Getting to know Susan Cedars
Photo: Suad Bejtovic
“Ongoing stress and conflict create suffering and this is my version of tikkun olam,” says Susan Cedars, founder and president of Cedars Executive Coaching. “I help others develop a values-based, purposeful sense of self.” 

Business coach bolsters leaders, teams, nonprofits with creative, engaging style

By Deb Silverthorn

For Susan Cedars, dedicating her life to giving back to the community that welcomed her is the best way of achieving tikkun olam.

“When high-performing teams do their best work,” says Cedars, who realized her purpose as the founder and president of Cedars Executive Coaching “they throw off sparks. People notice.” 

Cedars Executive Coaching engagements last six months to one year and include twice-monthly coaching sessions. Team coaching programs are a combination of intensive workshops, and individual and team coaching sessions. Each program is custom-designed and includes reading, reflection and journaling assignments to help her clients develop new patterns of thinking, feeling and taking actions that are creative, generative and help them find results.

“My purpose is to inspire leaders and teams to become powerful creators, catalysts for change,” says Cedars, who is in private practice and also associated with the Dallas-based Stagen Leadership Academy.

“It’s easy to get bogged down in problem-orientation, reactivity and conflict. I help clients understand how one gets ‘there’ and how to shift into “creator mode” — focusing on desired outcomes, rather than the gravity of the problem,” says Cedars. “Ongoing stress and conflict create suffering and this is my version of tikkun olam. I help others develop a values-based, purposeful sense of self.

“I help my clients ask, ‘How do others see me?’ ‘What’s my impact?’ ‘What do I stand for, and does my life reflect that?’” says Cedars. “Gaining this awareness has a profound impact. Learning to be the best version of oneself is centering, comfortable and confidence-building.”

One beneficiary of the program is Dr. Sander Gothard, a family physician and co-founder of Village Health Partners, which has 50 providers in Collin County and more than 200 employees. Gothard connected with Cedars through the Stagen Integral Leadership program.  

“People want to be heard and they want to ‘hear’ you listening to them,” he says. “Ninety percent of what I do is in an exam, and I now listen very differently. Susan’s coaching taught me the skills to help make those visits a success.”

Gothard says determining patient treatment plans often has to happen quickly. “I’ve learned how to use mindfulness and even meditation to focus on the task at hand in a proactive and nonemotional state. I’ve brought those skills to my office, to my family and to almost everything I am involved with.”

“A year ago, I was unaware of my core values and the tools available to define and apply these values to personal and business relationships,” says Gothard. He has been bringing his new skills to the community, including AIPAC, Chabad of Plano/Collin County, Congregation Anshai Torah, DATA of Plano, Jewish Family Service, Israel Bonds and Temple Shalom. “Susan was instrumental in helping increase my awareness and offered tangible steps to help me get back on track,” he says. 

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, and raised in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, and then Phoenix, Arizona, Cedars is one of seven children of MaryAnn and Val Prevallet, both of blessed memory. After graduating from Loyola Marymount University in Southern California, Cedars married and had four daughters: Valerie (Tom) Spengler, Natalie (Connor) Johnson, Jessica (Dylan) Odbert and Rebecca Winsell. 

After a divorce, Cedars moved with her daughters to San Luis Obispo, California, where she worked for 20 years in health care. As regional vice-president for Dignity Health, she experienced organizational acquisitions, sales, bankruptcies, union negotiations and strikes, learning business operations in the face of significant challenges.

“When businesses go through change,” she says, “they focus on action plans, checking boxes, often failing to pay sufficient attention to how their people are impacted by the fear, stress, conflict created by change.”

It was first as a college student that Cedars took a course about world religions, and the more she learned, she recognized things about the Catholic Church into which she was born that didn’t resonate with her. In San Luis Obispo, Cedars became close friends with Zeena Wathen, a Jewish woman, who exposed her further to Judaism. The more Cedars learned, the more she found connection.

Wathen, a great part of Cedars’ inspiration, planned to accompany her to the mikvah for her conversion, but passed away unexpectedly. To have her friend “with” her at the mikvah, Cedars chose the Hebrew name Tzina, which translates from Hebrew as “shelter.” 

“Zeena, of blessed memory, was a realtor who found shelter for others in her professional life,” says Cedars, “but for so many others, and for me for sure, she brought emotional shelter.”  

In Rabbi Scott Corngold, now of blessed memory, Cedars found a teacher, mentor and friend whom she entrusted with the experience of her conversion.

Her beshert came in the form of Len Cedars, a physician specializing in maternal-fetal medicine. The son of Marie and Dr. Nathan Cedars, of blessed memory, Len attended Beth-El Congregation in Fort Worth, and became a bar mitzvah there.  

As the couple were raising children from their previous marriages, they dated for 15 years before they formally brought their lives and their children together in a wedding, officiated by Corngold.

Since their wedding, Cedars now includes Len’s children; Ari (Susan), Seth (Emily), Brooke (Link) Wilfley, Kate (David) Brown and Aaron with her own. The couple also enjoys spending time with their grandchildren Yasmina, Max and Leo Cedars, Reid, Tahna, Luke, George and Dublin Wilfley, Gray and Knox Cedars, Hudson and Annie Spengler, Waylon Odbert and Ava Johnson.

In 2012 the couple moved from California to Phoenix, and Cedars, wanting professional flexibility, founded Cedars Executive Coaching. Five years later the couple moved to Dallas, where they joined Congregation Shearith Israel and were enveloped by a welcoming Jewish community.

Shortly after their arrival in Dallas, the Cedars family participated in a Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas mission to Israel. They began that mission trip with a visit to Budapest. Cedars then became involved in volunteer work with the Federation and served on its Women’s Philanthropy board and the Partnership2Gether committee, which she now chairs.

“Shearith Israel, the Federation, Dallas Kosher — the deep history of so many Jewish families, the spirit of philanthropy, accessibility to kosher food and restaurants — this Jewish community is amazing,” says Cedars, who last year celebrated becoming a bat mitzvah at CSI. “We quickly got involved in the Shearith community and volunteerism and it was through Shearith friends that I became associated with Stagen — my business has been greatly enhanced by that.

As the director of Global and Local Impact of Allocations for the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, Sarah Golman says Cedars is phenomenal to work with, personable, relatable and always bringing new insight and ideas to the table. 

“Susan is insightful, talented, patient and absolutely dedicated,” says Golman. “The strategy and commitment she brings is benefited by her professional capacity. Everything she’s brought to the Partnership 2Gether program has elevated our efforts.” 

Cedars’ work, and devotion to our community, sets deep the example of walking the walk and talking the talk.

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