Re-energize and inspire yourself in the office with a little daydreaming. It inspires creativity and productivity. This is some of the advice Mette shares with you as part of her soft and hard skills communication training.
What’s your story?
I worked in leadership positions in corporate communications for more than 15 years before making a pivotal shift in my career and becoming an entrepreneur. I am now spending my time doing what I love most: transferring the skills that I have acquired myself to employees mainly in large organizations. Seeing people grow right in front of me during a workshop is amazing.
I’ve always been mentoring and supporting others. Even before I had direct people responsibility, my bosses praised me for helping others on their career path, whether it was in hard skills or soft skills or in a mentoring role. For me, being in a leadership position was fun and rewarding because I got to help others grow. Having the big picture that a leadership position provides was of course also fun, but mentoring people was definitely the top ‘attraction’.
Stepping out of corporate life was one of the most enriching things I have done in my life. When you’re in the corporate rat race, you get drained and don’t have much brain space to think creatively. Study after study show that it is better to limit your hours in the workplace (after working more than 40 hours productivity drastically decreases), but companies do not set the right environment for re-energizing and getting inspiration. Also, they don’t let you follow your optimal recharging rhythm by grabbing a book after lunch, or seeking inspiration by just looking out of the window – although studies also show that daydreaming is good for creativity and productivity. Quitting my corporate job set my creativity and entrepreneurial thinking in motion immediately. Shortly after, I had the opportunity of doing 5 different jobs simply because I was open to new things. It came to me because I showed openness and went out to connect with similar-minded people.
What excites you most about your industry?
It’s seeing people grow right in front of me. By providing a few simple tools, skills can be acquired so fast – if you’re open to learning new things.
What’s your connection to Asia?
In addition to extensive travelling, I have lived, worked and studied in 11 countries in Europe and Asia. In Asia, the countries were Taiwan, China, Singapore and Japan. I first came to Asia in 1990 and have loved it ever since.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore beats them all. Setting up a business is easy – no bureaucracy and low tax rates. Situated on the crossroads between East and West, Singapore provides access to huge markets. Also, with so much money concentrated (highest density of millionaires in the world and the big MNCs present) in a small space and distance is no limiting factor, you’ve got the best prerequisites to sell your idea. As long as you have a good product and you market it well, you can be successful in Singapore. Of course with English – the worldwide unifying language – as a main language, it further facilitates international business. Since Singapore is a major capital, there are many support networks.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Probably the big rock analogy mentioned in Covey’s 7 habits: prioritize the big rocks (the projects that will be most essential for bringing you where you want to go). The feeling of not having achieved much come 6pm – although you were very busy for 10 straight hours – really drags you down. Of course! If you have set your mind on going somewhere and you’re not advancing, it’s frustrating. It’s like being stuck in traffic for an entire day. If you’re busy and you focus on all the unimportant stuff, it makes you stressed – you’re in a day-long traffic jam, stuck on the spot. On the other hand, if you can look back and say “hey, I’ve accomplished a few big rocks”, your job satisfaction is much higher. It feels like you are standing on the top of the mountain, looking down and realizing how far you’ve come.
It’s about adding real value, and not about keeping busy.
Who inspires you?
There are a lot of people who inspire me, and I find it extremely important to be around people that inspire you as well as being open to let yourself be inspired by others. I get ideas and inspiration every day from meeting new people as well as old friends. I’m not the kind of person who looks up to someone famous for inspiration, because I know what media work goes into positioning a top guy (or woman) in the public mind – I was in public relations myself. Apart from one of Lee Kuan Yew’s books, I don’t think I’ve ever read any memoirs. The people I get inspiration from are the ones I meet on a daily basis that have optimism and an open mind.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I have committed to providing training for DOT, Daughters of Tomorrow. Their aim is to make underprivileged women in Singapore employable. It is amazing to see how big a difference there is between privileged and underprivileged in a society like Singapore, a place which for me represents opportunity. Much of it is based on lack of belief, lack of self-confidence and lack of training.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would probably want to go into entrepreneurial life earlier. But hey, life’s been good.
How do you unwind?
I exercise a fair bit. When running or swimming, I find that I get the best ideas. I am able to empty my head from all the interrupting thoughts and just let my mind wander. It’s funny; taking a Meta view on this, it doesn’t sound very relaxing to develop training modules and business plans during a 10K run, but it is, because I am not forcing myself to do it. I’m just letting my mind go. (It goes back to what you can’t do at corporate life, because your bosses and your colleagues will think you’re unproductive going out for a run in the middle of the day, when the opposite is true).
In general, I am quite active. Although I also love to completely unwind in a place where there is nothing to do. Put me on a deserted island with a stack of great books (and pen and paper to capture ideas that come to mind) and I will probably not miss company for the first few weeks. I actually did this a few years back, after quitting my corporate job. After three weeks on a beach in Thailand, I had a long list of ideas and was ready to go full steam ahead.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
If you count Australia as part of Asia, we’ve had some of the best relaxation times both in Margaret River in Western Australia as well as the Mary River region in the Northern Territories.
Everyone in business should read this book:
The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg. It shows how habits work and how to change them. Extremely helpful. Who doesn’t have a bad habit to change?
Shameless plug for your business:
There is a huge soft skills gap in the workplace. One 2015 study values this gap at 88 billion in the UK alone. This basically means that companies in the UK could earn a total of 88 billion more if employees had the needed qualifications for their jobs in the area of communication and people skills.
Courses at MetaMind Training help close the soft skills gap that is so essential in dealing with colleagues and customers. For instance, a recent client applied one simple learning from my body language course and was able to switch a skeptic client around. She closed the deal.
MetaMind Training focuses on learning that sticks. With pre-workshop preparation, extensive hands-on practice during the workshop as well as post-course follow up, we ensure that participants will make a big leap forward. We also focus on the small tweaks that are easy to implement and have a huge impact.
How can people connect with you?
My LinkedIn Profile
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
Take the ‘Key Person of Influence’ scorecard <http://www.keypersonofinfluence.com/scorecard/>