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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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.

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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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