Thirteen years ago, I launched Horizon Leadership Institute Inc. In doing so, I launched my second career (and my second business) as an executive, leadership and team coach.
It happened. The moment when I realized that I had left part of myself behind. Well, actually I left my suit case behind but it metaphorically slapped me in the face. I had packed all the stuff I needed to deliver my work yet did not bring any of the things I needed for myself. Wham!!
I’ve been going hard lately. Since September, consistently. I’ve been so focused on being in service of my clients and doing the work I love that I completely left myself behind.
Mid-Century Modern design is having a renaissance right now. It’s an architectural and interior design style popular from mid 1930’s to 1960’s. It really peaked in the 1950’s.
Style signatures include ample windows and open floor plans designed to create a sense of spaciousness. The intention was to open interiors spaces and brings the outdoors in.
As I sit in my own version of mid-century (I’m 54), I realize that there is an evolving state of being that I am embodying. A new normal is emerging. It’s a bit of a dance as some of it is intentional and some of is inspired by life’s natural rhythms.
Many of the elements mirror the descriptors of midcentury architecture and design – clean simplicity, organic, integration with nature, streamlined, abundant light, flexible.
I am choosing simple over complex.
I am choosing to be more open – with my stories, my heart, my dreams.
I am consciously claiming space in my own life to cultivate creativity and expression. By simplifying other things, I’m focusing more on writing and sharing ideas. It feels important to be doing this. It also feels like a gift of service.
I am choosing to be more integrated with the things that I love and value. This means getting really clear on what I say YES to and NO to.
I am choosing to engage in community in different ways – more simple, organic and fluid. Previously I would engage in more formal structures like Boards and committees. I’m seeing that I can share my time in ways that serve and that are also more flexible and responsive.
I am choosing to integrate with, and be fed by, nature’s wisdom. This is spirit work for me and it fills my cup to walk in forests, watch the clouds, and swim in lakes. It’s a sensory experience that stirs my heart and grounds me.
I am becoming more organic and textured as my body and being transforms at this stage of life. As menopause shifts me I am working to ride the waves in a way that is gentle, compassionate and curious. In a way, it reminds me of child bearing where I had to be completely open to each of the unfolding stages. I learned then that it’s better to dance with the waves and experiences rather than to try and control them. Even though my body is completing a cycle, I sincerely feel that something new is being birthed. It’s cool (she writes while having a hot flash).
So, my version of being a woman at mid-century is about being present, aware, asserting choices and keeping things simple. It’s a conscious life architecture that is also influencing my leadership. It’s an unfolding and I’m enjoying this time as it feels expansive. It certainly feels like more light is coming into my being.
I’ll end with this quote as it is a perfect description of how I am experiencing this phase of life.
“The more in harmony you are with the flow of your own existence,
the more magical life becomes.”
“From listening comes wisdom.”
I have decided to launch a one year experiment. I am self-appointing myself as the “Listener in Residence” at Innovation Works in London. In this role, I will be gifting my time to any of the co-tenants in the community who want someone to listen to them – deeply, with focus, in a non-judgemental way and with empathetic support.
I’m called to do this because I believe that being heard is one of the most empowering things in life. To pause and be present to another human is one of the most precious gifts we can ever give.
I have noticed that when people start to speak out loud about something that may feel vulnerable, bold, risky or over the top joyful, it’s a signal of something emerging. They are getting clear on something that is wanting to shift or change; on the cusp of something really important.
I also believe that people need to be heard, not fixed. Talking things out is a way of creatively figuring things out. As we give voice to a yearning or a concern, we are already finding our way towards solutions and actions.
In coaching, there is a principle called holding a person as naturally creative, resourceful and whole. So, as I listen, I will pay attention to all the creative brilliance that lives within each person through the stories they will share.
Innovation Works and the co-tenant community is full of amazing humans with all kinds of potential. This is a community of caring, innovative, socially conscious and inspiring people. It’s also a place where people show up because they are change agents and status quo disruptors. They are wired to take risk and live boldly. That’s not always easy work. I want to support this energy with a gift I can give – my time, an open heart and two big ears for listening.
I am called to do this as a way of giving back to a community that has given me so much. Innovation Works London is just over a year old. Its culture and model of community is still evolving. In some small way I hope this experiment will model the way for the power of thoughtful listening when being in action.
How It Will Work
So, here’s the deal. I will be dedicating 15 hours per month for listening sessions. Each session is 20 minutes. I’ll be inviting people to sign up on designated “Listener in Residence” days. You come with whatever you want to share. I’ll listen. I might ask a few unfolding questions. Through the process, you’ll find your way to some new insights, awareness and intentions. Everything shared will be confidential. My greatest hope is that you leave feeling supported, understood and find some new elements of clarity that will spur you on.
Throughout the year, I’ll be blogging about the experience from the perspective of what it takes to deeply listen. I won’t be sharing any details of people’s stories. The Vegas Rule will be fully enforced.
“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”
I fully anticipate that this will be a transformative experience. As a leadership coach, I have been trained to be a highly effective and active listener. However, I think this experiment will teach me a great deal on the power of being present and still in service of others. I can’t wait to learn deeply through the process.
So, I am pleased to invite you on the journey with me. Let the listening experiment begin!
"Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it." ~ Buddha
We've all heard the phrase 'there is an elephant in the room'. It's code for a difficult issue or significant problem that people don't feel comfortable talking about. It has a power and weight to it that can immobilize an organization or team. However, despite being unspoken the "elephant" issue is either consciously or unconsciously impacting relationships and the ability to get things done.
I believe we should learn to embrace the elephant in the room. Yes, it means that there is some force causing people to be uncomfortable and not talk about something. It's an energy that is big and unmovable. In fact, it could be something that is so sacred, fearful or important that no one wants to go near it. Isn't that usually a signal of something of vital importance that has to be courageously and respectfully explored?
Elephants as a species are powerful. They are very strong and they are gentle. They are loyal. They are patient. It is often said that elephants do not forget nor do they forgive. They are also associated with having great wisdom and compassion. They will fiercely protect what is important to them.
I would like to shift the perspective on elephants in the room. I believe that when the elephants emerge in team processes it's a signal of something transformative unfolding. It may be a bold change that is on the verge of happening. It could be a shift in dialogue that is becoming more open and honest; that the true essence of something important is being revealed. The elephant tension denotes vulnerability and diversity of opinion emerging.
Elephant energy can feel edgy. However, when we embrace it and explore it we can reveal important things that untended to will limit change, innovation or brave new visions from emerging. When we pause to honour the elephant, to name it and work with its energy, we are tapping into a wisdom force that needs to be honoured in order to move forward.
In my experience coaching teams, I often call out the elephant(s). I draw one on a flip chart and ask the team what it is. I playfully identify that the elephant(s) are in the room. I then ask people to pause and quietly reflect on what elephants are present and to write them on a post it note. Everyone gets to put them on the elephant. From there we group them by similar themes. This is a way of revealing the voices of the system; often the marginalized or unpopular ones.
Once we see the themes, we create conditions for people to talk about the elephants. It requires a tenderness and respect in how people talk about them. I always ask about the elephant wisdom and how it is trying to serve at this time. We explore what is needed so that this wisdom can be considered as we go forward.
While it may be easier to ignore the elephants because they take energy to deal with, I find that when teams can talk about the elephants in a curious and supportive way they release energy that blocks them from true creative collaboration. Acknowledging and processing the elephants can be a bonding process. It is a way of sharing history and story of an organization in a constructive manner. By speaking of the elephants some of their power is diminished. It frees up energy and opens awareness to what people want to see happen. Elephant exploration helps rewire the collective brains of the team so that new energy can be realized.
It is my wish that instead of ignoring or marginalizing the elephants in the room, that we embrace them and actively invite them into conversations. Only then can we access their wisdom so we can move forward together in more productive and positive ways.
We have much to learn from elephants. The following is a description of the attributes of elephants from a shamanistic perspective. May we embrace these qualities for the sake of healthy and vibrant team relationships and organizational cultures.
"Elephants can teach us that gentleness, commitment, and communication in relationships is very powerful and necessary to keep relationships alive, trusting and loving, whether it be friends, family or partner. Deeply committed to all creatures with whom they have relationships, elephants are tough when protecting others and gentle when nurturing them. The matriarch (the oldest, most experienced female leader of a herd) leads in a way that is both gentle and inclusive. Elephants are able to communicate telepathically. This can teach us how to truly listen to others."
It’s been about six months since Innovation Works London opened. It’s a co-working space dedicated to social innovation. It’s an incubator for creativity. It’s a collection of people and organizations dedicated to social purpose work. It’s an intergenerational, cross cultural and multi-sector co-working space. It’s a hub where social change ideas are birthed. It’s a place designed to create sparks from conscious collisions.
Conscious collisions? What the heck? Stay with me, you’ll get it.
I am in love with this place, the space and the people. I feel myself flourishing in this micro community of like-minded people. I am inspired by the talent and heart of the co-tenants. I am grateful for the new connections and collaboration opportunities that emerge daily.
Co-working spaces are intentionally designed to help people collide. At Innovation Works, the shared kitchen is a hub where people gather – for weekly Salad Club or Wine Down Fridays. Flex desk users sit in different spots, with different people, daily. People literally bump into each other while pondering the latest quote or poll on the chalk board. Dialogue walks are emerging as a new medium for intentional collision moments. They are invitations to walk, talk and share stories, dreams and motivations that form the root of relationships and spark ideas for new ways to collaborate.
Here's my definition of CONSCIOUS COLLISION:
The intentional act of intersecting with people with diverse talents, interests and expertise to co-create through collaboration. Collision moments are often facilitated in co-working spaces - either by chance or design.
Conscious collision moments create opportunities to talk, share, listen, ponder, be curious and learn. What might seem like random, one off conversations often lead to a series of interactions where relationships are deepened and ideas for collaboration emerge.
As I reflect on the highlights of 2016, I notice how grateful I am for the many positive collisions that I’ve experienced so far at Innovation Works. They’ve got my heart racing with joy and possibility thinking. This community represents a shift in how people work, engage and co-create. It’s fun to be in on the ground floor.
I am also deeply grateful to my dear friend Johnny Fansher who was the spark of this idea in London. I call him the birth father of this project. He was passionate about the possibility and persistent in holding the vision. He gathered people to co-create and cultivate the vision. Eventually Pillar Non Profit, the London Arts Council and London Heritage Council caught the ball and helped bring the dream to reality. Patience, sprinkled with large doses of faith, paired with gritty determination have made Innovation Works come to life.
I can’t wait to see what innovations and collaborations we’ll be celebrating this time next year that got birthed in conscious collision moments. Stay tuned.
Janet Frood is a proud founding co-tenant of Innovation Works London and part of the original dream team that helped cultivate the vision for Innovation Works London. She is the Founder of Horizon Leadership Institute and is an executive, leadership and team coach.
Many of my clients come to me because they are wanting to be the architects of change in their life or career. I introduce them to the notion of CHANGE BY CHOICE.
This is a decision to proactively change, not because they are reacting to someone or something. They are ready to advance a dream, amplify a value, or unleash a passion that’ been diminished for too long. It’s time to put a stake in the ground and be intentional about something that is important – themselves and their dreams.
You have lost connection with YOU - your wants, needs and choices. You are consumed by responsibility for everyone else to the point where you are no longer in touch with your responsibility to nurture and care for yourself. Your gas tank is perilously low and you've been ignoring the signals to fill up.
Today is all about Father's. I find myself reflecting on the Dads that are part of my immediate family. Each is a teacher to me. I am grateful and today celebrate them.
First, my own Dad Oren Claude Frood. He's been gone from my life since I was 29 yet I feel his spirit every day. He was charismatic, funny, creative, kind hearted, logical, and wickedly smart. He was also tortured, sad and lost. He and I shared a special bond. The kind where you could just be with the other, not talk and yet we spoke volumes to each other through our hearts. In fact, he was the person who taught me most about empathy. To this day I can still hear his hearty laugh and see his eyes sparkly with mischief.
I was blessed to have William Charles Hawke for a father in law. He quickly became my local Dad. He and I had a unique relationship in that we worked together for nine years. He was also a match maker as he set Peter and I up on our first date. We joked that ours was an arranged marriage. As a Dad, Bill wanted the best for his kids. He wanted them to achieve success in whatever they did. He was proud of each one of them for following a passion. Bill wrote poems for every occasion. He also wrote words that no one else could find as part of the eulogy for our son Ryan when he died. Bill was a very social guy and brought out his goofy, funny side often. However, I was privileged to see his deeply caring and compassionate side on many occasions. I learned a lot about loyalty and heart from Bill.
Then, there is my brother Peter Cameron Frood. Together, with his wife Francoise Cooper Bouchard, he has modelled what it’s like to unapologetically adore your kids. I have watched closely how he has loved and nurtured them through each of their life stages. He is a proud papa bear for sure. He too brings a good humour and teases relentlessly. He has gifted his kids with adventures in life and has modelled setting goals and going for them. His go with the flow state of being has been a powerful antidote to the sometimes intense life we experienced in our birth family. I’ve adopted that in my parenting style and am full of gratitude for the model of parenting he has shown – as Dad and now a Grandpa.
I also want to recognized the wonderful Barry Mark Moore. He is also a devoted Dad. When I think of Mark I think of play. His inner child is alive and well. He is a man of music and has a deep commitment to God, I have seen how he has woven his core values into parenting. His love for family in unparalleled. His care and concern for community has inspired his family to engage deeply in the lives of their friends and community. His commitment to playing in nature, exploring on a bike or communing through music has created many cherished moments with his family. Through Mark I have learned the power of being with not just doing as a parent.
Next I think of my nephew Jonathan Gerard Frood. On the Frood side, he is the first of the next gen to have a child. Seeing him step into this role seriously melts my heart. His pride and joy in being a Dad is pure joy to witness. His intentionality in wanting to be the best teacher, guide and champion for his son Logan is a reminder to me of the importance of the role of parent. His desire to inspire Logan to follow a sporty life is so much fun to watch. The world of opportunity is open to this little guy if you see the abundance of every type of ball or sporting equipment he already has. However, Jon also wants to inspire a love of reading and music, of being a social being and make sure he passes on the legacy of fun and play.
I am also equally inspired by our nephew Christopher James Kroeker. He too has taken on the role of Dad with an abundant heart. He joyfully plays and creates with his kids. The laughter and fun that is in his heart comes through his interactions with Aubrey and Everett. As a next gen father he’s found a way for Dad’s to bond by creating the Midnight Dad’s Club. It’s kind of a play zone for Dad’s to unit and spend time together. From Chris I’ve learned that parenting does not forego having fun.
Recently, I’ve been blessed with getting to know and love another Dad. Lorne Murray Hay is my dear friend Kat’s Dad. I’ve been an orphan for a while as my parents both died when I was younger. Lorne, and his beloved wife Betty, adopted me with open hearts. At 53, the opportunity to have Lorne in my life is a great joy. To find someone who can give a hug like only a Dad can at this stage of life is amazing. Lorne is a great story teller and I love hearing about the threads of his life that have shaped him to be the wonderful man he is.
Last, and definitely not least, I want to celebrate Peter James Hawke. Pete and I entered into parenting in a very precarious way. We were intentional and ready. Yet our first son Ryan had other plans for our parenting journey. He was born early and very ill. When Ryan died Pete was solid, steady and always present. He was also open with his own vulnerability and fears. He journeyed with me through the healing work of grief. He was stalwart in his commitment that we would survive our loss together.
Then came the lights of our lives – Shannon and Jason. Since the day they showed up, Pete’s mission has been to be a devoted Dad. I have a movie reel of images in my mind of many sweet moments he’s shared with them. All I know is how deeply he loves them, how he’s celebrated them at each stage of life they’ve achieved, and how much he savours the time we spend with them now that they’ve flown the nest. I love both his devotion to our kids and how fully alive he is when he’s with them. He is a proud Papa and I am blessed to share the role of parent with him. Through Pete I have learned the artistry of co-creation and the power of strengths partnering for a common mission – the wellbeing of our kids.
So, these are the Dad’s that I celebrate today. They are an extraordinary group of men who value family, love, commitment, and caring connection. I can’t help but notice that they all share common threads -- those of humour as they all tease and have wicked wits and how they show their love through play and being fully present.
NOTE-- Why I’m using full names. I recently had an amazing experience with a healer, energy worker and musician. He taught me that our unique essence as human and spiritual beings comes through in the architecture of our name. We each have a unique rhythm that is rooted in the syllables of our names. So I am using the full names of these awesome men as another way of honouring their spirits.
This past weekend I visited my sister Ellen. She’s on the cusp of a grand new adventure as she prepares to move to Nanaimo, BC. She’s picking up her life, packing her belongings and will be driving across the country in just a few weeks. Other than a destination and a new home to move into, the rest of her future is unwritten. She admitted she’s both excited and scared.
As I drove away after visiting I thought how courageous she’s being. Would I or could I do the same? Contemplating it gave me butterflies.
As I pondered, I thought of the many courageous people I am surrounded by. Most of the clients I work with are experiencing some form of vulnerability. Most of the time they are on the cusp of change – either one that they are designing with intention or one that life has presented and they are reacting to.
Moving to a new city or country without a job or a social network because of a vision and dream of something different.
Fleeing your home land so that you can find a safe country to call home.
Speaking your truth at work or in the community when you know it will be unpopular and possibly put you in danger.
Continuing to apply for jobs after being rejected or ignored many times.
Saying no to people you love to preserve boundaries that you need to sustain so you stay whole and healthy.
Taking a stand for your values and making choices that others might not understand.
Taking the leap and starting your own business.
Asking for help and being uncertain how people will react.
Believing in yourself when no one else does.
Trusting your gut feelings and acting on it when there is no “tangible” proof of evidence to support your actions.
Leaving a job when you don’t have a new one to go to. Doing so because you aren’t fulfilled and won’t stay in a role that sucks the life out of you.
Courage and vulnerability go hand in hand. Courage requires us to dig deep into our own soul, our own beliefs, and our own spirit. It’s a call that reminds us of what is important. It’s a choice to be brave, to take action when we don’t exactly know how it will end. It’s the belief that action is better than doing nothing.
As Brené Brown says, “You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability.”
I’m inspired by the many people I work with and witness who choose courage. In doing so they are honouring their own vulnerability. They are being wholehearted in their action because they are choosing to change their state of being for the possibility of something bolder, brighter and more fulfilling.
Courage is not easy. However, courage is choice in action. It reminds me that vulnerability is the flirt of something trying to happen. For me, that is inspiring and exciting.
So as my courageous sister drives towards her new life, I’m going to be paying attention to my own flutters of vulnerability actively listening for the call of courage to move me forward in my next adventure.
As 2015 winds down and the holiday season unfolds all around us I’m grateful for time to pause and reflect.
I am also thankful for the gift of being welcomed into the lives of those I serve. Individual leaders dancing in the vulnerability of making their bold dreams become a reality. Teams striving to find alignment in the midst of challenge and change and doing so in a way that honours their relationships. Organizations choosing to be intentional in living a culture based on their values so that they can flourish in accomplishing their shared mission.
In my work there is a notable theme - the need of human beings to be in connection with others. We are social beings and finding a way to be in relationship with others is an important driver. The yearning for quality, courageous and collaborative relationships is palpable. People flourish when they are welcomed into a friendship, a team or an organization. Creating a sense of belonging is essential. Sometimes getting to that state of being is bumpy and precarious. Yet, when it’s achieved, the relief and joy that results are well worth the effort.
I see all this through the lens of my work and I’m seeing a parallel process unfold on the world stage.
We are living in a time where people are fleeing their homelands because of violence, war, and terror. They are vulnerable, uncertain and scared. We are also witnessing the generosity of countries, communities and families open their arms in welcome. In Canada, our government is working diligently to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015. In London, Ontario, our community is actively planning to receive 200 refugees.
The efforts of so many to wholeheartedly welcome these refugees is the embodiment of respect, generosity, compassion and love. It’s fuelled by our common humanity – the need to be safe, accepted, and welcomed. The early stage of welcoming is all about meeting basic needs – food, shelter, housing, medical care and counselling supports. The longer term work will be to help these refugees create a sense of connection and community; to support them having a true sense of belonging in their newly adopted country. How we welcome our newest citizens will set the tone for their experience in this new land.
This holiday season, Horizon Leadership has honoured our clients, associates, collaborators and champions by making a gift to the London & Middlesex United Way Fund for Syrian Refugees. It is a gift that will support the efforts to help settle the refugees into our community.
With sincere gratitude, thanks for being with me on the journey of life and leadership. It is an honour to be welcomed into your life, your leadership, your dreams, your journey, and your experiences. As the sun sets on 2015, enjoy this season of celebration.
Where am I from?
Where am I going?
What is my purpose?
Who do I want to be?
These are the four questions that Justice Murray Sinclair stated are at the heart of all Indigenous people as they quest for meaning in this life. He said exploring these questions is part of the healing that must unfold as part of the Truth and Reconciliation process in Canada.
Today I attended the first ULab course in London, ON to explore the concepts of TheoryU and the work of Otto Scharmer, cofounder of the Presencing Institute. Over 100 Londoners are part of this emergent learning experience, joining 35,000 people around the globe. These are just a few highlights and reflections from today’s experience.
Today I had the privilege in participating in a learning session hosted by Pillar NonProfit. The topic was community collaborations and how to use the art of cultural animation to explore system level issues in provocative new ways. It was an energizing learning playground. We experienced different animation tools. The thing that is lingering on my mind is what got revealed using the animation experiences.
Over the course of the C2 Conference I participated in a number of brain dates. Brain Dates are a brilliant way of creating connection for idea sharing. You put out offers of topics you are willing to share information about as well as topics you want to learn about. You can search for topics that resonate and reach out to the person offering to request a meet up. Brain Dates are 30 minutes of quick, passionate sharing and often end with a commitment to follow up and share further.
I just experienced my first C2MTL Conference – Commerce + Creativity. One of the speakers challenged us as participants to have the courage to change before we have to. All of speakers spoke about the importance of leading change, embracing change or being the change we want to see. However, I love that there was the acknowledgement that change requires courage.