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5 mins w/ Nicola Vague

Interviewed on 24 August 2018

Share the wealth...

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

People describe me as a passionate leader on a mission to make the world a better place - and I reckon that's pretty spot on. My purpose in the world is to evolve the consciousness of leaders to make the world a better place. I describe myself as a process expert in 'connection' - helping people, teams and organisations to surface the visible and invisible factors that are causing disconnection - at individual, team and organisational level and enabling a journey of re-connection.

Of course, this takes many forms in terms of my work with clients typically involving:

  • Leadership and wellbeing coaching
  • Team culture development
  • Leadership development and wellbeing programs

Nicola founded Evolving Leaders in 2014 with the purpose of uplifting the personal wellbeing and capacity of leaders so that company culture can thrive. Through Evolving Leaders, Nicola works with clients as a leadership development professional, coach and consultant bridging the connection between leadership, culture and wellbeing to build healthy, high performing teams and organisations. Nicola brings a fresh perspective and different approach into the leadership development arena, combing her corporate experience gained over a 20-year period in organisational development and change with a decade of intense personal development which includes the study of the arts with a degree in music, a deep fascination with art therapy and practical experience with mindfulness and meditation. Nicola brings all of this together under the banner of Evolving Leaders to equip leaders to thrive in a complex, ambiguous and uncertain world. 

Remembering back to your days as a Change Practitioner, what would be the three best pieces of advice you can give to our audience?

  1. Self-care - Put your own oxygen mask on first. I know it's a cliche in the world of change but we are so programmed to look after everyone else's needs. Check in on your own wellbeing and self-care and get some support from a coach if you need help! 
  2. Human to Human connection - look out for each other and seek out opportunities to really ask your colleagues 'how are you?" (and be interested in the answer). Take time with your clients and colleagues to really get to know them as people.
  3. Step onto the balcony - put things into perspective every day and help others caught exclusively in the small world of the project to do so too. This is especially important when projects derail and everything closes in - let's face it, it is not life and death.

With your focus now on wellness, what can our change community do to look after themselves?

  1. Be honest with yourself about your own wellbeing. Get the support you need to take personal responsibility for understanding and restoring your own wellbeing and finding a sustainable rhythm that works for you. This is essential to building your capacity and performance as a change leader. I also believe that as change managers we have an obligation to 'walk the talk' and be a role model for others with wellbeing.
  2. In a recent blog post, I talk about how it's all about creating a personal leadership model that you can use as a compass to navigate create conscious change and restore wellbeing.

What do you think broader organisations can do to help their employees when going through a lot of change?

  1. Support for transition - There needs to be better education about the difference between change and transition. Change is external to the system, process, behaviours and transition is the inside journey that people must take to accept and embrace the new way. This is not well understood and true support for people with their internal transition is often overlooked.
  2. Establish a stand-alone wellbeing strategy for major change initiatives and communicate it alongside the change project. This might include lunchtime reflect and connect sessions, meditation classes, education about EVP, mental health awareness and education and other specific wellbeing initiatives. This sends a message to people that we know we are asking a lot of you right now and we value you as a person and want to make sure that you are supported to manage your own wellbeing. The key here is to link the project and the wellbeing strategy and set aside some budget from the change bucket to make sure some wellbeing interventions happen.

How do you think your time previously as a Change Practitioner set you up for the future?

Change is everywhere every day. My 20+ years as an OD and Change Practitioner has helped me to see how we need to look systemically and holistically if we want to create transformational change. It has also directly informed my approach to working with clients as change is the thread that weaves through the Evolving Leaders model - leadership-wellbeing and culture to create high performing human teams and organisations. Finally, working with so many clients over so many years, I can see the power in creating a mindset shift from leadership as a role to leadership as a behaviour and way of being. Much of my work today is about helping clients to make this mindset shift and to take personal responsibility by stepping into the driver's seat of their own development and making conscious choices about how they show up in work and life.

Do you have any additional experiences and ideas you would like to add?

One of the big things that frustrates me about change programs is that they mostly are not integrated with Culture transformation efforts. Culture and Change are not separate. Change and Organisational Development are not separate. Mostly, however, that is how they are still managed in organisations today. As change managers, I believe there is a need to develop organisational development capability and at least work with your client organisations to integrate initiatives. The change managers and leaders of the future will need to expand their toolkit to bring much more of an organisational development capability into the change arena.