Blind Spots, Building a Better Team, Business Secret, High Performance, Identifying Talent, Leader Development, Learning From Mistakes


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Who Do I Pick to Lead?As a corporate leader, I have made a ton of mistakes over the years and one of the biggest has been one of hubris. I believed that I was personally capable of reshaping all below average performers into future superstars. Sorry about the gender reference, but one of the prevailing theories within my company at the time was…..”It takes a man to make a man.” Wrong as it seems today, I hope you get the gist of the idea. For years, I believed that it was my responsibility to create future leaders out of raw clay.

I admit that I am a card-carrying member of the “half full” vs. “half empty” club, so I am by nature an optimist. Unfortunately, my personal view on life has sometimes clouded my objectivity about people. Gosh that really hurt, to write that…..

What I have learned, the hard way, is that most people are predisposed to a certain personality type, behavior, and limited by their aptitude and attitude. We as leaders must simply be overtly objective about their capabilities and their ability to lead.

I admit that I have always loved hard working people that are driven to exceed. In fact, I am one so I am naturally attracted to people like me. The danger is to overlook the flat-bellied hard-charger’s dominating desire and tenaciousness, to decide if the leadership traits outweigh their limitations.

In the end, smart wins. Especially street-smart people.

In the end, passionate people win.

In the end, the ability to honestly and genuinely influence and motivate teammates wins.

In the end, those with strategic capability beat those that work within their current situation.

If you have someone on your team, that when you describe them, you rationalize their shortcomings, you need to punch yourself in the face and seriously consider an upgrade.

If you have someone on your team that you find yourself thinking about moving to a new position because it’s a better fit, you are a wimp and you need to deal with the problem today.

If you have someone on your team, that you have described as…”he/she isn’t hurting us”. Go right to a door and bang your head against it, and then make the right decision.

Just because you are in charge, does not make you infallible. You can’t “make” leaders. What you can do is create an environment that develops leaders like a factory line. You can set up supportive systems that grow leaders. You can surround yourself with tough, people-first, goal oriented direct reports. You can, and should invest personally in shaping the next generation.

But…keep it simple, be honest with yourself, and trust your instincts.

Coach Dave

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Business Secret, Executive Coaching, Learning From Mistakes, Self Management



One of the toughest decisions, facing any executive is when that little voice in your head starts telling you that it’s time to start looking for a new role in a new company. Frequently, it’s your fear about career progression and status parity with other executives, skepticism in senior leadership’s decisions and ability, lack of faith in the strategic direction, reduced access to people/assets, or even worse…..

When You just don’t trust them anymore.

My belief is that when an executive starts mistrusting their employer’s motives, ethics, values, or the cultural aspects, it’s time to update the resume and to phone a friend and think about an exit plan.

Recently, I had a long and emotional discussion with two executives that I have respected for years, about the ethics and values of their employer. I heard many stories about their firm’s aberrant and unconventional management and decisions making style. I listened carefully while they challenged the ethics, legality, and the corporate misrepresentations of facts. What astounded me is that this company is a large highly regarded public company that is very visible to the public. It was clear that these two talented people needed to leave their employer and for many obvious reasons.

However, my advice was first, to be sure to re-check their perceptions, to validate viewpoints with a confidential discussion with their mentors, trusted colleagues, and hopefully a professional HR person. Many times the emotionality of what happens to us personally, distorts how we see it, and we don’t want you to make a bad decision when emotion is high.

I am a professional Executive Coach. I get hired by corporations to enrich and expand the skills of their future leaders. I work for the company and the senior decision makers that have their hand on the directional rudder. I also decided long ago that I will only coach firms that have a correct moral compass and I have, and will, beat a hasty retreat if I get a solid confirmation that is incongruent with my beliefs.

Decide where those lines in the sand are for you, and be prepared to act.

I wish you great success!

Coach Dave


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Business Coaching, Executive Coaching, Influence for Success, Leader Development



Influence = LeadershipSome of the most uplifting and important stories in business, are the emotion-filled stories from emerging leaders about the coaching they received from a senior business mentor.  I have heard descriptions about deeply appreciated advice, mostly delivered in a brutally honest fashion, that truly have made a difference, and usually at a crossroad in a career.

What is fascinating to me is the mentor is usually completely unaware of when the message was delivered.  Completely unaware that the episode was a significant event.  Completely unaware that their advice would be seen as that impactful.

The lesson in this for me, and hopefully for you, is:

Leaders are always on stage.  Our actions, words, tonality, body language, humor, and frustrations are watched by many more people than we think.  Our teammates are constantly looking for signals and clarity.  Our words and actions have powerful implications and the receiving party is the one that picks the time, place, and message.  We never know when we are the most impactful, so we better be consistently on our game.

I challenge you to find at least one junior colleague that you can mentor and to remember that many others are watching you.  Don’t let them down.

Leadership is about influence.  So if you imprint and influence others, you are a powerful leader.

Be a powerful leader!

Coach Dave

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Business Secret, Executive Coaching, Influence for Success, Leader Development, Leadership



Every management expert professes to have created the best definition for leadership.  I have read many of them and certainly made my own list of leadership attributes that I respect and think works (see my blog titled “15 Traits of the Leader I would Follow.”)

After years of trying to come up with a better way of saying it, I keep coming back to the simple definition that thought leader John Maxwell describes in his book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.”

John writes…”The true measure of leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”Impacting the Outcome

My observation is that some of the best leaders that I have witnessed are the people that are very different from me.  They think differently.  They approach problems and derive solutions differently. They make me stop and think.  They help me challenge my high D/Type A tendencies to come up with an immediate solution.  They may be the quiet, non-demonstrative person that you have to ask for their opinion. They may not be the classic “poster-child” for the perfect leader, but they clearly and powerfully influenced decisions, strategies, and results.

So the lesson that I have learned, and I suggest that you consider is this:

  1. Look for the informal leaders on your team that everyone listens to.  This person has influence.
  2. Look for the people that have the ideas and the courage in their convictions to challenge the deluge of momentum.  This person has influence.
  3. 3. Challenge your belief that a leader has to look and act the way that you or your peers do.  That person may have influence.
  4. Give more attention to the people that make you stop and think.  That person has influence.

Leaders come in many different varieties.  Find the people in your firm that powerfully influence others and give them a forum to exert even more influence.  They are the leaders that will help you take your company to the next level.

Find an influencer. Learn from an influencer.  Become an influencer.

Coach Dave

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Blind Spots, Business Secret, Managing Pressure & Stress, Productivity, Self Management



What Do I Do Now?

At least once a day, I hear this emotional comment, in many variations, from business owners and executives.  So, is the entire business community over-worked, and anxiety ridden?  What is causing all of this passion and what the heck can we do to liberate these talented leaders from all of this frustration?

I have found a solution and I have taught dozens of frustrated leaders how to get themselves focused and back in charge of their own destiny.  The secret is to learn a prioritization technique that really works.  It works so well that I use it myself and my personal productivity has greatly benefited.

First off, buy and read the book from Michael Linenberger called The One Minute To-Do List.

Michael teaches how to clearly define what you need to do and then categorizing your list into three lists.

  1. The longer term tasks go on a multi-page list he calls “Over the Horizon”.  These are the “to-achieve” items that are need to be done 10 days from now and beyond.  I update this list every Sunday afternoon for the upcoming week.
  2. The next list is called “Opportunity Now” and houses the tasks I need to do between tomorrow and 10 days from now.  You can have only 20 items on this list.  I also update this list every Sunday afternoon and review it at the end of every day.
  3. The final list is called “Critical Now”.  This list should be the 5 tasks that you have to do today before you go home.  I rewrite this list at the end of each day for the upcoming day.  Most of the items come from the “Opportunity Now” list.  I look at this list every hour when I am in the office or multiple times during the day if I am with clients.

Sounds simple enough and it really is.  So if you want to regain control of your time, be more productive, and energize your outlook, read this book and follow his suggestions.

Coach Dave

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Blind Spots, Business Secret, Leader Development, Taking Time to Think



Over the years I have watched many talented mid-level executives work on their skills and expertise with the goal of getting noticed and then promoted.  As I compare those that made themselves eligible, and those that were successful, I have discovered a key point of differentiation.

The successful candidates worked on, and developed a strategic viewpoint vs. their competitors.

Looking Beyond the Obvious

Most hard-working people find themselves immersed in their daily duties and their personal whirlwind and infrequently look up to see where they are going.   That means truly understanding why the business exists, what the business is attempting to be, what is happening with the competition & the marketplace, and what their personal role is in achieving the business plan.

The people that get promoted are the candidates that can see over the horizon and keep a balanced perspective between their work and the work of the business.

So here are some tips & challenges to help you be more strategic:

  1. Be a student of your industry instead of just your firm
  2. Read your industry trade journals and always compare and contrast
  3. Follow your competitors closely and never dismiss what they are doing.  Learn from them.
  4. Read business publications: specifically the Wall Street Journal and biz magazines.
  5. Hone your understanding of your firm’s financial statements and how they compare to your industry
  6. Seek out industry leaders and ask them questions
  7. Ask your company leaders why their goals and strategies are important to the future
  8. Work on developing  your experience gaps with outside workshops and seminars
  9. Find a mentor within in your firm that is a senior level strategic thinker and listen to their advice
  10. Craft your personal goals so that they link with the corporate strategies
  11. Enlist your boss to help you work on your strategic vision

Just as a ship captain must anticipate the weather beyond the horizon, you as a future leader must see a bigger picture instead of staring at the work in front of you today.

Work on yourself and your career!

Coach Dave

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Blind Spots, Execution, Leadership, Planning



I love finding and sharing lessons from business situations, so I have to write about a sales experience that I had this weekend.   After years of avoidance, I finally was ready to buy a high-tech, state-of-the-art big screen TV.  I did the cursory product research online so I was ready to hit the stores and make a decision.

The first stop was a very large national electronics chain that will remain nameless.  I walked into the TV department past 4 salespeople and looked at the wide assortment of products.  After 30 minutes of looking I had not been approached by a salesperson, so I walked up to the 4 who were goofing off and stood there.  No greeting.  No offer to help.  No sale.  I walked out of the store and took my hard-earned wad of cash down the street just like many others have done, if you read the business pages.

Invest in your Future, Don't Just Cut

Don't Forget About the Big Money

Next stop was a local business that proved that they were interested in my business from the first moment.  I met at the front door, a really good salesperson who answered all of my questions. I bought a more fully featured and higher priced TV than I wanted originally, bought almost all of the add-on recommendations from the salesman, got next day delivery, installation, a price guarantee, and I feel great about the experience and the value of the transaction.

So is this about the big chain vs. the small business.  No not at all!  This is about focus, execution, leadership, and a bunch of other success factors where one excelled and the other failed.  In this case, size doesn’t matter.

Company executives pay me very well to help them get clarity and then better results, so here are a few free observations and challenges for you leaders that are reading this story:

  1. Every business needs to figure out who they are and what they want to be.  Successful businesses have a clear Mission, Vision, Points of Culture, Unique Selling Proposition, and more importantly, they have done the not-so-glamorous, tedious work of training, communicating, modeling, and eventually executing what their platitudes express.
  2. Business leaders must ensure that what they want to happen really does happen.  Close supervision and coaching is the secret sauce.  Where was the boss in the big store? Did those leaders insist that their brand was well represented?
  3. Does your business have a feedback system that captures what your customer thinks and is doing? Faced with negative feedback, do you have the courage to do something with it?  Losers don’t.
  4. Since the economic recession, most business people are much too concerned about pricing and assortment and forget the other very important factors in a buying decision.  Service still counts.  Convenience and the “experience” wins.  Information is critical in a buying decision.  A caring attitude and a demonstration that the customer really matters, is a trump card.  Don’t concentrate solely on the nickels or you will miss the big dollars. You probably have a few more ideas, and I hope you do. Write a comment in this blog and tell me your recommendation.

If a light bulb went on, do something tomorrow to make a difference in your business and your future.

Coach Dave

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Execution, Leader Development, Learning From Mistakes, Managing Pressure & Stress



I perform in a very small musical group.  I really enjoy making a contribution, being part of a group, the creative outlet, and the amazing harmonic sounds when everyone performs their part correctly.Performance Excellence Requires Skills and Practice

We practice a piece of music approximately 6 times over 3 weeks before a performance, and usually by the 4th time through it, it is almost completely error-free.  Certainly by the 6th or last practice, just an hour before the performance, we have it nailed.  Our confidence is high, we know our parts, we feel competent, and we are ready for the stage.

Then it happens……….  As the focus of the audience turns to the group and the song begins, subtle errors emerge, once perfect and practiced parts become stiff and foreign, musicians & singers become hesitant, a little fear creeps in, and what once appeared and sounded perfect, wobbles slightly to completion.  The audience sometimes knows that it isn’t quite right, but the musicians are acutely aware of what happened and it just feels terrible.

This doesn’t happen every time, but it has always makes me think about why it occurs and how comparable it is to our work & careers.

So here are some thoughts about you can do:

  • Rethink your tendency to hire fast and immersion training.  The “sink or swim” program probably won’t work too well if you expect high performance and ultimately perfection.
  • Repetition and practice is incredibly important if you want consistent performance.  Think about surgeons, pilots, Special Forces, high-tech manufacturing, speech-making, sales calls, strategic planning, your golf game, etc.  Do your people get enough practice time?
  • Honest and fearless debriefing after an event or meeting can fix future problems and instill confidence even when emotions run high.  Competence breeds confidence.
  • Rising pressure builds anxiety in your people.  Manage their safety valves.  How is your EQ?  How closely do you watch them or do you subscribe to the “give it time” club?
  • Be prepared to spend some extra time with your new direct report before and after their first presentation.  Your invested time could substantially imprint his/her future.

What other ideas came to you?  I wish you success!

Coach Dave

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Building a Better Team, Planning, Strategy, Taking Time to Think



Inspirational Aspen Grove

Every fall I spend 10 days hiking in the mountains of Montana, hunting Elk and reconnecting with a place I truly love.  Somehow, I frequently end up sitting in the snow and leaning against an Aspen tree scanning the hills through binoculars and thinking about things I never have time to think about.

The Aspen grove is a therapeutic and humbling place to sit.  It is beautiful with thousands of leaves shimmering quietly in the slightest of breezes.  Incredibly, the Aspen tree starts from a single seed and then grows another tree through an underground root system that can be up to a hundred feet away.  The grove of hundreds of Aspen trees can live 40-150 years above the ground; however the root system can live for thousands of years.  In fact, there is an Aspen grove in Utah that is believed to be 80,000 years old and covers over a hundred acres.

You are probably thinking…………… what?  Here are a few ideas to think about:

Have you, as the leader, planted the single seed idea, point of culture, process, etc. that will take root in your organization?

Have you nurtured and nourished the informal root system in your company?

Are you patient enough to allow the slow development of the roots that will sustain and grow your firm for years?

There are lots of interesting comparisons if you take the time to allow the imagery to work.

For me, the lesson is about courage, patience, vision, empathy, and involvement.

I suggest that you lean up against an Aspen soon and give yourself time to think and decide what legacy you will leave.

Coach Dave

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Business Secret, High Performance, Key Performance Indicators, Strategy


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Secret to Results

Please excuse me, but I am going to be Mr. Obvious to many of you,  yet I keep meeting very accomplished people that are stunned and baffled with this concept………………..

So here is the really big secret: If you manage or lead a team of people on this beautiful planet, one of the primary ways to ensure that you will improve your group’s results, is to develop a list of key metrics and then track & report the results weekly or monthly.

Many years ago, this concept was hammered into my developing cranium by the incredibly focused senior management team of a company that I worked for.  This group of leaders fostered this philosophy and held every group accountable for showing improvement.

Guess what?  Measurement and accountability really works, yet it astounds me how un-natural this is to many people.

So here are 7 tips for you and your team:

  1. Work up a list of internal metrics that will help you run your business better.
  2. Keep the list shorter than you want
  3. Enlist your team in gathering the information
  4. Report the results weekly and look for trends
  5. Openly discuss and display the numbers
  6. When there is an aberration; find out why
  7. Turn the why into a tactical adjustment to get it back inline

It sounds simple, but it plays tougher.  If you really want to change your team’s performance, start here.  Listen carefully grasshopper, this works!

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