Breaking Convention: My Journey as a Man at Eileen Fisher - Embracing and Elevating the Feminine for Greater Wholeness and Well-Being

Contributor: Sean Harvey
To learn more about Sean, click here.

 

Mimage001.jpgy transformation journey at Eileen Fisher really took root in my third week on the job.  It was May, 2014, and I was sitting in Eileen’s living room on retreat with most of my Leadership, Learning and Development team members. In what would become one of many all-day retreats and off-sites, on this particular day we were learning to incorporate the arts (song, dance, drawing, painting, arts and crafts, spoken word/poetry, improv, and games among others) into our facilitation techniques to enrich creativity.  Two-and-a-half hours into the experience, while drums were beating in the background, I found myself doing interpretive dance as a tree blowing in the wind to a poem co-written by my colleague and read in spoken word about a Bumble Bee Trying to Find Her Nectar. After our performance, my boss came up to me and said, “You know you’re in a different world now, don’t you?”  And so began my journey as a man learning that I’d need to embrace and elevate my feminine energy to really understand and thrive in this environment.  

A different world was right, and it was nothing that I could have imagined.  As a man who left a successful consulting career serving Wall Street and Big Media companies to come to Eileen Fisher and get a one-of-a- kind in-house experience, I was in for the ride of my life (professionally and personally).  I currently serve as the head of Purpose, Personal Transformation and Well-being for Eileen Fisher, (EF), a B-Corp women’s clothing company with roughly $425M in annual revenue, and 1,200+ employees across the US, UK, and Canada. The company is comprised of 83% women and subscribes fully and unapologetically to feminine leadership principles and practices. 

We Do Things Differently Around Here
For my first 3.5 years at EF, I served as an internal change agent for our creative teams (design, merchandising, brand communications, and digital).  As I engaged with these highly creative teams around change, leadership development, and team forming and alignment, my work was driven by a culture that was intentionally designed to support the flow of creative energy. We did this by remaining organic, less focused on process, and more on inclusive and collaborative discussions that brought in different voices for greater democratic decision-making.  We often straddled and grappled with the dualities of intuition versus data, creative versus business, and organic versus process.  

We also have a number of rituals in which we engage that help to create the container for our culture.  All meetings start with silence and meditation to create space for everyone to come into the room and become fully present for each other. Following silence, teams will engage in an individual personal and professional check-in, to get a read of the emotional energy coming in the space that may impact the attention and agenda of the meeting. We use the Circle Way, where we meet in circles with no tables between us, so as to really break down the energy of hierarchy and allow all voices to be heard, often with a circle check-in and round-robin conversations.  Embedded in many meetings was a mantra that we used, that Eileen often shared, which was “perfect enough” so we could move away from perfectionism to prototyping and trying new ideas and allowing for greater innovation.  

Exposure to Unconventional Experiences
I’ve been fortunate to have had some interesting (and life changing) experiences throughout my time at EF including: 

  • Attending a 5-day Human Interaction Lab in Virginia during my first year to examine and enhance my level of emotional intelligence and challenge and transform limiting beliefs; 
  • Spending 5 weekends over 5 months at an artist commune in Canada with artists and youth empowerment facilitators, to get a deeper experience of integrating an arts-based approach into facilitation design and delivery as a pathway to deeper transformation work with our employees; 
  • Co-creating a personal transformation and growth experience that introduces all of our employees to their life purpose, deeper self-awareness using the Enneagram assessment, somatic/embodiment work, shadow work, limiting beliefs work, and spirit/mindfulness practices;  
  • Serving as a volunteer facilitator for the boys program (15 – 17 year olds) in our Eileen Fisher Leadership Institute, delivering a workshop challenging traditional masculinity models called “Lessons from our Fathers, Letters to our Dads”;
  • Being guided by our in-house Akashic Records Reader and Medical Intuitive (available to all employees) and many teachers and healers through our EF LIFEWORK programs, including Shadow and Purpose workshops (our personal transformation learning lab for the community and world).
  • Holding space as a trusted ally to design and facilitate our “We the Change: Women Together” planning retreat bringing together the voices of our women’s empowerment facilitators as they partnered together to carry out Eileen’s vision of creating a global women’s empowerment movement. 

Pathway to Wholeness and Well-Being
Throughout my EF experience, I’ve learned to deepen my listening, create space more deliberately for different voices, appreciate the significance of language, and the power of words, and let go of my ego, and the need to prove my worth/value, constantly be heard, and be right.  I’ve developed a patience to really sit with and hold space for deep contemplation of issues and challenges without feeling the need to rush to solve the problem or find the answer.  By letting go of the restrictions of traditional masculine identity, I’ve been able to really allow my emotional and creative expression to come through more fully, while tapping into my intuitive abilities.

I’ve worked diligently with my leaders and wellness director to look at work/life balance.  As a former consultant, I didn’t understand work/life balance or see the need for the life part of work/life balance.  This included taking a look at self-care in some new ways around diet, exercise, and living a healthier lifestyle.  Where I’ve noticed the greatest change in my life is around relationships. As a former introverted workaholic, I’ve learned to value relationship and friendship in new and profound ways - really showing up authentically and focusing on relationship first as the pathway to anything else.  Our collaborative environment really encourages that type of transformation of relationship and way of being with others.  

At Eileen Fisher, I’ve also discovered my life purpose, which is being a healing man who is here to help other men heal.  In living out my purpose, it’s led to my beginning seminary where I’m gaining the spiritual grounding to really be able to support the personal transformation journeys of men.  In this work, challenging the traditional models and definitions of masculine identity and finding pathways to help men access and elevate the feminine so they begin to walk in a more balanced way – holding a healthy balance of masculine and feminine energy in the ways they show up and be in the world.

Contact Sean at:
Sean@symponiastudios.com