Q&A: Solonia Teodros: “It’s important to shut out the noise”

Author: PM editorial | Date: 10 Feb 2016

The co-founder of The Change School on why the opportunity to reflect is increasingly crucial to career success

Solonia TeodrosSolonia Teodros co-founded The Change School in 2014 after reaching a crossroads in her own life and career. Feeling burned out by the corporate sector, there only seemed to be two options available – do an MBA or go on a yoga retreat – neither of which appealed. Instead, she tells People Management, she learned to step back – and it’s a skill that could be increasingly important to career success.
If you’re good at something, why change?
Change is constant, whether it’s change that we bring ourselves or change that is happening around us. An individual goes through different life stages, from graduation to career to family to retirement. Within each of those life stages there’s multiple points of change. There are life events that you can’t possibly foresee or plan for.
 
One person might value routine and not find meaningful work as important because they’re able to find meaning and purpose outside the office. I think that’s fine. What’s important is being able to know that and uncover those values. The danger is when you’re not really aligned with what you do in life. That’s where the lack of motivation comes, where we become stagnant and people start looking for more.
 
Do you people become unmotivated without change?
People have different appetites. Some people are more averse to risk, some people are more stuck to their comfort zone and others jump at the first thing that’s new and uncomfortable. I do think that putting yourself in new situations, challenging yourself and having the curiosity to learn is important, but it varies from person to person.
 
You run a retreat in Bali. How does that help people manage change?
Sometimes people get deceived by the Bali villa and think they’re on holiday. But it’s important to remove yourself from certain situations and shut out the noise. We have so many distractions our daily lives that we don’t have time to reflect or ask ourselves how we’re really feeling. So the retreat setting means that you are left with yourself a lot of the time, as well as others who are in a similar situation.
 
People often come in a real hurry and want answers and a quick outcome, which is understandable but I guess it’s a small flaw in the way a lot of us tend to think. In the first week, there’s a resistance against slowing down because people want those fast results. We’re used to people coming in and feeling a bit frantic and empty, but by the end of week one they’re finally a bit more relaxed.
 
Do you encounter cynicism around the idea of a learning retreat?
The cynicism comes more from organisations concerned primarily with bottom line and tangible outcomes. The area that we’re working in is often not tangible – how do you measure emotional intelligence, resilience and innovation? That can be a bit challenging to communicate to organisations but the ones that we have worked with have given us great feedback.
 
We work with employees and teams to help them build critical skills and competencies, such as emotional intelligence for leadership or cultural intelligence. Singapore’s a very diverse society, so we need to consider how we’re integrating with that culture, how are we working with different cultures and, if we are managers, how we are managing those different cultures on diverse teams.