One of a series of profiles of Haven faculty members by Ellery Littleton.
“One of the hardest and most valuable lessons I have learned is the risk of being me versus the ease of fitting in.”
I started out as an Olympic athlete,” CrisMarie Campbell writes in the first sentence of a career background summary. “US Women’s Rowing 8+, in the 1988 Seoul Korea Games at the age of 24.” Quite an attention-grabbing beginning to a personal story of growth and transformation, following a path which led from industry, to top-level business consulting and team coaching, to leading personal growth programs at The Haven.
Long before completing her DipC at The Haven in 2008, CrisMarie earned a Bachelor of Science degree and an MBA. She worked at Boeing Aircraft in the 1980s then moved on to business consulting, coaching CEOs and helping business leaders “deal with the human side of change.” She is also a Master Certified Martha Beck Coach and has completed a Mind-Body Training program that, she says, “dovetails wonderfully with Haven concepts and tools.”
After several years of intense pressure at work, and mounting stress levels – including a back injury from the Olympics ten years earlier that wouldn’t heal – she threw herself into a myriad of treatments and therapies, both traditional and alternative. Then in Seattle she met Susan Clarke, now her partner in life, counseling and business, who is also on the faculty of The Haven. “She was amazing at dealing with people in conflict,” CrisMarie says. “I knew right away I wanted to work with her.” And work with her she has, at The Haven as well as in business. Together they lead Couples Alive I & II, Come Alive and Living Alive Phase I.
CrisMarie attended her first Come Alive at the Haven in 1998. “It changed my life,” she recalls. “I finally allowed myself to feel all those bottled-up feelings and start moving in new directions.”
Susan and CrisMarie started their own professional management consulting company called thrive! in 2002. Their motto is: “believe, align, achieve.” Over the last decade, they have been in the business of “creating healthy leaders, teams and organizations that thrive!” Judging from their client list, business has been excellent.
Of the Couples Alive workshops she leads with Susan, CrisMarie says, “It’s my favorite program. We work constantly with teams in the business world, and a couple is a mini-team. Sometimes I think people wonder what two women can offer a heterosexual couple in relationship. In our view, the dynamics between men and women and women and women and men and men all come down to:
- How can I be me in the face of we?
- Am I saying what is true for me while staying open and curious about you?
These issues come up all the time – if we are talking about money, sex, how we live in our space together, raising our kids or what’s for dinner.”
One senior Haven faculty member, who has worked with and observed CrisMarie leading groups, says, “She is an extraordinary listener – fully available and inclusive. She wears her heart on her sleeve and is courageous, strong and open about herself. Her biggest gift is that she has the courage to be absolutely true to who she is – real, honest and vulnerable – and is very skilled at helping other people achieve this as well.”
“One of the hardest and most valuable lessons I have learned is the risk of being me versus the ease of fitting in,” CrisMarie observes. “I used to think that a good relationship was one where everything was smooth, at the cost of being authentic and real to myself. I was so worried about the connection that I gave myself up in the process.
“I grew up in a difficult family, and living with my father was often a scary experience. I figured out an effective strategy to minimize conflict and facilitate happy discussions around the dinner table. This resulted in me focusing on managing the family conversation, avoiding any difficult topics. My desire for calm and connection overrode my desire for individualism and personal integrity.
“At The Haven and in the business teams we facilitate, I have repeatedly learned how toxic it is to ‘manage’ conversations, rather than helping people on a team to show up honestly and congruently with each other in the same room. It is so easy to make enemies and develop factions in an organization – or even in a family.”
In reflecting on her leadership style and goals as a program leader, CrisMarie says, “I want others to be willing to bring more of who they really are to everything they do in order to create the results they want. Working with me, I hope people will gain compassion for themselves and learn to laugh at themselves as they learn – as I have.
“I have heard that people feel comfortable opening up to me. I think that is because I am genuinely curious. I think it is because I learned to listen early on – especially to powerful, strong styles. I can honestly relate to people who give themselves away for whatever reason and have compassion for them.
“In all our work together, Susan and I use our personal and professional relationship to be with folks. Our relationship is very alive and immediate, which brings energy into the room. At times, that means it can be very real and raw with each other in our workshops. I think people like that because they realize that we are not perfect, nor do they have to be. Also they laugh a lot – maybe at first at us, but also eventually at themselves. As Ben Wong used to say, ‘Any two bozos can create a relationship.’ And we have a damn good one! (I think!)
“I have worked hard at landing in my own shoes – even if people are upset with me – and learned to become more aware of how I really feel, and owning it and expressing it in my relationships. This has created some chaos, but I feel true to myself, and that is priceless.”