…Taking time to know your team, what inspires them, what makes them want to work, why do they do what they do, what are they really good at. Your relationship with your team is paramount to having them work together and for all your benefits. This requires making time to listen and really be curious about them and their motivations
As a part of my series about leaders who integrate mindfulness and spiritual practices into their work culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing Esther Wane.
Esther Wane is a Storyteller and Creative Coach, guiding you as you step into your unique story and become the creative hero you are meant to be. She supports you in your growth as you heed your call to action, step out in faith with creativity to provide the world with the gifts only you can offer, and then return to share your inspiring story with others.
She lives in Hertfordshire with her family, including two unsurprisingly creative children and one nutty dog. When she isn’t reading or writing she can usually be found walking her hound; browsing in a bookshop; hanging out with her children, or discussing the joys and struggles of life with a friend.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Esther! Can you please share your “backstory” with us?
Asa child, I was highly creative, immersed in a world full of stories; reading, writing and performing in every moment I could, dancing freely with her imagination. When I became an adult I put away the creativity of her childhood and picked up a successful career in an investment bank. While this gave me status and security, it did not bring satisfaction. Instead it brought shame and separation from myself and my creative journey.
After my daughter was born I was faced with the realisation that if I was going to teach my child to thrive, I would have to show her the way. So began my hero’s journey to listen for my call to action, take creativity’s offered hand, and step into my unique story.
Through developing my creative practice I have become an award winning and in demand audiobook narrator with over 150 credits to my name, including Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven series, Thomas Hardy’s “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” and Sarah Vaughan’s “Anatomy of a Scandal.” I have published my first novel, “The Way Home” and have a second book in the pipeline: “Be Your Own Hero: A Mindful Guide to Thriving in a Creative Life.”
Much of this has been made possible by employing the business leadership skills I developed as an Executive Director in finance as well as practicing positive psychology and mindfulness meditation. I have studied for a number of qualifications in these areas to better support my coaching clients and continue to invest in my professional development.
What role did mindfulness or spiritual practice play in your life growing up? Do you have a funny or touching story about that?
I grew up as a practicing Christian so worship, prayer and a relationship with God have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
I didn’t always quite know how to approach prayer or what to do with it though, I’m still learning! When I was a teenager and we went to church there was always a moment at the end of the service where the last hymn had been sung, the choir had processed out and then everyone sat down or knelt to pray again. I was never sure what I was supposed to say at this point, as I guess I felt I’d said what I had to say during the service and I was ready to go home now so I just used to say “Thank you, see you next week then,” as if God was a relative I visited on Sundays rather than a presence that is always with me and part of me.
How do your mindfulness or spiritual practices affect your business and personal life today?
They are the bedrock of everything I do and the anchor to how I make choices with my life. I strive to make my whole life a prayer, an offering to God, recognizing that every act is a spiritual act. I read something in a book I narrated that asserted we are spiritual beings having a human experience and that is how I hope to experience this life.
From a practical perspective, I build in routines and habits to give a centre to my prayer and meditation practice. Most mornings I get up before everyone else so I can meditate for 15–20 minutes, then I read something inspirational or thoughtful for 15 minutes and afterwards I write a journal freehand for about 15 minutes. I recently started writing the journal as a letter to God, addressing him “Dear Abba” or occasionally “Dear Mummy” if I am finding myself blundering even more than usual, so that I can reinforce the recognition that God is a loving parent and wants the absolute best for me.
At the other end of the day I write a journal before I sleep where I stick in a picture of something about the day, write down seven things I did, seven things I saw, one thing I heard and one thing that made me laugh. After that I write down at least three things I am grateful for. Giving daily thanks for the beauty, love and joy in my life has a profound impact on how I approach my life.
Most Sundays I go to church and I love being part of a church community, after being welcomed into it about two years ago.
Outside of this formal practice I love to walk in nature, especially in the mountains and take time to indulge in some awe and wonder at how beautiful, complex and huge our universe is. My work also gives me opportunity to meditate as while I am narrating an audiobook I aim to be giving my full attention to the performance, and if my mind wanders I bring it back to the book and then carry on.
All of these practices have had a profound impact on the level of joy I feel in my life and has really helped me to manage my anxiety and panic levels, hopefully making me calmer in a crisis and therefore more creative in working out how to solve problems. This has then made my relationships much richer and more enjoyable. I am much more willing to listen and consider conversations rather than react from my perception that my loved ones are simply bringing problems to me to solve, or worse that they are problems for me to solve, rather than humans I am sharing my life with and am living in relationship with.
Do you find that you are more successful or less successful because of your integration of spiritual and mindful practices? Can you share an example or story about that with us?
I believe I am much more successful as a result of integrating a spiritual element to my work and life. Before I became an audiobook narrator I worked as a senior manager in Compliance for various investment banks. I had all the outward trappings of success but a sense of emptiness at the heart of it. I believed that being happy was not realistic and instead we should aim for a bland sense of contentment with occasional moments of happiness that we should treasure as if they were rare diamonds. Now I have a wonderful work life where I do what gives me joy every day, hopefully sharing some of that joy with others too.
I have recognized that the thoughts I had about happiness were totally wrong. Joy is now the foundation of my life, whatever other emotion I am feeling, even sadness and pain I feel joyful as they are part of the gift of life for which I am always grateful, including at those times when life is extremely challenging.
I can also make a living while wearing my pajamas, from the bottom of my garden, with my dog at my feet and my children in the home, what’s not to love about that?!
What would you say is the foundational principle for one to “lead a good life”? Can you share a story that illustrates that?
I think the foundational principle to lead a good life is to love. Love is the best of us, it is what wants the best for us and it is our best guide as to where we should place our attention and energy. As the song goes “The greatest thing you’ll every learn is just to love and be loved in return.”
My decision to leave my City career and try to follow my childhood dreams of being a writer and actor was born out of my love for my daughter and my son. That love taught me that if I wanted them to feel joy and be fully engaged in their lives, working for what they believed in, I had to show them the way.
Love is my guiding star. I love my life, I love my work, I love books, I love my friends and family, even my crazy dog when he’s eating yet another shoe! I would love to see a world where everyone acts out of love and makes love the center of who they are. I think it would be a peaceful but highly creative world.
Can you share a story about one of the most impactful moments in your spiritual/mindful life?
When I left Drama School I had no idea what came next. I was bewildered by the options of what I could do but unsure what would work or what to try first. I remembered the advice from Penny, my Alexander Technique teacher, who said that when you don’t know what to do, do nothing. So I signed up to the Headspace meditation app, lay down on the floor and started to meditate.
Each day I meditated for twenty minutes, asking myself what I wanted to do next, rather than what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, which felt rather overwhelming. I would listen for the answer and when it came from deep inside my intuition, that is what I did.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are endless people who have inspired, taught and guided me throughout my life and without whom I would have found it very difficult to be where I am now. But my Mum is the one who has been there for me every step of the way. She was the one who recognized that drama and books could be my salvation when I had a heart condition as a child. She was the one who kept asking me when I was going to try and be an actor even when I had an established career. She is the one I turn to whenever I am struggling, or if I want to discuss something that is confusing me. I am always aware of how much love she has for me and seeing the love she has for my children is also wonderful.
Can you share 3 or 4 pieces of advice about how leaders can create a very “healthy and uplifting” work culture?
- Taking time to know your team, what inspires them, what makes them want to work, why do they do what they do, what are they really good at. Your relationship with your team is paramount to having them work together and for all your benefits. This requires making time to listen and really be curious about them and their motivations.
- Starting from where you are as a team. Rather than becoming mired in all the things that are wrong, from your perspective, really looking at your role and situation then asking what you can do to make things better. Having a team that looks outwards to consider how they can improve things using their skills, ideas and experience is a very powerful place to be in.
- Be truly inclusive of the ideas and perspectives of others. Matthew Syed wrote about the need for cognitive diversity if teams are to find creative solutions to complex problems. This kind of creativity can only thrive if leaders truly invite other perspectives and offer a non-judgmental place for new ideas to be mooted. Unfortunately, even in diverse teams, many team members only put forward ideas they think their manager wants to hear, so you may need to get creative about how to unlock all the potential creativity in your team.
- Love your team and love your work. Approaching your work and your team in a way that looks to make the best environment for them, bring out their strengths and improve the world around you with the work you do, is a powerful way to lead.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I recently gave a TEDx talk called “Grow Up and Get Creative” and that’s what I’d love to inspire everyone to do. We are all creative beings with different ways of expressing that, whether it’s in designing buildings, fixing IT systems or writing a book. If we all embraced that creativity and worked with it, using our unique capabilities to address one of the many issues in our world, we could all make the world a little better, and seven billion people doing that at once would soon see us living in a very different place and having a very different experience of what it is to be human.
How can people follow you and find out more about you?
If you want to connect with me or find out more please visit my website on: https://www.estherwane.com
or find her on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/voicesther/
or Twitter: https://twitter.com/estherwane/