Create and Power a Purpose-Driven Culture – ep.137

Motherhood – ep.136
May 9, 2024
Amplifying Communities – ep.138
June 6, 2024

This week I am joined by the founder and CEO of SEE GOOD STRATEGY GROUP Shilpa Gadhok to discuss the benefits of implementing the purpose-driven approach when developing personalized brand and leadership strategies, how creativity can be used to foster meaningful connections, and explore the healing impact that mentoring has on mental, personal and professional growth.

Shilpa Gadhok is an award-winning brand executive with a deep passion for unleashing the power of individuals, teams, and organizations to make a positive impact on our world. For over 10 years, she has led some of the most iconic global brands at Procter & Gamble and The Hershey Company and led teams at high-growth start-ups. As the Founder and CEO of SEE GOOD STRATEGY GROUP, a boutique consulting firm focused on brand strategy and leadership development for mission-driven organizations, Shilpa is passionate about fueling teams, brands, and organizations with the tools and thought-leadership necessary to step-change their growth and broader role in society. Her clients span industries across Healthcare, Financial Services, Non-Profit Organizations, Tech, and Consumer Packaged Goods. 

She is a visionary speaker who brings thought leadership on topics like the power of purpose to unlock profitability, values-driven leadership, food system reform, strategies for holistic health, and building brands and teams that change the world. Beyond speaking, Shilpa is no stranger to the stage as she deeply connects with her Indian heritage through her first love, Indian Dance, as a competitive dancer, choreographer, performer, and teacher. 

Shilpa has been published and quoted in Ad Age, TIME, Business Week, Forbes, Crain’s, Fast Company, and other notable publications. She was named to Ad Age’s 40 under 40 list in 2017, was a finalist for the prestigious Milton Hershey Award, a recipient of the P&G North America President’s Award, and the P&G Alumni Leader Under 40 to Watch award in 2023. She is a marketing industry expert for the Polsky Center, affiliated with the University of Chicago, and a Featured Guest Lecturer at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health and The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She also serves as the Executive Chair of the Board for B-Local Illinois (supporting local B-Corps), and the Advisory Board of Pilot Light, a non-profit focused on advancing food education in US school systems. She is a mentor for the Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project, a school that empowers children from India’s lowest socioeconomic class to break the cycle of generational poverty through education, leadership, and compassion. Shilpa received her bachelor’s from Drexel University and her MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Instagram: @shilpagadhok; @iamtheshilps

 #thisisshilpaspeaking #businessasaforceforgood #brandleader #leadershipdevelopment #thepowerofheritage #indiandance #kathakdancer

Melyssa Barrett:  Welcome to the Jali Podcast. I’m your host, Melyssa Barrett. This podcast is for those who are interested in the conversation around equity, diversity, and inclusion. Each week I’ll be interviewing a guest who has something special to share or is actively part of building solutions in the space. Let’s get started.

Shilpa Gadhok is an award-winning brand executive with a deep passion for unleashing the power of individuals, teams, and organizations to make a positive impact on our world. For over 10 years, she has led some of the most iconic global brands at Procter and Gamble and the Hershey Company and LED teams at high growth startups as the founder and CEO of C, good strategy group, a boutique consulting firm focused on brand strategy and leadership development for mission driven organizations. Shilpa is passionate about fueling teams, brands, and organizations with the tools and thought leadership necessary to step change their growth and broader role in society. Her clients span industries across health care, financial services, nonprofit organizations, tech and consumer packaged goods. She is a visionary speaker who brings thought leadership on topics like the power of purpose to unlock profitability, values driven leadership, food system reform, strategies for holistic health and building brands and teams that change the world beyond speaking.

Shilpa is no stranger to the stage as she deeply connects with her Indian heritage through her first love Indian dance as a competitive dancer, choreographer, performer, and teacher. I’m so excited to bring Shilpa Gadhok, I am just so excited to meet you and to really talk about your experiences because you are amazing and I can’t wait for you to kind of talk to us about how you got to where you are and maybe you can give us some perspective. I know your parents met and got married and had kind of wishes or thoughts for what they wanted their kids to be, and I’m sure you are exceeding all those expectations.

Shilpa Gadhok:  Oh gosh, I don’t know about that, but I hope mom and dad are you listening.

Melyssa Barrett:  So tell us a little bit about how you got started and because you have an amazing kind of journey into brand strategy and leadership development.

Shilpa Gadhok:  Yeah. Oh my gosh. Well, first, I am so psyched to be here and just have this conversation with you. I feel like you and I, we hit it off in our pre-conversation. So I am so excited to be here and to be hopefully adding some value to your listeners today. My journey to brand strategy and then now opening up sea good strategy group. It hasn’t been a steady linear path, and I used to be really nervous about that. But I think in today and sitting in the seat where I am today, I look at that with a lot of reverence. So glad that I took kind of a non-traditional path ish. So stepping back a little bit, even, I started my career actually in corporate finance and it was working in the defense field, and I enjoyed everything about the job, the people, the organization, but the creative side of me.

I’ve always been into arts and humanities. That has always been for me how I identify. And I couldn’t really get to the creative side of me in finance. And so that really led me down a journey of, okay, what does it look like to combine business acumen with creative strategy? How do I do that and one thing to another, and I kind of figured out brand management would be something I wanted to explore. And so after business school, I started a very traditional path toward brand management. I worked at Big CPG, I started my career at Proctor and Gamble, then I went to the Hershey company, and I very much value the experience that I built there. I invested in really understanding my craft. But then I went and I took a detour, and after a very, I think very successful career at Hershey, I decided to jump into the world of startups, to be very honest and very transparent with you, my first foray into a startup, it wasn’t successful.

I learned a lot from the experience, but it was about three months and I just didn’t think it was really the right fit for me and what I really wanted. And I think, again, you learn a lot through your career and through these little steps along the way, I would’ve never known what questions to ask or how to really be successful in a 10 person early stage startup if I hadn’t gone through that experience. And then through the latter few years I worked for mid-size companies, I went back into the startup world and I think had much more of a successful foray into that. And I think you and I kind of connected on this a little bit earlier, was the role that 2020, I think played for a lot of people, but for me specifically was like, how do I want to use my craft in ways where I feel personally fulfilled?

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes.

Shilpa Gadhok:  That was what led to, I really wanted to work for Mission-driven companies. I wanted to work for a purpose-driven brand, and I didn’t want to talk about purpose in a marketing campaign. I wanted to operationalize it. And so after I got the chance to do that, I fully saw 360 how that works, and that’s how ood Strategy Group was born. Because I said, okay, now I feel confident to be able to step out on my own. I will also say this is a journey. So there are days where the confidence is a little higher than others, but that’s okay. That’s what this process is all about.

Melyssa Barrett:  That’s every day real talk for everybody,

Shilpa Gadhok:  Every hundred percent one. I think there’s so much that can be a whole other part of the discussion too, but with Sea, good SEE stands for Society, environment, economy, and those are our three pillars of impact. And being a brand person, I really wanted to make sure that how I named the company was not only rooted in our purpose and our values, but was also a way for people to take some optimism away from a lot of what’s going on in the world today. And so I thought, if you can, I think action is shaped by perspective. So if you can see good, then you can be good and then you can do good. And that was sort of what we were building. So we’re a brand strategy consulting company. We’re actually more of a management consulting company. We work on several different projects. And then I also have been crafting more leadership development workshops because my thesis is that if we really want to build organizations to change the world, and we need to start by building leaders who redefine what that world looks like. And so that’s why Yes, please, yes. Right? Thing is you can create all of the great strategy you want on PowerPoint slides, but it really goes nowhere if you don’t have the right leaders or the right culture to really facilitate that. Long answer to your question,

Melyssa Barrett:  No, that’s exactly true. And it is so funny because I was just talking about I have a presentation I’m doing tomorrow, and it really does, you see when people are talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion, specifically how leadership development, purpose and mission really kind of come together to be like this whole person where I want to work, where I enjoy, where I feel belong, where I can make an impact with my purpose. I mean, it’s like, duh, it should

Shilpa Gadhok:  Always be connected. It floors me when I think folks think about these as separate believers, and you’re like, no, no, no, no. Right. If we look at the heart, and I know you and I talked about this earlier, but I always say this, I’m sure some people are going to be like, oh, she always says this line, but it really is true. Organizations are a collection of what? They’re a collection of people,

Melyssa Barrett:  People absolutely

Shilpa Gadhok:  Working with the same objective. And so if we look at your purpose, your mission, your values as what we as humans collectively use to live our lives in an organization de and I is, or whether we want to call it de and I or DIB, all of

Melyssa Barrett:  De I, whatever. Yeah.

Shilpa Gadhok:  Right? All of the above. It’s just treating people the way that you would like to be treated and making sure that we have fair equitable access to the same opportunities. And why wouldn’t you want that in your organization? Why wouldn’t you want different perspectives at the table to help with creativity and to help with not only in your innovation, but your growth and testing the waters, and it makes for much more of a productive and effective organization, in my opinion.

Melyssa Barrett:  Oh, definitely. And while we’re talking about kind of unleashing that power, because individuals, you are absolutely right, they make up the teams, the organizations that really create that positive impact. So can you share maybe a specific example of a project or initiative? I know we talked a little bit about trust in your own journey where you kind of made the leap and how you made that impact. But can you talk a little bit about some sort of a project or initiative where when you talk about strategy and leadership for mission-driven organizations, I know you have had firsthand kind of impact on how that is done.

Shilpa Gadhok:  Oh gosh. I hope that it was as impactful, I think as it was for me. I hope it was as impactful for the team. One example that kind of comes to mind was in my last full-time role I guess that I had before I started Sea Good, I was actually called in and hired to help rebrand a 17-year-old ice cream brand. And the project first initially started, I was a consultant for this company for about three months, and it turned into a full-time kind of gig. And in this project, so what I realized is a 17-year-old brand had gone through already a lot of change. They had gone through an acquisition to a holding company. They had gone through already a packaging change and refresh, which was very different from where they were for the last 17 years. And then I was coming in and I was like, okay, we’re going to change the name.

We’re going to change the packaging again, and the entire company essentially is going to change email addresses and we’re going to launch a new product line and brand building 1 0 1, leadership 1 0 1. I guess what I learned back at my days at Proctor was you never really want to go into a new team, a new brand, and change things right away. That’s not day one. You are supposed to be a sponge, and it’s not. I think people think that marketers and brand builders are like, oh, let me put my stamp on this really strategic brand building is trying to put as less of a stamp as possible, because if it’s working well, you only want to amplify that. You don’t want to shift it. And so I was very nervous coming in on day one. Now, as a full-time hire, I was a VP of brand and I was addressing the entire company.

We had about 30 employees in Oregon, and I thought, oh my gosh, I’m going to be introduced and I’m going to basically say, hi, my name is Shilpa. I’m a brand leader, and oh, we’re going to change everything yet again. And I thought, wow, they would never get on board with that. And I think there would be so much frustration in the room. And so one of the things that I did was I used it as an opportunity to introduce myself. I used it as an opportunity to sort of just, I think even the playing field a little bit and saying, let’s just have a conversation. I want you to get to know me as a human. And so I told them in our quarterly kind of old hands meeting, I gave a presentation about the story of how my parents met, and I told them about my heritage, and I showed them pictures from my parents’ wedding and how they met.

They got married, they got engaged within a week, they moved to the stage. It been a week. Yep, yep. Whole story. That’s great. And they’re still going strong, which is nice. And they basically moved to this whole new country and had my sister and I and really just the dreams that they had for us. And in doing that, I wanted them to understand my heritage so that they could understand that I understood the brand’s heritage and all of the work that they had put into this brand over 17 years. And that the way that we were thinking about evolving the next phase of the brand’s life and into a new name and everything was really a tribute to what their heritage was all about. And once I think that point really got across, I can’t tell you, I mean these individuals are lovely beyond measure in a number of ways, but the amount of support and the heart of collaboration that they gave toward this process, I kid you not, honestly, Melyssa, we had to change an entire company’s branding, everything, new formula in six months and launch it into market.

Melyssa Barrett:  Whoa.

Shilpa Gadhok:  That’s how quick we had to move. And it was requiring all hands on deck 24 7 almost, it felt like. And I would never have been able to accomplish that or have been a part of the process if the team wasn’t very sold in on who I was, why we were doing what we were doing, and how we were going to truly work together to get it done. So for me, that was the win in of itself, I think.

Melyssa Barrett:  Absolutely. Well, and how powerful is that to be able to be vulnerable enough to let people really know who you are and then connect it with heritage? I mean, that’s kind of genius.

Shilpa Gadhok:  Well, I think one of the lessons that I learned early on was, and I think we all kind of know this on some level, but we sometimes forget about this. It’s really about connection between individuals and stories connect us. And not just about storytelling, but getting to understand what drives a specific person. And it’s not about the work, honestly. I think when we get into meetings, we go straight to this is my position, this is what projects I’m working on. Hey, what are you working on and how can we work together? And instead, I wish we took more of a step back and we said, for these next 30 minutes, this is my first time meeting you. I just want to get to know you as a person and your life, and that’s it. I don’t want to talk about work. And I think when you establish that type of relationship and you open up with that vulnerability, when you do have a project where you need help, that person is much more likely to want to come to your aid because they know who you are as a human. And that is something that we’re missing a lot.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah. Well, and I think that further to your point, the amplification of that missing link is why you end up with all these issues when we start talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion, right? Nobody belongs because they don’t know anybody.

Shilpa Gadhok:  Right. Exactly. And I’m extrapolating this, but I feel like even just outside of company walls, we’ve become so individualized. I remember growing up and playing with my neighbors. Neighbors were really, you would bring over dishes and things like that. We knew our neighbors, we would talk to our neighbors, we would hang out. And then as I’ve gotten older, and I don’t know if it’s just my personal experience, but

Melyssa Barrett:  No, it’s not just your personal

Shilpa Gadhok:  Experience. Yeah. It’s like we never talk to neighbors anymore. And it’s like, what happened? And I think it’s just trying to break down these silos and be like, look, we’re going on our own individual journeys, but we all share this experience together. Why not try to help each other out a little bit?

Melyssa Barrett:  I love that. Yes. One of the things I want to amplify, you talk a lot about the power of purpose, values driven leadership food system. How do you see these elements in the context of creating meaningful change within organizations and society at large?

Shilpa Gadhok:  Oh my gosh, I love this question. Yes. And so I’ll kind of start a little bit at a macro level over, I don’t know what 200,000 years that humans have been in existence. Different eras have yielded to the power and influence of various institutions at different times. So in the 18 hundreds, religion was an institution that really had a lot of power and influence in the, well, that was in the middle Ages in the late 18 hundreds. It was more government that was an institution that had a lot of power and influence. And now where we sit, it’s not religion, it’s not the government, sorry, Capitol Hill, no offense, but it’s the private sector, it’s commerce. And so I think when I look at really the power and influence that the private sector has, there is so much need for us to lead with much more intention.

And so purpose unfortunately, has become a little bit of a buzzword I think in corporate America today. And it’s just like, oh, how can we write something on our website or put it together on a PowerPoint slide? And that was not what purpose is all about. Purpose is how you lead and how you model behavior. And that’s also in our own lives. And so I think for me, one of the biggest goals and objectives is to help organizations understand you have a ton of power and influence in society. What is the greater purpose for your existence as an organization? And then how are you modeling that behavior, not just in a marketing campaign, but how are you modeling that behavior in your every day across the way that you have employee programs or HR comes to life in your innovation strategy, in your supply chain?

How are you modeling behavior in how you put together even your office space or what programs or partnerships that you advocate for you involve yourself in? And so that was really what the power of purpose is really all about. And I think, again, there’s so many words to this. You can say purpose, you can say our why. You can say our North Star. There’s so many names that are given to this. Honestly, pick your name that works for you. It doesn’t really matter. It’s much more about what is the intention and the higher cause that you are building this organization to move toward. And I’ll also say one more thing. I know this is a long answer, but I think a lot of companies tend to try to retrofit purpose back into the business based off of the product or the service that they are selling.

And so I would hear this actually even sometimes when I was working in corporate where they’d say, okay, that’s a great purpose statement, but how does it tie to our product and how does it tie to our service? And I think we’re missing the point if we’re thinking about it that way because if you even just look at us as individuals, I truly believe a big part of my identity as an artist. And I truly believe that one of my purposes in life is to help inspire people. I do that in a myriad of ways. It’s not just by one thing,

Melyssa Barrett:  One thing exactly

Shilpa Gadhok:  Through my company or through keynote speaking, or I hopefully try to inspire students as a dance teacher or my nieces as an aunt. And so I think if we’re only using purpose through our product or our service and thinking about it through only that lens, that is one vehicle toward how you live your purpose as a company. And so we’re forgetting about all of the other elements that really bring this to fruition. And so that’s what I try to encourage companies and leaders to do is it starts with those values, but then that’s not where it ends. You have to permeate it through the organization.

Melyssa Barrett:  Oh, I love that. Well, and I love the way you talk about that permeation because I think a lot of times it’s easy to put, even when we think about DEI, we put this in this bucket and we go, oh, we’re going to create this DEI organization or department or whatever. But literally it is, as you say, with the brand, it’s like you are infusing it into every place, everywhere you are, everything you do.

Shilpa Gadhok:  Yes, everything. It’s not, it’s funny, I think a lot of sustainability leaders or folks who kind of lead the sustainability departments of companies, I think they would also agree where oftentimes all of the climate impact work or goals around CSR or anything, it kind of falls to that department. It’s not one department’s job to think about that. It’s not one person’s job to think about that. You have to be able to operationalize it. It has to be that thread that sort of weaves throughout the entire organization and and I purpose-driven work impact climate. Pick the thing that really is what matters to you in de I should matter to everybody, but it’s like it’s not just a department’s job. Everybody’s responsibility.

Melyssa Barrett:  I love that. And I know you’ve mentioned, I’m going to kind of pivot a little bit because I know I could talk to you about all of this stuff for a long time. I want to make sure that we connect with you as an artist and dancer because you are such a creative person. So tell me a little bit about, because you talked a little bit about how you felt in finance, obviously you didn’t get the creativity that you wanted.

Shilpa Gadhok:  It’s not healthy to be creative in finance. Let’s just put it that way. That sounds hard thing. That sounds smart.

Melyssa Barrett:  Just stick with the numbers, just stick with the numbers. So how has your creativity connected you with your purpose, and especially as you focus on leadership development and brand strategy?

Shilpa Gadhok:  And I think for me, this has been sort of a journey coming back to myself, if that makes any sense. Totally. So dance has always been my first love. Gosh, I have been dancing since I can remember. I don’t even know, three years old, four years old. And I used to compete in Indian dancing, obviously. I’ve been doing Indian dancing for a long time. And tying back to my heritage and my culture, and I think when I started working post-college, it kind of just got away from me a little bit and I just was focused on part of my career. And when I opened up Sea Good Strategy Group, I went through a lot of just level setting expectations with myself and also just trying to detox, I think from the crazy overworked culture that I was in. And I was like, what would make my childhood self happy again?

What does that look like? So I took a painting class and I went and I took acrylic painting for the first time. I think probably since middle school I picked up a paintbrush. And I started with that, and then I realized I really want to get back into choreography and dance. But I was very nervous and I felt a little out of place because I wasn’t used to looking at myself in a dance studio mirror anymore. And that was a big hurdle for me to jump through. And I’ll say I’m still working at it. So I took a few workshops at the Indian Dance community here in Chicago, which are an incredibly supportive group of people. And I hired a hip hop dance coach. I was like, I love learning all forms of dance, and I always really wanted to learn hip hop. So I hired a private hip hop dance coach, and then I just started renting out a studio every day of the week here in Chicago and just getting back to choreography.

It’s been such a joy for me to not only connect back with my roots and my heritage, but it’s also a joy to connect back with myself. And I think when I am able to be creative for that hour and that day and that studio, that muscle flexing that muscle again, has really helped me with designing more creative workshops for leaders or just in my work in general. And that it kind of predisposes in asking this question of why don’t we play more as adults? That element of play I feel like is missing so much. And I wish that by all means, I was in brand management. Creativity was still very much a part of the job as was of course the quantitative analytical side. But still, I don’t think I ever really got to exercise my creative mind very well. I never really got to do that. And so getting back into the dance studio for me has been my way of trying to flex that muscle again and unlock it. And I think if we did that more, no matter if you’re a dancer or whatever form of art feels right to you, just go do that. So you can just be not only better at your job, but I think just like a happier human.

Melyssa Barrett:  Oh my gosh. I love what you just said, my coach, my own coach, when we first started working together, he would say, plan your fun first. And literally I was like, what’s fun? Exactly. I’m not sure. And so I really had to get in touch with myself to figure out what fun was for me at this age. Right.

Shilpa Gadhok:  Well, it’s also, you kind of think for a second and you go, what are my hobbies? I like to eat out and I love to travel, but what else? So I think they went back to just trying to get to know. And I think that question for me was like, what does little Shilpa want to do? What did she like?

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes.

Shilpa Gadhok:  And I’m so glad that your coach focused on that part of the day first because it’s such an important part of your day. You live a life and we’re supposed to enjoy this life,

Melyssa Barrett:  And it gets you to actually do something other than work because there are many of us that are serious workaholics. I mean, we have this tax on us that says we have to be better, do better, right? Hustle cults

Shilpa Gadhok:  Is real,

Melyssa Barrett:  Right? And so now it’s like you get to a certain place and you’re like, I want to live. I actually be a participant in my own life. You know what I mean?

Shilpa Gadhok:  A hundred percent. I’m so glad that you said it that way because yes, I’ll say this also, I think one of the unlocks for me this year has been, I was talking to a good friend of mine, and he is a great coach as well, and I was, I’m not going to lie. I was complaining about really the downtime that I having you go through ebbs and flows as an

Melyssa Barrett:  Entrepreneur for sure,

Shilpa Gadhok:  As an entrepreneur. And you can say that you plan for the ebbs, but nothing really I think prepares you for the ebbs. And at least for me, I was always used to go, go, go, go, go. And so when there’s a forced break, I didn’t really know how to handle that. And I was sort of going through this whole challenge of trying to figuring out who I am, what am I trying to do here, am I enjoying what I’m doing, et cetera. And I was talking to him about it and I said, it seems like everybody else has just figured it out for themselves. And they’ve got a job they they’re dedicated to, they have children, they’ve got a partner, and I don’t have a partner. I don’t have any children. Hopefully one day that’ll happen for me, but it was not a space that I am in.

And I said, I wish nothing’s working out. I don’t have any of those things. And he was like, how lucky you must be. He kind of phrased it as you’re the chosen few that actually get time in your life to sit back and think about what intentionally do you want to do with your life and how do you intentionally want to show up and how lucky you must be that you were given this path and you were not given the path of so many others because you would’ve just been a little bit sometimes, and this is not a knock on everybody else, but it’s just you can be kind of caught up in this hamster wheel for

Melyssa Barrett:  I’m the hamster.

Shilpa Gadhok:  And again, we’re all on our own journeys, and I think we all take time for self-care and self-reflection. But it was such a profound way of thinking about it that really shaped, I think now approach my days. And it was

Melyssa Barrett:  That reframe is major. Let’s pause for a moment. We’ll be right back

Shilpa Gadhok:  My days. That

Melyssa Barrett:  Reframe is major

Shilpa Gadhok:  Huge,

Melyssa Barrett: And

Shilpa Gadhok: Coaches do really well. You really reshape your mindset, so I

Melyssa Barrett:  Love that. I love that. Okay, we got to give him a shout out.

Shilpa Gadhok:  Yes. His name is Amit Bop, and he is a mindset coach. And I a hundred percent recommend. Yeah. Working.

Melyssa Barrett:  Oh, I love it. I love it. See, this is what life is about. We got to figure it out. So now let’s get back to you though, and your journey in terms of, you

Shilpa Gadhok:  Don’t have to get back to me. It’s fine.

Melyssa Barrett:  No, because, so I mean, let’s talk a little bit about mentorship because I mean, you’ve served as a mentor for, I think it was the Ashanti Children’s Project, and you’ve had interaction on several advisory boards. How has mentorship really shaped your journey, and why do you believe if you do that it’s crucial for personal and professional growth?

Shilpa Gadhok:  Oh my gosh. I’ll say this time and time again, I don’t think my mentees learn as much from me as I learn from my mentees, and I don’t even love to call them mentees. They’re very much my friends. I deeply consider the girl that I’ve been privileged to be in contact with through Ashanti Bevin’s Children’s Project as a little sister of mine. She’s just incredible. But I think, again, it’s when you show up and just try to listen to what someone else’s experience is like or what they might need support in, it’s not always about job or career support. Sometimes it’s just needing a friend to talk to or a shoulder to lean on. You learn so much more about somebody else’s experience. And I think that is just a profound part of my life. It’s the same thing as when you travel or you get to know a different culture or things like that.

Once you understand what makes people, how they think, how they behave, what matters to them, what really, where is their heart at, I think it opens you up as an individual not only to be much more empathetic, but to also be much more open-minded and intentional about how, again, you live your life and how you interact with other people. Everybody has a story. Every single person has a story to share. And I firmly believe that if we were just attune to listening to each other’s stories more often, what a better world we would live in. And so I think for me, mentorship and being, I don’t know, I guess just even being around these incredible individuals has helped me in many ways, whether it’s work or it’s just my life in general. And good friends. You just grow your network of really great supporters and people. And so I’m thrilled

Melyssa Barrett:  To I love that. I love that. And what I love about this conversation we’re having is there is such a people aspect to this, and yet you can extend the people aspect to the private sector and how they impact the world. And it’s like, yeah, you sit around and you go, well, duh. But then you have people that are like, we don’t need DEI. We don’t need this, that, or the other. Let’s go. And you kind of go, but what are we here for?

Shilpa Gadhok:  Right. Well, it’s such a key question that you’re posing there, because again, I think those leaders in business who truly do understand that their organizations, their business objectives, their plans are so much better off when their people feel included, when their people feel that they can work at their best when there is high trust in the culture and in the environment when they feel that they’re being treated fairly, so much good comes out of that. And it’s not about one particular part of our identity. It’s not just about how we identify ethnically or racially deis across the board as an individual and everything. And I think, again, what organization, what company would not want that? It impacts every single person. It doesn’t just impact one specific group of people. And so yeah, I think that the human element is something that I’m super excited to see, get back into how we operate as a broader society. I would like to say.

Melyssa Barrett:  Well, and the fact that you call your company C good with all of those elements, I think for me personally, I’m trying to be more intentional about just being socially conscious. So when we talk about corporate social responsibility and how they can integrate that into their own strategies, I know you’ve done a lot of work with B Corp and B, local Illinois and Pilot Lights. So I’m just wondering, are there any insights maybe you could share? Because I think B Corp are so interesting to me. They’re

Shilpa Gadhok:  Amazing,

Melyssa Barrett:  Right? Reports. I’m biased. You do see more companies now, but you don’t see as many. You see a lot of companies focused on shareholders, and then you have all these companies that are like, you know what? I’m doing this differently. And then you have this wonderful opportunity in a B Corp. A

Shilpa Gadhok:  Hundred percent. And so to just take a step back for a second, for anyone who’s not familiar with what a B Corp is, a B Corp. Now there’s two different types. There’s a Benefit corporation, which is a legal entity that is available in some states, not all states, but I believe the last time I checked it was about available in 30 out of 50 states. That is a legal entity. So that’s a benefit corporation, which is still great. A B Corp certification is a third party certification that is provided by Blab, which is a nonprofit, and it’s one of the most rigorous third party certifications and assessments. It’s the B impact assessment that the company has to take that evaluates a for-profit company across several different pillars, de and I being one of them, their environmental impact being another, et cetera. There’s so many different variables attached to it, and it’s in depth test.

It’s not something to take lightly. And it takes usually at least a year, sometimes more for companies to be able to gain their certification, which is why I’m so proud of the corporations who have gone through this process to certify as a B Corp. Now, what does that exactly mean? B Corp are required to put into their legal filings, their purpose and their broader higher order mission as an organization. And again, these are for-profit companies only, not nonprofits. And the reason for that is because if there’s ever a change in directors or if there’s ever a change in leadership that cannot be changed because that is part of their legal filing. And so that’s step one is trying to build that accountability. What I love and what I think is really important to articulate about companies who focus on stakeholder pricy models and not just shareholder primacy models, and again, this is not, I think a lot of people think about it as like, oh, okay, well that’s just against capitalism.

That’s not true. This is very much in support of a free market economy and a free market capitalistic model. It’s just how we use capitalism and how we leverage the power of that to impact broader society. And so what is really important to note is that those companies who have used stakeholder models, and there have been many throughout decades that have, this is not a new model by any means. This has been around ever since shareholder cy models have been around. Those companies have not only seen higher tenure rates, lower turnover from an employee standpoint, but also much more steady growth across sales over the years than those companies who’ve only been focused on shareholder primacy. And so in the volatility of markets, you actually see not only those companies who are adhering to a stakeholder primacy model recover faster in market downturns, but you also see them steadily grow their business and grow their loyalty with their consumers or their customers.

And it’s because they’re acting with humanity at the center of their organization. It’s like, I’m not just going to think of you as a supplier or as a vendor that I’m working with. I’m actually truly interested in how I can help you and your family, your community, your business. How can I be a better service partner to you, even though it’s not a one way relationship? How can I pay you fairly? Right? All of these things matter. And so when you start to think about building trust in an organization, it’s not just about your employees, it’s about every single person or partner that touches your business. And that is what B Corps are all about. And so as part of the B local Illinois team, that’s what we do. We work to support our certified B Corps here in Illinois with everything that they may need help or assistance with. And I think it’s such a beautiful community to be a part of.

Melyssa Barrett:  I love that. I love that you can have such conversations across so many different components of business. Because as you think about strategy, there are so many elements that come into play. I mean, whether it’s about creating new digital infrastructure and what that looks like and how we eliminate the biases that we have created systemically. I mean, there’s just so many aspects to all of the expertise that you are delivering to the world. So I’m just so grateful that we have been able to connect because I’m like, I just feel like we’re in synergy.

Shilpa Gadhok:  Oh my gosh. I felt that from our first conversation. I was like, I need to know more about this woman. She’s a badass in her own way. Am I allowed to say that word? I don’t even,

Melyssa Barrett:  Of course you can say whatever you want.

I love it. I just love it. So in, because I think we’ve been on for almost an hour, but I do want to ask you just in terms of people coming after, you are now in this position where you have morphed yourself into your own company, you are creating the impact that you want to see in the world, and you have ownership of it. I mean, that’s huge. And so one of the things I just wanted to ask you and take a moment if you need it, what would you like to share that maybe somebody behind you or little Shilpa might want to hear in terms of just their own source of inspiration? Because I think people get so exhausted challenged with the work that needs to be done in the world because there is so much that needs to be done. And what motivates you or what is a source of inspiration you can talk to? Because I think people want to figure out, I mean, you have motivated me in so many ways today. Oh my gosh, I’ve had these chills going through my body. I’m like, all rock.

Shilpa Gadhok:  Oh gosh, you’re

Melyssa Barrett:  Kind. But anything you can share as kind of a source of inspiration for you.

Shilpa Gadhok:  I think there are multiple sources of inspiration in my life, but if I were to really speaking to folks who are kind of at the start of that journey for themselves, I’m sure their sources of inspiration are going to be personal to them. What I would say and what I would offer, I think in terms of a learning that I have even more recently really discovered for myself, and it’s still a work in progress, by the way. This is not like I have mastered the art of mine, but I think it’s really, I was someone who was just always striving to, I was very internally competitive. I was always striving to be the best. And there’s many great aspects I think to that. And I do appreciate a lot about myself in that vein. But I think the downside sometimes to that is that you attach yourself to outcomes and you evaluate yourself worth based off of those outcomes.

And so if you’re putting in X amount of effort and that y amount of results are not happening, you are hard on yourself for it or you’re frustrated. And what I would say is in this world of, there’s so much to do, but there’s also so much opportunity is to just invite people to try to detach themselves a little bit from the outcomes and not measure their self-worth based off of necessarily the results. At the end of the day, it’s about you constantly and consistently showing up in the best way that you can and doing the work that makes your heart happy and fills you with hope. And that is going to be within your sphere of influence. I fully recognize sometimes the work that I do and working with different organizations, I would love to say, oh, I would love to have a big impact in this world, but to be honest, I’m not here to save the world.

I’m here to try to just make whatever is within my sphere of influence a little bit more positive and the way that I would really like to see it work. And that’s all I can do. And that’s okay. So I think these grandiose, sometimes objectives can feel daunting. And I think just breaking it down to what can you just manage today? And that’s all. And if it works out great, and if it doesn’t, that’s okay. That’s a learning moment. What is that moment teaching you? And so I think that’s kind of what I would hope to leave them with is don’t carry that weight of the world on your shoulders. Just relax and dance a little bit.

Melyssa Barrett:  I love it. I love it. Well, and we’re going to have to have you dancing now. You’re going to have to me to a dance show or something.

Shilpa Gadhok:  You and I, when we get together in person, I’m going to take you to the dance studio.

Melyssa Barrett:  Oh my gosh. Well, as long as you’re not videotaping, I’m totally on board.

Shilpa Gadhok:  I’ll keep videotaping out of the equation. Do not worry.

Melyssa Barrett:  I will definitely get up and try to do something, but I have to tell you, I’m not the best dancer. You

Shilpa Gadhok:  Know what? It’s not about being the best. It’s just about having fun

Melyssa Barrett:  That I can do. I can definitely do. Well, Shilpa, I have so enjoyed this conversation. Oh, likewise. I hope it is the first of many, so feel free to come back and we can have another conversation and dig into more detail about some of the things that you are doing. But I wish you all the best. Many blessings. Thank and I am looking forward to our trip together once I get over there into Chicago.

Shilpa Gadhok:  Yes. Oh my gosh, Melissa, thank you so, so much for just having me on and just having such a great conversation. I’ve always felt such a connection when we first talked. So yes, cannot wait for your trip to Chicago and for all of the goodness to come and keep doing what you’re doing. You are such a badass in your own right.

Melyssa Barrett:  Oh, thank you so much. It has truly been a pleasure. I love it. Love it, love it. Thank you so much.

Shilpa Gadhok:  Yeah, thank you.

Melyssa Barrett:  Thanks for joining me on the Jali Podcast. Please subscribe so you won’t miss an episode. See you next week.