Andy Long * McCook Economic Development Corporation & Cultivate Rural Leaders

In the last two years, I've had a few changes. My wife and I had our third child, I changed jobs, and started a non-profit. After reading Parker Palmer's book, Let Your Life Speak, I was hooked on Parker Palmer and explored options through the Center for Courage and Renewal. I found the Courage to Lead retreat and it looked to be the right fit for me. Going into the program, I didn't know anyone and traveled from McCook, Nebraska, to Kalamazoo, Michigan to participate. The experience was unlike anything I had ever done. The pace was slower and it provided time for reflection. It gave me an opportunity to explore more about myself through community.

Through Courage to Lead, I discovered that I was really good at exceeding others expectations, but not that good at discovering who I am and how I could contribute. This discovery has made me reflect on who I am and what I want to do. Before Courage and Renewal, I was applying and interviewing to be a Community College President, not necessarily because I thought that was what was best, but it was the next step on the expected path. After going through Courage to Lead, I left my job as a Community College Vice President to be the Economic Development Director for McCook. This was a cut in pay and benefits, but when offered the job, I asked for a four day work week and the ability to pursue some leadership development opportunities. The board agreed. This has given me the chance to spend more time with my family and children and be more present when I'm at home. This has also given me the time to start my own non-profit, Cultivate Rural Leaders. Through the non-profit, I'm currently working with two communities of around a 1,000 people by developing and executing their community leadership program.

As a community leader, I'm spending more time in reflection. I now consistently exercise in the morning, read, and journal. I've lost 15 pounds and lowered my cholesterol. In the community and as the economic development director I'm better at leading from who I am, not from who I expect the board wants. This has brought more peace into my leadership.

I'm fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in this program and go back to the material and my journal reflections. I use the Touchstones for creating space with a variety of other groups I lead and participate. With three kids, a full-time job, and a non-profit, life is still incredibly busy, but I feel I'm heading in the right direction.

Anna Oakes * We Restore Humanity


What your work is and why you do it?

Raised by hippies and legitimately believing I can change the world, three years ago I passed up the C-Suite to help leaders and organizations restore humanity.  I think we've lost it.  Not all of it and it's not irreversible.  And it's not something I, you or anyone else can do alone.  But, together, I'm confident that we can instill more humanity back into our workplaces, schools, churches and communities.  

My work as a speaker, workshop facilitator and consultant allows me the flexibility to impact the groups and issues where I am most aligned and to maximize my impact by leveraging my personal strengths.  I use Gallup's StrengthsFinder assessment in many of my coaching and speaking engagements and find that it's a tool that increases self-awareness, a trait Cornell University's study found is the largest predictor of success for Executives.  It also raises confidence, gives words to something that's often hard to articulate - your personal power - and provides clarity on where, what and how you should be using your talents and strengths.  (For those familiar with the assessment, my top 5 strengths are Strategic, Futuristic, Maximizer, Individualization and Relator.)  

Raising two humans of my own with my husband, Scott, is the most fascinating experience ever.  The fact that our children are 8-year old boy/girl twins (Asher & Juniper) adds a whole other dynamic that intrigues us daily on the topics of nature, nurture, personal strengths, gender roles, kindness, resiliency and curiosity.  There is no greater honor that to #raisekindhumans.  

What makes me love what I do is that I'm on the human journey with each and everyone of my clients.  Like all humans, I'm imperfect, fallible and searching for my truest self.  It's my honor to walk along side individuals, teams and organizations - small to large, non-profit to profit, startup to well-established - on their journey to restore their own humanity and make this world a better place.  I get to apply my over 20 years of corporate experience in Leadership, Coaching, Human Resources, Talent Management, Change Management and Organization Development and my over 40 years of curiosity, passion for justice and peace and insatiable desire for more humanity to each and every person that I work with and encounter every day.  It's not my job, it's my calling.

How did Courage to Lead equip and empower you to do your work in ways different from other leadership development/training experiences you’ve had?

I've always been determined to not be the "cobbler's daughter," running around with no shoes on.  So, I practice what I preach and I take self-care and self-development very seriously.  I have numerous professional certifications and training experiences, but none as impactful as the experiences I've had with Courage to Lead.  I work with systems and groups for a living with the hope that we'll increase the safety, respect and impact that individuals feel and that those will lead to ripples throughout their lives and organization.  

Imagine my relief and total joy as I walked into a year-long, quarterly-retreat that did just that so perfectly and with such gentleness!!  Courage to Lead knocked my socks off.  

As an individual, I did what we all should be doing continually - cleared out the cobwebs of junk I've been holding onto, worked to dig deeper into my own true self, listened and learned from others and got steps closer to my true calling and biggest impact on this world.  The warmth, knowledge and maturity of Caren and Sarah, our guides throughout the year, was so impressive.  Although they made it look easy, because of my profession I know how much work they put into the themes, supporting activities/resources and most of all, the safe space they created for each of us to move at our own pace, on our own path.  As Parker Palmer says of Thomas Merton, I say of Caren and Sarah.  "I owe a debt of deep (my) friend, fellow traveler and messenger of hope."

Anything else you’d like to share.

Do your good work.  Don't ignore your own needs.  Quiet your mind, listen to your heart and guidance (wherever yours comes from) and be committed.  Committed to bettering yourself so you can love your family and friends deeper.  Committed to working through experiences and thoughts so that you can engrain them into who you are, forever changing your habits and the path you walk - even just a little bit.  This is one of the most impactful, economical and life-impacting opportunities I've even been given.  I will be forever grateful for my time spent in Courage to Lead and can't wait for more!

See More from Sarah Hescheles