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“When we enlarge our view of the world, we deepen our understanding of our own lives” ~ Yo-Yo Ma ~

During a recent trip to Jamaica to present their program, Coaching Through Change and Transition, Susan Skjei and Mary McHenry were gifted with the wonderful opportunity to step out of their comfort zone and embrace the traditions and practices of a diverse and vibrant culture.

When Susan and Mary first arrived in Jamaica, they were somewhat disoriented by the unfamiliar sights and sounds of the lively and bustling atmosphere. Everything was new to them, starting with the colourful taxi driver driving on the “wrong” side of the street while gesticulating wildly and talking volubly on his phone in the local patois!

At first, they found it difficult to follow the beautiful and lyrical cadence of the Jamaican accent but, as they relaxed more into their conversations, they were gratified to be able to communicate with more ease.

As they became more attuned to the country’s way of life, they recognized that there are different ethnicities within the Jamaican culture. There is the more relaxed and easy-going Jamaican Island culture, and there is also the more historically British-based formal structure of the Ministry of Finance. They were intrigued by the juxtaposition of these two cultures and found it interesting to learn how to navigate through them successfully.


Although they both spent the majority of their time in a compound in Kingston, they were touched by their Jamaican colleagues’ concerns that they not be constrained to only being inside the classrooms. There was a genuine desire that they would be able to go out and experience their beautiful island. With this in mind, Ruby Brown, partner and sponsor in the program, took Susan and Mary on an unforgettable tour of the island, starting with a visit to the historical Port Royal, where the actual story of the Pirates of the Caribbean had unfolded. It was an amazing experience for them to be able to see some sunken ships that divers still explore to this day.

Ruby then took them for a delicious traditional fried fish meal that had just been caught from the bay. After lunch, Ruby drove them through different parts of Kingston, ranging from the more impoverished areas to the wealthy “Hollywood Hills”. The contrast between the rich and poor was definitely an eye-opener for Susan and Mary.

The highlight of their tour with Ruby turned out to be a trip to an ice cream shop, which boldly proclaimed to serve “the best ice cream in the world”! Even though it was February, it was warm and the lawn outside the ice cream shop was teeming with locals. As they sat eating their ice cream, soaked up the joyful ambience unfolding before them. On one part of the lawn there was a wedding, and people were dressed in beautiful, colourful outfits that added to the celebratory atmosphere. In another area, they witnessed a circle of people singing together for a spiritual healing. It was a moving and powerful experience that lifted their spirits.

Susan and Mary returned home feeling extremely grateful to their Jamaican friends for opening their hearts and welcoming them into their lives. They gained many insights into how to relate to others, both personally and professionally. It was an unforgettable experience for them, one that they will always hold in their hearts as they continue on their coaching journey. They are tremendously grateful for this wonderful opportunity and feel honored to have been welcomed so warmly by the beautiful, friendly Jamaican people.

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.​

Susan Skjei PH.D.

Director, Naropa University’s Authentic Leadership Center

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.

Mary McHenry M.Ed.

Curriculum Design & Distance Education Manager, Authentic Leadership Center at Naropa University


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