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How I Thrive: “Connecting with your team and employees is a critical success factor” With Ming Zhao & Hilda Batayneh

As a leader you have the responsibility to maintain the heart and soul of what made you start the business and the kind of culture you are creating. Along with the challenges and ups and downs of business, I believe that connecting with your team and employees is a critical success factor. Managing stress is […]

As a leader you have the responsibility to maintain the heart and soul of what made you start the business and the kind of culture you are creating. Along with the challenges and ups and downs of business, I believe that connecting with your team and employees is a critical success factor. Managing stress is a big part of our mental health. I want my employees to work in an environment that fosters growth and creativity. This not only increases productivity, but also happiness in the workplace which leads to an increase in employee retention. If you love your team, take care of them! I believe it’s important to create a feeling of balance and calm at home and at work. In fact, many of us spend more time at work, then at home. Both environments significantly influence our overall wellness. While it may be difficult, it’s really important to focus on the positives, and not the negatives. Learn from the hard times and apply those lessons to future businesses and turn a wrong into a right.


As a part of this series about what successful women leaders do to thrive, both personally and professionally, I had the pleasure of interviewingHilda Batayneh. Hilda is a Partner and Executive Creative Director at Reunited Clothing. Her role is to oversee design, trend, marketing and new collaborations. During her eighteen year career in the industry, Hilda has worked with most major retailers and has been able to successfully forecast and reinterpret the key trends and dial into the DNA of each of the accounts they service at Reunited Clothing.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path and to where you are today?

Growing up, I always thought that I would be a doctor. I excelled in my pre-med classes at the University of Michigan and knew that it would not only be a stable career but, more importantly, that I would also have a positive influence on others. That was really important to me.

Near the end of my senior year, I realized that medicine may not be my passion. I was reminded of something that I had heard along the years from my professors: If you do what you love in life, you’ll never feel like it’s work. So, after graduating from the University of Michigan, I took a leap of faith and applied to Parsons School of Design. My parents supported my new career path and so I gave Parsons and New York City a shot.

My love of fashion started when I was younger. I remember being so in awe of my mom when she would get dressed up- she would wear incredible suits, timeless jewelry, and always a gorgeous pump! I think this is why I like the power suit so much! She was, and still is, my fashion inspiration. In fact, this may have influenced my style as I got older, so it wasn’t a surprise when I was voted Best Dressed in high school. When I was younger, I remember my mom buying my older sister, Rania, and I the same outfit in different colors. If only Instagram was around then!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

One year after I started my first full-time job as an assistant designer, my boss resigned.

She had held that position for eight years, and once I found out, I immediately, saw this as an opportunity to advance my career and move into a higher role in the company. I was young, ambitious, and fearless. I thought to myself, “ask and you shall receive”. I knew I had the talent to do what she was doing and more importantly, I was willing to put in the time.

So, I arranged a meeting with the president of my company and asked her to give me the opportunity to take over the responsibility of my former boss. I said “Give me a chance to prove myself, if I don’t succeed in three months you can hire whomever you want for me to report to.”

Her response to me was “No one has ever asked, so I guess that means you really think you can do it and we’ll give you the chance.” At this time, the term “Girl Boss” wasn’t part of our everyday vernacular, but right then and there, I knew that I had become one.

The next phase of my career was starting Reunited Clothing as a Partner and Executive Creative Director. To say that I am proud of the success of my company is an understatement. I believe that we need to acknowledge our success. I know what my worth is. I want others to know it too. I am not talking about monetary worth as some might automatically associate with success. This is about my skills, ideas, mindset- basically the eighteen years of experience I bring to the table EVERY DAY when I meet with clients and manage my incredible team!

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

I was so excited to start my first internship while I was studying at Parsons. I couldn’t wait to experience fashion first hand. I thought it was going to be glamorous and that I would be getting a sneak peak and even work on designing the next collection for fashion week.

However, when I showed up in heels, I got a rude awakening! I quickly learned that fashion isn’t exactly what you see in magazines, on the red carpet, or on the runway! In the fashion industry, you need to pay your dues, and literally pound the pavement.

I was making copies, cleaning closets, and hopping on subways going from Soho to sample rooms in the garment district — sometimes back and forth four times in one day- rain or shine.

My take-away from this was to bring a change of shoes to the office for meetings and keep a comfortable flat for my commute- you never know what the day will bring!

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture and work life?

As a leader you have the responsibility to maintain the heart and soul of what made you start the business and the kind of culture you are creating.

Along with the challenges and ups and downs of business, I believe that connecting with your team and employees is a critical success factor. Managing stress is a big part of our mental health. I want my employees to work in an environment that fosters growth and creativity. This not only increases productivity, but also happiness in the workplace which leads to an increase in employee retention. If you love your team, take care of them! I believe it’s important to create a feeling of balance and calm at home and at work. In fact, many of us spend more time at work, then at home. Both environments significantly influence our overall wellness.

While it may be difficult, it’s really important to focus on the positives, and not the negatives. Learn from the hard times and apply those lessons to future businesses and turn a wrong into a right.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview. In my work, I focus on how one can thrive in three areas, body, mind, and heart. I’d like to flesh this out with you. You are a very busy leader with a demanding schedule. Can you share with us two routines that you use to help your mind thrive?

Two routines I have created are:

I go to bed early. Getting eight hours of sleep gives me the energy and the mental clarity to tackle the day’s events. I also wake up early- this allows me to get a head start on my day with a delicious cup of coffee.

I make a list of what the key priorities are for the day and who I need to delegate that work to. This allows me to manage a massive workload and keep things flowing smoothly for my team, essentially making each hour more efficient.

I always shower in the morning. This wakes up me up and believe it or not, I have so many epiphanies in the shower! Not only do I brainstorm ways to solve problems, but I come up with creative ideas that I can’t wait to get to the office and find a way to implement them.

When life is very busy, and you cannot stick with your ideal routine, are there any wellness practices, rituals, products or services for your mind, body, or soul that you absolutely cannot live without?

Sleep, this is one essential. If I don’t get enough rest I can’t function, so always trying to make sure I have time to sleep while traveling and prioritizing it over a late dinner out.

Also I don’t drink any alcohol. This helps me to always be on my A game and never having to worry about how I’m going to feel the next day. The biggest thing I value in life and pride myself on are efficiency and being present. When I’m rested, I can maintain both aspects.

All of us have great days and days that are not as great. On days when you feel like a rockstar what do you do? What does that day look like, and what did you do to get there?

Just waking up healthy and making sure to count my blessings make me feel like a rockstar! I never lose site of how fortunate I am and it really helps to count your blessings.

In contrast, on days when you feel down, what do you do?

Stay the course. Without the bad days you don’t know how to value the good days and it comes with being human. I always try to remember the last time I felt that way and that things pass and eventually you see the silver lining.

For me the “down” days are just ways to stop and reflect. In fact, I use the down days as momentum to start something new and recharge.

Do you have a story about the weirdest, most bizarre or most humorous wellness experience, treatment, practice, or practitioner that you’ve ever partaken in? If you do, we’d love to hear it.

Definitely lymphatic drainage, but it works. The massage uses very light pressure and long, gentle, rhythmic strokes to increase the flow of lymph and reduce toxins in your body. It’s a full body detox and massage all In one. Healthy body, healthy mind.

You’re a high achieving business leader, and you also have family and loved ones that may require a different side of you at home. How do you leave the executive at the door, and be the most loving caretaker at home?

My motto has always been family first and I live by that. Ever since I moved to NYC, my entire immediate family has always lived on both coasts. My siblings and I all moved from Michigan to pursue careers or life goals in different states. But we’ve managed to see each other at least every six weeks.

For me as a busy owner of a company who is needed in many places, the only way to achieve being able to be there for family and continue to do my job is planning, delegation, and learning how to work remotely.

I’ve mastered all three of those skills and now, when I am needed by family, I am able to be physically present and still do what needs to be done on the work front.

Is there a particular practitioner, expert, book, podcast or resource that made a significant impact on you and helped you to thrive? Can you share a story about that with us?

To me it’s not about one book or one person’s point of view but I always like to listen and read and seek advice from multiple resources.

I have to admit, I gravitate towards female entrepreneurs, authors, and figures in my life.

Women in business face different challenges than men so reading and listening to stories of women and how they climbed the corporate ladder, achieved in their business goals, or moved from employee to entrepreneur totally inspire me.

Mika Brzenski, “Know your Value”, Sophia Amoruso “Girl Boss” , Michelle Obama “Becoming” , Queen Rania who uses her influence as progressive female voice in the Arab world.

But my main source of inspiration has always been my mother. She guides me and gives me unbiased advice. She tells me when I’m wrong and gives me perspective, but always supports me when I’m right and need to keep conviction in an idea or pursuing an opportunity.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I bring this back to something that I feel has shaped me into the person I am, and that one thing is travel. Since a young age I travelled every summer to Europe and the Middle East and it is in my blood. However, if I was never introduced to that at a young age I don’t know if I would be the person I am.

I would love to find a way to make travel more accessible or implemented into school curriculum. School /class trips to countries abroad funded by state or based on donations would be a way to make sure this happens at least in the high school level.

Seeing different cultures and practices from around the world opens your eyes and you start to realize the world is vast and broad and there is a lot to learn.

For me travel was motivational. It was something I wanted to work hard for so that I could continue to incorporate travel into my life.

I find that travel breeds success. Most successful people share stories of how travel is part of their life. And I’m not just speaking about a beach vacation — it’s more about experiential travel.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“If you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life”

That’s been my motto since I decided to pursue fashion, and It couldn’t be more true.

I never dread a Sunday night or Monday morning. I look forward to going to work, starting a new project, facing a new challenge. No two days are the same and that’s why it’s so exciting!

What are the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

@marledbyrc

@reunitedclothing

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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