Chris Pavasaris | Crain's Connecticut

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Chris Pavasaris


Ten years after punting for the UConn Huskies, Chris Pavasaris has a new game plan: to meld his gridiron experience, post-grad work with the U.S. Senate, and chaplaincy training at Yale Divinity School to improve workplace culture and emotional intelligence. Through Xapis Strategies, he now offers individual and executive coaching, situational consulting and soft skill development, among other services.

The Mistake:

Taking so long to realize that my longtime knack for talking authentically with people could be a means to improving workplace morale and productivity.

I’ve always had what I now call the “gift of grocery store conversation.”  I’ll meet somebody in aisle 10 and leave five minutes later knowing all about their life. Eventually I began to wonder, why does that happen? Why is that interaction going on?

When I played football at UConn I used to run a study group with some of the guys, and we’d ask fellow students and players over to our apartment. It wasn’t like we were always reading in depth. Still, as I look back now, I think it was an opportunity to come to terms with the stretch from being an athlete and also being a student—and balancing what was going on in their lives. I didn’t know it then, but it was an early venue to share the small group coaching Xapis Strategies promotes.

My role on the football team was unique in the sense that I was a punter. So I wasn’t somebody who played every down. I wasn’t somebody who was charged with having this great physical strength, but I was somebody who had to remain calm, had to remain focused, and kind of balance all of those situations that were ongoing. I think that mentality more so was something I was trying to pass on to some of my peers.

I called a colleague from those days a while ago and told him about my idea. When I asked him what he thought, he said, “You always were so good with me, helping me to stay on track and balanced.”

“I did?” I said. “Why didn’t you tell me that five or six years ago?”

When I talked to co-workers at my current job in finance at Global Atlantic, right after Divinity School, I found myself, once again, listening for this meta-narrative, I’ll call it, in the stories they told. And my role became asking questions, and kind of delving into these personal situations. I’d reflect some of that back to the person and afterwards they’d say, “You really helped me work through some things.”

There are going to be challenges at work and in life, but being able to be joyful ... serves not only the person, but their workplace as well.

The Lesson:  

There’s a need in the workplace for “corporate chaplains,” who have an office, like you would see in a hospital, and are there to serve the workers. There already are coaches who are strictly business strategy; there are psychologists who are coaches. For me, the role would necessitate understanding the person’s present and maybe also understanding a bit of their past, though I’m not going to be one who is going to repair past relationships or experiences in the way a therapist would. It’s more like getting the client to learn to live in the present moment, at work.

A lot of employers will say, ”Oh, we have human resources for employees as long as they come and take advantage of it." But my question is, “How can I get to the people who don’t necessarily come to the door for counseling? That is what led me to this model.

Granted my own faith journey and faith life inform a part of what I do, but I’m not proselytizing. I’m not going in with my faith as a leading strategy. My goal isn’t necessarily providing happiness for my co-worker. Instead of happiness I guess I would call it joyfulness. From the theological perspective, joy is not based in feeling good. Joy has a deeper root meaning of gratitude. Joy in the present. You’re not looking for a hedonistic outcome, which I associate sometimes with happiness. Your life is going to have ups and downs. There are going to be challenges at work and in life, but being able to be joyful by having that steady state of wholeness (as implied in Xapis, the Greek word for grace) serves not only the person, but their workplace as well.

Follow Xapis Strategies on Twitter at @xapisstrategies

Photo by Gerry Dyer

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