Published article: What You See Is All There Is (WYSIATI)

The acronym WYSIATI, or “what you see is all there is” was famously explained by Daniel Kahneman (the only psychologist ever to win a Nobel Prize in economics!) in Thinking Fast and Slow (2019).

The impact of his work on HOW we categorize behaviors is significant and important for ALL managers and consultants.

In this article, I briefly review some of the current models and suggest that my colleagues become familiar with the VIA Classification assessment tools, which offer an alternate vocabulary based on character strengths and new, globally validated research.

You can apply this article published in the Family Firm Practitioner to your  consulting, managing or leadership.  With  any team.  Today.

Please share this article, then contact me to discuss how your team or organization can leverage your strengths.

All your best,  Doug Gray, PhD, PCC

My Article Published today in the Family Firm Institute Practitioner magazine, OKR Leadership and Succession Planning

my article published today, 2.19.20

Here is the PDF of the complete article

Here is the opening text…

Succession Planning requires OKR Leadership

At a recent meeting I asked, “What is your leadership succession plan?”  After a blank stare from several business owners I heard:

“We don’t have one.  What is it, exactly?”

“You’re looking at it.  I’m all we’ve got.”

Family-owned business leaders are not alone.  Business owners are not alone.  As most FFI members know, family business leaders represent about 70% of the U.S. economy, and about 70% of new job creation.  My experience is that 100% of family business leaders worry about succession planning.  What about your clients?

This short article explains what succession planning is, and how OKR leadership can help your clients be more proactive than reactive.  You have probably read that only 1/3 of family businesses survive from the first generation to the second.  But the reason for that low success rate is because they are not well advised by FFI members.  You, and your clients, can practice succession planning using OKR leadership.   Think of this article as one more tool in your toolbox.


Succession Planning is defined as a process for identifying and developing your next generation of key leaders.  The goal of succession planning in family-owned businesses is to perpetuate your legacy and assets over generations.

Succession planning requires OKR Leadership.  Let me explain.  Objectives describe what to do (e.g., transition ownership and management to the next generation).  Key Results (KRs) describe how you measure that objective (e.g., assess the strengths and weaknesses of each family member and director within the next 30 days).

OKR leadership is the process for managers and leaders to practice what matters.  For example, if your business needs to develop a succession plan, then you may need to increase accountability and transparency using OKRs.  At many of my client companies, OKRs are written by each director and each family leader.  Those OKRs are reviewed monthly at family business meetings.  You may know that OKRs have driven the largest migration of financial assets and technological innovation ever recorded in human history to Silicon Valley, California since the 1970s.  OKR leadership is a radical process for top-down hierarchical organizations to implement, but it is attractive to many family-owned business leaders because it works.

Case study

Rick is an example…

Read the full article above for the case study.

For discussion about your family business or succession planning, please contact Doug Gray here.

Article published: Why Millennials Demand OKR Leadership

On January 23, 2020 this article was published at Alister Paine.  You may like it.

The link is .

The text of the article is here for you to share.

The first paragraph is here…

Millennials think they are unique.  Just ask one.  However, throughout history there have always been population surges after wars, diseases and migrations.  So, what makes the current population of millennials, born in the U.S. between 1981-1996, truly unique?  They represent over 75 million people, 25% of the U.S. population, a larger population surge than the post-war Baby Boom, 30% of the voting age, more diversity than any previous generation, and about 50% of today’s workforce (see  These millennials are uniquely qualified to use new tools such as digital technology to communicate, social media platforms to influence consumers and public opinions, graphic images and visual memes, ethnic and racial diversity to describe more inclusive perspectives.  The result is massive impact from countless millennials in every workplace and business sector.  Examples include social protests, outrage, political discord, lawsuits, reputational attacks.  Millennials are agile learners who demand to speak and be heard.  That fact requires that learning managers and leaders respond differently than ever.

I enjoyed writing that article.  Let’s continue the conversation.  Here are 6 great resources for you, your team, and your organization.

  1. Free ebook download and videos are at
  2. Free digital courses on OKR Leadership are at
  3. Free copy of the first chapter of my new book, Objectives + Key Results (OKR) Leadership; How to apply Silicon Valley’s secret sauce to your career, team or organization (2019).
  4. Please buy and share copies of my book. Print and ebook versions are at The audible copy will be available shortly.
  5. Invitation to join the 2020 OKR Leadership Project.  I am collecting examples at Invitation to join the OKR Leadership Project. Think of this project as the 2020 version of “Chicken Soup for Practicing OKR Leadership.”
  6. Invitation to schedule a complimentary session with me at

All your best,  Doug

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. 

Why managers should manage, and coaches should coach

wrong way stop and take a uturn making a mistake turn back now bad direction graffiti on red brick wall, text and hand

In a recent article published by Forbes, Verne Harnish sloppily predicts that in 2016 the term “manager” should be discarded.  All companies should replace the role of manager with the role of “coach.”  What rubbish.  As evidence he cites only one example- that Zappos does so. Ignore this article because it is sloppy and inaccurate.  Why confuse the marketplace or denigrate both roles?


     Managers should manage; coaches should coach.


We need consistent terms for “managers” and “coaches” for at least these 3 reasons.


  1. Managers by definition need to maximize the productivity of others. Some hierarchy is mandatory, because the manager’s job requires writing a performance review and determining compensation. Read Peter Drucker, called the father of organizational development, on this point. The idea of maximizing productivity is as old as Diomedes. And as new as Marcus Buckingham. The role requires that managers work in private to coach others, but that skill of coaching should never replace the role of coaching. Perhaps the best model for describing the complex role of managers is Henry Mintzberg’s Managing (2011), which should be required reading for any serious managers, or any student of management theory and practice.
  1. Coaches, by definition, support others to achieve their personal and professional goals.  The agenda is defined by the client/leader, not by a coach or anyone else.  The process of coaching varies, from a competency approach defined by the International Coaching Federation  to a theoretical construct such as positive psychology (the best example is here).  In executive coaching, there is a validated need for both internal coaches who expedite the careers of HiPos, and external coaches who provide customized leadership development for senior leaders.  None of these coaches are managers.  However, managers are often tasked with coaching their direct reports. See point 1.
  1. Confusion abounds in many learning organizations, especially those that are dominated by fear. We do not need any sloppy terminology. Coaching was once an activity designed to remediate some undesirable behavior. Not any more. Coaching now is a targeted behavioral investment. For instance, I collaborate with internal leaders who provide succession planning data, performance reviews, 360 or personality assessments. As an external coach, my role is to accelerate the agenda of senior leaders. There is no better investment in top talent. Retention increases 18 months on average. For an example of the largest global provider of executive coaching, visit CoachSource. We provide scale for any-sized organization, in 45 countries, with over 1,000 expert executive coaches.   Results should define your investments, not any silly claims.

Bottom line: Avoid sloppy terms. Call managers what they are. Call coaches what they are. Invest in talent development.


To learn more, call Doug Gray, PCC, at 615-905-1892 or schedule your complimentary, confidential session here .

What are you waiting for?