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The Importance of Being Kinder to Yourself

An authentic insight into Hiam Sakakini's story

Hiam told me that to her friends, she is known as the ‘says it like it is’ straight talker they can rely on to cut through the noise and ask the hard questions. Hiam sees all people she spend time with as friends. She expects as much from them as she gives and in her business, she has been fortunate to work with people she calls friends first and colleagues second.

Hiam Sakakini is the co-Founder of ThinkChangeGrow, a People & Culture specialist that is bringing positive change to workplaces across the globe. This passion stems from her belief that workplaces can always strive to become better. Even at places like Google where Hiam spent 10 wonderful years, building leadership capacity so that every employee could say, with conviction, they had a great manager.

The workplace is a place where you spend the majority of your day, your week and your year. So, shouldn’t it be a place where you are genuinely happy and motivated to go work? Using her knowledge and experiences, Hiam support organisations in their quests to fulfil this mission in becoming exceptional places to work.

Specifically, Hiam is passionate about uplifting those in the aged care and disability sectors as they support some of the most vulnerable in society. These sectors are currently going through times of enormous change. This change can lead to making real, positive steps in attracting young talent and innovative technology solutions. And she believes that it all lies in empowering people and culture strategy.

1. Humble Beginnings

Q: How did you get started and what or who inspired and empowered you to?

My parents with their entrepreneurial hearts and vastly different pursuits.

My father was in the corporate world in FMCG, running a number of supermarkets. He then moved to trading in beef to the Middle East, where I grew up, from Ireland where we moved to when I was 10.

My mother was a beauty therapist with very good listening skills. These skills were put to good use as she became a counsellor with a long stint as a journalist in between.

My father always told me, “You can buy everything in this world except experience. That you have to earn.” There was always truth to what he said as I watched them both build their empires and use their skills in various ways. It was a truth that made me leave Google.

Google was an amazing place to learn HOW to build a business from scratch. I thought that my parents would think I was crazy to leave such a great job and career to plunge into the relative unknown waters of startup life. But instead, my father told me, “About time.”

The incredible support from my parents was how I found myself walking in their footsteps and following my passion.

The support doesn’t end there. My husband, Joe and my business partner and co-founder Monika, are two incredibly strong pillars that would withstand the heaviest of storms with you. They are part of the reasons why we made it to our one year start-up anniversary and I could not be more grateful for their support.

Q: What unique and creative strategies if any did you use when you were first getting started?

Monika and I often tell people that we are polar opposites. A chai-sipper. A coffee-drinker. And the list goes on! Amongst these differences lies our mutual interest in helping people. Through combining our varied talents, our simple mission was established: to bring positive change to workplaces across the globe. We want to do this, using new and innovative means.

Throughout our lives, we have been very fortunate to have received the support of incredible not-for-profits. This gave our mission, a new layer of purpose. We asked ourselves; How could we use our talents, acquired at Google, of building leaders of the future to support charity organisations?

We know good leaders are what the world needs more of. What keeps the future looking bright. They have empathy, the drive to inspire and motivate others, a connection to the purpose beyond profit, unrivalled communication and problem solving skills. There’s simply not enough of them out there.

So off we went! We create strategies, courses and programs that bring together the Non-Profit and For Profit sectors in ways they can leverage each other’s strengths and learn from each other. We put the humanity back into business and infuse some business savvy back charity organisations. Meaningful, shared value between the sectors.

We like to also work 1–1 with CEO’s that want to rethink and redesign their People & Culture practices, the kinds of organisations that are serious about their Culture and don’t just see it as a nice-to-have but see it is a strategic must-have. They are determined to lead by example, face the hard truths and roll up their sleeves to get a culture that is their unique differentiator in the market. Something we know from experience is absolutely crucial in the future of work.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Hiam and hear her amazing insight from my latest trip to Sydney

I had the opportunity to catch up with Hiam and hear her amazing insight from my latest trip to Sydney

2. Mindset

Q: What mindset distinguished you from others who were doing the same thing? How did you develop it?

We bring humanity to our courses and strategies. We believe if there was more humanity shown in the workplace, we would not be seeing the epidemic of stress-related illnesses that is mainly caused through work. We also wouldn’t see the revolving door of people coming and going because organisations have fallen well-short of expectations.

Oddly, we have not come across many organisations who are doing the same thing we are. This only fuels our fire even further.

A significant portion of our life is at work. Time that could be with loved ones or time that we sometimes spend a lifetime searching for. We want to change this dynamic for the better.

3. What is your definition of success?

Our definition of success is to work with great companies and individuals who literally want to be the change they want to see. We want to work with as many of them as possible and we will very soon need to find scalable ways of doing so. We believe that if we do, we will affect the positive change in the workplace that we know is possible.

4. Failure

Q: What do you think is the main reason why some people face failure when going after their vision?

Speaking from a startup perspective (putting aside my People & Culture hat). I think there are two main reasons…The first is they have picked a business that they are not personally passionate about. It may make great sense because of current market trends etc. but they are not personally attached to what they are doing. If we don’t feel that personal connection, I don’t feel success is possible in the long term in the sense of true personal fulfillment.

The other issue is focus. I know that startup life is difficult and there so many things that can pull you out of your core focus areas. You have to make trade offs every time you do go between things you’d like to do and things you know you should do. You need to be hyper vigilant with your time, that is the one thing in the world that is truly finite. Every day I ask myself: what is the highest value activities that I should be doing? What could get in my way? I then make a plan to mitigate that and remain focused. If I didn’t, I don’t think I would have survived my first year.

5. What is the best piece of advice you have received or came across and would like to share with everyone?

Apart from my father’s advice around chasing experience, I’ve recently learned to be kinder to myself. I used to completely ignore advice to slow down, to take a break etc. Recently, someone sent me an article entitled, ‘Resilience is how you recharge, not how you endure’ and that has been a timely reminder to start taking care of myself.

To learn more about Hiam, visit https://www.thinkchangegrow.com.au/

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