Thursday, September 3, 2015

GRIT - the 'unspoken' leadership trait or trait of the extraordinary!

Have you searched for the magic formula to be successful and stumbled upon lists or Stephen Covey's what succesful people do series only to read it and discard it and then continue your quest looking for the magic formula?

We all talk about various leadership or habits or traits of successful people but there is one aspect that is the sum of all traits described in one word and not just that, it is what sets apart the extraordinaire from the ordinary and that is GRIT. Do you have Grit ? Do you know what Grit means? Hint: Its not your breakfast grits or grain of sand particles. Grit is your firmness of character, it is your spirit! Its what you stand for and how you stand and face situations. What is your grit?

If you dont have time to read, atleast watch this TED Talk by Angela Lee's  on grit

I read two articles today that has totally energized me in redefining my leadership credo. Instead of just being referred as Sumaya is passionate, energetic,etc I want to be referred in terms of grit.

I highly recommend reading these two articles. Read it not once but twice. These will recharge you or even be life changing.

For those folks with kids, raise your children with grit !!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

What motivates you? How much does a work environment matter?

Dear Mentee,

Have you ever wondered what makes you happy and eager to go to work every day? What motivates you to be at work? If you are dragging yourself to work and really unhappy, you should do yourself and your company a favor and find another position that motivates and excites you.

I was reflecting on this for my own self and I realized what keeps me high performing and motivated is the challenge and appreciation for the work I do.

Boston Consulting Group (BCG) did a recent extensive survey of over 200,000 people globally and BCG found that the #1 factor for employee happiness on the job is get appreciated for their work! Here is the list of the top 10 factors 

The top 10 factors according to the BSG survey are:
  1. Appreciation for your work
  2. Good relationships with colleagues
  3. Good work-life balance
  4. Good relationships with superiors
  5. Company’s financial stability
  6. Learning and career development
  7. Job security
  8. Attractive fixed salary
  9. Interesting job content
  10. Company values

Here is the link to the complete BCG study which is very interesting -> 

Time to reflect on what motivates you!

Your Mentor

Thursday, April 30, 2015

China Reflection - random musings on my way back from visiting China in 2013

November 13 2013

CHINA – Crossroads of modern civilization – Sumaya Shakir

En route to San Francisco after an amazing trip to China, images of sky high Shanghai buildings, beautiful architecture, never ending shops/vendors, stylish malls with famous fashion houses, people of all walks of life, futurist infrastructure of railway/metro system, granite public benches across Nanjing road,  aroma of Chinese street food and people performing Tai Chi on public squares are now playing like a movie on repeat in my mind. This was far from what I had expected before boarding my flight to China. China is the cradle of cross culture modern civilization of the traditional east and modern west.
The first impression was of shock and awe. Shocked, because I did not expect China to be so advanced. The first impression was at the airport itself which was so modern and had all facilities and modern architecture in sharp contrast to the unkempt Seattle international airport where I boarded my flight to China. More than anything the cleanliness of the city was impressive. For a country with the size of 1.2 billion population and which went through numerous revolts and revolution up until half a century ago, China has done a great job in moving ahead with owning the world's market. It has reformed and is competing with first world countries. The second jaw dropping moment came in while driving to the hotel from the airport, aside from the traffic, the huge brand named stores and malls that lined the roads was a real sight to see. Even Silicon Valley where many of the world’s millionaires live do not have the brand name stores that Beijing has.  Definitely there is excess of wealth and first class millionaires in Shanghai and Beijing. The new expensive cars, clean streets, maintenance of law and order, efficient subway system are some of the other highlights that I was impressed with. The real impression came when we visited the village near the Great Wall where there was solar technology used to provide power to the villagers and the large school. The village school was much better looking than some of the schools in Silicon Valley.
What the world has done, it can be replicated in China, the ‘Made In China” stamp is one that is immortal. Along the way to visit Agilent, there were almost every single high tech company buildings lining the main road. From Apple, HP, Cisco, etc, every tech giant has established presence in China after all that’s were their bread and butter is made.
China’s open markets is definitely one of its attractions with hundreds of vendors selling almost replica of everything with a price that can be bargained 1000% lower.  Fake Monte Blanc pens, Dr.Beats headsets, luxury handbags, etc .  The store owners are creative about selling in black market by having hidden store/back rooms and luring the customers with catalogs on the street. One can pick the latest Alexander McQueen design and the tailor can make it in less than one hour. This showed how much the regular worker was willing to put himself just to earn his living. Yes, the Chinese are industrious even if it means stealing intellectual rights. When there is a population of 1.2 billion to feed, intellectual rights does not seem like a big ethical issue. It is obvious the government has not done much to prevent pirated and fake goods to be sold in open markets.
It was interesting to see how successful companies had to change their strategy to do business in China and those who did not clearly failed The tour to Walmart and Carrefour was a better illustration of this. To thrive in China, you have to think , breathe, live and thrive like how a Chinese would.
Witnessing the haves and the have-nots of China, it is no different than the rich and poor in the United States except that for such huge population, the number of have-nots is more and is definitely more obvious. It was also interesting to learn during one of the company visits as to how the government was stepping in to provide services for its senior citizens but at the same how the government can maintain law and order and a stable government that changes only once in 10 years is interesting. I could not gauge the level of corruption but reading a few stories I know it exists.  I was even angry at how much the Chinese government controls individuals life in the name of communism. Chinese government restricts the freedoms of speech, movement, excess internet censorship and religion of Chinese citizens.
Cost of living is definitely higher in Beijing/Shanghai compared to United States for the same grocery products. I am assuming it could be because the products are capitalizing on the brand and the elite Chinese or expats. Likewise the below average chain stores in the US like McDonalds, Pizza Hut are all glorified restaurants in China.
China with its excess human capital has transformed itself to a super economic power in the last few decades.  Language and culture barrier has not stopped China from doing business with the rest of the world. It is quickly changing its image from just being the communist manufacturing hub of the world to being a land of opportunity for innovation. Already the rest of the world is adapting on how to deal with China’s customs and traditions in order to do business in China. 

In closing thoughts, China, from my eyes definitely is an eye candy for someone looking to experience a myriad of culture and make a remarkable career or even start out as an entrepreneur. China is transforming at a faster rate; if it implements its strategy well, very soon the world will need to catch up with China. Given the opportunity to work and live in China I would definitely consider it atleast as an expat but now I will keep the memories of my early morning jog on Nanjing road as a memory before it fades into oblivion.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Forbes Top 100 Websites For Women - my top 10 picks

Often times I am asked to recommend my favorite websites. For most part, my daily grind comes from these three sites that I visit every single day - WSJ, Forbes and Fortune. I also get great insights from LinkedIn, HBR, Twitter and FB feeds.

But when someone asks me what are good sites specifically for women, I dont have any in particular. I do follow a few women thought leaders and feed off their posts.

Last year I came across Forbes 100 best websites for women and found some of them to be very informative. Here are my picks...

I have skipped all the mom talk, hobbies, blogging, social good, deal sites, feminist, financial management or travel kinda sites and picked sites that will help women in the corporate world, leadership development and career growth.

Note: Not on this list is the Forbes Woman and Fortune's Most Powerful Women - two sites I highly recommend.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Women Leadership Book Picks

While "Lean In" by Sanderberg comes as the most popular book for career women, it is not the first book that comes to my mind when I make book recommendations to my mentees and to the women's leadership groups I mentor.

Here are my picks for ConneXions GCI , an employee women's group for my company Gannett for who I am humbled and delighted to help serve as an executive sponsor and executive steering leader.

The picks include both old and new books just for this group. Not all the books below are geared specifically for women. I have other leadership, biographies and business books that are my all time favorites not included in this list
  1. How Remarkable Women Lead: The Breakthrough Model for Work and Life by Joanna Barsh
  2. Become the CEO of You, Inc. by Sausan Buckeley Butler
  3. Vital Voices: The Power of Women Leading Change Around the World by Alyse Nelson and Kristin Kalbli
  4. What Works for Women at Work, by Joan C. Williams and Rachel Dempsey
  5. Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success by Sylvia Ann Hewlett
  6. Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way: Timeless Strategies from the First Lady of Courage by Robin Gerber
  7. How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton M. Christensen
  8. Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow by Tom Rath
  9. Tribes by Seth Godin
  10. The Truth About Leadership by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner
  11. No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think about Power by Gloria Feldt
  12. Leading From the Front: No-Excuse Leadership Tactics for Women by Courtney Lynch
Follow ConneXions on FB

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Update - where has 2014 gone?

I have not had time to write letters or park my thoughts as life is zooming at a sonic speed. Since the last update I did my first powerlifting competition that went very well. I bought back my first ever sports trophies.

I have been spending a lot of time reading several leadership books. My brain cells are bombarded with so many thoughts and wisdom that I will soon need to collect my thoughts and post it here.

Between training for my powerlifting, reading books, working and just living life, I picked up rock climbing as a new hobby but it will have to take a back seat for now as I need to focus on priorities.

I am enjoying my job to the fullest. I am making an impact and I cannot wait to further expand the dimension and horizons of this impact.

What's coming for the remainder of 2014 

1. Competing in 100% RAW world championship in October
2. Meeting with the CEO of my company Gracia Martore who could potentially decide if she wants to mentor me.
3. Attend Kellogg's women's executive program
4. Travel to Ireland for Summit conference - CANCELLED

What I am currently reading
1. Steve Job's life by design
2. The Outisders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and their radically rational blueprint for success
3. Become the CEO of you Inc. by Susan B. Butler. Susan is one of my virtual mentors. She is an amazing woman!!!

What's upcoming on my reading list
1.Become the Ceo of You, Inc: A Pioneering Executive Shares Her Secrets for Career Success bySusan Bulkeley Butler . This will be a re-read.

I will compile the list of the books that I already read in 2014 in a different post with my thoughts on them. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Are you searching for your purpose?

This is one of the topics I will be talking at the Women Empowering Women conference.