This is a conversation I had the other day with Liam, my eight year old, and Jack who is five.
Me: Good news - I am now officially certified as a women's leadership coach.
Jack: Wait, does that mean you can lead planes now?
Me: No, I cannot lead planes.
Good thing I don't use how impressed my 5yo is as a benchmark!
But yes, I am officially a Gaia Project Certified Women’s Leadership Coach. This program, and the work I did with my volunteer coachees, has been life-changing as far as how I see the role I can play in the world.
When I first became interested in this program, it was because my work with Photosanity, both in my one-on-one photography coaching as well as the group programs I teach, unearthed all kinds of bigger issues to do with confidence, and how much women - including high-achieving women who seemed on the outside to have it all together - beat themselves up for not being better or doing more.
What I have found is that my clients are struggling to manage career and motherhood, and to find their voice and place in the world now that they have kids. They are used to professional success but at a personal cost - they are overwhelmed, stressed out and frustrated not just with their photos but with trying to do everything to perfection. They are running themselves into the ground.
What the Gaia Project has given me is a structure and methodology that aligns perfectly with everything I have experienced, observed and intuitively concluded through over twenty years of experience.
This includes my work with hundreds of parents through Photosanity, as well as my work in my previous career as an architect for companies such as Gensler, Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership and STUDIOS Architecture, managing strategy and design projects for clients such as Time Warner, HBO, CNN, Warner Music Group, Atlantic Records, Nokia, Nike, Sony, MTV Networks, Miramax, Aileron, Bates Advertising and Disney Publishing.
The Gaia Project has saved me the years it would have taken to develop my own methodology from scratch.
It incorporates the experience from founder Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin’s own private coaching practice, as well as her team’s experience consulting and implementing leadership programs for corporate and non-profit clients including some of the world’s largest investment banks, tech giants, world-renowned law firms, hedge funds and private equity firms, educational institutions, and powerhouse non-profits.
While I originally thought that women’s leadership coaching would be a great supplement to the photography coaching work I do, now that I’ve completed the program, what I see is a bigger vision for a blend of women’s leadership and photography coaching.
I already have clients whose more immediate needs and interests revolve around photography, but our work together has lead into a varying degree of women’s leadership coaching. I also have clients who are most immediately interested in women’s leadership coaching… which can naturally lead into using photography as a tool for self-development and growth.
What ties the two together?
It’s about shifting the narrative.
I’ve talked a lot about internalized patriarchy and the negativity bias. Especially as women, but also where race, class, religion, sexual orientation, ability, age, body image, language, etc. intersect, it’s so easy at the end of the day to beat ourselves up for everything we aren’t doing and all the ways in which we are failing.
There are myths and assumptions and limiting beliefs that create an ongoing undercurrent of negative self-talk about what we can and can’t do, what we should and shouldn’t do, what we can and can’t achieve.
We are all complicit with a system that doesn’t serve any of us, even those it purports to privilege. Toxic masculine models of leadership are toxic for everyone - straight white men included (just ask yourself if any of the leaders of our country right now look like they are emotionally or physically healthy).
When we can recognize the stories that we tell ourselves, that we have internalized as a result of institutionalized and systematized hierarchies - and let’s face it, some of those narratives are still very much external, explicit, and all over the news - we can instead take control of and shift our own narratives to live out a different story.
Women’s leadership as taught by the Gaia Project and integrated with the Photosanity methodology (which I have been working to develop over the past eight years) is NOT just about your career, job, work or professional life.
It is a holistic approach to aligning your life with your values, and who you are with how you present to the world. In this way, you can increase your personal and professional impact without sacrificing yourself in the process.
To find out more, sign up for our brand new "5 myths of women’s leadership and how to bust through them (even if you don't consider yourself a leader)" series delivered right to your inbox. You'll also get information on how to find out more if you’re interested in women's leadership coaching.
And lastly, many many big huge thanks to Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin and the Gaia Project team (Marijo Bilitski and Megan Baker) as well as my cohort of fellow coaches and my volunteer coachees for an incredible experience.