#BeBetter Podcast with Michael Kurland

Leading with Creativity and Compassion Instills Trust

Inspire curiosity in your team every day.

Monica Kang is a creative educator who is transforming today’s workforce through the power of creativity. She is driven by the belief that everyone is innately creative, and that creativity can be used to catalyze personal and professional change.

Portrait of Monica Kang

“Always start with empathy and compassion, then trust and listen.”

—Monica Kang


18. Leading with Creativity and Compassion Instills Trust

Key Takeaways

  • By understanding and managing your task and energy flow, you can determine the best times you will be engaged.
  • Connect your “why” of creativity, not only professionally, but also personally.
  • Don’t just rely on the theories and framework. Go out and experience people.

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Monica Kang is a creative educator who is transforming today’s workforce through the power of creativity. She is driven by the belief that everyone is innately creative and that creativity can be used to catalyze personal and professional change. As the Founder and CEO of InnovatorsBox®, her deepest satisfaction comes from seeing individuals realize their full potential and talents through creativity. Through her innovative workshops, consulting, products, and curriculum, Monica teaches creativity in a tangible, practical, and relatable way regardless of industry or job title. Monica is a recognized thought leader in creative leadership and education. She has worked with clients worldwide including Fortune 500 companies, higher education, government, and nonprofits. Her work has been awarded across numerous platforms, including The White House, Ashoka Changemakers, Women Empowerment Expo, Timmy Award, National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). She is also the author of Rethink Creativity: How to Innovate, Inspire, and Thrive at Work. Monica’s passion for positively impacting the world extends beyond InnovatorsBox®. She is an active leader in StartingBloc, DC Tech, Startup Weekend, and Coach Diversity Institute where she became a Certified Professional Diversity Coach (CPDC). Driven by her lifelong love of knowledge, she is also an adjunct professor at BAU International University where she teaches entrepreneurship and leadership. Prior to InnovatorsBox®, Monica was a nuclear nonproliferation policy expert in international affairs. She holds an M.A. from SAIS Johns Hopkins University in Strategic Studies and International Economics and a B.A. from Boston University.

“Start by understanding what your people really need and be curious about it.”

—Monica Kang


Podcast Transcription

Hello, I’m Michael Kurland, CEO and Co-Founder of Branded Group. Welcome to the #BeBetter Podcast. To me, our company’s mantra to “Be Better” is more than a tagline; it’s a culture that permeates our organization, propelling our team to Be Better to each other, our customers and our communities as well as to ourselves. Each week on the #BeBetter podcast, I interview leaders who authentically exemplify how they are being better in their professional and personal lives.

Today’s podcast is dedicated to The American Red Cross of Orange County. The American Red Cross is part of the world’s largest volunteer network whose mission is to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.​ Learn more about the American Red Cross and find a location near you at https://www.redcross.org/.

Michael Kurland (00:01):

All right. Welcome everybody to another episode of the BeBetter podcast. I’m your host, Michael Kurland. I am very excited today. We have Monica Kang, founder and CEO of InnovatorsBox® and author of Rethink Creativity. Monica, welcome to the show. Please introduce yourself to the audience.

Monica Kang (00:23):

Thanks Michael for having me. Great to meet everyone. I’m Monica and I am currently based in DC, born and raised in DC, traveled quite a bit, but really excited to be here because I think culture leadership in the workplace is something that I’ve been passionate to rethink and rekindle because I’ve worked in a lot of different industries. I’m an entrepreneur now. I specialize in innovation, culture, leadership and team development. Before that I’ve been in few places, a think tank, nonprofit, government, international organizations, and newspaper agency in three different continents. Most previously was a nuclear weapon security and really got me thinking about how do we rethink about how we engage in the workplace, think about what it means to be fully alive. I’m really excited for this conversations since this is also quite a bit of a different time. We’re thinking about all of that as we work remotely more.

Michael Kurland (01:18):

Absolutely. Like I said, we’re super excited to have you on and you just named off pretty much every industry that I could think of. So you do have a lot of experience out there and I’m sure, especially doing some stuff in the government and nuclear, you probably didn’t have the best culture if I had to guess. It was a little more rigid.

Monica Kang (01:42):

Well, that’s the thing that is interesting is that I think at the end of the day, every industry has its own stigma, right? So government, nuclear, non-proliferation nuclear, I mean, in other words, nuclear weapon, security international organization. I’ll be honest. There’s a lot of procedures. There’s a lot of processes that could feel like it delays certain things, but they’re also there for a reason. I think in entrepreneurship and innovation, sometimes we lack some of that structure, which could also be a concern. Let’s admit it. You ideally want to balance both. The number one lesson that I really walked away from working in these industries is that yes, some part of the myth and I guess the perception is true, but at the end of the day, it’s also not. Because what really makes a difference is the individual.

Monica Kang (02:28):

It’s like let’s say as a department, there might be something slowness. If you have an amazing boss, if you have an amazing team, your world in days are hugely different than somebody who does not have that. Then also as a result, if that leader is the department head, for sure that department, regardless of whatever industry you’re in is going to be hugely different. So that was one thing that I think I’ve always been reminded at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. There’s always going to be some, kind of industry, kind of culture that people are used to, but people who are innovative going out of the way, are looking out for their people, always looking for new ways. They always exist in all of these. Thank God we have multiple people interested in multiple industries that they exist. There’s ton of amazing people in the government, which is why I’m still in DC.

Michael Kurland (03:14):

I love your enthusiasm and you’re like infectious. I’m getting so jacked up right now. I want to go do some culture leadership stuff after we get off this podcast. But to your point, I was just recording another podcast earlier and we were talking about similarly, if I existed and I consider myself a culture expert or a thought leader in that realm. We were saying if I was at Branded Group with employee A, we would have one like kind of experience. If I was in government and I was a leading over in government, it would still be a totally different experience. It would probably be similar, but just because the industry is different, right? So very interesting, very interesting stuff.

Michael Kurland (04:06):

What we’ve been doing this season has been remote culture, culture from a remote place during COVID and I’ve had numerous guests on and the thing that we keep landing on over and over and over again, it’s not even on purpose until today. Now it’s on purpose is burnout. We’re talking about burnout because you’re working from home. You have no work-life separation. You have no on-off switch. You have no one policing you on what you’ve been on your computer for 20 hours or eight hours or whatever the case may be. Then when you’re with your downtime, there’s nothing else to do except Netflix and alcohol or whatever it is that you’re doing to escape to try and pass the time, read a book, whatever. So it’s leading to this burnout, right? That’s one thing that I wanted to touch on with you because you brought up a great point when we had our meeting, which was how do you facilitate a manager calendar? So let’s get into that. Everyone’s feeling the burnout. How can you rethink, how you manage your calendar time, energy, and prevent that burnout?

Monica Kang (05:15):

Thank you, Michael. Yes, indeed. I can see folks are like, okay, where’s that part where they’re going to talk about this because I need to implement this right now in my life. I think the first question that we’re not often asking, which is why a lot of the approaches that people are reading online and trying out are not getting the result is because we’re not actually going to the core reason of why this is happening. So let’s be honest, Michael, right? The whole reason why burnout is happening is not just because of COVID. It’s because that culture was already there for a very long time. I mean I am guilty of being part of two cultures, American and Asian, where we work and love working a lot. We are working on a holiday, right and it’s okay.

Monica Kang (06:00):

I don’t want to say that that’s necessarily a black and white bad thing. I love what I do. I know many of all of you who are here, we love what you do, but sometimes it’s a challenge when it takes over. But right now you’re confused. I’m like, wait, I thought I loved it, but now it’s taking over too much. Or maybe for some of us like Monica, I don’t even love it. So I’m in now 0.0, like where do I even start? So I think the first question we really have to think about is what’s really causing it. What was that sentiment inside even pre COVID because without fully understanding that we don’t know the source to how to adjust. So I say that even to talk about giving tactics and strategies and thoughts in calendar, time and energy management, because for some of you, it might be that, you know what, I’m good with my calendar.

Monica Kang (06:49):

I know when I’m going on, when I’m going off, I don’t check in and out after that, but I still feel burned out. I don’t know why. So keep that perspective. There’s other people like, I’m horrible with calendars, but I don’t think that’s actually the cause. I’m not really sure for others. It might be like I feel like I’m not necessarily in a lot of meetings, but why am I feeling Zoom fatigue? I know other friends who are on seven hour calls. I get why they tired. I have only two or three calls. Why am I still tired? So feeling almost like that guilt and confusion. So part of the reason is because it’s not just because of us needing to go on video.

Monica Kang (07:26):

It’s not just because we feel like the work feels longer. It’s because a lot of the habits that we have not adjusted before the pandemic are just creeping and expanded upon, which is why now we’re feeling a lot more confused. Let me give you some specific examples. The reason why I brought up the calendar is that often we want to be productive. What happens in the calendar is we book a lot of back-to-back things. I’m like, Oh, well, five, 10 minutes. No problem. Let me just put you right in here. Oh, I just have an hour slot. Why don’t we do a meeting right now? Then what we end up realizing is that we are in such a back-to-back switch of a mindset, switch of decision making that we don’t realize how tiring it is.

Monica Kang (08:38):

So the back-to-back calendar happens because the actual reason is because we want to be productive. We feel like if we’re not filling that gap, we maybe are missing something. But as a result, what we’re not giving ourselves time to do is probably doing the work that you talked about in the meetings, giving yourself time to actually reflect and process. Most importantly, actually is the transition time because not all meetings are the same and not all conversations are the same. There are certain conversations, let’s be honest, that’s going to require a lot more energy and thought and time. There’s some, that’s going to be an easy, actually an energizing. You walk away, you feel even better. You feel more excited. The reason why the burnout is feeling more real is that because not only are we in more back to back calls, because we feel like we have to be there because one, we’re technically “available.”

Monica Kang (09:49):

But two, we’re not being as mindful about how the energy spend is holistically. So one trick that I try to do is yes, I admit, sometimes I can’t avoid the back-to-back calls. So I understand including myself. But what I try to at least do is that I only permit that on certain days and certain time chunks. Then I always give myself permission that Mondays and Fridays, I have a little bit more flexibility. Tuesdays and Thursdays are my busier days.  Wednesday, I make sure at least if I’m busier in the morning, I try to not schedule meetings on Wednesday afternoons. Or if I do that on Wednesday afternoons, I give myself time on morning because what that does, especially for leaders, you’re giving yourself time to process, delegate, probably actually work through your emails and actually have time to digest and navigate.

Monica Kang (10:37):

What I hope you can realize through that is by understanding your energy flow, then you can figure out, well now I realize I tend to be more engaged in the morning to actually process your things. So then you probably want to save the afternoon to schedule your meetings and then get most of your work. Because then you’re going to be more engaged even for your meetings later on. That way, even though you’re busy, you’re going to feel less burnt out because not only will you get things done more productively in fact, but you’ll be able to make more space to manage that balance. So that way by the end of it, instead of being like I’m exhausted, I don’t know why I did that. You would have balanced out your task and energy flow. Also the type of meetings – you can package that in certain times. I know that was a lot but let me pause for a second. The big thing I want to emphasize again is that this is not a surprise. This was not here before problem. Two, how do we see this as a holistic way? That’s really the key piece, but that will be the beginning advice I would share.

Michael Kurland (11:40):

That was a lot. So audience out there make sure that you are writing this down because it’s great information. Personally, I tell it to people all the time. I am the King of over-scheduling. Like, Oh, I have eight hours today. I can do all these meetings back to back to back to back. I realized that during COVID because I was doing that, I’m like, I don’t need to do that every day. So to your point, I feel accomplished because I’m doing what you said already. My Mondays and my Fridays are usually a little bit more flexible if you will. Very flexible on Fridays. My Wednesdays are my partial days and Thursday and Tuesday are my busiest days. Those are the days that I over-scheduled. So I’ve already taken that advice and I didn’t even know. So kudos to me.

Monica Kang (12:40):

Yes. If you probably noticed that influences how you then plan again, your projects, your timeline, your delegation, and then you can be more realistic.

Michael Kurland (12:52):

Like I always say, if it’s not on my calendar, it doesn’t exist, right? So I do live by my calendar, but I think, some of the stuff that you were also taught that we were talking about with the burnout is you said, you have it on your calendar, but you don’t know when to start or stop or you’re working these extra hours. My biggest problem when COVID started was it just became so convoluted. I woke up in the morning, I would do my workout. I would jump on the computer for 15 minutes. I would stretch. I would jump on for twenty-five minutes. I would have my coffee. You go in and out all day because you’re like, ah, okay, I got some time here.

Michael Kurland (13:31):

This is also working around all the time that I did have already scheduled. The next thing you know, it’s like 6:30 and I’m still checking my emails and I’m still responding to things. That’s not sustainable. To your point, is that what we were doing before COVID happened? Probably right? I was probably doing that because I mean, we all have some sort of a smartphone at this point. Unless you’re my father. So you’re able to check. A funny side story, he just got his first iPhone. I can’t even get him to answer it. So I don’t know. What’s worse the flip phone from 199 or trying to teach them how to use an iPhone, a totally different episode.

Michael Kurland (14:15):

I think you’re right. There were all these built-in work processes, culture processes that we just accepted as the norm that probably need to be revisited now and post COVID. So I think this is all great information and really excited to talk about it.

Monica Kang (14:34):

To share one more tip, but also the second lens, I guess my optimistic lens that I’m really excited about is that this increase in burnout and stress that everyone is going through. The optimistic side of me is that I’m really excited that this is really going to have to push more companies to reframe and realize that, Hey, it’s not possible to do things the way things have been done before. Because it’s not realistic. It wasn’t, but now we clearly know it was not the case. So that’s one piece. The second thing as a result, what I found really helpful in addressing that specific thing that you said, okay, even though I was being mindful of my calendar, what else is the tip of habit? I think if we build in habits, setting even consistent time, I know I’ve heard there’s a whole series of articles about fake commutes, right?

Monica Kang (15:24):

People miss having a commute routine. There’s power to that because what happens in our brain is that we have moments where we probably don’t need to make any decisions. That’s probably when our commute, we get on the bus, we drive to certain place, we’re used to it. So it’s almost like we zone out and we’re just mindlessly present, but not really needing to think too hard. That time it has been significantly reduced. So you want to build in that routine. Whether you call it a fake commute or your morning or evening routine, building that in.  This is when I consistently read, but I’m going to respond to the emails then where I was scheduled my emails to go out then, because this is when I do deep work versus this is what I’m going to not answer anything and just focus on being present, like outside of the window screen break, or take a walk and you build that in your routine. It helps calendar people just block it in your calendar and say, this is my lunchtime. Because if not, then it’s not going to happen.

Michael Kurland (16:21):

I feel like you have walked into my mind because I literally was just talking about this this morning. I pulled my back out and I have been not stretching. I don’t have time to stretch. I blah, blah, blah. It just needs to be put on my calendar because if it’s on my calendar, I will do it. So now I’m blocking out time to stretch. But the other thing is the commute. I said it earlier on my previous podcast. I miss the commute. It was 30 minutes of getting charged up for the day on the way in and coming down from the day, to relax on the way home. It was something that you don’t realize you miss, you know? You listen to an audible book or you were catching up with your parents or whatever it was.

Michael Kurland (17:12):

For me, I’ve done exactly what you’re saying. I built in “dog time. So the dog is the healthiest he’s ever been in his life. It’s this little, 17 pound, Jack Russell Chihuahua. He goes on two mile walks with me, twice a day. So I can get my 30 minutes of walk time and that’s when I like to listen to my books or podcasts. So I’ll take him cruising and he’s probably lost seven pounds. Everyone else’s gained weight during COVID, but Harvey’s down like two pounds. So good for him.

Monica Kang (17:44):

It’s like, this is heaven.

Michael Kurland (17:47):

There’s days where he turns me around and he’s like, come on, man. Like I’m 17 pounds. This is great stuff. Let me jump to the next question, because I think it’s important. Talk to me about facilitation skills. What are they, for the audience and how can they help us thrive specifically now?

Monica Kang (18:08):

Really important. I think this is another route where we’ve undervalued and had a certain perception of what it is. I mean, honestly, even now when you’re hearing this question, some of you may be like, Oh, maybe I need to skip this one because I’m not a facilitator. I don’t mind meetings. That’s what my admin does. That’s what my event team does. You might feel like I’m not really sure how this resonates to leaders or myself. Surprise, surprise a lot! Because what facilitation really is about is how you facilitate not just a meeting room, but about everything.

Monica Kang (18:50):

So currently Michael and I are both taking turns, facilitating this conversation, right? If we were not thinking in that mindset of how we are engaging, how are we bouncing back and forth, we might be in a monologue, not a dialogue. There’s a key difference in that. Of course, when you have more people in the meeting room, that’s why having a facilitator minded folks, I say “minded” as a key difference than just individual who’s putting together the agenda or the meeting notes, makes the energy in the room and the result from the meeting to be completely different because when you’re coming into that mindset and walking into the meetings, of course, not only are you seeing that productivity of getting the results done but actually in a more effective, thoughtful and fun way, because you’re always thinking about the audience what do they need? I mean, we’re thinking about what you’re all going to benefit from our conversation. We could be talking about anything, but we’re thinking about all of you, secondly, we’re thinking about the time.

Monica Kang (19:38):

S when you know how to actually master facilitation, not again, just as putting together agenda, but that holistic thinking, then you start to realize how you implement that in everything else, which is not only your meeting, but also how you probably manage your people. I think about all the time, how I’m facilitating my energy and flow when I’m speaking and delegating with my teams and other stakeholders, because you have in your calendar and energy, probably hundred or 20, 30 people at a minimum keeping track of that’s you actually facilitating in your brain. Okay. Who do I need to make sure I follow up? Who do I need to make sure I emailed today, but not too soon? Okay. No, I emailed that person yesterday. So no, not today, but I need to send maybe tomorrow, but I’m too tired tomorrow. So maybe can I schedule it for tomorrow?

Monica Kang (20:20):

Like those are all decisions you’re making unconsciously. So having that facilitator mindset means not only do you now use that very tool, you navigate the room, creating a safe room, looking up for all these multitude of voices and finding commonality. You do that for your projects. You do that with how you manage your people, manage your communication. That’s why over time it reduces burnout. Because now I feel less stress of needing to talk to people because in my head, I’m just facilitating those conversations, whether email, Facebook chat WhatsApp, textbook messenger. I allocate my time and energy of like, this is what I’m going to engage with these conversations. This is when I’m going to go back to, this is what I’m going to make sure I give certain answers and this is when I’m not. That puts me more at ease. When I show up, instead of me being stressed and feel like I need to immediately address. That’s one of the key things you see that as being different for those who are. So did that help provide some insights?

Michael Kurland (21:19):

Definitely. I think what I took out of that is we are so used to being an instant gratification society. I grew up cell phones were the Zack Morris, like big thing in a suitcase. Then they’ve evolved to being basically a computer in your pocket.  I’ve even heard some people even talk as a bionic piece of a person, right. Because they’re the newest accessory. So when we grew up, you didn’t have to get back to anyone right away. You got a call at your house on your answering machine. You were like, I’ll call Aunt Susie tomorrow. Now you get a text message and we’re like almost Pavlov dog trained ourselves to text message, immediate response, email, immediate response.

Michael Kurland (22:07):

That creates chaos in your head like you just said. So if you can learn to facilitate and organize your thoughts and your time, you can be more successful and not burn out because you don’t always feel like you’re under the gun to answer this imaginary pressure to respond. I even find myself sometimes on the other end. I texted him, I could see those bubbles popping up. I know he’s typing. Why is he not responding to me? It’s ludicrous. Like 30 seconds is too, too long to wait. It’s just that our patience and our instant gratification has become wired in a different way. So I really think the fact that being able to facilitate what you’re trying to do, organize and get all your thoughts squared away and respond to emails at 10:00 AM, respond to texts at 10:30. It’s such a good strategy. So I appreciate that.

Monica Kang (23:01):

That’s the other side I would also add is that it’s important to think from the flip side, Michael, which you shared as a clear example. So good leaders who have that facilitator open mindset would recognize that, okay, I did send out, I do want a fast response, but I’m going to keep that in mind. Then you were being thoughtful. You’re basically at the end of the day, you want to curate that conversation. So let’s say I haven’t heard back from Susan who was supposed to work on this task. Instead of me saying Susan, where’s this task dot, dot, dot, I could engage Susan. I know you’ve been really swamped, but I trust that you’ve already taken care of, but can you take a moment and let me know because I need this result so I can send it off to Jeff and, Sarah, then she might be like, Oh, actually, you know, I did and I forgot to update you.  That’s going to be different conversation than me starting with a doubt. I think that often happens when we facilitate our room, but seeing the room, not just in one hour, but your room of your entire time in calendar.

Michael Kurland (23:57):

It’s bringing me to the article that you wrote, “Thoughtful times require a thoughtful communication,” where you were talking about the four takeaways where it takes space and time to process, reflect on why communicating this matters in context and be sure to say what you really mean and listen more. I think those are all pertinent skills that we can tie into what you’re saying for this facilitation as well. So next question for you is how can we work across different generations at this time as we work online longer?

Monica Kang (24:35):

So important. Again, another example of where I think this has been an opportunity to think about this more deeply than before I think before we’ve thought about it. Some have done well, but now we need to do it more because I think the additional stress we’re seeing is that, Oh, I mean, might be kind of accidentally kind of touched upon it, but we talked about technology as a good example of your father and you brought up “Hey, this is how my father’s using my phone.” That’s the experience in all other workplaces. Everyone’s experience and comfort level with technology, different software’s, adaption to change is different. While it is also personality and like individuals, a lot of it’s also generational. Because we grew up with different cultures of technology, we’re used to different security and privacy matters. Because of that, the way we communicate, the way we expect when responses should happen, the way we write emails and call is different.

Monica Kang (25:36):

During this time as we work online, I think it’s going to be even more crucial why we have to listen more and really start with that empathy and compassion because instead of doubting, like why did so-and-so didn’t get back to me and maybe wondering last time they also was a little late, but maybe they’re having difficulty logging in. Could you maybe take a moment and check in with them and say, Hey I know Jeff last time you had some hiccups. Can I help you? It might be that, “Oh, thank God, Monica. I’m always five, 10 minutes early, but somehow the system, I don’t know how to do it and I don’t really want to talk about it because I don’t want to admit it. So you never know, somebody might just really need that help and vice versa.

Monica Kang (26:17):

I wouldn’t undermine the opposite just because somebody’s “younger generation” doesn’t mean they’re always tech savvy. They’re going to also have areas where other older generation would appreciate. Because of the work experience you all might, let’s say for instance, the older generation might have a better understanding how you navigate from phone to text to email faster than somebody who’s only used to texting or on chatting. So that’s a skill you can transfer. The key is first again, if something doesn’t work well, if something does work well, just always start with empathy and compassion and trust and listen. Always remember that as much as you can always learn from somebody else, there’s probably something you can give to support. Whatever generation you’re at listening and thinking about your colleagues, don’t try to box who they are or where you are think about where you all can play a role.

Monica Kang (27:08):

As a result, think about how you cross collaborate and find that solution. That might result in actual, tangible things such as now we might want to think about how we restructure our meetings regularly. Do we need the weekly meetings or maybe we need the weekly meetings because that permits us to talk through where there are certain processes that empower certain types of audiences, but not for everyone. So maybe we need to take a look at that. Are there certain email timings and timeline that doesn’t work?  That’s how you get tangible. But with that, I hope you’re hearing how the human equation is really key.

Michael Kurland (27:41):

Definitely. I think from our point of view, when we went remote on March 13th, which I remember it was a Friday, it is also my birthday.  We started on the following Monday, which I guess was the 16th, right. Or maybe it was the 17th. We had 85 employees at the time. Some of them had already been remote or had worked remote, but we have an IT administrator in the office. Michelle and she was paramount. I mean, I’m sure that was the longest weekend of her life was just getting everyone set up to be ready to go on Monday. But Monday morning we were good to go and very little hiccups, none that I knew of. So she is the one that’s got that empathy to be able to cross generational talk to.

Michael Kurland (28:27):

Because we got some people in the office that come to mind right off the top of my head that they know how to turn their computer on and off that’s about it. Then there’s others that are really tech savvy. But the one thing that you did mention too, that really hit home for me is so I also run the sales department at Branded Group. I don’t consider myself old. I’m 41 years old. I was brought up to pound the phones when you’re making sales. You can follow up with an email, that whole thing. I have a young, a very young sales team and they communicate via LinkedIn messaging and they’re doing just fine. Initially it was hard for me to let go, like you don’t need to make phone calls?

Michael Kurland29:14):

They were like, Michael we’re selling it’s okay. So I’ve had to let go of that. That’s good information and it’s definitely pertinent right now. So how can we build a good culture, even with team members that we’ve never met? This is definitely a new thing going on out there, especially as people get hired during this time. We have an onboarding committee, they would come in, and they would get shown around. This is Jeff he’s new, we’d get take him to lunch and now we can’t do that anymore. So how do we build that culture? Keep it going with new team members?

Monica Kang (29:56):

So the first thing I would share is start with what you’re used to, but try to see how you digitize that. Because the key thing about what we had in most company’s onboarding culture is the sentiment was always there with well-intentions, right? You want to make sure that person feels welcomed, be part of the team, get to know all the ropes around, having enough time. This is how you log in, this is how you set up. But since you can’t do that in person, how do you use digital? I guess like packaging mail, service as a hybrid for people to feel that and that’s when the design part could bring fun. I think actually, I guess the voice in me is like, okay, how do we make every situation with the opportunity voice? The opportunity’s that now they’re going to receive things in the comfort of their home.

Monica Kang (30:47):

So maybe a part of the onboarding. I know some folks are now even thinking part of the care welcome package, even send like packs of TP (toilet paper) and like, Hey, this is how much we care. We care about your safety. So we’re going to send half of PPE so that you don’t have to buy even, and your tech supplies. These are lists of names that you should connect with. You have like back-to-back schedule calls to welcome and connect and really thinking about at the end of the day, whatever budget or bandwidth, I know some company, we all come from different bandwidths. Some people might be like, well, I don’t have the bandwidth to mail things that’s not possible right now. You can always still find approaches that align with your company culture in routine that works successfully. As long as your intention is consistent, the welcoming, how do I make this seamless for both parties?

Monica Kang (31:37):

Because if there’s friction, then it’s not going to be fun for somebody. You know, as Michael said, it’s not going to be fun for Michael or Jeff, who’s welcoming the other colleague or the other colleague, because they’re going to sense it. There was something weird about the digital space. We somehow sense the energy, a lot more visibly. We can see if somebody is unhappy or happy. Then third as a result, how do you simplify it consistently so that way whoever gets onboarded throughout the phases, they’re not like, Oh, that’s what I got when I got onboarded three months ago. But this is what this other colleague is getting. That doesn’t seem fair. You don’t want to ever create that. So think about what you can do consistently that aligns again with your culture, but again, take the opportunity to use this hybrid space.

Monica Kang (32:18):

Again, remembering that at the end of the day, ask that question, is this going to make this person feel welcomed, uniquely part of your culture of your company, and three, as a result that it aligns with your brand and what you offer. I know, again, as a result, sometimes searching companies, give their company voucher and say, Hey, if you’re a spine massage company, like we’ll let you do it. So that way you can get some self-care during this time and be creative and have fun, use this time to think about what do your people really need for them.

Michael Kurland (32:50):

I think you just you just gave me a great idea. So I was mentioning before we have a staff ambassador program where you get your first day, you go to lunch with them and all that. I think what we can do with that is have the staff ambassador make time to have lunch with the person virtually and do an Uber eats or a voucher or whatever the case may be ordered in and covered for them. So that’s great. Great idea. Great, great, great thoughts. So last question. Well, I’ve got two more questions, but this is the second to last question. How can we stay creative during the pandemic? What are your thoughts on that?

Monica Kang (33:27):

Lots that we probably can’t cover all of, but since that is the core work that I do but I’ll simplify in two or three things. One, remember why you want to be creative. So for some of you, it might be that okay. I want to, because I don’t remember the last time and I crave for it. Maybe that’s your why. Then remember that why and make sure again how you build in your structure, your existing calendar, how you bring in that energy. For some of you, it might be that my work requires me to be creative, but I don’t know how, so then think about that intention and see how you design. But whatever your why is that’s going to be important to remember. I encourage you all to connect that “why” not only just professionally, but also personally, because this is such a great time for us to think about how the duality overlaps, because there is really no just work version of Monica and life version of Monica.

Monica Kang (34:26):

I should be the same version wherever you are, which means if I want to be creative at work, me being creative in life is going to influence how I show up in work, because now it’s literally on the same screen. So that’s the one thing, the first thing, thinking about your why. The two as a result, then you define on your how, and it might be to think about what inspires you to think differently and want to be curious if I asked that question, you should immediately have hopefully some thoughts of, Oh, you know what? I am a huge movie person. I get so curious about why is this actor doing this? Oh, this location, I want to look up all these locations. Why did they have this director? I get so curious when I watch movies.

Monica Kang (35:11):

So then how do you build your routine? Not only just binge watching and as we were joking about Netflixing and chilling, but you said as a routine that you actually do that as a thought activity. When I watch these movies, I want to think of five interesting questions and make it fun for you. Or it might be that you use that insight to do in a different activity, because maybe the questions are coming to mind because movies take you to another location. So maybe you could take a walk around different neighborhoods and ask, Oh, I wonder why, you know what that building, that’s always under construction. I wonder why that’s going on? Or why is this neighborhood more like red color building than the others? I wonder if there’s any regulation. The key is you want to keep doing both at work and routine simple, but intentional exercises that keeps you in a curious mindset, because as a result three, it will help you spur to ask more questions, be open and to try something different as a result, keeping you open to try something different in the workplace.

Monica Kang (36:14):

That’s so huge because let’s admit we are all doing so many new things. When we don’t intentionally exercise or creative thinking muscle, we’re going to feel tired. Just like our physical muscle. If we’re not exercising regularly, we’re going to feel more tired after even going one mile in like, or one or two miles. But if you exercise regularly, even when somebody is not asking for your creative ideas, you’re going to probably notice, Oh, Hey Michael, can I jump in? I have this great idea I want to share. You’re going to be more excited to do that. Both in work and in life. That element is so key because we absolutely need more people, especially now who’s going to be open, ask more questions and be curious about every single thing, even the most mundane routine things. Because we do need so many more innovation and new ideas. So I encourage all to build those so that you can be more creative.

Michael Kurland (37:06):

I think you touched on a really key word, which was inspiration, right? You’ve got to find the inspiration and without inspiration, there’s no creativity. So especially during these times, like you said, make it a game and cross it over from your work life, your well, the convoluted life that is now what we live, but from your personal life to your work life and just be able to stay inspired and be creative. I really liked that. So this is the last question that we ask all of our guests. What do you consider yourself to be an expert at? And what advice do you have for our audience on how to become an expert at said thing? There’s no right or wrong answer.

Monica Kang (37:49):

I wear many hats. I’ll list some of the hats, but I’ll emphasize on one in particular. So that way then it’ll be easier. I am an expert in creativity essentially really in the creative mindset, culture development, and leadership program and development, and delivering that with facilitation. To be an expert in culture, in creativity, development, how you build programs.  The few things that I found really helpful is as I just spoke with a moment ago, be curious because at the end of the day yes, they are people who are doing this and there are doctors degrees or internet, organizational development, psychology. But what I hope you realize is that that’s not the only way you learn how to build better programs, how to ignite your people, engage and build a culture that’s different.

Monica Kang (38:55):

It starts by actually understanding what does your people really need and being curious about it.  Don’t just rely on the theories and the framework. Go out and experience people and think about how that’s making you feel like, Ooh, I noticed that when they didn’t say hi, I felt really left out. I asked a question and nobody responded to me. That was not fun. Take that all as a reminder of that’s absolutely something that probably your colleagues also would not appreciate. So then how do you design a workplace, design a work culture where people would step in and, Oh, Hey, we haven’t heard from Monica who asked the question. Can we just make sure we circle back? Oh, I’m going to feel so much more welcome instead of somebody completely slammed the door in like, okay, now why am I going to even bring up a new idea? Because nobody cares about what I say. So that curious mindset, that willingness of really wanting to understand, and that drive of wanting to understand how program designs actually built on psychology and the human joy of learning by doing. That’s when you can build something amazing. It’s not just like cookie cutter, framework copy theoretical. That’s what I encourage everyone to do more and find the way you like to learn.

Michael Kurland (40:08):

Well, that’s great advice. I appreciate that. We really appreciate you coming on the show. This has been very informative. I’ve enjoyed our conversation. If the audience wants to get a hold of you, where can they find you?

Monica Kang (40:23):

Thank you first for having me. This has been fun as well. I always get so energized. Just thank you for all these questions. I hope it was helpful for everyone. A couple of places. One, feel free to reach out to me via LinkedIn, Monica H King at innovator’s box. Find me I’m on LinkedIn. That’s often one of my favorite ways to stay in touch with many of you. You’re welcome to email me at info@innovatorsbox.com. If you have any specific questions, I always love meeting folks and I have a lot of free resources also on our site. So please use those,  innovators box.com/free resources, just resources and including some of the courses and free worksheets so that you can implement some of these tools but find me there in look for it, to hearing from you,

Michael Kurland (41:10):

Monica, thank you so much for coming on. Have a great day and audience until next time.

I’d like to take a minute to thank you, our valued listeners. My intention is for this podcast to inspire you, in some way, to be better.  Change starts from within and radiates outward. Therefore, start with being better to yourself and only then will you recognize how to be better others and your community. Thank you for joining us today! If you want to learn more about Branded Group, then visit us at www.branded-group.com. From our website you can follow us on social media. Also, always feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. Until next time, Be Better.

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