Laura Hartley is an activist, writer and founder of Public Love Enterprises, an online school empowering changemakers & entrepreneurs to radically reimagine the world, co-creating the conditions for social healing and collective thriving.
Laura’s work centres around transforming self, business and culture. She runs programs on business beyond capitalism, cultural wayfinding and the inner work of dismantling capitalism and supremacy culture.
Laura lives and works on Gadigal land in Sydney, Australia but can frequently be found with a backpack somewhere in the wild.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Laura Hartley: Thank you for inviting me to this interview! I’m so excited to talk with you. .
I’m the founder and CEO of Public Love Enterprises, an online school for changemakers. Our intention is to empower changemakers, activists & entrepreneurs to radically reimagine the world, creating the conditions for social healing, collective thriving & ultimately, liberation.
We run programs on healing burnout culture and the inner work of system change, and I coach changemakers interested in regenerative leadership.
An easy way to think of us is personal development with a systems & justice lens.
2020 and 2021 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2022? What lessons have you learned?
Laura Hartley: The last couple of years have been a lot right? Whether through the pandemic, or the climate crisis or increasing awareness of racial injustice, it’s pretty clear that the world is in a large state of transition. What we now see in business – as a result of these monumental cultural and world events – is of course the Great Resignation (or Re-Evaluation). People are re-evaluating how they want to spend their time, what’s important to them and where their values lie.
What I also see is an increasing recognition of the systemic roots of these crises, namely capitalism, patriarchy & white supremacy. For those of us in business, I think it’s important we start to look at these systems and challenge our participation in them, and that’s certainly what I’m doing with Public Love Enterprises. Our thriving in business depends on a thriving world, so looking at the conditions that underpin and create that – for everyone – is a lesson we’re all learning.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2022? What advice would you share?
Laura Hartley: From a broad perspective, one of the key things business can and should focus on its long term vision and values. With continual upheaval in the world, it’s easy to be bounced about, or to want to “go back to normal” – we see that with the push many companies have had with their employees to the office, for example. But the world is not going back to 2019, and disruption is really the new norm.
So where do we find our strongest anchor? For me, it doesn’t lie in the past – it lies in our vision of a more just and regenerative world. And people are hungry for this – more and more of us are looking for companies that embody their values, that strive to create something better.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Laura Hartley: The last few years have had definite benefits for online education, although this year we notice Zoom fatigue a little more than two years ago. Many of us (including myself) are excited to return to live, in person events and spend less time online. However, the shift is still there – people are more open than ever before to participating in coaching and programs online, and that’s exciting to be a part of.
From a changemaking perspective, the last few years have also been incredibly eventful. We’ve seen both an increasing awareness of systemic injustice, more people stepping forward and demanding change, but also incredibly high burnout rates. The weight and toll of the work has a real impact, and it’s important we have tools, structures and cultures that are supportive of us in long-haul work.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2022?
Laura Hartley: At the start of the pandemic, there was so much uncertainty. We were all thrown into entirely new waters. What I wish I had known then – and I think, I did know, so maybe remembered is a better term – is that disruption is the new norm. The world is not going back to what it was before, and if we assume it is or strive for it to, then we’re missing out on the incredible gifts that lay in this time of change.
My intention in 2022 is to focus on the flow, allowing Public Love Enterprises to change and grow as the times call for.
It’s also learning to adapt to a world that is zoom-fatigued. We all crave (and need) real human touch and connection, and I’m holding questions around how our online experiences can be more nourishing, engaging and connected.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2022?
Laura Hartley: While I expect some retreat from the online world as we reconnect with each other in person, I expect it’s also here to stay. With the Great Resignation reshaping how we live and work, and many of us craving location freedom after years of being in the same place, I anticipate remote working to become more and more common. Companies that don’t offer this to employees will struggle with retaining talent and attracting younger employees who want something different.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Laura Hartley: Too many! I try not to look at my phone when I first wake up (sometimes successful, sometimes not), and to break up my day with time outside, but I would like to decrease my screen time further. Time away is so vital for my creativity and mental health.
One thing I have been toying with is the idea of a day a week without tech. I was inspired by a podcast with Tiffany Shlain on On Being, where she talked about her family’s “tech shabbat” – while I haven’t got there yet, I am mindful of minimising my use as much as possible.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Laura Hartley: Storytelling is powerful. While we often look at storytelling in the context of communicating our vision and sharing our ‘why’ to consumers, what is often missed is examining the stories we already hold collectively. The stories about what it means to be a part of our team, whether we’re resourced enough and our capacity to make a real impact.
When we notice and examine the unconscious stories we are already telling and living together, then we can use storytelling techniques (there’s an incredible array out there) to consciously shape a healthier and more regenerative team and workplace.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Laura Hartley: The climate crisis, without a doubt. This is the greatest existential threat ever to face humanity. The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, said just recently that “We have a choice. Collective action or collective suicide. It is in our hands.” Right now, as a world, we are continuing to choose collective suicide.
And here’s the thing: it’s impossible to separate the climate crisis from it’s root in capitalism. You cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet. We can have all the tech solutions in the world, and it still won’t be enough if it requires the endless extraction of finite resources, or our continued disconnect of humans and the natural world.
So for business, this is not only a time of deep reckoning but a time of tremendous opportunity. Business is not capitalism. Money is not capitalism. Capitalism is the ideology and system that has us endlessly extracting from the Earth in the pursuit of ‘growth’.
How could we start to step beyond that? How could we shift our pledges of sustainability to active regeneration? How can we remove artificial scarcity from our sales, marketing, production lines and operations? How could we redefine success away from growth and toward genuine wellbeing?
If we can start to answer some of these questions, business could have a tremendous role in healing the crises we face.
In 2022, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Laura Hartley: One of the most important skill sets we can possess at this time is what we often refer to as the “soft skills”. Emotional intelligence, listening, communication skills. The beautiful – and challenging – thing about this skillset however is that it isn’t a ‘one time’ thing. It’s a constant practice that we come back to, that we can continue to hone and deepen over our lives.
While I work on this, I’m also interested in deepening my systems analysis, to articulate the link between our seemingly individual actions and our collective systems and beliefs.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Laura Hartley: I think it really depends on the industry and company you’re in. Many of my peers and I were not surprised by the Great Resignation – which I really think is better referred to as the Great Re-Evaluation. People have been looking for more meaning, connection and purpose for a long time. They’ve been looking for more flexibility and better balance for a long time. The pandemic was really just a catalyst for people to start taking action on what they were already thinking about behind the scenes.
However, as leaders, we all have blind spots, things we’re not aware of. The question is whether we’re willing to look at those blind spots when a light is shone on them. Do we look away and say “that’s not me”, or do we examine them and choose to do things differently? It might mean acknowledging we’ve been rigid in our thinking, or perhaps we’re not truly embodying the values we claim to care about. But great leadership isn’t about doing everything right, it’s about acknowledging the areas we’ve been wrong and course correcting.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Laura Hartley: Can this be like a magic superpower related to business? Oh my, probably to just be a tech power house. To have every piece of tech work when I come into contact with it, and the ability to use any software. That would be incredible.
What does “success” in 2022 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Laura Hartley: I love this question. We often equate success with growth – and that if we’re not growing, we’re stagnating. From a wider economic perspective, we consider a growing economy to a successful economy, with of course resting, pausing, retracting considered to be bad. There’s a quote by Edward Abbey that I always come back to though, which is “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell”.
So while I explore deeper understandings of success, with stronger metrics around wellbeing and happiness, what I’m trying to do this year is rest in the experience of being satiated. Of knowing at a deep body level what it feels like to be satisfied – to feel good.
So many of us have lost this, including myself to an extent, and until we know what this feeling is – until we’re able to experience it without constantly jumping to “what next” or “not enough” – our definitions of success will be limited.
Jerome Knyszewski, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Laura Hartley for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Laura Hartley or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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