Women Who Lead: An Interview With Kimberly Shaw, Organizational Change Whisperer

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This monthly interview series was born out of my sincere joy in learning about women’s stories of success, triumph, and survival - and I wanted to bring a piece of that to my own story, which is documented here in this blog. I have the distinct pleasure of knowing many incredible women and it was my desire that you should all know more about them and their greatness that led me to start pulling together an interview series. Along the way, I realized that I could expand beyond my own network of fierce females and with a little luck, include women I admire from afar and wish to know more closely.

In the Women Who Lead series, I’ll aim to ask any female-identifying folks from all walks of life and all varieties of success and strength to share their stories and inspire us all to keep pushing forward. I hope you’ll enjoy their journeys as much as I do.

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I first met Kimberly Shaw over a decade ago while working at an I.T. consulting firm (as I always say, “back in my old life”) and I spent the rest of my 20s aspiring to be her. I finally realized, with some sadness, that though I could never be a business woman of her same ilk, some day, just maybe, I could be a not-for-profit woman of a similar ilk ;-)

Though she is certainly a business force to be reckoned with, I must tell you that is not the reason I love her - nor what I love most about her. Kimberly has been one of my closest friends for many years because she is fierce beyond measure, remembers every detail you ever share with her about yourself (thus making her an exceptional gift giver, let me tell you, and highly thoughtful of your perspective in conversations). She is funny, beyond intelligent, loves to find the absurd in everything, has an amazing laugh bigger than her small stature might lead you to believe, and always knows what to say.

Kimberly has been delivering change success nationally since 2012 in the public and private sectors: banking, insurance, health, utilities, pipeline, energy, manufacturing, and provincial/federal government. She runs a successful Change Management Company, Connexus, helping organizations solve problems through high impact change process design and high performance transformation programs.

I adore her, admire her, and believe that you will too. Read on, and be sure to drop a comment below if you find some inspiration from Kimberly’s success and story!

Women Who Lead: An Interview With Kimberly Shaw, Organizational Change Whisperer

Women Who Lead: An Interview With Kimberly Shaw, Organizational Change Whisperer

1. So, what’s your story?

I'm an unabashed islander, from Cape Breton. I like to think of myself as a home girl that left the rock and discovered the world....then decided to claim a piece of it for herself.

I'm a bit of a rolling stone.....living and working in many cities and with many clients. Life and experience tends to be fluid for me - I like to pursue opportunity in many places. What an adventure that has been.

2. How do you define success in your own life?

My definition has changed dramatically over the course of my life and career. Initially, I think I was simply motivated by many of the same trappings that others are. And perhaps also by the external view of success: position, promotion, compensation. Trappings of success.

Today, I look at success with a different - and maybe more casual - lens. What I mean is that I think less about success and more about failure. And what I mean about THAT is that I have come to embrace failure as a friend (even sometimes annoying, occasionally upsetting) that keeps me learning and growing and realizing that success is only a matter of trying again. With intention. :)

Success is also about the life that is enabled by my work. Travelling with my son. Having that great meal with a friend. Opening a beautiful bottle of bubbly while babbling with a loved one. Buying dementia toys for my dad. Or simply going to sleep knowing that I have put a roof over my family's heads, with lights and heat, and a full pantry.  

Oh and boots. I'm human.

3. How do you keep motivated on days (or in times) when it feels tough?

When isn't it tough? My Scottish roots get the best of me - when it ISN'T work it feels illicit. Unfought for. Lol. Very simply, my son and his care motivate me. Rescuing pups and kittens. And that vision of a seaside retreat to spend my silver days is also good motivation medicine. Feeling useful fuels me. Of service.

4. What was a time you failed at something and what did you learn or how did you turn it around?

I fail all the time. In fact, just this week I failed to manage a conversation that I felt so immaculately prepared for. And wasn't. Failure only stings a little (occasionally a lot) and always promises the next success is on its way. I look at failure as a chance to eat cake at my private pity-party and then pull up my big girl panties and get on with it. After all, nothing is sweeter than rebounding from defeat and taking a win: a new client; a perfectly executed meeting; a winning presentation. And more cake.

5. Who has influenced you the most?

I like to think I have had - and will have - many teachers. I am always amazed at what I learn from others. So much wisdom out there......

But, recently, I find myself evoking and invoking my grandfather, Kippy. Gawd, he was a surly burly man; but, so industrious and resourceful and MOTIVATED. He just moved. And manifested. I will catch myself sizing up an opportunity, negotiating a contract, or navigating a difficult conversation and I will see bits of him in me. As I get older, his no bullshit perspective is increasingly rubbing off. Time is simply so short.....and to be anything less than yourself is an act of spiritual theft. Kippy was a quintessential firecracker. I'd like to think I am similar. Just nicer.

6. How would you describe your personal style (you know I can’t resist asking!)?

I am a punk wrapped in bougie clothing. Black is my beige. And ankle boots were invented by a genius fashion goddess.

7. How do you show others that you believe in them?

I tell them. And then I show up.

8. How do you approach the unknown?

I embrace the unknown. So much is unknown! It's like the life iceberg. We pride ourselves on knowing all about the 10% that we can see. The best (and most brutal) parts of life have been about the 90% you have no clue is lurking beneath the surface of the water. If there is an approach to be had, it would be to dig in. Make it count. The lessons fuel the next great leap forward.

9. What do you do to live a balanced life?

I don't. I think balance is an illusion. I can hear groaning..... First of all, as a devoted - even strident - feminist, I have too much to do to stake my claim and represent. As in, be present. The numbers defy balance. Women are often denied access to education, subject to violence and lack access to the same economic opportunities as men. My success as a person is in being a woman that challenges all three. When we are equal in every way, and afforded the equity and inclusion we deserve, then I will have lived a balanced life.

Until then, I hike, swim, and read Scandinoir with a bottle of Prosecco.

10. What are 2 key books you think others should read and why?

Oh my gosh......can I do 5?

1) Simone de Beauvoir: The Second Sex (especially if you're the first sex).

2) Any of Caryl Churchill's plays - feminism, power abuse, and humour. Really.

3) Noam Chomsky - pick one, your brain will hurt over cultural politics and will thank you.

4) Timothy Findley - Not Wanted on the Voyage (because Lucy!).

5) Maurice Sendak -  Where the Wild Things Are. Because we must all stay wild.

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