Blogs by InnovatorsBox®

MEET KASIA GURGUL: A COACH FILLED WITH CURIOUSITY & EAGERNESS TO HELP

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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.

Kasia Gurgul is a curious listener. Always hungry to help leaders see possibilities in every gap they feel, her background of serving leaders and executives around the world has helped her empathize and support innovators in a depth and lens that others may not often see. 

Kasia hears you and gets you, and with her, you’ll walk out of a meeting with new insights and strategies. This is why, when we were connected through a different coaching project, not only did I love her pursuit of curiosity, but also knew that we wanted to work together. 

Today, we get to serve many teams and leaders to rethink challenges. And we get to see possibilities with her love for action, strategy and leadership. I’m eager to see more leaders continuing to feel at ease as they navigate challenges. 

In my Q&A with Kasia, we go over topics such as why she loves coaching and why creativity is crucial in what she does, how she manages working across different time zones, what tips she has for those who’re eager to be better leaders, to where she finds inspiration, what is she reading and listening and so much more! Learn more from Kasia who will not shy away from telling you how honing how to listen better is going to help you thrive no matter where you are. 

MONICA: How would you describe yourself in three words?

Kasia:  Explorer (of) Ideas & Cultures.

MONICA: Why is creativity important to you?

Kasia: To me, our individual and collective creativity is what makes us humans interesting and allows us to come up with new possibilities to solve complex problems.  For a long time, I didn’t know that I was creative. I studied biochemistry and microbiology in university and somehow I came to believe that creativity was associated with being an artist, and I did not appear to have any artistic talents. 

In my mid-30s I was sharing a house with a close friend who was a graphic designer and she helped me realize that creativity applies to all fields and that it is an essential part of business, science, and technology. It changed my map of the world and I can’t believe I didn’t see that before. Now as a leadership coach, a large part of my work is about having creative conversations to help my clients identify new perspectives and opportunities that didn’t seem to exist before. 

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

Kasia: A year ago in November, I was working with a stressed manager in Washington, DC. As we were talking, I saw him run his hand through his hair several times and I shared my observation that he seemed tense. His face changed and he said “finally someone can see I’m stressed”

That simple act of noticing made such a difference to him. It was a tiny fraction of our conversation, yet it felt like his energy changed completely in that moment. 

We were both in lockdown due to the pandemic and I could see he needed to have some fun to take some pressure off his shoulders.  I shared with him that I’d recently started dancing at my desk to get some movement during the day. The next time we met he told me that had danced with his girlfriend at home. He said he felt so much better afterwards and that it even helped strengthen their relationship during this stressful time. 

As adults, we often stop doing the things that bring us joy. Yet these are the things that often energize us to help us be more resilient as we tackle our challenges and responsibilities. 

Trends about work:

MONICA: Why did you want to become a coach?

Kasia: Coaching was one of the most surprising and powerful experiences that I’ve gone through myself. It was different than any other conversation I’d ever had.  I felt that it was my purpose to share this skillset with managers & executives and help them implement their own coaching skills so they could bring out creativity and diversity of thought.  It has been incredible to work  with hundreds of leaders around the world and see them turn talent into results. Most managers  who are sent to leadership workshops do not get any support to help them implement what they learn.  It is a waste of knowledge, talent, and resources.  It has been a win-win for everyone, leaders, employees & shareholders to give them more support with implementation and help them be more effective and strategic.

MONICA: You’ve lived in so many places and worked with so many people. How do you balance all the different time zones? Any advice on logistics and time management and energy management as you speak and engage with so many people? 

Kasia: My schedule could easily get out of control if I don’t manage it closely. If I have early morning sessions with clients in Asia or Europe, I aim to wind up my day earlier, and if I have an evening session, then I often start later or take an afternoon break. 

Making sure to get quality off-screen time is essential for me so my breaks are just as important as my work. I do yoga, go for walks, and make nutritious meals. If I feel tired I do a short meditation in between my sessions and it really refreshes my mind. 

Travel Expands Ours Perspective and Makes Us Less Biased, by Kasia Gurgul on LinkedIn Pulse
MONICA: One tip you’ll share to all leaders on how to be a better leader today?

Kasia: As a leader, it can be easy to fall into the trap of wanting to be the hero and being in full control. Avoid getting into a pattern of doing all the decision making and problem solving yourself. Encourage your team to think through challenges and contribute their own ideas. Help them to explore their thinking. This brings out diversity of thought, builds capability, confidence, ownership and engagement, and saves leaders a lot of time and energy in the long run. I have seen this work wonders for new leaders as well as leaders with 38 years of leadership experience. 

MONICA: You speak of the importance of more leaders having a coaching mindset. Why is that key and what does it mean to have a coaching mindset?

Kasia: A coaching mindset has several essential elements – being fully present in the moment, non-judgemental, and fully believing in the potential of the person you are with. It is essential because it creates the focus, psychological safety, and creativity for new thinking to emerge.

Agile Learning Helps Us Learn & Develop the Skills We Need Just In Time, by Kasia Gurgul 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?

Kasia: We now know that chronic stress leads to many illnesses so I’m happy that well-being is being taken into account in leadership development for so many reasons.  Encouraging healthier work cultures makes so much sense because it leads to greater focus and clarity of thought for decision making, better workplace relationships, and greater energy and engagement. This is a better outcome for everyone. 

Encouraging healthier work cultures makes so much sense because it leads to greater focus and clarity of thought for decision making.

Getting to know Kasia

MONICA: What advice would you give your younger self?

Kasia: Instead of agonising over decisions and trying to predict outcomes, experiment and see what happens.  Predictions are often wrong, even when they are made by experts because circumstances are always changing and there are many variables. This is especially true right now in our current business environment.

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

Kasia: I recently listened to a podcast by neuroscientist Caroline Leaf and got one of her books to help my mother because she was saying that her cognitive function is not the same after going through chemotherapy. The research shared here is really interesting and it is amazing to understand that our minds are so powerful. It is called ‘Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess: 5 Simple, Scientifically Proven Steps to Reduce Anxiety, Stress, and Toxic Thinking’. 

Book: https://www.cleaningupyourmentalmess.com/

Podcast:  https://anchor.fm/cleaningupthementalmess

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

Kasia: I think our world is super interesting and I like watching documentaries and movies based on true stories. I recently watched ‘The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind’ the story of William Kamkwambaon on Netflix, and then watched his Ted Talks on uTube about how he built a wind turbine in his village in Malawi using his father’s bicycle and parts he found, saving his village from famine. 

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

Kasia: Dancing salsa brings me joy and energy, exploring new places outdoors, and doing yoga -all outside preferably! 

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

Kasia: I recommend renting a car to explore Vancouver Island:

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

Kasia: I’d love to go on an around the world trip and have lunch or dinner with all of my clients, in their favourite local restaurant!  It would be great to meet them in person!  

MONICA: Anything else you want to share?

Kasia: When you encounter a barrier, keep exploring and persist to find a way around it. Life rewards action & creativity! I love to connect with people all over the world so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Thank you, Kasia for remaining curious, empathetic, eager to serve, and for all that you do to help leaders and innovators around the world get better! I look forward to working together in many more projects to come!

To connect with Kasia: 

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

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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