Author

Isabel Valle

How comfortable do you feel being uncomfortable?
by Isabel Valle, Peak Performance Strategist

One of our most basic human needs is the need to feel safe. We crave certainty, stability and consistency, and yet, we have to live with constant uncertainty. Operating in a VUCA world, used to describe the rapidly transforming global business landscape, we are challenged by our ability to make sound decisions, lacking sufficient information, creating “best guesses” strategies knowing they may turn out badly, not fully understanding the constant changes and factors which could implicate our decision making and problem-solving abilities, and the overall success of our businesses.  

The fact is that our brains are not hardwired to operate in today’s complex times. This is especially true when it comes to dealing with uncertainty. When faced with it, our brain’s automatic response is to proceed with overwhelming caution and fear to ensure our survival, pushing us to overreact. This strategy worked great eons ago, when cavemen were faced by constant threats, but that’s not the case today, and it creates challenges and obstacles in the world of business.  On the bright side, if you know the right tricks, you can override your brain’s irrational tendencies and handle uncertainty effectively. 

In the face of uncertainty, we have to get good at making sound decisions, even when our brain fights us against this. Successful people are able to override this mechanism and shift their thinking towards a rational direction, whilst applying strategies that we will cover in this article.

So fear not, here are some proven strategies that you can use to improve the quality of your decisions when uncertainty is clouding your judgment. What follows are six of the best strategies that successful people use to help their businesses with increasing levels of uncertainty:

  1. Embrace uncertainty and accept what you cannot control             We all like to be in control. But this desire for control can backfire on us when we are overly focused on what we can’t control. A big part of dealing with uncertainty is accepting the current situation and where you and your business are right now. You need to embrace things that are outside of your control as they are and focus on things that are within your control.  People who excel at managing uncertainty aren’t afraid to acknowledge what’s causing it. They live in the real world and don’t paint any situation as better or worse than it actually is, analysing facts for what they are. They know that the only thing they really are able to control is the process through which they reach their decisions. That’s the only rational way to handle the unknown, and the best way to keep your head on level ground. So we mustn’t be afraid to acknowledge what we don’t know, and move forward based on what we do know. We may make mistakes, but that’s a lot better than doing nothing about it. Experts at dealing with uncertainty know they aren’t always going to make the right decision, and that failures will allow them to learn from their mistakes and make better decisions in the future.
  1. Assess your particular situation.               You need to get a clear understanding of where you and your business are right now. Make sure you have the up to date business and financial performance figures and that you understand your cash flow and forward sales position. Take stock of all aspects of your business and review your business plan often. While most business owners revise business plans once a year, the truth is there’s no limit to how many times you can revise it. It really pays off allocating some time and resources to sit with your key employees to revisit it, putting special attention to key indicators relating to the cash flow. This will help ensure your business goals are reached while working on combating the changes in consumer demands. More importantly, it will help your company to stay afloat in the event of a crisis. Frequently reviewing your business performance, making sure that all aspects of your business are working efficiently and effectively – including people, customer service, processes and procedures, sales and marketing, systems, etc – will help you be ready to deal with anything.
  1. Keep abreast of changing trends in your industry.                               Understand what is happening in the outside world, including customer trends, economic changes, competitor activity and all areas that may impact your business, so you can make more well-informed decisions. Gather information and facts from well-known sources. Keep yourself abreast of the latest economic forecasts, current trends, and the general state of the economy. Ask yourself and your team how you can make better, faster decisions, even when you have less certain data will also help you create a proactive attitude towards the unknown. You must also speak to others and reach out for help and support. In times of uncertainty it is good to speak to trusted contacts to share experiences, gain perspective and gain support. You may also want to seek support from outside and consult the experts. There are future events you can’t forecast even if you’ve been doing business for a long time. For this reason, it pays to lean on the expertise that experts and business advisors provide. While it looks like another expense for your business at the onset, you’ll be surprised how much money they can help you save.

  2. Prepare for multiple outcomes.               One of the most effective ways to combat uncertainty is to consider a number of possible scenarios and prepare contingency plans for all of them. As you are dealing with uncertainty about the future, you need to be prepared and plan for different possibilities or outcomes. You will need to think through the key risks that may impact your business, using up to date information, and where you assess the risk to be too high, look at spreading the risk, by making assumptions and preparing a flexible plan. Keep revising the plan regularly as things change. Considering multiple options rather than concentrating on one right guess will be more beneficial to your business. When you proactively think through a variety of possible scenarios and work on strategies for all of them, you’ll be better prepared and armed in the event that any of those occur. So instead of trying to make the one right guess as to what will most likely happen, make multiple guesses. This is the way any truly innovative process works, and innovation is a good analogy for prediction. Staying on top of uncertainty is as much about planning for failure as it is about hoping for the best. Once you have a good contingency plan in place, there’s no place for what ifs, stress and worry. 
  1. Look for unexpected opportunities and possibilities.               Instead of expecting the future to deliver something specific, you need to focus instead of what you will do to create the outcome you want. Your actions and intentions are within your control. Uncertainty can create lots of opportunities as other businesses become anxious, indecisive and complacent. Know that new, unexpected opportunities will arise with the changes that are happening, so make sure you are being creative, thinking outside of the box and looking for opportunities. Managing uncertainty requires a strong approach to creating mindset changes. Research into high performing teams globally reveals a common characteristic in that they welcome and are highly resilient to change. How you and your team view change is key here, specifically viewing it as an opportunity rather than a threat. 

  2. Take decisions and take action.             Uncertainty can lead to indecision and inaction. Successful businesses will assess the situation, plan, keep focused, make decisions and take action to stay ahead. Your business must remain agile and flexible, so you can take on a proactive approach and make changes quickly, reacting accordingly. Staying as you are and doing everything in the same way will lead to you losing your way and slipping behind your competitors. There’s no substitute for awareness, listening, and identifying events as soon as they happen. Some decisions can make or break your company. You must focus only on what matters.  When it comes down to it, almost every decision contains at least a small factor of uncertainty—it’s an inevitable part of doing business. Learning to properly balance the many decisions on your plate, however, allows you to focus your energy on the things that matter and to make more informed choices. It also removes the unnecessary pressure and distraction caused by a myriad of small worries.

“As you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life. It means fear is no longer a dominant factor in what you do and no longer prevents you from taking action to initiate change.”
Eckhart Tolle

Uncertainty is inevitable, regardless of the industry where your business belongs. The ability to strategically manage uncertainty is one of the most important skills you can cultivate in an increasingly volatile business environment. Try the strategies above, and your ability to handle uncertainty will take a huge step in the right direction.

Over to you now. How do your uncertainty skills measure up? What do you do when faced with uncertainty? Which strategy from above are you most likely to implement and why?

Here’s to your success!

Isabel x

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Dear Friends,

We are facing an unprecedented time in our history. The world is navigating through uncharted territory in the midst of this global pandemic which is impacting our health, our businesses and the global economy. 

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve watched how this pandemic has heightened and many businesses have been forced to close or cut back substantially. 

Consumers are now staying home, businesses are losing revenue and laying off staff and unemployment levels are rising. Most likely large-scale quarantines, travel restrictions, and social-distancing measures will drive a sharp fall in consumer and business spending, producing a recession. 

What does all of this mean for consumer confidence and the health of our businesses?

As we all continue to navigate through these unique and evolving challenges, we need to explore new innovative ways in which to reach our potential customers, continue to have a digital presence and find unusual creative ways to keep our businesses awake. 

I am of the opinion that something good comes out of even the worst situations. In the absence of “business as usual”, with so much fear and uncertainty surrounding us, we can’t just allow our worries to distract our efforts. Instead, we need to proactively find ways to ease the uncertainty, so that new windows of possibilities and creative opportunities may appear. We simply cannot let the tough times we are facing determine our approach to navigating through it, and businesses will need to work hard to fight against this. 

At times like these, it’s not all bad news. With social distancing and self-isolation becoming the norm, this could potentially be the time to help us identify the weak links in our businesses so that we can fix them. 

If for instance your business is over-reliant on a specific client or area, you rely on having a physical presence or have the need to attend trade shows and sales meetings, you may need to consider ways to invest in better digital sales and marketing initiatives, which would reduce your exposure to the risks posed by the pandemic, all while opening new opportunities. 

Often my clients have been meaning to change things in their business but somehow never found the right time to do so. This could in fact be your opportunity to do it. It is human nature to get caught up in our daily busy lives, and we sometimes need to be up against the wall before we finally do what is needed to be done all along. So take this as an indication that your time to act on those areas is now. 

So, what are we to do when the world is on edge – waiting to see what happens next? I wish I had a crystal ball to see into the future, but I’m in the same boat as everyone else. Waiting for each new day to find out which direction the landscape has shifted and how the general public will react.

So, what are the best moves for smart businesses to make in these uncertain times? What can set you up for success now and into the future, whatever that brings? I wrote an article for Austcham back in May 2019 with all details on how successful people overcome adversity that you can read here —- ADD LINK——-  (https://austchamthailandadvance.com/2019/04/29/may-2019-how-successful-people-overcome-uncertainty/).

The pandemic has added yet another critical layer of complexity. The way forward, not matter how ambiguous our circumstances, is to focus on the areas we can impact upon. I would like to share with you 3 areas to prioritize on your business. They are by no means exhaustive or detailed enough to substitute for a thorough analysis of a company’s particular situation:

This is the time to practice social distancing, and it needs to be taken seriously.  If possible, reduce the need for yourself, your employees and your clients to travel to a physical location by offering virtual attendance options. Get into the daily habit of asking:

  • What can I do to be of service? 
  • How can I continue to add value for my clients? 
  • What expertise can I share?”  

and set about delivering that value via alternative methods. 

In such a confusing and stressful time, I watch my clients in awe of the many creative ways they continue to add value. From medical online check-ups, to Zoom physio treatments, to online mentoring group classes, etc.  The possibilities are endless. These businesses would have never thought of venturing into online platforms, and yet at a time of need, they are putting themselves out there and continuing to service customer needs.

For most companies, business as usual is not an option. This is an urgent time to skill up.  I don’t think a lot of people truly understand how important it is to build up their digital brands and sales right now. It’s not only a must as the whole world goes virtual, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime to add value to others virtually.

People feel connected to people who are 100% aligned with their values, and what they stand for. In this time of confusion with all that’s happening in the world, life can feel frightening and the world can seem scary, shaky and unreal as everything we know seems to be changing at lightning speed.

During these difficult times it’s important for business leaders to maintain an open and honest way of communicating to all of their stakeholders. You must be willing to face and share difficult times. To be open to resolving conflict before it worsens. Open to having difficult conversations with the intention of finding a way forward. Open to working through changes that are happening on an hourly basis and open to listening, seeing things from others point of view and being kind and respectful to each other. 

Firstly, you must protect your employees by providing them with clear, simple language on how to deal with the current changes while providing them with autonomy so they feel empowered to deal with any quickly evolving situation. Establish two-way communications that provide a safe space for employees to express if they are feeling unsafe for any reason, as well as monitoring adherence to updated policies. 

Maintaining an informed workforce helps ensure that business continues to flow as smoothly as possible. It also minimizes the internal rumour mill that may lead to employees posting false reports on social media, impacting your reputation.

Secondly, you must stay close to your customers and suppliers. Businesses are only as strong as the communities of which they are a part. Companies that navigate disruptions better often succeed because they invest in their core customer segments and anticipate their behaviours. People have dramatically shifted toward online shopping for all types of goods, including food and produce delivery. You do not want customers and suppliers to learn about the effect of the crisis in your business through third parties. Information on any crisis pertaining to your organization should come from you first. 

Staying transparent and offering authentic, real-time information to your stakeholders will go a long way in terms of trust and engagement, and it will continue to add on your reputation as an ethical, transparent brand. 

When everyone is pulling back, you must continue to deliver on your core business strategies. Our current situation is forcing us to find different ways to live and interact, so we need to adapt. Even if production, manufacturing or shipping is not feasible right now, you must continue to engage with your audience, build on it, and continue to share your message to market. 

Your clients will appreciate your continued engagement and will remain loyal to your brand. Also, don’t be afraid to openly ask them for ways in which you could continue to do business. I have been pleasantly surprised to find that by tweaking some details regarding delivery, production date, and loosening warranty and payment terms and conditions, many clients are still willing to continue to do business. 

Strategically speaking, this could be the right time for you to increase your reach and opportunities into other markets, so you don’t put your all your eggs in one basket.  While everyone else is checking out, you can be sharpening your saw. 

 

“The only thing we can be sure of in business is change”.

Now’s the time to ask some critical — potentially game-changing — questions to reflect on what you really want in business, such as the ones I suggest below: 

This is a historic crisis. But that also means it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you to be a role model, to optimize your business, to demonstrate a positive attitude, to show compassion, to set the emotional tone for your circle of influence, to remain calm and conscientious, to lead authentically, to exemplify the values and service that your brand and your business stand for.

The underlying message here is clear: people before business. Our economy can recover over the long-term. We cannot bring back lives lost. Business will return, and until that happens, we need to do our best to protect ourselves and our people. Help keep them safe and protected.

Let’s try and maintain a level of optimism. Success in this instance will look like an adaptation of life – and business – as we know it. Let’s be proactive now and redefine our business activities so that when we conquer COVID 19 you are ready to propel forward decisively and with impact. 

Sending virtual hugs to you all. Let’s hold on and give it our very best. Stay safe!

Isabel 

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The world is going through the biggest change in history. We are living in a new era with unprecedented conditions at all levels: unstable external environment, changing political and financial forces, technological advancements, global warming, etc. In this new phase of globalisation, the role of society is being reinvented and ordinary people are taking back their power, and in doing so, the rise of ordinary heroes begins.

Ordinary people blame their circumstances and make excuses. They give away their power and place the responsibility for their own happiness in the hands of others. They never stop to consider that they have choices. But we no longer can hide under the blanket. The world at large needs your help. Not only do you have the opportunity to take control of everything that you do, you have the responsibility to do it.

Ordinary heroes take responsibility for their lives. They own their thoughts, actions, decisions and feelings. They understand that they are responsible for how they respond to the environment they find themselves in. Ordinary heroes are people who rise above conformity to go beyond their comfort zone and do extraordinary things. 

This new breed of heroes does not need a title to make a difference. They are focused, motivated individuals, driven by a sense of internal direction and a sense of purpose that, in turn, is positively transforming the world we live in.

So, who are today’s heroes? Irrespective of their jobs or life circumstances, there are some people that have the ability to shine in their own right, and are able to impact positively every single person that they come in contact with. They are called heroes because they are able to use their unique gifts and powers and break through all preconceived ideas and moulds in order to create the changes needed to make a difference.

Most of us may not even realise the amazing gifts that lie inside us and may be afraid of our own unique talents. In fact, it is estimated that the average person only uses up to 8% of their full potential. But when we look and focus outside of ourselves we give away our power, which makes us feel lost and powerless, hindering our ability to tap into our greatness.

“Everything is impossible until you do it.” – J. Miller

But how do we find our power? Your journey starts within yourself. We all possess internal voices, what I like to call my BIG voice and my little voice.

Our little voice belittles us and tells us that we are not good enough, we are not worth it, we will never achieve amazing things, that we need to pretend to be someone we are not in order to be liked and accepted by others, etc –  any of these sound familiar?

Our BIG voice however tells us not to let others define who we are; it tells us that we can achieve anything we set our mind to. It encourages us to pursue our passions, and provides us with limitless motivation and energy to pursue our dreams and life purpose, giving us room to fail and learn from our own mistakes without the fear of being judged.

Ordinary heroes listen to their BIG voice, as it is in that space that they learn about their gifts and purpose. Learn to ignore your little voice which keeps you stuck, lost and unaccomplished, and get to know yourself and what you have to offer. No matter how big or small your purpose, it is through individual personal accountability that you will make a big difference in your life and the lives of others around you. Find that role that is bigger than you, that role in which you want to be your best, irrespective of title. Become aware of your passions and what drives you to want to better yourself.

Don’t give away your power. You cannot live an extraordinary life by making ordinary choices. Become a hero. Lead from the inside out and let the world see you for who you really are. What you do matters. Your gifts matter. Help us make the world a better place. So, do you have what it takes to be a hero?

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Making decisions, even small ones, can wear us down over time. Every day we make endless decisions about what we eat and wear, what we work on, what we do with our spare time. By bedtime, the average person has made 35,000 decisions! Every decision requires time and energy, and depletes our willpower. Add to that our addiction to fill our days being busy for the sake of being busy, and you my friend have got a great recipe for disaster. Regardless of how strong you are, your ability to make the best choices can eventually run out.

When many of the business leaders come to me initially, they talk about feeling drained, stressed, scattered, irritable, having physical fatigue, increased anxiety, tension headaches and even digestive issues, which makes them feel unproductive and overwhelmed for the majority of their day, even though they try to eat healthy, excercise and sleep well. If that’s you, I dare say you may not actually have physical fatigue, what you may have is called decision fatigue, and it affects us way more than you realise. 

With decision fatigue, you’re not consciously aware of being tired, but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts. This may cause you to become reckless in your decision-making, acting impulsively instead of thinking things through. Or you may simply do nothing, which can create bigger problems in the long run.

Over the last few months I have witnessed so many of my clients having to completely adapt and reinvent who they are, what they do and how they go about moving forward, trying to set themselves up for success amid a global pandemic which gives little signs to ease up. The level of unpredictable complexity we are now facing has made many of us re-evaluate our options, explore new avenues, and try to come up with new pathways to help us stay afloat in today’s volatile environment. 

For some, the prospect of a stable job or business has been taken away, with nearly half the global workforce at risk of losing income due to COVID 19 alone, according to the International Labour Organization.

For those who remain employed or in business, comes a period of intense evaluation of business practices, reinventing the wheel, entire new ways of creating value in the marketplace and never thought of ways in which to lead people to deliver results.

Today, we are faced by a world where millions of businesses globally are barely breathing. These are the real faces of the world of work. If we don’t learn to adapt and make critical decisions to help us navigate through this period of unprecedented history, many will simply perish.

Millions of tiny decisions throughout our day can drain our willpower and mental resources – if we let them. 

Here’s something you need to know. Decision fatigue is caused by being forced to make too many decisions over a fixed period of time. There comes a point where good choices and thoughtful decision making cannot be expected from the depleted brain. This relates to all kinds of decisions, and the exhaustion leaves people open to making poor decisions, whether in their business, their health or their relationships, making us hasty or stopping us from making decisions all together. 

But fear not, by changing your habits and setting up the right routines, you can decrease anxiety and conserve your energy for the decisions that really matter. Learning how to manage your decision-making can help you avoid feeling drained and conserve your mental capacities, much needed at a time like this! 

Some signs of decision fatigue include procrastination, impulsivity, avoidance and indecision. If this sounds like you, take notice. It is a great concern what happens to our capacity to make good decisions when our brains are out of fuel.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can keep this from happening. Learn how you can combat decision fatigue, replenish your willpower and boost your productivity during a decision-heavy day with these simple steps:

  1. Make less decisions.

Making too many decisions will stress you out. Take minor decisions off your plate, which take a lot of decision energy. If you get overwhelmed by lunch menus, take your lunch to work. Prepare your work clothes the night before. 

By making fewer decisions, you’ll be giving your brain a standing chance to recharge and recover. Many laugh at my schedules, to-do lists, weekly food menus and shopping lists, but I’m the one laughing – they keep me on track, streamline my choices, which helps me stay ahead of my week and what happens in it, taking the guess out of how I run my days and weeks. Scale back and find ways to simplify your life as much as possible. 

Hobbies, activities and volunteering are all great and wonderful things to do, but if you’ve reached the point where you’re overwhelmed, it’s time to drop the excess commitments in your life. Self-care must come first. 

  1. Delegate decisions.

I see many struggle with delegating – whether tasks or decisions to others. Many of us feel we must do it all to get it done properly or because we don’t have time to train others to do it as well as us, but at what cost? You can delegate decisions the same way you delegate tasks. If you keep complaining about how much you have on your plate, it’s tme to give responsibility to others for some decision-making. Stop micromanaging and do yourself a favour – you’re not the only person that can get things done, have confidence that others will also deliver.

Pass some decision-making to employees, spouses, children, friends and family members. Others can pick good options too. And it doesn’t always have to be perfect. There are way more important things in life, like knowing what decisions to pass on. 🙂 Letting others be part of the decision making can be very empowering for others and shows that you trust them. So help them help you! 

  1. Follow a process.

Being systematic about important or difficutlt decisions can help you become more decisive. This will help you analyze your choices by understanding options available, potential obstacles, and evidence to back up your decision. Having a consistent model to follow can also help you clear up confusion and keep your emotions at bay, so you can objectively weigh in options. For instance, a simple example would be:

  • Identify problem 
  • gather information 
  • identify opportunities 
  • identify potential obstacles 
  • weigh the evidence 
  • choose best option 
  • take action 
  • review decision.

“Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions.” – Mark Twain

  1. Make priority decisions in the morning. 

We carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, constantly thinking about what needs to be done. Do yourself a favour and write all that’s pending inside your head down in paper, where it can kept safe and can be tackled accordingly. Once you’ve written them down, put them in order of priority and tackle the most pressing ones first. That way, your most important decisions will be done when your energy it still at its highest. 

For most of us – even night owls – the best time of day is in the morning — that’s when we make accurate and thoughtful decisions. By afternoon, most people hit a plateau, and as the day wears on decision fatigue sets in, and we start making riskier decisions.

Don’t risk making snappy decisions. If you are feeling overwhelmed about making a decision, create micro-deadlines that force you to act early and not keep pondering your choices. Better to space out decisions over time than to make critical decisions at the eleventh hour. 

  1. Avoid analysis-paralysis.

Stop second-guessing yourself. We often get trapped in the mindset that everything we do needs to be perfect, and this puts a lot of pressure on us to make the “right” choice, because a “wrong” choice could somehow ruin something. The truth is, in most cases, there is no right or wrong choice, you can only go with the information you have at the time and hope for the best. 

The most important aspect in decision making is to review your decision early to confirm whether it was the right one, or to recalibrate as needed if it wasn’t. So stop wasting time trying to come up with the perfect solution. It simply doesn’t exist. The more decisions you make, the more experienced and comfortable you’ll get at it. 

You cannot make progress without making decisions.

DO YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW TO MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION EVERY TIME? 

If you’re feeling torn about making a decision ask yourself: do I feel expansive when I think about this or contracted? pay attention to the answer. If you feel an instant sense of dread or heaviness or something in your body just going “no”, or you actually notice your body subtly moving back, those can all fall under the umbrella of feeling contracted. On the other hand, you might ask yourself do I want to do this, and all of a sudden inside you notice a very subtle shift where something feels lighter, something feels brighter, even a sense of excitement. Perhaps your physical body actually moves forward. Or even if it sounds a little scary, something in you just feels bigger. That would be an example of something that is expansive. These are all clues that your intuitive intelligence give you. Learn to notice to those clues if you want to feel at peace with the decisions you make. Contraction for me is a big no and expansion is a big yes. Try it for yourself. 

Beyond tapping into your intuitive intelligence, you can also ask yourself: what’s the worst thing that can happen if I do this? You’d be surprised how many people don’t take the time to really drill down into the worst case scenario. Once you do, ask yourself: How exactly, specifically, would I deal with it? Is it a matter of losing some money, could you lose your job or your business? You know, sometimes the worst thing that could happen is that you’d be embarrassed by making a mistake. If it’s beyond what you’re willing to risk, then there’s your answer. Don’t do it. 

If still in doubt, move onto the next step, which is looking on the flipside and imagining what could be the best case scenario. Think through what are all the possible payoffs that might come from saying yes to this decision? Will you learn a tremendous amount about yourself? Are there financial / creative / freedom upsides that can only come if you take a chance and say yes? 

Finally, if after considering the above steps you still find yourself unsure about which decision to make, it’s time to move into action. Because for certain decisions to become clear, you must first experience them. 
You have to find a way to experience it. So I want you to ask yourself, is there some way that I can test drive this opportunity? Can I take a first step? Can I take a class? Can I do a test run in some way? Can I try it on a small scale, even if it’s just an experiment?

So for example, the first time I considered running marathons, I could hardly run 100 meters without tripping my back. It seemed impossible, and yet I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. Before committing to getting myself through the process of training for long distance running, I experimented with smaller milestones. My first kilometre, my fastest 5 km time, ways to keep my back strong through the pounding on the road, etc. By the time I committed to the full process, I knew it was the right decision, and having experienced my growth, there was no resistance to the process at all, no matter how hard or scary it was. Trying something out before you go all in will help you get clear quickly and effectively. 

On a final note, let me add a different perspective about decision making. Nothing is permanent. Most things you can stop, evolve or reverse. Even if the decision you make is wrong, or is not working out the way you thought it would, you can always catch it and change it. 

Now I’d love to hear from you. Tell me: Do you have a decision you’ve been avoiding making lately? What’s your favourite method for decision making? How do you distinguish what the right decisions are for you? Post your answers in the comments below.

Isabel is an experienced Peak Performance Strategist with over 20 years of international work experience holding senior positions within the hospitality industry in countries around the world, as well as Executive and Leadership coaching, mentoring and training.
She specializes in high performance strategy, leadership development and building organizational culture to help leaders and their teams learn, grow and succeed.
Isabel is passionate about helping empower business leaders with the mindset, performance, skills and strategies that they need to get ahead.
More available on www.isabelvalle.com

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COVID 19 has changed the way we work. Working from home has now become a necessity. In trying to keep the pandemic from spreading any further and reduce the numbers of people getting sick, quarantined, or caring for loved ones, we’ve had to look at ways to send our employees home and trust that business targets continue to be met. 

Establishing a work-from-home routine isn’t simple – especially when you have no time to waste. When done right, however, employees and business owners working from home can stay just as engaged and productive as they would in an office space. 

I’ve put together a list of 7 practices applicable to anyone working from home, no matter what role or industry they may be, so you can all stay safe – and productive – while the virus takes its course. Please note that these are self-leadership practices to help you stay ultra-productive, on an individual basis. I will cover strategies to help virtual teams at a later stage. Here they are:

  • Set your schedule for next day before going to bed. That’s right. Your performance next day will be impacted by how you organise it the previous evening. Look at your calendar, your must-dos, and everything else you’d like to fit in to make it a productive day. Plan for it and schedule it in your calendar, so you can follow your way to success the next day.
  • Set a daily routine. If you sort of wonder out of bed at different times and don’t follow a particular routine, you’ll be wasting a lot of precious time and dedicated focus to propel you forward in what needs to be done. Sticking to a daily routine will help us to be more efficient, create structure in our lives, make us feel more in control, help us save time – our most valuable resource – and reduce procrastination and bad habits. 
  1. Select a dedicated space. Just because you are working from home, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a dedicated workspace or office. Create a clean, organised, calming and inspiring home office environment, which can help you get into the right mindset and prevent you from distractions. I have created a working desk to do my content work, that I’ve decorated with quotes and visuals that help me stay focused and inspired, and a sitting area for me to conduct my clients’ calls and connect via phone of email with others. 
  • Schedule breaks during the day. Every 40-60 min, stand up and stretch, walk around, go drink some water, interact with people at home or make a quick call to interact with others and maintain a sense of connection. Just as you schedule meetings and tasks in your calendar, you must also schedule breaks to refocus and recharge. This is not the time to go on social media and lose track of time. These are intentional breaks to help you maintain a sense of balance and self-care during your day, so you allow time to eat, rest and connect with loved ones. 
  • Get into the habit of working early in the morning. My morning routine goes something like this: wake up – set my intention for the day – do some deep breathing (1 min) – make my bed, do some light yoga / exercise, shower, breakfast, work by 8am. Add to that my plan of action from the previous evening and I am ready to tackle my day with clarity and motivation. Habits will help you create effortless efficiency. Give it a try for yourself, stick with it until it becomes automated, and watch your productivity soar. 
  • Set specific work hours. If your home is your permanent office, at least for a while, then set specific work hours. If your work and company allow it, you can choose your own flexible working hours for yourself. Let’s say if you feel more productive in the morning and not in the late evening, then you can set your work hours from 7am to 3pm. Don’t forget to share your work schedule with your colleagues or boss. Having set times will help you get more done during your day, rather than just continuing to work longer hours with no end in sight. The brain works very well by assigning it pre-determined tasks within a specific period of time – that’s why deadlines work! 
  1. Put yourself high on the “to-do” list. At the end of the day, no matter how many productivity tips I share with you, if you are not looking after yourself, you are going to lack the motivation, energy and focus that you need to help you create the right priorities in place. All of the above requires you to do some intentional work, possibly outside of your normal routine, and changes require energy and focus from you, otherwise your brain will find ways to trick you into quitting trying to change how things are. Later on, I will dedicate a full resource on how to take a proactive approach to taking care of your health, but I bet you already know most of it, only now it is time to really do something about it. You’ve heard it all before, eat healthy, clean food, stay hydrated, sleep well, take rests during the day, exercise, and do some kind of practice to help you keep your mental and emotional states in check. These are all very important ways to help you stay positive, optimistic and productive at a time of crisis and change like this.

I could go on. When it comes to ways to continue to improve performance, the possibilities are endless. Put into practice the ones you need to build into your day working from home now, and watch your effectiveness and efficiency improve dramatically. 

What’s your favourite productivity practice and why? Please share the ones you found work best for you. At times like these, we all need to lean in together and share best practices. 

Stay safe everyone, let’s do our best!

Isabel 

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There are moments in life when you feel under attack. It could be a batch of bad decisions, unfortunate events, epic failures, health issues, financial struggles, stress and overwhelm at work, sleepless nights, family or friends’ grave illnesses… or even a global pandemic which gives little signs of easing up. Sometimes, it seems as if most life domains work in synch to charge at you, and it is frankly difficult to navigate such times. 

The last few of years have seemed that way to me. I have struggled with health issues, such as leaky gut and adrenal fatigue. My husband had to leave us and move to another country for work, and I was left in Bangkok alone, with my two amazing children, who unfortunately took to their dad’s departure with great disappointment. A very sick mum – living far away in Spain. My daughter’s trust issues as a result of bullying. My son’s heartbreak by his dad’s departure. The prospect of moving to a very expensive country without the “expat” cushioning of benefits… add to that my – timely – decision to embark on a big mentorship program to help me up my game and develop my business to a whole new level, and what you find is a real scramble of a person trying to get through my days the best way possible. 

I am not going to lie to you. There have been days where all I could get done in order to get through my day was breathing. I am up and down like a yo-yo, pushing through, constantly demanding more of me, giving out more, doing more, then crashing and recovering for a bit, only to jump back onto the vicious cycle. 

Not easy to have to juggle so many balls at once. But I want to tell you one thing. I am not sorry that this is happening to me. On the contrary. I know that every challenge that I face, every obstacle I stumble across, brings me closer to becoming the type of person I want to be. Every hurdle, every disappointment, every mistake brings with it new learnings, fresh new insights as to what I’m capable of, and even more determination that, not matter what comes my way, I will conquer it with the continuous courage and decisiveness that I put into my life. Because if I don’t, what would be the cost of succumbing to it all? 

It was over a decade ago that I decided to claim a leader’s seat and let go of my victim’s role, a position I had played very well for the majority of my life. 

In going through a huge transformation – from the inside out – I built resources within myself that I never knew I had. And from that moment on, I made a commitment to myself that, no matter what life threw at me, I would charge up and face it head on.

It wasn’t long after that commitment, that I believe the Universe decided to test me, and sent me on a quest to demonstrate whether I would show up as a fearless leader or I’d run away.

During that time, I was living in Brunei Darussalam, in the Borneo jungle, where I would spend hours daily running through the jungles. It was on one of those days, a particularly quiet one, that I decided to go for my weekly Saturday 22km loop. Towards the end of my run, something happened, that would allow me to cement my commitment to charging to fear. 

I was only about 2 km away from reaching the main city, people and buildings, when, out of nowhere, I was faced with a pack of wild dogs charging aggressively at me. 

Wild dogs usually travel together, and they often have rendezvous sites like wolves. I happened to be unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and these dogs were determined to get to me. 

We’ve all heard that if an unfamiliar dog approaches you, to not run, panic of make loud noises. And if the dog knocks you down, to curl into a ball with your head tucked under your fists. Well, I can tell you now that at that time, that advice became insignificant. 

Very quickly I could assess who the alpha dog was, charging straight at me, and the other three dogs started to spread out, and I knew that they were going to try to circle around me, whilst the dominant dog of the pack would approach me head on. 

I knew I had one chance at changing the situation I was in, and that under no circumstances could I let those dogs get behind me, or that would be it. I also knew that I couldn’t run for my life, since I had just ran over 20 km and my legs were ready to give up. 

Intuitively, I knew that I needed to focus on the alpha dog of the pack, and that if I could scare the leader off, the rest would follow. Unfortunately, I wasn’t carrying any sticks, not did I have time to find a rock or something to throw at them. My best bet was my hydration pack, so I quickly took it off and, at that moment, I decided that charging my worst fears was the only way out – and so I did. 

Tapping into strength and courage I didn’t know I had, I bravely decided to face the alpha dog and charge at it, speeding towards it face on. I ran as if there was no option but to win the race, to give my all, and I screamed so loud that I couldn’t even hear the angry dogs barking anymore. For a second or two, I thought that was it, if it came to the alpha dog and me crossing paths, I would lose, yet at that moment I had nothing to lose, so I decided to give myself to the charge. 

Just a second before crashing with the leader of the pack, it suddenly stopped, and I could see the confusion and disbelief in the dog’s face. I believe that it understood that no matter what, I would show up in the fight fully, and at the very last moment it decided to stop and back away. The other dogs followed, and they ran deep into the jungle until all there was left was the feeling that my heart was going to come out of my mouth. 

It took me a moment to come back to a present state. I felt the need to shake uncontrollably and let go of all the adrenaline build up that still persisted in my body. 

I thought about running back to civilisation, but I was beat. There was nothing left to give in me, and I slowly walked back home. 

Once I reached home, I passed out. It took me a good few weeks to be able to reflect about that incident and to come out with some nuggets of wisdom that would allow me to release the trauma and move forward.

With time I understood that in the face of fears or obstacles, charging ahead is truly the only way. I have since tried to adopt a “fearless leader” mentality, so that, no matter what gets on the way, I will be here ready to face it. 

Life is what you make of it. It won’t always show you its best parts. There will undoubtedly be times when life will almost be unbearable, and, during those times, look within, tap into the strength and courage we all possess within ourselves, and charge ahead, for soon life will show you some of the best sunrises yet. 

To the fearless leader within you, awaken your power, the time is now. 

Here’s to your success!

Isabel x

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Are we getting it all wrong?

I believe that for far too long we’ve been stuck as a society into a particular set of thinking about how we work and live. It is time to get real, to break from those so called “work-life” issues, and start creating a different type of integration to live our best lives.

There is no doubt that most of us are time starved and overstretched, and are feeling the pressure of unrealistic expectations as we go about our days by the conflicting demands of our work and life, making us feel overwhelmed, stressed out and stuck. We live under the illusion that committing to insane demands and long working hours will one day save our day, however this strategy to get us to perform and stay on top of it all couldn’t be more wrong.

Studies have shown that productivity drops steeply after a 50-hour workweek, and drops off a cliff after 55 hours – a far cry from the 70-80 hours week I used to do working in hotels.  Exhausted employees are not only unproductive but also more prone to costly errors, accidents and sickness. It is paramount to bring more awareness to employers to highlight the fact that hours can be reduced without loss of input. We need to realise the fact that longer working hours does not improve productivity – healthy, well-restored employees do.

The culture of overwork has well-known personal consequences. Working more than 55 hours a week raises the risk of heart attack and stroke. People who work longer hours tend to be more anxious and depressed, and their sleep suffers. According to Schulte at Harvard Business Review, people’s IQ actually drops 13 points when in a state of tunnel-vision busyness.

However, if your work culture is organised around effective work, and values employees who have full lives outside of work, you will stand a far better change of attracting and retaining employees who are highly engaged, motivated and willing to give their best at work, which will undoubtedly translate into a healthier, more successful business, and a healthier bottom line. Promoting a healthy work-life balance in your business will also lead to increased productivity, a happier workforce, staff feeling valued and less likely to leave, reducing staff turnover and minimizing recruitment costs.

Let’s get real: Work-life balance is an unhealthy myth. We all have limited energy, and following Elon Musk’s working week of 120 hours in simply unrealistic. Instead, we must allocate time wisely, depending on priorities and circumstances. Inevitably, some things will be neglected when important matters demand our attention, and we need to account for those times and be OK with it.

One of the first points that I’d like to suggest in how to create a shift in the way we think about work-life balance, is to actually change the language itself. The word balance implies “equal”, and balancing work and life matters equally is simply idealistic. Work is in fact a part of life, not something separate, and as such it fits in under the greater umbrella. We must therefore start by using a different type of language to depict this balancing act.

I love how Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, uses the phrase “work life harmony” instead. Bezos believes happiness at work makes him happy at home, and vice versa. Words such as harmony, blend or integration imply that work and life are intertwined. Therefore, we must accept reality and come up with some strategies to prioritize within our blended lifestyle, as well as eliminating the work-life combination from our vocabularies altogether and to recognize that life is what’s happening and work is one of the things you do in life.

Everything we do has a cost and consequences. The sooner we make peace with it, the quicker we’ll be able to create a work life integration plan that work for us. Having it all – at once – may push us down a road of unrealistic expectations where we feel like failures for not being able to attain the impossible. Some of the most successful people that I’ve interviewed in the topic have all told me they will only focus on the top 2 or 3 domains of their life at most at any given time.

Time does not discriminate. We all have the same hours in a day, and with some intentional planning you can fit a lot in it. But the truth is that finding the right harmony between work and life is not easy, and it will require commitment and doing the thing that you set out to do. At times, you may not have enough time to hang out or relax, or even have a decent sleep, and that doesn’t mean the goal isn’t worth it. If you apply a year-long calendar view, make sure at times you can afford to, you book time with friends and family gatherings. Life is going to change constantly, and at times giving to work a little more than life is not necessarily unhealthy if it does allow you to work towards your dreams.

In fact, at different ages and stages of our lives, we need different things and have various demands on our time. Sometimes there isn’t enough work, while at other points there’s too much. In the grand scheme, there is something resembling a balance. But in the short term, less so.

Another aspect in this topic that I’d like to highlight is about how everyone should be wary when considering their busyness. I hear it all the time: “I’m so busy”. Just how busy are we really? Although we love saying we’re busy, many of us are just distracted. It could be that much of the busyness we flaunt like a status symbol is just a result of wasting time procrastinating and pretending – checking social media and email. I could argue that the more complex your tasks, the more you focus, the more is done in a condensed period. I firmly believe that with the right focus, we can get to work smarter, not harder, and generate better results this way for a richer, more fulfilling life.

Everything we do has a cost and consequences. The sooner we make peace with it, the quicker we’ll be able to create a work life integration plan that work for us. Having it all – at once – may push us down a road of unrealistic expectations where we feel like failures for not being able to attain the impossible. Some of the most successful people that I’ve interviewed in the topic have all told me they will only focus on the top 2 or 3 domains of their life at most at any given time.

Time does not discriminate. We all have the same hours in a day, and with some intentional planning you can fit a lot in it. But the truth is that finding the right harmony between work and life is not easy, and it will require commitment and doing the thing that you set out to do. At times, you may not have enough time to hang out or relax, or even have a decent sleep, and that doesn’t mean the goal isn’t worth it. If you apply a year-long calendar view, make sure at times you can afford to, you book time with friends and family gatherings. Life is going to change constantly, and at times giving to work a little more than life is not necessarily unhealthy if it does allow you to work towards your dreams.

In fact, at different ages and stages of our lives, we need different things and have various demands on our time. Sometimes there isn’t enough work, while at other points there’s too much. In the grand scheme, there is something resembling a balance. But in the short term, less so.

Another aspect in this topic that I’d like to highlight is about how everyone should be wary when considering their busyness. I hear it all the time: “I’m so busy”. Just how busy are we really? Although we love saying we’re busy, many of us are just distracted. It could be that much of the busyness we flaunt like a status symbol is just a result of wasting time procrastinating and pretending – checking social media and email. I could argue that the more complex your tasks, the more you focus, the more is done in a condensed period. I firmly believe that with the right focus, we can get to work smarter, not harder, and generate better results this way for a richer, more fulfilling life.

Work-Life Integration Tips for People Who Want to Have it All

1.Step up your self-care routine: 

Activities that increase your health and happiness will help you be more effective and productive in every aspect of your life. Prioritize sleep by trying to get 7-8 hrs of sleep a night. Make time for nutritious meals. Exercise whenever you can to combat disease. Treat yourself to a spa and unwind. Spend time with people who make you laugh and leave you feeling energized. Make time for hobbies that relive stress and fill you with passion and joy. I am not reinventing the wheel here. You know what needs to be done, so go ahead and commit to applying some of these in your own life.

  1. Plan your top 3 daily

Become a productivity pro by planning ahead of time (the night before or early in the morning) the top 3 things that you must accomplish that day. Be realistic and ensure that no matter what gets in the way, you get those 3 things crossed from your list. Before you know it, you’ll be working smarter, not harder, and accomplishing much more.

  1. Delegate

If you’re so involved in your business that you feel you really can’t be gone, even for a day, it’s time to learn to delegate. Contrary to what you might believe, you aren’t the only one who can handle many of the tasks you currently spend time on. Your team members will feel empowered if you shuffle additional responsibilities to them, and you’ll finally get to relax.

  1. Minimise distractions

If you are serious about doing work that matters, you are going to have to get real about your distractions of choice (social media, Netflix, drinking, greasy food, late nights, procrastination, etc). Take responsibility for owning what keeps you away from being and doing your best, and work on reducing the amount of time you spend on it. We all get the same amount of time in a day. High-achievers focus better on what they want to achieve, rather than giving into their distraction of choice.

  1. Organise yourself by de-cluttering

A messy external space often overloads the brain and leads to burnout. Become more focused and productive by cleaning up and creating an environment that allows you to work smarter, not harder. Overcome personal disorganisation by de-cluttering information and paperwork as well as time and tasks.

Think consciously about how to spend your time, decide which tasks matter most to you and your organization, and then drop or outsource the rest. By doing this, you can reduce your involvement in low-value tasks. You can actually cut your desk work by an average of six hours a week, shave meeting time by an average of two hours a week, and free up nearly a fifth of your time (an average of one full day a week). By doing this, you’ll make more time for what matters in your life. Imagine you had one full day a week to fill as you seem fit, giving time and energy for all parts of your life so nothing is left behind – perhaps balance does stand a chance after all!

  1. Use calendar blocks for laser focus

You have a calendar, so use it. Schedule specific blocks of uninterrupted time for your most important tasks. When you are working, work hard and focusYou scheduled this work time, so give it your all. You wouldn’t want one of your employees or one of your suppliers to do a half-done job on your assignment, so don’t do it to your clients. Block out distractions and keep on task. Focus and avoid sabotaging yourself and your most precious commodity – your time.

Also schedule important personal activities, such as special dinners, school events,  sporting events, fun events with friends, your kids or your spouse or just exercise time. Scheduling this time may sound like overkill, but trust me, it works. It removes the guilt over being with your family instead of working in your business. It’s on your schedule after all – so you are being productive and not ignoring your family. It’s a win-win! And remember, you are in charge of your own schedule. You don’t have to be tied to the 9-5 time limitations. If you need two hours in the middle of the day to attend your child’s talent show – you have that freedom. Just remember to replace those two hours somewhere else on your schedule.

  1. Set boundaries

If customers or colleagues think it’s OK to call you at 11 pm if they need something, they will. Set firm boundaries around when you are, and aren’t, available. Doing so will help you relax when you’re off the clock and avoid burnout, while also helping others avoid unmet expectations. Limit your work hours. Work never ends, and if you’re looking to finish everything, you’ll never stop. Working long hours isn’t good for anyone — you, your family or your colleagues. Sheryl Sandberg spent years leaving work at 5:30 to have dinner with her children. If she can do it, why can’t you? Do not overextend yourself. Learn to say thank you, but NO for both personal and professional requests. If it doesn’t fit into your schedule, then the answer is “No.” The time you spend on your work or business needs to produce income, and the time with your family or personal time needs to be quality time.

The bottom line is, we all want to enjoy life and to find that ever elusive balance. Some days are better than others, but if your goal is to enjoy your career, your clients, your family, and your time, then remember, you have the power to make that happen. You don’t have to take yourself too seriously – just use your time more effectively to accomplish both goals.

Work-life integration is not a system of having your work and life take exactly the same amount of hours or focus. It’s a way of making sure that both your work priorities and your personal priorities are being met. Sometimes that means more work hours, and other times it means less.

Newer times demand new thinking. Now it’s up to all of us to get real, to think bigger, and begin to make the real changes we all need in order to live our best life.

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Networking

In most cases, being an expat in a country far away from our family and loved ones means that we either go out and create some more love in our new life, or we spend most of our time longing for our loved ones back home. One of the toughest challenges that expats find in moving to a new country is meeting new people. It is a well-known fact that many expats feel lonely when trying to settle in abroad. We may assume that we know how to make friends, but making good friends abroad is very different to how we used to create friendships back home.

If you want to succeed at creating a happy new life in your new country and make the most out of it, it is essential that you create a reliable network of people. This sounds simple enough, however, the prospect of having to put ourselves out there and attempting to make friends with new people can be a really daunting experience for many of us. Because of this, many people don’t even try, and somehow wait for the right people to appear miraculously.

As you can imagine, this approach is doomed to fail, and will often leave many expats feeling lonely and lacking the joy that a new life in a new country can bring. Not only will a strong network of friendship offer you an ideal source of information and advice, they can also provide valuable friendship and be there for you in times of need. So, what can we do to feel the love in our new country? In the month of April, and in the remembering and emphasising how important love is in our lives, I want to share with you some easy to implement tips to help you develop a network of friends in a stress-free way. You never know, you may even have some fun in the process!

Start networking before your move

Go online and research for online expats groups and communities that allow you to interact with other fellow expats. These can be helpful at the time to finding out critical information you may need when you move, as well as finding out about groups and communities of people like you, who get together to meet and create new friendships abroad. I have personally seen some great advice being given in those platforms, helping you go straight to the active groups that are making it happen. There are always new people in your location actively looking to make friends and hang out with other fellow expats, and if you intentionally look out for these people, they won’t be hard to find. You can research for expat groups on Facebook, meet-ups in your chosen city, country related groups, relocation or international school guides, etc.

You can also find out if you are connected to anyone already living in your new city by asking friends to let you know who they know already living there. Know where to look for great friendships. You can find friendships in many different places. Starting a new hobby is a sure way of meeting new people. You can continue with a hobby that you love or find a new one altogether. From yoga to dancing, to cooking, to learning a new language, etc.

Likewise, you can join an activity or sport you love, like running or become an active member of your religion in your hosting city. Common faith helps transcend cultural differences and brings people from all over the world together. You can also change your outlook and be open to find local friends by getting involved with the local community, which in my experience will provide you with some of the most rewarding friendships abroad. Of course, if you happen to be working in your new destination, socialising with work colleagues that you get along with will be a great way of building a new network of friends.

Pick up your place to live wisely

High on the list of priorities for new expats is to find a home which is close to schooling, place of work, close to transport, with plenty of amenities nearby. But it is just as important to pick a home close to where people you may like to connect with live. If you have children, finding a building or a street where lots of families live will definitely help. When you are looking for a place to live, make sure you are not just looking at the place’s commodities, but also the people living in it. Don’t just move to a place because you fall in love with it; make sure that the demographics in your area will provide you with opportunities to meet new people and build some great friendships. I know many expats who ended up having to move homes because of this very reason.

Develop a thick skin

If you want to make friends abroad, you are going to have to put yourself out there more than you would in your normal life back home. This is not a time to be shy. Remember that every single expat you meet in your new country would have been new themselves at some point and that expats come and go, always creating more room for new friendships to be developed. So don’t be afraid to approach others and start a conversation. Even if you get asked to participate in something you don’t particularly know or like, become a yes person and find new opportunities outside of your comfort zone, saying yes to every invitation that comes your way.

Don’t give up

Making friends in a new place won’t be easy. When you first start putting yourself out there attending social events you will probably come across people who have nothing in common with, and people that you won’t get along with. This is a perfectly normal part of the process. Don’t settle and don’t let this get you down. It may not be easy, and you may have to show up alone to events and hope for the best. Keep participating with different groups until you find the type of people that you want to hang out with. You are going to meet great people in the most unexpected of places and situations, so make sure that when you do, you get their contact details and arrange a meetup. Persistency here is key! Someone doesn’t magically become a friend overnight, you need to follow up. Building a circle of friends as an expat in a new location abroad can take time and effort, but it is certainly a very achievable and rewarding quest.

Unfortunately, we can’t expect great friends to fall into our laps without any work. They key is putting yourself out there and finding and creating opportunities to meet like-minded people. So dedicate some time and effort into creating a new social circle, and enjoy the incredible benefits of making great friends who can share the love in your new location.

Here’s to your success!
With love, Isabel x

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Caldeira

After seeing Inés Caldeira speak to a room of over 340 attendees at the “Women in Leadership” event organised by CanCham in February, I was captivated by her presence, humility and openness with her talk “I am worth it”. Following the event, I wanted to find out more about who she really is, the woman behind the role, and this is what I found. Inés assumed her position as Managing Director of L’Oréal Thailand last September and brings with her an impressive career accolade of over 17 years working with L’Oréal Europe. Prior to moving to Thailand, she spent the last four years as the Country Manager for L’Oréal Portugal, the youngest female Country Manager in the company’s history at just 35 years old. From her early beginnings as a marketing trainee. Inés has enjoyed three international assignments, played a developmental role at headquarters, and directed operations in Spain.

speaker

There she put her strong business and leadership skills to good use in increasing turnover and profitability, launching new products and developing iconic brands. Yet her impressive list of achievements doesn’t stop here. Forbes Portugal named Inés Caldeira among the top 10 most powerful Portuguese in the business world, with her being the youngest in the list. Despite her impressive list of professional successes, Inés just turned 40 years old in February. So who is the woman behind the role? Very early in the conversation, I discovered that Inés is very much in touch with herself, and often reflects about who she is and what she wants out of life. She explained that above anything else, she is a daughter, a sister, a mum, and a friend and only after that, she is the CEO of L’Oréal Thailand. She sees herself in very different dimensions.

The professional part is one which is very important, but there is also so much more. That’s attributed she says to coming from a very humble background in Portugal, where her family ran a restaurant. Her sister in law and her were the first to have a university degree, and she is still very much in the mindset that you need to pay back your family and your generation – a common practice in Thailand still. Inés never dreamt about being a CEO or even having an international career, but she always wanted to excel in whatever she did. Her family played a critical role in shaping who she is today. From a very young age, she was given the advice that whatever she did, she needed to be the best.

Women

It didn’t matter what that may be, but she needed to be proud of it, be respectful of others and be professional. That advice conditioned the person that she is today. Her perspective on what allowed her to become successful – and have the energy and motivation to do it all – is, according to her, an insatiable need to “eat up the world”. Since she was a child, she’s felt a curiosity that drives her to want to know the world and discover new things. Her father, to whom she speaks with daily, also provides her with the energy boost that she needs to stay on course, whilst also staying away from people who put her down or drain her energy. In wondering whether her success comes as a result of vision and ambition, she is quick to correct me.

In life, she was never driven by ambition per se. In fact, she eventually came to manifest much more than she ever wished for. At 15, she imagined she’d be married by 21, just after university, having a kid. But she never considered that she’d be where she is today. Throughout her life, she never made specific plans. Driven by her desire to better herself, any opportunity that came along, she went for it and trusted in the natural flow of life. She also acknowledges L’Oréal for the way in which they manage careers long-term, and the way they saw her potential throughout the years, which enabled her to go through a path that was much higher and much further than she would have expected. Rather than ambition, Inés attributes her success to her innate qualities such as courage, drive, curiosity and a longing for overcoming herself.

Fashion

Externally, she emphasises on the sponsoring and mentoring that she received throughout her career, which allowed her to seize the opportunities that came her way. Whilst talking to her, it is not hard to identify some of the key values that drive her forward, such as a great sense of responsibility, a love for her family and friends, and a constant desire for wanting to grow. She possesses very high moral and ethical markers which motivate her to be and do her best with integrity and transparency. Pair this with a person who has the courage to stand up for her ideas and her beliefs, and you have an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. The best advice she was ever given came from her grandmother, a simple person who couldn’t read or write, yet had incredible wisdom. She told her: “Don’t judge yourself at 30. When you are 80, you can always go back, and do so; but now it is too soon, and you still have much living to do.”

She’s always carried a perspective of long-term ever since. When asked what her greatest accomplishment to date has been, she doesn’t hesitate: her teams. In fact, she has built quite a reputation in the company for being a people person. She considers the development of talent, her belief in people, and the long-term relationships that she’s built in the company among her best outcomes. She is also very quick to point out the fact that everything that she’s accomplished wouldn’t have been possible without the talented people working together with her towards a common goal. This sense of collaboration is so important to her that she has made it her legacy, where she would like for anyone who ever worked with her, to want to work with her again.

people

Because to her that’s the reflection of long-term actions, strategies and presence. Of course, she’s also very grateful for being the youngest female Country Manager in the world, still up to today. That’s also important to her, because it means that whatever she’s done, it’s paid off. In discussing mistakes that provided Inés with learning opportunities in her career, she related about moments where she was compensating too much for the under-performance of certain parts of the organisation, and the problem with that, and what she’s learned, is that the day you’re gone, the whole structure breaks apart. Even though she possesses a strong belief in people, she’s also learnt that sometimes people are just not up to the expectations. That in itself is not a problem. The problem arises when you systematically compensate for that, because in that instance the foundations are not as strong. So now she tends to see people and teams for their real value. She explained that when you grow in an organisation very fast, you tend to like the pace. But since her last two assignments, she’s found a different pleasure in staying for longer periods of time, something she says comes naturally with age and experience.

Rather than being a sprinter, she’s now more focused on becoming a marathoner, and taking the time to build good solid foundations and her legacy, not just achieving results short-term. In hearing her speak, knowing that she is the mother of a one year old baby, I am curious to know how she is able to balance it all. She claims to be at a stage in her career where she has found an equilibrium, and reached a point where she can now have time for them. She goes onto elaborating that women need to be very clear about the fact that they have a family, and in wanting to spend time with them, they must set boundaries to be effective in both domains. She explained that if your priorities are very clear, you’ll find your balance. But she doesn’t have time for everything. She pointed out the need to accept the fact that you won’t be perfect.

She’s bi-dimensional, she’s a professional and she is a mum – that’s it. Other than that, she doesn’t practise sport as much as she’d like to, and she doesn’t have as much time to dedicate to her friends as she used to. She cannot deal with more than 2 dimensions, so she stays with the two that are most important to her. Something else I wanted to ask Inés for all of those women out there who want to both pursue a successful career and be mums. Can it be done, and can it be done in a fulfilling and rewarding way? She believes that companies have a responsibility to those women. This is a challenging balancing act; however, she believes there are ways to help women and mums to make this choice. Inés also pointed out the fact that this is no longer a women’s issue alone; it’s also an issue for those dads who want to be more present and want to participate more in their children’s lives. As examples to validate her point, she explained how L’Oréal has supported her – and other employees across all levels – in terms of creating initiatives such as “work from anywhere”, “equal pay”, “family care leave” and even “paternity leave”. In doing so, the company has found ways to accommodate mums and dads, and to make the balance more manageable. Inés also made a point to highlight that it’s not just about what companies can do, but also the responsibility for more women who want to do it, to want to come forward and sit at the table.

So what does she enjoy doing outside her work and mum duties? For someone who’s only lived in Thailand for a few months, she’s had the opportunity to travel to many locations, her favourites being Sukhothai for its historical sites, its spiritual and historic heritage, and Koh Samet, the perfect relaxing getaway in such proximity to Bangkok. She also enjoys going out to restaurants, rooftops and can even be found eating street food in Soi Ari on weekends. We are fortunate to host in Bangkok such an accomplished woman and role model. May Thailand continue to bring you much success, you are an inspiration to us all!

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On Wednesday 13th February, I was honoured to participate in the Women in Leadership (WIL) 2019 event, organised by the Thai-Canadian Chamber of Commerce, CanCham Thailand. The event, held at the Renaissance Bangkok Hotel, in the heart of the city, was attended by over 340 participants, and it was a resounding success. The event was attended by many business leaders, diplomats, key influencers and CEOs active in Thailand, as well as SME’s and corporate representatives, all coming together to encourage and define the Next Generation of Women in Leadership. Women have an increasingly important role to play in contributing to the economy and society as leaders. The WIL 2019 “Defining the next gen” event examined the next generation of women in leadership, by identifying the key values and leadership qualities required to operate in a disruptive and ever-changing world and sharing ideas and tips on how to develop and nurture those qualities to help shape successful careers for the next generation.

Yvonne Chin, cofounder of Women in Leadership (WIL), has held a pivotal role in developing the concept and bringing this idea into reality, which has resulted in sold-out events, and a cornerstone event for CanCham ever since. In creating this event, CanCham Thailand wants to seize the opportunity to explore and lean from the line of distinguished and inspirational guest speakers who led the topics of discussion, on what are the essential ingredients to grow as a woman leader, the x factor which is critical to their success, and how to foster these qualities for our next generation of leaders.

We were welcomed with a message by Caroline Kwan, event Chair, Director of CanCham Thailand and Vice President of the MBMG Group. Ms Kwan emphasised the importance of recognising women leaders within global conglomerates. She elaborated on the reasons why women in leadership roles display great qualities, such as being more sensitive to the needs of others and being more inclusive and transparent in their communication and information. In her message, Ms Kwan brought her welcome to a wrap with one key message: Leadership has no gender.

The audience was treated to very inspiring and insightful talks by four highly accomplished speakers. Rob Candelino, CEO of Unilever Thailand, delivered a talk on “Leading with Purpose”. Unilever has been a vocal, active and engaged voice in promoting women’s rights and are gender balanced advocates. Rob emphasised that the single greatest economic catalyst is through the growth of women. He also shared that the best next-gen leaders will be driven by something much stronger than a title. They will have a strong moral compass, and will be driven by their own personal why and purpose.

The following speaker was Sirinya (Cindy) Bishop, actress, supermodel, TV host and activist. Cindy’s talk was named “Embracing authenticity to empower the next generation”, and she shared great wisdom and tips through her own personal story on finding your authentic self and speaking your truth. Cindy’s raw vulnerability brought a very humble tone to the room, and most women in the audience resonated with the many struggles and inadequacies that she shared. Her underpinning message was to embrace who you are, embracing all of your qualities, both good and bad.

The third speaker was April Srivikorn, Head of Industry for Google Thailand. April’s speech was on “Resilience as a leader and learning to swerve”. Her impressive acumen and success in her career were accredited to her adaptability, social skills and resilience. Her advice to anyone wanting to access a leadership role was to develop a resilience leadership posture. April highlighted the fact that the true measure of a leader comes from how they show up through the difficult times, not the good ones. Throughout the many successes that April has encountered in her career, shaping a strong positive team spirit of resilience was critical. The final speaker was Ines Caldeira, Managing Director of L’Oreal in Thailand. Ines treated the room to a very moving talk on the subject “I’m worth It”. A very touching presentation by an incredibly successful woman who suffered great self-doubt and a persistent fear of failure throughout her career, often unable to see the clear potential that everyone else saw in her. She spoke about suffering from impostor syndrome, and the steps she went through in order to turn that voice off. She encouraged all women to ask themselves “Why am I worth it?” to help you tap into your greatness. Ines is now committed to telling all women in her team that they are worth it.

CanCham also introduced the launch of a new initiative to support women entrepreneurs to advance their business objectives: We-CAN. This programme will provide women entrepreneurs with networking, peer-learning and group coaching by experts from the CanCham community. For more information on this programme please contact [email protected] For those participants in the event who wanted to show how they value the role future women leaders in business, they also had the opportunity to buy one extra event ticket to sponsor a young leader/student to attend the Women in Leadership event and steer them on an inspired path to success. Thanks to this initiative, 50 young leaders/students had the opportunity to attend the event, and they also had the opportunity to be mentored by the panel of speakers afterwards. This was without a doubt a very enjoyable, successful event and one of many more to come in Thailand, in the hope that we continue to strengthen the conversation on women’s empowerment.

On a personal note, being a Leadership Coach, I feel very passionate about helping women become exceptional leaders and reach the top roles, and witnessing the participation and engagement in the room provided me with much enthusiasm and hope that together, we can continue to advance on women’s issues. It was also very encouraging to see how more and more men are joining the conversation, supporting their female peers and actively contributing to creating gender balance across all levels of the organisation. Women mean business, and continuing to organise and participate in these events will help women be empowered to fully be part in the economic life across all sectors, which is essential to building stronger economies, achieve internationally agreed goals for development and sustainability, and improve the quality of life for women, men, families and communities. Feeling inspired by all the women who put themselves out there to have a voice and to make an impact.

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