Mental Health: A Crucial Life Skill Best Started Early
by Elaine Teo, 16 Jan 2019
“You brought your kids to a mental health discussion? What were you thinking?!”
I wanted them to hear our council mayor talk so bravely about his own struggles.
I wanted them to see him take notes, listening to young people explaining their nonprofit bringing hip hop & improv to at-risk youths – giving them ways to express themselves safely when words don’t work.
I wanted them to see what a community looks like, getting together to address a problem that affects everyone.
I wanted them, aged 10 & 12, to gain a sense of the land ahead.
I’ve been a mum 12 years. I’ve watched kids we know suffer from increasing stress and pressure. Some terribly. This affects others around them.
We learnt that one constituency most seeking help and forced to waitlist are – children and young people. 💔
We learnt they turn to “self-medicating” with substances and acts that cause harm.
I wanted them to understand why their mum raises them resilient, emotionally healthy, and kind.
Why meditation and other mental-hygiene skills are so helpful in managing stress.
So they can use them in future when needed.
So they don’t feel weird talking about these topics with friends.
So they know how to be there for them.
And that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Brexit: A Crisis of Leadership Writ Large
by Elaine Teo, 13 Jan 2019
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.
The Stellar Set May Event: “Navigating the Political Landscape at Work”
By Elaine Teo, Aug 31 2018
Can’t wait for the Stellar Set’s “The Gender Pay Gap – Negotiating What You Are Worth” on 13 Sep. Featuring 3 experts and a diverse community of committed supportive professional women, it’s sure to deliver like their May event on “Navigating the Political Landscape at Work” did.
Those speakers used their experience and research to shed light on patterns that drive female vs male behaviours, eg prehistorically men hunted while women tended new life. This made men form task-oriented, variable, compartmentalising relationships whereas women tended to form deeper-trusting, longer-term, bond-oriented relationships, needing to seek out females safe enough to share the task of raising young.
They boiled politics down to successful relationships and influencing, sharing tools to map hierarchies at work to analyse the open/hidden relations of trust/distrust that crisscross a workplace. They shared how to stay authentic and administer vulnerability discerningly, marking a productive balance between being emotional and opaque.
There is an urgent need for status quo senior leaders to embrace diversity in their organisations through powerful affirmative acts, eg sponsoring female talents’ progress and speaking out against discrimination vs staying silent.
Mamta Featured on BBC Victoria Derbyshire Show “Are British Asians Pressured to Downplay Identity?”
By Mamta Saha, Aug 14 2018
So good to witness the rising public interest and engagement with issues on diversity, inclusion, and identity.
The Victoria Derbyshire show on BBC Two is an award-winning daily current affairs programme covering leading issues of the day.
I was invited to share my views as a diversity expert and psychologist on a panel discussion of a recent BBC survey which revealed that 53% of British Asians, especially young people, had to “downplay their identity” in order to fit in.
Growing up British Asian myself, I appreciated the chance to share from my own experiences that personal mindset and family environment can play significant roles in influencing how much one’s identity is shaped by ethnicity or culture.
Diversity and inclusion are hot topics nowadays especially in corporate settings, where I see companies increasingly ready to embrace change and a more diverse workforce because they recognise the business advantages they stand to reap from an employee pool that is more creative, more representative of their changing client base, and less prone to psychological biases like “groupthink”.
It’s great to see primetime media like the Victoria Derbyshire show picking up on this momentum, getting more people aware of the challenges involved in embracing diversity so more can be done to encourage positive change.
My segment is just after 1:36 here on BBC iPlayer.
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