Category: Think Sync

a watercolour sketch of a disgruntled woman. behind her are stereotypical images of diversity and inclusion, people holding hands, multicoloured hands and the words daggy, lame and naff!
An original artwork by Bec Hogan

Inclusion by definition means including people, to provide equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded. 

“Inclusion moves us beyond access, beyond universal design. Inclusion — the act of including everyone — is a deeper shift towards welcoming and valuing people exactly as they are.”

https://www.cahoots.org.au/diversity-and-inclusion/inclusive-meaning/[SP1]

Inclusion and inclusivity are – of course – good things, yet how can such fundamentally good things often feel, kinda daggy, naff or even lame?

Inclusivity, diversity, and accessibility are unfortunately victims of corruption – basically good things that have been warped. Inclusion in the modern world conjures images of ethnically diverse people holding hands across the world, possibly singing whilst all humanities’ ailments simply disappear.  

It’s also become a buzzword amongst lazy industrialists and HR managers who want to be seen to do ‘good’ without really contributing to change. These are the disappointing realities of the term, inclusion, and something I’ve witnessed in my corporate work and even in the [supposedly more diverse] artistic world. I had to repress the slight rolling of my eyes and silence my own scepticism when listening to people saying the right thing about inclusion, only to let it slip off the table or be pushed to one side when something more pressing or less taxing or time-consuming takes precedent. 

So, when I was selected for the Sync Leadership program I knew that inclusivity and being inclusive were good things but I was unsure as to how they related to my leadership, and how that could make a difference to me being a better leader.

When Sarah, and the 2021 Australian Sync cohort, began to talk about inclusive leadership, and how we – as people with disability – are in a unique and natural position to inspire and explore inclusive leadership, I was intrigued. Personally, I have always gravitated towards the traditional iterations of leadership styles that centre on charisma and verbal communication. My disability directly effects my ability to write, so I learned to communicate verbally well and fast. I know how to spin a yarn to inspire my vision of the future and why those around me should be invested in a better way. But inclusiveness always seemed like a benefit of leadership rather than a crucial element of it. 

I never saw myself as particularly inclusive in my leadership style – it didn’t occur to me that diversity and inclusiveness in leadership were crucial to real access moving forward, and that being curious and courageous as a leader and cognisant of my own bias were critical factors. It seems, with hindsight, like it should have been obvious to me, but that is the biggest hurdle with internalised prejudice – it’s about realising it’s there. 

This has been a massive mental shift for me. Personally, inclusive leadership is not only about having more diversity at the heads of our systems; women in government, people of colour in boardrooms, people with disability on television, etc. It’s also about leadership behaviours; being curious and tenacious about who is not in the room and challenging that at every turn. 

With this new insight, and almost without realising, I began to notice and question differently about who wasn’t at the table. I became more verbal, more distracting in meetings and I wasn’t afraid to speak up when I noticed a room full of people discussing accessibility features and being the only person with a disability. Again, I found myself speaking up when others were discussing new positions in large organisations directly relating to disability – and no one considering hiring a person with disability. I pushed aside my unconstructive annoyance and started speaking up from within an inclusive leadership context. People noticed – and the beginnings of real change felt more possible in collaboration.

It’s funny how an idea can spark change; how moving inclusion and leadership into inclusive leadership as a practice has revealed so much more potential for me on my leadership journey. While many aspects of the Sync Leadership Program were beneficial to me; discussing motivations, meeting other leaders with disability and complex debates around interesting issues – all fun and all useful, the conversation on different leadership styles provided actionable steps for me personally. 

So while inclusion may still be a little daggy – it is still good and is worth leading for.

Bec Hogan took part in the recent Sync Intensive program in Australia in late 2021. She is the creative director of Gem Rock Media, that specializes in digital access, social media inclusion and consults for Accessible Arts and the ABC.  As an emerging artist, working in paints, photography and video art, Bec has been a part of several art exhibitions and spoken publicly on her arts practice and short films. 

Instagram: @bechogan__  
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gemrockmedia/

Richard Bell: Revolution within myself

A mixed bacteria culture the stain used was called gram stain. Where certain bacteria are stained pink and certain bacteria are stained purple during the process for identification purposes.
Truth that Underlies Identity @Richard Bell

In the ultimate revolution of me, I sat in the SYNC leadership program to learn about the awakening of myself. Constantly in conflict of the battle within my mind of career choices, it was time to explore and create something new.

Rebuilding out of the rubble of my relapse, which occurred in 2008, I immersed myself in poetry and art. In the aftermath of the relapse, hallucinations would escape my lips involuntarily in unbroken dialogue, and artistic creativity was the only way to silence the symptoms of psychosis.

For years my ink-filled footprints, marching to the beat of social advocacy. Then throughout the years, the rebellion of fighting as injustice brought me to find I was spending too much time focused on being sick and on my mental illness. So, I transitioned from illness to wellness and started focusing on myself and who I was as an individual. The beat of my drum turned me to Polynesian heritage, focusing on my Tongan background, through superimposing cultural symbols over original photography. 

But constantly conflicted in the warzone of my mind, were thoughts of, Is this who I am? Echoing off the inside of my head, Is this who I originally set out to be? Standing within the SYNC Australia leadership program was like a crucible burning away everything leaving only what was necessary. 

Standing within the SYNC Australia leadership program was like a crucible burning away everything leaving only what was necessary.

Richard Bell

The leadership drivers that we learned helped me figure out where I was coming from. In a revolutionary moment, I realised that two of the things that were driving me were stability and commerce. In the moment of truth and honesty, art was giving me none of that.

Then as the program continued, I discovered in a moment of personal power, that I was really enjoying the coaching element to the sessions. In the smoke from the rebellion through social injustice. I witnessed, through my questioning, people reacting to light bulb moments igniting the darkness of their problems. I felt good to see the changes in people on a face-to-face level.

I discovered in a moment of personal power, that I was really enjoying the coaching element… I witnessed through my questioning, people reacting to light bulb moments igniting the darkness of their problems.

Richard Bell

In amongst the leadership program, I came to the ultimate realisation that art was not really my authentic self, may have just been a tool in this revolution against the illness to become stable in my mental health. 

Poetry that fought injustices, was to process the hurt and pain of my relapse. Recognising that people who talk to themselves from the point they wake until they slept, go into homes for the mentally ill and never come out again. 

Eyes awaken to art as a recovery tool, and what was always in the back of my mind was science, it was the first certificate I completed from coming out of high school was science.

Now in the revolution of an authentic self, I have found myself a job to provide stability and commerce, and I am endeavouring to study science using art and poetry achievements as a recovery tool. In the midst of fighting injustices, I now have recovered the conflict within and revolutionised myself to find what is my true self. 

Richard J Bell calls himself a Contemporary Creative Soul and multiform artist, who delves into genres such as creative memoirs, contemporary poetry, lived experience opinion pieces, sculpture, photography and kupesi drawings.  Starting off writing about his lived experience of schizophrenia with the hopes other who have similar experiences will read and relate to it on an emotional level, he is currently transitioning from illness to wellness and rather than fighting the hurt, pain and injustice, he is working on exploring his own culture and heritage through different Polynesian kupesi designs superimposed over original photos of Tonga. Now juggling the aspects of a real job, study and artistic achievements to build a healthier self-image within, he continues live a relatively normal lifestyle in conjunction with his disability. 

Richard J Bell – Contemporary Creative Soul https://www.facebook.com/richardjbell84

Polynesian Contemporary Tribe https://www.facebook.com/polynesiantribe

Unheard Poets Society https://www.facebook.com/unheardpoetssociety

Unheard Tribes https://www.facebook.com/unheardtribes

Copyright © Richard J Bell 21st December 2021

The Zine of things to come

A scatter gun set of pictures of Sync people from UK and Canada with interconnecting lines
A montage in light blue and green of 33 different faces of Sync Alumni from Canada and the UK who took part in the Sync Meet up Exchange in the Spring of 2021,
33 SYNC ALUMNI FROM UK AND CANADA

In Spring 2021, with the support of Canada Council for the Arts and British Council, Canada, 33 of our Sync Alumni from the UK and Canada spent a month in and out of Zoom rooms supping the good soup of our leadership thinking in these unprecedented times. 

Sync has come a long way since its inception in 2008. When Jo Verrent and myself set out our Sync stall, Deaf and disabled leadership* was still a bit of an enigma with our leadership ambitions and access for the most part maligned, misunderstood and at worst, disregarded. It was Hilary Carty of Clore Leadership and her helming of the then Cultural Leadership programme that gave us the impetus and push to shape Sync our way with its kick ass ‘y’ and access in place, we have continued rolling out our disabled-led coaching leadership formula ever since. It’s become a key place to explore what gets in the way of our best laid plans and our purpose in the world together.

Disabled folk are the original adaptors and shape shifters; we – by our very presence –  challenge what leadership looks and behaves like and we’re still doing this as more of us are defying expectations of how we must behave in this space. Over the last two years, we’ve had to change our patterns and positions to stay in the leadership game; keeping up our activism and making unexpected and unusual interventions being authentic and staying true to our ways of being. We’ve had nothing and everything to lose. In this way we have continued to lead as artists, producers, managers and entrepreneurs; from grass roots to great galleries and grand stages, albeit digitally. We’ve needed allies to notice the labour this takes and to share the load of that labour. It is common sense to us, but also critical to our survival, to pace and pause particularly with online and now hybrid professional lives and so we are modelling ways of being that everyone can relate to, rather than seeing us as ‘other’ or an oddity in the pervading ableist frame we still have to operate within.

These springtime Sync exchanges were thrilling and a million miles away from a moan-fest, but powerful in our questioning around our rightful place in the arts and culture landscape. It was about leaning into and unpacking the stories of what was still getting in our way. Of course devising strategies of how to move forward differently – despite the unknown road ahead of us all featured heavily too.

The meet ups allowed us to shed light on the shielding and the restrictions, and the labels lazily foisted upon us, to claim back the word ‘vulnerable’ on our terms and broker how we might feature in climate discussions. It gave us opportunities to share our grand plans for museum and collection representation and reflect together on how we’ve helmed disabled and Deaf-led projects and organisations, always putting coaching practice – as Sync has always insisted it sit, at the heart of our leadership progression.

Our most recent intensive programme in Australia, in a new two week virtual format, has clearly demonstrated the continuing need for Sync as a safe and stretching disabled-led space to explore potential and pathways as it relates to the different societies and lands we live upon. Sync is committed to reflecting and responding to who is not in the room and who by our very entitlement we might still be excluding; that’s all part of the self-effacing position we take we must continue to take when we put our heads above the parapet.

Audio Description of Sync Zine 2021

In 2022, Sync is developing new iterations of our leadership and coaching formula: a new two week intensive format for British Columbia, a seminar series for learning disabled leaders, and a live event as part of CoMotion festival on May 1 at Harbourfront Centre.

*language around disability globally is nuanced and varied, shifting from country to country, community to community. By Deaf and disabled we include all those self-identifying as experiencing barriers due to impairment within the societies in which they live. This includes those with lived experience of learning disability, mental health experiences, chronically ill folk and those defining as neurodivergent.

Sarah Pickthall is an artist, coach, consultant and co-founder of Sync Leadership. She is a lead facilitator for Leadership in Personalised Care programme, NHS Academy, UK and Diversity Associate for Clore Leadership.

Connor sits in front of a spiked light glowing white with his head turned upward and arms by his sides. His shadow is cast against the wall behind. He wears a simple blue acid-dyed short sleeve shirt
A photo of Connor from Nextfest 2020 online performance.

On February 9, 2021, around 6 p.m., I was lying on the couch half-asleep and on my third episode of Disenchanted when I suddenly bolted upright, aghast.

A few hours previously, I had walked into my workplace of nearly 11 years and handed in my notice of resignation. It was the end of my full-time job, the end of benefits and discounts and stock options and free lunches. I had given up all of it – during a pandemic – and it was just hitting me. Much like Disenchanted’s Princess Tiabeanie, I was setting out in search of better futures despite the advice of so many to stay with what was comfortable, reliable, and known.

Had I gone mad? Part of me was already thinking about how I could walk this back – “He was in a fugue state, your Honour,” – but a few minutes later my heart stopped pounding and I had reminded myself of all the reasons I’d left. I was fortunate enough to receive some student and arts grants to pay the bills for the next few months, plus have a small freelance contract for communications work, and a few one- off consulting and acting engagements. In just a couple of months I would be starting a practicum to cap off my public relations diploma, after which I’d hopefully secure a job in the arts sector. It was simply time. But why now in particular?

What I had just done was lead with my heart. This had been a long time coming.

So long, in fact, that I can trace it all the way back to the first day of my final year of high school when I stubbornly sat in the vice-principal’s office. That morning, I and my class had realized there was no ASL interpreter booked. At all. For an entire year before I was supposed to start university. I was the sole Deaf student in the mainstream school, but most of my peers cared very much about what this meant for me. I had slowly risen from my classroom seat, taken a notebook and a pen, and walked down to the office where I sat and refused to leave until the vice-principal made specific promises to fix the situation.

That was my first real moment of self-advocacy – my parents didn’t even know until I got home that evening – and also my first run-in with a blunt truth:

Some people simply won’t have your best interests at heart.

This isn’t to imply that my “vice-principals” at Apple – the managers – didn’t care about me. They certainly did, but just as that sweating school administrator had been bound up in the hectic rush of school year prep, so my managers were bound up by the relentless push of corporate-retail work. This seems par for the course in most industries. Even the arts can fall victim to a numbers-driven cycle of cultural input and output.

I believe that managers and administrators should continue to be responsible for everyday accountability. We need that if we want to make any coherent progess as a society. However, I understand now that leaders are and must be different.

Leaders must be responsible for the longer arcs of accountability. They must be the heart-driven custodians of the beliefs and values that shape an environment and influence the amorphous formations of identity, motivation, and even trauma.

Our workplaces and institutions conflate management and leadership far too often. Perhaps there’s no way around the nature of consumerism, seeing how it is so deeply tied to the idea of capitalistic labour where inclusion is only valued for its productive output rather than its intrinsic humanity. Perhaps I’m calling for a revival of the town philosopher as a paid position on the executive board. But is that really such an outrageous suggestion in our information economy where we constantly bring in consultants to make sense of our scattered human movements?

That’s where I come in. The idea of a Deaf consultant is fairly new and still mostly contained to the arts sector where there are many efforts to meaningfully re- engage intersections of experience and marginalization in equitable ways. I believe there is a role for the Deaf consultant in the boardrooms of organizations that are looking toward sustainable ways of doing business: sustainable in the sense of treating each human body and internal world just as preciously as each of the million trees being planted or cubic metres of water being conserved.

We, the ones who so often witness and feel the death of empathy, are exceptionally well-suited to revive it.

I hope that my reflections on leading with the heart have been enough to nudge a few key decision-makers out there to shift gears, or at least inspire a new conversation at the next team meeting.

In this photo there are 4 women taking a group photo together. One is holding a sign that says 'for accessible shops' in French

A photo from 2019 of Charlotte (2nd from the right) with an ally and 2 elected officials from the City of Montreal

“I experienced ableism from Day 2 of the stroke

Charlotte Jacob-Maguire

The core framework of Sync Leadership learning is the 7 Elements and their application in Deaf and disabled leadership.  In a nutshell, the 7 Elements are Choice, Values or Beliefs, Skills or Talents, Passion, Identity, Vision and Purpose.  Developed by the Institute of Human Development, these 7 Elements are a way of understanding self and other’s responses when we spend time online together or in person, through group and 1:1 coaching conversations. 

In a catch-up conversation with recent Sync Quebec alumni, Charlotte Jacob-Maguire our session focused on considering the 7 Elements.  What quickly emerged were Passion, Identity, Vision and Purpose.  We also considered how a life-changing event can alter our life trajectory in a moment.

Purpose is what we were born to do. Corny as it might seem, in our lives we usually land upon something that is an overarching driver for our professional lives.

Passion is of course what inspires and delights us.  It is a state that we can recognise in others when they are speaking about something that really matters to them, both good and bad. 

Identity is who we are, the blend of our experiences, but also the useful or not so useful attributes we have or things we believe about ourselves that might help or hinder our progression.  What parts of our identity come to the fore at any one time?  

Vision is the picture we create of where we are going. A little fuzzy at times when life throws curveballs at us, we can work to clarify our vision through coaching, collective sharing and questioning, even in a time of ambiguity and flux.

For Charlotte, having a stroke shifted things in an instant, and pushed her love of museums and collections into new territory. Her identity shifted too, from someone without impairment to a lived experience of disability and these new facets have forced her her to constantly challenge what she believes about herself and her ‘what next?’.

Ableism had previously been more of an abstract concept.  It was certainly one that she challenged, but this change in her own life has shifted her thinking considerably. In our conversation she made a great distinction between accessibility and ableism, as well as describing the necessary shift she has made in her approach to policy and anti-discriminatory practice which she is enacting with a refreshed sense of purpose.

We’ll be sharing more about the 7 Elements in the next few months as we pool the thinking of our Sync Canada 16 with Sync UK 16 – a brilliant handful of leaders who undertook the Sync Leadership programme when it first emerged in the UK, in the lead up to 2012.

This Spring 2021 Alumni from both sides will connect online in an up-coming webinar where we will consider the individual and collective desire to spread the word that Deaf and disabled leadership is more than a notion, it’s alive and kicking!

Watch this video to see Charlotte talking through the 7 elements with Sarah Pickthall:

This picture is a poster from Maxime D.- Pomerleau's 2013 short film 'Batwheel'. In the picture Maxime is seated in her wheelchair wearing a black and red superhero costume, pointing at the reader with the words 'Batwheel wants you for her army, nearest recruting station' underneath
A poster from Maxime D.-Pomerleau’s 2013 short film ‘Batwheel’

I was able to meet up with Maxime D.- Pomerleau before the end of 2020 to explore her leadership style thinking. This short film shares her delight in discovering, as part of the Sync Programme in Quebec, that leading doesn’t always mean having to lead from the front.

This realisation has had a transformational impact, relieving Maxime of the pressure to be something that she doesn’t always want or need to be in her professional life.

Too often as Deaf and disabled leaders we feel the need to be out there and visible. Whilst we need to be recognised for our skills and talents, and to fight for the access and flex to do this, this doesn’t have to be achieved through strident flag-waving. We can be different things in different situations, following the ebb and flow of our interests, desires and energy.

It’s true that as Deaf and disabled leaders we often find ourselves to be the only disabled person in the room and having to use that opportunity to draw attention to challenge and be activist. With that comes a sense that our very presence can foist unwanted attention upon us in both good and bad ways. We also have choices to not be those things, to move away from feeling obliged.

Maxime spends much of her professional life in performance and media shape-shifting, taking on different roles whether she is part of someone else’s dance ensemble or driving her own ideas to fruition with or without a team following her lead.  She adapts her leadership as appropriate, responding to situations and needs with flexibility.  Very like her creation, Batwheel!

Batwheel is an additional and delicious case in point: she is the super heroine character that Maxime created some years ago.   The tasked crusader still has a dedicated following online and is currently being refreshed and developed for a new set of potential pandemic quests – a super heroine for crips and a leadership force for change in Quebec and beyond! 

What quests will Maxime explore that will enable her to throw light on the increasing barriers in Deaf and disabled people’s lives through this metaphorical character’s gritty endeavours?

Certainly, with and more and more of the population finding new ways to live with blocks and restrictions, Deaf and disabled leadership needs to throw lived experience of shape shifting into the mix? We have after all been on these survival quest for years. And we may just have the solutions.

Watch this video to see Maxime talking through situational leadership with Sarah Pickthall:

a picture of B.Paul Tshuma in a wheelchair, wearing a white shirt, wearing glasses

Listening is being able to be changed by the other person.

Alan Alda
B. Paul Tshuma conducts the choir from his chair in a church setting. There is a band playing instruments behind the choir.
B. Paul Tshuma conducting the United Tribulation Choir

B. Paul Tshuma is a published poet, musician, conductor and public speaker and now, a Sync Canada Alumni. Paul shares how Sync Coaching changed his thinking and his practice and shifted his focus onto the people he works with.

As a former Choir Director of United Tribulation Choir, I had a clear vision of how I would want a piece of music to be shaped and sung. As a motivational speaker or accessibility consultant, I similarly wanted to inspire people to make changes in their thinking and practice by sharing my story.

I used to be of the opinion that leadership needed patience, and that for people to change or improve they needed to practice. As part of Sync Leadership, a focus on coaching threw a different light onto how I might view the people I work with in music, motivation and consultancy. I could see how I tried to bring people round to my way of thinking and doing for a fairer more representative, accessible world.

Imposing my view of how things should be in the world, particularly an artistic vision or adjusting mindsets or architectural design for a fairer society, is one way. But it is very much about my story, what I want to see happen, linked to my values, passions and purpose.

Having spoken many times on a motivational podium and having listened to different speakers, I wondered what impact was I having? We often forget that the people sitting right in front of us may need more in order to make change.

Through Sync Coaching 1:1s and in the wider group, I shifted my perspective.  In particular, through the practice of active listening and letting go of my story, I realised that people need to find their own solutions in response to what I am sharing. This was the way that people would be more actively engaged and therefore more motivated to change.

To do this, they needed to find their own story within a shared performance or piece of collaborative work or public address to enable more change to happen for themselves and for others.

Sync Coaching changed my approach to being a better leader, helping me to know myself better through practicing active listening, and asking, or allowing others to ask me, questions.   Dialogue with the groups and teams I work with had to shift from me being the one who knows how it needs to be, to trusting that others have their own solutions. Using skillful questioning is an important part of my work moving forward, leading to pooling solutions to make for better outcomes.

My goal now is to think about the different messages that I want to convey through music, writing and speaking engagements, and to get curious about people’s relationship to the content through posing questions.  Leadership, I understand now, is about being curious about the other: to know more about my audiences, their experiences, their cultural references and what their stories are, and understanding that what I give to them is a chance to rewrite their own stories in relation to mine.

This feels like a completely different approach and one that is exciting. I am motivated to explore this further and am looking into coach training to develop my skills further so I can listen more deeply to people across everything I do.

When all is said and done, my prayer is that I leave those I work with – musicians, architects or audiences – with something that will allow them to create their own stories in response to my own, allowing them to pursue their own God-given journeys to success. As for me, I’m going to work with poetry to continue questioning whatever I can in the world around me.

Remarkable by Kelsie Acton

A screengrab of Kelsie's embroidery work.
Video: Remarkable by Kelsie Acton

A square white piece of cloth on a brown laminate floor. Words are written in blue marker.

They say:

“But what I find remarkable about (the) disability community is the intention and effort to include all of the people to the fullest extent possible, not just most of the people when convenient.”

“Convenient” is spelt wrong.

The image fades and a view of me embroidering the fabric comes into focus. I’m alternating light green and dark green thread for each letter.

The fabric is now in an embroidery frame and in the centre of the picture. You can’t see my face, just my arms and legs to the right of the embroidery. I’m dressed in dark blue and black with turquoise slippers.

The motion is steady, repetitive, pulling the thread smoothly through and then the needle diving down. A pause as my hand darts behind the fabric and then the needle and the hands reappear and all of this repeats.

This quote (that I am embroidering) was given to me by my dear friend Ash McAskill and is a quote from a paper by Carrie Sandahl. In this paper Sandahl proposes that it is not just disability but impairment itself that is generative and artistic. Impairment reconfigures space and time, opening up new aesthetics and new ways of being in community.

Close ups of three pairs of hand embroidering fill the screen from top to bottom.

If you know how to look you can see my impairment in the embroidery. The letters are not the same size despite my careful attempts to lay out the text. I have run out of room for the word CONVENIENT and it is crammed into the right bottom corner. It occurs to me that this jumble (represents) the beautiful imperfection of disability leadership and disability community.

We do try to include all of the people to the fullest extent possible; sometimes that’s a little awkward and imperfect but we make it work and we learn from this. It takes a long time: hours of repetitive tasks and motions, done with care.

The completed embroidery appears in the centre as my stitching blurs away.  It is simple, plain, revealing nothing of the hours of movement that created it and there is beauty and charm in the lettering that swells and shrinks and just manages to fit itself on(to) the page.

Quote from Carrie Sandahl’s article Considering Disability: Disability’s Phenomenology’s Role in Revolutionizing Theatrical Space in the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism

Spring 2002

Remarkable by Kelsie Acton

Photo of Ingrid Palmer
3 hands pulling back a garment to reveal a silver and diamond encrusted Chainmail undergarment
A photograph of hands revealing a silver and diamond encrusted Chainmail

“There is a crack in everything: that’s how the light gets in.” 

“Anthem”, Leonard Cohen

This month I had the opportunity to touch base with the wonderful Ingrid Palmer, Sync Ontario Alumni storyteller and active community advocate in housing, child welfare, protection and Black Voices United.   Ingrid has an excellent and growing reputation as a speaker and performer, and she and I spoke about what’s been happening since Sync in June – our first online programme in Ontario.

“Sync has changed things for me, in ways I couldn’t have imagined,” said Ingrid. “Everything I do is about amplifying voices and reclaiming power – my own and others – and doing this publicly.”  And yet, working with the Sync matrix, Ingrid identified networking as an area of weakness. Or, as Ingrid put it so eloquently, “how I simply ‘suck’ at networking!”

The Sync leadership matrix, a model designed with our colleague Mark Wright from People Create Ltd at the inception of Sync, remains a staple part of our Sync Intensive course both face to face and now online.  The matrix allows us to map our leadership confidence and connection with self, our organisations and projects, and our wider constituencies and stakeholders. It can be quite a wake-up call to see reflected back through using the matrix the areas where things need some attention.

What Ingrid identified was the sometimes unnerving mix that she holds within her personality which makes her both an extrovert and an introvert.  The blend of these two traits is sometimes referred to as ambiversion or omniversion.

Jung popularised the terms extraversion (his spelling) and introversion, but he also acknowledged that they did not exist as polarities on a continuum but rather as traits that we all have, though one is likely to be dominant over the other. A challenge for us in our leadership is to identify how we can move towards controlling or shifting these traits within ourselves as part of the self-actualisation process, thus enabling us to step fully into our power and to capitalise on our propensities.

Ingrid shared with us the important role that introversion has played in her leadership development process because it allows her to reconfigure and to rest.  It can also have its drawbacks: “I’m in control when I’m delivering, I relentlessly prepare and when I step out I’m all there, yet the aftermath is when I tend to retreat back into my shell.” 

Since Sync Ingrid has been thinking more on how she might tackle her reluctance to network when she’s not performing or on the podium.  Is there a way of doing this that allows her to extend her influence further and get more of what she wants “I’m not how people imagine me to be. When I step out of the light, I’m a softer shade of myself.”

So how has Ingrid managed to build her confidence and move into the networking space, connecting more effectively with audiences? In part, Zoom has meant she hasn’t had to deal with being in the ‘real’ space and its challenges. Entering that space has, in the past, ended with her facing a wall because she can’t see, with people not telling her that she’s facing the wrong way. This kind of demoralising experience has certainly played a part in her reluctance to step confidently off the stage and into the group.

Ingrid’s leadership metaphor has proved really useful in this respect.  She had identified chainmail, of the beautiful and sparkly sort but nonetheless impregnable, as her metaphor.  Since Sync, she has realised that she doesn’t want to be completely defended: there needs to be a chink in her protective layer to allow her to connect in a reciprocal relationship with her audiences. There’s got to be that gap, that portal that connects, says Ingrid: that chink that “let(s) the magic out.”

Watch this short video to hear more about how working with Sync has enabled Ingrid Palmer to extend more into herself:

Ingrid is a finalist at Speaker Slam – The Grand Slam which takes place from 3-5pm on November 28th 2020. She’ll be wearing her chainmail on the inside, and letting chinks of light out to highlight the opportunities that will be tumbling her way thereafter.

Alex Bulmer wearing black glasses looking upwards to the sky

A needle sat upon a vinyl record - it’s centre decorated with a fuscia pink and orange design.
‘A record album spins around…’

Alex Bulmer joined the Sync Canada Ontario programme this June. An award-winning writer, director, actor and dramaturge and Artistic Director of Common Boots Theatre, co-founder of Cripping the Stage with British Council Toronto, and the Lead Curator of CoMotion 2022, an international Deaf and Disability Arts festival produced by Harbourfront Centre. Alex shares the spin and turn of her leadership metaphor and more besides.


Audio of ”Alex Bulmer: Leadership – The Virtue of Inefficiency

A record album spins round and around as the needle lowers its tiny metal tooth into an imperceptible groove. Metal and vinyl: opposite elements, yet part of a collective whole.

This is my leadership metaphor – a vinyl album in motion delivering a series of artfully-arranged sounds.  On their own the sounds produced by single instruments hold energy (violin/electric guitar) yet somehow together they transcend expectation (orchestra/rock band).

The idea that effective leadership can actually go around in circles intrigues me.  According to the Oxford dictionary, “efficiency” can mean ability, coherence, labour saving, systematic, productive, effective. To me, the word suggests doing more with less, getting quickly from point A to point B, profit, machines….and even sight.

While swimming in a hotel pool in Los Angeles in 1997, I discovered the virtue of inefficiency.  I was on a solo trip from my home city of Toronto, or more accurately, I was giving myself “travel therapy” as an escape from the reality that I was “going blind”. On my first day in L.A. I asked the hotel staff for instructions to the outdoor pool, then used my cane to find it.

After several minutes tapping cement and patio furniture, I felt the end of hard and the beginning of liquid.   I knelt down, and reached with one hand to confirm that in fact I had found water.

Positioning myself at the edge, I lowered my body into the pool.

Once in it, I realized I had no idea of its size, shape, or depth. Reaching out, I felt the pool wall and traced it, swimming round and round for quite some time to comprehend its shape and size.

I discovered

cracks in the concrete

chunks missing, filters

and flaps

I noticed the “slap thwap” of water against the pool edge

it washed into a hollow sound by the ladder

and

a “slap echo thwap”

underneath

the diving board.

Slowly, gradually, through cycles of not knowing to knowing, I came to understand…

the pool shape —

was that

Of

a kidney bean

round at one end and narrow at the other.

I discovered the pool, gathering individual pieces, that, with sight, would have been eclipsed by the whole.

“Going blind” – two words which had, until that moment, suggested loss, a lack of awareness, a falling away.  But there, in that particular bean-shaped LA pool, this “going blind” felt like potential, a becoming – becoming one who circles, a collector of “what’s this”, a perceptual archaeologist.

And so, to circle back to my vinyl metaphor…

It continues to spin…

the metal needle remains connected,

moving along the groove.

Notes, rhythms, phrases, beats of time –

the unexpected, an emergence,

a work of art,

a song.

I am my metaphor. Blindness is a kind of time zone. Perceptual archeology nourishes a sense of meaning and connection. With this, I – and others should thrive. But we live in a “one size fits one” society, designed to streamline most of what we do, to make us “efficient”.

We need to build more liveable futures imagined and designed to enable rather than disable. Being enabled, or having access needs met, should not be a privilege held by some. It must be a shared public value, along with clean water, public health care, electricity and roads.

Imagine a Canada wide access grant to cover personal support workers, interpreters, adaptive technology, direct funding available to those who experience barriers or are at risk of exclusion.

Such a thing exists in other countries. Imagine shifting the politics of “help” toward transactional rather than charitable.

Imagine beyond the assumed….