TO THE FOCUSING COMMUNITY

March 10, 2014

We have a new Executive Director!

Dear friends, colleagues, and members of the Focusing community,

We are delighted to announce the appointment of a new Executive Director of The Focusing Institute. Her name is Catherine Torpey.

Here are some comments from people who have met Catherine:

“I can endorse her completely!” – Gene Gendlin

“My whole felt sense was YES! What serendipity that she appears at this point of transition. I feel excited about the prospect of her leadership and contribution.” – Jude Cobb

“What came inside me was a sense of excitement, relief, and the words, ‘We are so blessed that she came forward and wants this position’.”  – Elizabeth Lehmann

“I got a sense of confidence in her, as well as a sense of confidence in the people and the process that brought us to this stage.” – Serge Prengel

“We didn't pull punches about where we felt the institute is strong and where it is fragile: there was little dispute among us in that regard. She listened, took notes and bounced back all the more enthusiastically.” – Larry Hurst

And from two people who know Catherine well and have worked alongside her:

“She is very good at reading a group and responding to it appropriately – good at how much to talk and how much to listen. She is really good at presenting information so that it is informative and compelling.”

“When she’s in a room everything changes, it lightens up – there is space for everyone and everything to be said – there’s never any negative drama – no hidden agendas, very clear and straightforward – I can’t say enough good about her.”

We hope that these words of appreciation have given you some sense of our new executive director. For those who are keen to hear more, there are notes below.

Some of you know Catherine already, since she has shown a deep commitment to Focusing and Listening for many years. We hope that many more will soon be able to meet her. Please give Catherine a big welcome as she takes up her new role in our community. 

With best wishes,  

Nina Joy, Rob, Robert and Cynthia

(Temporary Board of The Focusing Institute)

 

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NOTES

 

ABOUT THE SEARCH PROCESS

We went through an active and thorough search process after taking advice from Dan Grandstaff, who is a Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapist and an experienced management consultant with experience in executive selection.

Dan reviewed our announcement for the search. After Catherine had attended interviews with the board, Dan gave Catherine a lengthy and exacting final interview in the presence of two board members. Finally, he checked out Catherine’s references and gave the board an enthusiastic report. 

You may have noticed that our advertisement was for an acting executive director. We were strongly advised that this description would dramatically reduce the executive director’s credibility and influence, making fundraising difficult and making it hard to build relationships of mutual support with other organizations. We have appointed Catherine as a full Executive Director, partly for this reason, and partly in acknowledgement of the unanimity with which people have recognised that Catherine is an outstanding person and that we are lucky to have found her.  

After the process with Dan was complete, we invited Catherine to have lunch in New York with four well-known Focusers, each of whom wrote a report for us (their comments are below). We arranged for Catherine to meet Elizabeth Cantor. Elizabeth and Catherine liked one another at once. They (and we) are confident that they will make a strong and effective team, and can work happily together. Finally, we arranged for Catherine to talk to Gene Gendlin and Mary Hendricks-Gendlin.

All these people are very much in favour of Catherine’s appointment. We are very grateful to all of them for helping us to reach this important decision. We have included more of their words below. We especially thank Dan Grandstaff, who gave a great deal of time to the process of search and interview, so vital for our future as a community.

ABOUT CATHERINE

Catherine TorpeyCatherine has been focusing for more than sixteen years. We know that she is completely into Focusing and Listening, and we feel that her understanding is deep. She has completed two trainings, one in Biospiritual Focusing and one with The Focusing Institute. She has attended all but one of the Focusing Institute Summer Schools. Catherine was at the Weeklong in 2009, and those who were there will remember that she led a brilliant session of theatre games on the last evening. 

For the past nine years Catherine has been a minister at a Long Island church belonging to the Unitarian Universalist denomination. She has taught Focusing and Listening at the church and elsewhere. 

Catherine has a good working fluency in Spanish. During a recent vacation, she went to El Salvador to work in a Community Wellness project under our Co-ordinator, Beatrice Blake.

In her spare time, Catherine has been working towards a Master’s Degree in fundraising and strategic planning at Columbia University, and she has good connections to some leading fundraisers.

Catherine is a real people person. We are confident that you will find in her a clear executive presence. She is skilled in building community and in getting a community moving together. Catherine understands that in any community – and especially in ours – there must be room for diversity of views, practice and personal style.

LUNCH WITH CATHERINE

Here are comments from the four New York Focusers who had lunch with Catherine and listened to her informally on our behalf.

Jude Cobb writes:

I must say that I was very impressed when I read Catherine's résumé, etc., and wondered what was drawing her to applying for the TFI position. Meeting her today I felt that she is truly interested in the position, very intrigued by the prospect, and as we kept broadening our questions and explorations, she seemed only to be more interested. She is uniquely qualified for what TFI needs at this time with her background in leadership, innovation, community building, fund raising, spirituality and focusing, and her broad experience.

She seems to thrive on what many of us cringe from. She listened intently during lunch, asking searching questions, is deeply committed to process and structure. She is ready for a new challenge, and this one seems to involve skills that she loves. I have a sense that she can provide a bridge of transparency, and communication to all levels and nationalities involved in focusing. The fact that she is not a therapist is also good for the broader community.

I thoroughly enjoyed her as a person, everyone at lunch seemed to feel listened to and valued. My whole felt sense was YES! What serendipity that she appears at this point of transition. I feel excited about the prospect of her leadership and contribution.

– Jude

Elizabeth Lehmann writes:

As we were drawing to a close, what came inside me was a sense of excitement, relief and the words, "we are so blessed that she came forward and wants this position".  I was pleased to be reminded that she had taken a Focusing level 1 from me when I taught through TFI over 10 yrs. ago. She of course has gone on to study with many others.

The fact that she's been a minister of a church for nine years, among other things, says a lot to me in terms of having a broad range of skills that will be needed in heading up TFI…

– Elizabeth

Serge Prengel writes:

It was a pleasure to meet Catherine Torpey at today's lunch.

Among the many positive traits that I experienced:

She has a very good ability to listen, which I believe is very important for TFI at this stage.

While listening, she also conveys poise and integrity, i.e. a sense that what she listens to is something she is going to take in as a way to make up her mind. I mean this in contrast to somebody who'd simply listen and be OK with whatever the last person who speaks has said.

The sense of leadership that I get from her is that she is not going to be trying to push things arbitrarily, but, in a very good way, "lead from behind", i.e. pay attention to what needs to be carried forward, and whether or not there are people willing and able to carry forward.

Her experience as a UU minister is one where she has had experience being the voice of authority, but not in a context where authority is based on rigid dogma or authoritarian attitudes.

She has experience with practical issues, including fund-raising.

Net net, I got a sense of confidence in her, as well as a sense of confidence in the people and the process that brought us to this stage. To be more clear: Good job, guys, for steering us to this stage.

– Serge

Larry Hurst writes:

Dear All, 

I heartily endorse the comments submitted by Serge, Elizabeth and Jude following our wide ranging chat with Catherine today at Cynthia's invitation. The conversation was open and frank. We didn't pull punches about where we felt the Institute is strong and where it is fragile: there was little dispute among us in that regard. She listened, took notes and bounced back all the more enthusiastically. 

Catherine arrived with an impressive CV. In person, she impressed all the more as a 'natural' for the position… I have no doubt that she would live up to the hopes expressed in the job description…

Forever the optimist,

Larry


CONVERSATIONS WITH REFEREES

1st reference

On style: Dan said that he was interested in Catherine’s style, in what it’s like and what the strengths are. He explained that he would then like to go deeper around any potential weaknesses. The referee replied with things like:

“lots of collaborating, fantastic with ideas, connecting with respect, strong presence, very deadline driven. If there is a deadline, she’ll get it done. Passionate.”

On groups:

“She is very good at reading a group and responding to it appropriately – good at how much to talk and how much to listen. She is really good at presenting information so that it is informative and compelling.”

On events:

“She always gets it done. Not linear in her process, more holistic. Catherine commands respect. She holds the ground and can let it go.” 

On temperament:

DAN: “Does Catherine get irritated?”

REFEREE: “Rarely. If so, she is very diplomatic. She is more likely to step back and talk it through.”

On public presence:

“Really a good speaker both extemporaneously and in a prepared setting.”

2nd reference

“Catherine is very loyal, great at advising, great at strategizing, wonderful scope of vision. What she says, she will do. Very prepared with board meetings, agenda is prepared a week in advance. Very good at running meetings.” 

Dan needed to pause before sharing the following as he reported getting so moved, even choked up, both in talking to the referee and in reporting his conversation with the referee:

“When she’s in a room everything changes, it lightens up – there is space for everyone and everything to be said – there’s never any negative drama – no hidden agendas, very clear and straightforward – I can’t say enough good about her.”

Dan concluded from the interview and the references that Catherine Torpey is a truly outstanding candidate and a great fit for the job of Executive Director of The Focusing Institute.

We agree with this assessment. When we were asked to serve as a temporary board, we knew that our most urgent and crucial single task would be to find somebody fully capable of taking on the executive directorship of The Focusing Institute. In finding Catherine, we believe that we have done this.

We hope that the community will soon grow to love and trust Catherine.

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