How to become the conservation leader we need right now

When I began my career as a biologist 20 years ago, conservation projects often focused on a single species or a very localized site. Fun fact: my first job was working to protect an endangered rabbit in communally owned lands in the volcanoes outside of Mexico.

It doesn’t get any more specific than that. And that type of work was pretty standard.

But today, we take a much more holistic approach. We’ve seen that the most impactful conservation efforts look at whole systems and what it takes to help them survive and thrive. Instead of a single river basin, we work to preserve the entire watershed. Instead of a single species, we work to save entire habitats.

As a result, the job of the conservation leader has shifted out of a growth in our understanding -- and out of need.

Read More
What nature can teach us about complexity

I am always in awe that nature offers so much rich teaching on how to approach complexity with elegance. 

It’s easy to forget that the very thing my clients work to protect has a 4 billion year advantage of learning to adapt, respond, evolve. Mother Nature has a thing or two to teach us when it comes to operating at conditions that are far from equilibrium. 

When we gather people together to collaborate on complex problems, we are doing more than giving them a meeting space and a participatory process to engage. And our goal isn’t just to find “the answer” or set of answers that can be immediately implementable. 

Like nature, collaboration can drive evolution in complex environments — if it’s designed correctly. 

Read More
20 check-in questions for more effective meetings

How do you start your meetings? 

Whether you are a facilitator or leader, the answer to this question matters. And it could mean the difference between hosting a meeting where your team is engaged and present or...whether they are thinking about the other fifteen things that need to get done that day.

Meetings are an incredible investment of time — and, quite frankly, money. If you’re having a meeting, there is a built-in assumption that gathering a group together will create more synergy, ease, and innovation that ultimately makes that investment worth while. 

Learning how to invite a team to “join” you and the agenda at-hand is a skill that anyone who plans or leads meetings should undertake. 

Luckily the learning is as simple as asking a question.

Read More
How to lead change in an uncertain world

Earlier this week I was working with a client to finalize the design of a strategic leadership meeting for his organization. Just hours after I delivered the final agenda to him, he received some unexpected news: the CEO had resigned after a national media campaign brought the organization’s credibility swiftly into question. 

The next day, I found myself in a family crisis that also came unexpectedly. My calendar was full of commitments to clients, developing an upcoming speech, recruiting a potential partner into my business — and, yes, checking in with my client to provide whatever support I could lend in his time of uncertainty. I got almost none of it done.

There were a few other hiccups like that last week. I heard from clients and friends who also had their day take complete left turns. 

Oy, what gives?

Read More
Five steps to design an effective collaborative meeting

Long before I had any professional experience or training as a facilitator, I often found myself in the position of needing to organize meetings that engaged participants on a deeply collaborative level. 

Sometimes, these meetings took place within an organization where I was asked to bring together leaders with vastly different perspectives and programmatic experience to discuss future strategic directions. Often, they were meetings with partners, politicians, and community members to co-create a shared vision or — even more daunting — resolve issues where there was a high degree of conflict.

Can you relate?

Read More