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Sharon Lobo

IWB Blogger

Motivational Speaker Abha Maryada Banerjee On Why Women Are Denied Leadership Roles

  • IWB Post
  •  April 16, 2018

Motivational speaker, peak performance coach, and author of the watershed book on Leadership for Women, NUCLEUS, Abha Maryada Banerjee has coached and consulted top CEOs, Media personalities, Sports Stars, Business people and leaders in the making. A Humanitarian Leader, Entrepreneur and Leadership Consultant, Abha is a lawyer by profession, having practiced business law for over a decade, after which she set out to re-train herself in the field of human development.

Abha is an expert at motivating individuals to turn their ideas into real business success. Charismatic, passionate, driven, open-minded and with tons of optimism, here with IWB, is  Abha who shares her life and professional experiences. Excerpts from the conversation:

From a successful business lawyer to an eminent people-building expert, a transition which made you India’s first internationally acclaimed Woman Motivational Speaker – What was your motivation, Abha? 

Being people driven, there was a time when I saw multitudes of people living lesser lives, confusion, no fallback mechanism or social support. That gave rise to a vision of creating an alternative platform or a social system or dialogue or education that would allow people to build themselves and not stay dependent on chance or circumstance. To assist people to live their highest potentials and improve the quality of their lives.

Law was my first choice to do this as it allowed me access to socially relevant issues and exposure to legalities, rights, freedoms, etc. which I translated into education for many. Despite these, over the years, I realized the protagonists of the vision, people had their own motivations and incentives to change or not. That led to the switch where the realization that I needed to educate myself about people change, psychology, philosophy, religion, social sciences, women, children, education systems around the world and social changes globally. That led to the shift with the need to re-educate and not be able to stay in full-time law practice.

Having coached and consulted top CEOs, Media personalities, Sports Stars, etc., what are some learnings you give them that can be adopted by the common man?

The biggest one that all the people including high achievers have needed is self–determination, understanding themselves and finding ways to achieve their goals. The key learnings have been around resilience, failure proofing, creating high focus, big picture understanding, goal setting, accountability, time frames, sense of gratification, success education, etc. and the need for problem-solving.

What is your take on work-life balance? And how does one work towards it?

Personally, I have never believed in the word called balance as it does not truly denote the reason why it is used. Depends so entirely on what you are doing, priorities and your own person. The word I have always used is INTEGRATION, work-life integration. A version where you optimize each and every part of your life and spend time/ effort on the key priorities. For me, they are Family, Work, Purpose, Finances, Community and God.

I am a time optimizer and very keenly work on the issues at hand. As a big picture person, I am able to connect multiple but relatable things to be done or sorted. Also, I believe one has to become a master at problem-solving to keep up with the momentum. We cannot afford to spend time on problems, we should always be working on solutions and goals. Need a level of creativity and proactivity to be able to handle things on your feet. It has become one of my biggest strengths over the years.

Abha Maryada Banerjee

Could you tell us more about ‘Personal Mastery’ for individuals and ‘Emotional Fitness’ for Corporates’ for achieving human capital excellence – which is something your actively profess?

People are the key to just about everything individually or collectively. There is a gap in how people are understood and what really motivates them to become excellent. With the way things have been around education, social setups, and work environments, there is an expectation of excellence but acceptance of the mediocre. We do not work on our people, and people do not work on themselves.

Human Capital is our primary resource and needs to be treated like that. While individuals must always take control of their mental agility, emotional states, physical health, and understanding… we can call this Mastery of Self, Corporates must seek to create an understanding around the same things at the collective level. We can call this the ‘Emotional Fitness’ of the Corporates so they can maximize the contribution of their human capital by understanding how best they will work, what motivates them, what creates passion and how to get the best results..from people.  As Corporates have to maintain and grow their bottom lines, this aspect takes a back seat allowing mediocrity.

Talking about the corporate environment, you strongly vouch for Diversity, Inclusion, and Culture. How are these different in a well-established company, as compared to a new age startup?

‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast,’ the oft-repeated quote but the most powerful way to look at how cultures can affect human as well as corporate performance. A lot of time is spent on building strategy as part of the corporate performance where culture is merely another fact. In fact, it should be the key strategic aspect to be covered while making any growth strategy. Homogeneity has been found to be a performance killer, therefore, diversity and including a variety of people, skills or methods is the way to go.

However, the systemized way in which companies work fail to get the benefit of diversity due to lack of training for such diversity. Inclusion is necessary and how that inclusion pans out for people to get the best value to the corporation must be looked into. It is easier in a startup where communications are more open, there are no silos, and the systems are shaping up every day, the focus is on running the startup and getting out as compared to a well- established company which needs larger change processes to implement diversity and inclusion.

How do HRs look at maintaining inclusion and culture in a huge team?

HR plays and can play a more significant role in maintaining inclusion and creating optimized cultures in as much as the recruitment, talent building, and retention strategies can be enlarged, modified to implement these. In bigger teams, training becomes crucial to create masterful performances by benefiting from the diverse nature of the team, creating growth cultures, making space for performance errors and corrections.

You feel strongly about women and leadership, which you have captured in your book Nucleus. What do you think is the reason that women in leadership are hard to come by?

The reasons are many, mainly cultural as women are deemed less of leadership material, thanks to the way they are perceived. Not tough enough, not great decision makers or highly emotional. Apart from these, the opportunities for women are segregated and divided into areas presumed to be better for them. Due to social expectations, women are at war with themselves trying to keep up with these expectations. Raising families is also another very physical and biological reason that women cannot keep up with the pressures and demands of leadership spaces.  Of late we have seen a rise in women being included in the corporate environments and being accepted as a norm. Though this is still not so in the leadership space because women are not trained to lead.

Abha Maryada Banerjee

What do you think is the root cause of gender issues to be so rampant in the world today? Where does it start?

Religion and cultures! Women are being relegated to second space and being the weaker sex. Since time immemorial, men hunted, and women nurtured. We still do the same except that now women also hunt and nurture at the same time. As society is not used to seeing women in multiple roles, we are losing out on the contributions of women to the world. Society has one essential relationship with women, expectation that emanated from patriarchal versions of social settings.

Taking this topic further, there are strong views on Feminism and Equality, with feminism garnering a negative connotation lately. Which of the two do you think is necessary?

Feminism has taken various meanings in the last decade, and the worst of them is man-hating, either and or scenario. We have not learned to live with biological male and female differences and strengths. Feminism is merely a voice that speaks for its dignity and freedoms. Negativity definitely led to more friction and wariness amongst men and women both to be branded or looked at in a certain way. Instead, we could simply focus on the fact of value and equity, what do women bring to the table and let us be fair to all… women and men both. Under-representation has called for a fight, and that is where it should end. Execution of an equitable social structure does not need a debate. However, equality, when measured in value, needs to be looked into in the same way.Value be rewarded equally.

Talking about books, tell me what motivated you to author MARYADA ‘In Rendition’? 

My birth name is MARYADA, a very very heavy word to carry. I was laughed at often for having a weird name, and there were no other people with the same name. While people called it a limitation, my parents told me its respect. So it became, for me, a term for living respectfully for yourself and for others. Being a strong headed person, problem solver and an outspoken outlier, made me unpopular and I was often attacked by haters, jealousy driven people. It was my name MARYADA that provided the boundaries, rules, and beliefs to stay within your self-imposed dignity. MARYADA’In Rendition’ is a bilingual poetry book that keeps moving around the name at various times in life and how I grew into the largesse of this name instead of becoming a limited human being.

Walk us through your day routine

I am an early riser ( between 3-4 Am). By 7 AM, I am at my desk working, and by 11 AM, I am back into Seminar mode, either speaking, writing or creating a new business/project. At 3 PM, my daughter is back from School. An hour with her for lunch and chatting. Then I work until 7 when I have dinner, and then I shut down everything. There is no TV, some social media and then it’s family time until we sleep. From 7 onwards, the family is in the lounge discussing their day or the next day, listening to children, husband and calling up people back home. I always make sure to read before sleeping. These are days when I am not conducting a seminar or recording something. Then work begins at 7 AM until 7 PM mostly with no breaks.

What is next in store for you? Any new projects on the cards?

Many, more books, web series, content creation, new projects around Leadership education. I am also learning Salsa, getting back into singing and theatre again.

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