Category Archives: Organizational Development

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.

ITL Year in Review – 2021

As we close out 2021, we have much to celebrate in the Institute for Transformational Leadership (ITL). Looking back on the year, we are grateful for our community of transformational leaders: students, graduates, faculty, and staff working to create a more sustainable and compassionate future during these challenging times. 

We have done a lot in ITL this year.  We are so pleased to share these highlights:

ODCCL – The Organization Development Consulting & Change Leadership (ODCCL) program has a new name and has been redesigned to meet the moment – where concepts of work and workplace are being reimagined, where diversity, equity & inclusion and OD have become inextricably intertwined, and where OD learning and practice can be maximized via multiple modalities.

Health & Wellness Coaching – The Health & Wellness Coaching program continues to train pioneers in this emerging field – now accredited by both the International Coach Federation (ICF) & the National Board of Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC). We are also launching an important partnership with the Georgetown University School of Medicine using health & wellness coaching to empower unhoused populations in DC to make progress towards better health. 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) – The ITL DEI program completed cohorts 12 & 13 in 2021. We piloted new content on polarities as a way of offering students another lens through which to view DEI work. This highly sought-after program teaches the leadership skills and insights needed to support a strategic, sustainable approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion management while utilizing knowledge of oneself as an agent of change in the workplace. 

Facilitation – Our Facilitation program is leading us into the complexity and opportunity of facilitating in the hybrid workspace in addition to creatively designing for and facilitating human connection both in person and virtually. 

Leadership coaching – In 2021, we trained 5 cohorts of Leadership Coaches while launching a redesigned curriculum that prepares coaches to support and develop leaders to lead in the complexity of today’s world.  This year we partnered  with multiple organizations as a key part of a strategy to create a culture of coaching from government agencies to nonprofits and foundations.  

Professional Training Programs – We launched six new workshops in 2021:  Culturally Competent CommunicationBody Intelligence in LeadershipFrom CDO to COO: The Business of DEIEntrepreneurial Leadership CapacityCourageous Leadership in Action: No One Said It Would Be EasyBuilding Inclusive Workplaces through the Lens of Women’s Leadership

Faculty Training – We partnered with Georgetown’s Elizabeth Stanley, PhD, author of Widen the Window, to learn about how trauma might show up in our classrooms and how to teach and facilitate in a trauma-sensitive way.

Events- We celebrated the graduation of 760 students representing 31 cohorts across our five certificate programs, and the ITL Network convened our graduate community in a dynamic and moving virtual conference in November.

Partnerships & Training – We showcased our expertise in Leadership, Coaching, DEI and Organization Development through partnerships with the Department of Veterans Affairs Whole Health, AARP Purpose Prize, Georgetown University School of Medicine, USAID, the U.S. Air Force, and the National Forum for Black Public Administrators. 

As 2021 comes to an end, we wish you much love and peace!

Creating Equitable Organizations

This post was shared by Bill Pullen, MCC, Academic Director in Georgetown’s Institute for Transformational Leadership (ITL), based on his interview with Minal Bopaiah on the ITL Podcast.

Minal Bopaiah is a graduate of ITL’s Executive Certificate in Organization Development Consulting & Change Leadership program.  Her recent book Equity has inspired us to think differently about how to create inclusive organizations.

Minal’s parents immigrated to the United States in 1976 as medical doctors who had residencies in Brooklyn, New York. After years of living in Brooklyn, they moved out to Staten Island and started their practice. They lived the American Dream – work hard and success will come. But Minal Bopaiah, author of Equity: How to Design Organizations Where Everyone Thrives, knows that hard work isn’t all to her parents, her, or anyone else’s success story. System support is also necessary for anyone’s success. System support can come in the form of organizational policies and procedures, the ability to pursue higher education, access to healthcare, and more. Seeing how systems create or inhibit equity is vital to leaders who want to create organizations where everyone thrives. The belief that rugged individualism or that success is garnered to people merely because they worked hard to get it is fundamentally false.

Understanding the difference between equity and equality is essential to creating systems where everyone can thrive. While equality is when everyone receives the same things regardless of differences, equity is when people get what they need according to their difference so they may participate fully and can succeed. In short, equity embraces differences while equality doesn’t. Neither are bad and determining whether equity or equality is the proper course of action in the attempt to provide an environment of opportunities comes with understanding how those differences impact the ability for individual and systematic opportunity and success.

Systems are currently built and designed to work in the favor of those who have the most power. Learning to see systems can be difficult and requires looking at oneself and looking outward to understand how the self and systems interact. Think of yourself through your various identities – your race, culture, gender identity, etc. How cognizant are you of those aspects of your identity as you go about your day?

People are often much more cognizant of the aspects of their identity that are marginalized or oppressed, rather than those that systems center and therefore support. Which aspects of your identity tend to be privileged? For which ones are there consistent barriers which you must navigate?

Taking time to understand how systems have created privilege and marginalization in a leader’s own story is an important first step for any leader who wants to create organizations where everyone can thrive. Doing so helps leaders to develop “system sight” – the ability to see systems and the leader’s impact on people.

Engaged leaders should measure the success of their organization and the systems they are building not by their ability to provide infinite growth, but rather by the impact their companies are having on their employees and society. How can the power that is associated with leadership be utilized to provide equitable opportunities for all? Ask yourself, what are the outcomes that you want to see when designing systems changes? What are the observable behaviors that help produce that outcome? Are the systems rewarding that behavior and holding people accountable who actively try to derail it?

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion requires constant iteration and feedback. Engaged leaders must work with people to understand what is beneficial and what is not and adjust according to that feedback. Without this engagement, or a keen and developed system sight, diversity, equity, is ultimately unreachable.


Listen to Minal and Bill’s full conversation on the ITL Podcast: Creating Equitable Organizations.