Case Study ~ Presence & Leadership Program

Case Study ~ Presence & Leadership Program

A brave Microsoft group asked Sara Yao and me to design and pilot a new type of year-long leadership program. The vision was simple: Go deeper than conventional programs. The first year was so impactful that we offered it second year.

This is a brief overview to: (1) raise awareness about what organizations are doing (2) report the impacts and (3) inspire all of us to keep doing this brave work. Contact Pamela about possibilites for your organization.

Presence & Leadership Program ~ Overview

The program was based on the assumption that true transformation initiates from the inside out. Counter-productive or limiting behaviors originate from one’s unconscious reactivity. When becoming aware of these unconscious emotional and mental patterns, there is the opportunity for choices. The program was designed to reveal reactive patterns and to guide individuals to new awareness and behaviors. The work is rooted in awareness and mindfulness practices, psychological and leadership work, latest mind-body science, and sincere commitment to change.

Key Components ~

  • confidential application and selection process to assess intentions and readiness
  • year-long program that ran over 2 years — cohorts of ~20 individuals selected each year
  • 29 total individuals completed the program (7 individuals participated both years)
  • combination of managers and individual contributors
  • 1:1 monthly coaching sessions with required customized homework
  • engagement between 1:1 coaching sessions for support and accountability
  • four group sessions each year to explore topics such as aware listening, sustained energy and focus, empowered choice, and courageous conversations
  • to support sustained transformation, all participants (both cohorts) were invited to the group sessions in the program’s second year
  • use of The Leadership Circle (TLC) assessment with managers to catalyze awareness of creative competencies and unconscious reactive patterns
  • advisory support to the group’s leadership team
  • to capture and deepen learning — use of mid-year surveys, program completion assessments, and a post-program survey

 Impacts ~ 

  • up to 43% improvements (self-assessed) in 10 areas — ability to manage stress, ability to focus, energy level, ability to choose responses, efficiency, general well-being, breath/body and emotional awareness, present moment awareness, leadership effectiveness, and quality of relationships
  • in post-program survey (6 months after program end) improvements increased in all 10 areas, indicating a sustained transformation and an ongoing maturation
  • also reported was sustained awareness and stability in — non-reactivity, deeper listening and empathy, relating to stress, clarity of how impact people and situations, overall well-being and happiness, grounding in a bigger perspective
  • majority of participants now committed to an ongoing awareness practice
  • significant shifts in relationships with family, friends, and children
  • first-time participants beginning the 2nd year were in a different place of awareness, indicating a transformative ripple had happened in the group’s culture during year 1
  • natural evolution of trust, support, and friendship among participants… impacting ongoing systemic culture shifts
  • positive anecdotal feedback from the senior team regarding participants’ transformation

Participant Quotes ~

The two single words that capture my experience in this program are… life changing. 

Of all my experiences with leadership and development programs, this has been – by far – the most impactful. I am a different person as a result, both at work and at home. I’m thankful for Pamela and Sara, and to be part of an organization which invests in its people in such a meaningful way.

This experience has changed my life. The program has allowed me to make some big changes in my approach to myself and with people that change the way I lead and listen to others. This program has been the single most impactful development program I’ve ever participated in. 

Through recognizing my reactive behaviors and focusing on responsive behaviors, I have been able to ‘let things come to me’. This has reduced my stress and given others the choice to lean in and engage in a more meaningful way. As a result, I have found myself leading without trying….a 180-degree shift from my leadership-by-force approach at the beginning of the program.

Being a great leader is only possible if you understand yourself. The work in this program helped me understand my inner engineering, reactive tendencies, and myself at the core. This enabled me to be more authentic with myself and others.

Changing from the inside out has allowed me to become a genuine leader with staying power. I have a clarity now that wasn’t there before. I’m able to see things I couldn’t see. I’m able to recognize and roll with reactions and access more productive responses that lend to an authenticity in my leadership that I never knew existed before this program. 

I am becoming a better husband, father, son, brother, friend, and employee. This is a long haul process so I will be working at this for years to come. But the foundation and understanding even just 6 months into the program has been truly astounding. 

Because of this program I’m connected in new ways to important people in my life, both personally and professionally. I see the world through a different lens and I problem solve in new and creative ways. 

The most important things that happened for me in this program were less anxiety in all situations, a growing curiosity around presence, and a more balanced home life.

If someone was thinking about applying to this program I’d say… be willing to be honest and vulnerable. It’s hard and it feels weird at first because this is a professional program. Trust the process that you’re being led to something bigger than you can imagine.