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Susan Room speaks with Ashutosh Garg as a guest on his popular podcast "The Brand Called You".

Eighteen months ago, I had the pleasure of joining entrepreneur, coach, and prolific author Ashutosh Garg on his popular podcast, "The Brand Called You". Ashutosh was keen for me to explain what business voice coaching involves, and how it can change people's lives.

Watch the video - (23 mins - full transcript below)


7 Chakras of Management by Ashutosh Garg

In his latest book, "The 7 Chakras of Management: Wisdom From Indic Scriptures" Ashutosh uses storytelling and episodes from the Indic religions to demonstrate how the 7 chakras changed his life.

I find the chapter on the throat chakra (Vishuddhi) particularly intriguing, as it reminds me of the profound impact of the human voice on leading and managing others. 

Do the Indic scriptures inspire and shape the way you manage and lead people? If yes, how specifically do they help you? I'd love to hear your thoughts and views.  

Transcript with timestamps

00:00 - Introduction


Ashutosh: Welcome to another episode of The Brand Called You. A vodcast and podcast show that brings you leadership lessons, knowledge, experience and wisdom from thousands of successful individuals from around the world. I'm your host, Ashutosh Garg.

And today I'm privileged to welcome a very senior professional and, a jazz singer from the UK, Susan Room. Susan, welcome to the show.


Susan: Thank you so much Ashutosh.


00:34 – About Susan Room


Ashutosh: Susan is a business voice coach. She's an amateur jazz singer. So, Susan, let's start talking first about coaching.


After a successful corporate career, what made you select coaching, as the way to go?


00:48 - What made you select coaching?


Susan: Wow. Well, I think there are probably three reasons for that. When I was in corporate life, I had a wonderful time. The rewards were very high, but the costs were also very high. And I guess what I noticed was an opportunity to enable people, particularly women. So, I was often the lone woman in the room and I noticed there was an opportunity to coach other women, to speak up, to speak out, to be confident, and that caused me to leave the corporate world, to retrain as a coach.


I also wanted to start a family and the type of work that I was doing at the time, I had an executive role in large multinational organisations, lots of travel - that really wasn't compatible with having a family. So yeah, some of the reasons why I stepped away from corporate life…


01:55 – What is a voice coach?


Ashutosh: Wonderful. And what is a voice and executive coach? What kind of work do you do?


Susan: Yeah, well, it's a new category actually. I think I probably can say I created it. There are a lot of executive coaches out there, qualified, hopefully most of them are qualified! There are a few voice coaches, professionally qualified voice coaches, but there are very few who, like me, have the corporate experience and are also professional voice and executive coaches.


And what I do is coach people. I coach mindset, body language, speech and voice because for me they are interrelated. How we think really affects how we show up physically, verbally, what we say and vocally how we say things. So that's my point of difference, I think.


Ashutosh: Fascinating. And for my viewers and listeners, could you share one or two examples of what kind of mistakes people make when it comes to their voice?

Susan: Interesting. So, mistakes. As I'm a coach, I try not to judge and say people have made ‘mistakes’ or things are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. I'm more inclined perhaps to help people raise their awareness around, for example, unhelpful speech habits. So, we are all creatures of habit. When we speak, we say ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ and we use filler words and we might exaggerate occasionally, and we might undermine ourselves occasionally, but when we do those things excessively, those become unhelpful speech habits.


So, raising clients awareness about the sorts of habits that are getting in the way of them coming across as confident and clear, that's at the heart of my work, alongside a number of other things.


04:08 – How do you coach a person’s voice?


Ashutosh: Amazing. You also say that ‘voice is a stunning instrument that we seldom play’.

My question to you is, how do you train or coach a person's voice?


Susan: So, I don't train, I'm a coach and there's a big difference. I'm not training people to do specific things at specific times. I'm again raising their awareness about what the voice is capable of, helping them explore their voice, prepare it.


So isn't it interesting, when we go into conversations, presentations, meetings, most of us are really focused on what we're going to say, but few of us really think about how we're going to say it?


A lot of my work is rehearsing people or inviting them to record themselves saying what they want to say in different ways, and then listening back and hearing it and wondering which of these different versions of the way I'm saying it lands well with me.


How do I want to come across and how do I want my voice to land?


05:19 - How has your background supported your own coaching philosophy, your style, and your values?


Ashutosh: Very interesting. My next question to you is that given your corporate experience, given all the work that you've done in the corporate world, how has your background supported your own coaching philosophy, your style and your values?


Susan: Oh, yeah, well, I guess my corporate background has made me very aware of the importance of adding value. And this is again where I have very strong beliefs around the profession of coaching. The coach training that I have done and the studies I have done.


I have a Master's in Voice Studies from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. I'm a Professional Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation.


This integrity, this professionalism is very much one of my key values and that comes from having worked in corporate life where professionalism and qualifications were very important. So, I think that has had a big impact on me. And knowing that corporates who are mainly my clients, are looking for return on investment, they are looking for work that really focusses on specific goals.


It's very easy just to have a ‘nice chat’ about coaching, but for it to really work and transform business performance and personal performance, you need to work with very clear goals and have clear measures in place to see what progress is being made. So those are some of the things that underpin my philosophy, my style, and certainly have shaped my values.


07:02 - What are your own unique perspectives that you bring to a coaching relationship?


Ashutosh: Very interesting. And what would you say are your own unique perspectives that you bring to a coaching relationship?


Susan: Well, certainly the fact that I have sat in many boardrooms during my corporate life and experienced the cut and thrust of the boardroom. That I have also managed the people and the politics and the processes within corporates. It gives me a really deep insight into the challenges and opportunities that many of my clients face, whether I'm working one to one with busy professionals or with groups of executives.


I think this deep understanding and hands on experience of the pressures and politics in organisations, certainly informs my coaching. Yeah, I think that would be my main response here. It gives me, perhaps not a unique perspective but also having been the only woman in the room for many years and understanding how sometimes it is challenging for women to make their voices heard.


And not just for women, by the way. So increasingly I'm working with under-represented, groups in general. So shortly I'll be running a programme for LGBTQ+ plus colleagues at the Financial Times, where I do a lot of work here in London. So, it really is about understanding and having witnessed how people in the workplace often don't share their wisdom, their ideas, their opinions, because either they don't like the sound of their voice or they don't feel confident enough to speak out. Or maybe they even fear repercussions about speaking out and up. So I guess those are some of the things that, inform my work.


09:26 - How does culture impact coaching?


Ashutosh: Amazing, amazing. My next question to you, Susan, is that based on my own many years of experience, culture makes a big difference in the way we interact with people. The UK is a melting pot for all kinds of cultures, religions, languages, et cetera.


My question to you is, how does culture impact coaching?


Susan: Really interesting question. Thank you for it, because I was discussing it with somebody just this morning. I think there are two answers to this. One could say that it's appropriate to find a coach who is a good cultural fit.


Ashutosh: Correct.


Susan: If you're working for somebody who comes from a particular, is of a particular nationality and religion and socio-demographic part of society, you may be tempted to think, well, they need to be coached by somebody who is like them.


And I guess there are some strong arguments for that. I think, however, there are equally strong arguments to live and breathe diversity and inclusion by saying that the coach can be from any religion, from any ethnicity, from any nationality, as long as the coach and the coachee have a chemistry.


As long as the coach is qualified to do the work, as long as both parties speak the same language and can communicate clearly and effectively. As long as the chemistry is good, those are the things that really matter far more than anything else. So, I think I'm really excited actually about the opportunities to mix and match coaches and coaches from all parts of the world.


11:16 - How does a coachee evaluate their coach?


Ashutosh: Correct. Well said. A question that I've often been asked is how does a coachee evaluate their coach? What are your thoughts?


Susan: So, my thoughts are that the coachee, with the coach's help right at the beginning of the relationship, sets some goals and we agree how those goals are going to be measured.

How are we going to know if the coaching is working? And it could be something as simple as somebody is struggling to speak up.


We agree that they will start to log the moments that they find difficult. They will then put into practice some of the techniques and insights that we work on together and then they will log how many times they speak up more confidently, more clearly, more concisely during a week, for example, so we can find very tangible measures of success and I think the coachee is going to evaluate their coach on those measures.


So how well does the coach allow the coachee, help the coachee to reach their goals?


But there's also more than that, because a good coaching experience often delivers a lot more than just what you've agreed the goals should be. You know there's a chemistry, there's a deeper work that happens that allows the coachee to leave the coaching relationship with the tools and techniques and a sense of confidence, really, then to own their time, their space, their potential.


So yeah, there are some tangibles and there are some intangibles, I think.


13:07 - About Make your Mark with Susan Room


Ashutosh: Wonderful, wonderful, great response. My next question to you is about your flagship programme Make your Mark with Susan Room. Tell me a little bit about this programme.


Susan: So this programme is a 15 hour virtual programme which I deliver globally, particularly for the Financial Times, for example, for some financial services businesses in the US, based in London, based elsewhere.


And it has four pillars. So we do some work on mindset because for me, speaking confidently, clearly being present, starts with having a confident mindset. We then work on body language because again, how we think is going to affect how we show up physically. We then do some work on speech because confident mindset, confident body language leads to confident spoken language.


And then the final piece is to work on voice and listening because how we say something, how we say those words is a really important part of impact, building trust and rapport. Being confident and able to say the things that are on our mind, whether it's in the workplace or outside.


So those four elements are at the heart of the programme: mindset, body language, speech and voice.


Ashutosh: And this, you said, is a 15 hour programme which is delivered online?


Susan: That's correct, yes, for groups of typically, executives. So, I deliver the programme for corporate clients. Later this year, though, I will be delivering, offering a number of courses, bite-sized sessions, workshops to the consumer market. So for private individuals. If any of your listeners are interested, keep an eye out on my website.


Ashutosh: Absolutely. They’ll go and check out your website and register.


Susan: Yeah. Thank you.


15:19 - What are some areas the younger leaders need to be coached in?


Ashutosh: Interesting. Wonderful. One more question relating to coaching and then I'll move on. Today is the age of the young leaders, the millennials, the Gen Z's, and they're all getting into reasonably senior leadership positions in the corporate world. What are some of the areas the younger leaders need to be coached in?


Susan: Great question. Again, thank you so much for asking me, because it's something I'm very passionate about. During the pandemic, I started running Make Your Mark for interns for my corporate clients, and I got a very quick and wonderful insight into what's on their mind and some of the challenges that they face as they leave academic life and transition into the workplace. And it inspired me so much, actually, that I've gone on to set up a new website, a new brand called And this is in partnership with another coach. We are offering coaching, voice and executive coaching to young people because we believe that they deserve it and that they can benefit so much from learning.


For example, how to walk into a room, whether it's sitting in a virtual room or walking into a physical space, and really make an impact from the get-go. How to make eye contact, how to use their hands to amplify and embellish what they're saying rather than to display a lack of confidence or sort of withdrawing, a diminished body language which suggests they're not worthy and they don't feel they deserve to be there.


So that is definitely an area that young people can benefit from. Becoming very aware of their body, how they can use it to communicate alongside their voice, the words that they choose. It's powerful stuff. And we're getting some fabulous results, which is really galvanising our resolve to keep doing more of it and to offer it to more young people.


17:38 – Passion for Jazz


Ashutosh: Fascinating. Fascinating. So, Susan, I'm going to move to the next segment of our conversation, some questions for you personally. And let me start by asking you about your passion for jazz. I've just come back after spending about a week in New Orleans and Memphis, and suddenly my interest in jazz has got revived all over again. Tell me, what attracted you to jazz?

Susan: Oh, well, I have to tell you that I am not a proper jazz singer! I've just had a lifelong interest in jazz and my husband and my son are very musical and we have a small recording studio in our house and we've always made music and performed together, but in a very low-key way.


I think my interest in jazz comes from a couple of things. And now that I'm a voice coach, I engage with jazz in a new and different way. There's something very spontaneous about jazz, there's something very emotional. So I'm not a traditional jazz nerd. I'm more a sort of Ella Fitzgerald and smooth jazz singer. But I find that when you're singing jazz, you can interpret and allow your imagination and your voice to do all sorts of wonderful things to connect with people. And I think that is why I love singing jazz, albeit I'm absolutely not a professional. But I love it. I love it.


18:52 – What does success mean for Susan?


Ashutosh: Wonderful. So time for two or three more questions. My next question to you is, what does success mean to Susan?


Susan: Success for Susan is being happy. Doing things that I love doing. Living my life the way I want to live it, with great respect for those I love around me, who, I'm lucky to say, are very supportive of my ambitions and what I want to do in life.


But for me, it's about being happy. And I think it took me quite a long time to work that out because my corporate drivers, when I was in corporate life, were more about status and identity and money and possessions and travel and how big and influential my network was.


And as I move towards the sort of latter stages of my career, I'm realising that success for me is being happy, doing really rewarding work. Transformational work that makes a small difference on the world and a big difference to the people I work with.


20:08 – What inspires you?


Ashutosh: Time for two more questions. My next one is who or what inspires you?


Susan: What inspires me? My garden inspires me. That's probably a very English answer, isn't it? Because I do live in the garden of England. I live in the southeast of England where we have very lovely gardens, normally green. At the moment, they're looking very brown.


Ashutosh: I know.


Susan: I'm inspired increasingly by nature. I grow vegetables in my spare time. I love watching the birds outside my office window. I love planting and growing things from seed, so I'm inspired by those things. The things that are free of charge. Love, nature, going to the beach.


20:52 – Three lessons


Ashutosh: Wonderful. And my last question to you, and this is for the many, many people who will listen to our conversation…what would you say are three lessons you would like our viewers and listeners to take away from your amazing journey and from our conversation?


Susan: Okay. So, I would start with work on your mindset. Believe in yourself. You are capable of far more than you give yourself credit for.

Ashutosh: Okay.


Susan: The second thing I would say is find out about your voice. What it's capable of, how to warm it up. And if you're interested in hearing more about that, please get in touch.


And the third thing I would say is, be compassionate with yourself. We are our worst critics. And when you reflect on the things that you say to yourself in your head, when you're talking yourself down, ask yourself, would you ever say that to a friend? And if you wouldn't say it to a friend. Don’t say it to yourself.


Ashutosh: Wonderful. Susan, on that note, and your three lessons, work on your mindset. find out about your own voice and be compassionate. Thank you so much for speaking to me. Thank you for talking to me about your journey, about your own perspectives as a voice coach and an executive coach.


Thank you also for speaking to me about your programme Make your Mark with Susan Room. And I'm sure a lot of my viewers and listeners would want to go and check it out when you take it retail, if I may say or use that term. Thank you once again for speaking to me and good luck to you.


Susan: It's my great pleasure and I wish all your listeners the very, very best. And thank you so much for this opportunity. It's been wonderful.


Ashutosh: Thank you.

Voiceover: Thank you for listening to The Brand Called You videocast and podcast, a platform that brings you knowledge, experience and wisdom of hundreds of successful individuals from around the world.


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