Drew Kugler


Since entering the work of coaching and teaching over 30 years ago, Drew Kugler has served dozens of organizations in the fields of professional services, consumer products, entertainment and media, technology, non-profits, and charities.

The dominant question that guides Drew’s work is what individuals and groups must do to build trust, respect, and strategic optimism, especially in the face of changing ways of successfully working with others.

Inevitably, his work articulates the difficult choices about communicating vision and genuine collaboration, grounded in a proprietary framework, mindset, and methodology he developed called Constructive Candor.

Over the years, he has advised:

  • Major law firms to better communicate their commitments and actions to practices; office and administrative leaders toward improving firm performance
  • Entertainment studios and companies to develop and deliver feedback and coaching for major executives and divisional teams in the context of radically changing business structures and climates
  • Consumer product companies to define and implement initiatives, to inculcate core values as a practical vehicle for guiding individual performance, and brand and product development
  • Non-profit teams in charities and schools to link their mission-driven culture to specific organizational outcomes
  • Administrations, faculty and students in schools and universities about the glaring deficiencies in educating communication and collaboration skills



Hi. It's Drew Kugler, and welcome back to Tell Me What To Say. As I previewed not long ago, I wanted to devote some episode time to answering questions that listeners would send in. So, sure enough today, we have no guest. But I've got three really good questions from listeners that I will both lay out for you, and take my best shot at explaining them as I see the answers fitting the best.

Question Number One inquires about the concept of personality tests. Many companies use personality tests—one referred to by the person who sent in the question is the “DISC test.” There are also a number of organizations—one that you may be a part of—that uses the Myers-Briggs personality exam. Now, for those who haven't done these tests before, DISC stands for dominance. It also stands for “inducement," "submission,” and “compliance”—nice fancy terms. Basically, it tries to outline your personality and how it may, or may not, be conducive to the other personalities with the people that you work with. Myers Briggs inquires—I happened to go through the test and have seen it used probably in more organizations than the DISC—it goes into questions of how introverted or extroverted you are, how intuitive your thinking is, versus judgmental, and so on, and so forth. Now, all I can do, number one, thank the listener for sending in the question because these are very, very popular tests. They frankly cost organizations a pretty good deal of money to be able to have them administered by certificated, or certified—better word—certified people who know how to not only do the administration, but then help the people who take the test try to make sense of them. And, as I said, these things are done on a very, very regular basis across not only corporate and working America, but throughout the world.

The point though is that I've only got my perspective on it. So my number one bias comes out by me telling you I'm not certified. I've [not] taken the time or made the investment to be certified in either one of these. So I'm commenting, from someone who does not use them in their work with clients. That's the first thing. The second thing—and more relevant, I think, to the listener's question—is why I don't use them. Because here's what I've seen; I've been part of companies where I took, for example, the Myers-Briggs test and, to me, in watching my colleagues who would take it with me, the most interesting part and the part that got the most attention was the diving into the results. Literally that, because Myers-Briggs is smart enough when you get the results back of your personality exam, you get to open up an envelope and discover something you otherwise did not know about yourself. So there is an intrigue to this process which is unmistakable. Now, what it also gives you is insights into things, in ways that you like to work, and ways that you can learn about how other people work. Thus, if you remember the original question—why the listener inquired about whether or not these things can really make a difference, which, when used appropriately and over a long period of time—they can make a difference. In the experience that I referred to, they did not. And here's why: what happened was everybody became so intrigued with the opening of the results and their own, if you will, self-labeling that that was exactly where the conversation went; and it didn't go on from there. So whether it was the DISC test, or whether it was Myers-Briggs, people were so taken—as we all are as human beings—they were so taken with how they scored that their curiosity and their interest pretty much stopped there; even when a facilitator would try to draw out a conversation about the implication of these results in accordance and in collaboration with others. People were more interested in themselves than they were in how it would affect collaboration. That's what I found to be a very consistent experience.

I even saw a company try to do a little better. Here's what they did: when you take the Myers-Briggs test, you get four letters that label you. I believe mine was E N T J—for whatever that, at this point, is worth. What the company did was, they had everyone in the company—and this was hundreds of people—take this exam. And then they took everyone's results and posted them on their office door. So when you would knock on Bob's door, you would immediately be able to identify that Bob was, like I am, an E N T J. And that was designed to cue you into a whole preparation and analysis before the door even opened. The problem was—especially as I interviewed people there about how it was going—these people were, of course, had lots of e-mails and meetings and phone calls, and as they say, were slammed back-to-back. So how much usefulness do you think the labels on the door really got? Well, behind the back of the people who would administer the test, people told me it really didn't do much good at all; though they did point out how interesting it was to find out about themselves. So my answer to the to the listener, Number One, is thank you for the question. Number two: If you're looking for at least one level of experience, my suggestion is to put much more emphasis in asking simple questions to your colleagues, in working on projects together, in endeavoring; not guided by some letters, but guided by a specific interest and a goal, and an outcome. To do the work of truly trying to understand each other and trying to get better that way. That is going to work much better. Thanks again for the question. And we'll be right back with a Question Number Two.

Question Number Two asks the simple question. Can a person coach themselves? And under that question the listener also happened to slip in: Do coaches self-coach? Well, as I was thinking about the answer to this, the first thing that came to mind was the old saying about the client that hires himself for his lawyer has a fool for a client. That idea that we think we can represent ourselves and also do the important work of being able to be of high enough objectivity, and also of service to the client, is where it starts—to say the least—to get complicated. But, let's take a step back on this one. What is the job of a coach? The way that—I see it, having done it for the time that I have, is to be able, as I said, to step away from the needs of the client as he or she has stated them. And be able to provide an objective unencumbered perspective to them that allows them to work and get better at whatever they have identified as their goal. Now, within that commitment to the client comes a couple important things which I think may—I'll leave it up to each individual—but may disqualify one from truly being able to be a coach for themselves.

Number one: You've got to be able to see the client in that objective way. Now anyone who's thinking about this for themselves—do you truly believe that you can see yourself from outside of yourself where that objectivity lives? I, in the years of doing this, have not seen someone be able to remove themselves that far from, if you will, their own reality to be able to provide a high enough level of self-criticism, and to raise to a high enough level their own, as I call it, critical awareness. It is really hard. But the number two thing that you would have to be able to do to be your own coach, is to be able to monitor and correct your behavior. Monitor and correct the behavior, which is what the coach does. That's what really hard to do when you are doing the behavior itself. A client of mine once said that the part of the work that he liked about my coaching was it reminded him of the saying about, “he didn't know who discovered water, but he knew that it wasn't the fish.” So if you really think about that, the job of the coach is to sit on the shoreline and watch the fish do their swimming. And if they want to become better swimmers or want to change the way they interact, it's up to the coach who's sitting on the outside. So is that potentially a skill that one can develop for themselves?

Let's keep going because there's a third level of good coaching that an individual would have to bring to themselves if they chose to go at it on their own. And that is to establish a what I call continuity of action. Continuity of action. We all know that we get into situations that we want to make better, and we are convinced whether it is eating better, exercising more, or listening more, showing up on time to work; we're going to get better at this. But inevitably the number one cause of failure in these changes is a lack of continuity of action over time. We constantly hear in the coaching business of people who start out, they stay real good for a while, but sure enough they fall back to it. A coach cannot let that happen with out an assertive statement to the client. Can you make that statement to yourself and then correct? I, frankly, as you can probably tell by my tone of voice, doubt it.

So, at the end of it, can a coach coach themselves? Well, as the old saying goes, and my my kids will tell you this can be true here at our house. That the shoemaker's children often go barefoot. Because we're so busy taking care of the clients and the needs of the company and the needs of the people who call, the coach is really the last one who gets the attention, certainly from his or her self. So if I go back to the answer, "Can one coach themselves?" And “Are coaches good at coaching themselves?” I would rest most confidently on saying, “Likely not.” And if it's a matter of investing a little more fully in finding a way to to get that objective opinion, that is something that I've feel pretty strongly—both to the listener and to anyone else who is thinking about this pathway of self-improvement—to try their best to make some sort of investment in an outside voice.

The Third Question comes from someone who is admittedly a friend of mine—has been a friend of mine for a long time, and she was nice enough to listen to the podcasts as they come and drop me a note. I had not heard from her in a while. And the question that she asked was, “What could she do for me in 2018? How could she be helpful to me?” Now, I could have easily separated out that question as just something nice—that if you knew this woman, that you would understand that's what she does. But this question actually revealed a depth of thinking to me which I thought was worthy and a good way to conclude today's question broadcast. And that is, what are the questions that we as people who want and aspire to communicate better, what are the questions that we ask on a consistent enough basis so that people get a sense of us? And what struck me about this woman's question was it had no agenda. It was by its very simple wording, what could she do to help me? It had a simple focus, and the simple focus reflected what I believe to be the core of effectively communicating in conversing with others. And that is having a sense and a drive to help the other person. So in any kind of coaching that you've heard me do, it is inevitably going to remind you that the process of communicating and conversing is not only supposed to help others, but the actual tool of communication that helps others the most, is the asking of genuine questions. And the even more simple, almost beauty to this one, is it's located and pointed at the individual who it is being asked to.

Now, go back to where I started just a second ago, and think about what, if any questions, do you ask on a consistent enough basis to people. If those questions are seen as genuinely curious, if they are seen as being focused toward helping the other person, you are, at least in my experience, separating yourself from most question-askers. I think I've shared the example before that one of the things I do is I will sometimes sit and listen to teams of people meet. And I keep score of something very specific in those team meetings that allows me to make a pretty good and value judgment as to the health of that team. And the score is about the number of questions asked in the meeting.

So, think about the meetings you go to. Are there more questions asked or statements made? More questions asked, or statements made? I have yet, in the thirty-four years of coaching now that I have under my belt, had somebody raise their hand and say, “Oh we really lead with questions”. Well my friend happened to lead with questions in this question session today, and it was not only highly appreciated—and I certainly look forward to the conversation which we're going to be having soon about it—but what she indicated with that is something that, for the lack of a better phrase, I wish for you, as the listener. Are you invested in the sole pursuit, at times, of helping other people be successful? Helping other people be successful. I don't have to bore you with all the social science research which states very clearly that when we are interested and focused on other people's success and needs, we actually, if not equally benefit, can benefit more. So I start to conclude this thinking by a quote that I remember sharing with the group a long time ago and it probably sums it up the best—and take it as the leadership advice that is inspired by my friend's question. They asked Max De Pree, who was the C.E.O. and chairman of Herman Miller—the office furniture manufacturer—they said, “What's your secret to leadership?” And he said, not surprisingly that it came in the form of a question; and the question went like this: “How can I help you? What is it that you need to do your job?" De Pree then said that your job as a leader was to listen to the answer, get the person what they need, get out of their way, and never, ever forget to say thank you. The power of the question to lead. So whether you're a listener that is just looking to improve their own career or improve the career of those around you, work on the questions.