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Janet's Story

A woman’s leadership journey

I have spent most of my life trying to make sense of things. This has caused me to live a very interesting and unusual life, that is, for someone who was meant to be an Australian Jewish Princess.

As the second youngest daughter in a family of five unrestrained children, often being at the blunt end of the group, I tried to make sense as to why are some people so destructive, emotionally immature and cruel to each other? As a curious and passionate high school history student, I asked; why did the world go to war in 1914 and again in 1939 and cause so much pain, death and destruction? As a youth leader I questioned: what is my cause, how can I engage and involve people in something bigger than themselves? As an avid and enthusiastic art student and graphic designer I was curious as to why Picasso perceived and interpreted the world as a series of geometric and vibrant cubes and art forms? As a Jewish woman, I spent 10 years asking the unanswerable questions; why did the world allow the Holocaust to occur and what does this tell us about the essential nature of mankind?

My earliest career years included picking fruit on a kibbutz,where I tried to make sense of the socialist dream, and couldn’t. I then dropped out of university arts degree, because I couldn’t make sense their banal and theoretical approach to modern art.

After this I flew internationally as a glamorous Qantas air hostess, where I ran completely amuck, because absolutely nothing had to make any sense to me (or anyone much else amongst the cabin crew) at all!

 

I then moved onto spending the last 30 years in the corporate world trying to make sense of a multitude of “why” focussed questions similar to these. I have been exploring new and innovative ways of contributing and making a difference towards a world that could potentially make some sense. To me that means a more responsible, accountable, collaborative, peaceful and a more conscious and aware world.

“A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.” Coco Chanel

My corporate career began with 10 years in the fashion and lifestyle industries, as a fashion designer, product manager, retail fashion director and marketing development manager of Australia’s largest department store group in the 1980’s.

I travelled globally researching and conceptualising fashion and lifestyle trends and translating these to the local Australian market. In these roles I tried to understand what compels people to buy what they do and tried to make sense of it by understanding that most fashion and lifestyle brands, exist to fill the emotional voids that exist in most people’s lives. 

“My father taught me to work; he did not teach me to love it.” Abraham Lincoln

The next 5 years saw me progress professionally into a frantic business consulting career in design and marketing management and quality and business management. In the first few years of my very successful consulting practice to some of Australia’s major fashion and lifestyle brands, I found that many of the wonderful entrepreneurial and creative spirits behind many of these amazing products really struggled when required to develop the core disciplines of business and change management. Many expressed a genuine desire and an acceptance of the need to change, and then simply floundered when trying to implement it!

“You can lead a man up to the university, but you can't make him think.” Finley Peter Dunne

I made sense of this by realising that this had a lot to do with their habitual thoughts, feelings and behaviours, who they were being, not necessarily what they were doing.

Somehow, I had to understand how these factors got in the way of inhibiting some peoples overall business success and sustainability.

The next 12 years of my business consulting career, was spent exploring these issues and developing concepts to make sense of them. I became a Senior Consultant, with Corporate Vision, now the Mettle Group, at www.mettle.com Australia’s first culture change consultancy. Under the excellent tutelage of Carolyn Taylor, www.walkinghtetalk.com I learnt how to make sense of corporate cultures, about why some companies are pleasant and friendly to work in and some companies are rude and aggressive. Why some companies contain groups of controlling, competitive and argumentative people or alternately full of dependent, conservative and avoidant people.

I understood how to duplicate the core drivers behind some of the most excellent performers. I understood why did so many companies floundered rather than flourished. I learnt about the underlying drivers of constructive versus passive or aggressive cultures and what constitutes effective leadership and how to build functional teams.

In time, with lots of ‘learning experiences’ (not always happy ones) I evolved into an adult learning specialist and then excelled as a corporate trainer, facilitator, executive coach and program designer consulting to many of Australia and New Zealand’s biggest companies.

I made sense of success by understanding how peoples moods, mindsets and behaviours impacted on the organisations culture, on its leadership, on its ability to be co-operative vs. competitive. This enabled me to make sense as to what makes an organisation endure, succeed and prosper, or not.

“Adults learn by doing” Dr Stephanie Burns

The next 5 years after my departure from Corporate Vision I established of my own learning and development company, Compass Learning Pty Ltd, www.compasslearning.com.au  I established this business to shape innovative learning & development solutions, designed to equip leaders & teams to be adaptive & resilient in the face of conflict, change and uncertainty.

I understood that most leaders are willing to learn or already know what to do to be successful and yet, are often unable to translate this into genuine practice. So I focussed on building Top Team Alignment ‘blended’ learning journeys to shift executive teams from their essentially dysfunctional states, towards more functional ones; that embodied and enacted trusted relationships, clarity of purpose, mutual accountability, clear roles, disciplines and processes.

Compass Learning’s work focussed on making sense of the latest, non prescriptive, leadership and team theories by bringing them ‘to life’, through experiential learning activities and action learning processes. These were designed to enhance people’s capability as well as to close their ‘knowing-doing’ gaps. So I designed and delivered a series of focussed custom made, 12-18 month duration, learning journeys to key clients focussing on building effective team leadership and membership practices.

“When I change, the world changes”. Dadi Janki

I spent time teaching my clients in the corporate world the moods, mindsets, behaviours and skills of responsibility, accountability and mutuality.  This contributed towards achieving high performance leadership and organisational cultures in my clients’ organisations.  I then found myself sensing that a much bigger, more global transformational focus is required for a more collaborative, peaceful and conscious world to emerge.

This led me to attend the ‘Leadership for Profound Innovation and Change’ workshop facilitated by Otto Scharmer, www.presencing.com from MIT, in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 

Through attending a series of global ‘Edge of Emergence’ leadership retreats I also had the opportunity to reconnect with the Brahma Kumaris, an Indian spiritual University, www.bkwsu.org Through my deep retreat work with some of their wise and wonderful teachers, I was exposed again to that age old saying I had always believed in, (because it makes sense) “inner peace/world peace”.

I concentrated during next 2 years on making sense of the key concepts behind ‘Presencing’ and ‘Theory U’, researching the core principles behind quantum physics, and exploring mindfulness and its validation through the new brain based neuroscience, as well as the cultural and leadership dynamics behind improvisation and innovation.

I worked on integrating these new wisdoms into an accessible cutting edge, experiential and sensible Global Leadership Program.

My intent is to speed up the leadership consciousness process to foster the change and innovation required for the emergence of a more collaborative, peaceful and conscious world.

As a result of this compelling work, I have consciously chosen to be the authentic leader I desire to see in the world. To enact and embody the qualities I desire in others. I have also integrated all of my skills, knowledge and experience and created The Global Leadership Retreat www.thegloballeadershipretreat.com This is my contribution towards ennobling leaders to transform current power structures to build just and civil societies that help shape the new world.

I am now operating my business globally from my home base in beautiful Zichron Yaakov, Israel, where I live with my husband, Barry Aarons and our 3 furry pets. I am currently trying to make sense of this unique Middle Eastern, yet cosmopolitan entrepreneurial, high tech, innovative environment, which paradoxically, is also deeply spiritual and inspirational. I am also struggling to make sense of the amazing contrasts, geopolitical complications, complexity and contradictions, all of which seem to thrive at the “edge of chaos”.

It is certainly where I am meant to be on my Making Sense Leadership Journey!

“Culture is our learned solution to making sense of the world, to stabilising it, and to avoiding the anxiety that comes with social chaos” Edgar H Schein

Our move to Israel required a deep understanding, integration and assimilation into a completely new and radically different culture. We have had to learn an ancient but modernised language, live and build relationships in a completely new community, with radically different banking, communications, networking and road systems, where almost nothing was the same as what was familiar to us in Australia. As change had become a constant, and a new way of life, it enabled me to shift to an exciting position of curiosity and discovery, where I could longer rely on my ‘old self’ or my ‘corporate identity’ as any kind of entry point into a conversation, or into our radically different environment.

So to make sense of this, I delved back into research and study, exploring Daniel Siegel’s’, Bruce Wexler’s’ and Norman Dodge’s brilliant work in neuroscience around how changing your brain changes your life. This enabled me to understand how change occurs at the core and most basic levels, and supported me to deeply understand the basis for my own natural reactions to change. This then provided the concrete foundation for developing a radically new way of working. 

A global classroom, offered by the Presence Institute, introduced me to the great work on culture change and leadership by Edgar Schein. This added a further and deeply pragmatic dimension through contextualising the nature of disconfirmation and the role of survival and learning anxiety in any kind change process.  To make sense of this, I revisited and challenged my own core assumptions around culture change, and used my own experience as a case study, to develop a completely new facilitative and dialogue based approach towards organisational culture change projects.

The final piece of the cultural jigsaw was been the discovery of the great work of Geert Hofstede, whose focus on the ‘software of the mind’ set a context for intercultural cooperation and so became the basis for my new work towards aligning cross cultural global teams. This enabled me to specialize my work further in the design, development & delivery of global executive and cross cultural team development programs.

Of course the vibrantly energetic creative and innovative Israeli culture became another mystery to research and make sense of! What was it about this amazingly young and globally challenged country, which despite all odds had become such a significant high tech and economic success?  This led me to Kinetis, www.kinetis.org.il, an Israeli ‘not for profit’ firm, with whom I have developed, in collaboration, an experiential learning program aimed at ‘bringing to life’ the mindsets & behaviours of Israeli Innovation to leaders & teams globally. We have successfully researched, deciphered, replicated and customised the hugely successful Israeli ‘Start Up Nation’ evidence based model to the business world to foster enhanced creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.

So with all of this exciting new knowledge and expertise, I am enjoying the challenges involved in travelling around the globe, designing and delivering customised cultural development, leadership, team  and business transformation programs for organisations that are really serious about deeply changing the way they do things, the results they achieve, and how they can impact positively on the world.

As a leader, peace lover, change agent and community activist I intend to continue making a difference to individuals, communities and corporations globally.

On the next steps of my journey, I aspire to be an authentic, strong, expressive, courageous and excellent partner, consultant, educator and coach.

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