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Finding her ‘Permission to be Human’ and follow her dreams

MaryBeth Hyland, founder and chief visionary of SparkVision, wrote and published a book during the free time in her schedule from the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted photo)

For Baltimore business consultant MaryBeth Hyland, the pandemic created sudden free time in her schedule that turned out to be a gift.

Hyland, founder and chief visionary of SparkVision, had been planning to write a book for years and initially would have crafted it around young professionals and millennial engagement — an area where she excelled as a culture consultant.

But, instead, when she finally had time to sit down and write it, she had expanded her focus to acknowledge the commonalities between generations.

The resulting book, “Permission to be Human,” is a step-by-step toolkit to provide guidance and support for all those who care about their human experience, particularly in the workplace.

“This is for anyone who has ever considered themselves to be the underdog, for caring too much about people in the workplace,” Hyland said. “For thinking that people’s feelings and their experience was really important to the reason why you’re coming together in the workplace.”

As she found herself spending less time traveling to meet with leaders and more time coaching people on mindfulness, well-being and alignment with their values, the book naturally followed.

At the same time, Hyland has embarked on her journey to follow a dream of becoming a cowgirl — she and her husband have decided to open a retreat center in rural Idaho on family land Hyland has been visiting since she was a girl. The time spent at the retreat center will complement their existing business in Baltimore. They plan to start an apprenticeship program for people who are particularly interested in promoting workplace culture and values alignment that will have retreats planned throughout the process.

On a personal retreat there several years ago, she peered through her binoculars at a lady who would become a good friend, working with her daughter to herd a stray calf.

“I just watched this powerful mother and daughter doing this incredible work, and I said I have to follow her, I have to see what that’s about,” Hyland said. “I hadn’t ridden for maybe 20 years, so it was something deep inside of me that became reignited.”

MaryBeth Hyland

Back in Maryland, Hyland started riding again, winning second place at her first-ever obstacle course trail ride and learning how to train horses.

Honoring her values has been so important to Hyland as she wrote the book, that she had to take a break from writing at the beginning of the year. It was just when she thought she would be finishing it up but instead, she took time to grapple with a mental health crisis in her immediate family. She went to therapy and tuned in to her well-being until she could start the book again with the energy of love and possibility.

In the book, Hyland aimed to provide concrete advice, and she’s been encouraged that people have told her some of the techniques have helped them go back to sleep in the middle of the night if they wake with racing thoughts, or allowed them to have a difficult conversation that they didn’t think was possible.

“Living your values doesn’t happen by chance,” Hyland writes. “It happens when choosing your values with integrity over and over again.”

At one point as she was writing, the entire book was almost destroyed. She had just finished a three-day marathon editing and review session with her husband where they read it line by line. They planned to submit it on Monday. Because being in nature makes her feel grounded, she celebrated by spending some time in the backyard garden behind their Federal Hill rowhome. Then she came back in and went to sleep. Overnight, there was a powerful thunderstorm.

The next morning came and she went into her office and immediately panicked. Her computer was missing, which meant it was in the backyard. Running out into the garden, she found it with a puddle of water, wiped it off and opened it up.

To her immense relief, it started up and she emailed herself the book. It was published in July and aims to revolutionize company cultures.

The title of the book came from a client, David Swirnow, who is CEO of Swirnow Building Systems. After the pandemic hit, Hyland ran the company’s culture team and encouraged them to double down on the human experience and supporting employees. He hopped on a call one day and gave a speech to the team about the importance of the work.

“What he said was ‘This work has given us permission to be human and I didn’t know that was possible here,’ ” Hyland recalled. “It just hit me like a lightning bolt, it’s like this permission to have this really dynamic, difficult, inspiring, beautiful, painful experience, and that’s not separate from work.”

Women Who Lead This article is featured in The Daily Record’s Women Who Lead: A Woman’s Guide To Business. The mission of the Women Who Lead (formerly Path to Excellence) magazine is to give our readers the opportunity to meet successful women of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs and learn how they define success. Read more from Women Who Lead.