Mindful Interculturalist – Elaine interviewed on Intercultural Toolbox as guest speaker
By Elaine Teo, August 2021
I’ve also loved pioneering the application of our rich interculturalist toolkit to #diversityandinclusion. Back in 2017 at the SIETAR Europa Congress in Dublin I realised nobody else really saw how much intercultural training & the newly-emerging world of #DEI had in common, so I started talking about it. 2 years on the SIETAR Belgium Congress 2019 was entirely focused on “Building Dialogues on Diversity”.
At Living Potential International, Paul Genovese & I inspire leaders to deliver exceptional outcomes thanks to our unique, powerful blend of #psychology, meditation, interculturalism, #coaching, teaching & training, and 9 decades of life experience as gender & ethnic minorities/majorities – 3rd-gen Italian/Chinese immigrants to USA/Singapore/UK, White guy/Asian single mum taking unorthodox education paths to Princeton/Oxford and professional excellence as leaders in blue-chip corporates & entrepreneurs across industries.
Because the problems we face are too complex to solve with just one tool.
Because humans need whole-human solutions.
Watch Elaine’s interview here:
Elaine invited to talk about Inclusion on EMEA Women of Teradata panel
By Elaine Teo, January 2021
“I’ve learnt that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
In Teradata‘s panel on #inclusion growing business, we didn’t just talk about using “inclusion” as if it was some framework to be applied. Because inclusion is not an abstract idea. It’s actually an *action* = includING.
It’s about choosING. As people leaders, to think, feel, behave in ways that make our teams, coworkers, customers FEEL included.
We all know what it’s like to feel left out.
So – we all possess the incredible power to change that, too. To make someone feel seen, heard, and valued.
I’ve felt like that, working with the amazing EMEA Women of Teradata co-chairs Maria Macaloney & Dr. Elisha Foust & volunteers (including our phenomenal moderator Alexandra Kory, Nicola Harper, Katherine Anne Francisco & Felisa Del Viejo Núñez) & my fellow panellists Nathan Laryea (He/Him), Nicki Ryan AssocIPD, and Stephen Brobst. The feeling of “we’re all in this” was unmistakable. Hats off to you all for leading on #DEI by your own authentic examples!
I may not remember everything we said or did today, but I’ll remember how it made me feel to be part of such a special event. Thank you for including me, Teradata.
Paul invited as industry mentor at the 2020 Harvard/MIT Case Competition
By Paul Genovese, November 2020
Some of the most gratifying experiences in my career as a consultant and entrepreneur have been advising students and young professionals, so I jumped at the invitation by Franklin Wolfe to participate in the 12th annual Harvard/MIT Case Competition as an industry mentor.
In Franklin’s words “The Case Competition is the flagship event of the Harvard and MIT consulting clubs. Every year, 80 participants [graduate students and researchers] from Harvard and MIT compete in small teams to propose the best solutions to a real business challenge faced by a client company.”
This year’s case was provided by Jok Asiyo – a challenge of building on his innovative business model around personal and professional branding for athletes. I had the pleasure of mentoring 5 teams of individuals from varied international and academic backgrounds who worked together to recommend solutions to the challenge, the quality of which is surely a testament to the creative power of diversity – a principle that my partner Elaine Teo and I hold close to the core of our business at Living Potential International.
Elaine & Paul on Young Hoteliers Summit (YHS Global) Panel Discussion
By Paul Genovese, October 2020
Do you find it odd that a middle-aged white guy who is a career professional in the oil and gas industry will be discussing diversity and inclusion with future leaders of the global hospitality industry? Yes? I agree! But that tells me exactly why I want to be included in the discussion.
The biggest obstacle to white men leading through diversity and inclusion, as identified by the White Men’s Leadership Study, is that “For a lot of white guys [70% !], it’s not clear that diversity includes white men.” Also, we know that the state of women’s representation in the higher levels of the corporate world has not improved much despite decades of D&I initiatives. A coincidence?
Guys and gals….we need to talk. I’m thrilled to contribute some experience and some great positive ideas for how men can support women more but also how women can support men more so that the organisation benefits from both sides as stakeholders in common purpose.
And while we’re at it, let’s talk too about a kind of diversity that is more than skin deep, the diversity of thought, creative style, and problem-solving. This DNA of innovation is called “cognitive diversity – perhaps the ultimate form of inclusion.
Lloyd’s Advance Programme on women leadership
By Elaine Teo, December 2019
Supporting the Advance Programme – the pioneer cohort of Lloyd’s women leadership programme for the insurance market – has been one of the most rewarding and inspiring things I have ever done.
Spearheaded by Pauline Miller, Natasha McKibbin and Mark Rivera at Lloyd’s Talent Development and Inclusion, this landmark initiative gathered a strong, diverse group of talented, ambitious, dedicated women in a 6-month journey, honing their capabilities and forging a warm, honest, supportive community.
Watch them share their transformative experiences here.
Congratulations to Gaia Corbetta, Maxine GODDARD, Yasmin Coffey Dip CII, Stephanie Ogden, Mary O’Brien, Laura Burns, Denise Cunningham, Sophie Coleman and your Advance colleagues as you head onward and upward!
What I love most about working with passionate and determined changemakers is knowing that this is just the beginning.
So many can benefit – so much wrong can be put right – when we all pull towards a better, fairer, brighter future for women at work.
We’re finally seeing that change starting to blossom around us. Now is the time to push that envelope. Because we need that change, and it’s only going to happen if we make it happen.
Stories Can Change Lives – Elaine Live on BBC Radio
Why are Fame and Success so Addictive? Elaine’s BBC Radio Interview
Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs on “Stepping Up to Leadership”: NY Communications Week
Bloomberg Equality Summit: Is Diversity, Inclusion and Equality Global Yet? And if not – what’s the cost?
by Elaine Teo, 26 March 2019
As I review the stellar lineup for the Bloomberg Equality Summit in NYC over the next 2 days (26-27 Mar) –
As a Singaporean Chinese female culture expert and psychologist, I dream of the day when the scope drawn for the Diversity, Inclusion, and Equality agenda extends beyond the US and UK markets to encompass a truly global reach.
I was in New York last October listening to Kiersten Barnet, Global Head of the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index, presenting compelling data about the superior business performance of GEI-indexed companies.
This was at NYC Communications Week, where I had moderated the prior panel on women “Stepping Up to Leadership”.
What struck me was a comment a fellow panellist made. The audience comprised marketers, advertisers, PR specialists – communicators.
He drew a straight line from comms to consumers.
If marketing and sales don’t “get” their consumers in today’s global marketplace – their messages don’t land right.
So let me share a couple of questions to ponder, so you can start to see what I see:
1. Who, and where, are some of the world’s most powerful consumers?
2. Are these consumer types satisfactorily represented at seminal equality/D&I events such as these?
3. What is the cost of not ensuring their voices are properly represented?
Elaine Live on BBC Radio Coaching Millennials: “New Year, New Goals”
by Elaine Teo, 11 Jan 2019
Had the best time on BBC Radio live tonight coaching Millie, Jack and Priyanka, all in their 20s looking at “New Year, New Goals”.
They asked some great questions:
– What stops people from achieving their goals?
– Why do people end up “settling” for jobs that don’t really fulfil them?
– How to balance working for goals with making time to live well?
– How to be content with the progress that I am making?
I shared lots of practical advice gathered from my own 20-odd years of personal experience managing my own career and supporting my clients through theirs.
One key nugget: the prefrontal lobe (where the “juicy” stuff like managing impulses, self-discipline and making complex, nuanced decisions is located) only fully matures in one’s late twenties.
This one factor alone has staggering implications for our current workplace, education and societal models, which are leftovers from different times.
Our social structures tend to oblige young people to “choose too much too early”, penalising them for making “wrong” choices.
This makes no sense when one considers that their cognitive machinery might not be fully ready yet!
So much more on the show: https://lnkd.in/dJpVnkB. I come on at 45:50 until 1:14:18. 🙂
(Just received from show producers ☺️ “Hi Elaine, you sounded brilliant once again! We really enjoyed having you on the programme and you really have solid advice. Pleasure to have you and look forward to getting you back!” 🙌)
Elaine on BBC Radio Drivetime: “What Life Skills Did You Wish You Were Taught at School?”
By Elaine Teo, Dec 26 2018
Delighted to be invited as life skills coach and psychologist on BBC Radio Drivetime with Eddie Nestor to share my expertise on “What life skills did you wish you were taught at school?”
Here are my exclusive insights on the topics we touched on.
1. IMPULSE CONTROL.
How much of practical life skills like “managing my money” is about learning the basics of finance – and how much is about managing your own psychology?
Do you understand your own impulsive behaviours? Do you know how to control them? How well do you know what you REALLY want? What makes you REALLY happy?
Buying things is a way to get pleasure. So what are the life skills one really needs to manage one’s finances properly?
Learning about the instruments themselves isn’t enough, if you don’t know how to get at the root causes, i.e. your own desires, and how to be aware of them and manage them better.
Exactly the same applies to other practical “life skills” like sex and relationship education, and learning how to live independently. All of these boil down to our psychological pushes and pulls – what do we REALLY want? What makes us REALLY happy?
2. SCHOOL CURRICULA DON’T SYNC WITH BUSINESS REALITIES.
As a mother, life coach, leadership expert and education advisor, I think a lot about this.
Would I like my children’s time at school to be spent learning how to code and plan, how to make money, how to create products and services and deliver them to others who want them?
How to play to their strengths, manage around their weaknesses, find out who they really are?
How to work well with really different people, when to follow and when to take a stand, how to mend a damaged friendship?
How to overcome their fears, enlarge their comfort zone, when to give up and when to forge on?
How to set, own and achieve their goals, how to enjoy the learning process of improving themselves, how to be their own best friends?
How to appreciate one’s place in the larger whole? How to live so that one is a net positive to the system? How to care even when it’s difficult to?
Show me a school that does THIS – and I’ll show you graduates who have learnt the life skills – the values, the competencies, the self-knowledge and confidence – they need to succeed at work and life.
We have a long way to go.
3. PARENTS, SCHOOLS AND SOCIETY MUST COLLABORATE MORE.
Many critical life skills used to be imparted at home and in society. It is not fair nor reasonable to expect that schools and teachers can fill in all the gaps.
FIRSTLY – schools and teachers are overburdened and underresourced.
SECONDLY – home environments often undermine what children are taught at school. Parents need to walk the talk. Not just as parents, but as workers themselves. Children absorb a lot of norms about “what’s the right way to treat other people” by watching their parents go about their lives, including their parents interacting with others at work.
THIRDLY – society and opinion leaders – media, politicians, advertisers – must take more ethical responsibility over the messages they are sending out.
It is so tough for parents and schools/teachers to try and teach young people the right things when these are being constantly undermined by messaging making the rounds in the public sphere.
Repeat something often enough and the effect of normalisation means that people start to believe it is “true”. Even if it isn’t.
This can be devastating to people’s lives.
4. YOUNG PEOPLE MUST BE TAUGHT HOW TO SELF-MANAGE BETTER.
In addition to the above, every young person should have the tools for better self-management put into their hands. Whether at school, at home, or out and about in (social) media, handed on from friends, and so on.
Take media messaging for example. One could argue that it is impossible for “what’s out there” to be better filtered for our young people’s own good. I don’t fully buy this. But there’s another way we can help our young people to protect themselves from ingesting harmful messaging.
Like physical hygiene, young people should be taught how to practice better “emotional hygiene” and “psychological hygiene.”
In his book “The Art of Communicating“, the revered Zen Buddhist teacher and writer Thich Nhat Hanh tells us:
“We often ingest toxic communication from those around us and from what we watch and read. Are we ingesting things that grow our understanding and compassion? If so, that’s good food.
Often, we ingest communication that makes us feel bad or insecure about ourselves or judgemental and superior to others… The Internet is an item of consumption, full of nutrients that are both healing and toxic.
What you read and write can help you heal, so be thoughtful of what you consume.”
We bring mindfulness to companies as part of their employee wellbeing programmes.
We also run open-to-public “Mindfulness for Success at Work and Life” and “Mindful Families” classes and workshops in central London.
Our next 4-week course, “Mindfulness for Success at Work”, starts on Wed 23 Jan in Clapham Omnibus (Clapham Common Tube station) at 7pm. Spaces limited – contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to secure your place.
Guest Post Exclusive for Tenshey, Inc: “A More Diverse Leadership Is Associated With Business Growth and Value Creation”
By Elaine Teo, 11 December 2018
I loved applying my social psychologist and intercultural expert lenses to unpick the challenges and opportunities presented by Diversity and Inclusion.
In this exclusive thought leadership piece for the cutting-edge diversity executive coaching consultancy Tenshey, Inc, I took a hard look at WHY D&I is so tough to integrate successfully into companies.
Turns out the obstacles are psychological. We must understand why human beings tend to operate as “tribes” in the first place.
“Human beings are social animals. The urge to stick with what’s known and comfortable is primal – as is the opposite urge to cast out thoughts and behaviours that are divergent to one’s own.
Yet what the McKinsey report is telling us is – we stay safe and homogeneous at our peril. At our businesses’ peril.
In this VUCA world of the increasingly-interconnected global economy…many businesses are already feeling the bite of this. They face calls from an increasingly diverse clientele to tailor products and services more astutely to meet their increasingly differentiated demands.
How can companies hope to make their customers happy…if they don’t understand their customers well enough in the first place?
How well can a homogeneous team truly understand the demands of a highly diverse, fickle, fast-paced marketplace?”
Get the full picture here.
“See Her”: How Art Helps Abused Women Find Their Voice and Tell Their Story
By Elaine Teo, 26 November 2018
At the exhibition organised by the charity Advance, chaired by my friend Christine Losecaat and providing emotional and practical support to women suffering from domestic violence, artist Rachel Gadsden mesmerised us with a live art performance.
She gave shape and life to two blank canvases, interacting with her musical and poetic collaborators in a gripping, emerging way, “like members of a jazz band collaborating, not knowing what exactly is to come.”
It was magical. And powerful.
The opening speakers and Rachel herself invited us to look at the walls around us.
These were survivors’ stories. They had images, words – “perpetrator”, “I am not crazy”, “1 in 4 women affected by DV”.
This is no exaggeration. On the same day – yesterday – Time magazine published a hard-hitting article, “Home Is the ‘Most Dangerous Place’ for Women Around the World, New U.N. Study Says”.
But – these were survivors’ stories.
There were other words emblazoned, too.
I asked Rachel what goes on inside her.
“It’s all the stories I hear. What these women I work with have gone through.”
These galvanise her artmaking.
And in teaching them to make art –
she gives THEM the magical power of sharing their own stories.
Elaine’s Interview with BBC World “Talking Business” Aaron Heslehurst on Preparing Young People for Work
By Elaine Teo, July 31 2018
An incredible experience going live in 200 countries on BBC World, interviewed by Aaron Heslehurst on “Talking Business” on the challenges of preparing young people for success in the workplace.
I highlighted the catastrophic mismatch between legacy education systems inherited from prior agricultural/industrial eras and the labour needs of the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) global economy, fuelled by tech and brand-new ways of creating value.
I argued for businesses and schools to start collaborating to address the labour shortfall, by exposing young people to business practices and delivering critical life skills training – from emotional intelligence to project planning – to students through their school years.
Given the strength of the US economy which will add yet more jobs to a marketplace already struggling to find suitable workers to fill existing vacancies, the stakes have never been higher for businesspeople, school leaders and policymakers to come together to solve this critical “skills gap” problem for youths and the workforce.
PS. Spot my daughter’s cameo near the end! Filmed by her brother live at BBC 🙂
Elaine Joins 52 Selected Singaporean Writers on “The Roads We Take” for The Birthday Book 2018 for Singapore
By Elaine Teo, Aug 11 2018
There we were. 53 distinctive voices, a roster for diversity, a collective for a purpose.
The Birthday Book 2018 was launched today, hosted aptly enough by the Wee Kim Wee Centre in Singapore Management University.
From its site: “The Wee Kim Wee Centre is tasked to promote deeper understanding on the impact of cultural diversity on the business environment.
“The late Dr Wee Kim Wee…had a heart for people and for lifelong learning.
“It is in the spirit of his personality and character that the Centre hosts and supports lectures, conferences and publications. These aim to advance learning and thinking about cross cultural issues for all who appreciate the need for a profound appreciation of the similarities and the differences that mark our common humanity.
“It is a privilege and honour for this Centre in Singapore Management University to be associated with such a man who believed passionately in practising and fostering goodwill in a pragmatic world. The Wee Kim Wee Centre seeks to engender just such a passion in this age of global challenges, in appreciation of the wonderful man with whom it shares a name.”
Resonance lays onto resonance. For he was a family friend, President Wee. I did not know that the eponymous Centre was hosting this launch of the Birthday Book. Neither did I know him well enough to have the temerity to consider myself anything more than an acquaintance (and admirer), amongst his very many.
But I knew enough of the man, from the privilege of meeting him in private, and talking with him a number of times over the course of a decade, from the time I was due to go up to Oxford over twenty years ago.
Yes, I knew enough of the man. And his incomparable humanity. To read the above blurb, and know just how true it rings, for the human being I knew.
What stands out for me still, 13 years after his passing?
His ceaseless, probing curiosity, sharpened by his formative years as a journalist. His fibre and his courage, using his pen and his voice to consistently speak up for what must be highlighted and defended.
His smile, lighting up the corners of living room or banquet hall. His eloquence, which managed the rare feat of encapsulating the spirit of the common vernacular with the powerful, piercing, passionate prose of a true leader.
Labourer or royalty, all were received with the same warm objectivity, appreciation, and integrity that radiated from his core.
The effect was one of eliciting that same spirit – that which makes us all magnificently human – from each of these individuals, diverse as they were.
He had that gift.
To be on the receiving end of his attention made you simultaneously feel like striving to be the better version of yourself, yet valued for who you already are, and part of a bigger
whole, to which you belong.
No small gift, that.
I call that the gift of the best kind of leader.
With a life lived like that – what better figurehead, for this article?
For I’m writing these words to introduce the essay I wrote as part of the Birthday Collective, a group of “young and passionate Singaporeans inhabiting different slices of Singapore society” who got together 3 years ago to write a collection of 51 essays on the prompt, “What is Singapore’s Next Big Thing?”.
Presented as a birthday gift to the nation and its people, the inaugural 2016 edition took the occasion of two watershed events in our national narrative that took place in 2015 – our 50th year as an independent nation, and the passing of our founding father Lee Kuan Yew – as the opportunity to gather a diversity of ,perspectives looking courageously and experimentally ahead at our individual and collective future.
Indeed, “The Roads We Take” was the prompt given to us writers invited to contribute to this year’s edition, the third in this remarkable series.
What did I write about?
I wrote about the need for each of us, individually and collectively, to honour the pioneering spirit of our founding fathers and mothers. And that we do this not only in thought, but in deed. With the same courage, vision, and grit.
For these, too, are gifts.
So, for reasons universal and personal, President Wee – I’d like to dedicate this post, and my essay, to you.
For the life you have lived, that serves as exemplar and legacy to all of us who would honour your memory for the selfsame reasons that the Centre hosting today’s Birthday Book launch bears your name today.
How Mindfulness can Transform Intercultural Training
By Elaine Teo, June 25 2018
Thrilled to announce the publication of two thought and practice leadership pieces I’ve written for my fellow intercultural trainers and consultants.
These explain how mindfulness can be used by us interculturalists with our clients to transform the potency of our interventions.
Mindfulness and meditation are universal tools one can flexibly apply to enhance a wide, deep spectrum of performance improvement.
When I started exploring this intersection of mindfulness and cultures last year, this was uncharted territory – new ground.
So I wanted to write an intro practical enough for trainers who may know little about it to be able to weave the application of some basic mindfulness and meditation into their work.
Is mindfulness overrated? Have you tried it? Are you a convert? Have you applied it to your practice? What have you noticed? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
I also saw this as walking the talk of my Birthday Book essay on honouring the spirit of our pioneers in word and deed.
One runs the risk of falling flat on one’s face when venturing something new. But nothing ventured…
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett