David Gouthro
David Gouthro

When you or your organization are stuck, I may just be the “organizational laxative” you need to get things moving! In these COVID-19 infused days, engaging someone to help you keep things the same or to return them to a previously existing “normal” is unlikely to produce a positive return on your investment.

For over 40 years I’ve been working with senior executives and Boards to help them get clear on what impact they require when they meet. In the past, that’s meant facilitating, hosting or emceeing face-to-face meetings. These days it tends to be using a variety of online tools and processes.  Regardless of the meeting format, I help define and refine meeting outcomes, then design backwards to ensure those outcomes are met.

Sometimes my work takes the form of designing and facilitating small group meetings to help you solve problems, explore new opportunities or set strategic directions.  Other times I serve as an emcee or meeting host to weave speakers and their content together into coherent messaging that’s more likely to get acted upon back in your organization.

I am NOT a consultant who will tell you what you need to do to help your organization be more successful.  I DO NOT have a tried and true method that’s been developed over decades and works in any and all circumstances (although I’m often asked if I do, and what it is)!

What I DO bring is an ability to listen deeply to understand your particular circumstances; to develop a shared sense of what you wish to accomplish; and to collaborate to design and develop an approach that will get you where you want to go (or at least as close as possible)!

I’ve developed my expertise from working in an incredibly wide range of organizations that include financial services, healthcare, high tech, biotech, education, mining, energy, not-for-profits and public sector (municipal, provincial, national) organizations.  It’s impossible to know any (much less all) of these well enough to provide credible advice on what to do.  Rather, I’ve had to become extremely flexible and adaptable at drawing the necessary content expertise from within a given organization.

Having had the good fortune to work in a number of different cultures on four continents has required me to remain humble when it comes to attempting to translate what I’ve learned in one situation to one that is completely different. I’ve learned the hard way that almost inevitably, whenever I am sure I absolutely know something, I’ve been proven wrong!

I grew up in the wilds of North York (Ontario), the oldest of three kids.  My parents allowed me to thrive in what I have now come to appreciate as a very stable home.  Looking back, they were wonderful role models. Much of whatever success I currently enjoy I can attribute to having absorbed their quite calm, support, acceptance of my friends and perhaps even a sense of humour (that my wife and daughter still fail to acknowledge)!

As a kid, I didn’t excel at anything.  However, I loved to participate in just about everything going. In high school, I played on the football team (mostly warming the bench), played a bit of community recreational softball, engaged in a bit of competitive badminton and even agreed to go into a wrestling tournament one time (a truly humbling experience, to say the least). I played trombone in the band, dance band, orchestra (didn’t care much for that—too many sharps), and sang in a nine-man barbershop quartet (please ignore the math on that one).  I was what I considered to be a very average student—didn’t have to work too hard to be average in those days.

Oh, and I was on the yearbook committee as well as being a class rep in Grades 10, 11, 12 and 13—mostly because I was asked to do so, not because I volunteered.  A part time job at Loblaws provided me with a bit of spending money and I had a great time being involved in the youth group at a nearby church. In looking back though, I think I was beginning to establish a spirit of service that continues to guide my actions to this day.

After one term living at home while studying science at the University of Toronto, I was feeling pretty miserable and was missing some of my friends who left town for university. That seemed like a good idea, so I worked downtown for the rest of the year in the mailroom for Falconbridge Nickel Mines to earn enough money that I could head off to the University of Waterloo the following year.  There I lived in residence (Village I) and once again found myself studying science (Earth Science, to be precise). It seemed like my destiny was to be a chronic participant, though.  In my five years in residence (two of those were as an unpaid but free room and board position as a “Don”), I played flag football, took up squash and captained a couple of inner tube waterpolo teams. For part time work I bartended at the Campus Centre Pub and other on-campus pub events, shelved books at the Engineering, Math and Science Library and worked as a short order cook at the Village grill. Whether I was a sucker for punishment or just enjoyed the work (probably the latter), I was the East Quad rep for a couple of terms on the Village I Council, served as Council Vice-President for two terms and President for another.

While at university, my summer jobs included being a day camp counsellor, a geology field assistant in south central BC, the Yukon and Northwest Territories and finally as a tree planter for a Kitchener, ON based construction company—all were fabulous experiences on many levels.

My last activity at university was as the producer for a show entitled FASS (which stood for Faculty, Administration, Staff and Students). I volunteered for that position when I heard the previous producer quit part way through the year and the cast and crew were left rudderless.  I had no idea what I was getting into, having never done that before, but figured “why not”?  I ended up having a blast producing a show that had a cast and crew of 140 people, with the largest percentage of the budget being allocated for parties.  In truth, the lessons I learned while working on that show have served me well right up to today!

After university and with my B.Sc. in hand, my jobs included:

  • Clerk in the Ontario Land Titles Office at City Hall in Toronto;
  • Selling life insurance for Confederation Life in an experimental office consisting of all university grads (got my fill of being rejected!);
  • Selling real estate in North Toronto (totally out of my element—all the other agents in the area that included the Bridle Path were driving Mercedes while I was transporting clients in my wee yellow Honda Civic);
  • Performance Consultant for the Canadian division of Wilson Learning Corporation, where I really got launched into the kind of work I do now. I was teaching their programs in sales, management and customer relations to their clients from coast-to-coast in Canada, as well as in Europe.I loved the work and learned a lot!
  • Then I was headhunted to work for Apple Canada in the early days of the microcomputer industry.I started out teaching their sales training programs across the country, then moved on to a variety of marketing roles and human resource functions.  Amongst other responsibilities, I built a team of trainers to support the Apple Canada sales regions, helped launch the Macintosh in Canada, led another team that supported independent third party software developers (ironic, since I couldn’t program my way out of a wet paper bag) and looked after the localization of Apple manuals and products to sell in Quebec (with no ability to speak French). And had the task of hiring private detectives to fend off manufacturers of Apple II clone computers in Montreal.

After leaving Apple Canada following a life changing sabbatical in New Mexico, I returned to Toronto and resigned to start up my own training business.  This led to forming a consulting company (The Cadence Group) with some good friends.  There we developed leadership training programs for companies like IBM Canada, IBM Corporate, Scotiabank, etc.  Lots of great learning and success in building scalable leadership training programs.

Eight years later, I got the itch to move, and headed out to Vancouver where I carried on my work back in Toronto (crazy clients didn’t want to move their head offices, for some reason)! Eventually I tired of working with folks who complained about their managers and executives as reasons for not changing their own behaviour.  That launched me into my current facilitation practice where I worked almost exclusively with executives and Board members who had no one to point to as excuses for their own inaction and decision-making.

So here I am now!  Add in keynote speaking and emceeing as some of my most enjoyable (and challenging) revenue generating activities and that about wraps it up!

When I moved out west, I met the person who became my wife, bought our first house, acquired a dog, got married and adopted our newborn daughter.  I guess Vancouver is where the life I now know it began!

My experience has ingrained in me a number of key personal values that include:

  • the desire to be constantly learning;
  • willingness to listen deeply;
  • compassion for my friends and clients;
  • openness to experiment, try new things and take risks (managed);
  • a positive outlook on life and the ability to reframe anything;
  • an incessant desire to serve/support others;
  • and a sense of humour that serves me well (and hopefully others)!