Janie Van Hool is a leadership communication expert and the author of The Listening Shift: Transform your organisation by listening to your people and helping your people listen to you is out now, priced £12.99.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I’m a proud Mum of 2 amazing daughters, aged 24 and 27yrs. My background is classical theatre – I trained at RADA and worked as an actor for 12 years in theatre, TV, voiceover and as a conference presenter before taking an MA in voice studies.
A chance conversation (on a beach!) led me to starting my business as a leadership communication specialist and for the last 20 years, I’ve worked as a coach, skills teacher, speaker and facilitator. I also volunteer as a listener for Samaritans and that inspired me to write about listening and I’m very proud to say that my book – The Listening Shift – has just been published.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
No! Far from it – I’m not a planner at all. I sometimes wish I could be a person with a vision, goals and a plan to achieve them, but the truth is, I’m a person who wakes up in the morning and wonders what the day will bring… the upside of which is that I am totally open to opportunities and free and flexible enough to be able to follow them.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Yes – many and frequent. But I think the biggest challenge I face in my role is staying relevant – being prepared to develop myself to support leaders with their business communication means constantly adapting and being curious about what’s around the corner. It feels exhausting sometimes, but I am convinced that being prepared to disrupt and challenge the status quo is a life skill. I try to welcome challenges and, although it sounds cheesy, see them as opportunities.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
I am really proud to have been my own boss all my life and in charge of my own destiny. I never get tired of that.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
I am fortunate to be hard-wired to look on the bright side. I don’t view anything as a setback, I’d rather view it as a learning opportunity. No matter how difficult a day is, or how challenging my circumstances may be, I can always find a positive and build from there.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I’m an advocate of mentoring… with a couple of rules. Firstly, it should be a listening relationship – exploring and guiding, rather than solving and telling. Secondly, mentors and mentees are often ‘given’ to each other, but the relationship is key. You’ve got to be right for each other.
I’ve been really lucky with the mentoring relationships in my life – they’ve been really diverse in age, gender and background so I’ve found them stimulating and thought-provoking… but not always comfortable!
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
I would like to see all women amplify the voices of women around them – in meetings, presentations, on social media. Retweet women, share their messaging on LinkedIn, support them in meetings, talk positively about what you’ve heard female colleagues say. Raise the profile of every great woman you know to accelerate the pace of change.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
You don’t have to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
I’m very focused on developing listening as the next big leadership competency by embedding ListeningShifts™ in client organisations. And I’m writing my second book ‘Sounds Like She Means Business – Voice essentials that work for women’, so look out for that!
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