I’m Natalie Cooper, founder of Forest Whispers, providing visionary leadership and life balance coaching.
I’ve spent my entire career interviewing leaders from all walks of life and getting to the heart of someone’s story around their life’s path.
This is why I started my ‘retreat in nature’ story leadership development business. To bring leaders together through shared experiences. Creating memorable, emotive and potentially transformational moments.
In childhood, I grew up camping, around campfires, trekking through woods and fields, building dens, riding steep ditches, climbing trees, nurturing animals in a primary school run by a dedicated environmentalist headmaster, the beloved Mr Alex Ferguson.
We had exotic animals, including an alligator onsite (true story), as well as an aviary of birds, paddocks of geese and a stable for the horse, a pond, barn and an adventure playground. We were surrounded by animals.
It was a community-led, village school called Juniper Hill in Flackwell Heath, where we all had to play our part tending to the animals, and mucking out, during school holidays.
Reflecting back on my childhood in later years, I realised just how much nature has been instrumental in my mental health throughout life – it kept me grounded.
Nature has always been my sanctuary and given me respite.
I fundamentally believe the wonderment of nature has so much to offer us all in unifying groups of people and individuals.
I’ve travelled widely and independently throughout Europe, North and South Americas, and Asia. Countries including China, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil.
Visiting places off the beaten track in my 20s, and trekking with the village Karen tribe in Northern Thailand, meeting war-torn guides, and mixing with the locals where ever I could, opened my eyes up to cultural traditions, diversity and tribal communities.
Seeing stark poverty, the most mesmerising natural wonders of the world, wildlife, and breath-taking scenery gave me insight into our world in which we all exist in and share together.
I saw the very worst of humanity, in terms of ravaged war history, scarred landscape and people. And the best, where I met kind strangers, and despite language barriers, went out of their way to help me when faced with dangerous situations.
My travels had a profound impact in the way I viewed culture. A couple of years later after my travels, when I landed a staff writing position for a leading weekly HR title: Personnel Today, as part of a regular award winning magazine and team, I discovered my calling.
Personnel Today was my launchpad into corporate leadership storytelling and campaign journalism around employer branding, HR and issues close to my heart.
I campaigned around leadership ethics, values, culture, corporate responsibility and philanthropy, flexible working, fairness, diversity & inclusion, work-life balance and corporate wellbeing – which holds true to this day.
My stories and blog I devised called 'The Work Clinic', regularly featured in the national newspapers and were picked up by the international press such as The New York Times, the business blogging community and networks including 'Employers Network For Equality & Inclusion'.
Combined, my early childhood experiences and worldly travels, also influence my decisions as a working parent now, on how I am raising my child to appreciate the natural world, spend time playing in nature and appreciate our diverse world.
As a business leader myself, in a fast paced, global connected world, this is why I’m an advocate of leadership vision and life balance.
Working parents and high performing individuals have to make difficult choices with conflicting priorities, every day.
This process can also help deal with denial, grief, loss of identity, lack of self-esteem, anxiety, burn out and stress which trap us – making us fearful to take that first step into a brighter future.
Remember we all have choice. We can choose to tread water, weighed down by fear, or we can choose to break free and overcome the adversity in which we have held captive for so long.
The story development process we offer can be life-changing. By providing a very calm yet challenging space, we can help you to reflect, explore and problem-solve to create solutions for a better way forward.