Co-Creating a Canada by Design – Canadian Values Conversations, Vancouver

On May 1st, 2018, 50 people gathered at Christ Church Cathedral in the heart of Vancouver, BC, to be part of a conversation about what matters most to them.

The Vancouver event was part of a national initiative: the Canadian Values Conversations, which aims to “create a national awareness and an understanding about values to foster a sense of shared purpose that spur change in neighbourhoods, communities, cities and regions across Canada toward a future that we want for us and for our children and grandchildren.”

canadian values conversations

CVC-Vancouver facilitators prepare for a dynamic evening of conversation and dialogue on what matters most to Canadians

Beneath the beautiful cedar beams of one of Vancouver’s oldest surviving buildings, participants were invited to take their place in a large circle for a few moments of silent reflection. After introductions from the core organizing team, including an introduction to the space and overview of intention and process, the larger group dispersed to the 10 values stations that had been set up around the cathedral.

Each value station corresponded to one of the 10 Future Values as chosen by Canadians in the national survey. At each station an experienced facilitator guided lively and interesting conversations about values ranging from affordable housing to future generations.

The breadth and depth of input from participants was astounding, and the feedback received at the end of the evening suggested these types of discussion are much needed in today’s Canada.


“I was moved as we talked about what our personal values mean to us, especially as we don’t do it very often. To this day I still believe it’s one of the fastest ways to connect with another person. The evening was a powerful and intriguing mix of Canadians’ unique perspectives and also what we have in common.” ~ Danae Johnson, Co-Host of the CVC, Vancouver event

“This evening felt like the beginning of a conversation that would ripple out from this incredible space. As we sat in a closing circle people suggested that the evening provided an opening for conversations that would continue in dining rooms, restaurants and coffee shops. We hope the insights, care and compassion continue to ripple!” ~ Charles Holmes, Co-Host of the CVC, Vancouver event

Feedback from participants after the event:

“It highlighted for me the importance of such dialogue in the various circles we each move in. When done in a safe space, like that one was, it can really help us understand other people’s perspectives and how much they care about the same things even if they show it differently.”

“Congratulations on a most excellent event! I think we need to do more of this. Our democracy could use this kind of medicine.”

“I want to acknowledge the work you put into this and the passion you demonstrated. It was wonderful being a part of the conversation and meeting some great people.”

Stay tuned for more updates on the National Values Survey and outcomes! This conversation is just starting to blossom!

What Do You Value Most? The Vancouver Values Café & the Canadian Values Conversations Initiative

As Canadians, we pride ourselves on being “unique.” But what does that really mean?

In a rapidly shifting global context what values do we want to be reflected in the future of Canada? How much do we differ or align in what we want for Canada across gender, generations, regions, ethnicities?

vancouver values café

These are the kinds of questions currently being asked by the Canadian Values Conversations initiative.

The initiative hopes to create a national awareness and an understanding about values to foster a sense of shared purpose that will spur change in neighbourhoods, communities, cities and regions across Canada toward a future that we want for ourselves and for our children and grandchildren. This year is the first of what we hope will be a national Canadian habit every couple of years to revisit our hopes and to track our progress! We want to foster citizen engagement toward a future by design!

2 key ways for citizens to be involved:

Do both or do one – either way, get involved! At the end of the online survey you’ll be able to see how your values compare to those of your fellow Canadian citizens.

Vancouver Values Café: An Opportunity for You to Shape Canada’s Future!

This will be an interactive space for you to share thoughts about your values and the values you would like to see shaping the future of your community and country. Values will be chosen based on responses from the Canadian Values Conversations survey.

As a member of the Canadian Values Alliance I’m excited to be co-organizing this event with my colleague Charles Holmes.

canadian values conversations

Everyone is welcome to attend this evening of sharing, learning and great conversation – we hope to engage a diverse group of participants in these conversations. The event is free.

Sign up now to participate and ensure your voice is heard!

We look forward to seeing you on May 1st!

World Values Day

Today is World Values Day and all of us at Thinking Partners are taking the Values Challenge! Join us in choosing a value, acting on it and sharing it…

Read more at World Values Day


Value: Wellbeing
Action: When busyness builds up, I’m reminded that health can’t be taken for granted. Rather than just keep ploughing through, I’m remembering to step back and listen to what my body needs. A walk in the trees, eat my veggies, dinner and laughing with my friends… when the going gets tough, I need to take care of myself first.



Value: Health
Action: Aware of our mortality, I’m being mindful of life routines and eating habits to maintain good health, while supporting loved ones who are dealing with illness.



Value: Family
Action: Keeping my work schedule flexible so my children can have lunch at home twice a week this year + taking 1 full day each weekend as a fun family day (no emails, work calls, appointments).


What means the most to you today?



Celebrating our Thinking Partners: A Conversation with Shelly Berlin

This is the second installment in our “Celebrating our Thinking Partners” series to mark the 10-year anniversary of Thinking Partners. Following on our interview with Charles Holmes, in this piece, we are delighted to share our conversation with Shelly Berlin, senior management consultant, executive coach and managing partner of Berlineaton.

I met Shelly when I was first started out on my own after leaving my corporate role, feeling very ‘green’ in the big world of consulting and self-employment. Through working with Shelly, and the team at Berlineaton as an associate, I learned a lot about creating a thriving business with both heart and purpose. As someone who is such a successful entrepreneur, savvy business leader and who truly exemplifies integrity, Shelly has made a big impression on me over the years, which has encouraged me to raise my game and be more courageous in my work. I’m honoured to count her as a colleague and friend.

coach Shelly BerlinCan you share with us a little about: how you know Danae, how long you’ve known her, the context of your work together; and a little about yourself and the work you do.

I’ve known Danae for almost 10 years, and met her through another associate who introduced us. We were building our coaching practice at the time and we invited Danae to join us as an associate. She has been an associate of ours since that time, and although we don’t do a huge amount of work together, we very much value her presence on our team.

Our mission: Berlineaton provides management consulting services to visionary leaders in the public and private sectors, helping them build stronger futures for their organizations.

coaching services VancouverDescribe the impact of working with Danae and Thinking Partners?

Increased our depth. Danae is a great coach, and watching her in action has been transformational for me. It has made me appreciate the value of coaching, the unique talents good coaches like Danae possess, and this has helped me become a better coach.

What are you most proud of (in your career)? What gives you the greatest sense of satisfaction? What do you love most about what you do?

Successfully running a business for 20 years. My satisfaction comes from seeing our clients succeed not just at a corporate level, but more than that – at an individual level. Seeing our clients have breakthroughs because of our work, coaching and influence.

organizational development Vancouver

What is the most significant change or shift that’s happened to you over the past 10 years?

Figuring out how to raise a family and build a business.

10 years from now, what do you think will be the change/shift?

Doing less, influencing more.

Who’s inspired you the most?

My mom and dad. They had very clear goals for our family. They were both from small communities and large families and they knew that educating their kids was a way to providing us with more opportunities than they had. They were unwavering in their commitment to this and made lots of sacrifices on our behalf.

What 3 leadership characteristics do you most admire?

  • Focus,
  • Judgement and Balance – in all aspects – for example, being goal oriented and people focused; being assertive and reflective; knowing when to act and when to pause; knowing when to lead and when to follow; knowing when to be decisive and when to collaborate.

What 3 values are most important to you and why?

  • Integrity – to me this helps everyone – it helps all of us do better and expect more of ourselves.
  • Gratitude – there is so much to be grateful for, and this is something I try to remember and express every day.
  • Abundance – I grew up with a sense of scarcity, and I’ve learned that when I come from a place of abundance this opens doors and builds relationships.

leadership development workshops Vancouver

What is the gift you still hold in exile?

Knowing I am a better person in all ways when I have less to do.

What gratitude do you hold that’s gone unexpressed?

A big thank you to my parents for the lessons they taught me and the sacrifices they’ve made. I’ve expressed it to them, but I don’t think they can ever fully comprehend how much of a difference it made in my life.

coaching questions

Pick one: rock, water or wood? And why?

Water – movement, creates energy, it has the ability to change direction and change things around it, it is necessary for life.


Danae Johnson & Thinking Partners

To read more about Shelly Berlin and the work she does, you can visit

We are continuing to celebrate our thinking partners in 2017. Stay tuned for our next inspiring conversation!

Celebrating Our Thinking Partners: A Conversation with Charles Holmes

Thinking Partners, a consulting company committed to improving business results and leadership capacity through coaching, strategic people practices and values-based cultural transformation, is celebrating its 10 year anniversary. To honour this important milestone we are launching a series of conversations with some of our own thinking partners – people we have been lucky enough to partner or collaborate with over the past 10 years. These people – and many more besides – have positively impacted the work we do and who we have become; we are thankful for the unique gifts they bring to the world and delighted to share part of their story with you.

Our first conversation is with Charles Holmes, a master convener, gifted facilitator, skilled educator and empathetic coach. Charles has been an extremely influential colleague and has become a dear friend over the past 10 years. We have partnered on a number of impactful projects, including a dynamic culture transformation project with Blueshore Financial and many others.

coach Charles Holmes

Who’s inspired you the most?

One of my greatest inspirations is Milton Wong who passed away 5 years ago [Dec 31 2011]. He was an incredible mentor. I remember the first time I met him – he saw me, it was at a conference, but it became more important for him to engage with me than to go back to the conference that he was even presenting at, I think. He was really masterful at listening deeply to discover and understand others. He was a consummate connector, and he knew so many people and was so committed to projects and causes that made a difference to the community, the environment.

Another person, Peter Block, who has been a teacher. Just his body of works, his books, have always been very influential and inspiring to me. Having the chance to work directly with Peter and see how he connects with people and helps connect people, in a room, is a learning experience.

[For both Milton and Peter] it’s about care and curiosity. They don’t come from a place of agenda and a plan or a need or anything other than to learn about you – what’s important to you and how they can help you.

Thinking Partners coaching

Is there any work in particular that has felt impactful, enjoyable to you, that has helped you grow in some way?

All of it – all of my work with Danae, and it’s about how we work together that has challenged me to be aware of how I show up and what I’m in service of when I’m with her. A more specific response would be the work we did with BlueShore Financial – we not only helped the client immensely we also co-created and learned how to use a body of work and set of tools in ways we hadn’t before.

Danae and I gave a keynote presentation [at the 2016 CTT International Conference] back in the fall with Marni from Blueshore [Marni Johnson, Senior Vice President, HR and Communications, BlueShore Financial]. Their head office is a few blocks from my house, so I see the impact inside the organization and the impact the organization is having on the community; I see how it is positively impacting the people within the organization.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Franck Cordier

What is the most significant change or shift that’s happened to you over the past 10 years?

I’m playing around with 4 seeds… the first one is that I’ve become much more centred which connects to the second seed, which is a greater capacity for patience and understanding, and the 3rd seed is connected to my capabilities and practices, which have given me a greater sense of competence and confidence in my ability to help people and organizations in their individual and collective change journeys [4th seed].

Do you feel that this has this been a gradual process or have there been any moments that have stood out for you in terms of change or moving towards a new level of understanding?

There have been some key or crystal moments but most of them have come through working closely with people that I care about that provide the opportunity for focused reflection and learning. And certainly in some ways my experience of working directly with the Dalai Lama 10 years ago started a trajectory that has been an evolution of deepening my own capacity for reflection. It’s interesting, I think I’m only realizing much later how profound and powerful [this meeting] was and is because it continues to have impacts and ripple effects years beyond.

lake view

And is it easy to take that quite personal work into your professional dealings or is that something you’re always working on?

I fundamentally believe that the work we need to do in the world, and working with organizations, is deeply personal. It goes back to the journey of the self in the context of the work in the world, and the more grounded, centred, developed, evolved, whatever language you use, you are, the more capable of being impactful in your work in the world you are. So there may not appear to be a direct connection – here are the teachings of the Dalai Lama so therefore let’s follow these teachings – it’s bigger teachings: here are the learnings, I apply them in practice and then I show up differently – in the way I engage with everyone, family, friends, clients.

10 years from now, what do you think will be the change/shift?

Connecting people will continue – connecting people both with themselves and with others. The last 10 years has probably been more about connecting people with others, I think the next 10 years will be more about connecting people to themselves, helping them discover and realize the potential and possibilities that live within each of us, and that we may not realize.

I believe firmly in the power of setting an intention versus creating a plan. Don’t get me wrong, plans are important when they’re very specific to the task, but in the context of my own personal growth and the growth of what I do, I have an intention, and that intention is to be in service of others in ways that help them realize and discover and share their unique gifts. And by holding that intention I’m often curious to discover and help others to discover what their unique gifts are, and then to link people who have gifts who can benefit others which ends up benefiting them and those that they’re connected with.

tree stumps

What are you most proud of (in your career), especially over the past 10 years?

The first thing that I’m most proud of is the development of my now late adolescent/adult children. My kids challenge me and ask me the tough questions about my own behaviours that others might not. They are my teachers through the questions they ask and the ways they will challenge me…

In the context of my work – I think I’m most proud of the hundreds if not thousands of connections between people who would quite likely have never otherwise met if I hadn’t connected them or created opportunities for people to connect across differences and boundaries.

coaching questionsPick one: rock, water or wood? And why?

Wood because it represents so many things, it represents growth, resiliency, beauty.

A grain of wood represents opportunity, you can make things, create things, shelter things, it represents home, tree, animals, insects.

And you do work with wood, you’re a woodworker, is that right?

Yes, I’m working on a carving project right now. I’m carving and shaping a very big slab of redwood that has more character in the form of different grains, embedded pieces of rock. I’m not sure what it will transform into yet, could be a table, a window sill or a sculpture, I don’t know yet…

Danae Johnson & Thinking Partners

To read more about Charles Holmes and the transformative work he does, you can visit his website.

 We will continue celebrating our thinking partners in 2017. Stay tuned for our next inspiring conversation!

The Future Is Coaching: The 2016 ICF Vancouver PRISM Awards

On October 20th I attended the International Coach Federation (ICF), Vancouver Chapter’s 2016 PRISM Awards Gala, at the beautiful Pan Pacific Hotel’s Crystal Ballroom in Vancouver – with more than 180 business leaders including coaches and clients gathered to celebrate the impact of coaching. I felt a bit guilty as I haven’t made it to many ICF events this year, but couldn’t miss this one!! And what an evening it was – so many powerful stories on the impact coaching has had on more and more progressive organizations and leaders.

Big congratulations to all the winners and nominees, including:

  • Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation – recipient of the 2016 PRISM Award
  • BC Hydro – Honourable Mention PRISM Award (an ICF first for this award)
  • Tana Heminsley – 2016 ICF Vancouver Coach Impact Award Winner
  • 6 new CoachingWise recipients: Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation, BCAA, Macdonald Realty, Providence Health Care, Telus and Vancouver Coastal Health

I feel honoured to have worked with leaders at BC Hydro since 2011 and witnessed their growth in the area of coaching and the immense impact it’s had.

“Coaching programs at BC Hydro were first initiated in 2005 and have been incorporated in various leadership programs. In 2012 an internal coaching program was piloted with 14 coaches which includes two full days of in-house training with strong focus on practice & feedback. This program is supported by 4 ICF certified mentor coaches. In 2016, BC Hydro now has 65 internal coaches and 165 participants receiving coaching through the program.”

Truly amazing evening that sparkled from start to finish! Congratulations to all the nominees, winners and countless others championing coaching!

*Photo credit: Belle Kang

What Do You Value?

October 20th, 2016 is World Values Day! When we have a deep understanding and awareness of our core values we are better equipped to live our lives in the fullest, happiest and most meaningful way, both at work and overall.

Here at Thinking Partners, we are honoured to support World Values Day and recognize the enduring importance of values in our own lives and the communities we live in and serve!

Will you join us in connecting to your values?

Here’s how you can participate in this transformative event:

  • Take the free World Values Day Personal Values Assessment – thanks to our colleagues at the Barrett Values Centre for making this available to everyone!
  • Be like the team at Thinking Partners and download the “I Value” template to express one of your core values.
  • Take a selfie/photo showing you and your value.
  • Share your selfie on social media and spread awareness of the importance of values. Use the hashtags: #WorldValuesDay and #CTTValues

Click here to read more about World Values Day and how you can get involved.

Look out for our upcoming post about the CTT Conference held in Toronto last month – it was a fantastic conference that brought together practitioners from all over the world around the shared theme of the importance of values-based culture transformation.


2016 CTT International Conference

If you are interested in learning about a culture change process that leads to enduring business performance and high levels of employee engagement, join us at the 2016 CTT International Conference, Sep 28-30 in Toronto.

With colleague Charles Holmes, executives from BlueShore Financial I’ll be co-presenting to examine conditions for readiness, how to engage an entire organization in profound and meaningful ways and how to instill a deep sense of progressive spirit over time.

The 2016 CTT International Conference will bring leaders and practitioners together to further the journey towards conscious evolution. It will cultivate authentic inquiry, curiosity, learning and growth by providing both inspiration and practical tools for application. The conference is an opportunity for leaders and change agents to collaborate and innovate, linking real world challenges to universal wisdom and emergent best practice.

Visit the Barrett Values Centre website for more information about the conference, and view the preliminary agenda and flyer!