Radha Mukherji is the Founder and CEO of Shero Consulting. She is a CFI certified CEO Coach and offers coaching and mentoring services to senior professionals and entrepreneurs to help transform effective managers to inspirational leaders. Radha has a special interest in coaching and mentoring women professionals to help them in turn, become role models for other women.
Radha taps into lessons learnt over her own rich corporate experience of 40 years, most of it in advertising and communications. She is well respected by clients and colleagues as a strategic thinker and an effective facilitator who is deeply committed to fostering individual growth through learning and skill enhancement initiatives.
Following is an excerpt of our conversation with Radha Mukherji:
Could you briefly share your professional and leadership journey?
After my MBA from IIM Calcutta, I initially started my career in Marketing and Product Management.
It took me 8 years to discover that I wanted a career in advertising and I was willing to start over to get into it.
My advertising career began as an Account Supervisor at Ogilvy Chennai and ended as CEO of DDB Oman. I returned to India in 2016 after 24 years in Oman.
What drove you to start mentoring and coaching? Was it a conscious decision or an opportunity or just happened by chance?
The part of my job that I used to find most rewarding was managing people. I loved teaching, training, motivating, counselling, mentoring to groom people for bigger responsibilities. And I believe I did it rather well. So, when it was time to return home to India (from Oman), I was clear that I didn’t want to get back to chasing profits at an ad agency anymore. Instead I wanted to focus on making a career of what came naturally to me and made me feel good about myself. My experience in communication, I felt, would be an asset in this new profession. So I did the Executive Coaching course with Coaching Foundation of India ( CFI) in 2017 and today I am a certified and practicing leadership coach. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach people across a spectrum of industries and functions and have my hands full today…so it was a good career choice for my 2nd professional innings.
In your experience, what are the benefits of having a mentor? In what ways do people gain from having a mentor?
I wish I had had the benefit of a Mentor particularly in my early days as a Manager!
It is so important to see ourselves in the eyes of colleagues in order to give our best and get the best from our working relationships.
External mentors have no agenda except to help, which they do by inviting introspection through asking searching questions, challenging long held beliefs, helping in defining goals and what behaviours he/she may need to modify/adopt to get there. While it is good to learn from one’s mistakes, there is a lot to be gained from tapping into the learning, ideas and experiences of a mentor, who acts as a sounding board as well.
Is there a difference between mentoring men and mentoring women?
I have a special commitment and interest in mentoring women because of the empathy I feel and the lessons I can share from my own experiences. That’s why I named my company Shero Consulting for the she-heroes out there. The difference in mentoring approach is to do with mindsets, both of men and women. Qualities that men are commended for often get a different tag when applied to women. For example, He is firm vs She is adamant, Authoritative vs Bossy, Go-getter vs Aggressive…and many more. These stereotypes hopefully will vanish but meanwhile one has to work around them. Women, I find are torn between professional and personal priorities, tend to be more self-critical and reticent about asking for recognition at the workplace or a helping hand at home. They try to do it all and disappoint/flog themselves over minor setbacks.
I have been there and done that myself, sometimes quite unnecessarily as I look back. Today I am proud that my daughters are much more at ease and in control of their professional lives than I was at that stage of my life and I am learning from them too. I try to share the wisdom gathered both from successes and my mistakes with the women I mentor.
Have you yourself benefitted personally and professionally from being a mentor?
Tremendously! Each mentoring experience brings me new learnings. I learn of new challenges as we together to explore how to resolve them. Sometimes when listening, I don’t know from where in my head, long forgotten experiences get triggered. Just thinking, engaging with people is so stimulating to the mind.
And there is so much joy in watching slow transformation unfold before your eyes. There is no way to monetize the feeling when I get messages from people I have had the privilege to mentor on their victories or progress and the warmth I feel within to have done my little bit towards that.
What skillset/approach does a mentor need to display, especially when mentoring women? What are the most effective strategies of mentoring?
The strategy is the same for men and women. Listening deeply – often to the unsaid; having unconditional positive regard, respect and empathy; and at the same time challenging and provoking thought as needed. It is very important for a mentor to be genuinely appreciative in approach, look for strengths to leverage rather than faults to fix.
What can help more men and women actively take on mentoring?
Mentoring may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It could in fact even be damaging to have a reluctant mentor. But if a person feels happy to help and guide people, and has the ability to do so with care and sensitivity, there are courses aplenty for coaching and mentoring. The important thing to remember is that it is an on-going, committed relationship albeit for a short period of time during which sustainable positive behavioural changes should happen to call the intervention successful.
How do you think leaders can take out time and find the motivation for spending time with a mentee and addressing her challenges?
If something is really important to us, we all know how to fit it into our day somehow, don’t we? It is when it is not that important that we see the constraint of a full calendar. Mentoring someone has to be seen as a priority and responsibility towards a person to be effective.
I can tell you from my personal experience that mentorship is very emotionally enriching because you learn to put someone’s interests above your own and feel successful only when he/she succeeds.
Shravani is the Founder of elleNomics, a digital platform aggregating resources for enabling women to advance and thrive. She is an Economist with more than 12 years’ experience in policy research with organisations like ICRIER and World Bank.