• May 7, 2012

    An anonymous contributor reminds us of this

    How do we consciously create our service culture together, in a cohesive and collaborative way, taking pride in what we offer to the thousands of lives we touch & change every year? … Now Chip and Vanda will join the whole community as we learn more about Peak leadership, Abraham Maslow, and creating a “healthy pond” which symbolizes the vibrant culture we are co-creating.

    …and offers the following:

    Remember last year: The healthy pond

    What is Chip Conley’s view of the recent “restructuring” which involves the savage loss of 3 of Esalen’s most talented and dedicated workers. It’s been a long road since we strived to “consciously create our service culture together in a cohesive and collaborative way” in April last year. Many departments believed that they had already consciously been doing just that for many years. Most departments had already reached a high level of service with staff dedicated to working with and collaborating with other departments to serve their community and seminarians and beyond. Perhaps this was preaching to the choir.

    That is why it was excruciating for some to sit in the now mandatory community meetings to be told after all these years what it was to be a community and how they could now work together as a team. ‘We’ ness was the new theme.

    They sat through excruciatingly childish “team building” games taken from the rah rah days of the 90′s to be rewarded with chocolate and thus they became “a team.” Some but not all of the community were asked to fill out a survey about the current leadership and when the results came back devastatingly low, there were behind the scenes meetings on how this was to be presented to the community. The leaders obviously thought the community would not be able to handle the low results. There were practised presentations and some more team building exercises to help the staff take in this rather surprising result. Surprising to the leaders perhaps, not to the community who obviously were the ones who answered the survey as requested. The fact that the leadership wasn’t able to predict the results is another indication how wide the gap had become.

    The EET team was formed and we imagine worked hard on figuring out ways to fill the gap. What about the ones who failed the survey, the leaders? What was their homework to bridge the gap? The EET team had a couple of fun dinners and BBQ’s where we joined in games that were genuinely fun. But really, the community had been doing that by itself for years without the obvious agenda of teaching the community to be “team players.” I would be curious to see how the leaders have played their part by working hard to bridge the gap with particular focus on relating, team playing, building trust and relationships on ALL levels of organization.

    There doesn’t seem to be any bridging the gap in how they chose to restructure with no advance collaboration with those directly involved. There doesn’t seem to be any bridging the gap when Tricia said in the community meeting after the firings that they just ASSUMED that the 3 wouldn’t be interested in being part of the restructuring. A good leader would have asked explicitly if they would be interested in the hope that their wealth of knowledge and talent would not go to waste. If they were not interested, a good leader may have also asked if they would be interested staying on in their position for maybe 6 months to a year to help make the transition go smoothly. Instead they were shown no appreciation of their long term exceptional skills contribution by being ‘restructured” effective immediately.

    It doesn’t take a text book to know how to treat people in an organization. It takes some common sense and an idea of the value of a human being. Maybe something as simple as treating people as how you yourself would like to be treated. So those leaders who don’t know how to do this must look up textbooks or handbooks to come up with these confusing notions on how to behave.

    When employees are not valued as shown explicitly through the viscious nature of the 3 “restructured” firings, then yes it is easy to see why the community cannot hold those in charge with any credibility or trust or with valuing relationships. Maybe the Esalen Service Culture Initiative should have put more emphasis on helping the leadership understand the many areas (as shown in the calibrated results of the survey) in which they were lacking and how they could improve. The community may only see these survey results if they make an appointment with the Guest Services Director who will sit with you while you read through it. Has anyone done that?

    The disastrous firings showed that there was plenty of room for improvement in the leaders committing to the health of the community, growing relationships, improving collaborations and enhancing their seemingly weak leadership capabilities. The money used to fund team building games and meetings may have been better spent on teaching the leaders how to lead. It seems fiscally irresponsible to hire leaders who cannot lead. The results can be devastating as seen in this current broken community. Many feel their hearts have been broken by this uncaring shattering of their community. Leaders should come fully trained. That should be commensurate with the size of their salaries. Otherwise pay them less and the community will train them to lead with wisdom and compassion out of love for Esalen. That is why many are concerned that the new tier of management haven’t come up through the ranks and don’t understand the value of process and so cannot fully embody or understand the Esalen experience. The one workshop that the new management hires get for free does not translate to knowing Esalen.

    Just for now: Lets have a breather from the “mission” which Gordon tells us has been explicit for 5 or 6 years. Let’s gather again those 150 people who cocreated this vision which has steam rolled into these firings. Gordon who are the 150? Do you think this is what they had in mind for their vision? Let’s take a breath and revisit the mission, so that we can truly co-create a vibrant community and transform this sick pond back to health.

    Just for now: Let’s put on hold the restructuring, reinstate the 3 who were restructured out of their positions, so we can make use of their enormous pool of skills, knowledge and in depth day to day knowledge of the customer base from their 5, 20 and 30 year tenures. Any new hire to fill in the gaps left by these giants would not have the intimate knowledge of Esalen’s customer base or have that information handed over to them by the ones who do because they are gone. These new hires would be at a great disadvantage and Esalen’s already excellent service culture will surely suffer.

    Just for now: Bring Kathleen, Eric and Daniel back to their struggling departments now adrift without their strong leadership and indispensable skills. We will need them to cocreate this new vibrant future as we transition and align more closely with the mission statement and values.

    Oh, in the spirit of team building and growing our relationships and committing to the health of our community, lets give them a hero’s welcome back, apologize for the inappropriate way the restructure/firings were handled, honor their value and skills and their place in this community so that when it is time for them to leave appropriately, they can feel appreciated, valued and have a rightful sense of a job well done.

    Just for now: If you agree that Kathleen, Eric and Daniel should be reinstated to help the transition and
    the healing that needs to take place, please say so here or wherever you can.

3 Responses to The healthy pond

  • Anonymous says:

    Love this, yes, you have my full support on all your points. Bring back the Esalen Three!!

  • Anonymous says:

    Beautiful contribution to Esalen’s healing … Absolutely, bring back these three Community Gems: Eric, Kathleen, and Daniel.

  • Anonymous says:

    I completely agree that Kathleen, Eric and Daniel should be reinstated to help the transition and
    the healing that needs to take place. Yes, a hero’s welcome and a giant in person public APOLOGY!