The Gift Of Self-Awareness, Emotional Intelligence, And Mindfulness With Kristen Harcourt
Kristen Harcourt warms up this virtual campfire by sharing her gift to the world as she talks about what increasing self-awareness has done for her clients. She talks about a personal story of her going through bullying and how these moments started a chain of events that allowed her to help today’s leaders. Understand her insights and the vision that she has created for her clients that improves not only self-awareness but emotional intelligence and mindfulness as well. Realize, from her own experience, what the human experience is all about and why Kristen believes that you should get used to discomfort as you walk the path of reaching your full potential.
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The Gift Of Self-Awareness, Emotional Intelligence, And Mindfulness With Kristen Harcourt
It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Kristen Harcourt. For more than a decade, Kristen has helped executives and emerging leaders in hundreds of organizations worldwide achieve extraordinary and sustainable results through increased self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and mindfulness. In addition to being an in-demand speaker and facilitator, she is also an accredited coach, empowering leaders to become more aware of their strengths, blind spots, values, and purpose so they can build lives and organizations of success, sustainability, and health. A big believer in compassion, authenticity and conscious leadership, Kristen's mission is to help leaders transform from the inside out creating a meaningful career and purpose-driven life where they reach their full potential. On a personal note, Kristen loves yoga, meditation, travel, and spending quality time with the important people in her life. I want to welcome you to the show, Kristen.
It's great to be here, Tony. I'm looking forward to our conversation.
Me too. I love what you're doing in the world. I feel like I've got a kindred spirit in you. I'm loving the fact that we have this chance to jam and uncover the story that brought you to do all the great work you're doing in the world. To give you a little sense as to how we roll on the show. What we do is talk about these flashpoints that will help you to reveal how you ignited your gifts into the world. It could be one or many. We're going to allow you to give you the space to share those and stop along the way and see what's showing up. With that, Kristen, it's your turn to take the mic.
Thank you for creating the space because, for me, it's fun to reflect and look back at the journey and what got me to this place. Of course, there were several pivotal moments. As I was thinking about our conversation, one of the things that jumped out for me is the ability to take the step back and make courageous decisions and do things that might feel uncomfortable. It's something that I do a lot and helped my clients do a lot. I started to look back to when did I start to develop that ability. I always describe myself as being someone who has lots of empathy and compassion mixed in with fierce courage.
I started to recognize, when I was in an elementary school, in junior high, before high school in grade seven, I experienced some bullying. To be quite honest, in terms of the bullying, I was a bystander when some girls were bullying someone who was previously my friend, and then, later on, that shifted those same girls bullying me. For those next two years, in grades 7 and 8, I learned how to build some resiliency. I feel like there wasn't as much education back then around bullying. I wasn't telling my parents what was going on. I thought this is my role. I need to figure it out. I didn't tell teachers. What eventually ended up happening is I started to make new friends. Individuals who we had gone to school from kindergarten to grade eight, but different people who I didn't know previously.
Have the ability to take a step back, make courageous decisions, and do things that might feel really uncomfortable.
I also made a decision when we were starting to think about the next high school and going to high school. Everyone was going to be going to the same high school together. I said to my parents, “I'm ready for a change. I don't want to go to the same high school with all the same people I've been with from kindergarten to grade eight, nine years of my life. I want to go somewhere else with brand new people.” Looking back at the time, my parents are like, “Are you sure? Are you ready for that? It's going to be new people, new situations. It's high school.” They're thinking to themselves remembering their high school experience can already be a little bit awkward. I said, “I'm 100% sure. There's no doubt in my mind. That's what I want to do.”
That decisiveness, when I know I want to do something, I'll do it, and I'll jump fully in recognizing there might be discomfort, but I know that's what feels right for me. I talk a lot about intuition and listening to my heart and it’s when I started to listen to my heart and recognize there's an opportunity now. There are two different paths and I'm ready to take a new path. It ended up being amazing. It was an opportunity to meet a whole bunch of new people. I found that as I came into my own in a different way that I didn't feel like I had to be who that person was that was expected for those last nine years with all of those schoolmates. It’s like you have a role and you get labeled. That's how you are supposed to be.
I started to recognize, “That doesn't feel like my authentic self. This is who I want to be and how I want to show up.” I wasn't using the authentic language self back then. I went to be hone with what that word meant but it started to be one of those pivotal moments when I was recognizing this is what it looks like to be in alignment. I felt like it continued through high school. I made wonderful friends but there was another time where someone in high school was not aligned, we did not have shared values, and I did not like the way she treated others or treated me.
I remember her jumping on a phone call with me one time and I said, “We need to have an important conversation.” She said, “What's the important conversation?” “I need to let that we can't be friends anymore.” She cried and had a lot of emotions. I acknowledge those emotions. Looking back, I was using that emotional intelligence muscle. I didn't know it at the time. I wasn't shying away from conflict. I knew that a conversation had to take place. I showed up with empathy and compassion for that human in front of me recognizing it's not about her. It's about the type of things that she believes in and I believe in and how we want to show up in the world that is not aligned.
That happened there. It continued down there but what I did notice as I went into university is that I still wasn't sure what do I want to do in the world. I don't know. I'm sure a lot of people, I'm curious around where you were at with this Tony, but I said, “I'll do Sociology and Psychology because that's a great undergrad. I don't need to know exactly what that means or where I'm going,” so I did that. I still wasn't quite sure. I graduated and started a couple of different jobs. What started to become crystal clear for me is that in a couple of the first jobs that I had, I had some leaders where you can think about those leaders who inspire you, and then those leaders who, for a variety of reasons, do not inspire you.
They make it difficult to go to work. They don't have a lot of self-awareness, emotional intelligence, or ability to help coach you and see your potential. For the first couple of bosses that I had, I lack self-awareness, a little bit of bullying, and a little bit of toxic behavior, not specifically to me, but in terms of how they showed up as a leader in their workplace. When it got to the third leader where it got to the point of a very senior leader and we see this sometimes, there's been some research to show that 8% to 10% of CEO can be what you described as that sociopathic personality, charismatic, able to get shareholders on board with things, super smart, but behind the scenes, not good at dealing with other humans and interacting in a positive way.
That was the time after that third boss, I paused and I reflected, and I said, “This is the work that I've been called to do.” I want to help those people that are either in those situations where they're having to be around those behaviors and help them recognize you don't. There's another way and what does it look like for you to be brave, courageous, stay aligned with your authentic self, and what you deserve to have in this life but then also help leaders which there's a whole spectrum. I'm not working with the ones who are on that other side of the spectrum. They have no lack of self-awareness, but the leaders that are more at the good. I want to help them go to great. I want to take them to levels and places that they can't even imagine and tap into those resources that they're not tapping into.
It was at that time that I recognized those leaders did not happen to me. Those leaders happened to me. It was part of my journey because it contrasted for me the possibilities. I then started to recognize more and more like, “What do those possibilities look like?” I did a lot of work in the HR space, talent management, and leadership development. I then went on my own journey working with my own coach and eventually going into my coaching program and becoming a certified coach. When I'm more of that transformational journey where it was always in there, it was always in my heart where I'd always say I was the dreamer. I was always the one that said, “Why not?”
I would get the, “Kristen, you have to come back to reality. You can have the rose-colored glasses. I know for you, it's all unicorns and rainbows.” No, I'm a realist, but I believe there are so many possibilities and that we hold ourselves back. When we start to say, “That's okay for that person, but that can't happen for me. That individual is able to do that because they had access to this education, these finances, and these things. The purpose and joy in your work, that's for other people. That's not for me.” I got this and then I started to understand on a fundamental level, “I get this. I'm here to help teach others as well and help them recognize that we all have greatness. We all have that authentic self where we feel fulfilled and connected, joy, attuned and I'm here to help others get to that place and unravel those layers.”
I love that you say that because there's something about that had touched the inner side of my soul because I felt that along my journey where I felt like when you hear, “That’s okay for those people.” Purpose and joy should be unalienable that every person has access to. If my journey and your journey is to help other people to unlock that, then I'm ready for that. That's the thing that we are here for. That somehow our calling is wrapped up in unlocking that for people because we feel like it's a God-given right. Whoever you follow, that's a right that we all have as humans are to have that ability to connect with something that makes us feel alive.
I want to come back to some of the things that you shared in your story because there's so much to unpack. It’s such an amazing journey you've been on. I think about your first coaching conversation. That's what it was in high school. The theme that I'm hearing is this empathetic fearlessness. I don't know what it is, but there's something about it that feels so right. People think it's like two opposing forces, but it fits like a glove because that's what you need to navigate the world is to be able to be out there and be okay to take those risks. In fact, one of the things that I've seen along your journey is the ability to expose yourself to so many things, to see more than one example of leadership, and eventually seeing more and more of different types of leadership has now given you a data set that says, “Something is not right here. Now that I know this, I can do something about it.” I’m going to pause and get a feel for it like, “Am I on the right track?”
We all have that authentic self where we feel fulfilled, connected, and joy.
Yes. It was something that I sometimes had a hard time with. As a female, we can sometimes get these stories that assertiveness is a bad thing, but assertiveness is around when it's being used from a place of respect, love, and kindness. When I think about a client, it's in the service of that individual. It's never about making that person feel like they're not enough or that they should change. Their humanness is who they are, but there's a longing for them to be able to show up in the world as the person that they can be.
For myself as well, there's sometimes some confusion around that. It's almost like you're supposed to be in one camp or the other. Jacinda in New Zealand is a great example of that in terms of a leader and how she's showing up. She's transparent and she's also assertive like, “This is how it's going to go. This is what we're going to do,” but she is empathetic as well. She recognizes inclusivity and “I want everyone to feel part of this.” There's sometimes been this and some might describe it as maybe the masculine and the feminine energy. I know some people have described it like that, but I feel like I tap into both. For some, that might be confusing because they want to put you in one camp or the other camp. I see possibilities and I want to be in both camps.
Everyone is a leader. It's about finding that balance between being both soft and hard at the same time and between two opposing forces. I love that you say, “I don't want to be in either camp.” I hate boxes. Oftentimes, people paint each other into these boxes. That's so restricting. We start with ourselves. We think like, “This is how I need to be in the world. It’s so frustrating.” I feel like that is something that comes from your journey around, “This is how I needed to be.” When you started to say like, “No, I don't have to be.” Even in your high school story, it was so interesting how after nine years, you're like, “I want to go and do something else. I don't want to be painted in this box and I can do whatever I want. I can be whoever I want. I can be more authentically me.” By freeing yourself of that box, it allows you to be whatever is authentically you. It's not about trying to be someone else. It's about freeing yourself so you can be who you are.
What comes up for me, Tony, is you're saying that as well is I had that entrepreneurial itch for a long time and it’s okay because I needed to do things, learn, grow, and get experience to be ready to do that. There was an unconscious belief based on what I experienced with my family, where they were very much like we have stable jobs. My dad was an engineer, my husband is an engineer, my mom was in accounting and finance. They were more linear thinkers. For them, they couldn't wrap their head around like, “What's that going to look like? You're not going to have a consistent salary.” I was like, “Yes. That means I get to create and there are no limits. I get to decide what my reality looks like. I can decide who I co-create with, co-partner with and the possibilities.”
For a long time, there was an unconscious belief operating that's a bit risky. We don't do that and we need to make sure. There was a couple of times growing up where my dad was laid off. I saw my dad get laid off from two different jobs. You're hearing conversations. They were great. My parents taught me from a young age around finances and they weren't the type that, “This is the finances.” We talk about it. They did talk to us about it, but I’m sure there was a part of me that also said like, “Look what happens.” We need to be thinking about stability because I saw some of that stress that would have come up for my parents back then too.
It's interesting when you start to recognize the stories, acknowledge the story, see the beliefs are they're coming from, and be able to hold onto like, “It's okay. It's normal for you to be feeling that and have some reservations.” Probably I'd rather have some reservations. It'd be a bit more realistic because as you know, starting a business does require some mindset shifts and responsibility as well. I don't want to go up there and be like, “It's okay to take five years to grow the business. We don't need to have any worries.” I have two children. I'm married. I have a family. I have responsibilities. Sometimes the risk part, it is good to take some time, reflect, look at the big picture, and what that looks like. I wanted to acknowledge that itch had been there for a while, but it's also getting to that place where you're ready to. For me, it was taking the leap of faith.
I heard this quote and I wanted to share it with you to see how this lands for you. “The cost of your new life is your old life.” When you start to jump into this new world of being an entrepreneur or a person who creates something like this, people who knew you and your past, including your family, they start to say like they're worried about your new start. They're worried about who you're becoming. You have to, in some ways, reframe yourself in that way and be comfortable with, “I'm becoming someone different now.” I'd love to hear your thoughts on that concept.
What I recognized quickly is I had to surround myself with the community of people who were in the same place that I was because if I needed to have a safe space where I could share that was a rough week, one week with a proposal, next week this is happening, then this happened, and it's this zigzag and roller coaster. I couldn't possibly share that with my family because if I would've shared it with my family, they would have said, “Let's go back to the job. This isn't where you want to be.” “No. This is the reality. This is what it looks like to be an entrepreneur.” I need to be around other people who understand that and we're having the shared experience so that I can share the good days and the difficult days.
We can be there for one another. We can be supportive, but then sometimes we can also challenge ourselves and say, “I hear you saying it's always going to be like this, but I remember last week you got that big speaking engagement.” We reflect that back to one another. They can also share, “I was feeling that way as well.” We're learning from one another. That was important for me. I recognize that from day one. I could already feel distressed. The energy of the stress that was coming from my parents, they're like, “Is this going to work?” I didn't want to beat into that stress. That first year, I was starting to ramp up. I already have enough going on in my head. I don't need to take on other people's worries. That's not for me. Compassion is only coming from love from them. I want to acknowledge that it's only because they care about me, who they are and I love them for that.
I recognized that I needed to surround myself with people who were doing this work and then also people who had been here longer. People had done this for 5 or 10 years and they can show me some of the ropes. They can show me what's possible and I can continue to challenge myself and up-level because, for me, it's about constantly going outside of the comfort zone, being in that discomfort, and recognizing. This is when I've gotten through the pandemic and working with a lot of my clients. Yes, I love joy. I love feeling happy and it's easy, but that's not what the human experience is. There's always going to be discomfort. It's around not trying to get rid of the discomfort but what do I need to do to be with the discomfort, work with it, and not create a story that I can't be here. I don't want to do this. I'm not going to take on things that are difficult because I don't want to be in discomfort.
The human experience isn't meant to be full of joy. There's always going to be discomfort.
That's what growth is. Growth is discomfort to some extent. If you're not growing, then you're not making progress in your life in the way that you want to get to that next place. We've naturally gone to this place as the lessons that you've taken away from your journey. As you look back, what are the things that you've learned that have been important for you as you are now in the world? What are the things that you think about most and you share with your clients?
There are so many lessons. The one around continuously showing up as your authentic self and the people pleaser in me. I got a lot of that in school. I love those school stars and those eight classes. They give me those marks. I really liked that validation. Recognizing that there is a disruptor in me. The disruptor is not just disrupting for the sake of disrupting. The disruptor wants to challenge people to think differently. If you're going out there and challenging people to think differently, for example with what we've been experiencing in terms of inequity and racial injustice. I have a strong value around equality and inclusivity that got built strong when I dealt with the bullying. The kindness muscle was even taking another level, not just about the kindness but around the quality piece.
I started to recognize that part of the lesson for me is that if I'm going out there and saying something important, there are some people who are not going to like what I have to say. It's not about me. It's about I'm triggering something in them. I could be making them recognize something that they're not ready to hear yet. They don't like that. I'm also a human. I can say that right now in this conversation, but when I'm in it, it can feel hard when you're saying something and you believe in it so passionately. You're wanting this up to their side like, “What do you mean? How do you not understand this? I want to help you understand.” Some people aren't ready to have collaborative conversations yet. Some people are where they are in their journey and where they are on their journey, they can't have that conversation, so I also have to create space and barriers.
That's been some good learning for me. The people-pleaser recognizing if I'm in people-pleaser mode all the time, I'm not going to step into the fullest expression of myself and who I want to be in the world asking for help. From a vulnerability perspective, I'm a type-A. Let's get things done. I'm so happy to help everybody else get things done. Sometimes, I have to take a step back and recognize what I need. I tend to be good when I need help with the kids. It's been a while calling on the grandparents to help in that way.
I might not necessarily be as good at when I want to be able to talk about having a difficult day and bouncing things off with other people. Recognizing from an emotional intelligence perspective to be here and to be human is to experience the full range of emotion. Letting myself be in anger, sadness, frustration, overwhelm, and giving space for it as opposed to plowing through. My clients, of course not a surprise, tons of my clients are those kinds of clients. We have lots of parallel journeys, but I built lots of tools in my toolkit so that my awareness when I'm doing that is pretty fast. I can catch on, “I got some stuff that I need to be with right now and I'm trying to plow through. I'm not going to do that, so I'm going to give space for it.” That's been some good learning.
The other one that I want to share is recognizing when I'm going into ego. Ego is when I'm noticing that my convictions are so strong. That I'm right and you're wrong. When I'm going into the I'm right, you're wrong, no, that's not me coming from my most resourceful self. That's not me showing up with compassion. I try hard to lean into curiosity. I'm insatiably curious. That's why I love coaching and I love meeting people like when you and I first met, Tony, because I want to hear all about other people's journeys, their stories, and everything they've experienced. It’s because I'm going insatiably curious, but I want to make sure that I tap into that curiosity when I'm also talking to people who might not value the same values or as like-minded because there's something for me to learn. Especially with the divisiveness that is going on in the US, if I catch myself being self-righteous, I try to take a step back, get re-grounded, recentered and tap back into compassion.
There's something about what you said. There are so many insights you've shared that have been powerful. One thing in particular that I caught on to is this attachment to being in the ego space. It's reactionary. When you're reacting so quickly or you're so quick to react, it's because your ego is leading, but when you can say like, “I don't want to be in that reactionary mode.” It's because you can allow your ego to take the back seat and say, “How can I be more curious? How can I create space between my stimulus and response,” to borrow from Viktor Frankl? That is what I hear has been a big learning for you is to be able to create space between how you react and how you can create something more powerful. It seems like a big part of what you do with your clients.
I describe it as the difference between reacting and responding. Sometimes the difference between reacting or responding is taking a couple of deep breaths. It's removing yourself from the situation and not meaning to make a decision because what I noticed so much is that people feel like, “I need to do something now.” “At this moment, I have to say yes or I have to say no.” “No, that's not true.” You have a story that you have to make a decision at that moment, but you don't. We all know the email where someone sends an email and regrets afterward sending that email because they hadn't taken a step back. Even in a moment where I might be noticing that the kids, they're reacting, they're having their own emotional experience, and then I recognize that I'm not going to be able to show up as my most resourceful self right now, so I'm going to say, “Mommy's in a place where I'm noticing, I'm going to say something that I don't want to say. I'll be back in five minutes. I'm going to go take my own time out.”
Adults need timeouts too. This has been so much fun. I have one more question for you. What’s one book, sometimes people break the rules and say more than one book, which has had an impact on you and why?
The person who has an insatiable curiosity is also the reader. I love reading. I’m one of those 4 or 5 books a month. It's hard because I feel like I'm being a traitor to the other people I love. I'm going to give a couple. One is more on the mindfulness spiritual journey piece, which would be Eckhart Tolle and The Power of Now. The Power of Now was transformational for me. I read it when I was becoming a mom. It helped me understand what it looks like to be fully present. I'm so grateful for that gift because I love being on maternity leave, but I also felt like little babies sometimes, they're not doing anything and I the productivity girl. It’s like, “I want to go do and make things happen.” Reading that book at that time helped me to slow down and recognize there's nowhere to go. I get to be fully present and watch my little baby move her hands, move her toes, look at me in the eyes, or do these small little actions. I started to feel joy in all of those moments. That book was a catalyst for helping me to be fully in the present moment.
When you start to name shame, it starts to lose its power.
I can't limit it to one, but any book by Brene Brown. I am such a big fan. If you're in leadership, I like to Dare to Lead, but Daring Greatly was wonderful as well. All of her books have been phenomenal. They helped to put into language things that we couldn't put into language before. I couldn't understand and explain shame until she used the language, the words, and the examples to highlight it. I find that it shows up for so many people but they do not recognize what's underneath that. They feel the anger and sadness but they're not going another layer and recognizing that what's happening at this moment is you're feeling shame. When you start to name shame, it starts to lose its power. I found the shame and the vulnerability piece. I'm feeling vulnerable in some situations and then other times I'm like, “No way. I’m not going there. Forget it.” Vulnerability has been, in some cases, misinterpreted and the way some people are feeling what vulnerability looks like in social media. She does a good job of explaining clearly what vulnerability is and what vulnerability is not.
One thing that I wanted to take away from both those books which are interesting, is that timing is the sweet spot of all this. When you read a book, it comes at the right timing and it makes a big difference. That's when the message lands. Reading Eckhart Tolle at the right time can make such a difference because you're ready to hear that message and integrate it into your soul. When I think about Brene Brown, timing, she brought this powerful message that was always hiding in the background of all of our consciousness. She happened to be that person who had to be the vehicle to bring it out to us and say, “Wake up everybody. This is what it's about.” Kudos to her. It's so powerful that she did this. She’s come to this iconic classic place. She's like Oprah now. I think she's a fantastic person to mention and I thank you for bringing that to the space. I don't even know what to say, Kristen. This has been so amazing. I feel like you warmed this fireplace. The Virtual Campfire is blazing. I got a kindred spirit in you. You and I are meant to be doing the work we're doing in the world. I'm so honored that you shared your story, your insights and your gift to the world. Thank you.
Thank you so much, Tony. My heart and soul are feeling very full right now. Thank you for creating the space, which you do so beautifully as well, to allow my authentic self to show up and be able to share in a vulnerable way. When I'm doing that, I feel most connected to both you and your readers as well. Thank you so much for creating that space.
Where can people find out more about you if they wanted to reach out?
I'm all over social media on to @KristenHarcourt. My website is KristenHarcourt.com. I have a podcast as well called Inspirational Leadership. I love having conversations with leaders globally. The mission of that podcast is about what does it look like to humanize the workplace and transform leaders globally.
It’s not to be missed. Everyone should go check that out for sure. Thank you again. Thank you for the readers for coming on the journey. I know you're leaving with so many great insights. You're inspired to go out there and do some amazing things in the world.
- Kristen Harcourt
- The Power of Now
- Dare to Lead
- Daring Greatly
- @KristenHarcourt - Instagram
- Inspirational Leadership
About Kristen Harcourt
I'm an energetic, optimistic, creative and results-oriented individual who is naturally curious and loves connecting with people human-to-human. Watching people soar and experience personal transformation feeds my soul.
For more than a decade, I have helped executives and emerging leaders in hundreds of organizations worldwide achieve extraordinary and sustainable results through increased self-awareness, emotional intelligence and mindfulness.
In addition to being an in-demand speaker and facilitator, I'm also an accredited coach, empowering leaders to become more aware of their strengths, blind spots, values and purpose so they can build lives and organizations of success, sustainability and health. Nothing makes me happier than working with people in a coaching relationship and witnessing the powerful shifts that happen. My personal mission is to help leaders transform from the inside out, creating a meaningful career and purpose-driven life where they reach their full potential.
Through my journey of self-discovery, I have developed a high level of intuition, radical candor and empathy which leads to powerful coaching sessions. I'm a compassionate coach who builds trust from a place of authenticity and creates a safe environment where clients feel heard and understood.