Blogs by InnovatorsBox®

MEET FLORENCE NAVARRO: A FACILITATOR PASSIONATE ABOUT BUILDING SAFE SPACES

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This is InnovatorsBox’s “IB Backstage series, where in celebration of InnovatorsBox’s 6th year anniversary that’s coming up in November 2021, we are highlighting the stories of our incredible team members.

Florence Navarro loves people and loves creating intentional rooms where people can be themselves. Her fascination with safe rooms and facilitation grew as a result of her experiences growing up and working in several countries, cultures, and industries. I was inspired by her depth of awareness and patience to view differences as opportunities to understand, rather than a source of conflict, having worked in international affairs and development work.

I met Florence at SAIS Johns Hopkins University alumni gathering as a fellow female entrepreneur. And I was humbled and thrilled when she agreed to collaborate and work together so we could empower many teams and leaders in creating safe rooms and in culture development. Florence has so much to share with you and I know you’ll enjoy learning more about how you can create safe rooms for diverse people too.

In my Q&A with Florence, we cover a range of topics from why creativity is crucial in what she does, what fascinated her about facilitation, why is she so passionate about creating safe spaces and building positive work cultures, to the tips and hacks she has to share, where she finds inspiration from, and more. 
MONICA:  How would you describe yourself in three words?

Florence:  Fascinated by people. International. Loving ideas.

MONICA:  Why is creativity important to you?

Florence:  Creativity is life. When I hear ‘creativity’, I first think that it is something artists do. It is something I aspire to but don’t take the time for. Then I take a step back and realize that creativity is everywhere: it can be in the way we approach an everyday problem, in the way we cook (open the fridge and see what good dinner you can cook with the leftovers), in the way we walk back home by taking a different route. Creativity is joy, play, and it is essential to renewing our spirits and our desire for life.

MONICA:  What was your favorite project, experience or memory working at InnovatorsBox?

Florence:  My favorite experience so far has been working on a complex project with several actors, helping our client put together an intellectually challenging event under time constraints.  We managed to bring to the table a really rich variety of voices, and to provide a safe platform for them to contribute and to feel heard. I loved how each of us brought a different perspective, and how much I learned about making an online event widely accessible.

Trend about work:

MONICA:  Why did you want to become a facilitator and build the niche you have?

Florence:  Early on in my life I felt compelled to act as a translator and negotiator between family members; I felt that I understood each person’s perspective and wanted to contribute to each person being understood by the others.  Then I acted as a trainer for sustainability and for change management with the UN Development Program.  I really enjoy getting deep into an issue and deconstruct it and then provide that information to a broad range of learners.  

I am still developing my niche, but in broad terms I specialize in cross-cultural and international facilitation, and in enabling courageous conversations that allow people to truly learn from each other and challenge themselves to new perspectives.

Creativity is joy, play, and it is essential to renewing our spirits and our desire for life.

MONICA:  You work with global clients. What is one tip you’ll share with someone who is still learning how to understand working with global clients? What should they be more mindful of and respectful of to work across different cultures?

Florence:  My number one tip in understanding global clients is: spend a lot of time listening, and check out your assumptions.  

MONICA:  Any culture that was difficult to work with? 

Florence:  Not that I can recall.  I personally enjoy authenticity, and it’s harder for me to work in cultures when people are discouraged to openly be themselves; but I respect that and as a facilitator, in such situations I would gently encourage people to explore their boundaries, while allowing them to express themselves in a way that feels safe to them in their culture. 

MONICA:  Any culture that has interesting fun facts?

Florence:   Italians would look at you funny if you ordered a cappuccino at breakfast, and don’t expect milk or cream with your coffee at a coffee break if you attend a conference in France (at least that was my experience in the 90s).. Nor french roast.  Ethiopia, the origin of all things coffee, keeps the best quality coffee for in-country consumption, while Kenya exports its best quality tea.

MONICA:  One tip you’ll share to all leaders on how to be a better leader today? 

Florence:  Always be listening. This is my number one advice.  We can learn so much and grow so much by listening. Also, walk the talk.  Noone said it’s easy to do. You can be honest and say, ‘look I am trying my best to walk the talk and I know there is room for improvement, so please let me know when I can walk better’ Walking the talk and being honest about the difficulty of doing so can be truly inspiring.

3 tips to cultivate self awareness | Article on LinkedIn Pulse
MONICA:  What are you worried and excited about how the pandemic changed how we think about well-being and leadership development in the workplace? 

Florence:  I am worried that people who were frontline workers have paid a high price mentally and physically to keep the world running, and how their contribution remains essential, yet they are unlikely to reap any financial benefit from it. I am also concerned by the feeling of isolation that so many young people have experienced.. 

How many people, living by themselves, have not been hugged in months because of the pandemic? It will take us a long time to understand the implications of this.  While women’s careers have suffered due to the additional constraints they faced with childcare, this really made us all aware of the need to address childcare, and how this has become a business livelihood issue.  Also, I read that many people are reassessing what they expect out of life after the last 1 & ½ years, and as a result many employers are forced to reconsider the benefits and workstyle they offer.

Job-Seeking During a Pandemic | Article on LinkedIn Pulse

Getting to know Florence

MONICA:  What advice would you give your younger self?

Florence:  Go out and be active; try some sports or activities a bit outside of your comfort zone. 

MONICA:  What is a book that you couldn’t stop reading? 

Florence:  A Thousand Hills to Heaven’ by Josh Ruxin; this is the story of how Josh and his wife came to live and work in Rwanda, and open a restaurant in Kigali that provides training for young people is now also an eco-hotel. As someone who has lived and worked in Rwanda after the genocide and worked for the UN Development Program in several countries. I really resonated with the struggles, doubts and motivations of Josh and his wife. I often ask myself how to best be of help while being respectful and encouraging of local solutions and local pace. How to encourage and nurture growth and learning among other people while checking out our own motivations to do so.

Frontline workers paid a high price to keep the world running & their contribution remains essential, yet they're unlikely to reap any financial benefit from it.

MONICA:  What is a children’s book that you love to revisit? Why do you like children’s books?

Florence:  Of course ‘Le Petit Prince’ is a classic.. And I have a bit of French pride that this classic loved all over the world was created by one of my fellow countrymen.   Also ‘ The bad mood and the stick’ by Lemony Snicket and Mathew Forsythe: story of a bad mood that goes around the world..’you yourself had it several times’ and how ‘you never know what is going to happen’… which of course is key to a creativity attitude. ‘Lost words’ and ‘the lost spells’, by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, about animals and plants, originally inspired by nature-related words whose names were dropped from the Oxford Junior dictionary in 2007. Children’s books are totally magical. The illustrations and the stories transport me in a world where we don’t take ourselves so seriously, and remind me of a different way to look at our lives; often with wonder.

MONICA:  What are you raising lately in your garden? Any fun facts about gardening?

Florence:  Tomatoes, kale, mustard greens, arugula (in Italy arugula is really a salad staple) and lots of herbs.  Herbs are one of the most reliable ways to add some zest to your cooking, and it’s pretty easy in DC to grow rosemary, sage, oregano and mint; parsley and basil of various kinds are more unpredictable; cilantro has a very short lifespan. Fun fact? Raised garden beds really make it easier to garden.  Arugula grows well and fast in DC climate, and it’s a cheap way of getting almost year-round supply that doesn’t spoil in your fridge.. But only if you are wise enough to plant it in stages..otherwise you quickly get an arugula forest.. And then long skinny plants with some yellow flowers. 

MONICA:  What is your favorite way to decompress? Why? 

Florence:  Going for a long walk; either with a friend or by myself; sometimes listening to podcasts or music while walking; preferably in nature, or with some trees around (we are so lucky in DC to have many shaded areas, and in particular Rock Creek Park); but exploring urban landscapes is nice too. Why? Because it combines physical activity, being outside, and discovering. Also, cooking for family and friends: creativity and togetherness.

MONICA:  If someone is visiting France for the first time, where would you recommend they go, eat, or do? 

Florence:  Not in Paris.. No, ok, Paris is fine, but that’s not where you will feel the most welcome. Spending time in smaller towns and visiting the surrounding countryside is a great way to get a feel for the country: for ex. Toulouse, and the surrounding countryside with plenty of chateaux, delicious affordable food, the fortified town of Carcassonne, and the Canal du Midi, a feat of engineering that provides endless opportunities for leisure; or Lyon and the surrounding vineyards.

MONICA:  If you could travel anywhere and do anything, where would you go and what would you want to do? 

Florence:  Great question, always a dilemma between going back to places I love and discovering new places.  WIth that in mind: new: Portugal is on my list, and Guadeloupe, a French island in the Caribbean where a friend of mine and her husband run a diving exploration company… would love to learn how to dive.. A combination of facing my fears and exploring fascinating beauty fast disappearing. Old: Zanzibar, an island in Tanzania with an extremely rich Indian Ocean culture is one of my favorite places.

Thank you, Florence for being so passionate about such important subjects that impacts our society and workplace today, and for your contribution in helping organizations build meaningful workplaces and cultures. I look forward to working together in helping more organizations and teams in fostering creativity in the days to come.

To connect with Florence: 

Twitter:  @NavarroFlorence

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/florencenavarro/

About the Author

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang, Founder, and CEO of InnovatorsBox® and Author of Rethink Creativity is transforming today’s workforce through the power of creativity. She helps companies rethink culture, leadership, and team development by making creativity practical and relatable regardless of industry or job title. She has worked with clients worldwide including Fortune 500 companies, higher education, government, and nonprofits. Monica’s work has been recognized by The White House, Ashoka Changemakers, National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Prior to InnovatorsBox®, Monica was a nuclear nonproliferation policy expert. She holds an M.A. from SAIS Johns Hopkins University in Strategic Studies and International Economics and a B.A. from Boston University.

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