Thinking Partners, a consulting company committed to improving business results and leadership capacity through coaching, strategic people practices and values-based cultural transformation, is celebrating its 10 year anniversary. To honour this important milestone we are launching a series of conversations with some of our own thinking partners – people we have been lucky enough to partner or collaborate with over the past 10 years. These people – and many more besides – have positively impacted the work we do and who we have become; we are thankful for the unique gifts they bring to the world and delighted to share part of their story with you.
Our first conversation is with Charles Holmes, a master convener, gifted facilitator, skilled educator and empathetic coach. Charles has been an extremely influential colleague and has become a dear friend over the past 10 years. We have partnered on a number of impactful projects, including a dynamic culture transformation project with Blueshore Financial and many others.
Who’s inspired you the most?
One of my greatest inspirations is Milton Wong who passed away 5 years ago [Dec 31 2011]. He was an incredible mentor. I remember the first time I met him – he saw me, it was at a conference, but it became more important for him to engage with me than to go back to the conference that he was even presenting at, I think. He was really masterful at listening deeply to discover and understand others. He was a consummate connector, and he knew so many people and was so committed to projects and causes that made a difference to the community, the environment.
Another person, Peter Block, who has been a teacher. Just his body of works, his books, have always been very influential and inspiring to me. Having the chance to work directly with Peter and see how he connects with people and helps connect people, in a room, is a learning experience.
[For both Milton and Peter] it’s about care and curiosity. They don’t come from a place of agenda and a plan or a need or anything other than to learn about you – what’s important to you and how they can help you.
Is there any work in particular that has felt impactful, enjoyable to you, that has helped you grow in some way?
All of it – all of my work with Danae, and it’s about how we work together that has challenged me to be aware of how I show up and what I’m in service of when I’m with her. A more specific response would be the work we did with BlueShore Financial – we not only helped the client immensely we also co-created and learned how to use a body of work and set of tools in ways we hadn’t before.
Danae and I gave a keynote presentation [at the 2016 CTT International Conference] back in the fall with Marni from Blueshore [Marni Johnson, Senior Vice President, HR and Communications, BlueShore Financial]. Their head office is a few blocks from my house, so I see the impact inside the organization and the impact the organization is having on the community; I see how it is positively impacting the people within the organization.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Franck Cordier
What is the most significant change or shift that’s happened to you over the past 10 years?
I’m playing around with 4 seeds… the first one is that I’ve become much more centred which connects to the second seed, which is a greater capacity for patience and understanding, and the 3rd seed is connected to my capabilities and practices, which have given me a greater sense of competence and confidence in my ability to help people and organizations in their individual and collective change journeys [4th seed].
Do you feel that this has this been a gradual process or have there been any moments that have stood out for you in terms of change or moving towards a new level of understanding?
There have been some key or crystal moments but most of them have come through working closely with people that I care about that provide the opportunity for focused reflection and learning. And certainly in some ways my experience of working directly with the Dalai Lama 10 years ago started a trajectory that has been an evolution of deepening my own capacity for reflection. It’s interesting, I think I’m only realizing much later how profound and powerful [this meeting] was and is because it continues to have impacts and ripple effects years beyond.
And is it easy to take that quite personal work into your professional dealings or is that something you’re always working on?
I fundamentally believe that the work we need to do in the world, and working with organizations, is deeply personal. It goes back to the journey of the self in the context of the work in the world, and the more grounded, centred, developed, evolved, whatever language you use, you are, the more capable of being impactful in your work in the world you are. So there may not appear to be a direct connection – here are the teachings of the Dalai Lama so therefore let’s follow these teachings – it’s bigger teachings: here are the learnings, I apply them in practice and then I show up differently – in the way I engage with everyone, family, friends, clients.
10 years from now, what do you think will be the change/shift?
Connecting people will continue – connecting people both with themselves and with others. The last 10 years has probably been more about connecting people with others, I think the next 10 years will be more about connecting people to themselves, helping them discover and realize the potential and possibilities that live within each of us, and that we may not realize.
I believe firmly in the power of setting an intention versus creating a plan. Don’t get me wrong, plans are important when they’re very specific to the task, but in the context of my own personal growth and the growth of what I do, I have an intention, and that intention is to be in service of others in ways that help them realize and discover and share their unique gifts. And by holding that intention I’m often curious to discover and help others to discover what their unique gifts are, and then to link people who have gifts who can benefit others which ends up benefiting them and those that they’re connected with.
What are you most proud of (in your career), especially over the past 10 years?
The first thing that I’m most proud of is the development of my now late adolescent/adult children. My kids challenge me and ask me the tough questions about my own behaviours that others might not. They are my teachers through the questions they ask and the ways they will challenge me…
In the context of my work – I think I’m most proud of the hundreds if not thousands of connections between people who would quite likely have never otherwise met if I hadn’t connected them or created opportunities for people to connect across differences and boundaries.
Pick one: rock, water or wood? And why?
Wood because it represents so many things, it represents growth, resiliency, beauty.
A grain of wood represents opportunity, you can make things, create things, shelter things, it represents home, tree, animals, insects.
And you do work with wood, you’re a woodworker, is that right?
Yes, I’m working on a carving project right now. I’m carving and shaping a very big slab of redwood that has more character in the form of different grains, embedded pieces of rock. I’m not sure what it will transform into yet, could be a table, a window sill or a sculpture, I don’t know yet…
Danae Johnson & Thinking Partners
To read more about Charles Holmes and the transformative work he does, you can visit his website.
We will continue celebrating our thinking partners in 2017. Stay tuned for our next inspiring conversation!