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Women Of The C-Suite: Sasha Laghonh of Sasha Talks On The Five Things You Need To Succeed As A Senior Executive

An Interview With Ming Zhao

Everything in life has a timer on it. If you care about things and people, make the right investment to nurture its longevity. If it involves people, don’t do their work for them. It’s a disservice. You’re not helping them. You’re enabling them. People need to learn the value of time and care through their own means.

As a part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite” , we had the pleasure of interviewing Sasha Laghonh.

Sasha is a Founder and Entrepreneur of an educational and entertainment platform that integrates self & professional development into nurturing meaningful outcomes. As a speaker, mentor and author, she partners alongside different clients, from individuals to organizations, to capitalize upon their talent. She is the host in residence for KreativeCircle.com and Global Ambassador for Style My Soul, a Lifestyle & Interests Community. To learn more, please visit www.sashatalks.com.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I’ve been contributing to the business realm for over twenty years in different capacities by working for private and high profile entities along my career path. Different roles and different missions accompanied with distinct outcomes. Sasha Talks was initially founded as an extension to supplement my creative endeavors and provisions. Over the years it’s developed a layered identity through the few verticals that reflect niche business services on a global platform. It’s the only corner where I’ve been able to tap within self and professional development without any constraints while becoming of service to a broader market.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

‘Interesting’ is open to interpretation. :) Since day 1 I’ve invested my best self when nurturing the Sasha Talks platform. Bringing our best self requires plenty of practice through engaging in our work daily. I’ve refused to get comfortable with minor milestones because everything is transient. Make the most of the moments by earning them. I’ve been fortunate to meet prominent people and tour organizations that host high barriers of entry in the market. The platform’s existence has also introduced me to the world of private media production & hosting engagements. The inception of the platform has attracted opportunities that enrich my portfolio of work.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Ah, mistakes! There have been plenty of learning curves along the way. Most of them entail refining personnel management and communications. They were more so lessons learned for how to ‘optimally’ implement customer support portals for optimal engagement. With a team once spread among several locations, at one point clarity was lacking on which correspondence is honored by which delegates. This is where my bias for simplicity presents itself. When managing a portfolio of commitments, it’s wise to assess needs whether they are managed through messaging portals, skype, ticketing systems, AI, email, social media, or third party services. The funny part (and also concerning) is when people think I’m sitting by a desk 365/24/7. The systems set up do an exceptional job, within their tech and intuitive capacity, that I only check messages three times a day, at most. I typically invest no more than 45–60 minutes a day reviewing my messages, including response time. On a great day — I personally manage my emails within 30 minutes. On a busy day — I can invest about two hours of my time which typically is for special engagements requiring prep work.

I’ve had third parties come forward claiming they know me when in fact they don’t. We host years of evidence to debunk their claims. There’s only one source through which I communicate and that has never changed from day 1 for all virtual and offline engagements. Anyone claiming they’ve corresponded with me now knows they aren’t mindful of whom they’re talking to, and what they’re doing with their time!! In Shaggy’s words, “it wasn’t me.”

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would like to thank John, whom I met when I was a novice contributor in the industry. I recall crossing paths with him at a time when I was indifferent to pursuing any specific business niche, or signing with any representation. He shared the indifference would subside when I would recognize my true calling. I’ve come across many opportunities since then, where I’ve allowed the inner compass to decide whether it’s a ‘go or no-go’ deal. It has made a significant impact in my life where I’m not investing time and energy in the wrong business partnerships. When I’m at a crossroads, his voice surfaces to remind me to remain true to myself. We both have a favorite word in common — ‘no’. The word ‘no’ can change the course of your life, if you really think about it. Open yourself up to opportunities that nurture the best version of yourself.

As you know, the United States is facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?

This is where organizations need to truly reflect what Diversity & Inclusion means in their respective organization. Some entities translate the ideology into a checklist and start reacting by making decisions that will yield short and long term side effects without truly reflecting what it means. Impulsive decisions sooner or later lead to more backlash and problems, including reverse discrimination for example. From observation, many organizations reacted to the realities that unfolded during the past two years rather than responding to how mindful change is needed in their organizational spaces.

Organizations that solely adhere to a visual agenda to mitigate audiences will compromise a return on investment in their organizational performance and quality of talent. People are afraid to openly explore these topics because society is conditioned to see and hear evil but not speak of it. In order to address any of these perceived injustices, we need to speak about them like normal human-beings discussing the weather outside. The more controversial a topic, the greater the whispers which spread like a wildfire . A deep dive audit is needed for institutions to learn where there exist opportunities to capitalize upon existing strengths and opportunities for growth. Being open to constructive criticism and reflecting upon it delivers more meaning than hiring a third party to ‘fix’ such diversity imbalances in an organization. We don’t need any more ‘band-aid’ solutions for quick fixes to deep seeded challenges waiting to erupt. We need to focus on building a better groundwork to cultivate approachable & viable management(s) in executive leadership. Businesses should not make ‘expected changes’ in the workplace to pander to emotions with the fear of how they will be perceived in the market. These significant evolutionary shifts need to be addressed on a case by case basis in organizational environments. It’s not a one size fits all ideology that must fit every aspect of business for the sake of proving a point. People who earn their merit in business do not want to witness ‘polite society’ solutions which mean well yet in fact diminish the investments of all human beings, including colored people and all wonderful minds represented under the umbrella of ‘diversity & inclusion’.

Do we have a diversity problem in business? Yes. Do we need better engagement from companies to represent the talent better? Yes. Does utopia exist? No. We should work towards seeking improvement in business management and organizational culture. A management solution implemented in a dignified manner welcoming the best talents from all walks of life deserves to be valued for its genuine efforts. The more genuine a solution (and its execution), the better chances for the solution to sustain longevity.

These diversity and inclusion efforts can’t change like the seasons as new management comes and goes in organizations. We need to educate and integrate our learning experiences that translate to progress (not movement) leading to sustainable outcomes. Businesses, regardless of size and industry, which sell to a diversified market need to reflect their audience’s identity in their management. There are entities that still enforce implicit (and explicit) racism, gender bias, religious discrimination; etc., to limit the participation of competent individuals in the market. It’s unfortunate these businesses fail to recognize how much money they’re passing up on the table because they’re letting their biases cloud their ability to expand and grow their business through literal & metaphorical diversity of thought.

As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.

When addressing inclusiveness, it’s important to remember people have the free-will to participate in our day to day business initiatives. Being inclusive for the sake of being inclusive doesn’t make sense. Engaging people and welcoming their input as part of a cohesive community serves as an outlet for broader representation.

Inclusiveness — canvass your community and audience for what interests them then assess their feedback for implementation in how you can nurture prospective business engagements.

Representative — Before representing others, make sure to continue developing the best version of yourself. Those blessed with a mouth should use it for worthy causes. Take ownership of your thoughts and words, refrain from hiding behind other mouth pieces. Don’t wait for others to help you, seek out the solutions through self-advocacy.

Closed mouths don’t get fed. Speak up for the right reasons.

Equitable — people should do their best to park their personal opinions and bias when listening to alternative ideas and inspirations derived from other people. Without an equitable environment, society can’t come together to create and refine ideas that can elevate the quality of living and working.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?

Executives invest their energies in making & executing decisions while maintaining the engagement of the organization. Some function as sales people selling the image of the organization while some are brought on board to uproot a company’s structure by performing some ‘yard work’ that will deliver a rewarding harvest in a season or two. Bottom line — they adhere to a specific function of their choosing while their job is to contribute to the organization’s growth taking it to a new altitude of existence. Each executive’s goal will vary contingent upon the organization’s needs. One size doesn’t fit all regardless of a standard title.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?

CEOs are human beings. Some employees in organizations view CEOs to be very uni or dual dimension when in fact they play many roles in their overall lives. Most of them do carry a heavy professional burden regardless of how they’re perceived by those around them. Not everyday is a walk in the park.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

It’s wrong to generalize yet from experiences and observations, women are better at managing and multi-tasking their commitments because of their personal commitments tied to family and parenthood. Men are significantly more engaged in this area over the past two decades as organizations are becoming family friendly for executives & their staff. Women are better decision makers in managing these whirlwind of commitments around the clock. We need to give men credit too because I personally know male professionals that balance similar responsibilities with careful thought.

What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

Every day is different. I never imagined the high variety in my day which is the core reason why I continue doing what I do. Some days I’m a director guiding people all day long, other days I’m staring out the window crafting an upcoming live engagement. I manage my day based on time sensitive priorities.

Is everyone cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?

Becoming an executive is not impossible. I am more intrigued to learn why someone would desire to become an executive. Anyone willing to do the following will fare better as an executive — focus on self-development, improve listening and communication skills, learn accountability and apply it; continue learning. Cultivate substance and less pretentiousness.

Executives that perform poorly often lack character development (low integrity, nil or limited EQ, no honor, liars; etc.), exhibit stagnated growth and foremost fail to understand what the role truly demands of the individual. Those that pursue it for vanity and financial rewards will age fast. They’ll eventually reach a point where the demands of the job will overshadow the limited perks. Pursue anything in life for the wrong reasons, it will leave you scorched sooner or later.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. People mean well but niceness has nothing to do with ability & competence. My childhood mentor would often say, “be good, not nice”. Niceness is lip service, goodness speaks through actions.
  2. People like to linger around the limelight. Majority of people around us are dispensable. Focus on quality, not quantity. Your true advocates know you through every season of life. They aren’t afraid to tell you to stop ‘being a pain in the …’. They’ll also remind you to assert more because an opportunity will slip by.
  3. Everything in life has a timer on it. If you care about things and people, make the right investment to nurture its longevity. If it involves people, don’t do their work for them. It’s a disservice. You’re not helping them. You’re enabling them. People need to learn the value of time and care through their own means.
  4. Life is a two way street. Refrain from making it a one-way street. People must give a little to take a little.
  5. Ultimatums hold minimal value. Anything that breeds from an ultimatum will bring more problems to the table. Avoid them at all costs. No one wants to do business with desperate people and companies.

I work in the beauty tech industry, so I am very interested to hear your philosophy or perspective about beauty. In your role as a powerful woman and leader, how much of an emphasis do you place on your appearance? Do you see beauty as something that is superficial, or is it something that has inherent value for a leader in a public context? Can you explain what you mean?

I view beauty as an ‘essence of one’s identity’. Beauty in the eyes of the beholder is a cliche though it does hold truth to a degree. Given my long time profession, starting out in marketing and then transitioning to sales, I’m aware that great emphasis was put on one’s demeanor and presentation in the market. Once upon a time, this was a fair assessment for myself and my male colleagues when we would entertain interviews in the job market. It’s no secret when we feel good, we also elevate our glow and look good. Beauty is layered through how one ‘chooses’ to dress their identity day to day. This can include many things from one’s daily self-care routine (whether it’s skin care to actually working out), nurturing one’s intellect through learning & reading, dressing oneself (interest in fashion and design), managing one’s energy (i.e. through meditation or dance); etc. I like my ritual of putting on a ‘pop-pop’ lip color when I need to pick me up. The best beauty is being comfortable in your skin regardless of how you feel and what season of life you’re encountering any hour of the day. These internal metrics are communicated with how we present ourselves to the world. Beauty isn’t superficial at all. If someone perceives it to be a shallow concept, then they are either mal-informed or not informed on the ideology. Most people exhibit their beauty in some shape or form — it can be a smile, a fashionable outfit, an energetic glow, charisma, an intelligent mind, an ambitious nature; etc. Beauty in my world sums up to be ‘self-care’. As leaders, taking care of our mind, heart, body and overall well-being can better benefit everyone around us. Beauty exists to elevate our essence of being. It’s about celebrating the present moment without pretenses.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Speaking of beauty, I would ask people to do one kind thing for themselves. This can be an activity or task that will bring joy into your life. Something that makes your eyes light up and your mouth hurt from smiling. It can range from donating a day of service to a charity to traveling out to a place you’ve always wanted to visit. Life is full of possibilities! Tap into the unknown as we transition back into a new version of normal.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them

Rahm Emanuel. Readers are welcome to inform him that I found his middle finger and I’d like to return it. If that improves my chances of having lunch with him, it’s worth a shot. It would be interesting to meet him and ask him questions regarding his historical “Rahmbo” stories because I believe there is a spiritual Rahm waiting to meet the audiences!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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