Great Meetings - The Recipe: Part 1

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

The Convening Method is much like baking a cake. Purpose is the flour, convening is the yeast. Convening activates purpose. The ingredients, all added at the right time, consciously tended in a step-by-step manner, can be successful time after time.

The recipe for convening transformational meetings follows a path:

  1. Start with a clear purpose and success factors. A two-sentence statement will do.
  2. Your agenda comes next. It will embody your purpose along with what you are to do together to reach your success factors or intent.
  3. Your invitation simply outlines what you are to do together that integrates purpose and intent.
  4. Giving thought and consideration to the space in which you meet is often neglected. Think what would stimulate and enliven the attendees beyond all the necessary materials.
  5. In creating safe spaces for authentic engagements remember the cultural norms and what agreements you wish to have to allow people to settle in and feel safe.
  6. Once in the meeting, how many times and how many ways can all the voices be heard to allow the opportunity for full participation?
  7. Essential conversation is the result of the preparation you have put into the first 5 steps of the recipe. Here we are aware of mood and level of connection each has for engaging in the agenda. Has the space been created for mutual trust and respect?
  8. Calling for a commitment to action brings clarity to what has been agreed to. A commitment to action invites responsibility, accountability, and commitment to an individual and collective way forward.

In Part 1 we gave you the recipe or the method. In Part 2, next week, the yummy ingredients!

Purpose Moment

A Purpose Moment


A Purpose Moment

A Purpose Moment


A Purpose Moment

Interviewing Craig Neal on Leadership

photo credit: AtomikPhotography

photo credit: AtomikPhotography

"I am inspired by people who have gone through enough in their lifetime, a crucible event perhaps, that they are ready to make shifts in their lives."

Edited by Rachel Harris & Sarah Flores

Craig Neal on Leadership, 2017  

Recently, CPL had an opportunity to sit down with Craig Neal, co-founder of Center for Purposeful Leadership (CPL) formerly Heartland Group. Craig Neal celebrates life as a passionate change leader, publishing executive, author, trainer and executive coach to those called to create profound contributions in their life and work. As an executive coach for over 20 years, Craig assists leaders to integrate their inner calling with maximizing their organizational leadership potential. He also founded the Thought Leader Gatherings (TLG), a membership based leadership community which served over 800 companies and 4000 leaders in its 18 consecutive years of convening. The TLG lead to the Art of Convening training series and eventually to the publishing of the Art of Convening book with his wife and partner Patricia in 2011.                                     

Craig's passion for the wilderness and being among men transforming their lives and personal visions led Craig to create the Men's Wilderness Journeys. These "inventure" trips into the pristine Boundary Waters Canoe Area of Northern Minnesota and Canada combine deep inner exploration with wilderness experience and skills training. Insight into his extensive network and thought leadership can be found at Craig Neal’s LinkedIn or Find the interview here:

CPL: What inspired you to co-found Heartland?

CN: 20 years ago, as publisher of Utne Reader, I had access to a plethora of leading-edge information, I saw and experienced a sea-change occurring in the world. It was the mid-90s, the world was getting smaller due to the rise of multinational corporations, personal access to computers and therefore greater flow of vast amounts of information to individuals. As an early subscriber to the Whole Earth Catalog, I was struck by the cover quote “We are as gods and we might as well get good at it.” on the 1st edition in 1970. What that meant to me then and now, is that, as humans, we have a tremendous opportunity to contribute to and shape a different future than the one I was experiencing.

I realized that leaders are the conduit and organizations a delivery system through which a global renaissance could occur. Where there is a shift in consciousness and how we, as leaders, can lead in a way that brings meaning and purpose to those around us. This could contribute to a world that works for all in my lifetime. What a goal! What an outrageous concept!

CPL: What does a world that works for all look like?

"CN: People are engaged in meaningful work, at whatever level that is, have enough to eat, are socially and spiritually nourished. We care about one another’s well-being."

Seeming complex, it is a simple shift in consciousness. From resignation of what is, to the possibility of something bigger and a benefit for all.

So, since leaving Utne and starting CPL, my vision and mission have been to support leaders to awaken their life’s purpose and responsibility, we could be conduits for this new way of thinking and being.

Heartland was formed to serve and support those leaders in transforming themselves and their organizations for the sake of a world that works for all.

CPL: In your varied career, including Publisher of Utne Reader, and then co-founder of Heartland/CPL, you’ve had the opportunity to work with and coach some amazing people spanning many disciplines. Who has inspired or does inspire your leadership?

CN:I am inspired by people who have gone through enough in their lifetime, a crucible event perhaps, that they are ready to make shifts in their lives. There is a humility to when you know you don’t know all the answers, are vulnerable and willing to live with ambiguity, but you are open to possibilities. People who have or are reaffirming their values. Their non-negotiable values.

CPL: As a thought leader and visionary, what captures your attention these days?

CN:I consider myself to be a fellow traveler, just as deeply confounded about what is going on in our world, as anyone else. I AM willing to step forward, to be engaged, accountable and fierce in what I stand for.

We are at an inflection point globally. On the precipice of what Marshall McLuan called a “paradigm shift.” The world, as we know it, is basically in free-fall. The institutions and belief-systems that have carried cultures for so long are under siege.


What is interesting to me are the people who choose fear and the people who choose life and love. What do we choose? Fear or love? There are definite paths for both; that’s what makes life interesting!

CPL: As co-founder of the Thought Leader Gatherings, then Transformational Leaders Collaboratory, you’ve enjoyed 18 years of coaching leaders into their authentic voice. You have worked with some of the brightest minds in the Twin Cities and Bay Area and beyond. You have developed a thought leadership following. Looking into the future, what are some trends on the horizon?

CN:The role of “high tech vs. high touch”, a cultural dichotomy, that first emerged 30 years ago, is now a global challenge in every form of society. How we navigate the speed at which technology is expanding with the skills of human development may be the ultimate frontier for humanity.

Do we see the world as threatening or nurturing? Do we see ourselves resigned to the status quo or what we know, or are we willing to step outside and beyond to live with courage in a new world, where the boundaries have yet to be set?

The questions of Purposeful Leadership, a purposeful life: Who are we? Why are we here? What are we to do? Are we willing to lead?

Leadership isn’t a thing; it is a state of being. Are we willing to step forward in these times to make a difference? Are we willing to be engaged?

CPL: It takes courage to have a vision and courage to found a company. It also takes courage to lead a group of men into the BWCA! How has courage played a role in your position as company co-founder?

CN: To live each day from a core life’s purpose, with the conviction that I am contributing to the best possible evolution to the unfolding of an unknown future, takes courage. I’ve not always felt acknowledged, and at times have felt either ahead or behind the curve. My ego has often taken a hit.  Having a stake in the ground and acting upon what is in my heart, takes I courage. It’s not necessarily comfortable, but it is what gets me up in the morning.

CPL: What else?

CN: I love to work with leaders and organizations that feel they have tried everything to solve their problems and still wish to keep going into unknown territory. This is when it gets interesting. The stakes are high. That is when people are open to possibility, vulnerable and willing to live with ambiguity. This is the work I love.

To see more of Craig’s leadership work, follow us on LinkedIn and subscribe to our blog.

Share the News: Heartland is now CPL

Hello, we have some news! Heartland is now the Center for Purposeful Leadership (CPL).

Though our name has changed, our values remain the same. At the heart of the matter is purpose. We invite you to join us on this journey into new beginnings.

As we celebrated our 20th year in business, it felt like an auspicious time to evolve to something that calls forth where we began - at the inner life of business. We'd love for you to preview our

new CPL website and read about our solutions

We particularly love our photos and this new blog. While here, feel free to download our new Owning Successes and Setbacks as A Team thought piece. 

On this blog, we will continue sharing current news, case studies and tips to finding shared purpose in leadership. First time visitor? Please subscribe. 

Know this: the deepest satisfaction of our professional lives is to be of service to people like you. Let's be powerful on purpose together.

~ The CPL Team

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.

Art of Convening Ch.1: Lessons for Leadership

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

By Sarah Flores, Marketing Intern

In a world of ever-changing times, it is important for leaders to adapt but stay true to who they are. In CPL's book The Art of Conveningchapter 1 focuses on the importance of the Heart of the Matter for leadership: Genuineness and Authenticity. The first chapter explores this central aspect of CPL's convening wheel highlighting being genuine, staying connected to oneself and others, and the practices that help us to attain these goals. 

As genuineness creates authenticity, and vice versa, this becomes a key aspect of knowing oneself. In leadership, "knowing oneself is the foundational premise of leadership". Not only does this contribute to strong leadership and connectivity, but it is the stabilizer and calibrator through the journey of convening practice. 

The purpose of the heart of the convening wheel is to provide clarity, confidence and a sense of belonging so that we are able to support and hold others safe. A challenge that many come across during their journey is staying connected within and among others. In order to overcome these challenges, remember practices include but are not limited to mindfulness, journal keeping and immersing yourself in nature. Practices of remembering, help us find who we are and what we have forgotten we hold true. 

In an article talking about leading in an era of change, author Tanmay Vora recommends these top 5 pieces of leading sustainable change:

  1. Inspire through purpose
  2. Go all in
  3. Enable capabilities to succeed during transformation
  4. Instill a culture of continuous learning
  5. Inclusive leadership

CPL believes The Art of Convening begins with authenticity. We invite you and your organization to explore and begin your journey to mastering The Art of Convening. If you are interested in furthering a discussion on authentic leadership and convening, call us at 612.920.3039. For weekly updates and tips, follow CPL on our LinkedIn page. 

Using Brain Science and the Art of Convening

Photo Credit: Daniel Scotton

Photo Credit: Daniel Scotton

by Rachel Harris

Have you ever thought about how using the Art of Convening impacts your brain? Brain science now shows that your meeting performance and outcomes can be significantly different when you take the time to connect, even in the simplest of ways. Though taking the time to connect can spark the impatience among us, it has been proven that making a personal connection increases meeting performances and retention.


Building on brain science research, CPL applies Art of Convening methodology to incrementally shift the structure of

meetings within organizations, including time for engagement, alignment, and committed action. Neurons in the prefrontal cortex begin to attune between the two or more people present, even when meeting virtually. Oxytocin gets created, which activates not only the brain, but the entire nervous system, bloodstream, and heart, which leads to an elevated capacity to think, collaborate, and innovate.

Learn more about the brain science of convening with CPL. We would love to contribute to your organization resolving a problem or navigating culture change. Call us at 612-920-3039 to schedule your next consult. Follow us on our LinkedIn page to keep up on useful tips and tricks to convene within your organization.

Center for Purposeful Leadership: Connect. Engage. Collaborate.

And the sun rose...


An offering from Craig: A Minneapolis/ Lake Calhoun sunrise ...

Wednesday Wisdom (or Wit) from Heartland: Your Life Catches Fire


John Squadrea, from The Compass of the Rose

When you die to what

you thought was true

everything in your life catches fire.

You are the instrument

not the music

If you think you are the music

you will stop at

the final bar

If you become an instrument

for the music,

you will go on playing

no matter where you are

or who’s conducting

the gig is never over. 

The heart is always singing


The mind is always shouting


Between the two

we come and go

safe on the solid shore of maybe. 

Sept: The AoC Book Launch in Denmark!

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

September 24-27 2012 | Copenhagen, Denmark   --The Art of Convening Book Launch, Programs, and Trainings