A Conversation on Creativity With Dannie-Lu Carr.
What tools do we need to deal with life’s challenges and work creatively in the face of adversity, so we can come out stronger at the end of it?
Dannie-Lu Carr is the founder of three signature online programmes: Flaming Leadership, Warrior Women and 28 Days of Defiance and also a Published Writer, Award-Winning Theatre Director, Singer-Songwriter and the founder of Creative Wavelengths™—a new language for creativity. Her work is described as “brilliant, not for the faint of heart… for courageous souls…” We first met 10 years ago at a women’s networking event in London, and thought she was a real dynamo with an enormous heart.
TS: You coach on leadership and personal impact with a focus on empowering women and LGBTQ. What stories do you want to bring to light, and what was the catalyst to start your consultancy?
DLC: My work on fearless leadership and personal impact is really about giving people back their sense of self and the tools to speak articulately about their ideas and points of view. I work with people to develop and trust their judgement and dare to put themselves forward to galvanise innovation and change where it’s needed. We still live in a very hierarchical world mostly, which can unnecessarily intimidate, undermine, dominate and control. Nobody wins with this way of working.
My goal is always to create a more level playing field where ideas can be shared, and we can respect points of view. The best people to lead these changes are those who haven’t automatically been given the metaphorical floor historically and understand how it is to have a different insight about how things were in the past, hence the predominant focus on women and LGBTQ.
The catalyst to start my consultancy was about giving people the tools to deal with challenges without them having a devastating effect and also to work creatively in the face of adversity so they can weather through and come out stronger.
What’s your coaching style? What techniques do you use to help people get past their blocks and seriously step up?
My style is informal, honest, to the point. It’s the best way to cut through the nonsense noise in our heads and environments—the noise that creates a lack of confidence and procrastination. I have a ‘just do it’ approach once people have unpacked what is really going on for them and have the clarity. I use a range of techniques, but probably the edgiest is bringing my theatre training (the honesty of communication and saying what is) to the business world.
Teaching is a two-way thing. Any advice you’ve taken on board that has changed your outlook or challenged your thinking?
I always say that I endlessly learn when I teach. When I am advising and coaching others, it isn’t unusual for a voice to kick off in my head that says something like, “this advice you’re giving to Jane you need to do this with X in your own life”. The biggest thing I have learned to do is to be humble when someone points out my own shortcomings rather than get defensive. To take a ‘fair enough, I have to own that’ position is always gold. Usually, the things that fly at us as the most uncomfortable to swallow absolutely hold the most wisdom and insight for us.
Your online programmes: 28 Days of Defiance, Warrior Women, and Flaming Leadership are described as brilliant and “not for the faint of heart, for courageous souls.” What’s your creative process, and who or what has inspired you?
First, I listen to my clients. I’ve always got my ears pricked for their challenges, wants, etc. Then things churn around in my head for a bit and my subsequent process is that I then raggedly sit on the floor amidst a heap of pen and papers and brainstorm in an intense burst. Or several of them. That’s how I nail and fine-tune. Then I take the ideas out to the world, and it goes from there. In terms of inspiration, people inspire me all the time. I think people can be magnificent with their insights, ideas, resilience and drive. There are a tonne of women out there, past and present, who are/were incredible—Jude Kelly, Anita Roddick, Malala Yousafzai, Jacinda Ardern… I have an endless list, to be honest. When women stand up strong and in their boots, they can be so powerful.
Someone said you have a form of ‘business magic’ in terms of how you approach problems and conflicts at work. Can you give us an example?
In short, I listen to as much as I can before I address where the assumptions and unconscious biases might be for all parties involved. This flushes out the emotion that can give any of us humans blind spots. Then I drill into—what is the actual issue really at play here? Then last, how can this be articulated to feel you are expressing yourself fully while respecting the other person’s point of view? That’s pretty much my framework.
You’ve written a brilliant book on assertiveness. We can swing between unassertiveness and OTT behaviour. How do we find the middle ground—i.e. getting what we want without rubbing people up the wrong way?
This is a huge passion of mine. It’s actually very easy to find a middle ground, but we don’t have that many role models in terms of people who practice this. It is one of the major reasons that I really rate Keir Starmer. He executes the middle ground with aplomb. It’s about taking the personal emotion out of it and being in an adult position. It isn’t about point-scoring. It is about addressing the issue at hand as honestly as you can while remaining aware of your potential impact on the other person. Often, we feel like we are assertive when we are falling short. And people get confused between assertive and aggressive when they are actually very different states of being.
You’re the founder of Creative Wavelengths™ —a new language for creativity. What is it, and how can it help us to raise our creative intelligence?
I have spent about five years developing Creative Wavelengths—it is nine keywords that pinpoint exactly what is happening around any creative process and/or collaboration. Creativity is often shrouded in mystery, and the surrounding language is very imprecise, which causes issues with people taking it seriously or holding the value of it and what it needs. Having a shared language that is time-efficient and gives permission for a deep and precise conversation allows us to elevate our understanding of creativity and therefore raises our overall creative intelligence and our ability to cut through the noise and access the critical insights for innovation and deep resonance.
Any business problems you’d like help with right now or opportunities for collaboration?
I’m always open to discussions and potential collaborations. We are living in a very unpredictable world, way more than ever before, and we need smart and courageous people to come forward and tackle these issues, rather than being stuck in a place of victim and fear. I’d like my clients to recognise that coaching and consulting is the most critical thing to invest in and come away from the old mindset that it is a luxury and therefore the first thing to go. How do they expect to weather storms like this without access to understanding and adopting new ways of doing things? Rhetoric, of course.
Oh wow. I could write a book on creative inspirations… here’s a handful of some of my favourites:
Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace
Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed
The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks
Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
Reasons to be Cheerful
The Tim Ferriss Show
The Brutal Truth
The 99 Percent
Harvard Business Review