Born in Cleveland, Ohio, where the rivers burned and the city almost killed Lake Erie, but living in the country, it was perhaps inevitable that I would become protective of nature. I also early-on discovered a love for teaching and writing, as well as collaboration.
After graduating from Duke University, I moved to Ecotopia (the Pacific Northwest) where caring about the environment was not considered odd. While I worked for a couple extractive industries, I wormed my way into the emerging Training and Development field. Our department was spun off and suddenly I found myself an external consultant leading a team of people with whom I experimented with empowering leadership practices.
It was when we started to work with a Detroit Cadillac plant that I discovered that my leadership style was not just a personal preference; it was a decidedly better way to manage. I and my dedicated team transformed their workplace from a disgruntled and scary place into a model of self-direction, helping them to win the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award.
Tiring of working for someone else, Marsha Willard and I started AXIS Performance Advisors, and quickly became known as the self-directed work team ladies. We offered training, consulting and an annual conference. We also started publishing books on related topics.
In the mid-1990’s I got the ‘sustainability bug,’ bad. Suddenly I had found my calling, using my organizational, training and writing skills to show organizations how to protect nature and improve their business at the same time. We believed if we could show the business case, the normal economic incentives would align. So again, we spoke, taught and wrote about how to make this organizational change.
And they did. Thanks to the work of many of our colleagues, we could show that businesses that had best practices regarding environmental-social-governance (ESG) outperformed their peers in traditional financial metrics. By 2013, sustainability was a household term and we had trained thousands of people to use our implementation practices.
So it was time to move on. Marsha was teaching almost full time at sustainable MBA programs at both Bainbridge Graduate Institute and Presidio. My husband was retiring. So we donated our S-CORE sustainability assessment to the International Society of Sustainability Professionals, an organization we co-founded) and put our little company to rest.
Now I believe the leverage is in education. If we can get kids to understand sustainability concepts and practices, they will make better decisions and hopefully lead us toward a sustainable society. When I moved to Sedona, Arizona, I started the Sustainability Alliance of Northern Arizona, a sustainability management association dedicated to managing regional sustainability progress. I’m also involved with several Education for Sustainability efforts.