Todd Davis | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Todd Davis


FranklinCovey "is the world leader in helping organizations achieve results that require lasting changes in human behavior," and offers training to help firms build winning cultures. Davis has over 30 years of experience in human resources, talent development, executive recruiting, sales, and marketing. He has been with FranklinCovey for over 20 years, and currently serves as chief people officer and executive vice president. He is responsible for FranklinCovey’s global talent development in more than 40 offices in 160 countries. He is the author of Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work (Simon & Schuster).

The mistake:

It took me a long time to realize that we are all works in progress.

We all make mistakes every day. We all have areas to learn in and taking the time to learn from every one of those mistakes.

I mean, that's been a big one. A big "aha" for me in the last quarter of my professional career has been just realizing we all have insecurities, we all have different ways of masking them and I don't care who you are or how strong or confident or accomplished you are.

Every one of us have had those insecurities and those concerns and we all had come up with different creative – some helpful, some not so helpful – ways of keeping those to ourselves or, or masking them to a certain extent.

I remember failing at a particular project, just not getting the results that my boss was looking for or that I thought I was going to come up with and having the entire project go sideways.

I remember thinking, "Well, I'm going to get fired. I'm gonna lose my job," and really believing that.

Under a particular leader that could have happened, but with this particular boss, there was certainly disappointment, but then it quickly turned to, "OK, so what can we learn from this because this isn't the end of the world. So let's figure out what we can learn from this and let's take another stab at it."

I realized then that we can learn from every experience, often more from our failures than from our successes.

The lesson:

I realized then that we can learn from every experience, often more from our failures than from our successes.

It made me such a better leader and in my role, a large part of that role is in coaching others to see the potential in others. We can get hung up on the mistake or write off [someone] right away.

But nine times out of ten, there is so much more potential than we can see. I owe it to this experience. Realizing everyone has great potential and helping them to learn from their mistakes quickly – like my great leaders did for me – has been a real, real boon to my career.

For example, this manager came to me and said, what hoops do I have to jump through to let [this person] go? And I said, "Well, let's slow down for just a minute. You're the manager, and I'm not trying to usurp your responsibility for leading your department, but help me understand why, why you want to let her go."

They went on to talk about how this was the weakest link on the team and was dragging everybody down. And I didn't disagree, but I also didn't know the [employee] very well. I said, "Help me understand what she does well, since I know you're a smart leader and you didn't hire someone who didn't have any skills."

That was a specific experience where starting with what [the employee] did well and realizing that in this case, it was just this person is not being proactive. Their work quality was good, but they had to be really micromanaged, so to speak. We started some coaching and training around what it meant to really be proactive and came to find out this person was fearful of taking initiative because they didn't want to do things wrong.

There was a lot of coaching around that and this person – who's with us today – is a really talented performer and thought of very highly on her team now, but we just had a misunderstanding of what was and wasn't acceptable from her manager.

Not only did this keep an employee – and eliminate the costs associated with turning over the position – but for the manager, this has a positive effect on their credibility as a leader. They become known for their ability to certainly lead the function they're supposed to be leading, but also to be a real mentor and coach to others.


Follow FranklinCovey on Twitter at @ToddDavisFC.

Pictured in Todd Davis. | Photo courtesy of FranklinCovey.


Do you have a good story you’d like to share, or know someone we should feature? Email

And be sure to sign up for your local newsletter from Crain's Utah.