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Michelle Ensuque, Director of Meliusse Ltd

Michelle is Director of Meliusse Ltd

Firstly, can you give us a little bit of background about your business journey?

My journey has been a little eclectic! I started out as a musician, a flautist but rapidly fell out of love with it. I actually wanted to study psychology initially but didn't as I didn't trust my gut and listened to others instead. After teaching for a year after university, I tried to join the RAF but didn't succeed. They wanted to see other skills, so I went off to London and went into catering and climbed my way up, taking additional qualifications in my evenings off. Two years after my first application, I reapplied to the RAF, got in and stayed there for 16 years. Things have a habit of going full circle and 16 years was enough for me to see that I didn't feel challenged anymore so that, plus a divorce, meant I decided to try something different. I joined Mott MacDonald as a project manager and spent a 7 great years there but again I had itchy feet. After a less than successful period with another company I decided to go self employed providing a mix of consultancy (project management and lean) and coaching.

What role has self-belief played in your journey as a business leader? How has it influenced your decision-making and overall success?

Lack of self belief has always been something I've worked hard on overcoming or pushing through. In some ways I was ballsy. I'd push myself out there, applying for jobs/roles even if I lacked experience. The one thing I always had was determination and the willingness to learn new skills. Military training helps you overcome your limiting beliefs; you have no choice but to push through your comfort zones. However, as it is inextricably linked to how you think as a person, mainly due to your role models and what you learned from them, self belief can ebb and flow depending on what is happening in your personal life. When nothing seems to be going right and everything feels out of balance, it can feel crippling. Understand that has helped me understand what other people might be going through and to be less judgemental of how they might appear.

Can you share a specific moment or challenge in your journey where your self-belief was tested? How did you overcome it and what did you learn from that experience?

When I first became self employed I stressed about whether I would be perceived as good enough. What if people thought I was useless or not intelligent enough? How would I pay my mortgage, my bills and look after my two boys? I decided to 'pretend' I was good at what I was doing. Well, I wasn't actually pretending, I was just being me and I always wanted to give the best possible service to others. Plus, I looked at the evidence from previous feedback and as I have never been in a position where I was told my performance was lacking, I took heart from that and just went forwards. I was never afraid to learn from my mistakes and never naive enough not to be humble. Some years later, one of my clients phoned me up and asked me if I was available for work. I had to decline. Their response was "that's a shame. Out of all the people I have worked with, I would work with you in a heartbeat, I really mean that". That gives your self belief a little internal fist pump :-)

How do you cultivate and maintain a mindset of self-belief amidst the inevitable ups and downs of life?

I don't always but what I do try and maintain is a positive attitude and the ability to laugh, even when things are tough. If I notice my self belief is being tested, I reflect why that might be and what is actually going on. In essence, I talk to myself :-) I listen to the internal dialogue and then I work out what or how I want to feel instead and work out a strategy to feel better. An example has to be when I had depression in 2012. At the time of my breakdown, I felt so miserable, but after a period of wallowing and then a period of 'trying to do the right thing' (take exercise, get fresh air etc etc) I decided I didn't want to feel miserable anymore and worked out what I personally needed to climb out of that space. We are all different and slogging myself in the gym with legs feeling like concrete, even if 'experts' said it would be good for me, was not what I needed. I took anti depressants, had counselling and coaching. I learned to seek and ask for help, something I had never done previously. One year later, I was back to my old self. I had made the decision to do something about it and invested in my future. Another example is crippling anxiety with the menopause. It came out of nowhere and suddenly I found myself scared of receiving even personal e mails, afraid that there would be things I couldn't manage. I asked myself if this was normal and sought medical assistance and started HRT. I tend to research a lot on line so that helps me find solutions. Things will always happen - it's how we approach those things that is key.

Are there any specific strategies or practices you follow to boost your self-confidence when facing uncertainties or setbacks in your business?

I accept the initial feelings. I try and understand where they come from. I then work out if there is anything I can do to improve the situation or if I can do something different and then I try those strategies. If I can feel things running away with me and the familiar anxiousness or tiredness I pull back and take the pressure off myself to succeed and if I don't, I generally don't beat myself up anymore either!

How do you handle self-doubt or negative self-talk that may arise as a business leader? Do you have any specific techniques for reframing negative thoughts?

It's a natural element of human nature to err on the side of negativity. It's a protection strategy. I accept that but I try not to let it control me. I lean into the talk, dissect it, make sense of it and then I ask myself different questions. "What could you do differently? If you want a different outcome, what would that be? How would you like to feel instead and is the ability to do that within your control?" Again though, it can be harder at certain times of life than others. Breakdowns in relationships, losing a job, challenging work colleagues or managers, mental health issues, etc etc. Each situation is different for everyone and generally we are so hard on ourselves. We expect ourselves to be supermen and women. I'd sometime imagine, taking off the cape, sitting with that image and ask myself, "what do you need right now to change this situation?" It could be anything from chocolate, wine (:-)) a chat with a bestie or some form of help. I'd also look at role models I admired and I'd look at how they conducted themselves, how they spoke, what they said and I'd try to emulate their style. If I didn't like who I was at the time, I'd try on 'their clothes' and generally felt much better as a more confident version of me.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who struggle with self-belief? How can they start building a stronger sense of confidence and belief in themselves?

Consider NLP training. Neuro Linguistic Programming. It was a real game changer for me. It helped me to visualise myself in a more constructive way and also helped me connect with others more successfully as I understood the psychology of the mind more. It's a shame they don't teach it in schools to be honest as adolescents and young adults are often crippled with self belief issues.

Have you ever encountered external skepticism or negativity regarding your business ideas or decisions? How do you stay grounded in your self-belief despite external influences?

Honestly no! I've never listened to anyone who has been outright negative as it's usually more about them than about me. However, I will listen to someone who asks me probing questions, makes me think and ultimately helps me get to the decision myself. I think I've been around the block so many times now, I probably see the same old faces. Lol. However, what I have learned is to stick up for what I believe and challenge those people in a firm but calm way. I also think that trying out so many things enables you to be flexible and adaptable and for that reason I've never worried about being out of work.

Are there any books, podcasts, or people you'd recommend checking out for anyone who wants to change to a more self-confident and belief-rich mindset?

Well, of course I'd recommend my own book 'The Silent Child in Me' which talks about how our upbringing can impact how we see the world and our self belief. Each chapter has questions that prod the psyche in a 'light touch' NLP sense. I'd also recommend books by Professor Steve Peters such as the Chimp Paradox I'd recommend Mark Reid on LinkedIn for his humour, authenticity and insightful episodes on Zen Sammich. Also, The Diary of a CEO with Stephen Bartlett and Feel Better, Live More with Dr Rangan Chatterjee, who mixes physical and psychological episodes for self improvement. One of his best episodes (for me) is where he interviews Edith Eger, a holocaust survivor (now psychologist) who completely reframed her experience seeing the camp guards as the real prisoners. A totally amazing episode.

Finally, what are some practical tips or exercises you can recommend for entrepreneurs to strengthen their self-belief and mindset on a regular basis?

Study NLP!

Lean into the self talk instead of trying to shut ourselves up. The voice will only get louder and more insistent.

Ask yourself what you want to feel instead Consider what you have tried. If it's always the same thing and it doesn't work, what else could you try instead?

Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with us here! Where should people follow you to find out more about your work?


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