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.