Tales of people using a coaching approach to our climate problems.
Al is a qualified leadership coach and business designer. He partners with mission-driven creative leaders and tech entrepreneurs, who are looking for deeper connection and transformation in their work. Al attended our Coaching Circle in 2019 and uses nature to inform his coaching practice. He spoke with Zoe Greenwood in our team about his journey into bringing the environment into his coaching.
Zoe: Tell us about your journey to becoming a Coach and more recently, a climate change coach?
Al: Like most journeys I have learnt from every step and have responded along the way. It is an ongoing and continuous process. I’ve spent the best part of 30 years working mainly in strategy and communications for corporate brands primarily through my own design consultancy founded in London. During my career to date I have worked with global brands such as Unilever, Heineken, SAP, Philips Live Earth, Specialized UK and Canon, to conceive and develop engaging marketing and digital communications strategies. I’m trained with an MBA from the innovative ‘One Planet’ Exeter Business School and an MA from The Royal College of Art; so I work with ‘head, heart and hands’, offering an unusual skill-set that utilises creative strategy and business design combined with commercial rigour – all inspired by Nature.
Since being introduced to Biomimicry on the ‘One Planet’ MBA programme I have been making my own inquiry into bio-inspired innovation and Nature connection. Evolving my design practice through Life-Centred design, holistic organisational design approaches and Bio-Leadership models.
It is absolutely clear we are living in an era of climate emergency which presents the ultimate human design challenge. Designers of all fields have a responsibility in engaging in regenerative ways to inform and cultivate a future world. The climate crisis requires us all to redesign the global economy on the fly within our own lifetimes. This collective emergency should command all of the time and attention of every economist, agriculturalist, investor, executive, and politician—anyone who fancies themselves a leader in the physical workings of the economy, or whatever we call it.
Design has a big role to play in creating the systems and environments where we celebrate human creativity, emotion and social interaction. Being ‘more’ human is and will continue to be the major advantage in business as technology becomes ever more pervasive.
In simple terms you are either part of the problem or you can be part of the solution. We have to act. To act we need to change our mindset and behaviours. And this is why I was excited to explore the subject of Climate Change within the safe and supported space of a Climate Change Coaches Training Circle with other coaches from around the world. To share a collective vision of how we can bring the subject of Climate Change on a human scale into our coaching and consultancy practices.
Now more than ever as we experience the COVID19 crisis play out on a global scale; presenting us with an immediate and real opportunity to re-design and reset the Western, mechanistic, human social and organisational ‘operating systems’; into a world informed by a deeper, interconnected, ecological and embodied way of ‘knowing’ and sensemaking.
Coaching will play a vital part in developing the evolutionary leadership required to effect the radical change that is necessary. To design better business, to be ‘more’ human, more purposeful, more beautiful and regenerative. And this is why I am now focussing my work as both business designer and coach to the human design challenge we face collectively building upon Life-centred principles that support all life.
More recently I have become a fully qualified Executive Coach through UWE Business School and trained as a Transformational Change Coach with the Earthself community. My coaching journey is just beginning and it has taken my all my life to get to this point; but I do feel that the dynamic and human scale of the coaching space will play a powerful role in redesigning sustainable human organisations and social systems on this one planet we call home.
Zoe: How do you think coaches can contribute to climate action?
Al: Every interaction and conversation has the power to create change. I believe that we have given away our voice and outsourced our agency and power to those that do not deserve it.
As an executive or leadership coach it is vital to appreciate and work with the idea that organisational or system evolution is tightly connected to human development. As every time humanity has shifted to a new stage of consciousness, it has also invented a radically more productive organisational model. As coaches we need to be aware of this interconnectedness and be able to identify the patterns that present themselves. Any organisation can only grow as far as the consciousness of its leader.
Perhaps now is the time to move from ‘our human cleverness’ to inherent wisdom to inform our organisations, coaching approaches and leadership development. The multi-faceted context we now work in dictates that we need to progress beyond the narrow definitions of coaching to a more expanded concept. The space for leaders to explore complex challenges facing organisations today which has to include the climate crisis – along with an intimacy required to face our deepest fears and visions of the future as human beings.
Zoe: Tell us more about your work with/through/on behalf of nature?
Al: One of my guiding quotes is from anthropologist and social scientist Gregory Bateson who said, “The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think.” In my work as business designer and coach I Iook to work in harmony with Nature ; applying the guiding principle described by Janine Benyus using ‘Nature as model, measure & mentor.’
As human beings, we need nature to achieve optimal levels of well-being and performance. Not only does coaching with Nature offer these therapeutic benefits as an integral part of the approach but it also helps us align the way we think and act with how the natural world works. Humans are part of nature. By spending time in the natural world, we can become conscious of our connection to it. We can learn from nature how to solve many of our current challenges, both individually and collectively. Enhancing our relationship with nature, enables us to enhance our relationship with ourselves, others and the Earth itself.
As an EarthSelf certified Transformational Change Coach I work within a ‘Nature Connected Framework’ bringing into alignment and optimisation with Nature. Partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process informed by their relationship to the natural world that inspires them to optimise their personal and professional potential to create transformational change in their lives, the lives of others and the Earth itself.
Zoe: What has been your greatest learning so far and your hopes for the future?
Al: Time and space are precious – use them wisely. Slow down to be more productive. Work in harmony with Nature. Find your cycles, patterns and rhythms. As Viktor Frankl said…
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”
As we have seen recently, the power in slowing down – enforced or not – has had a profound effect on how we understand the fragility of our existence. Coaching can provide this much needed slowing down, pause and space to think deeply about how we interact with the world.
Zoe: Finally, any tips for coaches looking to turn their practice towards climate?
Al: I looked back on my reflections and feedback from my Climate Change Coaches Circle sessions and thought my own experience might provide advice for anyone considering exploring our human crisis in their coaching practice.
“I would say that the Climate Change Coaches Training Circle is a unique and safe space to explore the important questions we are all asking ourselves concerning our planet. A place to explore how this surfaces in our personal life, our world and for our families. This starting point shapes the space – which is unique – in the sense of trust and respect created by Charly and Amanda within the circle. Generating an openness and honesty that strangely I think can only be experienced with people you have never met before. I would also say you come out certainly more equipped to ‘make sense’ of the issues and how to move forward in a more pragmatic way than before. I would also suggest that this is not a ‘solution’ based course. The Climate Change Coaches Training Circle intentionally ‘coaches’ us collectively to provide confidence to convene others and coach toward dialogue rather than set models, complete tools or a finite solution.”
A big thanks to Al for taking the time to speak with us. You can reach Al at https://www.linkedin.com/in/alkennedy/