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"When in crisis, leave the ship to a woman, you will sail out alive, well and a winner"

We, at Adgully, have always saluted and honoured women managers and leaders across diverse fields. Last year, we launched our unique and distinct program, called WOMEN DISRUPTORS, which drew a lot of attention and was highly appreciated by the industry. 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 will 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.

In conversation with Adgully, Vishakha Mota, Co-Founder, Brand Sentry, speaks about the challenges she has faced as a leader during pandemic, her life lessons and much more. 

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

The scope of women leaders was widening and on the rise much before the pandemic, especially in the field of Marketing, Advertising and Communications. But what the post pandemic era has seen is a beyond satisfactory rise in the number of women entrepreneurs across the country. It is overwhelming and empowering to see how during the testing times of the lockdown and the pandemic, women across sectors found their calling and passion and the importance of pursuing what they excel at. Right from pet cafes, fashion boutiques, home chefs, bakers, beauty brands – they are up and coming women entrepreneurs doing some fantastic work and all the credit goes to the time everyone got during the lockdown to assess the pros of being empowered by their talent.

In Tier 2 and 3 markets, where households were affected due to unemployment of the daily wage earners, the men of the house; women took over the baton of being the bread earners and have been doing some fantastic contribution in the world of reselling, local fashion and much more. It’s been a much needed and pending revolution that has enabled empowerment of women across different class, sectors, giving women leaders and changemakers a whole new meaning. 

The rapid transition to digital, an uncertain economic landscape, charting unknown waters, working from home with no modes of the usual contacts. How have you been navigating during the COVID-19 times? What were the challenges that you faced and how did you tackle them?

The biggest challenge in the middle of the pandemic that I faced, was quitting my job as Vice President of a leading Digital Marketing Agency to bring to life my lifelong dream of having my own Brand Building agency. The uncertainty of the pandemic made me realise that the best time for actualising a work in progress dream was now. And just like any new business, we faced a host of challenges, but only multiplied by ten owing to a women-led business plus the crushing reality of the economic situation in the country.

These external challengers were still managed by providing the most unique pitches and a storytelling approach that intrigued all our prospect clients to turn into retainers.

The real challenge was to get a bunch of people who have joined a brand new agency and never met each to work in sync while working from home. Unlike companies that were in business for years, work from home while being difficult caught its pace in the first two to three months. For a new agency with an all new team members, the sync of work, understanding of work style and the motivation to stay glued to the laptops took a lot of time, effort, motivational speeches, team building activities and whole lot of Zen.

But as they say, when you put your heart and soul into something, it will most definitely happen. Today, we work together as one unit, have a bond like family and most importantly, love and cherish what we do! 

How challenging has it been for you to maintain a balance between managing the team & office work on the one hand and family responsibilities on the other as boundaries blurred while working from home? What is your mantra to maintain that balance?

For someone who is a pet parent, soon to be bride, has a whole house to take care of and an office – challenges and balance have been an understatement in the last year. The first few months of the lockdown took way too much from me, both on an emotional and a physical aspect. No one was really prepared for everything to come crashing down. From doing Zoom meetings while cooking and cleaning to walking my dog in the middle of planning and strategising the line of personal space absolutely blurred. But a few months into it and a couple of breakdowns later, I found a way to balance both the responsibilities.

The first step to achieving this balance was a lot of meditation and yoga; this helped me clear my mind, which had a very positive impact on pumping endorphins and helping me stay calm while I manage my time to ensure equal justice to my role at home and at work. As non-complicated and as simple as it sounds; the early morning meditation routine with a detailed prioritisation of tasks and the nitty-gritties of delegating has helped me keep my head straight and focused and more importantly, find a calm that allows me to pull of the balance between both these worlds. 

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?

Tracing back to when the term ‘Glass Cliff’ was coined, women have always proven to be the better leader when s**t hits the roof, quite literally. The age old tradition of assigning a senior woman leader a promotion or a team lead when the going gets tough, mixed with all the data collected in the recent studies and most importantly, personal experience, it’s always safe to say that when in crisis leave the ship to a woman, you will sail out alive, well and a winner.

Before co-founding Brand Sentry, I’ve had the opportunity to work with both male and female leaders and without a doubt the company/ team run by women worked a lot more efficiently and effectively. I feel it is a lot to do with how clear women are in communicating and delegating, our exceptional ability to multitask, organisational skiils and the gift of learning Zen when in the middle of what could be life altering together along with a zillion other things that make us better in a crisis. 

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

As opposed to popular belief, it is extremely important to be vulnerable, emotional and connected with your team while maintaining a balance. If your team can speak to you, is comfortable with you and can confide in you, the quality of work, dedication to work and output is always close to perfect.

Never lower your integrity, morals and word for anyone. It’s the highest value of character and will always be the reason behind your success.

Being nurturing is extremely important. Your team and your workplace both need it. A protected and happy workplace results in a productive and positive team. Always focus on elevating others, it creates magic.

They say women talk a lot and in my personal experience this exact gift, combined with intellect and substance helps you win over clients, team, colleagues and stakeholders. So, don’t hold back; express yourself, do the talking always.

Never let your guard down. While you always stay in check with your emotional side, don’t forget to be open and prepared for unwanted constant changes, roadblocks and all the other challenges that are bound to hit you from time to time.

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