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CEO Shintaido
Using Rituals to Visualize the Cycles and Perspectives of Life


 by Wayne Caskey, CPCC         

I’m sitting across the table from a CEO client. He’s ready to be coached. I’m ready to coach him. What is at stake? A sense of achievement that lasts, a sense of balance in his life, deep satisfaction from a life well-lived in the face of outward success or failure.

And, with CEOs there is more. The opportunity to claim and nurture values for themselves and their organizations, and to support the values over time so that they become the core values of the organization.

This is the great challenge and opportunity for me in coaching CEOs. It’s as if the entire organization is sitting at the table, watching hopefully as the coaching progresses. All of us---client, coach and organization--- affect the energy of the situation, waiting for the values of the CEO to manifest and flourish and have their effect.

I use a number of structures to try to get at values---a values list, a values list with explanations, a Future Self exercise. While these are all helpful in getting a starting point and in gaining perspective, CEOs need to visualize and claim fully who they are as a platform to claiming who they may become.

Recently, at the Co-Active Space Leadership Program, I’ve personally experienced the utility of the seven directions of Shintaido, a Japanese bodywork exercise, in providing this visualization.

* * *

It is early morning. We are nearing the autumnal equinox and the rising sun is almost directly in front of us. Our leaders call out “spring”, “newness”---words symbolizing the East. They challenge us to supply our own. We are in the midst of

Shintaido to the East---

We call out: To Birth! To Rebirth! To New Possibility! To Fresh Shoots Coming Out of the Ground! To Fresh Air! To Ideas Germinating! To First Flowers!

Where in my CEO experience do I find this? I remember the childcare start-up. My associates and I are all new to the venture or renewed for it. The ideas are fresh. Our very service is for young children. We are idealistic, eager and vigorous. Anything is possible. We are going to do it differently and right! Our caring will be true caring! And my challenge as CEO is to keep this spirit alive through the ups and downs of the first year and pass it on to those who succeed me, and succeed.

* * *

Our leaders now turn to the South, the place of the noon day sun. They call out: Summer! Heat! And we respond to their challenge:

Shintaido to the South---

To the Jungle! To Steaminess! To Lust! To Lushness! To Fecundity! To Animal Power!

My CEO experience: In the heat of Texas, I succeed an entrepreneur, taking over a mid-sized Tex-Mex restaurant operation. We serve hot, spicy food, in rooms with whitewashed walls and fireplaces which are lit below 60 degrees, and mariachi music piped in. And in the second year, we build and we acquire and the operation mushrooms. Double the units, double the revenue, double the profits. We swashbuckle through the marketplace, and we win our duels in the acquisition forest. And my challenge as CEO is to keep the heat on, and lead the charge for bigger, better and more profitable.

* * *

Now we turn to the West, the place of the setting sun, and our leaders call out: To Autumn! To The Harvest! We respond to their challenge:

Shintaido to the West---

To Blazes of Color! To Trees Laden With Apples! To Overflowing Cornucopia! To Thanksgiving! To Fullness! To Well-Earned Rest! To Maturation! To Ease!

My CEO experience: Here I’m a Group V. P. of Operations. Our multi-division Fortune 500 has just blown the roof off an ambitious budget. The top management group is visiting the Pretzel Division in Lancaster to celebrate our collective triumph. There is much wine and much toasting. And our CEO tells us to enjoy the evening fully, which we do, and the time seems to stretch out endlessly before us as we reminisce and savor our triumph.

* * *

Now we turn to the North and our leaders call out: To Midnight! To Winter! We respond to their challenge:

Shintaido to the North---

To Death! To Destruction! To Endings! To Being Buried in Deep Snow! To Hibernation! To Cold!

My CEO experience: The Boston commercial finance company needs to be liquidated; the bright hopes of the prior year are dashed, the family atmosphere fractured, the founders ousted by their Board, the stockholders furious and looking for blood. There are rumblings of criminal indictments and the FBI is called in. As the newly promoted CEO, my challenge is to initiate the salary cuts (starting with my own), deal with the aftermath of a director suicide, dismiss 60 percent of the work force (all of whom I know well), find a buyer, and close down the operation. The inner challenge is to keep my eyes on the objective in the midst of chaos.

* * *

Our leaders look down and call out to Mother Earth, and challenge us again. We respond to their challenge:

Shintaido to Mother Earth---

To Dirt; To Rocks; To Streams, Lakes, Rivers, Oceans; To Mountains; To Valleys; To Deserts; To Mine Shafts; To Lava; To Volcanoes; To Moss Under Our Feet; To Ferns in the Forest; To Support; To Groundedness; To Earthiness; to Loveliness.

The Milwaukee environmental cleanup of the earth and the streams and the lake is emerging from the planning phase. The initial tax bills to pay for it are sent out, and a firestorm of protest breaks. My challenge as Chairman of the Commission is to remain grounded in the midst of the media blitz, celebrate the groundswells of the democratic process, and keep firmly on the path to a cleaner environment.

* * *

Our leaders call to Father Sky and challenge us again. We respond to their challenge:

Shintaido to Father Sky---

To The Deepest Blue; To Unfathomable Black; To Birds; To Hawks; To Eagles; To Planes; To Clouds; To Stars; To Rainbows; To Falling Snow and Ice; To Hail; to Infinite Possibility; To Unlimited Potential; To The Universe; To Unlimited Expansion; To Spaciousness.

A CEO I know develops an oral rehydration product. It has multiple uses in health care, sports and defense. She’s now ready to take it to full commercial production. Her face shines with the spaciousness of the vista she sees. Her challenge is to secure the funders who will rise with her to the possibilities.

* * *

Our leaders call to the Center of our circle and give us the final challenge. We respond to the challenge:

Shintaido to the Center---

To Community; To Love; To Honor; To Respect; To Individuality; To Focus; To Warmth; To Humor; To Unfoldment; To Balance; To Centeredness; To Delight.

My first senior management team is a delight. I encourage all inquiries. I don’t tolerate territoriality. I make it clear that the staff is here to serve the line and for no other purpose, and that I expect the line to be thankful and grateful for the fine staff help it receives. Everyone has ideas on the functions of others, which we use as building blocks for better staff service and line execution. I celebrate them, and they celebrate each other and me. We are a true community.

* * *

A CEO client of mine has made tremendous changes in claiming his power in the last year, when his organization needed it. He’s done that while becoming an even more caring executive. Both his confident exercise of power and his caring have moved his top management team to fully embrace his values. I was so moved at how far he’s come I recently blurted “you’ve become a man for all seasons.” Initially, he disagreed, stating he hadn’t yet accomplished the plan. Several weeks later, he said, “Yes, I have become such a man. Now we are showing the effects of this transformation.” He’s claimed and nurtured his own values, and in doing so established new core values for his corporation. Now the company is translating these values to the bottom line.

A key element in this process for my client and any CEO client is gaining perspective on what their values are and may become. Introduction of the Shintaido exercise into CEO coaching can play a significant role in providing this perspective.

Where are you facing? What is the season you are in? Where do you need to look? What do you need to accept? Where are you facing on your Shintaido compass?

 © 2003, Wayne Caskey, rights reserved




Wayne Caskey, CPCC is a three-time CEO who now coaches entrepreneurs and C-level corporate executives. He also presents speeches and experiential workshops. A few of his topics are “Legacy”, “Take It To The Next Level”, “Strengthen Your Leadership in Chaotic Times”, and “What An Animal” on animal types in CEOs.

This article was adapted from Wayne’s column which originally appeared in the November, 2002 issue of Baltimore smartCEO.

His web site is at
Contact him at



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