TRANSFORMING THE PEOPLE WHO ARE TRANSFORMING THE PLANET
Vista Caballo works with Fortune 50s, energetic start ups, executive teams, and everyone in between to help them unlock the unrealized human and leadership development potential within both the individuals and the organization.
These are some of their stories…
Head of Unilever Food & Beverage NA, Former CEO, Ben & Jerry’s
“What prompted us to go to The StillPoint Experience was that we were not satisfied with any other models and the tools out there. What I have seen in our teams now is a common language, an ability to address where the gaps are and an ability to open people’s minds to new possibilities: these are the fundamental underpinnings of any high performing teams and individuals.”
The Power of Vision: A Cerebral Academic Learned to Lean in and Changed His World
For most of Charles Neddermeyer’s life, he has believed in the power of the brain and knowledge. It’s been a fortunate perspective for a veteran of 17 years as a teacher, first in the high schools of gritty Detroit blue-collar neighborhoods, then in the civilized independent middle schools of Michigan and California. But it wouldn’t be enough for a lifetime of happiness, even though teaching, for him, “was always something so essential.”
Neddermeyer comes from a family of teachers, who inspired him to enter the field he loves. In the beginning, he devoted his graduate work in Michigan and abroad to the subject. When he became a teacher nearly two decades ago, he gravitated toward social studies. But his passion was global studies including fields such as environmental sustainability, global connectedness and women’s issues, and that’s what he’s invested in as a teacher.
Right now, he teaches a seventh-grade Global Studies course at The Buckley School, a highly regarded coeducational independent school in Sherman Oaks, California, but he also gets involved with the students, working as an adviser for Buckley’s Multicultural Inclusion Group with students from diverse socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds.
Neddermeyer has long been on a path that explores global enlightenment. It has made him a man with a passion to impart big ideas that engage young minds. “When you’re teaching kids great ideas, hopefully it does change the world; hopefully it does generate more love and understanding from a global perspective.”
His students, who affectionately call him “Neddy,” seem to appreciate his commitment to them. “As I get older and more refined in the craft, I hear from so many more students who are happy to boast of their success in the broader global community,” Neddermeyer says.
NO WAY TO MOVE FORWARD
A friend—Alfonso Montiel—told him he had the perfect person to help him regain his footing. Montiel had gone to Vista Caballo, a remote ranch in Colorado where Lisa Arie had established an exclusive executive learning center for top-tier businesspeople. Montiel went through a private Vista Caballo Experience and told Neddermeyer that she had opened his heart, his mind and his perspective. Montiel was so grateful, and he prompted Neddermeyer to reach out to her.
Arie suggested The StillPoint Discovery Experience. Neddermeyer did the evaluations online and the subsequent 21 days of follow-up exercises. He engaged in “intense discussions” with Arie. She understood very quickly what was holding him back.
“She helped me understand that I needed to [recalibrate] my vision…and helped me recognize that I’m kind of very cerebrally based, and it’s very difficult for me to let my heart lead.” That was the key that would allow this master schoolteacher to engage more fully with students, colleagues and parents. He opened up and felt zero stress about doing so. It felt so natural.
“Before this, my relationships with other people were very surface. After doing The StillPoint, I recognized within myself a more balanced, less-guarded approach. Before, I had blinders on and wasn’t seeing to the side, the left and the right. Now, if what I see is uncomfortable, that’s OK because I feel capable of handling it.”
The upshot: He experienced a major change of perspective that has filtered into every aspect of his life. “My students ask me, ‘How can you be so calm, so at ease?’ Certainly after StillPoint, I’ve taken what Lisa has guided me toward understanding and used that in my meetings with the administration at school, discussions with parents, talks with small and large groups.
LEAN INTO DISCOMFORT
At first, Neddermeyer resisted. Lisa advised him to “give it a few days and see what happens.” He did, and what unfolded was an upheaval in Neddermeyer’s vision of himself and his world.
Has The StillPoint Experience improved his life? “I know it has. It’s changed the way I communicate with [students’] parents, with my family members, with people who come in and out of my life. I’ve encouraged friends to go through StillPoint. Professionally, I feel more centered. And in my private life, I’ve been able to begin a new relationship. After doing StillPoint, I can take a more honest and open approach and share my feelings. It’s really lovely.
“Overall, Lisa’s program has introduced balance to my life. Before this, imbalance was taking over my world. I’ve been comfortable letting the things I placed so much unnatural importance on go to the side. They’re still important, but my job, my family and taking care of myself are also important, maybe because I have a broader perspective.”
The StillPoint Experience has also made him happier. “I didn’t think of myself as an unhappy man before. But I’ve since recognized myself as being broadly unhappy before having this experience. Lisa’s program allows you to explore what makes you happier, not only in those brainiac things, but in personal relationships, too.”
“The most powerful thing was getting the results and seeing the change. Doing the exercises every day became a ritual, and I kept doing them after the required 21 days.”
The Power of Persistence: A Leadership Wunderkind Discovers That Focus Produces the Best Results
Andy Sontag’s greatest passion is “designing experiences that build relationships,” he says. The idea is that we humans need to collaborate to solve big problems like, say, the refugee crisis in Europe. “Problems like this can’t be solved by one individual,” he says. “I create experiences that build meaningful relationships between people. When you work as a group, it’s amazing what comes out of that.”
That makes sense for Sontag, who has known the positive power of group initiative growing up in a kind of utopian “intentional community” in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where community land is owned collectively and houses are owned by the individuals who inhabit them. Home to famed Antioch College, the area is a verdant Valhalla of rolling hills, forests and valleys that endowed him with what he calls “the most wonderful upbringing. I could walk into my friends’ houses and feel I was at home.”
At 18, the idyll ended when he flew to Ghana to volunteer briefly in a refugee camp and had what he calls “the most meaningful experience of my life.” This was followed by a year with Americorps in Seattle working in “restorative justice” for the homeless. He moved from a deep interest in the intersection of politics and criminal justice toward what he saw as a higher leverage point for making positive change: business. He started thinking about “the evolution of capitalism toward purpose” and went to college to study entrepreneurship and sustainability. It was the beginning of a life aimed at “bringing businesspeople to their highest potential good,” as Sontag says.
THE PATH TO CLARITY
These thoughts placed him on a path to Denmark, where he studied leadership and entrepreneurship at the respected Kaospilot business and design school. While there, he co-created a methodology for designing experiences that build relationships, which he has since taught extensively. He has used it on numerous projects, among them facilitating experiences to bring together artists and entrepreneurs at an international leadership summit in Iceland where, in a few days, startups were born and relationships forged under the banner of one core belief: When individuals work collectively, they can move mountains.
Today, Sontag has left the freelance and startup life to be a full-time “experience designer” in Denmark at UFUSE, a firm that represents creative clients in Europe and the United States. UFUSE had been an investor in a company Sontag started “because they believed in my ideas,” he says. So he gets a lot of freedom to design experiences that foster UFUSE’s mission of “unleashing creative courage.”
He focuses much of his time on fortifying his ability to contribute to the world. He identifies two sides of this mission. One is the systemic: “We need better systems for distributing clean energy, for education, health care, and transportation,” he says. The second and foremost side is, he says, “the evolution of an individual and collective consciousness towards compassion and away from an egocentric worldview.” He asks: “How can we cultivate our ability to put our own house in order before rushing around trying to fix others’?”
THE 1 PERCENT PROBLEM
Personally, Sontag has long been on a quest for clarity and balance. Along the way, he read a FastCompany.com story on Lisa Arie, who founded Vista Caballo, an exclusive learning center for top-echelon executives based at her remote Colorado ranch. He sensed she was a kindred spirit and followed her progress. Eventually she became his adviser for the startup Core, which sought to “create experiences that unfold human potential.” Arie was with Sontag “for a year of that journey,” he says.
Their meeting was fortuitous. Sontag had “many conversations with [Arie] about how to help people, how to bring together people from different disciplines and different parts of the world.” And about balance.
From late 2014 through early 2015, he went through The StillPoint Experience, a new self-discovery tool Arie had designed to help people find their metacognition: the thinking they need to navigate their most challenging moments. “It was a profoundly impactful experience,” Sontag says. “For me, it has been effective in helping me make decisions in a strategic way.”
THE QUEST FOR BALANCE
With more persistence, Sontag says he can “really focus and do one thing at a time.” As it is, he’s still taking on a bit too much. “I’ve gotten better at focusing, but I’m still struggling. The first step in making change is to identify it and articulate it. I’m strong at connecting to people and ideas, which I don’t want to get rid of, but as the same time I want to have more patience with things to get the full benefit.”
The StillPoint Experience consists of an initial diagnostic online and 21 days of follow-up exercises to reinforce what was learned. One of Sontag’s exercises had him list both his projects and those of his collaborators. He was floored; he saw clearly that the ones where someone was 100 percent invested in a project had the best outcome. These exercises were, for him, the best thing about StillPoint: “The most powerful thing was getting the results and seeing change. Doing the exercises every day became a ritual, and I kept doing them after the required 21 days.” .
He realized he had to pursue persistence over time to see change over time. For instance, when his current boss at UFUSE was investing in Sontag’s former (successful) startup, the young entrepreneur was also working half-time at another company. “I realized that was a classic lack of focus. I was splitting my focus between two companies. Then three months ago, I started working full-time at UFUSE,” Sontag says.
At the same time, he realized there was a double edge: Lack of persistence can do harm. At Arie’s prompting, he continues to work on persistence. It’s not only good for him professionally but personally, too, because it promotes thinking in a balanced way, and balance reduces stress.
For Sontag, “StillPoint was a challenging experience. It’ll make me happier in the long term. Psychologically, it was meaningful. It gave me a lot of focus, a lot of direction in many ways.”
Louisville, KY, U.S.A.
“I had not asked or expected my top executives to be vulnerable with each other…Stillpoint created this opportunity for them. The result: They grew closer and came to trust each other more.”
The Power of Curiosity: How New Perspectives Made One Leader and Her Team Closer and Stronger
Tami Quiram has spent her life in analytical work. The weekends are for family and water sports from racing sailboats to water skiing—weather permitting—near her home in the Green Bay, Wisconsin, area. But during the week, Quiram is a self-professed “numbers person” who has spent most of her professional life in the complicated, demanding world of insurance.
She has also had more than a passing interest in innovation: “I don’t understand not trying to do things simpler, easier, better. Why wouldn’t you?” she asks rhetorically.
These days, grounded in a commitment to, as she puts it, “affordable, comprehensive and patient-centered health care,” she is President of Large and Small Group Insurance for Humana, as well as Enterprise Vice President for this sprawling, Louisville, Kentucky-based corporation, one of America’s half dozen largest health insurance providers.
Between January 2014 and June 2015, Quiram’s group had gone through a series of organizational changes. She was promoted to her current role with expanded responsibilities. Her seven top executives within the group were also in new or expanded roles. At the same time, the insurance business was going through tremendous change surrounding introduction of the Affordable Care Act. There was a lot going on; it was a time of reform and rethinking.
Quiram and her team of high achievers were being asked to improve business performance simultaneously on multiple levels. “We collectively had high expectations for our organization and our team,” she says. Everyone needed to bring their A game to meet the challenge. “I knew the team members were going to need to trust each other and rely on each other’s strengths more than I had seen in the past,” says Quiram. She understood that the term “team” had to mean “our team” because collaboration would net the group further success and innovation.
THE ROAD TO VISTA CABALLO
Quiram wanted to shine a light on the team’s collective brilliance and remembered Lisa Arie, founder of the exclusive Colorado-based Vista Caballo, which specializes in intensive custom leadership training for top-tier executives. Quiram had gone through one of Arie’s custom group experiences near Humana headquarters in Kentucky and came away with “a very strong appreciation for Lisa and all she does for others.” In February, Quiram signed up herself and her team for Arie’s integrated online tool, The StillPoint Discovery Experience, which can be done remotely. She went through it a total of five times, and each of her team members completed at least three rounds.
They went into it with the shared goal of attaining “better business performance,” says Quiram. But they ended up rarely talking about that. What gripped them was each individual’s balance point, meaning an area that needed a little work to bring each executive’s thinking styles—and the group’s business performance—into balance.
They were all “open, candid and vulnerable with each other. They shared their balance points, the challenges they were having, as well as their personal discoveries,” Quiram says. Everyone, including her, “was learning something about themselves, and each person was learning something different. “Personally, I bounced back and forth between [working on] curiosity and vision,” she recalls.
CURIOSITY AND VISION
“The StillPoint curiosity activity requires you to make random word pairings and look for new connections,” she says. “For me, curiosity wasn’t about asking questions as much as it was about making…new connections that, for me, had not been intuitive.
“For example, I was exploring the connection between time management and [the feeling of] fulfillment when I noticed that I tended to spend my time on problems rather than on activities that gave me a sense of fulfillment. By choosing to shift how I used my time, I found I was more fulfilled and that others were capable of solving many of those problems,” she says.
“Similarly, when money and worry were paired, it was too easy to conclude the connection is ‘people worry about money.’ Deeper contemplation led me to see that people often worry more about what they have and could lose than what they lack. Translating that to business applications, I started to ask myself if I become more risk averse when the business is performing really well.”
Working on her vision was a different story. “Prior to The StillPoint Discovery Experience, my concept of vision was all about the long-term vision for my organization,” Quiram says.
“As part of StillPoint, we played with vision in short spurts. For example, what’s my vision for this meeting or for the family dinner? I started taking time to close my eyes and envision myself in the near future. What surprised me is that I rarely (OK, never) conjured up a picture of me at work. Rather, I saw myself volunteering, running and participating in community activities. This is a shift for me, and I’m really curious to see how my future choices will be shaped by this different perspective,” she says.
As for the team, Quiram realized that she generally tries to create a culture where folks feel comfortable and safe sharing. “Therefore, I had not asked or expected my [top executives] to be vulnerable with each other. The Stillpoint Discovery Experience created this opportunity for the team. The result: They grew closer and came to trust each other more. We can now focus not just on personal development, but also on team development. As a result, we’re stronger as individuals and exponentially stronger as a team.”
For Quiram and her team, the deep conversations with Arie during the 21-day period of exercises following the initial diagnostic sealed the deal.
The team, she says, thought the exercises, aimed at “knowing your balance point and then knowing how to gain balance,” were extremely helpful. “But they also truly appreciated the one-on-ones with Lisa. Lisa has an ability to see into your soul and extract parts of you that you otherwise ignore. She helps you sort through your emotions and make sense of them. And even more important, she challenges your perspective and self-reflection. One of my team members could not have made the progress [that happened] without that challenge.”
LESS STRESS, MORE PEACE
Arie did the same for Quiram. “At one point, I shrugged off something during a conversation with Lisa with a comment like, ‘I know my reaction was really the result of some bad news I got earlier in the day.’ Lisa’s response was, ‘Well, if you want to believe that, I guess you can, but we both know that isn’t true.’ It was a good push. We were able to really get at some deeper thoughts and desires. And those realizations ultimately helped my stress levels subside.”
Since going through The StillPoint Discovery Experience, the team members have displayed an ability to take themselves to new levels of “unity and willingness,” according to Arie, who calls this development “something to be very proud of, something that can inspire other leaders and set a standard for other companies.”
That and Quiram’s more fruitful interactions with her colleagues have made this analytics maven happier. The process has also made her more nimble as a thinker and businesswoman. “I feel more positive and more at peace. I also feel smarter because I see connections and, maybe more importantly, connections I might have missed otherwise,” she says. “Best of all, I know the individuals on my team collaborate in a way that improves overall team performance. And that takes pressure off me. In the end, we all learned to trust each other more. And we love that.”
Jane Bowman Goetschius
Ben & Jerry’s
Burlington, VT, U.S.A.
“I’ve changed brain pathways. I’ve changed habits. I became unstuck.”
The Power of Persistence: Staying Focused and Persistent Means a More Conscious Leader, More Productive Employees
The field has changed over time, but the fundamentals haven’t. “Humans are humans. You are stewarding human capital, and that doesn’t change. The tools and techniques do,” she says.
She’s been an empathetic, accessible manager, which means in every job she’s had, from Vice President of Human Resources at Goodrich to Senior Human Resources Business Partner with IBM and finally her current perch at America’s original disruptive ice cream maker, people have come to her with their problems and conflicts. “I get great satisfaction when I help or inspire someone to develop individually and when I influence the larger system and help it grow and thrive,” she says.
Goetschius was particularly moved by the experience at her second job as a human resources business partner at Unisys in Pueblo, Colorado. There, she worked with a group of employees with no prior experience in the high-tech industry and molded them into productive, self-managed work teams. “It was a fabulous job and I learned so much,” she says. It happened again at Ben & Jerry’s, where she’s been deeply affected by a whole company, from people on the board to people on the manufacturing line, that has renewed its commitment to a core company value of “linked prosperity.”
AN ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT
The value is emblematic of Ben & Jerry’s grassroots decision making, embodied in self-managed teams. “It’s a model here and we build on that strength,” she says. The model persisted after Unilever acquired Ben & Jerry’s in 2000, when, to Unilever’s credit, it agreed to safeguard the company’s widely admired social mission and business model. The founder-based, entrepreneurial organization and the multinational corporation learned from each other. “Unilever brought certain processes that were essential for us to scale. We brought an entrepreneurial spirit and a social mission to Unilever. We have a very engaged workforce; people are very passionate and committed to the mission and to our success.
These are connected, open people who function with a lot of autonomy, and turnover is quite low. It’s weird and wonderful. And a good place to work,” Goetschius says.
Both experiences—at Unisys and Ben & Jerry’s—were instances of what she calls “seed planting. You grow many seeds and then turn them over to someone else to cultivate and harvest. I really enjoy growing teams and communities that are productive and performing, and I must say I believe more in strength-based organizations than in efficiency. It’s a more appreciative, more expanding way of interacting with employees and the systems impacting employees. It brings it all back down to the individual and effective processes and can be leveraged. You could call it an unlocking of energy and potential.”
Throughout her career, Goetschius has consistently “worked on” herself to develop professionally. “There’s always potential for growth, whether in my personal life or at work,” she says. “I’ve done a lot of leadership assessments and coaching, and I always have things I can work on to improve…and things I didn’t realize I did so well—I’ve been told I can be a bit hard on myself.”
Early in 2016, forward-thinking Ben & Jerry CEO Jostein Solheim presented Geotschius with the opportunity to sample an innovative leadership tool developed by Lisa Arie, founder of the elite leadership learning center Vista Caballo in remote southwest Colorado. Called The StillPoint Experience, the neuroscience-based tool combines a series of initial, thought-provoking questions participants answer online with a 21-day follow-up period that encourages each participant’s own brain mechanics to turn new realizations into new behavior. Goetschius eventually went through StillPoint three times, each time reaping fresh insights into her thinking and behavior as a leader.
“After going through the process once, I was surprised that a short 10-minute self-diagnostic would surface such meaningful insights for behavioral changes. Plus, I was surprised it revealed that I needed to work on persistence—my perception had been that I was already quite persistent,” Goetchius says.
“Lisa reminded me that I was surprised because I might be using only one aspect of persistence, or I may be using persistence in only one area of my life, like work, or I could be identifying myself by my role or title. Once I looked through that lens, I understood what she was saying about developing an ability to see the whole picture. It was an instant shift in perspective, and once I started working with the strategies, my behavior and approaches changed immediately.”
A MINUTE OR TWO OF REFLECTION EVERY DAY
The StillPoint Experience recommended several strategies to help Goetschius develop her persistence. She chose to practice a minute or two of reflection every day. “I was taken aback by the patterns I saw doing this, and I saw how small the changes could be to make a bigger impact. It led to new behavior and new belief systems, including changing my perception of self-care and becoming much more intentional about how I was going to spend my energy for the day. It led me to be more present, listen more openly and to not take work back onto myself. I felt less guilt and internal agitation, which grew out of me always wanting to feel I was helping. I became less accessible, which is a good thing.
“People then solved problems on their own, recognizing that they’re quite capable of doing so. I don’t want to change the company’s open-office concept, but tweaking those behaviors, not completely changing them, means I can be more impactful by promoting autonomy and helping employees realize their potential. The StillPoint Experience helped me work through this,” she says.
After the online segment, Goetchius spoke on the phone with Lisa periodically over the subsequent, 21-day action-plan period. “That was lovely, and I now have a notebook filled with sticky tape where there were aha moments,” she says.
Lisa helped me navigate my revelations by illuminating, for instance, that “I don’t need a lot of structure, but my team does. So I’ve been more specific in instructions since this is more effective for them. This means they’re more productive and there’s less distraction for me,” Goetschius says.
Goetschius puts in long hours and sometimes takes on too much, but Lisa and The StillPoint Experience have helped her find a place of balance where she says no more often. “I save energy when I’m more confident in who I am and show up focused, able to see the whole picture in more intentional ways. [I’ve learned that] being more persistent is self-care and team care, actually, since the result is more structure, planning and conscious contributions. Lisa also helped me realize the power of working in bursts when finishing bigger projects,” she says.
In two more forays into The StillPoint Experience, Goetschius examined her ability to think with more curiosity and self-inquiry. In the end, StillPoint led her to see deeper patterns that affected her behavior so she could change them. “There were two or three thought patterns that kept coming up through the entire StillPoint Experience that got me to the reasons for behavioral patterns: self-care, confidence in my decisions, and seeing myself a little bit more clearly as a person.
Being clear about intentions and acting upon them is strength, Goetschius says. “If you’re clear about intentions, you can be more impactful—it takes a lot of self-inquiry to understand your intentions.”
“The process showed me that I may not realize how others perceive me, and with this tool I’ve gotten more inquisitive about how people see me. I’ve also gotten more insight into how I see myself and how I can contribute more to Ben & Jerry’s. I’ve found that curiosity has led me to the discovery that my assumptions are not always right. It’s given me the chance to see the whole picture, which is what I’m working on now. Not the big picture, but the whole picture. The goal is to better express myself, to fully contribute, to understand all the facets of my purpose and create an organization that’s thriving and growing. I’m getting there. I am. After 21 days of working on my skill at self-inquiry, I’ve also gone off on a retreat and spent some time on this. There was synergy with Lisa’s work and a sense of renewal.”
For Goetschius, there is much to recommend about The StillPoint Experience. “The process is clear and simple, you can do it remotely and you get to insights that actually change behavior quite quickly. I initially pushed back on some things—a very human response. But now they make sense because I realize I’ve changed brain pathways. I’ve changed habits. I became unstuck.”
Looking back at her months of going through The StillPoint Experience, Goetschius says the process made her “more intentional as a person and in my work. I’m more focused and I’m taking better care of myself. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. But now I have a better idea, and that’s a good thing.”
San Francisco, CA, U.S.A.
“The StillPoint Experience does a good job of opening the dialogue within yourself.”
The Power of Persistence: How It Paid Off for One Founder, Who Led Her Nonprofit to Powerful New Funding
After going through The StillPoint Experience, Villy Wang had an epiphany: She needed to persist, even while BAYCAT, her San Francisco nonprofit for underserved youth, labored under a deficit after two funding sources dropped out. Not long after this, formidable new guardian angels signed on, easing the nonprofit’s budgetary imbalances and restoring her faith.
Villy Wang had been a Wall Street banker and lawyer. But her beginnings were humble as the child of a single Chinese mother who, as a struggling immigrant, lived in the New York projects and worked in sweatshops. Wang even toiled there with her. Her mother—who was her inspiration—worked hard, studied, rose to build her own sewing business and moved her family to a house away from the projects.
Wang did well in high school and got into Brown University, her goal was “to make as much money as possible so I could take care of my mother.” But “between Brown and Wall Street, I began to realize I didn’t quite fit in.” She had been that disadvantaged youth who, thanks in part to technology, was able to make it.
Wang’s career took her to San Francisco and eventually she gave up her well-paid job as a lawyer to found a nonprofit that would provide a way out of poverty, via technology, for the underserved youth of San Francisco. In 2004, she started BAYCAT (Bayview-Hunters Point Center for Arts and Technology), which she describes as “a nonprofit social enterprise that educates, empowers and employs young people, from historically underserved Bay Area communities, in the digital media arts.” They develop expertise in video and music production, graphic design, Web design and even animation. The central idea is to tell stories. “We believe everybody’s story matters,” says Wang.
She understood that in neighborhoods like Bayview and Hunters Point, kids suffered from a creative digital divide. “Even if you put an iPhone in the hands of these [BAYCAT] kids, they don’t have the parents who have any idea about this. There’s a lack of education, a lack of role models. And how many jobs can they get by referral this way? I want them to get where they could be.”
For her, empowerment is key: “We believe in giving them the technical skills, access to the equipment, getting to know themselves better. That’s what [BAYCAT] is about—bridging the [disadvantaged] past to the [promising] future. BAYCAT was one of the few social enterprises that made the link between the underserved and the higher industries like high tech,” Wang says.
In the 11 years BAYCAT has been operating, more than 3,000 kids have taken at least one class. They’re all—low-income white, African-American, Latino, Asian—producing something, from a TV show to corporate identity videos for local businesses. Eighty-nine percent of BAYCAT’s kids come from households making less than $55,000 a year, and they’re living in neighborhoods with the greatest health and crime challenges. BAYCAT STUDIO, the working production arm of the nonprofit, employs 20 young adults—18- to 25-year-olds—every year. …We have a 90 percent success rate in employment, meaning they stay on the job,” Wang says.
In the process, BAYCAT has won the support of arts greats like musician Herbie Hancock, author Dave Eggers, and actors Benjamin Bratt and Delroy Lindo.
Wang, both BAYCAT’s founder and CEO, was inspired by President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper program and his commitment to bettering the lives of young minority men and boys. “I do want to change the system,” she says and points to a 13-year-old African-American boy who came to BAYCAT and was “a handful. He needed a lot of help to be confident,” she says. “He was academically challenged—one of those who society assumes will end up in prison.” Today, thanks to BAYCAT, he’s an employed filmmaker.
BAYCAT STUDIO had served more than 100 clients, but by 2014, it was facing a deficit after two foundations dropped out as funders. “Our kids’ films were in over 30 film festivals, and our production studio was thriving. But at the end of 2014, we still ended in deficit,” she says. Lisa Arie entered the picture in late 2014 when she was looking for a videographer and found the studio. “How perfect is it to meet a Lisa,” Wang says now.
GETTING BACK ON TRACK
Before long, Wang and several of her team members engaged in The StillPoint Experience to find out where and how they needed to focus their thinking to get BAYCAT back on track. “This was beautifully designed, fairly easy to use. What was interesting was getting the first feedback. How it was framed was very interesting to me. This was different in that it really valued balance. Other assessments tend to put you in a box,” Wang says.
She tried to incorporate balance into her everyday life, and to achieve balance she needed more persistence. Bringing her thinking into balance by challenging herself to be more persistent was an epiphany, as was the idea of “not being afraid. …The StillPoint Experience does a good job of opening the dialogue within yourself. I realized that my personal development is so wrapped up with my organization—it’s like a baby. I birthed the baby and now that baby is 11 years old. I’m the mother who didn’t get any sleep over the last years. I need to replenish myself.”
“This has been an amazing time to see my self-awareness and how this affected the success of BAYCAT. I asked myself, What am I going to do if there’s a deficit? I talked with Lisa about it [after doing The StillPoint Experience], and she said, ‘Just let it go.’
The moment she gave me permission, everything fell into place. I could be fully engaged with my amazing management team, and we could be strategic thinkers together. I had been worried about the well-being of my employees, my students, our community. I think I felt that I alone had to make the final decisions. But I realized I didn’t. This new idea gave me a completely new perspective on decision making. The minute I realized that, the blockage stopped. I was less afraid and more open to opportunity and new ideas. And along came the 50 Fund.”
Did it ever! The 50th anniversary Super Bowl will be held in the San Francisco Bay Area in February 2016, and the local Super Bowl 50 host committee decided it would donate back 25 percent of its proceeds through the group’s nonprofit arm, the 50 Fund. One of its signature philanthropic initiatives is the Playmaker grant program, which awards 50 grants of $10,000 each to 50 notable Bay Area nonprofits every week leading up to Super Bowl 50. The host committee, after a competitive process, chose BAYCAT STUDIO to document all this in videos. It means churning out 50 videos with 50 nonprofits in 50 weeks. It’s a superb opportunity.
“This is a game changer for BAYCAT,” says Wang. “It will take us to the next level. We could have been closed in fear and not taken the leap. But we’re seizing the opportunity. We’ve got to take some risks to scale. This has been a great turning point.” As soon as the contract was signed, BAYCAT got to work.
By early June 2015, Wang was feeling concerned again. BAYCAT needed more capital from the donation side of the business. She reached for her persistence. Once again, it paid off, as it had so many times in the past. A generous new funder, Bloomberg Philanthropies, entered the picture with a multiyear grant for BAYCAT.
Arie’s perspective, constant words of encouragement and the lessons of The StillPoint Experience stay with Wang. She reminds herself to remain persistent to achieve balance in her thinking, which counteracts the stress and fear that had dogged her. With persistence and balance, she has found a new perspective that has opened her eyes to new possibilities. She has found a new clarity and a new confidence that keeps BAYCAT moving forward in wonderful and unexpected new ways.
Through metacognition—a deep self-awareness—Wang can see the relationship of the various styles of her thinking, and through a neuroscience-based repeating process of self-reinforcement, she has been able to bring those styles into balance. She saw plainly what she needed to do, and BAYCAT has benefited from that wisdom. Stresses and fears figure less and less in her decision making. Her new confidence clearly places decision making with her and team.
All this is a good thing. “I know that finding balance through persistence and focus leads not just to my own fulfillment but to BAYCAT’s, too,” says Wang, “and I’m happy about that.”
Burlington, VT, U.S.A.
“This focused on opportunities to expand… Other tools are about what’s wrong. This one is about what’s possible.”
The company name comes, somewhat prophetically, from the Great Law of the Iroquois, which states: “In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.”
Not only is Seventh Generation a mission- and values-driven enterprise with rigorous standards of social and environmental performance that won it classification as a rare B Corp, it’s also a flourishing company, with annual 2014 retail sales surpassing $350 million, that has attracted celebrity investors like Al Gore.
Tudor wouldn’t have it any other way. She started out as a food scientist working for Ben & Jerry’s, which was then acquired by Unilever; an offer to stay on couldn’t convince her to do so. “Going to work for a company that was not mission-based was going to be a challenge, so I chose to go with [Seventh Generation],” she says.
She flourished in this milieu, building in 10 years the company’s quality assurance policies and practices from the ground up. Tudor rose to Director of Quality Assurance, Regulatory, and Program Management, learning as she went to manage a team of smart scientists and technicians. “The company’s small enough that you feel you make a difference. I do believe I changed the company in a positive way,” Tudor contends.
“Quality assurance is important for us,” she explains. “We don’t have our own manufacturing and rely on third-party partners in the U.S., Canada and Germany.
THE STRAIGHT AND NARROW
“When the company was smaller, once they contracted out the manufacture of products, they weren’t paying a lot of attention to the contract manufacturers. I wanted to make sure [the producers] were being consistent and doing what we wanted of them.” Today, that is exactly what she does, in addition to making sure the company is in compliance with federal, state and local requirements. You could say Tudor keeps the company on the straight and narrow.
Founded in 1988, Seventh Generation eventually outgrew charismatic founder Jeffrey Hollender’s capabilities; the board replaced him in 2009 and asked him to leave altogether in 2010. The subsequent CEO, a veteran of PepsiCo, who was given the mandate to ensure the privately held company’s revenues multiplied exponentially, lasted little more than a year as he struggled with a founder who seemed unable to let go.
In 2011, the board chose a leader whose thinking aligned with the company’s mission: John Replogle, former Burt’s Bees CEO, took over as president and CEO. Financials, while important, would again take second place to mission and values. “We’re very lucky,” says Tudor. “A strong mission attracts people like [Darmouth-educated Replogle].”
Revenues continued to experience healthy growth, with a slight blip of flat sales during one year of the Great Recession. “It all comes back to making sure you hire like-minded people who understand the company’s mission around corporate responsibility. People have to know why they’re here,” Tudor says.
The change of leadership was difficult, she says. “But everyone kept the faith; they continued to believe in the products and mission. There was never any doubting of these fundamentals.”
Under Replogle’s watch, Seventh Generation managers were encouraged to avail themselves of effective tools that could improve their performance. “To take the next step in my company, it was important for me to do The StillPoint Experience that HR recommended. It’s important for me to be a good, effective leader,” she says. Tudor loved it: “This focused on opportunities to expand….Other tools are about what’s wrong. This one is about what’s possible.”
Tudor went through The StillPoint Experience three times in quick succession, each session followed by a 21-day period of exercises meant to reinforce the initial lessons. This concentrated dose and the deep follow-up questions by Lisa Arie “really helped me get there,” Tudor says. Arie, who founded the Colorado-based Vista Caballo exclusive leadership ranch and developed The StillPoint Experience as an executive training tool, had Tudor and some of her colleagues work on “three [character traits] we wanted to improve,” says Tudor. “I did those three in the first 21 days and then worked on three or four more.”
It was a slow evolution, she says, and she discovered she wanted to work on her ability to be curious more than anything. “As a scientist, curiosity was not something I used a lot, but I knew I could use that as part of my people-management skills.
“I went into most situations thinking I needed to have the answer. Because of The StillPoint Experience, I learned I didn’t need to, and I used the curiosity part of my brain. Then I went into meetings like this. I relaxed more. I realized that I didn’t have to have the answer, or the right answer. So I realized I could ask more questions. And I actually did ask more questions. Depending on the situation, most of the time there was more openness and collaborative problem solving.
“One of the things I struggled with was communicating up in my organization. So, with greater curiosity, you feel more confident doing that and speaking in front of groups. Absolutely, it has helped me do that, too. The new human-interest content I have is more interesting than facts and data. I think more, for instance, from the perspective of someone in the audience. What kind of questions would they have? I have more confidence and I’m more relaxed communicating with people.
“In team meetings, for example, I’m interested in keeping the team engaged and finding the right agenda topics because everyone does really different work. It’s about finding something pertinent to build the team and the relationships. I’m able to do that after my StillPoint sessions. At a team meeting now, we actually run out of time before we finish our agenda. We walk away with action items. So it’s a nice balance of sharing info and action. It’s good to be heard,” she says.
All these epiphanies and advances have made Tudor “definitely happier. I’m more relaxed, able to find more joy in what I’m doing. I feel more excitement about what I do, and I’m more hopeful about what I can accomplish. With more curiosity, I’m just having more fun.”