Coaching, Leaders and Experiential Learning Techniques

Hosted by Chris Dyer, the CEO of PeopleG2 – TalentTalk Radio features engaging conversation with CEOs, thought leaders and HR executives.  TalentTalk connects professionals who care about talent-related issues and having the cultural mindset to embrace the needed diversity of the workplace.

Today’s guests are Aundre Pace, The Growth Coach of Plainfield and Naperville and Shawn Utterback, Chief Experience Officer of the Play Storming Group. To hear the entire show, click here.

On the show today, two experienced professionals talk about various techniques they use for leadership and skill-set development.

Aundre Paceleaders

Aundre Pace is a business coach helping business owners and sales people achieve desired results. It is all about enhancing their leadership skills to grow their business. Over the years he’s served various positions including Regional VP for a pet hospital and Regional Director of Operations for Starbucks. For Pace, it’s been the collection of experience that made him decide that he should become a coach and not just one position or event. He spent a lot of time coaching his co-workers on various personal and professional issues and really enjoyed it. Once he realized there was a platform to professionally pursue this as a career it was an easy decision to make.

Engaged Leaders

Pace does believe that engaged leaders create engaged team members. However, he also feels that a strong company culture is far more important where employees believe in the success of the brand or the company more than their individual success. At such organizations, the disengaged leader with stick out like a sore thumb and people around him will lift him or resist him. He explains that employees supervised by highly engaged leaders are 59% more likely to be engaged then those supervised by disengaged leaders but he has seen exceptions. But, Pace notes, 59% is a really low number which shows engagement is still something companies and managers are trying to figure out and what it really means to the organization. “I think that it’s all background noise that tells that highly engaged people can produce more, they care more and that they take care of the customers better, which is all true but we need to put metrics next to these things to really prove what it means to an organization,” explains Pace.

Engagement is so 2015

Engagement was clearly the buzzword for 2015 and Pace believes that engagement will continue to be a priority in 2016. But, he explains productivity and performance need to be linked to engagement in some shape or form. With this in mind he believes that this year a new focus will be on going back to the fundamentals, such as onboarding and training new people culturally so that they can truly immerse themselves within the company. Currently companies aren’t doing a good job with onboarding new employees, a process that empowers them “to be up and running, not technically, but culturally.” That is the foundation of success for an individual as well as a company and needs to be become a priority.


Pace says that he has seen successful onboarding in companies where it is a part of the cultural process. He says that sometimes leaders are apprehensive about whether the new employee will stay and just hope that they’ve chosen the best person. Pace believes that at some point leaders have to be totally invested in their new employees and welcome them on the first day. There has to be an outline of expectations and the new person should feel like an integral part of the team from day one. He or she should feel that their leader wants them to succeed and that they’re working for a great organization. This, according to Pace, is the first step of the process and it helps ensure you’ve set off on the right path.

Work-Life Balance

“Gone are the days when people would work several hours a week and could not see their friends or family. Now society has changed and it is not acceptable because everyone wants to enjoy their work but alongside also want to enjoy time away from work,” explains Pace. It starts with the leadership. If the leader sends an email at eight or nine at night or asks employees to work for consistently long hours it makes employees question whether the organization cares about them or not and whether they’re going to last long term with that work. Work should be a place where employees enjoy going and enjoy leaving, according to Pace. It should be a place where people can create ideas and feel a sort of energy.

What Are You Reading?

Pace is currently re-reading A Coach’s Lifeby Dean Smith, the legendary UNC basketball coach. The book is about his life and how he coached a team not just for basketball but for life. Pace loves this book so much that he reads it every year during the basketball season.

How Can People Connect With You?

Connect with Aundre via Twitter (@aundrepace) or via his website You can also contact him via his Facebook page – The Growth Coach of Plainfield & Naperville IL.

Shawn Utterbackleaders

Shawn Utterback is the Chief Experience Officer at Play Storming Group which is located in Austin, Texas. The company is a collision between work and play, a consulting network that uses experiential learning methods such as techniques from improvisational theater to help people with communication, creativity and change.

His role as the Chief Experience Officer involves creating experiences and providing them to individuals and organizations. He founded Play Storming Group after serving some high profile agencies and companies. His company helps organizations create a great culture and teaches them to make improvisation a daily practice.

Experiential Learning

Experiential learning is gaining in popularity. The reason behind this is that people don’t want to sit and learn through boring PowerPoint presentations. They want something more fun so that it stays with them. Utterback quotes Plato’s philosophy that you can learn more in an hour of play than in a lifetime of conversation. Hence, there is a lot of benefit from improvisation of play that one can bring into the work place and improve people’s soft skills with incorporated training at the same time making the entire experience a whole lot of fun.

Also, when you play it requires you to be present in the moment and to communicate well. You need to listen and respond. Improvisation helps in sharpening these skills. “Play also requires us to adapt to the moment and what’s happening around us. Every day we make choices based on our environment and things that get in our way that we don’t really expect, we all improvise – we just don’t think of it as improvisation but it is something we do every day,” explains Utterback. He also says that play requires us to take risks and sometimes also enjoy failures and understand that it is okay to make mistakes so that we can learn from them. Another important element of play is that it teaches the importance of saying yes to other people which means you validate others’ ideas and that enables everyone to engage and contribute.

Results of Play Technique

Utterback says that when you are training people for soft skills it can be hard to quantify the results. But over the course of his work he has seen lower attrition rates and higher engagement levels for his clients. He sees great results when working with sales teams as there is a noticeable improvement in their listening and problem solving skills. They understand the importance of being present and also learn to validate the concerns of their clients rather than shutting them down. On the creativity side, Utterback has seen that his workshops help people take more risks when it comes to exploring ideas and innovation. Also the practice of validating others’ ideas creates an environment where people are more forthcoming about sharing their ideas and not be afraid of what others will think.

Power of Saying Yes

Utterback believes saying “yes but…” technically means saying no. He confesses that earlier he used to believe that saying “yes and…” would mean that he has to agree with everybody and he had a problem with it because he felt that it would make him a yes-man. There is a difference between agreeing with somebody versus accepting and validating someone’s idea. You may not like someone’s idea but if you say “yes but…” you’re shutting down their idea. But if you say “yes and…” it means you are validating their idea in the context of “Yes, I hear what you’re saying and your contribution is valuable so let’s keep going and in that process we’ll converge, diverge and merge ideas together and come up with something that we all feel a sense of ownership and we all have the opportunity to build something.” This approach doesn’t make one a yes-man but it’s more about validating one’s idea rather than immediately shutting it down.

What Are You Reading?

Utterback recommends CTRL Shiftby Mike Bonifer and Jessie Shternshus. It’s a fun book that teaches companies around the world to apply improvisation to business with 50 original improve games tailored to every kind day at work.

How Can People Connect With You?

Connect with Shawn via their website or via email at Follow the company’s Twitter account (@GoPlayStorm) for more information.