• April 28, 2012

    An anonymous contributor writes:

    I was thinking today about how Eric Erickson was so instrumental in guiding us through our trials during the big fire two years ago. With grace, ability and a rock solid cool head he tirelessly and unselfishly constructed a web of safety and direction for the fifty of us who chose to stay behind after the mandatory evacuation was put in place. With the loss of Montgomery and now Eric, we should all be concerned with the safety and leadership factor when the next inevitable disaster strikes.

    As for the way Kathleen was treated: shame on those who could not see the forest for the trees. As for Daniel: he is a good friend and should have been treated better than than being fired on his birthday, just days after he had returned to our so called community after sitting through his brothers passing. Shame on the powers that be.

  • April 27, 2012

    An anonymous business leader writes:

    My career has consisted of owning and working in small to medium businesses like Esalen, and for 5 years I worked in a large corporation, so I am able to hold both sides of the Esalen coin. Esalen is and organization and an organism. Here is what I know from personal experience of living at Esalen for 18 months (ending in 2008) and returning each year for 1-2 months ever since.

    As a company, Esalen is unhealthy. It is top heavy in management, and lacks a clear communication mechanism to get concise an accurate information between the top and bottom. It lacks an effective chain of command with ‘buy in’ of a common vision from all levels. The hybrid factor of community amplifies these problems. [Making the 'obvious' solution to erode the community. —Ed]

    In such an environment, first reactions to events and dictates tend toward fear of the unknown. Leadership has repeatedly and consistently refused to tap in-house expertise, breeding more mistrust of management. The regular practice of hiring from the outside the organization is like bringing in a grad student to ‘fix’ an indigenous culture. It hurts the organization in the long run because of the the ramp up time and cost to inculturate newcomers, and the cultural damage done in the interim.

    The business structure has been reshaped by a Board of Directors which in itself is unhealthy — being unbalanced in skills, experience and conscience. A balanced Board would be diverse enough to guide an organization as multifaceted as Esalen. To be successful, the proposed business structures require everything to fit into box and be measurable. This model simply cannot be applied to a place such as Esalen because of its dualistic business-community nature and all its accompanying intangibles.

    A failing model of direct income — per head, per bed — has been implemented. Land and facility restrictions, as well as the cost of a top
    heavy management team, have doomed this model. The ancillary and unseen costs of this strategy are becoming more evident with the severe cultural casualties and development delays seen to date.

    Until a year ago, the leadership did not actively pursue grant and donation income — funds which would have easily bridged the financial gap between corporate and community philosophies. Done properly and aggressively, grants and donations are the saving grace of any nonprofit. Indeed, most nonprofits require board members to procure substantial donation money as part of their duties. Esalen’s Board has fallen entirely short in this regard.

    My first round of recommendations:

    • Cut loose about half the management (Directors and their assistants)
    • Empower departmental managers to do what it takes to stay in the black and make their departments thrive
    • Establish a top to bottom, transparent communication system
    • Cut loose the board members that aren’t pulling their weight and aren’t aligned with the heart of Esalen
    • Find a new CEO — she’s a good person, but (like her predecessor) does not have the skill set or the right demeanor for the position
    • Find a new Human Resources director/manager. That position is one of ensuring compliance with the law. This position should
      never be in charge of hiring. Hiring is normally done at the departmental level. HR is only part of the checks and balances in a healthy organization. The current HR dept has a disproportionate amount influence over Esalen as a whole.

    The Nine reply:

    We take exception with the characterization of the Board as lacking diversity, although it may lack competence. The makeup of the Board is irrelevant in the face of the power of Chairman Sam Yau, whose iron endorsements by Founder Michael Murphy and President Gordon Wheeler tightly binds the hands of the other trustees.

  • April 25, 2012

    An anonymous contributor writes:

    I want to express my disgust at the treatment meted out to two wise and wonderful elders and servants of the Esalen community. I have been visiting Esalen from Europe for a decade, and luckily for me, Kathleen and Eric were there to offer a containing presence from day one.

    Whoever the buffoons are who have treated Kathleen and Eric so shabbily, may karma catch up with you. You mustn’t have the first idea what these unassuming yet brilliant people did in Esalen’s engine room as well as at its heart.

  • April 24, 2012

    An anonymous contributor writes:

    Once again, Sam Yau, Gordon Wheeler, the CEO, the Director of HR, and Jan Sinclair have underestimated the intelligence of the staff. The idea that anyone would believe that terminating Eric and Kathleen effective immediately is about a reorganization is beyond ludicrous.

    Where is the new organizational structure? The plan for the transition? The people capable of filling their roles?* The thanks and recognition for their contributions to the old structure?

    It’s too bad that Esalen didn’t have a credible HR person to guide Tricia through this. Crying and saying that “I could have done it better if I knew how” doesn’t suffice.

    *Side note: It takes more than grandiosity and a lust for power to fulfill the day to day task of running the organization, something that Jan and Jerry may be learning.

  • April 20, 2012

    An Esalen elder writes, paraphrasing Michel de Certeau, a perfect description of what is unfolding:

    When a bureaucracy loses its authority with the people, it has only the naked exercise of violence at its disposal.

    Another adds:

    Yes, and when an organization can no longer follow the hearts and intention of it’s founders, it names buildings after them instead. (Little House becomes “Price House”)

  • April 20, 2012

    An anonymous contributor writes:

    In the words of one of the most loved and respected to have graced this land:

    We need a hard road closure IN BOTH DIRECTIONS — NOW

    Let the current Directors figure that one out.

  • April 20, 2012

    An anonymous contributor writes:

    Consider this:

    When I wrote about Esalen five years ago the cost reduction program was supposed to mold the Institute into a hyper-efficient business machine. Yet today Esalen has more layers of management than it had in 2007. These extra layers come at a cost both in dollars and in accountability. Those extra layers insulate Esalen’s top management from responsibility for their decisions. At the highest levels in the Board they think things are going beautifully because they are out of touch with the reality of their own company.

    Today at Esalen the workers who try to save the business are the first in line to lose their jobs. Management accountability is gone. The people who mess up get to keep their jobs; and those trying to retain the business lose their jobs.

    This is actually an excerpt from an recent article about IBM with only a few words changed. So the particular patterns of Esalen’s downfall are really very typical of today’s businesses-in-decline. The surprising part is that an institution founded on particular values of human awareness would banish those principles at the executive level, effectively blinding itself to its own purpose and sealing its fate. Esalen now emulates the worst of corporate America.

  • April 19, 2012

    It is our great displeasure to announce that manager Daniel Cryns was also summarily terminated in Thursday’s “restructuring” action. Daniel’s tenure at the Institute, while not as long as Eric’s or Kathleen’s, was marked by a profound respect for Esalen’s cultural heritage and a special facility with words and actions both. This combination, well regarded by the community at large, could not have been more unpopular with the power elite. Like his peers, Daniel was given the heave-ho without notice.

  • April 19, 2012

    An anonymous contributor writes:

    Hoping that I am correct in assuming that my name won’t be associated with any posts I write. Please let me know if there is something different that I need to do to be sure of that.

    The answer is that all contributions are anonymized by default. However we recommend that people making risky submissions to Esaleaks not depend solely on our feeble computer skills for their protection. See here for more.

  • April 19, 2012

    An anonymous contributor writes:

    I have eyes filled with rage and disgust and my focus is pointed at Tricia [McEntee] and Scott [Stillinger], who I believe are perhaps the most dangerously out of touch, short sighted, and simply incompetent leaders I have ever experienced. I imagine in the future they will either resign in disgrace, be forced out by a coup d’etat or — if they refuse — drive the organization directly over a cliff. I do not trust them; I know few who do. I do know a few who attempt to maintain a — let’s give them a chance to explain — attitude.

    Tricia, I believe you are surrounded by ass kissing yes (wo)men. Many people believe you are a puppet to a Rasputin-like, snaky, manipulative puppet master named Scott. Do you know that? Are you buffered by that reality by your yes people? I just would like to offer you a touch of reality in case you are, in fact, making such horrible and aggressive and ignorant moves because you’re too removed from the community to understand what you are doing. I can’t believe this is what you do with the blood of Jimbo still on your hands. Perhaps this is your incompetent way of making amends? As Trisha’s memo indicated this restructuring will make more maintenance positions available that are full-time and benefited. You’re a day late and a dollar short in the most horribly disgustingly absurd way possible.