In 1984, I held a part-time job in graduate school teaching public speaking to undergrads. On my first day of class, I turned to that first group of students and told them that, with all due respect to their Business, Science, and Math professors, my class on Communication skills was THE MOST important learning they would undertake in their college career. It would, I claimed enthusiastically, more deeply affect their work, their relationships and the world around them than any other topic of study.
The nearly thirty years of teaching and coaching that have followed from that experience have only convinced me more of the prime importance of communication in our lives. To this day, all my professional work has been grounded in the core belief that becoming genuinely better at communicating is better for your life. I’ve seen first hand how conversations foster or damage the relationships, ideas and commitments that people bring to the organizations and causes they belong.
From that unique vantage point, I’ve developed a way of working with clients and audiences that reflects the same urgency that guided me to the front of that classroom. Now the sense of importance is accompanied by a set of insights, honed from thousands of teachable moments, about what works and what doesn’t when we communicate not only with others but with ourselves.
I revere the capability that humans have to create emotion and meaning through their spoken words. I’ve seen the best and the worst and much in between. And I strive every day to help others learn from what I see. —DK
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is it you do?
A: Clients have called me their coach, their work shrink, their (pick your favorite clergy-type), or their teacher. What do we work on? The fundamental issue that keeps coming up is how do you go about being the best communicator you can be, especially under the pressure of working with others to get something important done. I’m a trusted filter for your ideas, for your fear, and for connecting the way you speak and converse to results that matter.
Q: Why are you solo?
A: Helping clients build the most productive communication strategy, I believe, is intimate work. We need to freely be able to deal with the hard realities of perceptions and impressions that others have of you and your credibility. Approaching those conversations with a practical optimism takes trust and respect. I bring that to every conversation we have. I invite you to do the same.
There is a practical limitation and affect that “solo” has on my business. As a friend reminded me, the service I deliver has its highest value “en vivo.” That means a focused client list and a healthy fee structure. It, ultimately, is the simplest model of creating the best learning.
Q: How long does it take? How much does it cost?
A: The most often asked question. (Actually it’s two, huh?) Candidly, though understandable, it’s often asked at the most unproductive time. Unproductive because the question(s) come before you’ve clarified what it is you’re setting out to accomplish and what you’re willing to invest to succeed.
Is it worth investing a four to five figure fee in learning that takes, on average, multiple months and years if you aren’t clear and committed to remarkable outcomes? Not likely.
Q: Can people really change?
A: My short answer is yes. Do clients make life-altering changes? I see it more than often. Although, the rarified air of change is change that is sustained. That’s where efforts to communicate better, outlive the presence of the coach. That’s much harder. That’s change that builds faith and trust in oneself and in others. And that is where our work aspires to go.
Q: Are you up for sustainable change? Or, as classically posed to me: Can you teach an old dog new tricks?
A: Yep. If the dog wants to learn.
Q: What is the difference between those who sustain the change and those who too quickly fall back to old ways?
A: More than once, I have said those who say they don’t need to get better or can’t change are those who would benefit most. But they are, at their heart, too scared to do the hard work. They will never invest.
The others who find some short-term value in the work and revert to old ways likely did it for a reason that’s not sustainable like “my boss told me to change” and they were looking for an easy fix. That is the work not worth doing.
The most successful clients believe that growing is admitting not only that they don’t know something, but think deeply enough to ask genuine questions and embrace new approaches to old problems. They also know that, when you wipe it all away, Shakespeare got it right over 400 years ago when he wrote:"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves”
That’s a demanding thing to admit, let alone undertake sustained work to address. But those who do, ultimately help make the biggest difference in the places and relationships they care about.
Q: What’s your favorite movie?
A: Virtual tie: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and The Godfather Part II.