Robert K. Banks
Former EVP, Albertsons
I first utilized Leadership Outfitters' Power of Choice when I was looking for a program for part of my management team that had been deeply involved in significant restructuring and downsizing activities. I was so impressed with the impact the program had on the attendees and how well it helped them adjust to the challenges that I decided to send my entire management team as well as a few high potential and key associates through the Power of Choice program.
Throughout the time my staff and key associates were attending the program, I collected anonymously their opinions to make sure that the Company's investment continued to be appropriate. When the data was collected, they were asked if the Power of Choice retreat introduced new information about behaviors, if and how it related to their leadership styles, and what kind of sustaining changes they had experienced. A representative sample of those anonymous opinions is listed below:
"I've learned to delegate and trust the talented people I work with instead of trying to do everyone's job. Since I've stopped trying to steamroll my associates, they've taken ownership of their duties and our workplace has become more harmonious and efficient."
"Because of my new awareness of triggers that made me defensive (when I had no real reason to be), I now take a more intellectual approach, leaving my baggage out of the equation. The end result is a more positive influence with everyone I encounter."
"The Power of Choice gave me insight into my communication style, learning how I'm perceived by others, and how to quickly gather support and communicate so we can get things done. By understanding the needs of others, I now communicate at a deeper level, building trust and confidence."
I witnessed dramatic positive and sustained changes in my employees upon their completion of the Power of Choice retreat. This powerful life changing retreat focuses on personal growth and self-awareness as a foundation for leadership. Self-awareness is the key to leadership development. Professional growth is closely intertwined with personal growth. A person must intimately and realistically understand themselves in order to develop their leadership and professional potential.
As my staff demonstrated a willingness to become more self-aware, they became more teachable and coachable regarding new approaches to dealing with people and they became more effective in leading others. The Power of Choice uniquely addresses each of us as individuals, helping us to understand why we act the way we do and how to change our behaviors. Its unique, personalized approach and introspective nature resulted in positive sustainable behavioral changes in my employees and me.
I was so impressed with the results that I took my adult son to the Power of Choice retreat with me, and gave attendance as an engagement gift to my daughter and her husband-to-be.
Integration Manager, Capital One
My journey of self began in 2007. I remember feeling hope and excitement as I took my first steps and I was immediately overcome with joy and energy as I began to learn about myself and most importantly, name what I was feeling.
I look back prior to 2007 and remember moving along in life carried by the current with no real purpose or ability to step into my personal power. I had a narrow view of the world and often was closed off to exploring myself. That all changed when I realized that 'me' wasn't so bad! I could feel, I could name my emotions, I could stand in the face of discomfort and thrive, I could be more, and I am more. It was liberating. I finally had the tools to begin a conversation with myself.
Power of Choice furthered those tools and provided new ones to help me create frameworks and see a whole new world. I began to leave my baggage behind realizing that it provided nothing of use to me anymore. It was just that, baggage. I have a wonderful mental image of those bags circling around the luggage carousel at the airport and me walking away with a huge smile surrounded by light. Those Power of Choice moments are so dear to me.
I remember working with Walker during Power of Choice and to this day I am touched by his quiet presence and desire to work with me. What I heard him say was, "I believe in you and I am here for you." It was a huge, pivotal moment for me. I knew my life would never be the same and I stepped into the light and a way of being that was extraordinary. I was free. Free from all the mental chains that kept me tied to a way of being that was not working. Walker led me there and Crackers taught me to fly.
It was in the round pen with Crackers that I realized my personal power and the complete joy and freedom life offers. I still smile when I think about my time in that round pen. Crackers was a representation of my spirit soaring. He and I had a blast. We were working on using our mental energy to have the horse move and then relaxing into having the horse slow and then stop. I was very nervous at first and slowly got Crackers moving into a trot. That is when it happened. The chains broke free and I stepped into a new way of being and Crackers broke into a cantor, head held high, I swear he was smiling. And we were off. The only thing better would have been if I were riding him. I remember bringing my energy down and Crackers coming to a trot and then a walk. I asked Joe if I could do it again and he agreed and I got Crackers cantering around the pen again and it was heaven. I had a smile as big as the Grand Canyon and that was the beginning of tapping into an energy source I never thought possible. It brought unbridled joy and freedom that I continue to tap into today.
Power of Leadership was all about joy. I think I smiled from the time I got on the plane in Richmond until the last moment of the retreat. I was completely in my Core. It was so good to feel my light and be a gift to this world. I fully embraced me for the first time in my life. I was worthy, I was simple joy, I was that wide-open space. I was beginning to love myself. I worked with Rio for all the exercises in the Power of Leadership retreat and we were quite a team. I remember talking to him before going into the labyrinth and I said, "Let's just go, let's just do this!" and we did and it was fun and unplanned and perfect. Rio taught me to jump in with both feet. Just do it! (maybe we should shave in the Nike swoosh on his side?). I had shifted and I could look back on my life thus far and realize that I had to know the dark to appreciate the light. I was not regretful that I did not see this sooner; I was grateful that I saw it when I did. As with all things in life, the timing was as it needed to be. When the student is ready, the teacher is there.
I approach life each day from my core belief. I am not always in my core but I can name where I am and I can choose to make a shift or be where I am. It is all okay. There are no specific rules, only my higher intention to guide me. I have shifted from a helpless victim to a powerful woman. I am both proud and humbled when I think about my journey up to this point. I see the world from a new perspective that offers possibilities and freedom.
I've done quite a bit of interesting development work through the years, and this experience was extraordinary in so many ways. First of all, the setting for the Power of Choice retreat is spectacular - very beautiful and serene. I was amazed how quickly I unplugged from the outside world. Joe Esparza and Ris Higgins do a remarkable job of creating a safe, comfortable space for their guests to do this very profound and life-changing work.
Genuine connections happen with people when you are willing to be vulnerable yourself, and great leadership can only occur when you make those types of connections. Sharing emotion in the workplace is part of our human experience, not something to be managed, stifled or ignored. When a leader is willing to be real and vulnerable, it creates an authentic space. That authenticity creates fertile ground in which to plant a deeper level of communication and understanding.
I would recommend this program to others simply because "you don't know what you don't know." If you think you already know what you need to know to be a great leader, the horse will help you think again. Working with a horse at the Power of Choice retreat was like looking in a mirror, but the horse gave me the new eyes I needed to see myself differently.
Heineken USA Executive
The Power of Choice retreat was hands down, the best and most beneficial program I have ever experienced. Every element of the program — from the location, to the food, to the facilitators, to the information gained during the course — was exceptional. I have attended other courses that teach very similar elements contained in this course, and the other programs do not compare to the content or the format of this program.
I had a lot of confidence in Ris Higgins and Joe Esparza going into the retreat, as I have been working with them at Heineken USA for years. I really was not sure what to expect from the retreat, however. At the beginning of the week, I had fear, skepticism and was very guarded. About half way through the week, I realized that I had a choice. My options were that I could resist the experience, or I could go toward my fears. It was the most courageous decision of my life, and it was truly what changed my life because it opened a door that had never been opened. It was as though the flood gates had opened not only from an emotional perspective, but from my willingness to learn about myself and grow.
The experience has helped me and has changed my relationship with the people in my life and those I encounter on a daily basis. It truly was the first week on a journey to happiness.
Former SVP, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)
The Leadership Outfitters Power of Choice retreat reaffirmed to me that reflection and, more importantly, the sharing of my feelings, is an important ingredient in all interpersonal relationships — including leadership.
The retreat was somewhat of a mind-altering experience that was exceptionally emotional, both in the process of identifying my 'hidden fear' and then successfully applying my re-discovered authentic self in the exercises with my horse partner, Crackers.
Being around horses can raise your Emotional Intelligence quotient exponentially by creating greater self-awareness and helping you realize your impact on those around you. It permits the adventurous to be comfortable with being themselves. What really struck me was that my horse partner, Crackers, provided instant feedback, like looking into a mirror. Anyone who embraces the Power of Choice concept may be surprised by what they see in that mirror.
As a result of my work with Leadership Outfitters, I no longer fear speaking to large audiences, something I dreaded before attending the Power of Choice. Family and friends have commented that I have become more open about what I feel and not just about what I think.
I have suggested this program in business and social settings as one of the most enriching experiences I have ever gone through.
Director of IT, Capital One
“The Power of Leadership Retreat enabled me to define the leader that I want to be in a clear and meaningful way. The tools and experiences really drove home the discrepancies between the leader I can be vs. the leader I used to be. The horses have an amazing way of guiding you to see how those you lead will see you. It was an amazing experience that was worth the investment! Within 6 months of the retreat, I received wonderful feedback from my team and a promotion based on my leadership. My team said that my leadership had created a more empowered team.”
Dr. Tanda Cook
March 11, 2013
"After I attended the Power of Choice my life was forever transformed. It’s amazing what you can create in your life when you are given the tools to truly connect and understand the POWER of who you are at your CORE. Ris Higgins and Joe Esparza are not only extraordinary coaches, but they have an innate ability to hold the space for their participants to shift, discover, and to get curious about their lives, relationships, and what is holding them back from living a life that they love. Being with Ris and Joe and their horses allowed me to see what was holding me back, where I was stuck, and then provided me with the space and tools to create a life that is unrecognizable and a true reflection of who I am. I am forever grateful."