in her early 30s, Susanne Conrad began to dive into studies of interpersonal communication and the human brain. At the time, she was an environmental analyst at Rocky Flats nuclear weapons production plant outside of Boulder.
“I just saw that people needed communication and vision,” she said, “because there is so much blame and anger about what happens, and it’s as toxic as petroleum.”
Her studies and insights continued with group communication projects, eventually leading to the development of a consultant firm, The Conrad Group, and igolu (pronounced I-goal-you), a body of innovative communication, goal-setting and leadership work.
Conrad will leading participants through a live igolu leadership workshop this Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Eagle-Vail Pavilion.
“Adults have mostly been turned off to visions and goals because of this way that we can get jaded, or we start to settle with how our life is, or justify whatever we are doing,” she said. “And it’s really mostly because somebody hasn’t worked with us to give us the tools to break out of that.”
Sunday’s session is a part of a national tour of leadership workshops that she will offer across the country to raise money to build a school in the Meda Welabu district of Ethiopia with imagine1day, a non-profit that supports building education systems in the developing country.
Conrad is donating 100 percent of the proceeds from her tour to imagine1day in support of their visions rooted in leadership and integrity, she said. She has spent time in Ethiopia to support the cause and has even trained leaders there.
“We have certified igolu leaders there on the ground, who lead this work within the community for organizations within Ethiopia,” she said. “So, the people that will be at the session on Sunday will be receiving the same experience that principals, government leaders and teenagers have received in the program in Ethiopia.”
Visions in action
Eagle County native Rachel Nelson was introduced to Conrad and igolu while assisting a yoga teacher training two and a half years ago.
“Really what she brings is her whole, authentic, real self, and it’s hard to find people and even leaders who really can stand in their wholeness and all aspects of themselves so powerfully,” Nelson said. “And she is incredibly relatable; I have never met someone who is as relatable as Susanne.”
Nelson, co-owner of Revolution Power Yoga in Eagle-Vail and retired professional snowboarder, went on to complete the igolu certification program, so she is now a certified igolu leader.
“A lot of times, work like this can be seen as hard or serious,” Nelson said. “But she teaches from this lighthearted, fun, loving, easy place, and the work is actually fun.”
Igolu work is taught on five levels, which Conrad said is meant to resonate with personal development to begin, and then ultimately radiate out into global leadership.
“Unless we take personal responsibility for our lives and our actions and the world we want to create, we really don’t have much power in defining how Vail ought to look, to the state of Colorado, or the United States or the globe,” said Conrad, who is based out of Santa Monica, California.
Conrad also consults with the clothing company lululemon athletica as a “director of possibility,” which is how Shenna Engleman, lululemon showroom manager in Vail, discovered igolu.
Engleman took level one through lululemon almost two years ago, she said, and actually repeated level one twice more. After moving to Vail last year in fulfillment of both personal and career goals, Engleman recently completed level two with Nelson’s guidance. She said the program as a whole offers tangible tools to understand and use in everyday situations.
“It has brought me more awareness, both personally and professionally, about how I am being as a leader and how I show up for others,” she said. “And I definitely show up more powerfully when I have that awareness.”
Nelson said her work with igolu has helped her to create more freedom and purpose in many aspects of her life.
“I found a lot of clarity around my work with the yoga studio,” she said. “The purpose being not just to provide great power yoga, but to provide a space for people to come to grips with their own lives through yoga. I love the way that this work has helped me create more concrete and powerful leadership skills.
“And it really changed my relationship, my marriage,” Nelson continued. “In a way that is hard to explain. But it brought more purpose to my marriage — to where we are going, what we are doing together, how we are contributing, and how we are creating a life that we want and a better world together.”
Certified igolu leader Matt Hoglund, based in Los Angeles, California, said that igolu has helped to remind him that he has a choice in every moment.
“This knowledge allows me to create my life free from all the things I ‘should’ do and all the things that might be right for others,” he said.
He said igolu has shaped his life by allowing him to create a future unconstrained from the past, which led to achieving his goal of making his way back to California.
“I was not sure it was possible,” he said, “but working with Susanne and igolu is a testament to the power of setting a vision for your future and creating goals to accomplish that vision.”
Implementing the work
Igolu’s personal development tools — such as those that participants will be introduced to on Sunday — are what help people to live happier, more purpose-filled lives, Conrad explained.
“We can get some amazing things done in four hours,” she said, referring to the Sunday session in Eagle-Vail. “We are going to look at how we can use our body’s own innate intelligence to live a life based on choice.”
Participants will receive an igolu booklet, and have guidance writing their own visions and goals, so there will be take-home material for attendees to use even after they work with Conrad.
“People will walk away going, ‘oh, OK, I could really have all this,’” she said.
Conrad said the workshop is great for individuals, as well as for systems of individuals, such as families, couples, groups of friends or colleagues.