The FIELD Collaborative

Leadership in Dialogue

We Need To Do This Together!


Many of you have asked us how you can learn more about what The FIELD Collaborative is doing in Cambodia, and how you can support our work there. We have been deeply motivated to join the effort against human trafficking, specifically helping girls and women. Leadership development of women is where we are focusing our efforts. We have created a short presentation that tells our story with pictures in the “Adobe Slate” link below.


Over the next two months, our goal is to raise enough to fund our next two training workshops for young women leaders in Cambodia. Each workshop is three days at a location outside of the city of Phnom Penh. As we have gotten to know these inspiring women, we have been amazed at their stories of tenacity, vision and courage as they’ve battled against the cultural expectations they have been raised with. We were humbled to have a chance to help them grow in their personal leadership skills on our first trip last February. The story below will give you a little taste of our experience there, and inspire you to support our plan to return in August of this year and then February next year as well. If you want more information, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


The second link below is to a presentation to our FundRazr campaign, which runs through to August 1, 2015.  Any gift is appreciated – our overall goal is $30,000 ($15,000 per workshop, or $1000 per woman per workshop). This is a one-time donation, as we work out the funding details to expand this program going forward. If you are able to support one woman, we will email you her details and put you in touch with her to hear her story first-hand. If you are not able to give at that level, remember that every amount, no matter how small, will make a difference for each of these special individual leaders.


We would also encourage you to send this blog along to anyone in your personal network who is interested in anti-human trafficking efforts, and desires to make a difference. Thanks so much for your generosity and on-going support in seeing our vision become a reality!

This presentation tells the story:

Link to the fund raising campaign site.

Summer Reading Contest!!

summer readingFor many of us, especially the Canadians reading this post, summer signals a shift in how we spend our time. In our business, once we get through June, we enter into a quieter month or two of client work. Knowing we get to enjoy this season has sustained us through the craziness of the last quarter. We now have time to get outside with a good book in a shady spot and relax. We want you to join us in living with a little more balance in your schedule this summer. We’ve listed the books we are planning to read this summer below and we have a contest as well.

Here are our choices for summer reading:

  1. Sandy’s Pick: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. This isn’t a new book but It has been recommended several times and I still haven’t gotten around to reading it. I am motivated to read it now before the October release of a new film about Steve Jobs directed by Danny Boyle (Watch the trailer here).
  2. Karen’s Picks: Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Friere. It’s dense, good and worth savouring!  And one more – Leading with Cultural Intelligence by David Livermore. This is one of his fairly recent books focusing on the topic of leadership (not just CQ). I am most looking forward to the last section on “Developing CQ in Your Team” which includes facilitating a CQ learning plan.
  3. Wendy’s Pick: Crossing the Divide: Intergroup Leadership in a World of Difference edited by Todd L. Pittinsky.  This collection of essays by some of today’s leading thinkers on leadership on how to bring groups together looks like it will be informing some of our thinking at The FIELD Collaborative.
  4. Aileen’s Pick:  The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer. This guide to creating communities of learning is a must read for anyone brave enough to call themselves a teacher!

And now to the contest:

We are giving one of our readers a $25 Amazon gift card to get you started on your summer reading. The contest rules are:

  1. Post your book recommendation in the comments below.
  2. Share this blog on one of your social media channels (optional but we would be grateful).
  3. Only one entry per person.
  4. Contest closes June 5th. A winner will be selected at random and announced on June 8th.

Happy Reading! 

The Journey to Who We Are: An Ongoing Discovery

There have been times when the four of us at The FIELD Collaborative – Wendy, Karen, Sandy and I – have looked at one another and asked, “So what is it that brings us together again?” We’re beginning to realize that it’s not so much about what we do together as it is about our shared approach to offering consulting services to people who might make use of them.

We’ve worked that shared approach into a slogan: We GO to where you are, we LISTEN to what you say, and we CULTIVATE creative solutions to leadership and organizational development issues.

When we say that we “GO to where we are,” we’re conveying our intent to start with where you’re starting from, not us. We want to understand the context for the matter that drove you to contract our services to begin with – your current reality as you see it is much more important than anything that we might see, especially early on.

cultivateTrying to get a contextual understanding of your situation, of our starting point with you, leads naturally to our second point: LISTEN. We can’t find any solid footing on common ground with you unless we listen carefully to what you say. In many cases we take that beyond simply hearing to your words; we want to listen deeply to what’s unsaid as well. There’s a discernment going on that moves us to ask with you, What’s really going on here? What is it that’s going on under the surface that we need to pay attention to?

CULTIVATE: Cultivating creative solutions with you requires at least two things on our part. First, we want to look closely at patterns that are emerging out of whatever chaos or disorder drove you to seek help in the first place. We don’t assume we can create solutions with you out of nothing (ex nihilo as it were). Instead, we want to discover with you momentum for positive change that already exists within you or your organization.

The second thing that’s required is a commitment to working collaboratively. All the contextual understanding, deep listening and discovery of healthy patterns for growth that we gain are useless if we’ve come to these places on our own and try to impose next steps on you without your involvement.

Our hope too is that as we work with you, we’ll help you to carry forward some of that creative and collaborative effort, so that you and your organization will gain lasting benefit from the work we’ve done together with you.

“Facilitative” is the descriptive word that we’re using to describe leaders that “GO-LISTEN-CULTIVATE” Our approach suggests a kind of leadership that facilitates the development of strengths that are already latent and that emerge through dialogue, listening and discernment, and collaborative cultivation of creativity (alliteration is not intentional). We’re still learning what we mean by that term, and we invite you to join us in discovering ways to define it.

Blog post contributed by Aileen Van Ginkel – Vice President, Partnering 

We interrupt our normally scheduled blog post…

to bring you this special presentation.  Enjoy and leave your comments!

I’m OK, You’re OK

The word “diversity” is commonly included in an organization’s list of values. Doing a quick internet search, the first page of results brought up such familiar company names as Johnson & Johnson, The Coca-Cola Company, BMO, RBC, Roche, Nissan and Husky Energy, all cite diversity as an intrinsic element of their business’ practices. If such well-known corporations value diversity, we are in good company! The question that needs to be asked, however, is how the word is interpreted and how this stated value will influence future decisions and choices.

At The FIELD Collaborative, we think that in-house diversity means deliberately seeking to work with others who bring different skill sets, talents, personality preferences, cultures and experiences to the table. Seeking out this kind of diversity means that potentially we will generate tension around the table. That can be a challenge, and that’s great! This is the kind of creative tension that can generate innovative solutions to stubborn problems. It means each of us will have to continually sharpen listening and critical thinking skills. If we really hold to this value, we will be encouraging each other to be creative, to learn, to empathize and to develop individually and as a team. Diversity builds strength.

How does this translate to the work we do for our clients? By actively seeking out diversity within The FIELD Collaborative, we are better able to take these good listening, strong critical thinking and innovative solution building skills out into the field. We are better equipped to see, appreciate and work within a client’s unique organizational culture. We recognize that even within one company, each team can function differently. We see the inherent strengths found within a group or the individual and use those strengths to leverage the transitions needed to improve team efficiencies, enhance leadership skills, or lead organizational change. 

This post was written by Wendy Milne, Vice-President, Operations

The Virtuous Cycle of Learning

It almost goes without saying that an organization like ours would highly value learning – we couldn’t do anything related to organizational and leadership development without it. What helps to define us more concretely as The FIELD Collaborative are a set of values related to learning.

Contextual – We start by grounding learning endeavours, our own and others as well, in the context of the learner. While we have learning we want to share with others, it goes nowhere if we don’t understand where the potential learner is coming from.

Cross-cultural – A focus on contextualized learning doesn’t necessarily raise barriers between various cultural contexts. If we’re focused on the learner, then seeking understanding across cultural differences becomes essential.

Dialogical – We believe that contextual and cross-cultural approaches to learning depend on deep dialogue…the kind that requires keen listening skills as we go beneath the obvious to underlying motivations and patterns of meaning.

Communal – In a recent conversation, we recognized how fortunate we were to participate in a learning community. We challenge each other to go beyond what we’ve thought or have taught others before, while at the same time maintaining our integrity and commitment to deeply-held beliefs.

All of these qualities of robust and impactful learning relate to each other, and depend first of all on respecting other persons, especially those who are very different from us. Such respect then goes on to seek deeper understanding of the other with the expectation that our mutual estimation of that person will increase – it’s a “virtuous” cycle!

Contributed by Aileen Van Ginkel, Vice-President, Partnering, The FIELD Collaborative

Change The Room, Change The Conversation

The environment is important to us at The FIELD Collaborative, so important we have made it one of our key values and one that differentiates us from other organizations doing organizational and learning development work. When we use the word environment we are talking about two distinct things – how the environment impacts us and how we impact the environment.

How does the environment impact us? We know that the spaces we work in every day have a impact on how we perform. Anyone who has sat through any training initiative in a sterile hotel room has a visceral understanding of how this works. When I did my MA in Leadership, I did my research on the impact of space on team effectiveness.  After interviewing teams that held meetings at Thinkspot, a space designed to nurture learning and collaboration, I heard again and and again about the ‘shift’ that had taken place and how the environment had played a distinct role in the conversation. Peter Block wrote, “Every room we occupy serves as a metaphor for the larger community we want to create. This is true socially and and also physically.  The room is the visible expression of today’s version of the future.” We take this seriously when are looking for spaces to work in.

This Environment Really Impacted Our Learning!

This Environment Really Impacted Our Learning!

Our own team meetings reflect the collaborative atmosphere we want to create. We meet outdoors if possible, and if not, in a place with good natural light. We shy away from big splashy presentations and events with a ‘leader up front’ and all eyes on them. Although our clients have a big influence on where we meet, we desire to educate them about the impact the space will have on the learning and ultimately on meeting their objectives. The more critical the meeting, the more important it is to consider the environment.  On a recent training event for women in leadership we chose an outdoor location. With shelter from the sun, warm breezes, and the odd family of chickens running through the room, we created a relaxed and safe environment that allowed for conversations that were not guarded and shrouded in a professional facade.

We also are aware of the impact we have on the environment. We have made choices to minimize the impact we have in the materials that we use.  We distribute very few handouts and encourage participants to create learning journals that allow them to capture their own learning. Support materials are sent electronically when possible. We don’t supply bottled water to drink unless it is the only alternative. We carpool to meetings when we can and talk about the environmental impact of choices we make beyond just the type and amount of paper we use. Our hope is that our work with clients will help them become more aware of how they can create more collaborative and sustainable work environments. How have you been impacted by the environment? What are you doing to lessen your impact on the environment? We would love to hear from you!

This blog post was written by Sandy Reynolds, President – The FIELD Collaborative

Note: If you haven’t read Peter Block yet we recommend him highly!  The quote above is from Community: the structure of belonging. (p.152)

Having Fun With Integrity

Playing with words – like integrity – can be fun. And enlightening. The next value we as a team  embraced,  integrity, is closely linked to the words “integer” (whole number) and “integral” (complete, unaltered, whole). A person who lives according to this value is undivided. Unaltered. Living a life of integrity leads you into an experience of wholeness. You are able to integrate what you say and what you do, who you claim to be and who you really are.

A person who lacks integrity is not whole or complete.  He or she is, essentially, broken. And that brokenness can have a damaging impact on people around him or her. We have all been negatively affected by people, particularly leaders who have acted with a lack of integrity. Think of the financial breakdown at a worldwide level that was caused by leaders who lacked integrity. However, when a leader  consistently acts with integrity, people find that person trustworthy. Integrity and trust are closely linked values.

The reason we started our organization’s life with values, such as Fun and Integrity, is because they are reference points to how we interact as a team. Values have both a private and public aspect to them. I privately choose to act with integrity towards my teammates. My actions have an impact on others and thus have a very real public influence. Our goal as an organization is to ground whatever we do in this value. It doesn’t mean that we will never make mistakes or let others down. But it does mean that we will be honest and real with one another. We will trust one another. Based on that trust, and our mutual commitment to integrity, we are able to deal with inevitable conflicts and misunderstandings that will arise with honesty tinged with compassion. We will help each other to be more complete, more whole, and to live our professional lives with a foundation of integrity.

You may have seen that our first value started with an F. This value starts with an I. Notice a pattern emerging? Any guesses as to what next week’s blog on our core values might be about?

This blog post was contributed by Karen Petersen, Vice-President, Global Learning

Have a Little Fun!

In a recently published study by Aon, titled Inside the Employee Mindset™, one of the top 3 workplace differentiators (what makes an employer stand out from the rest) is ‘fun place to work’. At The FIELD Collaborative we understand the value of fun, and identified FUN as one of our top five values.  Here’s why it is important to us and why we think it is important to your employees as well:

  1. We want to enjoy ourselves while we work.  At TFC we have created a strengths based business based on our passions. You would think work could get any better but we know from experience that being able to laugh and have fun while we are working is both motivating and stress relieving.
  2. Being able to laugh, especially at ourselves, helps us as we are growing an organization that nurtures learning – not perfection. We want to create an environment where we recognize that failure happens, emails get sent with typos and sometimes we drip coffee on ourselves just before a presentation. Good humour helps us put these things in perspective. It reminds us we are all human!
  3. When work is fun productivity is higher. This statement is backed by research. We invite you to try your own fun experiment at work. Let us know how it went.
At a recent meeting we celebrated the Irish influence on our team.

At a recent meeting we celebrated the Irish influence on our team.

So how do we have fun? One of our favourite ways is to break bread together. When we meet, we almost always plan to include a meal. As we talk around the table, be it out on a deck or in a boardroom, we get to know each other. We share our stories, we laugh together and we build trust. We are also intentional about celebrating together, whether it is St. Patrick’s Day, a birthday or a milestone in life. If you are looking for ways to increase employee morale – try having a little fun!

We are curious about your work – are you having fun? Share your stories in the comment section.

This blog post was written by Sandy Reynolds, President and Chief Fun Officer.

Values Are More Than Just A Blue Sky Activity

The time came for the four of us at The FIELD Collaborative to sit down and define what our organizational values would be. The setting, on the deck of a cottage on an island in in the Muskokas, was the perfect backdrop for this work.


The backdrop to our values discussion.

Personal values are those things which we deem worthwhile and are the basis for the individual choices we make. They are reflected in the way we live our lives. Having spent quite a fair amount of time with each other over the years, albeit not necessarily all together at the same time, Sandy, Aileen, Karen and I felt comfortable with one another and were convinced there were significant overlaps in everyone’s values.

Why then would it be important to set organizational values for The FIELD Collaborative? We knew that the values we were to agree on that day would inform and guide our future decisions. We knew we will have to make decisions around the projects we accept, how we present ourselves to clients and partners, and how to grow the organization itself. The values we were going to choose would become our plumb line, the standard we intend to return to periodically to measure ourselves against. The values will be used to diagnose areas of potential conflict and provide a screening tool when we begin hiring. Future employees and decision makers need to feel comfortable aligning themselves with these organizational values. After all, these values will become the plumb line for their work as well. In other words, values are important.

So, what did we decide that day? After long, boisterous and sometimes intense dialogue, we were able to narrow the field of values down to five. The FIELD Collaborative values are:






These are the filters through which we will evaluate the decisions we make. Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a closer look at each of the five values.

This blog post introducing the topic of values was written by Wendy Milne, Vice President, Operations

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