Soaring through Analytic Coaching
“Find the rooms and the conversations and the friendships and the love affairs, where that intuition can blossom into inquiry. You can deliberately choose the risks you want to face and that you’re resourced when life blind sides. Dr. Kate Hammer touches on the importance of dialogue and reflects on questions the world is asking of us. How can we respond? Each of us wakes up and rises from our beds. “We take ourselves; we throw ourselves; we trip and stumble into the wider world”. Existential analysis is a process supporting that dialogue. “
Through Care Sleeves, Kate explored the possibility of others to explore how to create something that could be worn, washed safely and reworn. Through her LinkedIn network, she connected with three innovators who between them have over a century and a half industrial experience – the result – a polyester garment milled in England that can be washed up to 50 times. This will be comfortable and reassuring for healthcare workers to wear which can withstand the demands that contaminated environments pose.
Turning to her love for poetry, Kate admits accuracy matters. The conscientiousness can be a barrier to creativity. Kate focuses on delving into her experience and seeing what can be woven and might be of service to someone, somewhere, at some point. In her poem “Chair “, Kate writes about the fear of succeeding and somehow paying a price. Working artists, face that fear where success is as difficult to imagine as failure. These artists face that fear and carry on regardless.”
Fear needs to be addressed. Accompanying people, making it safe to face fear, and change the conversation plays a really important role in our lives. Kate reminds us “ there’s a big difference between treading carefully and not treading at all. She encourages listeners to trust their intuition. “Ask for the help that you need. If I could be granted one wish, my wish would be that no one suffers alone.”
Kate Hammer writes and advises on how to make industrial and corporate innovation processes more human.
00:00:00 Paula: Welcome to “TesseTalks” with your host Tesse Akpeki and co-host Paula Okonneh, where we share with you top leadership and management strategies. This is a journey of discovery. We are learning that leadership is personnel and that leadership is professional, and we hope you will walk with us in this adventure. Our guest today is Kate Hamer, and we will be talking about soaring through analytic coaching. Dr. Kate Hamer writes and advises on how to make industrial and corporate innovation processes more human. Kate’s pronouns are she or her. Kate’s existential analytic coaching practice helps people grow to be emotionally free, helps people to be able to live both creatively and more deliberately. She is training as a psychotherapist and looks forward to decades serving individuals, seeking clarity, peace and ease through troubled times. She’s also a qualified coach and supervisor and workplace creativity trainer. Born in the 1960s in the USA, Kate immigrated to London in 1993 and has lived here more than half her life. And now talking about lifespans, should one of her daughter live as long as Kate’s great grandmother, Kate’s daughter would die in 2110, so 2110. Wow. They’re two lives both precious to Kate spans 227 years. And Kate says when she grows up, she hopes to become a counseling psychologist poet. I know there’s so much more I can tell you about Kate. Early in the pandemic for example, she volunteered getting quality PPE to frontline healthcare workers. She’s organized an open innovation project involving universities and corporations, she’s done so much. But why don’t I do this? Let me stop here so everyone can hear who Kate is and what she does from Kate herself. So welcome Kate to “TesseTalks”, and I’ll hand it over to both you and Tesse to take over from here.
00:02:32 Tesse: Thank you very much Paula, for that very kind introduction to Kate. Kate as always I’m in awe of what you are, who you’ve been, and your humility and your courage in navigating life and how you walk alongside many others bringing a lot of health and hope into their lives. Now, Paula during that introduction mentioned a word, existential analysis. And I’m curious, what is existential analysis?
00:03:07 Kate: So existential analysis helps people come to an authentic yes to life. Life Tesse as you and I both know is full of joy, but also suffering. Compromise alongside opportunity and yearning alongside achievement. And not all the coaching frameworks that I’ve encountered in over the last eight or 10 years in the coaching world really embrace that full breadth of the human condition. And I know I was seeking for something more. And I think I found it in existential analysis. We don’t use the word existence all that much in English. I think it’s probably more common in some of the European languages. And sometimes in English we say, well I’m not flourishing. I’m not thriving I’m merely existing. But there’s another sense in which existence, in terms of the root of the word means to step out into the world. And when we think over the span of the millennia, that once upon a time we needed our hands, as much as our knees to move. And when we found our ability to balance, we discovered that our hands could shape the world around us and use tools. And that shaping of the world while we’re in the world, that’s the heart of this idea of existence. And so existential analytic coaching offers people a way to wrestle with some of the big, what we call existential questions. What is the meaning of my life? What will my legacy be? Because my death at some point will come. And how do I cope with uncertainty? These are questions that all of us ask at different times and we call them existential questions. But existential analysis, isn’t simply about those big wooly questions. It’s also about that very practical thing that each of us does every day that we wake up and rise from our beds. We take ourselves, we throw ourselves, we trip and stumble into the wider world. And existential analysis as a process is about that dialogue. What is the world asking of me? What is life asking of me? And how shall I respond?
00:05:48 Tesse: Oh, that’s so rich and deep. And Paula, are you hearing, you know how Kate has very clearly and concisely explain this concept? What question come to your mind?
00:06:02 Paula: Well, she talks about stumbling and life is messy and there’s a part of her bio that I didn’t touch on. Because that’s the next question I wanted as I read more of her bio, because I mean, her bio is so extensive and she’s done so much. Something that jumped out at me, but I didn’t actually talk about, but I can now, is you’re focused on designing comfortable to reassuring work wear for carers called CareSleeves. And this garment is in its fourth prototype, it’s spearheaded the urgent development of a washable protective polyester mill in England itself. So I wanted to know a bit more about that. I didn’t touch on that when I introduced you, but I read through your bio and I’m like, this sounds so fantastic. Can you talk a little bit about that?
00:06:50 Kate: I’m happy to speak about Care Sleeves. One of the most frightening aspects of the pandemic in 2010 was how ill prepared the national health service here in England was. And the national health service, it’s hard to explain to Americans just how reassuring it is to know that the highest calibre best trained medical students, the doctors, the nurses, the paramedics all work under a single umbrella. And that those of us who reside here, those of us who are citizens or immigrants, we can receive the best quality care directly from the national health service. And I was very moved by the lack of preparation, and also many of the very practical questions with this novel virus. What exactly did protection mean? And so I used LinkedIn, which I do a lot, and I began educating myself and I actually found myself in conversation with a, I think he was then a Lieutenant Colonel in the US air force based in Japan. And he was working on innovation, having had a career as a nurse in the military. And he would answer my questions and explained to me some of the differences between what the World Health Organization was saying, what the us CDC was saying and what I was trying to gather that our government here in Britain would say. And I discovered that there was a huge reliance on disposable PPE. And I began to wonder what that would do for planet. And as other people sorted out supply chains to get disposable goods to our front lines, I began to look at the possibility. Could we create something that could be worn, washed safely and reworn? And through my LinkedIn network, I was introduced to three innovators who between them have over a century and a half industrial experience. These men are so wise, and they had been working for years on how to make polyester more impervious to water. And our open innovation project became the cradle for the acceleration of that research and development. And ladies I’m so excited to say that just this week we are getting results back from the testing houses. To say that we’ve got a polyester milled in England that can be washed up to 50 times.
00:09:31 Paula: Wow.
00:09:31 Kate: Actually very likely more, but the tests are for 50 washes. And continue to perform at a standard that outclasses the basic PPE that’s currently available. And so when you think about the mountains of contaminated waste, those mountains can begin to shrink as more and more reusable garments are created. And I’m not an expert in the engineering of this, nor in the science of this. I don’t understand garment design or garment manufacturer. But I have found a way of bringing people to virtual tables, to do the ingenious labor, and the creative labor. To create garments that will be comfortable and reassuring for healthcare workers to wear. And will withstand the demands that these contaminated environments pose. And it’s nearly time for me to hand the project on. But it’s been such an honor to be able to serve in such a specific and quirky way.
00:10:44 Tesse: As you say this, this is such a breakthrough. What next?
00:10:52 Kate: Well, what next for our textile partner Corola is very keen on providing comfortable, washable, durable, workwear that’s smartly designed to arrange in industries. And I really expect with all of their networks and all of the people cheering them on that they will succeed in that. My ambition is much more humble. I’m halfway through a master’s degree in psychology, and I’m coming to the end of my basic training in existential analysis. And I’m moving into a British based psychotherapy training program in Gestalt, which offers lots of creative experimentation as a modality. And I hope one day to become a chartered psychologist in counseling psychology. When I grow up, I’d like to be a counseling psychologist poet.
00:11:47 Tesse: Say a bit more about that. What would that look like? How would I know that I’ve actually encountered you Kate?
00:11:54 Kate: So the poetry is actually coming along faster than the chartered psychologist status. There’s so many years of study ahead of me. Poetry began as an experiment when I was inside a workshop that a colleague at the London writers salon ran last autumn. And what she invites people to do is copy work. She offered us meditations from stoic thinkers, Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca. And the copy work got my hands moving and then suddenly what was coming out of my pen were poems. And something about the virtual community of London writers salon gave me the confidence to read a few of them out loud. And actually Tesse, I think you might’ve been at a global women’s dialogue meeting, very early on when I had only one poem. And I just found that when I read the one time I had people were moved. And so I have tried to continue to make time to poem every so often.
00:13:01 Tesse: So what does “to poem” mean.
00:13:05 Kate: I do so many different kinds of writing and accuracy in my academic work, or when I’m dealing with things like regulations or engineering specifications. Accuracy really matters, and the need to be accurate, and that kind of conscientiousness can be a barrier to creativity. So I invented this verb “to poem” to remind myself that there’s a way of sitting at the chair and bringing myself to my notebook, that is not primarily focused on conscientious accuracy. It’s focused on delving into my experience and seeing what can be woven that might be of service to someone somewhere at some point. So it’s very speculative.
00:13:58 Paula: And would you mind sharing that with us? I mean, reading one of them.
00:14:04 Kate: I would love to read a poem because I really do enjoy sharing these. And I love to read the poem that was the very first. So this is dedicated to Katherine who ran that stoic salon got me doing copy work. And it’s a very simple poem. It’s called “Chair”. The chair sat against the far wall. It’s high back a hitching post for scarves, a hat, some shoulder bags. Between it and me stood fear. At the table where I do my work fear leaned in sniffing my breakfast, swallowing painful I lost taste. When I wrote it. Fear read my words aloud, hot breath at my neck, disdain dripping onto my shoulder mispronouncing. My thoughts garbled. When I spoke fear repacious picked apart my sentences, my statement of vultures carcass. When I stood fear pinched me, fingers twisting thin skin at the tender backside where my knees bend meaning me to cave. I caved. Pen in hand, I froze. Folded, I’d crawl to bed sink into dirty sheets, ashamed. Sleep avoided me leaving me wide with only the ceilings cracks as company tick, tick. Mornings my bones were heavy. Alarms failed, scolding fear, most certainly it was I late guilty. One night I made it as far as the empty chair. Bed distant island. My head lolled from my barricaded chest on to chairs woven seat. Braids of straw pressed amaz into my face. I slept empty, undisturbed. Then pleasant, waking of my own accord, my eyes meeting the table edge. It’s four legs equal to my nighttime height equity. From below, I looked anew, seeing my table were always, I hoped to make worlds plane bearing surrounded by vacant space. Room enough for this sturdy chair to sit alongside mine. I drew it up this chair where I pressed my cheek, stood ready to receive. Fear came when I beckoned, I told it sit still beside me. Still I say, eating. It sat practicing, bettering itself to settle silent in the rhythms of my living. Nourished, creating, out speaking in fear’s presence overtook fear. Two chairs at my table we sit, not as equals, not as friends, just companions. I, the wiser and more tender.
00:17:56 Tesse: Chair, fear beckons I love it.
00:18:02 Paula: For those who don’t know me, I always have said, I don’t always get poems, but this one I get. I could feel it. I could feel your words, beautiful. And I love the end, I mean, in my interpretation at the end of it all, fear no longer had authority over you. You commanded, I love that you commanded fear. You come sit here.
00:18:30 Tesse: And I love the fact as equals. I love, there’s something that is so rigid. When Kate read this, and yes, you were right. I was there at the global dialogue group meeting when you read this. And I think at the time, it was very visual that you had reached a part of me that was way deep. And what came to my mind and I’m going to ask now, is what led you to write this work? Because you can feel the energy in this., through you’re reading. It just there’s something about it that has a unique quality. And something tells me there’s a story behind it.
00:19:08 Kate: So interestingly, I’m sure there is a story and honestly I’m not sure what the story is. However, one of the challenges in literary writing, is one wants to tell the truth. In commercial fiction, the obligation is to set up a fantastic journey for the reader and that takes great art and great skill. But there isn’t always, I think the same demand to plumb some kind of depth and bring to light something that doesn’t yet make sense. And to do so is exposing, to do so when you’re a woman my age with so much life ahead, but let’s face it so much life behind, is also to risk exposing others. And so it’s very important to do so honestly and ethically and with respect towards others, and that dynamic can become a dilemma. So I think the fear that I probably was writing about was not the fear of failing at writing well. It was the fear of succeeding and somehow being made to pay a price. And that makes me sad to confide that, and it also really makes me hold in such high regard. I have such respect for working artists, who face that fear where success is as difficult to imagine as failure. Who faced that fear and carry on.
00:21:02 Tesse: Oh, talk about existential, go on Paula.
00:21:06 Paula: No go ahead.
00:21:07 Tesse: No, I just, you know what, I wasn’t expecting that. I really, I really wasn’t. And it’s this existential question of what success means? What failure means? But actually how as an artist, you can plumb and that’s where you plump to the depth and without knowing what might emerge, the emergence, what to do. And you capture that in Chair. Because when I think of chair, I think of something that I designed very solidly. That’s beautiful. Paula, I please.
00:21:46 Paula: I loveed how, you know, I talked about how at the end, fear was not your friend, not your equal, but your companion. But you were the wiser one and you were more tender. I think, I the wiser more tender, just stuck out for me. Because to me that sounded almost like triumph. You were wiser yet you at the same time tender. You understood, okay, I know the game you were playing fear, so now you sit next to me.
00:22:26 Kate: And the end is really a prayer that I wrote for my clients, because there’s that phrase. Feel the fear and do it anyway. But the way that many people do it anyway is they squelch the fear. They try to squash it down and it comes back. It comes back as physical symptoms, it comes back as disturbed sleep. Fear really does need to be addressed. And I really love the fact that through my coaching and in due course through my psychotherapy, I can accompany people and help make it safe to face fear, and change the conversation that a client is having with their unique fears. Fear plays a really important role in our life and not just in terms of the brain biology. Fear is a signal in the social world of where we need to tread carefully. But there’s a big difference between treading carefully and not treading at all.
00:23:49 Paula: This is very powerful, definitely powerful. As we’re drawing to an end, I’m wondering if there are any further reflections that you would like to share with us? Because I’ve been using the word speechless, and I’m still speechless. But I feel you still have more to offer us, do you?
00:24:08 Kate: I’m happy to offer, I would love to say to listeners, trust your intuition and find the rooms and the conversations and the friendships and the love affairs, where that intuition can blossom into inquiry. So that you can deliberately choose the risks you want to face and that you’re resourced when life blindsides, you’re resourced. Ask for the help that you need. I really, if I could be granted one wish, my wish would be that no one suffers alone.
00:25:10 Tesse: No one suffers alone, if you had one wish, how generous. It’s not often that you’re moved like this, but it’s no one suffers alone. It’s wonderful, it’s wonderful. I mean, this is what you’ve done. I love your concept of find the rooms, find the relationships where intuition can blossom into inquiry. I love that, it’s just such a place of curiosity, but also I’m sensing a place of compassion, of care, of understanding and funny enough expansion rather than a squashing of this kind of dialectical space to actually lean into discomfort. That’s beautiful. So for our listeners and people who want to kind of know more about what you do, what it is being with UK than an existential coach. Do you have anything to offer that can kind of be the first steps into actually experiencing and what we are experiencing in a little way from your experience in this gift that you have to connect with people in that deep way with care and empathy and compassion?
00:26:34 Kate: I have a modest offer. First I should confess that I do not own a websites. I had a coaching website and I gave it to Care Sleeves. I do have an online booking site and I’ve created a code for Tesse listeners, so that if you would like to experience what it is to be in the coaching chair with me as a coach, that code you can book and you’ll receive 30 pounds, which I think is around 40 US dollars off of that first session, So if you’re curious and you’d like to have a go, I would love to see you. Because I’m studying, I only see about 10 clients a week right now. But it would be a joy to welcome listeners one by one to see whether the way that I serve would help you in your life.
00:27:27 Tesse: Wow, that’s awesome. Wow, Paula.
00:27:29 Paula: That’s awesome, really awesome. And of course we are happy to put that in the show notes. And before I really wrap up here, there’s something that you said that I think is poignant and that is, choose the risks you want to face. I think that’s very important because just living, I mean there’s so many risks and those typically associated with fear. But when you know that you have the power to choose the risks that you want to face. It takes away some of the power that fear has over you, because you’re like, all right, this I will deal with but these other ones I’ll come to later. I have some help going along, but it just takes away some of the overwhelm and it makes it more easy to deal with. Thank you so much, Kate, thank you this has been marvelous.
00:28:22 Tesse: But Paula, you know, I know you are closing down, but there’s something that struck me as Kate Finished the poem. And I’ve seen you move in the way that I haven’t seen you moved before for poetry. What was that thread? What was happening there?
00:28:38 Paula: It’s interesting, you asked and I know something she said, I didn’t write it down what I wrote down was, you know, choosing the risks you want to face. There’s something, there’s a word you said that moved me to tears and I can’t remember offhand what it was. But whatever it was, it was powerful because as we talked about, there’s not of things typically that move me but that did. So you’re special, you really are.
00:29:08 Kate: Thank you.
00:29:08 Tesse: Thank you so much, Kate. Paula do us the honors of closing us nicely, but this is a river that flows through and Kate’s poetry and existential analysis and everything. I just feel like I want to go to my couch and go and sleep. That’s how I feel, emotional massage.
00:29:30 Paula: And I’m sure our listeners feel that way. And if you do, please head over to Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else where you listen to podcasts and please click subscribe. If you like what you’re hearing, please write us a raving review. And if you have questions or topics you would like us to cover related to leadership and governance, please send us a note. Remember your note can be personnel as let us professional. And last but not least, if you would like to be a guest on this show, please head over to “Tesseakpeki.com/tessetalks” to apply.
00:30:16 Kate: Thank you ladies.
00:30:18 Paula: Yes, this made me cry.
00:30:20 Tesse: You know, thank you, Kate. Thank you, Paula. I just feel that I’ve walked into something very special. And Kate you change lives by how you hold people and how you actually create the room and the chair where they can feel safe, where they can feel secure and where they can feel soothed. So thank you so much for what you do, what you be, and how you serve.