Held at The Whidbey Institute
Whidbey Island, Washington

Whether you’re a leader, coach or consultant, or simply wishing to navigate your organizations and communities with more wisdom, if you would like a close community and expert guidance, we invite you to join David Whyte, Craig Fleck, Gayle Karen Young Whyte and Maryliz Smith for three, three-day sessions, beginning November 2019 and concluding May, 2020, at the beautiful Whidbey Institute.

Our work is to build presence, instinct and artistry, in order to shape a self or an organization equal to the extraordinary nature of the world.

You will be part of a small community working collaboratively and intensively to apply the Seven Steps of Conversational Leadership within the personal and professional contexts of your lives. We will support your discernment around what critical, necessary leadership conversations you’re being asked to engage, amidst changing environments.

Participants are led and supported to engage their own unique artistry. Come as you are and immerse yourself in the profound experience that makes Conversational Leadership stand apart from other programs, with an exceptional community of faculty and participants, poetry, music, and connection with the natural world.

The cohort of fascinating, open-hearted people was the perfect soil in which to challenge many of my leadership behaviors that had become obsolete. Being invited into a space to discover and explore the seven principles of Conversational Leadership has led me to a sense of liberation and courage.
— Sue Fort White, Executive Director, OUR KIDS

DAVID WHYTE has written extensively on courageous conversations as a way of more fully engaging with our work, our relationship partners and our deepest desires. A poet, author, lecturer and Associate Fellow at Said Business School, University of Oxford, he has developed a body of work on creativity and organizational development. His pioneering work in the area of courageous conversations has brought him into some of the top organizations and executive education programs in the world.

MARYLIZ SMITH has been bringing her unique style of music and insight into the world for many years. When she brings her signature of music into the domain of organizations, she asks age-old questions of identity in work, relationships, and self. She is an independent coach, international performance artist, composer and community leader. Her presentations take many different forms, from keynote talks at conferences to residential retreats. She forms longstanding relationships with individuals and communities.

CRAIG FLECK has been a consultant to business, education, healthcare and non-profits for over twenty years. His work has held common threads of developing leaders, cultivating organizational learning and implementing generative changes across diverse sets of stakeholders. His experience with this broad base of clients has heightened his respect for leaders confronted by today’s pressures and deepened his commitment to the power of courageous conversations to steward more vital organizations.

GAYLE KAREN YOUNG has focused throughout her career on being a catalyst for human and organizational development. She has a rich organizational consulting background with both corporate and nonprofit clients, and was in the process of becoming a monk when she became an executive instead. She joyously took on the role of Chief Culture and Talent Officer at the Wikimedia Foundation until early 2015, when she decided to return to private practice. Born in the Philippines to Chinese parents and raised in the United States, she carries a multicultural perspective, an adventurous spirit, and a deep commitment to expanding human freedom.

Nov 3 - 6, 2019
Feb 23 - 26, 2020
May 17 - 20, 2020

Each session begins at 5pm on Sunday and ends at 1pm on Wednesday.

$8500. Includes meals from Sunday dinner through Wednesday lunch. Does not include accommodations.

Thomas Crocker
360 221 1324

Please inquire regarding cost for nonprofit organizations.

Accommodations need to be booked separately.


Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way to begin
the conversation.

Start with your own
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something

To hear
another’s voice,
your own voice,
wait until
that voice

becomes a
private ear
that can
really listen
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

  • David Whyte

Then I asked: Does a firm persuasion that a thing is so, make it so? He replied: All poets believe that it does, and in ages of imagination this firm persuasion removed mountains.
— William Blake