Developing Great Teams: The DLC Drop Q&A

Thank you to all the listeners who tuned in to last week’s DLC Drop Podcast. I really enjoyed talking with my friend John Davidson about leadership, coaching, and our new book, Conscious, Capable, and Ready to ContributeThank you, John, for the opportunity!

There were a handful of great questions submitted after the podcast. As promised, the following are brief answers to each. I look forward to reactions and will do my best to respond to any follow-up questions.

“My question would be around the fact that managers often are promoted into leadership roles. I’ve always thought there is a big difference between the two. What would the author say about the most significant difference and how can a manager transition?”

This is such a great question. Naturally, it is logical for companies to promote successful managers into positions of leadership. These managers often rise through the ranks which means they are good subject matter experts who know how to make sure that the company’s business gets done. They know the important nuances of a company’s culture. High performing managers can make the leap to leadership, provided they and the company recognize that different capabilities will be needed.

In my experience, leaders must set a compelling vision of where they want the team or organization to go. Often, a manager’s primary job is execution of the vision. Effective leaders must excel at communicating the vision.

At AO People Partners, we help companies create Conscious Development Cultures. (Learn more here.) I mention this because such organizations recognize that the leap from manager to leader is significant. They invest in development around what we call Mind Skills and People Skills that leaders need to thrive. These are skills such as Emotional Intelligence, Adaptability, Critical Thinking, Decision-Making, Active Listening, Conflict Resolution and Effective Speaking. The great companies build leadership development learning and development opportunities to help managers make the leap.

Like most things, the first step is for companies and the individuals impacted to acknowledge that management and leadership are different and then be intentional about taking steps to address the differences. 

“What trends and changes are you seeing in leadership [in] this virtual environment?”

Let’s face it. The biggest issue most leaders are facing is retention. For a variety of reasons, the “Big Quit” is on. Some call it a “Turnover Tsunami.” Regardless of what catchy phrase you put on it, it is real.  Here’s what we are seeing progressive companies and leaders do.

1.    Play the long game by recognizing that truly investing in the development of their people is the best strategy. Invest in more than their technical skills; focus on the Mind Skills and People Skills I referred to above.

2.    Demonstrate flexibility. Many progressive leaders are saying if you can get the job done, we don’t care where you do it from. And they are offering opportunities to get into the office if that’s what they want. The following story seems relevant. One annual meeting I was giving a talk about client service. I said, “avoid OSFA thinking.” Huh? I then described a shopping experience and not knowing what the OSFA size was on a garment. AH. One Size Fits All. Successful companies are avoiding OSFA thinking as the economy “reopens.” It’s a good plan regardless of what’s going on in the world at large.

3.    Listen. Smart leaders are always meeting with their people to see what they need. In addition to “meeting,” they survey constantly. (Just like they often do with their customers.) What are they concerned about? What could be better? Do you have the resources you need? A leader can’t always “fix” a problem. But many people just want to be heard.

4.    Preemptively adjust compensation and benefits across the board. We have clients whose best people are being wooed with big pay bumps. Employers are having to increase pay to keep folks, but the smart ones recognize that maintaining internal equity is vital to a healthy culture.

5.    Double down on purpose. We are all going through a tough stretch. Nearly everyone has asked themselves questions about whether they are living the life they desire. We all seek purpose, and we spend more time working than almost anywhere else. If ever there was an opportunity for organizations to build a purpose driven culture, it’s now. Do it and it will pay dividends for a long time. 

“What are some of your best strategies / tips for team-building (especially when virtual / hybrid)?”

The most effective teams rally around a common purpose with shared goals and incentives. Often, we see teams come together and create inspiring vision statements, core value lists, and BHAGs. (Big Hairy Audacious Goals as coined by Jim Collins in Built to Last). A year later, they realize they haven’t made a lot of progress. The problem often tracks back to the failure to get the various team members working together. They are all expected to independently execute their department or business unit goals. Creating shared goals and incentives can make a huge difference.

I recommend The Leadership Circle as a framework for individual and team development. At AO, we work with many organizations who have used the Leadership Circle Profile and Collective Leadership Assessments to advance their leadership effectiveness goals. Their tools are outstanding for designing team-building activities. Their tools work well in person and virtually.   

“I’m wondering what you think about listening to employees. How to best do it and the general importance on it.”

I think this may be the most important action leaders should take, especially right now. In my experience, smart leaders meet with their people on a regular basis to see what they need. Most employee engagement experts will tell you that employees thrive when they feel they are being heard and have the resources they need to do their jobs well. When leaders meet with their people to just listen, they find out what resources their people need.

The truth is that many of us aren’t very good listeners. If you are looking for a good resource, I highly recommend the book, You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters by Kate Murphy.

“Just want to know if it’s more satisfying to coach UP the ones that think they knew it all or the ones like wild stallions who need to be dialed in or the ones who once had broken self-esteem and you made them realize they are greater than they knew. My question for you—what is the most satisfying human gain you’ve seen through your own coaching efforts?”

One of the cardinal rules of coaching is “meet the client where they are.” I start with that to acknowledge that every client is different. Frankly, that’s what makes it fun. I have 35-year-old clients and clients in their fifties.  I recently worked with an 80-year-old who was working on succession planning. (Hint: start earlier!) I find joy in helping everyone figure out their purpose and working with them on how to achieve their short and long-term goals.

One thing I would say is that the client needs to want to do the work. My clients come to me because they want to accomplish something bigger in their lives or work on building their leadership skills and brand. I generally resist the temptation to take a client who has been told he or she needs a coach, but really isn’t interested. It rarely works.

I ask all my clients to write a one-page paper titled “In the next ten years, I…” I have seen people use this exercise to envision the future they have always desired. We then work on setting a plan and making it happen. I’ve been doing this long enough now to see clients thriving. That’s the most satisfying part of coaching.

“What do you do when the trusted advice from the experts is contrary to the way you want to do business, but it IS the smarter decision?”

This is such an intriguing questionDuring the worst of COVID, this entrepreneur was being told he had to lay off two people that he loved. The advisors kept saying, “It’s just business.” The listener didn’t want to make a decision based purely on economics. 

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot since it was posted last week.  First, I need to acknowledge that this is a really difficult situation. Some version of it played out for so many during the worst of COVID. I do understand the advisors’ point of view. For the greater good, perhaps, a couple lay-offs might save the company. That could preserve the other jobs and maybe ensure that the two could be hired back once the worst was over. Truth is I don’t know enough about the company’s situation to be able to opine on the quality of the financial advice.

What I do know is that “it is just business,” YOUR business. If you make too many decisions that don’t match who you are as a person, you might just have saved a business you don’t like. When possible, play the long game and trust your heart.

Ed Offterdinger is a former CEO and Managing Partner who served in senior leadership roles for 25 years and is now a leadership coach, strategic advisor and author. His first book, co-authored with his AO People Partners co-founder Catherine Allen, is titled ‘‘Conscious, Capable and Ready to Contribute: How Employee Development can become the Highest Form of Social Contribution.”  Connect with him on LinkedIn.


Embrace the opportunity to grow your brand and reputation as a company that truly invests in helping employees grow their capabilities – even and especially during an employee off boarding experience. When viewed through the development lens, this is a valuable opportunity for employers to learn and improve organizational and people development practices, build brand ambassadors, and enable departing employees to reflect on gains in skills and capabilities.


Facilitate strategic conversations with senior leaders to explore and define ways conscious people development can be integrated into the culture and daily workflow to power your business, your people, and your employer brand. 


Incorporate learning and development objectives into retention activities to prepare employees for new roles and opportunities. This can be done through engagement and feedback surveys, recognition and rewards programs, promotion, succession planning, and more.

Social Contribution

“Build it so they will want to come, flourish, and stay, knowing that someday they may leave.

Thus, it is imperative to define what you want them to say about their growth experience with your organization and what you want the outside world to say about how you invest in and contribute capable people to society.”

-Ed Offterdinger & Catherine Allen
Conscious, Capable, and Ready to Contribute. (p. 173)

Integrated Capability Development and Performance Management

Integrate learning, growth, and capability development goals and activities into your performance management rather than relying on day-to-day responsibilities alone to create a more engaging, productive, and helpful process.


Adapt onboarding to set new hires up for success in a continuous learning environment through orientation activities that introduce the principles and practices that support everyday learning and development for each employee.


Integrate practices, principles, and tools to better evaluate a candidate’s orientation to continuous learning and development as a factor in their overall fit for a position. This provides:

  • Improved candidate interviewing, assessment and selection practices
  • Better candidate selections with learning and growth mindset
  • An early introduction to your company’s development culture focus


Embed messages about commitment to people development to attract your ideal candidates.