All posts by stinabrown

Stina Brown is an accomplished meeting designer, trainer, facilitator, visual practitioner and consultant. She has an extensive background in visual and creative theory and design, strategic planning, visioning, skills training and group, team and organizational development.


Coordinated Groups of Collaborators 

Organizations are systems. Visionary leaders are systems thinkers.

It takes more than one organized, conscious leader (CEO, ED, Board Chair, Founder) to lead an organization well. Yes – it helps, but healthy visionary organizations require coordinated groups of collaborators.  

In these “unprecedented times” leaders need strategic foresight with their team of senior leaders to see above the noise of every day and share responsibility. An aligned team of organizational leaders with a coordinated approach provides systemic flexibility (aka organizational resilience).

Real-time adaptations are necessary as we navigate massive
systemic changes and uncertainties – the organizational systems to operationalize and implement what you are planning needs to either be in place or be developed.

High Organizational Leadership (HOL) means you have developed a team of leaders who see the full picture of the organization and lead with a coordinated approach. Cultural realities, strategic goals, and long-term vision (how you want to shape the world) are intentionally set, nurtured and ultimately determine how (well) the organization functions. This team (or teams) of leaders gain energy and encouragement from each other, from their successes and what they are learning along the way, even through challenges.
They can be their best, at work.

Visioning and goal setting in this environment is exciting! Through open and honest conversation, risk-taking and imagining what’s possible – they organize in a visionary way – leading from the opportunities that are alive and coming into focus. You have the capacity to see what’s ahead and adapt along the way, with generosity for your people. People feel secure and equipped to also bring their best. There’s energy in the system for creativity, planning, adaptation and even celebration.

These organizations nurture and inspire.

Aboriginal Headstart Elders Gathering

Aboriginal Headstart BC Elders Gathering

Low Organizational Leadership (LOL) means you lack a coordinated approach and systems. You may have strong individuals, but they aren’t functioning as a collective. Singular leaders navigate the weight of their responsibilities isolated, operating in siloes. Trust is inconsistent and resources are not shared optimally.

You may have good intentions, serious work ethic, powerful initiatives or ideas, but they are all inconsistent, or never become fully actualized, or backfire. “Retreats” or group meetings become unsafe or precarious spaces with hit and miss outcomes.

Your people are frustrated at dynamics and inefficiencies (they can see them) but feel they don’t have the power to make change. They sometimes try to make change – or they hunker down and do their best, without being able to be their best. This is demotivating, discouraging, or even demoralizing for them. Some become cynical or overwhelmed. Some leave. This disorganization within the system becomes organizational dysfunctions and disabilities. At the very least it taxes your people with added levels of stress, uncertainty, insecurity, health issues and problems relating to their everyday work life. Nobody wants that.

If there’s no coordinated strategic team (teams) or management systems to update or oversee cultural realities, long-term vision and strategic goals, how can you successfully plan for the future? How could you operationalize goals or actions – even if you had good ideas? You need to invest in the organization’s health.

Most organizations are somewhere between these extremes.
Initiating a strategic visioning or planning process can be liberating and exciting or demanding and disorienting for organizations along this spectrum.

Supporting organizations to move from Low Organizational Leadership (LOL) to High Organizational Leadership (HOL) is what Stina calls organizational state-shifting.

Fireside evening circle

With HOL clients, Stina and her Trusted Collaborators can dive right into scoping and designing sessions that focus on the meta conversations, invoke imagination, deepen relationships, and challenge the team to reach for ambitious new vision and inspiring outcomes. This is an active collaboration. You have a coordinated approach coming out of the session – meaning you have what you need to make your vision a reality: the organizational systems to operationalize and implement what you are planning.

With LOL clients, we slow the process down and engage sensitively from the beginning, scoping out what the steps could look like to move the organization toward higher trust and organizational coordination. We investigate with you what the organization’s current reality is: culture, gaps and changes, strengths, opportunities, structures, etc.. We support senior leaders to be their best, build trust, become more fully in their role – able to show up and lead in a way that enables more high functioning relationships, power dynamics and communication with the rest of the organization.

Contact Stina for more information or to explore what possibilities exist in your organization.

Setting the Tone: Team Culture in Virtual Meetings

I think it’s fair to say that months ago, or even weeks ago, none of us thought we’d “be here”… Sometimes change happens incrementally over time or with specific intention. Sometimes it happens all at once. Change that is thrust upon us can create panic. Change we initiate can be deeply positive and renewing. The sudden season we are living through has inherent anxiety, “social distance”, and for all of us – a huge interruption of “normal” patterns, resources and comforts.

Now that many of us are working at home with kids out of school and an active global pandemic disrupting our lives in unprecedented ways, we are in a moment that requires vigilance, attention and much more energy in almost every aspect of daily life. In our work – industriousness, flexibility and care will be required on levels we never imagined… how do we navigate it all?

I agree with NICK MARTIN in his article Against Productivity in a Pandemic (March 17th, 2020) that this is a time to sustain, to find ease where we can – not to push ourselves to be massively productive.

With that in mind, we are in the beginning of the ultimate systems disruption/ transformation of our lifetime. When our patterns are interrupted, we pay attention differently. We have a chance to see with new eyes, hear with new ears and act in new ways. We are in a unique window of time in which we can set a new “tone” of what “normal” will look like over the coming weeks or months. How do we base our new normal on what we value?

As my friend Vanessa LeBordais wondered on the phone yesterday: “How do we stay human together?” What does that look like for you, your team, your organization? What does “in-person” mean now that it’s a collection of Brady Bunch videos on a screen with you doing your best to focus and “work together”, at home?

Internally facilitated meetings have certain “norms” – a certain kind of culture depending on how things “normally go”. Externally facilitated meetings are an interruption to the usual day to day work habits that inevitably set in around the office. Special meetings take place off-site – an invitation to arrive somewhere else, to be present and participate in meaningful conversations, build trust and make decisions with folks in new ways. You get to know each other outside our sometimes cruise-control familiar reality.

This is a prolonged kind of interruption – the move to all-virtual meetings.

Below are some lessons to support you as you “set the new tone” with your team – drawing on the best of in-person meetings I lead, and translating them into markers for how leaders and participants on Zoom calls can create healthy culture together.

  1. Form new “keystone habits” with your team that put human connection at the start of your meeting so you can know how your people are doing. Help them “arrive”. What is top of mind for them beyond the topics you’re meeting to discuss? This doesn’t have to be a group therapy session – simply a touch-base check in. You could share first to model what you’re inviting in – just a few sentences about reality – whatever you feel willing to share based on the level of trust on your team.
  2. Prioritize wellbeing on your team. Invite team members to share what’s helping them get through this time – walks or activities outside, mindfulness, meditative or breathing practices, calls/FaceTime with friends and family, helping neighbours etc. We all need help remembering creative ways to be well when we are told to “stay home”. This could be a good way to close a meeting on an uplifting note.
  3. Be clear about the purpose and outcome(s) of your meeting. Being on camera is exhausting in a unique way for many of us (myself included), even if it’s with your co-workers – and having your cameras pointing (now) inside people’s homes creates a new lack of boundaries in real-time. Be clear about what you’re meeting to do, what outcomes will result and stick to the time you set. Ensure you (all) have a clear sense of action items and responsibilities coming out of the meeting.
  4. Pay very special (new) attention to participation and privilege. Some folks are talkers – some are listeners. Some of us have power/privilege that will show up on Zoom in new ways. We all need to attend in a new way. If you are the one leading the meeting – track carefully how much time participants are using and the energy of the group. Invite your team to be extra aware of their impact on each other in this newly vulnerable space. We are all in added levels of exposure and stress right now and we all need care and compassion. We don’t know what our co-workers and families are dealing with outside “the office” that’s now in their living room, bedroom, kitchen etc. Err on the side of respect, humility and kindness.
  5. Have a conversation with your team about what they value in the time you spend together. How each of them perceive meeting time being well-spent is valuable information. We have ALL heard folks say “we have too many meetings”. If you can have fewer meetings – have fewer meetings!
  6. Include others in leadership – don’t try to do it all on your own. When you as a leader need to participate differently in the conversation, delegate or hire an outside facilitator (Ahem). Give yourself the chance to be a part of the conversation, rather than always leading. Taking turns facilitating gives your team a chance to “step up” and gain valuable new skills.
  7. Make the meeting visual in new and exciting ways. If hiring an external facilitator, you also have the option to hire a digital graphic recorder as well – screens can be shared and the meeting can take on an added creative dimension. Your team comes away with a dynamic beautiful artifact to anchor memory and actions and catch up team members who may have missed the meeting.

I’m including graphics (below) from my favourite digital recording collaborators. Each of these women are highly skilled, reliable professionals, who will add significant value in real-time and after your meeting ends.

Corrina Keeling is unparalleled in her online experience and artistry, providing sensitivity and highly tuned listening and documentation.

Yolanda Liman brings a world of experience, depth and skill as well – and is available for dynamic facilitation services in addition to digital graphic recording.

Avril Orloff and I have been collaborating and teaching together for years – she got me started 12 years ago! She is among the best graphic recorders in the world (IMHO) and is also a high octane creative design partner, co-facilitator and facilitator in her own right.

Check them out when you’re thinking about your next meeting!

Hang in there, everyone. We are all in this together!! If you’d like to have a conversation with Stina about what an external facilitator can do for you and your team in this new reality, she can be contacted by emailing Stina at stinabrown dot com. Stay home and well.

What does it mean to be a human being, now?

This question has been on my mind almost constantly, for years now… But until recently, it’s been my inner occupation – rather than a central business offering.
That’s changing now.

The most inspiring and important projects I’ve been involved with over the last decade here in Vancouver have a few things in common:
* Amazing people are involved: they are all-in (present and committed), intelligent, aware/awake to the real-life problems we are facing as a planet and people, and they are purposefully working toward being a part of the solution, almost regardless of the costs.

* Nature is a participant in the power of the learning these groups/individuals experience. Michael Jones goes into exquisite detail on what I mean here in his book “The Soul of Place”. Whether we know it or not, we are inter-related to “where” we are. We have a place, a role and a relationship with where and how we live – and our environment has a huge effect on us. There is an “inner” experience involved here and an “outer” experience as well. We need to build skills in more than one dimension.

* Scientific reasons to be moving with some urgency towards local and global systemic solutions: This is not the time (in history) for an “ordinary” job (IMHO). It’s time to step up – or as I’m thinking of it these days – “Align” ourselves to the deeper reasons we are here – or risk being a by-stander as future generations inherit impossible odds.

What are you here to be a part of?


Stina Brown is not an “ordinary” designer/facilitator.
Stina is a fine artist, writer and group experience designer.

She is brought in when there is a need for high level transformation: to build and experience new trust and clarity in a system, on a team, or with a group of individuals. Stina works independently and on teams to collaboratively design a process with decision-makers that will provide a group with time outside of normal circumstances, the chance to connect with themselves, their team, their purpose and environment – often in Nature. This creates a unique opportunity to change reality by increasing one’s own awareness, intentions and goals, learn new skills, and/or explore and set exciting new directions or shared future aspirations.

She works with clients in Vancouver, BC, Canada and internationally.

Stina has been designing and leading custom meetings and retreats since 2010. As an Artist, Stina offers highly engaging and often visual environments and processes, drawing out the potential of groups. Her specific client focus is to support leaders and organizations that recognize the need to be socially and environmentally conscious citizens. Her passion is to create the conditions for people to deepen their self-knowledge, access their own in-sight and lead in a new way.

To see some of Stina’s clients visit:

Stina Offers:
* Custom Retreat Design and Facilitation/Mediation
* Artist in Residence, Graphic Recording and In-Studio Graphic Charts
* Teaching and Coaching