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From Spice Of The Classroom To Global Innovator - Pam August's Remarkable Story

Brainz Magazine Exclusive Interview

 

Pam August is an insight activator, curious co-creator, culture whisperer, and, according to her 4th-grade teacher, the "spice that every classroom needs", always learning and learning all ways. She knows a lot about the power of potential in work and life and, more importantly, how to connect it. Her expertise stands on a solid foundation, including certification in fitness and nutrition, a Bachelor of Adult Education, a Master of Arts in Leadership, and numerous facilitation and coaching certifications. It springs to life through her diverse experience of fitness teaching and nutrition counseling, award-winning learning facilitation in higher education, a people and culture developer, and being the Director of Culture Activation at WestJet Airlines, one of Canada´s most admired corporate cultures.


Today, she is a trusted partner for high-performance organizations worldwide through her firm, Connecting Potential. Pam expertly guides them and fiercely champions the potential already there in three dimensions of organizational performance: within us as individuals, between us in relationships and teams, and around us in this thing called "culture". Her range and depth of experience in each dimension give her a unique trifecta of expertise in the people and culture development space as she fluidly facilitates connections between them for exponential impact.


Pam is also a sought-after speaker, known for her infectious energy and experiential, activational messages. Her first book, Potential – How to Connect What´s Already There for Exponential Impact, synthesizes her rich, lifelong learning into a simple yet powerful mindset shift, operating system, and core practice for individuals, teams, and organizations to navigate today´s uncertainty with greater energy, ease, and effectiveness.


Daily movement and delicious food fuel Pam; yoga and contemplative practices ground her; a wonderful husband and adult sons burst her heart with gratitude, and she loves to laugh – a lot! (And yes, this is how she sits for all of her video meetings.)


Pam August
Pam August. Photo Credit: Dana Cole Photography

Can you tell us about your business and how it makes a difference for your clients?


Absolutely! My life and my work are built on the fundamental belief that we all need to connect (bring together) the capacity to develop or become (potential), and my business is about connecting it again and again - thus its name "Connecting Potential". While connecting potential sounds enticing (at least it does to me and those I work with), it is often elusive because the world is uncertain. The only thing certain is that uncertainty is not going away! Uncertainty causes significant stress, and when accompanied by the complications and complexities of modern work and life, we too often find ourselves experiencing states of strain, swirl, or stuck, what I call the three S´s. The three S´s also too frequently interrupt and disrupt forward movement in our teams, organizations, families, and communities.


The three S´s are optional states despite the way the world is. I offer my clients simple and powerful ways to shift them to the three E´s: energy, ease, and effectiveness. Because I still don´t know what I want to be when I grow up, and learning is how I move through life, over decades, I have built a deep and broad toolkit to do this. Some ways I go deep with my clients include behavioral assessments, individual and team coaching, process facilitation, custom learning program design and facilitation, and a flexible culture roadmap methodology. These approaches and others all result in greater clarity, focus, alignment, and action in all three dimensions of organizational performance. And yes, key business metrics and the experience of work improve as a result.


More broadly, I share constantly evolving insights and actions through keynote messages on topics including organizational culture, optimizing performance, and navigating the future of work. And I am excited to share that my first book just came out into the world – more on that in a bit! In an uncertain world where we waste too much energy trying to control things we don´t control, I have found that focusing on the things we do have control over, namely us and our states and the dynamics within, between, and around us (as individuals, in teams, and cultures), have a greater immediate and lasting impact as noted by my clients.


"She has the rare ability to inspire people to be different and sustain different."


"Pam does magic with teams. I don´t know how she does it, but she manages to transform and innovate groups that are stale in thinking, resistant to change, obstinate to innovation, and hate new things."


"Pam has a remarkable talent for simplifying complex ideas and fostering a culture of meaningful engagement and growth."


Pam August
"I have never met a post-it note that I didn't love." - Pam August. Photo Credit: Dana Cole Photography

Share a bit about your journey so far. How did you end up where you are today in your career?


I characterize my journey as "always forward and never straight." A long time ago, I decided that the journey and the accompanying learning are much more important to me than the destination. This decision and the actions it produced have led to the full and rich career in my bio – and a life fully experienced. I started my professional career in corporate wellness as a fitness instructor, nutrition educator, and marketing manager, and then moved into postsecondary education as a faculty member at SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology). My claim to fame was that I never taught a course anyone wanted to take! I taught nutrition to professional cooking students who wished the four food groups to be "salt, sugar, grease, and alcohol". They missed an important one – caffeine! I also taught human relations to technically-minded students who didn´t want to waste time on the "soft stuff".


I quickly learned that facilitating learning was much more than covering material. It was the opposite. It needed to be a set of facilitated experiences that uncovered learning and the desire to do so. When I realized I didn´t care what people ate as much as I cared about how people learned, I shifted my focus to faculty development to help other subject matter experts discover and practice the same learning "magic".


I moved into people and culture development with WestJet, a Canadian airline and one of Canada`s most admired corporate cultures. I was with WestJet from when the company was eight in 2004 until it turned 23 in 2019. When I started, it was like working at an eight-year-old – lots of energy, not much life experience, and all that came with that. Organizations develop as people do. I was with WestJet into our tweens, through our terrible teens and our early twenties, guiding the organization`s development in various roles, including leadership development, team coaching, and as the director of culture activation. In my director role, I led and guided actions that aligned our culture with our strategic direction. In 2019, I decided to leave WestJet and start Connecting Potential, my most challenging career decision and one I am most proud of. More on that shortly.


If you had asked me ten years ago, or even five years ago, if I would be a consistent mid-six-figure solopreneur, agented keynote speaker, and published author, I would have said, "Hmmm…I don´t know. Let`s see where the work and my learning take me." I have never been someone with a clear, concrete career or business goal. I have always had a clear intention about what and how I want to learn – and how I want to create learning in relationships with others.


Years ago, a yoga teacher said something that captured the philosophy of my journey. They said, "I have never been much for goals because when we focus on goals, we miss the opportunity (or, my word, potential) that is here with us right now. Intention (how we want to be) also guides us forward while allowing us to be present to these opportunities, these moments that change our lives if we are open to seeing and acting on them". It´s not that I am saying, "Give up your goals and your plans"! I want to offer another perspective and way for others to consider. Oh, and commit fully to what you commit to, giving and doing your best always, in all ways.


Pam August
"Same goes for fruity smelling markers." - Pam August. Photo Credit: Dana Cole Photography

What is your work inspired by?


My work is inspired each moment that someone I interact with sees in themself what I know is already there – their potential. And by someone, I mean individuals, teams, organizations, friends, or family members. I am so grateful that those moments happen all the time. And when it connects – wow! And I am probably even more inspired, or perhaps the better word is jazzed, by the messiness and "perturbation" that precede these moments. Perturbation is a real word. You can look it up. It means the state of being perturbed. The wonderful thing about perturbation is that it is where real learning starts. The challenge is that we avoid it (often to our detriment) because it makes us uncomfortable. I have learned to be with and embrace this discomfort, and I love inviting others to do the same.


What are your current goals for your business? 


Didn`t you read my answer to the question about my journey? :-) This interview is being published two days after the release of my book Potential, so I am still in a postpartum glow (or maybe haze), starting to get curious about what my new "baby" might grow into. When I was in the months approaching the release date, it became evident that I wasn´t launching my book; it was launching me, just as part way through the writing process, it was writing me more than I was writing it. My intention in this part of the journey is to show up fully for my book so that it can land in the hands of whoever needs to read it. Being on the cover of Brainz and doing this interview is part of that process.


Here is a statement that is as close to a goal as I can get. My goal is for Potential to be the catalyst for my work to have a broader, exponential impact worldwide and for me to follow its lead. It is not a SMART goal, but one that resonates deeply with me.


Are there any exciting projects on the horizon for you? 


Potential coming into the world has provided enough excitement because I am also relaunching my website with additional tools for my readers. Next to learning, traveling is one of my favorite things to do, and this month, I am embarking on some exciting work with international clients. My "goal" from the previous question is already starting to happen, and I constantly remind myself to continue with my "commitment to action and detachment from outcome" along the way. It really takes the pressure off when I also take the work, not myself, seriously.


To wrap things up, could you share a proud moment from your career? 


I have two that tie together. The first was having the courage to say goodbye to my career at WestJet. I loved my work and the people I did it with even more. Despite that, the whisper to do something on my own became a shout, and it was time to leave. It was the hardest decision of my career because not only did I work at WestJet, I was a WestJetter for fourteen years. To shed that identity left me wondering and afraid of who I would be without it. It turns out I am still me with the opportunity now to share my learning on a broader scale. I share this story in more detail in my book.


The second one is also about courage – this time to say yes to the call to write Potential. I share a short video about this on my website in the "About Me" section. Throughout the process of writing it, the words "Who do you think you are" reappeared several times in the writing, editing, and publishing process. Imposter syndrome was a persistent one. So, I let the words I was writing teach me as I intended them to teach my readers. I followed its lead, and now it´s out in the world.


Finally, do you have any particular pieces of advice or words of wisdom that you´d like to share with our readers?


The quote in the image below says it better than I ever could. I have this card on my desk, and every day, it reminds me to be me and to help others be them. Oh, and remember, your potential is already there, ready to be connected. Wherever you are, it’s the place for the next step in connecting it.



For more info, follow Pam on LinkedIn, Instagram, the speakers page, and visit her website!

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