Presence & Leadership Development Program

A brave Microsoft group wanted to implement an in-depth yearlong program focused on awareness-based, inside-out transformation. The first year was so impactful that it ran another year with a second cohort. 

Project Synopsis

The vision was simple: Go deeper than conventional development offerings. The work was rooted in psychological and leadership work, mind-body science, growth mindset, awareness practices, and sincere commitment to transformation. 


Microsoft Corp


Pamela Saari
Sara Yao

Key Components

  • Confidential, opt-in application process to assess readiness
  • Advisory support to the group’s senior leadership team
  • Year-long program running 2 years; cohorts of 20 individuals selected each year
  • 29 individuals completed program (7 completed both years)
  • Combination of managers and individual contributors
  • Use of The Leadership Circle 360 assessment with managers
  • 1:1 monthly coaching sessions; customized homework
  • Engagement between 1:1 sessions for support
  • Group sessions each year; all participants (both cohorts) invited in the program’s second year
  • Mid-year surveys, completion assessments, and post-program survey


  • Up to 43% improvements in 10 areas— managing 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
  • Post-program survey—continued shifts in all 10 areas, indicating ongoing maturation
  • Sustained stability— non-reactivity, listening and empathy, relating to stress, clarity of how impact situations, overall well-being, somatic connection to a bigger perspective
  • Majority of participants committed to a contemplative practice
  • Conceptual grounding in the science behind autopilot patterns
  • Evolution of trust and support among participants, impacting systemic culture shifts
  • First-time participants beginning year two were more grounded in awareness compared to at the start of year one, indicating changes in the group’s culture during year one
  • Positive feedback from the senior leadership team regarding transformation

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. It has been the single most impactful development program I’ve ever participated in.

Participant, Presence & Leadership Program

Changing from the inside out has allowed me to become a genuine leader. 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 reactions and access more productive responses that lend to an authenticity that I never knew existed.

Participant, Presence & Leadership Program

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

Participant, Presence & Leadership Program