Thank you to the 1646 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 questions! I hope reading 7 Questions with
helps you in your leadership.
Name: Bonnie Kowaliuk
Title: Mindfulness Coach and Transformational Leadership Consultant
Organisation: Senses Mindfulness Coaching
Bonnie Kowaliuk is an eclectic mindfulness coach and transformational leadership consultant. She was inspired to pursue a higher purpose focusing on the mental health and wellbeing of men and families resulting from her own personal challenges to tackle broken systems that no longer serve their needs. Her background in human services, leadership, mindfulness and the expressive arts has supported her own capacity to deliver online coaching, counselling and programs to promote mental health, wellness, optimal learning and human performance. Her hope is to inspire growth, change & evolution in others and their family/organizational systems.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
As a leader one of things I have noticed both in family and organizational systems is the inability of these systems to build a bottom up leadership interpersonal dynamic and capacity to cope with change and stress. Stress and trauma present on a spectrum, from mild to severe. Some individuals and systems have the internal capacity to cope and self-regulate while others do not; many do not take the time to reflect, review and rebuild themselves internally and focus too much on the external world and external stressors. Where in reality the biggest stressors imposed on the individual and the system are internal and unseen. They are those things not spoken and not heard. The skeletons that rattle and shake the foundational frameworks of individuals and systems as a whole. The lies we tell ourselves that go unchecked.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I am a grassroots leader - a mom, a small business owner and practitioner, who thought getting an MBA in leadership would magically transform me into a leader that others would follow, respect and seek for guidance and mentorship. Then I discovered that like parenting, the business world does not come with a best practice handbook.
I was force to dig deep and to do some serious soul searching relative to how to support the mental health of men and families given my family system fell apart and I watched my son struggle with his own learning and mental health challenges in educational and community systems that do not support and meet the needs of young boys and men who are faced with hidden learning disabilities, food allergies and mental health hurdles. Society in all its advances still did not meet mental health from a place of compassion, curiosity and non-judgement. The stigma and guilt were more damaging and toxic than the mental health difficulties.
As a change catalyst and leader in meeting mental health and walking with it individually and systemically, my aspiration was to heal from the inside out and to support the whole person as creative, resourceful and whole. To dance and play with mental health versus be fearful and confused about it.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I structure my days by starting with a mindfulness practice and some reflective journalling, check in on my emails and texts, establishing personal and professional priorities, making space for creating music (singing and playing guitar) as well as to walk my Australian Shepherd, connect with clients (potential and current), grow and build awareness of mindfulness, mental health, current trends and services I offer. At end of day I try to make time for some mindful walking in nature, personal journal, yoga, exercise and reading or listening to music or educational podcast prior to going to bed. Being a life long learner and growing in awareness and understanding of the self is a fundamental life long journey that I partake in.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
Suspend judgement and explore each person, situation and system with a beginners mind. Judgement impairs our ability to invite curiosity and looking at the world through new eyes. Playfulness and laughter bring joy and energy to meet challenging situations that can overwhelm the human spirit. Facing our selves each day in the mirror knowing we are bringing our best foot forward to meet my own challenges as well as those of my clients, allows me to bring a state of gratitude and honour into the healing space, my own and others.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Viktor Frankl's, Man's Search for Meaning. This book touches the heart and soul of what it means to be human. This man's story impacted how I meet my own adversity as well as that of others in the midst of uncertainty, dramatic change and transformation of human consciousness. It reminds me to bring into conscious awareness the thoughts, emotions, the life experiences, patterns and beliefs that potentially bias and distort my ways of thinking, responding and coping. One of my favourite quotes as a mindfulness coach that I pull from this writing is, "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In that response lies our growth and our freedom." Freedom is a choice and my ode to freedom is to empower myself and others to choose wisely and differently in service of themselves and the greater of humanity.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Be authentic, be real and be true to yourself. Seek to understand yourself so that you can truly understand others and can be guided by right values and right action regardless of both internal and external pressures.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
A story that comes to mind is that of a young man who came to me, feeling his marriage and the trust he had in his partner had come to and end. He was a leader in middle management in the forestry sector and was seeking someone to guide him through his confusion, his hurt and emotional pain and suffering. His values to support and sustain his family and family values were strong and he was committed to go the distance. After several sessions, exploring his fears and worse case scenarios, he had an epiphany about the state of his marriage, about how he was or was not meeting the needs of his partner and how ultimately he need to come to a place of forgiveness and compassion to be able to repair and move forward in his marriage in order to sustain the sacred space of his family system. He could have given up, thrown in the towel, walked away and started over looking for greener grass in other pastures. Instead he persevered, he did some hard looking at himself, his partner and his values. Ultimately his values became his compass, along with his inner leader who guided him to find his way.