re increasing that data to the executive team through a monthly pack of data and metrics. And that visibility at the senior level really helps everyone to have buy-in. And, you know, I think it makes in some cases, it might make it easier when you’ve got you’ve got that real push, particularly when we’re getting close to achieving that. So I think in the end, where you’ve got leaders, most leaders, particularly doesn’t matter what industry, private or public would want to achieve targets. So there’s that old saying what gets measured gets done or variations of it. But I think that that helps.

Sandra Colhando: That’s a brilliant example of how you get executive buy-in, because you have a target come from an executive or come from the top, and you actually measure it and continue in that direction. Yeah, and what gets measured gets seen as well.

Mathew Paine: There is probably one more thing on that topic. It was important for us as well to really highlight and demonstrate particular days of significance in the calendar year. So International Women’s Day is one that comes to mind. And on International Women’s Day, every year, we would hold an event, it was for all genders, not just women, but we would highlight and we’d have normally a panel of female leaders, successful female leaders that would talk about their leadership journey, their struggles in how it is that they might be able to juggle work with family, and any other things that they might want to talk about and really showcase their story. Because then other female leaders and other females can aspire and learn from those. So having those real-life stories and bringing those days of significance to life, I I find that helps a lot.

Sandra Colhando: Absolutely. I’m going to go to the next question – What role do emerging women leaders play in achieving gender diversity?

 Mathew Paine: I think that everyone has a part to play in this and those that have succeeded and got already achieved those female leadership roles. They should also be helping the pipeline or talent behind them. Because and I see this and it’s not just in female leadership, but all levels of diversity. That if everyone helps to pave that, that journey forward, it’s going to make it easier and more acceptable for those who are still aspiring to go through that journey. So for them to be able to use their experience, maybe talk about what worked well for them, and what didn’t work well. Being a mentor, and being available to coach other people that might want to aspire. Everyone has a part to play and and hopefully they can use their own experience to help others.

Sandra Colhando: Yeah, I think that’s linked to the next question. From your experience, Matthew, what us some of the top three skills that were in professionals can build or work towards to becoming a strong contender, contender for the top positions?

Mathew Paine: Oh, that’s a hard one. There are so many amazing skills that are out there. Look, I always say to anybody, if they would like to move up the ladder, it’s thinking about their curiosity, their innovation, but also, going for a more senior role is not just about technical skills. It’s about people leadership, and it’s about relationships, negotiation, it’s about how to navigate difficult decisions. So it’s, you know, focusing on what’s probably traditionally called maybe those softer skills. Because it’s not just about the hard skill of doing your job leaders have to be able to really have that emotional intelligence to be able to deal with many different scenarios. So having that that level of, of skill is important. But I think look, it probably also depends on the role that they’re going for, but certainly people leadership, I’d be looking if someone’s going for a leadership position, ideally, that they’ve done some type of other mentoring coaching or leadership, it could be an in an external voluntary role, or it might be something else.

Sandra Colhando: Yeah, I was looking at when you talked about E, I am looking at E IA, it is having emotional intelligence and action. Sometimes we have emotional intelligence, we know what’s happening, but the action gets missed. And that’s where true change comes. And that’s why we drive that change is still an experiment, failures, shouldn’t be a roadblock. But just to try more aspects, more doors, one door closes, how do we open the next door? Yeah,


Mathew Paine: That’s right. You mentioned before about imposter syndrome. And I think like, that’s common for many people. In that they may not, they may not think of themselves as the best person for the role that they’ve got to the role and that they’re doubting their own skills and experience. And I think it is normal. But having, not letting it become so debilitating, that you can’t actually then perform in the role and action.


Sandra Colhando: in this section, I do want to share my own personal take on impostor syndrome, because I had a lot of impostor syndrome. There are many opportunities, I didn’t raise my hand, early in my career, and I missed many opportunities. They’re, they’re funny stories now. But they weren’t that time, and I missed it. But this is what I tell myself to overcome impostor syndrome is saying that there is no rule ever, I’d be perfect for, especially in this uncertain environment, that we are working and then uncertain world that we are in, we will never be perfect in any role, because you don’t have control of what happens externally. So knowing that and then jumping into that situation, raising your hand for that opportunity is the best thing you can do for yourself and for the road that you take. And that’s my little tip on how I overcame it. Before we wrap up, we have a minute to go. I’m going to take up the last question – Are there unique considerations or challenges in gaining executive buy-in from leadership in a global context? And how can these be addressed?

Mathew Paine: Hmm, yeah, that’s a it’s a deep question. And I think definitely, in a global context, there are unique circumstances and that would come down to the cultural have elements of that country. If I talk about it, from my experience in the Western world, certainly in Australia, I’ve worked in roles that also cover New Zealand and the UK or worked in London for eight years. I think these days, it’s definitely more and more accepted. And it’s not just accepted, it’s actually expected that organisations have that cultural and gender diversity. But having said that, there’s there’s countries that are still out there in the world that have got a long way to go. So, you know, I can’t probably comment so much about those countries. But, you know, certainly being able to focus on the ones and the initiatives that work is something that I would focus in, probably just express that. Yes, in some countries, there’s a long way to go. But I’m hoping that, you know, what, take that 131 years that what I mentioned at the start with the World Economic Forum data.

Sandra Colhando: Yeah, I believe that’s a good start point. And what you shared so far, and, of course, it’s a call for action in any country talk about results, you talk about innovation, creativity, bias, etc. It’s common, but I think the cultural aspect if we have storytelling that’s associated with it, which is unique to your culture, showcasing those stories, this case studies, I think that creates that uniqueness in each culture. Thank you, Matt, for these rich insights for our team. And thank you, everyone who’s been listening and we’ll be seeing the recording as well. Thank you for your questions. Thank you for being there. We’ll be back next month for another interesting topic. Get ready for the holidays and enjoy the next few weeks. Thank you everyone.

Mathew Paine: Thank you. Thanks, Sandra. Thanks, everybody.



Despite recent gains in the share of women in leadership, women are leaving the workforce at much higher rates than men and women’s participation in the labor force dipping to their lowest levels in decades.

That’s why it’s critical that organizations make intentional efforts to invest in retention, support, and training for women leaders. In this live, we had Katja Henaway, Founder, Women’s Business in  conversation with Sandra Colhando, women leadership coach, DEI champion and Co-Founder, TransforMe Learning together explore how organizations can begin their journey in women’s leadership development, clarify the different stages in this journey, promote inclusivity, measure progress effectively, and gain actionable insights to foster an equitable and diverse leadership landscape.


  1. Katja Henaway shares her personal journey and connection to Indigenous communities, emphasizing the importance of contextualization in women’s leadership programs. The article discusses the stages of feminine leadership development in organizations: Initial Exploration, Emerging Initiatives, and Flourishing Leadership.
  2. Organizations excelling in diversity tend to perform better, while those struggling to diversify leadership may have lower team performance. The challenge many corporations face in Australia is hesitance to take the initial step in promoting diversity, which can be overcome by dispelling assumptions and starting with innovative programs.
  3. Initiatives to promote diversity should begin with small, impactful actions, and individuals at all levels can advocate for inclusion within their organizations. The article highlights the need for more granular contextualization in women’s leadership programs for Indigenous women, women of color, and various subsectors. Outsourcing specialized programs to businesses with expertise can help organizations quickly launch successful women’s leadership programs.
  4. Key success metrics for women’s leadership programs include diversity in senior leadership roles and the cascading effect of diverse leaders on teams. Challenges faced by women of color include limited accessibility to career development programs, institutional bias and racism, and internal cultural and religious challenges.
  5. Mentorship is identified as a crucial aspect of women’s leadership development, and the importance of diverse mentoring experiences is highlighted. Building a strong business case with evidence and results metrics is essential to influence internal leaders to invest in diversity and innovation. Starting with a pilot program can help showcase positive outcomes.


Sandra Colhando – What’s your personal story that led you here in supporting Indigenous women, women of colour and doing the amazing work that you do?

Katja Henaway Thank you, Sandra. It’s a privilege to be here today, joining the lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation in Sydney. I have a deep connection to indigenous communities, having been born and raised in North Queensland by my Torres Strait Islander grandparents. I grew up within Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal communities.

After a period of living and working in the UK and traveling extensively, I returned to Australia in 2008. As a mature student, I pursued a Bachelor of Community Management at Macquarie University, which provided me with a deeper understanding of Indigenous history and the policies shaping Indigenous Affairs in Australia.

Following my degree, I specialized in Indigenous engagement, collaborating with organizations to design tailored programs for Indigenous communities. My passion for creating unique programs led me to design initiatives for people of color and women of color across the country.

Sandra ColhandoI know you’ve partnered with organisations with governments as well. What would your advice be for an organisation that’s unclear about why and where to start this journey?

Katja HenawayMy advice is that contextualization is highly effective. I’ve often been asked by various organizations and leaders why they should tailor their programs. Some are concerned it may segregate or divide, but the key is this: to boost engagement, contextualization is crucial.

For instance, universities use indigenous pathway programs to increase the enrollment of indigenous students. Similarly, when they aim to attract more refugee and migrant students, they create specific programs tailored to their needs. The same principle applies when transitioning from university to the corporate world, but often, we don’t see this level of contextualization in corporate environments.

What works in schools, universities, and higher education also holds true in the corporate sector and government.

Sandra ColhandoAnd you’re saying there’s not much happening in the corporate sector? This kind of contextualise? 

Katja HenawayIn many corporations, we often assume that because they already have a diverse workforce, engagement with diverse employees isn’t a concern. However, when it comes to advancing career leadership development and supporting diverse leaders, especially in promoting and hiring more diverse leaders, contextualizing leadership development becomes incredibly valuable. It’s an area where corporations can explore further.

Sandra ColhandoBefore delving into the results section, it’s worth noting that organizations worldwide are at various stages of feminine leadership development. We’ve identified three main stages in our work:

Initial Exploration: These organizations are in the early stages, primarily driven by a general awareness of the importance of feminine leadership. They might be asking, “Should we explore this trend that others are adopting?”

Emerging Initiatives: In this category, organizations have already begun experimenting with various women leadership initiatives. While they may have seen some results, these efforts might not yet be fully streamlined. They are building their expertise in this area.

Flourishing Leadership: These organizations have women leaders actively claiming leadership roles, with a more balanced ratio of women in leadership positions. They recognize the business benefits of promoting diverse leadership.

In your experience, have you noticed specific indicators that reflect an organization’s maturity in their feminine leadership efforts?

Katja Henaway Certainly, I’ve observed significant differences in organizations, particularly in sectors like large consulting firms, banks, financial institutions, and many legal firms. These organizations typically maintain diverse workforces, resulting in higher efficiency and overall high performance.

On the flip side, organizations struggling to diversify their leadership often exhibit lower team performance. This contrast becomes more evident when comparing these corporate entities to government institutions. In government institutions, leadership roles tend to be predominantly held by individuals of Anglo-Celtic, white, European backgrounds, reflecting limited diversity in the bureaucracy and upper echelons of leadership.

The key takeaway here is that organizations in need of performance enhancement can draw valuable lessons from the successes of large legal and consulting firms in promoting diversity and reaping the benefits of improved performance.

Sandra ColhandoI found your insights interesting, and I’d like to add that the tech industry is another sector that actively addresses diversity. However, it’s intriguing to note that even in industries like tech, which emphasize diversity, there can still be a struggle to achieve equal distribution and representation in positions of power.

I’m aware that you’re doing significant work in this space, collaborating with governments and conducting workshops for women from diverse backgrounds. As organizations and institutions embark on this journey, what, in your opinion, is the most substantial challenge they will face? And how do you believe they can effectively overcome it?

Katja HenawayA significant challenge faced by many corporations in Australia, I believe, is their hesitance to take the initial step. This reluctance often stems from a lack of awareness about the people of color leadership or First Nations leadership sectors, including their size and capabilities. Assumptions are made that these sectors are small, and there is uncertainty about the feasibility of running programs or filling program spots.

These assumptions need to be dispelled as they are not helpful. From my experience, when developing such programs, although they often begin on a small scale, they tend to grow rapidly. Many of these programs are innovative and unique, often being the first of their kind. Consequently, the market is often unaware of their potential for success. With the right support and leadership, these programs can achieve significant success in a relatively short time.

In essence, the fear of starting is a barrier that needs to be overcome in order to make meaningful progress in promoting diversity and inclusion.

Sandra ColhandoI can relate to that. The fear of starting often comes from a lack of data and concerns about results. Initiatives can appear more challenging than they are.

From an organizational standpoint, I suggest starting with small, impactful actions when exploring feminine leadership.

For individuals within organizations, regardless of gender or hierarchy, promoting diversity can be achieved by advocating for inclusion within your sphere of influence. Your role, no matter how small, can make a difference in fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment. It begins with small steps, and collectively, these efforts drive meaningful change but how can I still promote this with whatever role in space I have?

Katja HenawayRaising awareness is essential because decision-makers may not be aware of existing programs or the experienced program designers available. Creating awareness about successful programs and the engagement they drive is crucial.

I recall my initial contact with Women and Leadership Australia, where I reached out through their online form. I noticed they lacked indigenous women in their program. After a conversation, we decided to partner. So, reaching out to organizations, offering your expertise, and letting them know you’re here to help can be a great starting point. I was fortunate they responded to my message.

Sandra Colhando – It’s a powerful and straightforward approach—sometimes all it takes is seeking opportunities and proactively pursuing them.

I recently spoke with another woman leader who shared a similar experience within our community. She highlighted the absence of a formal women’s leadership program in her organization. Despite this, she actively sought out suitable programs and advocated for her own development. Many organizations allocate budgets for employees to pursue learning programs, so individuals can take the initiative and nominate themselves. This shift empowers participants and leaders, as they actively seek opportunities, fostering greater connection, recognition, and positive outcomes.

In the realm of specialized leadership development, it’s crucial to avoid clumping different categories together. Customization is key to address unique needs effectively.

So I have two questions around it. How does the approach to women’s leadership differ for indigenous and then coloured background and women of non Indigenous communities?

If you could probably share two three unique points, each of these intersections under women? What would that be for an organisation or anyone working in this area to focus on?

Katja HenawayThe term “women of color” has gained prominence in recent years, but it’s interesting to note that some subsectors within this network may not identify with the term. Indigenous women, for example, often see themselves as First Nations women, while African women might prefer to be recognized as black women. Cultural identity plays a significant role, and many individuals identify with their specific culture.

From a First Nations perspective, the need for contextualized programs is evident, as their experiences and requirements in Australia differ substantially from migrant and refugee women who have settled here. While women of color may relate to certain aspects, First Nations women have a distinct set of needs and experiences.

To cater to these diverse needs, the trend is moving towards more granular contextualization. Separate programs for First Nations women, women of color, and various subsectors like Pacific Islander women and South Asian women are becoming increasingly important. These separate programs can better address the unique experiences and requirements of each group.

The need for this level of contextualization is a recent development, reflecting the evolving understanding of diversity and inclusion.

Sandra Colhando Shifting the focus to organizations in an emerging state, those who are just beginning their diversity and inclusion journey can find it overwhelming. For them, initiating a comprehensive women’s leadership program can be challenging. The question is, how can we make it more accessible for them to take that crucial first step?

Katja Henaway The quickest and most efficient way for an organization to launch a program like this is to outsource it to a business with expertise. Instead of developing the programs in-house, consider finding a local business with a proven track record in this area and outsourcing the work to them. This approach leads to quicker success as the external business brings its network and experience to the table, relieving the organization of the burden of developing such programs on its own.

Sandra Colhando –
I like that approach—bringing in specialists to support and exploring partnerships.

Indeed, the results and impact of a successful women’s leadership program are crucial. It’s not just a matter of running the program; understanding the success metrics is key. The impact can be impressive, with notable outcomes such as:

Improved NPS and Inclusion Scores: A shift from 70 to 88% in NPS and inclusion scores.

Enhanced Gender Diversity in Leadership: More women claiming and advancing in leadership positions.

Personal Growth and Career Advancement: Participants overcoming mental barriers, addressing gender biases, and becoming mentors for others. So in your view, what are some of the key metrics you’ve experienced from your shared way an organization can expect or look forward to a successful women leadership programme?

Katja Henaway –
Key metrics often revolve around boosting diversity in leadership. When a diverse person takes on a senior leadership role in an organization, it tends to have a cascading effect on the entire team. We’ve seen this impact in various fields, including politics, where the elevation of a few diverse leaders quickly influences the entire landscape.

One of the most critical metrics is the presence of diverse women in senior leadership roles and the subsequent diversification of the entire organization.

Indeed, a colleague recently shared an intriguing insight with me—the power of one to three. Research has shown that when you have one woman leader in an executive role, you often see the emergence of three more. This research is fascinating, especially as my team is predominantly composed of women. It’s not about bias, but it certainly amplifies diverse voices and representation within the organization.

It’s amusing that, while I work with many influential women, they sometimes create teams comprising exceptional First Nations women leaders. I wholeheartedly support women’s empowerment, but it’s important to remember that diversity encompasses more than just gender.

Sandra ColhandoI want to pick up two questions from the audience. What are some of the top challenges faced by women of colour from your experience, maybe top three challenges that you commonly see?

Katja HenawayCertainly, some challenges are prevalent, particularly concerning career development. Many career leadership programs in Australia tend to be easily accessible to Anglo-Celtic and white European individuals, which creates a disparity for First Nations people and people of color. This accessibility gap poses a significant challenge for women of color and various women’s groups.

Institutional bias and racism are also substantial challenges, supported by numerous reports and anecdotal evidence. Furthermore, we encounter cultural and religious challenges, as individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds face certain limitations based on cultural and religious beliefs. Managing these internal challenges can be a hurdle for our progress.

Sandra ColhandoYeah. I was gonna mention the third bit was also us holding ourselves back. Because yeah, some way there could be a bias that we are outsiders to it. So claiming the space. here for a second question is how do you see the role of mentorship in women’s leadership development? And what has been your experience with it?

Katja Henaway – Absolutely, mentorship is incredibly important, even though it’s often underfunded. Research consistently underscores its effectiveness. In my personal experience, both as a mentee and mentor, I’ve found it to be extremely valuable. It’s essential to be open to mentoring from individuals of different ages, backgrounds, or genders. Sometimes, being mentored by someone much younger can offer powerful insights and growth opportunities, challenging traditional mentorship norms.

Sandra ColhandoI do want to take one last question –  For the L&D folks here, any tips on how to influence internal leaders on investing in the space of women leadership development?

Katja HenawayInfluencing and securing investments can be challenging within your organization. It’s often helpful to look for successful examples in other organizations or gather data and feedback from such cases. Building a strong business case with evidence and presenting it to your organization can be effective. Many consulting firms and online reports offer data about the gaps in women of color’s career leadership development and the success of investing in such programs. Building a compelling business case is crucial.

Sandra Colhando – Absolutely, including a results metric is key. Start with a pilot program and measure the results. When you can showcase positive outcomes, the need for further influence diminishes, and progress becomes more straightforward.


In today’s world, what sets extraordinary leaders apart is their willingness to be vulnerable, weaving authenticity into their narratives. In this live, we had Jacob Morgan, a thought leader at the intersection of leadership and the future of work in conversation with Gatik Chaujer, a Storytelling Coach and Co-Founder, TransforMe Learning together unveil the secrets to becoming a master storyteller through vulnerability.

In this session, we discovered
. How vulnerability can transform your storytelling from ordinary to extraordinary
• Real-life examples of leaders who have harnessed vulnerability to inspire and connect with their teams
• Practical strategies to incorporate vulnerability into your leadership narrative, fostering trust and engagement
• A sneak peek into Jacob Morgan’s upcoming book, Leading with Vulnerability offering a preview of the groundbreaking insights he’s poised to share.


1.Vulnerability is often confused with leadership. For instance, Hollis Harris, former CEO of Continental Airlines, was fired due to a lack of leadership when he sent a vulnerable memo during tough times. In contrast, Fleetwood Grobler, CEO of Sasol, combined vulnerability with leadership, resulting in a successful turnaround.

2. Storytelling is essential in vulnerable leadership to establish connections and communicate effectively. It’s a pivotal tool for connecting with people, sharing personal anecdotes, and conveying lessons learned.

3. Vulnerable leadership faces challenges, including the fear of vulnerability being used against leaders. Jacob Morgan advises combining vulnerability with leadership to dispel misconceptions and show a commitment to growth.

4. Effective speaking involves mastering storytelling, as every expression of vulnerability is woven into a narrative. How you express and structure narratives is integral to leading with vulnerability.

5. Embrace the Vulnerable Leader Equation, Vulnerability Mountain Framework, and the Vulnerability Wheel as foundational practices for integrating vulnerability and leadership.

6. Oversharing often happens when individuals lack clarity of intention. To avoid this, ask yourself why you want to share something and ensure your communication is defined and purposeful.

7. The primary obstacle to vulnerability is often internal, driven by the fear of negative perceptions. Combining leadership with vulnerability and fostering motivation is crucial to drive active learning, growth, and improvement.


Gatik Chaujer: First of all, as we get started, what led you to the place you’re focusing on these three areas – leadership, future and work and employee experience?

Jacob Morgan : My family’s journey began in the former USSR, with roots in the Republic of Georgia. Fleeing in the late ’70s, they moved to Italy, where my parents met. From there, we migrated to Australia, where I was born in Melbourne, eventually settling in the United States. Despite my mom’s emphasis on emotional openness, my dad’s influence led me to avoid vulnerability, shunning discussions about mistakes or failures.

My professional journey took a turn due to disappointing jobs, notably one in Los Angeles for a tech company. Promised exciting work and travel, I ended up stuck in mundane tasks. A defining moment occurred when the CEO asked me to fetch coffee. That experience, 15 years ago, marked the end of my full-time employment under others. It propelled me towards my current focus: creating organizations with engaged employees, fostering future-ready structures, and cultivating great leadership.

Gatik Chaujer : Jacob would love to hear your views on vulnerability and leadership and what’s changing, and I know you have this distinct difference that you talk about and being vulnerable and being a vulnerable leader, I love that example about the Continental Airlines CEO that you speak about. So can you talk to us a little bit about your perspective on vulnerability and leadership?

Jacob Morgan : Vulnerability and leading with vulnerability are often confused. A case in point is the story of Hollis Harris, former CEO of Continental Airlines, who, in the ’90s, sent a vulnerable memo to his workforce during the company’s struggles. However, lacking leadership, he was fired the next day. In contrast, Fleetwood Grobler, CEO of Sasol, faced a similar situation with a heavily indebted company. He, too, acknowledged challenges in a town hall but added the leadership element. He shared his vision, expressed confidence in the team, and invited collaboration to achieve success. This combination of vulnerability and leadership turned the company around.

A practical example is handling mistakes. Merely admitting fault is vulnerable, but to lead with vulnerability, one must also demonstrate the ability to learn and improve. This blend of vulnerability and leadership forms the “vulnerable leader equation”: Vulnerability + Leadership = Leading with Vulnerability. Often, the focus is solely on vulnerability, neglecting the crucial leadership component.

Gatik Chaujer : As you shared those stories, I couldn’t help but recall another favorite of mine—the Stephen Elop Nokia saga in 2011, the “burning platform” story. Your ability to connect vulnerability and leadership in communication resonates deeply. It’s not just about admitting what went wrong; it’s about setting a direction, discussing what comes next, and demonstrating continued leadership.
Now, shifting gears to storytelling and vulnerability, your experience in coaching and training for over a decade mirrors the evolving landscape. A decade ago, discussing vulnerability and authenticity in storytelling was a tough sell. Success stories took precedence, and vulnerability had its share of stigmas. Today, there’s a noticeable shift, and a significant part of our work involves helping individuals and organizations embrace vulnerability in their narratives.

So what role does storytelling play in vulnerable leadership?

Jacob Morgan – Well, I think it’s a pretty big part because part of being vulnerable is to connect with people.Storytelling holds significant importance in leading with vulnerability. Vulnerability inherently involves connecting with people, and storytelling serves as a pivotal means of establishing that connection. Whether sharing personal anecdotes, lessons learned, or challenges being faced and conquered, storytelling plays a central role in the vulnerability narrative. The way you communicate these stories, how they are presented, is crucial. In my book, I outline various personal attributes and traits necessary for leading with vulnerability. Among these, storytelling stands out as a crucial element—a connecting tissue that binds the narrative and contributes to the authenticity and connection derived from vulnerability. It’s a key aspect of the overall process.

Gatik Chaujer:
Absolutely. Vulnerable leadership revolves around connecting, communicating, and expressing authenticity. There’s a continuous need to bring in more vulnerability and learn to share stories and messages authentically. However, even today, Jacob, there’s a lingering challenge around vulnerability. Many leaders aren’t entirely comfortable with it. It’s not something that excites people because showing vulnerabilities might be perceived as revealing a “bad side” or looking uncomfortable. The hesitancy around vulnerability remains a challenge for many leaders. I’m sure you’ve got some research and some great experiences with some CEOs that you may have coached around, what are some misconceptions around being vulnerable that leaders have? And how have you shifted that for them? And what difference are they seeing? Leaders have these fears and misconceptions about being vulnerable? What are those? And what does your research tell you about how people can really be more powerful by being vulnerable?

Jacob Morgan – The first misconception is the fear that vulnerability will be used against you. While it’s true that it may happen occasionally, research on trust games suggests that people are more trustworthy than often perceived. On average, the likelihood of trusting someone is around 50%, but in reality, others can be trusted about 80% of the time. Vulnerability will be used against you at some point, but not as frequently as you might think. It’s a part of life, similar to facing rejection when asking for a promotion, a date, or more money. These occasional setbacks shouldn’t deter you from being vulnerable.

The second misconception, revealed through surveying 14,000 employees, is the fear of being perceived as weak or incompetent when showing vulnerability at work. The solution lies within this concern. To prevent this perception, it’s crucial to combine vulnerability with leadership. It’s not just about saying you made a mistake; it’s about demonstrating what you’ve learned. It’s not merely asking for help; it’s outlining how you’ll address the issue independently in the future. Leadership, coupled with vulnerability, is the key. By showcasing competence alongside vulnerability, you bridge the gap and show a commitment to improvement, dispelling the notion of incompetence.

Gatik Chaujer :
Absolutely, Jacob. Your point about not letting the fear of vulnerability hold you back resonates. In today’s transactional world, there’s a crucial need for leaders to shift toward more authentic relationships. Storytelling becomes a key tool for building these genuine connections.

I love your parallel with “failing fast” in tech organizations. Why aren’t we applying this concept to relationships? Starting with transparency and vulnerability can help identify what’s working and what’s not quickly. How do you see vulnerability, transparency, and “failing fast” intersecting in building effective relationships?

Jacob Morgan :
Absolutely, Jacob. “Failing fast” is not just about the failure itself but also about the crucial step of learning from it. Simply failing fast might not be beneficial unless you take stock of what you’ve learned. In stories from CEOs, I’ve heard instances where vulnerability was used against them. The key is the choice they made afterward—they could have chosen to never be vulnerable again, or they took a step back to reflect on what they learned about themselves, the situation, and the other person. It’s about moving forward with the valuable lessons gained and applying them to future interactions and relationships.

Gatik Chaujer : Absolutely, Jacob. It’s not just about being vulnerable; it’s about embracing vulnerable leadership. The essence lies not just in failing fast but in failing fast and then taking actionable steps based on what you’ve learned. That integration of vulnerability and leadership is powerful.

Now, Jacob, given your extensive experience interviewing and coaching numerous CEOs and leaders, do you observe a common pattern among successful leaders who effectively use storytelling? Have you found that those who excel at being powerful leaders often leverage storytelling as a tool to connect, be vulnerable, and demonstrate leadership?

Jacob Morgan : Absolutely. Speaking inherently involves storytelling. Every time you share something about yourself or express vulnerability, it’s embedded in a narrative. Mastering the skill of storytelling is crucial for controlling the narrative of your story. Many leaders I’ve interviewed emphasize the importance of storytelling in connecting with others and framing discussions effectively. It’s impossible to navigate leadership, especially with vulnerability, without the art of storytelling—how you express things and structure your narratives is integral to leading with vulnerability.

Gatik Chaujer:
Absolutely, Jacob. It’s fascinating to hear about your insights, especially with your wealth of experience in coaching and interviewing various CEOs. I appreciate the connection you’ve drawn between leadership and storytelling—it’s indeed integral to navigate vulnerability in leadership effectively.
On another note, your upcoming book, “Leading with Vulnerability,” sounds compelling, and I’m sure our viewers will be interested. We’ll share the link for preordering in the comments. Also, your earlier work on employee experience, as seen in “Employee Experience Advantage,” speaks to a crucial aspect of organizational success. The recent Gallup survey underlines the hefty cost of employee disengagement.

Given this, how do you see leading with vulnerability impacting employee engagement and motivation within organizations? If you have any stories or examples from your experiences working with companies or clients that illustrate this shift, it would be fantastic to hear about them.

Jacob Morgan:
Absolutely, leading with vulnerability significantly impacts employee engagement. It creates connection, builds trust, and allows employees to bring their whole selves to work. Julie Golden, the executive chairman of CGI, noted increased engagement anecdotally through their focus on vulnerability. Leading with vulnerability is a key factor in fostering a human-centric workplace, contributing to a positive employee experience and engagement.

Gatik Chaujer :Both stories of success and stories of failure have their place in leadership. Sharing stories of success can inspire and motivate, while stories of failure add authenticity and relatability. However, the key is not just in telling the story but in providing the steps taken and lessons learned. The combination of vulnerability, storytelling, and leadership is crucial for creating a meaningful impact on employees and fostering a positive workplace culture. As long as you’re not just talking about failure, you’re talking about the steps after? What do you think about stories of success versus stories of failure? From a leader perspective?

Jacob Morgan :
Absolutely, you need both. Having only stories of failure might raise questions about competence, while solely focusing on success may come across as arrogant. Balancing stories of failure and success is essential. Both offer valuable lessons, and everyone has experienced both sides. It’s crucial to acknowledge and share both aspects of your journey for a more authentic and relatable leadership approach.

Gatik Chaujer:
Absolutely, finding that balance is crucial. It’s natural to want to highlight successes, but authentic leadership involves sharing the whole picture, including failures and the valuable lessons learned. It’s in that balance that leaders can truly connect with their teams and build trust. So for leaders watching this, what would be your top three messages, top three tips? What would those three things be that you’d like to share with them?

Jacob Morgan:
Absolutely,Practice the Vulnerable Leader Equation: In everything I do, I aim to integrate both vulnerability and leadership when appropriate. In any situation with vulnerability, I ask myself, “Where can I also sprinkle in leadership?”

Vulnerability Mountain Framework: I follow the concept of the Vulnerability Mountain. I identify the scariest thing I could do (the top) and something I can do easily today (the base). I take steps each day, week, and month to climb from base camp to the peak, gradually improving and experimenting.

Use the Vulnerability Wheel: I created a tool called the Vulnerability Wheel. At its center is intention. I make sure not to share or do anything without a clear purpose. It prevents turning engagements into therapy sessions, which isn’t suitable for a workplace setting. I always ask myself, “Why am I doing this? Why am I sharing this?”

These are foundational practices I recommend starting with.

Gatik Chaujer : I also know that some of our viewers are from the HR or learning and development community, Jacob, in organisations, they had manage HR learning and development. I know a lot of our viewers are from that, from that space. And for those of them watching this, who are keen and who get it, they want to create a culture of vulnerable leadership, they want to create a culture of sharing, they want to create a culture of authenticity. But they may be trying to figure out what’s the best way to go about doing it. Any advice, any tips for HR and learning leaders on how they can start building a culture of vulnerability within the organization?

Jacob Morgan : Absolutely, you lead by example. It starts with you, right? I mean, you can’t tell other people to do it, you have to lead by example. If you do it, other people will do it as well. So if I were an HR leader, I would probably start practising it myself, I would start having conversations with other leaders inside the team in the organisation about what leading with vulnerability means and how to practice it and implement it, I would start teaching it to other people, at the very least introduce the language to your team in your organisation so that they’re familiar with what it is. But by far, the best piece of advice is, if you want other people to emulate the behaviour, you gotta start doing the behaviour yourself.

Gatik Chaujer : We’ve got a few questions coming up there, Jacob, what can we do to get sharper on our storytelling with vulnerability skills because she says there’s a thin line between storytelling and oversharing. So how can we kind of sharpen that? What can we do?

Jacob Morgan : Yeah, I mean, you can definitely overshare. And we all know people who overshare at work and in our personal lives. And the reason why those people overshare is because they forget to focus on the intention. Usually, when people know why they’re sharing or doing something, they tend to be very clear about what it is that they’re sharing, and why it is that they’re sharing it. And oftentimes, when you are engaging and interacting with somebody who’s just talking nonstop, and they’re just sharing everything and talking about anything, that’s somebody who has no idea why they’re doing it to begin with, they’re just doing it. And so the simplest answer to that question is take a step back and say, what is it that I want to share? And why is it that I want to share it? Once you answer those two things, then you’ll find that whatever comes out of your mouth after that, or whatever you do after that is going to be much more clear, much more defined, much more targeted, and it’s going to create a little bit of a self-censor, so that you don’t just, you know, start blabbing about everything in anything.

Gatik Chaujer:
Another Question is – what are the impairment impediments to being vulnerable and taking action? And is there an example that you could share?

Jacob Morgan – The biggest impediment to being vulnerable is often yourself. Fear of how others perceive you, particularly as weak or incompetent, can hold you back. Overcoming this involves adding leadership to your vulnerability and fostering motivation. Motivation is crucial for translating words into actions, ensuring you actively learn, grow, and improve. So, the primary obstacle is internal, and cultivating motivation is key.

Gatik Chaujer :Thank you so much for making time to come in on The Leaders’ Cafe.
We will be out with the details of the next Leaders Cafe’ shortly. And thank you very much until we meet again, have fun and happy vulnerability. Happy storytelling


Leader and manager effectiveness is the most frequent top priority (60% of respondents) among HR leaders for 2023, according to a survey by Gartner, Inc.

As we stand on the threshold of a post-pandemic world, the dynamics of leadership and management have evolved, demanding a new set of skills, perspectives, and approaches. For the August edition of The Leaders’ Cafe, our monthly series discussing the latest trends driving the workplace, we welcomed Priyanka Anand, Vice President & Head, Human Resources – South East Asia, Oceania & India at Ericsson. Priyanka shared insights on how organisations need to think differently about developing managers to boost manager effectiveness


In the discussion about developing new-age managers and leaders,  Priyanka emphasized the following key points

Leadership is Foundational: Leadership development is a core element of Ericsson’s success. Strong leaders are crucial for any organization to thrive, and they invest heavily in nurturing leadership alongside other aspects of the business.

Growth Mindset and Win-Win Narrative: Ericsson fosters a growth mindset among its leaders, encouraging them to view challenges as opportunities. They emphasize a “Win-Win” narrative to set clear expectations for employees and leaders alike, creating a sense of partnership.

Emphasis on Behaviors: Ericsson focuses on empowering its leaders with key behaviors like empathy, open communication, collaboration, and recognizing collective success. These behaviors are instrumental in shaping the organization’s culture.

Continuous Learning: Leadership development is viewed as an evolving process. Ericsson recognizes the need to adapt continuously to changing industry dynamics, geopolitical shifts, and global events. Leaders are encouraged to engage in continuous learning to stay updated and connected with their teams.

People-Centric Approach: Ericsson places trust in its employees and emphasizes creating “moments that matter.” Leaders are seen as coaches who engage in meaningful conversations, fostering a sense of belonging and psychological safety among employees.

Zero-Tolerance for Zero Learning: Ericsson has a zero-tolerance policy for zero learning, making continuous learning a non-negotiable part of the company culture. They empower employees to take charge of their learning journeys.

Hiring for Potential: Ericsson hires based on potential, not just proven competence. They are committed to growing careers and offer opportunities like shadowing, job rotations, and international roles.

Development of Homegrown Talent: A significant portion of Ericsson’s leaders are homegrown, reflecting their commitment to nurturing talent from within the organization.

Flexibility in Learning Styles: Ericsson acknowledges the diverse generational mix in the workforce and provides multiple learning options to cater to various preferences. Learning cohorts with multi-generational members encourage learning from each other.

Foundational Skills for First-Line Leaders: First-time leaders should prioritize qualities such as humility, clarity, courage, open communication, and a commitment to continuous learning.


Gatik – What’s your view around development of managers and leaders and getting them future ready in Ericsson’s language?

Priyanka – As I mentioned, I’m thrilled to be here and share my thoughts. I firmly believe in the two-way learning nature of these forums. I learn a lot from our audience’s questions and value open dialogue.

In response to your question, early in my career, a mentor emphasized the critical role of leadership in any organization. He stressed that even with the best strategy and technology, without strong leaders, failure is inevitable. Conversely, when facing challenges, strong leaders can lead to success.

For me, leadership development is foundational. It’s key to Ericsson’s success and any organization’s success. We prioritize investing in our leaders alongside technology and other aspects of the business.

Throughout our long history, we’ve faced tough times. In 2017, we were in a challenging situation, but our people and leaders believed we could overcome it, and we did. This experience shaped my leadership journey.

Leadership development is our secret sauce. We invest in our leaders with development programs, interventions, and learning opportunities. What sets us apart is our commitment to nurturing future leaders, creating a strong leadership pipeline.

Gatik – Absolutely, Priyanka. Your journey from the challenges of 2017 to Ericsson’s current leadership position is truly remarkable. It’s inspiring to see such a rapid transformation.

Now, I believe our audience is also feeling connected and inspired by this journey. It’s a classic example of a burning platform experience where you went from severe financial and technological challenges to being at the forefront of your industry in a relatively short time, just three to four years.

So, the burning question for many, including myself, is: How did you do it? What are the key ingredients? Can you distill it down to the core principles and philosophies of leadership and manager development at Ericsson that contributed to this success?

What are some core principles or philosophies around some specific core principles and philosophies around Manager Development or New Age leader development that have really helped you in this journey?

Priyanka- Certainly, Ericsson’s journey has been marked by our commitment to a unique culture built on a strong sense of purpose: making the unimaginable possible through connectivity. This culture, guided by core principles and philosophies, has been instrumental in our success.

First, we emphasize fostering a growth mindset. In our ever-changing industry, challenges and opportunities constantly arise. We encourage our leaders to view every situation as an opportunity and invest heavily in nurturing this mindset.

Second, we’ve crafted a Win-Win narrative. It’s crucial to articulate what we expect from our employees and leaders and what they can expect from us. We’ve committed to being there for our people in every significant moment, with curated conversations, flexibility, and empowerment. This approach makes every leader feel like a CEO running their own business.

Additionally, we’ve invested in our 10,000-plus leaders, equipping them with the behaviors we value most.

Empathy, compassion, encouraging open communication, promoting collaboration, and recognizing collective success are among these behaviors. Our leaders understand that in our organization, collective success is highly valued.

In summary, our core principles and philosophies are communicated clearly to our leaders, and they have a significant impact on our culture and where we are today.

Gatik – Absolutely, and it’s evident, Priyanka, that your passion shines through in your insights. You’ve highlighted the importance of constant investments in leadership, and it’s clear that leaders are at the forefront of your organization. You mentioned behaviors like growth, empathy, and speaking up, which are crucial in your HR journey. Ericsson has been a pioneer in this area, even before it became a widespread practice.

As we continue our conversation, I’d love for you to share insights and tips for our community, especially fellow HR professionals who may be on their own journey of building manager competencies. But before we delve into that, could you elaborate a bit more on the importance of behaviors like growth and empathy? These were not as commonly discussed a few years ago, and there’s been a significant shift in organizations prioritizing these values.

So what are the focus areas are the competencies or behaviors that Ericsson is focusing on for its new age managers now? versus three years, four years back? And how is there a difference in how you’re getting people?

Priyanka – Certainly, it’s quite a thought-provoking question. It forces me to reflect on our long journey at Ericsson, where building leaders has been our primary focus. We view leadership development as an evolutionary approach, recognizing that our leaders and development techniques must evolve continuously. This adaptability is essential in today’s world, where change is the only constant.

We’ve witnessed rapid transformations in our industry and the world, such as geopolitical shifts, technological advancements, and the COVID pandemic. To navigate these changes effectively, we rely on our leaders to guide their teams. Investing in them has been the key to our seamless transition from challenging phases to thriving ones.

“At the heart of our approach is the belief that people are our greatest asset.”

This belief has been integral to Ericsson’s culture, resulting in employees who stay with us for years, even decades. We prioritize creating moments that matter, demonstrating empathy and a deep sense of humanity.

Our leaders play a crucial role in this. They’re not just managers but coaches who engage in meaningful conversations with our people. They create an environment where employees feel psychologically safe and are encouraged to speak up. This approach fosters innovation, growth, and unprecedented career journeys.

We’ve shifted our focus towards power skills and continuous learning, embedding them in our organizational DNA. Leaders are encouraged to engage in continuous learning to stay updated and ensure real-time interactions with their teams.

However, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Transitioning to a hybrid work environment presented challenges. We had to build trust, foster teaming, and maintain a sense of belonging in a virtual setting. It was an iterative process that required significant investments in leader support and development.

Gatik – I know our community consists of a lot of business leaders, a lot of HR leaders, a lot of learning leaders in various organizations, big mid size small and like I said, So what would be your top recommendations to the folks watching this video wanting to strengthen their leader Manager Development future proofing the leaders, what would be your top two three suggestions, advice or best practices ready that you could share?

Priyanka – Certainly, I can share some key practices we value at Ericsson when it comes to learning and employee development.

“First and foremost, we have a zero-tolerance policy for zero learning. This means we emphasize continuous learning and make it a non-negotiable aspect of our culture. It’s not just about providing learning opportunities; it’s about every employee taking charge of their own learning journey. We firmly believe that every employee is the CEO of their career, and their leader is their mentor, guiding them on this journey. We provide various learning resources, tools, and technology, but the responsibility lies with the individual to decide what, where, and how they want to learn. This approach empowers employees to be proactive about their development.”

Secondly, we focus on growing careers for potential, not just proven competence. We consider every employee as talent and are committed to investing in their growth. This means offering opportunities like shadowing, job rotations, and international roles to help them achieve their career aspirations. We encourage employees to envision and plan their career paths, and we provide the support and resources they need to make it happen.

Lastly, our organization is deeply committed to developing our own talent. Approximately 60% of our leaders are homegrown, which reflects our dedication to nurturing and promoting talent from within. We invest in our people, helping them transition to new roles, whether horizontally or vertically, and succeed in different territories. This commitment to our employees’ growth is a cornerstone of our culture.

In summary, our key practices revolve around continuous learning, employee empowerment, and a strong commitment to growing and developing our talent from within.

Gatik – So the first one I’m going to pick up is this question – According to you, what’s the first step in this direction for upcoming organisations? And the question is, what is the first step in this direction of investing in future leaders or succession planning?

Priyanka – Absolutely, here are the key takeaways:

Trust and Acceptance: Building trust and gaining acceptance from employees is crucial for successful succession planning. Employees need to see real positive outcomes resulting from this commitment.

Open Talent Market: Embracing an open talent market approach where every position is advertised and visible to all employees promotes transparency and equal opportunity. Anyone can apply for open positions, ensuring a fair selection process.

Comprehensive Succession Planning: Implementing a thorough succession planning process is essential. This includes short-term, medium-term, and long-term plans for critical positions. Identifying skill gaps and proactively investing in individuals to prepare them for future roles is a key component.

Hiring for Potential: Encouraging leaders to hire based on potential rather than just proven competence is essential. Developing and grooming employees for more complex roles should be incentivized to foster a culture of growth and development within the organization.

Gatik – Absolutely, Priyanka, I completely resonate with your insights, especially regarding the importance of leadership buy-in. For smaller or midsize organizations looking to implement effective succession planning, it’s vital to focus on gaining the support and buy-in from their leadership teams. This could involve showcasing the value of succession planning through case studies and real-world examples. Additionally, reaching out to experienced leaders like Priyanka and seeking guidance from their network can provide valuable insights and direction. Building a strong case for succession planning and demonstrating its benefits can pave the way for successful implementation in organizations of all sizes.

Another question ‘d be curious to know how Ericsson manages intergenerational teams, right, where the learning styles may vary generationally for Gen X, millennials and Gen Z. What have your experience internally been around this? How has Manager Development changed across different intergenerational groups, is there a difference in the way you look at leader manager development?

Priyanka – Absolutely, and this is a significant consideration given the diverse generational mix in today’s workforce. At Ericsson, we’ve embraced this diversity and recognized that people have various learning preferences and styles. Our approach has always been evolutionary, ensuring that we don’t leave anyone behind.

“Flexibility is crucial. We provide multiple learning options to cater to different preferences, whether it’s classroom-style, flexible, or modular learning. We believe that learning should resonate with an individual’s personal style; otherwise, it won’t be effective.”

Additionally, we encourage learning cohorts that include members from different generations. This allows individuals to learn from each other, bridging the gap between legacy and new technologies. Learning together fosters collaboration and camaraderie, creating a more rewarding experience than a one-size-fits-all approach. In summary, flexibility in learning styles is our key mantra to accommodate the diverse needs of our multi-generational workforce.

Gatik – What foundational skills should a first time manager prioritise while developing to ensure Successful start in the leadership role. What foundational skills – maybe top three top five should be prioritized to help a first time manager be successful in starting their road.

Priyanka – Absolutely, let me condense it:

For first-line leaders, embracing essential qualities is vital. At Ericsson, we highlight humility, clarity, and courage.

Humility: First-line leaders must be open to ideas, feedback, and continuous learning. A growth mindset is essential.

Understanding Expectations: Leaders need a clear understanding of the organization’s principles, behaviors, and culture.

Courage: Leaders should have the courage to be open, transparent, and engage in clear dialogues with their teams. Building relationships is crucial.

Open Communication: Effective, open, and transparent communication is foundational. It strengthens relationships and drives successful team outcomes.

Never Stop Learning: Leadership doesn’t mean stopping learning. It’s crucial to embrace continuous learning as a lifelong process for personal growth and leadership success.

These qualities are foundational for first-line leaders.

Gatik – I’m sure the community has taken away a lot. And thanks, Priyanka, for making time, I know you’re super busy driving all these amazing things at Ericsson. But thank you so much for making time to contribute and create value for the community.

Priyanka – I think I just feel it’s been a truly reflective experience for myself. So thank you so much for giving me this opportunity. Appreciate it.


Women remain under-represented in all key decision-making roles across almost all industries in the Australian workforce. Within this, culturally diverse women have an abysmal representation, out of the 46% of board directors across sectors in Australia, only 5.7% of them are culturally diverse women. In our Australian edition of the Leaders Cafe Live series, we had a guest speaker who defied all odds as a young immigrant and rose to become a leader in the traditionally male-dominated banking industry,  Ana Marinkovic, Executive General Manager, Small Business Bank at NAB.  Ana shared her invaluable insights and experiences, focusing on two pivotal topics:

Strategies for women immigrants looking at building their careers in Corporate Australia; key challenges and how to overcome them and How can organisations focus and enable the journey of women leaders (with a focus on culturally and racially diverse women leaders); tried and tested tips to foster inclusion and true belonging.


Here are the key highlights from the conversation:

  • From day 1, I was an outsider. Being different and coming from a unique background when I entered the Australian corporate world, specifically in a banking graduate program 20 years ago, I believed in demonstrating my worth through results and the impact I could make on my work’s quality. I embraced hard work, often putting in extra effort without additional identity burdens, which opened up opportunities that others might have missed.

  •  I’ve mastered the art of not belonging, and it’s become my mantra. I firmly believe that diversity, including diverse experiences, thinking, cultural perspectives, socioeconomic backgrounds, educational experiences, and technical expertise, is what fosters a successful, vibrant, and progressive culture.

  • Challenges in Corporate Australia: Discrimination against diverse professionals, especially those with non-standard accents, persists in Australia. This unconscious bias needs systemic change within organizations. There has been progress in diversity and inclusion in corporate Australia, but it’s not happening as quickly as it should.  Both men and women share the responsibility of promoting meritocracy and uplifting talented individuals, regardless of their background.

  • Balancing Work and Life: Ana believes in doing what suits your personal circumstances and family without apology, focusing on quality interactions with loved ones.

  • Reading Recommendation: Ana enjoys biographies, and she recommends reading Otto von Bismarck’s biography for insights into influential historical figures.
  • Role Model: Ana’s role model has always been her grandmother, who emphasized independence and education.

  • One Word to Describe Ana: Strict (according to her kids), in need of more holidays (according to her husband), and a transformational leader (according to colleagues).

  • Ana’s Mantra: “Master The Art Of Not Belonging.”

  • Diversity and Different Perspectives: Ana emphasizes the importance of diversity in experiences, thinking, cultural perspectives, socioeconomic backgrounds, educational experiences, and technical expertise for a successful and vibrant culture.

  • Handling Comments About Quotas: Ana doesn’t support quotas but believes in hiring based on meritocracy. She advises focusing on your track record, confidence, and the ability to communicate your abilities convincingly.

  • Changing from Mentorship to Sponsorship: To shift from mentorship to sponsorship, show that you’re gaining value, putting effort into self-improvement, and embracing feedback for continuous growth. Authenticity, selflessness, and shared values are key.


Sandra – Welcome everyone. After successfully running the leaders cafe in India, we are excited to inaugurate The Leaders’ Cafe in Australia today. In our Leaders’ Cafe Live series we were credibly excited to welcome a guest speaker who came to Australia as a young refugee and broke several shackles to emerge as a leader in the typically male dominated banking industry. We are speaking with Ana Marinkovic, Executive General Manager small business bank at NAB. Can you share some of the highlights that brought you the way you are today?

Ana – Sandra, my experience may not be unique, as I’ve met many who left their countries for various reasons. My childhood was idyllic until it suddenly turned into chaos. I left home at 12 and reunited with my parents much later. This journey taught me that life’s titles, possessions, and social standing are transient, but resilience, impactful choices, and helping others endure.

It’s also taught me the value of authenticity, both in personal and corporate life. Authenticity is the foundation of trust and loyalty. So, my journey over the past few decades has been filled with invaluable lessons.

Sandra  – One thing that resonated a lot with me, it was initially a little bit of a shock, but that resonated with me is the line that you say it’s okay not to belong. And, you know, we talk a lot especially in organizations about belonging as the foundation of actually being true, inclusive and getting people to feel safe to speak. And here, I’m listening to you as a woman leader who travels the mile and said, You know what, it’s not okay to belong.Would you like to share a little bit more about what you mean by that?

Ana  – I’ve had various reactions to my differences. I’ve mastered the art of not belonging and fully accept it. I understand that my unique experiences, accent, and perspective won’t change. These aspects define my identity more than my CV does.

“In boardrooms, I’ve faced comments about my fashion, assertiveness, honesty, and even suggestions to change my name, soften my accent, or develop a taste for wine. But these are just labels. Over time, I’ve learned to focus on feedback about my work, strategy, leadership, and not let the noise affect me. It’s become a survival tactic that’s served me well.”

Sandra  –  Sometimes, I’m reminded of the many stories that play in our heads when we’re talking to clients and coaches. We often compare ourselves to others or try to fit in or emulate someone else. I often think of horse races, where the fastest horses wear blinders. It’s liberating to focus on our goals and not get caught up in the chatter of belonging.

But there’s also the reality of being a woman from a multicultural background. I’ve faced challenges from questions about my name not matching my appearance to comments on my accent. There were times when I was the only multicultural woman in a leadership forum, and some suggested hiring people who looked different to represent stakeholders. Despite these challenges, I’ve continued to stand up for what I believe in and push forward.

There are also articles like HRD recently talking about discrimination based on accidents, where career opportunities are mixed, missed by equally qualified candidates with non standard accents and even more pronounced for women. Another article in a financial review that talks about how job seekers in Australia with ethnic names are 57% less likely to be considered for leadership roles. What do you feel even if it’s unconscious based, it needs to be systemic discrimination by organizations against diverse professionals? What are your thoughts?

Ana – In the Australian corporate landscape, upper management and board levels often lack diversity, reflecting a reality we face. Moreover, in my role overseeing millions of small businesses, I encounter expectations about a certain executive prototype. Being an ethnic banker in a predominantly male, monolithic industry presents unique challenges, not only in the workplace but also with customers.

Unconscious bias is pervasive. For instance, a customer assumed I had conflicted feelings about Ukraine due to my appearance and accent, highlighting how perceptions can lead to misconceptions. Another customer asked to change my sender name in a newsletter, citing stereotypes. These biases are deeply ingrained.

Addressing this issue requires collective effort, ongoing attention, and a focus on diversity in positions of power to drive change effectively.

Sandra – What’s the situation right now in corporate Australia in making inclusion real?

“Ana On Making Inclusion Real  – There have been positive strides toward inclusion and diversity, and I see it extending beyond just the male-female binary. There’s significant progress, with organizations realizing that diversity isn’t a mere preference; it’s a necessity. This shift is driven by social responsibility and the need to better connect with our customer base for improved commercial outcomes.

However, progress isn’t happening as swiftly as it should, especially in a multicultural country like Australia. Some agenda items may take precedence, which affects the pace of progress.”

Sandra  – I often also see when you’re talking about this case, as women being champions of diversity, equity inclusion, they’re either the leaders talking to running these forums, where do you see male allyship coming to this picture What would you recommend, say your senior male colleagues to do in organizations to support more inclusivity?

Ana  – I believe in consciously looking beyond gender, cultural heritage, or skin color when evaluating individuals. It’s everyone’s responsibility to promote meritocracy and uplift talented, hardworking people, regardless of their background. Both men and women share the responsibility in this regard.

In my own career, I’ve received substantial support, advice, mentorship, and sponsorship from some male colleagues and leaders. Women supporting women is an important aspect of this agenda. While we often discuss men supporting women, it’s equally vital for women to view each other as allies rather than competitors and work together to advance this cause.

Sandra – In the last few years, I’ve seen the shift happen on women supporting women, or at least the shift disrupting, and I’m pretty happy looking at that shift. What else can we do to support each other?  Besides you mentoring, coaching, what else can we do to together rise in this situation?

“Ana On Women Supporting Women – I recently came across a perspective that strongly resonated with me: “Women are over-mentored and under-promoted.” It makes sense when you objectively assess the situation. The real challenge isn’t finding a mentor; it’s demonstrating to the system that you’re ready for more significant responsibilities and promotions.”

While having a mentor and a sounding board is crucial, mentoring alone won’t determine your career path. It’s vital to focus on building critical experiences that pave the way for advancement.

Sandra– So if you want to reflect back and all the mentorship opportunities that you feel grateful for, what could you? What did you do at that time to get those mentors for yourself?

Ana –  Being different and coming from a unique background when I entered the Australian corporate world, specifically in a banking graduate program 20 years ago, I believed in demonstrating my worth through results and the impact I could make on my work’s quality. I embraced hard work, often putting in extra effort without additional identity burdens, which opened up opportunities that others might have missed.My dedication and results gave me access to a diverse network. I was confident in seeking help and had an insatiable thirst for learning and improvement.

“Actions often speak louder than words. My “luck” was a product of genuine efforts to make a difference and continually improve. People notice and want to help when they see your commitment to their success. It’s about earning the right to ask for help and advice when needed by consistently contributing and demonstrating your dedication.”

Sandra – The first step in seeking mentorship and support is foundational. It’s been a personal challenge for me, particularly when I made a mid-career transition to Australia. I arrived here after having a successful career in India, coaching clients and organizations that were on my wish list. I reached a point where I didn’t need feedback, as I had people working with me.However, in Australia, I became a newcomer and had to start over in my middle age. I realized it wasn’t about completely changing who I was; it was about redesigning myself. I had to step out of my comfort zone, seek feedback, and adapt to a new coaching approach. In my previous life, I never asked for mentorship, but in my new life, I had to break out of that pattern. Nobody comes to you; you have to actively seek support. Fortunately, many people are willing to help when you take that first step of asking, even though it can be challenging.

To seek mentorship, you have to place yourself in those situations and actively ask for support. However, there are internal obstacles we often encounter, like the Cinderella complex. Some of us might think, “I’ll just do good work, someone will notice me, and I’ll get my seat at the table,” which isn’t necessarily true. What are your thoughts on this Cinderella complex that some people may have?

Ana – I find it a bit challenging to relate to the Cinderella complex because I’ve always been an outsider from day one. When you carry that label, your focus shifts to fitting in, making an impact, and finding your place in the world. You don’t dwell on whether you deserve your job at a technical level.

The risk with Cinderella complexes or impostor syndrome, as some call it, is self-sabotage. It’s crucial to approach every situation rationally. If you’ve already faced disadvantages in life, avoid adding to them with self-doubt. That’s my advice.

Sandra – A brilliant point indeed. Firstly, avoid putting yourself in that cage because once you’re in, only you can let yourself out. Most of my work revolves around empowering women leaders who excel in organizations. Many face the double bind dilemma – being seen as either too soft or too aggressive. Women often receive feedback about toning down their assertiveness, a critique rarely given to male leaders.

As someone assertive and vocal, have you encountered feedback about being too assertive or aggressive? How would you advise handling this double bind dilemma?

Ana – It’s crucial to be conscious of how you present yourself and your style. However, trying to strike a perfect balance between assertiveness and not being too aggressive can be a losing battle. I’ve received feedback about speaking too little and too much, and it’s challenging to please everyone.

“On Double-Bind Dillema : My approach is not about being liked by everyone, but about being respected, leading with integrity, and staying true to my values. It’s about authentic leadership and being able to look in the mirror at the end of the day, liking the person I see. I ask myself, who do I need to thank, and who do I need to apologize to after the day I’ve had”

Sandra – I want to come back to the topic balancing work life. Are there any strategies, any insights tips you have for us?

“Ana – I’ve never believed in work-life balance. Instead, I believe in doing what suits your personal circumstances and family without apology. I’ve always loved my career, which has been a central part of my life. It doesn’t mean I love my family any less; it just means we focus on quality interactions when we’re together. Balance, to me, is when you and your loved ones are happy with the life choices you’ve made and continue to make. That’s the only balance I strive for.”

Sandra – How does one communicate that balance with work as well?

Ana – It’s crucial to aim for a job that doesn’t bring negative feelings about Sundays or Mondays. In Australia, where unemployment is low, we often have the power to choose our work environment and leaders. It’s about working in a space that motivates rather than demotivates you. The responsibility for these choices lies with the individual.

I wouldn’t work in an environment that doesn’t allow me to be authentic, and if an organization’s values don’t align with your own, focus on what you can control and lead by example to make positive changes. However, if there’s a fundamental conflict, it might be time to consider a different organization.

Sandra – what would you recommend as a good book for us to read?

Ana – I’m a fan of biographies because they reveal that even those who have achieved extraordinary success in their professional or personal lives faced steep and challenging journeys. I’ve read many biographies, but one that stands out is Otto von Bismarck’s. He unified the Prussian states into modern Germany, and his life story, tenacity, and handling of political complexity left a lasting impact on Europe, influencing the factors that led to the First and Second World Wars.

I enjoy exploring characters like Bismarck because they offer insights into the human condition, human context, and the choices people make, regardless of whether their stories are positive or negative.

Sandra – One woman role model that you will look up to.

Ana – I look, it’s always been my grandmother. Unfortunately, she’s no longer with us. But she’s the woman that taught me the importance of Independence and the importance of education.

Sandra – How would people describe you in one word?

Ana – The kids would say the strictest mum that they know. Husband would say you need to take more time off and go to Italy or Spain on holidays. And I think colleagues and my teams would say someone that’s a transformational leader. Someone that likes to challenge the status quo? 

Sandra – And what would Ana say?

Ana – I’m passionate about building highly engaged, effective teams that make a meaningful impact. I believe in the power of small actions that can greatly affect people’s lives. That’s why I’m dedicated to serving the small business customer segment, where the decisions my teams make daily have a significant impact on many families across Australia.

Sandra – What’s the mantra you live by?

Ana – Master the art of not belonging.

I want to take this opportunity to pick up some questions from the audience as well. Why do we need to confirm when we want people to bring diversity and different ways of thinking?

Ana – I’ve mastered the art of not belonging, and it’s become my mantra. I firmly believe that diversity, including diverse experiences, thinking, cultural perspectives, socioeconomic backgrounds, educational experiences, and technical expertise, is what fosters a successful, vibrant, and progressive culture. I don’t see homogeneity as the best path forward. It’s not just about what you believe but also ensuring your actions align with those beliefs. Who you hire, fire, promote, mentor, and sponsor should all contribute to building a diverse culture and giving people opportunities.

Sandra – As a woman, how do you tune out such noises which indicate you got there because a quota had to be filled? Or was it because of hard work involved in your promotion?

Ana – I’m not a big fan of quotas for this reason. I believe in hiring based on meritocracy. However, this requires creating a system that ensures women have equal opportunities to learn, develop, and advance as men do. It’s crucial to have a strong track record of excellent performance, confidence in your abilities, and the ability to communicate this convincingly. Your elevator pitch should be punchy and based on lived experience rather than a sense of needing to justify your presence.

Sandra – how do we change from mentorship to sponsorship in organizations?

 – The distinction between mentorship and sponsorship is crucial. Many have asked me to be their mentor but treated it as a transactional interaction, asking a few questions over coffee and not following up. To turn a mentor into a sponsor, show that you’re gaining value, putting effort into self-improvement, and embracing feedback for continuous growth. This creates a mutual interest in your success. Authenticity, selflessness, and shared values are key. If it doesn’t click with one person, keep searching until you find someone whose approach resonates with you.

Ana – Leaders are not born, leaders are made, and they’re made by their actions and the actions around them every single day.

Sandra – On that note, wishing all of you a wonderful journey in discovering your identity and creating that identity and then dancing with it. Thank you once again, and for spending that time and sharing completely authentically. 

Ana – Thank you so much Sandra for this opportunity. And if anyone has even taken a little bit of advice or help or helpful word or two, that’s been a success.


One of the top 20 reasons that startups fail is not having the right team.In the fast-paced and ever-evolving world of start-ups, the strength and effectiveness of a team can make all the difference between failure and triumph. We were joined by our special guest, Gaurav Agarwal, Co-Founder, Tata 1mg to discuss his experience and insights on how they focused on building capability of their team to meet challenges inherent in a start-up environment.


  • Gaurav Agarwal describes building 1mg as an incredibly gratifying journey, with the core purpose of building a team that embodies collective leadership values.

  • The “Be Your Own CEO” culture in the leadership team originated from values learned from past organizations, focusing on individual initiative, ownership, and accountability.

  • Challenges in implementing this culture included ensuring failure was seen as an opportunity for learning, providing autonomy and decision-making authority, and maintaining the culture as the company grew.

  • The value of “Done is better than perfect” emphasizes focusing on significant opportunities rather than chasing marginal ones.

  • Challenges in hiring top talent from diverse backgrounds can lead to issues with ownership, accountability, and team cohesion. Overcoming these challenges requires evaluating personal accomplishments during interviews, allowing leaders to understand the organization’s dynamics before making drastic changes, and ensuring the initial team aligns with the leader’s vision.

  • Building trust quickly in fast-paced organizations is important. Trust should be given from day one and can be broken if necessary, with a focus on success metrics and allowing autonomy within boundaries.

  • Coaching and training play a vital role in helping startup teams become high performers. Coaches provide a third-party perspective, valuable insights, and a toolkit for reflection.

  • High-performance teams exhibit strong initiative and ownership, trust, healthy conflicts, support, constant growth, and energy.

  • The measurement of a high-performance team includes trust, healthy conflict, commitment, accountability, and focus on results.Assessing these factors and tracking progress over time can show the tangible changes and impact of building a high-performing team.


Gatik Chaujer – Would love to get a sense of how the journey has been, like, specifically about building an effective team from the ground up? Let’s start with that.

Gaurav Agarwal – Building 1mg has been an incredibly gratifying journey. For me, the core purpose behind this startup was to build a team that embodies our collective leadership values. We strive to do the right thing every time, even if we stumble along the way. And when we make mistakes, we take responsibility and work to rectify them.

Our success and strong brand presence in the ecosystem are reflections of our leadership style and values. The journey has been both gratifying and challenging, filled with roadblocks and setbacks. But through it all, we have developed resilience and a steadfast belief in seeing things through.

Looking back to our early days, we were naive about how things worked and how to exercise effective leadership. But over the years, we have learned and grown. We have embraced concepts like radical candor and servant leadership, becoming practitioners of these principles.

It’s an ongoing struggle to build better organizations, constantly refining our approach. The journey has been full of lessons and learnings, shaping our own unique leadership style.

Gatik Chaujer – Tell us about the origins and implementation of the “Be Your Own CEO” culture within your startup’s leadership team. How do you embody this culture? Did you encounter any challenges along the way? Our viewers are eager to learn from your experiences and avoid common mistakes. Please share your insights.

Gaurav Agarwal – The “Be Your Own CEO” culture in our leadership team originated from the values we learned from past organizations that resonated with us. We realized the importance of individuals taking initiative and ownership to drive change. We wanted to create an organization where everyone feels empowered to make things happen and take accountability. However, implementing this culture came with its challenges. We had to ensure that failure was not punished but seen as an opportunity for learning and growth. We provided autonomy and decision-making authority to individuals, enabling them to make progress without unnecessary encumbrances. As the company grew, maintaining the “Be Your Own CEO” mindset became more complex, but we continued to emphasize self-conviction and humility when things didn’t work out. Another crucial aspect of our culture is valuing the team before individual contributions. We reward and recognize teams for their collective achievements, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and teamwork. We periodically reassess our values and consider incorporating additional sub-values to drive specific behaviors. For example, in our product team, we introduced the value of “quality of ideas and execution” to encourage effective ideation and swift execution.

Gatik Chaujer – Yeah, I saw that something called Done is better than perfect. Isn’t that one of your values?

Gaurav Agarwal – We have always been determined to turn our convictions into reality, even if it meant working through the night as a team. However, as we grew larger, we realized the importance of focusing on significant opportunities rather than chasing too many marginal ones. While smaller problems had a substantial impact when we were a smaller team, they may not have the same step function change in our trajectory as a larger organization. To address this, in the product team, I introduced the concept of “quality of ideas, quality of execution.” It involves assessing the value and impact of ideas before execution, without requiring approvals. The key question is whether the anticipated value was achieved through execution.

Gatik Chaujer – In building a high-performance team, startup organizations often face challenges related to hiring top talent from diverse backgrounds, resulting in a mix of individual rock stars. This diverse leadership pool can create issues with ownership, accountability, and maintaining team cohesion, often leading to situations of artificial harmony.

I’m curious to know if your organization has experienced similar challenges and how you overcame them. Could you share two or three specific tips on addressing these issues and fostering a successful team dynamic?

Gaurav Agarwal -When assembling a team of accomplished individuals, conflicts are inevitable. Hiring senior leaders comes with its challenges as they bring their own personalities and values into a new environment. I’ve learned two important lessons from our experiences. First, during interviews, it’s crucial to evaluate a leader’s personal accomplishments rather than relying solely on organizational support. Second, successful leaders avoid making immediate drastic changes and instead take the time to understand the organization’s dynamics and establish trust. Lastly, the initial team a leader works with greatly impacts their success within the first few months.

Our value of “Beyond CEO” sometimes works against us because we expect leaders to adapt quickly, but our company is no longer a small pool. It’s a challenging environment where experience navigating large organizations is crucial. Trust is vital, and our quality standards help us set the right boundaries without hindering progress. We provide feedback to keep everyone on track but allow autonomy to thrive.

Gatik Chaujer – In the startup world, there is often a conversation about trust among founders and leaders. Interestingly, while we embrace experimentation, agility, and failing fast in product development and workflow, we struggle to apply the same mindset to building relationships. Trust is seen as something that takes time, but in fast-paced organizations, we need to learn how to build trust quickly. One approach is to start with trust from day one and let it be broken if necessary. Some organizations are doing well in this regard, but it remains a challenge. What are your thoughts on this?

Gaurav Agarwal – In my early days at Zynga, I had a game producer named Blake McLaren who asked me if I gave people my trust or if they had to earn it. At that time, I arrogantly believed trust had to be earned. However, over the years, I’ve matured and now I give people my trust when they join our team. I’ve come to realize that there isn’t one right way of doing things, and trusting individuals allows the organization to evolve and discover new approaches. I now set success metrics aligned with our values and business goals, and as long as individuals meet those criteria, we don’t interfere unless they are way off track. This approach fosters better conversations and feedback, focusing on what truly matters. It took me time to learn this, but it’s an ongoing learning process for me.

Gatik Chaujer – I agree, it varies from person to person, and it’s not an easy task. However, in our coaching work with leadership teams, we emphasize that building a team of interesting individuals is a form of risk-taking. Leaders who excel at taking risks in business decisions can apply that strength to team development. Gaining an external perspective is crucial for raising awareness and facing challenges. We’ve observed that startup leadership teams dealing with issues like diversity, growth, trust, and uncertainty can become too immersed in the details. They often require an external view and a push in the right direction. That’s where coaching comes in. Coaching and training, whether internal or external, play a vital role in helping startup teams become high performers.

And from a learning standpoint, what role do you see off of leadership teams in a startup ecosystem to develop a high performance team? What role do you see coaching, training, playing in helping a startup team become a high performing team?

Gaurav Agarwal – I think it’s absolutely critical. I was exposed to coaching during my time at Zynga as a senior leader, where I had a personal coach assigned to me. Since then, I’ve recognized the importance of having a coach who can listen, empathize, and provide tools and techniques to tackle decision-making and strategies. Some may feel hesitant to seek coaching, fearing it implies a personal inadequacy, but I’ve found that a third-party perspective can effectively dissect problems and offer valuable insights. Coaches bring a wealth of diverse experiences and access to a toolkit, much like a math or physics teacher. Consistency is key, whether the coach is paid or free, mentor or friend, as it provides ongoing support and draws upon their experiences to guide discussions on organizational culture and values. At the beginning, we often prioritize business aspects over culture, but I believe getting the cultural elements right is crucial. In our case, being older founders allowed us to leverage our past experiences, and we fostered a culture of trust through open communication and transparency. Having someone who can objectively assess our actions and provide a toolkit for reflection has been incredibly valuable.

Gatik Chaujer – I encountered a situation where a high-performing team achieved remarkable results quarter after quarter. However, when we conducted a team assessment, their attention to results came out as red. This discrepancy surprised the founder, but it highlighted the need to focus on the team’s alignment with results, not just the outcomes they were achieving. This external perspective is vital.

Got an interesting question about your value – to be your own CEO. How does it work in a startup context versus being a more stable or scaled up organisation?

Gaurav Agarwal – Yeah, it’s a tough question, and I’ll be honest, it’s something we’re struggling with ourselves. But here’s my take on it: Being a CEO doesn’t fundamentally change, regardless of the size or stage of the organization. It’s about having a vision and rallying people around it. In a startup, individuals can have a direct impact and make significant changes. As the company grows, the CEO’s role shifts to influencing and convincing others to align with the vision. It’s about empowering individuals within the organization to take ownership and drive initiatives. So, while the scope of influence may change, the essence of being a CEO remains the same: leading with a clear vision and enabling others to become leaders in their own right.

Gatik Chaujer – Absolutely, I agree with you. Defining the elements of the founder’s mentality is crucial. It could include a bias for action, frontline obsession, or a focus on cash flow. Helping individuals understand and embody these aspects is key. Consensus is important, but it should align with the overall vision and purpose of the organization.

Gaurav Agarwal – You’re absolutely right. As a founder, I’ve come to realize that it’s not enough to just talk about customer obsession. I need to demonstrate it through my actions and prioritize it for my team. We often struggle to define what the founder’s mentality means and hesitate to give others the same latitude and empowerment we have. It’s important to clearly identify and define what we’re looking for from individuals and provide them with the same opportunities to embody the fundamentality we seek.

Gatik Chaujer – Maybe the last question that will take off is what is your measurement of a high performance team? How would you measure a high performance team?

Gaurav Agarwal – I’ll do my best to provide an off-the-cuff response, but it’s a challenging question. From my experience, high-performance teams exhibit strong initiative and ownership. Trust is a vital element, where team members can be candid, engage in healthy conflicts, and support one another without letting anyone fail. Additionally, these teams push each other to achieve their best, creating a sense of constant growth and energy. At one mg, we have teams that embody these qualities, and I often feel inspired and motivated by their achievements. We also encourage other teams to learn from them through internships. These values of setting high standards, fostering trust, and promoting initiative and ownership are essential in high-performance teams.

What is your measurement of a high-performing team? 

Gatik Chaujer -I’m glad that my thoughts resonated with you. When it comes to measuring the success of a high-performing team, I’ve learned that there are five key measures: trust, healthy conflict, commitment, accountability, and focus on results. By assessing these factors and tracking progress over time, we can see tangible changes and the impact of building a high-performing team. I appreciate the opportunity to share my insights, and I look forward to staying connected and discussing more about teams interning with each other.

Gaurav Agarwal – Thank you so much for having me. It was really a pleasure. Thank you so much for organizing this.


In this LinkedIn Live, one of India’s finest orators and storytellers, Roshan Abbas, Founder, Kommune India joined us as guest speaker. He spoke about leveraging storytelling for business impact. The session covered critical elements of storytelling & why it is important for businesses and techniques to incorporate storytelling into business strategies.


  • Storytelling is a powerful communication tool often underestimated in its relevance.
  • It can be used beyond entertainment, such as in business contexts for vision, strategy, and personal reputation.
  • Developing storytelling skills requires practice, analysis of structures, and studying effective storytellers.
  • Authenticity and connecting data to compelling stories make information relevant and impactful.
  • To start the storytelling journey, gather a team and seek guidance from professionals.
  • Utilize online resources and engage in daily writing exercises.
  • Storytelling can build connections, create a human context in presentations, and make information engaging.
  • Determining the ROI of storytelling involves attaching it to business metrics and measuring engagement and behavioral changes.
  • Recommended books on storytelling include “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” and “TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking.”


Gatik Chaujer – Let’s break down some common myths about storytelling in the workplace. As a trusted partner in helping leaders become better storytellers, we encounter these myths frequently. It’s important to shed light on these misconceptions and provide a fresh perspective. So, what are the big myths that need busting?

Roshan Abbas – Let’s debunk some common myths surrounding storytelling in business. One prevalent myth I often encounter is that storytelling is only for entertainment and lacks relevance. However, I believe that storytelling holds immense power to effectively communicate and add value across various contexts.

Another misconception I’ve come across is that storytelling is time-consuming and cannot be learned. In my experience, I have witnessed how storytelling skills can be honed and developed with practice and guidance.

Additionally, some people tend to associate storytelling solely with marketing and advertising, overlooking its broader business applications. But I firmly believe that storytelling goes beyond marketing and can be a powerful tool for conveying vision, strategy, organizational competence, and even personal reputation. It allows us to shape narratives, engage audiences, and guide the narrative towards our desired outcomes.

Gatik Chaujer – What’s your take, Roshan How much of storytelling is art versus science, and can it be learned? And for our viewers interested in becoming skilled storytellers or investing in storytelling for their organizations, what message do you have?

Roshan Abbas – Steve Jobs is often seen as a master presenter, but even he dedicated hours to practicing and perfecting his speeches. The same goes for anyone looking to become a skilled storyteller. Just like you spend weeks or months preparing a strategy or presentation, you need to invest time in honing your storytelling skills. There are principles and techniques to learn, such as creating a captivating hook, establishing a protagonist and an obstacle, and defining a goal. While there are various storytelling formats, mastering the art can be achieved through analyzing structures, studying effective storytellers, and understanding your audience.

Remember, storytelling is a skill that can be acquired, just as we learned stories as children without formal training. It’s about learning on the job, through experience and communication.

Gatik Chaujer – It’s important to change our mindset about storytelling, recognizing that it can be used for more than just entertainment. As you mentioned, even great storytellers like Steve Jobs put in extensive preparation and practice. Spontaneity is often the result of rehearsed practice. So, with a learner’s approach, one can acquire storytelling skills. I recall a workshop where a participant questioned the need to learn storytelling, highlighting that we all engage in storytelling naturally. However, there’s a distinction between pub storytelling (casual storytelling for entertainment) and business storytelling. Business storytelling requires planning, structure, key messages, dilemmas, and outcomes. By understanding the science and structure of business storytelling, one can excel in this skill.

Roshan Abbas – I often share personal stories in my daily communication and storytelling. In presentations, I start with a slide titled “Since we last met,” highlighting achievements like organizing the IPL opening ceremony across multiple cities in three weeks, working with Andre Agassi, and creating an anthem for a leading bank in India with Gulzar. These brief anecdotes effectively showcase our reputation, experience, expertise, and delivery.

Let me shift the focus from myself to well-known companies with different approaches. For instance, General Electric faced a relevancy challenge and responded by creating fictional podcasts like “The Message.” This podcast, discussing innovation and technology through storytelling, became hugely popular and sparked discussions.

Companies like Accenture, Deloitte, and EY have also embraced podcasting to share stories from leaders and experts, demonstrating their access to valuable information.

Popular brands like Amul engage in topical and immediate storytelling. Instead of just talking about butter, they relate their product to relevant and current events. By utilizing storytelling, they create a connection between their product and the audience, adding moments of delight to their mornings. Numerous examples exist, and I could continue sharing them for hours, but these are some notable ones.

Gatik Chaujer – Authenticity and making numbers meaningful through storytelling are two crucial aspects. I recall a video featuring Steve Jobs discussing how to position the iPod to his team. The marketing team emphasized its 10-gigabyte data capacity, but Jobs questioned its significance. He transformed the number’s meaning by saying, “You can listen to music on your way to the moon and back.” This example demonstrates that storytelling can infuse data with meaning. Despite the perception that storytelling and data are separate, they can actually complement each other seamlessly.

Roshan Abbas – A 10-gigabyte data capacity can be translated into simpler terms, such as storing 10,000 favorite songs, countless memories and pictures, and connecting with thousands of contacts. These examples highlight the soft value that the hard drive carries.

I constantly emphasize the value of preserving stories. Over my 30 years of storytelling, I’ve saved numerous anecdotes, quotes, and jokes on my phone. Meta tagging these stories is crucial. For instance, I have a collection of motivational tales and another for success stories. Creating a small group, whether in college or at work, where you meet regularly to exchange stories can be immensely rewarding. Initially, there might be hesitation, but if you commit and follow through, you’ll become the richest person with stories for every moment. After sharing a story, ask others to write down three key messages—a form of meta tagging that helps categorize and remember each story’s aspects. This practice is an investment that pays off for a lifetime.

Gatik Chaujer – Crafting stories is the real challenge in storytelling. You can only be as good a storyteller as the stories you possess. That’s why learning to craft stories is crucial. Create a story bank, just as Roshan suggested, and focus on meta tagging the key messages of each story. Real-life experiences are valuable in the business context, so it’s recommended to use them rather than relying solely on parables and fables. Everyone has had experiences, both successes and failures, that can be transformed into stories. These stories should be meta tagged, stored, and readily available for when you need them the most. Roshan’s use of meta tags on his phone’s notes is a fantastic example.

Roshan Abbas – Even now, with the advancements in technology, it’s easier to capture and share stories. For example, Apple’s screenshot feature and Kindle’s highlighting function are convenient tools. In Kindle, you can even see the most highlighted sections of a book, which have been identified by numerous readers. These simple hacks help in finding the best moments and stories to share.

When telling a story, it’s important to differentiate between rambling and effective storytelling. I often emphasize the concept of small “s” and big “S” stories. To understand this better, I recommend exploring the hero’s journey, outlined in Joseph Campbell’s book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” It provides a framework for epic storytelling found in various works like Mahabharata, Roman mythology, Lagaan, Superman, Matrix, Lion King, Baahubali, and more.

On the other hand, small storytelling involves a simple structure: start with a hook, introduce the protagonist, present the obstacle, and establish the goal. By understanding these elements, you can craft engaging stories. Visual cues, emotions, descriptions, and scenic settings can further enhance your storytelling.

Remember to be mindful of the message you want to convey. Avoid rambling and maintain focus on the story’s purpose. Practice the “right, lead, reduce, repeat” rule: write the initial draft honestly, then lead and reduce it to the essence of the story. This allows you to expand or condense the story as needed, based on the time available.

Gatik Chaujer – Picking up a question from the audience, when you’re using storytelling in the business context, in the work context, should you look at the end first, and then figure out the story, or vice versa?

Roshan Abbas – When crafting stories for specific occasions, it’s essential to determine the key message you want to convey. Filter your stories through this sieve, selecting the ones that serve your intended purpose. If you’re engaging in open storytelling, explore various stories and ideas. Writing three pages by hand every morning, as suggested in Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way,” can help clarify your thoughts and generate storytelling material. For continuous storytelling practice, create visual flashcards or a board where you organize and connect your stories based on themes like optimism or hope.

Remember, not all stories have to be personal; they can be a mix of personal and borrowed narratives as long as they are shared with honesty and authenticity. Avoid rambling and ensure your stories are grounded in truth to maintain their impact and credibility.

Gatik Chaujer – The last question I have for you Roshan is what advice would you give to either individuals or businesses who want to start using storytelling at the workplace? Where should they begin?

Roshan Abbas – To start my storytelling journey, I believe the perfect approach is to gather my team and invite an inspirational professional who can guide us.

Having someone knowledgeable in the art and craft of storytelling can leave us with actionable insights. There are plenty of online resources available, including free ones and leadership coaching programs.

Personally, I offer workshops, but finding a mentor or guide is also a great option. If resources are limited or I prefer a self-paced approach, I can search for the best stories in business and personal leadership online and read voraciously.

As Guy Kawasaki said, “Eat like a bird, poop like an elephant.” It means absorbing countless stories and reflecting on why they resonate with me. I need to find that sweet spot between thinking I’m uninteresting or overly fascinating and ask myself if my stories are worth sharing and if they leave a meaningful impact.

One exercise I recommend is writing three pages every morning, though even a paragraph or some notes can be a good start.

Our surroundings are brimming with stories, and even our profiles can become billboards for sharing snippets of our experiences. 

Gatik Chaujer – We have a question from the audience, what kind of situations can we use storytelling in?

Roshan Abbas
Thank you for the question. There are, there are multiple ways in which you could be using it.

  • Stories can be used as an introduction to build common ground and establish a human connection when meeting new people.
  • In presentations, stories are effective in creating a human context and making the audience relate to the topic being presented.
  • Stories help humanize facts and make them more engaging, especially when discussing initiatives that impact individuals or specific groups.

    Stories have a versatile application and can be utilized in various situations, depending on the desired outcome.

Gatik Chaujer – There’s also another question around storytelling – Where do we draw the line between getting creative and being realistic while writing. How do you kind of balance that in the workplace as a leader as a manager using a story?

Roshan Abbas – Authenticity is essential in storytelling, particularly in a business context where information can be verified. While adding emotional resonance through exaggeration is possible, it’s important to remain factual and stick to experiences that can be validated. Being truthful adds credibility and trustworthiness to your story. You can get creative with expression and setting, but it’s crucial to stay grounded in reality and avoid straying from the facts.

Gatik Chaujer – So here’s a question about measuring return on investment on storytelling in the workplace?

Roshan Abbas – Determining the ROI of storytelling depends on what you want to measure. Clearly defining your objectives is crucial. For sales teams, improved conversion rates and customer engagement can be indicators of success. In qualitative scenarios, such as training before a conference or speaking to staff, measuring audience engagement becomes more subjective. Surveys can help measure relevance, influence, or audience recall of stories. Another approach is to assess whether stories shared with the press resonated and were published. Trust between the trainer, learners, and the organization is essential. Consider conducting post-session surveys or evaluating the effectiveness of storytelling in achieving specific goals.

Gatik Chaujer – Determining the ROI of storytelling can be approached in three ways:

  • Attach storytelling to business metrics, such as sales conversion rates.
  • Measure engagement, such as increased viewer time during virtual events.
  • Conduct pre and post assessments to evaluate behavioral changes.

    Choose the most relevant metric based on your organization’s needs and where you are in your storytelling journey.

Gatik Chaujer – What are some recommendations for books to learn storytelling?

Roshan Abbas – Here are a few recommended books on storytelling:

Gatik Chaujer – Thank you very much. I hope when I meet you next I start my conversation with you by saying since we last met. Thank you so much for watching.

Founder To CEO – A VC’s Perspective On Leading Start-Ups #startup leadership

In the 12th edition of the Leaders’ Cafe, we had Manu Rikhye, Partner, Merak Ventures as our guest speaker in conversation with Gatik Chaujer, Co-Founder, TransforMe Learning to discuss his insights on essential leadership skills for growing a successful start-up.


Startups have limited resources in the form of capital, talent, tools, and other resources.

  • Founders of startups have an ownership mindset that drives them to push harder than anyone else.
  • Perseverance is required to succeed in the chaotic startup environment, where every decision can make or break the company.
  • Successful founders in a resource-constrained environment are focused on the outcome that each dollar spent will create for the business.
  • Incentives should be aligned with outcomes to drive entrepreneurial spirit and high performance.
  • Misconceptions about entrepreneurship swing between extremes of thinking fundraising is easy or too difficult, influenced by external factors.
  • Developing conviction in your idea, taking the plunge, and learning from successful and not-so-successful founders can help you succeed as an entrepreneur.
  • As a mentor, it’s important to remind founders to stay focused on solving the initial problem before getting distracted by other opportunities.
  • During times of scarce funding, it’s important to shut out the noise and focus on the fundamentals of your business.
  • Successful startups achieve success by focusing on their business fundamentals and taking one step at a time, even in the face of uncertainty.


Gatik Chaujer –
What do you think are the principal differences in leadership behaviours, in a startup versus a more established organization?

Manu Rikhye –
The main difference between large organizations and startups is first, access to resources. Startups have limited resources in the form of capital, talent, tools, and other resources. This affects how leaders work with others and their personal contributions. Another difference is the ownership mindset of founders, which drives them to push harder than anyone else, making it hard to find people to match their level of commitment. The third difference is the perseverance required to succeed in a chaotic startup environment, where every decision can make or break the company.

Difference between large organizations and startups:

  • Limited access to resources for startups (capital, talent, tools, etc.)
  • Ownership mindset of founders
  • Perseverance

Gatik Chaujer –
What recommendations do you have for startup leaders to manage scarce resources, exhibit ownership and perseverance? Also, how can leaders inspire their team to have a founder’s mentality and exhibit behaviors that lead to success in a startup ecosystem?

Manu Rikhye –
Successful founders in a resource-constrained environment are focused on the outcome that each dollar spent will create for the business. They avoid making decisions based on organizational pressure and become cautious but not overly so. Incentives should be aligned with outcomes to drive entrepreneurial spirit and high performance, which can be achieved through a simple structure that links compensation and career growth with successful delivery of tasks. This approach may not match the level of contribution of a founder but can help people step up and perform at a high level.

Gatik Chaujer –
What are the common misconceptions among startup founders about building a successful business?

Manu Rikhye – 
Misconceptions about entrepreneurship are influenced by external factors, and can swing between extremes of thinking that raising money is easy or that it’s too difficult to even try. It’s important to develop conviction in your idea and take the plunge, regardless of external circumstances. Everyone’s entrepreneurial journey is different, and it’s helpful to talk to successful and not-so-successful founders to learn from their experiences.

  • Misconceptions about entrepreneurship swing between extremes of thinking fundraising is easy or too difficult, influenced by external factors.
  • Develop conviction in your idea, take the plunge, and learn from successful and not-so-successful founders.

Gatik Chaujer –
As a mentor to many startup founders, can you share an experience of how you helped a Founder succeed and what they needed most help with? This can give an insight to viewers who may be considering this journey and how to find a mentor.

Manu Rikhye –
I have to confess that in the last four years, my work as a mentor has been more about reverse mentoring and learning than me being able to give advice to others. I have been privileged to work alongside some of the best and most talented founders in India, which is something I am very excited about.

One common theme that comes up among early stage founders is that they start with one big problem and solution in mind, but as they begin to build their solution, they encounter multiple opportunities and get distracted. As a mentor, I remind them that resources are finite, and they must stay focused on making progress and showcasing that their solution can solve the initial problem before branching out to other opportunities. This becomes even more critical as finite resources can make or break a company.

As humans, we are often affected by what we hear, and founders are no exception. During times when funding seems scarce, I have to talk founders off the edge and remind them that if they build a valuable business, they will find the capital they need. I advise them to shut out the noise and focus on the fundamentals of their business, taking one step at a time.

One of our portfolio companies, Advantage Club, had an outstanding founding team, and when we started partnering with them four years ago, it was hard for people to understand their business, which was an employee retention and recognition platform. However, they kept making progress, and today they are successful because they focused on the fundamentals of their business and kept walking one step at a time.

Initially, people were unsure about the value proposition of Advantage Club – an employee retention and recognition platform. When we invested in them, the hope was that they would reach a revenue of $1 million and the world would start to take notice. They surpassed expectations and achieved $2 million, then $3-5 million, and now they’re close to reaching a revenue of $10 million ARR, serving 60 countries globally with a SaaS offering. Despite the noise about unicorns and funding, very few companies in India have been able to reach this threshold. The frustration and disappointment felt by the founder were understandable, but I advised them to keep walking one step at a time and eventually, someone would have to notice their enviable offering and talented team.

As a mentor to early stage founders, I remind them to stay focused on solving the initial problem before getting distracted by other opportunities. I advise them to shut out the noise during times of scarce funding and focus on the fundamentals of their business. Our portfolio company, Advantage Club, achieved success by focusing on their business fundamentals and taking one step at a time. Despite facing uncertainty, I encouraged the founder to keep walking one step at a time and eventually, their hard work paid off.

Gatik Chaujer –
What should HR and L&D leaders be looking at differently in the startup ecosystem? Should they approach talent development differently? Can you provide any insights or examples?

Manu Rikhye –
To succeed in today’s rapidly changing world, individuals must embrace the fact that expectations, deliverables, and talent availability are all evolving faster than ever before. This means taking the time to learn about what’s happening in the world and upskilling oneself to bring more value to their roles. Finding a personal approach to accessing information and knowledge can be helpful, such as investing in early-stage companies or exploring new tools.

Another important factor in staying ahead of the curve is being open to adopting new technologies. Companies are often slow to embrace new ideas, waiting for others to prove their effectiveness. However, this can result in missed opportunities as the technology may become less relevant by the time it’s adopted. By having the courage to adopt new technologies, individuals can unleash value and find solutions to pain points that older products may not address.

Lastly, developing skills and leadership are crucial in navigating this fast-paced environment. By constantly learning and growing, individuals can stay ahead of the curve and lead their teams to success.

  • To succeed in today’s world, individuals must upskill and stay informed about evolving expectations, deliverables, and talent availability.
  • Being open to adopting new technologies can help unleash value and solve pain points that older products may not address.
  • Developing skills and leadership are crucial in navigating the fast-paced environment and leading teams to success.

Gatik Chaujer –
What are the top three skills that L&D leaders should focus on to develop leaders in a startup at various levels, according to you?

Manu Rikhye –
That’s a great question. In the startup world, the skills you need to think about are different than in the corporate world. One skill that I think startup organizations need strongly is the ability to navigate difficult decisions and manage conflict within and outside the organization. Additionally, softer aspects of leadership, like building a strong organizational culture and having a clear set of people and leadership practices, should also be prioritized. Startups should focus on creating a living document of their culture and leadership practices, which can be given to people as a toolkit to make assimilation easier. Overall, these are the top two skills that I think startup leadership, HR, and L&D should think about.

  • Starting a company can disrupt financial security from a regular paycheck.
  • As a founder, you have complete ownership and responsibility for decision-making and outcomes.
  • Access to resources and talent can be a struggle, and founders may have to do tasks outside their skillset.

So, here’s an audience question from Jay Krishnan AG – should we plan starting taking revenue from the MVP? or should it be only to take feedback to improve

Manu Rikhye –
The key is supreme focus on getting an MVP out and starting monetization early. This is the ultimate test and only when you have a minimum viable product in the market can you start the feedback loop. Seeding the idea that it has to be a paid product from the start is important, even if you initially offer discounts for early feedback. It’s essential to get real people paying real money for it as it’s a false sense of success if not.

Gatik Chaujer –
My question to you is, when do you think or how soon should a startup organization start looking at investing in leadership development? How soon should employee development, leadership development be looked at from a startup lens?

Manu Rikhye –
As a founder, investing in developing and coaching your team should be a priority from day one. It may seem time-consuming in the short term, but not doing so will prevent you from delegating and focusing on more strategic tasks. Once you have enough resources, it’s important to hire full-time or part-time partners to address coaching needs and invest in finding the right leadership and HR. Many founders invest heavily in these areas early on, even if they have received funding in the millions. They may hire partners to help with culture and verbalize their expectations.

  • Developing and coaching the team should be a priority from day one for a founder.
  • Hiring full-time or part-time partners can help address coaching needs and finding the right leadership and HR.
  • Many founders invest heavily in these areas early on, even if they have received funding in the millions.

Gatik Chaujer –
Picking up the last question from the live show – he talks about how he’s seen you in the past, and obviously, he’s wanting to get your broad insights on leadership, courage, that’s really his anchor when he sees you. So anything you’d like to share.

Manu Rikhye –
As a founder, I believe that leadership courage and grit are essential qualities to possess. In large corporations, success can sometimes be disconnected from these qualities, but as a founder, you have no choice but to demonstrate them. It’s like fighting on the front lines, and ducking isn’t an option. You have to find that extra sense, that extra gear, and muster the courage to make hard decisions. Failure to do so could mean the end of your business, and everything that relies on it. So, it’s a do or die skill that is critical for success.

In the 11th edition of The Leaders’ Cafe – LinkedIn Women as Leader’s Playbook, we had Aishwarya Rao, Lead, Gender Equity Network, Accenture, Australia as our guest speaker. She discussed her personal journey as a woman leader and shared learnings on what organizations can do to build an inclusive culture.  She mentioned setting up flat organizations, creating self-driving teams, and empowering a collective culture where people can thrive and bring their best selves to work. She also talked about the importance of having a strong support system when feeling isolated and alone, and how to overcome such moments by shifting the conversation and looking at things differently. She shared her experience of using the Balance app for systematic meditation. Aishwarya also discussed external challenges that women leaders face in the workplace today, including stereotyping and workplace structures that hinder people’s ability to thrive and belong. She emphasized the importance of calling out inequitable practices in the workplace and giving others opportunities to be recognized as leaders. She shared that leaders have a moral obligation to create an inclusive workplace that recognizes and supports diversity.


Sandra Colhando –
When you reflect back on your leadership journey, what are some of the things you’re most proud of in your climb up.

Aishwarya Rao – The reflections that I want to share here today, across my 15 year journey, is the setting up of flat organisations, teams that are self driving teams and empowering that collective culture where people can thrive and bring their best selves to work. And something a leader must leave behind in terms of legacy must be of significance, it should not be necessarily of individual success. And that’s what I believe in.

I’m really proud of having created teams that are flexible, transparent, full of people that are so passionate, wanting to make that visible difference.

Sandra Colhando –
Has there been a particular moment, as you’re working with your team, where you felt alone, or you felt isolated in your struggle? And you felt that I don’t know who to look up to? And how did you overcome that if you did go through that.

Aishwarya Rao –
Probably five or six years ago, when I was looking up to leadership, there weren’t a lot of people like me, in the business and or in the industries that I was operating within. And that what you cannot see you cannot be so there have been moments where I have thought, oh, it would be wonderful to see someone like myself up in the organisation and to aspire to be like them.

I have a strong support system including career counselors, mentors, and coaches who I can rely on during moments of self-doubt. While I am proud of my accomplishments, I didn’t get here alone. As you climb the ladder, it’s easy to feel isolated, but having a support network is crucial. Mentors and coaches have championed me on my journey and I am grateful for their guidance.

Sandra Colhando –
The beauty of complexity lies in the simplicity. And when you feel lost, asking help, could seem so simple, but that’s probably sometimes the biggest challenge that you put yourself through. What do you do when in those moments, you don’t have the support system? What are you telling yourself in those moments? So is there something that you do yourself to get out of that temporary blip? 

Aishwarya Rao –
Oh, well, I’m going to give you two responses. One is, I use this app called Balance. I have been using it for a few years now. And it has been fantastic. So there has been no 3am moment because I go to sleep after meditating. And I wake up and do my meditation. So it’s been a wonderful app. I think we’ll all benefit with that kind of systematic meditation. I think you’ll have to actively work on getting yourself out of your head, like, you’ve got to shift the conversation, you’ve got to look at it differently. That’s the only way to do it. And often, I feel like we get ourselves into situations, which we need not. I would say tap on to your friends’ cohorts, your peers, because they’re also probably going through similar challenges. And I think you may not have the courage to go up to your manager or to your boss, to your people leader and say, Hey, this is what I’m facing. But I feel like you might be able to have that conversation with your peers, with your colleagues.

I’m going to give you two responses – I use this app called Balance and second is I think you’ll have to actively work on getting yourself out of your head, like, you’ve got to shift the conversation, you’ve got to look at it differently.

Sandra Colhando –
Yeah. And I resonate with what you said in terms of even if you’re not comfortable going to your leaders and having this conversation, but you know, your colleagues and people around at work. Because in the women leadership programme that we run, we’ve heard so many women professionals talk about the biggest takeaway from programmes like this is, of course, the skills and behaviours, etc. Keeping that aside, is the power of many that I am not alone in this journey, that I’m feeling like an imposter like everyone else is, I’m going through the same pains that everyone else’s, and I feel so much better, knowing all of us are. And so it’s such a relief. And I think half your burden is gone there that I’m not doing it alone, that you know, a lot of other people around me were experiencing that. So it’s a good, safe space to have that kind of conversation.

I want to shift gears towards external challenges. What are some of the biggest external challenges that women leaders face at the workplace today? And how do you think one can overcome that

Aishwarya Rao – 
Stereotyping is common and workplace structures can hinder people’s ability to thrive and belong. Organizations and leaders have a responsibility to create equitable and inclusive cultures. It’s important to call out inequitable practices in the workplace and give others opportunities to be recognized as leaders. Delegation should be done by trusting others’ abilities rather than just assigning boring tasks. Leaders have a moral obligation to not contribute to external challenges people face in the workplace. It’s important to recognize and create an inclusive workplace for people who identify as non-binary.

In the workplace, I do think we’ve got those obligations as leaders in order to make sure that there is no external challenge in the future – that’s the place we are creating.

Sandra Colhando – 
Absolutely, and we are looking at value sharing that we’re looking at, you know, an environmental organisation that’s truly inclusive, irrespective of your background, gender, race, etc. What are the things organizations may be missing out on if they don’t have enough women in the leadership table?

Aishwarya Rao –
In terms of addressing that question, and I want to be very careful about not stereotyping genders over here. Creating a nurturing workspace where differences are respected is crucial for a successful team and some people are naturally good at creating that space. This quality is not limited to being a parent and can be brought by anyone. I do think that some people are really well positioned to bring that aspect to create flexible workplaces, because you’re possibly multitasking and you understand the value of flexibility. Creating workplaces not limited by hierarchy, but rather allow for growth and opportunities to thrive. Intuition and the ability to network are advantages that can benefit everyone and are some traits which naturally come to some people. Women, in particular, can do a better job of supporting each other in the workplace. By building nurturing, flexible, and intuitive workplaces, we can challenge traditional patriarchal structures.

Some of the advantages are:

  1. Creating Nurturing Workplace
  2. Creating Flexible Workspace
  3. Intuitive and ability to network

Sandra Colhando –
Yeah, and the brilliant insights on behaviours as well. I know there’s a lot of work happening in women leadership, and you’re doing work with women professionals. How can we champion this cause in organisations? What can we do specifically? What are some of the behaviours or some steps that we can take to build an equitable workplace

Aishwarya Rao –
It’s important to be conscious of gender biases in the workplace, such as assuming women will handle “invisible” tasks like organizing events.Use inclusive language and symbols in presentations to avoid promoting alpha male stereotypes. It’s crucial to distribute workloads fairly and not make assumptions based on gender, parenthood, or caregiving responsibilities. Organizations should have policies in place to support these responsibilities, and leader should communicate these policies to their teams to build trust and create a supportive culture. By being authentic and mindful of these issues, you can help create a workplace where everyone feels valued and can bring their best selves to work.

It’s important to be conscious of gender biases in the workplace, such as assuming women will handle “invisible” tasks. Use inclusive language and symbols in presentations. Distribute workloads fairly and not make assumptions based on gender, parenthood, or caregiving responsibilities. Organizations should have policies in place to support these responsibilities, and leader should communicate these policies to their teams to build trust and create a supportive culture.

Sandra Colhando –
Who’s your role model that you look up to?

My mum is a financial expert and my biggest role model. She taught me that just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean you have to. Another role model of mine is Julia Gillard, the former Australian Prime Minister. I once saw her at an airport and she said, “even the Prime Minister has to go on a break sometimes”. It was great to see her living by that message. I believe we all need to learn to take breaks and pause sometimes.

Sandra Colhando –
Beautiful. And is there any book or TV show that you feel that it’s a must read and great for women professionals?

Aishwarya Rao –
There’s actually a podcast that I started on this during the pandemic There’s one called Women at Work. It’s the Harvard Business series one. And it’s really byte sized, like 25-30 minutes and it talks about anything from delegation, playing office politics. Those are the two things that come to my mind. But it’s a fantastic podcast to listen to.

Sandra Colhando –
How do you choose your mentors and coaches?

Aishwarya Rao –
I think rely on your intuition, seek out honest and transparent coaches and mentors who can identify your gaps.They don’t have to be from your field, but should be people you can easily connect with. Seek out mentors from LinkedIn or social collectives, such as friends, siblings or acquaintances. Choose mentors based on how easily you can communicate with them.That’s how you should be choosing your mentors.

Rely on your intuition, seek out honest and transparent coaches and mentors who can identify your gaps.

Sandra Colhando –
How important is sharing knowledge among leaders across companies to bring the best practices and use for making change at society level, particularly from a DEI perspective?

Aishwarya Rao –
It’s important to dismantle patriarchy and create inclusive organizations where everyone can bring their best selves to work. Some organizations are ahead of the curve, while others are just starting out. Sharing knowledge and best practices is crucial, and there are multiple organizations like TransforMe that bring together those working in DEI. It’s not just the responsibility of DEI leaders within an organization; individuals can also exchange feedback and notes on creating a good culture at work.

Organizations should share their practices, and there are many BI forums that facilitate this. It’s like sharing a party game idea and playing it at another party – exchanging best practices benefits everyone.

Sandra Colhando –
Here is a question from the audience, there was a survey done last year, which examined that men were found 48% fatigued by the notion of gender equality, and 52% feel they are being discriminated against, with women being favoured for promotions and jobs on the basis of their gender. How do you address this attitude of male colleagues at work?

Aishwarya Rao –
It is true that when we are having conversations constantly about gender equality in the workplace, it might sound as if we are discriminating against one gender. But I suppose the question comes down to establishing the intent of having these conversations. Why are we trying to create this because honestly, we have a banner up in one of our offices where it says none of us are equal until all of us are equal. As leaders, we have the responsibility to communicate this intent and be transparent about evaluation criteria and promotion goals. If gender equality is a part of the organizational and leadership behavior, it will not be looked upon as discriminatory. Communication with the right language is also important. If discrimination is perceived in the workplace, we must identify why and how to address it.

Sandra Colhando –
What do you think is the most important piece of advice for women who want to pursue a career as a leader?

Aiswarya Rao –
My piece of advice is start off and acknowledge that you want to be a leader in your organisation. And it’s completely okay to want that. And to work towards that. I think I think you’ve got to own it, you’ve got to own your story, you’ve got to this is coming from someone who has had so many self doubts. So that would be the advice I’d give myself and to you to say absolutely own that.

In 10th edition of The Leaders’ Cafe – LinkedIn Live Start-Up To Scale-Up, we had the newest shark from the popular television series Shark Tank India – Amit Jain, Founder and CEO, CarDekho Group as our guest speaker in conversation with Sandra Colhando, Co-Founder, TransforMe Learning & Leadership Solutions to discuss the lessons for building the next generation of leaders


Some of the key ideas discussed during the LinkedIn Live included:

  1. Creating a culture of eagles: To create a culture of eagles, Amit Jain emphasised the importance of focusing on team achievement instead of individual achievement. He also stressed the importance of treating employees like founders, empowering them to make decisions, and identifying individuals who share the company’s cultural values. He also mentioned that commercial constructs, such as equity for founders, are important for creating an eagle-like structure.
  2. Coaching and scaling up: Sandra asked Amit about the challenge of bridging the gap between speed execution and coaching when scaling up quickly. Amit explained that as the company grows, more empowered voices are needed to contribute to decision-making. Founders need to learn to listen to others and let go of control as the company scales. Coaching can be helpful in developing skills to manage a larger company. To empower the team, the founder needs to educate them on core principles of decision-making and provide context to ensure everyone is well-equipped. Ownership of decision-making is crucial, and leaders need to guide their team to make the right decisions while letting them take ownership.
  3. Managing generational diversity: Sandra asked Amit about how to manage generational diversity in a company and how to skill leaders to be great people leaders in this environment. Amit explained that having age diversity in a company is important, but it’s crucial that the culture treats all employees as peers, regardless of their age. He emphasized the importance of exposing young employees to leadership opportunities early on and listening to them. Amit also mentioned that treating employees well is important, as they will in turn treat customers well. Finally, Amit stressed the importance of coaching or letting go of toxic leaders, as cultural ethos are more important than individuals in an organization.
  4. Leadership development program: Amit Jain shared details about Cardekho Group’s leadership development program, which runs throughout the year and identifies the next generation of leaders. The program includes manager coaching in a one-on-one and one-on-many format, and seasoned coaches teach managers how to succeed with their people, how to get all their team members to perform, and how to get teams to work collaboratively. The program also includes feedback loops to ensure continuous improvement.

One is that, a mindset shift.I think what we need to focus on is that as long as Human Connect is there, productivity can be much better, even without those people coming to office. 70% is what a person picks up on the job. How are you curating those roles? How are you creating those curating those processes? From a larger HR perspective, I think that’s also something which all of us are focusing on. The other piece is that – the digital mindset. The digital tools available right now are actually helping us to reach out to the customer in the most effective fashion.

Full Transcript

Sandra Colhando –
Legends like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates who have an eagle like vision, with the ability to both see the reality as is, as well as make accurate predictions about the future. Their vision is big and focused to produce big results. So how do you find and create those eagles in an organisation?

Amit Jain –
To create a culture of eagles, one must first focus on themselves and find happiness in seeing others bloom. This requires a shift from a mindset of individual achievement to a mindset of team achievement. Good leaders must also be good human beings who empower and mentor their teams. At Girnar, the company culture is based on treating employees like founders and empowering them to make decisions. Eagles must have a vision for the future and the ability to execute in the present. Commercial constructs, such as equity for founders, are also important for creating an eagle-like structure. Company culture is crucial, and founders must identify individuals who share their cultural values. I also believe hiring laterally may not always work as well in finding and nurturing eagles within the company.

To create a culture of eagles, one must first focus on themselves and find happiness in seeing others bloom. Good leaders must also be good human beings who empower and mentor their teams.

Sandra Colhando –
One quality that can be challenging for Eagles is being great coaches. Leaders like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, while they are brilliant, may not have had the patience and time for coaching, which is a slow process. This can be difficult when scaling up quickly. Bridging the gap between speed execution and coaching requires developing the necessary skill set and having patience. Coaching involves listening, stepping back, and allowing space for growth, which may not align with the fast-paced nature of scaling up. How to bridge that gap?

Amit Jain –
As a founder of a company in its early stages, it’s important to have control over decision-making and choose the right people to drive the company forward. Too much democracy can hinder agility and prevent product-market fit. As the business grows, the team expands and more empowered voices are needed to contribute to decision-making. Founders need to learn to listen to others and let go of control as the company scales. Coaching can be helpful in developing skills to manage a larger company. To empower the team, the founder needs to educate them on core principles of decision-making and provide context to ensure everyone is well-equipped. Ownership of decision-making is crucial, and leaders need to guide their team to make the right decisions while letting them take ownership. Asking the right questions can lead to better decision-making than simply providing solutions. This approach helps to create more accountable and responsible teams. As the company evolves, the founder’s leadership style needs to change accordingly

As a founder of a company in its early stages, it’s important to have control over decision-making and choose the right people to drive the company forward. Too much democracy can hinder agility and prevent product-market fit. As the business grows, the team expands and more empowered voices are needed to contribute to decision-making.

Sandra Colhando –
Now you have an organisation of extremely diverse leaders, and not just background, there’s also age and experience, how do you manage this generational diversity? And how do you skill them to be great people leaders in this environment? Is there a systematic approach? 

Amit Jain –
But I think there are two aspects. One is coaching that I’ll discuss later. Having age diversity in a company is important, but it’s crucial that the culture treats all employees as peers, regardless of their age. Exposing young employees to leadership opportunities early on is also essential. For instance, at Girnar, the CEO would invite 30-40 next-generation leaders to board meetings, and each of them would present something. This created a peer learning environment and empowered young employees. As a leader, it’s important to listen to young employees and learn from them. The phenomenon of shifting eras happens frequently, especially in terms of technology, and a leader needs to keep up with it by learning from the younger generation. Treating employees well is important, as they will in turn treat customers well. Having toxic leaders can be detrimental to the company’s long-term strategy and culture, and it’s crucial to coach them or let them go. Ultimately, cultural ethos are more important than individuals in an organisation.


I think there are two aspects to this. One is coaching. Having age diversity in a company is important, but it’s crucial that the culture treats all employees as peers, regardless of their age. Exposing young employees to leadership opportunities early on is also essential.

Sandra Colhando –
My question is when you get rock stars and they give you the numbers you want, but they’re toxic, they’re not developing the people. You said, either coach them or you know, let them go as well. And it’s critical.

Amit Jain –
At Cardekho Group, we implement structural interventions to build leaders through our leadership development program, which runs throughout the year. This program identifies the next generation of leaders and includes manager coaching in a one-on-one and one-on-many format. Our seasoned coaches teach managers how to succeed with their people, how to get all their team members to their level, and how to move to the next layer. Our coaching also focuses on important skills such as how to provide feedback effectively, which is often lacking in India. Many organizations struggle with managers who are excellent performers but are not equipped to manage teams. Our structured intervention aims to address this issue and ensure that our managers are effective leaders.

Sandra Colhando –
As leaders, burnout and lack of inspiration can affect anyone, not just founders, CEOs or senior leaders. I have personally gone through phases of feeling uninspired and burnt out, and I know it can be tough to come out of it alone. Do you have any tips or insights to share for those struggling with this right now?

Amit Jain –
Well, I have been through many failure phases in my entrepreneurial journey, but I have never really felt burnt out. The reason is that I have always been surrounded by very loving people with great intentions and no biases towards me. My brother Anurag is my co-founder and whenever I feel down, we spend an hour every night chatting about things. He is the one who lifts my spirits up by reminding me to have gratitude towards life and to focus on the inputs rather than the outcomes.

When I really feel down, I make sure to meet my family and close friends more often. As a founder, I believe it’s important to have somebody who you can confide in and talk to about your challenges and emotional journey. I always try to have a mentor who has run a much larger company than me to give me objective advice and talk about how they handled similar situations.

Lastly, I believe it’s important to enjoy your work every day. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, you’re not really living. If you keep dragging yourself into it every day, you will eventually burn out. I realize that sometimes it’s better to pivot to something new rather than trying to pursue something that may not be working. Perseverance goes a long way, and you can keep changing your ideas until you find something that works.

In fact, I have experienced this firsthand when I was running an e-commerce site from 2009-2010. We were selling mobile phones, but too many competitors entered the market, and we were not able to get extra funding. We had a knack for getting free traffic, but the infrastructure of delivery was not very good, and we started making huge losses. So we pivoted and started a pricing aggregation site, which became profitable. We shut down the old venture and started something new.

I remember losing all my money during the 2008-2009 market crash, and we didn’t even have enough money to pay salaries. I distinctly remember sitting with my brother that night with a zero cash balance, figuring out how to pay salaries and not let the team know that we had lost all the money. But Anurag reminded me that we had made it from zero in just two years, and we knew how to get back up again. That unconditional support was what helped me keep going.

Having a supportive co-founder and close friends helped me avoid burnout despite facing failure in my entrepreneurial journey. Enjoying your work every day is important, and pivoting to something new can lead to success. Unconditional support from loved ones is essential in tough times

Sandra Colhando –
So do you feel it’s always great to have Co-Founders?

Amit Jain –
Trust is key for any startup, and the intent of the co-founders must never be questioned. This is especially important in India, where the ecosystem can be divided into left and right. If there is trust in the intent, everything else can be worked out through communication and collaboration. However, if the intent is bad, then everything will fall apart. It’s also important to note that no startup is created without mistakes. Sometimes things can go wrong when a lot of money is involved, and one founder may become more important than the others. This is where the person in charge needs to balance things out and ensure that there is open communication and equal visibility for all.

Sandra Colhando –
It’s pretty tricky to do that. It’s not so easy. You have this unconscious competition, a competitive streak that comes in with two co founders. But I’m glad you’re kind of managing that in doing well. 

Rapid fire
Sandra –
I’ve got some Rapid questions for you really quickly, quick answers. So one is choose one between the two, which is, the first one is massive growth that has been history books, or live in people’s hearts,

Amit Jain –
Live in people’s hearts, I believe in living on through others by impacting the next generation. To have a life acknowledged by many for the lessons they learned from me is where I want to live. I will live on through the people I have worked with, coached, and the founders I have mentored. My thoughts will translate into their next vision, bringing me greater joy than anything else.

Sandra Colhando –
If you were to write a book on your journey, what would the title be?

Amit Jain – Street Fighter, is probably how I would title it. I’ve been a Street Fighter all my life . When I went to the ground, I did telecalling for six months in my own company. I’ve sold my first bike to the dealers. So I’m more like a Street Fighter guy who rose to this position, finally. And I think I value that phase of street fighting the most, versus running this one, because I could not have reached here without that phase. So I think I will probably title it Street Fighter – a story of a Street Fighter kind of a thing.

Sandra Colhando –
What is your go to productivity hack?

Amit Jain – I have a few productivity hacks that I find helpful. First, I use the 6 x 6 x 6 technique where I pause before responding to something. Second, when I feel down, I look at pictures of my kids and meditate to change my mindset. Third, I always start meetings by asking personal questions to build empathy within the team. Fourth, I read every consumer review and pass it on to my team to make daily improvements. Lastly, I find five reasons to smile every day to maintain a positive attitude and pass on happiness to others. Acknowledging and recognizing the work of others also motivates them to excel beyond their potential.

Sandra Colhando –
When we talk about the emotionally intelligent leader, one of the skill sets required to be strong leaders is to be able to have that empathy and connect. And the team meeting example that you gave is first check in with people before you check in with the numbers, we often call it the neck down and neck up approach. So first, find your neck down, where are your people in this moment, emotionally, then check with their state, and then you get a lot of answers on your neck-up, which then you get into your numbers.

Amit Jain –
That’s a brilliant example, to start. Let’s say, if I was not good at meetings and I personally believe after every meeting, I have to ask a question to myself, when this meeting is over, will anything go out or you could do better? If the answer is the later, then I’m not a good lead advisor. Right? So I have to answer this question every single meeting to myself. And if the case is later than I have to pull it back again, which means I have to do a personal call and talk about how I was not a better leader today in the meeting. I probably was not a good manager, acknowledging your own mistake is very important at times because you at times are not right and inward in your heart. I make sure that I’m able to acknowledge my own behaviour, which is not right. Because if I don’t acknowledge that, the other guy who’s working with me, my thing is the right way. And that’s not the right way to go.

Sandra Colhando –
If you had a time machine and you want to go back to the younger metal just starting off, and you had to give him one advice to do something differently. What would that be?

Amit Jain –
I wouldn’t give him advice, but rather let him discover and learn from failures. It’s important to experience them firsthand to truly learn. I believe this approach has been fantastic and I’m happy with it.

Sandra Colhando –
What animal or creature resonates with you the most

Amit Jain –
I love the tiger for its agility, fierceness, and speed. It’s something I relate to in my life. I even have a big tiger painting in my office. Our company logo and missions are also based on the tiger, and it remains a symbol of strength and determination for us.

Sandra Colhando –
If a CEO were to ask you for one piece of outlandish advice to build a successful empire, what would it be?

Amit Jain –
Be good to others and find pleasure in their happiness. This leads to being a good human being and everything else falls into place.

Sandra Colhando –
My question is about balancing between speed of scaling up versus reducing process complications, especially growth is coming from adding new SKU or customer propositions which keep adding new process flows, what’s the best approach ?

Amit Jain –
Simplify processes to avoid limitations in scale and skill. Solve with humans first, then introduce technology once proven scalable. Don’t wait for a perfect product, try and improve quickly along the way to become a better version of yourself.

Sandra Colhando –
Thank you, Amit, for the brilliant ideas and insights, especially ‘chase the inputs, not the output.’ Your humility and appreciation for others shine through. Wishing you all the best in your company’s growth. Thanks to everyone who tuned in, much appreciated.”

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