Posted on

How to be a Trillion Dollar Coach

Bill Campbell was a legendary coach on so many levels beginning as a college football coach, and then coaching corporate giants including Apple, Intuit, Google, and Facebook, to name a few. Although he left us in 2016, his impact is deeply seeded within the corporations who were fortunate enough to learn from him. In fact, Google never looked for a replacement for him, instead incorporating Campbell’s coaching wisdom into the framework of their organization. Furthermore, three executives at Google who were mentored by Campbell have written a book about him and the influence he had on Silicon Valley called “Trillion Dollar Coach.”

This #Economist article illustrates just how profound Campbell’s impact was and gives insight into his philosophies that the best managers need to be coaches. Here are some tips that you as a leader and coach can incorporate into your leadership style:

  1. Follow Campbell’s motto: “your title makes you a manager, your people make you a leader” and focus on ensuring that your teams co-operate properly.
  2. Lead and coach by example. Give your undivided attention when coaching, and insist that managers be honest, humble, and willing to learn.
  3. Involve employees in setting their own work goals to increase their engagement.
  4. Give employees regular feedback (daily if possible) to help them be more effective at their job and, as a result, increase the likelihood that they will stay and grow with the company.
  5. Allow employees to find their own way by making their own mistakes and learning from them.
  6. Most importantly, these philosophies need to be embraced from the top down so that each level can effectively coach their teams and follow the example set by their superiors.

Campbell’s philosophies about coaching are deeply engrained in how we at #AvionConsulting coach our #LeadershipDevelopment clients to be leaders and coaches as well. Whether you already knew about Campbell or are just learning about him, how have you instinctively embodied his philosophies as a leader and coach? Do you have additional insight to add that might help others improve? We look forward to your feedback and invite you to join our newsletter for further discussion at

Posted on

Secrets to Being a Great Leader

What are the secrets to being a great leader? Are there attributes of great leaders that anyone can learn and apply to their daily life? #BrentGleeson has narrowed down 6 key things that great leaders do every day that get results in this #Forbes article

  1. Communicate: Effective communication is crucial and requires a leader to adapt their communication style based on the situation and the audience. The ultimate goal is to achieve three critical outcomes from the team; buy-in, engagement and participation.
  2. Make Thoughtful (and Tough) Decisions: In decision making, there is an important timing balance a leader must find. They need to avoid falling victim to “analysis paralysis” and at the same time should not make decisions too hastily.
  3. Inspire Others: Great leaders know how and when to motivate and inspire their team. They also lead by example with poise and etiquette, so that everyone around them knows what is expected in all interactions.
  4. Empower Others: For leaders to empower others they must be willing to relinquish control and have confidence in their team to execute tasks effectively. Great leaders have built great teams so that each member can take ownership and complete their tasks well, and as a result the entire team wins.
  5. Exemplify Accountability: Gleeson states that “Accountability has a direct and measurable impact on productivity, efficiency, growth and profitability,” which is why it is imperative that leaders are always accountable and take ownership for the team’s failures while projecting success and gratitude to their team.
  6. Develop Leadership at All Levels: Regardless of rank or title, leaders can be found at every level of an organization. “A leader is someone who takes on more than what’s asked and helps others to achieve a common goal.”

Which of these qualities do you possess in your leadership style and which leave room for improvement? We appreciate your input and also invite you to join our newsletter for further discussion at

Posted on

Channel Your Inner Jim Thorpe and Accomplish Anything

“You can have your reasons, or your results, but not both.” As coaches, we sometimes observe that our coachees make excuses when their performance is less than desired, but if they knew how to channel their inner Jim Thorpe, they could accomplish whatever they wanted.

Jim Thorpe is one of the greatest examples in history of the character and perseverance it takes to accomplish any goal no matter what hurdles are ahead. Thorpe learned how to overcome adversity at a very young age, having lost his twin brother at age 9 and both of his parents shortly after. When Thorpe was competing in the 1912 Olympics, his shoes were stolen just before his first race, but this didn’t stop him. He found two mismatched shoes in the trash and one of the shoes was too big so he wore extra socks. With his borrowed shoes, he went on to win two Gold medals. In 1999 Jim Thorpe was named the Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century, beating out Mohammed Ali, Babe Ruth, and countless others. This is a perfect reminder that you don’t have to resign yourself to the excuses that have held you back. Rather, in the face of adversity, demonstrate a tenacious orientation to accomplishing your desired outcomes.

At #AvionConsulting our customized #LeadershipDevelopment programs promote a strong “can do” mentality in leaders no matter what is going on around them. When delivering feedback and coaching we notice that our coachees differ in the ownership mindset they exhibit. Some coachees approach development with a Jim Thorpe-like dogged determination, and others’ development efforts are derailed by the slightest adversity.

Have you faced hurdles as a leader that seemed impossible to overcome but you found a way to persevere anyway? Your story may inspire others just as Jim Thorpe’s does and we appreciate you sharing your experience. We also invite you to join our newsletter for further discussion at

Posted on Illustrates the Benefits of Promoting from Within

Amazon’s announcement to spend $700 Million to re-train over 100,000 employees by 2025 to do more high-tech tasks is truly a sign of the times as this #NewYorkTimes article explains Many companies are feeling the same need because of low unemployment rates and the logical step to train and promote from within rather than looking outside of the company to fill new positions arising because of rapid advances in technology.


This approach of educating and subsequently promoting from within is not new, and it certainly isn’t only beneficial for large corporations like Amazon. At #AvionConsulting our customized #Team Development, #OrganizationalDevelopment and #LeadershipDevelopment programs have made it possible for our clients to successfully navigate this process. In some cases, all 3 types of development are necessary in order for the transition to result in optimized team performance and overall success of the company. For example, if a team member is being educated and promoted not only to a higher skill level but also a managerial position, they will require development to function well within their team as a leader. This also results in a shift in the organizational landscape, which is where a company will need training in organizational development and specifically #organizationalchange.


Would your company benefit from this educate and promote from within approach? We value your input and invite you to join our newsletter for further discussion at

Posted on

Why Leadership Development is Important During Organizational Change

Organizational change can be a daunting process, with many opportunities for leaders to make costly decisions that don’t actually benefit the growth of the company. We have found investing in leadership development programs during times of significant change actually enables organizations to not only survive the organizational change, but to actually thrive as a result. This concept, however, sometimes gets negative push-back from organization members who fear that embarking on such a program during the chaos of change is overwhelming and impossible. This insightful and inspiring #Forbes article by #BrentGleeson explains from his first-hand experience why leadership development is so crucial during this volatile time.


At #AvionConsulting we have designed leadership development programs specifically for organizations going through change and our clients who have trusted us during this process have had incredible results. For example, we rolled out an extensive leadership development program (including 360 feedback, coaching and 8 days of classroom-based leadership development spread out over a 9-month period) to senior leaders within a mid-sized healthcare company that was recently acquired by a new controlling entity. Rather than serving as a distraction, the development experience provided an excellent opportunity for participants to discuss and align against how to effectively lead through the change.


Have you undergone leadership development during organizational change, and if so, how did it benefit you and your company in the long run? Your response may benefit other business leaders and we encourage you to share your comments. We also invite you to join our newsletter for further discussion at

Posted on

Strategies for Cultivating Strong Teams


In order for teams in organizations to be high performing, they must be treated like any other living organism and be provided with the right conditions to grow and thrive. In this #EntrepreneurMagazine article, #AytekinTank, founder of #JotForm shares his five-part strategy for cultivating strong teams.


  1. Feed Them Challenging Problems

When challenged, most people rise to the occasion and put their best work forward. A challenging problem provides stimulation and requires an individual to call upon their creativity and intelligence to solve it. There is sense of accomplishment that arises as a result. As shown in an Information Week survey, the majority of IT workers stated that “challenge of job/responsibility” mattered most to them about their job. We encourage you to identify some challenging problems that you can give to your teams?


  1. Offer Real Independence

Autonomy is a core human need. Tank states that “team members working in autonomous groups also feel less ‘emotional exhaustion’ and engage in more active learning. Providing autonomy to teams shows that they are trusted by their leaders to produce great work while driving out fear of failure.


  1. Respect Their Time

Teams thrive under conditions where they are able to focus on a single project at a time, and solve the challenge that has been given to them. Recently we posted a blog about the importance of focusing on a central issue to help leaders improve. This concept is also relevant for teams, and helps to increase their momentum. Tank also mentions the importance of respecting your team’s time outside of the office to avoid overworking and burnout. Openly expressing this respect to your team will create a stronger bond between you and your team.


  1. Give Them Some Breathing Room

While the “open office” format has been popular amongst startups and modern businesses, studies have shown that providing designated offices or more private spaces for teams to work removes the distractions that often come along with an open format, allowing teams to stay more focused. Mental and emotional space is also important. Ask your team what they need to perform their best and provide for them. They will feel respected and will want to do their best work possible.


  1. Foster a Culture of Warmth and Energy

It is important for groups to have a friendly, collaborative nature. As we discussed in our recent blog post about the importance of psychological safety in high performing teams, Tank emphasizes that warmth and safety within teams helps them to perform at their peak. When team members feel free to fully express themselves, they are able to tap into their deep creativity in order to solve the challenging problems they have been given.


Leading a team inevitably brings challenges. At #AvionConsulting we provide a range of solutions in order to insure that teams develop effectively and perform at the highest possible levels. For further discussion we invite you to contact us directly at and/or join our newsletter at

Posted on

How Memorable Feedback is an Effective Catalyst for Leaders to Improve


William S. Burroughs said “When you stop growing you start dying.” It is so easy to let ourselves get complacent and simply go through the motions in the absence of a catalyst for change. Great leaders know that continuous growth is important, it just may take a “jolt” to propel them out of their current status quo so that they can improve.

We all have traits about ourselves that we know could use some improvement, but sometimes it takes hearing it from someone else to motivate us to truly make a change and improve. In fact, from our extensive leadership coaching and research at #AvionConsulting, the leaders we have worked with who improved the most have been motivated to change because they received a penetrating comment or phrase. In this article we will explore the elements of penetrating messages that are most effective.

For example, one individual we coached received the tough feedback that “although not often observed, when others see the scintilla of humanity within you, they react favorably.”  A total of 26 feedback interviews were conducted on this leader’s behalf and were synthesized into a 15-page summary document, and the one message the leader routinely came back to in our coaching was “scintilla of humanity.”  As you can imagine, this message was simultaneously shocking, troubling and offensive to the individual who received it.  However, upon deeper reflection, the recipient acknowledged that there was some truth to it (although he highlighted the very valid reasons why he felt he needed to be so tough and results oriented).  This penetrating message provided the leader with a memorable area to focus on (“show my softer side to others”), and it motivated consistent, long-term action (“I value both people and results, and I need to display my warmth and care for others more regularly”). This leader tended to be a tough, decisive, and results-oriented leader who valued a “zero defect work environment.” He was proud to set high standards for himself and the large department that reported to him.  In fact, multiple feedback providers noted that he was likely the best at his particular functional area in the entire industry.  However, the perception that he was not regularly behaving in a warm or humane manner caused cognitive dissonance for him that resulted in both clarity about what he wanted to change, as well as sufficient internal motivation for him to take meaningful and ongoing action.  In fact, six months after receiving his initial feedback, he received a follow up feedback assessment, and he was very gratified to see that the perceptions that others held of him had changed significantly.  In summary, penetrating messages are predictive of improvement among leaders because they create and reflect both the focus and motivation necessary to sustain meaningful behavior change over an extended period of time.

As we saw this pattern of particular feedback spurring leaders to make a change, we wanted to know what types of feedback are typically the most penetrating. We found that feedback that came as a surprise to the leader is particularly effective. Another factor is the source of the feedback, whether it is from a peer, direct report, manager, or their coach.  These factors, however were not what we found to be what actually characterized a penetrating message.

As we searched for the answer to this missing link, we found four characteristics of penetrating messages that stood out amongst a sea of responses received in a 360 feedback.

Short Phrase or Colloquialism: Often times short phrases pack a big punch and light a fire in a leader to make a change. They are short and are generally well-known phrases, likely thereby enabling them to be memorable and applicable to a broad range of behavior.

For example, one of our most improved leaders said that a penetrating message from his feedback was that he needed to better understand the “nuts and bolts” of what his people did.  The message this leader took from this feedback was that he needed to have a better grasp of the implications of what he might ask a direct report to do in a given situation, and he said that feedback really “rang true.”  In response to this feedback, the leader said, “Now I stop and think:  what are all steps this person is going to have to take to do this?”

Yet another leader said the message that really struck a chord with him involved use of the term “status quo.”  As he put it, “I recall a comment about my department remaining status quo,” and the insight this created for him was that, while he felt he and his team were making improvements in their area, these improvements were not shared more broadly outside the team.  As a result, he said, “The phrase ‘status quo’ led to my action plan regarding showcasing the team and its successes.”  That message apparently really stuck with him and helped him to actually change his approach to ensuring that not only was his team improving the status quo, but that he was making sure that his team was getting the credit they deserved.

Emotional Reaction: A penetrating message, quite simply, creates some sort of emotional reaction.  From our experience and research we have found that emotional appeals are much more effective in promoting change than rational persuasion. One of our most improved leaders offered a perfect example of this, saying, “Some comments about me not being attentive to people and not being in stores as much as I should be hurt my feelings; that message hit home.”  It should be noted that this comment came from a male leader in a company that has possibly the least warm and fuzzy culture any of us has ever worked in.  So, our guess is that this leader is probably not especially prone to talking about having his feelings hurt.  Further, the feedback was not framed in an unusually critical or disrespectful manner.  But it seems like the core message – pay more attention to your people – resonated with this leader on an emotional level, not just a rational level, and likely triggered some cognitive dissonance.

Conflicting Feedback: During our research we found that sometimes a message was particularly penetrating because the leader was getting two seeming conflicting bits of feedback at the same time, each from a different type of co-worker.

Sometimes, the two bits of seemingly contradictory feedback came from one’s manager versus others.  For example, one of our most improved leaders said, “Ronald (name changed) said I needed to be more strategic, which stuck out because others in my feedback said I WAS strategic.”  What this leader said next in the interview was enormously important.  He declared, “That makes you want to go figure out – what is that person not seeing?”  He then added that he and his manager then had a number of conversations about that over course of the (leadership development) program.” The important part here that illustrates one difference between the mindset of leaders who improve significantly and those who don’t is the fact that his initial feedback was not defensive. Rather, his response was to say, “how do I need to think or act differently in order to close the gap here?” As he noted, this penetrating message from his manager caused the leader to wonder why his manager did not see him as strategic when others did.  And it resulted in some great conversations with his manager and, ultimately, significant improvement on the part of the leader getting the feedback. That sort of constructive focus and motivation was a common theme we found across the leaders who got conflicting feedback and who improved.

Genuine Introspection: A fourth factor that we found to be characteristic of a penetrating message was that it created some sort of genuine introspection.  In fact, we believe this factor arguably is most important in distinguishing between messages that are merely noteworthy and those that are truly penetrating.

For example, a human resources leader we worked with has a good sense of humor.  We know he is funny, because one of us served as this leader’s coach, and his intelligent and somewhat dry sense of humor often surfaced in our one-on-one conversations.  When he got his feedback report, though, he found one message to be especially penetrating.  In his words, that message was, “Not everything is a joke.”  That got his attention and it caused him to become reflective, and he concluded that, “I tend to use humor when we are in stressful situations, which works for a lot of people, but not everyone.”  After some introspection, he made a decision that this was a part of his basic style in the workplace that needed at least an adjustment.  And, nearly a year after receiving the feedback, he explained that, “Now, instead of jumping in with humor in a stressful situation in order to lighten the mood, I pause and try to take the temperature a bit more.”  He concluded that the feedback “got me to reflect on how I am perceived more generally across situations.”

From all of this, we conclude at least two things.  First, one of the keys to significant improvement among leaders is often the communication of a penetrating message – a short phrase that is emotionally-laden, which sometimes helps a leader work through conflicting feedback, but which almost invariably causes some introspection on the part of the leader.  Second, the leaders themselves are the ones who ultimately decide what is penetrating. If you would like to explore further, we expand upon this concept in our best-selling book “How Leaders Improve”

Have you received feedback that had one or more penetrating messages that motivated you to improve as a leader? Has a message you’ve communicated to a fellow colleague prompted them to significantly improve? We look forward to your comments and invite you to join the #AvionConsulting newsletter for further discussion at

Posted on

Importance of Psychological Safety in Building High Performance Teams

If you were to assess your team at this very moment, would you describe it as “high functioning”? We all strive to lead high functioning teams, however building such teams is easier said than done.  In order to understand this better, in 2012 Google launched #ProjectAristotle, an initiative that studied hundreds of Google’s teams to figure out why some stumbled while others soared. #CharlesDuhigg cites the findings of this research in a way we all can benefit from as leaders in this #NewYorkTimes article In this article, Duhigg describes how important it is to find out the norms or unspoken truths individual teams hold onto, and which of those norms are associated with the most effective teams.

Through further exploration of previous studies, as well as their own research, the team at Google found the following factors to be THE critical predictors of high performing teams.

  • Team members who treat each other well, elevating the collective I.Q., which is the overall intelligence of a group rather than that of a single member.
  • Psychological Safety: A shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking
    • Equality in distribution of conversational turn-talking where team members speak in roughly the same proportions.
    • High average social sensitivity where team members were skilled at intuiting how others felt based on their tone of voice, their expressions, and other nonverbal cues.
  • Ensuring teams have clear goals
  • Demonstrating a culture of dependability

Of all of these factors, the Project Aristotle Team at Google found that psychological safety is the most important to insure that a team is functioning at a high level. This combination of norms is most interesting considering that companies like Google are largely made up of teams of engineers and statistical analysts, who are often more introverted individuals. Nevertheless, these guidelines have proven time and again to be the key to building and nurturing high functioning teams.

So how can you enhance the psychological safety on your teams? Several examples that arose from Project Aristotle of ways to build psychological safety within teams are:

  • Being direct and straight forward
  • Creating a safe space to take risks.
  • Having enthusiasm for other team members’ ideas
  • Having fun and joking with one another allowing everyone to feel relaxed and energized.
  • Having the team take an assessment survey to determine whether or not team members are fulfilled by their work.
    • Encourage open and safe discussions about factors that may contribute to a feeling of not being fulfilled.
    • Adopt new norms collectively based on the feedback from the team to insure that team members feel fulfilled in their jobs.

These actions reflect conversational turn-taking and empathy which are key behaviors in creating psychological safety and are effective in creating psychological safety because they allow team members to stop separating their personal life from their work life. As a result, they can feel comfortable being as expressive and open in the workplace as they are at home. This in turn creates deeper bonds between team members, resulting in high performing teams.

How have you observed psychological safety being present in your highest functioning teams, and conversely not being present in low functioning teams? How might you help those low functioning teams to cultivate psychological safety as their most important group norm? Have you seen examples of high functioning teams in other organizations whose cultural norms embody the combination of psychological safety, clear goals, and a culture of dependability? Your response may benefit other business leaders and we encourage you to share your comments. We also invite you to join the #AvionConsulting newsletter for further discussion at

Posted on

How “Player Coaches” Can Increase Productivity as a Leader

For those of us who are “player coaches,” management is a second job, and it becomes critical for us to find ways to enhance our efficiency in the workplace. In honor of #WorldProductivityDay we would like to share this #Forbes article “8 Proven Ways to Increase Your Productivity as a Leader” incorporating a combination of soft and hard leadership skills. In summary, author Deep Patel shares these recommendations:

  1. Set clear goals and expectations for each period in order to encourage buy in from your team and avoid confusion and disappointment down the road.
  2. Invest in organizational tools to create a strong infrastructure that will keep you and your team organized and on track.
  3. Avoid long meetings that can waste time and instead schedule meetings that are 10-15 minutes in length.
  4. Get to know your team members so that you can be more efficient in your leadership and communication. Enjoy a midday lunch or activity that gives you a chance to learn more about each other.
  5. Host “feedback sessions” or weekly one-on-ones with your team members to ensure clear communication. Be sure to ask for feedback from your team about your management style so that you can continue to improve as their leader.
  6. Set clear “do not disturb” times during the week so that your team knows when you need to focus and be productive.
  7. Keep information transparent so that your team can answer their own questions with a little research rather than having to come to you too often.
  8. Write everything down so that you aren’t spending valuable time trying to remember the important things you need to accomplish.

At #AvionConsulting we strive to not only follow these guidelines in our own daily work, but we also train our clients to adopt these habits for their leadership development. There is a payoff we can all enjoy…being as productive as possible during work hours allows us to decompress and truly enjoy our downtime and refuel for the next big push. Do you practice additional methods to increase productivity as a leader that you would like to share?  We look forward to hearing from you and invite you to join the #AvionConsulting newsletter for further discussion at

Posted on

How to Implement Culture Effectively for a Successful Merger

In this insightful article about the importance of culture for successful mergers from McKinsey & Co the authors address the fact that although most leaders are aware that taking culture into account during a merger is critical, the reality is that often times leaders don’t actually follow suit, resulting in poor results and a lack of cultural cohesion and alignment after the integration. Establishing a clear understanding of the cultures of both companies undergoing a merger prior to the merger taking place is of utmost importance. Beverly Goulet, former Executive Vice President and Chief Integration Officer at American Airlines stated from her experience, “One thing I wish we had done was [to create] a culture diagnostic right at the start of our planning process. That would have eliminated some of the misperceptions about both company cultures. It would have established an objective set of criteria around which we could have had conversations based on facts rather than just anecdotes or beliefs.” In order to help organizations avoid this pitfall, the article provides three key steps for understanding and managing culture during a merger.


Step 1: Diagnose how work gets done

It is important to understand management practices and working norms of both companies. For example, what are their procedures for decision making, motivating employees, and enforcing accountability? Utilizing a combination of surveys and one-on-one interviews is recommended for a holistic assessment and understanding. For further information about these two methods, visit our recent article


Step 2: Set Priorities

Once the cultural diagnostic is established, priorities can be set to maximize the value of the deal by determining which cultural aspects should be emphasized, and where it is important to maintain but manage meaningful differences that when combined can result in a higher performing organization. At this point, the leadership team agrees on the desired behaviors and follow up with a comprehensive change plan structured around cultural themes. It is important that the leaders also drive all initiatives rather than delegating them.


Step 3: Hard-wire and support change

Once the important themes and initiatives have been identified, they can be integrated into the new company’s operating model and daily practices. “The redesign of policies, processes, and governance models must reflect these important cultural aspects if change is to stick. For example, nurturing a culture of respect might be reflected in company policy and values statements. To manage cultural integration properly, the merger team must also ensure that the right messages and behavior cascade throughout the new company. By identifying the most influential employees, leaders can recruit them as change agents and give them the training and skills they need to be effective in this role. This would include instruction in how to communicate the change story and how to role-model the behavior required in the influencers’ parts of the business.”


In conclusion, it has been shown that new companies resulting from mergers that have aligned corporate cultures and strong organizational health deliver three times the shareholder returns of those whose cultures are not closely linked. At Avion Consulting we emphasize understanding and alignment of cultures for our client organizations who are considering mergers. Have you been through a merger with your organization, and if so, how important was it to address culture within the two organizations before, during, and after the integration?  We invite you to join the #AvionConsulting newsletter for further discussion at