Tony Mayo’s Blog: Tools, Techniques, & Thoughts



I use this blog to collect and make available some of my articles, insights, and guidance for the top executives I coach. My clients can easily find my best advice on goal setting, running meetings, stress reduction, and other topics important to anyone running a business. You can even learn how–and why–to meditate. I have videos, instructions, posters, and research results on this blog and a podcast on iTunes.

You are welcome to use all this in your work and to pass any of my posts along to your colleagues. I only ask that you preserve the attribution to me and not alter the content.

To contact me by telephone or email, click here for the “About Tony Mayo” page. A video that answers the most common questions asked by prospective clients is also available here..



You can read what some of my clients have said
about my coaching by clicking here for “
Client Comments.”



Click here to receive my free newsletter for business leaders.



Click here to send me a message.


Please support this blog.
Do all your Amazon shopping by
starting with this link
to Tony’s new book.

Search from here to find whatever
you want on



PODCAST: Growing Beyond Control into Confidence


Click here for Tony Mayo's podcastThis short podcast describes an important step in the growth of business owners and other leaders, moving beyond the urge to control and micro-manage every action toward acting with confidence in your team and your own ability to respond to every eventuality.



Hello. I’m Tony Mayo, the Business Owner’s Executive Coach with one quick idea you can use in your business …today.

Here’s the gist of today’s leadership coaching. Control …is an illusion. End your quest for certainty and proceed …with confidence.

The business owners I work with tend to have very clear ideas about the results they want to produce, and about the methods used to produce those outcomes. Unfortunately, this clarity and strong intention can misguide them into attempting to control every step of the project. Unfortunately, such detailed control is mostly impossible. Managers who try to control their people are kidding themselves —and their employees know it. We call them micro-managers, which has a double meaning. By attempting to manage details at a micro level, these managers shrink their own stature and effectiveness as leaders, becoming micro– versions of real managers. Micro-managers

If you’re doing anything significant involving other people, resources, time, and chance, you cannot control everything. It’s just not humanly possible. Worse, any attempt to do so, discourages the very best people working with you. Because -think about it- the most intelligent, creative, responsible people don’t want to be controlled; they want to contribute. They want to participate. They want to be creative. The very people you most want on your team are the same ones who most want to matter, to affect the process, and influence the outcome. To be left alone to get their jobs done.

You may be thinking, “Okay, Coach. Say I’m willing to give up this illusion of control? What’s the alternative? What do I do, sit back and watch?”

Of course not. I suggest delegating, not abdicating. My recommended alternative to grasping at control is to move forward with _confidence_; the conviction that you can respond effectively to the many unpredictable, uncontrollable events that are part of any worthwhile project.

When you’re clear about your commitments, your skills, and your ability …to respond, you will be _confident_, whatever happens, that you will respond appropriately.

My friend, Lt. General Gene Forrester, illustrated this principle for me with the example of Napoleon. Napoleon only ordered his field marshals to station their troops at a particular place, at a specific time, prepared to attempt a certain result. How they got there and the tactics they used were up to the field commanders and their officers.

My friend went on to tell of his experience commanding the American occupation of the Dominican Republic in 1965. Because of the violence and chaos on the ground, he had planned an aerial assault, dropping men and heavy equipment by parachute just outside the capital.

While in the air, my friend was contacted by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff with new orders. Because an airdrop might look too violent and aggressive, an agreement had been negotiated with a faction of the Dominican Army. They agreed to allow the US troops to land and deploy from a military air field.

That makes sense, the general agreed, but it is impossible. We are airborne with enough tanks and trucks for 22,000 troops securely attached to parachutes and pallets, positioned over bomb bay doors, ready to drop. There was physically no way to get them out of a plane once it was on the ground. The equipment had to be parachuted.

I hear what you’re saying, said the Chief. And, I received this order personally from the President of the United States. …Figure it out.

The General happened to have on his aircraft the Captain who had written the manual on how to rig, stow, and air drop combat equipment. After a brief consultation, the Captain confirmed that it was physically impossible to roll those vehicles off an airplane on the ground. And, the Captain who wrote the manual also knew that in war not everything got done by the book. There are things even a general or a President can’t control, but there’s nothing an officer with confidence won’t attempt.

This Captain radioed the Master Sergeant who had supervised the rigging and loading and told him what was needed. He said, “Yes, sir.” The Captain asked, “You understand that this has to be done en route, right now, without landing?” The sergeant said, “Yes, sir.”

The Captain asked, “How are you going to do it?”

“I don’t know, sir. I just know that we will.”

A few hours later, those planes landed and the equipment rolled off, followed by tons of smashed, slashed, bent, and burnt packing materials.

That’s confidence. Instead of trying to control every step, the commanders from President Johnson right down to the Master Sergeant proceeded with confidence in their ability to unleash the ingenuity and determination of their teams.

So please, try being less attached to the methods and how things are done, and more clear about the outcome you desire, and the reasons for it. Be confident that you’ll be able to have the conversations, take the actions, provide the resources called for, no matter what happens. You don’t need to control. Be confident.

Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoy this podcast, that you apply it and you share it.

VIDEO: How to Work with Facts —and, Opinions




Hello, I’m Tony Mayo, the Business Owner’s Executive Coach. One client told me that today’s distinction helped him make every business conversation more productive -and shorter. But first this… The doctor says to his patient, “I’m very sorry, “your condition is terminal. “You have less than a year to live.” The patient says, “I want a second opinion!” And the doctor says, “Alright, your tie is ugly, too.” We’ll come back to this. Most of what we say is opinion with the occasional fact mixed in. This is okay, that’s what humans do. The important thing is to know which is which. What philosophers call assertions versus assessments. But assertion and assessment sound too similar to each other so let’s stick with the words “fact” and “opinion” Facts are statements about the world. Statements that can be proven either true or false. For instance, if I were to say this pen was made of 304 stainless steel, you and I can very quickly agree on some method for determining whether or not it really is 304 stainless steel. On the other hand, if I told you this pen was beautiful, well, you’re free to disagree. You may think that it’s too shiny, too squishy, too anything to be beautiful. That’s the nature of opinions. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. Like beauty, all opinions arise from an individual’s personal values, experiences, perceptions. It’s the world filtered through who they are. Opinions are not true or false, they’re either useful or not. They come from some grounded authority or not. For example, if Apple’s top designer, Jony Ive, told me this pen was ugly, well, I’m going to give a lot more weight to that opinion than the opinion of some random teenager about the beauty and aesthetics of this pen. Jony Ive is a world recognized authority on the design of consumer products. He can cite market experience, statistics, facts, sales numbers, to ground his opinion about the aesthetic value of this object much better than most people. So I grant him _authority_ -in the domain of consumer-product design- to give very useful opinions. Now, his opinion about my skills as a coach don’t really interest me because he has no particular authority in that domain. Here’s the gist, the way to use this distinction. Facts tell you about the world, and we can prove whether they’re true or false. Opinions tell you a lot about the person expressing the opinion, and that’s very useful when you’re working with people. It’s also useful when you’re expressing an opinion. So the key to all of this is to know when you’re expressing or hearing a fact. One set of tests in usage. When you’re saying or hearing an opinion it’s a different domain and a different set of information. You see, the patient didn’t want a second _opinion_ The patient wanted a second doctor to verify the _facts_ And _that_ is how you make every business conversation more productive -and shorter. Thanks for watching this video. I hope you enjoyed it, that you apply it, and share it.



VIDEO: Ike’s Leadership Lesson




Hello, I’m Tony Mayo, the business owner’s executive coach. Today’s video is a demonstration based on a leadership principle often shared by General Dwight Eisenhower. Hey, did you know that Michael Crichton, the best-selling author, pointed out that any idea seems more credible and important if you attach the name of a famous person to it? Hmm. But, hey, I’d never use a cheap trick like that. So today’s principle is something I call string theory management, …created by President Eisenhower. Knowing that the goal is up and towards the right, as it usually is, but your organization has people going at all different directions… …many would take the approach of sort of pushing and prodding and trying to adjust every little bend that’s not in the right place. This is called Management By Exception But, you know, you just don’t have enough fingers to get that right. It’s a bit like pressing down on the bubble in the carpet. It just bubbles up somewhere else. Others, concerned about a goal in that direction, decide to just sort of push people in that direction. But, you know, you may get everyone there, but it takes a lot of energy to move everyone and things tend to get pretty tangled up. This is called Management By Objective There is a third approach, the one I endorse and recommend to you. And that is -since the goal is up here- stand here, as the leader, in the future, with a clear vision of the goal, and communicate that goal in such a way that people begin to be attracted to you, that they follow you, that they take appropriate action. As one person follows, others follow them, they follow the others, and soon enough, the whole organization is headed in the right direction toward your goal. This is called Leadership. Thanks for watching this video. I hope you enjoyed it, that you apply it, and share it.



University of Chicago Alumni Career Webinar

Mind Your Career Webinar:
Would I Benefit from Coaching?

From the University of Chicago website:
Kick-start your New Year with executive coach and dual alumnus, Tony Mayo, AB’77 MBA’78.

  • Differences between coaching, consulting, mentoring, managing, therapy, training, and just plain friendship.
  • Basic logistics of what it costs, how much time it takes, how to know if it is working, and how long the results last.
  • Finding, selecting, and getting started with an executive coach.
  • What topics and concerns are best addressed with coaching.
  • Typical components of a coaching conversation.

Click here for links to the companion articles mentioned in the presentation.



The following transcript is included mostly for the search engines. If you want to read along with the video, just turn on the YouTube subtitles.


Coaching is NOT Therapy

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?
Only one but the light bulb must truly want to change.

How many executive coaches does it take to change a light bulb?

Executive coaches know better than to change anyone. Clients don’t need more changes. They want more and better choices.

The distinction between therapy and executive coaching was established early and is important to respect. The International Coach Federation states it clearly, “Coaching is forward moving and future focused. Therapy, on the other hand, deals with healing pain, dysfunction and conflict within an individual or a relationship between two or more individuals.” Therapists discover what’s wrong and fix it. Coaches nurture what’s right and unleash it. Fundamental to my executive coaching is, “The most powerful stance for effective action is: I’m fine and I choose to try something else.” As Carl Rogers emphasized, growth requires a safe environment. If the adviser’s job is to find the client’s flaws and errors, he must adopt an attitude of detachment and superiority. On the other hand, great executive coaches have so much respect and admiration for their clients that I can’t help loving mine.

The differences between fixing people and respecting them, between finding problems and generating possibilities, between change and choice, between labeling and loving, between consulting and coaching make all the difference in the world.



Expanded 2nd Edition of My First Book

The Courage to Be in Community Expanded 2nd Edition


Tony’s short book on building community is now available
with an extra chapter and a guide to additional resources.

The new chapter is a simple, practical guide to building better relationships at work and at home. The focus of the book is the importance of compassion and authenticity, while this new section is all about implementation, with specific advice on how to be compassionate and authentic in your day-to-day life.

This expanded edition also includes links to recommended books and articles for further study and practice.

Click here to “Look Inside” & see a sample on Amazon.

➤ Paperback , hardcover, and Kindle available on Amazon!

➤ Paperback and hard cover available on Barnes and Noble!


iTunes Spoken word version available on Audible

Audio version read by Tony Mayo also available.

 To hear a sample click here for Audible or iTunes.



Amazon #1 best seller

Comments from Listeners


“Powerful, simple message we can all immediately apply to our lives.”

“More of an invitation than a sermon, the message is not religious in nature and the message is universal. Tony leaves us with an opportunity to live richer, more expressive lives.”

“Covers a lot of meaningful ground in a handful of pages – brings together courage, bravery, belonging, acceptance, compassion and more–and backs it up with insights, experience, resources, and references!”

“You did not speak just to fill the time; each sentence added to the whole.”

“Tony, I have it on good authority that your sermon this last Sunday was about the best ever.”

“We were inspired by what you shared and how you shared it. Thank you.”



The Courage to Be in Community, 2nd Edition:

A Call for Compassion, Vulnerability, and Authenticity

by Tony Mayo

The word courage originally meant “to speak and act from the heart,” or cour in Latin. Courage is required to express our deepest and most authentic selves because we so often fear judgment, rejection and exclusion. How do we balance the universal human needs of authenticity and acceptance in our personal lives? How might we foster communities where others have the courage to be truly themselves with us?



Executive Coach Tony Mayo drew on the research of Brené Brown, Joseph Campbell, and others to compose this enthusiastically received non-sectarian sermon.  Originally delivered to the Unitarian Universalist Church in Reston at their Sunday services on January 26, 2014, it has now has been revised and expanded for publication.



Improving Delegation


Delegation: Let’s keep it simple.

  1. Find someone who will accept responsibility for the desired outcome.
  2. Explain that you do not have the time and/or expertise to design the solution.
  3. Ask the person to propose an approach which you have some confidence (not certainty) will succeed with the resources agreed to, e.g., hours, budget, tools, deadline, etc.
  4. Don’t abdicate, delegate: follow-up frequently on progress and impediments to show that you still value the outcome, perhaps using something like my progress report format.

“Give as few orders as possible,” his father Duke Leto had told him… once… long ago. “Once you’ve given orders on a subject, you must always give orders on that subject.”

Dune by Frank Herbert
p. 628 Penguin Publishing Group

Which tasks should you delegate? See this post, 3 Ds of Delegation



A Simple Habit That Can Boost Productivity


Repeat Back
Report Back

Here is a simple habit that can boost productivity in your organization. One client credits this technique for an 18% increase in annual revenue with a reduced headcount. It takes practice but quickly becomes second nature.

I brought this method into the workplace from my flight training. Pilots and air traffic controllers (ATC) must communicate precisely and briefly while also executing specialized tasks. Misunderstandings in aircraft can have horrible consequences, so specific communication techniques are required. Many of the most serious accidents are caused by failure to follow these practices, including the 1977’s Tenerife Airport Disaster, commercial aviation’s deadliest incident.

Talk may be cheap but miscommunication is costly.

Have you ever listened to the (more…)

What Evil Lurks in the Design of Public Companies



Too many jobs are perfectly constructed to elicit inhumane behavior. Read my book to learn how it got this way.

The most fundamental lesson of our study:


Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process.


Even when asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.


—Professor Stanley Milgram, PhD
Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View
Perennial Classics 2009 p. 6.

Professor Milgram was responsible for two psychological studies that became well-known by the general public while having almost no positive influence on government or corporate structures, the “administer a painful shock” compliance experiment and the “Small World” six degrees of separation demonstration.



Business Book Includes Thanks to Authors’ Executive Coach

I am pleased and flattered that my clients, Chris Haddon and Jason Balin, gave specific, detailed credit to me and some of my techniques in their new book, The Whiteboard: Go From Blank Canvas to a Productive, Leveraged and Highly-Profitable Business. Here is just one paragraph.

We sought out our executive coach, Tony, to show us the most strategic, effective way to design our success. A business coach will help you make the right moves at that right times consistently; it’s a precise recipe for getting ahead. Our decision to partner with an executive coach has been a very fruitful investment. By working with Tony, we were able to meet our ten-year business goal in three years. That’s the power of having an expert help you structure your decisions and career movements on a regular basis. Having a career coach isn’t a luxury; it’s smart business and smart living.



Time for Public Companies to Evolve


Does your job trigger primitive survival instincts? My book presents alternatives.

Those best equipped to compete mercilessly for food, ward off any threat, dominate territory, and seek safety naturally passed along their genes, so these self-centered impulses could only intensify. But sometime after mammals appeared, they evolved what neuroscientists call the limbic system, perhaps about 120 million years ago. Formed over the core brain derived from the reptiles, the limbic system motivated all sorts of new behaviors, including the protection and nurture of young as well as the formation of alliances with other individuals that were invaluable in the struggle to survive. And so, for the first time, sentient beings possessed the capacity to cherish and care for creatures other than themselves.

Although these limbic emotions would never be as strong as the ‘me first’ drives still issuing from our reptilian core, we humans have evolved a substantial hard-wiring for empathy for other creatures, and especially for our fellow humans.

–Karen Armstrong
Fields of Blood and the History of Violence
Knopf, 2014 page 7