Shital Kakkar Mehra, India’s leading Executive Presence coach, and bestselling author, has trained numerous CEOs and star performers over the last two decades. In this book, she has shared her proven POISE formula for success; tools to help you maximize your potential, and fast-track your career to the coveted role of a CEO.
Executive Presence is the mysterious ‘it’ factor in leadership. How do you present yourself? Are you assertive? Do you inspire confidence? How do you engage with stakeholders?
We are glad to have an opportunity to have a discussion with Shital in our August 2020 Issue. Below is the full interview.
- When and how did this idea to bring forward the importance of etiquette especially in the corporate world happen?
The liberalization reforms introduced in the 1990s started showing results by 2001. But sadly, accepted corporate culture had declined sharply. Our educational system focused only on the final percentage score in the field of specialization neglecting to deliver professionals with superior communication skills or ability to present themselves with confidence and authority. This led to executives lacking in the soft skills needed for success in the business world. Keeping this in mind, I wrote my first book and it became a best-seller which sold over 55,000 copies globally and got translated into several Indian languages.
2. I have read your first book in 2013 during a Corporate Etiquette session held in my company which I was working. The book was a perfect guide to the employees and much more than a self-help book to new joiners. What incidents or experiences helped you to perfectly articulate the topics covered in the book?
By the time I wrote the first book, I was already conducting workshops for India Inc. for over a decade and has interacted with more than 20,000 professionals across job functions and industries. Also, my columns in leading newspapers were much appreciated and readers wrote back asking for more information. Based on the reader’s queries and questions asked by the participants during my workshops, I wrote my first book. The book was appreciated by corporate professionals and was endorsed by eminent business leaders.
3. In regards to a booming multi-national culture in the corporate world, there are many employees in and outside our country who come from different social and cultural backgrounds. How much does a book or an interactive session help them in understanding the importance of Business Etiquette and use it for their professional growth?
Personally, I feel it’s a wonderful time to be an Indian professional as our professionals have won a lot of respect across the world. Today, Indians are conducting business, interacting with global clients, communicating with international vendors and are doing business with every country on this planet.
In the past two decades, Indian professionals have worked hard to upgrade their understanding of global cultures and have learnt to appreciate cultural nuances. Today, as more and more business is conducted using technology, an understanding of influencing stakeholders over a video-chat, telephone or email has become extremely important.
4. To emerge as game changers what is that one thing, in particular, a person must focus on?
Unquestionably, it’s your ability to articulate thought and communicate it effectively to your audience. To this, add your ability to listen effectively and it completes the picture. While it sounds simple, it requires a lot of effort and focus to achieve.
5. In the book, ‘Executive Presence’ in the last section – The Art of Building Relationships two topics enticed me. One is Working with virtual teams and other Communicating with Global teams. During these pandemic times where almost every company is offering the ‘ Work From Home ‘ option, what are the major guidelines that an employee of every level should take care of?
- Invest in infrastructure – superior wifi, noise-canceling headphones, good lighting over your workspace, desk at the right height, a good laptop, and an ergonomically designed chair.
- Response time: stick with your work schedule and remain accessible to your clients, bosses, and teams, ensuring response time remains unchanged regardless of where you are operating from.
- Inculcate self-discipline: Define your work hours, dress for work, and stick to your schedule – seamless transition from office to WFH will ensure productivity and profit.
- Convey professionalism: Enhance your verbal and vocal presence to convey energy and enthusiasm during a video/audio call. Also, focus on maintaining a strong work ethic to show your interest in doing business and getting ahead.
- Network using technology: Schedule e-meetings with colleagues, teams, bosses, clients, potential clients, etc. Use technology to maintain your online visibility and stay on other people’s radar.
6. The above question was a reaction to a few viral videos in recent times in which some employees did not adhere to the basic etiquette of professional and formal attire. Will this kind of behavior result in their performance issues?
Honestly, you have to ensure that your visual resume sends a strong non-verbal message ‘I am serious’ and ‘I mean business’. If you are dressed for relaxing, regardless of how powerful your words or your presentation may be, you will not be able to convince anyone that you are ready to deliver to the highest standards.
Also, clothes have a psychological impact and this is well-researched and documented by social scientists. When you dress for work, you automatically shift gears to ‘work mode’ and when you are dressed for an evening out with your friends, your mind has switched to the ‘relaxed mode’ and is ready to party.
7. I have read some of your articles which inspired me and always wanted to ask you, how do you prepare yourself while taking up the sessions in corporate companies. Of course, as an experienced person, you are well aware but are there any incidents that really bothered you? How did you then cope up?
I prepare a lot before each session and strongly recommend doing your homework. I work with the client’s team and ask them questions about the target group to be trained – their strengths, development gaps, age, educational background, industry, etc. Once I have received all the desired information, I go back to the drawing board and design a program where I can add value and leave the with messages that can help build a powerful personal brand.
8. Keeping aside your profession and its related questions, how is Shital as a person? What are her favorites in; food/hobbies/books.
I am a quiet person who leads a simple life. I read a lot and spends every free minute with my family.
9. How do you manage to have your ‘ Me ‘ time with your family and friends?
I love going for a walk every morning as it gives me time to think about my life, work, family, etc. Also, I enjoy yoga few times a week. Recently, I have started meditation and am sure it will become a part of my life.
10. Jumping back to the book, what are the three qualities that will help a person grow as a leader?
- Communication skills: The ability to articulate thought and present it effectively to your stakeholders will always be a winner.
- Online Visibility: Leaders will need a strong online presence and they should know how to engage with their followers/listeners as it will help them connect with a wider audience.
- Humility and Empathy: These are essential as they help you engage better with your teams, investors, vendors, and clients. Going forward these skills will become even more important.
12. What are your favorite hobbies and how do you ease yourself during hard times at work?
Reading, yoga, traveling ( no travel in 2020 but earlier it helped my understand cultures better).
14. What are favorite books and who are your favorite authors?
I read a lot and am an eclectic reader., reading 3-4 books at one time. Besides book on my subject, I enjoy biographies/ autobiographies and historical fiction. I have enjoyed books by A P J Abdul Kalam. Recently, I read Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming’ and really enjoyed it.
15. What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after the book was completed?
How well it was received! I have received emails from Indians across the world about how much they have enjoyed reading my first book and how keen they are to read this one. Clearly, technology has taken my books global.
16. What do your plans for future projects include? Any plans for a motion picture/web series based on your book(s)
Yes – I want to take both the books to a virtual platform and am considering a web series. Also, a series of virtual learning and podcasts for the young professionals.
17. In your opinion, what is the most important thing that people DON’T know about your book/subject, which they need to know?
They need to know that Executive Presence gives you a competive edge and business leaders always knew it and invested time in polishing this skill.
18. What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
My goal is to take the Indian professional from his/her cubicle to the corner office and I hope my book help professionals achieve their career goals.