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McWhinney's "Company Coach"
Benefit or Orwellian Nightmare For Employees?
Loveland - March 13, 2008

The "Office Shrink"

The increased use of an “office shrink” has come to Northern Colorado as public officials and local
companies have used therapists or unlicensed therapists called “coaches” to presumably assist
employees and even elected officials (
see sidebar: bottom right) overcome personality differences and
even make management decisions.

McWhinney Enterprises of Loveland was an early adopter in Northern Colorado of using the title
“company coach”  to describe a Senior Vice-President of People Services. This is because the
McWhinney brothers, Troy and Chad, elevated their personal life coach (previously a consultant for 25
years) to an even higher level of authority back in 2003 as a senior executive employee of their
company.  They changed the culture of their small company but also to some extent how business is
done in Northern Colorado by jumping onto a trend that may have already run its course.  

McWhinney also gained national attention by HR Magazine last year and earned a place on the list of
the nation's top 50 small and medium size companies to work in, in part, for offering "coaching" for
their employees.  The McWhinney's now regularly turn phrases that some believe to be little more than
psycho-babble about the office and practice the pseudo science of "change management" -- the once
popular trend appears to have lost its luster and appeal to many.  There are not mistakes just “mis-
takes” and employees are regularly referred to as passengers on a bus (trolley is probably too sensitive
a metaphor to use) and are asked to pretend what it would feel like to be sitting somewhere else on the

What once made McWhinney a trend setter in Northern Colorado business, however, may today make
it a less desirable place to work as employees become weary of the "company shrink" and a business
environment that is chalked full of catchy once trend-setting word-phrases instead of old fashion
business acumen.

Back in 2004, U.S. News & World Report reporter, Marci McDonald, described the trend in the following
link to original article

“Across the country, tales of wannabe corporate gurus dispensing psycho- babble or cultlike techniques
have tarnished one of the nation's hottest growth industries. Over the past five years, coaching has
mushroomed from a sideline on the motivational and consulting circuits to an expected perk in virtually
every executive suite.”

McWhinney's company coach made that journey from consultant and motivational speaker to company
executive, Johnna Bavoso, who is now Senior Vice President of "People Services" at McWhinney
Enterprises.  Working previously as the personal life “coach” and unlicensed counselor for Troy and
Chad McWhinney, Johnna Bavoso, was hired full-time in 2003 and is called pejoratively by some
current and former employees at McWhinney and Centerra as the “company shrink” according to one
source.  However, not every McWhinney employee appears to have been asking for the perk of the
near ubiquitous "team-builder" and self-esteem guru, especially since she is close to their boss and
participates in senior personnel decisions.  

Bavoso, a juvenile probation officer who has a background in fund raising for non-profit organizations
(not apparently licensed in the State of Colorado as a therapist) regularly dispenses advice on
corporate culture, personality and team building as a senior employee of McWhinney Enterprises.

Bavoso, an active contributor to community organizations like the local chambers of commerce in Ft.
Collins and Loveland also contributed hundreds of dollars to Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign.  

Bavoso, the consultant, taught a course called "Successfully Riding the Winds of Change" in a
with the United Way.  With terms like "the crisis of change is opportunity riding a dangerous wind" and
the trademarked term "ChangeBuilder" used by she and her husband's consulting firm called, The
People Business Inc., it is easy to see why some might find her advice too closely approximating either
spiritual guidance or therapy.  Among the topics she has taught is "find out about the anger cycle in
order to deal with anger affectively."  Thus the informal title of "company shrink."

The concern expressed to LovelandPolitics regarding a “company shrink” asking probing questions and
trying to get inside employee’s heads is their loyalty with the employer and not the patient as in
traditional licensed therapy.  In other words, Bavoso could assist Troy and Chad McWhinney in
confronting life’s problems because they own the company and sought out her assistance of their own
accord.  When it comes to employees it is a different matter and the topic can be discomforting as one
recent possible recruit from Poag & McEwen discovered last week when spending time in the new
"culture" according to a  source who wishes to remain anonymous.  

A licensed therapist cannot share an employee’s view of his or her employer without violating patient
confidentiality rules of the profession.  A member of the clergy is also unlikely to communicate any
confidential information a person shares about one's employer; especially when the feelings are
negative.  What makes the "company coach" such an Orwellian concept in general is that your "coach" is
really working for the company which makes the role closer to a "Big Brother" in the Orwellian model
instead of an independent member of the clergy or a licensed therapist.

Bavoso, however, is not a licensed therapist in the traditional sense nor clergy (to our knowledge )and
uses her “counseling” sessions to assist the McWhinney brothers in making personnel decisions.

According to a
July 2007 HR Magazine article, “Bavoso helped Chad understand who he needed -- and
didn’t need -- in the organization to take it to the next level.”  In other words, Bavoso is in direct line of
management and asking probing questions of employees whose answers may impact their next raise,
promotion or even whether they can retain their current position at the company.

Normally this kind of power is reserved for human resource professionals or managers with many
years of experience leading and managing large groups of employees.  At McWhinney, the “company
shrink” coming to your office may be more frightening than the traditional call into your boss’s office
since in some ways this company coach is also your boss's conscience.

There is no doubt that Bavoso’s influence over the McWhinney brothers in recent years is
considerable.  The same HR Magazine article stated about Chad McWhinney, “… he is a true
convert who rattles off aphorisms like 'getting the right people in the right seats on the bus' and 'first
who, then what........'"

Some terms used in modern-day coaching come right out of the 1980's cult leader The Bhagwan Shree
Rajneesh's vocabulary when he guided a cult in Oregon that bilked wealthy but spiritually lost people
out of millions of dollars.  Bagwan is seen as an inspiration to some in the industry who use his
guidance in their life coaching practice.  Jean Gilhead, for example, is a life coach who quotes The
Bhagwan by using his saying, ""Be realistic: plan for a miracle!" on her website.  Other life coaches may
practice the cult leader's "self-realization" exercises or mind games to assist their clients or in the case
of the Bagwan's cult to control their clients.  In reality, the "coaching" industry is vast and unregulated
and varies from the traditional motivational types to strange metaphysical religious like healers.  Many
organizations offer "life coaching" certificates to anyone willing to pay the seminar fees and attend a

LovelandPolitics has been informed that the “cultlike” culture Bavoso has promoted through her team
building programs at McWhinney may have contributed to the recent exodus of senior talent like Vice
Presidents of Marketing and Leasing, Finance and head of Grand Station.  However, we were unable to
confirm this directly with those former employees of McWhinney on the record.  Nonetheless, not
everyone wants to play team building games directed by a self-help guru but instead prefer to do
business in the office and keep their personal feelings at home.

reported in early February that McWhinney was in crisis and had either lost or let-go
a number of key senior employees.   That article was followed by a press release by McWhinney
explaining some of the changes in the organization as a reorganization or what a "coach" or "change-
management" guru might call just changing seats on the bus.   The reality, however, is quite different as
their large project of Grand Station appears to be delayed indefinitely.  The press release did confirm
McWhinney's intention to grow outside Loveland by investing in new projects in Broomfield, Colorado
and Garden Grove, California (which was first reported here).

The company is now recruiting for some of the very positions it lost, like in finance and a Director of
Leasing, which are positions essential to most real estate development companies.  Whether these new
employees will embrace what Bavoso likes to refer to as the "culture" at McWhinney remains to be seen.
Did You Know?

Larimer County spent over $2,000 in
2005 to hire a facilitator/coach to provide
one-on-one counseling help to County
Commissioners (Kathay Rennels, Glenn
Gibson and Karen Wagner)?  They were
supposed to learn how to sit together in
the same room without resorting to
personal insults, bickering and other
destructive behavior that was hampering
progress in making decisions.  This
intervention was apparently unsuccessful
since Commissioner Wagner eventually
resigned her office citing high stress levels
in dealing with her colleague Commissioner
Gibson even after the taxpayer "coaching"
sessions were concluded..
Confiding personal information or
impressions about your company
to a "company coach" may not be