Labber Spotlight | July 2018
3 min read
Senior Business Leader
“In this world of 24/7, the old way of compartmentalizing our lives between professional and personal doesn’t really work.”
– Ashley Nelson
Ashley Nelson should know. Until quite recently, she served as SVP Sales, Americas at fashion retailer, The Fossil Group, Inc.; juggling a team of 200, 16 brands and $1B in revenues.
For the past five years, she has also led mindfulness workshops across Fossil’s offices in North America, sharing her leadership approach — which employs Hatha Yoga, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and meditation. She is trained for all.
Seeing the powerful benefits of mindfulness in her own team, she wanted to offer this holistic approach for organizational health to a wider audience of corporations, nonprofits, schools and youth groups and launched Green Light Mindfulness.
Today her focus is on family, Green Light and a new role as VP of Strategic Business Development at Fossil.
What motivated you to participate in Women’s Leadership Lab?
I read up on it and sounded like it was an enormous fit, both with what I was doing in the leadership space with Fossil, as well as my new venture. I was really interested in the Lab’s approach to developing an Authentic Leadership Voice.”
How has WLLab helped you lead more authentically in your life?
I’ve done a lot through my own work on mindfulness over the past five or six years. The Lab reinforced and deepened it. It gave me a place to work on challenging conversations, providing a space to build confidence through exercises like role-playing. It was a great growth opportunity for me.
You came into this with a lot of different experience in leadership training. How is WLLab different?
They offer a great platform to acknowledge and integrate leadership at work and at home. Other programs usually focus on just one or the other. You don’t really get to open up on the personal front in a typical corporate leadership program.
The Lab did a great job helping me recognize how work and personal life often impacts each other and gave me a space to practice authentically integrating these aspects of my life.
For example, I was juggling some significant stressors at home that presented challenges professionally. It was having a huge impact. With the Lab’s help, I realized I needed to have challenging conversations about boundaries. No one likes having those conversations. But being vulnerable in such a dialogue was necessary in order to get the balance and wholeness I wanted in my life.
Are there any particular lessons or tools you learned during WLLab that you find yourself reaching for, again and again?
Yes. Definitely. I use a lot of the tools around projection. They give me a way to diffuse or neutralize a tense situation. Now when I feel triggered with a negative feeling, I pause and ask myself: ‘Am I projecting here? What part of this problem is mine to unpack further?’ I’ll frame my response with: ‘I’m telling myself the story that…’
The other eye-opener was around internalized misogyny. I don’t know if I’ve opened myself to recognizing the impact of it before this Lab work. Learning about how misogyny impacts our culture and ourselves, and being able to recognize it when it happens, has been very helpful. It just opens up a whole new perspective.
After I started the Lab, I was asked to engage in conversation with several senior-level women employees at work on behalf of our (mostly male) leadership team. It was interesting to hear the commentary and inject myself into the conversation in a new way. I was able to shine a light on the effect of unconscious bias and share that information with our leadership team. It was a difficult conversation, but with the practice in WLL I was prepared.
Overall, what was the WLLab experience like for you?
At first, I didn’t know what to expect but (WLL facilitators) Shellie, Cynthia and Rima did a great job creating a safe, nurturing and engaging space to explore and learn. They each brought their own wisdom, experience and leadership style to the circle. That authenticity added value and led to a lot of openness and sharing with my ‘circle mates’.
I am grateful to have been exposed to this whole journey.
Ashley participated in the 6-session Chicago Women’s Leadership Lab, which met from Fall 2017 – Spring 2018.
Join us for an upcoming Women’s Leadership Lab in Chicago
Learn more about our new 6-session programs beginning January 2019, at the Metropolitan Club in downtown Chicago.