Primal Quest 2006, Utah, Team, podium finish

For 10+ years I led wilderness expeditions and teaching groups and providing individual leadership coaching for Outward Bound Schools in 3 countries. Each expedition was a microcosm of values and behavior. The photo above represents an extension of those skills.


In 2006, I raced on a 10-day expeditionary adventure race, called Primal Quest. Our team of four traveled continuously together, over 600 miles, mountain biking, trail running, climbing, rappelling, canyoneering, kayaking, and river swimming through the wilderness near Moab, Utah. We finished and were featured on CBS Sports. Hence, the image reminds me of a good team experience.


Our primary team goal was to cross the finish line, and our secondary goal was to remain good friends. We accomplished each goal.


Now let me pose a leadership coaching question:  How do you measure excellence for your team?


     Team included Doug Gray (captain), Bill Jordan (hoss), Jennifer Rinderle (sparkplug) and Steve Deis (lead navigator).


In 2004 we finished Primal Quest Washington.


In 2008 we finished Primal Quest Montana.  Then we rested.  Because we were tired.


What are you waiting for?

We all need coaching at times.  Call Doug Gray, PCC, at 615.905.1892 today.

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How can I sell more to existing customers?

I do not know the answer for you. Yet.  And it would be presumptuous or disingenuous if I offered a trite response.


Instead I will give you some facts. Then the process. Then what I do know.


Many studies confirm that your cost of good sold (COGS) is 7x higher for a new customer than for a returning customer.  So you should focus on providing new value to old customers.


There is a former client who comes to mind.  He happened to be a 30 year old financial advisor.  But the story is relevant for most of us in specialized fields.  He wanted to grow his business. After 3 years he had exhausted leads from his friends and family.  He had networked so often that people avoided him at chamber and business development groups and even at Rotary meetings.  I asked him, “What kinds of clients do you want to serve?”  and “Who is likely to retire in 10 years with a strong book of business that needs to sell the bottom portion to a younger professional like yourself?”  and “How can you guarantee that you provide excellent service to that older partner or lead source?”  As you can imagine, he had a new partner and provided tremendous value for that person’s clients for many years.  However, his answer is not your answer.


I do know the answer for hundreds of other business leaders who are former clients. Since 1997 I have consulted and coached business leaders in manufacturing, health care, education, HR, safety, technology, finance and accounting. I have guaranteed results for clients ranging from executive teams at F500 companies to small business owners struggling to make ends meet. I can provide best-of-class solutions or referrals to other consultants who can likely help you solve your problems.


I do know the process.  I do know what works.


Here you go:  you need to 1) define the problems, 2) provide solutions, 3) model accountability.  I call this the “3A Coaching process.


These “A letter” words are Assessments, Constructive Actions, and Accountability.  Too many  “coaches” stop after providing assessments, or constructive actions, because they do not know how to provide individual or team accountability.  That’s about as smart as running 2/3 of a marathon and stopping.  Make sure that you hire a coach who will get you past your finish line goals.


You are probably struggling with the following challenges:

people challenges
strategy challenges
execution challenges
cash and financial challenges


Typically, I define the problems using organizational and individual assessments. I determine where you are making money. And where you are losing money.


I may ask the three big questions: 1. can you define the problem? 2. do you need to solve that problem? 3. who can solve that problem? In today’s market, the buyer-seller dance has evolved into a transparent process of answering those 3 questions. Then adopting the best solution. Vendors are secondary.


Then I provide a host of best-in-class solutions for you to sell more to your existing customers. They already know you. They are inclined to purchase more products and services.


Then I model accountability so that you move beyond good intentions. I want you to sell more services.


Ready to talk? Call us soon at 704.995.6647 or contact us here.  Once we determine your needs, then we can define a more specific answer to this question.  Schedule your initial consultation here.


We all need to sell more to our existing clients.


What are you waiting for?

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How can I lead others?

This is a common question.  With both a simple answer and a complex answer.

The simple answer:  Serve others well.  Provide tremendous value.  

The complex answer has at least the following 5 points.


1.  Choose a BIG WANT.  Humans are aspirational- we aspire to do constructive work.  We aspire to build families, companies, wealth, happiness.  Our aspirations are reflected in art, architecture, net worth, hobbies, etc.  However, too many people lose their focus.  Perhaps you are representative.  As a child you may have had aspirations defined by others; such as get a job, or go to college or take care of your siblings.  As a young adult you may have had aspirations defined by you; such as, build a happy family, serve others, develop my business.  And all of us struggle.  Challenges exist.  Suffering exists.  In response, we need to choose an aspiration that is BIG.  When we choose a BIG WANT, not a small want such as material comfort, we become leaders.  The bigger our want, the bigger our impact as leaders.  A key coaching question is “What is your BIG WANT?”


2.   Choose a GREAT TEAM.  Humans are social creatures.  We evolve as a result of strong relationships.  Selling is based on strong relationships.  We can assess the market needs.  We can assess the strengths of others.  And we can build a great team to respond to that market need.  The most successful leaders have at least 6 people on their team who create creative tension and focus on results.  You may need to hire or develop a great team.  A key coaching question is “Who can you add to your team?”


3.  Choose constructive DAILY ACTIVITIES.  Leadership is not an occasional event.  Leadership is an ongoing process of daily activity.  Choose your activities carefully.  You have access to more digital information than ever in recorded history.  You should know WHAT works:  Good diet.  Regular exercise. Focused activity. Finding problems.  Solving problems.  Serving others.  Tracking activity.  A key coaching question is “How are you certain that you are making constructive daily activities?”


4.  Measure your Key Performance Indicators.  KPIs are used in all businesses.  What we measure leads to results.  Sadly, too few people measure their leadership efforts.  For many years, I have provided scoresheets, templates, spreadsheets to help others measure their KPIs.  A little structure helps.  Daily and weekly accountability sessions help.  Metrics define the score.  They are data points.  Like a line on computer software, KPIs determine your impact as a leader.  A key coaching question is “What KPIs do you need to measure today?”


5.  Remain humble.  I have had countless great teachers, from the finest universities on the planet.  Clients are the most instructive teachers.  Children are a close second.  All constructive leaders in recorded history shared the same trait:  we are all humble.  A key coaching question is “How are you showing your humility?”


If I had more time I might add more to this list…


Bottom line:  YOU can save time and money.  YOU can be a smarter leader today.


We all need coaches at times.  Call me at 704.995.6647 or subscribe now for details.  Or schedule your initial consultation here.


What are you waiting for?

Download this list of services and investment levels now:

Neural constellations: how to describe change and decision making

When I studied decision-making in college, the thinking was linear.  Stimulus A  caused response B.  I wonder, if have we have learned much since then…  My undergraduate psychology classes were at Hamilton College, the alma mater of B.F. Skinner, a leader of behaviorism.


My graduate classes in developmental psychobiology were at Dartmouth College, the alma mater of Dr. Seuss and countless global leaders of business and industry.


Recently I read about neural clusters in our brains.  Imagine several constellations or galaxies of brainwave activity.  Both chemical and electrical activity.  Like constellations or galaxies in the solar systems.   Now imagine that these neural clusters are both elastic and dynamic.  In other words, when we reinforce certain pathways or patterns (called functionalism) then we strengthen neuronal pathways.  And when we learn new knowledge (like a foreign language or an insight) then we strengthen the neural constellation so that it can sort through the past memories (called schemas) to create some new sorting system (called data.)  We know that some 60% of our behavior is patterned responses, monitored in the basal ganglia.  And we know that most new knowledge causes stress.


No wonder humans resist change.  Change, defined as any external new stimulus, forces us to re-sort data.  Change requires the brain to work in new ways.  The larger the organization, the more we resist change.


When faced with decision making options we often think of risk taking vs. risk avoidance.  As if the world were so linear…  My masters research on risk-taking behavior found that risk-taking is complex, like so many other human behaviors.


What if, instead, we adopted a non-linear view of decision making?


My revised model (of the moment, subject to change) looks something like this:


  1. We perceive Stimulus A
  2. We sort through a neural constellation of jumbled data, memories, images, schemas, etc
  3. We adopt a positive feeling that we have an infinite number of responses
  4. We select a Response B because it promotes some social good
The positive psychology movement has done extensive research in related fields.  Yesterday I learned that the most popular course at Harvard College, led by Shawn Achor, is called “The Happiness Advantage.”  Read Martin Seligman.  He led a reversal in the American Psychological Association within the last 20 years-  away from mental illness and toward mental health.
The coaching client who just left my office is adopting a similar approach.
How about you?   How do you describe change?





Success is in your blood…

… maybe.

Consider your antecedents.

“Antecedents” refers to your family or origin, parents, and grandparents.  These are “your people.”  They left you with strong messages about your probability of success.

If in doubt, read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

If still in doubt, reflect on the messages passed on by your antecedents.

Here are two examples:

My running partner, George, has parents who met in the second grade, as school children in the midwest.  One grandfather took him for ice cream almost every day.  The other grandfather took him on weeklong trips every summer.  His extended family lived within blocks of one another.  They slept at each other’s homes.  Some family members disliked each other. But they traveled together and kept their differences to themselves.  And in the depression, one patriarch left the banking world to sell life insurance.  He made money for over 50 years… In a similar way,  George does the same work that he started at age 17 when he joined the Air Force.  Executive assessments and coaching and consulting.  His antecedents taught him something about independent judgement, business, and long term focus.

My former client, Harry, has family roots from Ontario and Buffalo, NY.  Everyone in his family skates backwards.  His grandfather was the personnel manager at the largest local business.  As such, he hired hundreds of people, including all the sisters at Harry’s grandmother’s side of the family.  All of them were employees, workers.  They measured success by hours endured at work.  During the depression Harrys’ grandfather on his mother’s side was given enough wood to build a cottage on Lake Erie.  For generations thereafter, hundreds of his descendants gathered there for summer picnics and volleyball games.  Then they returned to work early Monday morning… In contrast, Harry rebelled against that life style.  He travelled the world.  He became a masterful salesman.  Then he started his small business.  He became very successful.  His passion?  Harry refused to life the same life as his antecedents.

So, take a minute to do the following:

1.  Make a list of “who” and “what.”  Who were you antecedents and what did they teach you?

2.  Share that list with 6 people in your Inner Circle.  If you do not have 6 people, then you need to invite them.  Or hire me.

Success is largely shaped by our antecedents.

For details on how to be more successful, then call me at 704.895.6479