From "Kiddy Table" to C-Suite Conversations

with Anthem's Dir. of Culture Transformation and Org. Performance, Aysha Alawadhi

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My guest today is Aysha Alawadhi, an HR and Organizational Effectiveness specialist, with a decade of international experience that cuts across various HR and operational functions, with a focus on diversity, culture, development, and people analytics. She prides herself on being industry agnostic and is a huge believer that HR can be done right in any industry if people are the true focus of the strategy. She currently works for a large healthcare organization, Anthem.

  • Aysha's experience growing up in Dubai
  • How wanting to make a difference led Aysha to HR
  • Takeaways as hire No.2 at a startup - helping it grow from 2 to 2,000+ employees
  • How HR can move from the "kiddy table" to a C-Suite and stakeholder conversations
  • Recognizing and overcoming misaligned incentives for employee engagement
  • The importance of understanding the core business over specializing in HR
  • Identifying key barriers preventing employees from performing their best
  • Don't do culture for the sake of culture
  • Aysha's two major lessons from her mistakes
  • The importance of understanding your stakeholders
  • Effective tactics for change management
  • Effectively communicating with the CFO and stakeholders
  • Harnessing your power as an individual to make real change

[Tom Finn]    00:00:02    Hello, and welcome to the Talent Empowerment podcast, where we lift up people leaders so they can lift up their organizations. I'm your host, Tom Finn, co-founder and CEO of LeggUP. Together we'll learn how to drive people innovation, how to transform HR into people ops, and how to secure buy-in to disrupt the status quo. And as I like to say, it's finally time to stop smoking on airplanes and update your people strategy. Let's transform your organization and move from a culture of talent management to talent empowerment. This week's episode of the talent empowerment podcast is brought to you by LeggUP’s Talent Insurance, an inclusive people development platform designed to help HR leaders empower their people through one-on-one professional coaching with results like a 66% improvement in avoiding burnout, a 54% jump in leadership skills and a 73% increase in job satisfaction, LeggUP guarantees, improved employee wellbeing, productivity, and retention. In fact, they ensure it, your people stay or they pay! Visit to learn more. And without further ado, this is Talent Empowerment. 

Welcome to the Talent Empowerment podcast, my friends, where we lift people up. So you can lift up your organizations. I am your host, Tom Finn, and my guest today is a human and an HR nerd, always aspiring to elevate society. Her name is Aysha Alawadhi. Welcome to the show! 

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:01:38    Thanks Tom.  

[Tom Finn]    00:01:39    Uh, great to have you here. If you don't know [Aysha Alawadhi], you are gonna get to know her very quickly. She has a deep background in HR and organizational effectiveness with a decade of international experience that cuts across various HR and operational functions with a focus on diversity, culture development, and people analytics. She prides herself on being industry agnostic and is a huge believer that HR can be done right in any industry. If people are the true focus of the strategy, she currently works for a very large healthcare organization, and we are thrilled to have you on the show today, originally from Dubai, which is fabulous in the UAE. Um, a beautiful and amazing city. Um, tell us about your childhood growing up in Dubai.  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:02:27    Yeah. Thank you. You know, growing up in Dubai, um, I'm not gonna tell you what year it was, cause I don't wanna age myself too much, but it wasn't what you see it now. You know, it was a, it was a much smaller place. We had maybe two skyscrapers at the time and, um, it was just, it, it was very, it felt like home. And now sometimes I go back to Dubai and I don't recognize it. And I'm just really proud of the crazy growth that we've had over time. And I think that also kind of sparked a love of people in me because we always had people from every nationality. I mean, I grew up listening to different languages and seeing different people and it was very normal for me to be able to spot someone speaking Swedish or someone from, you know, Ethiopia. And it was very normal to have that. And so coming from that mixed societies is really fun.  

[Tom Finn]    00:03:17    Yeah. You know, my, my experience with Dubai, uh, my family is from the UK and, uh, there were a handful of friends that we have that lived in Dubai for a number of years, just because it was such an international melting pot, um, and an amazing city with that, that rich, rich culture, uh, of international kind of melting of all of these wonderful people. Um, so as you, as you grow up in that environment, it's international and you're thinking about sort of growing up there, what, what made you move into HR? Was it something in your childhood? Did you have a mentor or somebody there that, that really supported you?  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:03:53    Yeah, that's a funny story. Um, and I've told it many times my poor mentor, so I went to college in the United States. Um, and I came back home thinking that I wanted to be in politics because I really wanted to make a difference. I didn't know how, but I thought that was the only avenue at the time. I didn't realize that you could have a job that was fulfilling. I thought a job is a paycheck and that's all it is. And all it should be. Um, but if I get into politics, then, then there's like a people aspect, but I came home and my parents were like, that's really great that you want to be this United nations person, but you need to have a job first. So why don't you go apply to one of the big organizations there? So I did that.  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:04:33    I was interviewing the man who was at the time, the GM of HR for that company as a financial institution. And we started talking and, and I, and we really hit it off and he was, you know, just kind of like looking at me and asking me like, so just let's stop. Like, what is it that you are really excited about? Because I was just like motor mouth. I couldn't stop talking. And I had told him that one of the most exciting cuz I didn't college was intern, had a startup with these three young guys who were all over the place. And they had at the time, you know, a technology that was new for its time. Um, and I didn't understand it at all, but I was really excited to be in this unknown space where everything was crazy and I had to kind of make sense of it all.  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:05:17    And I slowly started to work with their client base and it was this people-focused area. And I love that. And he was like, okay, look, I can either deploy you into the system and you probably do really well and have a great career or I am starting this startup if you will. And, um, would you like to join that caveat? It might completely fail. And I'm like, that sounds really fun. Let's do this. And so I was the second employee brought on to the first business process outsourcing center in the GCC region. I got to see a company built from the ground up as well as a company that is taking old processes from a massive organization that has been around since the 1970s and then kind of making it relevant to this new company. So it was almost like a merger and acquisition, but also building a company from scratch.  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:06:05    So I was employee number two, we scaled from two to 2000. And to this day, the company is one of those where people love working there. And it has a really great culture of like, you can come to work, you can have a great time. You can develop yourself and you can still do a great job. And so watching him, you know, as a CEO of that company, be somebody who wasn't afraid to walk the floor, somebody who never sat in their office with the door closed, he was always talking to people, always making people feel valued, but really insisted on results and got them because of the way that he handled people. That was a big eye-opener for me. And that's when I knew I wanna do this for the rest of my life.  

[Tom Finn]    00:06:43    Wow. That's great. Because some people worry that if you're too kind, you give up results, meaning you can only be kind and not hold people accountable, you can't do both. And I think what I'm hearing you say is no, no, you can do both. You can be kind and hold people accountable.  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:06:59    Absolutely. Especially if you take the mindset of let's attack the problem and not the person.  

[Tom Finn]    00:07:04    Yeah. And, and a great way to do that is to think about the process. So typically a problem comes with a process, and usually, the process is broken before the person is broken. And that's a great way to look at finding a solution if you're thinking, oh, so, and so isn't doing what I want. Hold on a second back up. Think about the process, not the person. Uh, and sometimes we can find a solution pretty quickly. So let me, let me ask this obvious question. So why'd you leave? It sounds great. Sounds like you had a great leader. You had great people around you. It was fulfilling. Why did you leave?  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:07:37    I did, um, I left because he pushed me out. I got, um, so I, so, you know, watching the organization grow, I had started in HR. I started in operations. I didn't start in HR. And, um, I was a lean trainer. So we were very much a lean organization where we did all the kinds of like lean processes. And so I was trying to teach people about this methodology and about this way of thinking. And I started to see very quickly that no matter how much money we had in terms of budgets, no matter what technology we brought in, if the people weren't getting it, we would never get results. And, you know, technology is something that your competitor can, can outdo, right? He can have a bigger budget, but if you have the right people with the right mindset and you create the right environment where you keep them, you're gonna win.  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:08:23    And so I was able to work in the HR operation space. I worked in the learning and development space. I worked in the culture space and, um, I was doing all of these things and I was forcing my CEO to behave as a mentor to me. And, and he had very candid conversations with me. He was kind of like, well, what's next for you? Um, you know what, what's next for you here? And I'm just like, you know, uncomfortable leave me alone. Um, but one day I got tapped on the shoulder and I was asked to join, um, another startup in the region. And I got this phone call and this woman on the phone said, you know, Hey, you have this experience and we'd really like you to join, um, this startup and it's, you know, the Cleveland clinic. And I thought, wow, she's crazy. The Cleveland Clinic has been on for a hundred years. What is she talking about? And it, it was the the Cleveland clinic in Abu Dhabi. So it was a, it, they were starting the hospital in Abu lobby at a capital B UAE, along with the sovereign wealth fund. And I was like, this sounds like an amazing opportunity, but I'm so comfortable. I don't wanna leave. And my mentor looked at me and he was like, if you don't leave, I'm gonna fire you. And if you don't like it, you can always come home.  

[Tom Finn]    00:09:30    That's right. Yeah. Great advice.  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:09:32    Yeah. And so I went there, I was terrified. Um, it was my job to ensure that we had 7,000 people trained in both technical and soft skills to activate this massive project. And so it was terrifying. I was completely outta my comfort zone. Um, but you know, having him kind of gimme that pushes really helped me. And I mean, he made it a point to come to visit every couple of months to be like, Hey, are you doing okay, gimme a call. I would call him and be like, this is what's going on. Like, what do I do in this situation? And so having that backing and someone that had like that faith in me was amazing.  

[Tom Finn]    00:10:07    Yeah. That's, that's fantastic to have that type of leadership. Not, not everybody has that. And at times in HR roles and people leadership roles, uh, I feel like we're not looking at it the right way from a strategic standpoint. And the way I feel is sometimes CFOs look at this role as a cost center. Certainly, if you are training thousands of people or you're managing benefits, or you are running compliance or payroll or whatever, it might be my goodness, you should be a strategic partner, but it, it's not always that way.  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:10:40    Yeah. You know what I, a hundred percent agree with you. And I think the problem is, is that we wanna seat at the table, but we're really kind of sitting at this kitty table because of our, like, and it's through our own actions. And, and what I mean is that we sometimes fall in love with our own processes and best practices. And we try to implement them to meet these like little KPIs. Like we've done this and we've done this engagement survey and we've, you know, managed all that check clock. Exactly. And I think there, there needs to be a few where you understand that there are these basics that have to get done things like payroll and recruitment and things like that. And, and just because you're doing that kinda like Le keeping the lights on that is not enough, right? That can be, and you always tell people if your job can be outsourced or automated, then you're not doing a good enough job.  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:11:26    Okay. And so where the true value comes in is how do we actually take a step back and put our house in order that that stuff is running on its own. And then we are using insights from the data that we're gathering both internally from HR, as well as from our customer base and from our product team, et cetera, and using it and looking at it from a people lens. So, for example, you mentioned, um, you know, sometimes there's a break in the process before there's a break in the person. Oftentimes what HR neglects to do is to figure out, well, if you're having these issues in a certain area, business performance issues, have you actually looked at things like, what are the metrics that you're, you're measuring people on and is it actually incentivizing them to do a bad job? And I'll, I'll give you an example from something that I faced, I was, um, working on a project and my client immediately had said, you know what?  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:12:14    These people are not performing. And he was correct. The numbers were low. Uh, the attrition rate was really high in that sector. And the, um, advice that they were getting was, well, I think what we should do is throw a bunch of money into training, cuz they obviously don't know what the heck they're doing. And then also fire a bunch of people cuz they obviously don't care about their jobs. And so when we took a step back and really looked at what's going on here, why are people performing this way? I started to, you know, dig deeper and realize that actually, the way that these people are being incentivized was to short-change the customer and, and ensure that the call time was what the, their bonus was predicated upon. So they would drop on purpose. They would, you know, rush the customer through the process.


[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:12:56    They wouldn't necessarily solve the problem. So now you end up with an associate who's upset because they can't do their job, even though they know how to do it. Uh, and associate that's super stressed. And um, it's probably gonna leave you if they're any good and they can go find a job somewhere else. And then you also have a customer that is disgruntled and not getting what they want. So now my question to HR is what on earth do you think the benefit of these parameters in these reward systems are, have you even looked at them to figure out if they're working? And so that's why I think HR can be a strategic partner and can come to this people like the CFO and say, we're gonna implement these changes and this is how it affects your bottom line. And then they start to perk up and listen to you.  

[Tom Finn]    00:13:35    Yeah, that's a hundred percent, right? The words that come to mind are misaligned incentives, right? So if the structure of the business is such that we're misaligning incentives and talent and HR can see that because you've got a view of the organization. If you want to, if you want to take that seat, it's there for you. So if you see misaligned incentives between in this case, somebody servicing a customer or selling a customer, uh, it's a very easy conversation to have to say, we have misaligned incentives. It's obviously causing leakage from a financial standpoint. And to have that conversation with a CFO or senior leadership team, I think you called it, the kitty table takes you from the kitty table, uh, you know, to, to the big kid table, uh, where you're talking strategy and revenue and earnings, uh, and for public companies, earnings per share, right. And all of those things that are important to, uh, to a C-suite  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:14:29    Right, but it takes work. And I think what happens and I've, and I think being in various industries, I mean, I've worked across industries. Um, and a lot of people think, well, that's not good because you're not specializing. And in fact, I push back and I'm like, no, because it, what it does is that the first thing that it makes me do is understand my business. What is my core business here? And what am I trying to achieve strategically? The moment I can understand what's important to my shareholders and to my C-suite, then I can look back now that I have, I, I am an HR expert. Now I can come back to my people and understand what's important to them and how do I get the two to align, right. And so that's what you need to do. And what, what I see sometimes happens unfortunately, is that the HR people know HR. So they wanna implement practices that are great for HR. If you're an HR organization, serving HR people, but it's not, you are serving your client, which is both internal and external your people, as well as your, your C-suite and your, your market. And that's why we kind of have to change the conversations that we're having with each other within this space.  

[Tom Finn]    00:15:30    Yeah, that's beautifully said. And I think one of the takeaways, there was many there, but one of the takeaways, uh, for those that are in the HR space is you have to manage the needs of the talent base with the needs of the leadership team. And it can't always be a check-the-box scenario, you've gotta be strategic and really ask tough questions and listen to what those answers are. And then come up with your own thoughts on what this could look like in approaching a problem or a strategy or a business challenge differently. Um, that's how you make an impact. And the other thing that I think I heard during that was all of this noise around payroll benefits, um, you know, retirement funds, whatever it is, recruiting, it's part of the job. It's the basics, it's the fundamentals, just do it and do it well, but that's really not your job. I think I, I think I heard that loud and clear.  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:16:24    Yes, that is. I mean, I'm not, I'm not discounting those factors, but as an HR professional, that should be baked into your DNA.  

[Tom Finn]    00:16:32    And, and do you think, um, CHROs in mass understand this technique and understand these needs?  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:16:42    Um, I would like to put on my optimistic hat and say, yes. Um, but I will say what needs to be the focus of a C the way that I see it is their job is to strongly understand the business very strongly and then figure out what are the barriers in my organization that are keeping my people from achieving the strategy. And that should be their prime focus every single day, whether, and, and, and it can't just be, we'll send me a report. And from there, I'll figure it out. You need to roll up your sleeves and you need to dig deep and you need to talk to your people. You need to look at processes, you need to figure out what's your it infrastructure that has to deal with your, like, all of it is your job as a CHRO

[Tom Finn]    00:17:23    Yeah. And, and candidly, I've met some fabulous CHROs that absolutely get this. And they are so fun to talk to because they can tell you, not only about the sales process, about customer acquisition, about the finances of the company, they can then layer that all into this discussion about the people and the culture and what they're doing there and how they're moving, you know, the organization forward. And, and when you get to that level, hopefully, you have those skills. And it's really fun to watch. I mean, what a cool job when you get it. Right. I think the challenge is what happens when you don't get it right. 

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:18:03    Um, whoa. Okay. Uh, it's scary. I mean, I have been on projects where I have seen some amazing CHS and, and like you said, it's, it's amazing to watch my first one, my, my CEO being someone who really kind of paved that way, but I have also unfortunately been on projects where I saw such a rapid decline. It was almost impressive how fast things got bad. Um, and the reason they did was very much, I understand HR and these are HR best practices, and I'm gonna force fit them into this company, whether it works or not forget the business.  

[Tom Finn]    00:18:41    Yeah. They went to a conference, right? They went to a conference, they talked to a friend, they read an article this says, best practices.  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:18:48    Well, or they're doing the things that are legitimate, but maybe they're not legitimate at the time. Well, you know what we're gonna have, we're gonna build culture pillars. We're gonna have an engagement survey. We're gonna have a manager, whatever, you know, program, are they relevant to your business where it is today? Or are they nice to haves or are they stuff that's already happening? Like you have to figure out what is, what is important to my current business right now.  

[Tom Finn]    00:19:11    Yeah. And having that conversation makes you the strategic partner that the rest of the business is counting on you to be, I think the question though is how do you, how do you manage that culture shift within an organization? So we've talked about checking the box, right? That's an easy one. We know that sometimes people just check the box, get a vendor in that's low cost because they have, they're being asked to do some sort of initiative and they get the low-cost vendor in, they check the box. But how, how else do you sort of manage through culture and actually shift it from that in mentality to something more powerful and strategic?  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:19:49    Yeah. You know, I think culture is, it's one of those things that it's, it's a buzzword and it's, it can be very fluffy or it can be very tactical. And I think that first, what needs to happen, we don't need, so HR folks don't do culture for the sake of culture for God's sake. Um, you need to first figure out what is, again, I go back to this, what is the strategy of the company short, medium, and long term, and then figure out working backward. What is the culture that we need to make sure we get there, right? Maybe it's a culture of individual performers. Maybe it's a culture of collaboration. Maybe it's a culture of high performance. I don't know. Only you can answer that question. And once you figure that out, you have to start looking at your systems and processes within the people space to say, we need to have this in place. If, for example, our strategy is to, you know, attract this kind of talent because we have a certain market share that we're trying to get to. But if you don't understand your business, then you're not gonna be able to do any of that. That,  

[Tom Finn]    00:20:47    Yeah, it it's a hundred percent accurate. You've gotta understand the business and then put it into play. And it sounds like based on your experience, you've had a lot of rich experience in different parts of HR and people and talent. Um, have you ever stubbed your toe or has it just been smooth sailing all the way through just glorious, bright, sunny days? 


[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:21:10    <laugh> I wish I could say no, but, um, no, definitely. There have been times when I've had things blow up in my face and the lessons that I really took away from those were, were two. One was, you know, not, not connecting with all of my stakeholders to make sure that this solution is the right solution for everybody, as much as it can be. Right. Um, where you kind of fall in love with your own idea and you're like, this is great. It worked either. It worked in the past, or it sounds amazing. And I've gotten the sample size and it's gonna, well go vet it. If it's a good idea and nobody can poke holes in it, then it's great. And if they can poke holes in it, don't be upset because you're doing this for the organization to succeed. You're not doing it for yourself to succeed rights.  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:21:52    So if your idea, your idea's terrible, be okay with me, like, you know what, onto the next one. So that was one lesson. And then the other was that, you know, maybe something is working and it's worked for a while, but you need to stop and be like, is it still serving us? Right? Because in the way things move today, you know, within a year it might be obsolete. So saying, you know, well, this is how we've always done it. And it's always worked. No, that's not acceptable. You need to always go back and examine what you're doing and examine it from data points, not from your gut feel.  

[Tom Finn]    00:22:25    Yeah. I love, I love that one. Um, stakeholders is really important, right? Uh, and the larger the company, if you're in a larger company, there's more stakeholders, the higher you go up in the organization, again, more stakeholders. So that is the politics, um, that you have to play and then not take things personally. But I love the second thing you said, maybe even more than that, primarily driven by the fact that there are programs in place that have been in place for 50 years, that we keep paying vendor partners for, or, uh, pretending are adding value. That in 1982 were fantastic, just not in 2022. Um, and there are those programs out there that we think are legacy programs that should be ripped and replaced with something else. What I sense is how do, how do I do that though? Because now I'm taking something away from the employee and who's gonna get the backlash me. I took something away, even though it's dated.  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:23:23    Yeah. It needs to make sense. You can't just go in and be like, you know what, I'm new. I'm gonna make all these changes. You have to figure out what's working. What's not. And then what is the priority? Maybe there are seven things that are not working, but don't get rid of all seven immediately. People do not like change. I mean, it's behavioral economics. People are more motivated by fear of loss than they are fear gain. Right? So you have to understand that balance, um, and figure out what is the most important thing right now. And then you make a, you have to make a case for it. And this sometimes can get frustrating because you, you see the, you know, you see why it doesn't work, but people need time. So when, when you have change management, you have to communicate and then communicate again and keep communicating to they're people in the face. But that's part of the job. And you, you have to show people what the benefit is, right? Well, the what's in it for me. Yes. I'm taking this thing away, but look, what, it's, how it's benefiting you  

[Tom Finn]    00:24:14    Can, can you tell me about a time that maybe you've gone through this personally, where you've had to make some tough decisions about removing, um, something that maybe didn't fit the modern culture or the organization, or, or perhaps you joined an organization, um, where you had to bring in something new, uh, that was different and you faced these challenges yourself.  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:24:34    Yeah. I mean, uh, two stand out. One is, you know, I joined this, um, organization to consult on their, their, um, their HR structure completely. And one of the things I noticed was that they had these old contracts for talent, you know, acquisition because in their minds they were like, well, you know, we have a very high churn. And so we need these, these, um, external contractors to help us. And just by making a couple of changes, kind of looking at the talent within the team, cause there was an internal HR team as well, kind of looking at the talent and the desire to kind of grow in recruitment and then looking at what the vendors were offering and, and really studying the contracts. The numbers didn't make any sense. And so once I was able to present that to the C H R O and say, you know, what, have a look at these, right?  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:25:17    And, and the Nu the amount of money that you're paying may not be significant, but the amount of attrition on the back end that you have makes no sense. So we actually ended up completely transforming it, cutting off vendors and bringing in 80% of our recruitment budget, internal. So we were saving 80% of our budget. And now we could actually start to focus on investing in new technology, investing in, developing the people that were internally part of the organization that wanted to grow. So now you're keeping amazing talent. You're helping them grow. You're building capability internally. You're bringing it all in house. So you can make it as best spoke as you need and as agile as you want. So that was, that was one that I, you know, I realized that sometimes what it takes is for you to kind of help people realize, guys, let's really take a look at what's going on here. And let's just all, let's all kind of look at it and start to put holes in it. So was really great for  

[Tom Finn]    00:26:08    Me. So, so that's a great example, right. But all I think about is the stress that comes with cutting off vendors and then bringing that in house, because there's a lot that goes into that. And that's a lot of work that you took on, and there was a lot of raising your hand, probably tapping your own shoulder and saying, I'll be accountable. And I'll take on this challenge. Is that right? And so did that at any point feel, uh, like you weren't gonna get through it or you were gonna get fired for making the wrong strategic move.  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:26:39    Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, it was one of those things where I knew that if it failed, it was gonna be ASHA's project. And if it succeeded, it was gonna be everyone's win. And that was okay. Yeah, because I had looked at this, this from a standpoint of, okay, there's a lot of things that we could fix, but if we get this one thing, right, and we get this one win, it's gonna make like a 60% shift in our internal culture, the way that we do business. And so it's a cross that I'm willing to die on, but I think I got the buy-in because I wasn't trying to fight all seven at once. So it did take, it did take time to kind of lay that groundwork and have those conversations. And, you know, let's talk about what you're worried about, and this is how we're gonna do it. And yes, this one is long. It's a two-year contract that we have to maybe buy our way out of, but here's the benefit. And so it's again, understanding the business, being able to speak the language of your CFO, right? By the way, she was very involved. She was like, all, whoa, whoa, whoa, what's going on. Um, but then once she started to understand that, that the, the return that we would get was much higher than the loss, she started to advocate for it as well.  

[Tom Finn]    00:27:43    Yeah. It's aligning stakeholders back to your point. Number one, uh, you've gotta align those stakeholders and the CFO can be your absolute best friend. Uh, if you can align finances around the way that you're thinking about the business, um, because that's, their job is to figure out how to make the company profitable. And if you can do that, uh, in alignment with them, you've got a friend for life. So with that in mind, how do we actually get teams and managers, um, to think about relationships and Goodwill outside of the HR space? How do we do that internally in an organization?  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:28:19    Look, I think it's, you know, it's easy to say, well, you know what managers need to, uh, kind of show people that through, through their own behavior. And that is true, right? Because your, your leadership kind of with, through their own behavior, tell you what is permissible and expected in this organization. So I'm not opposed to that idea, but at the same time, they're people, and sometimes you don't have the best leadership. So I think it's important for us to kind of take ownership and figure out how are we gonna show up, you know, and what are, what role are we gonna play? Are we gonna sit back and say, well, I'm an individual contributor, so there's nothing I can really do? I'm just gonna sit here and wait for it to happen. For me, that is not the way to go into any of this. You really need to kind of understand that you have a lot of power as an individual, and you are, you have a lot of influence, maybe more than you think. And so the way that you show up and the way that you kind of approach problems and kind of nudge people to think about certain things, um, obviously in a reasonable manner, you can start to make real change  

[Tom Finn]    00:29:21    That that's right. And the way you show up is in email, in meetings, on zoom calls, uh, at events, right, what time you sort of clock in, in the morning, what time you clock out, uh, in the evening, how responsive you are, if you late cancel meetings, if you, um, if, if, you know, show, uh, for people, this is, this is how you show up in business. And I think some of those fundamentals at times for people are forgotten. Um, and it's really important, certainly in leadership roles, in people, leadership, um, not just in HR, but in all sort of leadership and people leadership roles that we do, the fundamentals well and the basics. Right?

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:30:05    Right. And I think it's important just, you know, as individuals, we all have aspirations and career goals that we want, and it's, it's important for you to own your own growth and development. Nobody's gonna do it for you. Nobody's gonna give it to you. And so, yes, the organization may provide all of this training and opportunity, et cetera. But if you don't have a map for yourself, you're not gonna know what opportunities to, to take. You're not gonna, you're gonna miss out on a lot of great informal opportunities that could have opened a lot of doors for you because you have this mentality of it has to be done for me or given to me, you know, and if it's not, then it's somebody else's fault. And I really think that we need to break away from that and just understand that we have a lot of power and we need to start stepping into it.  

[Tom Finn]    00:30:49    So that's a hundred percent, right. You're talking about career vision, having the right career vision, uh, understanding what your own personal goals are, and then using the tools around you to support your development and growth so that you get there. And at the end. Right. And the funny thing is for a lot of us, um, I'm certainly one of these people I had this career vision at, uh, 23 that by, uh, 33 had completely changed and that's okay.  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:31:17    Right. Yeah. And so, you know, and taking that back into like the eight, the role of HR, when we talk about like rewards and how you're gonna incentivize what would've been appealing to me at 22 is very different than me now. Right. So how are you gonna keep your talent? Or, you know, if you're not constantly going back in and thinking about it, um, another thing is, you know, you are creating a discriminatory practice if you're looking at things from one way and not revisiting. So for example, I was reading an article lately about or recently about how, um, I think it was something like 75% of disabilities happen later in life. So you may have joined an organization with no disability and I've not made any accommodations for you, but then later you have one and I'm just like, well, he, he never checked that box. So am I going back and looking at my business and understanding what my business needs and what my people need to perform? Or am I just kind of sitting back and saying, well, it's always worked this way? We're good.  

[Tom Finn]    00:32:15    Yeah. I think your main theme today is really around a strategic approach to the business. And what I'm hearing over and over again is yes. It's about the people, but it's also about the leadership. Yes. It's about leadership, but it's also about strategy, right? And, and the themes are reverberating over and over again in each of your examples, even from your time in Dubai, right. Strategy leadership, right. Getting pushed out early on in your career, because somebody wanted you to, to spread your own wings, uh, which is strategic and good leadership and good for you. Right. Which is wonderful. And I think all of that kind of comes together, strategy, HR people, and you're taking this really beautiful view. This bird's eye view. I sort of visualize us sitting at the top of a SI skyscraper in Dubai now, um, sort of looking, looking at this amazing city in this, this beautiful world that we live in and, and saying, I can be strategic care. I can do this and have having the confidence to then just do it. And is there, is there anything that you feel, um, HR or people leaders, um, should be afraid of when they're thinking about strategy? Is there something to really worry about?  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:33:31    Um, I think it's, I think what you, again, what you need to do is just make sure that your strategy makes sense for that time and understand that it's okay to pivot and showcase that in, you know, in, in your, in your literature, in your, um, artifacts that you have in your, in your organizational culture, that we are a company that needs to constantly pivot and be okay with that. And then you showcase that from top leadership down.  

[Tom Finn]    00:33:53    Yeah. Amazing 

[Aysha Alawadhi]. You have, uh, laid down some groundwork for a lot of folks today. And, uh, I'm so grateful for having you on the podcast. Uh, where can we find you if people want to get in touch? Uh, they're gonna fall in love when they listen to this. So how do they get in touch with you?  

[Aysha Alawadhi]    00:34:11    Thank you. Um, you can find me on LinkedIn [Aysha Alawadhi] Awadi or you can find me on Instagram at the real Aysha Alawadhi. Awadi  

[Tom Finn]    00:34:18    All right. You heard it here. Uh, [Aysha Alawadhi], thank you for joining us. And thank you for joining the talent empowerment podcast. I hope this conversation lifted you up so you can lift up your teams and organizations, my friends let's get back to people and culture together. We'll see you on the next episode. Take care.  

I hope you enjoyed this episode of talent empowerment for more information on our show. And today's guests head to the show notes or visit talent, And as always, don't forget to subscribe wherever you're listening. So you never miss an opportunity to empower yourself and your people. And if you enjoyed today's episode, please leave us a five-star review. It really helps the show grow and a final thank you to our sponsorLeggUP and their people development program, talent insurance, to learn more about how they guarantee retention employee wellbeing, and employee performance through one-on-one professional coaching, visit

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