Lounging in an infinity-edge pool, entranced by the sun, sea and sailboats, leadership consultants Raquel Romero and Mike Wood realized they had unintentionally sent themselves on their own personal and professional visioning retreat last summer in Antigua.
Much like the passing catamarans on the aquamarine eastern Caribbean, the couple, married eight years, acknowledged they were each cruising through life, often traveling around the United States separately, coaching others to excel in all areas of their lives.
Romero, a leadership development specialist with the National Park Service, had reached a point in her career where she had achieved her goals of creating a program for middle managers that could be applied to other organizations. Her work took her away from home at least three months out of the year. Wood, an environmental attorney, business consultant and founder of High Ridge Leadership, had just signed an agreement with the Forest Service to increase the number of workshops he offered, adding on 15 weeks of travel to an already hectic schedule.
“We just started talking about how much more work he was going to have and the fact that we don’t see each other much,” said Romero.
“We were also thinking about who we can bring on to hit the ground running, who would understand the [High Ridge Leadership] program and share a similar orientation to work and life that we have,” said Wood.
It was against a backdrop of shimmering white beaches, away from the conference rooms and the business suits, that they had their “A-ha moment.” The time had come to combine their strengths and work together as consultants.
“There’s no place like Antigua to clear your mind and allow you to envision what kind of life you want to lead, how you want to grow together as a couple and develop as individuals, and how you can provide something of real value that you believe in,” said Wood. “Both of us really like to watch people grow. We get a great deal of satisfaction in creating opportunities for people to develop their leadership skills. And, to be able to do that together is incredibly rewarding.”
Ironically, the two met in a Forest Service sponsored leadership program. It was a challenging time for the organization, particularly for the Coconino National Forest, as it began the lengthy and complex Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process involving Arizona Snowbowl’s proposal to use reclaimed water for snowmaking.
At the time, Romero was the public affairs officer for the Coconino National Forest, which includes the San Francisco Peaks; Wood was an environmental attorney in Missoula, Montana, collaborating with the Forest Service to facilitate its leadership development program, and consulting on other environmental projects.
Their professional relationship developed into a long-distance romance. Romero and Wood spent vacation time meeting in scenic locations throughout the West such as Moab, Utah and San Diego, California, to get to know each other and share their love for the outdoors.
Wood, who was creating business programs through the University of Montana, proved he could do his work from anywhere in the West. He chose Flagstaff to be with Romero. Soon, they found their professional skills complemented one another.
“Mike’s strength is big picture thinking. He works really well with clients in helping them think more broadly than they ever thought they could,” said Romero. “He’s very, very creative and intuitive.”
“Raquel’s greatest strength is empathy, her capacity to step into someone else’s shoes and see the world from that perspective. She uses her intuition to determine how she can be of help to that person,” said Wood. “She also fills in my blind spots and pays attention to details that I miss.”
The two now work and travel together, offering workshops through High Ridge Leadership to help people gain perspective and attain new skills to navigate through leadership challenges.
“High Ridge is a metaphor for leadership,” explained Romero. “When you’re on a high ridge, there’s a certain amount of risk involved because you are exposed and vulnerable. You’re out there ahead of others. Yet, you have a clear view of where you want to go.”
Romero and Wood have found their direction to be as crystal clear as the Caribbean’s pristine bays. They hope to one day be able to offer their workshops for free to organizations that benefit the environment. They also hope to teach leadership skills to children. FBN
For more information about High Ridge Leadership, visit HighRidgeLeadership.com.
Who is an inspiration to you?
“The most inspirational person to me is my dad. He embodies what I admire so much. He has a really strong sense of integrity and has been a great influence on my life in his leadership and parenting skills. Everything he does is with great care and love for other people,” said Romero about her father, Lou Romero, a retired Forest Service leadership development specialist.
“More than anything, I admire people who are willing to risk everything to do what they truly believe in, to follow their passions, particularly for a cause or an idea that’s beyond self interest. Someone who would risk anything for a greater good,” said Wood.
What do you consider to be the most important character trait?
“We love working with clients and organizations with values that are reflected in the decisions they make, especially in terms of environmental sustainability,” said Romero. “And humility. Humble people are willing to do what it takes to enable them to grow.”
What was your greatest work mistake?
“Just this past month in Davis, California, I booked a meeting space online,” said Wood. “When I showed up on a Sunday evening, the night before the workshop, I was shown this dingy conference room at the end of a hall, with no windows. There was no way we were going to spend a whole week there! I began running around trying to find a replacement room. I found one, but we couldn’t have it until the end of the day Monday. So the next morning, we all gathered in this awful room and I knew the room was the elephant in the room. I decided to beat everyone to the punch and point it out with a sense of humor. One approach we’ve learned, when you mess up, ‘fess up. This set everyone at ease. They could see that I’m human, but also that I solved the problem.”
What book would you recommend?
“One of my favorites is ‘How: How We Do Anything Means Everything’ by Dov Seidman,” said Romero. “I like the author’s writing style. It’s an easy read and it’s a book about integrity and treating people well.”
“I would highly recommend a book I just finished, ‘Big World, Small Planet’ by Johan Rockstrom,” said Wood. “It’s about a shift we’re going through on a planetary scale socially, environmentally and globally and the really important decisions we have to make to survive in the next century.”
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about being with the right person?
“We were hiking up Kendrick Peak one time, and we had a conversation about what happens if you marry somebody because you want to change them into the person you want them to be,” said Wood. “We realized we accept each other for who we are, and strive to be the best person we each can be. Marriage is about helping each other become that person, but not changing that person in a way that they don’t want or need to be changed.”
“It’s about appreciating each other,” said Romero. “Love becomes about appreciation.”
By Bonnie Stevens, FBN