Clarify the outcome — in any given task or goal here is what we want to have happen. This is an important one I tie in with encouraging initiative. In a sense this is the guard rails and speed bumps.

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 Jeff Giagnocavo.

Jeff Giagnocavo is a visionary leader and entrepreneur. He is fanatical about the 5-star experience and will often “invest up” to ensure his customers get the very best experience. He challenges his partners, vendors and clients to be 5-star partners as well. For all things Jeff Giagnocavo visit —

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?

A key employee moved on from our company. After years of great service we simply couldn’t match the package another company could (retail hours vs. 9–5 for a family man) and saw him move on. We helped rebuild his resume and he has flourished, his family has strengthened, and I’m honored to have been a part of making that happen.

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?

My expectations are always rooted in what I’ve done. Hands on, blood sweat and tears style. My expectations are never rooted in theory — if I’m asking it of you, I’ve done it. And if I haven’t we will do it together and learn together.

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

As a manager it’s looking at a defined system or set of parameters focused on a target — here’s the objective: go and get it. It’s a finite operation and function. A leader as a coach challenges everyone often for improvement and to breakthrough to new levels. It’s not enough to hit the goal, it’s expected to find the new goal beyond the goal. The goal is infinite, always creating a wider divide between them and the competition.

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?

The ability to invite in new thoughts, new processes and ideas. All while creating a platform to hear them without immediately having our team feel as though their contributions aren’t good enough or won’t work.

So much in our society is changing rapidly. As such how our teams engage with each other and ultimately how our customers engage with us is changing rapidly. As a leader, and because we are disconnected from these crucial interactions, we need to actively find ways to bring in the ideas and thoughts that our teams think of and act on when working together or with our customers. They have real time feedback and emotion, hearing that and responding is important.

I’ve created a process in all the companies I’m involved in to have a weekly meeting. We look back and we look ahead on the ideas and interactions we have and we take the best plan forward each week for whatever we might be working on.

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 love having our team create ownership and run with it. I reward ideas and initiatives and applaud failure providing we can explain what the logic and thought was behind what we did. It’s then on my managers and myself to set expectations around what failing faster looks like. For instance, what are we willing to invest for a bad idea that we all wanted to try? What are we willing to invest time wise to prove this new service point will work, or won’t? Let’s create the bumper guards and warning strips but otherwise I love to let my team run.

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?”

My framework and goal for performance exists within my 5 ways that leaders and managers can be an effective coach. I’ll give some real world examples from each.

#1 Make it right — empower your team to satisfy an unhappy customer. In my retail business (brick & mortar mattress retail) we understand that rarely if ever do we have an issue or upset customer involving more than a $500 fix. As such everyone who is customer facing on our team is enabled to fix any issue up to that amount. No approval from their manager or ownership is needed. And most importantly no backlash will be felt. We may discuss the resolution to identify underlying problems but we never second guess.

Naturally, we have a robust system of checks and balances to minimize these “make it right” moments but when the issues happen we fix them right away. And we always start with an apology and immediate statement of “you’ll be happy with our resolution, because I’m empowered to make you happy, now how may I do that for you?”

#2 Encourage initiative — I’ll be more upset if we are stagnant as opposed to failing forward. Expanding on my prior thoughts I once left the store for our annual tradeshow only to come back to find how we merchandised the entire store upended and redone.

All of our price cards were reconfigured and enhanced to present every option in a concise Battleship® game like grid presentation. I won’t bore you with pricing details but we present our products a la carte and often customers have three, maybe four different vendors pulled into their final purchase. The issue on the front lines is that customers felt we might be doing math that was advantageous to us (it wasn’t) when giving them their final price.

This grid provided a simple cross section to the answer of “what’s the price”? It was brilliant and transformed this crucial part of the sales process.

#3 Train to affirm, and affirm the sale — no need for overt and pushy sales tactics to train to, nor to adhere by with customers. I educate the teams so they can affirm our customer is in the right place, we are the fit and they can do business with us.

I once worked with a Natuzzi® only furniture store. They were faced with stiff national chain competition moving into their market and were facing the very real reality that one sofa from their store carried the same price tag as the entire household of furniture from their new competitor coming to town.

I guided them to stop presenting just brown, gray and black sofas at a price and instead present rooms with how your customers actually use them. Affirm to the customer you know them, their struggles and have the answers they need.

The color of the furniture is secondary if you don’t enjoy using it.

We created avatars out of the furniture commensurate with how families and couples actually use their living room.

We had the “The Sacred Room” — modeled after my grandmother’s living room, a quiet peaceful place, no food or drink, and used for visiting and rest only.

We had “Grand Central Station ‘’ where everyone gathered, everyone ate, everyone did homework and all the items like tables, lamps, cup holders and powered options were presented to enable this situation while keeping comfort and durability in mind.

We had “His Room” and “Her Room” — corresponding rooms where a man cave was created for him and if she moved the She Shed into the living room it looked like and felt like where she could sit and relax.

None of this was selling, it was all by design to lead a different sales interaction — tell me how you use your living room as opposed to “we have brown sofas for $799.” Now imagine all of this presentation and prescription of fit, affirmed and backed up with quality materials and Italian craftsmenship only Natuzzi® can offer, it was a homerun!

#4 Clarify the outcome — in any given task or goal here is what we want to have happen. This is an important one I tie in with encouraging initiative. In a sense this is the guard rails and speed bumps.

Once I worked with a decking builder who took the guard rails and speed bumps away from his estimating team. Like my furniture store example we worked to create the same experience around how people use their decks, the problem was some of their avatar decks became very involved. Built in coolers for drinks and storage areas. Complex layouts and patterns. Inclusion of sports team colors. None of this greatly impacted material cost, but it did impact labor cost. Entering sales, ordering items, picking and staging materials and most importantly jobsite time all went up.

The lack of clarity in outcome was made by the owner (without my knowledge) telling his sales team that this process was to enable them to close more sales, rather than consider the full impact of cost. It was treated by the sales team as an added benefit as opposed to an affirmation of fit and enhanced user experience — which of course should be paid for.

So painfully we had to reconfigure the bidding process. The good news was they had a bunch of decks to refer to in pictures and amazing reviews speaking about the value and quality of their decks to back up their new pricing program.

#5 How your day goes — I don’t really care how anyone completes their day so long as the four items above have happened. For this example I’ll circle back to my own retail business.

We at times make our daily budget with one sale, and some days the one sale happened with just one door swing. Meaning there is often down time in our store. Naturally we have some tasks — vacuuming, dusting, stocking shelves after all retail is detail.

But even if someone were to tackle these tasks at once it’s about 3 hours of total work per week . Even beyond these tasks, selling and fulfillment of orders we still have time. Therefore I ask for that time to focus on how their selling stage can be better (initiative). How their customer experience can be enhanced (seeking to affirm), how I can better help their day be smoother and more enjoyable (clarifying the outcome).

Once we give time to these tasks it doesn’t bother me that some personal time is spent on social media or a video is watched on YouTube. This system creates a trust framework with one another and so how their day goes, the order in which it goes isn’t of concern to me because they know I appreciate them owning the day within the framework I’ve given them.

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?

I would suggest every leader appreciate the lived experiences of their team regardless of who they are or how old they are. We can all learn from each other’s experiences. As leaders we are all familiar with the various personality tests so I’d suggest we apply those lessons and benefits to age diversity — mesh energy & enthusiasm of our younger team members with the thought and consideration of our older team members. And urge all parties to establish a mutual benefit and mutual respect relationship rather than a typical mentor and mentee relationship.

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?

Take in what feedback you get and hear it. Truly tune in to hear rather than listen for a reason why you’re right and they are wrong. Second, once you’ve heard that feedback, offer your thoughts as summation of their feedback, what you feel they want you to take away from the conversation. Don’t immediately step all over the conversation with your opinion. This is a simple yet powerful set of steps to bring people in and elevate conversations into action.

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

Tell me. Tell me why this is important to you? Tell me why now and not later? Tell me because I am eager to know why these goals are important for you. Or why these issues exist, or what these problems mean for you and why your day with us isn’t enjoyable. Hear these answers and then take meaningful action.

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

Integrity is what you do when no one is looking. It means more than ever to me now that my grandfather who gave me this lesson can look in on me from above at any time. He was a master carpenter and cabinet maker and could work miracles with wood. He could make a particle board cabinet look like solid oak. He never would because that was his name and what if a fire or water leak damaged his work? Then everyone would know the true quality of his work. That lesson I learned at age 10 has stuck with me for 33 years now.

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?

As you’ve read I have a number of interests, experiences and types of clients I help and the best way to connect with me “choose your adventure style” is to visit

There you can choose to connect on social media, subscribe to my podcast, or if I’ve inspired you — book a discovery call with me. Either way I’ll be happy to join you on whichever adventure you take with me.

Thank you for a meaningful conversation. We wish you continued success with your mission.