Marta Kondryn, Head of People and Culture at MindValley

“There needs to be more conscious leadership where leaders first apply rules to themselves and later subject it to their employees” Marta Kondryn, Head of People and Culture at MindValley

Marta Kondryn is a people and culture enthusiast, who currently serves as Head of People and Culture at Mindvalley. Mindvalley’s purpose is to change the world through education. We believe in pushing humanity forward through the best teachings around well-being, mindfulness, relationship, mindset, fitness and many more. Mindvalley is also famous around the world for its incredible company culture, and building a global team of 250 people from 54 nationalities in its Kuala Lumpur office. Marta brought global movement of DisruptHR to Kuala Lumpur, which is now functioning as a solid initiative to inspire and learn from HR leaders. She sincerely loves finding the best people, keeping them growing and fulfilled in their roles. She is committed to make the world a happier place to work by building authentic and heart-centred organisations with strong culture.


In an exclusive interaction with SCIKEY, Ms. Marta of Mind Valley speaks about how leadership needs to be first followed by leaders and then to be preached to the subordinates. Apart from this, she explains the pillars of a strong leadership and ways that companies can get better with their employees.


What are the biggest challenges you have been facing in people management across organization in the last five years? And what are some of the strategies you have implemented to solve them?

So, for us, I would say that we had to take on the challenges of scaling our teams. For example, working with more and more nationalities and different generations inside the company. This is not a challenge as such but it does need problem-solving. We are looking at new ways of leading and managing people. For example, like the big trends for us, this year has been, becoming a more freedom-centric organization where we rely on people making decisions rather than only managers taking the final call. We are not there yet, though it’s our aspiration and we are very inspired by the companies who are doing that.


So, we are not yet there, but we conducted a lot of studies, research and training on how to manage teams. We have also made freedom and responsibility as the dominant principles on how we run Mind Valley. Of course this also means that we need to be able to hire such people who are ready for that and we would like to widen this pool of talent right before this approach. We re-discovered a lot when it comes to building trust, relationships and psychological safety inside the company. The way we conduct company retreats has also changed because of this.


Three years ago during our retreats we thought of what’s the vision? What’s the strategy? How could we impact 1 billion lives across the world? This time around just say three months ago, we’ve based our team retreats on deep connections, on working personal traumas in the context of an organization and we had mental and emotional breakdown and releases in front of the entire team. So, this is a big shift for us and of course it requires a very different approach from the manager’s side. I’m really building a lot of psychological safety connections and creating vulnerability spaces for the team members.


The biggest question is how do you put dollars to that? How do you measure the impact on the business? But if you study the trends or hear the experts, they are all talking – loneliness and depression, comes to workplaces as well. A person spends 80% of their time at the workplace and if the workspace is not ready to embrace these issues that are outside of the business than it’s going to be hard to build a strong workplace. So, we understand that and we try to also equip managers to be ready for that. And that’s why, for example, all managers are first expected to be great coaches. So, the first expectation is not to run meetings or come up with strategies even though these are important, but how effectively are you able to coach team members? We are experimenting it with a new trend that is inspired by this book called Reinventing Organizations. It talks about the concept of the real organization which is like the new level of organization, it’s quite extreme to the point that where there are no managers for team members. That’s what we aim to be. In fact I even tell my team that in five years there will be no need for HR to create systems and instructions because there will be self-aware and holistic individuals who will not require any sort of management. They will manage themselves and they will self-organize in groups, teams and participate in decision-making. This is where we aspire to be, though we are not there yet. It needs a lot of work since it needs raising self-awareness but we hope our employees will be there one day. This needs a self-aligned leader, just like the concept of conscious parenting. A conscious parent is someone who’s not educating their kids, to be better kids, but educating themselves to be better parents. It’s the same as conscious leadership. It’s not that you are telling your team members, “Oh, this is how it needs to be done. This is what type of person you should be, or this is how you should behave.” But, first you apply everything on yourself.


You may also read: 8 Most Familiar Leadership Styles


Let’s talk about important pillars in MindValley

The first pillar for us is, we promise growth for ourselves,our team and our customers. And by growth I mean hardcore personal transformation. So, if you are joining Mind Valley you would be transformed in any sort of area of life that you sometimes choose consciously or unconsciously because it’s the environment that is forcing you. It’s the type of product that we are producing, that are mindful courses about different areas of our life. This is how we organize our culture. We are practicing what we preach. What Mind Valley is offering to its customers, is also what it expects from its leaders, employees and authors.


I spoke about freedom and responsibility earlier. For every new person joining, there are some basic company rules but enough freedom as well. For example, we don’t have clock in and clock out hours in the company. They can take holidays whenever they want. But of course, there are certain rules that need to be followed and these rules need to be agreed at a team level.


 The next pillar is trust and transparency. Transparent communication is one of our core values and trust is a part of the initial visionary concept that we had. Trust is something we believe can always be rebuilt if it’s lost or there is conflict, you can always rebuild it if you put an effort and you make a conscious decision to do that. The last pillar which is more connected to personal transformation like accepting everyone as a whole individual and their own emotions, their pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses. This changes the approach to culture.


You mentioned about arranging workshops to instil discipline and being in the state of happiness. How do you train people for this and what activities do you do?


It starts with hiring the right people and people who are open-minded and culture fit, who aren’t affected in what anybody’s doing and are aligned with the mission. Hire the right person who then undergoes a journey with their transformation at work. This chosen person needs to set their goals in these three categories called Three Most Important Questions.


So, when you start in the company, you set your goals :
1. How you want to grow?
2. How you want to contribute?
3. What would you like to experience?


Once they design their goals in these three categories it helps to know a person from their personal side, not only what they do in terms of their job but how they are as people. So we encourage that all managers read through these questions. This is one part of it.


The other part is that we have extensive coaching and development programs like hypnotherapy for team members. For example, if an employee is going through some stress or you need to resolve something. We have two certified coaches, people who are certified in hypnotherapy, working like NLP practices and so on. They need to support team members to bring them to different states as well. They still have goals that are needed to be achieved on departmental and organizational levels. And we use the concept of OKRs which is objectives and key results. This is Google inspired and you can read more about it to see how they run it. We try to maintain a healthy balance.


How do you actually facilitate changes in people processes across an organization?


It has a lot to do with the people, the culture and team leaders within the organization. The vision is that, how do you bring these changes from the bottom line? And for that reason, we listen to people to actually see what’s happening. I try to encourage my team to do the same. We do this survey called Employee NPS. It is also known as Customer’s net promoter score.


We only ask them one simple question of how likely are you to recommend Mind Valley to your friends and family? That’s our metric to check the score. For example, we know that our score is 54. We are aiming to reach 70 by the end of the year. We do it every six months and it’s a great pulse check. We do another survey to measure how is freedom practiced. This one is managed by an external company. We do a workplace survey as well. All of these are sources of data for us to see what is happening as part of our check. We are okay with implementing initiatives or the need for change since we always go for it with an open mind.. It is just that when you stop dictating and, listen to what people are saying and then be ready for change can you detach from the idea that your process is amazing. What I often notice is that HR people get so attached to projects and initiatives that it is hard to change everything completely.


How do you assess the candidate or what’s the interview process look like?


The first part is the candidate needs to be interested in personal transformation and growth. We were fascinated by this study that Google conducted, where they analyzed their employees and realized that their strongest and most high-performing employees were those who had some kind of personal challenge that they overcame. Maybe it is the death of a child or some challenge that they personally overcame with their health or wellbeing. A personal transformation of some kind turned them into high performers. Taking from this, we are looking for individuals who are going through personal transformations. This is the first assessment.


The big part is the skills they experience. This is followed by team assessment, the management, then the department head and then the culture officer. We’ve also had to incur practical costs, especially if the candidate is joining the engineering team, etc. We are diversifying our workforce in terms of balancing our contractors and freelancers. So, whenever we need help we seek it from our full-time employees or outsource for a certain period of time. We are quite aware that the future of freelancers is coming. And more and more people are now interested to work remotely and as a freelancer.


We are trying to diversify a workforce and only the core team has the core expertise, everything else can be outsourced. At this point of time, we are not looking to scale the team into 1000 or 2000 employees. Right now, we have 300. We want to be lean and keep the core expertise and outsource everything else.


What is Mindfulness and how does leaders from the Corporate world can be benefitted from it?


We believe in broader concept – personal transformation, which includes mindfulness in it. To Mindvalley, personal growth is our core value and a sacred ritual. Corporate leaders need to embrace personal transformation in its core, if we want to lead people, we need to start from ourselves and undergo through deep personal transformation first.


Why more companies are cultivating a culture of Mindfulness?
More and more companies are cultivating it, in my opinion, is because of the pressures of the outside world. Loneliness, depression, isolation, addiction are the key factors right now, on why employees don’t bring their whole selves to the workplace. Hence more and more companies are introducing different personal growth and mindfulness practices to build the idea of belonging,self-discovery and releasing stress in the workplace.



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