Creating a safe space in Iraq for common purpose and shared humanity

In collaboration with American Voices, John was engaged to teach music and violin to young people in Iraq. The Kurdish and Arab students were between 15-25 years in age. They came from all around Iraq with many of the students from areas that were occupied by ISIS. While under occupation, music, as well as all forms of artistic expression, was outlawed. Several students had been previously jailed and tortured because they had been caught playing music or had a musical instrument in their house.

The group spoke three different languages. They could not rely on spoken language as their main communication vehicle. They would have to rely on music, body language, and breath to communicate musical concepts (timing, ensemble-playing, pitch and rhythm) and emotional expression (intensity, volume, changes in tempo) to fully communicate.

On one level, this engagement was about teaching Western classical violin and music to young people. On another level, it was about using music as a way to bring cross-cultural awareness and understanding to a diverse group of people from different ethnic cultures. Yet at the core level it was about building relationships and forming a community through music and a shared humanity.

More than teaching, John created a safe space where the students could come together to interact in real-time. They shared a common purpose and worked hard toward their common goal. They sweated together, laughed together, and experienced the fulfillment of achieving a goal together. Camaraderie. Patience. Tolerance. Joy. Pride.

John focused the students on the fun and joy of playing music together, not on correcting wrong notes or finding fault. By allowing the group to play together as much as possible, John created a common foundation to perform at the final day concert in front of an audience of their families and friends.

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Organizational Effectiveness and Lean Six Sigma course design and training delivery for next-generation pharmacy leaders

The University of Houston College of Pharmacy’s Pharmacy Leadership and Administration program is a two-year Master of Science degree that offers a unique learning, teaching, and collaboration opportunity for the next generation of pharmacy leaders. The program takes advantage of its unique partnership with the Texas Medical Center’s institutions. Since beginning this ongoing, annual engagement in 2016, John designs, develops and delivers customized courses in organizational effectiveness and Lean Six Sigma. This training at the start of the program, enables the participating pharmacists to immediately apply new skills to improvement projects in their respective residencies. 


Developing more effective retail leaders

As a training facilitator, John delivers leadership development courses to new and mid-level managers for a leading grocery retailer headquartered in Texas. The company offers several learning and development tracks focused on delivering exceptional customer experience. Participants selected for these tracks attend vigorous management training. The courses range from custom-developed course content, Myers-Briggs (MBTI) and DiSC assessments, and selected Franklin Covey courses. These are delivered either virtually or in-person. 

Nonprofit turnaround for a vibrant future

A nonprofit spiritual community center located in the Houston Metropolitan Area was facing an existential threat. It forecasted bankruptcy within a year if immediate steps weren’t taken to turn things around.

John was engaged to design and facilitate a series of strategic planning sessions with the Board of Directors and officers to develop a three-year strategic plan for the organization along with an executable 30-60-90 day action plan to address immediate business priorities. Also, the client requested John’s support to clarify and define organizational roles and functions for the board members and officers and to improve the team effectiveness of the board.

An appreciative inquiry method was used to build a foundation based on what the team believed the organization was doing right and the strengths each leader brought to the table. Once the group recognized and celebrated this foundation, it was ready to turn their attention toward planning and approach it with enthusiasm and excitement. In parallel with the planning sessions, board members were coached on how to increase their team effectiveness to address issues, manage conflict, make decisions, and hold themselves and each other to account for honoring commitments.

The group completed its strategic and action planning effort, resulting in a successful turnaround of their financial situation within three months, increasing membership and donations, and moving forward toward their strategic goals.