Education and Early Career


After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin I moved to Miami, FL to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Nova Southeastern. I quickly realized that psychiatric hospitals were taking over the industry and I was not aligned with the ethics of their practices. I wanted to counsel at-risk youth and their families. Fortunately, before I had spent any money on actual classes I returned to The Woodlands, TX and became a social worker at a local United Way agency. I was a counselor for runaways, truants, and youth that were designated as at-risk of doing either from 1988 – 1998 at Montgomery County Youth Services.

The grant that I worked under paid a consistent $18,500.00 per year every year. When MCYS built a challenge course I took advantage of the opportunity to learn a new skill. I had already been using non-physical activities to create awareness within families of their challenges with communication and collaboration. The challenge course was a giant version of such activities.

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Eventually, I became the Adventure Based Coordinator (responsible for camping trips, summer camp, and groups that visited the challenge course) and trained a lot of people how to facilitate collaboration-building activities and personal growth challenges (such as jumping off of a 30-foot tall pole toward a trapeze bar with only a rope tied to the back of your harness).

While at MCYS I was recognized for my ability to get fathers to constructively participate in counseling. Therefore, I was invited by the United Way to facilitate a particularly challenging (all male) fund allocation committee meeting that included members of companies that competed in the same industries. Once I was able to get everyone to set their professional differences aside, we made quick progress. Some of the members of that committee then hired me to come to their offices and facilitate challenging meetings that they were having. I started to leverage the non-physical collaboration and communication awareness activities at the start of each meeting, which resulted in faster results and referrals for new business. To supplement my social work income I started my own company, Ulmer and Associates.


Through Ulmer & Associates I published my original corporate training activities (and those that I used in group counseling) in five books, spoke at several national and international conferences each year, and formally studied ‘training’. I used a traditional instructional design model during the three years (02/92-02/95) that Ulmer and Associates existed. During this time I also became certified in several personality and personal preference assessments that I used during coaching sessions and when training company leaders.

MCYS could not pay me more than the grant allowed, but I was incentivized to bring corporate clients to the agency’s challenge course. The companies would pay MCYS for the use of the course, which helped me double my income and raised much needed money at a time when the agency was required to find matching funds for several grants.

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These corporate groups attracted the attention of a start-up company called Performa Solutions. I joined Performa when they were only weeks old. I had a lot of vacation time and I worked a lot of weekends at MCYS so I had plenty of time to devote to helping Performa create marketing and sales materials, write proposals and contracts, and to design collaboration-building and leadership development programs for clients. I also trained all of their contact staff in my facilitation style and on the safe use of the challenge course. As the company grew (and I got tired of working 7 days per week) I finally joined Performa full time and left MCYS.

I was with Performa Solutions from February 1995 to November 2000. I had expanded my skills and knowledge of training to include the best practices of leadership development, including becoming certified in all of Lominger’s Leadership Architect tools (the leadership competency model, 360-degree assessment software, corporate culture assessment, high potential assessment, team development assessment, etc.). Always seeking a new challenge I also started to study Organizational Development and Industrial/Organizational Psychology. I became a very active member of ASTD and ISPI, speaking at their international conferences each year. I published a popular performance improvement model and found myself training other OD practitioners how to identify the root cause of problems and then how to identify and implement the most effective solution, which was rarely training. This is when I was invited to be one of the first recipients of the new Certified Performance Technologist by ISPI.

Performa’s clients hired me to design and lead organizational analysis and design, teambuilding workshops, culture/climate and employee surveys, business process re-engineering, change management strategies, performance and process improvement interventions, strategic planning offsite, performance management systems, employee and leadership development classes, high potential assessment and development plans, supervisor and manager training, mentoring and coaching programs, Lominger competency-based HR system conversions, and executive development programs. (My favorite executive development program was a partnership with the University of Houston that was a very robust, action-learning executive MBA that worked on actual business issues during each class, the Shell Leadership Development Program or SLDP.)


I was able to partner with top leadership development gurus on many projects, including university professors who encouraged me to focus my personal studies by going back to school and earning my PhD in industrial/organizational psychology. They steered me toward an affordable online program with Columbus University in Metairie, LA. Columbus got in trouble with the state just as I finished my self-paced program and doctoral thesis. A friend had just joined a Concordia College and University campus and was able to get the professors there to allow me to transfer my work. I successfully defended my meta-analysis of nine major studies on critical leadership competence, but that campus had not earned accreditation. The studies and research had served their purpose and provided a richer foundation for developing and testing my theories, but because I did it only for me and because doctoral degrees often cause people to view someone in a negative light, I do not advertise the accomplishment. In 2000 I also helped Performa create a new company, Performa Consulting, which attracted the attention of a recently merged Pennzoil-Quaker State Company.

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