THE JANET SERNACK STORY
A BIT OF A MAVERICK
I am at heart, a maverick, which means that I am an unorthodox or independent-minded person. Someone 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 misfit, which is a person whose behaviours and attitudes sets them apart from others in an uncomfortably conspicuous way, that often rocks the boat of the status quo.
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. Which provided the foundations for becoming bold, brave and courageous in exploring, navigating and 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, flourish and dance at the cusp of disruption, in today’s VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguous) world, where exponential change is a way of life.
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 my “restless saboteur”, who saw me drop out of university at the end of my first year and embark on a brief and creative career as a graphic designer.
Only to land, later that year, in an awesome job as an international Qantas Air Hostess. This further fuelled my art and cultural interests as well as my innate restlessness giving me further opportunities to rebel against my own conventionally cultural upbringing. It also gifted me the freedom to make my own choices, learn from my mistakes, as well as from a vast range of diverse opportunities and life experiences.
I discovered and explored the world, on my own terms and shared many amazing adventures, in faraway lands and exotic locations. Where I met diverse groups of people, from different cultures and 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 away distant lands.
Which I found liberating, and was possibly the main source of my maverickness and misfitness, where I became independent in thought and action and free from having to conform to others’ standards, conventions or rules.
Where I developed a strong sense of independence, unorthodoxy, boldness, freedom, resourcefulness, and self-reliance which has served me in my constant quests in renewing and reinventing myself and my career.
SHIFTING FOCUS AND DEVELOPING EXPERTISE
THE FABULOUS FASHION YEARS
Exiting my Qantas career in pursuit of a more challenging career, I started working in the Australian fashion industry, where I shifted my focus and developed “on the ground” expertise across sales and design, and across product and marketing development, in both the wholesale and retail sectors.
This engaged me fully for the next 10 years, whilst exposing and gifting me my first real taste of true creativity and innovation and in how they act in unison to deliver global changes. 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. Where I was exposed to many of the rigors, challenges, and opportunities corporate executives’ experience as they climb the ladders to success.
In my final awesome role, I operated as a global fashion and lifestyle executive, where I attended all of the major textiles, men’s, women’s & accessories apparel trade shows, and the European, English, and USA based retail centres. In this groundbreaking role, I was responsible for researching, analyzing and conceptualizing fashion and lifestyle trends. To then inform and educate all of the merchandising, marketing and buying functions in adapting them to the needs and wants of the Australian consumer and retail marketplace. This enabled the whole organisation to present a co-ordinated brand image to customers.
It was a very powerful, rewarding and extraordinary experience in learning and applying change management, critical and creative thinking skills. I also studied part-time, as an adult learner, which enabled me to structure my thinking and application of strong business management and strategic marketing skills.
Seeking strategies to reduce my levels of stress, and fulfil my life long ambition to increase my level of consciousness, I initiated a personal development journey that included a daily meditation practice, which I have continued to practice for more than 30 years as a serial entrepreneur.
NOT KNOWING WHAT I DIDN’T KNOW
THE PROFESSIONAL CONSULTING YEARS
I ultimately exited my fashion career in pursuit of a more “meaningful” and autonomous life, where I could make a positive contribution and a difference to the future of the Australian Textile Clothing and Footwear Industries (TCF). Which 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 and lifestyle industries in Australia.
This gave me the opportunity to work with some of the major iconic fashion brands including Chanel, Oroton, Charlie Brown, Kerry McGee, Jenny Kee, and Seafolly, to name a few.
Whilst I developed this business, I taught part-time at TAFE NSW where I designed and delivered the School of Fashion’s first Fashion Marketing Curriculum, as well as taught the London Design Institute’s Design Management course for TAFE NSW fashion teachers seeking tertiary accreditation.
Realizing that many of the best-intentioned business plans, often ended up in the bottom drawer, I shifted my focus, yet again, from telling people what to do, towards inspiring, motivating and enabling people to take responsibility for effecting their own desired changes.
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 reinvent my entrepreneurial game and 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 adventurer, Barry Aarons, who became my husband. In the early years, of our relationship, we became accredited foster carers, for the Department of Community Services, in NSW. 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 from being a victim to my illness, to take responsibility for not only causing what was my current state, and for also managing my recovery. I learned a lot about the impact of toxic thoughts, or negative internal dialogue, on my physiological state, and auto-immune system and 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 a doorway and created a threshold towards renewing and retooling myself for the coming decades.
Having always sought creative ways of fast-tracking a client’s consciousness, I evolved presencing and emergence concepts and mindfulness principles to create new pathways and a 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 participating in a range of Emergence & Peace of Mind Retreats, at various stages, over the next ten years. Where I learned the true power of deep-diving into silence and stillness, and into retreat and reflection, to let go of the old and allow space for the new to emerge.
I ultimately moved on to become the CEO of my own Australian based learning and development company, Compass Learning Pty Ltd. Where we 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 and challenged most of what I had been taught and experienced about high-performance organisational cultures, leaders, and teams. Aptly illustrated by Dov Frohman founder of Intel Israel, in his book “Leadership the Hard Way” that “leadership in today’s economy is a lot like flying a plane through a thunderstorm” which focussed may attention on the nature, role, and impact of disruption on leaders, teams and organisations.
This made me quickly realize that most of the approaches to organisational development that I had learned and applied in Australia were irrelevant to potential clients inside and 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 and identify the key cultural drivers, mindsets, and behaviours, responsible for impacting this tiny “huge” country, with its own unique set of adaptive challenges. I discovered that its success, as The Start-Up Nation and its incredible ascension in The Global Innovation Index, defied most of the consulting, culture, leadership and coaching models I had learned and 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 and 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 and debating. Where I sought to understand, decipher, integrate and generate new approaches to dealing with disruption. By developing innovative organisational cultures, conscious leaders, co-creative teams and executive coaching within a holistic, systemic and innovative business ecosystem 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 and radically different innovation and entrepreneurship space that totally embraced and fascinated me.
I sailed voraciously around in the volatile, uncharted waters that this amazing learning journey took me on. Where the innovation rollercoaster, with it’s high emotional, cognitive and viscerally challenging peaks and deep troughs, involving horrible failures and 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™ to retool to win in the next decade.
Where I sought to invent new non-prescriptive, adaptive and innovative ways of disrupting prevailing leadership, culture, coaching, and corporate learning paradigms. To invent creative and innovative ways for organizations, managers, leaders to learn, adapt, take risks, lead and thrive in this bewildering VUCA environment.
I founded ImagineNation™ as a modern elder and start-up entrepreneur in Israel, ultimately specializing 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, and fractured global demographics needed new ways of being, thinking, talking and acting differently.
Within a safe and collective holding space that allows people to connect, explore, discover and design co-creative ideas individually, and collectively. To reorder higher levels of collective creative consciousness to result in creative insights and collective breakthroughs that unleash opportunities and solve problems in ways that transform them into innovative solutions that people value and cherish.
This made ImagineNation™ the first global learning company to research, decipher and replicate the “secret sauce” behind the hugely successful and enviable Israeli innovative culture and entrepreneurial start-up phenomena and lifestyle.
During this time, I joined the ICF (International Coach Federation), as a means of meeting and interacting with the local coaching community. As I sought to work globally, I completed all of the requirements to attain my initial ICF coaching ACC credential and recently achieved PCC accreditation.
Whilst letting go of my old knowledge, skills and experience, I have created, iterated and pivoted, over five years, a completely new world-class innovation curriculum. Incorporating the ICF CCE (Continuing Coach Education) Coach for Innovators Certified Program, which is offered to coaches, trainers, leaders, managers and teams 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 including the OGI® (Organizational Growth Indicator), which reveals both the strengths and the constraints occurring in organisations that impact their ability to affect value creation for customers and organisational growth.
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 and 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, and happily teach from my own embodied personal experiences. This has enabled me to develop confidence, emotional integrity, agility, authenticity and evocative leadership and coaching presence at 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 and minds, in ways that enable people, teams, and organizations to collectively adapt and grow through disruption.
Finally, my husband and I recalibrated our vision for the future, making key quality of life and family decisions, which brought us back to Australia after six amazing and 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 and professional renewal and 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 it’s 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 helped us settle in. Where we enjoy the amazing range of seaside walks with our now advanced four-legged family, as well as discovering Melbourne’s amazing cultural leadership, awesome infrastructure, quality of life and diversity.
In the end, it’s all been about making a series of fundamental choices that have constantly shifted my way of being (mindsets and moods), thinking and acting. So that I can focus on creating the groundswell that unleashes new possibilities for positive change, and commitment to constantly re-educate and re-inventing myself and those brave and bold others who I connect and collaborate with to help make the world a better place.