We’re passionate about the world of work, and how we can make it better. To help satisfy our curiosity, we’ve launched an interview series where we pick the brains of experienced leaders, business owners, managers, and individual contributors to get their thoughts on how we can collectively build better workplaces.
Join us in our next installment below as Azi Mohammadian M.A., RCC—Owner and Director of Clinical Services at Azi Counselling & Associates—shares her insights with us.
We’d love to get to know you a bit better, tell us a bit about your backstory.
I have been working as a counsellor for the past 8 years. I am very passionate about what I do which is helping people to heal. I have been in the mental health field for the past 15 years working as a Special Education Assistant, Mental Health Support Worker, and a Crisis Counsellor. I moved to Canada from Iran about 17 years ago to pursue my dreams of being a counsellor. I have had so many ups and downs in my journey to get here but I don't regret anything I had to face on the way to be here today. Today I have a group practice and a team of amazing counsellors who help provide counselling services to many people in British Columbia.
If we were to ask a friend to describe your personality to us, what would they say?
They would say I'm a reliable, honest, authentic, optimistic, adventurous, and a courageous person. I like to face my fears and to not let them get in the way of me growing.
Thinking back to your career journey, what’s an interesting story that stands out?
Why I became a counsellor is an interesting story by itself. I went to see a counsellor when I was a teenager in Iran because I was having a very hard time. I didn't have the money but saved up my money for a few months and traveled 1.5 hour by bus to go see a counsellor. To keep the story short, that one hour with the counsellor changed my whole life. The insight she offered me opened my eyes so much about what was the reasons behind my feelings. I was not able to go back and see her unfortunately because I didn’t have the money. But I believe it started a ripple effect. I was so impacted by her and the insight she gave me that when I moved to Canada a few years later I made it my mission to study Psychology and become a counsellor.
What’s the most impactful lesson you've learned over your career thus far?
Things will eventually work themselves out. Also, sometimes you have to let go of what you think is good for you and be open to what is coming your way that could be way better for you!
Thanks for giving us some insight into who you are! Let’s jump into things. When you hear the phrase “build a better world of work”, what comes to mind?
It means a workplace where people can be their true, authentic self. If we can help people to be who they are, cherish their strengths and guide them to use their strengths we will have a better world of work. I think instead of telling people who to be and trying to mold them, give them a chance and opportunity to shine in what they are good at and help them to do it well.
Also, our leaders need to have better emotional intelligence.
Without understanding one’s feelings you can’t understand why people do or don't do things.
So if you don't understand, how can you help?
For you, what’s the main blocker you see as standing in the way of building a better world of work?
Lack of emotional intelligence, and not being able to communicate your feelings and thoughts openly and honestly with each other. I get so many people in my sessions who are struggling with different scenarios of conflict either with their boss or colleagues where they work. Everyone thinks they are communicating, but the truth is they are not!
What’s one thing within our control that we can practically do to build a better world of work today? And, how do you recommend going about it?
I recommend speaking up.
When you are unhappy find a way to bring it up. Don't hold it in. We can’t keep avoiding conflict and keep changing jobs. At some point we will run out of options and it's exhausting to keep running from our problems only to have it happen again. Use your I-statements and communicate how you feel and what you need. Be specific.
As much as we want to, people are not mind readers.
Can you share one thing you’ve experienced, seen, or read about that is leading us towards a better world of work?
I'm seeing a lot of leaders and employers focusing on the importance of mental health and the impact it has on their employees' performance.
There are many people who are investing in bringing people like me in to talk about feelings and how to cope with them. I have even seen leaders trying to encourage their employees by giving them extra benefits and coverage to be spent on mental health services! I mean, that's where I want to work. Wouldn't you?
We have to do way more than just offering people a benefit package to go seek help.
What are we doing to encourage people to use their benefits, to go seek help when they are struggling with mental health? Are we creating an open culture where people can freely talk about their struggles with depression and anxiety in the workplace? Or are we just giving it a band aid and pushing it under the rug because it's uncomfortable to talk about? Research shows about 47% of working Canadians consider their work to be the most stressful part of daily life. Do we offer support for that?
I’m curious, thinking about building a better world of work, is there a company and/or leader who stands out to you as someone we should follow? If so, what are they up to?
I hear companies such as Johnson and Johnson and American Airlines prioritize their employees' mental health and offer them great mental health benefits. I have worked with a few local companies and I admire how much they tried to raise awareness about mental health. One of them is called Banhall and I did a mental health presentation for them and they actively were involved in sending their employees to seek mental health support.
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Thank you for adding your voice to People Managing People’s interview series on How to Build a Better World of Work!
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