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  • Thursday, September 15, 2022 10:14 AM | Hallie Knox (Administrator)

    This month’s member spotlight falls on Dacia Coffey, Certified Process Consultant and author of Corporate Caffeine. As the CEO of The Marketing Blender, a B2B sales and marketing alignment agency, Dacia helps clients transform their brand, revenue growth, and business development machine. She enthusiastically implements a process consulting approach in all of her work - read on to learn more. 

    The historical approach to branding and marketing is a compartmentalized thing - there’s a clear and firm dividing line between the client and the person making the magic. Pay no attention to the “man behind the curtain,” just pass over your marketing goals and they will get the job done, whether you know about it or not! 

    We at The Marketing Blender may have been guilty of starting out that way, but it didn’t take long to see the trend: when we worked with clients who welcomed or even initiated a collaborative creative process, getting deeply involved and partnering with us throughout our time together, the outcomes were simply better. The process was richer and more enjoyable for everyone involved, and more insights naturally arose during the process.  

    Huh, we thought. What if we started doing that on purpose? 

    We didn’t have a name for what that was, at the time. But we changed how we delivered across the board and stepped into a system of deeper inquiry and cooperation. As one example, we set up prerequisite workshops that were client-facing and highly collaborative, where we walked our clients through every step of our process. As their understanding and buy-in increased, client satisfaction went up. We started offering market plans - mapping all the connections between the many tactics involved in a marketing strategy - and we saw a decrease in instances of clients taking the tools we created for them and immediately breaking them. That focus on the strategic process, rather than a superficial list of tactics isolated from a larger picture, became a part of the culture for our 16-person team.  

    When I participated in the Process Consulting Training 101 through the Society, something incredible happened. I had a blind spot uncovered. It was one I may not have engaged with for years on my own. For the first time, someone really spelled it out for me: organizational and individual impact can happen at the same time. The typical model of an insulated, coldly professional client relationship had continued to cause me frustration and friction, and the training blew that framework right out of the water. There was exponential value in this new idea - that diving into the topics of leadership, culture, operations, and an individual client’s thoughts and feelings along the journey was essential to the customer experience.  

    There were a few other concepts from that training that have stayed with me and profoundly impacted my work ever since: 

    1. Humble inquiry. Oh, this one is so important. Humility is misunderstood by so many people. The reality is that confidence is humility’s twin. Whether you “sell it” that way or not, you are being hired for your brain power, your skillset, your experience, your unique abilities, and you have to cross a trust chasm before anyone will pay you for something intangible. Partnering humble inquiry with your confidence creates so much amazing space in client relationships. It gives you permission to lean into your confidence in a quieter, more comfortable, more real way. You don’t need smoke, mirrors, and posturing to convince your clients to partner with you. A humble question will impart more assurance than any amount of bluster and razzle dazzle. (For more on the concept of humble inquiry, check out Dr. Edgar Schein’s book of the same name.) 

    2. The focus on process. Beyond the impact an attitude of humble inquiry can have on your client relationships, it is also a far truer method for “finding the answer” than any other I’ve found – because the answer is the process. For all the confidence you may have in your knowledge and experience, in the end you are not selling anyone “your answer.” You are offering them your questions, your methods of exploration. You are inviting them to participate in a journey, with you acting as inquirer and guide. You are acknowledging you don’t hold the solution and assuring them of the value that will come through asking powerful questions in partnership.  

    3. Lifelong learning. This was a piece of our company history already – constantly striving for a better way. Today, being a learner by nature is a part of our hiring criteria. It’s also what we deliver. “You don’t get to be done with this, EVER,” we tell our clients. “Marketing has no finish line!” Some people may find that exhausting, but we can flip that. It’s in our mission statement: we see it as having a domino effect of positivity. When you implement lifelong learning into how you deliver, this beautiful virtuous cycle occurs. How wonderful is it to remember that there’s always more to do? 

    And, speaking of lifelong learning. I took my learning from PCT 101 home, digested it, applied it, and implemented it with my team. We stepped into a new way of doing marketing, and tore down that curtain so our clients could see exactly how the magic works. We have been doing that, on purpose, ever since. 

  • Wednesday, August 31, 2022 9:27 PM | Hallie Knox (Administrator)

    Learning and knowing are overlapping postures. Overlapping, rather than either separate or identical. We can't know unless we learn. We can't learn without at least some awareness that we do not know. 

    But here is the difference: learning implies an ongoing desire to know while knowing does not necessarily mean a continuing desire to learn.

    If someone's basic posture is knowing, they interact with the world through their desire to hoard, teach, sell, or perhaps keep their knowledge a secret. A person becomes too busy talking or feeling smug to stop, look, listen, and learn.

    If the basic posture is learning, however, a person interacts with the world through their desire to listen, study, reflect, purchase, gather, and synthesize. They are moving more deliberately and openly and cannot help but learn.

    Can you feel this difference?

    For many of us in Process Consulting, our journey of moving into the world and trying to influence it based on our expertise gave way to this conscious development of a deliberate, restrained, and non-anxious presence. We hold space with a Client while we listen to a problem or opportunity together. We determine what help looks like and co-design a process to address it. We then have the opportunity to learn together. 

    The knowing approach can be a way to convey technical, fixed knowledge, yet it cannot adequately address adaptive changes because it resists ongoing discovery. It's too busy talking to listen and observe. Taking the learning approach, however, people notice things they would otherwise miss. They ask, What do we have here? Observing unexpected things is where differentiations come from that become new to the world products, innovative service offerings, and on rare occasions, a solution that makes an enormous problem disappear. We don't get to the new by knowing but through our openness to learn. 

    The simplest expression of the twelve core competencies of Process Consulting is via the three categories of listening, helping, and learning. They are often identified in this order because of how they build into each other, just like nesting dolls do. Deep listening invites the Client to join in and begin listening to itself. The Process Consultant and the Client are now joined together in rendering and carrying out what help looks like. Along the way, everyone learns. It is a sticky learning that can be offered to those who come after us, rather than proprietary learning, where we prevent others from knowing unless it can be sold because we think this knowledge belongs to us. 

    For this once, however, let's reverse the order. A partnership of learning with the intention of the world's flourishing can only happen because there is a communal effort to help figure it out.

    And the trust needed to figure it out jointly is possible because of the trusted relationships that grow from the time invested in listening to one another.

    P.S. Here is yet one more way to consider these categories of competencies:

    • Learning builds a common future while knowing only celebrates the individual's past.
    • Helping brings widespread communal accomplishment while performing seeks the momentary spotlight. 
    • Listening invites many voices while telling seeks many ears.

  • Sunday, August 14, 2022 7:21 PM | Hallie Knox (Administrator)

    Our member spotlight for August falls on Annie Laing, entrepreneur and Advanced Process Consultant. Annie recently established her own coaching and consulting business, The Minded Spaces, and has a passion for helping small businesses and nonprofits align their internal processes to allow for growth and a thriving internal culture. Annie is currently based in the DFW Metroplex in Texas.

    Remember the feeling of pulling Elmer’s glue off your fingers as a kid? Kicking a perfect goal in a soccer match? Managing to get a tangerine peel off all in one perfectly spiraling piece? These little experiences all fall into one category in my mind – they’re satisfying.

    For me, there are few things more satisfying than solving a problem. I love puzzles, and I love sticking it out through an interpersonal challenge to get to the “aha” moment. My past work had me coordinating between executive teams, and I had a million opportunities to see the impact a simple process tweak could have. Have you ever stepped into a space full of people churning too hard without getting the desired results; identified the spot where a process was missing, wrong, or just no longer serving its purpose; guided the team towards a simple, achievable solution; and watched their success supply them with the momentum they needed to keep bounding ahead? In coaching we call that “aha” moment the ‘spark of insight.’ As someone whose passion is people, there is nothing more satisfying than watching that spark take root and create serious positive change for someone, or for a team or organization full of someones.

    I love being a creative, puzzle-brained problem-solver. My ability to see how processes fit together (or don’t) and my drive to create solutions to problems, along with my love of the people depending on those processes – these are part of what make me who I am. It was an absolute gift to find out that, through the Society for Process Consulting, I could get certified to do my all-time favorite thing of helping people solve problems together. Who’d have thought?

    The learning curve for me has been the posture of humble listening. I am continually learning to suppress the urge to point out what I perceive as a quick fix in order to make way for the truer, better, most gratifying solution that will come later on – the one found through partnership, powerful questions, and humble listening. I understand that the impact of a collaborative problem-solving process will resound far longer than any quick-fix solution I could whip up on my own (even if it were a good solution!). You won’t understand the true gift of the process unless you first walk alongside the team with the disciplines of humility and being a slow-to-speak, discerning listener. It’s a professional challenge that I enjoy, and the joy of problem-solving is multiplied tenfold at the conclusion of that listening and learning process.

    Here are the most powerful tools I’ve found toward that end so far:

    ● Before you step into any interaction as a process consultant, remind yourself: My greatest strength is not my expertise or my problem-solving skills. It is my ability to be here as an active and humble listener, reflecting my client’s own situation back to them as a guide.

    ● You still get to own your expertise, your knowledge, and your skills. Those don’t disappear, but they certainly do not take center stage. In general, you’ll be in the background using all your awesome skills and expertise to point the spotlight, quietly rotate the set, and coordinate the microphones in support of the main player – your client – as they work their way through their own story.

    ● ALWAYS start with the “Why.” You can step into a room full of people willing to duke it out over the “What” and the “How,” but through powerful questions and deep listening you’ll find their agreement on the “Why” almost every time. Once they all remember they are on the same team with a shared mission, the work can truly begin.

    ● Stay challenged. I hope I never quite perfect the skills of humble listening and asking powerful questions. I hope to invest in this learning process for the rest of my life.

    With process consulting as your framework, it’s a joyful challenge to create solutions to problems with others. What could be more satisfying?

  • Monday, August 08, 2022 11:16 AM | Hallie Knox (Administrator)

    This blog post is the second of three in which Mark L. Vincent - recent author of Listening Helping Learning: Core Competencies of Process Consulting, containing a wide variety of case studies from some of our own members - will hone in on the categories of the process consulting competencies: listening, helping, and learning.

    What is your definition of the word help? 

    For some - especially if they have been in social work or relief and development - it might be a troubling word, sounding colonialist and superior, as in I am here to help you. This can be experienced as disempowering and arrogant, especially if a need for help is assumed and was not requested.

    For others it is a plea: Help me! It is an expression of helplessness. While some might make this plea in order to manipulate the sympathy of others, it more often comes after experiencing harm, incapability and even desperation. Needing to ask for help can be kin to humiliation.

    For helping professions such as law or medicine, help is the work, the expertise, the offering of service that could not be gained otherwise. Here is how I can help. The question is whether it is actually help, as in aid,  or a transaction because the "help" is usually priced as a service.

    There are other subtle nuances around the word help, and it is good for both the Helper and Helpee to take the time to enter the experiences of each other to better understand what is meant. 

    For those of us committed to Process Consulting, help is something done in a partnership, especially where adaptive moves are concerned. What will actually be done in the end is not known. The Client has work to do in figuring out how to approach an opportunity or challenge. The Process Consultant is experienced in walking alongside the Client in designing and facilitating a process to figure it out. Working together, help is rendered in addressing the opportunity or challenge.

    Using Ed Schein's definition“Helping is a common yet complex process. It is an attitude, a set of behaviors, a skill, and an essential component of social life. It is the core of what we think of as teamwork and is an essential ingredient of organizational effectiveness. It is one of the most important things that leaders do and it is at the heart of change processes."

    The Client and the Process Consultant are joint investors in the helping process and co-creators of any solution. 

    And yet, let's not too quickly gloss over the varied conceptions of what help is, and assume that just because we know a definition of help where Process Consulting is concerned, that everyone in the room will assume the same definition.  Whether personally or organizationally, we don't readily ask for help - not from each other or from outside assistance - unless we feel safe and have learned to trust the players.  For someone's Process Consulting practice, creating and holding safe spaces where help is performed is critical to effective Client relationships and outcomes.

    So how can we recognize that the possibility of jointly rendering help is a possibility that can become a reality?  The Core Competencies of Process Consulting give us some guidance.

    Helping is:

    • Client-centered -- Help centers on Client-defined objectives and according to the Client's definition of done.
    • Client-owned and inspired -- The Client is doing the work, and wants to.
    • Client-specific - Listening alongside the Client provides clarity about the unique context of the Client. Client-defined objectives are tailored to that context rather than assuming one solution works everywhere.
    • Client success -- The Process Consultant and Client are able to say they did what the Client set out to do.

    Helping in this way brings a Client and Process Consultant together at a point of mutual vulnerability. It is okay for us not to know what needs to be done exactly! At this intersection of mutual vulnerability the helping relationship becomes a shoulder to shoulder effort of figuring out an approach to a challenge or opportunity. And it is at this intersection that discoveries are made and new to the world solutions are born because we set aside our fears of incompetence and took up the courage to learn.

  • Wednesday, July 13, 2022 6:43 AM | Hallie Knox (Administrator)

    Mark L. Vincent is a founder, chairman, and course facilitator here at the Society for Process Consulting. He recently authored the book Listening Helping Learning: Core Competencies of Process Consulting, which contains a wide variety of case studies from some of our own members! Today's blog is the first of three in which Mark will hone in on the categories of the process consulting competencies: listening, helping, and learning.

    Dacia Coffey prefaces her recent book Corporate Caffeine with these words:

    Communication deterioration is a human condition (p. xiii)

    The remedy she suggests?

    Putting servant leadership at the heart of your communication (p. xix).

    Being a servant leader who communicates well begins with the listening side of communication. Or, as described in the book Nonviolent Communication, by receiving empathically. This is not listening for a hook by which to begin speaking. Neither is it passive, waiting until someone finishes speaking. Real and active listening grows from bringing love to a conversation, an unconditional positive regard for the people across from you.

    This work to serve communication by making your listening the center, rather than your message, puts you in partnership with others rather than competing with them for airtime. Especially in an organization, the conversation, this working session to understand, develop and share insight, requires safety -- enough safety to get past amygdala hijackings to consider the benefits of a change a working group will implement together. This safety is possible because someone is serving the conversation through listening. Once someone starts listening this way, it becomes far more feasible for others to join in that listening.

    As listening becomes something done jointly, the language of our communication shifts from statements to additional questions--from Let me tell you something, or I just wanna say to, Do I have this right? and Have I missed anything? and Is there anything else?

    With this shift, we begin actively and comprehensively listening together. Now we can become sensitive to conceptual insight and the context in which our problem or opportunity is showing up. We can begin listening for the architectural elements of a process we will engage in and then move into that process better able to recognize adaptive moves we will need to make. We can do all this because we lean in to listen rather than lasso the conversation away from someone else.

    Servant leadership brought to communication requires such intentionality that a person must do their personal work--listening to themselves--outside of conversations not to be personally distracted or derailed within them. Being honest about this, I admit that even in writing this blog post, I had to stop and get in touch with the irritations of the day -- an e-mail response to me I did not like, ironically, because I did not feel listened to, a personal concern where I might not like the answer when I ask an essential question of a friend, a deadline I need to meet yet today, as well as the next item on my agenda once I complete this. All these crowd in and start me rushing, writing sentences distractedly, being elsewhere than this moment I'm in. I breathe deeply and call my intention and attention back to capturing thoughts begins again. 

    Listening in this way, I'm not just listening to a person or a thing. I'm not just listening to my being or thoughts on a subject. And, I'm not just listening to the audience I hope will read this, trying to adjust my words to gain their interest. I am being present and growing my awareness of a moment in which we all might share. I'm not just pointing to or describing the subject of listening with words. I am in its presence, taking it in--hopefully in such a way that you and others join me--and our understanding grows together.

    We can't do this type of listening when we are talking.

    We can't do this type of listening when we look like we are listening but only are waiting our turn to speak.

    We can't do this type of listening if we are thinking about listening.

    We can begin listening in this way in our intention to serve good communication by bringing our whole and highest self to the problems and opportunities we join with others.

    Listening--the kind of listening that ripples out to others, until a whole team is engaged in thoughtful collaboration--is an art form. We need more of these artists at the helm.

  • Thursday, June 02, 2022 2:54 PM | Hallie Knox (Administrator)

    Three of our members – Renoulte Allen, Trudi Perkins, and Kelly VanBrouwer – participated in our Process Consulting Training 101 together this past winter, and we had the honor of interviewing each of them for this blog. Read on to learn about their experiences with Process Consulting and our PCT 101 course.  

    Thanks so much for sharing your words and time with the Process Consulting community! Let’s start with your background and how you found your way into Process Consulting and the PCT 101 course.

    Trudi: I was a K-12 English Language Arts teacher for 16 years and got caught in that COVID limbo – I was in the process of returning to work from medical leave, just subbing here and there while also defending my dissertation. Once that was done, there I was with my EdD, and I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with it! I started thinking about how much I enjoyed doing adult consulting, and how I wanted to expand my dissertation work on racism awareness development beyond a teacher education focus and into the world of corporate America. Around that time I was introduced to Deanna Rolffs, and that’s how I found my way to the Society for Process Consulting and Design Group International.  

    Kelly: I’ve spent my entire professional career caring for people and places. Ten of those years were in the health care setting working as a Chaplain and in Administrative Pastoral Leadership, and the remaining years were in non-profits and religious organizations. Over the last 10 years, I’ve been invited to help both individuals and organizations better understand their unique journeys and next steps. I was introduced to Design Group International just a year or so into re-building a prominent non-profit that had fallen under very poor leadership, and I felt very rooted and called to that work at the time. My friend Deanna Rolffs and I talked a few times over those years about how the consulting community of Design Group International might be a good place for me at some point, so I took that step when it made sense. 

    Renoulte: I’m currently employed as an higher education administrator. However, my start as a consultant began a couple of years ago when I was invited to partner with two other individuals to assist a college in improving their retention efforts. As a result of that experience, I discovered that my unique perspective on student retention opened the door of opportunity for me in consulting. One of the challenges that I face is balancing my responsibilities as an administrator and my client work. Finding the community of Design Group International and the Society for Process Consulting has helped me to be more successful in balancing my responsibilities as an administrator and entrepreneur.

    How do you feel your professional background and life experience relate to the practices of Process Consulting? 

    Trudi: The school I taught at was a critical design and gaming school, so all the courses were taught with that focus and theory. Rather than being a “sage on stage,” we really let our students’ ideas guide the learning. That’s why Process Consulting spoke so much to me. The learner – whether a student or a client – is the one with the ideas, and it’s my role as the educator or facilitator to walk alongside and help them find their answers, using my insights and knowledge to guide that path. Process Consulting also connects to speculative methods, which is about moving forward with a focus on intrinsically motivated progress instead of a scripted end result. Process Consulting meshes well with that because you are helping clients articulate where they want to go and then walking with them, maybe not knowing whether you’ll go right or left in a given moment, but asking the right questions in order to keep moving.  

    Kelly: In addition to Process Consulting’s natural intersection with my professional experience, my own health journey has informed so much of my desire to do this work. I was born with a rare and often invisible disorder that affects my joints. It didn’t really keep me from general life, but was always recognized as something not quite right even though none of the countless doctors I saw in my adolescence could diagnose it. When it was finally identified well into my adulthood, having a name for it was so empowering and has provided me with a community of others with the same disorder. This experience has informed how I am in the world and propelled me into a career of creating spaces to walk WITH individuals and organizations rather than doing TO or entering into relationships with already prescribed outcomes. 

    Renoulte: I work with a fair number of students one-on-one to reach their educational goals in my role as a higher education administrator. I have learned over the years, and I use this concept with my teenagers, that execution is always better when it’s their idea. If it’s my idea, not so much! It’s about having a posture of listening, gaining understanding of what they’re saying before offering suggestions for consideration, and giving them the opportunity to think things through for themselves. The Process Consulting practices make me a better consultant, coach, and administrator. Recently, I have been attracting entrepreneur accelerator programs for underrepresented populations who want to secure my consulting services. Our partnership is based on creating an impactful educational experience for their students. I am blessed to be able to marry my passion for education and entrepreneurship to help institutions provide a better experience for their underrepresented participants. It is exciting and rewarding to be a part of the life changing opportunities that are created for the students who enroll in their programs.

    Focusing in on PCT 101: what were your top takeaways from the course? What did you find most valuable? 

    Trudi: The most valuable thing for me was just having the space to learn. A lot of PCT 101 took me into the very unfamiliar territory of marketing and sales – teachers don’t have to worry about concepts like that – and that was so important for me because I could make my little mistakes and clear up my assumptions in a safe space. Mark was so patient and so thorough in teaching the information, and that was big for me. I can’t yet say I’m fully comfortable about going into the ask, in particular. I’m about to publish a book, and I have a fear of jumping into that arena of sales. I’m so glad I’m able to go back and look at the resources from PCT 101. I could use an extra shot of bravery, but at least I have a guide! And I have Mark’s voice in my head saying, “You’re not selling anything. You’re offering something that helps people.” It helps when I look at it like that. 

    Kelly: At one point during the PCT 101 course, I said to Mark that Process Consulting feels like an extension of my very way of being in the world. Curiosity, presence, questions, walking with, listening, helping, learning. It has been and continues to be my life’s work to create spaces for individuals and organizations to recognize missteps, learn from them, integrate that learning and confidently move forward into a better future. Finding out that the name for that is Process Consulting was so affirming. 

    Renoulte:  PCT 101 helped fill some vital gaps for me. For instance, it provided effective strategies to identify future clients by developing and cultivating relationships, creating a partnership rather than gaining a customer, where both the clients' and my own expertise are used to create lasting and impactful solutions. The concepts taught in PCT 101 represent how I intuitively like to do business and it gave me a practical framework and process to demonstrate that in a meaningful way to my clients.

    The class gives you a systematic approach to think about your business, brand creation, and your services so you can be consistent in your marketing. Moreover, Mark helped me to think through the value that I would bring and to establish pricing structures based on the type of interaction with my clients, e.g., compensation for remote strategy conversation vs an in-person engagement vs a full-scale project. Another strategy I learned was to identify what area I could establish myself as a content leader and how to generate interest among those who live in that “universe”. Also, I was provided with a set of activities that would allow me to consistently have clients in my pipeline, so when one partnership was ending another would begin.

    Anything else you want to make sure to say to our community, or to people just starting their Process Consulting journey in particular? 

    Trudi: Find a good mentor. I may have the necessary experience in education, and a background in corporate America and systems development, but having a strong mentor to run things by is invaluable. Surround yourself with a community of people who can help you grow, and who you can share your knowledge with too! Also, the types of things that I learned in PCT 101 about building sales, structuring a contract, they were foreign to me. I couldn’t have thought my way through those technical pieces, so having them presented to me was so helpful. So take courses that build your consulting knowledge base! Identify the gaps you need filled in order to be successful, and find the resources and people that fill them. I hate to sound like I’m making a plug, but join the Society for Process Consulting, for example! It’s a great community with great resources.  

    Kelly: I, myself, am at the beginning of this journey, so I’m not sure I have any recommendations aside from this: find a community to support you. I can’t imagine having to navigate this all on my own. 

    Renoulte: If they have any questions about the investment they need to make to take PCT 101, I’d just tell them that it’s worth the time and the money. They’ll learn so much. During the course I was engaging with clients the next day, applying what I’d just learned from the class, and I was getting results right away. Essentially I got the money I invested back already. 

    Also, I’d tell them to really trust the process. Process Consulting is about removing the power differential in relationships. The client and the consultant are both working towards the same goal and getting mutual benefits from each other’s expertise. That relationship helps you accomplish a common goal. I hope PCT 101 participants and new process consultants in general can learn how much more meaningful and productive their relationships can be through walking along that process. 


  • Tuesday, May 17, 2022 8:11 AM | Hallie Knox (Administrator)

    Are you working with clients who are still in the process of returning to the office - or debating the value of mandating that return? As organizations across the world embrace, reject, or compromise with the work-from-home movement, a year-old reflection from our founder and course facilitator Mark Vincent feels timely. How have you experienced the richness of a comfortable working environment over the past couple years - and how might you help your clients achieve greater employee well-being through an open discussion about the pandemic-sparked new world of remote work?

    The past week found my wife and me in an historic adobe home in the heart of Las Cruces, New Mexico. The walled-in patio was so pleasant and so full of birdsong we spent the better part of the day sitting in the shade reading books rather than seeing farther sights and further sites. 

    Because we were in one place long enough, we began to identify the birds: grackles, white-winged doves, ladder-backed woodpeckers, robins, wrens. Our books rested on our laps as we listened to their squawks and songs, watched them interact, noticed where they perched, and which were most wary of the two elderly little dogs popping in and out of the casa's doggie door to check on things. We were becoming aware of the larger ecosystem that surrounded us. 

    Pre-pandemic, a good portion of the professional class running our economy lived walled off from natural ecosystems. They were literally compartmentalized inside the walls of the machines where they worked. They could easily ignore the created world because they were did not see it. Their ever-longer working days were surrounded by steel and glass - commuting in traffic, sitting at a desk, working out at the health club, dining with friends and colleagues, or entering their homes.  

    The swish of exercise machines. 

    Sounds of dispensing espresso and lattes. 

    Noise pollution of air brakes and jet engines. 

    Putting on headphones to further shut out the world while scrolling through social media. 

    Who had time or space to listen to the birds and enjoy the play of light as a day faded, let alone hear the groaning of creation being over-taxed and depleted? 

    Having worked from home these many months, people have had to face their inner and outer realities.  To manage all our new and returning uncertainties, the healthy ones among us used the opportunity to re-integrate by making comfortable working spaces in their homes, building healthier routines, investing in family relationships, getting outdoors, and prioritizing their time.  They are listening to bird song as they work.  Natural light surrounds them now, instead of fluorescent. They are getting more air. 

     Those who sought this opportunity within a pandemic joined with those who had already right-sized their lives. Living a more conscious and integrated life, it is difficult to reclaim any passion for debates about cubicles versus open offices, white noise or Muzak, or whether hotel points and airline miles belong to the company or the road warrior.  Done with that! 

    My hope is that leaders who care about future value and the world's flourishing will now invite further integration among those they employ, the customers they serve, and the larger world that is not yet born. Seizing the possibility to live more health-fully brings momentum for adding even more flourishing  as we emerge from pandemic protocols. Here's to more working porches, lanais, placitas and patios.   

  • Tuesday, April 12, 2022 8:32 PM | Hallie Knox (Administrator)

    Catherine (Draeger) Pederson, Ph.D., is the CEO of Loving Venti, LLC., a Nonprofit Consultant, an Adjunct Lecturer at UW-Milwaukee - and this month's spotlighted member! She draws on years of experience as the Executive Director of various small-to-medium sized nonprofits and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Ten Outstanding Young America's (TOYA) award in 2015 from the United States Junior Chamber.

    How do you approach client engagements when you know that the end result will look nothing like the initial proposed target? With intention, goalposts, and a plan - all held as lightly as possible.

    If my clients knew where they should be in three to five months, they probably wouldn’t need my services. I work with small nonprofits, and let me tell you something: people who are launching nonprofits are bursting with passion, vision, and focus like you wouldn’t believe. It’s pretty miraculous how far a person can get, and how much they can accomplish, with just those three things. Eventually, however, roadblocks arise, and gaps or unfamiliar challenges surface. When I step into these places of ambiguity with my who, what, when, where, why, and how, I am fully aware that the answers to all those key questions will likely change at least once during the course of our work together! 

    A common example of this is a client coming to me in the belief that they need help developing their fundraising plan. Often enough, somewhere during our work together we realize they already HAVE a robust, functioning fundraising plan – but there is another gap somewhere that, if addressed, could lead to a greater return on investment. Perhaps the plan is in place, but the fundraising staff, who in spite of their passion for the organization may not have backgrounds in fundraising, require coaching in order to put the plan more effectively into action. Imagine if I were to halt the process and say, “Now wait: you hired me to create a fundraising plan so that’s what we need to do; if you want to address the coaching issue you’ll have to hire me back for another project.” What kind of Listener, Learner and Helper would that make me?

    The practices of process consulting allow consultant and client to collaboratively solidify an objective and direction, because forward motion is not possible without targets. But, thank goodness, flexibility is intentionally built into that process – process consulting is anything but rigid. As new insights and challenges are uncovered, my clients and I have the space and capacity to address them and adapt our plan and methods along the way. It helps me to think of my projects as paths I’m walking with my clients, noticing and reacting to the journey as it comes, even changing direction mid-step if problems or opportunity is revealed. So much room is left open for learning, creativity, and adventure in this model, especially compared to projects approached as rigid lists of boxes to be ticked!

    This flexibility is so necessary and valuable in my work. There are simply too many things that small and/or new nonprofits need to know! It would be impossible for a consultant to truly frame every detail out – even after a day-long discovery call, surprises would still abound. There are just too many possible tangents, and because a small nonprofit is simply not going to have the funds to hire you back for a follow-up, it is imperative to leave space to pivot within the scope of the work. To assume that no unexpected issues will arise, to not leave space for those but to instead tell clients that any new challenges would need to be addressed through a new project – with more of their hard-won funds – would be downright unethical. As the consultant, my role is to listen deeply for the problems and solutions that haven’t yet been uncovered, and work with clients to address them right then and there.

    As I mentioned above, a surprising amount of good can happen with little more than passion, vision, and focus. For my own part, I am passionate about my clients, about these young and fiery organizations striving to make a difference in the community and the world. Our logo at Loving Venti is of a broken cup repaired using gold - a play on the Japanese artwork of kintsugi. Even the best organizations have cracks and flaws, which we as process consultants seek to fill in the belief that when a community is served by those organizations, that community is not just being improved, but cherished.

  • Tuesday, March 22, 2022 9:45 PM | Hallie Knox (Administrator)

    This month’s Member Spotlight falls on Michael Magalsky, Certified Process Consultant and the founder and Principal Architect at infoVia. Now an independent consultant specializing in Information Architecture, Data Warehouse Modeling and Implementation, and Data Security, Michael draws from his quarter-century of data and analytics experience at Micron Technologies while walking alongside his numerous clients.  

    I participated in the Society’s Process Consulting Training course at just the right moment. My professional life, previously so successful and smooth-flowing, hit an unexpected bump when my decades-long employment came to an end. Undeterred, I started my own company only two days later; and promptly injured my relationship with my very first client. I can see now that this harm was largely caused by my own tendencies to be too forceful, and maybe just a little bit of a know-it-all. 

    Something wasn’t working. I wanted to assist my clients, lending them my expertise to guide them through complex issues and challenges, but the listening piece just wasn’t coming naturally for me. Luckily for me, the Process Consulting Training reminded me that listening is a competency and skill that can be learned, practiced, and constantly honed. It had to start with me moving out of “I’m an expert, let me tell you what to do” mode, and into a space of respect, good questions, and deep listening. 

    If you know me personally, you know that I wear my heart on my sleeve and think all my thoughts out loud. High-quality listening is something I have to do with conscious effort, and it takes constant discipline. I’m still working on it, but I can say that today my company has more clients than ever before, and they are all smiling ear to ear. My team and I are transparent, admitting when we don’t know something, and we come in with a listening attitude, ready to innovate together. I intentionally meet my clients with as open a mind as possible, expecting to learn as much from them as I hope they will from me. No single human is ever going to come up with the perfect plan or the most elegant solution, especially in the complex world of data and analytics. Everyone wants to innovate, and everyone wants to be a part of something bigger than just themselves. The best ideas only ever surface through collaboration and partnership. 

    My constant work toward being a better listener has allowed me to experience more of the thing I’m most passionate about in this world: adventure. I seek out adventure in all areas of my life, and in my work I unearth the most exciting challenges and new experiences when I’m doing my best and deepest listening and learning. It’s like climbing a mountain – anytime you might think you’ve reached the peak, just put your hand to your ear and you’ll discover summit upon summit still to go. (For more on this, read my blog about the Great Data Adventure here.) That’s what drives me to get out of bed every morning. Pause and listen. What utterly new situations, people and challenges are you going to discover as you walk alongside your clients today? What new stories will you be able to tell? 

  • Wednesday, February 23, 2022 10:48 AM | Hallie Knox (Administrator)

    When confronted with something completely unprecedented in your experience, it is a best practice habit to follow a simple progression of thought, and as soon as possible. In other words: get after it immediately! 

    It is almost incredible how many families, neighborhood organizations, and enterprises small and large are waiting rather than chasing — standing on the brakes rather than stepping on the gas.   If an organization drinks deeply from hard-won mission/vision/values, it has the guidance and governance under which to accelerate through change. If your client is still hemming and hawing about the proper words, or about whether a mission statement even matters, then they are hemming and hawing their time away during COVID, social unrest, and economic uncertainty.  

    Encourage your clients to find their creative space and start working through these questions without delay.  One way or another, this mental wrestling needs to happen:  

    • What wisdom was left for us by others as they faced their unprecedented circumstances? What implications might there be for our time? 
    • What actually is happening? What do trends imply? 
    • Why does doing anything/something even matter? Toward what end are we wanting to move? 
    • What do we know that we do not know? How will we gather insight? 
    • Who is going to play which role as we address these hard circumstances? 
    • When do we want to complete the next stage of our work of addressing this? 
    • How, exactly, are we going to go after this? 
    • Asking these questions brings a holistic and comprehensive data set, and quickly. 

    Don’t worry about answering the questions in a particular order. But do worry about answering them all.  

    Worry that when they've been populated, they flow together and have continuity.  

    Worry that the client's core team has helped to formulate them and is in explicit agreement with them.  

    Worry that all of communication from here draws directly from this core document.  

    Worry that this becomes a central reference point for all subsequent work.  

    Worry that as new data comes to light, the client will reconvene and adjust the core document with the same rigor with which it was formed in the first place! 

    Don’t worry about it - and watch future opportunity vaporize and current value disintegrate. 

    I was taught to think quickly and thoroughly  by a college professor. His work has influenced almost forty years of my life thus far, helping to guide extended families of blood, faith, neighborhood, town, business, and state in the critical issues of the day. This way of thinking and working influenced my parenting and family life — raising children, shepherding my family through long years of my first wife’s physical suffering, and deciding to marry again and blend a family. It also helped me build a business for the long term, with legacy in mind. 

    Getting more specific, this thoughtful rush to triage and problem solve before reactively responding (or not responding at all) has helped my leadership through 
    • Stagflation 
    • 9/11 
    • 2008-9 
    • Mergers and Acquisitions gone awry 
    • Capital funding efforts gone off the rails 
    • Death and departure of business partners 
    • Death of a spouse 
    • Introducing new products and services to markets that didn’t even know they needed such a thing  
    There is no individual credit taken here. It always took a team of people who knew far more than I and who could leverage their gifts to make something good happen that restored, healed, offered hope, or in some way made the world a little better.  
    A few observations on where we are at this time and the benefits of this thoughtfully rapid approach: 
    • We really are not in an unprecedented moment, even though it might feel that way. Something like this will happen again. And then again. 
    • "Normal" has not changed. Normal involves death, dying, pestilence, famine, war, and suffering. Our normal is working to minimize these, reduce, limit, and find respite from them. Then our descendants are not harmed by our selfish responses but rather are uplifted by our courageous service and  prepared to serve those who proceed from them. Perhaps we have had some years to vacation from this reality; perhaps we have squandered the time. Perhaps now we are ready to re-engage the real work of building a purposeful and civic-minded human community. 
    • Moving to describing an objective future state is the starting point of a leader in difficult moments. After doing this we can begin gathering resources and people around that description. Getting at the questions listed above help us do this, and roles, actions, and objectives now become external reference points for all those who join us in making something happen. 
    • Working this way helps us redirect and even incorporate dissent. If someone wishes to be an enemy to the process of thinking and then acting, they cannot hide in the shadows; the objectives toward which we strive are not hidden and are regularly communicated. Their enmity is thus tied to the effort in which we are engaged far more than a personal hatred. It really is difficult to hate a person who is offering you a listening ear, is not stepping on your dignity and treats you with respect — even when they disagree with you. 
    • Significantly less time gets wasted by stopping, thinking, gathering resources, and then acting. When one is the fool who rushes in or the fool who thinks tomorrow is the day to do something, time and resources disappear through myriad holes. 
    It requires the highest fortitude to not rush in and then to turn one’s strength toward building from a foundation even as it seems the house is falling down. If we can learn anything from this moment in history as leaders, it is that the house is falling down, and that we are absolute fools if our normal is delay, denial, and waiting for someone else to do something for our benefit.

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