Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke

Leadership Blog

Leadership Adaptability – The Sandhill Crane Effect

Recently, a group asked me to be their keynote business speaker. I am always honored to speak to leaders, and this group was particularly lively and astute. They also chose a location that was beautiful and rustic. As I drove through the beautiful setting I had to stop my car. I mean literally stop, because a group of three Sandhill Cranes were sauntering across the street and I had no desire to tangle with them. For those of you not familiar with Sandhills, they are the size of storks, with large, pointy beaks. In addition, they are territorial, confident, loyal, family-oriented, and combative if provoked. I respect and admire these beautiful birds.


After they had safely passed and I had moved on, it struck me just how incredibly adaptable these birds are. We are constantly encroaching on their natural habitat, and they refuse to be defeated. Instead, they adapt. In other words, they are not happy about man’s presence in and proximity to their world, yet they deal with it and flourish. Sandhills continue to stalk their turf, frequent their ponds, cross barriers (i.e., paved roads), and raise their young in a changed world. Sandhills even coexist with our pets – it is sometimes amusing to see just who chases whom.


So the next time you are assessing your strengths or areas of needed improvement, ponder your level of leadership adaptability. Are you a Sandhill, or something else? During your assessment process answer these questions:

  1. How do I behave when I perceive that someone is encroaching on my turf?
  2. How do I treat hurdles: as a nuisance or something that occurs naturally during the course of progress and growth?
  3. When thrown into uncomfortable situations am I still confident? Why or why not?
  4. Am I constantly reinforcing and building the concept of team in the workplace?
  5. If my team was driving and I stepped into the road would they stop and patiently wait for me, or would they run me over? Why?

Often times being a great leader involves reflecting on a handful of questions that keep your fingers on the pulse of your performance. Sometimes life is enhanced by stopping and admiring the grandeur in something seemingly simple. Be well my friends. And be adaptable. 

Posted by Doug Van Dyke on 2010-04-29 at 09:33 AM
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Cultural Change Action Plan

A lot of change is going on out there. I certainly don’t need to tell you about that, do I? What you might be interested in though, is discussing just how leaders weave changes into their existing culture. That’s the trick. So, let’s touch on a foundational action plan that leaders can use to exact the kind of change they are looking for, with minimal disruptions to workflow.


First, determine what areas/items/behaviors/procedures you want to change. Use free thinking here and open everyone’s mind to what could be different. Second, designate a point person who owns each particular item to change. Third, project by what date the change will commence or be completed. Note: be specific on the due date (i.e., third quarter 2010 does not cut it). Fourth, measure the results.


Once the above stated steps have been completed, you can follow the same drill with one subtle difference: determine what areas you do not want to change. This action is critical, and where most leaders blow it. Often times, leaders are so busy changing things that they do not communicate what items and behaviors they want to stay the same. 


If you want help with leadership facilitation, a professional facilitator is a good way of moving change forward, thus allowing you to participate in the process as part of the team. If you prefer to lead the charge, go forth. And remember to focus on action. 

Posted by Doug Van Dyke on 2010-04-21 at 06:38 AM
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The Leadership Library

Do you have a leadership library? No, no, not a room or a bookshelf that contains volumes of thought about leadership. What I am referring are ready resources that can help you today, right now, as you lead your team.

Most good leaders I know are voracious learners. These life-long learners typically read a book on leadership, then move on to the next book or topic – always searching for golden nuggets to learn to share. There is nothing wrong with this. I have a different prescription though. Here it is: re-read. That’s right, read the best business books multiple times and let their concepts and motivation thoroughly soak into to your leadership being. You know, most business books are nothing more than a memo done good, or some story, that while intriguing, contains merely four concepts to embrace. As such, focus on three business books at a time. Learn them. Read them again and again. Bathe in their knowledge until you have seamlessly woven their concepts into your behaviors and language. Only then, move on to a new set. What are the three books I recommend most frequently? I thought you would never ask. Here they are:

-          Good to Great

-          Now, Discover Your Strengths

-          Leadership Simplified      

Have these books readily available near your desk. Use them as field guides. Review them frequently and on the fly. Consume them thoroughly and then, don’t forget: implement!

Posted by Doug Van Dyke on 2010-04-20 at 06:58 AM
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Coaching Top Performers

One of the terrific benefits of my job is that I get to frequently coach top performers. It is simultaneously a pleasure and a challenge. The pleasure comes from interacting with people who are at the top of their industry and, at the top of their game. The challenge comes in the form of helping them unlock even more of themselves and their talent. The unlocking of jewels that top performers have tucked away usually present themselves after interesting questions have been asked. That is one of the big functions of leadership and coaching – asking great questions. Another item to consider is how you will connect with your top performers. By this, I mean finding out if they prefer formal or informal coaching; do they want in person or tele-coaching – or both; are they game for preparing written summaries of the formal coaching sessions after they take place? Wanna become a better coach for top performers? Tell less, ask more.

Posted by Doug Van Dyke on 2010-04-19 at 12:38 PM
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Proposals – Stop the Madness

“Sounds great, go ahead and send me a proposal.” We have all heard these words. Most sales professionals obediently follow up on their prospect’s request. Big mistake. You don’t even have to ask why it is a mistake because you know the answer: your proposals are rarely accepted. And on those occasions when they are, it is only because you offered the lowest price. This information is frequently verified by participants at our performance sales training events.


Without going into a diatribe about proposals and all the evil nuisances associated with them, I offer an alternative strategy on which to consider:


The word “proposal” connotes comparison. Thus, if you supply a proposal, you will be compared with other vendors. That’s right, you relegate yourself to nothing more than a vendor. Does that label fit nicely with your marketing model? Answer: I hope not. Here is my tip: in lieu of a proposal send a Statement of Work, or a Memo of Understanding, or a Commitment Letter, or a Contract. For goodness sake do NOT send a proposal. Bonus tip: avoid future tense language in the document you send. Instead, speak in present tense.


Bottom Line: Seek to shrink the sales cycle and move towards doing business. Do not elongate your selling process and engage in the time-suck of preparing a proposal.


This information and more is covered during our Sales Simplified Boot Camps. Consider setting one up for your team.  

Posted by Doug Van Dyke on 2010-04-18 at 08:53 AM
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Decisiveness – The Underrated Leadership Trait

The ability to make a decision and subsequently stick to your guns is a completely undervalued quality in the business world. Now, that is not to say that sometimes rethinking an issue, or acquiescing to a better idea is not valuable, but the bottom line is that good leaders make decisions. When a leader shows some level-headed decisiveness it: 

  1. Conveys strength.
  2. Shows conviction.
  3. Sets the expectation that when a decision is necessary, you (the leader) will make one.  
  4. Enhances decision “stickability.” In other words, once you have made a decision, people know it will stick.
  5. Provides direction. Even if the leader chooses the wrong direction, and we are all wrong sometimes, at least team members know what is going on and where they stand. This reduces the allure of the grapevine and often helps boost morale.

So take a step back and evaluate your decision-making. Could you be a little more decisive? Take the plunge. Typically, the benefits of decisiveness far outweigh the drawbacks.

Posted by Doug Van Dyke on 2010-04-03 at 10:39 AM
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