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Facing the Change Together: Flor de Maria Paredes Mattos' Guide to effective change management

Flor de Maria Paredes Mattos is a force to be reckoned with in the realm of leadership and empowerment.  As the executive director of Facing the Change, Flor has dedicated her career to elevating overlooked communities and championing workplace equality. With over two decades of corporate experience, she’s the go-to expert for professional development and business cultures.

Apart from her services in professional coaching, life coaching, advisory services, and mentoring, Flor's area of expertise lies in assisting foreign nationals as they settle into life in The Netherlands, particularly international and Latin American expats and their traveling partners. Her passion for unlocking potential and creating inclusive spaces drives her mission, making her a highly sought-after coach for executives navigating career transitions and high-performance environments.

Join us as we delve into her valuable insights on female empowerment and the transformative waves she's making through her work.

  1. Flor, you have more than two decades of experience across multinational organizations, startups, and NGOs.  What first drew you towards the field of leadership coaching and mentoring? My drive to see people utilize their full potential. I always wonder if they enjoy what they are doing or just do it for the salary. Becoming a leader was not in my plans. I have been privileged to have been managed by great leaders. They saw my natural people and management skills and behaviors before I did it myself. They were great role models to me. Once I realized the positive effect of good leadership, I was sold. I remember being trained by ICF when I became a manager, “coaching in leadership”. Having good management skills next to my coaching skills made me want to be part of anyone's personal and professional development. 2. The name of your practice is Facing the Change. Why is embracing change so important for female leaders and career-driven individuals? Embracing change is as important as accepting it. Change allows you to learn from different experiences, and with every change you embrace, you can grow personally and professionally. You will better understand yourself and your environment.Change for female leaders is very important because of the biases and stereotypes we (still) face in the workplace. We need to continuously identify new opportunities for growth and drive continuous improvement. Although we know that female leaders help increase productivity by showing their enormous commitment and empathy, and they make people feel part of the team, I still see that there is something holding female leaders back from embracing change with confidence. Career-driven individuals should embrace change because it often leads to new opportunities, learning and career growth. Career-driven individuals who actively seek out new challenges and experiences are more likely to feel fulfilled in their work as they are constantly pushing themselves to grow and achieve their goals. 3. Can you elaborate on your approach to helping clients navigate change, both personally and professionally? Many people, whether young or senior, regard change as an enormous threat. Coaching through change is the most effective way to handle major adjustments in your career or personal life. The goal of coaching is to support people in overcoming resistance and actively embracing change. As a result, they’ll be able to grasp some of the opportunities arising from their change of circumstances. Concerns about change can be overwhelming; the perception of this is often worse than the reality. When faced with a major change, such as being made redundant, it’s completely normal that after the initial shock, we go into protest mode or even denial of our changed circumstances. It’s also perfectly understandable to be angry about an enforced change. This can also impact our confidence and self-esteem. I am aware of the emotional upheaval that this can cause, and I support my clients in embracing the change. I show them new perspectives about their situation, help them regain energy, and focus on potential opportunities. 4. Female expats often face unique stressors. What tools and strategies do you recommend for building resilience and managing stress in a new environment? The primary focus of my work with clients is intercultural training and coaching. I firmly believe that cultural adaptation is essential for success. This involves understanding the beliefs, values, customs, and behaviors of the host country. By doing so, clients are better equipped to interpret their experiences in the new environment. I encourage them to establish connections with locals and build a support network to help them settle in. Additionally, I ask them to celebrate their achievements, both big and small, related to work and personal life. Celebrating successes boosts their confidence and motivation in the new environment. 5. Work-life balance can be a challenge for ambitious women, especially those working remotely. How do you coach your clients to create healthy boundaries and avoid burnout?

I ask questions such as, "Do you have a working-from-home method that works for you?" and, most importantly, "Do you stick to it?" I start with practical questions, like having a separate workspace from areas in the house where they can disconnect.

It is important that they create a routine that works for them, taking into consideration their living situation. For example, are there kids in the house? I also make them aware of how important their personal time is, like taking breaks, going for walks, or just taking a few minutes and shutting their PC.

I make them aware that saying no to colleagues or even clients is OK. Sometimes, we need to work on being more assertive to say no to extra work, even if we think that because we are home, we have more time.

As women, we love to multitask. I am one of them, so I also recommend having tools like to-do lists and planning everything in your calendar so that you can organize your workload efficiently and separate it from your private life.

6. How can female expats adapt their leadership styles to thrive in new cultural environments?

I would always start by helping them understand the cultural norms, values, and communication styles of their new host country. This will help them align with the culture and expectations of their new team or organization. They can build relationships with local colleagues to build trust and show respect and willingness to learn. They can focus on the way they communicate and on being open to giving and receiving feedback if need be. They can demonstrate cultural sensitivity, adaptability, and openness when leading a team (lead by example). 


Especially when managing and leading people in a culture other than yours, you have an obligation to dive into the new culture and understand the standard behaviors of the individuals you will be managing. For example, a Dutch employee’s motivation to work is not the same as a Brazilian or Indian employee's. 

7. For women considering a career shift, what are some key steps they can take to identify their strengths and find a new path that aligns with their goals?

To begin with, take some time to reflect on things that you are passionate about or find fulfilling. If that seems difficult, think about your strengths, weaknesses, interests, and values. By doing this, you will get to know yourself better as a professional and find career options that match your skills and aspirations. 

To explore your career options, do some research, talk to your network, or reach out to companies you are interested in and request informational interviews. Remember that the skills you have learned in previous roles are transferable to new ones. 

Set up SMART goals for your career shift, starting with a short-term plan and building on it over time. Keep in mind that finding the right career path takes time and effort, but by taking these steps, you will be on your way to a fulfilling and successful career.

8. What advice do you have for female entrepreneurs facing challenges managing and leading remote teams? Enhance your communication skills, be a role model of communication and be open and transparent among team members. Lead by example and by setting boundaries to respect work and personal life. 

Provide updates on a regular basis. If possible, meet with the entire team a few times per year at an event that you have organized for them. This will help create a work culture where they feel valued and appreciated.

Establish one-on-one performance reviews and set clear goals and expectations. Take the time to prepare yourself for the reviews and remember the cultural differences. 

9. Imposter syndrome is a common hurdle for many ambitious women. How do you coach your clients to overcome self-doubt and step into their leadership potential?

Especially when dealing with imposter syndrome, I create a tailor-made coaching program focussed on the client's needs and circumstances with my clients. The coaching here is very personal and can trigger emotions and limiting beliefs that originated in their past or in their childhood. 

Through coaching, they become aware of their self-doubt. They recognize that they are actually portraying themselves as frauds or phonies. It is only then that we can start working and help them understand that they are not alone in experiencing self-doubt.

We work on identifying triggers and patterns using different tools and exercises. During our coaching sessions, I make them aware of their negative thoughts and encourage them to reframe them into more positive and realistic statements. Words matter, and therefore, we need to be careful what we tell ourselves. 

I make an effort to celebrate even small achievements at the beginning of the program. I help them set realistic goals, breaking them down into manageable steps, and focusing on progress instead of perfection so that they start building confidence. I help them develop self-compassion by treating themselves with kindness and understanding, especially when facing setbacks. 

Last but not least, we work on developing a growth mindset by emphasizing the value of learning and personal development.

10. Negotiation is a crucial skill for career advancement. What tips do you offer female expats on negotiating salaries and contracts in potentially unfamiliar environments?

Before negotiation, research local norms, focusing especially on your industry standards and salary ranges for your position locally and globally. Then find out your worth in the new country. During contract conversations, highlight once again your unique skills and experiences. Be assertive. Practice different assertive communication techniques and feel confident in expressing your worth and negotiating what you deserve.

11. What is your favorite leadership book and why? “The 7 habits of highly effective people” is my bible. It teaches powerful lessons in personal change, which are very beneficial in a leadership role.

12. As a digital nomad yourself, what are your top tips for staying productive and focused while working remotely?

Well, I create a timezone-visible calendar and establish a routine, including working hours and personal time. I do not work everywhere. I try to find a quiet space and make sure I am somewhere with a great internet connection. I also try to minimize potential distractions, especially when I work from Lima. 

I respect my own time and try to “obey” my calendar as much as possible. That helps me stay organized. I join a gym to be fit; it helps me stay healthy and maintain my eating habits. I stay connected to home and maintain regular communication with colleagues and clients. I embrace flexibility, wanting to work from anywhere I am, even if I am on holidays, but always maintaining my own discipline.

13. What's one thing you wish more women knew about leadership? That we are born leaders. A woman is a leader of her own life, a woman as a mother is a leader of her own home. We need to embrace our authentic selves. We bring top valuable qualities to leadership roles, such as empathy, collaboration and intuition, that are recognized as essential for dealing with complex challenges in any industry today.

14. What are your thoughts on the future of leadership? Are there any emerging trends you see specifically affecting female leaders?

Emphasis on emotional intelligence, which is becoming increasingly important for effective leadership. Female leaders, who often excel in areas such as empathy and relationship-building, are well-positioned to thrive in this environment.

Remote and flexible work: The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift towards remote and flexible work arrangements. Female leaders, who may have greater experience balancing work and family responsibilities, can serve as role models for effectively managing remote teams and promoting work-life balance.

Advocacy for gender equality: There is increasing momentum around gender equality and diversity in leadership positions. Female leaders are not only advocating for their own advancement but also championing initiatives to promote gender parity and create more inclusive workplaces.

Tech-savvy leadership: As technology continues to shape the future of work, leaders will need to develop digital literacy and adapt to new tools and platforms. Female leaders who embrace technology and innovation can leverage these skills to drive organizational growth and competitiveness.

Purpose-driven leadership: There is a growing demand for purpose-driven leadership that goes beyond financial performance to prioritize social and environmental impact. Female leaders, with their strong sense of empathy and values-driven approach, are well-suited to lead organizations that prioritize sustainability and social responsibility.

Cross-cultural leadership: In an increasingly globalized world, cross-cultural competence is essential for effective leadership. Female leaders who may have experience navigating diverse cultural contexts can bring valuable perspectives to multinational organizations and global teams.

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