Purpose Moment


#PurposefulLeadership #Purpose #Leadership #Convening #ArtofConvening #Engagement #CommitmenttoAction

2017 Center for Purposeful LeadershipThe Art of Convening

Report from the Field: Convening and Flushing Your Toilet

"Over 30 years I have come to learn that we need to protect the environment WITH you, not FROM you."

Welcome! This is the first in a new series on creating purpose in your life and work and how leaders convening with purpose create the outcomes you want. Let's get to it..

Bet you never thought about what happens when you flush the toilet or watch the water go down your sink. Bob Nordquist not only cares, but has created a unique workshop for customer engagement in a 3.5 million population system. Watch Bob tell his story about how he implemented a recent successful workshop using convening skills, focused on purpose.

In this segment, Craig Neal interviews Bob Nordquist, Industrial Waste and Pollution Prevention Manager at Environmental Services in the Metropolitan Council of the Twin Cities, and Art of Convening graduate.

Click here to watch video [6:39 minutes]

#PurposefulLeadership #Purpose #Leadership #Convening #ArtofConvening #AuthenticEngagement


Craig: Tell me a bit about your position at MCES

Bob: I am the Industrial Waste & Pollution Prevention Manager. With a staff of 30 engineers, scientists, technicians and administrative staff, we issue and administer permits to over 850 Industrial Users of the sanitary sewer system, to protect the rivers of our region and our facilities, sewer workers and the public health. We do this by controlling the discharge of pollutants to the sanitary sewer.

Craig: Frame the IW workshop – purpose/intent/goals

Invitation? How did you frame? Why should they come and how many did come?

Bob: I opened the workshop by telling our Industrial Users that I came to this job 30 years ago, fresh out of college and eager to protect the waters of our region and that my attitude at the time was that I had to protect the environment from – you the Industrial Users. Over 30 years I have come to learn that we need to protect the environment WITH you, not FROM you. This shows our overall purpose – to invite the Industrial Users, our customers, to join us in collaboration to meet a common goal. The goal of the workshop was to show that this was an actual, tangible change and not just lofty words.

Craig: Tell me about the format and how it was different than the past workshops – what was unique?

How was the physical space different and how did you create the container?

Bob: It was a conversation rather than a lecture. 

The first change we made was to the name of the event.  For sixteen years we had held an annual Industrial Customer Forum. There was a lot of PowerPoint to present our rates for the next year and a few slides on what was new in Environmental Regulations. There was a short question and answer session, but the meeting was held late enough in the year, that it was unlikely anything would change, especially concerning the rates.  Our attendance had dwindled to the point where only 12 people had shown up in the previous year.

This year we changed this to an Industrial Workshop and we held it in April. We had an idea what next year’s rates were going to be and we knew what was driving them, but they were not ready to propose yet. We set this up so that after a short introduction to tell people what to expect about the format, and to stress our commitment to action, we pulled the dividers in the meeting room and broke into two small groups – one for financial issues and one for regulatory issues. We sat in a circle with a facilitator and introduced topics, then encouraged our customers to share their thoughts. We had a staff member recording the notes on large easels.

Another change is that prior to the actual workshop we hosted an open house, with informational tables with staff to answer questions and promote conversations.

Craig: Tell me about the outcomes/learnings for you personally and for ES.

Bob: We learned we have willing partners. I learned to take a risk. I learned a lot about my staff and how professional they are.

I'm interested in the “listening session.” Why was that important and how did you create the comfort?

Bob: We had specific comments in several areas that we are working on addressing. These areas included financial topics and showed that there was interest in looking at evening out some of our fees and making them more transparent.  There are teams working on these now and stakeholders that we need buy-in from before I can get more specific.

We did learn that our customers appreciated the honesty and commitment to action that we demonstrated in this process. They were also pleasantly surprised with the format, in that they were expecting to be lectured to again, but instead, we sat back and listened. Not that education isn’t important and there are important things they need to know about us, but we’ve done that for years. It was time for us to listen to them.

The other thing we learned is that we need a bigger room or more of these sessions. Instead of 12 people we had over 50. That tested the limits of our facilities and staff, but it probably added to the energy and enthusiasm with which staff and attendees approached this.

Craig: Tell me about how the Art of Convening may have played a part in the success of the workshop.

Bob: I think Art of Convening played two important roles in our success. First, it gave us a wider range of tools to consider as far as creating the container and hearing all of the voices. And second, it gave us a structure to follow to make sure that with this radical change, we weren’t forgetting a vital step.

Art of Convening gave us gave us a checklist to follow using the Convening Wheel. The Invitation, understand what's At the Heart of the Matter, what is a real Commitment to Action. During the planning stage of this meeting, you and I talked about a commitment to action as the most important takeaway. 

If we go through this whole process and get the comments we were seeking, it was going to come back and bite us if our customers feel it was a waste of their time.  We committed to presenting the results to the Executive Team, but that ended up being unnecessary.  Most of the Executive Team, including the General Manager was at the workshop and actively participating and listening.

Thank you, Bob, for your time and commitment to organizational excellence at the Met Council! Stay tuned for future vlogs in this series! 

 2017 Center for Purposeful LeadershipThe Art of Convening

Purpose Moment


#PurposefulLeadership #Purpose #Leadership #Convening #ArtofConvening #Connectivity #CommitmenttoAction

2017 Center for Purposeful LeadershipThe Art of Convening

Meet Our CPL Blog Writer: Rachel Harris

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

 Meet Our Writer

Rachel Harris, MA, CSM


An organizational development consultant focusing on change management, business processes and engagement, Rachel empowers leaders to stretch in their capacities. A left- and right-brain thinker, she’s motivated to resolve problems creatively.

A builder by nature, Rachel brings diverse and often disparate groups together with ease. Clients rely on her welcoming nature, steady presence and visionary strengths to realize big picture dreams and maintain the confidence to reach realistic goals. Together, they move from the seemingly impossible to the probable and practical.

What is your committed step forward to serve?


The Art of Convening is a vital study for anyone serious about developing their talents as a convener of meaningful conversations. Within my indigenous culture there is a prophecy that speaks to the survival and evolution of our society occurring when the committed step forward to serve as the facilitators of meaningful conversation.

The wisdom contained in The Art of Convening can surely aide these caring activists in serving our communities and organizations as the responsible leaders that our society needs. I extend my appreciation to the authors Craig and Patricia Neal for providing the “Convening Wheel” framework to guide gatherings that can give rise to meaningful and authentic conversations. My experience as a community organizer, meeting facilitator, and ceremony leader has only been enhanced by the wisdom they share in this powerful handbook. -- Dr. Roberto Vargas

What is your committed step forward to serve?

Shoveling Snow With Buddha

photo credit: craig neal

photo credit: craig neal

Shoveling Snow With Buddha
In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.
Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.
Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?
But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.
This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.
He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.
All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.
After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?
Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.
Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.
~ Billy Collins ~

Paul Strickland, to Represent Heartland at Global Spiritual Gathering in Australia

photo credit: craig neal

photo credit: craig neal

“There can be no peace among nations without peace among religions and no peace among religions without dialogue.”  ~Hans Kung~

Heartland member Paul Strickland from Minneapolis will represent Heartland at the Council of the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia December 3-9, 2009. The Council is the world’s largest inter-religious gathering with over 10,000 participants from more than 80 countries. The first Parliament was held in Chicago in 1893. Since 1993, a Parliament has been held every five years: 1993-Chicago, 1999-Cape Town, 2004-Barcelona.

His blog will report Paul’s reflections on Council activities and his trip. As an emissary for Heartland, he will be making global contacts and raising awareness of the Art of Convening™ and Heartland’s vision of convening and supporting evolutionary leaders who are committed to creating a world that serves the well being of all. Paul is a Thought Leader Gathering™ member, a graduate of the core and advanced Art of Convening™ training, and a Heartland Mens Wilderness Journey™ participant .

Duane Elgin- The Living Universe

photo credit: craig neal

photo credit: craig neal

I've known Duane Elgin for some time, author of the seminal 70's book Voluntary Simplicity - a blueprint for a whole generation on how to live a conscious life within the laws of natural systems. VS along with Silent Spring and the Whole Earth Catalog were for me the early warnings system for what is now a global awareness of what a generatively sustainable planet could look like.

Thanks Duane for being the advanced scout.

Tonight's VisionHolder call with Duane was a special treat for us all to witness a man alive and on fire about a living planet and universe. Duane’s new book, The Living Universe, explores a new paradigm that is vital for building a sustainable future; namely, a shift from regarding the universe as fragmented and dead to seeing it as unified and alive. Check out the advance video

Traditionally, science has regarded the universe as made up of inert matter and empty space. Duane Elgin brings together extraordinary evidence from cosmology, biology and physics to show that the universe is not dead but rather uniquely alive, an insight which, he shows, is in harmony with all of the world’s major spiritual traditions. He explores how this view radically transforms our concept of ourselves, our place in the cosmos, and the evolutionary trajectory of the human family. The non-living view of the universe has led to rampant materialism and global environmental degradation. To transform our planetary crises we need to move past a paradigm of separation and exploitation and learn to live sustainably on the Earth, in harmony with one another, and in communion with the living universe.


Life as Ceremony with Pele Rouge & FireHawk

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

We gathered around the VisionHolder campfire to engage in the "Heart of Leadership" with our dear and wise friends, Pele Rouge and FireHawk, guides and teachers of the Medicine Way. For 10 years they have partnered with Heartland to convene the Bay Area Thought Leader Gathering sharing the Earth Wisdom teachings in many ways. They have brought the power of beauty and the practice of "stringing the beads" or hearing all the voices to each gathering. This evening they spoke of leadership as  stepping forward in energy.Listen to the full audio recording of the interview with Craig Neal in the column to the left.

Our Vision

The people gather

in a Sacred Way

Listening deeply

Wisdom emerges

Courageous action ensues

Healing happens

Awakening occurs

Pele Rouge & FireHawk

A Call for Presence

Photo credit: Craig neal

Photo credit: Craig neal


John O'Donahue bring beauty and grace to a core convener practice of presence with this poem.

For Presence

Awaken to the mystery of being here
and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.

Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.

Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.

Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to
follow its path.

Let the flame of anger free you of all falsity.

May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.

May anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of

Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek
no attention.

Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven
around the heart of wonder.

~ John O'Donohue ~

(To Bless the Space Between Us)

The Opening of Eyes-David Whyte

photo credit: craig neal

photo credit: craig neal

Goodmorning from Minneapolis. it is truly the time for opening of eyes long closed and for having the vision for far off things.
Craig & Patricia

The Opening of Eyes

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
The passing light over the water
And I heard the voice of the world speak out
I knew then as I have before
Life is no passing memory of what has been
Nor the remaining pages of a great book
Waiting to be read

It is the opening of eyes long closed
It is the vision of far off things
Seen for the silence they hold
It is the heart after years of secret conversing
Speaking out loud in the clear air

It is Moses in the desert fallen to his knees
Before the lit bush
It is the man throwing away his shoes
As if to enter heaven and finding himself astonished
Opened at last
Fallen in love
With Solid Ground

~  David Whyte ~

(Songs for Coming Home)

An Conversation with Peter Block

photo credit: craig neal

photo credit: craig neal

Tonight was a night like any other, except  we got to spend it with our friend, Peter Block. He's got a new book, Community, The Structure of Belonging

Below are quotes, and unless otherwise noted, they are all vintage Peter.

Craig & Patricia

"I'm not about outcomes and results. Everything we know about high performance points to the quality of relatedness." Does the organization create the opportunity for relatedness?

Of course I care about results, but to focus on results too quickly, too soon, does not lead to change or transformation. We’ve set it up that we need "a quick hit," "go for the low-hanging fruit," "the ideas that speed, results, evidence-based matter, are antithetical to transformation.

Book excerpt: “we change the culture by changing the nature of conversation.  It’s about choosing conversations that have the power to create the future."

The thread that ties all powerful conversations: a powerful conversation is one in which the person takes full responsibility for and commitment to their ownership, their authority, their citizenship.

The meme that is common to a powerful conversation is the good question. The question becomes the vehicle for a new conversation and the answer is useless.

How do we turn this ship around? Slowly. "Blowing on the bow of the Queen Mary doesn't turn the ship." We’re deduced by the saying things like “it's a critical time in history.” no it's not. That’s a self-importance that is a distraction from the things that bring us to real change.

The desire for quick results (keywords: urgency, crisis, etc.) is a defense/code against any kind of redistribution of power, or willingness to really create change. It means I don't have time to go deep, time to deal with the ambiguity or mystery of life. It’s the enemy of transformation.

Craig asks, "How do we create that spaciousness to create the depth and intimacy you speak of?"
The world isn't any more fast-paced that it used to be. There are still 24 hours in a day. If I decide to not be seduced by "quick results," "speed," etc., then time changes. If we keep reminding ourselves of what really matters, then we realize that quick results don't work.

Faith is to believe in something/give yourself over to something in the face of no proof. In the business world, the stance is to have faith that change can happen.

Leadership is the act of having faith in a future that is uncertain and unpredictable. That is when real change happens.
Change management doesn't change anything; it just repeats the old patterns.

It’s a choice to say, "Where does cause reside?"

Speaking to the questions:
If you bring people together in emergent space, how long can you keep them there? Not long. After about 3 meetings, you have to pick some simple project to act on what they’ve learned together. It’s gives people an excuse to stay engaged.

Some people are resistant/not coming to learn anything. The invitation makes a huge amount of difference. It has to warn people that we are here to connect with one another and invest in relationships with those who have come.

Meeting design is important: shift the context from problems to possibilities
•    Structure the meeting to include small groups.
•    Ask people to be with people they know least.
•    You have to stop people from giving advice. Tell them: Don’t be helpful, don’t give answers. Help is just a wish to maintain control and exert power over another.
•    No tables, and sit with your knees 9” away from one another.
•    Ask people to speak to what matters to them.
•    Have people switch groups 2 or 3 times, so that people know their small group isn’t unique, special.
•    Being in a small group, in a witness.

The thing you came to complain about: what have you done to contribute to the problem?

Story: most of us are trapped in our story. You have to help people let go of their story. Ask people how their story is a limitation to the change needed.

Speed is life. The only way to deal with that is to ask, “Are you interested in a future distinct from the past?”
Our communities in crisis. The truth is our communities have been in crisis for a long time. The people who are most vulnerable in our society are those without a support system, without a sense of belonging or connectedness.

Questions that put people on the line: Who would you betray if something changed? What’s the gift you’ve not yet brought into the world?

What can we do to lessen the fear? The only way to deal with fear is to name it. Once I’ve named, the power is taken away. It doesn’t necessarily take away the fear, but takes away the power. I no longer have to treat it like it matters.

Are we story-less? I don’t have to give up my story, but I just need to know it’s a story. I don’t want to take my identity from my story, or the future won’t be different. My story is a limitation.

The challenge in life is to convert fate to destiny.

The first-world is bent on achieving things that are ultimately unsatisfying. 

An amazing way to begin your day

photo credit: craig neal

photo credit: craig neal

Dear Heartland friends,
As you begin to bring in your artistry this fine April morning, here are some reflections we offer to you...

for the Artist at the Start of Day, a posthumous poem from John O’Donohue. [From Bay Area TLG Member, Amy Lenzo, author of BeautyDialogues]

What to Remember When Waking Download what_to_remember_when_waking.pdf  

Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened -- as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding -- she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.
From the 2008 TED Conference: Consensus among TED’sters is that this may be the most memorable and important TED Talk ever.

Have an amazing day!
Patricia & Craig

A New Year Message from the Neals

photo credit: craig neal

photo credit: craig neal

Dear Ones

We wonder how you are during this time of short days and long nights reflecting and gestating on the warmth and light to come. We are with you often in our dreams, seeing your face across the campfire and know the poetry in your heart. This poem came to us recently, stimulating once again to ask "what is my life for the sake of.."

We would love you to share your reflections on the year past and the one to come. What is the yearning in your heart and belly for the journey forward.

So write,either below or via email and we'll post on the Journal here.

Craig & Patricia


Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek

We need to stop.

Just stop.

Stop for a moment....

Before anybody

Says or does anything

That may hurt anyone else.

We need to be silent.

Just silent.

Silent for a moment....

Before we forever lose

The blessings of songs

That grow in our hearts.

We need to notice.

Just notice.

Notice for a moment...

Before the future slips away

Into ashes and dust of humility.

Stop, be silent, and notice.....

In so many ways, we are the same.

Our differences are unique treasures.

We have, we are, a mosaic of gifts

To nurture, to offer, to accept.

We need to be.

Just be.

Be for a moment....

Kind and gentle, innocent and trusting,

Like children and lambs,

Never judging or vengeful

Like the judging and vengeful.

And now, let us pray,

Differently, yet together,

Before there is no earth, no life,

No chance for peace.

September 12, 2001

Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek

"Hope Through Heartsongs


Fred Kiel

photo credit: craig neal

photo credit: craig neal

On Moral Intelligence and leadership

Fred's a guy thats been around the corporate halls and boardrooms. One might think that after 40 odd years of coaching CEOs and top leaders at Fortune 500 corporations he might be a tad cynical or at least hardened in the heart...not so! During our VisionHolder Interview last night, Fred came on as an unabashed optimist, not exactly Pollyanna, however filled with a hope and promise that those at the top really "get it" and that they understand that people centric cultures are GOOD, if not the imperative ingredient for enhancing business performance.

He talked at length about how leaders are developing their moral skills and muscles around the universal priciples of Integrity, Responsbility, Compassion and Forgiveness.. sound appealing? visonary? possible? Well, the folks at Costco and a bunch of the other leaders Fred and his co-author Doug Lennick have been coaching over the years seem to think so. Listen to Fred and I go at it on the audio link to your left and then let us know what you think by clicking on the Comment link below.

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view

photo credit: craig neal

photo credit: craig neal

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading tothe most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets' towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone,...

and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you -- beyond that next turning of the canyon walls." - Edward Abbey