Nina Godiwalla on Training Leaders to Step Up and Speak Up

In Chapter 7 of 18 in her 2013 Capture Your Flag interview, author and entrepreneur Nina Godiwalla answers "When Someone Asks You, 'What is Your Mission', How Do You Respond?" In her diversity and leader training work, Godiwalla strives to teach those in power to "Step Up and Speak Up" to support those with less or no power. She examples of this as it relates to diversity issues in the office as well as in more general meeting environments where credit for ideas and work is often taken by senior staff who just restate another's idea or work. Nina Godiwalla is an expert on diversity, leadership and women in the business world. She is CEO of Mindworks, which provides leadership, stress management, and diversity training to companies all over the world. She is also a bestselling author and public speaker. Godiwalla earned an MBA from Wharton, a MA from Dartmouth and a BBA from the University of Texas.


Erik Michielsen: When someone asks you, “What is your mission?”, how do you respond?

Nina Godiwalla: I think one of the major messages I have is really focused on step up, speak up, and it's about being able to, when you’re in a place of power, really being able to take your power and help other people that might not be in power, and those apply to both my focuses, leadership and diversity, and that applies from a diversity standpoint, so such a small example is if you’re in a room and you hear an inappropriate joke about a certain minority group, if you’re not part of that minority group, it’s the most important thing, and it makes you feel a little bit uncomfortable, a lot of times we’d just gonna look the other way. The most important thing for you to do at that moment is be able to say something and be able to stand up for that group because that group has been criticized and it’s an opportunity for you as not being a part of that.

And I think from a leadership standpoint which I’m focused on is being in a place of power, whether you—wherever you are. You don’t even have to be high in the hierarchy or whatever it is, but a great example was we were just talking in a meeting, we were at the State Department, we were having this talk about how people repeat, someone gives their credit to the wrong person, so a very senior person says, basically, he repeated what someone else said, and everyone kind of starts giving credit to the senior person who said it, 15 minutes before, two other people had already mentioned it, and we’re giving examples of what’s a way to actually remind people that that’s not the right person, that’s not the person that really said it, and it’s something along the lines of, “Oh, well, Joe, that’s a great point—that’s a great way that you’ve summarized Sandy’s comments earlier, that’s—that was really impressive the way you did it concisely,” or something like that, and, basically, giving back credit to the person that did it. And if you are the most senior person in that room, it’s even more important for you to do that because you’re acknowledging to the rest of the staff, I’m aware of where that came from, and even if you’re not the most senior person, you’re in that room, and so you have an opportunity to bring attention to that, so it’s those sort of things, always making an impact, whether you formally have a hierarchical place or not.