Dennis Engel coaches KeySource Medical Inc Featured

7:00pm EDT January 29, 2008

Sometimes Dennis J. Engel

finds himself sticking

longer than he should with an employee who isn’t

cutting it. Yet, that patience

has also paid off for the CEO

of KeySource Medical Inc.,

such as the time that a member

of Engel’s management team

had a problem with alcohol.

Even though the immediate

reaction may have been to fire

the person, Engel saw talent

and waited while the employee worked through the addiction.

Engel says being patient is

all part of being a coach, and

that trait has helped Engel

take the pharmaceutical distribution company with more

than 40 employees to 2006 revenue of about $22 million.

“The more you bury your

own ego and bring out the talents of the individuals that are

working with you, the more

productive those people

become,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with

Engel about how to be more

of a coach than a taskmaster.

Q. How are you a coach

rather than a taskmaster?

I do it by allowing people to

tell me what is necessary,

rather than me telling them.

When I sit down with subordinates, the question is, ‘What do

you need? What will make you

more effective? Where are the

problems in the organization?’

Rather than making it a top-down arrangement, I usually

try to make it a bottom-up


I have always found that to

be much more effective than

giving people their marching

orders and expecting them to do exactly what you say. That

rarely happens.

Q. How can leaders become

more of a coach?

I would suggest you back

off of what you normally do

and open your ears and listen more. I think the worst

problem that someone in a

leadership capacity has is

the tendency to bark orders.

You have so many things

that need to be done, you

tend to give marching

orders rather than sitting back and listening.

And it is a difficult discipline to sit back and

open your ears and

say, ‘Let me listen to

somebody, even if they

aren’t as important as I

think they are or as

maybe as I want them

to be.’ Maybe they are

lower in the hierarchy.

But, it is important to

listen to someone

before you go out and

give them orders.

I think for anyone in a

leadership position, to

me, the most important

thing you can do is back

away from tending to

push people, and back off and

listen to them.

Q. Is there a process to

being a coach, or do you just

have to tell yourself to

back off?

For me, that’s pretty much

what it is. I mean, you have

to bite your tongue sometimes because the tendency

is to go out and tell somebody or cut them off and say,

‘Yes, yes, I know all that, but

this is what you have to do.’

It’s a quick tendency to do that. So sometimes you have

to bite your tongue. So if

there is a process, maybe

that’s a process of biting

your tongue and sitting back

and just saying, ‘Tell me

what is going on.’

Q. How do you get people

to be honest when they

come to you?

I try to make it as relaxed

an environment as I can. I

normally don’t do it across my desk. I have a round

table in my office and I normally will seat them there so

they don’t feel as if they are

being dressed down. And I try to make it as much of a

peer-to-peer arrangement as

I possibly can.

The organization we have,

we try to keep as flat as we

can. There isn’t any preferred

status on individuals. As a

matter of fact, the higher up

you are in the organization,

the more responsibility there

is, rather than the more privilege. So you tend to work

harder the higher up you go.

So people know when they

come in, they’re usually going

to get more help than they are


Q. How has creating

that atmosphere benefited

the company?

I think that turns the organization on. I think it switches

people on. When people are

lambasted, when they’re

beaten, it takes away their

morale and it takes away the

gusto to perform.

So, even if you know somebody has done the wrong

thing, to sit there and chastise them and criticize them,

you are probably going to

have somebody that is going

to go out of your office with

their tail between their legs.

And, instead of getting more

work out of them, you are

going to get somebody that

sits at their desk and grumbles.

And to me, that’s the worst

thing. I’d rather sit at my

desk and grumble and have

the person I just chastised go

out and feel good.

HOW TO REACH: KeySource Medical Inc., (800) 842-5991 or