Building a raft from one destination to the other during times of uncertainty.
Not only was 2020 fraught with a global pandemic, but in the middle of national lockdown we had a global social awakening. What came to light was the uncomfortable and long-known truths of the systemic and violent persecution of black people around the world, both historic and current.
It's been a time of transformation and reflection. My thoughts provoked around this social backdrop motivated me to make some personal moves. For about three years I had wanted to create a more formal setting for a long standing side gig of mine, which was business and personal coaching. Activate Futures was now in full focus.
The global discourse taking place started to underpin the wider values of the coaching that I was aiming to deliver. It would be for women of all backgrounds who are stepping into new professional arenas, experiencing all sorts of life changes and transitions in their lives. A platform for women who empathise with each other's individual struggles, who want to support and learn from each other professionally.
The circumstances of 2020, both at home and afar, pushed me to make some new moves in my life. I was consciously aware of the fact that I was going through a metamorphosis. I was accessing my toolkit to build a 'raft' to a new plane, and it was because of my experiences with coaching that I had the skills to do this.
Coaching in my life and 'paying it forward'
Previous to 2020, there have been two critical junctures in my life where formal and informal coaching helped me to construct a new reality for myself.
When I was looking to elevate my career, I decided to seek out an executive business coach who was highly respected in their field. Someone to not only believe in me, but to be uncompromising about the types of skills that I needed to develop in order to reach my goals.
I deliberately chose a man, and someone from my own ethnic group. I needed someone who would understand the challenges pivoted to someone of colour in a corporate setting.
Hearing him say "you can do it" was powerful when you can't always articulate out loud your goals to friends and family.
Could I have achieved my goal without him? Yes, because I am a determined person. But his coaching method was an instruction sheet showing me how to push forwards and be self sufficient after the coaching was over.
He stretched me in a way that nobody else would have been able. And beyond that, he introduced me to a vast network of people. It's safe to say he's now a valued friend.
Mentors: life's unofficial coaches
One of the greatest influences in my life was a tutor from my MA in Strategic Leadership and Management 10 years ago. A tiny powerful black woman and a phenomenal force. She has similar qualities to my coach: clear and straightforward, with direct experience of the struggles of black women.
She believed in my capacity to achieve great things and her mix of honesty and confidence in me pushed me to do better.
One of the things she absolutely rejected was the term 'hard work'. Women often frame themselves as 'hard workers' instead of talented. While men often use dynamic language to describe their attributes: 'skilled', 'industrious', 'intelligent' or 'intuitive': all reflective of an emotional development based on confidence.
This focus on self talk has directly informed my approach at Activate Futures.
I don't mind telling you that I write her name on my hand every day. She still inspires me. Sometimes mentors become part of your family and there's a reason you meet them at different junctures in your life.
A raft is something you build when you need to move on to a more elevated place. Both my mentors helped me do that at a critical moment in my life.
A place of allyship
Whilst Activate Futures has been in formation for a number of years, female entrepreneurship is growing and this has also shaped my vision for the platform. I'm fascinated by the women who are running side gigs on top of their day jobs, which is also a growing phenomenon among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women and is one of the reasons during my lockdown awakening that underpinned my interest in working with women to develop their chosen careers, their passions, but also to help them develop multiple career paths too.
This platform seeks to elevate all women and is based on the shared value of recognising that both as business owners and in the corporate realms, we BAME women face a different set of challenges and complexities depending on individual circumstance.
The aim is to provide a place to address this new age that we're in and to discuss the challenges we face whether as women, as minorities or the age-based biases imposed upon us in professional spaces and how to overcome them.
The hope is for a platform for a cross-section of women to support and learn from each other.
Developing yourself emotionally in a positive way
During lockdown I began to run every day. I had always admired runners, but never saw myself as one. It certainly gave me a way to channel the pent up emotions. The unexpected side effect was the clarity that came with it: thinking time.
Coaching is a powerful tool to help us envision what we want and go after it in a strategic way and has played a significant part in my own life. I learned to think about myself in a positive way because of the positive influence of my most significant coach and mentor. That's why Activate Futures is strengths based, and seeks to radically obliterate this deficit led self talk women have been conditioned to frame themselves within, particularly when we do an MOT of our careers or lives.
Through coaching I got access to the tools that helped me envision, plan and take action towards each new phase I have been through, which I found myself drawing on during 2020. That's because the best coaches show you the path to build your own rafts in life. I want to help others do the same.
One of my favourite analogies is about 'the man in the arena' (link to About Charisse Page) which is about centering yourself in the middle of your life and recognising who is on the periphery - what matters and what doesn't.
I have been in the arena. My coach has been in the arena. My mentor has been in the arena.
Activate Futures is about sharing, growth and uplifting others. I am inviting people to step into the arena with me.