The cavnessHR podcast – A talk with Sapna Malhotra, CPA,CMC
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Social Media links for Sapna Below!!
Below is Sapna’s book recommendations:
“How to Win Friends and Influence Them” by Dale Carnegie
Below is the link to purchase the book on Amazon.
I will extend my free 10 minute mini coaching session to 30 minutes for the listeners of this episode. We can have a real, one-on-one, great banter and really figure out where you're trying to get to and I can give you some quick tips and quick, easy things that you may not have seen or been aware of.
Jason: Hello, and welcome to the cavnessHR Podcast. I’m your host, Jason Cavness. Our guest today is Sapna Malhotra. Sapna, are you ready to be great today?
Sapna: Oh, yeah!
Jason: She brings more than two decades of domestic and international management consulting experience in sales and business operations in the technology, financial services, and telecommunications industries. She has significant experience in leading large-scale business and IT transformation programs to deliver consistent end-user experience in demanding and fast-paced environments. Sapna is known for her constant industry curiosity and new and emerging technologies that will enable different industries to be on the forefront of this digital revolution. She has the CanInnovate podcast that focuses on learning from Innovators that are crushing it in the industry. Plus she has a career coaching business, where she provides some tactical advice to get the results her clients deserve. She is a globally recognized Certified Management Consultant (CMC), and Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA). She also holds certificate in Change Management Leadership, Lean Six Sigma accreditation and DevOps & UX Design foundation certifications and is about to be Blockchain Business Certified. So, my question for you is: is there anything you’re not doing right now? You can be the whole business by yourself.
Sapna: When you’re in consulting, you kind of have to do everything from end to end and understand the full supply chain and every piece of it from sales marketing to be able to deliver results. So, yes.
Jason: When they say “business expert” you can truly say, “I am the business expert.”
Sapna: Actually, when you read my bio, I actually started to blush and get a little embarrassed. I might need to consolidate that, somehow.
Jason: No, you’re doing great things, you need to let people know about that. So, how do you go about organizing your week? Do you start with Mondays to say, “I'm doing this percent on this, this percent on this,” or do you just play it by ear? Or how does that go for you?
Sapna: Actually, I plan almost about two to three weeks in advance of what are the key activities and work packages I'm hoping to deliver and what are my commitments so I can actually see what free time I actually have. But I always like to plan and do due diligence because, honestly, as much as I would love to kind of just be more spontaneous, it's hard to be spontaneous when you don't know what parameters you can operate within. So, yeah, I do tend to plan about two to three weeks ahead of time.
Jason: So, you have the podcast going on, you’re also the CEO of Digirupter and you're Founder and CEO of the Women's Digital Network Group. How do you find the time to do those three, I want to say, probably, time-consuming roles?
Sapna: You know what? You just do it. You find the time, you prioritize, you make it happen, and you look at it. That's why I always focus on the end result like, “what do I have to do you in order to make it the experience that I want it?” That's why I have to plan two/three weeks in advance, and sometimes months in advance depending on if I'm doing an event or it's a work package for a client or I’m doing those pieces. Because, one, I never want to set expectations of under-delivering – over-promising and over-delivering is my biggest fear in life. My name is odd enough as it is; there's not a lot of Sapna Maholtras running around the world. So my credibility means the world to me I spend a lot of time planning and prepping to see how I can make it all happen because time is very short these days.
Jason: Very. These certifications that you have, do you get them updated once a year? How do you go about recertifying those things? Or do you just take the test and you have it for the rest of your life?
Sapna: Oh, no. I always have to update with the PD (Professional Development) credits for doing different things which is great because of my constant curiosity – I always want to learn new things, anyway, so it's pretty easy to do it. So, yes, I always have to update and make sure I have all those hours banked in there.
Jason: Now, you mentioned earlier that you do a lot of traveling. Is that mainly for business reasons?
Sapna: Oh, yes. I like to call myself a citizen of the world. But I also, when I'm not traveling for business, I'm travelling for pleasure. There's just so much to experience and I love the other cultures, the food, people's perceptions of things. It's amazing how they see things very differently and I love getting that feedback and seeing that. It just keeps me (I’d like to say) it keeps me wise – I like to do the risk mitigation and maybe that’s the better sense. But, yeah, it’s fun.
Jason: For your coaching business, do you only do that in Canada, or is that worldwide that you do coaching for people?
Sapna: So, I have been doing career coaching for as long as I can remember, and consulting. So I started my career in Accenture and then I went to Rogers and then Amdocs Consulting. I’ve been coaching people, formally and informally, for over two decades, and consulting has this really big model of really up or out. You constantly need to reinvent and really reposition ourselves because the marketplace keeps changing and our clients need the most up-to-date information, and so on. So all those things that we learn in consulting. I ended up giving a lot of people critical coaching advice because they may have a nine-to-five job and they feel stuck and they don't know how to get promoted. Or they realize they have other things that they want to try but they’re not sure how to transition into a new, different industry or a new department altogether. So I spend the time to really kind of help them do this, and it's really fascinating to me because a lot of things that I think are common sense and that's because of my consulting background of what they've kind of grew me in that environment. I realize now that it's not so easy for others to have that kind of DNA and the tactical and unbiased type of advice. You go to your HR, they're going to say one thing, you go to your boss, they have a different plan. So it's really hard to get an objective type of view. So I like to play almost like a big sister role when they do these things and the biggest reason why I'm spending a lot more time – I love it. I absolutely love it when someone calls me and tells me, “I can't believe I got promoted, I cannot believe that I'm not only getting promoted, but I got three different job offers because I made myself marketable.” It is so amazing because I keep wondering about my nieces and nephew; when they grow up. Are they going to be able to get that objective advice from somebody and be able to help them figure out what are their skills that they love and help them figure out how to use it and be passionate about the job that they’re in. So it came by surprise and I absolutely love it.
Jason: Do you find that you have to change your approach to coaching people based on the culture or country that you're in?
Sapna: Absolutely, Very much so. That's where me being a world traveler has really been beneficial. To understand a little bit more about what are some of the things like, in Asia, they’re so polite and they will always say, “yes, sir,” or, “yes, ma'am.” It's a very different dynamic where, in North America, we're always trying to leverage our boss to get to the next thing and so on. It's very different. But the other part that I find really interesting when it comes to cultures is also the types of phrases and industry language that they have to operate within. So that is also another big, huge thing.
Jason: Is there ever a time when you're dealing with somebody and coaching them and you think, “you know what, this isn’t going to work, they're not listening to me, they're not taking this seriously,” and you just disqualify that person?
Sapna: Oh, yeah. I actually refund their money because, honestly, I don't like spinning my wheels – as you could tell – of all the things I like to do. I like to produce results and so sometimes, when it's not a good fit, I actually just say, “look, you don't have the time and the effort to put into this,” and so I actually refund all the cash.
Jason: Okay, that's good. Next, can you talk about a time you were successful in the past, what you learned from this success and what we can learn from this?
Sapna: Oh, gosh. Your question made me think really big time because, most of the time, I feel like I fail every day. But the successful… one was getting the podcast launched because I actually had to beat the Impostor Syndrome to get that out. I had just left my corporate job and become self-employed and I’ve always driven projects. But I had that corporate shield behind me of doing things behind their banner and this is me doing it all in my voice and finding my voice outside the corporate world without a job description and expectations. There's no one's expectations but my own that counts. So I really found that Imposter Syndrome was a big, huge thing that accomplishing and getting over that was huge for that. But, yeah, that's one huge one that is just recent. But another big one is about I had to go to Chicago to meet a business transformation program and it was on red for, I guess, almost months and months and months and I was able to change it to green in less than two weeks. What we can all learn from this – and this is when I learned that the power of stakeholder management – was I talked to all the different players out there to see what is that they expected. What is needed to carve out quick wins in order for us to demonstrate that we can do these things and that they’re being heard and everything else. So that one, I really learnt how to really stakeholder manage the unbelief.
Jason: So, next, talk about a time that you failed in the past and what you learned from this and what we can learn.
Sapna: This is a doozy of a question – I’ve listened to other podcasts and they all get stumped, too. Well, I actually do think I fail every day because I try something new every day and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. But the biggest one is that I did not learn how to say, “no,” fast enough or saying, “let me get back to you,” on certain things I actually love doing. I'm an excitable puppy. So I love new things to get in my hands and I love helping people and trying to build new projects and troubleshooting things. But this does not help me because one of the problems I ended up having was that, for eighteen months. I ended up living in three countries, working twenty-four hours a day, or I was on an airplane between England and Chicago and Toronto and it's all because I wasn't able to learn how to say, “no”.I’ve got to put a pause on that because I've got to to focus on X, Y, and Z.” As I mentioned, I don't like to under-deliver and over-commit, so I actually drove myself insane for eighteen months. So, yes, the biggest lesson learned: you can say, “no,” and you can say it graciously and people actually appreciate it more being honest because they will get the best quality from you.
Jason: But that's a hard lesson for people to learn sometimes – being able to say, “no.” I's very hard to do.
Sapna: It so hard. But I've learned, there's a couple of ways – even before I say, “yes,” to things. I actually stop and pause and I'll say, “let me get back to you so I could think about it more objectively.” Because it's so easy to say, “yes,” and make people happy. But then it's very difficult. But people really love and respect the word, “I can't do it right now, here's a better date that I can get back to you on it, and if that's still feasible time.” Honestly, they appreciate that more than ever. So I wish I had learnt that a lot earlier.
Jason: Yes. And then I read a quote one time (I can’t remember who said it) but this person said that his goal in life is to fail less every day.
Sapna: That's a great quote.
Jason: Can you tell us about somebody who's helped you out in the past and how they helped you?
Sapna: My dad. He is always neutral. So whenever I come up with a crazy idea of something I want to try. He is perfectly balanced to play the devil's advocate and helping me think through the pros and the cons and what I'll be giving up or what are the opportunities and different things and really helps me think things through. He's been doing that all my life – obviously, he's my dad. I know I'm in a safe place with him and he does have my back, no matter what I do. So it's easy to talk to him and really get that advice. So, yes, he is actually kind of my idol.
Jason: So, earlier, you were talking about business transformation. What's your definition of business transformation?
Sapna: Well, actually transforming the business. So I've had a couple of clients say, “you put in IT system and, yet, I don't see anyone ever actually using it the way it was supposed to be intended to. I just spent millions of dollars putting in the system and I'm not getting any of the benefits.” So business transformation has multiple, different work streams because the business is very complicated, along with IT, by nature. So it looks at the benefits, realization management, about what how we're going to get those benefits. The processes; we look at business readiness and deployment tactics, organizational change management, we've got to communicate and manage stakeholders. It's kind of like a hidden secret sauce. But every time a project fails, it's because that element was not there. The organizational change management was not there. So, yes, the transforming and really being able to have end user results.
Jason: Why is it that so many people, when you ask them, “are you ready for change?” they’ll say, “yes,” [but] “are you ready to change,” they’ll say, “no?” Why is there such a disconnect?
Sapna: I don't know. I guess it depends on what they want to change. I think it’s probably the “what.” When someone gets married, and gets proposed to, they don't think twice about saying, “yes.” But if they have a new project that they could be invited to, they pause for, “what does that mean?” and we overanalyze things. I think it depends on the situation and our readiness and ability to do it.
Jason: Next, can you talk about something that most people don't know about you? Of course, your family, friends know this but people that see you day to day probably don't know this about you.
Sapna: Oh, well. Okay, here's two. One is about Monopoly. I love Monopoly. I must own about forty different boards and, honestly. I really need to start to give them away because I there's no space in my little condo for it. But I love Monopoly – I've always been a fan of it. Then, in fact, I'm trying to teach my eight-year-old and my six-year-old nieces how to play Monopoly. However, I'm realizing that eight and six year olds are very conniving. They form an alliance, they somehow manipulate me into giving properties that undervalue. So they're actually the smarter ones. I don't know how they’ve learnt that at such a young age of how to do those tactics. In fact, I actually tried to apply years and years ago to be part of the Monopoly Championship. So there used to be a world competition for Monopoly, and I don't know if still have it or not, But it was always kind of something I always wanted to try.
Jason: Since you’re doing a lot of traveling, can you pass on any of your traveling tips to our listeners?
Sapna: Honestly, go early. Avoid all that other stress of running to the airport and everything else but also get up frequently. As much as they say stay your seat, get out of your seat, because the seats are not comfortable. It's not good for your posture, you've got to watch your back. Frequent travelers – I haven't met one that doesn't back pains. So you’ve got to really take the time to kind of stretch it out and mingle with the air hostess –they're hilarious and they love the company. So, yeah, definitely.
Jason: Sapna, I understand you have a book to recommend for our listeners.
Sapna: Yeah, I had to really think about this. I actually think Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence Them, and I think the book was written in the 1920s. I cannot believe that this book has managed to still be relevant even in the day of social media. Not to give a spoiler alert, it's basically six different principles and the one that I actually thought was really fascinating is about: make people feel special but be genuine about it. If you look at, now, what everything's happening with being authentic and being transparent. You could see that, even more now with social media, it's still even more relevant. So that's a great book that I recommend everybody.
Jason: Thank you. Next, I understand you have something for our listeners today.
FREE RESOURCES BELOW!!!!
Sapna: I do. So, normally, I offer about ten minutes of a mini kind of career coaching session to see where people are, so with your listeners, I am happy to extend to thirty minutes and we can have a real, one-on-one, great banter and really figure out where you're trying to get to and I can give you some quick tips and quick, easy things that you may not have seen or been aware of.
Jason: Thank you, that’s very valuable. So, when you do your coaching and consulting, is there any certain type of size organization or type of industry that you try to focus on, or you take all comers?
Sapna: Well, the funnier part is, I wanted to focus on the small-medium sized businesses because I feel like they have the upper hand, especially with all the technology. Because they can pivot faster than large companies can because the large companies have all these legacy systems and all the politics and everything else to make happen. Where small-medium sized businesses tend to be closer to the customer and can actually test things a lot more earlier. So, lately, I’ve been spending a lot more time working with large companies. Because they want to learn the principles that I'm going to apply so they can be more agile, more nimble and be able to get to it. So, that's kind of really interesting; targeting is not exactly what I'm working on these days.
Jason: Okay. Next, can you share your social media links so people can reach out to you?
Sapna: Yeah, absolutely. So, mine is Sapna @ caninnovate.io. You can also get me on LinkedIn at Sapna Maholtra (I will send all that stuff over to you so you can put it into the show notes). I love talking to people. I love. It just one of my favorite things to do.
Jason: 17:02 Yes. And to our listeners, we’ll have the links to all her social media links and to her book recommendation in the show notes. So, we’ve come to the end of our talk, can you provide any last minute words of wisdom or advice on any topic you want to cover to our listeners?
Sapna: Yes, big time. So, honestly, don't wait for HR or your boss to help you define a career path. Take control of your career – it is you. I have a personal philosophy that we’ve got to look at ourselves that we are our own, not just our own brand, we are our own business. So we've got to actually chart our own career path. So stay on top of industry trends, see what's kind of going up there and see what you would like to be able to experience and think three steps ahead. Honestly, get out there and talk to people; people are so willing to share stories and tips and tricks. Networking is so key.
Jason: So that's a good follow-up question. I try to tell people all the time that it’s very important to have a personal brand; get out there on social media, do a blog, tweet, do something. What's your opinion on this?
Sapna: I don't do it enough. I need to spend more time doing it. Absolutely. How do people know how great you and what kind of opinion you have to offer if you're hidden into the corner? It's like waiting for Prince Charming to kind of step in and knock on your door. You've got to get out there and you've got to put the feelers out there and do the temperature checks and see how people respond. And, honestly, people do respond. So definitely get out there. You are your own brand, you are your own business.
Jason: Sapna, thank you very much for your time, I really appreciate it, I know you’re a very busy person, you’ve got a lot of things going on, and I want to thank you for your time today.
Sapna: Oh, thank you. I really love your podcast, I'm a big, huge fan. I have listened to it way too many times; you've had some amazing trailblazers before me. So thank you.
Jason: Thank you very much, that means a lot. To our listeners, thank you for your time as well, and remember to be great every day.
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