When the average business professional hears the words, executive development and coaching, a certain degree of cynicism comes to mind recalling endless hours of drill on presentation skills of a tension-filled room with a silver haired consultant telling you how to dress, eat, or enter a room.
Having recently been referred to a “new methodology” in a “new workshop” called the PBSP (Pesso Boyden System Psychomotor) Workshop, it was not without some trepidation that I called to see what the content and approach might be. I too possessed that cynicism, having worked in the field of Executive Development for 20 plus years.
The friendly voice on the phone, was one of the creators, Al Pesso, who encouraged me to experience the workshop firsthand. Al and Diane Boyden Pesso founded this method of reeducation in 1961. I agreed to attend the workshop, assuring myself this was “more of the same”, but certainly worth exploring.
I had in my career explored many such programs for “fixing” executives whose ills ranged from interpersonal difficulties, inability to change, or sexual harassment, to more severe drug and alcohol abuse issues. Each time, I came away with a vague dissatisfaction around these offerings and their ability to “make a difference”, to create lasting change; and to have a “significant emotional impact” on the individual that would matter.
Talking to the “flawed” executive, who many times did not personally own the perceived problem, was a futile and frustrating experience. Development plans were made with lukewarm intensity about what had been learned and what he would be doing differently in the future. Months later, no mention was made of the work by the manager or the executive.
As I arrived at the workshop and surveyed the participants, I was pleased to note there was a nice balance of participants between business professionals, health care or helping professionals and educators. My comfort zone was made more secure knowing that among these individuals everyday issues would be discussed and dealt with in an effective and efficient manner with some intellectual stimulation.
As Al began his opening lecture of the workshop and the only one of the session, I was intrigued with his premise that personal change is an “inside out” process, rather than an “outside in” process so often used by skill building, talk therapy, and executive coaching companies. The belief, that lasting change can only be made by a willing human being that sees the need for change, accepts and acts on that need in a positive way, and has a positive model on which to draw, is an accepted view but one seen many times as unattainable. I have spent much of my career as a change agent, and realize how difficult transformation is for groups, but perhaps more so for individuals.
As I observed my own and other participant’s work over the few days, I realized how truly extraordinary this approach was, how hopeful and powerful its outcome. Through this process, a powerful positive model of memory was created on multiple levels, simultaneously in a psychological, physical and spiritual venues, not from the past, but from the present. The executive/individual is enabled to cognitively draw on this experience for future success.
As the process was repeated with each participant, the model was more strongly reinforced in my mind as to the power of this approach in personal mastery.
Personal mastery has become a leadership competency in almost any body of research you see today. My belief is high levels of accountability and the accompanying stress, surface personal mastery issues in executives affecting their relationships, decision making ability, and effectiveness as a leader.
PBSP gives new hope to the field of personal mastery. It is reconstructive surgery for the wounded executive. Through the PBSP process, the individual self selects an area of work to be addressed, describes the details of the situation in a safe, respectful, highly structured and secure environment, develops the historical scene of what happened, and with Al’s and other participant’s assistance, develops the positive model, or “antidote” to the event.
As human beings, we act out of conditioning long programmed from the past. In fact, many of our actions are re-actions. Since most coaching of individuals in a business context is “after the fact”, it is difficult to envision a different response in future situations. With PBSP, this envisioning of a future response is created real time with vivid clarity. The importance of this cannot be overlooked, since the individual can readily bring to mind the positive experience and use it as a “picture” for guiding future actions.
The richness of this process cannot be described. There is none of the “scariness” of the old T-grouping and team building sessions that conditioned many executives to be wary of any thing considered to be “touchy-feely”. The world of emotions is dealt with at the discretion of the participant and only with their permission.
The participation by other workshop members is also within the control and only with the permission of the individuals. Nothing is imposed on you as being, “good for you”, but is requested and tested with the individual in an environment of utmost respect for the individual’s needs.
Lest you think this workshop is merely “role playing” of pre-identified situations, it is not! While many leadership programs use this technique of role play to create appropriate language in individuals, this workshop does not use “rote” methodology to change people. Each person works in real time with Al to explain and create the work to be addressed. As needed, other members of the workshop are added to enhance and create the positive model, always under Al’s direction.
To restate a very important difference between PBSP and other similar workshops, this approach is an inside out, or personal mastery approach, not a skill building workshop.
During the workshop, there are moments of humor, accountings of difficult life events, empathetic learnings from each other, and enough cognitive “ah-has” to fill a room, but the most compelling part of the workshop is each individual’s developed possibility to draw on positive, realistic memories of a new way for the future.
While PBSP has a large following in the US helping professions, its business application is best known in Europe where Al works with executives to improve their decision making capabilities and teamwork. This methodology can be as helpful to the business professional as it is to the skilled therapist.
PBSP fills the cavernous cry of “now what” in the development of each business professional. PBSP answers strongly with a positive experience, powerfully constructed within the context most meaningful to the individual and most easily accessible to him/her. It brings hope to the workplace.