Monique Dekker – Behind the mask, being who you want to be

By Saira Bilal

Monique is an international Speaker, Coach and Trainer in ‘Self-leadership and visibility’. After building a successful career for over 20 years while moving up the ranks of various financial departments in senior management positions she has now created her own business – “Total Presence Academy” based in the Netherlands.

The main thread throughout her life is her remarkable resilience when faced with challenges or setbacks.  At age 17 she migrated to the Netherlands, leaving behind a childhood that was littered with bullying and episodes of abuse at school. At this critical point of her young adult life she had to quickly integrate into a new culture, whilst managing high parental expectations and trying to figure out who she really was.  

Monique, today you come across as a strong woman who knows what she wants out of life. Have you always been like that?  Can you tell us a bit more about your background and how you started in the professional world?

I have not always been so confident, although I always came across that way. The difference is that now I am really confident from the inside out, whereas up to 10 years ago I was very insecure on the inside. As a young woman of 18 I started working at one of the largest banks in the Netherlands as an ‘Administrative Assistant’. Whilst educating myself through various trainings and courses I gained work experience and became a senior Financial Controller. From the age of 25 I have held different management positions where I managed a large diversity of employees with different educational and cultural backgrounds. I have always done this with pleasure although I liked the ‘people’ side more than the substantive side of my work. I never felt really satisfied and so the urge to work with people as a Coach and Mentor became stronger as the years went by. So, I said to myself that after my 40th birthday I would no longer work for a boss. And even though I was very certain of this, I never made any effort to make this happen initially.

What was the turning point for you?  What made you decide to start your own Company?

The turning point in my life was when I woke up one morning and was half-paralysed, having suffered a stroke caused by a severe brain hemorrhage.  After living in the rehabilitation centre for six months and another year of rehabilitation at home the conclusion was that I could not return to my profession as a financial controller because of the hectic nature of the job. But not working at all was not an option for me – neither was settling for a job where I would not be happy. So, I saw this as an opportunity that life gave me to start over again. It was time to really start working for myself – and so I did.

What type of coaching and training does your company offer?

I offer the following training and coaching within my company:

  • Self-leadership coaching and training
  • Professional presentation coaching and training

I am also a certified EMDR (Eye Movement De-sensitisation and Reprocessing) Therapist and Cognitive Behavioral Therapist. The knowledge I have gained as a Therapist, in combination with education in the field of neuroscience and positive psychology, give me a solid basis to help people from the core so they can have lasting results and be the person they really want to be on the inside.

How was the journey from deciding to start a business to actually developing it into a successful one? How long did it take you and did you face any challenges?

My company was not formed overnight. It was a huge search in the beginning. One of my challenges was that I enjoy doing so many different things and I can also do a lot of different things very well. This not only made it difficult to choose, it was just impossible to focus on one specific thing. So sometimes I would be very frustrated with myself for doing so much – and at the same time doing nothing effectively enough.

What I discovered afterward was that my mission was staring right at me – but I was so busy looking down the road that I could not see what was in front of me, or rather, what was inside of me. It took me about two years to find out that I had been practicing my passion for many years without realizing it; just not in the right environment.

I started as a professional presentation coach but soon realized that I was much more interested in what was going on in the mind of the speaker. In other words, what was really the obstacle keeping him or her back from really being visible? So, I immersed myself in how to get to the core of their internal struggles and how I could help and guide them to be the best speaker they could be.  As I worked with my clients I noticed that I was unconsciously challenging and guiding them into daring to

show who they really are, by taking off their masks of limiting beliefs. So I decided to pursue further study in the psychology behind mindset and behavioural change.

Another huge challenge after I started the business was attracting new clients. As I live outside of the big city, in an area where my target group is not really present, it was difficult to get potential clients to come to me. And I really wanted to work face to face, because in that way I have a huge impact on gaining the best results for my client. After struggling for a year, I decided to take the risk and rent office space in Amsterdam. That was a very good move. I organised monthly workshops and could then really start my training groups. It was during this period that I gained confirmation that I was definitely on the right track, as my business grew to be very successful.

What’s your approach in tackling difficulties, either personally or professionally?

Whenever I face a new challenge or have difficulties, there are a few things that I do – such as pray and meditate – where I ask for wisdom to make the right decisions. I speak to my husband as he is my soulmate and most important sparring partner. And whatever happens, I always stay positive and look for the lessons in order to do better the next time.

Is there anyone you look up to as a role model?  Why? Any tips or strategies you have adopted from them that you can share with us?

To be honest, I only had one role model and that is my grandfather. Other than him, I don’t really have a specific role model. Too many times I have seen role models fall off their pedestal and leave their followers sad or disappointed. I do, however, admire people for what they have achieved through hard and honest work and I do learn from what they have done to be successful. This could be anyone. For example, an individual who has had the odds stacked against them yet never gives up, is persistent and goes on to prove everyone wrong. These are the people I admire and learn from.

So why my grandfather? As an only child who was born before the first world war, he lost both his parents at the age of 17. Having no one to take care of him and coming from a very poor family he had nothing left other than his positive attitude and perseverance. These are the two skills that helped him survive, and this resilience is what has brought me to where I am today.

Why do you think your clients seek you out specifically? What’s your style of working?

I could say a lot about why clients want to work with me but I’d rather share what they say by sharing three of the many testimonials.

  • “In search of a good coach, I visited an event that was organized by Monique Dekker. Almost immediately I felt that with Monique I had found the right person who understood me ​​flawlessly. I immediately registered for the Self-Leadership training of 8 months and also followed a three-day internal intensive training. Through intensive guidance and dedication from Monique I have learned to see my own value and to accept who I am. All of this has led me, and my company to a higher level and of course more success.  From the bottom of my heart, I thank Monique for everything she has done for me and is still doing. She is so much more than just a coach. Monique has a warm personality, is sincere and trustworthy!”
  • “To go somewhere you first need to know where you come from. Because I wanted to get this clear, I dared to look for help. It resulted in a contact with Monique Dekker. This past year was one of deep valleys, recognition, acknowledgement and letting go of fixed patterns and beliefs. I am grateful that I had the guts and the courage to make this trip together with Monique. Monique thank you. “
  • “In January 2017, I personally met Monique after I had followed her for three months on Facebook. There was a click immediately. I have been very enthusiastic about the Self Leadership and Presentation Skills courses. Monique has a sophisticated, in-depth knowledge in her field. She immediately feels what you need and uses her intellectual knowledge with her years of experience in coaching very expertly. Monique is a fantastic coach and a great mentor with a heart of gold. Thanks for being an example to us.”                 

Can you share some tips for women who want to start their own business?  

We women tend to arrange everything down to the smallest details before we really take action. Mirela Sula has this great Albanian saying: “While smart people are thinking about it, stupid people have already done it.”

So if you thinking of starting your own business:

  • Do not doubt too long. Only when you start, you will know whether you are on the right track or not.
  • Do not be afraid of failure. When you fail you know that that is not the way to go. You learn from it and try again.  
  • Stay focused on your dream. If you don’t build your own, some one else will ask you to help them build theirs and you won’t even notice.

Finally, you are also speaking at the ‘Global Woman’ summit in NY (14-15 July 2018). How do you feel about speaking there and what message would you want to get across?

It is a great privilege to speak at the ‘Global Woman Summit’ in New York. Years ago, I started to follow Les Brown, watched all his films on YouTube and read many of his books. And somewhere last year I was listening to one of his audiobooks and suddenly I felt this deep desire to meet him someday. But like so many wishes, I thought this was not going to happen anytime soon. Until I joined the ‘Global Woman Club’ in January of this year. Not long after I heard about the Summit and that Les Brown was going to be one of the keynote speakers. And I just knew that I had to be there. This was an answer to my silent prayer last year! Now I even have the great honour to share the stage. Words cannot express what this means to me. This proves that sometimes when you wish for something, you just leave it and it will come to you at the right time.

I will take the opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences on living without your ‘mask’. How to step away from behind the mask and let your talented and gifted self be seen. Often, we are not even aware that we are hiding our gifts and talents behind our mask and therefore keeping ourselves of living the best version of we truly are. I believe that it is okay to acknowledge your mask. Embrace it, instead of so desperately trying to put it away. Your mask is a part of who you are and has brought you to where you are, whether that is from a good place or not. In the past it served a purpose and maybe you needed it to survive. The question you can ask yourself now is: do you still need that mask any longer in this situation? Does it still serve a purpose? When you answer these questions honestly, you will know what to do.

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