Tag Archives: coaching

A quick “body hack” for sustainability change-makers…

Changing your body will change your effectiveness.

I found Amy Cuddy’s TED talk about this last week, then was reminded in a training session the other day that 93% of human communication is n0n-verbal:

  • 7% what you say
  • 38% tonality
  • 55% body language

So what your body says is the most powerful part of your communication – and it’s surprisingly easy to shift it. Continue reading

Regenerative business and coaching…

What’s coaching got to do with Regenerative Business?   In a collaboration with Alan Sieler of Newfield Institute, we explored this question in October 2010.  The detail has changed, but the value proposition hasn’t:

“A Business Opportunity for Coaches

We believe that Regenerative Business Coaching is an emerging area of business for ontological coaches and other forms of coaching. A significant challenge for organisation personnel who are committed to shifting the organisation’s mindset, be they senior leaders, middle managers or supervisors, is influencing others. Successful influencing requires excellent communication, and here is where coaching becomes relevant.

Ontological Coaching gets to the heart of how people function, learn and change. Ontological coaches facilitate advocates of regenerative business to become highly skilled communicators – able to communicate respectfully and clearly to assist people develop constructive new ways of thinking and behaving. However, Ontological Coaching on its own is not likely to provide sufficient support for advocates of regenerative business. Continue reading

The ‘how’ of being the change…

“Be the change you want to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi

As an Ontological Practitioner I take this quote as more than a challenge to act sustainably.  Ontology is the study of how humans go about the process of being, and Ontological Coaching takes an approach to change and innovation that focuses on our Way of Being in the world:

  • The language we use internally and in conversation with others.Way of Being
  • The moods and emotions we experience and how effectively we manage them.
  • Our bodies and their interaction with our experience of ourselves and the world.

An ontological inquiry into “being the change”…

So Gandhi’s quote doesn’t just ask me to examine my actions, it also leads me to ask:

What are the Ways of Being that will enable me to generate the change I want to see in the world?
  Continue reading

Is there a process behind our heroes?

Joel Makower’s recent blog “Why aren’t there more Ray Andersons?” was an interesting read with great insights into who Ray was from other famous sustainability players.  The ongoing conversation from that article is the basis of this post.

There was a process BEHIND Ray Anderson’s “aha” moment on sustainability…

I only met Ray through his books, including “Business Lessons of a Radical Industrialist” and “Mid Course Correction.  Among the many insights he shared was his personal process of transformation. In my interpretation, this was:

  • The person – an innovator, entrepreneur and good leader (Jim Collins would say “Level 5”).
  • The timing – that he was looking for a new challenge after 20 years of success. – an external prompt – ongoing demand from his customers – to do “more” about sustainability (persistently re-iterated by then research assistant Jim Hartzfeld).
  • The do-able first step – to form an internal working party (proposed by Jim Hartfeld).
  • A personal challenge to deliver internal inspiration (from Jim Hartzfeld to inspire the working party).
  • The timely provision of inspiration (the friend who sent him “The Ecology of Commerce”).
  • The realisation we CAN destroy eco-systems (in the book “The Ecology of Commerce”).
  • The vision of entrepreneurial possibilities for business (in the book “The Ecology of Commerce”).

If disasters have multiple causes, the emergence of a hero may be the result of a process rather than a miracle. Is a more relevant question “What happened to turn Ray Anderson on to sustainability and how do we re-create the process?” And perhaps we need more Jim Harzfelds as well?

There was a process behind the “aha” moments that got me started, too…

What stopped me for many years was the assumption (I think based on mass media messages) that sustainability was a problem, that there were no potential solutions, and that the primary thing for me to do was use less.

What got me turned on was also a process :

  • Turning 40 and asking “well what do I REALLY want for myself in the coming decades” (to make a difference reducing corporate burnout as a professional coach)
  • Learning to listen to myself during my initial coaching studies
  • Noticing that I was (reluctantly) interested in a Masters in Sustainability announced at lunchtime during graduate eCommerce studies
  • Doing post graduate studies and being introduced to the books “Natural Capitalism”, “Mid Course Correction” and “Cradle to Cradle”

There was my serial “aha” (with a great inspiration from Ray Anderson included). I had been a supply chain systems consultant, and these particular books spoke to both my personal and business experience. Because of this experience, I believed (and still hold the assessment) that as an individual consumer I could not make a significant difference. Much as I loved my bush garden, I had no sense of power or possibility or connection to “this sustainability thing”.

What these three books gave me was HOPE – and a positive, explicit vision of practical ways our system could be AND WAS changing. These ways were congruent with my own knowledge of the inside operations of factories and warehouses in a range of industries.

That’s what activated me – HOPE and a specific positive vision.

Our emerging challenge…

In Innovation Diffusion terms, the challenge I see in front of us now is how to get this new way of doing business “across the chasm” to the Early Majority who are motivated differently from Innovators and Early Adopters. My experience in CleanTech circles is that the Innovators and Early Adopters have “got it”.

To me, if popular, powerful voices make “sustainability” look difficult and expensive to the Early Majority then that “chasm” will get wider, especially if they have to risk their reputation on “costly new programs”. So the more well-known people we can get to speak out about how straightforward, sensible and rewarding sustainability is when it’s done strategically to achieve win/win/win outcomes the better.

I assess that it’s also important to distill the systems changes required to get started into simple, powerful memes that suit our time. Easy, useful products and ideas get cross the “chasm” quite easily

An elevator speech for Regenerative Business

At a networking event the other day, we were talking about business sustainability.   Somebody asked me what I’d say if I found my ideal CEO client next to me in an elevator.  


One great tip I work with (from Bill Jensen’s Simplicity Survival Handbook) is about being clear in your communication.  Do you have the answers to these questions:

  1. What do you want the person to KNOW?
  2. How do you want them to FEEL?
  3. What do you want them to DO?

This is what I’d like business executives to know, feel and do about sustainability.

I want business executives to know that…

  1. Behind the fog of mass media messages about crisis, cost and carbon trading, smart sustainability is fun and exciting. Done strategically, it’s full of great business growth opportunities.   “environment=cost” belongs way back in the past along side “the world is flat” and “we can’t afford quality”.
  2. At the level of business strategy, profitable sustainability is straightforward.  There are 7 simple principles that have the potential to deliver major business and environmental improvements.  You don’t need an MBA or a degree in environmental science – just the ability to set directions and get results.
  3. Set clear honest goals, build your organisation’s resource literacy and the work will do itself.   Give your people the opportunity for more meaningful work and get out of the way.

I want business executives to feel..

  • Excited about the career and business opportunities of learning to do regenerative business.
  • Relieved that “this sustainability thing” will be much more than  another onerous compliance obligation.
  • Curious about the new strategies and practices that will emerge in their organisations.

I want business executives to…

  • Start to learn about regenerative business – the straightforward principles behind the opportunity side of sustainability.  Who’s making money from achieving 50%-80% resource usage reductions?  How are they doing it?
  • Start to build resource literacy levels  in their organisation.  The more people who understand their environmental footprint, the more people they’ll have enthusiastically looking for solutions. 
  • Start to set goals for win/win/win results.  Tell them where you want to be in 8 – 10 years and turn your people loose to work out how. 


Leigh Baker is an organisational coach specialising in business sustainability and the author of The Deep Green Profit Handbook.  She teaches the influencing and communication skills that increase the effectiveness of sustainability practitioners and advocates.

What is this thing called “business”?

Regenerative Business“Business doesn’t listen!” is a regular complaint in environmental circles – but what IS business?   Essentially, business is a group activity – a process.  There is no physical thing called business that we can put in a wheelbarrow.  We may be able to put a building, a product, or a person  in a wheelbarrow – but not “business”.

At its essence “business” is a process  performed by groups of people working together to exchange what they perceive as valuable:

  • Time and energy in exchange for wages (comfort and security), belonging or achievement.
  • Products or services in exchange for money, satisfaction, belonging or achievement.

Sometimes the processes of business  work well, sometimes they don’t.  Many of the key performance indicators for business are past-based, short-term measures based on partial understandings of the economic and ecological environment – yet it’s these measures that often drive reward systems.  

Research indicates that just 1-2% of the population has psychopathic potential.  Even if we double or triple this number, it still  means that there’s a substantial majority who are fairly normal people, operating as best they can inside their understanding of the world and how it works.  From this perspective, the question for sustainability advocates is “how do we shift people’s’ understanding of the world and how it works?”

There is no “business” to influence – only people…

While we perceive business as a monolithic, uncaring machine we can feel powerless to shift it.   But business IS people – mostly operating from day-to-day on their past experience of how the world works.  

Within “business” are individuals doing their best to meet their wants and needs inside a system of beliefs and rewards largely developed when business was considered to operate within an infinite eco-system.   Surprisingly few of those people have been trained to think strategically, how to lead effectively, how to communicate skillfully or how to live intentionally.

 If “business” doesn’t exist, then sustainability advocates need to influence people – they need to engage with specific people in positions of influence and work to shift their understanding of the world and how it works.

Fortunately, over the past 30 years  we have developed a wealth of knowledge and tools to assist us in the process of  influencing and communicating.  Fields like Linguistics, NLP , neurobiology and Ontology (to name just a few) have codified not only how language works, but also the underlying perceptual systems, moods and emotions that generate human behaviour.

During the same period, smart entrepreneurs have been disproving some of the beliefs and understandings prevalent about “the environment” in business – so sustainability advocates now have a compelling offer to make to business about the world and how it works:

“Sustainability is about more than unwanted costs and boring compliance – it’s also about opportunity and profitability.  Done strategically and integrated into core business activity it’s a great way to develop better business processes, products, services and products.”

Who could you influence?

Who is the most influential person you know – the person that could make the most difference if they “got” the opportunity side of sustainability?  How could you influence them?  What are you saying to yourself that might stop you trying?  Are you:

  • Resigned to the belief “Sustainable practices will cost them, so they won’t listen to me”?  (In which case is it time for you to learn about regenerative business – the opportunity side of sustainability?)
  • Anxious that “I’ll look stupid and naive” or “I won’t know what to say”?  (In which case, is it time to learn the smart conversational skills of influencing and innovation?)
  • Angry and resentful that “They’re doing so much damage”? (In which case, is it time to focus your outrage on effective action towards the result that you DO want?)

What would you need to know, feel, think and do to engage this influential person that you know more effectively?

If you want to be a successful change-maker, there are skills to learn which will increase your capability to make a difference.  Understanding what business is and how to influence it is all about the “soft stuff” of communication, engagement and influencing.  

If your back hurts, you get it re-aligned and develop your core strength so you can stand and move differently.   If you’re tired of living in frustration, anxiety, resignation and resentment then it may be time for a different sort of re-alignment and development program.


Leigh Baker is a qualified Ontological Coach who specialises in helping sustainability practitioners work more powerfully.   Her decades of supply chain experience and positive, pragmatic approach gives her a unique insight into regenerative business and successful innovation practices.

“I have a dream” for regenerative business

A friend connected me to Simon Sinek’s TED talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”.   A couple of key points stood out for me (amongst lots of good stuff):

  • Inspirational leaders start from a core purpose, and first answer the question “Why?”  rather than “How?” or “What?”
  • Martin Luther King started from “I have a dream…”  and “I believe…” not “I have a plan…”

It made me think about  regenerative business – was I as clear as I would like to be?   Could I state my “why”, or could it do with some polishing?  So here we go….

I have a dream….

That we can develop a global regenerative economy – that we can develop  new ways to do good business that deliver valuable services BY supporting community and eco-system regeneration, and do it for a population of 7 billion or more. 

That environmental  advocates across the globe understand the oppoturnity side of sustainability and can engage those around them in developing regenerative solutions.

I believe…

That we’re only just beginning to explore regenerative business models, so judging our long-term capability to live well inside our finite eco-system  based on how we currently do business is like looking at the Wright brothers’ Kitty Hawk and saying “Well, technically it might fly, but it will never make money.”

That the early regenerative entrepreneurs have proven it’s possible and profitable, so we can let go of  the 20th century belief that said “enviroment=expense”.  It’s been happening since at least the 1990s, it just hasn’t hit the mainstream media yet.

The design work’s been done, so we know the new business thinking that makes for profitable regenerative business strategies and practices.

That we have all the technology we need to get started, so we don’t need to wait for some magic “silver bullet” to save the day.

That regenerative business is “the greatest opportunity since the invention of money” and the real challenge is to get beyond scarcity thinking, compliance, reporting, consumer frugality  and obligation to find our opportunities.

 That the skills we need to develop most are the “soft stuff” of influencing and innovationthe “how” of engaging more people more positively in new ways of designing business to regenerate the environment. 

That’s my manifesto…

That’s what’s behind Balance3 and Regenerative Business Coaching.  That’s why I wrote The Deep Green Profit Handbook.  Because while we live in the false dilemma “green OR profit” we’ll stay stuck – but once we get over that old 20th century thinking, there’s a wealth of new opportunities to be developed.  And  because the skills that will make it possible won’t be technological skills – they’ll be communication, innovation, emotional intelligence and influencing skills.

If you think this sounds more fun that efficiency and waste reduction, then maybe it’s time you made the switch to regenerative thinking  with our “Getting Regenerative” coaching program – it could be the best $550 you ever spent!