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Ep 42 : Return to Work on Your Terms, Negotiate, Prioritize and Advocate for Yourself:Neena Newberry

Updated: May 27, 2023


In this podcast, I had the pleasure of speaking with Neena Newberry and discussing a range of valuable topics related to career growth and personal development. Throughout our conversation, we delved into a variety of themes, including the importance of taking ownership of your career path and returning to work on your terms. We also talked about how to handle getting laid off and using the experience to make better decisions about your career path, as well as the significance of prioritizing your goals and negotiating for what you want in terms of pay, benefits, and work conditions. Neena also shared her insights on leveraging your current role to gain broader experience and expertise, advocating for yourself in the workplace as a woman and Asian, and promoting your accomplishments in a tasteful way that builds your brand. We also discussed her book, "Show Up, Step Up, Step Out," which focuses on building your brand and showing up for your team. Additionally, we explored the benefits of taking small, incremental steps to achieve your goals, continuous learning and improvement through microlearning, and how to use your cultural background and collaboration skills to your advantage in the workplace. Overall, this podcast is a must-listen for anyone looking to take their career growth and personal development to the next level.

In this discussion with Neena Newberry, we got to dive into the importance of returning to work on your own terms and taking ownership of your career path Getting Laid Off and Moving Forward: How to handle getting laid off and use the experience to make better decisions about your career path Prioritizing to Your Framework: The importance of understanding what is important to you and how to prioritize your goals accordingly Negotiating for What You Want: Tips for negotiating with your employer for better pay, benefits, and work conditions Leveraging Your Current Role: How to use your current job to gain broader experience and expertise and position yourself for career growth Advocating for Yourself as a Woman and Asian: Strategies for overcoming biases and stereotypes in the workplace and advocating for yourself and your ideas Tasteful Self-Promotion: How to promote yourself and your accomplishments in a tasteful way that builds your personal brand Show Up, Step Up, Step Out: A discussion of Neena Newberry's book on building your personal brand and showing up for your team Micro Learning and Micro Steps: The benefits of taking small, incremental steps to achieve your goals and the value of continuous learning and improvement Leveraging Your Cultural Identity: How to use your cultural background and collaboration skills to your advantage in the workplace.

Neena Newberry is an award-winning speaker, author, and executive coach. She launched Newberry Solutions in 2008 to focus on her passion for developing strong leaders, especially women. She left a more than 16-year management consulting and human resources career, and a role on Deloitte’s U.S. HR Executive Team supporting 34,000 employees Her company’s products and services support Fortune 500 clients such as AT&T, PepsiCo, Shell, and Sysco, and organizations like the United Way and the George W. Bush Presidential Center. Not to mention Neena’s New Lens® app recognized with a 2020 Stevie Award for Best New Product, and her book Show Up. Step Up. Step Out. — and a Leadership Excellence Award-winning program called WOW! Neena is an official member of the invitation-only Forbes Coaches Council and has been honored by the Dallas Business Journal twice, as a Minority Business Leader Honoree and as a Women in Business Honoree and won four Stevie Awards.

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[00:00] INTRO [Jump to section]

[00:43] Meet Nenna Newberry [Jump to section]

[05:04] Returning to work ..on your terms [Jump to section]

[07:48] Negotiating for what you want [Jump to section]

[10:31] Prioritizing your framework...What is important to you... [Jump to section]

[11:45] Getting laid off and moving forward [Jump to section]

[12:22] Making decisions by gaining experience...Take time to make the decision[Jump to section]

[14:27] How to leverage your current role to get broader experience & expertise [Jump to section]

[16:08] Advocating for yourself as a Women as an Asian [Jump to section]

[24:34] Show up Step Up Step Out...Neena's book... How do you show up...Building your brand [Jump to section]

[27:34] How do you show up for your team [Jump to section]

[29:08] What do you want people to describe you as[Jump to section]

[34:25] Micro learning..micro steps... [Jump to section]

[35:22] Leveraging your cultural identity..collaboration as a strength [Jump to section]


[00:00] INTRO

Sirisha: Hello everyone and welcome to the Women Career and Life podcast. This is your host, Dr Sirisha Kuchimanchi, a former tech executive at Texas Instruments, a Fortune 200 company, a speaker, a working mom, and an ad reader. In this podcast, you will hear stories and practical advice for you to achieve your career and life goals. I also wanna say a big thank you to our listeners for continuing to support this podcast and making it in the top 30% of Spotify podcasts. If you wanna continue to support this indie-produced show, you can either buy me a cup of chai, I am not a coffee drinker, or you can become a monthly or annual. You will find more information in the show notes.

[00:43] Meet Neena Newberry

Sirisha: I have Neena Newberry with me today. She's an executive coach and leadership coach and has her own company, Newberry Solutions. She's been a Deloitte exec for many years, and she helped look at their HR executive initiatives and set up the stage for a lot of leadership discussions at Deloitte as well. She started her company interestingly just before the 2008 downturn but was able to bring her executive experience to really forge ahead and provide significant impact for leaders and employees and companies as well. Neena can be heard on many radio channels and TV channels as she provides her inputs based on the dialogue that's going on in the world of leadership and women and in this space of what CEO conversations are going on and Women's progression is going on in this space, and she also provides insight as a Forbes Executive coach, which is a curated list of executive coaches that Forbes requests for insight on what they can provide as they give guidance to all of us who read Forbes Magazine. Neena, thank you for being here so much. I am looking forward to our interview because I think this one is also going to provide a slightly different insight than you. Lived and grew up in three different countries. I think it brings also a unique perspective, which I would like to dwell on as we continue this conversation.

Neena: Great. Thanks for having me here. I'm excited to have the conversation today.

Sirisha: to get started, you said you started at Deloitte, but walk us through how you got to where you're doing.

Neena: it's interesting. I started pre-med and took a different turn typical Indian path, right? Thinking about it being a doctor or a lawyer or something along those lines. But I had a lot of pastors around healthcare and ended up deciding to go into healthcare through the business side and I ended up going and working at Deloitte Consult. After I got my MBA at the University of Texas, and so I ended up in Houston because it's got the world's largest medical Centre there and we had a big healthcare practice. But once I got to Deloitte, I ended up expanding to different industries as well. So I did business strategy consulting, and then I did operations consulting. And even left the firm and then got recruited back, after being gone for a couple of years and ultimately ended up switching to our human capital consulting practice, which was something that was a great experience for me to be able to get involved in the leadership development space because you can have the best business strategy, you can have the best plans in terms of what you're going to operationally execute. You don't have the right people with the right roles and the right skills. It just doesn't work. And so it's been a really fun area for me to work in. And so I did that as a consultant but then was part of Deloitte's US HR Executive Committee for the last four years I worked on our people strategies and what we needed to implement. So when I left the company in 2008, it was a natural transition for me. I didn't leave the company thinking that I was going to go start my own business. I was just ready for a change and we had a lot of change happen internally at the company and I was, really wanted to focus on the work that I was passionate about, which is developing high-performing leaders and especially women and women I've always had a sweet spot for, and so I took a leave of absence for a month, and in part of it I was just really tired, so just getting back on my feet and making that I wasn't making an emotional decision, that I was making a very intentional one, and then came back and resigned and then a couple months later started my own company and then three months after that the economy tanked. So this was in 2008. It was a bit of a wild ride that first year. But, I've been in business for 14 years now, the same amount of time I was at Deloitte. So it's worked out pretty well and I do enjoy the. And we specialize in developing high performers and work primarily with Fortune 500 companies.

[05:04] Returning to work ..on your terms

Sirisha: Yes. You said it's been a while, right? And there's so much to unpack.

I wanted to ask you a set of questions, but I actually wanna dig deeper into what you said. You said you got recruited back. Can you tell me, What do you think helped drive the decision from a company standpoint Because a lot of people, as step away from work, I took a break as well, twice. It's interesting for people to understand how they come back, especially to the same organization.

Neena: Yeah. And I didn't I took a break from Deloitte, but I didn't take a break from working. So I went and worked for another consulting firm, moved to Austin for a couple of years, and Deloitte was starting a middle-market consulting practice one of the reasons I had left Deloitte was because at the time they had a national model, meaning you could be staffed anywhere in the country. And, my last engagement at Deloitte, before I resigned, was in San Francisco. So I was dealing with the time zone, time zone differences twice a week, flying out, on a Sunday often, or early Monday morning, and getting home late Friday. So it was just crazy. When I got recruited back, it was because they had a different model, so more of a regionally focused model, less travel, and they wanted some help launching this middle market consulting practice. And so it was a cool opportunity. So I'm someone who likes to think big, play big. So it's oh, this is exciting doing this from the ground up. But I never thought I'd go back to the company. Originally I wouldn't even take the meeting. I said, no, I'm not coming back to Deloitte. They're like, just come here, what we have to say. And then I finally agreed to fly to Houston and that turned into, not a one-hour meeting, but I think I was there for the entire day talking to different people and even then I didn't say yes, and I had planned a trip to Brazil for three weeks and said, I, really was hoping to give you an answer before I left. There's something about this that isn't sitting right with me, so I'm gonna go on this trip and then I'll talk to you when I come back and there's just something to be said for stepping. From all the day-to-day stuff and even not even thinking about it, not thinking about all this stuff and just letting yourself enjoy life and reconnect with yourself and everything becomes clear. And so that was what I experienced. I came back and talked to them about some of the things that I wanted to do a little differently, around the role. We agreed. And, it went on for another 10 years after that. That's amazing

[07:48] Negotiating for what you want

Sirisha: Actually, because you touched on two things. One is you stepped away from that role because there was a lot of, in some ways stress, right? There was a certain work environment that didn't suit what you wanted. You stepped away and you came back and the opportunity was, and you took time to self-reflect and think about what was important for you, and you were able to negotiate that. When we think of negotiation, we always think of the money and the finances and benefits, but you were able to negotiate what the role was and what you would be bringing to it so they could rescope it for what would take advantage of your skills and where you saw yourself going. So that's pretty cool.

Neena: Yeah. And I know, and especially for women too, I think there's a lot there around negotiation. And are you willing to ask for what you want? And step one is getting clear what is it that I want? And so sometimes it's paying attention to that gut feeling. and recognizing what isn't sitting well with you, because everyone has an opinion about what they think you should be doing. So when I left Deloitte after three and a half years I left without looking for another job, and then I ended up working for a consulting firm in Austin and then moved there and then got recruited back to Deloitte. But I'll never forget when I first left Deloitte. Some so many people said, oh my gosh, I can't believe you haven't even looked for a job and you just left your job and I was fine with my decision, but it was, it didn't fit into the framework or the model that a lot of people are used to. and they were starting to stress me out. Like, I wasn't prepared for their reactions. And so I went and took a trip to Costa Rica and, did that for a couple of weeks and then came back and I was totally fine. And, it's like I, I know I'm employable. I think it'll be fine even if I don't have a job lined up already... And so I think once you've done a couple of those kinds of things and you get clearer about what's important to you, it's easier and easier to ask for it. Definitely. As you keep going.

Sirisha: true. I like the fact that you said employable and you almost had to step away on both of times to your trips to unplug all the voices that you were hearing from around you and in your head as well so that you knew it was still the right decision for you. It's very hard making those decisions when you step away from something because especially if you've been in a job and you're doing well, it's for, it's very hard for others to understand why you're choosing to take a different when the pass is already set for you, and especially if the progression is, you're climbing the ladder, it makes absolutely no sense for someone else.

It's what you want to do and what is right for you at that point.

[10:31] Prioritizing your framework...What is important to you...

Neena: yes. I think just that whole aspect of prioritizing what's most critical because someone else's framework may not be the same one that you. and it's okay, it's okay for you to approach it differently. But what was interesting is, those first two times where I made some big shifts, I did have the luxury of being able to go do some international travel and be gone. And later, when I left Deloitte, ultimately in 2008 and started my own company at that point, I had had a young son, so he was like two and a half years and so it wasn't like I could just go off somewhere, but I learned to refine my approach of staying connected with myself. And so some of it, just doing it more in the course of day-to-day life and then some of it just really looking at, okay, if I do need a chunk of time, what does that need to look like based on what my life is like now? And the other things that are important too.

Sirisha: Yeah. And it's very important in today's context,, there have been so many layoffs, especially at high-tech companies right now, and it's very hard as people are processing it, it's challenging when you get laid off, right? There's a lot of emotion you're going through.

[11:45] Getting laid off and moving forward

Sirisha: I got laid off nine months into my first job. So processing all of that and then realizing that you're employable. And most often it shows that people actually come back and do better and do well. and remember that there's always that path going forward. So just keeping that in mind, and your story kind of paves the path for it. You only took a turn right at the start when you said you were not going to do pre-med and switch track. So you only were self-reflecting and thinking back on, Hey, this is not right for me.

This is what I wanna do. And every time you've come to a pivotal point, you have, you've made a conscious decision on what that was and moved forward with it.

[12:22] Making decisions by gaining experience...Take time to make a decision

Neena: That one have I had a really bad experience with chemistry, that, that's what took me into this direction of thinking about, okay, how, what all's involved in this? Thinking about that path, right? Playing it out. And I've got a brother who's eight years older who is in medical school. At the time I was, an undergrad thinking about all of this, and It's, it's helpful when you can pause and think about what's important to you, but sometimes you just have to have some experiences to make you stop. Because for as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a doctor, and so here I am, an undergrad wondering. Now what? And it wasn't like I had already identified business and said, oh, I can get into healthcare through the business. No, that was a gradual thing. And I did have lots of different interests too. So it's, I think some of it is just letting yourself explore, because so many times people sit there and try to figure it all out in there... And frankly, some of what you need to do is just experience something and that's the thing that's gonna help you get to the right place. And even like when I started my company in 2008, I remember the, three months after I launched the business. Now the economy's taking a nose dive, and then Hurricane Ike hit Houston. So there's all this stuff going on, and what I told myself was that I'm gonna give myself a year to see how this goes. I need to put some kind of milestone some timeline with this so that I have a chance to see it. Because initially, I was like, oh my gosh, I think I need to go find a job again. Then once you stop reacting and pause for a minute and say, okay, all right, I got this. I just need to make this easier. So I think that first year though, one of the things I did was allow myself to experiment. So what kinds of clients, what kinds of companies?

[14:27] How to leverage your current role to get broader experience & expertise

Neena: And you can do the same thing when you think about being employed, even with a bigger company. Like how much latitude and grace are you gonna give yourself to try different things? Because a lot of times you can be working in a specific role, but get exposure to something else. Because you've developed relationships with different leaders and you're expressing an interest, and so they, they'll do things to help you. A lot of people don't take advantage of that as much as they should. So even though I'm talking about my own company, I also, at Deloitte, I mean me going from strategy to operations to human capital, and then being in, HR, That was not normal. That was not normal at all. So I developed this brand of being this person who, successfully moved. And the common thread that enabled that is cultivating strong relationships and showing people that hey, you can do good work and you can be consistently doing that. So it doesn't feel as risky when they're, trying to help you move into a different area.

Sirisha: You hit the nail on the head there because most people, tend to think of themselves working inside a box often, you have to color outside the box and find those stretch roles or take a leap into some other areas, The thing is, almost every organization will benefit from a different perspective. You might be the client or the stakeholder inside a company, but they only look at it from their viewpoint when they have someone who's the end user. bringing that perspective into the job. Say I was in it and I wanna move to hr, maybe HR makes, provides the IT software. There are ways to connect these threads, so it helps to have a different perspective.

[16:08] Advocating for your self as a Women as an Asian

Sirisha: So you are right that it helps to move. And the question is how do people leverage their networks? So people struggle with specific women, and Asian culture also tends to struggle is how do you advocate for themselves. It's not something we are comfortable with if someone were to compliment us, Most of us, what we do, tend to say thank you and deflect it towards the team. But there is some credit for you having done the job as well. And you have organized, you have scoped it out and enabled your team. So how do you do it in a way that you are comfortable taking credit and showing what you did as well as showcasing the team as well? So I'm sure you see a lot of this. So how is it people would have that covers...

[16:46] Tasteful self-promotion...Tastefully tooting your own horn

Neena: interesting cuz one of the most popular topics that I speak on is tasteful self-promotion. It, the title of the session is Tastefully Tooting Your Own Horn. A lot of people just have a hard time with that and, but you know what, a backup just a little bit because step one is to just lift your head, lift your head out of the. Because I and I are really, I think that if you bring that South Asian perspective to the table, this whole thing about my work is gonna speak for itself. No, it's not... It will to a certain degree, but the reality is everybody's so darn busy. They are. They're not sitting around thinking about how amazing you are and connecting all these dots in their head saying, oh, this is what this person is good at. They're, in charge of your performance development and all of that, it's. that's one thing, but most people just day to day aren't noticing a lot of the things that you're doing. And if you are not noticing it either, how on earth are you gonna tell anybody else about it? So lift your head, notice that this is an important thing and that you can share the information in a way that is business. So part of it is to just challenge yourself. Okay, if I'm gonna share this about something that I did or something that went well, what's the value? What's the significance of this? And if you remember that your manager is supposed to make the highest and best use of your skills and your experience for the company, the individual must know what you're capable of so for them to be informed about your strengths and your impact and your results is huge. So some of it is just broadening out that perspective and also keeping track of some of your accomplishments. And even if it is a team effort, you're part of that team. What was your role? One of the examples I like to give is just if you're excited about how a particular, presentation or deliverable turned out. Even being able to say, I'm excited about how well this meeting went. We worked hard as a team on putting the materials together. This is the role I played. This is the role this other person played. And you've got plenty of opportunity to share what each person did. And when you approach things from a place of enthusiasm, like just excited about the impact and the. most people aren't gonna say, oh my gosh, you're so arrogant. I can't believe you're sitting here talking about yourself. They're usually excited for you and with you about the results that you've gotten. So those are a few things that you can start with.

Sirisha: I like where you said the first thing is to realize. that managers are processing a lot of information at the same time and it's important for you to self-advocate for yourself. Oh yes, you, I like how you put it, tastefully self-promote because we are uncomfortable with otherwise how to do it. So it must be visible in front of them what opportunities you're looking for. In your case, you talked about moving four roles. I'm sure there were discussions that you were having with them on where you were executing, what results you were providing and what you were looking for, and that's the way to do that. Just as you mentioned, taking critically what you've done and being able to tie it into the end goals or the performance initiatives that they're tracking, or how you're hitting the bottom line revenue generation, all of us play a part in it. It's hard sometimes for us to visibly translate what we do, but go back and look at the priorities of your organization and your group and see where you fit into it and what impact you're having. it must help people who are doing it for the first time to practice how they would do it, encrypt it and practice so that you get it into a smoother delivery so you're not uncomfortable having that conversation

Neena: that can make a huge difference. And also just noticing what is your source of discomfort. Like what, where is that coming from? Because then that'll help you solve the right problem. One of the exercises that I ask people to do is to just take five minutes a week and just jot down their accomplishments for that week, no matter how big or small, doesn't matter. It could be as something as simple as, Hey, I had a successful meeting with someone, a one-on-one meeting with someone, and. The other part of it is to, so imagine this being like two columns. One is the accomplishment and the other one is what's the impact of that accomplishment or the, so what, like meaning, why should anyone care about this? So that, using that example of the meeting, maybe the, so what of that meeting was that you set the stage for a good working relationship? with another department that you've gotta collaborate with to get this work done. So it gets you to pause and think about things. But what happens is, with that second column that I mentioned, it gets you thinking about the business relevance. And then that stuff is more top of mind. So let's say I'm walking down the hall, I'm in an elevator or whatever, or I'm, I'm on teams, I'm on Zoom. What. The platform you're using, that stuff is top of mind and you can recall it much more quickly. Versus, the other approach that I see people taking, oh, I'm gonna save all this stuff up. I'm gonna save these emails and these, positive feedback that I've gotten from different people. And then we'll sit down and talk about it once or maybe twice a year as part of our performance management process. get in the habit of sharing things as they come up. Even if it's by just saying, fyi, wanted you to know that this went well. I'm happy to share more details when we meet. Just do it. Just get in the habit of something short and sweet and get it out there. It doesn't have to be like, Ooh, look at me. I'm so amazing. , it doesn't have to be like that.

Sirisha: It's relevant to do it when it's fresh it starts reframing the conversation in your mind. It's not just about having the dialogue and self-promoting. It's about when you start framing every. in, in some ways, all the interactions to see what value you're providing and what impact it's having. Yes. It's so you don't get bogged down in this busy work. I interviewed Sally Halon, whose leadership guru, and she talks about it being focused on your job versus your career. So you're not caught in the minutia of doing everything and saying, okay, I checked this box, I checked this box, I send this report. No. , this is the impact. So it's a great way to do that. So one of the things that in our organizations we have is Tech Ladder. And something that I know some people do, and this is also from friends' conversation, is when they're working on a project, those people who are very clear about what their goals are, start writing down what every project has an impact on their end goal.

So in that sense, it's exactly what you said. It's not just that I did or I had this wonderful meeting, say with a client. This is the impact. The customer suggested this or we are potentially generating this business or this design And then everyone starts to think differently. And that's really what you're talking about reframing it, not just verbally, but even in your mind as you think about what to do.

Neena: Yes. I think very well said. Yes. That reframing makes a huge difference.

Sirisha: one of the things that you talk about, I was reading is. Stepping up, showing up and stepping out basically. And I think that's essentially what we have been talking about. Is there anything else when people come to you for executive coaching they send to line up on a sort of consistency that we struggle with when we are in, early or mid-management or trying to get up into a leadership role?

[24:34] Show up Step Up Step Out...Neena's book... How do you show up...Building your brand

Neena: those three areas show up, step up, step out. That's the title of my book the show-up part. I will tell you, I focus on this at every level. This is one of those things that you always need to keep in mind, and it's focused on developing yours. in a very intentional way. So it's, it, so one of the questions that I like to ask people to think about before they engage in anything is to just ask themselves, how do I wanna show up in this meeting, in this hallway conversation? I, and this video conference, whatever it is, how do I wanna show up by simply asking that question, you change everything. So I'm just like, oh my gosh, I'm lucky to be here. I've been back to back in meetings and thank goodness, I'm not too late, or whatever it is. And it shifts you from that to I'm here. How do I maximize this particular opportunity? So whether it's to reinforce my brand, whether it's to bring value, To the group that's here, whether it's to challenge an idea, whatever it is, thinking about how do I wanna show up? and it's so quick and easy. Have 30 seconds, it will change everything. So typically ask people to think of two or three words or phrases... So whether it's I wanna show up as confident, energetic, excited, or someone who's bringing the bigger picture forward right in the conversation. So it could be a range of different things. So that's one that I would say just always needs to be on the radar. And the higher up you go, the more important it is because you're in that invisible spotlight. If people are always watching. to see what you're doing. It's not enough to say the right thing. You gotta look at how much alignment is there between your words and your actions because your actions are always gonna speak louder than your words, period. And I'm consistently surprised at how many people don't think about that. And you're like I've said this and I've said that. I'm like, yeah, but what are you doing? Like you can't tell. Go take care of my well-being and have a work-life balance, but yet you're sending me emails in the evening and on the weekends or at the crack of dawn, you can't do that. It's you're very inconsistent. So anyway I'll pause there. , but that's a big one.

Sirisha: That, that, that is a lot to process and It's not about relevancy now. I think it's just an important period. I'd like, and I really like the title of the book, show up, step Up and step out, So it's all of those things and your emphasis on show up. And to me, I still think of it as reframing. You're reframing the thought in your mind.

[27:34] How do you show up for your team

Sirisha: So one of the things I do is on the weekends, I always look at my calendar like a week ahead of what's coming up in the meeting. , I know I'm ready for it. What am I going to think about? But yes is even more consistent. So probably something everybody could do is maybe that morning, just before you show up to work, quickly scroll through when you're looking at your feed, spend a minute looking at all the meetings as you said, and prepare the phrases and what they wanna say. Or maybe even on the weekend, like getting ready for stuff. And if you have to have a conversation, say with your team. It would be good. I think, if you're a manager, to have a similar conversation with your team and see, and encourage them on how they wanna show up because you are building up the team as well. And that is a part of my role as a manager. Your job is to advocate for people and give them visibility, but you wanna give them the visibility where they show up better, not just show up to be there as somebody at the table but provide value. And that's really what drives conversation. It's even as you self-promote, I think you, in some sense, your actions are speaking for you when you're not in the room so that people are talking about you when you're not in the room as well.

Neena: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. And I think, whether you are someone who's in a leadership role, it's important to remember your team is representing you as well. They're an extension of you. So how they show up is a reflection. And also you like how you show up, you're setting the tone for the team. So what does that look like? So make sure, even if you're managing people or you're a team member, all of this is connected.

[29:08] What do you want people to describe you as

Neena: So being very clear about that and I will say this particular piece, also ties. Executive presence, right? We all hear about executive presence and how we all need to have that and it's this intangible thing, but some specific things relate to it. And for women in particular I feel like I get more of the whole executive presence comment about something they need to work on and what I find is making this connection between how do I wanna show up and. What do I want people to know about me as a leader and really, so here's a question that I ask people to think about. So if someone were to describe you to somebody else, what are the top three things that you would want them to say about you? So top three words or phrases, and then we go deeper with that in terms of what does that look like? What does that sound like? How would someone? and then again with a whole, so what, like why should anyone care? What's the business relevance of this? And so what ends up happening is when you do this exercise, it surfaces two things. One is there are certain things that people just really value, right? So you see their core, some of their core values coming through. And the other thing that you see coming through is some of their core. So when we talk about things like, Hey, how do you wanna show up? It's typically connected to this desired brand exercise that I just described. and it makes a huge difference in terms of you being intentional because now this isn't Hey, I'm just trying to show up a certain way in this meeting, and I was like, this is who I am at the core. This is what matters to me. These are some of my guiding principles because what you also start to realize is these things shape the approach that you take or how you make decisions. Especially, let's say if one of mine was, I wanna be known as someone good at, developing people, maybe I'm inclusive, I pull them into meetings. There are a variety of different things that I do. Someone who doesn't value that as much, might not take that same type of approach. So there is a big difference in terms of what people would be experiencing. So I think for as long as you're connecting this, how do I show up to what matters to me as a person and for women that authenticity around that versus I gotta be somebody I'm not or gotta fit in this way or that way. Now I'm just connecting to myself, and then thinking about how do I help people connect the dots for themselves. That's what I'm bringing forward. And I may have a slightly different style and a slightly different approach, but by me connecting the dots now they understand more of what I'm doing. I don't have to just go behave the way other people behave. So it all comes together.

Sirisha: Yeah, actually I see the thread completely. I've stitched this quilt from your conversation. So it's first if I think about it, you first understand your values, like you said, you figure out what is important to you, what are the three words that define you? So you're very intentional about building that brand so someone understands who you are. Then you take that same thing and every interaction. The second point we were talking about before, for anyone who's listening is, you know when you're thinking about, okay, this is the win for this week, or this is the accomplishment for this week. Now you answer the so what question, how did that impact the organization? And then you go back to the first point, which is now you take these pieces and now you can self-promote tastefully and talk about all these accomplishments... So you pulled all this together. You have not only built executive presence, but you've also built your brand, you're showing the impact, and you're advocating for yourself and stretching yourself out of that box of roles you are to try new. So something right women struggle with. And if you look at it, I've been attending a couple of different sessions where a lot of it is around Asian leadership as well, and some of it is, there's the cultural context around it with meritocracy. And as you said, first of all, lift your head because very often we are told if you do a great job and you work hard, it'll all come to you. It's not quite everything, not quite true because talking about yourself and people understanding what your needs are. So building that together I think just moves it much further and is okay to take the risk and it's completely fine because that's the only way you're going to move forward.

It's not possible to say in a safe space and still expect something to change. It just doesn't happen.

Neena: Yeah. Yeah. No, I agree. I think you've summarized things well, and the only other thing I would add is, Sometimes people get bogged down in Oh my gosh, I don't have time to think about all this. Now all I want you to do is ask yourself, how do I wanna show up in this meeting? Just start. Just start doing something. When, and that's one thing from all my years working in business and doing consulting. I get how busy people can be and the stress and just the go-go. And so I pride myself on focusing on very practical strategies, like stuff that you can go do immediately.

[34:25] Micro learning...micro steps...

Neena: And in fact, that led us to. Develop an app called New Lens, right? Which has micro-learning in it, easy to fit into your day-to-day work, but it's all very oriented around exposing you to something that makes you stop and think. And it might be something you do well already, but even then it's if I do it well, am I intentionally leveraging it? But moving you very quickly from exposing you to something, helping you gain some insight and then taking action. Because I think there's just so much going on. Make sure that you don't try to solve everything but just get started and get going.

Sirisha: Almost like the atomic habits they talk about, just do one little thing and over 365 days it adds up.

And I did check out your new lens. And it's nice to have like you said, practical tips. Micro advice or nano advisor as you get it now so that you can take action because that's the hard part.

[35:22] Leveraging your cultural identity...collaboration as a strength

Sirisha: one of the other things I touched on briefly, in the beginning, is you have lived in very many countries, so what is it that advantage you bring to your work life and what have been the challenge? it was a little frustrating for me growing up just, as a first-generation immigrant to the United States and trying to reconcile the different cultures and the different expectations, but fast forward now, I would say that it's been invaluable in terms of being able to empathize, to be able to appreciate different things.

Neena: and to recognize there are certain strengths that I bring to the table because of these experiences. For example, we've talked about me leaving my job a few times and all of that, and one of the things that I've realized over time is my definition of risk-taking is very different. I'm sure I'll be able to find another job. You think about migrating from another country and starting life over and, my dad had two master's degrees, I remember when we came to the United States. he wasn't able to continue with his profession because he would've had to go back to school. And so he became a small business owner and then grew that to multiple businesses. And so what we all worked in the family business together, So you sit there and you think about. The values that are instilled in you and what you've seen, your own parents' role model, and then the work that you've done with your family around teamwork. There's the jumping in and, in Indian standards are pretty darn high, as well. So it's the education, you gotta get the straight A's and With work at home, Helping clean the house, helping cook whatever. And then also the family businesses. So it's a lot of different things, but you think about that, how much responsibility, that you take on and you learn how to juggle several different things and do them well. One of the biggest things is I'm not afraid to be bold. I'm not afraid to take risks and, I'm not afraid to work hard. But I will tell you, I am very focused on working smart though. I think on the flip side, there were just some times when I just wanted it to be a little easier from our cultural standpoints. Oh my gosh, my friends are doing this, or this is going on. No, I don't really, your parents are saying, Nope, they don't care about that. This is how we do.

Sirisha: Yeah I think it's always the children of the first generation immigrants are always caught in that, they call it the third culture. That is the culture of your parents, the culture where you live, and the middle culture that you're caught in between, which is probably what my kids are going through. Because I grew up in India and came here for grad school. So I think a lot of, part of my cultural identity was formed there. And then you're figuring out here as. , you already know you're an outsider in a sense when you enter us, right? So you're trying to figure that out. But you're right about the work ethic and everything that's instilled in you and the drive for perfection in a way.

But I think the other part that for me, what I find impactful is It's the approach to working with people that I find the most beneficial for me. It's just you have worked with so many different people from different cultures and different styles, and you're a bit more for me, I find that I'm a bit more flexible and nuanced in some of the conversations that have that impact because I grew up in India, but I was exposed to people from all over the world who would come to visit or who are natives from those countries. Figuring out how to have the conversation because you can be very much in a box. So the impact in an organization is not always just the technical, I think you were talking about collaboration or having that meeting with that client when you're building a strong relationship because those are very important. You can't always build a strong relationship when you're in a crisis point. So thinking about how you bring your background into your workplace in different. Not just your work ethic and everything, but a lot of different experiences, I think is really what distinguishes you.

Neena: yeah, no I agree. I think there's a certain level of empathy that you end up having for other people. Just, because you're coming from a much more diverse background. But the other thing, I remember back, when I was at Deloitte I remember I focused so much on trying to fit in and the part of the story that I haven't shared with you is we experienced quite a bit of racial discrimination in, our upbringing and so that's not lost on me, that my first reaction moving here to the United States. Fit in, just fit in, blend in. And then there was a point at which I realized, you know what, okay, I can do that. But there are certain things that I approach differently. There are certain things that I do differently and think about things differently. And that's getting lost. That's getting lost in all of that. Is that really who I wanna be? And each person has to come to their conclusions. What's going on for them? But it has to, has to feel safe. And so part of what makes you feel safe though, is investing in those relationships. When people, get to know you, you get to know them.

Sirisha: There's more of that trust that, it also emphasizes that they have your back because now your actions have been very consistent with everything that you've been messaging all this time. And you're right. You need a safe space. So even for me just like you, it takes years to acc size and figure out. How much of the blending do you want to do and how much of the standing out do you want to do? And it's not something that comes very naturally because you're trying to figure out what that space is like in the first place and trying to navigate that. So for everyone who's listening, you'll have to do it. It'll be a journey. It's not today. You flip the switch in tomorrow, you figure it out. It's something that you'll work within yourselves and in the environment that you are, and then define what that looks like... So, Neena, I asked this question to every guest. What advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Neena: It's pretty simple. It's listening to your gut. I will tell you I see people talking themselves out of that all the time, and. our gut feelings are developed based on our experiences, especially in us, we're so cerebral. It's just like a head. Everything's about thinking through things. and just connecting back to your body, is that, what's that gut feeling that I'm having around this? And to just trust it and say, okay, maybe I need to explore something a little bit here, is I can't tell you how many times I think, earlier in my career where I talked myself out of something and I was like, oh, I had that gut feeling before. Why didn't I listen to myself? So that's the biggest piece of advice that I would give myself.

Sirisha: That's a good one. Because it's hard to trust ourselves sometimes to take that. What is the one word you would use to describe yourself?

Neena: The word that kept coming to mind for me was bold. and, but I can't say boldly without connecting it to what am I trying to be bold about. And it's easy to be bold when you connect things to what you're passionate about. So if you get clarity around what you're passionate about, boy you'll go after it. I'll tell you, having been in business now for 14 years, that that passion will help me step out and be bold in ways that, that I haven't expected. And especially I'd say the past couple of years there's been so much going on. I also went through cancer in 2020, I'm totally fine now, but that was, literally January of 2020, going through that alongside the. the app's new lens that I mentioned. We were in the middle of launching that. There were just so many different things, but what you realize is, it's easy to be bold and keep going with something when you focus on that passion...

Sirisha: First I'm glad you're doing well. It must have been quite trying times with everything going on.

Not just internal, but external factors impacting it and you are right. So I just wanna kind of wrap this up and make sure everyone knows what we talked about being bold is first, deciding what is important to you, framing that in your mind. Then framing that and being able to decide what your accomplishment was and speak to it and reframing it if you're in a corporate organization, being able to articulate that, or even if you run your own business, when you're thinking about, this is my three-year goal, can you speak to what you're driving towards? You can get so caught up in the minutia of details of your job and not your career. being able to discuss it, being able to articulate your value. building that brand and that executive presence is so important. So I would love for your listeners, if you have a question or if you have done this, and what instances articulated, especially if you've tried these exercises. Email me at womencareerandlife I And Neena, thank you so much for being here, we got a touch, not just about the corporate, but your cultural lens perspective as well, because it is different because we bring different things as part of our lived experiences when we come to work and how to leverage that and be true to ourselves.

Neena: Yes. And I also wanted to offer up to follow me on LinkedIn. I'm putting leadership articles out there all the time and I also write biweekly. And so, we've got a blog and post articles on our website as well. So Newberry and then, or just follow me, Nina Newberry LinkedIn.

Sirisha: Yes. And I would like also to suggest people go check out her new Lens app because I think it provides you with just the. Perfect information for you as you're doing. Connect with Nina on LinkedIn and connect with her through her own executive company and she does have articles that she puts out through the Forbes Executive Coaching Circle as well that I see out on Forbes. So you can check here information on various forums as you reach out to her and I'll share her contact information as well in the feed when I put the articles out.

Neena: Great. Thank you for having me today. This has been a lot of.

Sirisha: Thank you, Neena. This has been good.

This is an indie podcast, and if you enjoy the content, you can help me with production You can buy me a cup of chai. I'm not a coffee drinker. Or you can enable me by subscribing to either a monthly or an annual plan as well. Thank you for doing this, and don't forget to share this episode and put in this reviews what you liked, and what was your key takeaway. That's really what I wanna know. I wanna know how this is impacting you and what infinitesimal changes you're seeing in your life. You can always reach me through Instagram by sending me a DM at Women Carrier and Life. Thank you so much for tuning in.

Guest : Neena Newberry


Host: Sirisha

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