Cultivate a Growth Mindset to Seize the Big India Opportunity Knocking at Our Doors

Cultivate a Growth Mindset to Seize the Big India Opportunity Knocking at Our Doors

By: WE Team | Wednesday, 30 August 2023

Entrepreneurship is no cakewalk. But the journey becomes 10x harder for women. Bogged down by familial responsibilities, coupled with their own self-limiting beliefs and an unsupportive ecosystem, women entrepreneurs and leaders often fail to reach their optimum potential.

Leadership and executive coach Jaya Mehrotra believes that when women are freed from familial pressures and expectations, they often showcase a hunger to achieve a lot more. She speaks from first-hand experience.

The banker turned leadership coach states that she is at a stage in her life where her children have grown up and she does not feel pressured from different parts of her life. This has enabled her to not only excel as a professional coach but also create the Women Leadership Circle (WLC), a platform for leaders to connect and share resources, with the objective of providing thought leadership, mentorship, and a visionary viewpoint to fellow members and communities.

In an extensive conversation with the Women Entrepreneur team Jaya delves deep into her motivation for turning into a leadership coach. She also talks about WLC, its founding ideals, and her vision for the platform. Drawing from her extensive experience in the high echelons of private banking big-wigs and her tryst with 200+ leaders whom she has coached, Jaya picks out choice nuggets of wisdom for women everywhere.

Here are choice excerpts from the conversation with Jaya Mehrotra.

Rachita Sharma: Tell us a little about yourself and the work that you currently do as a leadership coach?

Jaya Mehrotra: I have been a leadership executive coach and a personal transformation coach for the past 9 years. Prior to that I had held various roles within the banking space over 2 decades. Circa 2012-13 I decided that I want to become a leadership coach and that’s how I got into this space. Currently, I have clients from companies around the world. I have trained over 220 people in the last 8-10 years.

Currently, I see a high level of burnout among women leaders in the US and the UK. Economic headwinds these days are rough. There are mass layoffs happening as we speak. As a coach I help clients deal with these challenges, maintain work-life balance and get them back to a space of restoration.

I also work with both men and women leaders on executive presence. The focus is on facilitating strategic thinking, cultivating and executing a bigger vision etc. I also work around organization cultures including fostering empathetic culture, creating a culture of innovation & collaboration. I believe we are in a decade where empathy and leadership have become synonymous. It was very different when I joined the workforce and it’s heartening to see that empathy is now considered a corner stone of leadership. This is what my work revolves around, enabling an empathy and innovation driven culture to build organization with great top-lines.

Rachita Sharma: You had a successful corporate career spanning various industries and geographies. What compelled you to shift gears and pursue leadership coaching?

Jaya Mehrotra: Back in the day, circa 2008-2009, the scenario was very similar to the market environment today. We were in the midst of the global financial crisis; mass lay-offs were happening all around us. Although I was in an established organization, Citybank, yet many such firms (Goldman Sachs, TATA AIG) were going through a tough time.

Since nobody had seen financial insecurity in big banks ever before, everybody was scared, including my senior leaders. At the time, I remember feeling the need to speak to a mentor/coach as my own seniors were ill equipped to help me. It was a tough situation and I had a 3-year-old baby at the time. I remember speaking to my friend who was also in the same organization. We both coached and helped each other through the tough times.

At the time there were a handful of coaches who would largely work with top CEOs. It was also kept hush-hush since nobody wanted to appear vulnerable.

That’s when I realized the glaring need to provide coaching and mentoring in an organized manner.

Although I couldn’t act on my instinct then, since the financial crisis was still looming large. But in 2012 I joined the industry.

Today, especially during and post the pandemic, coaching has become widely available across the world. Even in India we see several technology and financial firms taking on to coaching as a way of self-care, leadership development and to create tools for collaboration.

Rachita Sharma: In your work as an executive coach, you interact with various women CXOs and leaders. In your experience what are some of the most common challenges that women leaders come to you with?

Jaya Mehrotra: I’ll give you an example. One of my clients is an engineer working for an international Airforce agency at the top level. She has great leadership and people skills. However, she is afflicted by imposter syndrome. She feels like she doesn’t deserve the place on the table.

This is a common challenge faced by a majority of women leaders. They might be doing great at work, heading top projects around the world; yet they feel like they don’t deserve the success. They have been given a seat at the table but internally they struggle with feeling worthy of the seat and the success.  

Another challenge for women entrepreneurs and leaders is that they are incredibly hard on themselves. Women set high expectations of themselves in every role that they play. I believe that it’s okay to be vulnerable and approaching our roles with venerability and openness at times. We don’t need to be perfect in everything that we do. We just need to show-up and exhibit courage.

Other challenges include the overall eco-system, be it at work or at home. Although now we see more women getting the required support at home to be great founders, entrepreneurs and leaders. However, a majority of women still continue to lack the social support ecosystem to simply show-up to work.

This is where platforms such as yours and ours, have to make a change.

Rachita Sharma: Tell us about the Women Leadership Circle, your other venture. What do you aim to achieve through this platform?

Jaya Mehrotra: Currently only 10 percent of women head Fortune 500 companies as CEOs. In India, we see 18 percent of women drop out of executive forces every year. These numbers are glaring!

With the Women Leadership Circle, we aim to address two gaps; one for women professionals and another for women entrepreneurs.

A professional journey is like a marathon. Often, we see that women drop out of the race and are unable to stay on the path because of factors such as, work pressure, culture at work, environment at home, or the struggle of juggling everything together.

If we can make them stay the path through these years and see them through to the leadership development space, we can achieve a lot. We want to fill in that gap and help women reach their full potential. We support them by providing learning resources, coaching & development and any other resources that they might require. Through the WLC platform we want to ensure that women reach the pinnacle of leadership growth be it C-suite jobs, CEO levels, honorary seats, board seats, etc.

For an instance, I am at a stage in life where my children are older, I need less support at home and I don't feel that pressure from all sides of my life. So, I am now a leadership coach and am also driving a platform. I have noticed that when women are freed from their homes, they have so much hunger to achieve more in life. And that's what we want to help women professionals achieve.

On the entrepreneurship side, I want to see Indian women build legendary brands. India currently has few such names including Nykaa, Sugar Cosmetics etc. But we have all heard of beautifully crafted brands such as Nike, Fenty, Coco Chennel. I would love to see brands built by Indian women go into history books.

That's the kind of journey we want to make to enable for women entrepreneurs so that they create businesses and we help them get bigger global platforms. Through our platform we want to see women entrepreneurs and their brands reach that scale.

Rachita Sharma: Empowering women entrepreneurs with the right financial understanding is another one of your areas of interest. In your opinion why is this still a challenge for various women entrepreneurs?

Jaya Mehrotra: There are two parts to the challenge. For so many years there has been a deep-rooted conditioning that women cannot manage money well. Well, of course, we've always managed money well at home for many years, but this conditioning has such deep roots that even when women start earning, they often ask their husbands to manage their money and portfolio. We want to remove that conditioning.

Secondly, sometimes we create a self-belief that it’s better to hire a CFO to manage the money. These limitations that we set on ourselves are a big part of the challenge. It also requires a growth mindset. Running a company might require various skills such as digital marketing, design thinking, etc. In such cases women deep dive into the subject and learn. The same thinking must be applied to financial management as well. Through our platform we want to make these resources easily available to help them build the required skills.

I had a friend who was a corporate lawyer embroiled in M&A transactions. She realized that she could not follow whenever her bosses would talk about reading the balance sheet. She realized that the skill was missing and during her maternity leave she did a course on accounting. Even as a lawyer, it was necessary for her to understand finance.

As an entrepreneur you will scale up your business, do multiple rounds of funding which will require you to know how valuation of companies work, how fund-raising works. Therefore, as you grow in the industry, financial mastery will become the most important skill required.

WLC would like to offer learning resources, executive programs and outreach to mentors in different parts of the world who can take you through the learnings. So, currently we are developing an executive program for financial mastery.

Rachita Sharma: What’s next for Women Leadership Circle? Tell us about the future plan you have set for the platform in the near future?

Jaya Mehrotra: The platform consists of members and not employees. We have just established a charter team. We have brainstormed and are working on creating impactful objectives for our future journey.

In terms of women entrepreneurs, we want to help them articulate their dreams and take their brands global. I believe women are capable of creating successful and global businesses in all sectors be it SaaS, consumer business, media business or just about anything. We want to not just help them make their dreams come true, but to help them dream bigger.

Enabling that journey and whatever that takes, creating small forum circles, having great peer partners with which you can brainstorm your ideas, where you have a safe space to talk about your business ideas, and of course providing great mentors to do this.

We recently had the honour of being mentored by Vivek Gambhir, Chairperson of the Board at Boat Lifestyle. He has been the CEO of Godrej Consumers. He comes from a DEI space and is mentoring us in the WLC journey. It's great to have mentors who can guide you throughout the journey.

In terms of women professionals, we want to have a meaningful impact through learning and leadership development programs. We are planning pilot projects with few organizations where we can get senior women leaders to become a part of our network and give them the resources and support that they require. We want to give them a networking platform where they can feel safe and discuss everything. Sometimes, all they need is to be ‘heard and seen’. We are trying to help women leaders define their career paths just as men have mad for several years now.

We will conduct executive forums, executive education, events, workshops to facilitate these goals.

Rachita Sharma: Drawing from your vast experience as a women leader who has seen the industry and that now you have created your platform and brought your things. If you had to give out any advice or a message to aspiring women leaders or entrepreneurs.

Jaya Mehrotra: Firstly, look at the opportunity in front of you. We have been speaking the India growth opportunity for years and now it is at our doorstep. India is now the center of innovation and technology. So don’t shy away from seizing this opportunity head on and making the most of it.

Next, have a growth mindset. Constantly look for options to grow and upskill yourself. Keep your eyes open to understand the opportunities and what one needs to make the most of it.

Second is hiring and building cultures for scale. This requires creating deep psychologically safe teams that can innovate constantly.

Fostering great teams that are led by great leaders is very important. Companies need few leaders who are strong subject matter experts and also adept people leaders.

Thirdly, agility is very important. Economic headwinds keep changing and consumer trends also keep evolving. For an instance look at how COVID brought about several new trends. As an organization, one needs to be agile and also listen to one’s customers constantly.

As an entrepreneur, we need to let go of our limiting mindsets and belief systems. Without self-awareness, and an understanding of one’s own emotions, it is difficult to visualize one’s growth externally. So, let go of any limiting mindsets that you may have. As an entrepreneur deep self-reflection, discipline and deep self-awareness are keys to growth. The more self-confident we are, the more we will be able to envision what we have to achieve in our lives.