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Maneesh Goyal as a children's toy

56: Othered to Empowered: Maneesh K. Goyal and the American Dream

Maneesh’s remarkable journey is marked by resilience, self-discovery, and empowerment. Join us as we delve into his life experiences, challenges, and his extraordinary path from feeling “othered” to becoming an empowered leader.

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In this compelling episode, we sit down with Maneesh K. Goyal, a queer, second-generation Indian immigrant and successful serial entrepreneur.

Maneesh’s remarkable journey is marked by resilience, self-discovery, and empowerment. Join us as we delve into his life experiences, challenges, and his extraordinary path from feeling “othered” to becoming an empowered leader.

Segment 1: The Early Years

  • Maneesh reflects on his early life as a second-generation immigrant, sharing personal anecdotes of navigating cultural differences and the challenges he faced.
  • We explore the expectations placed on him and how they fueled his determination to succeed against the odds.

Segment 2: Fueling Entrepreneurial Spirit

  • Maneesh talks about how his experiences of being “othered” and witnessing 9/11 impacted his outlook on life and ignited his entrepreneurial spirit.
  • We discuss his ventures across different industries, highlighting the diverse range of businesses he’s built.

Segment 3: Advocacy and Empowerment

  • Maneesh shares his journey of self-discovery, embracing his identity as a queer individual, and the role it played in his personal and professional life.
  • We delve into Maneesh’s advocacy work and his efforts to empower others who have felt marginalized or “othered.”

Segment 4: Words of Encouragement

  • Maneesh offers inspiring words for those who may be facing similar challenges and struggles, emphasizing the importance of self-belief and resilience.
  • We explore the idea of embracing one’s uniqueness and channeling it into a source of strength.

Segment 5: Closing Words of Wisdom – Office vs. Remote Working

  • Maneesh shares insights into the evolving landscape of work, discussing the advantages and challenges of remote working versus office-based work.
  • We wrap up with Maneesh’s valuable perspective on achieving a harmonious work-life balance.


Maneesh K. Goyal’s journey from feeling “othered” to empowerment is a testament to the human spirit’s resilience and capacity for transformation. His experiences serve as an inspiration to anyone striving for self-discovery, advocacy, and success. We hope you’ve gained valuable insights and encouragement from Maneesh’s story.


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The Transcript

⚠️ NOTE: This is an automated transcript, so it might not always be 100% accurate!

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Speaker 1 0:00
I know what it’s like on the other side. How do I make sure those people that are under our under my employee do not have the Sunday night blues

Leanne Elliott 0:15
Hello and welcome to the truth lives and workplace culture podcast brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network, the audio destination for business professionals. My name is Leanne. I’m a Business psychologist.

Al Elliott 0:25
My name is Al I’m a business owner.

Leanne Elliott 0:27
We are here to help you simplify the science of people and create amazing workplace coaches.

Al Elliott 0:32
Yeah, and welcome back episode 56 Li

Leanne Elliott 0:34

  1. That was gone quick,

Al Elliott 0:36
isn’t it? And it has really Yeah, so we’re, we’re episode 56 back to one of our founder series. We tend to do them roughly once every month. We’ve got a great guest for you today. We do we start off by going into the guest we do what we do first I forgotten

Leanne Elliott 0:51
I think I think we should give I think we should give a little taster of who our guest is Yeah.

Al Elliott 0:56
Okay, so today we are talking to the fabulous Manish K. Goyal. He’s a serial entrepreneur based in New York. He is the founder of MK G. If you remember back to Episode 46. I want to say we interviewed the ladies for mkg absolutely incredible women. And Manish is the founder back in what will go into that shortly. He also runs and owns a pineapple live in the gray, pink Sparrow to name a few companies that he’s founded. He’s a second generation Indian, who identifies as queer and you’ll find this is this is quite important as we get further into the story. The overarching theme of this episode is a term that I hadn’t heard until we actually used it the other day and said, right, this is what this is what we’re going to be talking about, and the term is of it. So we’re going to find out how he’s gone from of it to becoming a celebrated entrepreneur that counts the Manhattan and Bollywood elite in his inner circle, and we’ll be diving interesting, credible life and career. So shall we go meet money easily?

Unknown Speaker 2:00

Speaker 1 2:00
My name is Manish Coyle. I am an entrepreneur a bit of a serial entrepreneur based in New York City. And really, ultimately, the businesses that that I’ve started and the businesses that I currently run, have all been around the concept of human connection. So my first business was a marketing firm event marketing firm that was called MK G which actually, very, I guess this is what you call dumb luck. It looked like an abbreviation for the word marketing, but it actually stood for Manish Kumar Goyal. My initials mkg is a leader in the event marketing space, and I built it up with a dream and an idea grew to about 150 employees and then sold it in 2019.

Al Elliott 2:46
So excited to get into this interview. But before we do that, it’s our favorite time of the week. Is the news roundup.

Leanne Elliott 2:53
Cue the jingle.

Al Elliott 2:55
What do we got Lee? I have a new word. New word alert.

Leanne Elliott 3:02
Quiet cutting.

Al Elliott 3:05
Quiet cutting.

Leanne Elliott 3:06
Quiet cutting

Al Elliott 3:08
is that when you are scrapbooking late at night and the rest of your family are asleep and you have to cut very, very quietly. Yeah, yes, I thought so. Okay, great. So that’s the end of the news roundup.

Leanne Elliott 3:22
Also just made me think Do you remember those scissors used to get that we chopped like zigzags?

Al Elliott 3:25
Yeah, the cool pinking shears I think

Leanne Elliott 3:28
pinking shears Can you still I don’t know.

Al Elliott 3:32
I mean, I don’t I don’t understand why you want them do his exact but anyway gone.

Unknown Speaker 3:37
crafty. Yeah. But

Al Elliott 3:38
the mommies to get my mom used to use them for for sewing. She used to cut like, material with these. I

Leanne Elliott 3:44
think that was because it didn’t. You didn’t lose threads, wasn’t it?

Al Elliott 3:50
Oh, there we go. Learn something new every day. Anyway, I’m sorry. You were saying? pinking shears,

Speaker 2 3:53
pinking shears, quite quiet cutting. There is one journalist somewhere who came up with quiet quitting. And he’s just keeping throwing these terms out, seeing what sticks. The latest one is quiet cutting out any ideas. It’s not about cutting quietly at night.

Al Elliott 4:11
I would probably guessed it is when you very quietly let people go.

Leanne Elliott 4:16
Yeah, yeah, yeah, pretty much pretty much but not quite letting people go. So it’s when employees are reassigned to other roles within the same company, rather than being made redundant. So usually part of an organizational restructure. So on one hand, you know, organizations are kind of thinking, well, we spent a lot of time and money recruiting these awesome people, we want to keep them in business. Let’s reassign them to another role. But there are lots of people that are being reassigned to things that are completely out of what they normally do. So maybe somebody who is in creative being assigned a sales role. For example, cynics may say that actually, it’s because businesses don’t want to pay people redundancy pay, so they’ll they’ll put them in or reassign them to another role that they know the poor probably leave. So save the money there. And of course for the individual does cause stress and anxiety because potentially a brand new role and a brand new team, which was in an era you have limited experience in Amazon understand that you’re having to be resigned because the company is starting to make cuts. So yeah, that is quiet cutting and apparently has been on the rise over the last 12 months. What’s interesting is while the data is showing us that redundancies across sectors but in tech especially are going down, probably because they’ve got no one left to know and love to cut. But what is happening is quiet cutting or reassignment is on the increase. So yeah, they go quiet quitting.

Al Elliott 5:40
Sneaky, like from a, from a leader like, like a sneaky leader sitting in their lair. Like, look at my idea. That is very clever. I wouldn’t have thought that but from an actual let’s just be decent human beings, which are the big city?

Speaker 2 5:55
Yeah, I get you know what I think it all depends on the scenario. I think it depends what you’ve been reassigned to how it’s communicated, what options you’re given, you know, if you’re given a reassignment or voluntary redundancy, then that is a little bit more ethical perhaps, or if you’re consulted on the type of role that you go into if you have a choice. And I think of organizations, organizations are genuinely trying to keep hold of staff, not make them redundant, not you know, cut them from the organization entirely and put them in a very vulnerable position in unpredictable job market. You know, the maybe they are doing the right thing. I think again, it all comes down and not necessarily what you do, but how you do it.

Al Elliott 6:33
I love it. I love it. What else we got Lee

Leanne Elliott 6:34
What the fuck happened? 2021. So that was a headline that I read on a news article talking about a pizza, a new piece of psychological research, and it made me laugh out loud. What the fuck happened is 2021 time perception. We’ve talked a little bit about this before, because I did my undergraduate dissertation on the perception of time.

Al Elliott 6:57
Yeah. And also just just like when we’re chatting, we were saying the Augustine to last forever, September’s gone very quickly. And then and also it’s weird, isn’t it? Like a particular week could stretch it could feel like it stretches out yet you think? Oh, well, it was only like last week was March was nice. Like all bloody hell is September or something. So yeah, perception can I’m guessing shifts based on? What would have been good time. But time? I don’t know.

Speaker 2 7:20
Yeah, good time. But time age can can influence our perception of time. And interestingly, new research from the University of Aberdeen and Scotland has shown that the COVID pandemic and 2021 in particular completely warped our perception of time. Yes. So perception of time is actually a really interesting area to dive into. And if you are interested, let me know I’ll send you some I’ll send you some people to, to look out for. But one error of perception of time looks at our perception of time over a long period of time. So what we basically have is the anchor events that we will use to judge periods of time, you know, when you listen to tend to the top burning KB was a two week course, of course, and it’s like in what year was Barbie Girl, really the original release? You know, I always think that’s when I was in sixth form. So that would be about nine TA and it kind of helps you narrow it down. That’s what an anchor event is. Because you’re anchoring when you heard that song with where you were in your life. So all these different anchor events help us remember time and perceive time effectively. What new research is showing, perhaps, unsurprisingly, is that during the COVID COVID lockdowns where we weren’t really doing much, or we’re doing the same things every day, and we were missing out on these big anchor events, like birthday parties, or get togethers or new jobs, that not having those has completely warped our perception of time. So in terms of recall, we’re really not as not as accurate as we are when as we normally are when it comes to remembering events from 2021. But what’s also interesting is these time distortions have also been linked to higher levels of anxiety and depression,

Al Elliott 9:02
because everything’s sort of like the whole point in 2021. Was nothing really happened. Does that mean that we feel that the year lasted longer, it lasted shorter is that dependent on how the person experienced it?

Speaker 2 9:14
So for the the average person who went through a lockdown when without many anchor events, would experience it very quickly. And in a way that probably felt very slow at the time, but very quickly looking back, and when they try and think of, you know, they’ll say something like, Oh, we did that last year. And like, No, we did that in 2020. That kind of warps it If however, you were maybe a key worker during that time, I had lots of, of anchor events, probably quite traumatic anchoring events, then that year probably actually feels pretty long looking back but either way, they have been this whole distortion of time has also been linked interestingly in this study, to mental health, so those with higher levels of resilience seem less susceptible for To that perception of time being warped. Ah,

Al Elliott 10:03
okay, so higher resilience he just was that’s the whole point of resilience is you can just put up with things,

Leanne Elliott 10:09
or create your own anchors or create your own

Al Elliott 10:11
anchors. Lovely. Anything else love.

Speaker 2 10:14
Just a small announcement? Of course, we are still going to MadWorld. Don’t forget about that. If you’re not sure we’re talking about we are going to the mad world event in London on the 12th of October, we will leave a link in the show notes for you to find out more, or go back to news roundup last week, and we talked about it there. But another little event that is coming up 25th of September, which is a Monday at 10am. UK time. So GM

Al Elliott 10:38
T has it GMT plus London time.

Leanne Elliott 10:43
So yes, Monday the 25th of September at 10am GMT plus one thank you, Al. We are hosting a webinar in collaboration with map a long term client of ours, it is called creating great workplaces. And we will be talking about the steps you can take as a business owner to create an awesome workplace specifically, we’re going to be talking about employee insights, we’re gonna be talking about data, we’re going to be dipping our toe a little bit into recruitment with the help of another expert in recruitment called Craig and finally, we’re also going to be joined by the incredible incredible Sonya from ride the wave who you may well remember back from our coaches unleashed episode and she is going to be talking about the leadership program that we run oblong our company we run in collaboration with ride the wave. So yeah, very, very exciting.

Al Elliott 11:38
Do not miss that there’ll be a link in the show notes. You can you can pre you can pre Register Now can you

Leanne Elliott 11:45
can pre register now of course is completely free. And I think the recording is made available as well if you register, so go and register.

Al Elliott 11:52
Okay, so are we on to the show Lee?

Leanne Elliott 11:56
We are this is I’m excited about this episode. It really is an incredible story, isn’t it?

Al Elliott 12:00
Yeah, we’re both really excited about it. I did a bit of research and then did the interview with my niche. Leanne’s listen to the interview, read through transcripts and put together the episode. So we both feel like we really really know him. Also, some incredible highs, also some lows you’re talking about. But also he’s just sat down to earth. I’m sure I read somewhere that he has actors coming to his apartment for a cup of tea and a biscuit. And he never even mentioned they didn’t invite off Sachi for a cup of tea and biscuit. But then we’re a little further away. So we have got to Leon separate this up into several segments, which is going to start off with the early years, then we’re going to go into fueling entrepreneurship, then we’re going to advocacy and an empowerment segment four is words of encouragement and segment five is closing words of wisdom, which there are many from my niche. Do we start at the beginning? Lay the early years? Yes. Okay. So money story is one of like resilience. identity transformation, explains when he explains that his early years really, really shaped him in ways that only just kind of becoming clear to him right now. So money is the son of Indian immigrants who grew up in Dallas in Texas.

Speaker 1 13:09
It’s been said that your family or your upbringing or your your environments as a young child can influence who you might become. And certainly that was the case for me because I saw the grit of a young immigrant My father immigrated to America in the 60s. And I saw him look around while he had a full time job working at Xerox as an engineer in Dallas, but he looked around and realize there’s not a single Indian restaurant, not just in the city of Dallas, but the entire state of Texas, which, as you might know, it’s a very large state. And he really while he still had a job, he kind of moonlight and found a space figured out how to how to build a restaurant and he’s not a cook, not a not a chef by any means. But he was a guy with a with an ambition, a heaping cup of ambition, and a dream. And he opened India house. And he opened it just a couple of months after I was born in 1975. And my boyhood was spent in that restaurant. So I have very vivid memories of being in that restaurant as a boy like playpen literally behind the bar. As my parents were working in the restaurant. And it became a meeting place for the Indian community which was growing in Texas that also really offered Texans something very different. But you got to imagine offering Indian food to Texans in the 1970s was not necessarily a welcome act, it was it was almost an act of rebellion to try to say hey, try something different than meat and potatoes and steak and potatoes and and so that was he it wasn’t the easiest of goes he he had it for nine years but it was you know, there was ups and downs and it came with a lot of challenges. But I saw that and I respected it. And so I said one day I want to do what my dad did. And I want to not just open a restaurant but I want to open an Indian restaurant. There It took me four decades, but I did it. And so this was always in my head. That one day I want to do I want to I too want to be a restaurant tour. But with an Indian restaurant of my own, just like my dad did,

Leanne Elliott 15:12
before pursuing his entrepreneurial dreams money actually started out as pre med at Duke University, before completing his master’s in public health at Yale. In 1999, he moved to New York, and to use his words, as a queer South Asian son of immigrant parents living in a predominantly straight white male world, I think that

Speaker 1 15:35
the intersectionality of the various boxes that I might have checked, have all played into that. And that yet, that’s, that’s, that’s a big part of it. Because I’ve said a few times when, when the bar is set so low, what’s what’s what’s, what’s the damage of trying something? And so I, you know, for there was a part of portion of my life where the bar was ultimately set relatively low, like, what am I going to lose? You know, like, what, what’s at stake here, and especially when I moved to New York, and I was trying to find myself, I come out to some friends, but had not come out to my parents, I was, you know, had this job that I didn’t really like, but it was fine, I guess. And all these things were kind of coalescing to say, like, well, what if I were to change things up? What’s the big deal? What am I going to what am I going to lose? Because it didn’t feel like it was so well rooted. And some of that sometimes that’s helpful to feel that and then, you know, then you find your roots and you build your roots.

Al Elliott 16:37
Now, not long after moving to New York, Manish find himself living in downtown Manhattan, or unemployed, on 911 2001.

Speaker 1 16:46
I’m saddled with student loan debt from both undergrad and grad school. I am collecting unemployment in New York City. And to be fair, it was in 2001, that I was going through this. And I was unemployed living in downtown Manhattan on 911. And I was in my mid 20s. And when you when I lived through that, and there was a curfew and all things and and to sit in the air for weeks. I just kind of thought to myself, I mean, sure. The first thing to dry up were events, and nobody was going to even consider doing anything garish. But I had the belief that some you know that the industry would bounce back. And when it did, I wanted to be in it. I wanted to now I had lived through a life changing experience for me, even as a resident of the city, but as a citizen in the world. And I wasn’t going to live on anyone else’s terms. I was going to take some risks and do what I wanted to do. So I got into the event marketing business, no experience, no, no reason to get into it other than a fire in my belly

Leanne Elliott 17:57
911 not only changed New York and America really did change the world. I remember where I was when I was watching that news story unfold. The war in Afghanistan soon followed, as did increases in deportations increase in big surveillance stock markets nosedive and almost every sector was economically challenged. The US was already suffering a moderate recession at that time following bubble, and the terrorist attacks added further injury to the struggling business community. So all in all, a risky time to start a business

Speaker 1 18:32
risk is something that I think a lot about, I am a natural born risk taker is something that I have overindulged with where I bring too much of it into my life. And I’ve learned from that. There’s some times where I can walk a little too sheepishly. When I know that I’m empowered and emboldened I should take a bigger leap. My husband, for example, is a very risk averse person he likes to work in, in bigger companies. He likes the structure and understanding that the organization, that bigger organization where I’ve always gravitated towards smaller organizations, being an entrepreneur, taking risks falling and getting back up, etc. So everybody’s very different. And a lot of this risk calculus is built before we’re ever in the workplace because it’s built by how we grew up what our lived experience has been in and around us as a child as a student. So I came to the table as a professional, having already unknowingly, but taken a lot of risks. And so I felt a little bit of comfort with the notion of risk because I said, well, listen, I’ve been doing it this long. So why, what why, why stop now, one of the biggest swings I made was when I decided to get into the industry of event marketing. So I completed a graduate degree in public health. And I thought that I would have a long career in nonprofits and and working for NGO of some sort. And I did that for about two years directly out of grad school. But during those two years, I would get what I used to call the Sunday night blues. And I was like, oh, no, do I have to go back? And, and it’s part of my desire to build a culture was actually a very influential two years for me. Because I knew what I needed to avoid. Because if I said not for myself, but I said, if I build it now, you know, when I found myself as a founder, and building a staff it Oh, wow, I know what it’s like on the other side. How do I make sure those people that under are under my employed, do not have the Sunday night blues, because I’ve had them. And I think I play a role in whether or not they have them. So it shined a light on the idea of what it what it was like, and not that the organization was in a great organization that did important work in the nonprofit space. But it wasn’t right for me. I wanted to be in a fast paced environment, I wanted to be in a diverse environment, I wanted to be with a different type of person, like a younger, feeling dynamic in a professional environment. And that just wasn’t that. And so the biggest swing, and really this relationship with risk was born out of me saying, okay, you know what, I don’t have any experience in this industry. I have very few contacts in this industry. But I have a deep desire to get into this industry. And I think I’m just going to do it.

Al Elliott 21:36
So that was my niches, early years going on to now kind of the fueling the entrepreneurial spirit. This is this is where money’s used his lived experiences to fuel this sort of entrepreneurial drive, you could tell straight away even at the early stage, he was an entrepreneur in 2003, when he founded mkg, which we talked about, were the women we had on about 10 episodes ago, and remained his presence up until 2019. Now, despite having not much experience in the event, marketing space, man, he grew mkg to be one of the one of the industry’s most highly sought after creative agencies, multiple awards, look them up, they want every award that possibly can. And with offices in New York and Los Angeles. So fast forward to 2013 Man he showed in pink Sparrow, which is it kind of grew into this independent design and scenic fabrication shop, which was very closely linked to MK J. 2019. So what we’re talking about five years ago, four years ago, managed sold both MK G and pink Sparrow to a company called acceleration community of companies ACC. So you think well, maybe you’ve done enough maybe it’s a time to retire, not for my niche.

Speaker 1 22:47
I have since since I got out of the agency business have pivoted to the hospitality business and I currently run and operate two hospitality outposts in New York City, a very cool contemporary Indian restaurant called Sona on 20th Street here in Manhattan. And I’ve revived an iconic cocktail bar cocktail den called Temple Bar that was open for about 33 years closed down for about five and then I reopened it in 2021. So Temple Bar and through Sona. I have since launched a homeless home line called Sona home, which I also run. So yeah, there’s a lot going on. So fast

Al Elliott 23:27
forward to 2021, and so many shopping Sona with Priyanka Chopra, the Bollywood actress, he was determined to open this like brilliant restaurant in New York. But the and the ongoing pandemic just didn’t seem to stop him. As many as she explains risk makes life remarkable. We’ve got this

Speaker 1 23:45
one shot. And who knows, you know, it’s not up to us, oftentimes how long this shot is and what their trajectory may be. So let’s add a little risk. Let’s let’s let’s do some stuff. I mean, even opening a restaurant as a first time restaurant tour, and I took a big swing, it’s a big restaurant, in the heart of the flat iron District, which is a very hot area. That is an Indian restaurant when New York wasn’t asking for another Indian restaurant, you know, it was not a this was not me filling a void. This was me taking a big swing. And, and I think for all those reasons, it’s naturally been connected to this notion of risk. And sure, I’ve stumbled and I’ve made some bigger. I’ve made some mistakes along the way. But I think ultimately, I get better and better at understanding what my relationship with risk is. But I am a firm believer as you started this conversation with the notion that risk makes life remarkable.

Al Elliott 24:44
So let’s just go 2001 to 2021. These are 20 years money. She’s gone from being unemployed living in downtown Manhattan to being a serial entrepreneur with an estimated net worth of $1 million. During that time, he’s experienced 911 EBIT. since the global financial crisis in oh seven, the COVID that pandemic in like 1920 21. And that’s aside from the personal experience of being a queer South Asian son of an immigrant person living in this predominantly straight male white world. I was curious if money should have been third or fourth generation immigrant to do you think you’d have the same drive? Do you think you’d have the same relationship with risk? So I asked him?

Speaker 1 25:26
It’s such an interesting question. And it’s something I actually think about. And I think the answer is probably not, because with time comes dilution, and it’s something that you have to kind of fight the headwinds on. And so I can call this the emotion and the experience of my parents walking into so the name of the restaurant is Sona my restaurant and soon as the Hindi word for gold. And so I remember my parents walking into the restaurant for the very first time, which was in April of 2021. I opened in March, and the vaccine was starting to become more and more prevalent. And so travel was starting to pick up very loosely, but my parents were vaccinated and felt like they could come to New York, and they really wanted to experience Sona. They came for five nights, and they went to Sona five nights in a row, they were so proud, but what I distinctly remember is the first day they walked in, there was a real sense of emotion that they felt that I felt that we all felt, which was not just that, while you have created something in a physical space, which is hard to do, in New York City, in the wake of a global pandemic, etcetera. But there was also something about I have created a link to a country that I will never know in which the way in which they know it. But there’s a sense of, of ongoing connection, which I, I know made them feel very proud, because certainly my kids and my nieces and nephews, as the as the distance appears, I mean, they really feel in their heart. They’re American, and I was born in America, so I feel American, but I, I really feel very closely connected to the country of my parents birth, that will change as generations go forth. And so now there’s a connection to this country and a connection to a culture that is indelible because there’s a physical restaurant that will always be there long, hopefully, even after my parents are not no longer here. And I think that brought a sense of pride to all of us to know that, wow, you’ve you, you’ve stepped up. Because if I just open a restaurant that wasn’t an Indian restaurant, we probably wouldn’t be feeling that or we wouldn’t be feeling that but that is it’s very true that this was important for me for my story for the next generations story so that my son can grow up grow up going to an Indian restaurant and feeling like it’s a part of his story to

Leanne Elliott 28:02
family is hugely important to many she has described them as his most important ally and feels blessed to have that unconditional support. When he says family expanded in 2008 when he met his now husband, Andrew Wingrove. Andrew is Delta’s Managing Director of Product Strategy and customer experience power couple to say the lease. Together they live in a stunning loft on East 13th Street in the heart of Manhattan’s flat iron district. You might go Leann how’d you know it’s stunning. It’s been featured in Vogue, the Wall Street Journal and The New York Post to name a few it is goals is beautiful. The other cool thing about Rhenish is Hermes it is famous for hosting an annual salad toss off and I’m a niche where we’re from you not allowed to St. Joseph but in American it’s fine. So yeah, annual salad. Toss off, which is a salad competition complete with celebrity judges such as Anne Hathaway and a grand prize of first class round trip plane tickets to anywhere in the world. I’ll be honest niche I toss a good salad

Al Elliott 29:16
sorry, Malaysia being so childish here. Yeah, in England that does have or in the UK that does have a slightly different connotation.

Leanne Elliott 29:24
So in 2022, Manish and Andrew became parents adopting their son Adrian, who recently turned to my niece explained how risk also played a role in their decision to become parents.

Speaker 1 29:38
When my husband and I decided to start a family. It was very interesting because as a same sex male couple, your choice is pretty binary. You either work with a surrogate and you go down to the process of surrogacy or you go through you decide to do adoption and When is more prescribed surrogacy because you’re a little bit more in the driver’s seat because you’re choosing the egg donor and etc. So you have, you have a little bit more understanding of the child that you will be bringing into the world. And what is much more risky, where you’re like, Okay, there’s going to be another birth family involved in some capacity, you don’t know about the upbringing into the day you met, or, you know, the prenatal care or whatever it might be. And for me, it was just, it was always a very clear without hesitation decision that I wanted to adopt. Again, because I knew that there’s more risk. But it was also just that that was our and thankfully, my husband was in complete agreement, and he felt the exact same way. He’s like, This is Our Story. We’re ready to walk into the unknown and see what might emerge and see who’s out there. And so, again, that’s that’s a that’s a riskier decision, but the one that felt the most comfortable to both of us.

Leanne Elliott 30:57
So moving on to advocacy and empowerment. MANISH has described himself as an insatiable people person as a leader he believes that being LGBT plus gives him a heightened sense of empathy and understanding, he values inclusion immensely, and throughout his career has dedicated himself to building people first organizations, Manish explained that he has experienced being othered and has used that experience to empower himself and other people,

Speaker 1 31:29
I would say that without a doubt, I am a better CEO, and a better leader and a better cheerleader and, and builder of a workplace culture, because I am a queer South Asian, son of immigrant person living in a predominantly straight white male world, I can say that full stop and the reason is, is because I have understood the notion of being othered I have understood the notion of trying to fit in, I have understood the notion of, of trying to find pull up, you know, painstakingly or like elbowing my way to get a seat at the table. And so, those experiences have just helped me to understand a employee base has has have helped me to understand what it’s like to desire, a place of belonging. So how can I create a workplace that is that that emulates a place of belonging. So it has helped me to become a more understanding empathetic, worldly leader, because I didn’t grow up in a way where we’re doors were opened or chairs were pulled out for me. And so that has helped a lot in my experience.

Speaker 2 33:06
MANISH is a fierce advocate for the Indian American community and LGBT plus and women’s rights. He currently serves on the board of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the American Indian Foundation, and the J. William Fulbright foreign Scholarship Fund. Previously, Manish was a member of the Board of Directors for the Stonewall Community Foundation, and on the leadership committee of quorum. And our Leadership Initiative dedicated to increasing LGBT representation on corporate boards

Al Elliott 33:39
ministries, passionate about this continued visibility at the top ranks of business and politics for under representative communities. So representation matters. And as a leader that also means be accessible to others ministry explains the visible leadership serves as a key pillar in his approach to building people first cultures

Speaker 1 33:59
culture is not by any means a one size fits all. So while I certainly loved and took a real keen interest in building a culture, in a creative agency, almost all of which I learned, I assumed I would easily translate it to now working in hospitality in the hospitality industry. And candidly, it’s it’s quite different. And it has really, it’s a entirely different experience of, of workplace because the workplace is a nighttime workplace, the workplace is a it’s a, let’s call it a little more transient people might come in and out the workplace is one that is centered around in some ways, the the notion of drinking and eating and, and so these are all things that have to be factored in when you’re building a workplace culture that might not have been in when I was in my previous life as a agency guy and as a creative agency guy. So Is there I think it’s it’s, it’s I’ve been learning that it’s very different. That said, I can really realize that there are certain things that connect to culture that are that are foolproof, and that really work. One of which that I’ve always felt is very, a key pillar to building culture, which I now use, effectively, I built it and I grew the muscle in my, in my creative agency. And now I’ve honed it and I continue to leverage it is access to leadership. So access to leadership, which really means ultimately, access to me and other senior leaders, is a key pillar to building a culture. Because if people feel like they have access to leadership, and they feel like they leadership has a real relationship with the employee in the team, then ultimately, you are building loyalty or building culture, you’re, you are building connection, in a way that’s very hard to do when when the leader or the leadership is absent. And so that’s something that I learned very quickly and dramatically in the in the agency life in my agency life that I’ve continued to use in my hospitality life.

Al Elliott 36:15
So we’re talking multiple businesses, multiple board appointments, a husband, a two year old son, and yet man, he still managed to find time to be accessible to his teams, I had to ask how the hell are you doing this?

Speaker 1 36:27
Yeah, it’s certainly it’s true, because all of us are overscheduled and have too many commitments. I think you do the access to leadership on your terms. And so I did them on on my terms, which was that I set up times that were meant to have access to leadership. So once a quarter, I did a a gathering that was limited to I think, 90 minutes, or maybe up to two hours. That was for all new hires, all new hires, where I personally would gather all the new hires across the companies at the time, when there were multiple companies that we would meet, not only would we meet, but I would invite them to my home. And so I would have them in my home for 90 minutes. And the amount of loyalty and connection that was built a amongst all the new the newbies at the company, the be the amount of people that said to me that while I’ve been in the business for, you know, been working for 20 years, I’ve never been to a CEOs home, I’ve never been invited into a CEO. So now I’m a I’m a I’m an I’m an entertainer, I like the business but also we’re we’re in the business previously, of creating events and creating experiences, I’m currently in the business of creating moments and memories over a meal or over a drink. So for me to invite people into my home, they perfect sense, and I was willing to do it. Now you don’t have to do it that way. But to take 90 minutes, once a quarter, and to welcome in the new hires in a way that feels meaningful, and feels like wow, I’m glad you’re here. And and and then it’s not a ton of one on one time, but rather, it’s a little bit of a group, but you self select the group, because everyone kind of feels a connection to those around them. Even if they might not work together, they might not work at the same company, they might not have any duties that are overlapping, they certainly are going to meet people and when they see each other in the workplace or see each other on a zoom, they’re going to kind of head nod and know one another. Because they all were not only connected, but they were all connected through the CEO at that at in his personal home. So that’s, you know, that’s an example of something that I would do. There are many other examples of ways that I would I would create the access through my on my terms. And and sometimes sure you would get from my executive system. Hey, so and so wants to speak with you. And I would have them dig into okay, what’s it about? Could it go to another manager? Could it go to their manager? Or I would go to their manager and say, Hey, I got a request incoming two or three? Let me speak to them first. And you know, like so you can mitigate your your your time involvement. But when I see them in the in the workplace, I would say hey, I know you were reaching out but hope did all of that get resolved? Are you good at who said Yeah, I’m good. Thanks. So you know, like, it’s not that you’re avoiding or you’re hiding. But you’re just being strategic about the use of your time

Leanne Elliott 39:20
management and to explain how being accessible translates into workplace culture, and specifically creating an authentic workplace.

Speaker 1 39:29
It’s a bit of a dream. And I’ll start by saying that because an authentic workplace is a is a place that is always looking in the mirror to understand how it’s how it’s doing it and it’s it’s a journey, and it’s certainly a marathon because it’s a long journey. But ultimately, an authentic workplace is one that recognizes the workplace has human like quality Ladies, as do the humans that work there. And you need to be able to define what is this? What are the characteristics and the qualities of this workplace and understanding and checking yourself on? Is this a cold and austere workplaces because they’re certainly cold and austere people. And that’s the way that they live their lives and feel comfortable in their own existence? Or is this a warm and welcoming place? Is this a place where, where things happen without people knowing that so there’s a sense of B of a jarring workplace, because I always used to think about this idea about the power of communication is that, you know, if you were to redesign the office and move people’s desks, it’s not that it’s a bad idea. But it’d be like somebody coming into your apartment or your home and, and suddenly you come back and your sofas in a different place, it’s, maybe it’s in a better place, but like, Hey, can I get a heads up? I didn’t know this, like, it’s just it’s a bit jarring. And so it’s about the power of communication and understanding, you know, I’ve been I’ve led businesses with as much transparency as possible, certainly, when we were going through a sales process, then I was, you know, the the agency was being acquired, of course, you can’t be fully transparent, because there’s, there’s risk involved with that, that you can’t put into the table. But I built a team around me that that I could be transparent with and needed to be in the inner circle, etc. And so you kind of work in ways that makes sense for the business, but always being true to the characteristics and the human like qualities that you’ve chosen the business to espouse and to be entered into. Crew into portray. So that’s kind of you know, I used to be very happy when people would walk into our office, and this was, you know, pre COVID time when, when in place in person, workplaces, were somewhat paramount, the people would walk in, and they would meet me, and they said, Wow, it just feels good in here. And that was a big win to me, because they were a visitor for an hour, they didn’t know anybody, or they or they didn’t maybe know that many people that work there. So they were not reacting to anything they had been told, or some speaking to any employees, but they were reacting to a sense of what it felt like to walk in the door. And that was, I think, a big win. So that that’s the idea of building authentic workplaces is really been confronting yourself. And this is where when I say we, I mean the leadership team. And if you don’t have buy in from the CEO, that other key leaders and executives, it’s not going to happen. This is not this cannot be relegated to HR. It just it won’t, nothing will happen unless you’re getting real senior leadership by you.

Speaker 2 42:51
So moving on to some words of encouragement for other leaders from my niche. My niche isn’t advocate of people first employee. Second, he says that recognizing and respecting that notion can make an organization sore. Yeah,

Al Elliott 43:07
there’s a huge responsibility on the shoulders of leaders and managers today. And Manish offers some exceptional advice for anyone listening, who may be facing people and culture challenges,

Speaker 1 43:17
as you just mentioned, your time is, is not only limited, but also your role isn’t to be everything for everyone, really, who you need to be as a CEO, who you really need to be as you see, you need to look at your direct reports and look at the leaders that you are empowering and working with more closely than understand how are they doing? Because we’ve all heard the adage that people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. And so if people aren’t leaving, if people are leaving managers, then it’s your role as a CEO, to empower, inspire, and lead those that are leading. And so that’s a lot of how I’ve spent my time is to understand where is where are the weak points? Where are the points of unease as it relates to leaders? And how do I how do I work around them and work with them to bolster? So a lot of what that is that is a little bit more one on one, that spending time with your direct reports, spending time with your leaders, understanding what the dynamics are, are within their organizations and within their groups, and really honing in on the notion that people’s output is ultimately and even more so with a younger workforce that we’re all working with and understanding how they’re motivated. Their output is dependent upon their experience at work. And that experience at work while some people from a different generation can be frustrated by that, because why are we now responsible for the happiness ultimately we are? We’re responsible for how people are because we’re expecting a lot of them not only from our standpoint, but from a out putt standpoint. So if we’re expecting a lot, we need to understand how we can get what we need and how they are going to get what they need from us as well. So it’s a fine balance, I respect the fact that we still have to be the employer. And we’re not a best friend, or we’re not a therapist, but there is a part of it that just you have to tap into the humanity of it.

Al Elliott 45:19
So when he went on to explain that it’s not about having all of the answers as a CEO, it’s about being authentic, having authenticity and conviction in your beliefs and your values. This is going to help you to find the answers even when you’re the one put on the spot.

Speaker 1 45:34
I was I was interviewing a guy and I really wanted him to work for us as as we were building out a digital department. I really wanted him to work for us at mkg. And I was kind of the last interview he had been through several and things were going well. And I was excited to sit with him. And at a certain point in the conversation, I thought it was going well. And you know, things were moving in the direction that I hoped they would. He suddenly said to me, and of course you always want to be willing to answer questions of an interviewee. He said, Hey, do you mind if I ask you a question? I said, Yeah, of course. And he said, Well, can I ask you? What’s your motto? of ship? What is my motto? And it was at a time, like are in that moment, I kind of panic because I said, Well, suddenly, the tables have turned in. And now I’m the panic interviewee without the right answer, and I don’t want to mess this up. And so very quickly, he turned the table. And I thought about it for a second. And that’s when I kind of I think maybe uttered for the first time something that had been in my head for some time, I said, you know, I don’t. Some time ago, I decided that I don’t want to have demarcations in my life, in some ways between work and life. And around friend and colleague. In sometimes you could even say between night and day, I kind of want everything to, to flow. And not to say I’m going to be best friends with every colleague or, or there isn’t a need for downtime. But I want my life. I want my life, to make sense for my work and my work to make sense for my life, and not have the to really be oil and water where they never shall meet. And as I said, with that in mind, I guess my motto is this idea that I don’t live in a black and white world, but I want to live in the gray. And he sat there and he really took it in and he said well, I like that. That’s interesting. And ultimately, he did not only get offered the job, but accepted and work with us for several years. But then it was really at his insistence he’s uh, you know, you should kind of think about, like this idea of live in the gray and how you might if since you do espouse it, from what I can see how you can maybe promote it. And so but that’s that I remember distinctly that conversation with him, because it helped me to articulate the way in which I had been living, which was this notion that it’s not a black and white world. But actually, there’s a real beauty in the gray.

Al Elliott 48:18
When he went on to turn this motto into an actual business. He founded this company culture consultancy, that basically challenges this work life divide, they help companies to foster engaging company cultures.

Speaker 1 48:30
Yeah, so it’s so interesting, because I don’t really think about things as a balance, because I find balance to be precarious. And it’s hard to keep balance. Like if you think about being on a seesaw or a teeter totter. You know, like, as a kid, you know, you’ve got to find that perfect weighted balance to to stay, to stay in a horizontal position. And so I think about this notion of blend more than balance and the notion, the idea is not that work overtakes, in the work, that work is omnipresent, because that is destructive. And debilitating. But rather, I think that the idea is that there’s this there’s a sensical nation, nature, and there’s a an understanding that this work is chosen work. And, you know, oftentimes that let’s be honest, that’s a very privileged conversation and and privilege, you you come into the idea of chosen work, privilege, because some people have to do work they might not enjoy or might not choose. So I respect the the privilege they’re in. But I think that there’s a recognition that the willingness to, to understand that work is going to be here and work is forever going to be part of my life. And so how do I not dread it? How do I not despise it? How do I not avoid read it, but rather, how can I factor it in? So if I love music, but I work in an accounting firm, is there a world in which I could, you know, expose some of my colleagues to some of my favorite new bands that they might not have heard of, and then come up with a common dialogue within the within the within the workplace with just a maybe one or two people. But ultimately, maybe we’ll go see a show with somebody. Sure, I might not work in my dream industry of music, but at least it can I integrate it a little bit more. So that way, it feels a little less, less arduous. I mean, I just think that the two and the blend does not need to be a full blend of, of, you know, you can imagine buckets of sand coming together. It could just be a little bit of a seep, a seep of one into the other. So that way just starts to feel like Hey, I had a good day today. Because my goal isn’t just make people have more good days. And if and if they’re coming to the workplace, fighting it and wishing that this wasn’t true or wasn’t their reality. It’s tough to have a good day.

Leanne Elliott 51:05
Live in the gray is not only a great motto, it’s a really interesting business. They describe themselves as disruptors, innovators, thought leaders that believe work and life are not black and white. As a team. Their mission is to offer resources, experiences and insights to help individuals and organizations become more holistically successful. Their supporters are far and wide and include big names such as TEDx, Pepsi time. And Lulu laminate to name but a few, we will leave a link to Manish his LinkedIn profile in the show notes where you’ll find all the links to all of Malaysia’s businesses, including live in the gray.

Al Elliott 51:46
So closing words of wisdom, there are many when it comes to manage, got the end of the interview. And I was like, I just need to ask him this question. I said, What should I have asked you that I haven’t yet. And in true thought leader style, my niche steer the conversation into the debate of 2023 remote versus office working?

Speaker 1 52:06
Oh, that’s a great question to end with. Because once again, the tables have turned. And now I’m the interviewer. I think that maybe the one thing that would be interesting to explore is a lot of what I’m pulling from, is from my experience of running a business in a pre COVID era. And maybe it’s curious and your listeners would be curious about what does this mean, when the the notion of work and, and a person’s relationship with a workplace or even with a company has, in some ways, forever changed, given the pandemic that we all live through. And it’s interesting for me, because I now work in a business that is 100% location based. You cannot work from home, when you work in restaurants and bars, you have to physically show up. And so it’s very different, though, of course, when you’re in a professional environment that is an office based environment where arguably people can work from home. So how do you build a culture, it’s something that I’ve been thinking about, because I grew up in the world as being an office person, I liked going to an office. And I liked what that created. And I still think there’s a real power in that. And but I know that younger generation certainly do not necessarily feel the same and don’t understand the power they’re in. And so that’s something I think is something that needs to continue to be explored

Speaker 2 53:46
an incredible interview an incredible life and incredible career. And there is still so much more to come. And each thank you so much for sharing your lessons, shall we end out by just maybe condensing them into into a few that that resonated with those 100%. Let’s do that.

Leanne Elliott 54:06
I think the first one for me is embrace your differences. Just know this is gonna sound really stupid. I don’t mean to take away from an issue in any way. But there’s really resonated with me. And sometimes it’s not always about where things come from. It’s how they make you feel. I was watching on Sunday, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you know, the film. And as a part of it, one of the characters Nick protocol is says Do not let your past dictate who you are, but let it be part of who you will become. I thought that was kind of cool. And I think Manish kind of sums up that your past your heritage and where you come from is incredibly important in shaping your views, your values, your drive, your spirit, but at the same time, he’s shown how this can be applied in a whole new world of America, in New York, across industries across businesses. And I just think that that blend is really beautiful. So yeah, if you are out there and you have been othered let’s use that to empower ourselves to do amazing things.

Al Elliott 55:02
Bravo. Oh, nice. Okay, so number two, risk makes life remarkable when he said that a few times. But there’s something about the Word risk that just seems to be in the DNA. I counted in the transcript. 39 times money said the word risk. So if you are starting a business, if you want to grow a business, bear in mind, you have to embrace the risk. You cannot do anything without risk.

Leanne Elliott 55:28
Another great phrase there I think is no risk makes life remarkable. That’s a tattoo. I think there’s not many things I’d get tattooed. Don’t have any myself, but it’s kind of cool in it.

Al Elliott 55:38
It is cool. It is cool. I guess I’m too fat. I’m not too soft to get a tattoo. I can’t deal with needles. But anyway, you gotta have you got a third one?

Speaker 2 55:46
Yeah, my third one is, I find it really inspiring how my niche is spending, you know, the time he has to build up others to be an advocate for his communities. To you know, not be that Poppy, you know, poppy syndrome is when you you know, you push others down. Or indeed, if somebody who’s doing well you undermine their achievements or, or make them feel bad about them. Don’t be a puppy. To quote, Sonia Thompson, our friend on the podcast network, we grow stronger together,

Al Elliott 56:13
there’s something about my niche, which is just authentic is accessible and is empathic. And this is the most important thing in to be a leader, you can tell that it’s not just about building businesses having business service savviness if that’s a word business, savviness but also he’s got these people savvy, he understands how people work and he cares passionately about the people in Leeds

Leanne Elliott 56:38
and I think fifth this whole idea of work life blend, I really liked what he was saying about balance always being a word he felt uncomfortable with to describe that because it is this precarious. Do we get it right? Do we fall? I like blend. I’ve also also heard it called integration. So I think that is a really interesting, interesting thing to reflect on as a leader, your relationship with work and life and how those two connect together. And I think in that as well, is probably going to start to maybe influenced your thoughts on remote versus office working. So yeah, an interesting and interesting topic. I think we could have a whole episode speaking to Manish about Yeah,

Al Elliott 57:19
love to have him back on love to be invited to his salad toss off. Where Yeah,

Leanne Elliott 57:25
Leon you can say Tossa

Al Elliott 57:29
Yeah, apologies for being pure I’ll is just in Britain. That’s quite a funny term. And I’m sure there’s terms in America that you would laugh at us using that we wouldn’t have a clue of. So that’s it for yet another way

Leanne Elliott 57:44
of course, we will be continued the conversation over on LinkedIn this week. Let us know what was your favorite lesson or bit of inspiration from Manish how was it maybe inspired you to to change something up in in your leadership approach this week? Let us know.

Al Elliott 57:59
Right. So check the show notes. And we will see you next week for we’ve got I think it’s the very last of our second or last of our water cooler guests.

Leanne Elliott 58:09
Oh yeah, we’ve got a very interesting panel next week including some very high profile UK people.

Al Elliott 58:16
So tune in next week. And make sure you subscribe and tell everyone and just tell a good get on LinkedIn if you enjoyed this tell us you liked it right

Leanne Elliott 58:23
Ali started sad but needy now.

Al Elliott 58:27
Please love me. Please love me. Please touch me.

Leanne Elliott 58:31
Bye. Bye. Do you just say Please touch me.

Al Elliott 58:35
I meant like digitally not like digitally with a digit I mean digitally through the medium of digital

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