We had the good fortune of connecting with Dori Klass, MBA, PCC and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dori, let’s start by talking about what inspires you?
Aliveness. Courage. Life. And people who find the courage to look within and trust that they will love who and what they find there; people who do the work of aligning their inner and outer lives and who feel free to be who they are, their true selves, in their outer lives, without apology or excuse.
I’ve had a number of muses, and teachers, in my 60 years, some I’ve admired and some I’ve feared (okay, maybe it’s always both!). They all have one thing in common. They know who they are. They know what they’ve been seeded for and why that matters. There’s absolute clarity about that. And they make choices that align with this knowing, whether it’s how their egos might originally have designed their lives, or not. On an ego level, there may be agony moving between states, but on a conscious, spiritual level, there is peace, pure bliss, calm in the midst of the chaos.
They are fluid, flexible and evolving and they are completely normal human beings with normal human issues and frailties. But, because they are paying attention, practically and spiritually, they suffer less and create less suffering for others.
They’ve made the dance between their practical, outer lives and spiritual, inner lives an active part of their days and nights. Whether they were math teachers or track coaches, Vice President’s of Strategic Planning (my “boss”) or spiritual teachers, they cultivated a vital inner life and let that inform their outer lives. There was alignment.
Everything was aligned around what they were seeded for. And that made them happy and compelling, compassionate and firm. I aspire to be my version of that in my life.
What should our readers know about your business?
I call myself a Complexity & Depth Coach these days. This most accurately reflects the transformation I guide my clients through. I am devoted to inspiring courage for the leader within each person I touch; the courage to look within, navigate the complexity of our humanity, know and love ourselves deeply and bring her/him to the world more intentionally, consciously and skillfully. I call this mining for true self, the most powerful, essential and beautiful self that lives within us and underneath all of the external identities, protections and personas, beyond all the internalized external conditioning that obscures our core essential selves.
My working assumption is that each of us is a leader, at the very least, in our own lives, and our true and whole self is already there. As Michelangelo said, ‘Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” We are the sculptors of our own lives. Our task is to remove the stone, all that which obscures, who and what is already there. The second half of life is all about this journey back home to self, to wholeness and true self, about calling all of our parts, pieces and power back, showing up as we intend and using that power well and differently than what we are witnessing in the world today. When we can access THIS essential self, and allow ourselves to be powerful, we can choose more powerfully, show up more wholeheartedly, build healthier relationships and sustain them through difficult times.
All of this requires courage, curiosity, commitment and a container, so that we can remove the barriers to love and wholeness, true self and one another.
Step number one: decide you want to awaken and actively step on the path to wholeness, love and deeper connection.
Step number two: find an accountability partner or community (as we cannot see what we cannot see), someone who’s walked the path, their version of it (you wouldn’t jump out of a plane or try to climb Mount Everest the first time without instruction and a guide, would you?)
Step number three: breathe and call in your body, heart and mind. Aliveness lives at the intersection of these intelligence centers. Most of us live out of one, maybe two, of these. It’s a form of sleepwalking through life. To disentangle from the conditioning and the barriers to love, whatever their source, and expand, we need to wake up and clear the weeds away.
This is where we begin.
What would be possible if we made true self-leadership and coming from love, not fear, a priority; if we understood true self-leadership to be an important factor, an essential ingredient, in leading others well? What would be possible for you if you took a close look within and feel in love with who and what you found? Imagine the implications of this for parenting and teaching. What would be possible if we aspired to connect with one another, true self to true self?
Marie Curie, a physicist and the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, said, “You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for our own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.”
I believe that the work we do on ourselves is a gift we can give the world and an essential part of our journey back home to ourselves. It is how we can be the calm in the midst of the chaos. I believe that we will expand into abundance (creativity, love, success) as we inspire others to do the same.
My signature program, “The 9 Steps to True Self-Leadership & Self-Mastery, a 1, 2 and 3-year VIP coaching and mentoring program, is a practical and spiritual journey back home to themselves that helps my clients to step into this phase of their life’s journey with clarity, confidence and conviction and sets them up for a beautiful second half of life filled with connection, service and joy. It was born out of my own journey home to wholeness, true self, love and connection. My companions along the way were mostly books and one therapist and my beloved husband, who was struggling with his own journey forward. I limped along wishing I had what I offer my clients today. I wanted to become that container, that companion for others, the ones who were ready for their deep dive and, with the right support, willing to take the inner plunge, while honoring their outer lives.
I’ve been certified in many coaching, personal growth and professional development modalities and have been a practicing certified coach, leadership development consultant, mystery scholar and interactive speaker for over 18 years. In particular, I’m focused on helping seasoned and successful professionals to re-engage and become even more of the empowered, visionary leaders they know they are and aspire to be. I don’t believe that inspired leadership comes from following a simple formula for success or through quick insights gleaned from a book or a short motivational event. They are helpful sources of insight but not sustaining. Instead, I believe inspired leadership comes from partnership and from leaning on another while going deep, knowing yourself, your true, essential self, underneath all the veils, acculturation and conditioning. Inspired leadership is possible when we disentangle from all that no longer serves, when we chip away at the rock to get to the statue within when we remove those barriers to true self and when we feel free to be or access all parts of ourselves in all parts of our lives and work.
My clients are leaders in the work place and in the home and are pausing to ask and answer numerous questions, the existential kind that arise in mid-life, among them: Who am I and what do I stand for, really? What is my purpose and are my choices aligned with this? Who and what matter most to me, now, and, given that, what needs to be nurtured and what needs to be shed? How might I be more intentional about what I say yes and no to, going forward? What am I willing to stop, start, accept or change? How can I feel engaged again in my work, my marriage, my motherhood or fatherhood? How can I optimize my reach and impact, and leave a positive legacy, while I can? Am a being the role model I want to be? What is the impact I’m having? Is it what I want? What is my calling? Am I listening?
As a 20+ year veteran of Corporate America and as a certified coach and entrepreneur for 18 years, I’ve worked with leaders at every level in an organization. I have a sweet spot in my heart for the leaders in the middle, some in the C-Suite and the rest, who might never get there or don’t aspire to, yet still want to make a profound contribution to and difference in their work…and do every day. Arguably, they do a lot of the heavy lifting, in all parts of life and work. Most are caught up in the busyness and have forgotten how to pause and make space for themselves. They are among the most generous, selfless and wholehearted people I know. This busyness, without ever pausing, is a key source of self-abandonment, invulnerability and burnout. It leaves them – the heavy lifters among us – feeling flat, fragmented and disconnected, which rarely brings the best out in any of us. In the middle of the night, they are whispering to themselves, “There’s got to be a better way,” but they’re too caught up in the momentum of their lives to pause and actually do the reflection needed to find their right path forward. Make no mistake, from the outside-in, they have great lives, yet they are no longer fulfilled by them. Many are secretly afraid that they’ll have to quit their jobs, marriages or lives to find the fulfillment and peace they seek. That is rarely true, even a little bit. I help them to avoid the self-destructive decisions and creeping self-doubt, to recover from burnout and make space for meaningful self-inquiry. We chip away at the debris so that they can choose powerfully, while honoring the lives they are in.
I guide them on an inner journey to wholeness, not fullness, where they learn to empty their cups, envision new and better ways to do their lives and work, and tap more fully into the potential that wants their attention now. As a result, their relationships blossom and they discover the deep satisfaction that comes from cultivating a vital inner life, learning how to listen to the whispers and wisdom within and letting these inform all the vehicles of expression in their outer lives (from motherhood to running a company to volunteering at the food bank). They create a purposeful life and enjoy the aliveness that comes from living in alignment with their CORE values, UNIQUE purpose and OVER-ARCHING vision for their lives.
Prior to coaching full-time, I worked in Corporate America, first with Dow Chemical, USA and then, for twenty years, with Abbott Laboratories. I thrived in sales, worldwide marketing, strategic planning and complex management roles and had a reputation for doing large program management well. I ended my career at Abbott as part of the leadership team responsible for integrating an $8B acquisition, which, like the work I do with my clients, required a lot of disentangling from the parent entity first, before we could get present to what is, tackle integration and grow.
While many people ran away from the enormity and complexity of the projects in front of us, I raised my hand and said, “OOH, OOH, Pick Me, Put Me In Coach!” I know now that I was leading to my strengths (think StrengthFinders 2.0: maximizer, individualization, achiever, futuristic, strategic). Perhaps it was my early life experiences or my education in Biomedical Engineering and Germanic Languages at Duke University, but my brain was wired like that…to see into and through the complexity. Rather than be overwhelmed by the complexity, I saw its beauty – the interconnection of all things, the layers, and the possibilities and I was excited and inspired by it. It was like doing a multi-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, for me. I could envision an outcome and reverse engineer the process to get to the, “What one thing needs to happen today, tomorrow and the next day to get there? And who needs to be in this conversation, however fierce and meaningful, pleasant or uncomfortable?”
My husband and I designed our lives, our family and our parenting in this same way. We approached these conversations the same way I approached sales (my first 8 years at Dow and Abbott), strategic planning, large program management or leading a new team. Who are all the stakeholders? What does each need or want? Can we help/support each other? And, how do we deliver the desired results while also building and sustaining healthy relationships, for the short- and long-run? Keeping the relationship and having some fun front and center and keeping the lines of communication open were always priorities. And, I’ll admit it, I wasn’t always very good at that.
It’s been my life’s work to learn how to do this well, to learn how to begin in love, not fear, doubt or concern, put relationships first and assume the best, not the worst. Relationships suffer the most when we are in survival mode and unconscious. This is true in all parts of life. I’ve learned this the hard way and have needed help, sometimes, to stay in relationship and stay focused on what we want (versus on what I/we don’t want). I forget as often as my clients do. In truth, we need each other to do the disentangling, to find true self, to remember who we are and to hold ourselves accountable for showing up consciously, compassionately and skillfully. I need my clients as much as they rely on me to remember these things and call our best selves forth. And it’s why I’ve had my own coach for 18 years!
Now, I’m hoping to share the secrets of true self-leadership with a larger audience, to expand my own reach and impact, so that, together, we can awaken, become more conscious, interpersonally skillful and loving, so that we can bring our humanity back into the rooms where we lead, live and love. I want to be part of creating a society of inspired, twenty-first century leaders committed to using their power well and being a powerful force for good in our homes, in our workplaces and on our planet.
While my company is still Dori Klass & Associates, Inc (at www.doriklass.com), Whole Person Whole Power is the new name of my signature VIP coaching and mentoring program. This new branding speaks to the promise of working with me. As we do the work of becoming whole and learning to lead from our true selves, live with and love ourselves, and we are the most able to be powerful, powerfully choose and use our parts and power well and for good in all parts of our lives. This is what I mean by inspiring courage for the leader within. When leaders, parents and teachers do this work, they are inspired by their own lives and inspire their colleagues, children and students both by their examples and their interactions.
One of my favorite muses and sources of great inspiration, Maya Angelou, once said, “To survive is important. To thrive is elegant.” My work is about knowing when you’re about survival and when you’re not, about making room for thriving, and about helping each one of us to create the space and conditions within and around us necessary to thrive. This is our work as leaders. Just like parenting, it’s not about us, it’s about the people we are leading, raising, teaching and caring for. By doing our own work, we become more conscious and capable servant leaders. This is the true journey of the second half of life.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m from a little waterfront town in New England, Mattapoisett, MA. It was a beautiful place to grow up. And we moved here from Carlsbad, CA, another beautiful place to call home. If you’d asked me 20 years ago, “Would you like living in the desert?”, I can’t imagine I would have said yes. And I would’ve been so wrong.
We’ve lived in northwest Tucson for almost 14 years now and, while I DO miss the ocean, I love it here. The oceans of Mexico are about a 4-hour car ride south and the oceans of San Diego are about a 6-hour car ride west.
Tucson is what they call a green desert. We are about 2600 feet above sea level and have monsoons, approximately twice a year. We are not the rocky weedless moon scapes some people imagine or endless sand dunes without a tree in sight. We are green and beautiful, filled with flowering plants and deciduous trees and shrubs along with all kinds of mesmerizing cacti. I’ve learned to appreciate the seasons, the plant life and the creatures who call this place home. My itinerary would reflect that and include:
Learning about and visiting the cultural center of the Tohono O’odham Nation. We can begin that journey online and become educated about the the Tohono O’odham Nation’s history, culture, governance and other aspects of the Nation. We must continue to honor that we are living on the land of these indigenous peoples.
I like to visit the San Xavier Mission, also tied to the Tohono O’odham Nation and historical changes in the area, and, from there, head south to Tubac, an interesting and artsy town with lots of galleries and shops. Just south of that, on the east side of the highway is a little restaurant called the Wisdom Cafe. Its’ a hole in the wall and worth the trip.
Visit the Arizona State Museum. Founded in 1893, it was originally a repository for the collection and protection of archaeological resources. Today, it stores artifacts, exhibits them and provides education and research opportunities. It was formed by authority of the Arizona Territorial Legislature. A great place to learn about southern Arizona.
While there, spend a day on the University of Arizona Campus. I love the Women’s Plaza of Honor, which is across from the Arizona State Museum.
Visit the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, considered a natural wonder…you could spend several days there. Also educational. There is the Botanic Garden and Tohono Chul. They all have cafes and shops on the premises.
Visit the Saguaro National Park. It is in southern Arizona. Its 2 sections are on either side of the city of Tucson. The park is named for the large saguaro cactus, native to this desert environment. In the western Tucson Mountain District, Signal Hill Trail leads to petroglyphs of the ancient Hohokam people. In the eastern Rincon Mountain District, Cactus Forest Drive is a loop road with striking views of the desert landscape. No matter the time of year, and especially in the late spring, summer and early fall, when hiking in the desert, bring lots of water, dress appropriately, wear sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat.
Tucson is surrounded by mountains on all sides. The Santa Catalinas and Dove Mountain are filled with exceptional trails and hiking at many elevations. Bicyclists come from all over the world to take advantage of the extensive bicycle trails throughout the city, the region and all the way to the top of Mount Lemmon, a fantastic excursion whether on a bicycle or by car. You can rest at Summerhaven and get cookies and pizza at the Cookie Shack, one of the establishments at the summit.
I love Karchner Caverns, a relatively modern discovery with an amazing backstory by environmentalists who kept it a secret until they could design a way to appreciate and study it while preserving it. Bats migrate to and from the underground domes so much so that one dome is shut down for about six months so as to leave them alone. Wow.
On 15 December 2015, Tucson, Arizona, became the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy designated in the United States, joining the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN). Tucson is a foodie’s paradise. Look up the local establishments and search for foodie tours. The pandemic has taken its toll on Tucson and gems still flourish all over town.
Tucson mural tours. There are hundreds of murals adorning the sides of buildings. Search online and find one that speaks to you. Most, these days, are self-guided. It’s a fun way to spend a day.
Walk the turquoise trail. The 2.5-mile trail takes you to 23 sites, including Hotel Congress, Armory Park, the Pima County Courthouse, and Fox Tucson Theatre. A turquoise-colored line keeps walkers on track, while plaques along the way provide historical information. Again, this is self-guided. Eat at the Café a la C’art, associated with the Tucson Museum of Art. Located in the historic 1865 Stevens House, the Café offers intimate dining spaces and a spacious patio. Enjoy menus created by executive chef and owner Mark Jorbin, and save room for one of the luscious dessert crafted by the in-house pastry chef. Just a couple of blocks away is the artisans market. You don’t want to miss this.
For aviation buffs, we have the Pima Air & Space Museum.
For self-care seekers, we have some world renowned spas and resorts, from Miraval made famous by Oprah to Canyon Ranch, the Ritz-Carlton at Dove Mountain to Loew’s Ventana Canyon. They’re all over.
A personal favorite local resort and restaurant is Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch & Resort and The Grille at Hacienda Del Sol. My husband and I celebrate our anniversary there every year.
I could go on and on…:)
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
SO MANY PEOPLE!!! And, God, Source, Trusted Source…all those forces we cannot see and “know” are there…
If I have to choose one, it has to be my husband, Michael.
We were engaged five weeks after we met and married a year later. His son, Dan, was almost 7 when we met and, together, we had three sons. Our four boys are my greatest joy and a deep source of inspiration.
Parenting catapulted me into a journey of selflessness and servant leadership, an arguably necessary and nice balance to the otherwise individualistic and independent nature I’d cultivated up until this time in my life.
Perhaps it’s self-serving to say this, but I will anyway…I have a special place in my heart for parents everywhere, any kind of parent. It is no small thing to be responsible to a life we’ve created or invited or accepted into our lives, however our children have come to us. And in our “survivor of the fittest” and relatively violent culture, it is even harder to be a parent, wanting desperately for our children not only to survive but to thrive, to have a fair chance in all things in their lives, to evolve past our own circumstances. It is a real sacrifice and the single greatest opportunity of my life, to be the mother of our sons and be a part of their lives as they launch and make their own way in the world. They are our gift to each other and the world.
I met Michael on an Abbott Ski Club ski trip in Crested Butte, CO. We were both, technically, still married, yet in every sense, those marriages were long over. Still, we bore the weight of many years of sadness and loss. To meet each other in the crisp clear air and under the blue skies and bright sun was to recover a sense of aliveness and possibility again. We played 20 questions on the lift lines, over and over. And then, on one ride up to the top of the Paradise Bowl, Michael asked me three questions; questions that broke my heart wide open and helped me to trust in love again.
First, he asked, “Who’s the most important person?” I’d been doing a lot of healing work and soul searching and said, “I am.” That whole “put your oxygen mask on first” thing. If I’m not well, if I’m not self-aware or able to self-lead, I cannot be there for or lead or love others. I did add that, “If we were married and we had kids and our house was burning down, I’d grab the little ones first and hope he made it out too!” He laughed. My maternal instincts were awakening.
Second, he asked, “What’s the most important job of a parent?” I’d been pondering that one for a long time and said, “Three things. One, that our children know they are loved and lovable, despite appearances, abilities or any other factors. That we are here for them, no matter what. And, most important, that they learn how to love themselves. And, two, that we protect our children to the extent we are able. That we teach them about respect, of self- and others, and about boundaries, and about finding their voices, knowing who they are/how they lean, and giving back from there, using their gifts. And, most important, that they do this all their lives, encouraging and inspiring others to do the same. That they stay curious and keep learning and growing. And, finally, that we prepare them for the rest of life, with and without us. That they learn how to give and receive love, in the world, in their work, in their neighborhoods. That we launch them and let them go.” As a parent, that requires a massive amount of surrender, grieving and celebration. Parenting, like aging, is definitely NOT for sissies.
And, third, he asked me, “May I kiss you?” This was a profound moment for me. As a victim of multiple violent crimes early in life and someone who thought her life might be over by 20, to have someone ask me for my permission for anything, especially of an intimate nature, was a big deal. In that moment, I’d realized that no one had every asked me permission before and that it mattered to me. I said, “Yes.”
Other: Clubhouse: @doriklass
Rita Eagleson – original photo and first three in additional photos collection