Spotlight on Certified Masters: Discovering Their Passion for The Leadership Challenge October 2019

Spotlight on Certified Masters: Discovering Their Passion for
The Leadership Challenge®

Ask an Expert

Deb Calvert, a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge®, is president of People First Productivity Solutions with expertise in constructing leadership development programs, conducting team effectiveness workshops, and boosting organizational performance through executive coaching. Deb's background as a Director with a Fortune 500 company along with her diverse experience in sales, human resources and operations uniquely equips her to work across a variety of industries and functions. Her field research spans 25 years, 20 nations, and thousands of buyers and sellers. While others work on sales enablement, Deb concentrates on buyer and seller ennoblement. She is author of DISCOVER Questions® Get You Connected and co-author (with Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner) of Stop Selling & Start Leading named the #3 Tops Sales Book of 2018.

The following excerpt is part of Certified Master Graham Moore’s interview project with Certified Masters of The Leadership Challenge®, 2015 – 2017. To read the full text of Deb Calvert’s interview, click here

Deb, when did you first discover your passion for leadership development and launch your journey with The Leadership Challenge®?

Deb: It was a really interesting start, very happenstance. I worked in a sales training role—sales and management training at a newspaper, The Kansas City Star. One day the publisher came to me and said, “We need some leadership development training around here.” Frankly, I didn’t know what that was. This was a lot of years ago so I looked up on this bookshelf. I had a huge office I inherited with all these books on the shelves and there was one—and only one—book about leadership: The Leadership Challenge. It was the first edition.

I read the book and developed my own little leadership development program out of it. (I’m sure that violates a lot of ethics; I know better today.) We conducted that program at The Kansas City Star and later I went into a corporate role with the parent company, Knight Ridder. They’re no longer in business but at that time they were the second largest media company in the US. And across 31 markets I had an opportunity to again introduce some leadership development concepts using The Leadership Challenge®. But now, I was surrounded by people and I knew we needed a deeper understanding of leadership training. So, we began looking at The Leadership Challenge, went to some forums. We got to attend small programs at Santa Clara University and heard Jim speak. We got the budget to fund everything, to bring in facilitators and launch The Leadership Challenge® Workshop. But then the company announced it was going on the auction block, so I didn’t get to actually implement the full program there. However, I then went into business for myself and my very first client—Driscoll’s, the international berry company—was interested in leadership development. We continued for eight or nine years to deliver The Leadership Challenge Workshop with one after another leadership development cohort that was coming through. And as I saw other trainers like Dan Schwab conducting the program, I knew I had to become someone who could conduct a program that way, and that’s how I became involved.

Graham: So, what was it about The Leadership Challenge that you really thought, “Yes, I’ve got to take this on.”

Deb: Well, at first it was just how common sense it was. Even when I read the book, I could recognize that this was easy. It made sense; it was common sense but not in a common way. And the idea of behaviors really appealed to me because behaviors, being a choice, makes that accessible to everyone. But later, in this program we did at Driscoll’s, I watched people understand themselves as leaders and take the LPI® and challenge themselves to choose differently, and seize opportunities to take up leadership for themselves. I saw transformations. I saw people within the course of a year in this program become different people, and that was powerful. How do you not want more of that?


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