Invest in a mentor. I think it’s important for anyone looking to be a great leader or coach, to turn to, or even hire, someone they admire that is also a great leader or coach. It’s very common. Find someone who is truly “walking the walk” in whatever arena you’re looking to improve in (business, personal life, etc.) and see if they’d be looking to offer any sort of mentorship. If you emulate their daily practices, you will oftentimes see similar results/successes in your own life or workplace.

The number one leadership initiative in any organization today is improved coaching. Coaching empowers employees, empowerment drives engagement, and engagement drives performance. At its core, coaching is about transformation. Leading distributed teams requires transforming how we coach and changing our play calls and playbooks to get things done. As a part of our interview series called “Moving From Command & Control to Coaching & Collaboration; How Leaders and Managers Can Become Better Coaches,” we had the pleasure to interview Doug Dane.

Doug Dane is survivor who has risen above a past filled with physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and violence to experience a life of freedom, gratitude, thriving relationships, and abundance. Now acting as an international keynote speaker and mindset mentor, he has turned his personal experience into a duplicable system to help people discover their true identity and live a life free of guilt or shame, outlined extensively in his debut novel Mistaken Identity: A Guide To Letting Go Of A Past That’s Holding You Back. With his first-hand experience in tow, he’s on a mission to guide those struggling to overcome a troublesome past a brighter future for themselves, their families, and the world.

Thank you for joining us to explore a critical inflection point in how we define leadership. Our readers would like to get to know you better. What was a defining moment that shaped who you are as a leader?

First off, I learned about leadership like most people do by working as a leader both in and out of the corporate world. I spent 25 years leading small and large groups of people and one day I realized that there was so much I was missing in my leadership training. I had two awakening moments.

The first truly defining moment was at one of my darkest points. My second marriage had crumbled and failed like all my relationships in my life had previously. An unfortunate side effect of the trauma and abuse I suffered in my adolescence and discuss at length in my upcoming novel, Mistaken Identity: A Guide To Letting Go Of A Past That’s Holding You Back (April 4). With my failures at my feet, I engaged with a counselor and eventual mentor named Ellen, who challenged me not just to talk the talk, but also to walk the walk. So when my story went public in the newspaper and on television, many began to approach me to discuss how I managed to transition from a victim of violent abuse to a true survivor story in the end both in life and business — or at least that’s how it appeared to an outsider looking in.

I felt guilt knowing that many were looking for advice on how they could use the trauma of their past to fuel their future, but I hadn’t completed that journey yet myself. I was still in the throws of it and was far from the finish line, but had an earnest desire to help others struggling in similar circumstances. In that moment, instead of feeling guilt, my counselor/mentor encouraged me to share my wisdom regardless, focusing on my personal experiences rather than my opinions on how best to move forward.

I’ve applied this “walk the walk” learning in my business practices, as well. Always wanting to be the guy who overcame this hurdle to prove to everyone that he could handle the responsibilities that come with leadership, I had a newfound perspective that repositioned me as a leader and role model, both professionally and in my personal life. Ellen helped me to learn that I needed to speak from my own experiences, put myself in the shoes of others, offer unique perspectives that might not have been considered — rather than just barking orders based on my opinion. It’s actually how I found myself in my first big leadership role as I rose to the top of the sales ranks at my company very, very quickly, but was now doing so as an empathetic and authentic leader.

My second defining moment as a leader came many years later when I started to work with a new mentor, Bob Proctor, who continued to be a constant in my life until his passing. He always thoughtfully explained the idea that if you wish to be a great leader, you have to be an intelligent follower. With Bob’s teachings in mind, I made my mind up that I was going to be an intelligent follower, and then grow my leadership skills from the lessons learned. A great leader knows when to lead, but they also know when to follow.

Being both an intelligent follower and a great leader simultaneously requires a lot of confidence and humility. While acting on both at once might seem daunting, it’s an opportunity to redefine your leadership practices and re-invest into the organization and your own personal growth. No leader should ever think they are “finished” and no longer need to evolve. Just like I did with Bob, good leaders will look to great leaders, the practices they implement and the qualities in which they can emulate, to see both themselves and their organizations truly thrive.

John C. Maxwell is credited with saying, “A leader is someone who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” How do you embody that quote as a leader?

I definitely feel I’m a guide to many individuals out there plagued with a traumatic past. My job, as Maxwell references in that quote, is to help others see the true path for redemption and a healthier life based on the lessons learned along the way of my own personal journey. I always see it as I’m a guide taking these individuals up a steep and rocky mountain. As if these people are climbing Everest, and need a coach by their side to make it to the summit without falling to the depths below. And I’m the one who has done it before them and can show them which steps they need to take to stay steady until they reach the top.

Of course there are tremendous obstacles and challenges that these individuals will face on their way up totally on their own, but I’ve been there before myself and have pioneered a new school of thought to help those struggling with abuse in the past or anything else of the sort to find a new, healthier life filled with purpose. I’ve carved out that path on the side of Everest so others don’t face as many of the same roadblocks I did. The weather may be rough or there might be other hurdles in our way along the journey, but I am proud of the many souls that have braved the storms to find a brighter future on the other side.

Even with a guide alongside, no one carries you up Everest. You do that by yourself, for yourself. I’m just here as a guide to offer my wisdom, advice, and story of survivorship in order to inspire others to do the same.

How do you define the differences between a leader as a manager and a leader as a coach?

In my opinion, I would say the difference is that as a manager, my job is to help my employees get what they want. I’m looking to learn more about who these people are as individuals, what their challenges are, and what they are truly wanting to achieve in their career and beyond. If I can relate to my employees and help them to achieve their goals, that makes for a good manager.

Many feel that a manager’s sole responsibility is to manage strategy and activities. Although that’s part of it, the key to management is really understanding people and developing them as individuals. Whether you know it or not, many people in your company are likely struggling significantly from something or another. They don’t want to admit it, and are fearful to discuss it with anyone, let alone the manager in their workplace. Dial in to each individual and see if there’s any way you can help in their growth. Most of the time, you’ll find that they’re extremely capable, intelligent, skillful, and have the background to handle these responsibilities themselves. They just need to be empowered by their leadership to believe in themselves and their own abilities. If you can enlighten your workforce, your time as a manager will likely not be spent assigning activities and overseeing the day-to-day minutiae.

On the other hand, there’s a big difference between a mentor, a manager, and a coach. I was taught that in order to coach effectively, you need to observe behavior. For example, as a coach of a sports team, you’re fully immersed in the game, watching each play very closely, and taking notes on what to do differently or do the same next game. In order to be a great coach, you need to be a great observer. When people ask me for feedback on something, I always tell them it’s difficult to provide any sort of feedback without actually observing their behavior/performance first.

So in sum, I feel that there definitely is a key difference between managers and coaches. A manager is focused on developing the people around them, lifting them up and helping them to achieve their goals. A coach is focused on observing the performance of their team, and helping them to correct any wrong behavior by pointing out their blind spots and where they saw the most success in an attempt to be even more successful the next time.

We started our conversation by noting that improved coaching is the number one leadership initiative in any organization today. What are some essential skills and competencies that leaders must have now to be better coaches?

I feel one of the most important skills/qualities for all leaders to grow into better coaches is to have a strong sense of self-awareness. Fundamentally, we’re all the same. Obviously there are some subtle differences from person to person, for instance the biological characteristics of female and male bodies, but basically our physical bodies and brains all operate the same way. Self-awareness is an ongoing process that involves a lot of inward reflection and a true understanding of how your mind works. Paired with an understanding of how other people operate as individuals, self aware coaches will find they are so much more effective in creating meaningful change and relationships in the workplace.

Another characteristic of a good coach and leader is the strong desire to help your team achieve their own individual goals. You really do need to have a burning desire to see these people do well and succeed in their life, both personally and professionally. It’s the urge to “give,” not to “get” that many leaders are missing, and unfortunately their teams suffer as a result. Good leaders and coaches should always be motivated by the idea of helping their workforce get what they truly want. It really comes down to the law of cause and effect. If you’re genuinely invested in helping people and leaving this world better than you found it, you never should concern yourself with what rewards you might get or acknowledgement you might receive. Don’t worry about that. Worry about others first and you’ll see your team will thrive and the positivity will come back your way in spades.

We’re all familiar with the adage, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” How are you inspiring — rather than mandating — leaders to invest in upskilling and reskilling?

I’m always aspiring to be the kind of employee, individual, etc. that I, myself, would look to hire onto the team. Invested in others, passionate about the profession, skilled in the trade, and excited to grow. Being that teamplayer and checking the ego at the door is reality critical. Being results-oriented, I’m also always trying to emulate the practices of other great leaders, forever inspired by this piece of scripture, “By their fruits, you shall know them and see them.” If you can “walk the walk” as discussed above, others around you are inspired to do the same. The way you interact with others, the way you speak to subordinates, the way you delegate, the way you present yourself, etc. are all key to your success as a leader. We should all be working on improving these qualities in ourselves no matter what position we’re in.

Let’s get more specific. How do you coach someone to do their best work? How can leaders coach for peak performance in our current context? What are your “Top 5 Ways That Leaders and Managers Can Be Effective Coaches?”

  1. Decide who you’re going to be. Originally, I wasn’t great at making decisions in business. I was challenged to over-think, over-question, and over-analyze everything I did, under the guise of learning to be a better leader. However, what I really needed to focus on was making a choice for myself — I am going to be a great leader. Everything starts with “I am.” For me, once I knew the end goal, it was then, how do I go about becoming a great leader? And that’s where I leaned on Bob Proctor’s wisdom in that it all stems from developing your skillset as an intelligent follower.
  2. Invest in a mentor. I think it’s important for anyone looking to be a great leader or coach, to turn to, or even hire, someone they admire that is also a great leader or coach. It’s very common. Find someone who is truly “walking the walk” in whatever arena you’re looking to improve in (business, personal life, etc.) and see if they’d be looking to offer any sort of mentorship. If you emulate their daily practices, you will oftentimes see similar results/successes in your own life or workplace.
  3. Become an earnest investigator. If we’re working together, I truly do want to understand what’s going on for you. I really want to get to know you. I’m very earnest about my interest in where you are currently in life, where you see your trajectory taking you moving forward, what you foresee as your biggest obstacles, etc. Frankly, a common challenge for many managers and leaders is the inability to see those individual stories and bring out success in each unique person. What has each employee faced in their past and been carrying around with them all this time? How do they truly see themselves and value their work? As Stephen R. Covey famously said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” We all need to listen to truly understand in order to break through to another level with those around us.
  4. Identify every individual’s unique “gifts.” Once you get to know someone, it’s easy to see their strengths. Where they might shine a bit brighter than others in certain areas. This is an opportunity to let them know of this unique characteristic or ability that they have and why it’s such a powerful tool for them to utilize in maximizing their potential. Everyone has unique gifts to offer to the world and many don’t even realize. Help identify those traits and encourage those individuals to invest in themselves to grow in both confidence and skill.
  5. Believe in your team until they believe in themselves. When I met Bob, he said to me, “Doug, I can tell you don’t really believe in yourself, but I believe in you. Borrow my belief in you until you believe in yourself. And do the same thing with other people.” Before I found my own footing, I did just that. I borrowed Bob’s belief in me and felt a change. I began to use that same strategy with others around me and provided them with so much positivity, that eventually they began to believe in themselves, as well.

We’re leading and coaching in increasingly diverse organizations. And one aspect of workforce diversity on the rise is generational diversity. What advice would you offer about how to effectively coach a multi-generational workforce? And how do you activate the collective potential of a multi-generational workforce?

To effectively activate the potential of a multi-generational workforce, we have to leverage the younger generations. The younger people have much better imaginations so I find you can get some truly unique approaches to your problems if you consult them. I’ve found success in consulting kids as young as 8 years old. The younger, the better. The older we get, the more limits are placed on our imaginations through our experiences, failures, and mistakes.

Young people are looking at older generations with a fresh perspective, likely thinking there’s something off. They might not be able to pinpoint the exact problem or what the solution is, but they are quick to see that there’s something off track. So in practice, younger generations are looking at the older generations of leaders, and again, can sense there’s an issue. They’re picking up that something is off but can’t exactly target it specifically. It’s called the double-binding message. You know the older generations are saying one thing, and doing another. Their actions don’t match their commitments, and the youth picks up on that. Good leaders are filled with humility, confidence, always quick to give credit where it’s due, and always receptive to quality ideas, no matter the source. I think that’s essential. Young people, at any age, any culture, any religion, any skin color, any background, should be considered an excellent resource for us to tap into for unique ideas. And leaders have to be open to those ideas, but also have to be sure they’re giving the credit where it’s due. Unfortunately too many leaders will take the credit for those ideas themselves.

Leaders out there should consider setting up a mastermind group full of diverse ages and backgrounds to brainstorm on creative new solutions and ideas to take the organization to the next level, rather than just simply tackling the most recent problem at hand in their own separate spaces. To further the unification of a multi-generational workforce, work to try and eliminate the class system. In other words, don’t place people and their minds in a segment, group, or cohort based on their age or their experience. When we all come together as a combined force without ego or judgment, we are much more powerful, much more creative, and much more likely to succeed than we would be if we had stayed on our own.

You’re referring to emotional intelligence, in a sense. What are two steps every leader can take to demonstrate a higher level of emotional intelligence?

I discussed this at length above, but I’ll re-emphasize the importance in developing a strong self awareness and authenticity. If you want to be a great leader, I believe you have to learn, unlearn, and then ultimately reprogram your mind. For me, as an abuse survivor in my adolescence, so much of my shortcomings as a leader and overall human were rooted in my past. I had to take a step back to truly gain perspective and understand why I was doing what I was doing, why I believed what I believed, and to consider where this thought process really originated. In my case, I was struggling to get past a bunch of mental junk that was clogging up my mind. Lies I had told myself that weren’t actually true. Tons of judgment, shame, guilt, and resentment. You have to unlearn it and start with a fresh slate.

Begin to focus on reprogramming your mind for your betterment this time. Instead of using the negativity and baggage of your past as an excuse or a crutch to lean on for the rest of your life, shift the spotlight towards what you want to build, the goals you want to hit, how to think with the same mentality as others living the life you want, and what you can realistically do to execute on your vision. In addition to believing in yourself, being really truthful, open-hearted, open-minded, and willing to embrace change will also serve you well as a leader.

Words matter. And we’re collectively creating a new leadership language right now. What are the most important words for leaders to use now?

Words are just simply thoughts converted into its physical counterpart, and they are definitely important. Language is evolving but what always maintains throughout is the importance of truth and authenticity in the words you’re using. A few words that are especially important as a leader include:

  • Change — Change is good. Change is inevitable. Change is positive. The world is constantly in change and there’s not much you can do about it other than change with it. The best leaders out there can quickly adapt to anything life throws at them.
  • Failure — Failing gets a bad rap. Failing is good because the way your mind operates is it learns by your mistakes, forever working to course correct you back to your original goals. Just because you fail doesn’t mean you’re a failure. I think we’ve got to change the language on failing. Failing is a good thing.
  • Attitude — Attitude is still an important word but attitude is really misunderstood. I adopted this from my mentor and it’s truly prevailed over the years, but basically I try to treat everybody as if they’re the most important person in the world because, as far as they’re concerned, they are. And it of course ties back into scripture, as well. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I think treating people as if they are the most important person in the room is very important.
  • Open-Hearted — Now more than ever before, through the social media and political strife and religious tides turning, people trust less than they ever have. From a leadership perspective, people will hear the truth, they’ll see the truth, and they’ll know the truth. Be open and accepting, honest and kind. It’ll set both you and your team free.

I keep inspiring quotes on my desk. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote,” and why does it mean so much to you?

Lastly my favorite quote, I’ve got many, but if I had to pick, my favorite quote is by Buckminster Fuller. “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” That quote really motivates me and inspires me because, truly, the existing reality is not a great one. If we want to change the world, we need to build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

One of my biggest inspirations is Gandhi, and over the years I’ve extensively studied how he got 200 million minds to coalesce into a single idea. He created a new model that made the existing model obsolete. It’s truly unthinkable.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation. What’s the best way for readers to connect with you and to stay current on what you’re discovering?

My debut novel, Mistaken Identity: A Guide To Letting Go Of The Past That’s Holding You Back, is launching this April and is a perfect guide for those looking to get “unstuck” from the past. It’s available now for pre-order at the link here.

They can also follow along with me on my socials and at

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Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!