Founding Story

Andiron’s co-founders, Kelly Lewis and Brian Emerson, met in 2014 while pursuing a certificate in using adult development in coaching where they bonded over a love of learning, a mutual passion for using polarities as a lens to support (and challenge) the growth and development of their clients, and shared approach to taking things seriously::holding things lightly. After two weeks of exploring the intersection of polarities and adult development (so good!), dining with a Frank Sinatra impersonator (so bad!), and living in an old convent (not quite as charming as it sounds), the chemistry was established, and a connection was underway (much richer than ever anticipated!). 

Two years later, their paths crossed again – again at an event exploring how to use polarities as a lens in  their own and others’ development. During this serendipitous encounter, Kelly was introduced to Brian’s groundbreaking research – Suffering and Navigating Paradox – which to this day, Kelly continues to geek out on while Brian blushes and tries to change the subject. Kelly’s desire to learn more about the research and Brian’s generous spirit for sharing led to many rich conversations that beautifully coincided with another dialogue Kelly was having about bringing polarities to Georgetown University’s Institute for Transformational Leadership.

Not long after, the two went on to create the Executive Certificate Program in Navigating Polarities at Georgetown, wrote Navigating Polarities (the first book in a series to help people learn how to navigate polarities more effectively in a variety of contexts), developed the Polarity Navigator (a sensemaking tool to deal with polarities), and the Key Polarity Indicator™ (a self and 360 assessment that identifies and measures some of the key polarities that contribute to leadership effectiveness).

It was a great ride that (usually) felt more like fun than effort, with the friendship quickly becoming as generative as the work. Their desire to bring polarities to the world was undeniable…even though they did, at first, try to deny. After many fireside chats and oceanfront discernment, Andiron was founded by two friends with a mutual love for the work, a bunch of sticky notes, and an amazing network of family, friends, and colleagues.  It was brought to life in the middle of a global pandemic – a beautiful blend of Hope::Reality in the making.

Today you can find them working with their clients in a way that balances human dynamics with business needs, simultaneously challenging and inspiring, and getting results while having fun. Their success at co-leading a business comes down to one simple secret – Finger on Nose. The rules are easy. Whenever there is a task or decision no one wants a part of, the following rules apply:  1. At any time, anyone can put their finger on their own nose. 2. This signals everyone paying attention to do the same. 3. The last person to put their finger on their nose gets assigned the task. Works like a charm every time.