Women leaders need to leverage their innate strengths in these times: Savita Pai
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, Savita Pai, Chief Digital & Media Officer, Diageo India, speaks about how women leaders are leveraging their areas of strength to adapt to the new post-pandemic world.
How do you think the role and scope of women leaders has widened in the post-pandemic world?
The role and scope of all leaders has expanded today – whether men or women! Work and home lives have blended together, and it has been a unique experience. I have personally seen women leaders reach out and find new ways of connecting with their teams and it has come more naturally to them perhaps. Multi-tasking, time management and inspiring people from a distance are becoming very important, and many women leaders have leveraged their areas of strength to adapt to the new post-pandemic world.
The rapid transition to digital, an uncertain economic landscape, charting unknown waters, working from home with no modes of the usual contacts – these have become the norm today. How have you been navigating during the COVID-19 times? What were the challenges that you faced and how did you tackle them?
Given that I lead Digital Marketing for Diageo, digital modes on engaging with consumers has becoming a priority. Necessity is the mother of invention and I found all sorts of “inventions” coming to the fore to continue delivering consumer delight – from made-at-home videos by our partners and influencers to Zoom links for our team members to oversee photoshoots!
Challenges are always there – have had new employees join the team with the process from interview to joining to delivering on work all accomplished without meeting the individuals! Personal touch and relationships are always important at the workplace; so, I organised weekly team catch-ups and individual catch-ups more frequently too. This has helped build more respect and acknowledgement for each other across teams as well.
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?
I love building personal connections with people, so at first working remotely was a challenge purely because everyone has turned into a rectangle on the screen! At home, fortunately, I have a supportive family, but all of us had to get used to working and attending classes from different rooms simultaneously.
My mantra to maintain the balance is to make the best of both worlds: stick to a schedule so that we are all able to work/ study in an “almost normal” manner, but make the most of the extra time available (from the previous travel time, for instance) to spend with my family.
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?
Whether before or after COVID-19, it is possible that women just face different types of crises in general, including on the personal front and also have figured out support systems at work or at home. Crisis management requires agile problem solving, sometimes even anticipation and most importantly, asking for help. This combination probably helps women manage crises a little better.
What are the five most effective lessons that you have learned as a woman leader?
- Make the most of being a woman and a leader – leverage your innate strengths, but don’t always feel you are being “judged” as a woman
- Bring your natural self to work; it is very difficult to maintain two different personas and will take a toll eventually on one side
- Be transparent with your teams so that they also feel comfortable bringing both their hits and more importantly, their misses to you
- Build up a strong mentorship network for yourself; it helps get a very different perspective for your own growth
- Take risks and put up your hand for new experiences; even if you are not fully confident. At best, you will find exactly what you are looking for and at worst, you will learn, and both are important to build a career!