“William Walker spoke at Open Door in May 2015. Open Door is a weekly reintegration activity designed to help inmates and ex-inmates successfully transition back into the community at the end of their prison sentence. Since 2007 I have scheduled over 600 guest speakers from every field imaginable: professors, activists, business owners and so on. The caliber of our speakers is very high, and to Mr. Walker's credit, his presentation on "Mythology and Finding Personal Meaning, Responsibility and Empowerment in One's Life", was one of the most inspirational and memorable Open Doors I have experienced.”
—Jeri Pitzel, Coordinator, Open Door, Le Mouvement Communitas Inc.
"William is a force of nature - gentle, accepting and incredibly perceptive and also fierce in his own integrity, which invites the same in everyone he's with. I've experienced his coaching on several occasions and each time left with more clarity, more confidence, a greater sense of alignment, and an achievable plan of action.”
—Michelle Holliday, Cambium Consulting, Author of The Age of Thrivability
"Working with William as a personal leadership coach has been very significant for me. I feel I have grown in confidence and clarity in my leadership. He has helped me to expand my repertoire of leadership skills and strategies, to address blocks and challenges, and to learn more about my leadership values and priorities. I have been able to make significant changes and take on new leadership roles in my work. William is a great listener and a wise mentor, and I am very grateful for his role as coach and mentor.”
—Dr. Alyson Huntly, United Theological College at McGill
“From time to time leaders need to be stripped of every adornment and just be in the world and function without any props, without identity, without qualification, without external resources, stripped to raw essence so that we can learn to tap into our raw power again and again, so that we can feel, and relate human to human, essence to essence, with or without title, qualification or identifier. In the fall of 2014, William Walker invited me to go homeless on the streets of Montreal for a weekend. I was advised to eat well before setting out because it could be my last meal for a few days. William asked that I leave my IDs, wallet, phone and money behind. It reminded me of when Jesus sent his followers out on a mission and asked them to leave their money and bags. Now that is true leadership development, where for a limited time, within certain parameters and with some guidance, you are stripped of who you think you are and what you think you have and are left with your truth. Why did I want to engage in such an experience?
I wanted to experience, albeit for a short period of time, what it was like to be, to navigate and to act without identity, qualification or resource, only my essence. Here is what I learned:
Curiosity. I am naturally drawn to things I have never done because I came to the realization a while ago that if I only did the things I had done before, I would never grow and would never learn.
Integrity. I invite leaders, executives and teams into an experience called Cleaning as Practice, which is a very outside the box experience that stretches people beyond their comfort zones. I thought integrity requires that I experience again and again, what I invite others into.
Togetherness. I agreed to homelessness because I would not be alone. We were two. When difficult experiences are shared, the negative effect is minimized.
Radicality. I needed my thinking and paradigm challenged and shattered if necessary, by truth. I figured that by putting myself in an entirely new situation with an unfamiliar set of variables, I will have to create new thought patterns just to deal with them. I knew that the easiest way to think outside the box was to come out of it. It is very simple: when you step outside the box, you will think outside the box. Leadership and organizational development programs that keep most variables constant are not truly transformational.
Immersive learning. True learning involves the heart, mind, and body. Most learning involves playing with other people's ideas in our heads but true learning involves experiencing and feeling with our bodies and sensing and seeing with our hearts, enabling us to come up with original thought. I wanted to learn not only about homelessness, I wanted to learn about myself, my work and of course witness the city in a way I had never done. Real learning is experiential.
Juxtaposition. I love contrasts. A software developer becomes a better software developer when he or she is periodically exposed to experiences outside the world of coding. Juxtaposition enlarges our frame of reference. You are a better CEO the more you juxtapose your CEOness with a role that stands in sharp contrast to it like being a janitor, and vice versa. I went homeless because I wanted to better understand and appreciate homefulness. To learn about anything, it helps to experience its contrast.
Stripping. Floor stripping, perhaps the messiest and most difficult and time consuming cleaning task is also one of the most rewarding. This is the process of metamorphosis. The old self dies and a new self comes alive. This was my interpretation of the probability of not coming back alive. And really, we are not ready to live until we are ready to die are we? My primary reason for honoring the invitation to homelessness, which in a sense encapsulates all others, is that I wanted to be stripped of wax but also of dirt.
—Tolulope Ilesanmi, Founder, Zenith Cleaning Inc. and Cleaning as Practice