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“Women leaders need to proactively embrace change and make it work for them”

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.

Pooja Chaudhri is an Executive Director at Concept PR. She comes with more than 20 years’ experience in Sports PR. Her experience as a senior communications professional in the national and international markets, strengthens her role and helps her design a unique vision for the clients at Concept PR.

In an exclusive conversation with Adgully, Pooja Chaudhari emphasises that effective leadership is gender-neutral and adds that time is now ripe for organisations to take cognisance of gender differences.

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

At the onset, let me emphasise that effective leadership is gender-neutral. Characters that define a good leader don’t change with gender. During the pandemic, one of the most unprecedented events in recent history, leaders struggled to lead. Gender didn’t matter, but adaptability did. I believe women leaders found it easier to perform as they learn to adapt and harness change from an early age. In the post-pandemic world, women leaders will continue to perform better. They will take on more responsibilities and more critical operations. I strongly believe the perception gap between the effectiveness of men and women leaders will decrease.

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?

Frankly, no one thought that the Covid-19 pandemic would last for such a long time. But for me, it was a time of learning the ephemeral nature of things that we took for granted: a place to work, fixed timings, and a home that was an oasis of calm. One thing that I learned during the pandemic was to keep the long term goal in view at all times. In our case, it was client satisfaction. I am happy to say that we didn’t lose a single client due to bad performance.

Work from Home, in the beginning, did impact the work-life balance for me, as I am sure it did more for most of us. But I have now regulated the time for work and home life. Though I am available to clients 24x7, the process that has been set in our organisation allows our senior leadership team to pitch in wherever needed. In the new normal, clients’ goals are kept in view and deliveries tracked in real-time. This approach frees up a lot of time for planning and affords an ideal work-life balance. 

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?

Though women constitute one half of the world’s population, somehow, we are seen as the inferior gender. Yet, if you keep aside the physical differences, there is no difference in talent, ability or resilience between the two.

I believe women can face crises better because from childhood they have to work twice as hard as men to realise their ambitions, often in adverse circumstances and in opposition. As a result, we are more aware of the undercurrents in a crisis and can be more empathetic. Women embrace change faster and respond better. These qualities helped women perform better during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

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

According to me the five effective lessons that I have learnt as a woman leader are:

  • Taking ownership - We need to take ownership of any strategy, idea, or plan that we implement. It means being responsible for success or failure, with equal courage
  • Being inclusive - Get everyone involved in planning and design, irrespective of gender, age, or skillsets.
  • Promoting meritocracy - Recognise and reward talent. Nurture talent so that you can get the best at all times
  • Embrace change - Proactively embrace change and make it work for you
  • Keep the long term objective in focus - Always keep the long term goals in view even while taking care of day to day operations. Always benchmark progress with long term objectives

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

Gender sensitivity and inclusion have been there for some time now. It is only during the pandemic that they have got the required push. As the paradigms shifted during these times, talent and the ability to perform effectively came to the fore. Gender and other differences faded to the back.

Time is now ripe for organisations to take cognisance of gender differences while planning work infrastructure and processes only and not during rewards and promotions.

Organisations need to identify future leaders, regardless of gender, and then groom them for the future. Sensitisation across the organisation needs to be carried out to highlight merit as the only criterion for growth. All negative trends and behaviours need to be identified early and then rectified. At Concept Group, we have been successful in doing so as our senior leadership team comprises of some very talented women leaders, each an expert unto their area of expertise.

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