In my world of organizational development, there’s nothing more exciting than seeing a well-respected organization with deep roots in their community undergo a significant evolution.

That’s exactly what’s happening at the San Diego Humane Society (SDHS), as this 138-year-old pillar of the San Diego community takes over the animal services contracts for six nearby cities — Carlsbad, Del Mar, Encinitas, San Diego, Santee, and Solana Beach. Through a chain of fortunate circumstances, my team at Integris has found itself uniquely positioned to walk hand in hand with SDHS on this exciting journey…

The San Diego Humane Society Is Growing Exponentially — And Their Culture Will Have to Shift to Accommodate

This is no small undertaking — SDHS is tripling the number of animals it can house, doubling its staff, and bringing on new facilities and equipment, all while managing the merger of different organizational cultures.

Oh, and they have to be ready to go next month!

For-profit organizations in this position typically shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring in an expert like Integris Performance Advisors to coach leaders and work with teams as they manage through the change process. As a non-profit with limited budgets, that’s not in the cards for the Humane Society. Fortunately, we’ve found another way…

The Integris and San Diego Humane Society Partnership is Enabling Wonderful Things to Happen… for SDHS and the Broader Community

Integris and SDHS have established a creative partnership to bring Foundations of Team Cohesion both to the Humane Society and to other non-profits, government agencies, and local businesses.

This world-class program is built around the concepts first published in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, the best-selling book by Patrick Lencioni that is now one of the most trusted models for improving team cohesion. The program also leverages Everything DiSC to help participants learn how to embrace different personality styles and behavioral preferences to optimize team performance and engagement.

Any organization looking for either an engaging bonding experience for their teams or a powerful personal development training for any employee is welcome to attend. Sessions are held regularly at the San Diego Humane Society auditorium in Old Town San Diego.

Click here to learn more about program details.

In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll write other posts to highlight the success stories that come out of this program. But before I get ahead of myself, I want to explain the unique circumstances that made this partnership possible…

Integris — On A Mission to Democratize Team Development and Leadership Training

The impact of team development and leadership training is undeniable. Study after study shows that organizations who invest in their teams and leaders outperform their counterparts on a wide range of measures, such as:

  • Higher employee engagement
  • Greater customer satisfaction
  • Better financial results
  • More efficient work processes

Yet the most impactful training programs, especially those built around proven frameworks like The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Everything DiSC and The Leadership Challenge, remain out of reach for most employees.


Because participating in these workshops often costs $1,000 or more per day per participant.

While data shows that participants get an enormous amount of value and a positive Return On Investment (ROI) at these rates, the truth is that the high price point means that these programs are simply not accessible to many of those who could benefit most from gaining these skills… like front-line or mid-level work teams, managers, supervisors in earlier stages of their careers, or anyone working in a non-profit or government agency.

Integris is on a mission to change this paradigm by finding creative ways to offer lower-cost development opportunities, without losing any of the quality or impact of the underlying programs. It was that vision that led to our connection with the San Diego Humane Society…

The Beginning of a Powerful Partnership

In the summer of 2017, I invited the Southern California non-profit community to join Integris for a free 1-day leadership development program. I sent hundreds of emails and made an equal number of phone calls.

I was disheartened by the high percentage of organizations who dismissed my invitation outright because they assumed it was a “bait and switch” sales tactic, whereby the “free” development session is little more than a thinly-veiled sales presentation (unfortunately this is a tactic that far too many professional development firms employ!).

Thankfully, the San Diego Humane Society did not ignore my offer, even though they were skeptical (because yes, they too had previous experiences with low-quality, high-pressure sales events disguised as legitimate training opportunities).

Katherine Shenar, the Humane Society’s Chief of Staff, is the one who took notice of my email invitation. Here’s her explanation of how it all unfolded…

Katherine’s Story — From Skepticism to Enthusiasm

“This, to me, is an amazing story — it’s one of those things that doesn’t happen very often in life. I got an email from Brett Cooper (a person I’d never heard of before) inviting me to a free training, an email I almost deleted.”

“I thought, ‘Oh no — another one of these things!’ and I was about to send it straight to the trash, but I reread the email, and I just got this feeling that Brett was being very sincere, that he really wanted to help us out.”

“So I clicked the link, started reading, and immediately thought, ‘Oh hey, this is actually pretty cool!’ I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but I rounded up some of our leadership and headed to the seminar. With this huge shift in our organization and culture moving forward at high speed, I thought that maybe this could be something that would help us think differently about the transition, but I certainly never expected it to evolve into anything like the partnership it has become.”

“We went to the training, and I kept waiting for it — the pitch, the sell, the moment when they would try to shove something down our throats, but it never came. All of us have quite a bit of experience and are pretty jaded, but every single one of us was absolutely blown away by how useful the training really was.”

“Instead of getting sold something I could never afford, I was introduced to the Leadership Practices Inventory (a report I now carry around with me in my purse wherever I go!). My colleagues and I proceeded to be amazed and astounded by the incredible knowledge and principles that were passed to us free of charge, something we simply would never have the budget for on our own.”

“I walked up to Brett afterward, and I told him exactly how I felt — I said ‘That was amazing! This is, without a doubt, one of the best experiences of professional growth that I have ever had.’ It was truly transformative, and I told him as much. And do you know what he did? He didn’t try to sell me anything! He just humbly replied ‘Glad you liked it!’ and was willing to leave it at that!”

“Of course, this wasn’t enough for me, not after what I’d experienced! I said, ‘Look, is there any way I can thank you for doing this?’ and he said, ‘Sure, just leave a review on my LinkedIn.’”

“The whole ride home, my colleagues and I could not stop talking about how transformative and enlightening the experience was. When I finally got back to my computer, I did exactly what Brett asked — I left him a glowing review on his LinkedIn. His response, and the offer that followed, have changed my life, and the lives of the leaders at the Humane Society, forever.”

Just the Beginning…

Luckily (for me and my team at Integris, for the San Diego Humane Society, and for the broader community), that review on LinkedIn wasn’t the end — it was just the beginning!

What has happened since is nothing short of incredible. Stay tuned to learn more about how a single free training event sparked an incredible partnership that now benefits a wide range of businesses, government agencies, and non-profit organizations.

In the meantime, click here to take a moment to learn more about the Foundations of Team Cohesion program.

If you like what you see, I welcome you to join us. If you remain skeptical, feel free to send 1 or 2 representatives of your organization to check it out. I know you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

In closing, let me say that the only way we will be successful in democratizing team and leadership development is to spread the word and engage a wide range of people in the movement. So please share this with your own network via email, social media, or even an old fashioned conversation!


Brett Cooper

Brett is the visionary President of Integris Performance Advisors, a professional development firm he co-founded to expand the existence of healthy organizations and great places to work. By creatively bringing together concepts from The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (by Patrick Lencioni), The Leadership Challenge (by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner), and Lean Six Sigma, Brett and his team have influenced thousands of people in government, non-profits and corporate America to work together in more productive, more effective and more human ways. Outside of his role at Integris, Brett dedicates time to serving others in need. He is a volunteer coordinator for the East Bay Stand Down and Stand Down on the Delta, two non-profits serving the needs of San Francisco’s homeless Veteran population. He is also board member and financial sponsor for Partners in Sustainable Learning, whose mission is to bring early childhood education to marginalized communities in the developing world (current projects are underway in Nepal).