Cutie Bunny or Power Woman?
Author: Hoang My Hanh, Senior Associate, Mekong Capital
Jun 21, 2019
One year after joining Mekong Capital, I wanted to take a step further to be a powerful Deal Support to add more values to our investee companies. However, at that time I was not quite sure about what should be the way of being “powerful” and what actions were missing from me?
So in one of the meetings with my mentor — Chris Freund, he requested me to start practicing sharing my commitments with the management team.
I pondered yet managed to take on Chris’ request and sent him back a list of practices to start with. He replied to me: “I invite you to take a strong stand for those commitments like a strong powerful woman, not like a cute bunny rabbit”.
I felt disappointed. I knew that the list was not enough. I needed to take real actions. But one week passed by, I did not make any move. I was indeed a “cute bunny” staying in my comfort zone for a good long cuddle and loving words whispered into my ear. Therefore, when Chris challenged me to reflect on what was missing and what stopped me, I was wrestling in my chair to scrutinize my obstacles in completing that request.
I found out, most of the time, I felt like I was not eligible to share my commitments. I was hesitant because I thought, “Why do I need to talk about my commitment? As long as I do my work excellently, people would know about my commitments.”, I was afraid that I would look like an alien, saying weird things in front of a bunch of people. “Why should they care about what I am committed to?”.
That fear was even reinforced when I interacted with the CEO of an investee company. In our conversations, I could sense that I was just a shareholder representative or an outsider without any mutual interests. The CEO was quite cautious when she spoke to me. She also did not actively approach me as a trusted partner. Thus, when we discussed critical business challenges, I felt a huge distance between us as she barely shared her real difficulties or her solution plans. That was really in the way for us to authentically listen and to trust each other.
I suddenly realized that this issue would cause prominent threats in the future. “What if I failed to discuss to with her the critical business challenges?” I should not sit here with the struggle to show her that I wholeheartedly share the same commitment with her for the success of the company. If I committed to become powerful and more importantly, add value to our investees, my lingering fear must be removed. This was not the time for a “cutie bunny”. It was high time for a powerful woman to step out of her comfort zone for her commitment.
My opportunity came when the company organized a vision creation session. When the new vision was created and owned by the CEO and all employees, I should be able to show how I was involved and committed as a part of the company. I needed to let go of the stories in my head to open my relationship with the CEO.
I was nervously waiting for the right moment. My heart beat so fast like a drum boom boom boom on high-pitched notes. I was talking to myself and trying to console myself saying that it was such an easy thing to do in an easy context. “If I cannot overcome the fear and the shyness, how can I become a powerful Deal Support who can inspire other people to take actions?”
Finally, towards the end of the session, that “game changing moment” arouse. After the team had together created a new exciting vision, I felt like being revived. My arms were stretching wide. My feet were dancing on the cloud. I stood up and shared to the team:
“I am really excited and inspired by the new vision that you have just created. And I am committed to doing whatever it takes to hold the team accountable for making the Company to be the №1 choice of beautiful diamond jewelry for Vietnamese by 2023.”
I felt inspired and excited after saying it. This was truly what I was committed to and I could now explicitly share with the team. I did not expect to become an immediate “powerful woman” that night, but the hugs and smiles in the sessions were indeed rewarding for me: I could feel I had become a part of my investee company. I was no longer an outsider, no longer a little bunny in my comfort zone.
Afterwards, I noticed some changes. The CEO started to be more open to call and share with me. She could talk freely about what she was struggling with while taking on the new CEO role. Sometimes, she called to ask for support but sometimes she just called to download her stress about how to ensure all her employees were aligned on the same goal, how to communicate effectively with the team members and to accelerate the pace of their actions. I realized that my relationship with the investee company gradually became more like a partnership, in which we connected with each other by sharing the same goal for the success of the company.
I am thankful today because not only I could shift other people’s view about me but I could also create relatedness with other people towards a shared common goal so that we could work together more effectively to achieve our goal. I invite everyone to share their commitments and to experience being “a powerful man/woman”.
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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.