Start Close In ~ by David Whyte

steps to a goal

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something

To find
another’s voice,
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

~David Whyte, River Flow: New and Selected Poems

Pause. Celebrate. Begin Anew!

celebrate 2

In the Executive Leadership Retreat I facilitated last week, we paused to celebrate.  This great team has been running hard for the past 18 months.  And still the work didn’t feel done.  (Hint: It never is done.)  Yet they recognized the importance of celebration and how this pause helped them feel renewed even in the face of more challenges.  We brainstormed all their accomplishments and all there was to celebrate.  The list filled 6 feet of paper.

Sure the work is never done—that’s called life.

In the face of increased demands and challenges, it’s powerful  to ask:  What will we celebrate today?  Powerful?  Yes, powerful, because the positive energy generated by celebration is fuel for the next hill to climb, the next challenge to overcome, the next deadline to meet, the next life to serve.

What are you celebrating today?

Post your response!  We would love to hear from you!

Creative Destruction

fall foliageIt is hard to find anything friendly about the word “destruction.”   Yet the fall gives us colorful reminders of destruction in the natural world.  Leaves fall off trees and they do so marvelously, as if they were celebrating! 

I notice in organizations that there is a tendency to “pile on” projects, ideas, committees, goals—all great stuff, of course.  Yet, I wonder, how people find the time, the energy, the resources to do all this great work when their plates are already overflowing.

Creative Destruction is a term that comes from a Hindu principle represented by the god Shiva who is paradoxically both creator and destroyer.   Destruction is necessary for creation to happen. 

Intentionally letting go of what might be limiting you leaves room for the creation of new processes, ideas, products, and relationships.  This gives your innovation some breathing room—space to succeed.

What can you let go of in order to make space for the buds of creation to take hold?  And how can you celebrate the endings as you make space for new beginnings?

Stillness Speaks

“True intelligence operates silently. Stillness is where creativity and solutions to problems are found.”

~Eckhart Tolle


Along the shores of Lake Erie and Lake Washington this summer I have observed herons—these graceful, slightly awkward birds.  They have such a talent for stillness, for waiting patiently, for listening, for detecting the tiniest stirs in their environment.  Nothing gets past them.   I have also been watching myself and others around me and how we fill pockets of time by whipping out our “smart phones” for a quick check of email or Facebook.  We are addicted to interruptions.  Ironically, we complain about how we have no time and how overwhelmed we are, yet it seems we scamper away from stillness.    I have been experimenting with being in stillness this summer.  Like the heron, it’s a deliberate and purposeful stillness.  Like the heron, my life force depends on it.

Take a breath; inhale.   On your exhale, relax your jaw and your shoulders.  Inhale again.  And ask yourself, what would it be like if there were just a little more stillness in my being right now?  Listen to your body’s response.

Leadership and Horse Sense: Save the Date!

horse_dog_184ssbj-184ssdmIn Horse Sense, Martha Beck reports on the profound experience of working with horses as coaches to better understand how we show up in relationship with others in our world.  (See Horse Sense in the August, 2013 issue of O Magazine.)

Horses are innately gifted teachers for us.  “They communicate what they feel, straight up, all the time,” writes Martha Beck.  “Which means that to gain their trust, humans must be genuine, clear, and honest.”  Genuine, clear, honest sound like great qualities in a leader.

My experience working with a horse as teacher offered me a rich opportunity to practice the qualities of leadership presence.  Presence communicates leadership.  Leadership is not about knowing in the technical sense; leadership is about being fully present in the moment and in connected partnership with others.

Join Amanda Madorno, the herd at Epona Meadows, and I on September 27th to experience this gift for yourself.  Amanda will masterfully guide you through an equine facilitated experience. And I will offer aikido inspired somatic coaching on the non verbal dimensions of leadership presence.  Come play, learn, and be amazed by this unique partnership!

For more information, and to register please visit us here.  We are happy to answer any questions you may have as you consider this powerful opportunity.

You are made of stars

compostella hiker

Walking to the field of your dreams is made lighter by letting go.
What can you let go of ?
Remember you are made
of the stuff of stars!

Take a breath.  Inhale and fill your being
with light.  Notice the space around you,
above you, and beneath you.
Notice the space within your cells.
You are made of the stuff of stars.
Walk lightly upon the earth.

10 Reminders on Leadership Presence: What I learned from Bella—the red headed mare

cbandbellaA few weeks ago I experienced being coached on my leadership capacity with the powerful assistance of a horse.  My coach and guide for the day, Amanda Madorno, invited me to her farm to experience her equine facilitated coaching.   Amanda began by asking me to choose which horse to work with.  I could have chosen the noble, 30 year old (100+ years in human age) gelding, in whom I sensed a kindred spirit.  But I chose Bella, a spirited, red headed mare.  Or perhaps she chose me.   I found her more intimidating—so I knew she would be my teacher. 

My first task, much to my anxious surprise, was to put a bridle on the mare.  Despite my protests of being a city girl and never having done this before, Amanda gently and confidently coached me through the process.  Bella was feasting on lots of tasty grass, a far more enticing activity than me approaching her with a bridle.  There was no way I could force this horse, much larger than me, to do anything!  I discovered she responded to me when I connected and engaged with her.  “Connect and engage, connect and engage,” became my mantra.  That’s what helped me get the bridle on her.

Then there was the obstacle course!  I had a number of increasingly challenging activities to lead Bella through:  walking over barriers, walking over a small bridge, walking in particular patterns.   I took a deep breath—I had my work cut out for me.

The truth is I have had very little experience with horses.  In theory I love horses as I love all animals.  However, in a corral with the horses, I felt a little afraid.  Their size intimidates me.  Despite all of this, the anxiousness I felt at first melted away once I connected with Bella.  We proceeded through the obstacle course with relative ease.

This experience with Bella offered me a rich opportunity for reflection on the qualities of leadership presence.  Presence communicates leadership.  Leadership is not only about knowing in the technical sense (I know close to nothing about horses); leadership is also about being fully present in the moment and in connected partnership with others.

Here are ten reminders about leadership presence from my work with Bella:

  • Connect with graciousness, curiosity and respect and meet others where they are.
  • Check in graciously and frequently with your partners, allies, and stakeholders.
  •  Be curious, inviting, and inclusive with your presence.
  • Step easily and with care.
  • Remember to breathe deeply.
  • Notice nonverbal cues: the tilt of a head, the exhale of a breath, posture, body language.
  • Move with intention, clarity and focus towards your vision.
  • Include your partners: inclusion creates safety, belonging and coordinated action.
  • Set others up for success.
  • Accept that sometimes we lead without knowing and we experiment and course correct as necessary.

I am excited to announce that I will be partnering with Amanda Madorno in two of her upcoming Leadership and Horse Sense workshops (July 25th and September 27th):

 Leadership and Horse Sense  introduces you to the silent power of nonverbal communication.  This enlightening session with Catherine Bachy, Amanda Madorno and the Epona Meadows herd shows how leadership effectiveness is tightly linked to your use and knowledge of body language and physical presence  whether you know it or not.  You will learn how to accurately de-code the silent signals of others and use body language that is aligned with your verbal messages to increase your leadership credibility.

I will be offering aikido inspired somatic coaching on the non verbal dimensions of leadership presence.  We look forward to combining somatic awareness through foundational principles of aikido (Catherine) with the experience of equine facilitated coaching (Amanda).  Come play, learn, and be amazed by this unique partnership!


Got trust? –the essential ingredient to high performance in teams

Trust is the bandwidth of communication.
– Karl Erik Sveiby

Change, restructuring, and “re-org” are common buzz words these days.  The rapid rate of change in organizations requires a nimbleness to regroup into a variety of teams and work groups that often transcend established reporting structures.  This demands of team members an ability to become high performing in ever shortening cycles of work and productivity.

In a recent workshop with the senior management team of a mid size, 25 year old nonprofit organization in the Puget Sound, I introduced the Team Performance Model (Drexel & Sibbet) to this newly configured team of leaders.  They had just come off of an intense strategic planning phase and had had to jump into being a high performing team in a matter of days.  In this two hour team building workshop, this group was able to take a deep breath and assess where they were as a team.


Using the visual model and framework for team building from the Team Performance Model (see image), the group made several important discoveries.  What they discovered about themselves as a team was that they, like so many teams, had jumped right into implementation of projects and plans because the environment demanded this of them.  They realized that they had more foundational work to do in articulating their purpose as a team beyond attending to the fire drill du jour.  Although they affirmed a core level of trust already present within the group, they realized that in the fast paced days ahead, this trust could wear thin without some intentional trust building along the way.  They agreed that trust building isn’t something that we do once so we can check the box and move on! 

So how do we intentionally build trust in a team?  With much of our time spent in meetings rather than in ropes courses or trust fall exercises, how do we weave trust building on a regular basis? Here are a few of the ideas that came forward in my work with this group:

start meetings with a “check-in”—a brief report (1 minute) from each person that reveals the overall state of being of that person so that they can be heard and then fully present in the meeting

-clarify agreements – prior to the end of the meeting have each person acknowledge and articulate what agreements they made and/or have heard the team make

at the end of a meeting, “check-out”—each person has a chance to say where they are with the content of the meeting.  Raise the level of trust by raising the level of forthrightness in the group.

Essential to trust building is taking the time to connect with each other.  Our mile long to do lists seduce us into jumping to task.  Yet the whole of our human experience responds better when we connect first.  We know this from our interactions with animals and children; adults have often developed a habit of overriding the need to connect first before jumping into action.

As a leadership coach, my work with this group confirmed that the Team Performance Model supports the work of a group in making key discoveries that help move their work forward because of strengthened connection and trust.

Connect first; Ask questions later

hands-sandIn a recent team building workshop I led with a senior management team, I spontaneously introduced an activity which I called, “conference room aikido.”   Participants paired up, stood face to face, and reached across to lightly touch the tips of their partner’s index fingers with their own.  Eyes closed, they experimented with leading and following each other, guided exclusively by their fingertip connection.  They were asked to notice the flow of the rhythm with their partner.  One participant shared later, “when I go too fast, I risk losing the connection with my partner.”  In aikido, on and off the mat, we need to stay connected with our partner in order to coordinate skillful action. 

The bold visions that we have for our organizations and the lofty goals that we set can seduce us into speeding up.  By doing so, we risk losing our partners and allies along the way.   We know by now that we can’t do it alone, and that it’s a lot easier to steer the boat when others can help us row. 

How are you making space and taking time for powerful connection in your organization?

The Spiral of Becoming

 On a recent snowshoeing hike at Mt. Rainier National Park with my colleague, Jeff Carter, a Naturalist and Leadership Facilitator, I learned that the lines in a tree trunk form a spiral going around the tree.  The lines at the bottom of the trunk, nearest the earth, are closer together in the spiral.  As my eye wandered the length of the trunk upwards, I noticed the lines of the spiral are more spread out. 

We see spirals in many places in the natural world: a nautilus, a spider web, the tip of a fern about to unfurl, the petals of a rose, a pine cone, a galaxy of stars. In each of these, energy is concentrated in the center and propels growth outward. 


Transformation is birthed from what we hold at our center.  Like the lines on the trunk of the tree transformation looks different in different parts of a system.  Even though we may be part of the same system or organization, our experience at the center of the spiral may be very different from our experience in the farther reaches o f the spiral. 

Where are you on the spiral of your own experience with what you want to bring into the world?

Take a breath.  On your inhale allow your energy to spiral up and out like the branches of a tree reaching towards the sun.  Exhale and see that slowly circling light spiral through you and into the center of the earth.  Notice that you have space above and below you and all around you.  Ask yourself, “What would it be like to have a little more ease  in my becoming?”  Notice your body’s response.