Thank you for listening to our Finding Brave show, ranked in the Top 100 Apple Career Podcasts!

“Are you keeping your eyes on what you need to accomplish, or are you looking at what somebody else is accomplishing? It is super important to know what you own, know who you are, and what you want out of life. If you don’t, someone else will write it for you.” – Sumana Rajagopal 

If you have been given the opportunity to lead, then you know that every employee offers unique contributions, including yourself. When you start with the good and foster the natural talent in people, you build trust and that trust opens the door to start talking about opportunities to grow. Today’s Finding Brave guest is a role model that all inspiring leaders can look up to, as she’s made a career of practicing these principles every single day.

Sumana Rajagopal, Director, US Media Strategy & Innovation Leader at Merck Pharmaceuticals, recently returned to the place she credits with learning what it means to put people first.  She is fortunate to have found her calling in media and advertising and is able to put that passion into purpose at Merck. It was there that she found that fostering her own growth included managing employee development to create sustainable business growth and drive competitive advantage in a corporate environment. Her focus on growing others has allowed her to remain relevant and resilient, creating a cycle of continued development for herself, her family and those that she is privileged to work with.

With over 26 years of marketing experience, working for three Fortune 500 companies, Sumana has found success by fostering an innovation agenda and speed to market through rapid reapplication of best practices from local to global markets. Her true passion lies in working with business teams to develop media strategies using data and insights to create demand, maximize returns and build profitable business.

In this episode, Sumana reveals concrete things you can do and say to accelerate the growth of everyone you interact within your organization, and she shares the importance of living bravely and passionately, and allowing your mistakes to be visible and used as a learning tool for others.

Highlights from this Episode: 

  • The universal truths about workplace dynamics that leaders need to be aware of [7:00]

  • The way that her approach to coaching individual employees differs from that of other leaders [10:23]

  • Why Sumana isn’t afraid to make mistakes in front of her employees [12:37]

  • An example of a time that something she said got her in trouble with management, and the lessons she took from this experience [13:00]

  • How the new goals and desires of the new generation of employees has shifted from previous ones [18:04]

  • What she does to help facilitate the rapid acceleration of people, and 3 questions she always asks her employees [21:20]

  • Why it’s so dangerous for managers to approach conversations with employees as monologues [23:20]

  • The very first thing Sumana does when she steps into a new management role [29:20]

  • Critical action steps for employees to take before applying for or accepting a new position [31:23]

For More Information: 

Resources Mentioned:

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My New Book The Most Powerful You Honored in Two Wonderful Lists This Month – “100 Great Books in Leadership!” and “7 Books To Inspire New Grads To Make a Dent In the Universe” 

I’m absolutely thrilled and honored to see my book The Most Powerful You included in two powerful new lists of books making a big positive difference. The first is “100 Great Leadership Books” (my 1st book Breakdown, Breakthrough was included too!)  from the journal Leader to Leader, compiled by Bruce Rosenstein, Managing Editor of Leader to Leader, celebrating his 10th anniversary in that role and the 100th issue. The 2nd list is “7 Books to Inspire New Grads to Make a Dent in The Universe,” from the Next Big Idea Club, which is curated by the inspiring authors Adam Grant, Susan Cain, Daniel Pink and Malcolm Gladwell. Don’t miss these powerful lists if you wish to grow fast in your leadership and professional impact today!                                          


Other resources mentioned:

Episode 174 with Howard Behar

Kathy’s Power Gaps Survey & Support To Build Your LinkedIn Profile To Great Success

Her TEDx Talk, Time To Brave Up & Free Career Path Self-Assessment

Kathy’s Amazing Career Project video training course & 6 Dominant Action Styles Quiz

Become a Sponsor!

We’re excited to be accepting new sponsors for Finding Brave now! If you have a business, program, product or service that helps professionals thrive and that resonates with the messages we share on Finding Brave, we’d love to hear from you! Please contact us via our contact form on the Finding Brave site to share more about your work/organization and your proposal. We’d love to speak with you!

Sponsor Highlight  

I’m thrilled that both and Amazon Music are now sponsors of Finding Brave! Take advantage of their great special offers and free trials today! 

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Don’t delay – spots are very limited! 


“All of these experiences have led me to rethink my approach. It’s the way you say it and the way you make things land.” [10:47]

“I make mistakes in front of my employees too. That’s another thing that builds trust, and I allow them to learn from my mistakes.” [12:37]

“Sometimes you need to give somebody enough information and then stop talking, and let them lead.” [15:46]

“Where the opportunity does lie [as a manager] is to give things a soft landing or bring your employees in with you. That’s your job.” [24:20]

“It sounds so simple, but no one gives their employees space to talk about what their hopes, dreams or aspirations are.” [27:58]

“I think everyone has something unique to contribute, so I start by opening that door.” [29:43]

“Remember that every day is up to you, and the way you show up is up to you.” [34:42]

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Kathy’s new book The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss shares vital information on the 7 most damaging power gaps that 98% of professional women face and how to overcome them. Boost your power and confidence today!


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