“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer ~
As leaders and innovators of the Authentic Leadership program, Susan Skjei, Director of the Authentic Leadership Center, and Mary McHenry, Adjunct Faculty, are dedicated to bringing more cross-cultural awareness and inclusivity into the program as it continues to evolve.
They recently had an exciting opportunity to apply their authentic leadership practices to a governmental agency in Jamaica through their program, Coaching Through Change and Transition.
The Ministry of Finance and the Public Service in Jamaica is responsible for transforming their government into a more service-oriented, efficient and effective organization. Recognizing that coaching was essential in motivating their employees to meet the challenge of transitioning to a new system, the Ministry contracted Susan and Mary to go to Jamaica and demonstrate the applicability of mindfulness and compassion to an organization undergoing profound change.
Drawing on the foundational practices of Authentic Leadership, which emphasizes mindfulness, communication skills, coaching and change management, Susan and Mary designed the five-month program specifically to support the change management journey and interpersonal skills for managers in the the Ministry.
In Jamaica, Susan and Mary were extremely fortunate to partner with Ruby Brown, Ph.D, Director of the Management Institute for National Development (MIND), who had attended the Authentic Leadership 16-week program in Spring 2017 at Naropa. Ruby was paramount in providing Susan and Mary with continual support, expertise, and a wonderful orientation to the Jamaican culture.
The opportunity to actually go to Jamaica and work on effecting change was inspiring and re-energizing for Susan and Mary. When they first arrived in the country, the excitement of being immersed in the vibrant and colorful Jamaican culture was almost overwhelming. As they became more attuned to the language and culture, Susan and Mary wholeheartedly embraced every facet of the colorful Caribbean traditions, from the reggae music and beautiful weather to the inclusiveness of the friendly Jamaican people.
When Susan and Mary first engaged with the participants, there was some resistance to engage in the program. The experiential learning approach taught at Naropa, which is based on learning a concept, practicing it, getting feedback and then embodying the new learning, was new to many of the participants.
However, during the program they received coaching themselves and began practicing their own coaching skills with real case studies and role playing, Susan and Mary saw a powerful shift in the participants’ perceptions from a feeling of insecure self-focus to one of empathy and understanding of others. By the end of the program, it was rewarding for them to see that the participants were actually taking their coaching skills to heart, not only in their work but also in their lives.
Susan and Mary feel blessed to have been given an invaluable opportunity to experience and deliver their curriculum within a different culture. Their greatest reward was to be able to empower the participants to bring their voices and hearts into effecting a positive transition in their government. For Susan and Mary, the whole experience was an invaluable and gratifying example of cross-cultural experiential learning at its best.
Over the last 25 years Susan has worked with thousands of leaders in the US, Canada and Europe to cultivate mindfulness and authenticity, strengthen relational skills, and effectively lead the changes they want to see in their organizations and in the world. Formerly a Vice President and Chief Learning Officer and an international consultant, Susan is currently the director of the Authentic Leadership Center at Naropa University which trains and empowers current and next generation leaders to act as catalysts for positive organizational and social change.
Mary McHenry has an extensive background in communication, facilitation, mediation and leadership and has been a coach and guide for over 20 years. Her training includes certification with The Coaching Institute and Newfield Network, and membership in the International Coaching Federation where she is a PCC candidate. Mary holds a Masters in Adult Learning and Training from Colorado State University. Her rich experience in outdoor leadership and the arts provides the foundation for her current work with presence and embodiment as a vital leadership skill. She comes from a long line of powerful women singers and works with voice as an instrument for expression and communication. Mary is currently Curriculum Design & Distance Education Manager for the Authentic Leadership Center at Naropa University.
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