How should women nurture their inner drive?
First of all, that intention has to exist in people, it depends on what individuals want to make out of their life. If women see role models while growing up in their families or around them, it certainly helps them to stay balanced in tough situations and not give up and leave the race. Number two is, in the initial years of one’s career, if there are mentors that have nurtured a woman’s talent then there is a strong influence in how her career is shaped. If someone has to put a pause on her career for family responsibilities, or domestic responsibilities, childcare needs, somebody has to do that, because that’s also very important, has to be raised. Most times, women take that option saying, “Okay, I will maybe pause my career for a few years, and then I will do something to make sure the other aspects of life are met.” But if their heart is lying in building a career, in corporate, or in anything else, I think they have to keep an eye on that on a daily basis. Even if they’re doing something else that requires attention maybe they could do something in skill building and have simple targets. After a certain point of time, they can possibly get to mainstream and say, now I’m going to have my engine running. At this point of time, I think women should ask for help when needed. It’s also another very female characteristic of being hesitant, hesitant to ask for help but one must ask for help. Sometimes I’ve sought help from eight-year-old daughter saying, “I have this important call, I want absolute silence. Can you make sure this is taken care of and she has helped me.” So, with our ecosystem helping, and we asking for that help, I think such things are possible.
If you want certain things, there should be clarity of purpose. Number one, everyday people can take time to just ask, what is it that I’m great at? Where do I want to go? And how can I get there? My situation today can be anything, but then how do I make sure I have that clarity in my mind first, because everything happens twice, one inside our minds, and second time it happens outside. How can I get great at these three things if I want to get to wherever I want to and have small action plans, working towards a future that they want to build. I think that way, it certainly helps to keep the inner drive alive.
How did you increase the deservability in your own eyes?
I think everyone goes through a transition phase when we are an individual contributor to becoming a manager, from manager to a leader. And then in leadership, there are multiple levels. Again, it’s not about the literal levels of titles and designations, but there is a certain level of seniority that you bring in experience and maturity that you bring in. Number one, it is about how others are treating you. Number two is how you create your positioning rightly. We believe in ourselves lesser than what others might believe in us. Bringing in the factor of gender again, I think women typically tend to see 100% fit of something before they go for it. Let’s say you’re applying for a job. You could say, “Okay, well, will I fit 80% and beyond only then I’ll even apply for the job. It’s a very female way of thinking.” I think it is a good acknowledgement to say, “Okay, if that’s the way I’m naturally made, then how should I flex and alter myself so that I don’t lose out on opportunities that I might actually deserve?” Next is to say, “There are three, four people around me telling me that I might be able to do it, then pause and say, am I capable? What are areas where I think I should be working harder on?” And then finally taking a leap of faith and seeing how the opportunity works. Go show up in multiple places to learn from other role models, male or female, and then talk to people who will energize you. Finally, I do a lot of affirmations to myself. In in a future state, whatever I want, and I write as if it’s already there. In the present, I think those things certainly help because subconsciously, it starts tuning me to move towards the future that I want to create for myself. So, these are ways I have tried to work on desirability for myself.
Do you think women find it challenging to report to women? How can women leaders move from being critically judgemental to compassionately curious?
In my career, at least, I have not seen women saying I don’t want to report to a woman. I have personally worked with both male and female managers, and I’ve had good experience in both sides. There is nothing about gender in this. I think women are made very compassionate already by nature. So, there is compassion altering wilderness. Curiosity is a human trait. I don’t think there is a gender differentiation. Today, you talk to any child of any gender, they are going to display curiosity. So, I think it’s fundamentally a bias that we may hold against a particular gender, whether it’s male or female, it’s a stereotypical bias, and maybe one has to work on it, to get over it, to be their best selves.
“One must be intentional about how they are spending their time because time is finite.”
What inherent feminine qualities are under leveraged by you in your quest to being where you are today?
Researchers call out certain traits of women leaders versus male leaders have — feminine leadership qualities versus masculine leadership qualities. But again, there could be differences between one person and another. Growing up, we were two sisters, and I did not have a male comparison at all at home. We were raised as independent kids; we were raised as people who can talk our minds out and talk through fears as well. So that environment was provided. From that standpoint, I did not even have the comprehension of the fact that there could be a lot of difference between the way men and women could be treated at a workplace, more so at a leadership level. I did not know that until I at least had like 10 years of career. But after that, I started seeing that there are certain traits that are appreciated and certain traits that are not appreciated. It depends on the context. We inherently feel that females are supposed to be softer, versus males can be assertive. Ultimately, it boils down to the leadership quality — a quality that’s needed. I have seen men possessing feminine characteristics of being naturally inclusive, being caring, and compassionate and I have seen women who are quite assertive.
First of all, do we even have enough data or subsets to say, these are female leadership characteristics, because we had only male leaders for a long time. Even right now, if you see, let’s take HR as a profession, over 60% of HR professionals today are women only. But then you go to the top, there are still only very few, because they’re still grappling with domestic responsibilities. It’s not because of lack of capability, that they’re not coming out, or lack of leadership traits. It’s more about the aspects that they need to manage beyond work as well. And nowadays, I think that’s also changing. There are a lot of male leaders or male members that are taking familial responsibilities.
Masculine and feminine is just the way the way we where we make a change or where we conduct ourselves. It’s about each person having a certain role to play and how we bring it about in the best possible manner to getting that consensus from the environment around you.
What is the one actionable change that you have done in your life to reach your goals?
Effortlessly, can never be an answer. I think there’s a lot of effort that goes on an everyday basis. I think I seriously invested and continue to invest on personal development. I think that’s the way my life will be, at least for the foreseeable future. About a couple of years back, I started waking up before 5 am and that made a lot of difference. Number two, I got into yoga, meditation, and got certified as a yoga instructor, but I use yoga for my own alignment centeredness within myself, and to take care of my whole self. It helps me a lot in the way I conduct myself in different situations. Number three, I continue to learn every day like a student who’s preparing for exams. I think in the last two years, at least, there is an abundance of materials that we have. And there is this constant feeling of I think I have this to complete in terms of just reading and becoming aware. So, I think these are some fundamental changes. I also started focusing on making a difference, I realized after a lot of reflection, that making a difference is the fundamental value I have. And that’s just finding expression in my writing, or in my speaking or mentoring people, or into coaching as I’ve embarked now. I want to make a difference to people’s life, helping them to find their best selves.
How should leaders create fearless organizations?
Leaders should fundamentally have certain values systems, or organizational culture and values should start encouraging people to take risks to a certain level, to be bold, to be courageous to speak their minds. There must be aspects around learning and agility as well because everything is very fast changing. Agility and the ability to learn are interrelated. And with all of this, if there is a drive for results as well, which is ultimately required for organizations to exist, then I think, people will be able to deliver these as part of how they live in organizations. Fundamentally, leaders should have these as part of their values. In our organization, we have all of these as part of our values, and we walk the talk. One should also be vulnerable to say, “Hey, I committed this mistake, folks. I don’t know why this was my judgment. I don’t know why this happened. But this is the reason why I took this decision at that time.” It’s important to say, “Okay, this is not a place where you’re going to get penalized for making a mistake.” If it is very expensive, then the repercussions are different. But on a day-to-day basis, when you’re trying to make enhancements, when you’re trying to change something, there could be certain mistakes that can happen, and how we are able to be vulnerable in front of the team. Walk the talk, just don’t have these laid out, but showcase in your day-to-day actions as well. I think these are important to create a fearless organization.
I would also think that organizations can go to the extent of having a reverse mentoring, where they can hire someone from college who can mentor someone at a much senior level in an area that he or she is really good at like technology. Or there can be healthy debates between two generations, or people who are thinking very differently within the same organization. I think these are things that we need to show within organizations. So that employees feel this is a place where I think I can speak my mind and see changes if I’m going to voice out.
How should people adopt diversity without fear?
Last year, the Forbes talent Trends report said that a 100-year life could happen due to medical advancements leading to careers spanning over 60 years. Then we know the fact that we cannot have the same career for 60 years, which means we will need to explore multiple things. We need to explore multiple things. I come from a music family and music was taught to me from childhood and at some stage, I’ve said, I’m going to water this plant a little more and grow into a tree. And it’s growing simultaneously. And I’ve seen advantages of music coming over to my work and my work coming over to music, like I take management concepts and teach my music students, and I take teamwork from music and teach my team.
So, some of the questions we need to ask ourselves is what is it that could be an area where one may want to explore and diversify? Firstly, need to remember that we won’t lose anything in the process, we are just trying out new things. The second part is whatever fascinates me can convert into a hobby. And at some time, hobby can convert into a passion and then a profession. I think people can explore different areas, but after a certain point if there is conviction saying this is the path I want to take, then spending an hour in that particular art every day is very important.
How do you build a support system to help you achieve your goals?
I have had conversations with people in my daily life — I tell my husband and daughter that certain things are important for me, and these give me happiness. So, I will need to find time for them. I aligned my calendar with my daughter and husband. Additionally, I’ve tried to create time by waking up early and living a very focused life. I do not have Netflix or Prime. I think it’s just about us becoming very clear as to what is it that’s important for us in life? What will we look back at our life and feel proud about? What will I inspire my next generation of people who are looking around and make them become something else that they did not think of earlier? If we ask these questions, we will get answers to ourselves. And that may lead us to take certain actions that are bold, and unconventional. You can call them sacrifices, but they may not be sacrifices in the long run. See how we want to spend our time as well, because time is finite.
HR Head, Quantela
A human resources leader with an Engineering background, Janani has won laurels like BW HR 40under40, World HRD Congress – Top Most HR Leader, Asia’s 100 Power leaders in HR. A leadership development coach, a certified yoga instructor, a trained vocalist and veena artist as well as a teacher, Janani Prakaash is currently the Global Head of HR for Quantela Inc. At Quantela, she is responsible for all aspects of HR including but not limited to Talent Acquisition, development, engagement, retention, culture building, and change management owing to business model changes and mergers and acquisitions.
Read on to know what her thoughts are on continuous learning in this exclusive interview she gave for Global Coaching Lab (GCL)