Kate Van Akin

Kate Van Akin is an independent coach and leadership facilitator. She works with people to help them slow down and become more present so they can connect with their own internal source of wisdom.

What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative. 

I grew up in the U.S., on the east coast. I was always a high achiever. I excelled in school and was active in musical groups and mock trial. I was lucky to have been born into a loving family who encouraged me to dream big. My father taught me to work hard and save money, while my mother told me to always follow my heart.

When I was in my early 20s, following my heart meant moving overseas, to Dubai, where I lived for three years, working as a paralegal. I went to Harvard Law School to get my law degree, but my heart wasn’t in the practice of law, so I took a job with McKinsey & Company in Dubai as a consultant after I graduated. While, from an external perspective, I appeared to be on a successful path – a good job with a prestigious company – my heart wasn’t in it. Unfortunately, I was so busy that I didn’t have time to contemplate what I would find more fulfilling.

My journey reached a turning point when I met Michael Rennie, a partner in McKinsey’s Dubai office. Over the course of several conversations, he taught me how to manifest my ideal life – something I had never devoted time towards before. (You can read more about this journey on my blog Finding George: https://findinggeorge.wordpress.com/, and more about Michael on my blog Ruby Slippers: https://www.rubyslippers.life/post/walking-the-path-michael-rennie). I made some big changes in my life, leaving Dubai and moving to London to start a new role with McKinsey that would give me more time and space in my day.

While at McKinsey, I developed expertise working with multinational companies on engaging employees in large-scale change programs. Over the years, I met many good, hard-working people who were suffering from overwhelm, burning out as a result of burning the candles at both ends. I wanted to find a way to help them rediscover their passion and feel more alive. I began studying human development in more depth, got my coaching certification, and began leading workshops on finding meaning and managing your energy in order to live a more fulfilling life.

Ultimately, I made the difficult decision to leave my job at McKinsey to pursue this work independently. I wanted to be able to focus exclusively on helping people slow down and become more present, so they could shut out the noise and hear their own inner source of wisdom. Leaving full-time employment is a decision many people toy with, but few ever make, and I understand why it can be so hard. McKinsey was (and is) a good employer that takes care of its people, and I had a lot of opportunity to grow in my roles there. I felt like I was leaving a relationship where my partner was nothing but kind to me, rather than leaving a job. But I knew I would be happier in the long run, going back to my mom’s advice, if I followed my heart.

Tell us something about your initiative/business. What is it about and how is it helpful for people?

Through my business, RSL Coaching, I offer 1:1 and team coaching, as well as broader leadership development services focused on helping individuals and teams slow down enough to connect with themselves and each other on a deeper level, reflect on and discuss the topics that matter most to them, and, through what emerges from this space, see a new path forward. Depending on the nature of the work, I also often work in partnership with other coaches and facilitators.

While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?

I loved how the world slowed down during the pandemic. I know how fortunate I was. My family remained healthy, I kept my job, and, as I don’t have kids, I didn’t have to make the heroic effort that many parents did to educate their children at home while continuing to work. Before the pandemic, I travelled quite frequently and I found it hard to establish healthy routines. Even having to go to the office every day in London was exhausting – navigating the chaos of a city really drained my energy. Because of the pandemic, I was able to move outside of London to be closer to nature and establish healthier routines where I slept more, ate better, and started exercising. I feel like I had the opportunity to fully reset my life.

More broadly, I have loved following how the pandemic has forced businesses to start re-thinking their business models. Hybrid or fully remote working models have been proven successful, as has the four-day work week. My hope is that employees will continue to advocate for more balance and wellbeing, and that businesses will be forced to flex, rather than returning to pre-pandemic norms. Less travel is good for the environment as well as for mental health.

What has been the response of the users/consumers towards your venture? 

It’s been great. The clients I work with have seen positive changes in their lives (you can see testimonials on my website www.rsl-coaching.com), and I now have over 650 subscribers to my weekly newsletter, Friday Pause (https://www.linkedin.com/newsletters/friday-pause-6867369700989526016/).

How has your life changed because of your initiative/venture?

I would say that, on the whole, my life feels healthier and more balanced. I love having more control over where, how, and how much I work. I find meaning in pretty much everything I do – otherwise, I wouldn’t be doing it! And I’m more in touch with my own needs. If I’m feeling energized, I keep working. If I feel tired or unfocused, I step away from my computer and do some yoga or go for a walk. I love working from home – I’ve set up my home office to be just how I like it, and I am living a much healthier lifestyle now that I can cook at home more rather than eating out. 

Do you have anyone who is the biggest support system in your life? Please let us know.

I’m definitely very lucky when it comes to support systems. My partner supports me and encourages me in everything I do – he often sees more potential in me than I do in myself! And I have a group of close friends who also work as coaches and facilitators who I can turn to whenever I need to – we support each other on our journeys. One of the top five regrets of people who are near the end of their lives is not staying in touch with their friends. I make an active effort to stay in touch with my friends, wherever they are in the world, and I know I can count on them, along with my family, whatever happens.

Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity? OR Share a motivational message for the audience/women who are reading this.

I would like to see the pace of growth in the world slow down tremendously, or even shrink. In biology, too much growth in cells is called cancer. Yet we – or at least, Western capitalist societies – hold a belief that growth is good, and that slowing growth is a problem that must be solved. This relentless pursuit of growth leaves people feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and distracted. By slowing down, we can find a way to more easily live in harmony with the world.

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