Executive coach Tanya Mehta ’97 explains how self-awareness is critical to success

Thursday, April 5, 2018
Tanya Mehta '97

There’s a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s work The Little Prince that goes, “If you succeed in judging yourself rightly, then indeed you are very wise.”

Tanya Mehta ’97, founder and CEO of Transverse Leadership, an executive coaching firm based in Silicon Valley, references this philosophy often as she helps executives from all over the world understand the importance of self-awareness to the success of a person’s leadership.

“You can’t lead others effectively if you haven’t done the critical work on yourself,” she said.

She’s not giving them advice she hasn’t used herself. It was her own self-awareness that led her to realize she needed to make a big change early in her career. After completing her hospitality management degree at UNH and landing a coveted spot in the Waldorf Astoria’s management development program, Mehta had a startling revelation: she wasn’t as interested in hotel operations management as she previously thought.

Instead, what was exciting to the Karachi, Pakistan native was the human side of the business, namely the psychology of the hotel’s employees and customers. After consulting with UNH hospitality management professor Joe Durocher and associate professor of management Carole Barnett, Mehta decided to pivot her career plans to earn her master’s degree in social and organizational psychology from Columbia University.

This change allowed her to move to Silicon Valley where she was hired to lead the global executive review process for Sun Microsystems. Later she joined the Executive Education team at the Stanford Graduate School of Business where she guided senior executives across North America and South Asia on leadership programs for their organizations. While doing this work, Mehta found her calling. She saw the need for rigorous, personalized feedback and executive coaching for leaders at all stages of their careers, which was her impetus for founding Transverse Leadership in 2008.

“As an organizational psychologist and executive coach, I get to support the dreams and careers of some of the most talented people you could ever meet,” she said. “I love that I get to help individuals develop their self-awareness and achieve goals they never thought possible.”

In addition to self-awareness, Mehta advises future leaders to seek “truly meaningful work that is well aligned with your values and gifts,” choose wisely who you trust, and above all to treat others—and yourself—well.

“If you dream big, you will inevitably stumble, but how you treat yourself and others through those moments of failure will impact how far you go,” she said.