Building Strong Roots: M3’s Project Sequoia Leadership Program

Posted on February 5, 2024 •

Project Sequoia Leadership (PSL) Training

At the beginning of 2023, almost exactly one year ago, M3 held a leadership retreat called Project Sequoia Leadership Program, where 16 executive and management-level employees participated in an immersive 6-day experience, gaining hands-on experience that empowered attendees to become more effective leaders.

The objective of the retreat was to cultivate a culture of empowered leaders who are not only better equipped to lead a team to evolve our industry but also to inspire leadership across the company.


PSL was inspired by feedback provided during the 2022 annual employee engagement survey. As part of our commitment to continuous improvement (one of our core values), we anonymously poll our employees yearly to gain insight into our team’s attitude towards their work and our company culture. The hope is to reveal areas of enhancement, and in 2022, leadership emerged as a focal point for refinement— hence, Project Sequoia Leadership (PSL). Sequoia tree with a mountain behind and the text "Project Sequoia Leadership Program"

Why Sequoia?

The name ‘Sequoia’ was chosen with careful intent. Just as trees have strong roots, an intricate communication system, and depth that goes beyond surface-level visibility, so do great leaders. Roots provide stability and grow firmer with each storm that passes, just as great leaders would also. Trees are also a part of a greater ecosystem, supporting other trees and wildlife within expansive forests.

Knowing that cultivating a culture of great leaders would go beyond one leadership retreat, it was decided that trees would be the overarching theme of our leadership transformation series. Thus, Project Sequoia Leadership became the name of our first initiative.

Enter Project Sequoia Leadership (PSL) – the transformative off-site leadership retreat.

The retreat took place at a local hotel where 16 M3 employees embarked on an intense journey to refine their approach to leadership. The immersive experience spanned 6-days and included a diverse range of activities, from workshops to team-building activities to coaching, journaling, and more. The goal was to foster an interactive learning environment and provide hands-on resources that empowered our employees to become more effective leaders.

We asked attendees what some of their key takeaways were from the experience:

“The idea that sticks with me most is the notion presented in Strengths Based Leadership that there are no perfect people, but there can be perfect teams. For some reason, I don’t think I really understood how varied people’s strengths can be and how drastically your team can improve when you recognize that fact and strategically allocate tasks to the individuals best suited to handle them. By using this strategy, you can create highly effective teams as well as happier teammates.” – Andy Powne, M3 Service VP of Service

“Everybody is an expert at something. Invest time in getting to know your team [so you can] put them in the right seat and play into their strengths. Pairing people with opposite strengths can make for some of the best teams.” – Jack McKnight, M3 MEP VP of Operations

“I learned a lot about my strengths as a leader. I am someone that is naturally motivated by fear of failure, however, I have shifted to leading from my strengths.  I would say it has generated confidence in my leadership style.” – Joe Snyder, M3 MEP Field Operations Manager

“[I left PSL with] a goal to listen more, and really listen so that the other person is heard. Letting others have a voice not only gets them more involved but also gets them bought into the path because it’s also theirs.” – Jared Burdick, M3 MEP VP of Construction

“All of the knowledge and tools [from PSL] apply equally to my professional and personal life. The biggest takeaway for my personal life was the creation of a personal purpose statement and a family purpose, mission, and set of core values. These are not complete yet but the process of talking through them and starting to write them out has been powerful.” – Dan Carlton, M3 President & Partner

“There are two things I’ve integrated into my daily routine [after PSL]: journaling and sharpening the saw. The time I spend journaling helps me recognize the feelings I’m having and address them. For sharpening the saw, I have made taking a break to go on a walk a routine. This time helps me to refocus and it gives me energy.” – Tim Long, M3 MEP CFO

My biggest takeaway was to slow down and be patient with others as they draw their own conclusions and solutions.” – Frank Lindsay, M3 MEP VP of Project Development

“Prior to my PSL experience, I believed all leaders had to be very assuming and fit a specific mold. After completing the assigned reading, going through the week-long retreat, and a year of applying what I learned, I feel different about leadership. Learning that leadership comes in different shapes and sizes is powerful. [To capitalize on different leadership styles throughout a team] is like having a Swiss Army knife with different tool attachments. To remove a splinter with the scissor attachment would be very painful.” – Makayla Oei, M3C Director of Preconstruction

“I gained confidence and built upon my leadership style. We spent a lot of time learning about strengths and how to use those as superpowers to influence projects, gain traction, and see success. An improved self-awareness has made me a better teammate and impacted my personal life too!” – Keely Lambert, M3 Marketing Director

Big thanks to Sandy MacIver and DPMG for leading such an amazing training week by bringing their coaching expertise, leadership, creativity, and care to the experience.

Suggested Reading List

Prior to starting the training, each member read the following books. These are wonderful reads for anyone eager to delve deeper into the art and science of leadership:

Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow by Tom Rath & Barry Conchie 

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: 30th Anniversary Edition (The Covey Habits Series) by Stephan R. Covey (Author), Jim Collins (Foreword), & Sean Covey (Contributor)

Primal Leadership, With a New Preface by the Authors: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Richard E. Boyatzis, & Annie McKee

Future Leadership Endeavors

Building on PSL, M3 is excited to announce the recent completion of Project Oak Leadership (POL), which wrapped up at the end of January 2024!

This time, employees from all levels of the company, not just those with managerial titles, were invited by a PSL graduate to participate. The decision to invest in leadership training beyond traditional “leadership” job titles emphasizes M3’s belief that leaders emerge at every level of our organization.

We’re looking forward to sharing more about POL in the coming months.

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