What Ever Happened to Michael Henson?

“What ever happened to Michael Henson?”

I’ve been asked this question countless times. I’ve been asked this question loudly, quietly, surreptitiously, obviously, outside of concert halls, inside of concert halls, in moving cars, in non-moving cars, and, most recently, in the lobby of the Madison Concourse Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin, during a personal vacation that was not Minnesota Orchestra related whatsoever.

I’ve always been vague because I didn’t know the answer ( “um, consulting work…I guess”). (And the Pulitzer for best investigative blogging goes to…) But as long as I’m happy with the direction in which the Minnesota Orchestra is going, and I am, I don’t really care what its former leader is up to. Yes, the question of his whereabouts is interesting to think about in the abstract, but any answer you might uncover has little practical use. If bread is square, why is sandwich meat round? That’s an interesting question, too. But it only does you so much good to think about it.

That said, some new intelligence recently landed in my lap in the form of Michael Henson’s LinkedIn profile.

back1 back2


My first reaction: “Is this real?”

My second reaction: “Is this real?”

My third reaction: “Oh my God, this is real!”

Two possibilities here. Either someone is a fabulous performance artist impersonating Michael Henson, or Michael Henson is a fabulous performing artist impersonating Michael Henson.

Mr. Henson’s profile states that he is currently “CEO, President, Consultant, Seeking to Transform People, Organizations and Experiences for Growth.” What’s not clear is if he is a freelance CEO, President, and Consultant who is seeking to transform people, organizations, and experiences for growth in general, or if he is the CEO, President, and Consultant at a specific organization called “Seeking to Transform People, Organizations, and Experiences for Growth.” I tried Googling “Seeking to Transform People, Organizations, and Experiences for Growth” (hereafter known as STPOEG) (or St. Poeg?) and…

not helpful

And then:


actually Google I don’t know what I meant – sorry to bother you

So that’s…a thing. Or not. Or whatever.

I’m sure you’re all curious what comes next in his profile, while simultaneously pretending to not be curious and not care.

Well, the profile summary starts with the tagline:


tumblr_lmss2ckkm81qgy5npo1_400 (1)

my reaction to this in gif form

I’ve spent my entire career fixing systemic business issues and making organizations more successful, and improving the experience and presentation.


I am known for moving people, teams and organizations beyond comfort zones,


breaking down barriers,


leveling playing fields,


and achieving results that were thought impossible.

YES!!! That, yes. Yes, that, most definitely.

breaking records

Longest dispute in American history: NAILED THE IMPOSSIBLE WOOO

I am interested in leading an organization that is open to embracing evolving change in a culture of trust, integrity and fun.

Yes, the name “Michael Henson” and the word “fun” are pretty much synonymous. There were so many fun moments during the Henson tenure, especially the latter part of it, it’s impossible to choose a favorite! There was that one time when three former music directors wrote an editorial in the Star Tribune in which they said “an orchestra does not easily recover from such drastic cuts, if ever.” That was fun. All of the legislative hearings investigating the Minnesota Orchestra were fun. I would say that the Sibelius 2&5 concert put on by major donor Judy Dayton and Mayor Rybak at the Convention Center was fun, but Michael Henson opted not to go to that, so maybe strictly speaking that wasn’t Henson-induced fun. Michael Henson’s huge bonuses were fun. Oh yeah and I also remember lying in bed sick with a cold in early October 2013, curled up in my mother’s arms, sobbing with a migraine and listening to the Minnesota Public Radio broadcast of Osmo’s farewell concert. I remember saying over and over again: How could they?, my face red with fever and indignation and near delirium from the sheer fun of it all.

I mean, Osmo’s voice was shaking with all the fun he was having!

Complex and challenging doesn’t bother me – static does.

giphy (2)

Bothersome to Mr. Henson

I am known as:

An UNCONVENTIONAL and VISIONARY LEADER who helps people and organizations think differently about what is possible

Um. Well. Actually, strictly speaking, this is true. He is unconventional, and he is visionary. I certainly never imagined a year-plus lockout at a major American orchestra. In that way, Michael Henson’s leadership skills expanded my ideas of the possible.

A visual representation of Michael Henson expanding my consciousness of what was possible.

A visual representation of Michael Henson expanding my consciousness of what is possible

Sees what others can’t in identifying issues and articulating the vision and the path to success


Keen listener and observer of people and situations – thoughtful when invoking change

Yyyeah, that’s it. That’s why all those times when I wanted to talk to him over all those years, he was so…available. That’s why he and I had so many intensive one-on-one conversations, especially about Advent calendars. And that’s why when NPR wanted to talk to him after Domaingate was making national headlines


Engages people with divergent and new ideas and opinions to get to the heart of the issue and imagine something better

My reaction in GIF form.

My reaction to this in gif form.

Respected mentor who attracts extraordinarily talented people

What the –

Okay, that’s it; I’m not even gonna try any more. Emily out. In case you want to read it, here’s the rest of his profile’s summary.

A STRATEGIC CATALYST of SUSTAINABLE CHANGE… who leads people and organizations with relentless integrity
♦ Pragmatic and thoughtful in analyzing a situation and making difficult decisions for lasting positive impact
♦ Courageous and tenacious in doing what needs to be done and saying what people need to hear
♦ Inspires and motivates others to engage and resist the status quo, while building a culture that values people and encourages calculated risk for the greater good

A HIGH-LEVEL THINKER and PROBLEM SOLVER who is relentless in getting results
♦ Able to stay focused on the desired outcome while moving people and teams to action
♦ Shifts people beyond “we’ve always done it this way” to think differently about getting results

I BELIEVE… that excellence is only achieved when we overcome mediocrity. Repeating the past never secures the future. I believe in making new mistakes, not repeating old ones.

OK, so, trust me. I know exactly what you’re thinking:

Where can I get a plaque with that last sentence on it?????????

So I took the liberty of whipping up three versions on www.quozio.com, the free website that “turns meaningful words into beautiful images in seconds”!

I-believe-in-making-new (1) I-believe-in-making-new (2) I-believe-in-making-new

And then I chose my favorite, framed it, and brought it out into my back garden to take a picture of myself staring soulfully into the camera with it, thereby implicitly endorsing this bold new view of nonprofit management. #MakeNewMistakes



So, um, in conclusion…the next time someone asks you where Michael Henson is, reassure them that he is rested, tanned, and seeking work. In the immortal words of not Abraham Lincoln:

People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.


Filed under Labor Disputes

16 responses to “What Ever Happened to Michael Henson?

  1. Amy Adams

    “Blogs are senseless and must be ignored.”
    -M. Henson

  2. Tom Foley

    Oh Emily, you are so great. That was a wonderful piece to read–gut wrenching, funny, over the top. A pleasure.

  3. And here I’ve always believed in making *fewer* mistakes rather than new ones. But then again, I’ve always been a foolish blogger.

  4. missprinteditions

    My eyes started crossing early on into the profile itself (ability to absorb that kind of Orwellian advert-speak [or should I say in-advert-ent-speak]), and I read “Profit and Non-Creative” somehow. Another masterpiece; you always outdo yourself. You instill hope in more than just the usual ways.

  5. Elizabeth Erickson

    I can’t eat my soup I’m laughing so hard. Oh he’s a visionary all right. Don’t hold back, Michael. Don’t hide in closets. Embrace your delusional, psychotic, and overall super duper destructive ideas, you call “forward thinking”.

  6. missprinteditions

    Early on in the craftily-concocted profile my eyes started to glaze over (Orwellian advert-speak-intolerance), and I read “CEO Profit and Non-Creative”. It seemed odd, but no odder than anything that’s actually there.

    Another tour de force that instills all manner of hope. Brava!

  7. Sarah

    Has he had some “work” done?

  8. Karin Erickson

    Nailed it again Emily….so glad we can get a laugh at his expense at last. I will never forget how rude he was to me at Orchestra Hall….arrogant.

  9. Steven Ledbetter

    Breathtaking chutzpah (MH) and breathatkngly funny (Emily)!

  10. Bill Busen

    For all of us who would like to provide Michael with the level of Creative Industry Transformation he provided our beloved musicians, LinkedIn gives members the opportunity to provide Endorsements for other members. Since his target organizations would be those too stupid to use Google, I believe we should provide them with the proper endorsements for Michael, so that they might understand the Extinction Event level of transformation he is able to bring to an arts organization.

    Plus if we do it right, we get another really funny column out of Emily.

  11. Doug R.

    It is truly [placeholder word to be filled in later if I can stop laughing] to behold in what high esteem Mr. Henson holds himself, underscored by your soulful visage staring into the camera with such…yearning? no, …..DEEP yearning….no…..deep something, though, roused by his paean to his no doubt extraordinary self. For the best cackle I’ve had in weeks, and the most deft skewering of a stuffed shirt since, I don’t know, Ambrose Bierce, or maybe W.C. Fields, or maybe Jon Stewart, or maybe all three of them put together, humble thanks.

  12. Hilarious post. Thank you, Emily. If you have not done so already, you do realize that you can pipe your blog over to Linked In and also send an invite to Michael Henson. :-)

  13. Drea Breann Salas

    Sometimes retracing your mistakes can help you regain the positive outcome that you were looking for and remember that you learn from your mistakes to not let yourself get hurt again !

  14. drmarksays

    That is really funny. I would have thought if he had an ounce of sense he would be long gone from here. Apart from all the hilarious stuff is the fact, that he is trying to seek work in non profits here in Minnesota. I guess he is done running orchestras world wide.

    May be he should write one of his compositions he says he can do. I bet he has lots of time now. Bet it would be worse than than ghastly violin concerto the SPCO premiered yesterday. That was old stuff right out of the fifties and sixties. As Tommy Beecham used to used to say, “Not one nth part of it will survive.” And that tired old piece of the “wind that blew the pump up” variety will be among the detritus he was talking about.

    The SPCO had better be careful not to inflict that type of gratuitous auditory assault on the listening public, or they will be back in trouble.

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