Seeing Beyond the Surface

The work that I do in fostering effective team relationships revolves around learning to connect on a heartfelt level – a connection that creates the open, mutually respectful relationships required for effective collaboration. In doing so, we peel away surface layers to reveal our own essence or soul, and reveal the way we relate to others.

As a consultant actively developing emotional, social and relationship systems intelligences in teams and systems, I am always in search of creative ways to lift the mask and share stories that recognize this essence and deepen connection.


“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery


How can we begin to understand one another at a heartfelt level? Emotional and social intelligence teaches us to recognize quiet details, as simple as the lift of an eyebrow or a shift in posture. Observing these fine points can snap recognition of an underlying emotion into focus.

More than anything else, hands, eyes and faces have always drawn my attention. I savour watching the hands and faces of those I love, especially when those people are in full flow and on purpose, unaware that I am observing them.

When I think of my grandmother, father, mother, sister and brother, it is their eyes that first come to mind. My family served as models for me when I took photography in school. I remember waiting in the dimness of the darkroom, anticipating the moment when the liquid would release the details I had trapped within the film – the mischievous sparkle of my grandmother’s eyes, or the soft mossy gaze of my father as his hands gently worked the wood of a new bowl.


“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.”

 Brené Brown


The photos encapsulate the essence of long-ago moments shared with my family members.

In later years, I used a video camera to record the voice and image of my father as he told stories. Although I began taping him with the idea of creating a video to mark his sixtieth birthday, we soon discovered he had pancreatic cancer. Capturing his intrinsic essence on film became even more valuable.

In the years immediately after his death, these recorded moments with my father warmed us. I am able to share him with my children, who had been so very young when he left us.

In my professional career, I have continued to look for innovative ways to foster understanding about the work that I do. This began in my twenties when I lived with the people of the East Usambara forests of Tanzania, learning about their relationship, rights, responsibilities and returns within the forest.

Trying to capture the essence of that relationship in dry academic papers and technical reports was frustrating to me. I began to advocate for the use of film in telling the story, training in and using InsightShare’s participatory video strategies.

“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.” 
• William James


When I returned to England my sister and I used the same techniques, focusing the lens on youth in Keighley West Yorkshire and in primary schools. Participatory video allows people to share a story in their own words and in their own time, rather than having it told for them.

Most recently, Nic Askew and his video methodology came to my attention via a film. As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to train with him. In early 2019, I learned how to use Nic’s InnerView method to witness the intrinsic nature or essence of each person flowing through the screen. My mother was just turning 70. It was a perfect time to capture the essence of who she is on film.


“There is a light within each of us that can never be diminished or extinguished. It can only be obscured by forgetting who we are.”
• Deepak Chopra


Innovative techniques like these, combined with coaching strategies and heightened emotional, social and relationship systems intelligence, offer an opportunity to deepen the connections between us. In learning to see and to be seen, we share our essence, highlight our gifts and talents, and reveal the brilliant colours of the soul.

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Woodcock, Ph.D., who develops change leadership capability in organizations and social system through Novalda and as CRR Global’s Canadian partner.


Question | How are you fostering connection right now?

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Novalda Coaching & Consulting Inc.