Fine-Tuning in Texas: A Certified Master-in-Training's Journey Within

Fine-Tuning in Texas: A Certified Master-in-Training's Journey Within

Leadership Reflections

It was with great anticipation and a little trepidation that I arrived on a rainy evening in McKinney, Texas from my home in South Carolina. The purpose of my trek to the Lone Star State was to subject myself to the learned gaze of Certified Masters Tom Pearce and Renee Harness, my chosen Secondary and Outsight mentors for my Certified Master-in-Training journey. The anticipation I was feeling (along with a little perspiration) was from the fact that over the next two days I was to present The Leadership Challenge® Workshop to the learners they had gathered, while simultaneously being critiqued on my style of delivery and my understanding of the content. Yikes! I was quite confident in my ability to present the material as I had been taught by my mentor, Stephen Hoel, in Florida. But, this was different. This was Texas!

I had met Tom and Renee in years past at gatherings of The Leadership Challenge Community. I knew they were highly respected for their many years of experience as facilitators and coaches, and as mentors to others pursuing their Certified Master designation. I had also recently taken the LPI® Coach Program, which Renee facilitated. (I’d even driven her to the airport after the training to catch her flight home…for extra points?) There was no doubting their pedigrees and both had graciously responded to my request for additional mentoring. The doubt I was feeling was internal.

I was first put at ease by the beauty of the venue. The town of McKinney is gorgeous, like a movie set from the 50s with a town square, shops and restaurants, and smiling, friendly people. And the training space itself was in the former Town Hall, now an arts center, with tall ceilings and creaky wooden floors. It had character to spare.

Then it was time to get down to business and prep for co-facilitating the workshop with fellow Certified Master-in-Training Roxanne Kaufman-Elliot. Fortunately, Renee had shared the slides and videos we would be using a few weeks earlier , and I was amazed at the difference—in both content and order—from what I was familiar with. The walls were there, but the decorating was quite unique to me. For the dozen or so trainings I had conducted in the past, I‘d selected a video for each of The Five Practices modules from The Leadership Challenge resource library, and had used them religiously. And yet, in what Renee sent were a variety of non-traditional videos. Fresh videos! Could we do that? Yes, much to my delight I learned about the boy and the tree, Chad Pregracke and his movement to clean up rivers, and Tariku Benjamin Savage with his huge vision to bring clean water to Africa. My wheels began to turn. What other videos could I introduce into my workshops?

When we turned our attention to presenting and debriefing results from participants’ LPI®s, I was thankful for the knowledge I’d gained from Renee’s LPI Coach Program. I already had some new ideas, which was just as well, as that was my first task with my co-facilitator. And for this part of the two-day experience, it was the small things that made a difference both to me and the trainees. After reviewing LPI reports, each participant was encouraged to write The Five Practices, in order of observed rank, on their name card. This kept the Practices visible to all, making for more thoughtful table discussions on current challenges and on which Practices to hone. All attendees, me included, were encouraged to switch tables several times during the workshop, which led to the creation of new relationships and “shoulder partners,” and a sense of camaraderie that was infused throughout the group.

Key Learnings
In practical terms, there were many subtle variations in delivering The Leadership Challenge experience I really appreciated. The dance that Renee and Tom do so well created a safe space for attendees that became more and more evident with each activity. The encouragement for participants to “get your nose in the book” was very effective, with highlighters flying and favorite quotes proliferating around the room. There also were many memorable utterances:
  • This isn’t a workshop, it’s an operating system. 

  • Weigh in before buy in. 

  • We don’t leave organizations, we leave bosses. 

  • Employees are one of Three Ps: 
    • Pilots…excited to be in their role 
    • Passengers…happy to be along for the ride 
    • Prisoners…trading time for money 

  • As you Encourage the Heart, you are like a rheostat: you control brilliance 
And finally, on personal terms, it was a tremendously helpful experience. The feedback from both Tom and Renee was in-depth and thoughtful. They evaluated every word and movement. I was grateful for the Alpha (confident, good use of space) and even more so for the Delta (give your co-facilitator a chance; the score range is 6-60, not 0-60!).

Sponge-like, I absorbed a plethora of new ideas and new ways to facilitate the material. My anxiety abated, and I gave myself permission to play and enjoy the ride. The outcome was that my fine-tuning trip to Texas became a highlight of my Certified Master-in-Training journey, a road upon which I am truly grateful to have travelled.

Alan Lyme, LISW, a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge®, is Director of Training for the Phoenix Center, a nonprofit drug and alcohol prevention and treatment facility in Greenville, South Carolina. He also is a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers and can be reached at


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