Over 2 months ago I started a journey to transform my leadership abilities.

I want to take a moment to thank everyone who helped make this possible for me. Over 20 community members donated to help me be able to afford this valuable training. THANK YOU!

I enrolled in the 9-week Leadership training course, Climbing the Leadership Ladder. 

My vision is to grow a healthier community by empowering and engaging people to use their experience, passion, skills, and knowledge to shape our community.


But how do I EMPOWER people? How do I meaningfully ENGAGE people?

I understood these words theoretically but I was stuck when it came to actual practice.

This leadership training helped me find the tools I need and, even more importantly, helped me learn to BE the leader I want to be.

Here is a little peak into my leadership journey:

And thank you to The Garden Project for providing the additional funding for this training.

I am grateful to work for an organization that values professional development as a way to support staff in their personal growth and to stay current and effective in our work for the community.

In my role as the Ohana Kuleana Garden Manager and as The Garden Project expands to serve more community gardens across La Plata County, I sought out this leadership training in order to make an impact.

I aim to be a leader who brings out the best in everyone, leads by example, listens, focuses on solutions and opportunities, models vulnerability and encourages it, and challenges and supports people to grow.

Meet my Leadership Coaches!  
 DrBarbphoto.jpg  Suzypharephoto.jpg
Dr. Barb, DurangoLearns CEO Suzy Phare, RealIdeal Coaching

The learning process with Dr. Barb and Suzy was a dynamic exploration in which I felt I had something to offer. These two guided me to find the answers within myself while adding on their extensive knowledge and experience. A model I plan to emulate.

What I learned can be boiled down to some simple phrases that I heard a lot from my coaches. (Some of these phrases may sound like cliches but the work I did gave me an understanding of what is behind so I was able to  incorporate them into who I am.)

Note: This is a very simplified summary. I would love to talk more in depth with you about what I learned! Also, I have included lists of TOOLS and RESOURCES that were part of my training.


I don't have to have all the answers.

There is no "perfect" way.

What people say is about them, what you hear is about you.


These basic understandings allowed me to:

Move away from acting out of fear. 

Approach situations with "detached involvement".

Work with a long-term perspective.


So now I:

Listen to understand.

Lead with values.

Help people find their own answers.

Embrace mistakes and failure as essential to the process/growth.

See opportunities instead of challenges.

See conflict as an opportunity to learn more about what is important.


Where it begins... 


My vision collage,
part of the work 
I did to better understand
my values, goals, patterns, and blocks.

(Energy, Values, Emotions, and Blocks)

Everything I learned was based in the context of having SELF-AWARENESS and AWARENESS OF OTHERS.

When I am tuned into my own Energy, Values, Emotions, and Blocks I can focus on the situation at hand, seeing it for what it is without unknowingly bringing in fears and distractions. 

One of my earliest "Aha" moments came when learning about Energetic Leadership and the 7 energetic levels that identify how people think and act.


This helped me to tune into where people are, why they are feeling and acting that way and how to listen and respond.

Empathizing was a skill I was already good at but often when I could tell someone was unhappy or uncomfortable I would feel like I needed to fix the issue and go straight into problem solving mode. But what I realized was sometimes that is not what people need, instead they need to be listened to and supported so they can find their own answer.


These are my notes to help me remember the
core thought > feeling > action/result > and how to respond

Now I listen and ask questions while I...

acknowledge what the person is feeling.

validate that their feelings are normal (this doesn't mean agreeing that it is the only way they could feel or that their behavior was the best or acceptable way to act).

remind that they always have a choice.

identify jumps to conclusions or other assumptions, interpretations, and limiting belief ("blocks").

explore the big picture of why they are interested in this in the first place, what originally called them.

ask them to think from the other persons perspective.

try understand their needs and what would make the situation a "win" for them.

(and yes, I do this for myself too!)

Wow that was just the very beginning of what I learned!

Here are a few more resources that I found helpful:

Emotional Intelligence:
TEDxNatick "How We've Been Misled by 'Emotional Intelligence'" Kris Girrell

Growth Mindset:
"The Power of Belief" Eduardo Briceno

Team Building:
12 Core Elements of Engagement

During this training I read:

Energy Leadership: Transforming Your Workplace and Your Life from the Core by Bruce Schnieder
(Suzy is certified as an Energy Leadership Index™ Master Practitioner)

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carneige

(and got a ton of great book recommendations to continue my learning!)

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time by Susan Scott

 Hope this small taste of all the information and resources I am chewing over and integrating is helpful to you!
(And if you want to learn more you can always sign up to take a class with Dr. Barb and Suzy! They have a new leadership course starting this November)

If there is anything here you want me to elaborate on please let me know! I would love to talk with you. 
Also, I would love to hear your biggest insights and what books, tedtalks, etc you find helpful! 

 You can reach me at mia@thegardenprojectswcolorado.org.

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  • Mia Carrasco-Songer
    commented 2016-10-13 10:38:41 -0600
    Thanks Bliss! I think that is a great idea for some more conversation and opportunity to support one another.
  • Bliss Bruen
    commented 2016-10-13 10:25:20 -0600
    Great sharing of your experience. I like the idea of an evening or a lunch or some informal event (when election dust has settled) where community members get to chat with you – in La Plata County’s ecosystem of SO many non-profit ventures there could be much give and “takeaways” including your invitation for others to recommend their favorite sources of inspiration.
  • Mia Carrasco-Songer
    published this page in Ohana Kuleana Blog 2016-09-29 18:37:14 -0600