This is my story about following my heart and the magic that happened in the workplace when I started working from the heart.

In 2009, after much soul searching and in a desperate attempt to find more meaning in my work, I made a life changing decision to quit my comfortable, well-paying government job to take the big leap into self-employment.  With the encouragement of my supportive husband, and with a burning desire to make a real difference in peoples’ lives, I took out a business loan and bought a small business. This is something I vowed I would never, ever do! Having grown up in a small business family and watching how long and hard my parents worked for a seemingly modest income, I always resisted my enterprising urges for an easier life; until now.  However, while my nice nine to five desk job had served me well for a very long time, I craved more and I just knew the time was right to experience something new. What I now know is that I had become disconnected from myself and my purpose; so while on one level I wanted a challenge and a new experience, what I was really seeking was connection to my true purpose.  Lesson one: listen to the ‘whispers of knowing’ that point you in the direction of your true purpose    

Now I’ve never really been into beauty, but I am a qualified and experienced beauty therapist (and kinesiologist), so keen to put our theoretical knowledge about business improvement into a real life operation, I decided to buy a beauty business.  When I started my research to identify the right business to buy, I realised that the industry had changed significantly since I was last doing beauty therapy. The focus had moved from grooming and client care to a harder-core focus on looks and achieving anti-aging results through the use of advanced technologies such as laser and IPL. Ok; challenge number one; do I reskill in these new technologies? While this was a viable option, it just did not feel right.  When I reflected on what I enjoyed the most about beauty therapy previously it was building connection and relationships with clients; the people stuff.  But that wasn’t the real issue. The real issue was a misalignment with my own personal values. My inner feminist was at odds with the anti-aging, looks obsessed focus of the beauty industry.  This clarity and the awareness about what was really important to me, helped me to establish the vision for the business. Lesson two:  always be authentic and never compromise your values

So leveraging my dual qualifications in beauty therapy and kinesiology, I set about creating an alternative to the sometimes judgemental, invasive, anti-aging, ‘look enhancing’ treatments that are now the norm for the beauty industry.  I aimed to create a new industry paradigm where the focus was on self-love/self-acceptance and beauty from within rather than on ‘looks’. I would work with subtle energies to turn this traditional beauty business into a loving, holistic, nurturing space for women who were stressed out and disconnected. Having a clear intention made finding the right business a whole lot easier and within one month I was the proud, excited owner of a small suburban beauty salon.  Lesson three:  good things happen when your intentions are clear

I knew the real fun was about to begin, but where to start? Firstly, I shared my vision with my work colleagues and quit my job. While this felt so empowering it didn’t take long for feeling of excitement to turn to fear and doubt.  ‘You are so brave’ was the general remark when I told my peers, ‘especially starting a business in a global financial crisis’. Eeeek! To be honest, this ‘risk’ hadn’t even occurred to me. I immediately started to doubt my decision; and myself.  From this point on I decided to let my heart lead the way. Lesson four: believe in yourself and follow your heart (even in a financial crisis)

Compared to industry standards the treatments we offered were technically simple.  Their point of difference however was their high vibrational energy. Every interaction with clients was infused with genuine empathy, compassion and loving kindness; straight from the heart. Now I know this sounds like airy fairy, new age nonsense, but if you’ve ever experienced food that’s been ‘cooked with love’ you’ll understand what I’m saying as nothing tastes quite as good as food cooked with love. It makes you feel good from the inside out. Think of Grandma’s apple pie and custard. It feels warm and welcoming. And when you’re feeling unwell, there’s nothing is more comforting than Mum’s homemade chicken soup.  It feels healing.  I first realised the transformational, healing power of love was working in the business when I noticed that clients were becoming more self-accepting, less self-critical and less concerned about how they looked and more focused on how they felt!  Lesson five:  never underestimate the healing, transformational power of love

I then trained each of the therapists to work with the holistic treatment protocols I had developed.  They learnt about the power of subtle energies, breath awareness and how to create genuine connections with clients through mindfulness. They developed self-reflective practices and learned to be in the present moment, by focusing on the client they were with, not thinking about the next client or the day ahead. Being present became their job. Excitingly, once the therapists started working with the holistic treatment protocols their partners started also to observe changes in them at home (reduced anxiety and increased happiness). Lesson six: slowing down, being present and mindful at work can improve the quality of your life

Not that I knew it at the time, but the work conduced in this little suburban beauty salon was the foundation for building a heart-based organisation. I continued to develop the heart-based culture and coached therapists to identify their strengths and values and encouraged them to simply be themselves.  We deliberately shifted the focus of our operation from doing treatments (treatment-centered) to being human-centered where the engagement and connection with the client was paramount. This approach resulted in increased commitment, loyalty and exponential improvement in client care and service delivery.  Lesson seven: people do their best work when they can be themselves  

Before long, this beauty business became known as a natural, holistic ‘sanctuary’ for women seeking natural beauty and connection to their ‘beauty within’.  Recognising the need to spread the love to other organisations I formalised my coaching certification and developed the concept for Humans Being At Work; a consultancy that helps rehumanise workplaces through authentic engagement and heart-based leadership.

Don’t get me wrong; this experience was not all love, rainbows and unicorns! Owning a beauty business is hard and mostly unglamorous work and there were many days when I seriously questioned my sanity to leave a perfectly good job in exchange for cleaning wax pots. However, I am so grateful for this experience and would not change it for anything in the world.  It taught me so much about people and genuine engagement and has forever changed my perspective on work. I now get the saying ‘love what you do and you’ll never work another day in your life’ and have a greater understanding and appreciation of how to bring holistic practices into any workplace.  So these days I am an executive coach, facilitator, trainer and stakeholder engagement professional who works with leaders and teams to rehumanise workplaces, improve performance and improve lives.  Lesson seven: true beauty really is an inside job and has a powerful ripple effect.