Thought Leadership…A Key to Veterans’ Transitions

Career transitions can be times of great excitement and enthusiasm.  New possibilities and beginnings.  The chance to start anew, to explore previously unexplored options, meet new challenges head on, and apply skills and experiences in a new direction.  But they can also be frustrating, anxiety-ridden, disappointing processes that leave one uninspired, demotivated, and dejected.  For transitioning military veterans, far too frequently, early attempts at finding work in the civilian world are marked by the latter.  Quite simply, it’s not a fun or successful process for most.

IRAQI FREEDOMWhy is this the case?  Well, for starters, applying for jobs (for anyone) typically sucks.  It often involves trying to fit a square peg into a defined circular hole, where one trolls the job boards and company websites looking not for a specific and well-defined opportunity, but rather attempting to find “something I might like.”  And unfortunately, the perfect match rarely presents itself.  And yet, we get close enough and decide to apply. “Well, I could do that,” is typically the launching point for many a job application.  But it’s a decision point that typically leads to the frustration mentioned above.

But the bigger issue is not really the likely lack of specific focus for veterans.  Like their civilian counterparts, the really problem lies in the “apply to posted positions” practice.  The fact is, throwing your resume out to 50 or 100 jobs posted on job boards is rarely the best way to land a job.  Trust me, for every job listed, you are likely throwing yourself pretty much anonymously into the mix with dozens, if not hundreds of others.  More than anything, it’s because when faced with dozens of applications for a single posted position, HR professionals aren’t looking for a good fit, they are looking for the perfect (or nearly perfect) fit.  And they can afford to do that, because they have an overabundance of applicants.  Chances are that of all the applicants, could you do the job?  Probably so, because you have the work ethic, the background, and the motivation that all comes from your military service.  But are you the perfect fit?  Probably not…It’s often a simple numbers game.

1_X6JvfBgEe9VKTQW2y1WA2g (1)So, what can you do to get a better look within organizations?  One of the most overlooked aspects of career transitions (by anyone, but certainly for veterans) is the establishment of yourself as a “thought leader” within a community.  Don’t be a walking resume, your job titles, accomplishments, and years of experience the only thing for organizations and leaders to assess.  Don’t think your military experience, as impressive and relevant as you believe it to be (and it truly may be), speak for itself.  Why?  Because chances are, you won’t get the job.  Military experience is, at best, a bonus to employers, not a primary factor in hiring decisions.

But if you begin to exert yourself as a thoughtful, insights-driven (and producing) leader in your field, you start to stand out above the myriad resumes that land on that HR recruiter’s virtual desk.  You begin to translate your military jargon and experiences into language and application more closely suited for the civilian workplace (or a organization’s culture).

So, take advantage of the tools at your disposal.  Stop viewing LinkedIn as merely an online resume receptacle.  It’s a community, and the sooner you immerse yourself in the community aspects of it (and in a strategic way, i.e., not like your Facebook, Instagram, or other more socially focused sites), the quicker you’ll start to be a real contributor in your chosen (or desired) field.  The sooner recruiters will, when they inevitably pull up your profile, start to recognize that you are more than simply typical, that you bring to the table something more than their usual suspects.

military-and-civilianGet involved in industry discussions.  Join groups (beyond just the veterans groups, which unfortunately, tend to breed a lot of complaining, venting, and frustrations….all valid, but hardly helpful when one is trying to build a new personal brand that will attract civilian employers).  Start interacting with other professionals in your new or desired field(s), interjecting your own thoughts, perspectives, and experiences into the on-going discussions.  Ask thoughtful and thought-provoking questions of others.  Identify some leaders and contributors in your desired industry and geographic region and ask to meet up for coffee or over Skype for a 15-minute conversation.  Inquire about their backgrounds, their paths to their roles, and trends in the industry.  Ask about upcoming jobs they might know about, either with their organization or others.  Don’t wait for the jobs to be posted to find out about them!

If you as a veteran leader, not merely a “job-seeker,” establish yourself as an active member of a community (professionally and personally), you’ll begin to make connections with other thought leaders, with business leaders and hiring managers.  You’ll identify (and learn to apply) the civilian language need to demonstrate your hard-earned experience and its applicability outside of the military.  You’ll become one of those who stand out amidst the sea of applicants when you apply for posted positions.  And most importantly, you’ll be identified as a leading candidate before jobs get posted.  Combine that with the work ethic, team strengths, and agility that you developed serving your country, and then you’ll truly have a leg up on the competition.

So, stop acting like the masses of job applicants out there.  You’ve made a military career out of doing what others would not, going the extra mile, and excelling in your field.  But don’t rest on your laurels, choosing instead to apply these same attributes to making yourself stand out not merely as a veteran, but more importantly as a thought leader who also happens to have the bonus of being a veteran.  Improvise, adapt, and overcome.  That’s the name of the game, right?


Dr. Trevor Nagle is an Executive Coach & Consultant with Stewart Leadership.  A 14-year veteran of both the U. S. Army and Navy, he writes and researches veterans issues, and regularly speaks about veterans’ transitions and workplace effectiveness. Visit to learn more and follow him on LinkedIn and twitter @IOPsychDoc.

Is Your Organization “Veteran-Friendly?”

I know the culture. I’ve worn the boots, the body armor, the Kevlar helmet. I’ve humped the “pig,” the 26-lb M-60 machine gun, as a light infantry scout. I’ve deployed overseas in wartime, and served domestically in peace. I’ve flown at the tip of spear, where the slightest miscalculation would put the reconnaissance plane over the Korean DMZ. I’ve monitored Russian and Korean radio traffic and been on the targeted side of enemy SAM sites. I’ve served on the enlisted side, and I’ve been an officer. And I’ve spent time in both the Army and Navy, served shoulder to shoulder with Marines and lived on Air Force and Coast Guard bases. I’ve transitioned from boots to briefcase, making the challenging move from the military world to its civilian counterpart not once, but twice. So, I write this with what I believe to be a bit of hard-earned credibility…

I appreciate wholeheartedly the myriad veterans assistant organizations that have sprung up throughout the United States over the past fifteen years or so, joining even longer established organizations that have done similar work for decades. But too often, I’ve seen advice given and perceptions promulgated that, I believe, do more of a disservice to our veteran population than assist them. Advice such as, “Be authentic to your military background, no matter what the organization wants…You know best and it’s time we proved it to companies the value we bring,” “Don’t settle for less than what you’ve earned through your military service,” and “As a veteran, every organization should hire you.” Statements such as these, while well-intentioned, do little to move forward the experiences or transitions of our veterans, as does the notion that all veterans are valuable hires to every organization. I hate to say it, but it’s just not so.

Johnson_Iraq_2009edit-1-1030x824Aspects of military culture and experience are invaluable for nearly everyone who has experienced it. And certainly it is a boon for the society in which we live; to have a proportion of our population with personal exposure to and experience in the military is critical for shaping the direction of our country’s leadership (and it’s fantastic to see the numbers of Congressional leaders with military experience has ticked up slightly in the past decade).

That said, I work with and have heard increasing lamentations from transitioning veterans over the challenges they face getting jobs they deem worthy of their experience. And that’s a real problem…but far fewer want to hear the reality of the situation. First of all, we are not entitled to a good paying job or career right out of the gates without tangible, transferable skills. Does that mean we can’t get one? Absolutely not. We’re just not entitled to it, i.e., it’s not automatic or a reward for our years in uniform. Second, we’re not going to get hired into an industry or career field simply because we are excellent team members or experienced leaders. And third, finding a good second career takes both time and extensive effort. Adapt, improvise, and overcome, right?

But while I will address more specifics for veterans themselves in separate posts, I want to address the organizations out there. I know there are many who claim to have “veteran-friendly” workplaces. There are recruitment and tax incentives to categorizing yourself as such, and that’s great. But what does it truly mean to the veterans themselves when you say you’re “veteran-friendly,” and what can you do to improve your organization to leverage the skills and experiences of the veteran population?

Let me start off by reiterating an earlier point. All veterans are not created equal, and the veteran community is doing a disservice to itself when it paints veterans with broad brush strokes. There are top-notch veterans, average veterans, mediocre veterans, and there are honorably discharged veterans I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole from an employment standpoint. Now, I know what you’re thinking…sounds a lot like every other group of job candidates. And you’re right. So, don’t simply set your sights on hiring veterans out of a sense of patriotism, loyalty, reward, or even just for the tax benefits. Because chances are, if those are your motivations or criteria for hiring a veteran, they won’t end up with your organization for long. Either they will leave, or you’ll figure out they are a poor fit and ask (or tell) them to leave. In the end, either circumstance is counterproductive.

So, what are some keys to recruiting and retaining good quality veterans?

Understand the military culture and military jobs

849065944Too often veterans do not fully comprehend that taking their experience from their uniformed days into the civilian world simply doesn’t translate well, and by “well,” I mean “easily.” Oh, I can tell you with great pride that as a Cryptologic Technician Interpretive (CTI) I supported national and fleet consumers in the collection, analysis, and exploiting of Top Secret COMINT in support of airborne, shipborne, and land-based strategic and tactical consumers. Sounds impressive and quite honestly, more than a little cool (and it was!). But unless I’m applying for a job at the National Security Agency (or another such federal agency), a lot of that description means little.

Oh sure, it’s on the veteran to provide a translation that makes sense to the specific job for which they are applying, e.g., “As a Russian linguist and member of a consolidated team of communications specialists, I provided time-sensitive data, as well as economic and cultural expertise that allowed organizational decision makers to best adapt plans to a dynamic, high-paced environment.” Now, that definition may still sound impressive, but it’s in a language that is understandable in the civilian workplace. And while some veterans may realize the need for this “translation,” some of the best may not, and trust me, you don’t want to miss out on some of this talent!

Ensuring as a recruiting unit that you understand the basics around the military culture, job fields, etc., can allow your organization to leverage the talent that other organizations may not recognize. After all, that’s the name of the game in a competitive candidate market, right?

Emphasize the “equal but more” principle in recruiting veterans

images (1)Often, I hear veterans complain that despite organizations claiming to be “veteran-friendly,” they were not offered a job there. This sentiment points to a real misunderstanding of what “veteran-friendly” hiring practices mean, and ultimately, I would argue, the accountability for that messaging falls to organizations. Having talked with many an HR leader about their veteran hiring philosophies, practices, and policies, it’s clear to me that virtually nowhere do these initiatives mean that candidates without the requisite skill set will be hired simply because they are military veterans. Yet, in the minds of many veterans, this isn’t so clear.

Organizations should publicly discuss and acknowledge what veteran hiring practices/initiatives mean and what they do not mean. And my suggestion will never be to resort to a preferential system that results in new hires that were not the best candidates or at least that didn’t meet the threshold of the required skill sets for the position. But being clear that a “veteran-friendly” hiring practice may (if this is the case) place qualified veterans into a preferential status (just like we do for other minority groups in hiring for diversity) would go a long way in building clarity for veterans about what they can expect or not.

Focus on cultural fit in the last phases of selection

SplitIn the last point, I focused on skill set and expertise as the thresholds for determining suitability of hire. Here, though, I’d like to mention cultural fit. To be honest, understanding, and yes, adapting to, the cultural differences of military service and the civilian work world can be a real challenge for veterans. While this isn’t the article to be talking about all the rather stark cultural differences between the two worlds, veterans often perceive mixed messages relating to civilian work places to which they’ve applied or are considering applying. Again, part of the responsibility for misunderstandings in this regard lies with the veterans, but organizations need to be explicitly clear on what their culture is, what their expectations for new hires (veteran or others) is for assimilating into the culture, what their culture is not, and why it’s important for all candidates to have a clear picture of their culture. Now, in the highly competitive recruiting world with its marketing influences, there’s often the tendency to up-sell the positive attributes of one’s organizational culture without providing a true sense of the types of individuals who both thrive within it and who may struggle there. Let’s face it, a highly hierarchical, top-down, bureaucratic organization may not be a good fit for individualistic, entrepreneurial types. Or a start-up tech company may not be a great cultural fit for someone craving stability, clear lines of authority, or more traditional management preferences.

Within the military, one can find cultural “types” as diverse as within the civilian work world. There are highly engaged bureaucrats for whom a very traditional, conservative and highly structured civilian organization would be a great fit. There are top-notch analysts who do their best work in cubicles and on individual projects. There are also highly adaptable team players who thrive on autonomy and empowered decision-making. In short, every subset of cultural preference one finds in the civilian world can be found in the military, so when recruiting or interviewing veterans, getting a clear sense of precisely the type of individual a candidate is, what his or her cultural preferences may be, learning how adaptable they might be to a different cultural perspective, and most importantly, being explicitly honest about the culture that exists in your organization is critical to ensuring cultural fit with new veteran hires.
And where fit may not exist, be explicit about where that misalignment occurs. Rather than simply let a candidate know that they were not “a good cultural fit” for your organization, be willing to talk in more specifics, using the candidate’s own expressed preferences highlight the misalignment.

Onboard, onboard, onboard!!!

images (2)I can’t emphasize enough the importance of solid and proactive onboarding…and the extent to which many organization fail to build this into all their new hire assimilation efforts. But nowhere is this more critical, I would suggest, than with veteran hires. In a multi-year study, my own research into veterans integration and re-integration efforts has shown that some of the most challenging aspects of joining (or rejoining, in the case of deployed Reservists) include: a) a lost sense of purpose, b) a missing sense of community, and c) a lack of career guidance.  And equally importantly, know that onboarding is not just for new employees, but also for returning reservists and National Guard personnel following combat deployments!

(I’ll take a look at each of these in subsequent posts.)

Evaluate early for potential

imagesWhereas I started out by saying that generalizations that all veterans are highly motivated, highly skilled, highly competent leaders and team players are dangerous, organizations should understand that many military veterans are indeed all of these things. They’ve demonstrated an ability to get the job done, to do what it takes, to innovate, lead, and self-direct. And as a part of the long-term onboarding, organizations would be well served to put into place short-term evaluations of potential for new veteran hires (one could argue this should really be done for everyone, but we know this is not the case in most organizations). Communicate your plans for the growth and promotion of veteran hires, and be explicit. This doesn’t mean promising them unrealistic opportunities, but it does mean articulate where, when, and how you see their potential within your organization expanding. And don’t just tell them your ideas. Listen, too, to their own thoughts, desires, goals, and vision. See where they match…where they do, run with it. Where the two diverge, talk about it. Taking a personal approach to their development will go far in building organizational loyalty in veterans long used to placing their organizational needs above their own.


Knowing how to go about finding, attracting, recruiting, and ultimately retaining key personnel is always the key to a successful and sustainable organization.  Within the ranks of our hundreds of thousands of military veterans, there lies tremendous potential, but only if organizations like yours recognize and cultivate this talent.  Those who know how to do this will have a significant leg up on the competition, but those who believe themselves to be “veteran-friendly” without having well developed and implemented policies like these in place may be simply wasting talent right in front of their noses.  So, take the time to really examine what programs, policies, and practices you have in place in your organization that aim to leverage and maximize the veteran talents in your midst.  By all means, if you need help figuring these out, reach out to me or the many others out there actively looking to not only help out our military veterans, who are so deserving of our efforts, but also the organizations of each of our communities.  Veteran talent is the talent that can lead companies into the future…if we only give them a chance.


Dr. Trevor Nagle is an executive coach and consultant with Stewart Leadership, an international leadership, teaming, talent development, and change management consulting, coaching, and training company, which has been building leaders for over 35 years.

Visit to learn more and follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter @IOPsychDoc

2018 – Your Year of Adventure!

15000818_10154543724721421_6088189116310851973_oAs many of you know, I love adventure. Whether donning a wingsuit and soaring over the Utah canyons, scuba diving in search of sharks, eels, and shipwrecks, taking a month to solo backpack across multiple national parks, or whitewater canoeing the lakes and wild rivers of Northern Saskatchewan, I’m down for it!

It’s not about the adrenalin (although sometimes that’s there). It’s not about the danger (although I won’t try convincing you that everything I try is 100% safe). No, it’s simply about trying new things and experiencing new sensations. It’s about testing myself, pushing myself, challenging myself.

What many may not know about me is my tremendous fear of heights, my irrational and nearly paralyzing fear of sharks, and my discomfort at being totally reliant on just myself. It’s true, my bucket list has been filled and checked off and filled again with facing phobias, pushing myself, testing my limits (physically, emotionally, and mentally). And in many cases, I’ve found my limits, and I’m not even going to try and convince you that my limits are beyond your own. I’m sure some are…and some are not. It doesn’t matter. They’re my limits.

14370231_10154383326756421_7200316442218959764_nAs we have moved into the New Year, several of my colleagues confided in my that instead of resolutions, they were focusing their year around one term, one concept that would drive their actions, decisions, and reactions. And so, in 2018, my word is “Adventure.” But it’s not what you’re probably thinking…So, let me explain.

When I mention adventure, to many images of epic voyages come to mind. “You mean climbing Mount Everest sorts of things?” Could be…but it’s broader than that. For others, the term evokes thoughts of extreme thrill-seeking. Again, it could be…but it’s quite a bit more expansive than that. And still others view this as the unfocused realm of 20-somethings, with endless energy, reckless abandon, and a not yet fully developed sense of personal responsibility. I can assure you that is not what I mean by it.

But defining it isn’t always so easy. You see, what’s adventurous to some may be routine to others. Where as some might find a summit of Himalayan peaks to be the ultimate adventure, for others, their personalities might prefer a nice hike, cooking a new recipe, or even just journaling to be far more adventure than they’re used to undertaking, at least not at this stage in their life.

19621277_10155290501406421_5929012580143129259_oSo, when I use the term “adventure,” I’m really simply talking about learning to be a better, stronger, more effective person (a leader) by identifying one’s own boundaries, one’s own comfort zone, and then taking deliberate steps to push those boundaries a bit further than you’ve previously done. Because when we challenge ourselves, whether it’s physically, mentally, emotionally, or intellectually, that’s where growth happens. Combine that with personal and deliberate practiced reflection, and real development as a leader is not only possible, but it’s unavoidable.

So, my challenge to you over the next several weeks is to look inward, explore those nooks and corners of your life where you’ve nestled in comfortably with your previously established boundaries and limitations. And begin formulating a plan to expand your horizon, to push those boundaries even just a tad beyond where they are today. There’s another word for what I’m asking you to do…I’m asking you to consciously and deliberately grow in the next year. Conceptualize what that will mean for you in 2018,  how you’ll get there, and who you’ll enlist to help you and keep you accountable for continuing on when first the unexpected happens, but also when the expected happens. And figure out how you’ll measure that growth, as that’s just as important in evaluating just how far you’ve come.

21743793_10155516997981421_2461189876473360540_oIf you’re not a reader (or no longer a reader), perhaps your adventure for the year will be engaging in a commitment to read one book a month (Cosmopolitan and Sport Illustrated don’t count). If you’re a tv-dinner kind of diner, perhaps taking an evening cooking class or just picking up a new cookbook and resolving to try every recipe by the end of the year. Perhaps your adventure is simply to do more reflective contemplation than you’ve done in the past, or trying yoga for the first time. And maybe, just maybe, 2018 will be the year you’ll join me in the sky for your first skydive, or under the sea for your first foray into scuba. Perhaps it’s tagging along on an overnight camping trip along the Pacific coastline, sleeping under the stars for the very first time…I’m happy to show you that kind of adventure, as well!

The point is, adventure to me and adventure to you can be very different things. But let this calendar year be one in which your own sense of adventure, your own desire to grow as an individual, a partner, a team member, and a leader, allows you to face your limitations and expand your boundaries. For if you do, I can promise you that you’ll look back on this year as a great one…And what an adventure it will be!


Trevor Nagle is an executive coach and consultant with Stewart Leadership, an international leadership, teaming, talent development, and change management consulting, coaching, and training company, which has been building leaders for over 35 years.

Visit to learn more and follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter @IOPsychDoc


Bring on the New Year!!


It’s that time of the year again.  Christmas is behind us, with only a day left before the raucous New Year’s celebration (at my house, that typically means a glass of bubbly at 10:00 p.m. and then reading for an hour or so until I fall asleep long before any ball drops on Time Square…but I digress).  My oldest daughter already headed back to the frozen north, a solid week of adventures with her filling our memories (skydiving, wine-tasting, hiking, movies, etc).  I’m ready….Let’s get on with this thing called the New Year!

As usual, I try to spend some time each year at this time to reflect on the past trip around the sun, its ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments.  I think of those goals I achieved and which may become fuel for next year’s adventures.  And I think of all those who made my year such a memorable one.  For quite honestly, it’s their contributions that make each year what it was.

helpFor me, 2017 was another year of transition.  We felt pretty settled into our new life on the West Coast, which was itself a fantastic new start for JoDee and me.  And it gave me the opportunity to think about what the next chapter of my professional life would hold.  Nearly 6 years of full-time academic focus, teaching and running a graduate program, had been incredibly fulfilling and unexpectedly enriching, but my heart itched to return to the practice of I/O psychology.  And so, as the school year progressed, I began evaluating the path I’d take.  When I met the incredible team at Stewart Leadership, the choice was obvious.  The talent there, the approach they take to executive coaching and consulting, as well as their vibrant, positive, and authentic personalities, made the choice to join their team an easy one.  And I couldn’t be happier, particularly as I look forward to 2018 and beyond.  So, thank you to the entire team at Stewart Leadership, in particular Daniel, Peter, John, Taura, and Heather.  You all are amazing, and I’m thrilled to be along for this collaborative adventure!

My teaching also stands out as a highlight for me professionally in 2017.  The bright, eager, and dedicated students at Edgewood College and Walden University continued to challenge and stimulate me intellectually.  And my colleagues with some of the most talented and collaborative educators I have ever met (anywhere) cannot go unmentioned.  All of you (students and teachers) inspired me to be a better, more engaged, and more positively critical (in a good way) educator, coach, mentor, and leader.  You influenced my teaching, my research, and my development as a formal leader.  And I could not be more proud of the work we did and the possibilities for our future together.  Specifically, the impacts of Annette Mondry, Daniel Schroeder, Lori Lacivita, and numerous others made 2017’s academic impact incredible!

exploringLast but not least on the professional front, my time serving in the United States Navy came to a close in 2017.  In total, my thirteen years of military service were both incredibly valuable to me personally and were experiences of constant learning and development.  As a young infantry scout, I learned incredible leadership lessons from the best leaders I’ve ever had, but I also learned about teamwork, perseverance in the face of adversity, endurance, and the value of dedicated followership.  When I transitioned to the Navy in the mid-90s, my years as a Russian linguist were marked by a discovery of the joys of continuous learning, camaraderie (particularly with the aircrews with whom I flew over Korea and off the Russian Far East), cultural awareness (living abroad in Japan and Russia was invaluable in that regard), and the balancing of work-life demands (particularly as a new parent).  And finally, as a Human Resources Officer in the Reserves, I was inspired by the top-notch talents and willingness to sacrifice for the greater good that my fellow Navy officers demonstrated at every turn.  I learned a ton about the Navy’s Expeditionary community, an aspect of the military that I’d never really known before, but that is incredible in its capabilities, mission, and talent.

In the end, however, the transitions in my professional and personal lives in 2017 led me to the realization that I was bordering on stretching myself too thin and needing to simplify.  So, this fall, I made the difficult decision to close the military door for good.  I’m thrilled with the decision, and forever grateful to all those who made my years of service so invaluable.  Most recently, this included Commanders Holtan, Rommel, and Hall, as well as the incredible Senior Chief Fanning, who took this Junior Officer under his leadership wing with his constant patience, dedication, and mentoring.

So, there was a lot in my professional life that stand out in 2017, but that’s just half the picture, and in the spirit of work-life balance, I must draw attention to several defining aspects of my personal life as well…


What a wonderful, surreal, and yet challenging year 2017 has been!  My dad’s diagnosis with brain cancer certainly stands up as the most difficult and heart-wrenching aspect of the year, but it’s had its rewards, too.  Following along with his battle has reinforced for me the true fragility of life, the importance of family, and the courage it takes simply to face life sometimes (and how much we often take that for granted for years or decades).  Our always close family has grown closer as a result of the events of this past year.  We’ve spent more time together, and we share far more about our lives and emotions than ever previously.  We’ve battles yet to fight, to be sure, but despite the ups and downs on this front in 2017, we’re as strong as ever.

My role as an empty-nester father of two incredible daughters has also evolved over the past year.  I can’t begin to describe how challenging, yet fantastic, it is to have two daughters charting their own very different paths in the adult world.  Whereas many of my similarly empty-nest friends have expressed struggles adjusting to this new parental phase, I can say unequivocally that I love having adult kids as we develop more of a friendship dynamic than ever before.  It’s exciting, and I can’t wait to see where 2018 will take both of my girls!

22218467_10155562570956421_6120698062733740959_oMy own continued pursuit of personal adventures remained a fire in need of stoking this year.  The skydiving highlights included nearly 100 total jumps (sigh…down from 2015 & 2016, but fun nonetheless), including10 wingsuit flights (another first!) and fantastic opportunities to dive into the canyons and red rocks of Moab, Utah.  In August, I took advantage of a Navy trip to Guam to add scuba open water certification to my adventure repertoire, and that led to more incredible dives late in the year in the blue waters off Maui!  In addition, JoDee and I continued seeking out many great hikes in the hills, valleys, and along the coastline of gorgeous Sonoma County.  So, adventure…..Check! (And many more to come in 2018!)

Yet, not all was rosy in 2017, with the tragedies of the October firestorms here in Sonoma and Napa Counties ensuring that we all kept things in perspective.  So many friends lost much in the fires that occupied our every moment for nearly two weeks, but we’ve watched our communities bind together in inspirational ways that only reinforce our love for this area.  From disaster sprung resounding love and dedication between all people, and in this day and age (particularly in this country), that’s seemingly in short supply.  So, again, we’re grateful!

And I cannot forget to mention the new adventure that was borne out of 2017 for JoDee and me, as we became engaged and began planning our June 2018 wedding.  I couldn’t be more excited for our future together and all that it brings.  A true partner, our complementary interests (even those that are very different seem to complement each other) enriching both our individual and joint journey into the future!  Stay tuned on that front, as well!


So, as I turn toward the New Year, it is with a healthy blend of hope, fear, excitement, and apprehension for all that is to come.  I look forward to sharing my adventures, my passion, and my expertise with many of you.  I am equally eager to learn from all of you who continue to strengthen my resolve, capacity, and competence in all that I do.  I am excited for a year full of coaching, writing, teaching, consulting, parenting, and socializing (not always in that order).  If you and I haven’t connected in some time, know that I’ll be reaching out to reconnect in a meaningful way.  And please reach out to me, as well!  Let’s share some adventures….get stronger as individuals, as partners, as leaders in our organizations, communities, and society.  Goodness knows we need that in this trying time in our nation’s history!

Bring on 2018!  Let’s make this collectively a year we can all look back upon with a great sense of triumph, growth, and opportunity.  My pledge to you is to help make your year precisely that…so, let me know where I can best be of service to you.  Adventurers in spirit and in reality…Let’s do this!


Trevor Nagle is an executive coach and consultant for Stewart Leadership, an international leadership, teaming, talent, and change management consulting, coaching, and training company, which has been building leaders for over 35 years.

Visit to learn more and follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter @IOPsychDoc


When Value Production Isn’t Enough: A Lesson in Talent Retention

About a decade ago, I was working as an internal consultant at a leading Fortune 500 company, providing expert OD guidance and counsel to division-level leaders. It was a role of diverse responsibilities and constantly evolving focus. And I truly found all my activities interesting, relevant, and engaging. Then one day, as often happens in large organizations, a restructure was announced to align the organization more fully around sales support. From an OD perspective, it was a wise, strategic decision I fully supported.

Yet overnight, my job transitioned from providing OD guidance to building sales effectiveness tools, e.g., sales dashboards, activity tracking software portals, and reporting tools. All these tools were desperately needed, and warmly welcomed by our dispersed sales force. I was adding tremendous value day in and day out, and not a day that passed in which I wasn’t profusely thanked for the work I was doing by someone in the sales organization. It really felt great!

And yet, despite the praise, I was struggling. Every day was a challenge to come to work enthused. In fact, I dreaded showing up. The days dragged. And in the end, I simply walked away. Oh, I knew I was adding value to the organization. But simply adding value wasn’t enough, and for most workers, it’s never going to be. You see, adding value often does not translate to a personal sense of purpose for many people.

This is sometimes a tough concept for leaders to fully grasp. Often in my coaching, I hear frustrations from leaders who equate purpose with value-add. They assume if something important is being done, followers will be engaged, enthusiastic, and possess a strong sense of purpose. When this does not happen, leaders sometimes fall back on a mitigation strategy of re-emphasizing the importance of the work being accomplished, only to be further perplexed and frustrated when their leadership efforts continue to yield marginal results.

So, what’s missing in this oft-believed engagement equation?  

Quite simply, it’s the leader’s missing attention to the individual interests and passions of their followers. What appeals to one employee as both important and engaging may to others simply be important. What engages you individually may be completely different than what inspires me. For example, where data analysis and reporting totally get my professional juices flowing, and likely something that most would agree is important for any business effort, others may find this type of work dull, uninspiring, and dare I say, even boring! Similarly, some may find great passion around meticulously building intricate, comprehensive PowerPoint presentations, which can certainly be an important communication medium. I, however, can’t stand such work and it entirely discourages, disengages, and disheartens me. That’s just who I am.

None of this is to imply that individuals should only work on those things that excite and engage them. Unfortunately, that’s unrealistic. Some days, in preparing for a presentation or public speaking engagement, I have to spend considerable time and effort perfecting PowerPoint slides, much as I dislike that chore. There are days as a leader when one must focus on discipline and negative consequences, even if the preference is to praise and encourage (and yes, some discipline can and should include encouragement!).

But where individuals are spending a majority of their time on tasks and activities ill-suited for their personalities or preferences, that is where disengagement occurs. That’s when one should expect productivity to lag and retention risks to heighten. But at such times, there are steps every leader should take.

#1 Learn about your followers’ personal preferences

This is sometimes a challenge in and of itself, as many followers are hesitant to tell their leader what they truly want or like and what they really don’t like to do. So, leaders must create a safe zone for holding these critical discussions. Leaders must endeavor to ensure the bulk of an individual’s time is spent on tasks that the individuals themselves view as purposeful.

#2 Attempt to shuffle tasks and assignments to match preferences

Where possible, a strong leader should attempt to align work around the likes and preferences of followers, realizing at times that operating in one’s “discomfort” zone is exactly what a person needs to build confidence in a new area or skill. But after some time, if increased competence and self-efficacy have not translated into a sense of passion and purpose, it may simply be that it’s not going to happen.

#3 Evaluate the fit

So, perhaps then it’s a last opportunity to further shuffle the deck chairs, attempting to realign tasks among team members. Or it may be it’s simply time to look at bringing in other for whom the given tasks or focus do seem more purposeful. Often this includes managing existing personnel skillfully into positions of better fit, or even helping them transition out of the organization.

In closing, just because an individual never becomes energized or fully engaged by a task (or set of tasks) does not mean that person is a bad employee. They are more than likely just a poor fit for the assigned work. Too often as leaders, we feel bound by the personnel we have. There are times when we indeed should work diligently to inspire and align our folks for maximum effectiveness. And there are times when maximizing productivity means parting ways (from the team or the organization) with bright, talented employees and bringing in others better suited for our vision and direction. Doing so is a long-term leadership perspective that understands that the importance of purpose lies in fit and individual preferences. Because in the end, it’s the strong leader that understands….value does not always equal purpose.

Dr. Trevor Nagle is an Executive Coach & Consultant with Stewart Leadership. He is also frequently asked to speak on a number of different topics around I/O Psychology, Leadership Development, Talent Development, and Organizational Change. Visit to learn more and follow him on LinkedIn and twitter @IOPsychDoc.