One of the most powerful women in business is Indra Nooyi, who was the former chair and CEO of PepsiCo. She is known for her business skills, but also because she showed how to balance a demanding job with a good family life. Her new book, My Life in Full, says that businesses should put workers’ flexibility and paid time off first.
Nora Ali, the host of Business Casual, asked Nooyi for business advice. She learned a lot from her long and successful life.
In your book, you say that you’re worried that young people aren’t having kids. Because you don’t like that.
The reason for this is twofold: One, I think that when I had my kids, I felt love from the inside out. Because it was beautiful, I knew it was a tie. Whenever I look at my kids, I feel a love that I can’t explain. In addition, if other people feel this way, I want them to feel that love from the inside out. So, that’s how I feel right now.
There’s another reason I think we need young people, too. If we don’t have young people, how will we be able to support the elderly, and how will we be able to build the next generation of consumers?
The Indian and Indian American communities expect a lot from you. Have you been able to focus on what is best for Indra?
So far, I have only looked at things that will be the best for Indra and PepsiCo, not for me. I have to figure out how to make myself visible to other people, how to build an image of myself for other people if I keep paying attention to the outside pressures.
If you don’t do your job, the job can be done tomorrow. Getting a CEO job is a risky move because you have to do well all the time, but people don’t think about that. Getting off that perch is very easy. To impress everyone, I thought that the best way to do a good job was to do well. If I did a good job at PepsiCo, I thought everything else would fall into place. Even if people didn’t compliment me, I was still in the job.
How can you be a good communicator at work while still being true to yourself?
In one of the things I’ve learned, I should pay attention to how people two levels above me talk, because that tells me why they’re where they are now. When bad news comes, I pay attention to how they react and how they calm the troops down. My own company, other companies, and any industry meeting I went to, I saw them do what they did, and I watched them. When you see certain styles that people use, write them down. In your diary, write, “Give eye contact; make sure to let people finish; don’t dismiss them right away when they tell you bad news.”