Doing the Work: Michelle Kinder Leading From the Inside Out

Doing the Work: Michelle Kinder Leading From the Inside Out

Doing Her Work:  Michelle Kinder Leading From the Inside Out

Michelle Kinder is well-known in the domains of social-emotional learning, education and family counseling. She is also an authoritative voice in the discourses of leadership, stress, emotional health, trauma and parenting. Her increasing passion about historical and structural inequities has led her to make an important shift in her career, which we explore in depth in our conversation.  In the midst of her transition, Michelle has taken time to slow down and adjust her focus from striving to one of getting results with a sense of ease and groundedness.  This inside-out approach takes self-awareness, persistence and patience.  She talks honestly about her experience in this episode.

Season 1   |   Episode 7  |   October 1, 2019

Show Notes

If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

– Lilla Watson

Michelle Kinder is well-known in the domains of social-emotional learning, education and family counseling. She is also an authoritative voice in the discourses of leadership, stress, emotional health, trauma and parenting. Her increasing passion for the dynamics of historical and structural inequities has led her to make an important shift in her career, which we explore in-depth in our conversation. Michelle shares how growing up in Guatemala influenced her perspective on social issues and how this developed her capacity to innovate and problem-solve.  We hear her view on the destructive “us” and “them” narratives that often accompany outreach efforts and how cultural forces are counterproductive to our ability to be grounded and sensitive as individuals. We discuss the focus of Momentous Institute, her new partnership with the Stagen Leadership Academy, and her collaboration with Rex Miller, with whom she is co-authoring a book on the challenges of educators.  Michelle advises that, for us to be most effective in bringing about positive change, we need to do the required work of regulating our own nervous systems. She speaks frankly on her view about the responsibilities of the corporate and philanthropic worlds in establishing a more equitable society.


Shaped by her Upbringing

  • Growing up in Guatemala as a “third culture kid” shaped Michelle’s worldview and ability to innovate.
  • With parents who were missionaries and very service-oriented, she developed a deep knowing that “we belong to the community and that we’re here to serve and grow and learn”.
  • The value of exchanging the toxic “us” and “them” narratives for a genuine desire to solve problems with rather than for others.
  • A disappointing job search and a crucial positive experience at Momentous (note to hiring managers!) changed her trajectory.

How were you shaped by your upbringing?

  • There’s no getting out of being shaped by the environment of our childhood:  the where, when, and what are inextricably linked to who we are today.
  • What milestones stand out to you and what imprint was left?
  • Can you trace how your beliefs were formed?  What beliefs have changed?
  • What was normal to you then?  Is that still the case?
  • What links can you make from your upbringing to your life today?  Have you followed the path laid out for you or did you take a sharp turn somewhere?
  • Do you have a sense of what is next for you?  What is it?  What do you wonder about?


A Deeper Layer of Leadership Development

  • “What are the ways we can change our relationship with fear and stress and ego and show up in a more self-regulated/mutually regulated way?”
  • Michelle’s journey of shifting from striving to listening and surrendering, of calming and “clearing the vessel”.
  • There are many forces in our culture that pull us away from our grounded, sensitive selves.
  • We can become addicted, or at least very accustomed to an ‘air-traffic controller’ way of living and working.
  • There is often a need to reset our neurobiology and to build up a tolerance for the lack of activity, or busy-ness.
  • Becoming more conscious, more aware, positively affects the impact we’re able to make.

Practices for “regulating our nervous system”:

  • Mindfulness, meditation
  • Reflective Journaling
  • Guided body scan (try one of the many from Insight Timer). Becoming more familiar with where you hold stress raises your awareness of tightness in those areas.
  • Unplugging completely from: work, email, digital devices, social media.  Schedule periods of time daily. Prolonged periods that include full days or weeks can also be scheduled.
  • Regular exercise or movement
  • Consistent 7 – 9 hours of sleep
  • Time in nature. Read this Time magazine article on the benefits.
  • Eating whole, unprocessed foods
  • Regular checks for alignment with personal values


The Upstream of the Upstream

  • The importance of focusing on a community’s ability to create the spaces in which children can thrive.
  • There are historical structures that benefit certain groups while disabling others.
  • “How is my long straw connected to someone else’s short straw?”
  • The important role of the corporate and policy world in creating social change.
  • Can we honorably grapple with each other as we explore these questions?


Immediately Next for Michelle:

  • Speaking, writing, and workshops: contact her through
  • Designing and leading a 52-week, practice-based program for women leading social change via Stagen Leadership Academy.
  • Co-authoring a book with Rex Miller about “what looks like teacher disengagement is actually trauma and battle fatigue”.

Here’s what else you need to know:

  • Michelle shared several important statistics from Momentous Institute’s research on the impact of their work with children of ages 3yrs old – 5th grade and their families. The focus on both academics and social-emotional health has had staggeringly positive results.
  • Watch Faith talk about the importance of breathing.

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


Thanks for elevating your part of the world!


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An Essential Link: Wellbeing and Leader Effectiveness

An Essential Link: Wellbeing and Leader Effectiveness

An Essential Link:  Wellbeing and Leader Effectiveness

What does wellbeing mean to you?  Are you thriving?  How would you know?  Can you see a thread that runs through your life?

Renee Moorefield is a dear friend, a spectacular creator and a wise woman.  She and business- and life- partner, David, have developed a groundbreaking assessment for wellbeing. Be Well Lead Well Pulse® is based on over thirty years of experience in the areas of wellness, change management and leadership transformation, all in the corporate world.  In this conversation, we follow the thread that began in exercise physiology, winds through Renee’s own experience as a leader and has evolved into a very integrated way to assess wellbeing.

Season 1   |   Episode 06   |   September 17, 2019

Show Notes

At the center of the Universe dwells the Great Spirit. And that center is really everywhere. It is within each of us.

– Black Elk, Lakota Medicine Man and Holy Man


Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness, nothing will change for the better in the sphere of our being as human.

–  Vaclav Havel, former President, Czech Republic

Following A Thread

Early in the interview, Renee tells us about a thread that has run through her life – ” a deep belief in our capacity to be well and to thrive”.  Her thread runs like this:

  • The journey begins with pursuing a degree in Exercise Physiology.
  • She has a stint in a heart center working with heart patients, in which she uncovers a deeper desire to be upstream rather than downstream of an illness, so she turns her focus on wellness.
  • Working in EDS’ corporate wellness center she notices an uptick in employees experiencing stress and traces it to certain activities in the business.  Concurrently, smoking cessation programs are found to be more successful when paired with a mindfulness practice.
  • After being promoted to a leadership position she discovers her belief that a core role of leadership is to support the success and wellbeing of the team.
  • The business areas with employees feeling the most stress are those working with mergers and acquisitions.   Renee is asked to develop an approach for Change Management to help reduce stress and its effects.
  • It was a short yet crucial jump from a focus on employees facing change to the value of developing leaders across the company to take a deeper dive into how they learn, lead, create and perceive the world.   This began with the work of Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline (overviewed here). 
  • The leadership transformation programs were paradigm busters and gave leaders new frameworks to build a different kind of relationship with themselves (one definition of wellbeing) and then naturally with customers, employees,  community partners and other countries in which they operated.
  • Renee ultimately founded Wisdom Works with her husband, David.  Their unique offer is the conscious evolution of leadership with the specific frame of supporting leaders in operating from a foundation of wellbeing.
  • In 2018 Renee and David packaged their collective experience in wellbeing with the Be Well Lead Well Pulse®

We all have threads, how would you trace yours?  In my view, a thread is closely tied to our life’s purpose.

Wellness or Wellbeing?

Wellness – as it is typically used in the U.S., refers to lifestyle behaviors such as nutrition, sleep, exercise, and even breath.  But early on, as Renee shares in the interview, forward thinkers such as Halbert Dunn, M.D., Ph.D. were describing wellness in ways that included the ‘spirit of man’.  I found an absolutely fascinating article written by Dr. Dunn; in it he says this about Knowing Thyself:

“Psychology tells us through laboratory demonstrations that our perceptions of the outer world are indissolubly linked with the concepts and emotions fixed in our minds and body tissues. Without a knowledge of one’s inner self, understanding of the outer world cannot have breadth and depth. A mind tortured with prejudice, hate, and fear projects itself in distorted human relationships.”

In reading about Dunn and the impact he had on the holistic wellness movement I’m reminded of all the shoulders we stand on.

It’s easy to draw a line from High-Level Wellness, as he describes, to the effectiveness and impact of a person who is leading others.

My favorite definition of wellbeing, a la Renee, is “our internal resourcefulness to meet the demands of our external world”.  She adds another aspect to include how we are in relationship with others – that we exist in relationship.   These are both in line with how Dr. Dunn considered wellness in the 1950’s!

Here’s what the Be Well Lead Well Pulse® measures.  You can see how the aspects of wellbeing we discussed, plus more, are reflected:

  • Thriving – your evaluation of your own wellbeing now, plus the optimism you hold for your future.
  • Fuel – how you energize yourself physically, mentally and emotionally; this includes diet, movement, rest + breath.
  • Flow – aka being in ‘the zone’; engagement, presence, mindfulness and the feeling of bringing value to your work.
  • Wonder – continuously evolving your worldviews and perspectives with appreciation and awe; learning and growing.
  • Wisdom – tapping into and integrating your purpose, vision, and innate genius and bringing equanimity and lightness to life.
  • Thriving Amplified – creating the conditions where others thrive; energizing and maximizing their impact and growth.

You can tell by reading the descriptors of the dimensions of the Be Well Lead Well Pulse® that this is a thorough and generous assessment

Wellbeing and the Role of a Leader:  Thriving Amplified

I can’t help but make ties to Servant Leadership in this category of wellbeing. Can you imagine the world if we all supported each other in such a fundamental, life-enhancing way?

Like the ability to empathize requires us to be aware of our own emotions, supporting others’ wellbeing requires that we are connected to our own.  We begin with ourself.

I wrote a few blog posts several years ago that sprouted from my experience cycling.  One post links engagement, a cycling team’s paceline and the concept of distributed leadership as outlined in this article by Nick Petrie of CCL (Center for Creative Leadership).  In short, employee engagement requires the effort of leaders and members of the team.

Renee speaks passionately and often about creative vs. reactive leadership:

“The Be Well Lead Well Pulse dimensions promote a generative, open, present and connected stance to leadership, rather than leading from reactivity and fear.”

The creative orientation is a characteristic of leaders who achieve sustainable results. You can learn more about this in earlier show notes from my interview with Jacqui and Renee, owners of Anytime Fitness Bishop Arts.

The Value of the Be Well Lead Well Pulse® Assessment

I’m a believer in a good assessment and this certainly is one.  Seeing my collective answers to their well-crafted questions reflected back to me gave me a perspective I could not have arrived at on my own.  The combination of elements are unique to anything I have ever encountered and I was able to make connections that I would not have otherwise made.

Based on the report, I was able to see that although I was feeling a bit shaky and unsure in my current situation, I did have an optimistic view of my future.  Life can be challenging and some days I feel swallowed by uncertainty and even fear.  But when asked, I honestly feel optimistic that I am evolving and that something good is cooking within me.  I lean on this feedback when my energy and mood are low.

I’ll close with a quote by Warren Buffett that sums up the link between wellbeing and leadership:

The process of becoming a leader is much the same as the process of becoming an integrated human being

Thanks for reading, and remember…Elevate Your Part of the World!



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How To: Build a High-Performing Culture and a Thriving Business

How To: Build a High-Performing Culture and a Thriving Business

How To:  Build a High-Performing Culture and a Thriving Business

Anytime Fitness Bishop Arts is in the 97th percentile of clubs in the Anytime Fitness (AF) franchise systen and quite easily achieved status as a Platinum Club.   Several metrics combine for this designation:  member retention, financial results, team member retention, and their PLEASE scores, which are based on the club’s alignment with corporate values.  Owners Jacqui Bliss and Renee Reed have a lot to be proud of and they are getting exactly what they worked hard for and thus deserve.

Season 1   |   Episode 5   |   September 5, 2019

Show Notes

Culture Eats Strategy for lunch.

 – Peter Drucker

Anytime Fitness Bishop Arts is in the 97th percentile of clubs (of 2,475 clubs) in the Anytime Fitness franchise system and quite easily achieved status as a Platinum Club.   Several metrics combine for this designation:  member retention, financial results, team member retention, and their PLEASE scores, which are based on the club’s alignment with corporate values.

I have a colleague who likes to say, leaders get the organizations they deserve.  Owners Jacqui Bliss and Renee Reed have a lot to be proud of and they are getting exactly what they worked hard for and thus deserve.

The Platinum Club accolade does not surprise me one bit.  I’ve been a member of AF BAD (Anytime Fitness Bishop Arts District) for two years and from the moment I walked in I could feel the culture.  My experience and their offer continues to improve, so I conclude that I was not shown dogs and ponies.  It’s also an easy place to be; the community is friendly and eagerly supports your goals.  Even with the neighborly atmosphere, the sweat pours, heart rates rise and strength is built.

The Big Ideas of this Podcast:

  • How to achieve a High-Performing Culture
  • Ways to stay relevant in the changing world of fitness (or any industry!)
  • How business partners navigate difficult times by staying focused on the future and leaning on each other’s strengths

A Culture that Works at Anytime Fitness Bishop Arts

Jacqui and Renee are doing so many things right, but I’m highlighting a few of the ones that stand out the most in this interview.

Establish and Keep Rhythms 

Experts on business execution and operational excellence agree on the value of setting and keeping rhythmsThe right amount of structure will set an organization free.  Here’s how:

  • Rhythms cut down on reactivity. The organization is constantly updating and reporting on important information rather than responding to last-minute, ad hoc requests. Keeping on top of strategies and initiatives reduces fire drills.
  • Honored rhythms build trust. When meetings with employees are given priority rather than scheduled over, the leader is sending the message that the employee, and the team, are valuable and key to the organization’s success.
  • Regular meetings give team members a reliable communication channel to discuss issues that impact them.
  • Team members share knowledge such as successes that can be amplified, and mistakes so they avoid being repeated.
  • Meeting rhythms cut down on last-minute and ad hoc meetings so that more focused time can be devoted to the most important work.

The AF BAD club’s meeting rhythm includes weekly meetings with the entire team to cover general updates and operational topics.  They discuss the successes and challenges they observe with individual members and check in on the PLEASE values set by Corporate, focusing on how the values are being implemented at their location, with their members.

Weekly one-on-one meetings are also held with every team member.  Anything is open for discussion at these meetings: personal/professional development, career goals, personal check-ins, individual projects and initiatives, complaints, requests and so on.

A Creative vs Reactive Orientation

Jacqui and Renee articulated over and over what they cared about and what they want to bring into being during our conversation.  This way of thinking is called a Creative Orientation.  Quite simply, keeping your sights on goals, vision, values, and purpose results in more passion and less drama; more sustainable results and fewer rollercoaster rides.  Leaders who lead this way build motivated, inspired and high-achieving organizations.

A Focus on the People

Jacqui and Renee keep a larger than normal staff so that 1) members have consistent access to trainers and the club manager when they have questions, and 2) so that the team members have colleagues working with them most of the time.  As they say in the interview, it’s no fun being the only employee at work!  While one can argue this has a short-term negative impact to the bottom line, it results in long term employee and member retention.

An Inclusive Environment

Inclusion and diversity are powerful words these days. The AF BAD club is a microcosm of Oak Cliff, with all the shapes, sizes, ages, races, gay, straight, trans, and decorated people you can imagine.  If you’re not comfortable with all that, this probably isn’t the place for you.  Lately, the most impressive form of diversity I’ve experienced are folks coming in that are highly ‘deconditioned’, meaning significantly out of shape.  The story I tell myself is that they have been made to feel welcome here.  Both Renee and Jacqui have shared that the stories they’re hearing about the visions people want for themselves and their lives has been touching and inspiring.

Inclusion is good for business and good for humankind.

Staying Relevant

Most industries have experienced significant shifts in the past decade or so – just look at the retail, taxi, and news industries as proof.  The fitness industry is no exception.  Any business wanting to thrive in today’s environment must innovate and find ways to stay fresh and exciting.

Renee and Jacqui  stay relevant by:

  • Investing in leadership and organizational development. An organizational coach taught them about meeting rhythms and tracking and communicating metrics.
  • Committing wholeheartedly to their decisions. I see many individuals and organizations who invest money for development but then either don’t stick with it or they improv.  Improvising means that they implement only part of the recommendation, or they combine advice from several experts rather than stick with one approach.  Renee talks in the interview about burning the ships – giving themselves no way out except through to completion.  100% Commitment.
  • Employing new technology that gamifies working out with friendly competition and reports meaningful statistics to the users.
  • Updating equipment and renovating the space.
  • Always researching and learning. “Jacqui is the gas”, says Renee.  They, and most people on their team, have advanced degrees and are continual learners.  Each team member has a history as a college athlete or a story of personal transformation.  Jacqui and Renee have built a fantastic, high-performing team.
  • Using Social Media in positive ways to tell good stories.

If you want to make it in today’s world it requires constant evolution.

Navigating Partnerships 

Many small, independent businesses are run by owners who are also life partners.  The current statistics on divorce rates hover somewhere around 50%, which poses an additional test for these business and life pairings.  What happens to the business when the personal relationship falters (and vice versa)?

Renee and Jacqui beautifully illustrate a new composition.  With the same dedication and commitment with which they seem to run the rest of their life, they have made their way to a very positive and respectful business collaboration.  They are also parents to an exceptional son and they’re doing a fantastic job in their shared parenting – vacationing and spending holidays together as a family.

Based on the success Jacqui and Renee have experienced in their situation, here are a few questions to consider if you find yourself in one that is similar:

  • Re-assess your vision for the business. Do you still feel strongly about it and want it to succeed?  Do you want to continue to be a part of it?
  • When the emotional dust particles settle, is your business partner someone who you respect and who you feel has a similar work ethic? Was the business partnership working, even if the life partnership wasn’t? Are you a good team?
  • Are you willing to ‘do your work’ and learn about your contributions to the breakdown and declare to improve in those areas?
  • Can you move past the hurt and work without resentment?
  • Can you (eventually) be ‘all in’ again?

I’m not an expert in this matter, but it seems if you can answer ‘yes’ to these questions you have a good starting point for the next iteration of your evolving business.

I’m glad you’re here, and always remember… Elevate Your Part of the World!




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Christian Chernock: Designing a Life| Building for the Future

Christian Chernock: Designing a Life| Building for the Future

Christian Chernock:  Designing a Life|Building for the Future  

Christian’s success in residential development is built on lessons he learned while training as a professional golfer.  From mentors like Hank Haney and ‘Psycho Dave’ Esterbrook, he learned how to set and achieve goals, practice with intention and how to work hard.  His professional golf plans were shattered due to a back injury when he was 28 years old.  In this interview, Christian shares his journey to his current and very fulfilling life.

Season 1   |   Episode 4   |   August 21, 2019

Show Notes

Passion is the result of a good life design, not the cause.

Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life


I knew that Christian’s story would be interesting because while he was building his residential development business he also finished a Masters degree in Transpersonal Psychology at Naropa University in Boulder, CO.   This all came on the heels of an existential exit as a professional golfer as a result of a career-ending back injury.  Let all that sink in!

He now owns and operates Christian Chernock Properties, a design + build firm in Dallas that focuses on the revitalization of historic and conservation districts.  His intellect and focus on sustainable and future-focused design pushes the edges – and some local residents’ buttons, too!

Christian’s background as a high performing athlete and his ongoing commitment to ‘leave it all on the field’ have been instrumental to his success.

Here’s what to listen for in the interview.

  • How Christian integrated the concepts of Lifestyle Design, self-awareness and professional support to move him through this critical life transition.
  • Lifelong passions as clues for living a fulfilling life.
  • The importance of finding and giving oneself over to the right teachers and to committing to deliberate practice in service of your greatest desires.
  • Reduce overwhelm and build confidence by breaking big goals into manageable milestones and do-able steps.
  • The challenge of architecting an environment that elicits pride 100 years from now while also addressing historic preservation, increasing density, rising rents, and building codes. Generating an evolutionary future that respects the past and protects the sense of place is a tall order!

The Details

Designing a Life: 

Unbeknownst to me, there is a term for putting intentional thought and then creating a strategy for realizing it:  Lifestyle Design.  Tim Ferris coined the term in his book, The Four-Hour Work Week.  I have always called it ‘visioning’ and do ‘visioning’ work with individual clients and with teams and organizations.  In fact, clarity around what one is expending time and resources towards is important, especially as it evolves.

Stanford professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans have written a fantastic book that applies design thinking principles to life and career:  Designing Your Life:  How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life.  Check out their Designing Your Life website, read this article on LinkedIn or as Christian says, “just google lifestyle design”!


Self-awareness means that you are conscious of various aspects of yourself:  your thoughts, your feelings and emotions – including emotional and physical responses; your moods; your capabilities; your beliefs and biases; and the impact your behaviors and actions have on others, and more.

Self-awareness is a foundational skill in development and change.  Christian’s sports psychologist, ‘Psycho-Dave’, gave Christian the practice of moving golf tees from one pocket to the other each time he had a negative thought.

Try these self-awareness practices:

  • Do a daily ‘mood check’. Bring awareness to what mood you’re currently in.  Find descriptive words better than good, or fine. For example: try hopeful, joyful, anxious, resentful, excited, etc.  Leaders (all types) have an exponential impact on the mood of their organization, so it’s important that you recognize yours.  You can’t change something you’re not aware of.
  • Set a reminder to take 30 seconds – one minute several times a day to notice if/where you are carrying tension in your body and relax it. We all have our favorite places!
  • Notice what you pay attention to. Do you find more things wrong or right with people and situations?
  • Like Christian, notice negative thoughts (especially victim-oriented ones!) and move a piece of jewelry (watch, ring, bracelet) from one hand to the other.  You can also copy Christian’s practice of moving an item(s) from one pocket to the other.  Your mood and emotions (and relationships!) are influenced by your thoughts.

Finding Flow, or Timeless Awareness

  • When faced with the rest of his life ahead of him and previous plans shattered, Christian asked himself where he found passion. Since childhood, he would get lost in designing and building things, first with Legos and then through architecture classes in high school.
  • From Wikipedia: “… a flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.”

Questions to ponder:

  • During what activities do you find yourself in this ‘timeless awareness’?
  • Do you remember experiencing these times during childhood? If so, what were you doing?  If you don’t remember, maybe someone close to you does.  Ask them.
  • Do you know what contributes to your sense of flow, and can you craft an environment that promotes this feeling?

Deliberate Practice and Using a Coach

  • The term, deliberate practice, was coined by Anders Ericsson. Basically, he makes the distinction that practice alone won’t result in improved performance.  We all know about having to unlearn ineffective approaches.  In order to reach a level of mastery, or expert performance, one must engage in practice with these components:

Aspects of Deliberate Practice:

  • Grounded in a well-developed field where people have reached expert levels of competitive-based performance (most sports, music, chess, dance).
  • Requires a teacher who can provide practices designed to help improve performance.
  • Effective training techniques have already been established.
  • Demands stretch – moving outside of one’s comfort zone.
  • Based on well-defined, specific goals.
  • Requires a person’s full attention and conscious actions.
  • Feedback – first from an expert or coach, then from self-assessment.
  • Mental representations – what something looks, feels, sounds like when a goal is reached.
  • Typically involves building on existing skills; fundamental skills are important.

Strictly speaking, most of our professional lives aren’t a good fit for a ‘perfect’ deliberate practice. However, a person focused on developing their effectiveness could follow the same guidelines and get fantastic results.  I found Christian’s advice on how to use a coach spot on! I would extend this to most approaches for improvement.  Commit to a path, practices and instructions to get the best results.

Breaking Down Goals

  • Christian’s description and examples of breaking down a vision into smaller goals may be the best I’ve heard. Here’s how it goes:
  • Goal: Play in a PGA Tour (starting with the goal and working your way down)
    • Play a Junior Tour
    • Become a top amateur and collegiate player
    • Become an All-American
    • Win a tournament
    • Finish top 5
    • Finish top 10
    • Improve driving and five-foot putts (Deliberate Practice)
    • Hit ‘x’ number drivers; practice five-foot putts for ‘x’ amount of time (Deliberate Practice)
    • Get instruction (Deliberate Practice)
  • Goal: Develop a Multi-Family Project (working from bottom-up)
    • Manage small renovation projects
    • Volunteer at Habitat for Humanity
    • Learn specific skills from people who already do this well
    • Manage larger renovation projects
    • Small single-family new build project
    • Large single-family new build project
    • Small multi-family new build (4 plex)
    • Medium multi-family new build (8 plex)
    • Small apartment complex (20+ units)

Luck and wishful thinking don’t make achievements like this happen. We’ve heard of the saying, An overnight success that took 10 years.  Look at any level of sustainable achievement and a process like this goal-breakdown and some semblance of deliberate practice underlies it.

A Perspective That Creates Space

Admittedly, I have been one to want to keep the neighborhood where I have recently re-located quaint and community-focused.  The first time I met with Christian he provided me with a new perspective on density, human migration and how to design the built environment for the world we live in today and that will support us in the future.  He expands on this during this podcast.

The era when the historic Oak Cliff neighborhoods were built has passed.  Even as new homes are built in the old style, they are designed with today’s lifestyle standards in mind. Our focus and energy are much better placed on the positive mark we want to make – the beauty we want to create and the modern communities we want to establish.  We can do this while honoring the sense of place we love while also preserving the best of the beautiful and historic places.

And we’re back to managing polarities, see the Show Notes from Episode 2 with David Spence

As always, I’m curious about what you learned from this conversation.

Elevate Your World,



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Chad West: Activating an Historical and Diverse Community and Staying Accessible

Chad West:  Activating an Historical and Diverse Community and Staying Accessible

Dallas City Council Member Chad West shares his vision, the importance of accessibility, community engagement and creating a sense of place.

Season 1   |   Episode 3  |   August 1, 2019

Show Notes

Citizenship is a chance to make a difference in the place where you belong. 

Charles Handy

First a look behind the curtain.  I had the chance to see Chad West in action when our technology broke down and his tech-support partner had to switch out his laptop.  A half-hour ticked away, and I was getting antsy about having enough time for a meaningful interview.

This breakdown afforded me the gift of eavesdropping on Chad as he continued to work calmly with his assistant in the background, answering a few questions and ultimately delaying his next meeting so that we had enough time for the interview.

Chad had previously shared with me that he is a stickler about keeping commitments.  Integrity is high on his list of virtues.  I witnessed him walking his talk while also staying kind and generous with employees.  This recollection reassures me that we elected the right person for Oak Cliff and for Dallas.

I’ve included Notes from our conversation as well as Reflections + Practical  Applications, below.

Conversation Notes

First Impressions and Accessibility

  • Accessibility to constituents and clients is important to Chad and is expected for a City Council Member (CM). I experienced that firsthand when he personally answered my call and accepted the podcast interview invitation without a previous introduction.
  • To balance his extreme availability, he’s sure to bake downtime into the end of his day for reading or other solitary activities.

 Balancing the Whole and Parts

  • I wondered about competing commitments between District 1 (D-1, our district) and the City’s vision and goals. (There is a natural and constant flow of attention and resources to various elements of any healthy system or organization – just look in nature!)
    • A CM has to stay connected with what the voters want and move the city ball forward.
    • Unique challenges of D1: we’re one of the oldest neighborhoods in Dallas with the original street grid, old infrastructure and tons of new development.
  • Importance of public engagement:
    • Chad’s goal is to make sure people understand the issues, agendas, and plans by communicating in eye-catching ways, i.e. graphs, pictures, maps.
    • On the flip-side, neighborhood feedback is very important when trying to encourage developers to include pedestrian & neighborhood-friendly elements in their projects.
    • The CM has a more powerful influence with developers and at City Hall if citizens are engaged and vocal at meetings.
    • Engagement also poses challenges. People will question Chad, and rightly so.  While this creates more work, lack of engagement causes a neighborhood to lose its character.
    • Chad is working to build trust in lower-engagement neighborhoods by attending non-city events and getting to know the neighbors so that they, too, are able to influence their future.
  • Building relationships and trust with other Council Members is super important for moving both the city and individual districts forward.
    • Chad expects to visit other CM districts and learn about their vision and challenges
    • He will invite other CMs to visit D-1 to experience ours

Holding the Vision and Integrating Thought Leadership

  • Chad embodies the excitement of seeing 10 – 20 years of planning come to fruition in Oak Cliff and the Bishop Arts District.
  • Oak Cliff is a gem with 100-year-old street-car informed grids and adjacent neighborhoods. Bishop Arts is a great example.
    • In the plans: Oak Farms, a mixed-use development with workforce housing, market-rate housing, retail, and plazas.
    • Two major streets will be repurposed. The new streetcar between downtown Dallas and North Oak Cliff, pedestrians and bicycles will be routed to one street, with cars on the other. This will improve safety and accessibility.
  • D Magazine’s New Urbanism edition included an article by Oak Cliff resident and Urbanism expert, Patrick Kennedy: Bishop Arts Can Be a Model for Southern Dallas Development
    • We’re 10 years in with great success and a positive trajectory.
    • Extensive meetings with neighbors are ongoing regarding plans for their neighborhoods. They are almost unanimous about wanting to bring new life to old centers (formerly streetcar stops), but there is concern about parking, overflow, traffic and the intense usage experienced in Bishop Arts.
    • NIMBY – Not In My Backyard
    • Its critical to have good public input and dialogue with neighbors in the area.
    • Complete Streets
      • Urban design with a focus on the people who live in nearby neighborhoods rather than how to move traffic through quickly. The design includes commercial and retail on both sides, pedestrian and bike safety, traffic safety.
      • There’s a focus on preserving single-family neighborhoods; once you take them down you can never get them back.
    • More trail expansions are in the works, linking people with parks.
    • There’s an opportunity to develop the eastern section of D-1 with more corporations, bringing jobs to the area so that people don’t have to leave the area to go to work.
    • A strong sense of place is being ignited.


Reflections + Resources + Practical Applications

I’ve included notes that expand past the conversation with Chad.  The intent is to give you an opportunity to dig a bit deeper into your own way of relating and leading – at all levels.  Tools and articles are included to help you move from earphones to application.  

First Impressions, Accessibility and Limiting beliefs

  • What first impression do you make? Do people feel seen and heard when they walk away from their interaction with you?
  • I was reluctant to reach out to Chad because I thought he would decline or simply ignore my call due to his busy schedule and lack of relationship with me.
    • Where are you limiting yourself by not extending?
    • To whom do you need to extend?
    • What are you concerned will happen if you make contact and it is either not returned or rejected?
    • What is the consequence of remaining quiet?

Encouraging Engagement and Being Challenged

  • How are important decisions communicated in your organization? Are they interesting and clear so that employees and stakeholders understand the impact and action they need to take?
  • How do you skillfully engage your stakeholders when leading change? Can you tolerate being challenged?  Do you build in time for thoughtful input and are you open to changing direction based on this input? Do you expand engagement past the ‘usual suspects’ that typically agree with your opinion?
  • Speed and ease are often preferenced over stakeholder engagement. The sheer amount of current work, ‘incoming’, and shareholder and time pressure make thoughtful engagement difficult. Strategic prioritization of initiatives and tasks can help clarify and reduce noise.   Here are a couple of prioritization tools.
  • I was reminded of the Gallup 12 Employee Engagement Survey used in many organizations while Chad described the challenge and payoff of engaging neighborhoods. There seem to be several similarities between engaged employees and engaged citizens.  How is your organization assessing engagement?
  • I’m also reminded of my first interview with Jennifer Touchet and the importance of power mapping and neighborhood engagement.
  • As a stakeholder – citizen, voter, employee – how are you investing your time and energy to give input in ways that can positively influence an outcome (rather than staying on the sideline)?

Building Trust and Relationships

  • How often do you reach across the aisle or across the organization chart to truly understand your colleague’s world?  It’s likely that your work processes and products, whether it is financial, sales, operations, or HR, directly impacts them.  How often do you take a walk in their neighborhood?
  • The Trusted Advisor’s Trust Equation is a helpful way to consider trust and the components of trust. Here are links to an explanation of the Trust Equation and the Trust Equation itself.

Holding a Long-Term Vision

  • Notice the vision for District 1 has been unfolding for 10 – 20 year. The article, A Call for Long Term Capitalism is insightful and compels is to look past quarterly earnings and other short-term metrics.  We’re challenged to become ‘decaders’.
  • How do you and your organization stay committed and aligned to a long-term vision? What rhythms and structures have you created to support this vision?

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

Thanks for tuning in, and I’d really love to hear from you!

Take good care,


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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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