My wife is a biochemist by training, and she was the one who came up with the name “Catalyst” for my fledgling consulting practice in 2006.  A catalyst is a substance that accelerates a reaction without itself being changed by the reaction.  I thought that was a perfect metaphor for the work we do– encouraging change in others.

As we end 2012, I’m realizing that the metaphor is incomplete.

Indeed we catalyze change, so that part of the metaphor works well enough.  However, I myself am often transformed by my interactions with you– my clients and colleagues.

Here are three lessons I learned from you in 2012:

Transformational work is spiritual work. Transformational work that ignores this fact will have a short shelf life.  Leaders are often encouraged to focus on modifying behaviors in order to get better results.  We build incentives (and disincentives) to help reinforce desired behaviors.  But this approach only lasts as long as we can maintain the incentive system.  Once we no longer have the energy (or desire) to maintain it, old habits reappear and hard-won ground is lost.  Sustainable transformations require shifts on the inside, because what’s inside us finds a way out.  For many personal changes, healing and growth are the only way forward.  Many of you have pursued true transformation this year, and you and your organizations are reaping the benefits.

A victim mentality provides fertile soil for self-deception. For some reason, I personally experienced more relational conflict in 3 months during the Fall of 2012 than I had in the previous 3 years combined.  In several of these conflicts, it was easy for me to feel victimized.  When I slipped into this role, it was easy for me to overlook or ignore my part in creating or perpetuating the conflict.  I’ve had numerous clients experience the same dynamic this year.  The best way out of this trap is to acknowledge our own mistakes and courageously pursue reconciliation.

Building teams is hard work. This summer Christin Nevins joined the Catalyst OC team.  I’m thrilled to have her on board, as she brings experiences, perspectives, and personality traits that are highly beneficial to our clients.  Although I often lead ad hoc teams of consultants, this is the first time I’ve had a direct report in years.  Christin challenges the status quo I’ve created, forces me to clarify how and why we do things, and demands meaningful work and growth opportunities.  All this requires my time and energy, and it uses muscles that have atrophied a bit.  But, as you know, it’s worth it.  You have encouraged and inspired me, by passionately leading others through adversity in pursuit of your own visions.

I’m grateful for you, Catalyst OC’s clients, colleagues, and friends.  You continually challenge me to improve my craft and do my best.  I consider this work a sacred calling, and I’m honored that you not only allow yourselves to be transformed through our work, but that you transform me, too.



  1. Chip, this is the first e-mail I opened in 2013. What a great message to start a new year with–inspirational!
    Happy New Year!

    • QED :)

      • Right on with those keen comments and astute observations as always! Congratulations for recently doubling the Catalyst workforce and best wishes in 2013, both personally and professionally.

        Glad to call you friend,


    • Right on with the the keen comments and astute observations as usual! Kudos for doubling the Catalyst workforce and best wishes toward your best year ever, both personally and professionally!

      Glad to call you friend,


  2. Happy New Year, Chip!

    I agree with Linda. Also, your message and honest expressions surface many questions for me as well as remind me to slow down and appreciate my family, friends, clients and colleagues as you. Have another great year, Chip!

    • Thanks for your partnership in 2012, Bud. I look forward to continued collaboration and friendship in 2013.

  3. Happy New Year Chip!

  4. “Pastor Chip”, you and your wife are doing a great work. Many people/leaders, can definitely benefit from this valuable information. Thanks for sharing. Be blessed!

  5. So well stated, Chip! Looking forward to learning more from you in 2013!


  6. Obviously I’m a little late in starting my Jan 1st email perusal – but it’s nice to get a shot in the arm from your note. Your thoughts on catalysts encourages us to be one and also to seek our own. Examing what I want to accomplish and where my catalysts will come from is important food for thought. Cheers to the new year!

    • Patti, I like the notion of deliberately considering who our own catalysts are. I reckon often “stumble into” them, serendipitously.

  7. Thanks again, Chip, for your words of wisdom and inspiration. Your words regarding “transformation” & “victim mentality” are so true. This helps me stay in line with my goal and focus for today and this year. More people need this in the workplace.

    • Justin, you are wise to have “focus for today” and longer-term goals. Often I prioritize one at the expense of the other.

  8. Chip, Thanks for the message. I wish you and Christin a fantastic 2013!

  9. Chip,
    Good words from some good maturity sorts of lessons.

    • Thanks, Randy. Maturity lessons are bittersweet, but, quoting Big Head Todd and the Monsters, “more sweet than bitter.”

  10. Thank you Chip! A wonderful message that inspires me. Congratulations on building your team in 2012. Looking forward to learning more from you both in 2013!

    Fran Klene

  11. Kevin D. Russell


    Amen! I was just reading this morning in Matthew 23 where Jesus speaks this very truth of internal transforation versus external. Thanks for grounding this Biblical Truth in todays marketplace.

    Building & cultivating teams (share many parallels with discipleship) IS hard, in-the-foxhole work. Work that only bears fruit when hearts are of one accord (Philipians 2:2). Congratulations on your teams growth! I remember discussing the possibilities over coffee one day & I am glad to see you prayerfully proceeded.

    Well done man.

    • Thanks for being a fellow sojourner, Kevin. Your work in the foxholes is bearing fruit for your team and your clients. I also appreciate you helping me remember when the vision was just creeping into the edges of my consciousness; it’s good to reminisce about the journey.

  12. Thank you Chip! This is excellent. Your words are right on and I’m glad to know I wasn’t the only one having some personal transformations late in the year. Looking forward to more in 2013.

    • Thanks for your encouragement, Sherri.

      It seems to be a trend. I had a meeting today with a gentleman who said he had been experiencing some character-building relationships over the past few months, too. Maybe something in the water?

  13. Thanks Chip – Nice perspectives and reminders as we start the new year. Thanks for the difference you continue to make for others!

  14. Chip, I also read your message on January 1st and was touched and inspired. Part of the way in which “Transformational work is spiritual work” is that we cannot continue to use a “work” facade – we have to share who we really are to lead transformation.

    Your message is a perfect example of the vulnerability that builds trust, loyalty and the ability to say “I’ll follow that person” because I KNOW them. I’d love to share it with clients.

    Thanks again for sharing, and have a wonderful new year.

  15. Chip

    Thanks for including me on your distribution list. I love the idea of making your work spiritual. It is tough to be different but you inspired me,
    Happy New Year