Blogs by InnovatorsBox®


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.

Julie Smith will help you be happy at work. As a coach, facilitator, and an amazing individual, Julie is someone who lightens the room and sees the dots that are missing. We first met through American Express Leadership Academy as fellow leaders, entrepreneurs and facilitators and I instantly loved her approach to bringing people together with warmth and courage. So when we had the opportunity to start working together, I knew Julie would be the as a coach and facilitator who could help our innovators see more possibilities with courage. 

In my Q&A with Julie, I ask her how she manages to power through all the different projects but most importantly, how she makes time to enjoy life, which is key to how she thrives. Hear from Julie all about coaching and facilitation, why she does what she does, where she gets her inspiration from, how she likes to decompress, and much more.

MONICA:  How would you describe yourself in three words?

Julie: Fascinated by people!

MONICA:  Why is creativity important to you?

Julie: To me, creativity is intertwined with fun. Who doesn’t want to have fun?

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

Julie: Coaching team members at JFF Labs. It was inspiring working with such smart people motivated by a strong social purpose.

Trend about work:

MONICA:  Why did you want to become a coach?

Julie: Developing people has always been the aspect of leadership that I enjoy the most, so coaching was a natural fit. Coaching means I can expand my impact beyond a direct, local team, to helping thousands of people around the globe. I’m fascinated by people, our complexities, why we behave in certain ways, people’s different definitions of happiness and success, and how they achieve that happiness and success. 

Developing the skill of truly listening isn’t easy and takes practice because we all have a lot of distracting noise in our heads.

MONICA:  What is a skill that you think more leaders are needing? How can they take the time to hone that craft when they feel so busy and drained? 

Julie: Listening, definitely listening. This means leaders not assuming that they know what other people are thinking or are going to say. Developing the skill of truly listening isn’t easy and takes practice because we all have a lot of distracting noise in our heads. It can also feel like a drain on valuable time resources, however it’s an investment, truly listening will save you time in the long run and will help you drive to better results.

MONICA:  How can teams work better together with diverse interests, communication style and understanding?

Julie: Again, listening is paramount, coupled with curiosity. Listen and ask curious questions to help you understand other people’s experiences and points of view. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, just be open that your perspectives, experiences, opinions and way of doing things are not the only ones out there.

Article by Julie Smith | LinkedIn Pulse
MONICA:  Why is facilitation important? What does being a facilitator mean to you?

Julie: As a facilitator, my role is to work with groups to agitate habitual patterns of thinking, challenge assumptions, uncover biases and explore situations and problems from different perspectives. By doing these groups develop creative, innovative thinking to solve problems and overcome challenges.

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

Julie: I’m excited that the pandemic shook-up the status quo regarding where we work. Far too many organisations had closed minds to their staff working from home, thinking it wasn’t possible and / or that people wouldn’t work if they were at home (NEWSFLASH the staff who are motivated to work, will work wherever they are based and the staff who aren’t motivated to work can find ways to dodge work even when they are in an office). 

Having greater flexibility about where we can work from, opens up work opportunities to people who previously were excluded and can facilitate greater work-life balance. I say can facilitate greater work-life balance, with a tone of caution. The flipside of more people working from home is that many people have found it harder to create boundaries between work and home life, this is something that I have worked through with many coaching clients. 

Another linked area of concern is that some leaders have jumped on the cost savings of staff working from home, exclaiming that we no longer need offices! During the pandemic, I’ve seen that people really need in-person, human interaction that is not task-based e.g. those informal social conversations, the coworker who tells you that you did a great job in a tricky meeting, the passive learning that takes place by overhearing colleagues on the phone. Many organizations have tried to bring in a social, well-being element to teams working remotely, some have been successful but others have left staff feeling the ‘enforced fun’ was another item on their to-do list (and don’t get me started on the client who told me that the U.S. based leadership team made an online well-being session mandatory, meaning that those based in EMEA had to attend at 11pm!)

Getting to know Julie

MONICA:  What advice would you give your younger self?

Julie: Don’t compare how you feel on the inside with how people’s lives appear from the outside.

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

Julie: I do love fiction books but what immediately sprang to mind were three non-fiction books all about real-life, strong women – Know My Name, by Chanel Miller, A Chainless Soul: A Life of Emily Bronte by Katherine Frank and Belonging, by Michelle Obama.

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

Julie: I recently watched The Morning Show. The writing was so clever in the way it covered emotive issues from different characters’ perspectives. (I guess that the coach is me again, being fascinated by people’s different perspectives of a situation).

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

Julie: Walking in the large Royal park that I live next to. Walking helps me think and the lush, green English countryside has a calming effect.

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

Julie: That could be a very long answer but here are a few ideas –

  • V&A Museum – always has fabulous art, design and performance exhibitions. 
  • Borough Market – lots of independent food sellers and street food, many providing free tasters! 
  • Afternoon tea at Dukes Hotel (this is England after all). 
  • The view as you cross the Thames from north to south via Waterloo Bridge.
  • Summer drinks on the terraces along the Southbank before going to see a play at the National Theatre. 
  • Going outside the central London tourists hotspots to different villagey pockets, where Londoners actually live.
MONICA:  If you could travel anywhere and do anything, where would you go and what would you want to do? 

Julie: An ethical, sustainable safari in Africa. I am yet to visit any part of Africa, as part of travelling there I would love to go on a safari. I think it would be unlike anything I have ever experienced before.

MONICA:  Anything else you want to share?

Julie: I love connecting with people and learning about their goals and challenges. So if you are unsure about how InnovatorsBox coaching could help you and / or your organisation, I’m very happy to schedule an exploratory call.

Thank you, Julie for bringing humor, creativity and a down-to-earth approach to the great work that you do, for always exploring different perspectives, and for being that amazing, authentic person that you are! I look forward to working together on many more projects to come. 

About the Author

Picture of 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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