The EMERGE Leadership Project wins big in Las Vegas

Greenview Global (GVG) took a gamble recently, staging a the first full-day workshop in the Las Vegas area at the sustainably designed and themed Springs Preserve.  Team GVG, including Daniel Huard, Dave Ray, and Rick Van Diepen (shown in photo) lasvegas-rickpulled together a program designed for local leaders from government, industry, and non-profits that promised to help them perform more effectively in their respective roles.  GVG’s hope was to offer inspiration and practical leadership guidance that would help in any context, but particularly aligned with creating change within complex systems – the kind of change achieving true sustainability demands.

And it looks like the gamble paid off. Watch Heather Abel, Strategic Partners Manager, Las Vegas Monorail and Bob Morin, Deputy Manager, National Security Technologies, as they share their reactions to the training with Daniel directly after the training. (Apologies for the back ground noise, but unlike typical educational experiences, most of the attendees did not appear anxious to leave…excited, engaged conversations went on for 45 minutes after the training ended!)

lasvegas-perspectiveframingexerciseIn addition to hearing Daniel, Dave, and Rick speak to local sustainability leadership initiatives and case studies and how emergent leadership could be used to enhance such efforts, the group was able to do several interactive exercises focused on leadership skills…such as the ability to “witness” or observe without judgement. While touring the LEED Platinum Springs Preserve facility, participants used “frames” to get a better understanding of  perspective and how different things can look just by how we “frame” it.

Kathleen O’Brien, author of EMERGE: A Strategic Leadership Model for the Sustainable Building Community andlas-vegas-kathleenvegenation founder of the non-profit EMERGE Leadership Project was guest speaker for the workshop, sharing personal lessons learned that resulted in the formation of the EMERGE Leadership Model.   O’Brien was also the guest at a community event held at Veggie Nation, a restaurant supporting local sustainability initiatives (photo), as well as a book signing event at the local Barnes & Noble.

More Las Vegas workshops are planned and will be posted at

Your Deep Calling. Let’s Talk About It.

IMG_9861Recently, I had the gift of being asked to facilitate a dinner conversation using what’s been come to be known as the Jeffersonian technique. Based on Thomas Jefferson’s penchant for dinner conversations revolving around a particular question or set of questions, the technique includes providing a safe structure for sharing and the result is an intimacy that can be quite profound. As you might expect, no one gets to hog the conversation; at the same time only one person gets to speak at a time (no sidebars with your next door neighbor at the table, no cross-talk or remarks directed to the person speaking, no interruptions). All eyes and ears are on the person speaking.  The questions are intended to inspire honest and thoughtful discussion.

In my new book, EMERGE: A Strategic Leadership Model for the Sustainable Building Community, I remind the reader that leadership is a “we” activity.   The paradox is, that to be an effective leader, one must rely on others.  Emergent leaders create themselves through intimate engagement with others with whom they interact.

Let me encourage you to take the opportunity to try out this technique with your work team, your family, and/or community group.  The questions my client and I recently posed at the above-mentioned dinner were incredibly evocative. I’ve rephrased them slightly for this article, but based on my recent experience with similar questions, there will be tears, there will be laughter, there will be “intimate engagement,” and there will be a basis for shared leadership and personal growth. I suggest you try them out:

  • What is your deep calling and what was the moment you knew it was your deep calling?
  • How do you live that deep calling today? What does it look like?
  • How can we (around the table) support each other in living this deep calling?

Now, it does work best with a designated facilitator who can keep the conversation on track, but if one is not available (or the situation makes it inappropriate), having the guidelines and discussion questions posted in a prominent place can help, as well as giving any and all involved permission (and responsibility) to refer to those guidelines if the conversation gets off track.

Emerge Front Cover OnlyEMERGE: A Strategic Leadership Model for the Sustainable Building Community is available in print and e-book formats on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. In addition to this highly regarded book, all purchasers can access book bonus materials available at using a password provided in the Author’s Final Note. Bonus materials include links to exercises, recordings aligned with chapters in the book, as well as templates.

EMERGE Poses Key Questions at Living Future 2015

The EMERGE Leadership Project (ELP), as Community Partner with ILFI for the third year in a row, is mounting an interactive exhibit at the upcoming Living Future 2015 UnConference. LF2015 focuses on “Place and Community.” photo 3In keeping with that theme ELP’s Exhibit will ask LF participants to answer three questions on the emergent leadership spiral: What is Community? What is Place? How do you Build Community through Place? O’Brien & Company, a major sponsor of the non-profit, helped design the exhibit, and will help install it. In the photo Donna Trost, an EMERGE Alumni, and Operations Director for O’Brien & Company, contributes her answers to the exhibit, to help “prime the pump.” Come join us at Living Future. ELP’s Executive Director, Kathleen O’Brien will be there to answer any questions you may have about EMERGE. And you’ll be able to contribute to the conversation about Community & Place. (See us at Booth #12)

Emergent Leaders Look in the Mirror First

OntheWayHow many of us in leadership positions have run into a snag, either with a client, a colleague, a Board Director, or other figure in our sphere of influence, and used a “tried and true” communication technique to get back on track — and the results were less than stellar?

I certainly have my share of such experiences.  It’s not because those techniques are faulty.  It’s because I skipped a step — actually two steps. I needed to impartially review what happened and discern my role in what happened.  In Leadership and the New Science, Margaret Wheatley says “We would benefit from knowing how much interpretation we do.”  An impartial review, where I ask myself what happened first – factually –  then what, then what, and so forth, makes it much more likely that I will realistically see my role in what happened. This is because I’ll be less defensive as I describe the situation to myself.

Once I have personally completed this exercise, it will be much easier for me to approach the person with whom I’m experiencing the problem calmly. And thus, more likely to resolve the situation creatively.

Once you are clear about your role (and we always have one) in the original mis-fire, it may be possible to go through the “what happened” exercise with the individual you hope to work things out with. This can be particularly important for long term relationships. I found this exercise helpful with employees, where we were not just resolving the situation, but practicing a kind of discernment that would come in handy for the employee as he or she grew in professional responsibility.

The point is to foster fact-finding, rather than fault-finding, even when you are the subject of the study! The neat thing about learning this discernment process, is that with enough practice, you can “witness” the action while you are in the middle of it, and even begin to “foresee” how the action might go before it occurs. Both are leadership capabilities of an emergent leader that will help you avoid problems in the first place.  And perhaps more importantly, make the most of every interaction with your colleagues, clients, or employees.

Foresight and witnessing are two important practices of an emergent leader. We’ll be discussing this and more at the upcoming EMERGE Leadership Workshops this January. Learn more at:




What is YOUR Why?

NOAA-NDBC-discus-buoyEvery once in a while I have a need to revisit the question of…why. “Why am I doing what I’m doing?”  When asked how I got to where I am, I often respond with “I saw a buoy, and I swam to it…I saw another, and I swam to that one…and so forth.”  But of course, there’s a reason I “saw” that particular buoy, and why I chose to swim to it, even if the water was cold and filled with the dreaded unknown! (Cue: Jaws theme) So why is what I’m doing so important to me?

Windmill-SculptureWalking along The Way last month, and encouraged by my Spiritual Director, I determined it was time to clarify my “why” – my purpose. What gets me up in the morning? Why do I choose to spend my time and energy on the EMERGE Leadership Project? In a nutshell, here’s what I got:


  1. Connecting people really turns me on. Even though an introvert, I do love to be fostering relationships, connections that serve. In fact because I am an introvert, the structure of teaching is a way for me to touch, connect, and love you in a way that is comfortable. And because life has me swimming with the green building community “pod”, you’re the ones I’m busy connecting with and about. Simply put, you are my people, and I want to serve you ‘cause it fills me up.
  2. I have a strong current of social justice running through me (you might blame that on a dozen years of Catholic schooling, but it didn’t help that I went to college in the ‘60s). And there were signs early on that I had a thing about protecting the environment. When my nursery school took us to a pond to go fishing, I made a stink (yes, literally stamped my feet) about how fishing with hooks was cruel, and refused to participate (even though, honestly, it looked like everyone was having fun.)
  3. I’m a practical pig. While I have participated in demonstrations, marches, and letters to the editor, I generally prefer actualization over advocacy. I like the idea that by building and developing more resourcefully and generatively we are, in a very concrete way, making the world a fairer place for generations to come, and for sister societies that have been harmed through overconsumption. Sustainable building is a practical way to address the spiritual anxiety I feel about the way the world is. And emergent leadership is the means to accelerate its adoption.
  4. I’m a grandmother (several times over). If you’ve seen me teach, you’ve heard about a trip to China I made in 1997 to visit my granddaughter Ellie. At that point, I was a bit burned out on the swimming gig, and I wasn’t seeing any buoys. But here was my granddaughter living in Shanghai, a City polluted primarily by a driving need to develop and build multiple “Manhattans” overnight. Even if I’m sometimes disappointed at how hard it can be to be the person the universe seems to think I am (based on the assignments I get), I am moved to address my generational responsibility in some way, and this seems to be the way.
  5. Finally, I like success. No, I actually LOVE success. And I can honestly say that our green building efforts have paid off. I’m about to keynote an event – the EcoBuilding’s annual Green Building Slam — that highlights this fact in a big way. The projects are remarkable and the folks putting them together just as remarkable. We’ve come such a long way since the days when I gave a talk on green building at a builders’ conference in Portland attended by two people — one thought I was going to talk about building green houses, the other thought I was going to talk about issues relevant to builders new to the field of contracting! I need affirmation just like anyone else, and its events like the Slam, and emails I continue to receive announcing the successful completion of projects I was involved with in my consulting days that give me a boost. I got word this week that the West Hawaii Explorations Academy met its goal to build a school designed with the motto “no child left indoors” and meet the LEED for Schools Platinum Standard. And from time to time, EMERGE Alumni share their leadership success stories. (Here are some.) These make me very happy.

To be truly effective, a leader needs a clear purpose in mind. Mine is to accelerate the adoption of sustainable building and development, and today that takes the form of teaching, mentoring, and writing about an approach to leadership that I believe will help us get there. Driving this purpose is my personal why.  What is yours? Think about it, share your thoughts with friends (and me if you like, at And if you desire a boost in achieving your why, please check out the EMERGE Leadership programs coming up at:

A belated tribute to International Women’s Day, 2014

A-PHurdatGLYI have recently been privileged to be witness to some powerful women. These gals are willing to tell the truth and lead from a place of integrity.  At the Puget Sound Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction Forum held on March 7th at GLY’s Office in Bellevue, Washington, we shared the stories of our professional lives, which naturally included times when as women we have faced  difficult, sometimes even hostile circumstances in a male-dominated industry.

A sell-out crowd of women ranging widely in age and backgrounds, we revealed failures, we celebrated victories, and we shared solutions. A-P Hurd, keynote and author of “The Carbon-Efficient City,” discussed how important it is to “take your whole self to the table” and that means we need to “get familiar” with that whole self. She suggested techniques including everything from finding role models and affirming companions to challenging ourselves from time to time with travel, physical adversity, and “making space for others to be different.”  A-P described how important it was for her to hear from a male mentor once: “be deliberate about your legacy…know what legacy you wish to leave behind.”

WICPanelatGLYThis last statement resonated strongly for me, as I was invited to the Forum to present the story of my own professional arc, how it helped shape the leadership model I used to succeed, and how it can be used by anyone called to being a change agent.

By the very nature of being a minority in the building field, women represent change, so like it or not we are change agents. This perception is only amplified when the individual woman is also intent on bringing concepts such as green building to the design, construction, and/or development process.

My legacy project is to pass along a leadership model that my personal experience and studies tell me works for all, as well as skills this model requires, and to do this through training, mentoring, speaking, and writing. In my mind, the EMERGE Leadership Model is far more conducive than conventional leadership models to creating the transformation that urgently needs to come within and through our built environment.  Explicit in this form of leadership is an integrated collaborative approach, which most thought-leaders in the field agree creates more resilient, more innovative solutions. Studies show that the more diverse the teams involved in the design process, the better the results. So everyone – not just women — bringing their “whole self” to the table is a good thing.  The other reason I am a proponent for emergent leadership is that it addresses the urgency of our times. We need lots of leaders and we need those leaders acting effectively and deliberately at multiple and varied vantage points within the systems that create and impact our built environment. The principles of emergent leadership work whether you have positional authority or a forceful personality.

And at the American Writers & Writing Programs Conference in Seattle, I absolutely fell in love with Kathleen Dean Moore, who was sitting on a panel to discuss social purpose writing (The title of the workshop was “So you want to change the world.”)  Kathleen encouraged the writers in the room to speak the truth, practice “relentless citizenship,” and to use our art to “creatively disrupt” the status quo.  Kathleen recently retired from teaching at Oregon State University as Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, and is focusing on her legacy, speaking and writing about our moral responsibility to address climate change. Her newest book is Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril.  In her talk, she discussed the importance of humor as part of truth telling, and she is amazingly funny given the seriousness of her message.  After a genuine hug, Kathleen pointed me to her website where today I found a riveting video entitled “Climate Activism: If your house in on fire.”  Check it out. And guys, its okay to cry when you do.