COACHING THAT MOVES THE MIND
Scientist and executive coach Géraldine Mercier is the founder of Awene. Her support offering covers the spheres of personal and professional life changes, entrepreneurship, and team building, among others. She encourages us to reconnect to what makes us vibrate and connect us to others. Géraldine's method, incorporating body, heart and mind, sets off a process of positive change and has sparked the interest of businesses and individual clients alike. Her slogan: Move Your Mind. Get to know this luminous woman with contagious energy.
Exploring and understanding the living world
It would be impossible to fully understand Géraldine Mercier's personalised support offer without looking back over her career path. Even before she realised it herself, her experiences were shaping the contours of her unique method. Fascinated by the living world from an early age, she was drawn to the sciences. Maths competitions, puzzles, physics, chemistry and biology: literally, the study of life. "I saw myself discovering molecules and taking new paths; I had this image in mind of Marie Curie, someone who inspired me". After passing her Baccalaureate at the age of 17, she began a Magistère degree in genetics at Université Paris VII. She was then admitted to École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, where she pursued a Magistère degree in molecular and cellular biology. After completing her PhD at Institut Curie, the logical next step would have been to enter the world of research. However, quite early on, Géraldine sensed that she would not find fulfilment in a research career. "I needed to expand my scope and directly experience other professional fields".
Learning by doing
Géraldine's scientific knowledge is an important asset that enables her to bridge the gap between the world of researchers and that of business: scientific valorisation is her native language. She took an innovation consultant position at a consultancy working with scientists, interfacing between clients and investors. Learning on the job, she discovered a whole new profession complete with market studies, business plans and customer relations. "I really enjoyed the connection with my clients, and I was speaking their language. I discovered a creative angle of my work that I really appreciated". Fast forward a few years, and Géraldine was about to explore another aspect of her sector. "I wanted to understand the reality of a start-up". She accepted a business development role in a start-up, where the work of interfacing between scientists and the pharmaceutical industry enabled her to develop new skills. At this point in her career, the only thing missing from her CV was a position with a large company. And voilà, her next role was with Basel-based pharmaceutical group Roche in global and cross-functional support roles, first in risk management, then in finance. A constant in Géraldine's career has been the ability to move into uncharted territory and explore new roles. Setting things in motion: the foundations of what would become the trademark of her coaching method were taking shape.
Don't imagine that she's inconsistent; quite the contrary, as Géraldine admits: "I need to change, explore new environments, observe, and understand how things work. My comfort zone is actually being outside my comfort zone! I'm driven by movement: my goal is to move the lines". After a few years with this major company, she felt that it was time for a new challenge. She heard an inner voice asking, "What will I be when I grow up?" This was a new question that required an answer. As Géraldine looked back over her career path and the challenges she'd successfully met, the link between her roles at various companies became clear: in each one, she’d been providing support and assisting with decision-making. She began to picture herself supporting businesses and individuals in the same way, and integrating the practice of movement as the other pillar of her project.
Open Floor Practice
No portrait of Géraldine would be complete without mentioning her involvement in art, theatre, music and dance from childhood on. Her artistic nature is an essential part of her character, and makes itself felt in her support offering. She is aware of the benefits of dance from personal experience: "When I'm not doing well, my survival instinct tells me to move and to dance. The body doesn't lie". She decided to integrate free movement into her coaching method. In her search for a solid training programme, Géraldine discovered Open Floor movement practice. After a long period of training, she obtained her certification. Free movement and music help both groups and individuals to let go, and open the way for connection between participants in group workshops. Movement makes it possible to project oneself both mentally and physically. This approach has met with great success. Géraldine calls it 'movefulness' in reference to mindfulness, the state of full awareness.
Body, heart and mind
Providing support is one thing, but becoming a certified coach is another, and requires serious preparation. Géraldine had to make a choice between a multitude of approaches, tools and methods. She was drawn to HEC Paris' Executive Coach programme, which provided her with training in various practices that today make up her 'toolbox': transactional analysis, systemic coaching, neuro-linguistic programming, emotional intelligence, non-violent communication, Gestalt therapy, questiology, and more. "These are precious tools to learn to better understand your inner drives, obstacles and how you relate to the world". The two fundamental pillars of her project are supporting change and forging connections between people. Her method, embodied movement, is both physical and mental: an alignment of body, heart and mind to achieve harmony between sensation, emotion and thought. "I often begin my sessions with this quotation from Albert Einstein: ‘Tell me and I'll forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I'll understand.’ My method is based on involvement though play, interaction and application".
Driven by her desire to work with different groups of people and build bridges between them, Géraldine offers individual coaching as well as team coaching for businesses and entrepreneurs, through workshops or team building, and also holds free movement workshops open to the public. Among the main themes she addresses are self-confidence, venturing into the unknown, confidence and letting go, overcoming fears, saying no, the art of questioning, authenticity, leadership, concentration and career change. Her offering is extensive, adaptable by request, in English or in French, live or virtual; her touchstones are emotional intelligence, collaborative intelligence, collective values, personal values and resilience.
Sometimes you have to be caught in a storm on an island for lightning to strike. For Géraldine, it was on Ouessant, where the winter winds sweep over the island at over 100km per hour. Found lying on a table, a book on the history of Brittany reconnected her to her Breton roots. She discovered the Breton word awen, evoking poetic inspiration: literally, the spirit flowing. The word mirrors 'state of flow', a coaching concept developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: when time disappears, fluency occurs between body, heart and mind, rooting us in the present moment where we feel secure, connected to ourselves, and grounded. This notion also exists in Open Floor practices: "an inexpressible line that connects us when we are grounded on earth but reaching for the sky". Quite naturally, awen became Awene, Géraldine Mercier's company name.
"When I looked for the common thread between biology and my work today, I told myself that the essential thing is the energy of life. I started out with a micro-observational approach: the molecule was my first functional unit of life. As I evolved, I moved on to the macro phase, asking myself what life is for a human being, and for the human community.
I like asking this question: how does being alive make you feel? What makes you vibrate?" Hearing Géraldine talk about vibrations calls to mind those old familiar expressions – good vibes, on the same wavelength, sending positive energy – and one of Bob Marley's greatest hits, Positive Vibration, which paid homage in its way to the effects of vibrations on the way we see the world.
Move your mind
Looking back over Géraldine's life, the logic of her unique path is clear, even with its twists and turns. She herself embodies Awene's slogan, Move Your Mind. "Embodiment is something that makes a lot of sense to me: you embody your life as you do your body". True to what has always made her vibrate, she invites us along for the ride and encourages us to push the boundaries and take action to improve our lives. One of the clients drawn to her approach is Roche, along with many other companies and individuals whose paths have crossed hers. Today, Géraldine is extending her scope from Switzerland to include France, and continues to build bridges between people who, like her, are passionate about change. She truly inspires us to begin moving.
translation Julie Windebank