Meaningful Work at Good Space: David Spence

Meaningful Work at Good Space: David Spence

Meaningful Work at Good Space: David Spence

David shares his thoughts on meaningful work, spotting talent and the complex topic of gentrification. He riffs on developing real estate by reinvigorating beautiful old buildings and how a community developed an independent spirit.

Season 1   |   Episode 2   |   July 19, 2019


Good Space

Complex v Complicated – A Quick Read  Smart Leaders Know the Difference Between Complex and Complicated

Complex v Complicated, including the Cynefin model; not-so-quick! A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making

Polarity Management Summary

James Clear and Atomic Habits


Show Notes

Good work, done well for the right reasons and with an end in mind, has always been a sign, in most human traditions, of an inner and outer maturity. Its achievement is celebrated as an individual triumph and a gift to our societies.

David Whyte

Crossing the Unknown Sea

These aren’t typical show notes.  They’re more than a recap.  As I listen back to interviews, I connect the conversation to concepts, models and tools that I use in my coaching and consulting work at Rise Leaders.

My first several podcasts are interviews with people living and taking on leadership roles in Oak Cliff, a community just south of downtown Dallas.  My husband and I were attracted to this area because of the ideals we witnessed being implemented and how the community was revitalizing.  There’s a spirit and energy here that is palpable.  And a very strong sense of community.

David Spence is a commercial and residential real estate re-developer here.  His specialty is the meticulous re-imagining and re-constructing of beautiful old spaces.  If you are familiar with the area, Lucia and Dude, Sweet Chocolate are located in the Bishop Arts Building, his very first project.  This is also where the Good Space office is and where we held our interview.

David’s background and credentials include Peace Corp work in Guatemala, an MBA, a law degree and a love (and talent) for fixing up old things.  This type of intellectual horsepower, paired with a commitment to community, is not uncommon here in Oak Cliff.


The Integral Nature of Structure, Culture and Individual Capacities

  • David cites the historic flooding of the Trinity River, which often isolated the southern sector of Dallas.  This isolation required that residents develop a sense of independence and resourcefulness.  This isn’t exactly the same thing as grit, but those who built successful lives in Oak Cliff likely had it.  Even today one has to work a little harder for access to services and other basics of life when they live in Oak Cliff.

A micro example of how structure and culture shape each other:   I once had a client who wondered why no one ever stopped into her office to say hi.  She had stories she made up about the reasons why, so I suggested we meet in her office next time.  The space was filled with an imposing,  dark-wooded desk. Visitors sitting across from my client almost found themselves in the hallway.  We conspired a new configuration with the facilities team to create a welcoming space with a smaller desk and a small round table with a candy dish in the middle.  Very quickly the visitors came!  Architects take into account the flow of human energy as they design spaces.

A Complex Perspective

  • David shares experiences and opinions on balancing progress and preservation and on gentrification. These are complex topics, as opposed to complicated ones.  Knowing the distinction is important if your desire is to make lasting change.

I’ve included links to two articles on complexity.  The article is a quick read, the article is longer with several additional links to follow.

  • Progress and Preservation could also be studied through Polarity Management. In short, two positive outcomes (here, progress and preservation) are seen as opposites that can be managed rather than considering them as either/or.  The intent is to maximize the positives of each pole and minimize the negative.

Meaningful Work

  • I botched the question about dumpster finds during our interview.  The original sentiment was not about dumpster diving but of repurposing discarded items.  As a kid, David would create useful items, like lamps, out of trashcan finds.  He has always been able to see new uses for old things. Today it’s buildings – and he’s really good at it!

Our long-time interests and passions are often clues to our purpose. Have you identified yours?  How does it get expressed?

  • David’s father was “missional” regarding his work and his grandmother instilled the idea of work as being “righteous” – that it should mean something. David shares that he finds great pleasure in identifying talent and helping people find their groove. He is also an active community volunteer.

How do you feel about ‘meaningful work’, and do you have it?  How do you expand your focus and energy beyond your goals and tasks, to include elevating others? Do you find ways to invest in a community of which you are a member? 

Illustrations of David – What happened before recording…

A Productivity Tactic

David showed up for our interview in bright white painter’s pants.  After a bit of ribbing, he explained that wearing white is a strategy he uses when he needs to stay off of job sites.  He’s very hands’ on with his work and doesn’t love being in the office.  This day he had a lot of loose ends to tie up before a short vacation so he wore clothes appropriate for the office, not for job sites.  This tactic is supported by positive habit and productivity gurus.  James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, offers several articles on his website for creating positive habits.

Other examples of structuring your work or environment to stick with your plan:

  • Make your bed first thing for an early feeling of accomplishment and momentum.
  • Sleep in gym clothes and place your gym shoes and socks next to your bed so that you wake up ready for exercise (I actually know people who do this!).
  • Reward yourself for completing tasks you resist. One of my clients made a deal with himself that he could leave work early to watch his daughter practice gymnastics once he completed work he had been procrastinating (annual performance reviews). He did this again and again until all reviews were complete. The joy of watching his daughter,  joined with the feeling of accomplishment has made this approach a winning formula for him.
  • Burn the Boats tactic: an extreme tactic that leaves you with either no escape or very unpleasant consequences. I heard one story where a woman trying to quit smoking cigarettes gave her friend a large sum of cash to hold.  If she didn’t quit, her friend was to donate the money to a cause she hated (in this case a white-supremacist group).

Stakeholder Orientation

Before we started, David made a quick call to a residential neighbor of one of his commercial tenants, a small, thriving bar on West Davis Street. The tenant’s lease is coming up for renewal and before he renews it David wants to make sure they are good neighbors.  Parking can be an issue in Oak Cliff and the resident tells David that sometimes the bar customers infringe on his property with their parking choices. David offers to yellow-stripe the street so that this doesn’t continue to happen.  This gesture serves everyone:  the neighbor, David and his tenant, the thriving bar.  David is a master at tending to his stakeholders.

It’s a good practice to be consistently aware of those whom your business impacts through stakeholder mapping.  Most all businesses have the following stakeholders:  customers, employees, community, environment, shareholders.  Adding vendors and regulatory agencies is a common practice.


After listening to the interview and reading the notes, I wonder what your takeaway is?

Thanks for tuning in!


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Jennifer Touchet’s Visionary Leadership

Jennifer Touchet’s Visionary Leadership

Jennifer Touchet’s Visionary

Leadership and Creating A


Season 1 of Rise Leaders Radio is focused on a unique type of entrepreneurial leadership that happens in Oak Cliff (Dallas, TX) at the community, business and civic levels. Jennifer Touchet kicks off the storytelling by sharing how Twelve Hills Nature Center was envisioned, fought for and created by the community. It’s a story of win-win-win with a variety of stakeholders, shared vision, positive politics and power.

Season 1   |   Episode 1   |   July 5, 2019

Show Notes

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

– Margaret Mead

I begin Season 1 by interviewing Jennifer Touchet.  She played a pivotal role in saving a parcel of land that was slated for re-development at the end of the street where I now live.  I was not expecting to learn such deep and transferrable lessons from her.  I knew by reading the donor names and invocation inscribed in a rock at the entrance of Twelve Hills Nature Center that a significant effort had been undertaken and that someone(s) had been in charge. Jennifer shares wisdom that is useful for anyone, anywhere, leading change.

EASTER EGG ALERT!  Stay tuned to the end of this episode to hear my visit to Seedschool, a small school that convenes weekly at Twelve Hills in a converted bus named Matilda.  The owner, Jennifer Stuart, is another Oak Cliff Hero.  You’ll be delighted by sounds of children learning!

I’ve provided tips for effectively leading change and communicating based on our interview.  There are a few links for templates and additional exploration.

Take-aways from our conversation:

  • Use a communication style that invites other perspectives. Notice Jennifer’s language, her style of communication.   She ‘owns her own statements’ by clearly identifying her feelings and opinions and doesn’t assign them to everyone involved.  She doesn’t claim her experience and understanding of the situation as fact. This way of speaking makes space for other perspectives and doesn’t create a line in the sand.   She is signaling her openness to being challenged and to hearing other thoughts as well.  It says, ‘I feel this way but you may feel different.  And that’s ok.’  Language is important.
  • Acknowledge that there are multiple stakeholders.  Know who is being affected by your ideas and actions.  Make it a point to understand what they care about. The intent of a multiple stakeholder orientation is to create situations where everyone wins.  If you’re interested in exploring the multiple stakeholders for your organization, I’ve included a worksheet. For examples of for-profit stakeholder maps, look here.
  • Understand where the power and influence are and who has it through Power Mapping when you’re leading change. You can use the stakeholder map, above, to start.  A more complex map will indicate relationships and degrees of power and influence.  Note:Jennifer did not use a specific tool.   Understanding power structures is foundational in social change AND the same concept can be used when positive change is desired in any environment, including business.  A group wishing to improve culture, or initiate policy or process change, for example, could use these same concepts in a business or across an industry.
  • Start with a shared vision and let it evolve.  The organizers were very clear they wanted something that the whole community could enjoy.  That was their core vision.  They let the details evolve over time as they engaged with various experts and spoke with their stakeholders.  Often when creating a vision, whether organizational or individual, we’re instructed to get specific.  There is real value in letting it unfold as more voices and thus more possibilities get integrated.  Note:  I found this article on creating a shared vision within a business context.
  • Use inclusive strategies to widen the circle and increase engagement. The organizers for Twelve Hills used listening as a core strategy.  They explored who was currently using the land and who might.  Who would be impacted by how the land was used?  Then they co-opted relationships and structures that were already in existence to collect those voices:  neighborhood associations, churches, schools, etc., and made sure to have Spanish speakers present in meetings so that everyone’s voice would be included.
  • Adopt a ‘win winner take all’ core belief.  Lack of willingness to negotiate might mean empty hands at the finish.  It may also set a negative trajectory for critical relationships for years to come.  Be willing to imagine how everyone concerned can win.  In the case of Twelve Hills, three big categories of stakeholders won:  the community, the school district, the residential developer.  Each of these stakeholders have sub-categories that overlap creating exponential wins!
  • Consider that there are no permanent enemies and no permanent allies.  People and relationships are dynamic and flexible.  We change our minds. Be willing to be influenced and expand your own perspective.  Labeling and pigeon-holing people tends to limit possibilities for positive outcomes and ongoing collaborative relationships. This consideration seems to be sorely missing in today’s political and social climate.
  • Commit for the long term.  To put the Twelve Hills effort into perspective, Jennifer gave birth to three children while leading this project.  She considers Twelve Hills her fourth child, and rightly so! It was important, too, to have someone with experience to provide the voice of hope and keep the vision in front of them.  Even when they realized they wouldn’t achieve the full vision, they stayed in the game and we now have a significant slice of nature enjoyed year round by hundreds of humans.

Follow Twelve Hills Nature Center:




Follow Seedschool:




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Launching Rise Leaders Radio – Starting Close In

Launching Rise Leaders Radio – Starting Close In

Launching Rise Leaders Radio – Starting Close In

Rise Leaders Radio is a podcast about Exemplary Leadership. Season 1 highlights leaders in Oak Cliff, a community just south of Downtown Dallas, TX. The land itself has fostered a sense of independence and built resilience and resourcefulness in its citizens; the business and community leaders amplify this. I interviewed several people that tell different stories of leading in Oak Cliff.

Season 1   |   Episode 0   |   3:26 min   |   July 5, 2019

Show Notes

Rise Leaders Radio is a podcast focused on Exemplary Leadership. The following statement pretty much sums it up:

At its very essence, leadership is a calling to serve.  In a world increasingly at risk, leadership is a vocation that can link diverse people from all walks of life to create remarkable achievements.  As such, leaders play a key role in designing a thriving future for all who inhabit this beautiful planet.

Bob Anderson & Bill Adams

Scaling Leadership:  Building Organizational Capability and Capacity to Create Outcomes that Matter Most; Wiley, 2019


It feels very appropriate that I launch Rise Leaders Radio with a season focused on movers and shakers in Oak Cliff.  This part of Dallas, situated just south of downtown, drew me in like a magnet.  My husband and I read about projects and movements initiated by citizens, business and civic leaders in this part of the city and couldn’t get here fast enough.  Independence and resourcefulness fueled by passion and intelligence have made living here an ongoing lesson in leadership.

I hope this first season, focused on local leadership, inspires you to appreciate the risks people in your own neighborhood or organization take.  Financial investment is only one type of risk.  People who take bold steps to actualize their ideas also invest precious time and energy and open themselves up to scrutiny and criticism because not everyone will agree with their ideas. If you are one of these committed citizens or business leaders, thank you for putting yourself out there.

 As this Trailer is being edited and published, I am about halfway through my interviews.  That’s why you only hear four voices in the trailer, in addition to mine.

A heartfelt thanks go to those that raised their hand to go first and be a guest on the first season.  Through these interviews and communication afterward, I’ve had the privilege to deepen my relationship with several of them and hope to circle back to discuss the amazing things I’m learning from and about them.


So far on the show:

Jennifer Touchet and the vision for Twelve Hills Nature Center, bonus interview with Jennifer Stuart, founder of Seedschool

David Spence owner of Good Space

Chad West, Dallas City Council District 1, and Chad West Law, PLCC

Jacqui Bliss and Renee Reed, owners of Anytime Fitness Dallas (Bishop Arts)

Christian Chernock, founder of Christian Chernock Properties (promised)

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