B.A. (HDE), MBA
Hélène Smit is a specialist in depth facilitation, psychological conflict resolution and developing psychological literacy in individuals and groups in organisational settings. Specifically, she is skilled in helping small and large groups deal with seemingly intractable and chronic conflicts.
Hélène was originally trained as an English and Mathematics high school teacher. She taught briefly at Randpark High School in Johannesburg in 1988, but then joined an adult training company called Don Gray Training (Pty) Ltd, which specialised in management training for the Information Technology industry. In 1989, she began a part-time post-graduate diploma in Human Resource Management at Wits Business School but converted to and completed an MBA early in 1991. After completion of her MBA (with a place on the Dean’s List), Hélène left Johannesburg and joined a strategy consulting firm in Cape Town called the Corporate Consulting Group. She worked as a strategy consultant for two years and was involved in a
variety of corporate strategic projects. In 1993, she left to start her own firm, now called Feather Associates (Pty) Ltd, an organisation that offers primarily facilitation services. For the past 26 years, Feather Associates has also offered a variety of training courses including psychological literacy, facilitation, leadership and business thinking skills training.
Through Feather Associates, Hélène facilitates a variety of processes, including team building, strategic planning, stakeholder involvement and conflict resolution in a range of contexts and sectors. She has worked with NGO’s, Local, Provincial and National Government, Parliament and many large and small business organisations. One of the highlights of her work is her current facilitation of the leadership development of SADC Chief Justices and other senior judges in the three-year leadership course offered by the Judicial Institute for Africa at UCT (JIFA).
Hélène is a trained Executive Coach and holds a Certificate in Executive Coaching from the Tavistock Institute. She uses a variety of methodologies in her coaching approach, depending on what is appropriate for the client’s development requirements. However, she specialises in what she calls “Depth” Coaching, in which she considers the deep underlying patterns for individual functioning and performance. She has coached senior executives from a range of industries and organisations.
In addition to running Feather and working as a facilitator and coach, Hélène was a Visiting Senior Lecturer at the UCT Graduate School of Business in the areas of psychological literacy, systems thinking, people skills, change management, diversity management and facilitation for 17 years. She lectured on the MBA, Executive MBA, AIM and other executive programmes since 1996. Hélène now also teaches at the Henley Business School, GIBS and Duke Executive Education. Together with South African College of Applied Psychology, Hélène launched the (first of its kind) National Diploma in Facilitation and was the Programme Director for five years. Hélène was recently included as one of the “50 Faces of Wits Business School” in the coffee table book published to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary in 2018. The book profiles 50 exceptional alumni who have graduated from Wits Business School.
In 2013, Hélène established The Depth Leadership Trust, a non-profit organisation that aims to develop and promote understanding of depth psychology amongst leaders, organisations and civil society. The Trust is also involved in a variety of small community projects that help people find their voice and develop their leadership capacity. As part of the Trust, in 2017, she started and still runs the Prince Albert Skills School, a small school for marginalised teenagers who have dropped out of the formal schooling system.
Hélène’s main interest is the application of depth psychology principles to organisational contexts. This involves working with unconscious processes in organisations, in order both to unleash greater creativity and to minimise the negative organisational impact of under-the-surface conflict. Hélène has published three books, the first called The Depth Facilitator’s Handbook which describes facilitation skills in detail. The second one is called Beneath – Exploring the Unconscious in Individuals, a book for a general audience that explores the functioning of the unconscious mind in order to unleash potential. Her third book, called Depth Leadership, was published in December 2013 and teaches the theory and practice of depth psychology to leaders. In 2017, Hélène completed the making of a feature film called Eerstewater which tells the true stories of some remarkable Prince Albert residents, and which illustrates the ideas in Beneath. The film was selected for and screened at the 2018 Encounters International Documentary Film Festival.
Hélène is increasingly working as an artist and has run The Every Voice Matters collaborative art installation project for the past five years which explores various themes that emerge from the nexus of art, science, psychology and social activism. In September 2018, she curated an exhibition in Prince Albert on the subject of Intimacy. She is a member of the Prince Albert Open Studios art group.
She lives in Prince Albert in the Karoo and travels nationally and internationally to do her work.