Avoid talking to your co-workers? It’s time for your next move

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Avoid talking to your co-workers? It’s time for your next move

Author: Ngo Dinh Thao Phuong – Senior Executive Assistant, Mekong Capital

December 16, 2022


For more than 12 years, Mekong Capital has become my family. I believe in and am inspired by the work that we do and the impact we create for Vietnamese people, their families, their kids, and ours. So I tried to prove that I was a valuable part of the team by doing all the right things – things I was supposed to do. However, those things didn’t bring me fulfillment.

The below story is how I have reconnected to my authentic self and what I truly care about, ultimately leading to me being able to create values in my accountabilities while feeling wholesome, authentic, and fulfilled.

Blog detail Ngo Dinh Thao Phuong The pitfall 1

Thao Phuong is in the middle.


My job is to have daily meetings with deal teams, check their calendar and count the number of conversations they have with our investees, and make sure they have sufficient meetings planned for the following week to deliver their commitments.

Up until about 5 or 6 months ago, I would consider myself a result-oriented person. I was straightforward and firm about what the deal teams promised as their commitment, and I held them accountable for having sufficient time on the calendar to reflect that. I wouldn’t take their reasoning into consideration, and I believed that made me powerful.

Holding people accountable isn’t always a pleasant experience and can be stressful. My days keep moving on with daily catch-ups which begin with me putting on a bright smile but asking forceful questions like“Let’s focus on what you promised, what didn’t work, what was missing, and what would you do where commitment is lacking?”.

In my book, those are the right things as they seem to cooperate with my planning and make an effort to fill in the calendar with all these meetings. As far as that goes, I have delivered my accountability.

However, deep down, I started to notice how I didn’t want to meet our deal teams. My heart would pump hard, and my head started to give many reasons to excuses not to meet them. Writing the meeting subject alone was already hard. Because I knew if I wrote something wrong, they could simply decline it, or worse, they would misunderstand my intention. Even once they accepted the meeting, it consumed a lot of energy out of me to ask the right questions, get the answers, and ensure they didn’t feel upset when I held them accountable for their promises…I was not experiencing free self-expression. Instead, I was experiencing myself being aggressive and defensive.

While on the outside, I was pretending that I was beautiful and blossoming, on the inside, I lost inspiration and the connection to why I chose this job. Every day, I tried to hold myself together and told myself that I was doing the right things.

Honestly, I was surviving as a dry, broken desert wishing for water. I was stuck between “should I continue doing the ‘right’ things or should I quit?”


I tried to carry on until July when that question became stronger and louder. I couldn’t pretend that I didn’t hear it any longer. So, I decided to talk to some people, giving myself the space to share out loud what had been bottled up inside and clearing my mind of what I truly wanted. The more people I talked to, the clearer I knew that I didn’t want just to quit the job. I still believe in the value that Mekong Capital is creating and still want to be part of that.

Then I decided to give myself homework “If I do quit Mekong Capital, what will I be proud of or appreciated of?”. When I wrote down the answers, they were:

– I appreciate how much I have grown. I appreciate the people and conversations that have transformed me and given me the courage to make choices that I wouldn’t see myself making before.

– I feel proud and fulfilled when someone shares how they have grown and transformed after talking to me.

– I appreciate and am proud of myself and my team when we achieve something together.

Blog detail Ngo Dinh Thao Phuong The pitfall 5

The Executive Assistant team


In that list, there were no “number of meetings achieved” or “promises delivered” – things that I was obsessed over. I found what I truly care about is being the source of power for everyone to freely be whomever they want to be to fulfill what they truly care about. When that popped, I could feel my heart pumping hard with joy, the energy flowed throughout my body, and I started smiling. I knew I had found my values and would live the rest of my life spreading those values to people – and right now, it’s for the Mekong Capital’s team.

From that day onward, wildflowers began blooming in my desert. My energy now focuses on what we have achieved and what else we want to achieve more, and creating new relationships where I am the source of power for the team to deliver on whatever they are committed to and care about.

It is a powerful place to stand. I feel so free, high-energy, and fearless that I no longer hold back when meeting with our deal teams. I have successfully invited our deal teams to form an interdependent relationship with my team, Executive Assistant team. Thus, both teams become partners in bringing meaning to what we are doing, rooted in what we truly care about.

Had I not stopped doing the “right” thing for a moment and given myself the assignment to dig deep into what I truly care about, would I have ever known how wonderfully desert could bloom?

Blooming desert

Blooming desert

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Mekong Capital makes investments in consumer-driven businesses and adds substantial value to those companies based on its proven framework called Vision Driven Investing. Our investee companies are typically among the fastest-growing companies in Vietnam’s consumer sectors.

In January 2022, Mekong Capital founder Chris Freund published Crab Hotpot, a story about a bunch of crabs who found themselves stuck in a boiling pot. The colorful cover of “Crab Hot Pot,” complete with expressive cartoon crustaceans, looks like a children’s tale at first glance. But as one continues reading, it becomes clear that the work has an important message about organizational transformation, leadership and focusing on a clear vision for the future.

The book is available on Tiki (Hard copy): bit.ly/38baF8a (Vietnamese) and Amazon: amzn.to/3yWunzG (English)

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