Nisha Panchal – Recognising Leadership Qualities

Nisha’s interview for Yes She Can.

Although this blog might be a little longer than normal that’s because it’s worth reading every word. Nisha Panchal is an inspiring woman who seeks to get the best out of others.

Despite life changing and career altering setbacks, Nisha has shown drive and determination throughout her career as a coach and trainer. She now owns her own company and is an advocate of charity Smart Works, which focuses on getting unemployed women back into work.

What are you waiting for? Read on…

What is your current role?

I am Director of The Good Leader – Inspire Engage Enlighten

The Good Leader is a consultancy specialising in leadership, management and team development – supporting firms to develop best in class professionals. In a professional environment people are now seeking leaders they can respect, that are innovative, appreciate natural strengths and know how to leverage those strengths to get the best from their people. The days of ‘do as I say and not as I do’ are now deemed unacceptable and inappropriate. Professionals are less willing to accept these behaviours and are ready to move on if there is no change in sight. We work with firms and design programmes aligned to their values and culture; programmes that will future proof the talented individuals they wish to invest in. An experiential approach brings the learning to life. By telling powerful stories, using case studies, videos on compelling thought leadership, games and activities, the learning is much easier to absorb and apply.

The consultancy delivers 90-minute masterclasses on a range of topics from ‘Productivity and Efficiency’ to ‘Giving and Receiving Feedback; one professional to another’ and are perfect for fitting in at either breakfast, lunch or after work. I can also act as an extension to an in-house L&D team and provide support with firm-wide projects such as embedding a new on-boarding process or career pathway programme.

What barriers have you faced in your career?

I know of many female colleagues with the same challenge that unless you are a certain age or appear a certain age it can be difficult to be taken seriously within the business community. Ultimately though I think the only person that holds you back is you, if there is a will you will find a way and there are many examples around us.

What are your motivations?

I am deeply driven by the work that I do and the difference it makes to the firms I work with as well as individual lives both in and outside of the workplace. Although it’s still very early days the feedback I have received so far keeps me going. When firms report increased levels of engagement and a desire to try new things; when individuals’ complete projects successfully or find the courage to make the changes they need to – that is very rewarding.

Break down barriers and how to improve work?

We need to start saying that there is space for everyone at all levels and create opportunities for everyone to thrive according to their natural strengths. The time has come for less talk and more action – no more awareness sessions please. There are lots of different diversity networks doing some great work, a challenge is how we can make these networks more inclusive. For example, it would be wonderful to see more BAME and disabled women represented within all women networks.

That the very departments responsible for championing diversity and inclusion, namely the HR and L&D functions, themselves become much more diverse and inclusive. I appreciate that this may come across as a criticism or quite a controversial statement to make, this is not my intention. My point is that we still have some way to go before we fully leave behind the ‘Personnel’ department of yesterday. HR/L&D still have some inner engineering to complete. Both departments are hugely influential and responsible for key people projects and initiatives, they have the perfect opportunity to lead by example.

“We need to start saying that there is space for everyone at all levels and create opportunities for everyone to thrive according to their natural strengths.”

Do you think government quotas are necessary?

Despite all the awareness and education campaigns, it wasn’t until the government introduced a 5p tax on all single use carrier bags did usage fall by more than 80%. Even me, I never used to take a bag with me because I didn’t have to, now it’s rare that I forget. What I’m saying is, we all knew and were aware of the damage plastic was, and is, causing to our environment but we really didn’t do anything about it collectively as a society until we were hit financially.

The firms and organisations that truly believe in gender and racial equality, they don’t need quotas. They are doing great work without being told to do so. They do it anyway as they see the benefits to their business, their clients and just because it is the right thing to do. These firms are progressive and tend to be employers of choice for all generations.

The challenge is what to do about those that continue to make the same old tired excuses, the excuses that we just do not wish to hear anymore. It is up to the CEOs and leadership teams of those firms to take a good hard look at themselves and act. They might be doing well today but tomorrow is a different matter altogether. Those that will not keep in line with modern expectations are sure to get left behind.

How do you ensure that you are an inspiring leader?

By making it not about me. It’s about what my clients, associates, colleagues, family or friends need from me, how I can help and support them to address their challenges. Doing my best every day with professionalism.

What three tips would you give to young females starting their career?

Firstly, learn to do your role to the very best of your ability and let that become what you are known for. This will give you credibility and a very solid foundation to build upon.

Secondly, enter a state of continuous learning and develop a growth mindset. The more you can learn and action the more adaptable you will become to an ever-changing world. When you stop learning you start getting left behind.

Thirdly, join industry networks, become involved in the business community and build professional relationships. If you don’t have anyone to go with (which often I don’t) attend regardless. I find people are usually warm and welcoming and admire those that feel the fear and do it anyway. Having a professional network and a solid professional reputation will stand you in good stead.

“The more you can learn and action the more adaptable you will become to an ever-changing world.”

Who are your inspirations?

I am lucky to be surrounded by strong women both personally and professionally. I have my mum and three sisters, all successful in their own right. My mum is one of the strongest people I know, she raised all four of us single-handedly and took over the running of my Dad’s training organisation when he passed away at the age of 44 in 1998.

Professionally I am inspired by the work of Linda A. Hill, she is the Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and chair of the Leadership Initiative. I really like her mindset for business, Linda is regarded as one of the top experts on leadership. Her co-authored book Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation is on my recommended reading material and was very well received by the delegates on the management and leadership programme at Gowling WLG. As a result, there was the appetite to collaborate cross-functionally resulting in some exciting new projects to take forward.

Last but not least, the women at the charity Smart Works; specifically, the Birmingham branch. The work they do in supporting women to gain job success is uplifting, encouraging and important. I am proud to be a networking ambassador.

Nisha’s inspirational mission to instil an inclusive culture in the modern workplace is truly noble. If you’d like to read more about how directors are challenging the status quo read Lisa Ventura, CEO & Founder of the UK Cybersecurity Association inspirational story here!

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