“A self-confident team member is one who is comfortable in their own skin, trusts in their abilities, and knows their strengths and weaknesses.” explains Eric Santillan, an international Organizational Development consultant and a MindNation Scientific Board member. “Additionally, self-confidence is connected to boundaries. When a person has low self-confidence or low self-esteem, he has very porous boundaries, which means negative feedback is taken personally — when you tell them ‘Your report lacks X, Y, Z points,’ they take it as ‘I am no good, I am a failure.’ On the other hand, people with self-confidence have a growth mindset; they take setbacks as learning opportunities to become better.”
Self-confident employees benefit the company in many ways, from improved engagement to better performance. “Having self-confident employees can be a game changer for the company,” Eric stresses. “They are the people who willingly take on extra work because they want to learn more, and they are also the ones that you need to manage the least, allowing you more time to do the things that matter to you.”
“Having self-confident employees can be a game changer for the company. They are the people who willingly take on extra work because they want to learn more, and they are also the ones that you need to manage the least, allowing you more time to do the things that matter to you.”
As a manager, here are four things you need to constantly do to instill self-confidence in your employees:
Develop their skills. Confidence is linked to competence. When you give employees tools and resources to improve themselves and they apply these learnings to produce outstanding work, their confidence rises. So provide your team members with access to courses and training, or maybe even give them the opportunity to run a passion project, so that they hone their skills and have a chance to shine.
Don’t micromanage. If you do give them additional responsibilities, be empowering and not discouraging. “If you don’t trust your team, they won’t trust themselves,” Eric shares. “If you second-guess their decisions, or require that all decisions go through you, then you don’t incentivize them to make decisions on their own. Employees should not be treated like children that you have to check on all the time.”
Don’t set them up to fail. Related to the above — make sure you don’t delegate big responsibilities too soon or too quickly, because they might become overwhelmed, inadvertently flounder, and have their confidence shot. “The key is to strike a balance between making sure that the project is important enough to be challenging for the team member, but not big enough that if it fails it will be detrimental to the company’s bottomline,” Eric advises.
Take care of their well-being. This means building up your team’s mental health, from taking steps to reduce work stress and risk of burnout to providing them with resources to address mental health challenges. Make it a habit to check-in on your team members frequently, so that you get to know them as individuals and create a strong support foundation. When you treat your team members well, they will also view themselves in a positive and more confident light.
As a manager, you should never underestimate your influence over a team member’s confidence. “You have the capacity to make or break someone’s confidence, because next to their significant other, you are their most influential relationship,” Eric points out. “A person who is managed really well will develop confidence, while a person who is managed really badly will feel their confidence eroded.”
MindNation offers virtual training for companies related to self-confidence, from cultivating a growth mindset to building mental agility. Email [email protected] to book a training for your team today!
Workplace bullying is defined as “repeated mistreatment of an employee by one or more employees; abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating; work sabotage; or verbal abuse.” This is according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, the first and only organization in the United States dedicated to the eradication of workplace bullying.
Workplace bullying is more prevalent than we think. According to a worldwide poll conducted last October 2019 by global online employment solution firm Monster, 90% of respondents said they have been bullied at work. Of these 51% said they were bullied by their superiors, nearly 40% said their bullying came from a fellow coworker, while 4% said they were bullied by a client, customer, or someone else other than a coworker.
What workplace bullying looks like
According to MindNation psychologist Jessa Mae Rojas, examples of workplace bullying include targeted jokes, being purposely misled about work duties, continued denial of requests for time off without an appropriate or valid reason, threats, humiliation, and other verbal abuse, and excessive performance monitoring.
She clarifies, however, that criticism is not always bullying. “If the criticism is relayed objectively, constructively, and directly related to workplace behavior or job performance, then it is not workplace bullying,” she explains. “It becomes bullying only if the criticism is meant to intimidate, humiliate, or single someone out without reason.”
Effects of workplace bullying
A bullied employee can develop physical issues such as digestive problems, high blood pressure, or have trouble sleeping. They may also suffer from mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and even suicidal thoughts. Business leaders need to address workplace bullying because it can impact the organization negatively in the following ways:
Financial loss resulting from legal costs or bullying investigations
Decreased productivity and morale
Increased employee absences
High turnover rates
Poor team dynamics
Reduced trust, effort, and loyalty from employees
What you can do
As a leader, here are some ways you can manage workplace bullying:
Keep communication lines open. “Regularly check in with your team to find out if bullying is occurring, or if there are factors likely to increase the risk of workplace bullying,” Jessa explains.
Offer employees easy-to-access, confidential mental health benefits with a focus on preventative tools and intervention.
Address all concerns and all forms of aggression. Adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards inappropriate behavior. “Additionally, periodically review your organization’s anti-bullying policies and procedures so team members feel safe and supported in raising a complaint when it first arises,” she suggests.
Arrange, support, and attend training. Teach staff how to resolve conflicts peacefully, give feedback constructively, or reduce their unconscious bias.
Assess your leadership style. According to the Monster poll on bullying, more than half of bullied employees said that their workplace bully was their boss. “So review your own actions to know if your behavior might cross the line to bullying. Ask a trusted colleague for their opinion, and seek help if needed,” Jessa says.
Workplace bullying impacts the morale, retention, and productivity of everyone in the team. As a leader, don’t wait for workplace bullying to become a problem before you address it. Creating a safe space at work makes good sense from a physical, mental, and financial perspective. MindNation conducts virtual trainings on managing difficult conversations at work, reducing unconscious bias, and creating safe spaces at work so that your team can manage conflict peacefully and get along with others. Email [email protected] to book a training now!
Looking for a therapist — whether it’s for self-improvement, to heal from past traumas, or just to maintain good mental health — can be daunting. After all, this is someone whom you will be sharing your deepest and most uncomfortable feelings to, so it is important that you choose a mental health professional who will make you comfortable and give you the right kind of help.
We asked psychologist Luis Angelo Villarroel of Kintsugi-Psy to share some steps for choosing a therapist to help you reach your mental health goals:
Step 1: Ask yourself: “What kind of help do I need?” There are many types of mental health professionals, specializing in different areas of mental health. Each of them plays a key role in identifying and treating your mental health challenges:
Psychologist. Uses evidence-based strategies and interventions to help people overcome challenges and cope with past traumas, present issues, or future concerns.
“If you need help dealing with day-to-day problems, best to see a counseling psychologist. On the other hand, if you are looking for someone who can treat certain disorders, you will need the expertise of a clinical psychologist.”
Luis Angelo Villarroel, Psychologist
Just like medical doctors, psychologists have different areas of specialization: there are clinical psychologists, educational psychologists, assessment psychologists, industrial psychologists, child psychologists, etc. While they are all educated in mental health concerns, some are more equipped to deal with certain aspects than others. “If you need help dealing with day-to-day problems, best to see a counseling psychologist,” Luis explains. “On the other hand, if you are looking for someone who can treat certain disorders, you will need the expertise of a clinical psychologist.”
Psychiatrist. They are the only type of mental health professional who are licensed to prescribe and monitor medication.Most psychiatrists do not offer counseling services, but will give referrals to therapists.
WellBeing Coach. They work one-on-one with individuals who want to improve their health and well-being, using concepts drawn from psychology, behavior change, and life coaching fields. A WellBeing Coach can help clients overcome obstacles to maintain healthy habits for life.
Don’t worry if you are unsure which one is suited for you. Luis assures that if the mental health professional that you visit first feels that some other form of therapy will be more suitable for you, they will inform you from the get-go.
Step 2: Start your search.
Once you have narrowed down what kind of therapy or therapist you want, it’s time to begin your search. There are a number of different places where you can begin choosing a therapist. Some options include:
Searching online through search engines or social media hashtags. You can also ask around in reputable forums or Facebook groups.
A more secure way would be to inquire with hospitals. “Call the hospital help desk and ask if they provide mental health services,” Luis suggests.
An even better option is to ask trusted people for recommendations — friends, family, or your primary care provider. And don’t worry if you end up choosing the same therapist as your friend or loved one; like doctors, mental health professionals are bound by the rules of doctor-patient confidentiality. “Even if your spouse is my patient, I will treat the two of you as individuals,” assures Luis.
Step 3: Check their credentials
For psychologists and psychiatrists, make sure they are licensed to practice and that they follow guidelines and a code of ethics. Note that while WellBeing Coaches are not required to have a specific degree and they don’t have oversight by a governing board, you can do your own research to check if they are legitimate.
Step 4: Inquire cost
While therapy should always be considered an investment, it is prudent to know how much you will be shelling out per session, especially since mental health concerns cannot be resolved in just one session. That said, note that the professional fee of a therapist is not an indication or reflection of their experience or lack thereof. “Sometimes the cost can be dependent on the location of the therapist; if their clinic is located in a high-end part of the city, for example, expect their cost to be higher due to rent or other factors not necessarily linked to their skills,” Luis explains.
Step 5: Book a session and get started on your mental health journey
Here is an article outlining about what you can expect during your first session with a psychologist or WellBeing Coach.
Use this initial appointment to determine if you feel comfortable with the therapist you have chosen. While talking to the therapist, think about these questions:
Do you feel like you can talk to this person?
Do you feel like you can be honest?
Does it feel like this person accepts you?
Are they a good listener?
Will they customize their approach for you?
Know that you can always change therapists, whether it’s just five minutes into the first session or after five sessions. “You are free to withdraw from the therapy anytime you feel it is not working out, if you realize your therapist isn’t a good match for you, or you feel you are not being supported well into your therapy process,” Luis assures. “On our end, we will offer to make whatever adjustments you need so you become more comfortable and continue treatment. But ultimately, rapport with your therapist is very important– the treatments will only work if you feel comfortable with us.”
Ultimately, it is up to you to decide if you have chosen the right therapist for you. “We will exhaust all means to help,” Luis says. “And even if we do not work out, I will always encourage you to continue looking for another professional. Sometimes, just talking to someone you can trust — or being able to trust someone again– is already a big help in achieving growth and healing.”
MindNation offers 24/7 teletherapy sessions with psychologists and WellBeing Coaches through video chat, voice call, or SMS chat. Psychologist session starts at P1,500/hour while WellBeing Coach session starts at P500/hour. Book a session now at bit.ly/themindnationchat.
Advertising agencies can be fun and exciting places to work for, but the industry is also known for being highly fast -paced, extremely competitive, and its staff constantly under intense pressure to come up with great ideas on a regular basis.
But Raymund Sison wanted a different kind of work culture. The Creative Chief of independent digital agency Propel Manila, together with other members of the company’s leadership team, constantly strives to create an organization that puts their people’s well-being over profit.
And their efforts are paying off. Today, Propel Manila is not only a highly successful creative agency — it counts as its clients fast-food giant Jollibee and luxury brand Kiehl’s — it is locally and internationally recognized for its advocacy works such as Recreate Pride 2020, Complex Emojis (this one in partnership with MindNation; more on that later), Pride @ Tech, and Love Versus Hate.
“I believe creatives and communications professionals have a duty to offer our best and brightest ideas to help solve the world’s most pressing problems,” Raymund says. “We should use our creativity to create ideas that truly matter to the community.”
“Creativity is not just about doing design or writing; you can be creative in every little thing you do at your office, even if you’re an accounting firm or an engineering company,” Raymund points out. “It’s about finding more innovative ways to do your accounting in the middle of the pandemic, or using digital means to make your engineering even more robust and secure.”
When team members are creative, they solve problems faster and easier than ever before, discover new ideas that will keep clients interested and engaged, and help businesses adapt, innovate, and thrive — — all necessary during these trying times when tried-and-tested business methods are no longer working.
If your team is struggling to be creative because of the pandemic, here are five tips from Raymund on how to get their brains fired up and thriving:
1. Prioritize the team’s well-being. “When people are well, they do well; and when they do well, the business does well,” he points out. “At Propel, we believe that the best kind of talent development is human development, so we created programs that will help our team grow professionally, mentally, and emotionally.”
To start, Propel has a Mind Matters Program, a mental health and well-being policy that includes free mental health cards and mental check-ups for staff, weekly talks and forums on mental health, and the designation of the last Wednesday of every month as Mind Day, a no-work day.
Raymund also encourages his team to take a rest whenever they need it. “I always encourage my people to please tell me how I can help them be better, be creative, or be a better human being,” he says. “If they are stressed, then I will give them the time to breathe.”
2. Promote inclusivity. Safe spaces boost creativity because when a person feels safe, they can be more open about their thoughts and ideas. “Openness is the foundation of creative thinking,” Raymund points out.
Propel does this by making sure their office is inclusive and respectful of everyone’s rights. “Our bathrooms at the office are gender neutral; we also have a Pride at Propel group in the office for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer employees,” he shares. “Recently, there were talks in our industry about harassment, so right away we made sure to reifnorce our anti-harassment and anti-discrimination polcies to make sure that we have a safe environment for everyone.
3. Support diversity. Raymund is proud to say that half of Propel’s 70-plus team is female, while 19% are members of the LGBTQ+ community. “We like to keep our talents as diverse as possible because when you put them together and make them work on one goal, that is where brilliance happens,” he says.
4. Practice servant-leadership. “To quote from Simon Sinek, ‘Leadership is not being in charge, it’s taking care of those in our charge,’” Raymond declares. “My leadership style is very much a combination of a kuya (big bother) and barkada (friend); there’s a lot of care but I’ll also be the first one to call you out if needed. I believe that calling out is a way of showing care, because you are telling your team the truth on how they can be better.”
5. Walk the talk. Propel espouses purposiveness — how can the team use their creativity to help the community? “And because mental health is one of our main advocacies, we feel it’s important that we spread the word about the importance of well-being in the workplace and the community,” Raymund says. “This is where our partnership with MindNation comes in.”
Last July 2020, the two companies worked together to create the world’s first ever Complex Emojis, free social media stickers and gifs which users can post to communicate their hard-to-understand and complicated emotions. The ad for this was named a finalist in the 2021 Ad Stars, the world’s only international advertising festival which combines creativity with cutting-edge technology, and also in the Asia Pacific Tambuli Awards, the creative show that celebrates creativity with positive world impact.
In August of that same year, Propel Manila Culture Head Mau Valenzuela joined MindNation CEO Kana Takahasi and Head of Communications and Content Cat Trivino for a Mental Health Matters Livestream via Facebook, where they discussed mental health in the advertising industry, and how leaders can have better mental health care practices in the workplace.
Lastly, to mark Pride Month last June 2021, Propel partnered with MindNation for the latter’s toolkit on supporting LGBTQ well-being at work, which is a guide for business leaders on how they can make their workplaces safe and inclusive for their queer employees.
“I want my team to continue to create more ideas that matter to the world,” Raymond says. “Creativity is such a superpower and I want to use it as a force for good, to make people better, to change behaviors, and make the world a little better than it was before. Right now is a pivotal time in our society. More than ever, we need to come up with insightful, innovative, and empathetic solutions that can help address humanity’s needs. For me, the pandemic is not an excuse to not have great ideas; there’s no better time to be creative than today.”
Are you passionate about workplace well-being? Partner with us to build a world where mental health is valued, accepted, and supported. Visit www.themindnation.com or email [email protected] to know more!
Jim Lafferty is not just the CEO of Fine Hygienic Holding (FHH), a wellness company that makes personal care and hygienic products. He is also an athlete, Olympic coach, philanthropist, speaker, and corporate trainer — all on top of being a devoted family man to his wife and five children.
He began his career as a fitness trainer for Procter & Gamble employees in 1983 before moving up the ranks and becoming the company’s CEO, eventually going on to hold top positions at other Fortune 500 companies. Throughout his journey, health and wellness has been his priority, not just for himself but also for his team. “The starting point of being successful is your health; if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything,” he points out.
Apart from exercising regularly and watching his diet, here are Jim’s strategies for living a life full of energy and positivity:
“We take on many roles in life — for instance, I am not only a businessman, a coach, and an athlete, I am also a father, a husband, a brother, a nephew, so on and so forth. I believe that at maximum, we can only do five roles well.”
Jim Lafferty, CEO of Fine Hygienic Holding (FHH)
Acknowledge that you can’t do everything. “We take on many roles in life — for instance, I am not only a businessman, a coach, and an athlete, I am also a father, a husband, a brother, a nephew, so on and so forth,” Jim enumerates. “But I believe that at maximum, we can only do five roles well. And my five roles are to be the best husband, father, philanthropist-coach, athlete, and CEO out there. Everything else — such as being a brother and a nephew — is not a priority for me, and my family understands that.”
This is why Jim is very clear about what he says “no” and “yes” to. “I get offers to sit on other boards all the time, but I turn them down because they will take up too much time from what I really want to do,” he explains. “At the end of the day, I am clear on what legacy I want to leave behind, and that is to be a good father and contribute to society in the best way possible.”
Cope with setbacks by employing perspective. When asked to name the biggest challenge he has ever encountered and what he did to cope, Jim says: “I don’t stress out over setbacks very easily because I always try to keep things in perspective.”
As an example, he relates the story of a female employee who was five months pregnant with twins when she caught a severe case of COVID-19 and had to be hospitalized. To protect both the mother and babies’ health, doctors did an emergency c-section and delivered the babies prematurely. Unfortunately, all three passed away not long after. “What can I possibly be going through now that’s even close to what the husband and father are going through?” he points out. “I get upset, yes, but are those bad news really that earth-shattering? If you widen your perspective and learn what other people in the world are going through, you realize that more often than not, you have nothing to complain about.”
Prioritize employee well-being. When Jim came on board as CEO of FHH, one of the first things he did was to align the company’s values with his own. “We are a wellness company and wellness starts at home; and home for us is our employees,” he shares. To start with, he spearheaded the construction of a world class, state-of-the-art fitness center at the company’s headquarters in Dubai, and initiated company-wide fitness challenges like push-up competitions to encourage employees to take care of their physical health.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the company partnered with MindNation to launch an Employee Assistance Program that includes 24/7 teletherapy support from qualified psychologists and WellBeing Coaches to all Fine employees and their immediate family members so that they can cope with the mental health challenges brought about by social isolation and other worries. “We try to protect our employees as much as we can, physically and mentally, because you cannot have good health without either one,” Jim explains.
Finally, Jim has taken it upon himself to make the company more diverse and inclusive. “When I arrived at the company, the management team was 100 percent comprised of men, and they only came from two countries,” he relates. “I met each and every one of them, and those who were not performing well were let go in the most graceful and dignified way possible.” To fill up the five vacancies that resulted from this reorganization, Jim talked to headhunters and imposed one rule — that only female applicants be considered. “Everyone was surprised, but I told them there are talented women all over the city, don’t tell me we can’t find any,” he points out.
All five roles did get filled up by women, and today FHH boasts of women comprising 38% of leadership roles in the company — unprecedented in the Arab world. “I’ve seen a lot of progress on acceptance of women as leaders but it’s an uphill battle and it’s going to take time,” Jim admits. “But if we want to be responsible members of society, we have to participate in the changes that society has to go through.”
Celebrate the journey, not the destination. When it comes to long-term goals, Jim is not a believer of deadlines and timelines. For Jim, it’s about seeing his children progressing happily in their lives and the organization growing and becoming better. “But I don’t tell myself ‘Oh, I have to do this or see these results by the end of the year,’” he shares. “Instead, I ask myself, ‘Am I closer to the goal today than I was yesterday?’ And if the answer is ‘yes,’ then I already feel accomplished. You can’t measure life by a stopwatch.”
Happier and healthier employees are productive employees. Partner with MindNation to provide your team with a well-being that is holistic, data-driven, and customized for your needs. Email [email protected] to know more.
A growth mindset is the belief that a person can continue to learn and become more intelligent with effort, and that failure is an opportunity to grow. People begin to be successful the moment they decide to be.
In contrast, someone who has a fixed mindset believes that they are born with a certain amount of talent and intelligence that cannot be improved no matter how much effort they put forth, and that failure is the limit of their abilities.
In addition, someone with a growth mindset sees mistakes as a learning opportunity and openly accepts criticism because they believe it will help them grow. Someone with a fixed mindset often gives up and takes criticism personally.
Out of these two mindsets that we manifest at a very young age springs a great deal of our behavior, how we see setbacks, and how we see our relationship with success and failure, from both a personal and professional context. Ultimately, it sets the stage for our capacity to be happy — do we ascribe to a fixed mindset where we think that we are born this way and there’s nothing that we can change? Or do we want to have a growth mindset where we feel that we are capable and worthy of success if we put our heart to it?
“Many people assume that there are only two possibilities when you do something — you either succeed or fail. What they don’t understand is that failure and success are on the same track; not only that, the road to success is paved with many failures.”
Cat Triviño, MindNation Head of Communications and Content
Here are some ways we can cultivate a growth mindset:
Build transportable skills. This is defined as a specific set of skills that don’t belong to a particular niche, industry or job; rather, they are general skills that can be transported between jobs, departments, and industries (hence the name). Examples include learning how to solve problems, your ability to be mentally resilient, learning how to communicate in times of difficulty, getting things done within the timelines, and also your capacity to take risks. Building these skills early and keeping them sharp and fresh constantly keeps you grounded and builds your overall ability to keep going and exploring new things.
Cultivate meaningful experiences. These are situations that take us out of our comfort zone and force us to adapt. Think of them as vitamins or antibodies that boost our immune system and help us withstand career change and adversity. Being able to be resilient in times of crisis is an example of a meaningful experience; when we see our hardships and things beyond our control as something we can learn from, they take out that fear of failure.
Invest in enduring relationships. Great relationships can make you stronger and your impact bigger. Surround yourself with people who are good influences so that you will be motivated to become someone unique and indispensable. That being said, when it comes to relationships in the workplace, you will need one of each of the following:
Community of experts — These are people you look up to, who can help you come up with better answers. After all, you can’t always be the smartest person in the room.
Critical colleagues — These are people who constantly give you feedback not because they just want to criticize, but because they want you to be better.
Champions — Find mentors and truth-sayers who are on your side. They will tell you when you’re wrong, so you grow as a person.
Anchor on your “why.” Inspiring ourselves to move forward and motivating others starts with us being clear on where we’re heading. So think about your purpose in life. What is your cause? What do you believe in? Do you want to challenge the status quo? Do things differently? Then from your “why,” allow yourself to create the structure, the “how.” How do you make your “whys” realized, what specific actions will you take? The result of knowing the “why” and the “how” is the “what” — what is your purpose? What can you get out of this?
Reframe success and failure. Many people assume that there are only two possibilities when you do something — you either succeed or fail. What they don’t understand is that failure and success are on the same track; not only that, the road to success is paved with many failures. So it is important to understand that challenges or setbacks are assets. Failure forces us to learn and grow. Everytime we hit rock bottom, we should recognize it, honor it, respect it, and understand that this will only make us more skilled and better
Trust time and the process. When we fail, it’s not because we didn’t try hard enough; sometimes it’s because the universe is telling us that it may not yet be the proper time.
Make self-care a habit. Self-care is what makes us feel good about ourselves and what we do. When we constantly reward ourselves with adequate self-care, we will develop a healthier growth mindset as well, because we will want to be able to give the world the best of us, not what’s left of us.
A lot of what influences and fuels our careers and our lives are our purpose and mindset. Being able to know our whys and having enough motivation to be able to constantly see failures as growth creates not only so much bigger opportunities for ourselves, it also creates inspiration for others.
MindNation has a repertoire of webinars to train your team on how to build a growth mindset, have a purposeful career, and have happier, healthier, and more productive lives. Message us at [email protected] to know more!
Harrison Ford was a carpenter before being casted as Han Solo in the “Star Wars” movies. Today, he is one of the world’s best-known actors and an enduring pop culture icon.
When Michael Jordan retired from basketball in 2003, he shifted to professional baseball and then to running his own business. In 2014, he became the first billionaire player in NBA history; he is also currently the 5th-richest African-American.
Finally, Sara Blakely was selling office supplies door-to-door when she got the idea for making shapewear; the company that she founded is now a household name — Spanx.
What do these people have in common? They all got to where they are now by stepping out of their comfort zones.
“A comfort zone is not a physical place,” says Monique Ong, co-founder and chairman of MindNation. “It is a frame of mind, a place where you feel comfortable and your abilities are not being tested.” In other words, comfort zones are comfortable, safe ways of living and working, usually in a set routine.
Staying in one’s comfort zone has its advantages — you have zero stress, you complete tasks faster, and you don’t expend as much mental energy.
However, it also has its drawbacks — you don’t learn new skills, become complacent, and even miss out on opportunities for growth.
“Growth only happens when you are learning, and learning only happens when you encounter something new,” Monique points out. “When you make changes and take risks, you transition and even evolve into someone better, and sometimes in the process you even transform those around you.”
Monique’s life has been all about expanding her comfort zones. After graduating top of her class from one of the most prestigious universities in the Philippines in 2000, she embarked on a storied career in Marketing for three Fortune 500 companies for over two decades, lived in seven different countries in the process, and even started her own business. But in June 2017, while on a business trip in Singapore, sustained a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). She spent 21 days in a coma and had to undergo three brain surgeries. When she woke up, she did not know how to eat, sit, or walk. Doctors told her that because of her injury, her brain was now only operating at 40% capacity. She was also diagnosed with aphasia, a disorder arising from a severe TBI that causes the patient to have trouble speaking, reading, writing, and understanding language. And finally, because of the swelling in her brain, she became blind in one eye.
“Changes don’t have to be big, and they do not have to happen overnight. By simply being creative, you can make small tweaks to your routine while you are on lockdown and already challenge yourself.”
Monique Ong, MindNation Co-Founder and Chairman
Monique was told that with therapy, her brain capacity could improve up to 80% — at the most. But she refused to let doctors determine her fate; in her quest to return to her normal life, she challenged herself and those tasked to treat her. She demanded daily speech therapy, even if her therapists only suggested that she see them thrice a week. She also asked for homework, and spent every day answering grammar worksheets, writing in a journal, and practicing giving presentations. She even started a light boxing exercise regimen with her physical therapist. On top of all these, she resumed planning for her wedding, which would be held 11,000 kilometers away in southern France.
When she was tested by her neurologist six months after her accident, her brain was operating at 95%.
In 2019, she co-founded MindNation, an innovative mental health and well-being company that has grown globally as a trusted partner for organizations and communities alike. She is proof that if we step out of your comfort zone, take risks, and face challenges head-on, we can evolve our lives, relationships, and even careers into something better. “Maybe not right away, and definitely not guaranteed,” Monique cautions. “But at least there is that possibility.”
From the comfort zone to the growth zone
This is not to say that you do need to experience a life-altering accident to challenge yourself, or move to another country to experience taking risks. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it virtually impossible for us to have adventures. But all these do not mean we have to resign ourselves to a life of idleness and inactivity. “Changes don’t have to be big, and they do not have to happen overnight,” Monique advises. “By simply being creative, you can make small tweaks to your routine while you are on lockdown and already challenge yourself.”
Here are some of the things Monique does to continuously challenge her comfort zone even when she is homezoned:
Working out is synonymous with challenging yourself. Monique is currently working with a personal trainer online, even though exercising is one of the things that she doesn’t like to do. “Because of our one-on-one set-up, my coach is constantly focused on me, always telling me to squat lower or bend deeper. I hate it, but I end up learning that I can do things I never thought possible.”
For those who love exercising, one way to stay challenged is to change up your workout program from time to time. Don’t just brush off yoga because you think you’ll never be able to touch your toes or disregard strength training because it seems intimidating. Stepping outside your fitness comfort zone can help you spice up your routine, help break a fitness plateau, and even increase your motivation.
Veer away from comfort foods.
Trying new dishes is one of the easiest ways you step out of your comfort zone. “If you’ve been having your meals constantly delivered like me, order a dish that you’ve never ordered before or that you think you’ll never like,” Monique suggests. “Or another from a different restaurant entirely. Even if you end up not liking the food, you are slowly training your brain to adapt to risk-taking. Next time, when you take on bigger challenges, they won’t seem so scary anymore.”
Make lockdown date nights as close to real date nights as possible.
Before lockdowns happened, date nights meant dressing up, candlelit dinners at romantic restaurants, and evenings filled with meaningful conversations. But if you and your partner have been isolating at home 24/7 for more than two years now, there are ways to break this routine and rekindle the spark.
“When we order food on date nights, my partner and I make sure to remove them from the takeout containers and place them on real plates. We also use real utensils and bring out the formal glassware — even if we’re just drinking water,” Monique shares. “Finally, we make sure to dress up, sit facing each other at the dining table — not in front of the tv — and put our phones away for 2 hours so that we can have an honest-to-goodness conversation. These take a lot of effort, but in doing so we make the experience more meaningful.”
Dare to have uncomfortable conversations.
“The pandemic has made talking to friends boring because there is no longer anything new to share,” Monique points out. “‘What’s new with you?’ ‘Nothing, I’m still stuck at home like you.’ So instead of asking people about their day during virtual catch-ups, introduce topics you never used to talk about, like world affairs or philosophical questions. These may be boring topics, but talking about them can help everyone learn something new and even take your relationship to a whole new level.”
Expand your professional skill set.
Monique may be the chairman of a company, but she still blocks time in her calendar every day for strategic thinking and planning. This includes updating herself on what competitors are doing, reading up on industry trends, and holding discussions with the team to stay on top of issues and concerns. “By doing these, I grow not only myself but also the business,” she says.
Not a C-suite executive? You can still challenge your professional comfort zone even if you are a junior team member. “Take on an extra project on top of what you are already doing — being mindful of your own capacities and limitations, of course,” Monique suggests. “Another way is to enroll in that digital marketing course, for example, even if you don’t know the difference between ‘reach’ and ‘engagement.’ Or reach out to your manager and ask if you can schedule a short meeting, to get feedback and advice on your current path.”
“Investing in skills like these not only represent a new challenge, they can build resilience, foster creativity, refresh your confidence, and open up more opportunities than ever,” she adds.
At first glance, there is nothing wrong with choosing to stay in your comfort zone. Here, you stay safe, predictable, and it’s not as if you will kill anyone for doing so. “But what it will kill is any purpose, meaning, or surprise in your life,” Monique points out. “When you don’t try new things, you won’t have any excitement, originality, or new motivation about anything.”
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing us to change our perspectives on how to live, act, and interact with others. “Use the time spent in lockdown to look for opportunities that will challenge your comfort zone; the result is either you say ‘This really isn’t for me,’ or you become so comfortable with the experience that you grow from it and it becomes your new comfort zone,” Monique says.
Speaking up for what you believe is a good thing, but when it comes to disagreeing with your boss, you need to be careful and tactful.
A 2018 study by Gallup reported that 94% of people feel stressed at work, with 35% saying that their boss is a cause of workplace stress. One possible reason for the latter is the fear and anxiety that comes when you need to voice a disagreement with a higher-up. While most workplaces these days are trying to establish a healthy culture where communication is open across all levels, dissenting with a superior is still a tricky thing. Doing so might make him or her think you are being difficult or disrespectful, but staying silent might give everyone else the impression that you are apathetic or complacent.
So how can you deliver your opposing opinion without suffering unfavorable consequences? Below are some strategies that you can employ:
Take note of the timing
Sometimes it’s not just what you say — it’s also when and where you say it. If you are in a relaxed team meeting where everyone is sharing suggestions and ideas, then feel free to chime in with your own thoughts. But if the discussion is starting to get heated and your manager is starting to display signs that they are getting angry, embarrassed, or feeling ganged-up on, it might be best to wait until things cool down. Then set up a separate, private meeting to talk it out.
Start off on a positive note.
While work conversations should ideally be honest and straight-to-the-point, you will need to moderate your bluntness when you are talking to a person of authority. So begin your opposition by clearly mentioning something positive, like a portion of the idea that you liked. Segueing into the disagreement is much better than blurting out “I think your idea is wrong because…” right off the bat.
Ask and listen before reacting.
Take a deep breath and try considering the issue from your superior’s point of view. Try to know his or her motivations for making such decisions; the best way to get them to listen to your side is to be able to reflect back to them that you understand what’s important to them. So ask questions, research the context, and gather information so that once you state your opposing view, it is based on facts and logic, not on emotions.
Rephrase the disagreement in the form of a suggestion
Instead of telling your boss what you think should be done, make it seem like you are asking for an alternative take on the matter. For example, you could say something like “I like your idea of holding team meetings every week, but what do you think about holding them on Wednesdays instead of Mondays so that….?” By letting your manager make the final decision, you still show respect for his or her authority.
Respect the final decision.
Always mentally prepare for the possibility that you will speak your mind but nothing will change. If that happens, you need to respect your boss’s decision and let it go. Instead of feeling angry or sad, take the rejection as a learning opportunity; even if you disagree with his or her point, try to at least understand it, so you are able to support it. At the very least, rejection builds mental resilience, so you still get something positive out of the whole experience.
By following the tips above, you can hopefully disagree with your boss in a way that is courteous and convincing but won’t cost you your mental health or your job.
How to manage contentious exchanges at work without making things worse
Conflict is inevitable in the workplace. You have to deliver bad news, ask someone to make a change, or correct an inappropriate behavior. These moments all require conversations and these conversations are difficult.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified potential conflict. New working conditions and external threats and pressures have led to a rise in mental health concerns, possibly affecting work performance and team dynamics. As a manager, you need to resolve these conflicts in a timely and professional manner that minimizes disruption to productivity. But this can be easier said than done when emotions are running high.
“We tend to view difficult conversations as a personal attack, a power struggle that becomes a win-lose situation,” says Salma Sakr, Chief Growth Officer of MindNation. “But if both parties treated them as an opportunity to grow both personally and professionally, to increase understanding, and to achieve goals, then we can address the situation sooner and with more ease.”
While there is no one way to have a difficult conversation, there is a blueprint that we can use to support us as we head into those conversations:
Before inviting the other person to a conversation, clarify your primary and secondary purpose. Salma suggests you do this by asking yourself two questions: first, what is this person doing that they should not be doing? And second, what is the person not doing that they should be doing? For example, you have an employee who does great work but is always a day or too late with projects. The primary purpose of your conversation is to emphasize the importance of getting work turned in on time. Your secondary purpose is to understand why there might be delays, what is the root cause of them being late all the time?
Never initiate a conversation when you’re overly emotional. “It’s okay to feel emotions. Your emotions tell you that a conversation needs to happen,” Salma assures. “But you’ve got to time it right. When you are calm, you’re in a better position to initiate and engage.”
Anticipate resistance. Resistance is defined as any form of negativity or non-acceptance, an unwillingness to move forward. It means the conversation is either not happening or it’s not going in the direction you want. Examples of ways people can be resistant in conversations:
“What you’re asking for is not possible”
“This isn’t fair”
“It will cost too much”
“I don’t have enough time to do what you want”
“I told you I’ve already tried that”
Resistance leads to non-productive conversations. The good news is there’s actually a way to test for resistance without getting trapped in an unproductive back and forth with the person you are speaking to. “Frame your request using the magic phrase ‘Would you be willing…?’” Salma suggests. “By doing this you are gauging how resistant they are and giving them space to decide if they are willing or not.”
Don’t use electronic or digital communication to engage in a difficult conversation. “The urge can be pretty strong to hide behind an email, text or chat when emotions are hot but things can be ‘lost in translation’ when written,” Salma points out. A face to face conversation (even just through video call) is always best. And, if someone triggers you with their email, don’t take the bait and don’t defend yourself. “Just don’t respond. Ask for a face to face meeting. If that’s not possible, ask for a phone meeting,” says Salma.
Don’t play the blame game. The go-to response when you are angry is to point fingers, which will make the other party defensive. So control your urge to be right, to be understood, and to win. Instead, practice active listening and get their side of the story. Until the other person feels heard, you’re only going to get defensiveness and disagreement. You don’t even have to agree. All you have to do is acknowledge their reality.
Cultivate curiosity. “Being a know-it-all closes off possibilities,” says Salma. “If you think you already know someone’s motives, you won’t try to understand them. And if you already know what someone is going to say, you avoid communication.” So genuinely show eagerness to understand, ask questions, and make sure you are having a dialogue not a monologue. There are two people in this conversation, so make sure you act that way.
Stay focused You’ve probably been engaged in a conversation that took a wrong turn. Chances are, you got distracted, you forgot your objective. Focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want. When you keep your focus on what you want, it’seasier to get to your end result and move forward.
Redirect so you are in control of the conversation. If you do find yourself facing a lot of resistance, or the person using many distracting phrases, you can use the following statements to help get you back on track. Examples include:
“I understand where you are coming from, but right now we are talking about your project delays.”
“That may be true but that is not as urgent as what we are discussing now. Let’s prioritize.”
“I suggest we park that and come back to it once we finish our conversation.”
“Clearly you have a lot on your mind, let’s set up more time to discuss that after we finish what we came to discuss here.”
“This way, you are giving space for their emotions but putting a boundary that this conversation is focused on a certain discussion and that you won’t deviate,” says Salma.
Don’t generalize. Eliminate words like “always” and “never” because you will lose the other person, i.e. “You always do this…” or “ You never do that…” Instead, you bring forward the specific observable behavior. “Last week, I observed you did this…”
Create accountability. Just because the conversation has happened and you both got through it doesn’t mean it ends there. Make sure to put a deadline within which you want to see the behavior or results changed/improved. “Ask them to book it in your calendar so you can reconvene and assess progress,” shares Salma. “This will ensure they remain accountable to the changes you have requested.”
By following the tips outlined above, it is possible to transform difficult conversations into constructive exchanges. You may not be able to control how others think and react, but you can control our own emotions, thoughts, and responses so that the relationship with the other person becomes better for it.
MindNation offers Company Culture Drive Ⓒ Talks — interactive webinars featuring experts on mental health and other dimensions of wellness. One of our most popular talks is “Having Difficult Conversations In The Workplace” where we train managers on how to handle tough conversations with team members, ensuring the well-being of all involved. To know more about this email us at [email protected].
Healthy workplaces tend to exhibit a common set of traits that foster excellence, productivity, and camaraderie.
Mentally healthy workers are happier, more productive, and more loyal. As a manager, you must make sure that your company has policies and practices that support a culture of growth, employee engagement, and prevention of mental illness. Does yours fit the bill? Below are 10 characteristics of a workplace that prioritizes wellness:
1. Relaxed and productive atmosphere
People enjoy going to work and do not feel stressed or afraid. They do not have to worry about being bullied, harassed, or intimidated by co-workers. Managers encourage them to be creative and think outside the box.
2. Staff that’s committed to excellence.
Because employees feel good about the company they work for, they stay focused and strive to deliver top-quality products and services.
3. Low employee turnover.
If staff retention rate at the entry or mid-levels is somewhere around 10 percent, that signifies that the employees are satisfied and the company is doing something right. This is particularly true if they are in the retail, hospitality, or IT industry, where the turnover is traditionally high.
3. Frequent, open, and honest communication across all levels.
Senior managers have an open-door policy and juniors are welcome to voice their opinions without fear of reprisal. Ideas are frequently exchanged during meetings. Difficulties are resolved in positive ways. Feedback is viewed as an opportunity for growth and not taken negatively.
4. Team members that cooperate, support, and empower each other.
Co-workers are close, loyal, and trust each other. They joke around a lot and laugh often. Everyone works smoothly together and does not engage in office politicking or backbiting.
5. Diverse and inclusive.
The workforce is composed of people of different backgrounds who are valued for their individual strengths and experiences. Employees feel that they belong but at the same time know that they are also unique among their peers.
8. Flexible and innovative. Employees are encouraged to find new and better ways of doing business, even if the old ways are just fine. Management is also brave enough to do away with policies that do not work. .
9. Positive reinforcement
People need acknowledgement, appreciation, and gratitude to be motivated. A positive company thanks employees regularly in the forms of rewards, bonuses, raises, promotions, and certificates of achievement.
10. Emphasis on health, happiness, and well-being
The company trusts the employees enough to allow them to work on a flexible schedule so that they can lead more fulfilling personal lives without sacrificing work commitments. And when team members face challenges such as accidents, illnesses, or personal tragedies, everyone goes the extra mile and treats them with understanding, compassion, and respect.
Job stress cannot be avoided, but a healthy workplace culture can make the stressful atmosphere easier to manage and yield positive outcomes like lower employee turnover rates, reduced absenteeism, and increased productivity. Regularly ask for feedback on how your workplace could be improved, and remember to deal with problems as soon as they occur.
If you need help creating a mental health and well-being program for your company, MindNation is an innovative mental health and wellbeing company that partners with like-minded organizations to build healthier, happier, and more productive teams. Its program is based on an individual’s holistic dimensions of wellness to ensure that services provided suit his or her unique requirements and objectives. Email them at [email protected] to learn more about their products and services.