Exceptional Boards Make for Exceptional Organizations

Even in challenging times when organizations seem overwhelmed, it is possible to move beyond constraints by asking new questions, creating a new vision for working together and generating actionable outcomes. By shifting the focus from problem-solving to solution-finding, new energy is ignited, and people gather around topics that matter most to them while being aligned in a common strategic direction.

If you think your board is ready to work in new and creative ways, I would love to partner with you on your transformational journey.

Benefits to Nonprofit Boards
Board members become stronger ambassadors for the organization in the community
•Increased levels of trust, interaction, and engagement among board members
•Aligned vision for the future
•An ability to engage in “generative” board discussions that leads to innovative solutions
•A stronger organization, staff feel and know that the board supports their work
•Increased community support, people want to be part of successful organizations
•High- caliber and representative members of the community
•Increased resources!

A New Paradigm
When we shift the focus from “what’s wrong” to “what’s right” and ask questions of possibility, new solutions arise. This approach moves people away from “fixing and blaming” to “inspiring and creating”. The first approach separates and leads to communication breakdowns and the second approach brings people together so they can build on each other’s strengths and often create greater than expected outcomes.

Problem Solving-Solution Finding

Frequent Board Requests
Organizational resources might be declining, a vision may not be as compelling as it once was, leading board members to feel less committed and passionate about the cause. I often receive requests to:
• Enhance personal connections among board members
• Create a compelling forward-looking vision in support of the mission of the organization
• Gain clarity about board and staff responsibilities and roles
• Gain a shared understanding of the elements of a high-performing board
• Move forward in a more energized and exciting way

My Approach
When Boards are muddled, they are not exceptional. I work with boards and staff to help them discover their strengths and the things that are already working. I guide them through an engaging process that builds relationships and trust, encourages new thinking and gains commitment to co-create a new vision with strategies for making it a reality. As a certified Board Governance Trainer with BoardSource, I put boards on the path to becoming exceptional.

I am adept at conducting organizational assessments, meeting with the executive directors and staff, board presidents and board members to co-create meeting designs and facilitate lively outcome-oriented gatherings on visioning, governance best practices, strategic planning, relationship building, and organizational commitment.

My board retreats are highly engaging and successful, and I plant seeds of possibility and excitement. I give boards and seniors leaders tools and techniques they can use immediately to begin transforming their organizations. The ability for boards and staff to begin to work in new ways is counterculture in a world that is mostly about fixing what is wrong instead of seeing what is right and building on it. My work promotes a different way of being in the world and requires practice and consistency in asking new questions. Now is the time to re-imagine new possibilities because nonprofits are key players in shifting how communities see themselves.

Success Factors
Client provides:
-Sponsorship and support
-Information and conversations as needed to develop meetings and support services as needed
-All meeting logistics including space, tech support, flip charts, food
-All outreach and communication with participants
-Staff to assist in capture retreat proceedings and prints resource materials
Consultant provides:
-Meeting design and development
-Facilitation services
-Projector and laptop
-Resource materials
-Documentation of the meeting including Summary Report including next steps

Transitioning from the Command/Control Model to the Inclusive/Engaged Model

A question I am contemplating: How do we live in times of increasing uncertainty without holding on and grasping?

It seems we as humans need order and defined structure especially as the world becomes more uncertain.  Command and Control models in organizations are one way to do that because they can create a sense of order even as the ground is shifting underneath them.  To maintain the illusion of order in the face of chaos, organizations create a hierarchical world based on status, title, power, and money, even as the world is calling out for a new way of being.  As our technology and knowledge continue to expand at an exponential rate it becomes more clear that the rigidity of the hierarchical model is at odds with what leaders say they want from their staff.

Organizational leaders often say they want innovation, break-through thinking, new ideas, collaboration, silos to be broken, more trust, more engagement, a vibrant workplace, and more resilience.  All great words and often said with meaning but how can this happen in reality when it requires that leaders give up the traditional model of control, status, and power?

A critical challenge:  Provide leaders with the tools and knowledge that can help them make the transition from the Command/Control model to the Inspired/Engaged model. Demonstrate how it is in their own self-interest to make the shift to a more flexible way of being. In fact, their very survival depends on finding ways to bring the gifts, strengths, and talents of all staff members to the table.

More ideas and tools on how to help organizational leaders make this transition to the  Inspired and Engaged Model.... to come!

Social Profit Organizations; A Better Way to Talk about”Nonprofits”

Collaborating is everythingAs mentioned in my earlier blog post, I attended a workshop to on being a Professional Interim Executive Director. The room was full of highly skilled and engaging people and we had very lively discussions.

I was especially struck by the discussion of our language as it relates to “nonprofits” as if they are not valuable because there is no profit.  In our culture, value and success are defined by ROI (return on investment).  How does one measure value?

Do we define nonprofit success by  X number of people served? OR X number of houses built?  OR Can we begin to think in new ways and redefine “value”?  Can we think beyond output and document unexpected outcomes and the learning that is taking place in addition to outputs?

What about the social value of re-weaving the fabric of the community? When “nonprofit’ organizations keep society functioning they are adding value.  When “nonprofit” organizations step in when the private sector or public sector can’t or won’t they are adding value.

And so one member of our cadre suggested that our language needs to be revisited. Instead of calling organizations “nonprofit” we should call them social profit organizations. This naming so resonated with our group that by the end of the session we were all calling them SPOs.

It made me wonder what it would take to introduce this kind of language into our culture so that it becomes mainstream and social profit organizations are seen as equal partners with foundations, corporations, and governments all in services of a greater good to achieve greater than expected outcomes.

This is worth re-thinking!

Are You in Need of a Professional Interim Executive Director?

frustration at workWith the increasing demands for nonprofit organizations to deliver impact, maintain financial sustainability, build community engagement, recruit talented and committed board members, maintain networks and relationships throughout the community, and build staff capability, it is no wonder that executive director burn-out is on the rise.

I attended a gathering of nonprofit consultants sponsored by the Vitalyst Health Foundation in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago and I am pleased to announce that I am part of a cadre of consultants trained be a Professional Interim Executive Director for nonprofit organizations.

As a PIED (don’t you love the acronym?) I am not part of your organization’s past or your future and have no agenda. As an interim, I steward your organization to its next chapter while giving the board breathing room to reflect on where the organization is going.  I can address immediate challenges while working with the board and staff to create a strategic framework, and set the stage so the next executive director will be successful.

In addition to being a sponsored by the Vitalyst Health Foundation, I also hold certifications in board governance training with BoardSource; project management, PMI; meeting design and facilitation, the Grove; and leadership coaching, International Coach Federation.     Check out my bio for more details. 

If you are in need of an interim executive director, please get in touch. I have the ability to travel and can take on engagements of any length of duration.                        


Thriving in Challenging Times; The Adventure Continues

Zonta District Logo_Horizontal_Color_XXMember Rotator

I am a lead presenter at the upcoming District 8 Zonta Conference, an international women’s service organization dedicated to the betterment of women and girls throughout the world.  I will be engaging participants in activities to discover individual strengths and engage in  “whole room” conversations to discover organizational strengths while teaching the basics of Appreciative Inquiry.  We will employ a series of  techniques that support thinking globally and acting locally.  Most importantly we will discover new connections, new possibilities and renewed energy for creating an even more vital organization.

The District 8 Conference is from Oct.1 – 4 in Grants Pass Oregon.


Think Differently, Lead Differently; Create Concrete Outcomes for Your Organization

Jump into the NEW!

Jump into the "NEW"

If your work environment needs a boost; or your find yourself struggling on Monday morning to get yourself geared up for another week; or You need to keep yourself, staff and volunteers engaged and enthused about the good work you do; or you are just plain stuck and overwhelmed……you need to join us.

Life is not perfect and we will always have to overcome rough spots but I have learned one key lesson;

When  you SHIFT the way you see the world, then the world shifts and you discover new ideas,  that  move you to a new place!

You will learn  how to move from “problem solving” to “solution finding” and although this shift seems subtle, it is essential and powerful because it moves the focus from fixing and blaming to creating and inspiring.

If you put your energy into being  for something you will do two things at once; 1) you will engage in the act of creating “the new” and  2) you simultaneously negate “the old”.  You will learn about the most recent positivity research, experience the power of the SHIFT by learning about the theory and philosophy behind Appreciative Inquiry and most importantly, you will leave with tools and techniques to use immediately in your organization, in community and in your family.

I will offer an all day workshop, sponsored by the Chinook Institute for Civic Leadership on Thursday, Oct. 22nd from 9:00-4:00 at the Keizer Heritage Center in Keizer, Oregon.  If you are a civic, community, organizational or business leader  I hope you will join us.  You can register at:



Full Cycle Appreciative Inquiry supports Organizational Transformation and the “What Works” Movement

I  am grounded in the Appreciative Inquiry model and philosophy and have been working on refining my work and making activities clear for each phase of the model.  After years of working with the model, I have figured out ways to enhance it so that positive change becomes institutionalized and transformational.

The Discovery and Dream phases are great when it comes to igniting possibility and getting people excited about a compelling future that is organic and emergent, however it does not go far enough.   AI plants the seeds of possibility and I love that but  the model can do even more when it comes to strategic planning, project implementation, project assessments and leadership coaching.  AI is scalable and supports the notion that leadership resides at all levels of an organization, it can be used at the executive, management, and project team levels of an organization.

I am attaching my Full Cycle Appreciative Inquiry model so you can see how I am working with clients and can use AI at any point in the life cycle.  Let me know your thoughts and be sure to contact me if you have an interest in learning more about my model.  Just click on the diagram below and you will see key activities for each stage of the AI Cycle, including Appreciative Evaluation. Be sure to check out the book by Tessie Catasambas entitled ,”Reframing Evaluation through Appreciative Inquiry”.


I’m a Certified Co-Active Coach!

After about a year with the Coaches Training Institute in San Rafael, California, I have completed all of the requirements to become certified coach. I have been a coach to my clients throughout my career but often various client requests would require a “certified” coach….so now I get to join the official ranks!   I combine the philosophy and methodology of Appreciative Inquire in a process I created call the Six Steps to Success; The Coaching Journey.  Stay tuned, I will be writing much more about this!

The Power of Community Conversations

The World logo

It is not news that we are living in a time of polarity, where individuals and communities are drawing lines in the sand and demonizing the other “side”.   But what if it were possible to ask different questions, that sought to understand, create a dialogue and spark a powerful vision for what community could be?

Powerful questions lead to powerful conversations that are not only meaningful but are transformational because people feel seen, heard, and acknowledged and this can lead to a shift in assumptions and create new connections that might not have existed before a meaningful conversation.

Paul Born in his book Community Conversations suggests that “Conversation is not just what is said; it is also what happens between people.  Conversation is not always about an event or time; it is part of a much larger process of change.  It leads to more conversation and is part of a journey to understand.  Community conversations area a deliberate form of listening to the people in a community in an effort to learn to agree, to become committed and engaged and to create a place in which discovering the obvious is possible.”

When I read this it, it reminded me of the importance of taking time to listen and to get curious….to find out about the story behind the story….in short to get to know the person in front of me through a meaningful conversation.  My friend Noa Baum an international storyteller has said that you don’t have to accept someone else’s beliefs and values if you listen to their story, it is their story.

Just listening to other people’s stories does not have to threaten me and in the process I can learn about myself and come to understand what matters most to them.   Stories make you listen and most importantly, they open up an exchange; a dialogue and this leads to finding areas of agreement or ways to discover how to accommodate each other’s differences.

Another friend, Gerry Lantz, President of StoriesthatWork, has said as a species, we are hard wired for story and connection.  He says all we have to do is look at our language and see how story is a fundamental part of our world.  Phrases like; “You won’t believe that story”, “You want to hear the real story behind that?”; “Have I got a story for you”; “What’s his story” are all part of our culture and cultures throughout the world.

Stories connect us and help to create community whether a geographically defined community such as a village, town or city; an assisted living community, a church community, or online communities.  They all share the same attributes of belonging, connections and the sense of being part of something larger than yourself.

This intense listening and seeking to understand is the underpinning for civic engagement where people from all backgrounds have a voice in decisions and actions that affect their lives.   In the recent report by the Knight Foundation and Gallup entitled Soul of the Community it was demonstrated that when people feel greater attachment in the communities in which they live, the communities are more successful.  In short, civic engagement is a key to achieving greater community attachment and an enhanced quality of life.

Civic engagement requires more than elected officials or organizational leaders making presentations to the public and answering questions in town hall meetings.  Civic engagement means gathering multi-sector stakeholders, providing baseline data, asking questions that are not already answered, identifying community assets, inviting diverse stories and input, identifying emerging themes and providing ways to enable positive action to take root.

As Peter Block, author of “Civic Engagement and the Restoration of Community” has said “We will create a future distinct from the past when we engage in restorative conversations based on accountability and commitment. Being accountable means acting as an owner and part creator of whatever you wish to improve; to care for the well being of the whole and to act as if this well being is in our hands and hearts to create.  Being committed means we are willing to make a promise with no expectation of return; a promise void of barter and not conditional on another’s action…it is a choice made in the absence of reciprocity and this is the essence of power.”

It appears that this area will become an even stronger player in the global economy and it is increasingly clear that we are part of an interconnected world.  Now more than ever, broad based civic engagement is called for to enable citizens to imagine and co-create a thriving community for the good of the whole.