By Constance Garcia-Barrio
Even Ovid, creator of “Metamorphoses,” a book about startling transformations, might have done a double-take at the way Lisa Kramer reshapes her life. “I’ve re-invented myself several times,” said Kramer, 61, an executive coach and part-time yoga teacher at Healing Arts Studio in Chestnut Hill. “It’s a shame to let fear get in the way of changing your life.”
One suspects that Kramer, a Conshohocken resident who grew up on Long Island, may have been born with a certain suppleness of spirit, which deepened when she majored in psychology at the University of Maryland. “I chose that field thinking that I wanted to understand and help others, but looking back, I probably wanted to understand myself.”
Kramer further equipped herself to assist others with a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania. For 10 years she practiced in a variety of areas, including inpatient psychiatry and family services. She especially liked working with adoptive families.
In 1991, Kramer shifted gears and left social work for academia with a full-time faculty position at Widener University’s Center for Social Work Education. She taught undergraduate and graduate courses, helped to design the curriculum and recruited and hired faculty.
By 2001, when she headed Widener’s undergraduate social work division, the program had earned accreditation from the Council of Social Work Education. By then, Kramer had begun to segue into a new field: executive coaching. She had already founded her company, Leading with Intention, and cut back to part-time teaching at Widener.
Meanwhile, she studied coaching through the Coaches Training Institute. “I did 120 hours of training followed by a six-month certification process,” she said. In 2004, she received professional coach certification. “When I started my own company, I was taking a leap of faith. I was teaching part-time, building my company and raising my two sons. Sometimes I look back at those years and can’t believe that I did it.”
Executive coaching can provide strengthening in specific areas, Kramer explained. “For example, it can help with developing emotional intelligence, that is, the ability to recognize one’s own and other people’s emotions. Many larger companies use internal coaches but still hire independent coaches for more senior leaders.”
Kramer also coaches at the Wharton School. She recently worked with a group of women leaders through Wharton’s Executive Leadership Program. “A woman may need to heighten her executive presence so that in meetings she comes across as confident, especially if she’s the only woman in the room. Women often have a harder time saying what we want and being our own best advocates.” Kramer practices what she preaches and reaps the rewards. “I find coaching more lucrative than academia.”
Kramer took another leap in 2009 when she got divorced after a 23-year marriage. It meant relying solely on her own resources. “My former husband and I remain on good terms. We both felt committed to doing right by our children, who were in college when we divorced,” Kramer said of her sons, now ages 28 and 31. Her elder son and his wife, who live in Bethesda, Maryland, will make Kramer a grandmother in July.
The end of a marriage puts 100 percent of the weight for her well being on a woman’s shoulders, but she may gain a certain freedom, Kramer found. “Going through a divorce helped me grow into my own strength,” she said. “It helped put aside the idea that so many women in my generation learned of relying on the man as the primary breadwinner. I feel freer to be myself. Not that I want to remain alone. I would like to be in another committed partnership.”
A yoga practitioner for 17 years, Lisa also decided to bump up her game by becoming a yoga teacher in 2013. That choice meant investing $5000 in training at Kripalu in Massachusetts, “the Harvard of yoga schools.”
Kramer believes that her background in social work helped to prepare her to try different flavors of life. “Social workers tend to be resourceful. I applied to my own life the skills I used in securing services for my clients.” Kramer also grew up watching her mother run a successful business. “It was unusual at that time. Most mothers of most of my friends were homemakers. I’m grateful for that role model.”
For more information: http://www.leadingwithintention.com. Mt. Airy resident Constance Garcia Garcia-Barrio is a freelance writer and retired professor of romance languages at West Chester University.