Sasha Laghonh on How To Navigate Uncertainty.
Sasha Laghonh, Founder of Sasha Talks
Could you please share a bit about yourself, your background, and the journey that has led you to become an entrepreneur? What makes your perspective unique on the subject of leadership and navigating uncertainty?
I come from a business background which provided a window to learning how to run different parts of an organization. Given there are many parts to a whole, I've honored commitments that overall stressed partnerships alongside leadership and management. Sasha Talks was an opportunity to integrate my multiple skill sets into one avenue that can help individuals and businesses seeking to capitalize upon their growth challenges and hidden opportunities in the market. Having worked alongside leaders and now being a vested member of management myself, I host experience navigating new and foreign landscapes in the market.
You and your business have presumably faced some interesting challenges and changes over the years. Can you describe a key moment when you felt uncertainty was at its peak?
There's always going to be a small percentage of uncertainty present when managing any business because the markets themselves are transient due to the evolving consumer behaviors, for better or worse. Sasha Talks didn't experience a specific uncertainty peak, although several years ago there were third parties interested in exploring options to purchase the endeavor. Such conversations led to self-reflection for what the premise stands for because it has always remained a private entity among a portfolio of engagements. What do you do in such circumstances? Listen to the gut. It's basically a hold or sell decision. It's flattering to know third party investors are interested. Uncertainty can help one redirect their compass reminding them of what value the business brings to the market. A true leader knows when it's time to nurture its creation and when it's time to let it prosper on its own. Every thing in life has a season. Manipulating time and growth goes against the laws of nature. It's bad karma. Experienced leaders know how to co-exist with life around them.
From your experience, what are the core principles or values that guide a leader during uncertain times?
A leader should remain steadfast in their conviction and beliefs granted they are a sensible personality. One shouldn't waiver in their mission because external variables are constantly challenging their commitment to the business and people. If a leader decides to change their stance on an issue, it should be for a viable reason and not for short term gains which are often derived from impulsive influences in their environment. Real leaders engage in sage decision making to win in the long run. They know the short term gains and losses will iron themselves out if they make the right decisions for the right reasons. They also vet their sources if they're seeking guidance without random people in their path directing the ship. I personally do not consider people filled with doubts and low confidence to be leaders because in those circumstances these personalities are only serving themselves while robbing their organizations of a healthy collaborative experience. When companies go sideways or scandals surface, at least 65% of the time those issues are tied to poor leadership.
How do you cultivate a culture of resilience and adaptability within your team? Can you share a practical example where this culture made a significant difference?
Cultivating such culture starts during the hiring process when recruiting members to contribute to any business mission. When I was scanning the markets to onboard graduate students, novice and experienced members, all of them were expected to understand one principle --- it's a collective mission which entails teamwork and a clear understanding that we will agree to disagree at times. The focus should remain work. I've been fortunate to work with a headcount over the years that have taught me a lot about life and business, in return I have done my best to transfer some business skills they wanted to learn. When it comes to adaptability, it helps when members host a hunger to learn and succeed. An ambitious nature can't be feigned. Either a person will perform or force themselves out of an opportunity. A healthy culture should advocate self-respect & mutual respect at its core before focusing on work. From experience, I've observed some of the most degenerate work cultures and behaviors at places that advocated common-sense principles. When common sense values are plastered on walls to remind people to behave and 'do the right thing', it's a red flag. Such virtue signaling measures fail because there is no virtue to back such efforts with because actions speak louder than words. Also it's a sign of poor management and leadership. Let me rephrase this -- there is no leader present because it's a delegated puppet running the place. A true culture of resilience starts with the mindset, human values and accountability. When accountability is absent, it doesn't matter what the walls read, or which checklist is being emulated to become the next 'best in class'. An authentic culture speaks for itself. Some of the best cultures that I've experienced and learned from have one thing in common --- people could sense the culture, it was an ambiance that couldn't be bought. It was developed over a period of time. No one is flaunting their culture. It's a day to day experience that prompts people to return, they want to perform well and help others in the process. There is less talking and more walking. There is no 'performance art' present to sell an empty idea that fails to exist in an environment. We see this often in today's age with social media when people are flaunting relationships, reputations and fantasies. The latter isn't culture building, it's overcompensating for a reality that likely doesn't exist. Focus on reality and lay off the perfection metrics. Also it's an opportunity to remind people that no one is above or below the culture. When people posture certain personalities and roles hold more significance than offers, the good folks emotionally check out of becoming more engaged in their environment. It goes back to what I often tell people, "niceness is lip service, goodness speaks through actions". No one is perfect but we can still strive to become better.
Many aspiring leaders struggle with the fear of failure, especially when the path ahead is unclear. What strategies or mental frameworks have you developed to overcome this fear and embrace uncertainty as an opportunity?
Failure is a part of life. No one is immune from it. It comes down to the context of failure -- how does one fail and what do they do about it afterwards. Uncertainty has always been present in life. No one knows if they will wake up tomorrow. Sometimes the arrogance of humankind leads one astray from the basic principles of life -- we are asked by the universe to do our best. Everyone copes with uncertainty and fear differently. The more life experience you hold, this is dictated by the depths of engagement and not years, then you'll learn when to take any action. If any action is required, then it's important to define what a measured approach looks like for you. What works for another person is not necessarily going to be a prescription that delivers success for you. Sometimes in life no action is the best course because context matters. A decision of no action is still different than remaining passive with no decision at hand. Life, like business, will play out whether we engage or not. It's fine to acknowledge the emotions during this process but they need to be kept in check. Impulsive and reactive behaviors often complicate the space of uncertainty. It will make matters worse because no one is thinking with a clear mind. Ego aggravates fear. Ego will also trigger responses that can compromise one's well being and those around them. As Dan Pena shares with his mentees, fear is basically false expectations appearing real. Some of the worst complications that I've witnessed in third party businesses involved too many cooks in the kitchen. It's not wise to grant unqualified people credence to make decisions. Also refrain from using money to offset your fears. Money is a tool. Many people who have worsened their conditions used money as a cure-all remedy. It resulted compromising their frameworks of existence because when money is used for the wrong reasons, it will attract more complications and long term permanent losses of resources. It goes back to a reality of life -- money doesn't change people, it reveals people. Find your true north without relying on resources. The rest will fall into place.
In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes leaders make during uncertain times? Can you offer a real-life example where recognizing and avoiding such a mistake led to success?
Some leaders resort to using resources like money to defer any decision making. Others are going to remain dormant in engagement hoping the uncertainty clouds will pass. Then there are very impulsive personalities who result compromising confidentiality to find themselves in a better mental and emotional space. If any of these measures lack any form of deliberation prior to these reactions, a response is still pending. I believe during rare moments, it's better to seek an extension (if needed) on the decision making rather than working through nebulous expectations. In my case, I discovered asking questions for clarity resulted in better outcomes. If a third party gives you an ultimatum, then leave the situation. Nothing good prospers in the long run when an ultimatum is involved. In those circumstances, one party is being coerced to feed another party's impatience and/or insecurity. If a person or third party only functions off ultimatums as a lifestyle -- run for the hills. It's a red flag on many levels, including the fact that sensible decision making measures are absent in these cases. Overt manipulation tactics are just as bad as those implicit manipulation tactics. No one is doing one another favors. Next....!
Looking towards the future, how do you plan to continue evolving your leadership style to meet new uncertainties and challenges? What advice would you give to others looking to do the same?
While experience is celebrated in the leadership space, life will always throw curve balls that demand us to discover new degrees of strength and creativity from within us. As long as people know there is always new things to learn in the space, such realization grants us grace to continue growing without feeling there's only one perfect strategy present to solve life and business challenges. Remain flexible. Nothing in life is set in stone.
You've clearly demonstrated a willingness to learn and grow through experience. Are there any books, mentors, or resources that have particularly influenced your leadership style? How would you recommend others to approach their leadership development journey?
I've learned early on in my career path that it's best to develop your own style through trial and error rather than emulating others. It's important people connect with you -- not you through a proxy.
For those who want to learn more about your leadership philosophy or explore the products and services offered by your company, what's the best way to connect with you or find out more about your work?
All are welcome to visit www.sashatalks.com. Drop a hello through the contact page.