Blogs by InnovatorsBox®

MEET JENNIFER HART: A COACH AND FACILITATOR WITH ACUTE ACTIVE LISTENING IN HER ARSENAL

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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.

Jennifer Hart is a thoughtful and curious one. She pays close attention to what you’re saying and wants to comprehend your perspective. Active Listening is one of her many strengths and it’s part of the reason her work in coaching, facilitation and strategy feels different. Jennifer knows well to make everyone feel heard and appreciated. 

Since both of us are a SAIS, Johns Hopkins University alumni, we used to connect and meet during SAIS entrepreneur female networking meetups. Having had learned from each other about one’s strengths and passion for culture and leadership development, we knew that we’d be able to help more people if we worked together. And I’m glad that Jennifer agreed, since now we’ll have the opportunity to inspire many executives, teams, and firms through the numerous services in which we collaborate. I’m excited to have you meet Jennifer and share why you’d want to have a coach like her for any meeting you host, and a friend like her in a life you build.

In my Q&A with Jennifer, we cover why she does what she does, what is it about being a coach and a facilitator that she’s so passionate about, why is coaching mindset important as a leader, why diversity & inclusion so important to embrace innovative ideas, what are some trends in the industry that she gets excited and/or worried about, and so much more!

MONICA:  How would you describe yourself in three words?

Jennifer:  Explorer. Diplomat. Language-nerd.

MONICA:  Why is creativity important to you?

Jennifer:  Creativity is the ONLY way to solve intractable problems — AND it makes the process a lot more fun! 

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

Jennifer:  My coaching clients have been incredible to work with. I also really enjoyed collaborating on our virtual podcast party — it was a fun and energizing event with amazing people.  

Trends about work:

MONICA:  Why did you want to become a coach?

Jennifer:  Coaching is one of the most inspiring vocations out there — as a bonus, it’s a portable skill set that affords me great flexibility to travel. Earlier in my career, coaching was how many people described my leadership style; even before I understood what it really meant!  So in some ways it feels more like coaching found me (rather than the other way around)! 

Coaching is one of the most inspiring vocations out there.

MONICA:  Why is a coaching mindset as a leader important? Tell me more about this.

Jennifer:  A coaching mindset makes things easier for everyone. Many leaders think that they need to have all the answers – which not only puts a lot of pressure on themselves but it also can be really demotivating for team members. Coaching (vs. directing) encourages team members to take measured risks, experiment and grow. It takes a bit more time up front, but leads to exponential long-term results in both performance AND satisfaction. In a fast-paced environment, this can be especially challenging – but it’s also where it’s most important!

MONICA:  Why is facilitation important? What does being a facilitator mean to you?

Jennifer:  A skilled facilitator is a “guide on the side” rather than a “sage on the stage.”  This means that participants own and actively shape their goals, learnings, and results, rather than passively taking in information.  What I love about facilitation is that whatever you are facilitating — be it individual learning or group results — how deftly one must navigate between structure and freedom; independent and collaborative thinking, etc. to offer a “universally customized” experience for each participant.  It’s a fun (if occasionally exhausting) challenge!

A skilled facilitator is a “guide on the side” rather than a “sage on the stage.” 

MONICA:  Active Listening is key and something you often speak about. How can leaders practice this skill and why does it feel hard to do this?

Jennifer:  Most of us are not truly listening on a regular basis (even those of us who are trained in this!) — especially in the workplace.  Instead, we are 2-3 steps ahead thinking about what we are going to say in response. It’s usually well-intended: we want to be “helpful” and have the answers (justifying our role in the conversation or even the job!) But it is neither inclusive nor collaborative. Active listening begins with holding back (not interrupting with your opinion), looking out for nonverbal cues (body language, facial expressions, etc.), and getting curious about what is unsaid.  

MONICA:  Embracing diversity and differences is also key to embracing new ideas and creating a safe space. What do people misunderstand or not get about how we could rethink diversity and inclusion in the workplace?  

Jennifer:  If there is one phrase I would eliminate from the workplace lexicon, it’s “diverse candidates.”  There is no such thing as a diverse candidate! Another common misconception is that safe spaces mean treating people with kid gloves. Does THAT sound like a fun or collaborative way to work?  Instead, I would also invite leaders and organizations to truly reflect on what an authentic inclusive and safe environment really looks like. 

MONICA: What are you worried and excited about how the pandemic changed how we think about well-being and leadership development in the workplace?

Jennifer:  I’m most excited about how the pandemic became the great equalizer that allowed us to show up more authentically in the workplace; the barriers between work and life flexed a little and opened the door for greater empathy and connection. (Screaming kids, cat tails, and in one memorable instance that you will remember, Monica; even a tornado siren!)  What worries me is thinking about the longer term effects of isolation and how easy it is to work all the time when you don’t have transition time between work and home, or social engagements.  

Pandemic became the great equalizer; the barriers between work and life flexed a little and opened the door for greater empathy and connection.

Getting to know Jennifer

MONICA:  What advice would you give your younger self?

Jennifer:  Lighten up — and trust that everything will work out even when you can’t see or chart out a clear path at the moment. I put way too much unnecessary pressure on myself when I was younger; not only did this feel terrible, it actually made me less creative and resourceful! 

MONICA:  You’ve lived in so many countries. What is a city you love going back again and why?

Jennifer:  Asking me which city I love is like asking a parent who their favorite child is!  Funny enough, DC is a city I keep returning to; this is my fourth time living here! Jakarta is another city that has a special place in my heart.

MONICA:  How many countries have you lived in?

Jennifer:  I’ve lived in six countries.  

MONICA:  How many countries have you visited? 

Jennifer:  I have an app that keeps track of all of this! I’ve been to 43 countries / territories and counting!  

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

Jennifer:  Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat — for anyone who’s ever been curious about the magic behind cooking but doesn’t have a chemistry PhD!  

MONICA:  What are you watching lately that you are enjoying? 

Jennifer:  A series called “Murders In” (Meurtres à. . .) They travel all around France and solve crimes — what more could one ask for?  

MONICA:  What podcast are you listening to lately that you are enjoying?

Jennifer:  You mean, other than Dear Workplace and Curious Monica?  😉  Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me provides me with much needed comic relief during these challenging times.  

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

Jennifer:  Hmm. . . that is a tough one!  I would have to say Daikaya Ramen for those on a budget, and Iron Gate for those who aren’t!  

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

Jennifer:  Miami, OK – which is the headquarters of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, a confederation that includes two tribes from which I am descended. I’d love to learn the Myaamia language which was brought back from extinction by a single man; a truly inspirational story.  Too much history and culture is being lost.  

Thank you, Jennifer for sharing with us your insights, wisdom, and tips, and for being and bringing your authentic and true self. We look forward to many more months and years working and helping more people together.

To connect with Jennifer:

Website: www.intelektularo.com

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/coach-jennifer-hart/

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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