LEAP! with Vicki Flaherty
Welcome back to LEAP!, an inspiring interview series featuring women who aren’t afraid to leap in the direction of their dreams!
I hope you enjoyed last month’s interview with Jackie Bassett. This month, I’m excited to feature Vicki Flaherty, an IBM leadership development professional, a poet, and a breast cancer survivor. Vicki and I met in 2007 while working on an internal project at IBM and I immediately felt a strong click with her soulful way of being. After I left IBM, Vicki became one of my first coaching clients and I learned so much from our coaching relationship. She was—and still is—one of my favorite clients because of her openness, vulnerability, and willingness to go DEEP. I chose Vicki for this interview series because of a significant leap she took after being diagnosed with breast cancer. This leap culminated in her published collection of poems titled, “Mostly My Hearts Sings.” As you listen to my interview with Vicki and read the highlights, I hope you will feel inspired to listen to your heart, connect with your own truth, and tap into your creativity just as Vicki has learned to do.
Below are the selected highlights from my recent interview with Vicki. However, I highly encourage you to listen to Vicki’s interview (approx. 30 min).
As always, I’d love to hear your feedback!
“Listen to your heart and be intentional about how you want to move forward in the world. Listen to your truth and let your truth guide you.”—Vicki Flaherty
Meet Vicki Flaherty… PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Learning & Development Guru. IBMer. Runner. Yogi. Gardener. Writer. Poet. Breast Cancer Survivor. World Traveler. Lives an “abundantly delicious life” with her husband, Jim, in the heartland of America (Iowa).
A Calling to Help People Succeed
“About 20 years ago, I worked for a small start-up company in workforce development and was awarded a corporate award called ‘Helping People Succeed.’ I didn’t realize it then, but that was the sign on the path of my career. Today, I’m an IBMer and thrilled to work in the learning organization in leadership development. I’ve worked for IBM for 17 years and I’ve had 3 or 4 careers so far. I started in our services organization doing consulting work to start, then I switched to doing career development work, then I moved into our learning organization, and have shifted into leading programs related to leadership development. My latest responsibility is to support new executives in making that transition to the executive level, which is a pretty big leap in our company. One of the initiatives I’m leading now is around mindfulness, bringing mindfulness and focus to the work that we do, and helping leaders to do this.”
Awakening the Inner Poet
“In 2005, I had gone through a workshop which was a very powerful, transformative experience. Through the workshop, I determined that I wanted to find my joy, and I hadn’t even realized that I had lost my joy. The workshop began this awakening process, and I started to dabble with poetry and words. It was an important impetus to how I handled being diagnosed withbreast cancer in 2011. I’m very achievement oriented, but I didn’t always slow down enough to experience what I was feeling or celebrate what I was accomplishing. With cancer, there were a lot of experiences and feelings I never experienced before, and I found myself needing an outlet to understand what was happening. I sat down with a piece of paper and a pen and started writing some words that described what I was thinking, feeling, and experiencing. The words started turning into phrases, and the phrases started connecting together. Suddenly a river of words and emotions was flowing and felt so cathartic.”
Leaping into the Darkness
“My poetry helped me process what was happening and lean into my fears. I tend to be a very positive person, so, when I experienced negative emotions, I often didn’t have words for what I was feeling. I knew I was going to have to physically change my body and the poetry helped me move through this. My poetry helped me get comfortable with putting my heart out there and being vulnerable. I showed parts of me that felt very intimate, but I felt such power and comfort in sharing my poetry and knowing that others could relate to it. I wrote a poem called ‘The Struggle,’ which is about the dark side of myself that was so difficult to face.”
The Struggle by Vicki Flaherty
feeling the walls
surrounded in darkness
in the cocoon
only tiny fragments
of hope linger
in the air
from a fire smoldering
into the unknown
like mud unsure
what’s in here
even more uncertain
what’s out there
fear filling the air
wanting desperately out
struggling against the edges
holding things in
dizziness pushing ‘round
falling to get up
only to sit still
in the gray silence
© 2015 Vicki L. Flaherty
Leaping into the Light
“Even during this cancer experience, I leaned toward finding the light, finding the grace, finding the opportunity and possibility, while going through struggles and moments of darkness. The poetry told the story of my diagnosis, my journey to acceptance, the dark moments, the coping, and the release toward the end. Sharing my poetry, being vulnerable enough to share my deepest feelings – was my LEAP. Facing head on my emotions – the dark and negative ones, the ones I typically rushed over or pushed away – was the opportunity that came with my cancer diagnosis and treatment. My book, ‘Mostly My Hearts Sings,’ really opened the door for me to more fully listen to my heart and follow it, especially in my work.”
Leaping with Grace, Joy, Hope, and Faith
“Through my journey of looking inward, I found parts of myself to call upon for support. I have a friend named Grace who brings calm and confidence to me. I have a friend Joy who brings light and gratitude whenever I go. I constantly hold Hope in my heart and she helps me to dream and make the leaps towards my dreams. I hold Faith in my gut and she gives me the courage to let go of my fears and believe in things that I can’t see but I know might be possible.”
Leaping into the Future
“When I interviewed for my current leadership development job, it took a lot of courage to be completely authentic and honest during the interview process. I wanted my new manager to understand that I was going to be bringing not only my mind to work, but also my heart to work. I’m bringing that singing heart to work, and I have some great opportunities to let my heart sing at work, especially related to cultivating a culture of mindfulness. As for my poetry, I’ve written more poetry since I published ‘Mostly My Heart Sings.’ I’m thinking of pulling together another collection. I’m open to the possibility of publishing more, but I’m not sure what it will look like yet.”
“Listen to your heart and be intentional about how you want to move forward in the world. Listen to your truth and let your truth guide you. My poem, ‘Truth’s Whisper,’ is about tuning into your inner truth.”
Truth’s Whisper by Vicki Flaherty
so that sometimes
it is hard to hear.
In quiet moments
I feel its breath
It’s voice is clear:
Be who you are, completely.
Your light is for giving.
© 2015 Vicki L. Flaherty
Want to connect with Vicki Flaherty, buy her book, and continue to enjoy her poetry and inspirational writing?
- Leading with Intention
- Mostly My Heart Sings [book]
- Mostly My Heart Sings [blog]
- This Abundantly Delicious Life
(Credits: Images above were found on Pinterest and foryouyouyou.com)