Creatives In Conversation: Haley Hansel shares insight on the importance of creating company culture rooted in personal growth and development
While some creatives thrive in absolute chaos, there is a curious power that comes from being able to work from a far less chaotic environment. When working from a place of comfort or peace and quiet, there is the potential for less notable distractions, more room for growth and even the freedom to simply create without too much pressure. Although every creative operates a bit differently, as well as may habitually modify what may serve their individual creative process or routine the best, environment and self-development have such a symbiotic relationships that some companies are working especially hard to nourish it in the day-to-day workflow of their employees.
In fact, the importance of cultivating an environment that best serves productive and encouraging office practices has even led to the creation of entire departments and positions dedicated to supporting employees in different ways. At Chanje, a leading force in the sustainable movement and supplier of commercial electric vehicles, Haley Hansel oversees a program designed to help every single employee become the best version of themselves, and that's not solely in their given roles at the office but outside of the company walls as well. The personal development program is engrained in the company culture, in that each employee actively participates throughout the duration of their time working for Chanje. The value of a company working to nurture personal growth manifests itself in several ways, ranging from more effective problem solving to employees feeling more confident in themselves and therefore in their work overall.
Haley first started out at the company working in the marketing department and eventually found herself volunteering to take on the added responsibility of helping support the development program when an extra hand was needed. Soon thereafter, it organically transitioned into being her full-time role and during her time at Chanje, she's witnessed how mutually beneficial and rewarding it can be when employees are given the time and the space to grow through the challenges they face. As a writer, manager, meditation practitioner, development coach and wellness leader, Haley's enthusiasm for what she does shines through in her work, serving as a testament to how incredible it is when one's environment helps proactively nourish one's creative and personal development.
During a recent conversation with DropLabs, Haley spoke more in-depth about how she got started with Chanje, the curriculum she's developed and the importance of trusting the process.
What do you do for a living?
For a little bit of background about myself, I work at a company called Chanje. We manufacture and sell electric commercial trucks and also handle the charging infrastructure. The company is very start-up-esque, but one of the things that makes our company unique--and I may be a little biased--is the culture. One sliver of that is a personal development training program that everybody in the company works through continuously. It's not something that you start and stop; it's essentially part of your employment package and what I do is actually run that program. I develop the curriculum, I run the trainings, I teach the tools et cetera. I do a lot of coaching and things of that nature.
What helped you get started?
I actually got into this type of work only after I began working at Chanje. When I was in undergrad, I studied journalism, and what I think really drew me to that was the interpersonal nature of it. You get to talk to people about the things they’re most passionate about. That, to me, was really fun. When I left school, I started working for Chanje in the marketing department. I was doing digital marketing, a lot of social media, things of that nature. In conjunction I was going through this development program as an employee and it just really resonated with me. It was like nothing I'd been introduced to before. I had never really invested in personal development work up to that point. I was 22 years old [Laughs]. But it really resonated with me and I took to it.
At the time, we had a consultant who worked with Chanje to develop the program from the ground up. That person wasn't based here in Los Angeles, so as we kept hiring, the company needed somebody to be on the ground in the office to guide people because it's a lot to navigate. I took that on as an added responsibility and a couple of years went by before I transitioned into the role full time. It was definitely something that happened organically, that I didn't set out to do initially. I didn't even know that this was a job you could have. It was just one of those things I was introduced to, fell in love with, and was a perfect fit. The program did wonders for me personally so when I had the opportunity to help guide other people, it was a really obvious career transition.
What is one of your favorite accomplishments or a project that you're really proud of?
For me, something I'm most proud of is being able to build out this position for myself and the company. It wasn't something anybody expected. It wasn't even something we foresaw needing. Over time it just became apparent there was a gap we ought to fill. For me to, as a 23-24 year old, step into that, take on that added responsibility, really define a department and start to build that out within the company is something I'm really proud of. It's funny because to this day, I'm still the youngest person at the company even years later. So there is definitely an irony in having the youngest person at an organization trying to lead everybody else through their development. I think that's a testament to the work I've put in individually to be able to really understand the content that we're teaching and to be confident enough in what I'm doing to guide the whole company through the curriculum.
Can you share a bit more about the program you've developed?
I’ve always found it a bit hard to describe because there are so many facets to it. Essentially, the intent of the development program is to allow people to understand themselves more thoroughly so that they can in turn show up in work and in life as improved versions of themselves. If everybody in the company is working to become a better human being, then as an organization, we're just going to continue to grow exponentially.
There are more traditional organization development tools that we teach like attention management and how to prioritize your day-to-day schedule so that you can be an effective employee. We also focus on less conventional tools like mindfulness practices and learning to build our consciousness more generally. For instance we begin many of our meetings with a meditation or centering, so introducing people to those concepts is part of the program. Another big thing we do is create personal development practices. We work with everybody to outline one thing they’d really like to improve on--we call this their old habit--and then we help them establish a new habit. The key to the success of this is having everyone share their development practices in order to receive support and reinforce the fact that we don’t want you feeling like you need to hide your weaknesses.
In a lot of organizations, people spend their time and energy hiding the things they're not good at because when people find out you're not good at something or you've made a mistake or it's just not your strength, you don't tend to get rewarded for that in traditional business. Our thought process is if we don't let people talk about where they would like to improve and don't support their growth, they're just going to show up to work every day and they're not going to get better and in that scenario everyone suffers-- the individual and the organization.
In what ways would you say creativity plays a role in the company?
I think it's super important for us. One of our core values is actually "crazy" and that's something we really embrace. The thought is if we're able to create a business environment and a culture where there's trust and intellectual safety, then you will have the confidence to say something off the cuff that may not be perfectly thought out or well-oiled. In that kind of trusting environment, there's going to be a lot more imagination and innovation. We can start to bounce ideas off of each other and you're able to create a lot more, as opposed to being in an environment where you need to be right all the time. That just makes people scared to speak up or say something crazy. So for us, crazy is really important and that translates to creatively pretty directly across the board.
What about creativity in your own life?
I would say journaling is my main source of creative outlet. It's something I've been doing my entire adult life and it is definitely is part of the reason why personal development work is so interesting to me. I think the practice of writing my thoughts really represents the nexus between my previous journalistic self and my current personal development self. For me when I put pen to paper, it slows my brain down and allows me to think things through clearly. It’s the avenue where my best ideas come from, and a lot of my own personal breakthroughs. It's a must-have in terms of how I process information and all the things I'm constantly thinking about.
What type of environment or setting do you feel the most creative in?
For me, it's when I can be alone, which is a little counterintuitive to how I think a lot of people's creative processes work. Meditation has actually done a lot to enhance my creativity. That being said my ideal creative setting would be any space I feel comfortable quietly reflecting and being present. The times when I’m able to block out noise and everything that doesn’t matter is when I’m able to source the most creative energy.
What surprised you the most about trying out DropLabs Technology?
I think what surprised me the most was how much of an in-body experience it really was. And you're feeling energy moving throughout your entire body, it’s not an isolated experience. It was very sensational in the most in-body way. Definitely one of those things where you really have no idea what you're getting yourself into going in, but when you actually experience it, it's pretty incredible.
How would you explain the DropLabs experience to your friends?
I’ve listened to a lot of guided meditations that ask you to imagine energy running from the group up through your body. And when you’re able to settle into that meditation, there is definitely a real sensation you can feel in your body. Droplabs is like that on steroids.
As someone who prioritizes meditation in your own routine, what was your experience like with the meditation aspect with DropLabs?
It's funny, when Bryce first texted me about the product, I was about to respond and be like, 'You know I don't have a musical bone in my body,' since that was my association with the shoes [Laughs]. But before I could even say that, he told me, 'They are really good for mindfulness and meditation!' It was an ah-ha moment. I never would have put that together but I think it's really great.
I think DropLabs could unlock a lot of potential there, especially for people who are being introduced to meditation for the first time. When we first introduce people to meditation we often instruct them to ground into one thing that you’re focused on -- for example your feet on the floor or your breath. Whatever you choose, the goal is to be present and ground yourself. So when I listened to a meditation with the shoes on, it was really an incredible experience to feel the energy inside your body and choose to focus on that.
I think for myself who has done meditation for many years or for somebody who has never done it before, DropLabs introduces is a completely new way of approaching it. It's interesting because for something that is so powerful, it's not distracting. From a mindfulness perspective, to be able to anchor into an energy like that, that's so physical, is really cool.
Do you have any important mantras that you live by?
So many! [Laughs.] One thing that I circle back to and remind myself of is that you don't have to force anything. Of course everyone has to work hard and you have to put in the energy, but I've found when I'm where I'm supposed to be, I can just feel it. You don't need to go out of your way to force something. I’m pretty conscious about slowing down and recognizing when I feel really connected with something. To me that’s what guides my decision making. It's important to relax and trust the process, because when you do, I’ve found things tend to fall into place.
Haley Hansel can be found on Instagram at @hahansel.
As innovators by design, the team behind DropLabs Technology is dedicated to supporting and elevating members of the creative community. Together, we aim to serve as a platform highlighting different creators as they work towards achieving visionary excellence and inspiring others along their path. To nominate a creative leader you’d like to see highlighted on our website, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.