The photo features Sharon Ehrlich and Ragna Ghoreishi. Sharon is wearing a light blue top and smiling. Ragna has long blonde hair and is wearing a black top. The text reads: Sharon Ehrlich in conversation with Ragna Ghoreishi. Episode 38, Be Daring: Unlock Authenticity and Kick Fear to the Curb!,

Sharon: Thank you very much everybody who has decided to join us we’re going to kick off this living while leaving executive corner episode with my guests, but I’m not going to shake.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Sharon Ehrlich and I’m an executive coach and a strategist and I work with executive women and women in leadership roles.

We’re going to jump right into it, but first I just wanted to explain that this is a very interactive session, and sort of like a mentoring session. So if you have any questions at all, please enter them in the chat and Ragna and I will try to respond to them. So as we get started, you can already type in where you’re tuning in from. I’m tuning in from Vienna. Ragna, where are you tuning in from?

Ragna: Vienna as well.

Sharon: Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and telling people what you do?

Ragna: Thank you very much. I’m really happy to be here with you. So my name is Ragna Ghoreishi, as you said, I’m VP of Customer Success in SaaS (software as a service) startup called Cleeng. It’s a SaaS platform that is used specifically in the media and entertainment business for big iconic sports brands, like the NFL, for example, Tennis Channel, etc.

It’s a European startup. However, the biggest area of business is done in the US, which is why we have a lot of American customers. Before that I have been working a long time in IBM, and had various roles both on a country and then EMEA and also global level, and specifically working in digital sales and focused on customer experience in the last couple of years.

Sharon: So a lot of experience there and some varied experienced as well. We’re going to dive right into the questions because we don’t have a lot of time here. There’s so much value that I know you’re going to add that I think we need to get started. So the first question I’m going to ask you is how do you define authenticity and leadership? And why is it critical for women executives and any executive for that matter?

Ragna: Well, authenticity for me is really being trying to be yourself. So not to play a role but really trying to be yourself which delivers trustworthiness. It shows also that you’re human. It shows that you dare to show also areas that are perhaps not that perfect yet where you’re still learning and all of these behaviors shows strength.

And it also provokes the same behavior in in teams or people that you’re working with, which ultimately leads to a much better collaboration and more openness, basically in the business area, I would say, and why is it so important for women.

I think specifically for women it is important because we have with this a chance to really fight stereotypes because at the end, everybody, no matter if a man or a woman has very specific attributes of leadership style, and I think attributing them either to a male or to a female side is probably falling short on what your personal attributes are. Hence, I think it is very important that women show their own way of leadership and authenticity.

Sharon: I think that’s a really important point. You said something that I just one word that I think it’s so important to focus on “being human”. We all have unique identities, and being able to show up as you are is a lot easier than putting on a facade every day whether you’re working in real life or remotely and trying to be somebody that you really aren’t. That gets incredibly exhausting, doesn’t it?

Sharon: What strategies have you found to be effective in overcoming fear, especially in high stakes professional settings?

Ragna: I have to confess I’m an over prepper. A couple of years ago, I saw a very inspiring TED talk, I think about Steve Jobs where basically it was explained how he was preparing so that when he comes on stage he comes across, so easygoing, and so natural, and that is something. I’m not where Steve Jobs was definitely not. But I got inspired by him in terms of really understanding that you have to prep because you have to really know what you can expect.

So things that I do, for example, is I write down what the worst things are, that could happen and because that reduces fear already, or I write down what the potentially most difficult questions are, that could come up and for all of this, I really prepare myself because then it’s much easier to react to them, because you have anticipated that they come across.

Another thing that I’m doing is I do have a picture with a very good sentence on it. That gives me strength. So a recommendation I have is to have a power picture or power quotes that you like. Try to visualize it before you get into meeting because that really helps and gives you a strength and an energy.

And the last one very simple. Sometimes I just sit there and tell myself I’m going to do that. I will make it happen. I will be successful.

Sharon: What there are a lot of nuggets there and I’d like to just focus on a few of them. You know that I am a coach and I work with a lot of women and one of the things that I noticed that successful women and actually many women struggle with — and I’ve been corrected by men, and they’ve told me that they struggle with the same thing — is perfectionism.

This drive that we have to do everything absolutely correct. So when you think about the preparation that you take for a meeting, or particularly one that you think is a high stakes one, how far do you go before you say it’s enough? I need to stop and just get on with the thing.

Ragna: I think that’s it’s a good point. You have to find a balance. I tried to think of everything but without having too much fear and realizing that there will always be things that I’m not able to control because at the end you don’t know what’s coming out.

But you can anticipate let’s say 70% – 80% and that gives you already a bit of a peace of mind.

Sharon: I’m going to ask our viewers if anyone has any strategies that they have that have been effective in overcoming fear, please put them in the chat because we’re in an environment where we can learn from one another as well. We don’t want to say that we have all the answers here.

The other thing that I wanted to tap into is when you said your preparation that you focus on not only what you have to be prepared for, but also the difficult questions and the worst case scenarios. Is that something that you do by yourself or do you work with your team? To get some other perspectives are how exactly do you go about that?

Ragna: It depends a bit on the meeting but it’s a good point when it is something where I also need the expertise of the team. I definitely involve everybody because it’s clear that I don’t know everything and the various aspects of knowledge and insights that the team has definitely are important. So I will do that.

Sharon: Can you share a moment in your career, where being daring led to unexpected success for you?

Ragna: Yes, I can. One is really a pivotal one that happened one and a half two years ago. The other one happened a bit earlier in my career.

The headline above all of them is basically it’s the moment when I started to be active and take my life into my hands. Let’s put it that way and not stand still and wait for someone else to do something for me, but really be active in this space myself.

The smaller one which was a bit earlier in my career was when I was working part time, which I did during some time when I was taking care of our kids.

I never really dared to ask for price for income increases or any career path or anything and I and I thought just by doing the job good enough, it will be visible and we all know that this is not necessarily a good strategy.

At one point in time I started asking for the things I wanted rather than imagining them and I was really surprised how easy it actually was to get what you want. Not 100% but at least 80-90% of what you wanted when you just asked for it.

That was the one but that really the pivotal moment for me where I realized how powerful it is and how much energy it gives you when you really dare to get out of your comfort zone was when I decided around two years ago that I really want to make a big change in my career, leave my secure corporate job and really join a completely different space. And a completely different type of company.

That for me, it was really something I was afraid to do that I did it and I’m super happy that I made that decision and I was daring enough and I have a bracelet that I keep on looking by and then to remind me of that because that is for me really like a like a moment of braveness that gave me so much energy and so much life strength. That was really my pivotal moment.

Sharon: Thank you for sharing. We have some comments from the from the folks. Debs says we’re challenged when we step outside of our comfort zone when we step out. We either grow or we learn something about ourselves.

You are speaking the truth sister! That is so true. And you know I can share a story as well when I decided to be daring. I thought about starting my own business for a very long time and sort of did it in fits and starts.

I had worked for a company and then I had the proverbial side hustle. I was always doing a little bit of something but never doing the thing completely. And finally I decided to do it. And that was a big deal because I was a corporate citizen for quite a long time.

And you know what? I haven’t looked back since I made that decision. And that was a bold move. There’s something to be said, for getting a paycheck every single month and then all of a sudden, being responsible for creating a pipeline, looking for customers and creating visibility for yourself.

And it’s not easy. I wouldn’t say that at all. But what I can say like Deb’s just mentioned it has shown me some things about myself that I just didn’t know I was capable of doing. I didn’t know I had it in me but I have it in me.

We also have a comment here from Elizabeth when we going back to the previous question about preparation. Elizabeth says “part of my preparation equals preparing for when I don’t know or want to answer a specific question. I get clear in my mind about how I want to respond to tricky situations”. Thanks for sharing that Elizabeth.

Ragna, how can leaders cultivate a culture that encourages others to be daring and authentic? And the reason I’m asking this question is because in plenty of organizations, there is a culture that failure is a disaster. If you make a mistake, you will get called out and you will be humiliated in some sort of way. And that is not a culture for growth. So I’d like to hear your thoughts on how you can cultivate the opposite kind of culture.

Ragna: It’s very hard to change a culture individually, but nevertheless, I think as a leader, you have a lot of power in your hands. And the answer is very simple. I think you need to lead by example. Because by then you are authentic and you encourage your team to also be daring and really show their own feelings, strength and fears etc.

And when you see that positive behavior, reinforce it and really celebrate it because it is not easy to get out of yourself specifically when you have been “raised” in a culture where fear was a strong driver.

When you change to another team, it’s very hard to overcome that behavior that you have learned. So wrapping that up, I think leading by example and being human yourself is the best and the strongest way of convincing your team to look in that direction.

Sharon: Thank you for sharing. You said something very interesting that culture is hard to change, or at least organizational culture, but we do have team culture and I can tell you that I’ve worked for some organizations that have had such an extreme competitive culture, that failure or just this willingness to take a risk and do something different, really paralyzed people and kept them from doing things.

But on the other side, I was lucky enough to have some leaders who created a microcosm within the organization. So within the team, people were allowed to take some risks, and they were somehow protected.

I don’t know how many of you who are listening now have experienced a culture where taking risks and being daring and authentic is something that you’ve been able to experience. Please share that in the chat as well. Because I think if you have, you’re probably one of the lucky ones because it’s not always given that that’s the kind of environment that we can work in.

Ragna, what advice do you have for women who struggle to find their authentic voice in male dominated industries?

Ragna: That’s an interesting question, and I probably have a strange answer on that one, but it is the one that I learned over the years myself. So I’ve always been working in male dominated areas and specifically now in the last few years, my space is very male dominated. And what I realized on myself is that I ignore it. I don’t care if I have an audience where I have 100 men and no woman except for me, because I realized that it doesn’t help me at all.

And it doesn’t make a difference because at the end, when you bring across with an authentic voice with knowledge, with expertise, what you want to bring across and you’re daring, it doesn’t matter.

I know that not everybody can do that. I do it and there are cases where I’m on events or on meeting and I see the pictures afterwards of these events. I only then realize that I was the only one the events. That really happens it’s interesting how your brain can absorb that.

If you can’t do that. I think another advice would be to turn it around into something positive and take it as a as a source of energy. I’m proud to be the woman in that space that has the chance to be there and speak.

That would be the two strategies that I would recommend. But the bottom line is really try to make yourself as strong as possible and that is something you achieve by being authentic and being yourself.

Sharon: I love the reframe there about seeing yourself as being the only one in the room. So that could be the only woman. It could only be it could be the only person from a very specific identity group, right? The only one in the room you can flip that on its head and say, I’m going to take advantage of this and I’m going to be the star, right? And all of a sudden, the self talk is changing. Because now you’re not the only one who doesn’t somehow belong there, but you’re the only one who gets a moment to shine in.

One of the things that you also mentioned was self talk. You said that you find ways to motivate yourself so you have this motivating quote, I think you mentioned, and there are things that you say to yourself to get you ready for whatever that is, you know, challenging meetings, huge presentations, because I’m sure that you’re on the main stage very often.

Was that something that developed over the years or was that something that you were able to harness very early in your career?

Ragna: No, it had to develop. I have to say I really had to grow on that one because it did not necessarily come naturally to me. So I do like to work on things in a concentrated way not necessarily go out there. So I had to grow that muscle and it took it did take quite a while and I would not say I’m perfect. It’s something you grow.

I think with each challenge you grow and that moment, when you’re strong where it works well and then there are moments where you think afterwards actually kind of done that a bit better. But that’s how it is. That’s why we’re human.

Sharon: The benefit of hindsight is that you can look back and say, I could have done that better. And now that arms you, prepares you for the next time. That’s very useful.

I’d like to go back to the topic of being the only person in the room. There was a huge book written by Sheryl Sandberg. I don’t know if you’ve read that’s called Lean In where she encouraged women to not sit on the sidelines and to use their voice and to use their power.

And then she got quite a bit of push back for that because a lot of people said, well, it’s very easy for you to say that as you are like a huge-mega executive at a big company.

What would you say to someone who doesn’t have the title and the experience, and the stature that you have in your career now. Somebody who’s maybe a bit more junior, about finding their voice and standing up and being visible and articulating themselves?

Ragna: I think it’s important that you find allies. I think it’s important that you find good mentors who’s advice that you look up to and that really can help you in that very specific element that you want to grow.

And I think it’s important that you don’t pressure yourself too much because you will feel when it is the right moment, because everybody has a different pace. Some people might do that because they have a certain character very extroverted, strong, quiet character do that very early on, and some people might need a bit longer until they are able to speak up and express what they think. And that is okay.

I think that is something everybody should not pressure himself or herself too much because everybody has their own pace. And that is some something that I found interesting at times.

Looking back now that sometimes people were pressured into areas that they actually were not ready yet, which then did not allow them to succeed or made it very difficult for them to succeed. So that would be my recommendation is try to find an ally and when you’re ready, speak up and enjoy that moment where you are actually.

Sharon: Thank you for saying that. And I think this is a really important statement you made about your own pace and not putting unnecessary pressure on yourself. Because I think that can do more damage than good. Our intention here is to put the notion out there that you can speak up more. That you can create visibility for yourself, but certainly not at the risk of you doing it at a time that’s not right for you and for your timeline.

That’s really one of the things that I think is really important. We have some comments here from the chat. We have Debs who says “first and foremost as Ragna said, be yourself, celebrate the fact that you have a seat at the table and occupy that space with your expertise, wisdom, and confidence”. Thank you Debs.

We have a comment here from Rafaela — “for me, the strength lies in the message I need to believe that what I have to say is important. That gives me the strength to speak up.”

I think those are really important and motivating words there. And Andrew has said something here which I think is fantastic. He says – one of the guests on our podcast said a while back (and Andrew has his own podcast) if you don’t have a seat at the table, then make your own seat and bring it. Yes, I really liked that. I think that’s fantastic.

Ragna: I would love to just add one more thing because I think that’s important. That leads to something that I realized, I sometimes question my own insights when I heard other people speaking very confidently about something that I genuinely found not right.

And it took me really quite a while to stand up to say actually ‘I disagree’ and that that really takes a lot of strength and daring, but it is important that you don’t question your own knowledge and as I think that said before, trusting your confidence, trust in your knowledge and your expertise.

I think that’s super important just because other people speak very loudly or very convincingly about something it doesn’t make them right.

Sharon: There is so much truth in what you just said there. Have you ever been to those meetings where there’s always this loud mouth, know-it-all, just sort of spewing a lot of heat and a lot of energy is coming out of the mouth, but there’s not a lot of substance behind it. I think we’ve all had this experience before.

Sometimes they’re intimidating, because they are the loudest person in the room. And I think that those words that you just said and that guidance is really golden. Not to be intimidated by those loud mouths and the ones who are somehow omnipresent because we also have something to add there.

As my parting question, I would like to ask you, what would you tell your younger self as a piece of advice if you could?

Ragna: Start standing up and owning your destiny much earlier. Just get up and own your space. I’m not sure if you know that film The Holiday with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz. There is a scene where a Hollywood director tells to Iris played by Kate Winslet who has some love problems. He said in films, there’s always a main female role and her best friend. He told her, you only play the best friend rather than the female at the female main role in your life and I don’t understand why.

So basically, what I would love to say is play the main role in your life and own that space early on.

Sharon: Thank you. Those are really powerful words and thanks for sharing it. I will look for that film.

Well, we’re down to the last two minutes. And so what I like to say are a couple of parting words. Thank you so much for being with us. I think that you have managed to share some real nuggets of gold with our viewers here today.

And I really appreciate you being here. For anyone who is catching this on the replay you can find this recording next week on Tuesday on my website ( and you can also find it on Apple and on Spotify.

Next week. I’m going to have a guest named Katie Brown and we’re going to talk about how to take action now and overcome the ‘not ready’ barrier and I think that’s going to be a fantastic discussion.

So thank you everybody for your engagement and for joining us today. I appreciate your feedback. And look forward to seeing you all next week.