Beating The Odds With Mona AlHebsi
What did you want to be growing up?
I’ve always been fascinated by powerful women who have their own presence, authority, and impact in their surroundings. I remember roleplaying using any chair and table I could get hold of, talking on the phone, and then signing papers as important business deals during my early childhood years as an influential businesswoman. That used to get me very excited and make me feel powerful and vital.
What is your secret to achieving excellence?
Self-awareness and the constant drive to become a better human.
I’m a life-long learner and an avid reader & writer; regular practice of reading and writing provides me with the opportunity to reflect and imagine various scenarios to a challenge that I may be facing currently then make a better judgment on people and scenarios and that’s quite exhilarating. This gets me to overthink at times but I try to self-manage as soon as I become aware of this tendency. I’m also quite a spiritual person and I have a strong sense of direction or intuitive urges that rarely fail me.
Overall, I think achieving excellence is possible for anyone once you are true and aligned with yourself, your inner world, and your outer world, then when put the necessary efforts in the right direction.
What are the two Leadership principles that you have discovered and executed that have contributed to your success?
Two principles that I have constantly lived by and have always given me great results are Character and Competence. I’ve discovered these principles through my own experience; however, these have become very clear to me specifically during a phase of my career when I started managing teams and working with more people as a leader.
Effective leaders can build trust with their teams or other people they deal with only if they have both good character (inner) and competence (outer) aligned. If any of these two is missing or compromised at any point, this can lead to mistrust in the leader and can end up affecting his/her credibility, reputation and impact. Character without Competence is unproductive, while Competence without Character is futile.
What was your role in the execution of the Emiratization Strategy in one of the most reputable institutions in the hospitality industry in the UAE?
Well, I am considered a leader in the field of Emiratization in hospitality because I’ve acquired so much in-depth understanding about the challenges that impede Emiratization in the hospitality industry over the past 16 years through working for various hotel brands both local and international, and interacting with different individuals and entities to understand their perspectives and motives about the subject.
During my working years in the industry, I’ve always achieved commendable results when it comes to executing successful Emiratization initiatives and was usually benchmarked by other hotels and institutions. Subsequently, I’ve received many reputable awards for the same like the HR & Training Person of the Year 2015 by Hotelier Middle East Awards and several appreciation certificates from Dubai Tourism.
Based on your expertise in the HR field, what steps should any organization in general, the Hospitality field in particular – take towards attracting fresh & high-scale talents?
Employers, in general, should be more flexible and adaptive to the new changes in how they manage and mobilize their people. The new world of work will bring about unique scenarios that require HR leaders to be proactive, knowledgeable, and influential to anticipate and respond to such situations or even lead the way in introducing new solutions.
Organizations must consider employing their people and other resources effectively and efficiently without draining them out or violating ethical practices because the coming period will be all about observing fairness and ethics in all human dealings and transactions. Employee Branding and Employee Experience will be the keywords for businesses across sectors but more so for service-driven organizations like travel, tourism, and hospitality to attract and retain high-scale fresh talent.
What are your thoughts on Women’s Empowerment? Moreover, what has been your role in empowering women & youth in your respective field?
First, this is a term that I do not prefer using anymore. As we don’t have a term called “Men Empowerment”, we shouldn’t also use the same for women. Such small mindset adjustments can go a long way and – in my opinion – constitute the first step towards achieving gender balance.
I’m proud to say that over the past 16 years of my career, I’ve been a strong believer in talented and driven people and provided them with all types of support within my capacity, be it through constructive feedback, sincere coaching & guidance, or actual sponsorship or recommendations of their work to others to help them get the recognition and exposure that they need. My efforts have been the catalyst in increasing the diversity and inclusion rates in the organizations I’ve worked with, in terms of nationality, gender, or any other aspect.
In your opinion, what can more women inclusion bring to the table of the world of Hospitality? What new corporate laws can be adopted and enforced to push for more inclusion & diversity at the workplace?
We hear many businesses talking about diversity & inclusion, however, the problem is that many misinterpret both terms or use them interchangeably. While diversity means having a variety of people in terms of ethnicity, backgrounds, religions, nationalities, genders, orientation, ages and the like, inclusion means what policies or practices you have as an organization to ensure all varieties – especially minorities – are treated with dignity and have fair access to all opportunities the company has to offer, based purely on merit and without discrimination.
Women can bring more creativity, empathy, intuitively driven decisions, and perspectives to the table. Women leaders in hospitality can relate more to people and balance the inputs used in the decision-making process which is mostly commercially driven if you have only men making decisions. A lot of men also are great leaders, however, my point here is to balance the makeup of the executive team – gender-wise – and ensure that women are well included and heard and not just hired into the role and given the title and benefits!
If you could introduce only one piece of legislation to further gender balance, what would it be?
It would be a compulsory awareness training or workshop that all citizens – men and women- need to undergo and sign a bounding contract to abide by it, then criminalizing any party who doesn’t conform to it.
What is your proudest achievement? And your biggest challenge?
I have many achievements that I’m proud of in my life, but the most is achieving the reputation I’m currently having as someone who “beat the odds” and evoke other people’s thinking in all that I do. Be it academically or vocationally, I’m proud to be up to date with most of the developments in my field of expertise and currently pursuing my DBA as well. I highly believe in the power of education, and the status & respect it gives the person. On the other hand, my biggest challenge during this particular phase of my life is to balance between my duties as a wife and mother while studying and continuing to do the meaningful work I believe in to contribute positively to my community and encourage more people to think for themselves rather than being just followers of any kind.
How has motherhood affected the way you view the world in general, the business world in particular?
Great question! Despite my strong morals and values ever since I’ve been a child, becoming a mother of a child changed my perspectives in a big way. As a mother, my most important takeaway is the concept of nurturing. You can’t provide quality nurturing to others while you lack self-nurturing. I learned that I need to start to nurture myself first to be able to nurture my baby, lovingly. Self-nurturing entails a constant endeavor of caring, protecting, and developing your being and that’s a holistic approach that involves the mind, body, and spirit. As you do to your child, you simultaneously do so to your inner child and heal it. Then, nurturing your relationships whether in personal or business life entails the same principles. All require putting in the right efforts consistently and being patient for these efforts to grow and give you results! All thanks to Baby Khalid for teaching me this and many other valuable lessons about life!
What inspired you to start writing your latest book, “Beat The Odds”? Who should read it and why?
There were many reasons, but the top two reasons that have driven me to write my career guidebook “Beat The Odds” are to build authority and to bridge a gap I saw present throughout my working years as an Emirati female in a competitive and dynamic sector like hospitality. Beat The Odds can especially be useful for hospitality professionals who are looking for a roadmap to shine and excel in their hotel career and take it to the next level.
Even though reading Beat The Odds can prove beneficial to any working professional in any field who is seeking advancement in their career journey, however, because the book contains exclusive tips and techniques that experts use to build authority and credibility, it’s mostly aimed at Women or Emiratis hoping to enter the hospitality industry, and build a rewarding career. The book is the only one of its kind that has been written on the subject so far.
What’s next for Mona AlHebsi?
I have a couple of exciting projects coming up in the next few months, the most important one to me is working on my DBA Research about “The Impediments of Emiratization in Hospitality Industry in the UAE” which I’m very passionate and thrilled about. I’m also planning to publish my findings as a book that will be a roadmap and reference for hospitality industry employers. In addition to that, I will launch the audiobook of my career guidebook “Beat The Odds” soon.
Furthermore, I’ve collaborated with a group of inspiring women changemakers globally to share our stories of “been-throughs” to “breakthroughs” relevant to various areas of life in the form of a transformational anthology. The book is published by a visionary woman – a three-time Amazon Bestseller – and is set to be released in December 2021. Other than that, I’m working with many interesting people and institutions to create more inspirational projects in the future and which you will come to hear about soon, so stay tuned!
Beat The Odds is now available for purchase on EW’s e-Boutique. Click here for more info.