work journal

Leading a strategy workshop? Make sure you "take the dog out."

April 15, 2023

Heads down. The sound of furious writing, sharpies on sticky notes. Eight minutes left of a three-hour strategy workshop with the Big Sky Resort marketing team. We’re in the heat of developing “How Might We’s” when my puppy, Lulu, starts whining. I apologize and leave to take her out.

I don’t usually bring Lulu into workshops, I swear. But this time, the team convinced me to (dog lovers, the lot of them), and it’s a good thing they did.

Lulu the dog steps out of a strategy workshop at Big Sky Resort for a breath of fresh air. Photo by Emily Stifler Wolfe

Five minutes later when I return, they’d turned their assumptions about what marketing is “supposed to be” upside down and are ready to use their voices and storytelling to advocate for systemic change, lift up others, and fight for this place they love.


Or rather, leadership: Big Sky senior brand manager Casey Parks, the woman who designed this workshop with me, had stepped in with her beautiful combination of care, confidence and conviction.

Now, I “take the dog out” at almost every workshop. You need a moment to breathe. It lets you process the massive amount of ground you cover in these sessions, and then find the hidden connections and golden threads to bring it all together.

As Macala Rose said when I shared this story on LinkedIn: "That's the art of facilitation, building in the pauses, the moments to take a breath, when ideas are flowing out, and people are challenging their beliefs."

There's this, from another commenter: "My takeaway from this post is that Lulu deserves a raise."

Touché. A round of dog treats for all.

I'm stoked to see how far the Big Sky team has already taken the strategy we built together this winter, both in their storytelling and advocacy. More to come.

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