What happens when you get paid to listen...

Image: J. Ashley Nixon

Image: J. Ashley Nixon

I am a professional Integral Coach.

I work with clients to help them make the shift from where they are, to where they want to be.

I am also a visual facilitator.

As a visual facilitator, I use large sheets of paper to help individuals and groups move through a process. I do this work in offices (strategic planning, visioning), at schools, and on one-on-one retreats in beautiful places like Banff (personal/professional visioning).

And...I am ALSO a graphic recorder.

As a graphic recorder, I work with large sheets of paper and markers, or with my iPad, to capture what is happening in a room. I am essentially a scribe. I help to reflect back to the group what was said in a visually appealing way.

I love what I do, but in the past few years, I have really struggled with the disconnect I have felt between the work that I do as a coach and facilitator and the work that I do as a graphic recorder. After all, when I am a graphic recorder, I am not sharing my insight or offering a process that could help the group achieve greater understanding.

Instead, I am there just to listen.

What I am slowly discovering is that graphic recording offers me a license to be in places that I may not otherwise find myself. In order to do my job well, I need to become immersed in the context of the day, and I find myself absorbing the lexicon, context, and outlook of the group that I am working with. I have been privy to conversations among various groups: first nations, government, industry and non-profit organizations. As a result, my understanding of the complexities of our world has deepened. I am starting to see the commonalities that exist among all of these conversations; the collective threads that connect us in this unique time in history. In many ways, my work as a graphic recorder has helped me to better understand the human condition along with the corporate landscape.

Graphic recording also allows me to settle into an intense level of presence. I was recording at a conference earlier this week and a woman said to me,

"I just realized that you are probably the one person in this room who listened the most intently to the discussion today."

I hadn't thought of it that way before, but she was right. As a graphic recorder, I need to sift through the rapid-fire conversation and harvest key content. In order to do this well, I need to be grounded and present. I can't check my email. I can't pop out of the meeting for a latte. I can't daydream. I need to stay firmly rooted in the here and now.

Slowly, I am starting to understand that life has a strange way of teaching us. I can now see that each of my disciplines inform one another other. I am a better coach and facilitator because of the work that I do as a graphic recorder. I am a better graphic recorder because of the work that I do as an Integral Coach and as a facilitator.

So often in life, we can feel like our lives are fragmented into different pieces, and we worry that energy in one direction may mean a loss of energy in another. But, I am starting to think differently.

When we follow the threads of what we are passionate about, we ARE headed in the right direction. Perhaps, one day, your love for pottery and accounting will evolve into a small business that you love. Our your passion for global issues and your engineering degree could lead you to a career at an NGO.

The way I see it, our job is simple. Keep on following those threads, and do so with as much love and passion that we can muster.




It will be a powerful 6-weeks of online coaching sessions, an illustrated workbook that will support you in your self study, and an online community of like-minded people that you can reach out to for support and encouragement.