Suky Sodhi

President, Professional Selection Inc

1. Do you remember a time when you were happiest as a child? Where were you, who were you with and what were you doing?

Saturday mornings at our house were always big English breakfasts actually more like a brunch. Later we’d watch either football, wrestling, or rugby, depending on the season. I’d watch that with my dad and I’d be betting on who’s going to win or what would happen next, not knowing anything about the rules. All I knew was when Big Daddy was wrestling, he was the one I was going to cheer for! There was a weekly competition that came out called “spot the ball”. You basically had to mark the exact spot you thought the actual ball was in play. I’d give it so much thought because I thought I knew everything about football. Then, at the last second, I’d close my eyes and “mark the spot” ( and ask the fairies to grant me a wish!) Of course, I always got it wrong. My dad was a big guy, and I remember he’d get back pain, so often we’d watch these sports with me sitting on his back! It’s one of the earliest memories I have of my dad. Even though my dad has since passed away, he still is my hero!

2. When did you first stand up to your parents... what was the issue and...were
you right?

My dad – without realizing it – raised me like a boy. I was always watching football or wrestling, or even helping him around the house – yes, he taught me to tile a wall! As a kid it wasn’t an issue but as I grew older it became a clash of wills. It was no longer acceptable to be seen “rolling in the mud” because apparently that wasn’t ladylike. Of course, the more my parents tried to tell me this, the more I rebelled and argued. So much so, that I overheard my dad ask my mum, “where did we go wrong?” Her response was “don’t blame me – she’s your fault”.

It was after my dad suffered a severe stroke that he realised making me so independent wasn’t such a bad thing after all. So to answer your question, yes, I was right, and more importantly, my dad was willing to open his mind. Unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to see what I’ve achieved. But my husband says it best, “you are your dad”. Damn right I am, and proud of it!

3. What habit or behaviour or belief have you recently acquired? Why is it now in your life?

Kickboxing! I’ve been lifting weights for a while, but I took up kickboxing just as we went into lockdown. We’ve had a kickboxing bag at home for years, but finally one day I took out the gloves my husband had bought me years ago, dusted them off, and started. Hearing the sound of my hands punching the bag, or legs kicking the side was the anxiety release I needed. It’s done wonders for my stress levels. I’ve actually joined a local kickboxing gym. It’s in my life right now because COVID-19 forced me to find other ways – besides drinking – to release energy. I figured I should do that rather than give LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) more of my money!

4. What are the three books that you would unhesitatingly recommend to others? Why?

Failing Forward by John L. Maxwell

A special friend recommended that to me when I was trying to handle a personal tragedy whilst growing the business during the 2008 meltdown. It’s one I continuously read because as children, we’re taught it’s either “pass or fail”, which is simply not true.

Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

It’s such an easy read, and he’s not somebody that comes from money, but he’s overcome so many challenges and adversities in his life, and he’s shown that the only person who can break you – is you. You have the power to write a different ending. No one but you can take that away.

Many Lies, Many Masters by Brian Weiss

Yeah, bet you didn’t see that one coming. You know what, I believe in karma. It’s not good, it’s not bad, but people have a debt to pay to society. Some of us pay it in this lifetime, some of us pay it in the next. It’s a great read to open your mind.

5. If you wrote a ‘user manual’ for how people should interact with you, what
would be the most important point in the manual?

Tough question, but let’s try and answer it! Be sincere and don’t attempt to invalidate me. It doesn’t matter what you’re saying to me – good or bad – but be sincere and respectful about it. I may not agree with your opinion, but I will respect it, so show the same courtesy. Else at some point it won’t matter if you are a client or personal friend I will walk away, head held high and not look back. As the saying goes “fool me once shame on you, fool to me twice shame on me”.

6. Imagine: if we were to go to people who don't think very highly of you, what
do you think they would say about you?

Oh gosh, most women reading this will be able to relate.

“Oh my God Suky, even though I’ve known about you for years, I’m so glad I took the time to get to know the real you! You’re nothing like what I thought!”

I had someone say this to me a few weeks ago, and I didn’t know whether to take it as a compliment or not… but I chose to take it as a compliment!

I think what those people who don’t think highly of me would say is “she’s too direct, she’s loud, opinionated, she doesn’t follow rules and she doesn’t bow down to people”. Although they might say that, they also recognise that I will always be an advocate for our industry, my team, my candidates, and those clients that I choose to work with. In other words, they recognize my expertise and the value I bring to the process.

They say I’m bossy, but the truth of the matter is… if I was a man they’d be saying I’m a great leader.

7. On what topic would you never make a joke?

Mental health, in particular suicide. None of us know what another person is going through, and I have personal experience of losing somebody. With men in particular, it’s seen as “taboo” to admit you are struggling. It’s something I’d never joke about, and I know, from personal experience, the devastation suicide leaves in its aftermath. In fact, I won’t listen to anyone else make a joke, especially given today’s current climate. If you’ve got nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

8. What do you think is acceptable today but will become taboo tomorrow?

Not recycling. Right now it’s acceptable, it’s seen as a sign of wealth having multiple cars, the big houses etc. But I think until we become more aware of the environmental impact our choices are having nothing will change. When we actually start feeling and seeing the consequences of our decisions, such as wildlife disappearing or the wildfires in places such as Australia, then it’ll become a taboo. Right now, recycling is seen as a nice to-do. Global warming is seen as “not our problem.” But reality is, we have no choice but to protect our planet for future generations. Mother Nature creates enough natural disasters without us giving her a helping hand.

9. What’s your desktop/mobile screensaver? Take a screenshot and attach it to your answer!

My mobile screensavers (home and lock screen) are both pictures of me, both taken during COVID-19. My lock screen photo is a more serious photo of me. I have it there to remind me, when someone is speaking nonsense, let them say it because you don’t know what they’re going through. It reminds me that sometimes, people just need you to listen and “hold space’ for them, without judgement or even a response. In other words they just need you to let “silence happen”. The home screen one was taken about 2-3 weeks into our COVID-19 lockdown. There were a number of people reaching out to me wanting advice, coaching, and guidance, or even just to talk. People were looking to me for answers that I just didn’t have. Although I’ve gone through many recessions, I had never seen something like this before, and I felt guilty for not being able to tell people what they wanted to hear. It was really messing with my own mental health, and by the end of the day I would feel like I’d absorbed all of the negativity. One particular day, the sun was shining and I took this photo to remind myself that this too shall pass, and I just needed to smile my way through.

10. Cheese or Chocolate?

Chocolate, because who doesn’t love chocolate? Mind you, it has to be 2 squares of high-quality chocolate with a decent-class bottle of ice-cold chardonnay. Either Two Sisters, Unoaked, or Robert Mondavi’s Private Selection. And if I can enjoy it on the deck with the sun shining with great company to top it all off – life is good! See, I don’t have expensive taste – it’s the people that make the moment. So I guess you could say I’m actually a really cheap date!

11. If you were to own a bar, and you could design it how you wanted, what would it look like?

My bar would be in a trendy part of town, but not the most expensive area. You walk in, and to your left would be a glass bar with every drink you could think of – including a supply from Two Sisters Winery, so I guess this bar would have to be in Canada. It would have low lights, but the back of the bar would be all lit up. Around the bar I would have the most comfy adjustable bar stools, and I would adjust them for short people like me! The rest of the bar would have couches and sofas. Music would be playing in the background. I’d create an environment where people can have a great experience, actually hear the people they’re talking to, have finger-foods, and all of this without having to spend a mortgage payment. It would be exclusive-members only, but not for people who think they’re exclusive. Just for regular people like me, who want a place to go for a great experience. No judgement, just go, have a drink, have something to eat, and enjoy!

12. If you were to survive the zombie apocalypse, what role would you play in the new society that would follow?

“Social Ambassador.” Let someone else fight for power, that can be someone else’s problem. But what makes a great, healthy society? It’s the people, so I’d be the social ambassador. I’d encourage everyone to eat chocolate and drink ice-cold wine! Then I would set out to try and create my bar with all of the broken pieces of material we can find, and I wouldn’t let those that fight for power in!

13. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?

It was actually from a client who is now one of my closest friends: “you’re too big for the Canadian market.” Even though I had done international recruitment, I hadn’t done Rec2Rec internationally. This advice to go international was something way out of my comfort zone, and I had a lot of other projects going on at the same time. What forced me to just jump into it was a text message I got from an unknown number, and when I asked “who is this?”, the response came back: “it’s your first Rec2Rec international client!” That one conversation, and that one bit of advice, just brewed and evolved. Would I have gone international otherwise? The answer is I don’t know. But it was a massive catalyst, and I’m forever grateful for that direct piece of advice.

14. Can you give an example of a time when you had to learn the lesson the hard way?

I’ve learnt many lessons the hard way, but one thing COVID-19 has taught me is that when people are fearful, they will say and do things that are normally out of character for them. Earlier on during COVID-19 I was getting ready to go Live in our Elite Global Recruiters Group when I got a disturbing text message from a senior executive. The content isn’t relevant but suffice to say, it was an extremely disturbing text. At the time I had to focus on the presentation I was about to do. As you can imagine, that was one of the hardest presentations I’ve had to do, as I simply couldn’t focus and give all of my attention knowing I had this ticking bomb that needed to be dealt with. After a full investigation, it transpired that this particular leader had acted impulsively on inaccurate information.

I actually had 3 takeaways from that.

1. Just because I will apologize, not everybody will and that’s on them not you.

2. This has highlighted the importance of being very mindful of the words and tone you use to express yourself. By the same token, if you’re at the receiving end, you need to demonstrate compassion, empathy and hold space for them.

3. Upon reflection, I should’ve never looked at that message so close to my presentation. Now I’ve implemented a rule of not checking my phone or emails 15 minutes before any live presentation.

15. What’s the one bad quality you wouldn’t mind in a colleague? Why?

Being confident enough to give me direct, honest feedback. I don’t actually think this is a bad quality, in fact I look for it in hiring. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is, a lot of leaders see it as a negative, but I honestly don’t. We’ve created an environment in our team where everyone is confident expressing their fears and concerns without judgement. This creates an opportunity for others to point out our blind spots, including mine. Unless we recognize those blind spots, we can’t truly grow to our full professional or personal potential.

16. Have you ever been the weakest member of a team? How did you handle it?

Yes! Way before I was self-employed, I was the weakest because, even though I was in the top 3 for sales nationally, I was the lousiest presenter face-to-face. Every quarter, we’d have a management conference. We’d all drive up to the location on Friday, check into a hotel, and then we would go out for the night. The next morning we had to be in the meeting room by 8am, and ready to present. My boss at the time knew I hated presenting, so he would leave me until the very end. I wasn’t a really heavy drinker in comparison to the others, so the next day they were all far more hungover than me, which took care of the situation without me having to do anything! I think they kind of slept through all the presentations anyhow. Now I handle this weakness by accepting that it’s okay if I’m not great at everything. I know I’m damn good at my job, and if they don’t like the way I’m presenting then that’s on them, not me.

17. When it comes to our work and industry: what scares you most?

What scares me the most is the lack of respect and value a lot of people in our industry have for the industry. Due to the lack of respect and value, the industry is being “bastardized”. The clients’ demands are becoming so high, margins are becoming increasingly low, and all because we’ve turned it into a transactional industry. Yet, we deal with the world’s most complex “product” – people. We’re our own worst enemy. So until we start to respect and value ourselves, how can we expect others to?

18. Who will be the winners & losers in our industry in the post-Covid19 world?

The winners will be those people that actually recognize their own value, and don’t compromise their standards. They will be the winners because once you do that, clients will automatically be prepared to pay premium fees. Take Apple for example. When was the last time you could go into an Apple store and demand the latest iPhone for a discount? They’d laugh you out the door! Apple recognizes their value, their brand, and maintains their standards. Therefore, they command a premium price. If people are prepared to do that for a phone, why are they not prepared to do that when they’re investing in the most important asset in their business – the people they hire? The losers in this industry will be those that respond with “how high?” when a client says “jump”.

19. Do you have a secret tip, tool or trick that’s contributed to your success?

Mindset. Tell me I can’t do something, and I’m going to do it. I had people tell me I couldn’t establish a successful Rec2Rec in Canada, but I have. 🙂 They told me I couldn’t do it internationally, and today I’ve recruited in 18 countries at Professional Selection Inc. I may get bruised, I may get broken bones, but I’m going to channel that negativity and in the end I will get there. I’m not saying I haven’t had struggles or dark moments, but ultimately, my mindset is what’s driven me.

20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?

I would recommend Roy Clark! Promises to be an interesting read.

Thank you to Suky Sodhi for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune

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