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A Proven Way To Be A Better Sales Account Executive

If you are an account executive on the sales team of your organization, no doubt you live and die by a few key factors. There is one opportunity, however, that sits at your fingertips as something that could change the way you sell. In turn, you might end up with both higher customer satisfaction and quotas.

But initially, let’s review those core factors of an account executive.

First, there is your funnel. If things are looking a wee bit bleak concerning your pipeline, not only will your boss be hovering over you as mosquitos do in the heart of summer, you’ll feel a gnawing sense of panic as the days and weeks progress in the quarter without any movement.

Second, there is account planning. Fail to pay attention to the sales cycle of your customer—be it where they are on the renewal stage or otherwise—and you can kiss goodbye the likelihood of President’s Club happening this year. Account planning might be boring, but it’s necessary.

Third, there is product knowledge. Oh oh. The product team changed things again. Maybe the partner updated the stack again. Now there’s more to learn, and more to pitch. “I can’t believe everything is new again,” you might mutter to yourself. Better start reading the updated user guide or signing up for the latest sales training offerings. I know. You’d rather sit for a root canal, but that will have to wait.

Fourth, there is Salesforce, or whatever CRM tool you may be using. Spending time in the CRM is sometimes as welcomed as an underwater sneeze. So many fields. So little time. So boring. But the bosses above you want it filled out regularly. Better carve out time on the weekend to make sure it’s current. It looks like you’ll have to forgo binge-watching Peaky Blinders on Netflix.

Each of these factors makes up life as a sales account executive. There are others, of course, but a good portion of your time is spent making certain each of these key areas is being addressed. You’re just going to have to—as my wife often says to our children—“suck it up buttercup.”

There is an opportunity lurking in the background of these never-going-to-change activities that you may want to consider.

Whatever it is that you’re peddling, stop selling features.

Instead, start building a relationship with your customer that focuses on the bigger picture. Then offer up a solution that is more than what you sell. Bring to the customer a value-add proposition that is more than your products and services. Bring to them a vision, a bigger picture.

What is the bigger picture? It’s the customer’s current pain points and future long-term plans. It has almost nothing to do with what you’re selling. (Okay, it might have a little to do with what you’re selling.)

As an alternative to pitching the latest features that come with your products and services, engage in a conversation with the customer that discusses all facets of their business, their issues, their threats, as well as their opportunities. The topics are real, and they may not have much to do with what you are selling.

There are culture, leadership and organizational dynamics issues that need addressing. There are bad processes, silos and bureaucratic nightmares to solve. There are supply chain and partner management problems to fix. There are creativity, innovation and modernization options that need discussing.

When an account executive can strike a conversation with the customer that doesn’t once focus on their product or service features, that is a customer willing to spend more time with you. When an account executive can have a multi-faceted and deeply rooted conversation about real business issues, it’s the customer who then begins seeing you in a different light.

You have become a trusted advisor, somebody not solely interested in meeting your quota or contract renewal schedule.

Not only should you be able to have such a conversation, but you may also have an opportunity to bring subject-matter experts found within your organization to future discussions. Now you look like a true rock star, acting on behalf of the best interests of your client.

When you look out for the long-term success of your customer—aiming to bring value-add options to the table, regardless of what you sell—I find that more often than not that customer not only accepts your proposal (or renewal) they often consider other options that you may bring to the table.

An account executive is never going to change the need to update the funnel, account plan, attend training or spend time in the CRM. There’s some real estate on Mars I’d like to sell you if you think you can.

But an account executive who creates an entirely different relationship with the customer—someone focused on a long-term, value-add affiliation—is one who is likely to be much happier, more engaged, and a lock for President’s Club every year.

You can now binge watch Peaky Blinders.

Dan Pontefract January 2019 Playlist (homage to Peaky Blinders)

I don’t know what took me so long, but I finally sat down and began watching Peaky Blinders, the epic family gangster series from BBC set in post-WWI Birmingham, England.

It. Is. Fab.

I’m just about to watch season four. Don’t spoil it for me.

The series got me thinking about my love for hard, guitar-laced and somewhat dark indie music. The series also contains softer, reflective music, poetic in its symbolism with the show’s plot and characters.

Peaky Blinders is chock full of excellent music. Each episode is a testament to the importance of curation.

My first playlist in 2019 is dedicated to this brilliant series and the people who have put together the music.

Of the ten songs in this playlist, there are three taken directly from the Peaky Blinders series. You’ll just have to guess which ones they are! As for the other seven, I humbly suggest that they could play a part in a future season. 😉



Executive Assistants Are The Real Heroes

I have worked full-time for five different organizations in telecommunications, high-tech and academia over twenty-five years. The employee population in those organizations has ranged from 1500 to well over 50,000.

No matter the firm, business unit, or team, it is the executive assistants and support personnel who are the real heroes, the unsung makers of order. They are the lifeline to anyone and everyone in the organization.

Assistants come in all forms. Quiet and unassuming. Bold and boisterous. Some seem meek, while others come across as overly confident. Do not be fooled. However you perceive them, beware because it’s a trap!

The assistant is all-knowing.

Equally important, they are the glue that binds all pages together.

The assistant is paid to support the executive and by extension the team. Ultimately they are an individual contributor. There are no direct reports to an assistant, ever. But that does not stop the assistant from commanding an army.

From their very first day on the job, they begin a natural process of finding, building, and maintaining their tribe. It’s a tribe that does battle every single day, and it wins.

Who is their tribe?

Other assistants scattered across the organization. What’s more frightening than the one assistant who knows everything? A pack of wolves who can slaughter their prey in a matter of seconds with ubiquitous knowledge and wolf-like reflexes to get things done. This is the assistant. They form a pack of wolves like no other.

Not only does the assistant team up with other assistants through some invisible, cement-like bond, but they also begin the process of sleuthing.

Their ability to memorize an org chart is uncanny. Knowing who the alpha dogs/cats are in their second hour on the job is remarkable. From the confines of a desk—and the occasional strolls across a floor or building—the assistant amasses a network of contacts, intelligence, and superior processes to fool Napoléon if he were still around.

The assistant arrives early and often stays late. They answer emails and texts at all hours of the day and weekend. Proactive, collaborative, and intuitive, the assistant has a sixth sense anticipating what might hit the fan before it ever reaches those sharp blades. They stitch a wound before the blood ever reaches the ground.

Too many people classify them solely as schedulers, approvers, and organizers. Those that do often suffer the wrath of the assistant’s spell. Be mean or condescending, and you welcome yourself into a hellhole of nothingness. I have seen it many times before. The macho team member who undermines the raw talent of an assistant is quickly put in their place, often with a tail between their legs in the corporate version of a “walk of shame.”

Judge a book by its cover, and you will miss out on the brilliant knowledge found within. The same can be said for assistants.

Apparel company lululemon provides an example. In a recent job description for an executive assistant, lululemon asks for the following concerning the “day in the life” of the role:

  • Principle scheduler, timekeeper, planner and coordinator to a member of the lululemon Executive Team, the Executive Assistant has a vital role in the success of their department
  • Heavy calendaring: You will be the point of contact for internal & external requests as well as being responsible for organizing travel itineraries, coordinating meetings, and preparing briefing notes and minutes of meetings.
  • Coordination and execution of events.
  • Maintaining professional finances including all expenses, tracking of finances, paying invoices in a timely manner and keeping all spreadsheets up to date.
  • Opens, distributes and follows-up on standard incoming mail. Screens and directs incoming calls and some emails, and helps to file.
  • Composes and prepares documents for signature. Coordinates the preparation of corporate documents, as requested.
  • Delegates and follows up on action items that fall within the realm of responsibility.
  • Maintains an easy to use filing system for archived documents and computer files.
  • Provides confidential personal support and maintains confidential personal information.

Every assistant known to humankind understands the bullets outlined above. It’s the gig. They perform each of these actions not only admirably, but without hesitation.

I left one bullet out. It’s the final one found in the job description:

  • Undertakes special assignments and projects as needed.

It’s where the assistant shines, where they exhibit those wolf-like skills, cunning, networking, sharp as a knife. “Special assignments and projects as needed” is perhaps a throwaway line, but it’s precisely where the assistant becomes one of the single most important people in the organization itself.

I have been blessed to work with many assistants over the years. Kim, Wendy, Stephanie, Heather, Michael, Anna, Ryan, Linda, Winnie, Georgia, Mehroon, Kim (again) are just a few of the colleagues I have witnessed deliver incredible leadership.

They are superheroes without the cape.

Big News! I’m Leaving TELUS (sorta) And Going Solo

Just a few weeks ago I passed my 10-year service anniversary at TELUS. What a blast. What a decade.

I remember working with some team members back in 2009, discussing how we might offer something more meaningful and sustainable when it came to service anniversaries. We ended up partnering with TreeCanada. A few weeks ago a native, non-invasive tree was planted in a rural part of Canada as a token of my service to TELUS.

I suppose the metaphor is appropriate.

The time has come for me to plant a new tree. It’s time to grow a seedling again.

After a wonderfully enriching 121 months, I have made the difficult decision to leave TELUS at the end of 2018. Where to next? What will I do? How will I grow?

Charles Handy, the noted philosopher and author, said to me a couple of weeks ago while our paths crossed in Vienna, “What’s next for you, Dan?”

Charles is constantly challenging you to challenge yourself. I admire him greatly. In fact, I aspire to be just like him.

At the beginning of 2018, I re-read my book, THE PURPOSE EFFECT. Why?

I needed to remind myself of the importance of purpose, particularly the ongoing development of one’s personal purpose. What am I doing to grow my talents? Who do I want to become in the short and long-term? How do I want to be known when I leave a room?

In 1997 I left the high school teaching profession after three years because those questions were not being answered satisfactorily to my liking.

In 2002 I left BCIT as a program director—after five years in the role—because, again, I needed to grow my personal purpose. It was difficult to leave the friendly confines of academia, but I needed to learn about the real world.

In 2008 I left SAP. It was excruciating to leave a tight-knit, all-star family of professionals in the education services space. But I needed a new challenge. I cried like a baby when I informed the 100+ people on the team, but purpose came calling again.

After five years as chief learning officer at TELUS where I was privileged to play a part in the evolution of an entire organization’s operating culture, in early 2014 I left the role (and another fantastic team) and started a new customer-facing business unit focused on culture, leadership and collaboration. My purpose was beckoning for a new challenge. Again. It was fab. We did such great work with so many clients.

On December 31, 2018, I will vacate my role as chief envisioner of that wonderful unit—TELUS Transformation Office—and embark on another journey of personal purpose development.

May I introduce you to Dan Pontefract, founder and CEO of The Pontefract Group, a firm that improves the state of leadership and organizational culture.

The time has come for me to, well, be me. It is time to step out of the shadows.

Twenty-five years of on-the-ground and in-the-trenches experience has emboldened me to make this move. I want to grow again. I want to enhance my personal purpose again. I want to make mistakes and learn from them again. I want to understand how to run a business — my own.

Equally important, I want to help you. Whoever you are. Wherever you are. Whatever your personal, professional or organizational issues might be.

My declaration of personal purpose is simple:

We’re not here to see through each other; we’re here to see each other through.

It has guided me through many decisions and numerous obstacles.

My organizational purpose at The Pontefract Group is also rather simple:

Building bridges between life and work.

I am now a free agent, open for business, aiming to work with people who truly want to improve the state of leadership, engagement and organizational culture. (That includes purpose and thinking.) Even writing that feels good.

And lo and behold, I have my first client.


Wait, what?

In the lead-up to this announcement, TELUS generously asked me if I might consider continuing in my capacity as program director of its award-winning MBA program, run in partnership with the University of Victoria. They had me at hello.

TELUS also asked if I would consider being available to provide executive development and consultative support to some of their key clients. It sounded a bit like my mission at The Pontefract Group so I couldn’t resist.

The company released a very kind bulletin across the organization today. It’s rare to read about your departure and accompanying successes only to see that you remain an adjunct, part-time member of the family. Purpose for the win!

In closing, those of you who know me personally also know I wear my heart on my sleeve. Bottom line? I cry a lot.

It has been a very difficult year to arrive at this day. There were a lot of tears, questions, and moments of confusion. Why? How come? Are you crazy?

I suspect I haven’t been the best husband, father or friend through this ordeal either.

Then there was my small team at the Transformation Office. Thankfully everyone has a new role at the company despite the Office being shuttered due to my departure. I feel relieved that each of them has been provided with an opportunity to continue at TELUS. I feel terrible that I had to inform them of a drastic change in strategy and direction.

In particular, I want to thank my friend, Bryan Acker. Since 2004 he has been with me providing incredible insights and counsel in four very different roles in three different organizations, reporting into me directly. If Elton John needs Bernie Taupin to write memorable songs, I appreciate Bryan for helping me think the way I do.

If The Pontefract Group is successful, you can bet your last dollar Bryan is my first hire. (Sorry TELUS)

Thank you for reading. Wish me luck.

And if you need a keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, assessor of organizational culture, executive coach, or a very collaborative consultant, my name is Dan Pontefract, founder and CEO of The Pontefract Group.

Email me. I promise to respond.

It’s time to water the new tree.

In this instance, tears are not enough.


Highlights From The 2018 Global Peter Drucker Forum

November 29 and 30 witnessed over 1000 people descending on Vienna, Austria for the 10th annual Global Peter Drucker Forum. Vienna was the birthplace of Drucker, who the British Library refers to as “the father of management thinking.” Perhaps there is no better place in which to discuss what’s wrong (and maybe even what’s right) with current management practices.

Billed as an event that would explore the “human dimension” of management, there were some hits and a few misses over the two days. A big miss was the unexpected absence of Clayton Christensen. All of us wish him well in his recovery.

The format of the Drucker Forum was consistent if not predictable throughout the two days. A chair moderated four individuals from various walks of professional life on a specific sub-theme. Each presenter had nine or so minutes to deliver a short talk and the remainder of the time witnessed a group chat facilitated by the chair. In total, there were over 80 chairs and speakers for just under 20 sessions. You can imagine how busy it felt. At times, it was far too formulaic. Each presenter discussed what was wrong with management during their nine minutes, but too many failed to deliver any concrete answers on how to make management more humane. When it worked, the talks and discussions were exhilarating.

One of the most interesting was a session billed as “Managing for the Long Term” where Unilever CEO Paul Polman, #1 ranked Thinkers50 member Roger L. Martin, Engie CEO Isabelle Kocher and former Adidas CFO Robin J. Stalker got to the heart of the current fixation on shareholder primacy. “Do we care?” asked Paul Polman with a rhetorical grimace on his face. “As long as our personal greed is more important than the future of our children, we are in deep shit.”

Polman, who had announced his retirement as Unilever CEO the day before, was referring to a CEO’s reliance on share buybacks and dividend increases as a way to run a company. His stage colleague, Martin, lamented the activist hedge funds but also recommended that legislation is passed such that pension funds no longer act as a monopoly enforced by government regulation. In essence, Martin argued that government-regulated pension funds are monopolies, which then act as an inhumane way to manage organizations and people’s hard-earned money.

Polman furthered Martin’s suggestion and added that the wealthiest people, pension fund managers and the 25 biggest asset owners on the planet ought to get into a room and change the way of the world economic order without legislation. As much as I respect Polman, I don’t see that happening any time soon. It was an interesting “how” suggestion though, one of only a handful throughout the two days.

“A healthy organization is a collection of human beings and not just human resources. Work on community, on the ground, create the movement and tilt the power,” said academic and author Henry Mintzberg during the “Should Managers be Activists?” session. Mintzberg reckons the term human resources ought to be extinguished and that our organizations be more community-minded and driven.

On the topic of being a technocrat or humanist, Insead’s Gianpiero Petriglieri said, “Think of yourself as an artist. It gives you the ability to love, learn & lose it! We need tech & humanity to make things and make things up. We need a story that moves us and a space that holds us.” As he has stated previously, Petriglieri recommends that cosmopolitanism not become an elite identity, but rather an “attitude of curiosity about what lies beyond the boundaries of our territories, cultures, and faiths.”

In the same session with Petriglieri, Adrian Wooldridge, Management Editor at The Economist said, “You should think in the long-term, like a ship’s captain who views the entire ocean. CEO’s should spend some time on a retreat and reflect, read Plato, think more of philosophy.” I wholeheartedly agree with Woolridge. Far too many CEOs and senior leaders get caught up in the magnetic draw of quarterly earnings and share pricing. They should be reflecting on the state of their organization (and the world) through deep, pregnant, philosophical pauses. But too many do not.

Harvard Business School’s Rosabeth Moss Kanter also stated in the same session, “In order to solve the new problem of today, executives need to get out of the building and get into the streets where there is hustle. Leadership should shift from hierarchy to hustle.” In my line of work far too often senior leaders remain in their offices at their headquarters, commanding and controlling from their email and desk phone. Indeed it is an inhumane approach to management.

The most alarming of the sessions at the Drucker Forum had to be the one titled “Beyond Market Failures: How the State Creates Value.” Author Andrew Keen portrayed society as possessing three kinds of state:

  • Chinese: an all-inclusive state that guarantees economic prosperity but is nonetheless chilling.
  • American: the retreat of the state, blissfully uncaring of its citizens.
  • European: a combination of the Chinese and American, but equally ineffective.

But leave it to Martin Wolf, Associate Editor and Chief Economics Commentator at the Financial Times, to send us running for the hills. “When technology knows everything about every one of us, is that the end of democracy?” he asked the audience during a brilliant, mic-drop worthy rant. “The state is the most important innovation in history,” he continued. “But the real question is not how the state can keep out-of-the-way but how to make the state work better? For every one benevolent autocracy (like Singapore) you get 99 horrors.”

Sandwiched between day one and two was a gala dinner with all attendees. Kudos to Drucker Forum founder, Richard Straub, for ensuring there are ways that young people can participate in the forum, through essay submissions, awards and public recognition at the gala itself. Of the 1000 attendees, nearly 200 were billed as young people. That is an impressive model to emulate at other conferences.

Overall, the Drucker Forum was packed with speakers and their brilliant opinions on what’s wrong with management and its inhumane way of operating. There simply needed to be more examples of how we can fix it. Over the years of its existence, the Drucker Forum has made great strides regarding global representation, as well as gender and cultural diversity. For example, the 2018 version saw a record number of women participate as chairs or speakers. Thirty-eight percent is impressive. By 2019, I hope it becomes 50 percent.

If there was one comment that should act as a call to action for attendees, it came from Polman:

“You’re not going to solve problems by attending conferences. You have to do something. If you don’t take action, you’re as guilty as those who created the problems in the first place.”

“Do something,” is the perfect manner in which to say we need more examples of the how.



I call it Open Thinking, the return to a balanced archetype of reflection and action; the poised intertwining of Creative, Critical and Applied Thinking.

Full details are found in my new book, OPEN TO THINK: Slow Down, Think Creatively, and Make Better Decisions, now available for purchase.

It is time to rethink our thinking.


Click Below





Watch the TED Talk on Open Thinking



Did GM Have To Fire 14,000 People?

General Motors made a large and stunning announcement recently, confirming roughly 15% of its global workforce will be terminated or bought out. More than 14,000 people will be out of a job in 2019 or earlier including 25% of executives.

Under the guise of a rather positive sounding press release, “General Motors Accelerates Transformation,” company chairman and CEO Mary Barra said, “The actions we are taking today continue our transformation to be highly agile, resilient and profitable while giving us the flexibility to invest in the future.”

Seven plants will be shuttered with total cash savings resulting in $6 billion through cost reductions and lower capital expenditures.

Barra’s comments continued: “We recognize the need to stay in front of changing market conditions and customer preferences to position our company for long-term success.”

One of Barra’s predecessors was Charles E. Wilson, CEO of General Motors between 1941 and 1953. During confirmation hearings before a Senate Committee in 1952—where Wilson was still CEO of the company—he responded to a question about conflicts of interest by Senator Robert Hendrickson as follows:

“For years I thought that what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa. The difference did not exist. Our company is too big. It goes with the welfare of the country.”

Perhaps Wilson’s comments were a harbinger for 2019.

Tucked away in GM’s press release announcing the closures was a signal—indeed a potent portent—for the current White House administration to consider: “GM now intends to prioritize future vehicle investments in its next-generation battery-electric architectures.”

It is the sound of both innovation and sustainability.

While Tesla gets an inordinate amount of mainstream media press as it continues to accelerate “the world’s transition to sustainable energy with electric cars, solar panels and integrated renewable energy solutions,” slowly and quietly organizations like GM are being forced to do the same. It’s the 2018 version of kill or be killed.

When a company the size of GM—with more than $145 billion in annual revenues—is forced to lay off 14,000 people while shuttering seven of its plants, I wonder if the White House sees the connection to Wilson’s quote some 65 years ago.

“It goes with the welfare of the country,” said Wilson, which should frighten any senior member of Trump’s administration. America has taken far too long to curb its dependence on oil. The same might be said concerning an overreliance on all non-renewable resources.

And now—demonstrated by the example of GM—more than 14,000 people are out of work as the company tries to expedite its “next-generation battery-electric architectures.”

Who might be next?

What large organization with thousands of employees will be issuing a press release in 2019 announcing its plans to shave the workforce? What large organization will realize that its own strategy needs updating—and in an expedited fashion—such that it does not perish? What organization is currently reading the tea leaves of an old-fashioned, outdated approach to business?

I see Wilson’s comment not only as a harbinger but a renewed call for the White House and leaders from all levels of government to incentivize companies. Organizations need to expedite their innovation such that sustainable means of operating becomes the norm.

When the organization’s plans finally change, perhaps the workforce can be retrained (and retained) rather than terminated so they might be part of the solution, and assist the transformation.



I call it Open Thinking, the return to a balanced archetype of reflection and action; the poised intertwining of Creative, Critical and Applied Thinking.

Full details are found in my new book, OPEN TO THINK: Slow Down, Think Creatively, and Make Better Decisions, now available for purchase.

It is time to rethink our thinking.


Click Below





Watch the TED Talk on Open Thinking



Three Ways To Take Back Control Of Your Time

Normally I have a 10-minute rule.

If I am scheduled to have a virtual meeting with someone (telephone, Skype, Zoom, etc.) I’ll give him or her 10 minutes to show up before I move on. It’s not rude; it’s about being protective of my calendar.

Just as I was about to hang up on my 12:30 pm meeting last Friday—when the clock was yearning to strike 12:40 pm—my acquaintance came barreling onto the telephone scene.

“I’m so sorry, Dan,” she pleaded, simultaneously gasping for air. “The last meeting ran late, and I had to run to my office to take this call.”

It happens all the time. Punctuality is now poisonous.

Two weeks ago I was in a face-to-face meeting with four other people. It started on time. Miraculously everyone was present and punctual.

About 30 minutes in there was an annoying buzzing sound emanating from the phone of an attendee. Without caring that we were in the middle of a deep conversation about some important matters, the individual grabbed the phone, read the message, and proceeded to excuse himself from the room immediately.

“Sorry everyone,” he exclaimed. “I’ve got to get something to my boss ASAP. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

He never returned.

The workplace has become a carnival of doing. Everyone is in a constant state of action.

Look, over there! It’s people having a meeting to prepare for the meeting that is about a future meeting with a customer.

There is less and less time for reflection, pausing, ideation, or even good decision-making. Furthermore, this ‘always on’ mindset is affecting the manner in which we are leading people and initiatives.

We scamper from meeting to meeting. We are late. We leave early. We check email, answer texts, and write reports while we’re supposed to be watching a kid’s soccer game. We pretend we’re paying attention to the conference call but instead we are crafting a PowerPoint presentation for our next meeting at 11:00 am.

Leaders are in the middle of a coaching conversation with their team member when they suddenly remember they’re supposed to be somewhere else. A lunch meeting between the boss and employee is cut short because the boss has been called into something else. What was originally a 60-minute lunch was cut to 30 minutes. “I guess it’s better than nothing,” said the now jaded employee.

Not only is this affecting the way in which we lead—and how colleagues and employees perceive leaders—the inability to manage our time is affecting levels of stress.

According to the American Institute of Stress, 80 percent of workers feel some form of stress on the job. Nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress. A whopping 30 percent indicate they are “always” or “often” under stress at work.

The American Psychological Association reports levels of stress continues to rise. Analysis by Accountemps reveals 60 percent of employees feel work-related pressures have increased in the last five years.

I have seen the enemy. Much of that stress and the downward spiral of leadership is as a result of our failure to manage our calendars, our time.

What to do?

The first step is to take back control of your time. Stop filling up your calendar with mindless meetings. Block out time such that you have more “me time” than you know how to handle.

Second is to stop saying yes. Far too many people say yes to encroachments on their time, when they should be saying no. (Bonus: leaders need to stop asking employees for things, and to be more empathetic with the workloads that their team members already have to deal with.)

Third, focus on what matters. If you are in a meeting, stay within it and be present. If you are having a conversation with a team member, stay aligned to the conversation not the vibrating feeling of a new text. If you are working on a report, remain in the moment and ensure you do not get distracted by whatever trinket looks more interesting.

Time has become the enemy of good leadership. Your job is to reclaim it.



I call it Open Thinking, the return to a balanced archetype of reflection and action; the poised intertwining of Creative, Critical and Applied Thinking.

Full details are found in my new book, OPEN TO THINK: Slow Down, Think Creatively, and Make Better Decisions, now available for purchase.

It is time to rethink our thinking.


Click Below





Watch the TED Talk on Open Thinking



Dan Pontefract December 2018 Playlist (Christmas Edition)

I am a big fan of Christmas.

So much so, I have collected over 20 glühwein (hot mulled wine) Christmas mugs over the years. They are fantastic! (so is the glühwein)

When I was a kid I used to make my own Christmas trees. There was a styrofoam version, pinecones, wall panel, even one made of Star Wars paraphernalia. (The Star Wars Holiday Special was a one-star heap of television trash, so perhaps that’s where I got the misguided inspiration as a seven-year-old.)

The R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas song is as bad as it gets.

Anyway, back to the point. There are all sorts of Christmas songs that I look forward to spinning every December. Here is a 10-pack of some of my favourite Christmas tunes.

Merry Christmas to those that celebrate. (and Happy Holidays to those who celebrate something else)


My TEDx Talk About The Importance Of Purpose

The Purpose Effect is a three-way relationship between an individual’s personal sense of purpose in life, the organization’s purpose and a person’s purpose in their role at work. When all three aspects of purpose are properly defined, are well aligned, and function in partnership with one another, then the employee, the organization and society mutually benefit.

When they are not, it can lead to significant damage in society and in the organization. The Purpose Effect is the pattern I have exposed.

Think of it as a three-legged barstool. If one of the legs is broken or uneven, either an individual ends up crashing to the ground or there is a perpetual wobble, prompting a feeling of uneasiness, of disequilibrium. Such a lack of balance in the workplace can result in personal disengagement, disbandment of a team, or in the direst instance, the end of the organization itself.

Those who lack direction in these situations, simply go through the motions, longing for the day when their opinions and ideas mattered, helpless as senior leaders pursue an organizational purpose that has no meaning for them personally. Any lack of alignment between the three categories of purpose—the barstool legs—can have devastating consequences at both an individual and a collective level.

Diagram_Sweet Spot_Clear Background (3)The Purpose Effect (buy it here if you like) chronicles my thesis and findings. It draws on research, interviews and first-hand leadership experience, establishing a potentially positive and reciprocal connection between three distinct categories of purpose:

  • Personal purpose
  • Organizational purpose
  • Role purpose

If all three categories of purpose can come to fruition—if there is a positive interconnection between the three distinct definitions of purpose—the benefits should be felt by employees, teams, the organization, customers, owners and, perhaps most importantly, society as a whole. We can refer to this balanced state as the “sweet spot.”

I was fortunate in 2015 to be asked to deliver another TEDx Talk, my third. I took the opportunity to unleash The Purpose Effect in the now legendary, 18-minute TED format. Watch it below:

Here’s Why I Love The Beatles’ ‘White Album’ Even More (Hint: It’s About Their Preparation)

You don’t have to be a fan of the Beatles to appreciate their brilliance.

Over their relatively short career as the fab four from Liverpool, the Beatles recorded 206 original compositions across several different albums. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how many albums sold, but data suggest it’s somewhere between 272 million and 600 million.

More recently the Beatles celebrated the 50th anniversary of the so-called “White Album” (actually knowns as The Beatles) by remastering the originals and releasing a treasure trove of outtakes & previously unheard versions in a new box set.

As I listened to the new, sonically superior versions of classic songs like Back in the U.S.S.R, Blackbird, and Dear Prudence, I found myself clamouring for the other goodies nested in the box set package.

As part of the 50th-anniversary celebration, the new “White Album” comes with early recordings logged from George Harrison’s home. During the mid-to-late 1960’s, Harrison lived in the village of Esher, a part of Surrey and southwest of London. Before going into the famous Abbey Road Studios to record the “White Album,” the Beatles spent time at Harrison’s home going through their material to develop early-stage arrangements. All of it was recorded on a four-track recorder.

The new box set of the “White Album” contains cuts of the songs in very raw and often acoustic splendour. The songs are known as the “Esher versions” because of their recording location; Harrison’s home.

Think of it as your first chance to own the Beatles in an unplugged format. Each of the songs was polished up ever so sophisticatedly by producer Giles Martin, son of the famous Beatles producer, George Martin. Indeed these acoustic gems are a wonderment to Beatles lore.

The new release also contains all sorts of different takes on the songs when the band were officially recording the album in Abbey Road Studios.

There is a 15th take on Mother Nature’s Son, a 17th take on Helter Skelter, a 27th take on While My Guitar Gently Weeps and an amazing 102nd take on Not Guilty, a song that never even made the album’s original release in 1968. (The Harrison-crafted song had to settle for a solo release of his in 1979.)

The re-issue of the “White Album” got me thinking about how well we prepare ourselves for a performance in the business world.

How much time are you spending to ensure you are prepared for the limelight? Perhaps it’s a meeting, a 1-1 coaching session with a team member, a speech, or maybe you’re about to write an important summary report.

Whatever the case, how much time do you devote to planning and testing before the big moment?

In the case of the Beatles, what was evident to me after I spent a considerable amount of time this past weekend listening to the “White Album” was the amount of preparation they put into making the album. It helped ensure the album itself came across as “off the floor.”

The original “White Album” possesses an earthy, rambunctious sound, often feeling as though it was recorded live without post-production polishing. It turns out that didn’t happen at all.

The amount of time that went into crafting the songs before the Abbey Road Studios time—the acoustic practicing and recording at George Harrison’s home as an example—became step one of their preparation.

Step two was when they entered Abbey Road Studios. Although we are not privy to all takes on all songs, when you listen through some of the unusual takes courtesy the new box set, you are left with sublime insights into their continued preparation for a final take.

Between band banter, feedback, and coaching, it is evident that the Abbey Road Studios time was a constant march toward perfection, even though the final result came out as earthy and rambunctious.

The lesson I gleaned from listening to the new box set was about time; we need to remember to carve out ample preparation time before a big moment. To become an expert in our execution as a leader we must remember the importance of preparation.

When we wing it and fly by the seat of our pants, we will end up unprepared. When it comes to those we are serving or leading, they may question our abilities as a leader.

We would be wise to prepare (and practice) before hitting the record button. Everyone is better off for it.

<Originally posted to Forbes. Photo credit: (AP Photo, File) ASSOCIATED PRESS>




I call it Open Thinking, the return to a balanced archetype of reflection and action; the poised intertwining of Creative, Critical and Applied Thinking.

Full details are found in my new book, OPEN TO THINK: Slow Down, Think Creatively, and Make Better Decisions, now available for purchase.

It is time to rethink our thinking.


Click Below





And why not watch the TED Talk?



Elephants Have Long Memories. So Should You.

As far as favourite pets go, for me, it was probably my orca whale.

In a modest neighbourhood where I grew up, for some reason, we had an indoor pool. It was in that space where I used to practice tricks with my pet orca whale.

She may have been plastic, but did we ever have a bond.

Orca whales are still my favourite mammal. Gorgeous creatures who teach us so much about family, collaboration, and love.

When I step out of the ocean and look to land I then gaze my eyes on another creature that provides more lessons about life.

The elephant. Big, bold and potentially deathly yet peaceful, familial-driven and the quintessential thinker.

“An elephant never forgets,” as the saying goes. Indeed the elephant teaches us a lesson.

Is it true?

Well, yes. Numerous studies and science-backed research prove elephants possess the ability to recall events, smells, locations and even predators or enemies from years past.

Which brings us back to being human.

When something goes well in your life, we need to remember the intricacies of a) why it went well and b) how that event or process may be replayed again later in life. It is critically important not to forget what worked, and the positive learnings that came from your success.

But then there are the times in your life when things do not go well.

Perhaps it’s a mistake you’ve made. Maybe something went sideways during a project. What if there was an individual who went after you, aiming to make your life miserable through Machiavellian methods.

It is equally important to remember how you felt when the situation unfolded. Embrace the emotions, the tears, the fits of rage, the anger.

Recall how devastated you appeared. That visceral, gnawing sensation percolating through your bones and blood is not to be forgotten. Use it. Harbour it. Taste it. Get your revenge on your mistake, your issue, or whoever did what they did to you.

But take your time. Do not overreact. Do not submit a knee-jerk reaction. Put it in the memory bank, let it marinate, and use it to your advantage later in life.

For you are the elephant.

Skin like leather, coupled with a memory that never forgets.


In Con Text


In Con Text

The goal was to survive the storm,
For then we might truly transform,
Along came a text
Oh my, “what is next?”
The beast still treats greed as the norm.