Marshall Goldsmith on Christmas Eve, 2019

You may think I’m a good planner.  Not always true.  When my loved ones want a Christmas gift they send me digital links.  I select something.  Then on Christmas Eve I run around Nashville, TN to pick up my gifts.  It’s a long time habit.  Full of joy and occasional  last minute substitute gifts.

Apparently I’m not alone.

On December 24, 20198 I raced into a jewelry store at Green Hills Mall in Nashville to pick up a gift.

Marshall Goldsmith on Christmas Eve, 2019

Marshall Goldsmith was doing the same for his loved ones.

You may know Marshall as the best-selling author of “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” (2007) or “Mojo” (2009) or “Triggers” (2015).  Or as one of the most influential executive coaches and leadership consultants of our time.  Or as a contributor of CoachSource, the largest global provider of executive coaches, where I serve as an engagement manager.

Or as another person racing around to find meaningful gifts for his loved ones.

We are not alone.

My Webinar Content on 2.20.20 “OKR Leadership Explained” hosted by 15Five

Hello friends,

Yesterday over 1,600 people registered for my webinar, and over 450 participated.  Here is the content for your team.

Thanks for registering for our webinar on OKR Leadership Explained with Dr. Doug Gray. 

Click the button below to access the recording of the webinar. Feel free to share it with your network! Below are resources for your continued learning:

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If you’d like to learn more about how 15Five can help unlock the potential of your workforce, click here.

P.S. 15Five’s Best-Self Conference is right around the corner. Come learn from industry experts such as Simon Sinek, Amy Edmondson, Julie Zhou, and Claude Silver. Reserve your ticket now!


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Telling Stories; Using systems thinking to help your business clients attain meaningful outcomes

I recently published the following article on Corporate leadership.

This article is reproduced with permission from  Choice, the Magazine of Professional Coaching  in this link: choice_V17N1_issue_Doug-Gray

Here is the text of the article for you to share…

Title:   Telling Stories; Using systems thinking to help your business clients attain meaningful outcomes

Throughout recorded history, for over 4,500 years, we have used stories to teach and entertain.

Coaches use stories. Coaches teach to add value to clients. By definition, coaching is a collaborative process for clients to attain meaningful outcomes.

Are you using stories to add value for your clients?

Here are two case studies that you can apply to your corporate coaching business immediately.

Case Study 1.    Recently I explained Systems Thinking to a client who owns a small leadership development business using professional actors. This CEO was struggling to articulate the unique value of his company. And he needed to prepare for a big meeting with a prospective buyer that could lead to a potential 500 percent increase above his previous annual revenue.

He was excited and scared. I mentioned leverage, Archimedes, and the idea that “with a big enough lever one could move the world.” When he wanted examples, I told him a story about applied systems thinking that Macdonald, Burk and Stewart (2006) implemented at entrenched mining companies in Australia. Those leaders were unable to see past the obstacles in front of them, such as safety incidents, high turnover and absenteeism, and erratic productivity costs.  Then they created transformational changes.

When my CEO client wanted to find simple words to describe the cascading effects of organizational change, he drew a model with concentric circles like a bulls-eye. (I encourage you to take a pen or pencil and write this down. It is a simple model that works well.)

The smallest ring was unlabeled, to represent the chaotic core of deep change. The second outer ring was “individual” to represent the changes that leaders need to make. The third outer ring was “team” to represent the group of two or more people that add leverage. If that group has one scoreboard, then by definition they are a team. The fourth outer ring was “organizational” to represent the scope of leaders influencing others toward a better vision of the future. The core skill of such leaders is public optimism.

So, I encouraged this client to find the words to describe a better future for his organization. He developed a story using a pebble dropped into a pool of calm water. This CEO client needed to know that others have applied leverage. He needed a simple structure that he could adopt. You can adopt this model immediately.

One result from his client meeting is that he literally “found the words” and developed his own story about leverage. He developed new marketing content. He improved his reputation. He asked for the business. Yes, he won the big engagement with that new prospect. And yes, he did grow his business 500 percent above the previous annual revenue.

Outcome-based coaching is critical for any leader. Perhaps you can do something similar in your coaching business?

Case Study 2.

The second story encourages leaders to apply leverage to a bigger vision of a better future.

Like many International Coach Federation (ICF) members, I volunteer as a board member at our local chapter to plan annual activities. One of our colleagues leads the corporate Learning and Development group at Bridgestone Americas (a leading automotive company). She needed to develop programs using Systems Thinking.

Specifically, she needed to prepare to replace an aging workforce, and had developed programs with the largest university in the state, using values from their company and partnering with the US Naval Academy and US Army at West Point.

They needed to teach essential leadership skills using their company values at a public university. Concurrently, Bridgestone needed to relocate 30-50 percent of their senior leaders from two other states to their new corporate headquarters in Nashville, TN, without losing significant intellectual capital or market capital.

She was both excited and overwhelmed about the changes ahead for Bridgestone. She needed to discuss ways to apply Senge’s (2006) model of a learning organization to those changes. I volunteered some stories to help her design solutions. My hope is that she has the corporate leadership executive sponsorship and required resources to implement systems thinking at that organization.  We all need to transform organizations.


Notice the pattern? Leaders, by definition, influence others toward a better future. They find the words. They seek partners. They use leverage to gain results. Whether you are coaching a small business owner or a director in a large organization, you can help your clients attain meaningful outcomes.

The cornerstone of systems thinking is personal mastery, defined as “continually becoming” (Senge, 2006). In all major religions and most philosophies, there is a recognition that humans are aspirational. We stare at the clouds, stars and weather patterns and try to understand objective “reality.” We stare at social media and fear-based stimuli and try to determine useful “facts.” We work with clients who are stuck. We help our clients overcome perceived obstacles. Thankfully, humans are continually developing. Amid those chaotic stimuli, we tell stories to teach, entertain, and achieve meaningful outcomes.

As coaches, our primary role is to help others attain meaningful outcomes. Case studies are one way to help our clients make smarter decisions today.

A coaching query is: How are you using case studies or stories to help your clients attain meaningful outcomes?


ICF (2016). 2016 Global Coaching Study; Executive Summary. International Coaching Federation.

MacDonald, I., Burke, C., & Stewart, K. (2006). Systems Leadership: creating positive organizations. Hampshire, England: Gower.

Senge, P. M. (2006). The Fifth Discipline: The art and practice of the learning organiza- tion. Random House/Currency.

Author Bio:  Doug Gray, PhD, has been an International Coaching Federation certified coach at the PCC level since 2006.  He is CEO of Action Learning Associates, LLC. His dissertation explored global executive coaching and leader outcomes.  He models systems thinking by serving hundreds of clients.  Contact him today. 

What to Expect in a Leadership Workshop

why leadership training is worth it center for creative leadership ccl

Do you think that you a born leader?  That is a myth. 

The reality is that leadership skills can be taught and developed.  By definition, leaders influence the behavior of others by describing a better vision of the future.  The primary skill of effective leaders is public optimism.  Leaders tell great stories and share optimism.  

Those leadership skills can be taught in a workshop or program.  The most effective leadership workshops include training and coaching, then more training and coaching, to reinforce desired behaviors over time.  Repetition works.

Leaders must adapt to change.  At a recent leadership workshop one executive stated,  “We need to master this content in the next 3 days because we are each the CEOs of our business.  We need to create our future business.”   That urgency is common.

Many of the tactics that leaders were taught 10-20 years ago are obsolete today.  Management by Objectives (MBOs) and Forced Rankings are now considered manipulative, ineffective, and counterproductive. That kind of “leadership” will limit your career. 

We know that rigid managers and leaders prevent innovation and problem solving.  We also know that agility can be taught and developed.    We can teach agile leaders and managers to promote effective outcomes, efficiency, and employee engagement.  

Today, many employees demand fulfillment and purpose.  They want to feel inspired and know their place in society and their contribution to the world.  

We know that leaders need to practice leadership, just as physicians practice medicine and attorneys practice law.  All managers and leaders struggle. 

A great leadership workshop should provide:

  • Leadership exercises and experiential activities that encourage open communication and sharing of ideas
  • Profound breakthroughs in understanding how to influence others.
  • Lectures, digital workbooks, videos, powerpoint slides, and activities designed to model engagement
  • Pre-assessments and Post-assessments to discover your strengths and track the ROI of your investment
  • Leadership development coaching to help key leaders assess their strengths and define a meaningful outcome 
  • Group problem-solving tasks that encourage conflict resolution through a better understanding of human behavior and group dynamics
  • Customized apps with content to download and distribute your consistent messages throughout your organization

A recent client stated, “This was by far the most useful leadership development program I have experienced in over 20 years of forced participation in some kind of training.  The content was easy to understand.  All of the sessions were  customized for our organization.  All of the consultants were experts.  We were fully engaged in each session.  We did our work.  And now I have the skills I need to lead my team in a new and useful methodology.”  

All of our leadership workshops use our trademarked positive psychology AD-FIT™ process.  We typically include our leadership development coaching to assess your strengths and increase your probability of achieving your outcome-based results.

The best leadership workshops should ask you to take an honest assessment of your professional leadership style and define measurable outcomes.  We typically use both quantitative and qualitative assessments.   We offer both virtual and direct workshops with several exciting results-oriented topics to choose from.   See the list of leadership workshop topics here.

We provide services throughout the U.S and Canada.  We recently delivered programs in Chicago, IL, Charlotte, NC, Louisville, KY and Washington, DC.  If you are near the Nashville, TN area, an executive coach in Nashville can help you. 

If you are ready to learn more, please contact us.  Today.

We look forward to providing the outcome-based solutions you demand.  Call us today at 615.236.9845.

Proposals, feedback process, and why dogs are wiser than you.


How to make your next proposal better than your last one.

Let’s face it, of all the skills you can bring to bear to help your clients, the limiting factor is your ability to get proposals signed. You need to make money. You want to share your genius with the world world. You need to get your proposal written and sold. You need to deliver value at each step of the sales process. Here are three great ways to write coaching proposals that sell. You can be smarter than your competitors.

  1. Less fluff, more value.  Your job is to add value and solve your client’s problems. Nothing else matters. Your model, framework, tactic or magical gifts do NOT provide value to your client. Your solution is the value. Stay focused on the results you can deliver.

2.  Fewer credentials, more results.  Congratulations, your certification/ degree is a huge accomplishment. But nobody understands what it means. Make sure more space is devoted to results than credentials.

3.  Make it easy to understand.  If your buyer has to exercise their brain to realize how good your proposal is, then you haven’t done the work required to make it great. Keep the structure simple.

The Feedback Process


We all talk about feedback a lot. Most leaders think they do it well. But my opinion is that we simply don’t know how to give feedback well. The problem is our inability to give good feedback creates problems down the road.

A lack of feedback gives people unspoken approval for unacceptable behavior. This false approval encourages people to continue patterns of behavior that don’t help them or anyone else.

But it gets worse. Everyone in an organization is constantly evaluating competency. So a lack of feedback not only affects the person who needs to receive, but it also affects everybody else who knows that feedback should be given.

A leader is never out from under the microscope. Giving good feedback is one of the surest ways to encourage effective behavior and to demonstrate leadership competency. It is a skill that can be learned, and we can learn to teach it and demand it as part of our culture.

Feedback leads to learning.

The Leadership Wisdom of Dogs


The attributes, traits and characteristics that separate leaders from the rest of the pack can be clearly seen in the behavior of dogs: loyalty, perseverance, friendship, teamwork, honesty, bravery, ingenuity, playfulness, curiosity and an unflagging desire for more information.I call it the Fido Factor.

Faithful leaders earn the trust of their team and their customers by doing the right things and living up to their word.

Inspirational leaders move people to do the meaningful and the extraordinary.

Determined leaders combine perseverance with a dose of fearlessness to keep moving toward goals.

Observant leaders are committed to taking in as much information as possible in order to make the best decisions.

Get More Krissi:

Her book:

What the heck is The Process? 

Our Credo: (if you like these beliefs, then you’ll love us)

1.      Chaos in the marketplace for “professional coaching” can be reduced with outcome-based protocols.

2.      The strengths of professional coaches (e.g., integrity, fairness, collaboration, leadership, bravery) can be leveraged to co-create the future of professional coaching.

3.      Teams are stronger than individuals. Collaborative projects reduce individual risk and yield higher rewards.

4.      Expert leadership coaches and authors will contribute best practices and attract more users or followers.


There are over 50,000 “professional coaches” in a $7B global industry that lacks professionalism.  Literally anyone with a business card can self-declare that they are a “professional coach.”


The result is chaos in the marketplace, unethical practices, and a market ripe for disruption and consolidation.

The Process is a community of expert leadership consultants and coaches.  Join us.

Your Next Steps (How you can help):

1.     Are you subscribed to the Process? If not, click here

2.     Forward this email to ALL the leadership consultants you know.

3.     Are you an expert?      Yes, you are.   Submit some expert content and share your genius with the world. Click here.

Thanks for being part of The Process,

Patrick E. McLean and Doug Gray