By Jessica Kellner
When Jostein Solheim, CEO of B Corp Ben & Jerry’s, first met Lisa Arie, founder of fellow B Corp Vista Caballo, it was something she’d lost — not something she was offering — that caught his attention. The two had planned to chat at a Best for the World B Corporation event. “We were in this corner and there were about 600 people at this event, so there were a lot of people around,” Jostein says. “Lisa said ‘Oh I can’t find my iPhone.’ And I said, ‘I totally understand. Go find your phone and when you know where it is, we’ll talk.’ But she said, ‘No, I’m committed to this time, here and now. I’ll find it later.’ I thought to myself, ‘You’ve got to be kidding. No one can talk and not know where their phone is.’”
While many businesspeople would prioritize finding their phone — and with it their professional contacts, automatic logins, personal photos — Lisa was centered in the moment. Jostein said that ability to focus, to completely eliminate distraction, no matter how serious, struck him.
As it turned out, that moment was only the first of many times Jostein would be impressed by how Lisa’s leadership and skills enabled her to cut through structural clutter and distraction, and discern a laser point of clarity.
The Test Run
Lisa’s company Vista Caballo could be described as a unique combination of a transformational leadership program, a mindfulness center, a cognitive pattern-identification methodology, and a Colorado horse ranch. The Vista Experiences yield results beneficial in both business and personal relationships. Lisa and her co-founder and husband, Jess Arie, worked with molecular biologists as well as industrial organizational and behavioral scientists to bring their range of mindfulness-based experiential self-discovery programs onto a digital platform, which they named The StillPoint Experience.
As Lisa and Jostein talked, she shared this journey of creating Vista Caballo and her personal mission. They talked about how her programs were developed, and how she ended up launching a discovery experience center in Colorado.
The simplicity of the processes belie the potency the insights the Vista Caballo programs reveal and the suggestions they make. The simplicity can be somewhat hard to fully comprehend until you’ve done it. After his and Lisa’s meeting, Jostein says, “I still didn’t know exactly what StillPoint was, but I was fascinated by Lisa’s energy and passion. Her belief in StillPoint and its application in solving big issues and helping individuals, teams and, therefore, organizations succeed was impressive and ended up being quite impactful.”
We gained incredible insight about each other, and we gained incredible clarity on how you lead — the power you have when you direct your intentions, your presence and your energy in the right way.
Jostein and Ben & Jerry’s head of Human Resources, Jane Bowman Goetschius, decided to start with the digital platform, The StillPoint Experience. And while Jostein says he was digesting the program in his own way, Jane quickly noticed the benefits of the program. “Our head of HR really started to transform,” Jostein says. “She changed things about how she did her job that had a significant impact on my perception of her effectiveness and her impact on our organization. We sort of looked at each other and went, ‘Wow.’”
It was perfect timing for Ben & Jerry’s to discover The StillPoint Experience. After having been acquired by Unilever some 15 years earlier, the company was still in the midst of a major transformation from a small anti-establishment challenger to a global business active in 35 countries. But it was critical to the organization that it remain driven by its mission and retain its company culture. What’s more, because it is a Certified B Corp, Ben & Jerry’s has triple-bottom-line responsibilities baked into its legal structure.
Knowing they were ramping up for huge growth, and having seen for themselves the personal impact of the program, Jane and Jostein decided to extend Ben & Jerry’s Vista Caballo engagement and roll out The StillPoint Experience to a larger group of employees.
The StillPoint Vision
Ben & Jerry’s Chief Marketing Officer Dave Stever was in the next round of Ben & Jerry’s team members to go through Vista Caballo’s StillPoint Experience. Dave describes himself as someone who typically views leadership-training programs with a healthy dose of cynicism. Yet, he says, The StillPoint Experience felt different, almost immediately.
Dave says the program revealed ways he could interact more effectively, in ways he’d never before considered. While Dave wasn’t surprised to learn he was high in the trait of “persistence,” he found it shocking that his “balance point” — the trait one needs to engage the most — was “vision.”
“It was surprising because in the role I’m in, a couple times a year you’re setting a vision for the brand, setting a vision for the company,” he says. “So I was like, this doesn’t make sense. I should be high on that. But in reality, it’s in the day-to-day setting out of why things were being done, sharing the big picture: Why do I need this output today? Why do I need this by the end of the week? It’s fully explaining things. When you’ve been in a role for a long time, you get used to short answers instead of telling the narrative.”
In stressful times, what will make us successful as managers is setting a vision. It’s working with a team to determine the best approach versus saying, ‘Here’s what we’re doing,’ and forcing everyone through that funnel. It’s opening up the whole picture and getting the best output.
Dave found the program enabled him to see the big picture, not just through his own eyes but through everyone’s eyes, and it helped him work with his team to align around a shared vision — rather than just pushing for the work to get done. “For me, the interesting observation is what makes you a success at one level can be a detriment at another level,” he says. “Someone high in persistence such as myself and needing to work on vision as the Chief Marketing Officer — it’s important for me to be able to paint the vision. In stressful times, what will make us successful as managers is setting a vision. It’s working with a team to determine the best approach versus saying, ‘Here’s what we’re doing,’ and forcing everyone through that funnel. It’s opening up the whole picture and getting the best output.”
A Horse, Of Course
Lisa leads every StillPoint Experience participant through their evaluation with personal insights about their evaluation results, life experiences, and the patterns and behaviors she sees associated with the various styles of thinking the evaluation reveals. The evaluation itself takes less than 30 minutes, but Lisa invests as much time as it takes to talk through the results, their meaning and next steps over a series of phone calls or meetings. “It’s this combination of the StillPoint Experience and then Lisa’s specific expertise that unlocks the power of the tool and the process,” Jostein says.
Born in New York, Lisa’s father’s international job with Time Magazine meant she grew up all over the world, living in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, South Africa, the Netherlands and England. Later, as an adult back in the U.S., she became an award-winning advertising producer and founded two multimillion-dollar businesses. But after she was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, Lisa realized the need to completely change her life.
Although she’d had little previous engagement with them, Lisa felt inexplicably drawn to horses. She began to ride and study them, eventually studying with world-class horse whisperers. This also led her to discover the concept of interpersonal journeying and presence. Today, she incorporates lessons from all of these experiences into her guided programs.
“A horse is a 1,400-pound emotional sensor,” Jostein says, describing his experiences working with Lisa, several members of the Ben & Jerry’s team, and a group of horses at a farm in Vermont, near Ben & Jerry’s Burlington headquarters. “The horse senses your presence, or lack thereof, your focus and your intentions,” he says. “It’s uncanny to see how, when a person loses their focus, the horse loses theirs. The horse can sense your energy field. That’s one of the things many senior leaders don’t recognize is that they have a huge energy field that can force quite a disruption to people’s ability to perform. The horse senses your energy. If you direct that energy, you can have a beautiful experience. If you don’t, nothing happens. He won’t move. From that experience, we gained incredible insight about each other, and we gained incredible clarity on how you lead — the power you have when you direct your intentions, your presence and your energy in the right way. With very little you can achieve a lot.”
Jostein jokes about Ben & Jerry’s reputation for being a bunch of tree-hugging hippies, and here they were out on a horse farm for a lesson in mindfulness. Yet, for those who have experienced it, there’s no denying the program’s clear insights into communication styles, empathy and shared vision, as well as more day-to-day workplace relationships, models and habits.
Dave was among the employees who worked with the horses at Apple Ride Fresians Vermont farm. “You get an understanding about being truly engaged, what that looks like and what that feels like,” Dave says. “Horses are great readers of your intent. And what we saw was you would have to read how the horse was responding to you, whether it wanted you to approach, whether you had built up enough trust, and when to back off. Just being a strong personality doesn’t get the horse to move where you want it to move. It goes back very simply to that shared intent: Let’s do this together, let’s establish a bond and then move forward.”
He found the experience directly applicable to his relationships at work. “It’s a great analogy to work relationships. There are times you shouldn’t approach. There are times you need to give space to regroup. But you don’t realize that until you’re fully engaged. … A very powerful thing Lisa teaches is that piece around shared intent, and that’s important from the vision perspective: to see why certain objectives are important. It drives trust. It drives impact. We know we have the same intent, so now let’s work on what that looks like. That perspective also helps determine what’s out of scope. If it’s not part of that shared intent, then we can eliminate it. We can free up space that way, and get more freedom for ourselves and our team.”
A social mission-based company since its 1978 inception, Ben & Jerry’s has long been known as an amazing place to work. But like any organization, the company is always looking for ways to improve its community culture and shared vision, especially as it faces organizational change and transitions. “Ben & Jerry’s is this place where we have a great sense of purpose and social mission,” Dave says. “We’re all here to have fun while we work, and there’s lots of energy and passion. But there are also relationships where people think differently, or situations where people need a different approach.”
The outcome of our team StillPoint exercise and how we were able to transform our company to become a truly collaborative and interdependent community was genuine presence.
Jostein believes Ben & Jerry’s was able to jump to the next level as a team thanks to the team’s experiences with Vista Caballo. “The outcome of our team StillPoint exercise and how we were able to transform our company to become a truly collaborative and interdependent community was genuine presence,” he says. “That comes down to the similar concept of centeredness: Are you genuine, open, trusting, have good intentions? Are you fully present and focused on what’s going on in this moment, in this time? That allows you to develop your own inner resources, to build your own tolerance, your own openness to ideas, your own thinking methodologies. It sets the tone of the organization, to share appreciation for others, and it allows you to connect with others either through that common language of The StillPoint Experience or through your presence or through your lens of being more receptive. Then you’re ready to truly connect with your teammates, your employees, your partners. It sets you up for leading a team, when it comes to your vision, your focus, and creating harmony and empowerment in the team.”
Dave doubles down on Jostein’s enthusiasm, and his conviction that Vista Caballo helped build his team’s unity and cohesion. “That’s the brilliance of it. It’s not that complicated,” he says. “It’s a simple approach that gives you results, and once you get the results you can embrace it. It’s like, ‘Wow, that actually works. That made it really easy to turn that around.’ And that gets energizing. This is a great way to approach relationships, not only work relationships but also relationships with family. It’s really that feeling that you’re winning together as a team, which is the real goal for us all: creating that collaborative interdependent team and feeling that everybody on that team has contributed uniquely to bring the vision to reality.”
Jostein also felt Vista Caballo’s influence in his life outside of work. He says when he began engaging with Lisa, the horses, and his team as a whole, he saw how the whole program clicked, and how it could benefit his relationships. “That’s when I could really engage and set myself some personal challenges beyond the business, and I found incredible traction from it,” he says. “So I would say now I’m a practitioner of the exercises. It’s driving me through that next tier of performance and openness to it. When we applied this methodology to our leadership teams and other pockets of teams, we used it to develop our own HR change management strategy. We came up with a series of very specific platforms for Ben & Jerry’s to create that intentional high performance culture that would take us toward that collaborative collective and interdependence we were aspiring toward.
“There’s a built-in cynicism to change programs and tools, and this is one of the tools I really connected with. It connects on multiple levels, from the individual through to the group, centering the individual and helping people perform. No team is going to perform if each individual isn’t present and ready, and that’s what we’ve seen as really unlocking performance in this program.”
This article originally appeared on B the Change in January 2018.