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“Two years into the pandemic, women have achieved important milestones”

We, at Adgully, have always saluted and honoured women managers and leaders across diverse fields. W-SUITE is a special initiative from Adgully that has been turning the spotlight on some of the most remarkable women achievers in M&E, Advertising & Marketing, PR & Communication industry. In the refurbished series, we seek to find out how women leaders have been managing their teams and work as well as how they have been navigating through the toughest and most challenging times brought about by the global pandemic.

With nearly two decades of industry experience, Elisha Saigal, Founder and CEO, El Sol Strategic Consultants (ESSC), is an entrepreneur with a vision. Having established her venture to offer all-round solutions for brands, she believes in leading with responsibility, so that team members are propelled towards personal growth along with the company.

In conversation with Adgully, Elisha Saigal speaks about women owning multi tasking skills by birth, pandemic and transformation across industries, lessons she learned as a women leader and more.  

How do you think the role and scope of women leaders has widened in the post-pandemic world?

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, women have achieved important milestones, especially in senior leadership. This is an encouraging sign and worth celebrating after these incredibly difficult times. Many studies have shown that women are, indeed, more “people-oriented” and spend more time developing and coaching other leaders in their organization. There is a need for much more wisdom and compassion in the world of work and beyond — and it’s clear that women leaders are a primary source of these invaluable qualities.

Over the years, we at ESSC have consciously taken on brands that are led by women founders, to work with them to grow their business and brand equity. It is also very satisfying to be a leader to a tribe of women, who work and have worked with us, learnt, unlearnt and taught one another new skills and life lessons. Since the start, 90% of our El Souls over the years are women, 5% diversity hiring and 5% men. It is rewarding for me to see a host of my ex El Souls, becoming women business owners across industries and passing the baton of women empowerment and growing our tribe.

The rapid transition to digital, an uncertain economic landscape, charting unknown waters, working from home – how have you been navigating during the COVID-19 times? How are you maintaining work-life balance in the new normal?

Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation across all industries, and as a result, in the post-Covid-19 economy, almost every job will require some level of digital skills and digital fluency. In my experience, the pandemic has been a great teacher that placed El Sol Strategic Consultants in a better position than we were in the pre-pandemic era. Even though ESSC has miles to cover, short-term goals for the moment include working with home-grown brands, ensuring them a 360-degree view, and other essentials. However, data-supported strategies and go-to-market services under one umbrella sets us apart from the other agencies.

In terms of work-life balance, the key was to maintain a routine. Over the due course, things start to fall in place. I am an early riser, so I utilised the morning hours for household chores, yoga & animal flow and to-do lists. With a little planning and some virtual meetings, one was able to balance it all. 9.30 to 7 was dedicated to working and only crisis calls are attended to. There have been some difficult days, where one had to attend to calls while caring for family members that need medical attention. It takes a village to do what we do, and none of this would be possible without the teams that make it all happen. At ESSC, we encourage work-life balance. And everyone steps in, to ensure the other gets a personal time when needed. I am grateful to the family now and the El Souls who helped us get here.

Multiple studies have shown how women leaders performed better during the COVID-19 crisis. According to you, what makes women the best in crisis management?

Women have been brought up to multi-task. Get educated, help at home, pursue interests and hobbies in some cases. The constant role-playing and navigating of different aspects of their lives automatically condition women to think harder on their feet. This kind of training is an asset in times of crisis. Plus, the fact that they have to juggle multiple facets in their life, makes them better planners and organisers, hence reducing the likelihood of a crisis because planning and checklists are routine. In case of a crisis, empathy and compassion, qualities that are inherently second nature to women, kick in and they are able to resolve conflicts and crises in a strategic and diplomatic manner, ensuring minimum collateral damage and almost always the apt solution.

What are the five most effective lessons that you have learned as a woman leader?

  • Remain Authentic - Don’t be afraid to be yourself; being an influential leader is fully contingent on being able to be who you are and to act from a place that is authentically your own
  • Never Stop Learning - There is so much talk about natural leadership qualities, but I thoroughly believe you have to learn, cultivate and continuously foster your leadership ability.
  • Be introspective - Many times during the workday, I take a walk outside, find a quiet corner or listen to music between meetings. Those moments of focus help keep me centred on the role I have taken and allow me to reflect on the responsibility I have for myself and my team
  • Be a Good Listener - Likely the most important thing I’ve learned along my path to leadership is to be a good listener — an active listener — a genuine listener. Building an exceptional team means you’ve heard what matters to each individual on your team
  • Be Solution-Oriented - Challenges are inevitable, keeping calm and focusing on a solution is a great way to pull your team and the company out of a jam.

Gender sensitivity and inclusion in the new normal – how can organisations effectively encourage and groom women leaders in challenging times?

There are many ways organisations can address gaps and help women advance in their careers. Firstly, one must not create a differentiator for tasks on the basis of gender, everyone must be treated as a person not a male, female, them, they etc. Secondly, the rules must remain the same for all. Thirdly, women must uplift and help each other and lastly, leadership roles should be culled out for women and decision making must be given to them.

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