Forget Independence!

I broke my foot when I was hiking recently. My foot is in a walking boot, which is better than a cast because I can remove it when I want. However, the doctor said that if I want my foot to heal, I have to stay off it. Thus, I cannot do myriad activities that I used to take for granted – mowing the lawn and other house maintenance chores, walking (which I really enjoy), etc. To keep from putting weight on my foot, I use a knee scooter, which is MUCH better than crutches! But it has zero sideways mobility, which is really frustrating the kitchen, because I can’t just turn around and get something.

Net/net: I now have to ASK people to do things for me, which I never had to do before. And I am grateful for handicapped parking spaces and elevators, which I never used to use.

How does this relate to leadership? Like most other executives, I still have the underlying mantra of self-sufficiency: “I can do it myself”. My ability to do things independently has been a source of pride. I am now learning a lesson in INTERdependence. A truly effective leader is willing to let, or even ask, others to do things for them.

There are 3 stages of social maturity:

· Dependence (when we’re children)

· Independence (as we move through our teen years into adulthood), and

· Interdependence (when we finally realize that we can’t do it alone).

An Ubuntu saying summarizes interdependence quite nicely: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” John Donne echoed that thought 400 years ago: “No man is an island…” The attitude of interdependence fundamentally contradicts our culture – and most of our ideas about leadership. It is diametrically opposed to “management” – in which the boss tells the subordinate what to do and how to do it. Interdependence fosters effective teamwork, and it supported by facilitative leadership.

One other thought, this time about the old maxim: “Tis better to give than receive”. If we only give, or tell, and we don’t allow others to give to us, we’re depriving them of the ability to use their gifts, to make their contributions, to feel really good about who they are. In this way, the practice of being in control is actually selfish. It lets us feel good and powerful and productive at the expense of others.

What do you think? Does this sound reasonable? Or do you disagree? I’d truly enjoy hearing your thoughts and experiences.

Gary Langenwalter

Rabid Fans or Civilized?

I was in Santa Clara last weekend during the Pac-12 football playoffs between Oregon and Arizona. My flight from PDX to San Jose Thursday evening had so many Duck fans that we could have turned off the engines, stuck our Duck-feathered arms out the windows, and flapped. That evening at the hotel, a couple Oregon fans and a couple Arizona fans were checking in; the fans were civil to each other, exchanging pleasantries.

Saturday morning breakfast at the hotel revealed Duck fans (still wearing green and gold) and the Arizona fans (wearing their school symbol), chatting as we all got our food. No gloating, no recriminations, no hard feelings. Fans who had spent hundreds (thousands?) of dollars to see a game understood that it is just a game, and that life will go on.

The spirit of civilization trumped blind partisanship. That’s a good thing, because it is the basis on which we can move forward.

I saw the same phenomenon when we lived in Stow, Massachusetts, which was governed by Town Meeting (true democracy in action – only the Town Meeting had the authority to make important decisions, including budgets). At the close of the meetings, I watched to men who had been vociferously opposed on several issues walk out arm in arm, chuckling, and head to the nearest pub to celebrate another “fun” town meeting. All rancor had disappeared.

Where have you experienced this phenomenon? Could this be replicated at work? At home? In other organizations that you serve?

Gary Langenwalter


Responding to Ferguson

How will your organization respond to Ferguson?

That depends on the vision and mission of your organization. If your organization exists merely to make profits for the shareholders, Ferguson might be at most a speed bump in your drive to achieve your goal.

If, however, your organization has the goal of creating a better, healthier society while making profits, Ferguson can be an opportunity to create dialogue, asking how people of different backgrounds and cultures can form relationships based on mutual respect and trust. In the final analysis, most humans are inherently similar – we want to be treated with love and respect, we want the opportunity to do something worthwhile, and we want our children and their children to have rich, full lives. You can use these universal goals as the foundation for creating meaningful dialogue, inviting people to work together to achieve them.

If you do this, your organization can be a source of healing, of hope, in an increasingly divisive and divided society. Doing this will directly impact all your people, both white and non-white. Your efforts will also inevitably reach beyond your organization. They will also impact your customers, your suppliers, and the communities within which you operate. You will be taking one seemingly small step toward healing the chasm between whites and minorities. But even though your efforts might seem insignificant, they will be joined by countless other acts of kindness that will indeed create the world we wish to see. As Mother Teresa reminds us, “We cannot do great things, only small things with great love.”

Gary Langenwalter


Last weekend my wife Janet and I visited many studios in the Art Harvest Studio Tour of Yamhill County. We spent Saturday in McMinnville, and Sunday in the Sheridan area. At each location, we were able to engage the artist(s) in dialogue. We learned a little of their history; we learned a little about their house or studio (some of which date to the early 1900s). We sampled the munchies they provided, from crackers and cheese to chocolate chip cookies to home-smoked ribs.

What differentiated this experience from a typical art show is that we were participating in building community. As these artists share their stories, there is connection, one human to another. Not a blinding flash or loud cymbals – just two people connecting. It is simple, quiet, effortless, even unobtrusive. Sort of like breathing. And in its effortlessness, its unobtrusiveness, it is profound, even sacred. Can something so quiet, so easy, so natural, be the glue that holds society together? I think the answer is “yes”. It is the sharing, one on one, that creates connection, that is the foundation of community. Community is neither you nor me. It is “us” – the connection. That easy, profound, natural connection.

And yes, this applies directly to the world of commerce as well. People appreciate being treated as persons of worth, rather than a means to a transaction. In commerce, just like the rest of our lives, people want to be connected, to be in community.

I’d appreciate feedback. You can post it here, or e-mail me at

Gary Langenwalter

Community Benefit Consulting

· Do you want to improve your communication?

· Are you challenged by conflict?

· Want to grow your leadership to the next level?

· Is your organization effectively aligned (do your people support your vision/mission/values)?

· Want to engage your employees more fully?

Portland Consulting Group donates 40 hours of consulting to one organization every quarter to help make our community stronger. There are no restrictions on the type of organization – it can be for-profit, not-for-profit, government, etc. By helping the recipient organization, we intend to help its various communities to thrive.

Applications for Q4 are due by September 26. We will select the project that will provide the greatest good. We will decide by October 10 and notify each applicant shortly thereafter.

To apply, send an e-mail to gary, answering the following questions:

· Name, address, and website of organization

· Information (name, title, e-mail and phone) of contact person

· Organization’s vision, mission, and/or purpose

· Organization’s products and/or services

· Number (FTE) of:

o Employees

o Volunteers (if any)

· Consulting effort:

· Background – how and why you are where you are, and what you have tried thus far

· Objective of PCG project

o What will success look like?

· Support you will provide

· Benefits of the successful project for:

o Organization

o Employees

o Suppliers

o Customers

o Community

· Desired time frame

Questions? Please call Gary Langenwalter, 971-221-8155, or e-mail gary

Sustainability is Alive & Well in Portland!

Sustainability is Alive & Well in Portland!

Gary Langenwalter and I discovered a new sustainability group last week. It’s entitled the Greater Portland Sustainability Education Network (GPSEN). We attended a Networking Social at Oregon Public House, the nation’s first non-profit pub on March 20, 2014. Don’t you just love Portland! Gary and I met with Dr. Kim Smith, a PCC professor of Sociology, who’s the organizer/coordinator of GPSEN just prior to the event to better understand more about the group and find potential synergy between Portland Consulting Group and GPSEN.

What’s very exciting about GPSEN is that the United Nations University Institute for Advanced Studies of Sustainability has acknowledged greater Portland as a Regional Center of Expertise (RCE) on education for sustainable development (ESD). GPSEN joins a coalition of 127 RCEs around the world, striving to address sustainable development goals set by the U.N. as well as sustainability goals in our regions and organizations. There are only two other RCE’s in the United States!

GPSEN is a growing cross-sector network of regional educators, students, non-profits, political and industry leaders, and community members collaborating to promote the advancement of sustainability education throughout the Portland Metro region, including Washington, Clackamas and Multnomah Counties in Oregon and Clark County in Washington.

GPSEN’s mission is to increase the region’s collective impact by developing collaborative partnerships, supporting outreach, and offering formal and informal educational and research opportunities and programs that leverage our collective talents and resources to help us all achieve our sustainability education objectives.

We invite you to explore how GPSEN can help you create a more sustainable, just, and healthy greater Portland region. Their next event is….

GPSEN’s Launch Celebration

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

5:30 pm – 8:30 pm

World Forestry Center, Miller Hall

Share in our grand celebration party, with music, speakers, lovely food, international guests, and opportunities for partners to share their successes. With UNEP’s blessing, we are thrilled to have the celebration coincide with World Environment Day.

To learn more about Greater Portland Sustainability Education Network please click on…


By Greg Sievers, Portland Consulting Group 3/24/14