Translating values into visuals with diversity and inclusion consultants Kristin Bower and Annika Lofstrand
I had the pleasure of taking portraits of Kristin and Annika for their individual consulting businesses, as well as joint portraits for the work that they do together in their diversity and inclusion practices.
It was so great working with these two ladies! They have built their businesses on a very clear foundation of core values that are important to them and we looked at how to include values such as empathy, vulnerability, humour, relatabilty and curiosity in the photos. Check out the beautiful big pile of books they brought with them!
Kristin and Annika originally met when they both worked at Vancity Credit Union. Read on to learn about their journey’s to owning their own consulting practices and why they are so passionate about working with businesses to create and maintain high-performing, healthy, engaged, and inclusive teams and workplace cultures.
Why did you both decide to set up your own businesses after working for companies?
Kristin: It was a hard decision because I was working for Vancity Credit Union – an organization that reflects my values - and leading work that I loved and believed to be making an impact both for employees and for members. There were a lot of reasons to stay! But I felt a pull to start something of my own, have more autonomy in the work that I did and how I did it, and to help more organizations leverage the benefits of inclusive diversity.
Annika: Before going out on my own, I also worked for Vancity with great teams and people and where I had the opportunity to lead and support values-based work. Earlier in my career, I had owned and operated businesses and the timing was right for me to try consulting in the areas I really enjoyed and knew I could add value for my clients including diversity and inclusion. Similar to Kristin, I thought I could potentially have a greater impact by working with more organizations as a consultant. What made the transition easier for me was having a network of great mentors, collaborators and supporters. A number of them were my first partners and clients and I still have relationships with them today.
What is the most fulfilling piece in your practices?
Kristin: I love working with people who really care about building healthier workplaces and communities. A big part of embracing diversity and working towards inclusion means stepping out of your comfort zone – it means shifting from a place of bias and judgement to a place of curiosity. To be part of that and to witness the transformation as a result is incredibly rewarding.
Annika: I really have to listen to meet clients where they are at, hold the mirror up (at times!) and support them in the best way possible. I work with leaders on personal and team effectiveness and how to create and maintain high-performing, healthy, engaged, and inclusive teams and workplace cultures. One of the most fulfilling things about this work for me is that there is not one way to do it! Like Kristin, I love leaning in to difficult conversations, challenging assumptions and exploring possibilities. I have seen the impact of seemingly small 'interventions', initiatives or changes to some amazing individual, team and cultural transformations. Knowing what's possible keeps me engaged.
How do you work together as a team on projects?
Kristin: Annika and I go way back! She hired me 12 years ago to be a recruiter when she was the Manager of Talent at Vancity. We have worked together in numerous capacities over the years, stayed connected when she left to start her HR Consulting business, and built a friendship. While we each have our own consulting practice, we look for opportunities where our areas of expertise complement each other and when we recognize that we would add value to a client as a team, we pitch that approach. Because we have a long history of working together and shared values, we have an ease in how we work together. Because we have a high level of trust, we can also challenge each other, both individually and as a team, to think in new ways in order to best serve our clients and to grow personally.
Annika: As Kristin said, we have the benefit of years of experience together and shared values; which makes collaborating easy (and fun!). We have also each been accountable for diversity and inclusion within an organization and know how difficult it can be to get real, sustainable traction and buy in for this work. It made sense to have our own consulting practices and to collaborate where we could leverage our combined efforts to do even more for our clients. We push each other to be curious, innovative, relevant and informed and to look for projects where we can have the most impact.
Can you share two or three of your goals for this year? (business or personal)
Kristin: It’s my first year as a consultant so my main focus has been building my business and for me that means working with the right clients at the right time (can I add value to the organization and does the work reflect my expertise and values?). Another goal has been in building my consulting community and I have to say that has been amazing – there is a great group of people surrounding me who are generous with their support of me and each other. Personally, my goal has been an ongoing one which is to be well - body, mind and spirit.
Annika: Coming into my 5th year of consulting, I wanted to be intentional about partnering more and, as Kristin, describes, 'building my consulting community'! I have learned how to take the best of my values, background, experience, passion and perspective to my clients and my work. Collaborating with Kristin was a natural choice to build out my diversity and inclusion 'offering'. Other (related) goals for this year include being more focused on the 'highest and best use' of me for my clients, continuing to build my network of like-minded colleagues and making a meaningful contribution and difference.
How do you tie in one or two of your values to your business?
Kristin: There is no separation between my personal and professional values. I am a diversity & inclusion consultant because I believe in the strength, beauty and ability in each of us. When we approach people with empathy, curiosity, compassion and integrity – personally and professionally – we are all stronger for it.
Annika: My approach to consulting has always been to 'reflect' my personal values like integrity, curiosity and respect in my work and relationships. Being transparent about who I am (and am not!), what I bring and where I can add the most value is integral to my approach and lets clients (and collaborators!) make an informed decision about working with me. Like Kristin, I choose to 'be in the diversity and inclusion space' because it can be difficult and inspiring at the same time. The work will never be done but we both know it's the 'right' work that makes individuals, workplaces, communities and the world better and stronger.
Any final thoughts?
Kristin: My “ask” of readers is this: Challenge yourself to be more curious and less judgmental: “live in curiosity – that’s where the magic happens”.