• COMPASS

Gratitude And Reflections From 30,000 Feet


Through the whirr of the propeller, I have a gorgeous view of the California coastline. I can make out details of the land and seascapes below—Manzanita-covered mountainsides and purple-hued kelp beds as well as snow-covered peaks hundreds of miles in the distance. I’m on my way home from our annual COMPASS staff retreat in Santa Barbara. Our retreat is a chance to dig into the finer details of the landscape of our work, like sharing the innovations we’ve tried in our communications trainings this past year or the nitty gritty of how we allocate our time among different facets of our work. The retreat is also a time to look further afield at the broader landscape, capitalizing on the presence of our board. From this 30,000-foot view, the mountains that stand before us in the coming year are around long-term sustainability and growth—how to more effectively share our impact and diversify our funding portfolio.


Our retreat is also the single opportunity for our fabulous team to come together each year. As a distributed organization with 12 staff spread across six different locations around the country, we relish this in-person time. And this year’s gathering felt particularly important. Our team has worked hard this past year—sometimes too hard. This fall, in particular, stretched us to the max—a combination of trainings, briefings, and scientific conferences, overlaid with an unanticipated media outreach effort was at times more than our staff bandwidth could handle. But we managed to get through it unscathed, at least for the longer-term, and each of the pieces was wildly successful. It’s been a learning experience, a chance to reevaluate bandwidth, capacity, and energy management. Given that the opportunities in science communications are seemingly endless, our perpetual challenge is to assess the ‘juice for squeeze’ tradeoffs, tighten our filters, and look for opportunities to say no to get to yes.


The retreat was also well timed given COMPASS’ continuing expansion beyond oceans. Our growth over the past year—with forays into topical landscapes such as climate adaptation, large-scale ecosystem restoration, and incorporating ecosystem services into federal decision-making—has not come without some turbulence and occasional moments of panic. But each of those challenges is also a learning opportunity, and a chance to flight-test COMPASS’ tactics and strategies in novel environments. As Thanksgiving approaches, I am incredibly grateful to be part of this inspired and inspiring team whose dedication and creativity perpetually blow my mind. I’m grateful for the hundreds of amazing scientists I’ve had the chance to work with and the even larger network of scientists, journalists, and policymakers that COMPASS has engaged over the years. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have a job that allows me to look across sweeping vistas and explore how might science and scientists transform dialogues that matter regarding the vexing social and environmental challenges we face. But I’m also grateful that it’s a job that allows me to have my feet planted firmly on the ground—in the Manzanita, so to speak, or in my case, the Douglas Firs—with the daily operations of helping to run a boutique non-profit. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.



The COMPASS team perched high above the Santa Barbara coastline after hiking up McMenemy Trail. Clockwise from top left: Heather Reiff, Erica Goldman, Meghan Miner, Kenny Maher, Karen McLeod, Liz Neeley, Brooke Smith, Heather Galindo, Chad English, Nancy Baron, and Erin Moomey. This post was transferred from its original location at www.compassonline.org to www.COMPASSscicomm.org, August 2017.

#KarenMcLeod #coaching #motivation #staff

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