Join Michael Bell and I at the Art of Leadership at Hollyhock Sept. 2-7, 2022 

I’m thrilled to announce that my beloved friend and colleague, Michael Bell, will be co-facilitating the Art of Leadership with me at Hollyhock this Fall! This 5-day intensive training is going to be in-person (yes!), on spectacular Cortes Island, BC, Canada.

As with previous years, seats fill fast (it is already 35% full), so consider reserving your space soon. Apply here, or read on to learn more.

There has never been a more important moment for leaders to deepen and grow their awareness, skills, inner resourcefulness, and capacity for deep interdependence. Each of us must cultivate a set of practices that provide the clarity, confidence and compassion to navigate a world where change and disruption will be the water we will be swimming in for the rest of our lives and our children’s lives.  Now is the time to renew our relationship with the tools and skills that will help us lead and live with more joy, ease and clarity of purpose. Join us in a remarkable week of self-discovery and collaborative learning.  

The Art of Leadership blends deep inner transformation with immediate, useful application to everyday work priorities. Over the past decade, thousands of participants from around the world have testified that this transformative 5-day training was a game-changer in their own leadership development. Together we’ll explore purpose, power, vision, collaboration, personal ecology and more, in a rhythm of individual reflection, large group dialogue and small group discussion.

Michael and I have both worked with Robert Gass, our friend, beloved mentor and the creator of the Art of Leadership, for over twenty years. And we are thrilled that last year, Robert asked us to continue the tradition by facilitating the Art of Leadership at Hollyhock.  

Michael and I have been co-facilitating the Art of Leadership through the Rockwood Leadership Institute, which Robert co-founded in 2000, for well over a decade each.  In 2020, we designed and led Rockwood’s inaugural virtual version, with fantastic feedback from participants, and have facilitated dozens of other virtual trainings and gatherings over the past several years.  

And as always, Michael and I bring a deep equity framework to all the work we do, from our stance as a multi-racial facilitation team, to our focus on power-awareness and connection across difference.  

We also bring global experience from working with a range of clients  from around the world for decades, from social justice organizations in South Africa to health care leaders in the UK, and many points between.

Candidates are invited to complete a short application.   This will help us ensure our learning circle contains a diverse mix of participants, across race, gender, sector and more.  

We encourage you to apply early as seats and scholarship funds are limited. Successful applicants will be contacted with a registration password. 

Book before June 3, 2022, and get 10% off listed prices

Date & Time Details:
Starts with dinner on September 2
Ends with lunch on Sept 7

Location: Cortes Island, BC, on the wild, wet west coast of British Columbia, Canada.

Tuition is tiered, ranging from CAD$825 to $1225 plus a $150 materials fee, and room and board. Please visit this link for more details about registration and scholarship.

Becoming an anti-racist organization

For companies and organizations wanting to get REAL about fighting racism, here are four powerful steps

Geese in formation: a dance of leading and following in turnFor companies and organizations wanting to get REAL about fighting racism, here’s a start:

  1. Gather the data you already have. It’s 99% likely your company has already surveyed/focus-grouped/committeed the HECK out of the topic for years; it’s time to turn that data into action
  2. Set goals – and make them explicit and measurable (recruitment, retention, leadership pipeline, feedback culture, procurement, partnerships, and more)
  3. Start measuring.
  4. Reward progress. And tie senior leadership’s compensation to progress against those metrics (Uber & others are doing this).

Here’s a great article:

Virtual Meetings for Humans

From my facilitator whiteboard to yours, here are a few principles and tips for making your virtual gatherings more effective, engaging and life-giving.  I’ve been obsessing over this for a few weeks, so have also developed a 12-page article with alot more detail; if you’re hungry for more, read on for the link.

dogs sitting in a circle, looking up at the camera.
High angle view of French bulldog and one Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy sitting in a circle, looking up at the camera on a white background.

Hello friends, it’s been a while!  After my last trips to Alabama and Toronto in March 2020,  I shoved my travelling-facilitator suitcase to the back of the closet, as COVID-19 swept the world. Since then, like many of you, I’ve found myself developing “Resting Zoom Face” after facilitating or attending literally hours of back-to-back virtual meetings. All this collective screen time can nourish collaboration and connectivity – or it can suck a person’s life force. In my quest for more of the former, I’ve been gathering tips and tricks and am excited to share them. From my facilitator whiteboard to yours, here are 10 principles and tips for making virtual gatherings more effective, engaging and life-giving.  If you’re hungry for more detailed tips, strategies and sample activities, click here for the full 12-page article.

Top 10 Principles and Tips for Virtual Meetings

  1. Make the meeting count: don’t meet if you don’t have to
  2. Keep it short: Maximum 2 hours max, with breaks
  3. Less is more – shift one-way “content” to pre-reading/pre-watching where possible
  4. Basic facilitation skills still apply: active listening, reflection, excellent questions, tracking threads, ensuring shared airtime
  5. Make it super-interactive: use breakouts, chats, polls, hands, virtual brainstorms
  6. Invite the whole person: encourage physical movement, presence, feelings, story-telling and visualizations
  7. Start strong: acknowledge locations and context, handle introductions with care, and bring participant voices in early
  8. Share documentation: consider collective online note-taking
  9. Don’t do it alone; work with a team
  10. Communicate clearly in advance and again at the start, including the link, password, time, instructions, purpose and outcomes of the meeting and the agenda


Online course: Building Collaborative Teams for High Impact

Building Collaborative Teams_TWHow do you build a collaborative team that can work across difference, adapt to change and unleash their creative potential? I’m thrilled to be teaching “Building Collaborative Teams” as part of Simon Fraser University’s Executive Leadership program, part of Continuing Studies. In addition to the face-to-face offering each Fall, we’re now offering it as an online course starting March 11, 2019, and running for six weeks. Learn with other senior leaders from diverse sectors and organizations.  There are still a few spaces left!  Register soon to save your spot:

Join me at SFU’s Executive Leadership course next week: Building Collaborative Teams for High Impact

Suzanne head shot_2773 -LARGE CROPPEDThere are still a few seats left for the second course in the 8-month Executive Leadership Certificate program at Simon Fraser University’s downtown Vancouver campus next week, Oct. 25-27th, 2018.  We’ll be exploring core leadership mindsets, specific skills and tools, and case studies drawn from the group and instructor. Topics include navigating differences across a team in terms of power, rank, equity and bias; effective listening skills; story-telling as a key skill for aligning teams; giving and receiving skillful feedback; difficult conversations; tools for decision-making and accountability; and addressing specific leadership and team challenges.  One nice feature of these courses is that several participants are taking all five courses in the entire certificate program (this is the second course for this year’s cohort), others can get a taste by diving into individual courses.  Here’s a short video about the course.  Click here for more information about cost, schedule and the application process for the entire 9-month certificate program, or here to learn more about next week’s course or module on Collaborative Teams for High Impact.

Coaching for Power Intelligence

header-web-homeOnce again, Anima Leadership in Toronto is offering an outstanding line-up of trainings this Fall.  Given my own focus on power, I’m really excited about participating in one of them next month: a 3-day seminar on “Coaching for Power Intelligence”, centered on developing the effective use of power by leaders using the new Diamond Power Index, developed by Dr. Julie Diamond.  As the Anima team describes it, “this is an essential assessment tool for anybody wanting to correct  leader’s unconscious use of power including: pulling rank, gossiping, bragging, taking credit, fostering unhealthy competition, not taking responsibility, etc. This is the Myers-Briggs of our generation.”   One option is to participate in the first 1.5 days of the seminar.  The entire three-day training covers the background and research underlying the instrument, how to administer the test, how to interpret scores and reports, how to coach and train leaders and leadership teams, as well as marketing support for using it in organizations. Successful completion of the seminar will result in certification for using the assessment

“Building Collaborative Teams for High Impact” – Vancouver, Nov 2-4, 2017

Team Huddle Harmony Togetherness Happiness ConceptHow do you build a high-performing team? Join me at SFU Continuing Studies in beautiful downtown Vancouver for an intensive leadership course from November 2-4.  Learn alongside leaders from business, tech, government, non-profits and other sectors as we explore essential skills for giving and receiving feedback, addressing conflict, strengthening our power intelligence, clarifying accountability and more, all in support of leading effective teams. Space is limited, so be sure to to register soon:

Building Collaborative Teams for High Impact

November 2 – 4, 2017

8:30 am – 5:30 pm • SFU Vancouver

Join me at the SFU Executive Leadership Certificate Program this Fall!

goldfish jumping to new bowl-iStock_000020130958XSmallI’m thrilled to be an instructor and curriculum designer for this exciting new program offered by Simon Fraser University!  It launches in the early Fall of 2017, and seats are expected to fill. The non-residential program, based out of SFU’s downtown Vancouver campus, is designed for working professionals. Over 9 months, through face to face gatherings, tele-conferences and coaching, the program offers a host of hands-on skills, frameworks and practice that will sharpen the skills of leaders from a range of industries and sectors, from business to not-for-profit. The program is also being offered as a series of individual modules, to make it more accessible.  It’s made the news, too: here’s a great article by the Georgia Strait from an interview I did two weeks ago. Click here for more information about cost, schedule and the application process for either the individual courses or the entire  9-month certificate program.

7 agreements for productive conversations during difficult times

Here’s some timely advice on working across difference. Sometimes the hardest cuts to bear are from the very people we view as being ‘on the same side’; non-profit blogger Vu Le offers some powerful medicine for prevention and healing. Source: 7 agreements for productive conversations during difficult times

About the “Beyond White Privilege” workshop

Since first offering a one day racial equity workshop for white people in Vancouver, I’ve had a few inquiries from local folks asking more about what the impetus for the workshop was, why I’m offering it, who I am, and where the proceeds are going. I’ve done my best to answer those questions here.

paper-people-joined-hiresSince first offering a one day racial equity workshop for white people in Vancouver, I’ve had a few inquiries from local folks asking more about who I am, what the impetus for the workshop was, why I’m offering it, and where the proceeds are going. I’ve done my best to answer those questions here. I also welcome further opportunities for dialogue about how to best advance racial equity locally, in this city that I love and call home.

Q: Who is Suzanne?  I’m a white, heterosexual woman of mainly English, Scottish, and Irish descent. I grew up in a working class family in Vancouver’s West End, on the un-ceded Coast Salish territory of the sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh), and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) nations.

I worked in the non-profit sector for several years before becoming a freelance facilitator and leadership trainer, working across the US and Canada. Most of my work involves facilitating leadership development, strategic planning and organizational effectiveness, which I do either alone or in partnership with people of colour. Recently, I’ve begun co-facilitating local equity and inclusion trainings in partnership with a woman of colour who has done this work for many years locally and internationally. I’m also on a mixed-race team at InPartnership Consulting that co-facilitates the Racial Justice Learning Lab, a multi-day leadership training in the US.

In additional to my consulting work, I’m a trainer with the Rockwood Leadership Institute, where we lead retreats for diverse social justice leaders from across the US. There, I co-facilitate Rockwood’s flagship Art of Leadership trainings, plus fellowships for Women in Racial Justice, Racial and Gender Justice Leaders in HIV/AIDS movement, LGBTQ Advocacy, the Service Employees International Union, and the Pipeline Project’s Fellowship for LGBTQ Leaders of Colour. As a multi-racial training team deeply committed to equity, inclusion and working across difference, we are immersed in an exploration of ‘beloved community’ – reflecting, learning and strengthening our work together and with our participants.

Q: What is your background in racial equity work?   I started learning about racial equity in a more concerted way about twenty years ago at the Institute for Media, Policy and Civil Society, through staff-led conversations and peer-to-peer education. My learning deepened through several trainings, including components of a year-long fellowship offered through what is now the Social Transformation Project. I continue to seek out even more focused learning opportunities. For example, several years ago I and other white trainers realized we needed to ‘up our game’ without burdening our co-trainers of colour with constantly having to be the ones to ‘handle’ race issues that come up in the room. So we organized our own intensive anti-racist facilitator’s training with a white trainer who works across the US with groups like ours, often at the behest of their colleagues of colour. Learning about privilege and power, especially when it comes to race, has been essential to my own development and capacity to support the leadership of others. And it is ongoing.

Q: Why offer a racial equity training in an all-white space?  I’ve long been taught that it is essential for white people to do this work together, sometimes in all-white spaces. That’s where we can make mistakes, ask ‘dumb questions’, share our emotions and learn together, without perpetuating harm (eg. through ignorance, unwitting micro-aggressions or inappropriate space-taking), and without constantly putting the burden of our education on people of colour.

Q: Why here?  Here in Vancouver, I’ve noticed that many people talk about the value of diversity and multiculturalism, but seem unfamiliar, if not outright uncomfortable with key concepts such as “white supremacy”, “white privilege” or even the simple act of naming whiteness – much less the multiple ways that structural racism, implicit bias and colonialism pervade every aspect of our lives. All too often, friends and colleagues of colour tell me they are called to educate white people about these concepts – and that it can be tiring.

I designed the workshop to help address this gap; to pay forward the teachings I’ve received from racial justice mentors over the years on both sides of the border. I’m not an ‘expert’. I am keenly aware that the process of unlearning racism and internalized privilege, and enlarging my deepest sense of “we”, will be a lifetime journey. My intention is to offer a supportive place for white people to learn some key concepts, practice getting comfortable with discomfort, and make commitments to advancing racial equity – without burdening people of colour and indigenous people with their education.

Q: What about fees? I’m offering this public training as a volunteer, and am taking no fees for it. Any net revenue (after hard costs such as venue rental, workbooks, etc.) is being donated to organizations focused on reconciliation and racial equity. Scholarships are also available on request. For the November offering, I asked the two participants that did request scholarships to simply ‘pay it forward’ as their means allow. I set the regular fees at $125. Some people said that was too high, even with the offer of scholarships. Others said that this was too low – that white people should commit to this work and value it appropriately. Going forward, I’m going to be more explicit about a sliding scale for fees.

Q: Why now? In the summer of 2016, I offered the workshop (at no charge) to the white caucus of the Health eQT2 Collaborative, which is focused on improving health outcomes for queer, trans and two spirit people across BC. Before that training, two Indigenous leaders from the collaborative’s Indigenous and People of Colour caucuses met with me to review and vet the curriculum. They approved it, and the workshop took place several weeks later. Feedback from the workshop was positive. I was recently asked to offer this workshop again for an arts organization, and we decided to open it up more widely since others were interested. I wasn’t sure there would be demand for the workshop, but to my surprise the workshop sold out in 4 days. There is a waiting list, so at this point, pending the schedule of my paid work, I’ll offer it again in the New Year.

Q: Who ‘vetted’ the curriculum, if anyone? Several other colleagues have offered feedback on this curriculum, or variations of it in other contexts, over several years. Since I only train and facilitate with leaders of colour, where the topic of racial equity is often part of the conversation, I’m lucky to have continuous opportunities to learn from others with lived experience and expertise on working across difference. At the same time, I have no doubt that each group of participants will have different needs and strengths, so I expect a continuously steep learning curve going forward.

But I don’t feel for one second that I have the right or the luxury to stop, delay or wait until I’ve got it ‘just right’. As I’m writing this I hear the words of my colleague Clarence Patton, founder of the Pipeline Project for LGBTQ leaders of colour, in the wake of the 2016 US Election:

“Right-thinking White folks need to sing lead on this if it’s ever going to get fixed. We can sing backup, shake a tambourine, or do the triangle, but White folks fucking sing lead for the foreseeable”

I stand by that and the truth – that will be hard for a lot of White folks to take – is that the folks that voted for Trump out of racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and yes, even economic anxiety or displacement are not going to be able to listen to me or people like me right now. And despite the empathy I can have for Whites I deal with in the work I do, I’m not sure I can have the same for the great red ocean of Whites out there.

There are simply conversations that Whites need to have with Whites.

The problem, the challenge, the real likelihood is that there aren’t enough right-thinking White people willing to do the work. I hope there are, but understand that it’s very hard to create even positive disruption when we hold our comfort too dear.


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