This week, Rahul is in conversation with Sarika Sethi, one of the entrepreneurial leaders we need more of. Besides playing roles of mother and wife, she plays roles of co-founder and COO, at Gemini Power Hydraulics Private Ltd. Along with her husband, Sarika has built an organisation with pan-India presence, 175+ employees and multiple multinational organisations as customers. Other than building Gemini, Sarika is more passionate being a leadership accelerator and an executive coach. If you are at career or business crossroads or have stopped finding joy at work, Sarika might have a solution in this episode. Enjoy listening to this one!
[00:00:36.300] – Rahul
Hey, everyone, I’m Rahul. This episode is a conversation with Sarika Sethi, one of the entrepreneurial leaders we need more of. Besides playing roles of mother and wife, she plays roles of co-founder and COO, at Gemini Power Hydraulics Private Ltd. Along with her husband, Sarika has built an organisation with pan-India presence, 175 plus employees and multiple multinational organisations as customers. Besides building Gemini, Sarika is more passionate being a leadership accelerator and executive coach. If you are at career or business crossroads or have stopped finding joy at work, Sarika might have a solution in this episode. Enjoy listening to this one.
[00:01:36.450] – Rahul
I want to get started by having an introduction of yourself, and you are the director and COO of Gemini Power Hydraulics Ltd. You are also a leadership accelerator and coach. But what we want to know first about is what has been your journey? If you can share a little bit about your own professional journey, how you started your career and reached where you are, and in case there are any learnings or advice that you might have for a younger you. What advice would you have?
[00:02:09.620] – Sarika Sethi
Well, thank you for having me on this chat. My journey actually started off by being an accidental entrepreneur. I did not become an entrepreneur by choice. I was very young and I was doing my master’s in psychiatric social work when I got married. And my husband then had just moved away from the corporate world to start his own business. And by virtue of not really having funds to pay for this startup, I was the first unemployed employee.
[00:02:53.170] – Rahul
[00:02:55.350] – Sarika Sethi
So it was a completely accidental initiation into the journey of entrepreneurship. We started our business together 32 years ago. And everything that we have done, we have learned on the job. We are in the space of engineering equipment. And he is an engineer by profession. I am a psychiatric social worker. So we had kind of demarcated our jobs where he would do business development and I would handle everything back end from operations to finance to whatever else that needed to be done, which means even putting the stamp on the envelope and typing the envelope for sending it. So we started at the very basic level of. We were lucky we got some good breaks and we were able to scale up our operations to where they are today.
Today we have abandoned their presence. We have close to one hundred and seventy five employees and we represent the interest of some foreign international companies in India. You asked me what would I advise the younger me if I was to do that today? I think it’s been an interesting journey for me. We’ve made a lot of mistakes. We’ve had. Some challenging failures. But I don’t know if I would change anything, particularly because this journey is what has moulded me as I am today. This journey has facilitated my growth, my learning. And everything that I have learned in terms of being an entrepreneur or a leader. Yes, I could have probably managed my anxieties better, probably managed my. uncertainties better. Sometimes being more of a risk taker than I was, but yet it has been a very interesting journey. So I’m grateful for where I am and what I have learned in the last 32 years.
[00:05:50.880] – Rahul
You mentioned about how you became an accidental entrepreneur. So let me stay there and elaborate a little bit more. So a lot of people that reach out to us, they consist of women professionals and typically, after five to six years of work, experience is a phase when they start focusing on the family. And I’m just going back to probably 30 years back when you were probably in a similar phase and like you mentioned, your husband was leaving the corporate phase and he was starting a business. And you made that choice. You made that choice in some way that you have to support him. How did you make that decision at that point of time when the decision to be made, how did you make that decision? Is there some learning there?
[00:06:50.770] – Sarika Sethi
So I became an entrepreneur before I started my family. So I had got into the business before I had my first child, but I don’t think it was ever a choice or a disconnect between whether it’s family or work. It was both and both were important. One has to learn how to manage one’s day in the most efficient manner. I was a little fortunate because this being our own business, I could calibrate my time in the way that suited me a little better, so I would start my day very early, I would start my day at 5 o’clock in the morning, finish all my domestic chores, come to office at 9:00, work till lunchtime, go back home to look after my children during lunch, set their routine and do whatever had to be done and come back again to work and work late into the evening before I join them again. So I think when you want to do something, you will always find a way to do it, so if it is “Oh I don’t have time and I cannot manage”, I find that a little bit of an excuse for not wanting to do it. If you believe in your work, your passion is something that you really want to pursue you will learn to adjust it with whatever family obligations you have. Yes, and I understand as a woman it becomes challenging. I am not saying it’s an easy journey. I am not saying that it’s a cakewalk, but it is also not impossible. If you are putting in your best efforts and being resilient, you will find a way to manage both in the most efficient manner. But the main thing here is you have to be committed to both. Because really, there is… It’s about life, it’s not really work life and home life and balance, you know, that’s a very skewed way of looking at things because both are your life. You devote equal amount of time for both, depending on what the requirement is. Sometimes you give more time to work. Sometimes you need to give more time to your family. So it’s it’s a very fine line that you have to tread and you have to be ready to tread on it. Of course, it will have challenges. Of course, it will require to give one hundred and fifty percent. But then you have to be ready to put in that effort because the rewards will compensate for it.
[00:10:01.190] – Rahul
What I really liked was how, in your own experience, you had almost three different slots for your day for disciplined perspective, like you mentioned, five to nine, then nine to lunch, then lunch plus family, then back to work till evening and then evening onwards. So it was like five slots you had. And I’m almost imagining you went around in a very disciplined manner on a daily basis on the slots. It would have required a deep level of motivation on both sides. Like you said, it’s not a choice. You have to be committed on both sides. And while I understand the family part of it, it comes naturally. What motivated you on the professional side that why you had to be committed on the professional side?
[00:10:50.980] – Sarika Sethi
Rahul ! I had a family I have to support that we have to generate funds and the lifestyle that we aspire for our children! So I had to make sure that we provided them with what they needed. And that was enough motivation. We were building our business. There was a lot of effort that had to go into it to make it a success. So I think they were both working in conjunction with each other. That one was needed for the other. It was actually a no brainer that if I have to raise my children in the best possible manner to make it most comfortable, I have to have a certain standard of living and to have that standard of living, I have to pursue my career in the most efficient manner.
[00:11:45.100] – Rahul
I think what you said in a natural manner comes with a lot of difficulty for a people that I interact with and what you mentioned, it requires a certain level of self awareness. Which leads me to my next question, which is also trait of, Sarika, authentic leaders. It’s a term that is used for a specific style of leadership. And what you said, while the way you mentioned it came very naturally to you, but I see a lot of people struggling with it. That kind of self-awareness, not only about oneself, but what they want in life. And to get that what is required. I see a a lot of struggle lot of questions I see around these. So that brings me to my next topic, which is authentic leadership. Tell me a little bit about how you define authentic leadership?
[00:12:42.260] – Sarika Sethi
So I have a very simple definition, probably differs from what you get in books and everywhere, but my idea of authentic leadership is showing up, as you truly are.. That means you being a person that you truly are when you are in the leadership roles. So you don’t put up a front. You don’t behave in a manner which is not natural to you. But you are present in the situation and being the truest version of yourself.
[00:13:30.540] – Rahul
Can you elaborate this? Are there certain characteristics or traits that you would want to add to this and also any example, role models or any example that you might want to share about this definition?
[00:13:52.770] – Sarika Sethi
See basically what happens is that….When we start working and when we start emulating role models, we want to…Become like…People that we look up to and the way they operate or what we read, the corporate leaders and giants and the way they do stuff. While that is very motivating.That is a great learning that. But their life, their journey has made them what they are and we have to go about our journey. Being what we are. Being with what our value systems are, what our strengths are, what what passions we are, what makes us thrive. So we have to develop our own style of working with. Within our work environment. And when you do that, you will find it easier because you do not have to pretend to be if you’re a delegative leader, you don’t have to pretend to be a collaborative leader. If you’re a collaborative leader, you don’t have to pretend to be a delegative leader, because that’s what you think is required in a scenario. Being your true self makes it easier for you to be present in a situation and it also really helps you to utilize whatever innate qualities that you have in you to the maximum. When we try to behave like someone or do things which are expected of us as a leader, it becomes a challenge in terms that sometimes they can really conflict with our strengths, conflict with our values, conflict with our belief systems, and we will not be able to give or be the best version of ourselves. So if you want to be a true version and the best version of yourself and work to the best of your abilities, please be who you truly are. Come from the place of your beliefs, your strengths, your passion. And working will become comparatively easier. In your both work and personal environment.
[00:16:45.390] – Rahul
So would you say Sarika, that authentic leadership is being true to self in the role as a leader? So I’m going to pick on these two different phrases. One, what is true to self means and what is being a leader mean. These are two different aspects of the definition. Being true to self, the way I understood so far is, being true to own values, beliefs and passions. That’s a point that I got from the response. But is that understanding correct or is there more to it? And second, in the role of the leader, in your own experience, you are leading 175 employees. You are leading beyond that, I think, you’re leading a family, you are leading as a woman entrepreneur and you are leading the society as well. So is there, from your own experience, a definition of who is a leader that one should look at? And second, being true to self, is my understanding correct, or is there more to it?
[00:17:55.660] – Sarika Sethi
So usually people believe that if you’re a leader, you have to have followers. You know, I heard a very wise man once say “to be a leader, you don’t really need to have followers. To be a leader, you have to have the passion to do something which you truly believe in. Followers will come and align themselves to it. So this is not about me doing something to impress someone or to have someone listen to me. This is me doing something that I believe in that I have a passionate approach towards and that I believe is the right thing to do. Once you operate from there..People will start aligning to your belief systems, if they see success and result.
[00:19:00.110] – Rahul
So in this definition that to be a leader, you need a purpose that you believe in?
[00:19:05.900] – Sarika Sethi
Yes, Always. In fact, to be a true leader, you should be loyal to a purpose and a larger goal in life. You know, unfortunately, what happens today is…People change their, if I can use the word, “loyalties” very fast. Now they are doing this, then they are doing this, then they are doing this, then… This is not successful. Let’s do this. This is not successful. Let’s do this. That’s not how success really comes or how you achieve something in your life. To achieve something in your life, we have to…. There is a very simple formula to it, that you have to have a passion, you have to put effort to develop that passion so that it becomes a capacity. Getting and building up capacity and skill is not enough, you have to put some more effort to that loyal goal or that purpose for you to make it a success. So there has to be discipline that has to be focused. We cannot keep changing our goalposts every day. So there has to be something that you believe is your larger purpose, that you are moving towards, that you want to achieve. So when I said authentic leadership, I should know who am I. OK, which means what is my belief system, what are my values, what are my strengths, what are my passions, what do I aspire for and what is the purpose… What is the larger purpose in my life. What is it that I want to be known for, to do in a certain period of time.
[00:20:56.890] – Rahul
And I think this answers both the phrases, Sarika, very well. What you just described, I were to rephrase, I think, Authentic leadership is about being true to yourself as a leader and what it then further means is knowing who am I, knowing what my purpose is and then going after it like a mission. Like you have to keep doing that, and like you said, it is not about having followers. It is about keep doing, keep doing, keep doing it because it’s your purpose. It’s.. It’s.. It’s the pursuit of that purpose with full awareness of who you are.
[00:21:38.400] – Sarika Sethi
So it’s got nothing to do with the position, really Rahul. Like, you know, everybody gives this example of a doorman who does his work efficiently, wishes people, brings a smile to their face and, you know, keeps his area clean and all that. He is a leader in his own sphere because he has set the standards for the others to look up to. So it is not just because you’re the CEO or CEO or director that you’re a leader. You could be at any position in your organization and you can set and be an example for others to follow. And that’s how you become a leader. That’s how you get followers. Because you are performing to your highest potential and it is setting an example for others.
[00:22:26.550] – Rahul
So this brings me to two questions. Let’s say, I am six or seven years into my professional journey or let’s say I have just started out as an entrepreneur. Why is authentic leadership important for me? And two… These are two very fundamental questions. Who am I and what is my purpose? And I’ve had conversations where people really struggle with getting response to these two. So, one, why is it important? And second, how do I solve these two questions, even to think about whether this is important for me.
[00:23:12.700] – Sarika Sethi
OK, so why is this important for me? So I have coached a few senior level people and, you know, after they reach a certain age of forty, forty-five, all I can see in some of them is frustration, anger, discontentment. And sometimes this can become a challenge in their growth in the future. Now, why does this happen? This happens because we start our journey with a lot of passion and motivation, but along the line we lose our purpose and we are just working towards achieving some results, some targets, some transactional goals. We leave behind the true purpose that we started with. We are just going in terms of what are our targets, what we have to achieve, what is the transaction for the year. We are just working towards the tasks of just fulfilling certain requirements that the job imposes on it. And as you go two, three, four, five, 10 years into and you keep performing these transactions, you’ll actually have somewhere forgotten the reason why you started off or what was it that truly motivated you, because you have immersed yourself in the “daily transactions” is the word that comes to me again, of your job, so, you know, I’m meeting my targets, I’m doing this, OK, this job and this KRA, this KPI, that’s all that I’m entangling myself with. So it becomes very important to then get a wake up call is, why am I getting frustrated? Why am I getting angry in this situation? Why is this position not giving me the satisfaction that I want? And that is because we have veered away so much from what were our true beliefs, our true strengths, our true passions, and we are just performing a role which has been given to us and explained to us that it has to be done in a certain fashion. So we have moulded ourselves into being someone that we truly are not. And when we do that, it clashes with our inner world. And all of us have a world, you know. So the outer world starts clashing with this inner world of ours, and this results in all the frustrations and anger and dissatisfaction that you see people, what they call mid-life crisis, you know, after the 40 years mark. What rubbish is this, you know people start saying all this and I have seen a lot of my clients coming to me and saying, listen, I am not happy. What do I do? What am I doing wrong? I’m earning good money. I’m in a good position, but I’m not happy. That is because they veered away from their authentic self. They have moulded themselves in somebody else’s persona that is expected by the organizations they work in, all these situations that they are in. Which has resulted in this. So that is why it is very important that you’ve got to keep connecting with yourself at every level. You have to keep going back to that ‘Who am I’, ‘What am I’ you know and it is not that it is one definitive thing. It will evolve as you grow. There will be certain strengths that will become stronger as you, you know, have various experiences in life. There will be some beliefs which become limiting as you grow older. But you have to constantly keep working on these and keep constantly upgrading your operating system, if I can call it that. You know, your internal operating system, like we every two years are upgrading our phone or upgrading our computers, but we forget to upgrade ourselves and our operating systems. It’s only when you do that can you truly move, at least veer towards happiness and success in the truest sense of the word. And not just monetary and position.
[00:27:48.660] – Rahul
In your case Sarika, when did you have this realization? Was it like right from the beginning itself, because you mentioned you were an accidental entrepreneur, and I’m sure you went into it, and then you started discovering all of the things…
Rahul, I could honestly, when I got into it, I had no clue what I was doing. I.. I was literally, like I said, doing the transactional role from pillar to post . So I have to do this and I have to do this. So I had like these tasks that had to be performed every day and these, you know, certain set of goals that had to be achieved in the short term. But at the family level, the kids had to be taught and they had to be instilled with the right values systems and the education. And at work I had to make sure that we had put the processes in place and we went to the right kind of people. So I was working on automatic gear. And really there was no thought process into it because with this happening to me and I was just going along. Until you know, when I was in my late 30s and early 40s, where it suddenly came crashing down on me and I almost went into a depression because I did not know what was happening. I was in a performing role, but not really growing in any way in myself, and I was doing the task that was required from me at work because I had to be a leader. I had to be you know, being able to give results….But I had not in any way invested in upgrading myself. And that is where I realized that this is not happening. If I continue this way, I will probably end up being depressed or, you know, in a situation where I will not be able to function. So I have ‘Learner’ as a very strong strength in me. We have these Gallup strengths that you identify. So learning is a very strong strength in me where I like to constantly be able to, you know, learn and bring new things into my life. So at the age of 40, I decided to go back to studying. I joined the IIM Bangalore and I did their Executive General Management course so that I could upgrade my knowledge base. But then I also realized that as an individual, we have some inherent talents in us. But they do not become strengths unless we put efforts and invest in them and make them into our capabilities and capacities. You know, I call this Capacity Builder. And this is usually in 4 fields. You build your intellectual capacity, which means that you improve your abilities to think, learn, plan, execute with focus and discipline. You improve your physical capacities wherein there is a very close relationship and everybody knows, between your physical health and your mental health. If you ignore your physical health in the long run, your mental health also becomes a challenge. The third capacity that you need to build is emotional capacity, which means that we do not live in isolation, we are social animals, we constantly are interacting with others. And these relationships and these interactions influence our behavior and our responses to a very large extent. And finally, your spiritual capacities, which is not the religious capacity, but basically being in touch with the spirit in you, which I keep mentioning as who am I? What are my inherent talents? So I realized that I have to very consciously start investing in building these capacities in myself so that I can grow from where I am, to where I am actually capable of being.
[00:32:50.850] – Rahul
Is that something that you have seen commonly across the conversations you have had with lot of other people, that the signs are that they feel that they are not growing? They are stuck and they start asking some fundamental questions about what am I doing with my life. Or is there any other common pattern that you have seen?
Ya, you start losing interest in work. When I say start losing interest in work, you don’t get up in the morning to say, “Yay, I got to go to work and I have a fantastic day ahead of me, you know? But what you start thinking is, OK, O’ God now, what have I got, what do I have to do…You start avoiding things. You start procrastinating, you start looking for excuses for not being present. And this usually happens because somewhere inside there is a discontentment, because the alignment between who you are and what you are doing has increased. There is a very large misalignment. You have moved away from what you started off as what you truly are and you are performing tasks which are nowhere near your beliefs, your strengths or your passions, and it comes out in various forms where I have seen a lot of leaders where they start becoming dictatorial, you know, you you start exerting your power for no rhyme or reason. You know, you become very delegative, you become very abrasive. You do not have patience to mentor and teach others. So these signs start coming in the behavioral pattern of the leader, if they are misaligned with what they are doing and what they really want to do or how they really want to do it.
[00:34:54.560] – Rahul
So one is your own feelings, there is a pattern. That if there’s a feeling of discontent, feeling of getting stuck, what am I doing, not not excited. I’m clubbing all this and saying that these are all at some level negative vibrations, negative feelings about whatever is happening in my life. And the second is the behavior pattern where the behavior with others that is being seen as getting affected. And if other people suddenly start giving up feedback, which is different from what I used to get earlier, then that also could be a sign that I need to look at it. So this is helpful. I’m going to go further, Sarika. I think I’m going to take a few contexts and I want to understand this question in those contexts. So let’s say I’m an entrepreneur or I’m a small business owner. I have been operating my business for the last three or four years and the business is doing OK. Probably how I had a vision of it, it could have been much better. But where it is, it is. And I’ve been doing my tasks in that context. Why would you say authentic leadership would be relevant or important?
[00:36:25.640] – Sarika Sethi
So usually what happens, Rahul, is that if we do not have a vision of what our larger goal or larger purpose in life is, we set out to do many, many small things and in the process. We scatter our energies in doing a lot of work, but not smart work. That means our energies are being expended in doing a lot of things which may or may not have any value, but we start doing actions which are not in alignment with what we really want to do in the long run. Oh. This scattering of you know, people like to call it multitasking. People like to call it experimenting or various other things, but I feel that if you have started with a certain intention, you should put all your efforts in the most disciplined and focused fashion to achieve what you had set out to achieve and get rid of all the distractions that come in the way. If you take an example, what happens is., and this happened to me earlier when I was working. I had this open door policy where anybody and everybody could walk into my room at any time with their problem and I would attend to it. In the process, what happened was I would spend my complete productive day, solving everybody else’s issues, but not doing what I truly wanted to do. You know, you’ve heard this saying “put your monkey on my shoulders”, so I had so many monkeys on my shoulders that by the end of the day, by the time I got rid of the last monkey, I had not achieved anything that I set out to achieve for myself. And this is something that entrepreneurs, because we believe that we know the best and we are the best and we have solutions to everybody’s problems, we start off believing that. That because this is my idea that has generated the business, this is my baby, we get so possessive and protective about it that we want to be a part of everything and every decision making. We do not know what to let go, what to delegate, and how to use our energies in the most efficient manner to move towards the larger goal. We impose ourselves in the daily day to day activities. So much because simply because we get possessive about it. So, if in businesses, you will notice after yes, earlier two, three, four years are used up in setting up businesses, setting up processes, setting up a team that works efficiently, but after that, we have to learn to take a step backward and work ON the business and not IN the business. There is a very clear demarcation because we are working in the business, we get stuck in the cesspool. We need to remove ourselves from that and start working on the business and doing that developmental, strategic activities which otherwise we ignore.
[00:40:13.810] – Rahul
I really like it. I think the last phrase itself was very clear: work ON the business and not IN it. So if I were to articulate my understanding, if I’m an entrepreneur or I’m a small business owner who has been working in the business for the last four or five years and sign number one is that it’s not where I would have expected it to be in four or five years. And the reason for that sign is that my energy is getting dissipated across multiple areas, including managing a lot of people and like you gave from your example, solving their problems. And in that process, I am unable to create the output that I’m supposed to create. Then these are situations which are indicative of why it is important for me to step back and start working on the business and not in it. And one of the ways to work on the business and not in it is to go deeper, understanding who am I and….
[00:41:23.650] – Sarika Sethi
What is my true purpose, what do I really want in life. Because the goalpost will change, it will not be…. every ten years the goalpost will change, but then you have to have a clear vision of the larger goal.
[00:41:36.550] – Rahul
Understood. So I think then that’s how it would start aligning for me, when this becomes clear, it would start aligning where I should be focusing my own energy. And how do I make my business better in terms of performance. Let me take another context. This is related. Is there anything different to look at if I’m a woman entrepreneur?
[00:42:00.910] – Sarika Sethi
Oh, you know, leaders and entrepreneurs don’t really have a gender. It’s more about being the person that you are and I’m really not in favor of defining leadership in terms of gender that, you know, certain gender is doing better than the others or there are more challenges. I feel that there are challenges on both the ends. Yes, I understand it can be a different set of challenges for women because we have to also look after our family, and that is a very important part of our life. But to use that as an excuse, I don’t really know how true that is. So if you want to be a real leader, if you want to be you have to define what your boundaries are. You have to be aware of what your capabilities are, because nobody can stop you from becoming anything if you really want to do that. So just by definition, because I’m a woman, that is why I can only do this much and no more, I think is a myth because we have enough women leaders in the world, you know, which are examples in front of us. Women have a different set of skill sets, which we are very good at. We have a different way of processing and working compared to our male counterparts, so the way we would go about doing things would be different. So, people may perceive it in a different fashion, but truly, gender is not a definition of leadership in any way. Or it’s not a constraint to become a leader in any way.
[00:44:16.230] – Rahul
So I think I probably wanted to articulate it slightly differently, and I will expand the segment in terms of not only women entrepreneurs and small business owners, but also women professionals. And I’m trying to link it to the original definition, which you mentioned, which is being true to self as a leader, becoming aware of who am I and what is my purpose. How is the professional pursuit, whether it’s the business or whether it’s the professional side fit in. And that’s where it’s unfortunate, but that’s where a lot of women, either they leave the career because it no longer fits in the way they have defined the purpose or they no longer have interest in growing the business because it stops getting linked so strongly to the purpose that they have identified.
[00:45:10.150] – Sarika Sethi
So this is a whole conversation on choice, OK, women by nature are the nurturers of the family, which is an inherent quality in 90 percent of the women, and they can do this task very efficiently. But to say that this is the only task that they can perform is a little limiting. Because I feel that you can nurture and develop a happy family only if you are a happy person. If you are not a happy person, then you cannot imbibe or instill a value of happiness in your children, and if your happiness comes from you pursuing a career then so be it. Because in pursuing a career, if that makes you happy, if that makes you fulfilled, then it is not the quantity of time that you spend with your family that matters, but the quality of the time that you spend with your family. So I may not spend a whole day with my children screaming and shouting at them, but I may spend qualitative two, three, four, five hours where I’m reading stories to them, where I’m sharing experiences with them and being a better mother to them because I am happy with what I’m doing. So if I am taking my choice as…. If I’m taking my nurturing as a choice, it is fine. But if I’m taking my role as a nurturer by requirement because it’s expected of me, it can become a challenge. So the choice is with the woman, whether what makes her happy, if she chooses what makes her happy, then she will be able to perform both the tasks efficiently. So my work makes me happy, I’m passionate about my work. If I do that, it will give me satisfaction, which in turn will get exhibited in how I react and respond to my family. But if I am forced into the role of motherhood when actually you know, my passion is my work, I will not do justice to my role as a mother. So every woman should very consciously evaluate what is it that gives her happiness and satisfaction and then align her roles accordingly.
[00:48:10.930] – Rahul
I like it, I’m reflecting on it and I’m reflecting I’m also trying to link it with your previous response, I think if I combine the two for me, this is also about having a realization whether the energy and efforts are getting dissipated across multiple areas – family, business, professional life, etc. and if it is leading to one, some amount of discontent and dissatisfaction that on either of the two fronts, things are not where I am expecting them to be; if that is the case, then it’s a sign that something is missing. If I’m deriving satisfaction as an individual, then I’m getting that satisfaction, like you said to my family and my role as a nurturer there. So….
[00:49:00.430] – Sarika Sethi
Because children are the most adjusting creatures in this world. I honestly believe that, that the way you raise them, the way you impart values to them, the way they understand my mother is a working mother, they completely adjust to that. It is not that they don’t raise a hue and cry and if you’ve taught them, OK, these things have to be done in this fashion, this is how we are going to operate, they will completely adapt to that situation. But if we believe in being helicopter parents where we want to be there and also there and also there and also there, you are just dissipating your energies and really not achieving anything.
[00:49:44.530] – Rahul
Helpful Sarika, I think on that note, I do want to stay on it for probably a few more minutes – women entrepreneurs and professionals. So in becoming a better entrepreneur or better professional, I am going outside the realm of just authentic leadership… From a tactical perspective, in your experience, did you find other methods, ways to become more effective as an entrepreneur than the professional?
[00:50:14.350] – Sarika Sethi
I think this is not relevant for women but any entrepreneur, any leader should invest in a mentor or coach. Because, what happens is when we are on an entrepreneurial journey, we sometimes tend to put on blinkers because we only see our perspective and nothing else. And sometimes thinking out of the box becomes a challenge because like I said, we are so much in the situation that we do not ….We’re not able to see the larger perspective of the larger view. So my advice to any entrepreneur or any person who’s finding it a challenge suddenly and is not understanding what is happening, they should engage with a coach and have certain difficult conversations and conversations which can give them a different perspective. I, in my own life, when I faced a challenge and I was not clear on what I wanted, I engaged in a coach and I invested in my inner journey for almost more than a year before I truly got the breakthrough, and understanding of what I want in life. Like I said, I was in my late 30s and 40s and I completely didn’t know what was happening and you know, my kids had grown up. And so that part of my life had kind of finished and this part was not. The work was not really engaging me the way I wanted and that’s when I engaged with a coach and I learned more about myself. And then I realized that what I enjoy most is helping people to help themselves. And I started investing my time and my energies to doing it. But had I not engaged in an external person to kind of see that side of me, a person who would not pass a judgment on me, so it’s not always your family members or your friends who can give you that insight. You need to kind of engage with a professional who operates from a nonjudgmental space and shows you the mirror like it really is without any kind of judgment being placed in it. It really adds a lot to your group. So I would suggest to every leader, every entrepreneur that if they are stuck in life, if they are not understanding what is happening and how they can move forward, they should engage in a coach of some kind.
[00:52:51.710] – Rahul
In your case, as an example and in general, how can one go about finding a mentor and a coach?
[00:52:59.280] – Sarika Sethi
There are a lot of coaches, and they’re in different spaces. You first need to kind of identify someone that you can relate to. Most coaches do a first session where they have a conversation with you and if you find that there is a chemistry there you can engage with the person. There are a lot of YouTubes of the best speakers in the world that are available on YouTube. You can hear them, you can understand right from Tony Robbins to Robin Sharma to Brian Weiss… There are so many people out there who you can just listen to and then understand what it is that works for you, that gels with you, and then accordingly move forward. How does one find a coach….
[00:53:52.710] – Rahul
In your case how did you find your coach?
[00:53:57.120] – Sarika Sethi
Somebody recommended her.
[00:53:59.430] – Rahul
Somebody recommended. Now…
[00:54:01.790] – Sarika Sethi
But again, I because I clicked with her and I had… I kind of formed a good chemistry with her, I engaged with her for a year. So it is not necessary that the first coach you find, you will click with. You may not. So it’s a trial and error because it’s a one to one interaction of human dynamics. So, yeah. But at least you have to find you have to make that effort.
[00:54:28.820] – Rahul
Are these specific networks, Sarika, that you are a part of where you got the recommendation? I’m separating this into two steps. Step number two is that I’m very clear that you need to go through a trial and error process, which means that you might be interacting with a few individuals who could be your coach before deciding this is she’s a person or he’s a person. But the first step itself is and the reason I’m asking is that, again, at a very practical level, this is a very common question that I get both from entrepreneurs and the reason I mention women in particular, is that amongst all the multiple tasks that women take upon themselves, family, business, etc., they don’t really get the time to network. And while men are able to get recommendations that, OK, why don’t you try this individual, a lot of women entrepreneurs often ask me how do I find a coach? It’s not like I Google and I just get the first result and I start interacting with that person. So at a very practical level, again, for the first step, how do I get that recommendation of who could be a coach for me? Is there a way that you would suggest?
[00:55:35.990] – Sarika Sethi
Unfortunately Rahul, there is no organized body in India which has a listing of coaches because it’s still a very unorganized sector in our country. But there is an international body called ICF International Coaching Federation, which if you go they have coaches from around the world, whichever country you’re placed in, and you can look for their certified coaches in their directory. So you could try that. But there are many, like Gallup strengths, have their own directory of their certified coaches. So it’s more of trial and error. And there is no one place, unfortunately, where you can look for something. LinkedIn could be a place where you could search for. A lot of coaches are listed there. But again, it’s a trial and error. Unfortunately, I can’t give you a name of any one body that you can associate with that.
[00:56:36.590] – Rahul
Well, that’s fine. I think I was more interested in your own experience and whatever comes to mind, because this is something that I keep hearing. So in case there is a message to people, I think you gave few options, few examples. And that’s what I wanted to hear. It’s not an expert input that I needed. What I wanted to hear was what are some of the ways in which one can find a coach. And on that related note, are there networks that you are a part of and you would recommend women entrepreneurs and professionals to be part of where that learning happens, those kind of recommendations that could come in?
[00:57:12.860] – Sarika Sethi
So I am a part of an entrepreneur group which is started by Harsh Mariwala. It’s called Ascent, which is a group of 500 odd entrepreneurs. It’s it’s peer-to-peer learning platform for entrepreneurs, which is very, very effective, very, very useful. It’s based out of Bombay. But we have chapters in Bombay, Chennai, and we have all India chapters also. So if anybody wants to, they can join (an entrepreneur can join). It’s a fantastic place to learn from other entrepreneurs and I have benefited a lot from there. It’s called the Ascent foundation. But there are many other industry bodies like you have Flow or FICCI, then you have TiE, you have BNI…there are a lot of other platforms that you can work on. But I work with Ascent and I’m very, very happy with what I have learned from there.
[00:58:17.900] – Rahul
What all do they do? Is there like annual events, monthly events…
[00:58:23.810] – Sarika Sethi
No, No, we have monthly meetings where you are broken into smaller groups, that that is your trust group and you kind of come and discuss your challenges and whatever you’re facing and then get experiential learning. And also, if you Google Ascent foundation, you see the whole format.
OK, so my last question, Sarika, I think this is all fantastically linking to everything that I wanted to ask you… If I am in one of these target segments. I’m an entrepreneur, small business owner, a woman entrepreneur or a woman professional. And I want to get started with some sort of a self-assessment. Is there a guidance from you on the first step that I can take to get a sense of that is this the right time? I think one is overall, we talked about our own feelings about where am I in my life. But beyond that, is there a structured method to get started with some sort of a self-assessment on this specific situation or profiles of people where you help out even in that first step?
[00:59:34.760] – Sarika Sethi
So I help out anyone who wants to help themselves. OK, so irrespective of what phase of life they are in, but if they have realized that they need to now work towards that own Internet, which is their internal OS – operating system, and they want to upgrade that, I will work with that. So that is not a challenge at all. How I usually go about doing it is I am Gallup Strengths certified coach. So I usually start with an assessment of the strengths of the individuals. I work with them on how they can put effort, and develop their strengths to the level where they can, you know perform and get positive results and success. So this is a part of knowing the journey of who I am. Then I also work with people’s core values and helping them identify what are those things that they will not compromise on in their lives. Once they become aware of them it becomes easier to make choices in life because, you know, there are some things that you will not want to go back on or compromise. Then you will move forward keeping that in mind. So what I do is primarily create an awareness of who I am and what is the purpose of my life. Through assessments like Gallup, Core values and various other scientific tools. If my strength is that I’m a great networker, but the job that I’m doing is sitting on the desk and looking at financial sheets, then I am not working to my strengths. I’m going to be frustrated in the job because what I enjoy the most is talking to people. So that’s how they will be able to judge if they are even working in alignment with their strengths.
[01:01:42.220] – Rahul
Super. So if I am an entrepreneur, or I am a professional and I feel that my passion, my interest lies in networking. And that’s an example that you gave. And all that I’m doing is a desk job or something, which is very different from my passion then that is the first sign. If you have that first sign, anyone who is listening to this conversation, feel free to reach out to Sarika. She is going to help in taking the next step and in identifying who you are, what your true passion is, what your purpose is, and how can you derive more joy and satisfaction from whatever pursuits you are having on the professional or personal side. And so on that note, I think we covered a lot. We could not cover everything but we covered a lot on the topic of Authentic Leadership. We covered Sarika’s fantastic journey of being an accidental entrepreneur, but then realizing how she could achieve her full potential through the route of Authentic Leadership. And we covered some great nuggets in the context of entrepreneurs, small business owners, women entrepreneurs and women professionals. I think there were some great tips out there. Fascinating conversation and takeaways for me personally at least. Thank you so much Sarika for taking time out! If any last message you might want to give to the participants, please feel free to do that. But from my side, thank you so much for taking time out for this conversation. And I hope you enjoyed being part of it!
[01:03:10.390] – Sarika Sethi
I would always request everyone that you know, we have these thoughts that we have to do so much in life. There are so many responsibilities that we have to fulfil. But please first start by fulfilling your obligations and responsibilities to yourself. Invest in yourself first, so that you can then invest in others. Make yourself happy first, and then you will see how easy it is to spread happiness and joy in others. So, thank you Rahul. Thank you for having me. It was a very interesting conversation, not something that I usually do, but thank you! And it was a pleasure talking to you.