Today I’m featuring another inspiring woman in my Women at Work series. Karen Grant is a trainer, facilitator and coach who specialises in helping women to transition through changes in their lives especially those around making the move from work to home or home to work.
I met with her briefly a few weeks ago and found the time I spent with her hugely insightful and I’m really keen to do it again soon! There is so much value in having a look at your challenges or currently life situation through someone else’s eyes and to get some more direction via their questions and thoughts! Anyway I thought you’d like to “meet” her too so read on to find out more about Karen and what she does….
Tell me more about yourself and what you currently do?
In the group setting;
• I help set up teams for success eg new project teams or new start up teams
• I surface conflict and open up communication in team build settings
• I do some general training eg presentation skills, facilitation of strategy and sales/client excellence.
On a one-to-one basis;
• I help women who are in transition eg from corporate to working on their own or to a more flexible work environment. Likewise I work with women who are transitioning back into corporate after a leave of absence or transitioning through maternity. As a flexibly working mother I believe we have a significant contribution to make to the workplace, but we need to craft one, which is flexible and supportive.
• I coach managers/senior managers who find themselves managing teams and have the technical competencies but perhaps not the interpersonal.
On the side I run a small B&B and teach adult beginner Latin-American and ballroom dance!
When did you know this is what you wanted to do?
I think most GenX and Gen Y people follow varied career paths and a job for a lifetime is not the norm. During my corporate career in Professional Services, I was exposed to facilitation skills and was passionate about becoming a skilled facilitator. After ongoing training and my accreditation as a coach, I finally left the corporate world to begin life as an independent facilitator and coach in 2008.
What did you study?
I elected to study a BComm after being at an arts high school because it was the only way to get a bursary and get into university! Fortunately I got to do Marketing and Strategy which kept some balance with the somewhat foreign world of Accounting and Commercial Law!
When did you know this is what you wanted to do?
I haven’t always known what I wanted to do and in a way I almost feel I have ‘reinvented’ myself or needed a change every 7 years or so. But the combination of my school drama training, my public speaking and my experience in business development made facilitation and coaching a natural fit for me.
What was your first job in the industry?
My first job was in the Market Research Department of Spoornet in Johannesburg working back a bursary. I reached an all-time low when I landed up counting trucks on the road to Colesberg as part of so-called competitor research! Fortunately I got a break and managed to move across to Public Relations, where I could at least speak English (this was 1993) and put my written skills to work to see out the rest of my pay back period!
What have been the highlights?
There are several prestigious organisations with whom I have worked and it is always interesting to observe their culture and engage with their people. But likewise there are some fabulous entrepreneurs and small businesses with whom I have worked, who inspire me and challenge me to raise the bar on my own work. That aside I’ve worked in London, Singapore and in most provinces of SA as well as Swaziland.
A specific recent highlight was being asked to address 80 mums at the second birthday celebration of Recruit My Mom. I spoke on Work-Life Integration and really enjoyed the opportunity to engage with such a variety of women.
What’s the best part of your job?
I think when a coaching conversation really makes a difference to a client, or a team makes a significant change, I am really encouraged. It is not about my directing, but rather being the ‘guide on the side’ who provides the space for the client or team to carve their own path.
What is the most challenging part?
Working for yourself is not always easy. Some days I am the worst procrastinator and with my office being part of my home, the boundaries are not always what they should be! Income generation is also often a ‘feast or famine’ scenario with each month pretty much starting off from a zero base. But I am learning to rest in the calm periods, so that I have energy for the peak ones!
What is your typical day, or maybe week if days are very different?
I confess my days are very varied. If I’m training full day I generally head off early after dropping the boys at school and am immersed in facilitation until I can reconnect with them around 17h30. But most days I limit my coaching and business meetings to being before 14h00 and then work with my children on homework/extra murals during the afternoons.
What are the “secrets” to your success?
Success is such a personal term and I often spend time defining it individually with clients. For me it is about being able to spend the quality of time I would like to with my sons and husband, while pursuing a career that is fulfilling, stimulating and generates a level of income that is rewarding. Some months I achieve that and some months I don’t.
I believe in daily practices, daily disciplines that allow me to win the next new client or help my son perform in his next piano recital. Secondly I believe in continuing to invest in myself, for example to accredit in a new facilitation tool or coaching technique. You can call it ‘Continuing Professional Development’ but I need to keep learning to offer new things to my clients. And then I swear by exercise (preferably dancing) but a run will do, to re-energise me and keep me healthy.
As a mom how do you get the balance between your family and career life right? Your tips and tricks?
I have a good support structure; my husband is very willing to manage the boys if work allows, and perfectly capable of doing so (except where time management is concerned!) I also have a fantastic house keeper who helps me manage the B&B and do foundational homework with the boys if I can’t be home. Finally I have two wonderful baby sitters/ad hoc au pairs on whom I can call to allow me to dance in the evenings or attend school meetings/work functions.
Work-life integration is a key topic for me and I don’t believe we can separate our lives from our work and our work from our lives, if we are truly passionate about both. Besides if the stats are right that we spend 1/3 of our lives working, I’d hate to think of that as not living!
I don’t have the answers, but I am certainly learning to live more along the lines of ‘80:20’ ie I can get 80% of it right and let the other 20% go. As a perfectionist that’s’ been hard, but I am learning to tame the voice of guilt and to accept ‘good enough’! Finally it is my husband who introduces an element of fun and it has certainly saved the day when we’re all at loggerheads or even in a heated client situation!
What do you do for fun in your down time?
After years of not practising as a ballet teacher (I qualified in 2002 before I had my sons) I discovered Ballroom and Latin-American dance in 2012. It is my not so secret passion and I now teach beginner classes for adults as well as competing on the Pro-Am circuit! My family knows it is my love and are integrally involved in supporting me.
That aside I love to escape into a good book or take a weekend walk/ hike with the boys or a run with my husband.
What do you still want to achieve?
I find this a tricky question since one feels tempted to say ‘fame and fortune’! I would like to have an impact on the promotion of female talent in the workplace and for organisations to better value and support their women.
And on a personal level I would like to help grow my sons into resilient and confident young men, who are creative and flexible enough to find their own passion and generate a generous income from it.
Thanks so much Karen. How very inspiring you are!!
Images: Karen Grant