THE JANET SERNACK STORY
A BIT OF A MAVERICK
I am at heart, a bit of a maverick, which means that I am an unorthodox or independent-minded person, who is curious and inquisitive, and finds change and challenging the status quo exciting, fascinating and stimulating. I am also, considered, by some, as a bit of misfit, a person whose behaviour and attitude sets me apart from others in an uncomfortably conspicuous way that often rocks their boat.
This might be because, through necessity, as a consequence of an adverse and abusive childhood, I became self-sufficient, and resilient, at a very young age. This provided the foundations for becoming bold, brave and courageous in exploring, navigating & playing in unchartered waters and often doing the unexpected. It also taught me to be compassionate and collaborative in inspiring, motivating, encouraging, teaching, coaching and mentoring others who are different and keen to change and innovate.
Which, it seems, are integral attributes required to survive and flourish at the cusp of disruption, in today’s VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguous) times.
DISCOVERING AND EXPLORING THE WORLD
THE PURSUIT OF FREEDOM YEARS
Upon leaving high school, I ventured off to Israel, where I spent a year living and working on a kibbutz, learning many of life’s very real and tough lessons, first hand. This emerged by restless saboteur, who saw me drop out of university at the end of my first year and embark of a brief career as a graphic designer, only to land, late that year, as an International Qantas Air Hostess. This further fuelled both my art and cultural interests and my innate restlessness giving me further opportunities to rebel not only against my own cultural upbringing, it also gifted me the freedom to make my own choices and a vast range of diverse and inclusive opportunities to learn further from life’s experiences.
I discovered & explored the world, on my own terms & shared many amazing adventures, in faraway lands & exotic locations. Where I met incredibly diverse groups of people, from different cultures & fascinating backgrounds, with the benefit of unlimited freedom and very few constraints and boundaries. This was in the mid-seventies, where flight crews enjoyed long stopovers, with all expenses paid for, in major cities in far way and distant lands.
Which I found liberating, and possibly became the source of my maverickness and m misfitness, becoming independent in thought and action, and free from having to conform to others standards, conventions or rules. Developing a strong sense of independence, unorthodoxy, boldness, freedom, resourcefulness & self-reliance that has served me ever since in my constant career renewals and reinventions.
SHIFTING FOCUS AND DEVELOPING EXPERTISE
THE FABULOUS FASHION YEARS
Exiting my Qantas career in pursuit of a more challenging career, I stated work in the Australian fashion industry, shifting my focus and developing expertise across sales, design, and a across product & marketing development, in both the wholesale and retail sectors. This engaged me fully for the next 10 years, whilst exposing & gifting me my first real taste of true creativity and innovation and they act in unison to deliver global change. This chapter ended once I achieved the top role, at the time, for a female executive for Grace Bros in the Coles Myer Group of department stores after being exposed to many of the rigors, challenges & opportunities corporate executives’ experience as they climb the ladders to success.
In my final awesome role, I operated as a global fashion & lifestyle executive, & attended all of the major textile, men’s, women’s & accessories apparel trade shows & European, English & USA based retail centres. I was responsible for researching, analysing & conceptualizing fashion & lifestyle trends, and then informing and educating all of the merchandising, marketing & buying functions in adapting them to the needs & wants of the Australian consumer and retail marketplace. This enabled the whole organization to present a co-ordinated brand image to customers and it was a very powerful, rewarding & extraordinary experience in learning and applying both critical and creative thinking skills. Whilst studying part-time, enabled me to structure my thinking & application of strong business management & marketing skills.
Seeking strategies to reduce my levels of stress, and work on increasing my level of consciousness, I initiated a personal development journey that included a daily meditation practice, which I continued for the next 30 years.
NOT KNOWING WHAT I DIDN’T KNOW
THE PROFESSIONAL CONSULTING YEARS
I exited my fashion career in pursuit of a more meaningful life, where I could make a positive contribution and a difference to the future of the Australian Textile Clothing and Footwear Industries (TCF), who were on the cusp of disruption, due to government restructuring, and the removal of protective tariffs and duties. So, not knowing what I didn’t know, I established the first design management consultancy to the entrepreneurial fashion & lifestyle industries in Australia. This gave me the opportunity to work with major iconic fashion brands including Chanel, Oroton, Charlie Brown, Kerry McGee, Jenny Kee & Seafolly.
Whilst I developed this business, I taught part-time at TAFE NSW where I designed & delivered The School of Fashion’s first Fashion Marketing Curriculum, and also taught the London Design Institute’s Design Management course TAFE NSW fashion teachers seeking tertiary accreditation.
Realizing that many of the best-intentioned business plans, often ended up in the bottom drawer, I realized that I needed to shift my focus, yet again, from telling people what to do, towards inspiring, motivating and enabling people to effect the desired change.
ATTENTIONAL & INTENTIONAL … BEING, THINKING AND DOING
THE TRANSFORMATIONAL CORPORATE TRAINING YEARS
Shifting my attention towards becoming accomplished in corporate learning I completed Stephanie Burns’ Training to Train program as well as Marvin Oka’s, at Inform, Professional Presenters, Trainers and Facilitators learning programs. I also realized that true leadership and entrepreneurship also required people to be deeply attentional and intentional in their ways of being, thinking and doing.
This ultimately propelled me to work with Carolyn Taylor, as a senior consultant, at Corporate Vision, Australia’s first culture change and leadership consultancy. Where I ultimately invested 12 years specializing in custom designing, developing and delivering culture development, transformational leadership and experiential team effectiveness programs to some of Australasia’s top 100 companies across the financial services, telecommunications and manufacturing sectors.
During this time, I met another misfit and global adventuer, Barry Aarons, who became my husband. We became accredited foster carers, for the Department of Community Services, in NSW. Where over 10 years, we cared for and mentored a wide range of children and teenagers in need of a safe harbor, gentle guidance, wholesome meals and a stable roof over their heads. As a result of essentially trying too hard, I collapsed emotionally and physically into what is now described now as “burn out.” Diagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, it took me three months to move beyond being a victim to my illness, and take responsibility for not only causing what was my current state, and also for managing my recovery. I learnt a lot about the impact of toxic thoughts, or negative internal dialogue, on my physiological state, and auto-immune system. I eventually sourced a range of different healing modalities to assist and facilitate my recovery, and have thankfully never relapsed.
At the end of 2006, I found myself, at MIT, in Boston, attending the “Presencing: Collective Leadership for Profound Innovation and Change” five-day workshop. It was hosted by SOL (Society for Organizational Learning) and presented by Otto Scharmer, Peter Senge and other key people involved in the development and evolution of Theory U and Presence.
This profoundly deep experience created “cracks” in my assumptions about change, leadership and culture. It opened the doorway, and created the threshold towards retooling myself for the coming decade.
Having always sought creative ways of fast tracking a client’s consciousness, presencing concepts, incorporating emergence & mindfulness principles, ultimately created new pathways and a core toolkit for connecting, exploring, discovering and designing new ways of being, thinking and doing. This amazing learning journey took me to Mount Abu, in Rajasthan, India, where I reconnected with the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, through my participation in a range of Emergence & Peace of Mind Retreats, at various stages, over the next ten years.
I ultimately moved on to become the CEO of my own Australian based learning and development company, Compass Learning Pty Ltd. Where I focussed on custom designing, developing and delivering experiential based, blended, adult learning programs. Our niche involved “bringing to life” the concepts, principles and techniques of accountability, top team effectiveness and transformational leadership.
“LEADERSHIP THE HARD WAY”
LETTING GO TO LET COME
In 2010 I relocated to the Middle East, with my husband, two dogs and our pussycat, where I joined the Start-Up Revolution. When we arrived in Israel, I faced a series of harsh new realities which defied & challenged most of what I had been taught & experienced about high-performance organizational cultures, leaders & teams. Aptly illustrated by Dov Frohman founder of Intel Israel in his book “Leadership the Hard Way” where he states that “leadership in today’s economy is a lot like flying a plane through a thunderstorm.”
This made me quickly realized that most of the approaches to organizational development that I had learnt & applied in Australia were irrelevant to potential clients inside & outside of my new homeland. In my first year I deeply immersed myself in a wide variety of online learning programs to expose myself to the new language, concepts and principles of innovation. I simultaneously deep dived into the Israeli culture, to research & identify the key cultural drivers, mindsets & behaviours driving that tiny “huge” country with its own unique set of adaptive challenges. I discovered that its success, as The Start-Up Nation & its ascension in The Global Innovation Index, defied most of the consulting, culture, leadership & coaching models I had learnt & had been attached to.
As I had studied cutting edge emergence principles, I knew that, to allow the new to emerge, you have to let go of the old. This caused me to ultimately, not without difficulty, let go of almost everything I knew & had practiced, throughout my professional career. It also reinforced my intuitive take on the emerging need for more conscious leaders and teams, who could evoke people towards being, thinking and doing things differently, individually, and together.
I set about completely re-inventing myself by massive amounts of thinking, reading, field researching, learning, networking & debating. Where I sought to understand, decipher, integrate & generate new approaches to developing innovative organizational cultures, conscious leaders, co-creative teams & executive coaching within a holistic, systemic and innovative business eco-system approach.
A MODERN ELDER START-UP ENTREPRENEUR
THE FOUNDING OF IMAGINENATION™
Once I managed to clear the fog of the disruptive change that had settled into every fibre of my being, I realized that I had landed in completely new & radically different Innovation & entrepreneurship space which totally fascinated me.
I sailed voraciously around in the volatile, uncharted waters that this amazing learning journey took me on, with its high emotionally, cognitively and viscerally challenging peaks & deep troughs, involving a range of horrible failures along with the odd triumph. Whilst not intending to, I became an Israeli start-up entrepreneur, and founded an innovative global consulting and learning company called ImagineNation™.
Where I sought to invent new non-prescriptive, adaptive & innovative ways of disrupting prevailing leadership, culture, coaching & corporate learning paradigms. To devise creative & innovative ways for organizations, manager, leaders to learn, adapt, take risks, lead & thrive in this bewildering VUCA environment.
I founded ImagineNation™ as a modern elder and start-up entrepreneur in Israel, to ultimately specialize in the people side of innovation, managing the interface between people and technology. What drove me, was knowing, that a VUCA world, on the cusp of disruption, and full of wicked problems, globalization, digitization, & fractured global demographics needed new ways of being, thinking, talking & acting differently. That created a safe holding space that allowed people to connect, explore, discover and design co-creative ideas individually, and collectively. To reorder higher levels of collective creative consciousness that resulted in creative insights and collective breakthroughs to solve problems & transform them into innovative solutions that people value and cherish.
This made ImagineNation™ the first global learning company to research, decipher & replicate the “secret sauce” behind the hugely successful and enviable Israeli innovative culture & entrepreneurial start-up phenomena and lifestyle.
During this time, I joined the ICF (International Coach Federation), as a means of meeting & interacting with the local coaching community. As I sought to work globally & completed all of the requirements to attain my initial ICF coaching ACC credential, & recently achieved my PCC accreditation. Whilst letting go of my old knowledge, skills and experience, I created, iterated & pivoted, over the next five years, a completely new world class innovation curriculum, via the ICF CCE (Continuing Coach Education) Coach for Innovators Certified Program, which is offered to coaches, trainers, leaders and managers globally.
ImagineNation™ has evolved, over the past six years, through constant experimentation, massive failures, iterations and pivots as a global eco-system of expert people, who unleash breakthrough mindsets to help companies, change, innovate and win through the use of our twentieth century tools and OGI® (Organizational Growth Indicator).
A MORE CONSCIOUS WORLD, WHERE INNOVATION IS A WAY OF LIFE
LEARNING QUICKLY BY FAILING FAST
“Learning quickly by failing fast” is my mantra, so what better way is there than by taking on the risks of another seemingly impossible challenge, from which to learn & to then teach others?
I work hard at congruently walking my talk; I somehow manage to learn from my failures, even though they are painful at the time, & happily teach from my own personal experiences. This has enabled me to develop the confidence, emotional integrity, agility, authenticity & evocative leadership & coaching presence which are the core of my work.
Our intent at ImagineNation™ is to co-create, with our clients and eco-system partners, a more conscious world, where innovation is a way of life, by opening hearts & minds, in ways that enable people, teams and organizations to collectively adapt and grow through disruption.
Finally, my husband and I recalibrated of our vision for the future, resulting in quality of life & family decisions brought us back to Australia after six amazing & transformational years in Israel. This became our MBA of life qualification, from which to draw deep learning’s from our range of significant emotional events and life challenges.
This heralded yet another personal & professional renewal & re-invention process, integrating all of the various flavours of my maverickness and misfitness collected over the past forty-five years. Focussing my attention and intention toward building a conscious collective globally whilst enjoying the benefits of beautiful Bayside Melbourne, acknowledged as one of the world’s most liveable cities.
Like most ex-pats, being the new and different kid in town, and the returning prodigal child was not an easy pathway to take, and its taken a considerable amount of time to blend into Melbourne’s business community. Not being a sports fan, being older, and female, with boundless enthusiasm for change-led collaborative innovation, has further cultivated my confidence and capacity for resilience, courage, compassion and creativity.
Making new friends and joining new communities have been helped us settle in. Enjoying seaside walks with our now advanced four legged family, and discovering Melbourne’s amazing cultural leadership, awesome infrastructure, quality of life and diversity.
In the end, it’s involved making a fundamental choice to constantly shift my way of being (mindsets and moods), thinking and acting, to focus on creating the groundswell that unleashes new possibilities for positive change, and commitment in to constantly re-educate & re-invent myrself.