All posts by Lynn Screen

The Inner Work of Sustainability

This post is based on an interview with Russ Watts, PCC, NBC-HWC – lead faculty in the Institute for Transformational Leadership program Sustainability – People, Planet, Prosperity, Purpose

What is sustainability and why is it important? 

It’s the question of our times; For leaders, facilitators, coaches, managers; it seems like we’re all wondering how we can take part in this movement, a movement awareness.  It’s about maintaining a system without further degradation to achieve a net zero. Just the word sustain is to keep this system going. A lot of us in our business systems and economic systems, even our personal systems, are trying to keep or lightly improve what we already have.  What are the systems each of us are a part of?  Internal systems, (for me as a father, husband, person in the world) as well as external systems (the people and social systems, business systems that I am a part of, and this very complex global system).  From the micro of self and all the way out to the biggest macro of this very beautiful complex planet spinning around the sun, we as individuals have the power to make and shift our efforts towards sustainability and regeneration, which is at the center of sustainability, where we use our intelligences and add the elements of listening intently and respectfully so that we can stitch together the broken strands that connect us all, people, animals, nature, culture, commerce and even religions.

What are the Inner Development Goals? 

I didn’t learn about the inner development goals until I became curious about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the United Nations (UN) created to help us as human beings be better caretakers of our social system, each other, ourselves, and our planet.  About a year ago, I learned about the Inner Development Goals (IDGs) which are framed in five different goals:  1) being and self; 2) thinking -how I think and how that process is either helpful & generative or hurtful; 3) relating, caring for others and how I can individually work with and care for individuals – humans, animals and nature around me; 4) collaborating in the complex social systems – our work environment and in our social networks that we’re in; 5) acting – being a change agent in the world and radiating the awareness that we have and then driving change in our in our world.

How does inner work impact the external environment?

I know that I’m limited in being able to help create any sort of healthy growth or healing without cultivating an inner understanding or a deepening of the frameworks I use to interact with the complex system of me, the social systems of me, and the environment. 

I’ll use the analogy of eating. As a health and wellness coach, I often see that when we eat certain things, we have a certain set of outputs.  If I look at all the ways that I eat and I act in the world from different perspectives, I see that certain things that I eat cause me to be energized or tired or have longer energy capsules like proteins.

For me, doing the inner work allows us to have a micro view of each of our actions, to have an inner compass, and apply it to the world around us.  For example, when I am authentic with a particular process and use that excitement, energy, talent, or skill in an area of the world, I can have a greater effect. Without judgment, just being able to say that I do better work over here, I might be able to activate more inside me and outside me.  If I do a lot of that inner work, I’m able to be more effective where I work, how I work, and with the talents, skills, and abilities that I work with.

What are the business benefits?

The word business brings up the idea of profit and loss, and I’m not sure that that’s a framework that’s going to work in its old form into the future. The economic systems that we’ve used in the past are based on growth and they have not taken into account externalities and a lot of those externalities are coming around to bite us. Climate change and how we extracted the things that we’ve needed to have this growth have been one sided. I believe that businesses, in order to stay competitive in the world, need to have a mindset that’s much more complex and that looks at the human systems. I see a lot of businesses right now looking at creating a chief happiness officer in the C suite, a really important role that didn’t exist 25 years ago, as the human complexity of happiness is linked directly to the supply that these humans give to the complex system of business.  Instead of just being paid to do a job, it’s about the flow, the excitement, the agility that this human system has inside the production of a widget or a thought idea out into the world in a competitive way.

As we look at competition globally, I believe that businesses need to more completely or aptly look at environmental use and abuse, as they can either bring about the degeneration of the world or its regeneration. Consumers are shifting and are looking at the systems as much more interconnected. I look at a product that needs to come from Chile in my European or American winter. I would think, wow, can I just do without? Or is the abuse and use that I have on the environment worth it? Generally, I don’t feel like I’m actually abusing, but I feel like I’m taking things from the environment to have a taste, or to have something. My consciousness has been opened up enough to say I don’t want to contribute to the edge- the weight that I am putting on the already taxed system.  

I would like to be somebody who lightens the load, so I’m looking to companies that are doing the work with me, and we’re looking at working for companies that are doing that work. Those businesses are getting better workers and better customers and they have a real edge. They are creating a more sustainable system internally and that is reflecting externally. Businesses that step up for the values that are seen as helpful for people, society, the environment, and our future, not just the bottom line this year, but multiple years and multiple decades moving forward, are the businesses that I believe are going to succeed.

How can we help others be adept in this space?

First, I feel we need to build trust and trust comes first inside ourselves. To be able to inspire and engage others in the process, it’s going to take courage, optimism, and agency. I’m really energized because I’m in a growth state where the ideas that I have are constantly being challenged in a really positive way to be able to act because my old frames are being dismantled to some degree.

The new structures and new views that we are developing currently are giving us possibilities. If we take sustainable actions or regenerative actions moving forward, we have a chance of creating a new set of systems and environments that can go beyond sustaining what we have. It can actually go towards creating a positive healthy environment. We need to challenge what we eat, how we grow, how we ship, and share ideas and items both individually and collectively.

It’s both the inner growth and the inner learning and the influence in larger systems to radiate out into the people who we manage, direct, and those who look up to us for answers.  We have a responsibility to do something. I believe that we all can take that step forward and grow intellectually, emotionally, and I’ll even be radical and say spiritually, feeling that connection to more than just us.  This will help us do the change that’s necessary to help us survive this next growth, this next challenge that’s in front of humanity.

To learn more about how to explore the intersection of inner work and sustainability, sign up for our fall section of Sustainability – People, Planet, Prosperity, Purpose in the Institute for Transformational Leadership

Creating a More Sustainable Future

This post was shared by Lynn Screen, Managing Director in Georgetown’s Institute for Transformational Leadership.

Since its founding in 2012, the mission of the Institute for Transformational Leadership (ITL) has challenged us to “create a more sustainable & compassionate future”.  This mission speaks to our higher purpose and responsibility to prepare leaders who can address the issues that will lead to greater peace, environmental and economical sustainability, and a future in which human beings relate to one another with a caring approach consistent with Georgetown’s Jesuit values. During our 10th anniversary year, we are engaging our ITL community to explore the sustainability aspect of our mission.  

My first stop was to sit down with ITL Founder, Kate Ebner, one of the visionary leaders who saw the critical need for an institute that develops leaders from the inside out. Kate challenges us to reframe our individual relationship with the earth.  Instead of thinking about sustainability as things that we need to give up, “become caretakers of resources – stewards of the paces we love”.  For me, it’s Burke Lake in Burke, Virginia and Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.  Since our conversation, I have found several opportunities to both contribute financially and through service to preserve these places that mean so much to me.

Georgetown University’s Jesuit Value “Care for Our Common Home” invites us to enter into a new and different “dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.”  In addition to protecting the Earth through conservation and preservation efforts, there is also a moral imperative at play.   We recognize the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color, so we are called to advance the work of environmental justice.

Kate Ebner calls on us to create a shared global vision of the future.  “Not one generation can solve this problem; it will take all generations and their unique abilities and understanding to work together. ”

As an Institute, we are committed to teaching the skills needed to see the interconnectedness of systems and to prepare people for the challenging conversations ahead.  During this year of reflection and action around sustainability, we are exploring what sustainability means in the fields of DEI, Coaching (both Leadership and Health & Wellness), Facilitation, and Organizational Development. What does sustainability look like in each of our programs? How can we do better individually and as an Institute?

In the coming months, you can expect a variety of reflections, challenges, and programming as we work to more fully live into our mission to create a more sustainable and compassionate future.  

What does sustainability mean to you individually and with respect to your chosen field?  How might you do better?


Download the ITL podcast with sustainability expert Jim Massey who inspires us to unleash the potential of people and the planet.  We explore the intersection of personal transformation, leading sustainability efforts in organizations, and some surprising ways to set off on your own sustainable journey. 

Finding the Power of Your Energy Body

This post was shared by Ana Polanco – faculty of the Executive Certificate in Organization Development Consulting & Change Leadership in the Institute for Transformational Leadership. It was originally posted on LinkedIn on 2/3/22. 

You are more than a mind and a physical body, you are also made of energy that is ready to be activated.

Each layer of energy that makes up your body is important to activating a deeper version of your true self. The energy body stores your most important relationships and histories. In this body, we can see whether you are connected or disconnected from your purpose.

How you interact with the world on any given day is only a fraction of the expression of your energy. Each layer of your energy body has a particular vibration and role that occupies its own size, shape, and vibration to make up your being. As we do the work to disentangle ourselves from the external and material world, care for our being must take precedence over doing.

When you’re initiating into your purpose, your dreams, and your desires, a major part of this work is about expanding energetically. Taking up more space with your energy begins by locating and frequently activating the parts of yourself that are silent and subtle.

What parts of you have you ignored or pushed away in order to please the outside world? 

This is the time to really get quiet and still to listen to those parts, to give them more of a front seat in your navigation system. Bringing awareness to your innermost parts through somatic practices requires repetition, consistently centering the sensations of your body for a cumulative effect. The more often you connect to your energetic body, the easier it becomes to access these parts that want to help you become even more embodied.

Many people get caught up when accessing these innermost feelings around not being what we imagine ourselves to be in the current moment. There is often a gap in our minds between where we are currently, and where we think or have been told we should be. Energy work allows us to begin accepting where we are at this time so we can begin calling back the version of ourselves we aspire to be.

Your energy is larger than all the collective things you have or do, so it has the capacity to bring you back into a right relationship with yourself and the world around you as well.

Binary thinking about how we access new information about ourselves in the “modern” world would have us think less of the intuitive ways our body signals to us. Yet when we look at civilizations of the past, we see their energy practices woven into the fabric of their culture.

Ancient Egyptians practiced Sekhem, similar to Reiki but using a different frequency. Qi Gong is a practice used by Buddhists to align breath, movement, and awareness. Indigenous cultures of the Americas often used temazcal (sweat lodges) as tools to access energy and histories of our collective and individual bodies. These are just some examples of ancestral practices that use somatic techniques as a means of connecting to and amplifying our internal energy fields.

Returning to the ancestral wisdom around us and within us is where we will find deeper layers of strength to change ourselves.

Moving into the body’s energy fields isn’t a microwaveable strategy.

Working with your energy is about making space for new habits to form. As you begin to do energy work, you will feel more like yourself and also less interested in the distractions the world presents. When the energy work builds we can leverage the mind to make conscious choices to engage our life’s work, and then allow the body and its energy fields to take the lead.

Learning to hear ourselves and center our intuition opens our own doors of acceptance. In our path of accessing purpose, inner acceptance is invaluable in letting the societal baggage fall away.

When you feel your body intuitively light up – when you smell a particular scent that activates a memory, when you feel deja vu, when you see some kind of visual pattern – don’t ignore those sensations. Those moments are the activation of your energetic body, calling you with information to offer you guidance. Creating space for yourself to listen and answer its call will open your world to the possibility residing within your own being.


Ana Polanco teaches in Georgetown University’s Institute for Transformational Leadership (ITL). In ITL’s Organization Development Consulting and Change Leadership (ODCCL) program, we explore how to support change efforts, as organizational leaders and as an external consultants. If you would like to be part of a community of professionals committed to helping organizations and people thrive, consider joining our next cohort.  Applications are due FEBRUARY 15th.

Mobilizing Energy for Change by Connecting the Dots

This post was shared by Robert Devlin – faculty of the Executive Certificate in Organization Development Consulting & Change Leadership in the Institute for Transformational Leadership.

“We’ve invested untold hours and big budgets to address what we heard in our employee survey and people are still saying that nothing ever changes around here.”

Sound familiar?  Sometimes even when leaders take action to make things better, their efforts go unnoticed, or the impact is not what they hoped for. From a workforce point of view, the story is: ‘nothing ever changes … tomorrow will be harder than today … it’s wearing me out … maybe I’ll go somewhere else …’ and so the cycle continues.

To avoid this scenario and build some good will with your most precious resource – your workforce — consider the following principles when planning change:

  1. Involve People in Planning for Changes That Affect Them. If you start by engaging those most likely to be impacted, you’re more likely to be addressing things they care about, and when change is made, they’ll see how it relates to their concerns.  You can involve people at the start, or you can spend lots of time grappling with cynicism and resistance! Involving them up front gets better ideas, builds buy in, and eases the way during implementation.
  1. Create a Shared Picture. Change efforts often stall or stumble when they move into action without helping people connect the dots between their concerns and the actions being taken. We each see things from our own viewpoints depending on our role, where we sit, the groups we belong to, and the day-to-day challenges we face.  Surfacing a wide range of perspectives in ways that allow people to see the interconnections, agreements and divergence gets us to a shared picture – not who’s right, but a nuanced version of what’s going on and where we fit.  This lays a firm foundation for change efforts that stick.  
  1. Build Common Ground and Foster Collective Action . Based on your shared picture, identify priorities that address critical concerns so you can move out together – at the top with enterprise policy and action and at various levels to the front line, factory floor or research bench. Understanding the big picture, including the nuances of different perspectives, allows everyone to do their part in moving big systems, acting locally in ways that make sense while simultaneously holding a more global mindset.

Bob Devlin teaches in Georgetown University’s Institute for Transformational Leadership (ITL). In ITL’s Organization Development Consulting and Change Leadership (ODCCL) program, we explore how to support change efforts, as organizational leaders and as an external consultants. If you would like to be part of a community of professionals committed to helping organizations and people thrive, consider joining our next cohort.  Applications are due FEBRUARY 15th.

Finding a Third Way: Polarities in Organization Development

This post was shared by Brian Emerson, PhD- faculty of the Executive Certificate in Organization Development Consulting & Change Leadership in the Institute for Transformational Leadership.  

Change leaders and consultants are often approached to help organizations shift “from” one state “to” another. Framing change initiatives in this way can be a setup for failure.

  • We want to go from centralized to decentralized.
  • We need to move from being so structured to being more creative and innovative.
  • We want our teams to shift from a local perspective to thinking globally.

Approaching these situations with an either/or mindset leads to the dreaded “pendulum swing” which wastes resources, dampens morale, and forecasts doom for a change effort. For this reason, one of the most valuable skills change leaders and consultants can bring to organizations in the 21st Century is the ability to help systems make sense of their reality with a both/and perspective.

What is a Polarity?  (Video length: 4:47)

One way to do this is to use polarities as a frame when leading change efforts. Polarities help  practitioners and leaders design change initiatives that bring about a new state without losing the benefits of the current state — and that can be the difference between success and failure.

Learning to use polarities helps consultants and internal leaders look at problems differently, ask different questions, hold different conversations, and, ultimately, help organizations create more sustainable realities:

  • How do we get the benefits of being decentralized without losing the efficiency and clarity associated with being centralized?
  • How can we be more creative and innovative without losing the good things about our structured culture?
  • How can our teams adopt a global mindset without losing the benefits of thinking locally?

The Georgetown Organization Development Consulting & Change Leadership (ODCCL) program is one of, if not the only, change leadership program in the country that incorporates navigating polarities as a key thread and learning objective. The concept is woven throughout the program to ground participants in how polarities show up in all levels of systems (starting with the self) and at each phase of the change process. This focus helps students become change agents who ask the questions that lead to sustainable, meaningful, and successful change. If you would like to learn more, join us. Application deadline February 15th.