Begin Planning Your Retirement Party Now

The retirement party is in full swing. Associates from throughout the organization have gathered to celebrate and extend best wishes to Bob, a great leader who is retiring. The room is packed.

One by one people go to the front of the room, grab the microphone, and begin talking about the impact that Bob made on them. Some of the stories they tell are funny, some are serious, but every one of them is personal. One person talks about how Bob provided compassion and encouragement during a tough time. Another says that she is thankful that Bob demanded her best and would not accept mediocrity. Someone else states that Bob listened to him and changed his stance on an issue. Another person remembers the time Bob sent a personal congratulation note to her son for his graduation. Someone else talks about a time that Bob made a serious mistake but owned up to it, learned from it, and became a better leader because of the experience.

Other team members begin their speeches with: I remember . . . ; You took the time to . . . ; You helped me . . . ; Ill never forget . . . ; You cared enough to . . . ; and so on.

No one spoke about successful or failed strategies. No one mentioned a successful or failed marketing program. There were no toasts to celebrate winning an account. The evening was filled with personal stories of how Bob treated each person individually.

Meanwhile, in the same building, another retirement party is going on. The party is a not a retirement celebration. It is a celebration that a leader has retired. In fact, the leader who is retiring was not even invited to the party. He did the same job and worked just as hard as Bob. But he chose to do it differently. He was a jerk.

Which retirement party do you want?

Bob understood that leadership was not about him. His primary interest was not in the accumulation of power—it was in developing his people to become their very best. The other retiree was more interested in the accumulation of power and wealth than helping those around him become their best. Typically, jerks are greedy and interested in only themselves. They act and react without thinking. Jerks enjoy taking the easy road and are quick to blame others.

That is not you. You are a great person with honorable intentions, but sometimes you may come across differently than what you really are. Unfortunately, everyone occasionally and unintentionally comes across like a jerk. Even Bob appeared to be a jerk at times. The difference in the two retirees was how often they appeared to be jerks and how quickly they recovered when their jerk moment appeared. Bob’s jerk moments were rare, temporary, and he recovered from them quickly. His team knew that regardless of the temporary jerk moment, he had their best interest in mind. The other retiree’s team knew that his jerk moment was just another ordinary day.

You may be thinking that some jerks achieve extraordinary results. After all, you have heard that nice guys finish last. Yes, some jerks have achieved extraordinary results. You may be a marketing genius, fabulous communicator, and incredible visionary. Regardless, people in your organization will probably not stick around for long if you choose the bullying, arrogant, insulting, and uncompromising leadership route.

Excerpted from The First Two Rules of Leadership. Don’t Be Stupid. Don’t Be a Jerk by David Cottrell Wiley 2016


When we cheered the arrival of 2020 do you think anyone would have been celebrating and partying if they had known what was ahead?  Probably not. Instead of singing Auld Lang Syne we would have been shouting HALT! STOP!

Who knew we would be forced to react to an unexpected invasion? Even though corona means radiance, crown, and circle of light; those labels are not what I would affix to our unwelcomed guest. Our lives were disrupted. We suffered, lost friends, and lived in fear.  We were forced to change things we did not want to change.  Social distancing, masks, virtual work, zoom, and reinventing how to sustain relationships were all startling, chaotic changes. 

I am exiting 2020 a little dazed but It was a heck of a learning experience, wasn’t it?

Moving into 2021, a vaccine spurs hope that normalcy will reappear.  Returning to ordinary sounds really good to me.

January 1 is traditionally a time of reflection and resolution.  As I flip my calendar, my pledge for 2021 is simple –  practice peace. I resolve to reduce my fears, frustration, anger, and conflict – while helping those around me reduce theirs.  I want peace with myself, peace with others, and peace with God.  That is what I want more of this year. 

How can anyone practice peace?  A good start for me is to answer three questions: 1. Am I at peace with myself?  If not, I have to figure out why.  What is missing?  No one can give me peace, I have to carefully and diligently seek it.  2. Am I at peace with others?  I can’t allow myself to brood over mistakes, carry grudges or harbor hate. Now is a good time to seek forgiveness, encourage those around me, settle conflicts, and help others be more positive about life.  3. Am I at peace with God?  That question is my starting point. You may want to begin there as well.

We are exiting a difficult season. I hope you will join me in entering into this new year with optimism, hopefulness and peace.  May God bless us in our quest to make this year our very best.  

Bring on 2021!

Thanksgiving Week 2020

Thanksgiving 2019 feels like a few decades ago doesn’t it?  This has been one CRAZY year that has stretched our sanity to the max. Staring into the near future produces quite a bit of angst as well. Regardless of our level of anxiety, one thing is for sure – we still have plenty to be grateful for right now.

Here are three blessings at the top of my list:

  1. I live in the greatest country on earth.  Even with our disagreements and quirks, who would trade the USA for anywhere else?  I wouldn’t. 
  2. I have a wonderful family.  Madeline and my family is quite large – six children, six in-laws, 14 grandchildren plus two on the way. We are richly blessed.
  3. I am thankful for you.  Somewhere along the way our paths have crossed. Maybe we grew up together, schooled together, worked together or perhaps you have read some of my work.  Regardless, thank you for sticking with me!

Who knows what’s ahead?  Hopefully the virus will be long gone by Thanksgiving 2021.  Hopefully the Presidential transition or continuation will be relatively smooth. And, hopefully the gap between ideologically different thoughts with be narrowed with more respectful understandings.

Most of our fears will eventually dissipate. Fear and overreaction is a natural response to the unknown and we have been living in the unknown land for quite a while. Piled onto our fear is fatigue which impacts how clearly we are able to see things. 

Fueling even more fear is our reaction to information that is not entirely accurate.  We choose our sources and listen to what we want to hear, socialize with people similar to us, and worship with those who agree on the same social issues.  That is not necessarily bad, but it creates an insulated personal world where reality is not as bad… or as good… as it is portrayed on whichever side you believe.

Some things are worthy of fear and anxiety.  However, I believe that most fear is based more on predictions, assumptions, rumors, gossip, and opinions than facts. Conspiracy theories are intriguing and generate ratings, comments, likes, and shares.  However, when you look backwards and see how have they lined up with the facts of what actually happened, the conspiracy record is not so great.

Together we can make America even greater.  We can be greater at valuing lives of all colors and ages – including the lives of unborn babies.  We can do better by adhering to law and order. We can make our cities safer.  We can work together to defend our constitutional rights. We can work harder to live peacefully together.  We can be nicer and more compassionate to each other.

Don’t you think we can all do a little better?

Our lives will continue to move on.  We have work to do, issues to solve, and wounds to heal. We will have plenty of other work, issues, and wounds after the next election or crisis and the next and the next.

I hope during this Thanksgiving week you will take a few minutes to quiet the fears of your future and dwell on your blessings of today. Take a minute to call someone who you may have disagreed with and provide them a little nudge of encouragement.  You may be surprised to discover a smile and fist bump of encouragement coming right back at you.

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

Destination: Success … chart your course to achieve your best

Destination: Success is a fable based on an accumulation of my lifetime of experiences. It is the story of Jack Davis, a person like most of us who had to learn how to blast through tough, hug change, salute the truth, become great in small things, and many other lessons on his journey toward success.

I believe that everyone will be able to relate to the lessons taught in Destination: Success.  I hope you enjoy the book!

It is available on Amazon, CornerStoneLeadership, or at your local bookstore.

Write your story


A little over a week ago Grace Upon Grace … My Story was released.  The most consistent feedback that I have received has been  “I need to write my story, too.”

I agree. You have a story!  Everyone needs to write their story.  It would help you and those around you.

In Grace Upon Grace there are experiences described that you may be living today. There are chapters in my story that may become chapters in your story in the future. Grace Upon Grace exposes my life experiences so you can laugh and cry with me. More importantly, my life story is for you to draw strength and inspiration when you are in the midst of a personal storm in your life. And, I hope it will be a reminder for you to celebrate grace during your time of peace and joy.

My greatest desire is that you will become more acutely aware of your own story and all of your gracious blessings, regardless of your current circumstances.

Write your story. You can start with writing five or ten minutes a day.  Just get started. You may be surprised to discover how the events of your life were woven together to help you become the person you are.  You lasting legacy will be the experiences that you document and share.

When you write your story, you may discover with astonishment, amazement, and humbleness – as I did – God’s amazing grace upon amazing grace throughout your life. I hope you do.

Medicare, Social Security and Pickelball

Well, I have reached the age where my conversations tend to mysteriously evolve to medicare, social security and pickelball. (If you don’t know what pickelball is, google it. It is probably not what you are thinking).

I can’t be 65, can I? Almost. I will be 65 years old in two days. How could that be?

I have a theory about aging. My theory is that everyone thinks that they are 30% younger than the number of birthdays they have celebrated. So, in my mind I will be about 45 years old in a couple of days. I believe my theory until I try to do some things that I did when I was 45 and quickly discover that the 65 candles on the cake may be correct.

65 years tends to be a landmark age. A lot of people retire at 65. Medicare kicks in. You are a veteran AARP member. Some 65ers begin traveling. Some try to figure out their next chapter in life. Many people after they adjust to their new reality enter into their best years. For all of us, turning 65 is a natural time for reflection and anticipation for the fourth quarter of our life.

Several months ago I began reflecting and documenting my life. I think that everyone should take the time to review and share with others the events that shaped our lives. You have a unique story that only you can write. I hope you will consider doing that!

I invite you to connect with me and my reflections. Grace Upon Grace … My Story reveals the lessons that I learned and provides some insight on how those experiences may help you become the person you want to be.

Many of you have been with me on my journey. You may have been beside me in school, Xerox, FedEx, CornerStone or with me on my personal journey. You witnessed my successes and failures, breakthroughs and heartbreaks, joys and suffering.

You may get a chuckle or two when you read about some of our memories.

If you are interested in reading my story, check out Grace Upon Grace … My Story from or

Cheers to many years of Medicare, Social Security and Pickelball.

Monday Morning Backstory

“How did you come up with the idea of Monday Morning Leadership?”  That is the most common question I am asked. I am not sure why so many people are interested in knowing the backstory to Monday Morning but maybe it is time for me to publically share my story.

Before I get to the Monday Morning backstory, it is important to know that that Monday Morning Leadership is unique in several ways.  It took days to visualize the concept of the book instead of weeks.  It took two days to write the first complete draft instead of months. Final edits took a couple of weeks instead of volleying the manuscript back and forth between me and the editors for months. And, it has been a perennial best-seller for sixteen years.  For all of those unique events to happen, I am convinced that – for whatever reason – Monday Morning Leadership was God’s special gift to me.

Here is the backstory. In 2002, I was traveling on a business trip from Dallas to Atlanta.  During the plane ride I read a book titled Tuesday’s with Morrie by Mitch Albom.  The book was a true story about an old college professor, Morrie Schwartz, and Mitch who was one of his students at Brandeis University. Nearing the end of the professor’s life, Morrie and Mitch agreed to meet on Tuesdays for the professor to share his thoughts and experiences. I thought the book was interesting in the way that Morrie taught Mitch with weekly stories inside of his major story.  The wisdom shared by the professor was insightful, although not real inspirational. I enjoyed the book but finished it feeling more depressed than when I started.

The following week while I was traveling to Toronto the Tuesday’s with Morrie concept consumed my thoughts.  I could not help but think that we need an inspirational book in the business arena where a trusted mentor guides someone whose career may have hit a snag.  My thoughts were that the book would need to be practical lessons but also provide tools and hope to the reader. The thought would not pass but my more prevalent and realistic thought was “I am not sure how to put that together in a book.”

This trip was during the time when if you travelled on Saturday your airfare was reduced by about half.  I was traveling to conduct a training class and had agreed with my friend, Mark Layton, that I would travel on the weekend to save on his company’s expenses.

So, I was alone on a Saturday night in a hotel room in Toronto scribbling notes about Tuesday’s with Morrie.  Then, seemly out of the blue, a business concept surfaced.  What if I developed two fictional characters who would meet every Monday for several weeks?  Their meetings could address issues faced by every manager and provide a mentor’s wisdom that would encourage and guide the manager through the crisis?  Suddenly, the book concept was crystal clear.

At that time, and even today, the common challenges managers face are obvious: Accepting responsibility without excuses, maintaining focus, staying connected with the team, maintaining integrity, making great hires and coaching, time management, recognition, and continuous improvement.  I narrowed my list down to those eight areas because I wanted the book to be brief so that people would actually read it. Those eight challenges became stand-alone chapter ideas to form the outline of the book.

I have read and heard about many people who have an “out of body” experience, an unexpected touch, or a feeling that God intervened in their life in a miraculous way.   I took those stories with a grain of salt until it happened to me with Monday Morning.

I did not write Monday Morning.  Oh, my hands were on the keyboard but the inspiration was from a power greater than me.  Ideas and words started to flow like never before nor since. For two days, my experiences at Xerox, FedEx, and CornerStone were interwoven tightly together to create one seamless story.  The characters quickly revealed themselves as people that I knew.  The main character was the mentor, Tony Pearce who was named after Tony Van Roekel – the person who promoted me into my first leadership position at Xerox – and Pearce, my father in law. The “student” was Jeff Walters (the combined names of two different guys who I was mentoring at the time).  The rest of the characters were named after family members:  Karen, Michael, Kim, Jeni and several other friends.

I could not sleep.  The keyboard was sizzling.  The chapter on accepting responsibility became Drivers and Passengers that was initiated from a casual conversation with my best friend Louis Krueger. Focus became Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing created from direction given by Jim Barksdale with FedEx.  Staying connected with the team became Escape from Management Land built on a conversation with Dan Amos, CEO of Aflac.  The integrity chapter became The Do Right Rule based on my father’s teachings to me.  Great hires and coaching became Hire Tough centered around a casual conversation with my friend Eric Harvey. Time management evolved to Do Less or Work Faster based on my previous book of 175 Ways to Get More Done in Less Time.  Recognition became Buckets and Dippers based on a private conversation with the late Don Clifton.  Continuous improvement evolved into Enter the Learning Zone – I do not remember what generated that thought.

When I returned home to Dallas on Monday evening, the book was complete.  Done.  The writing process for a normal book is at least six months for the first draft.  Monday Morning was completed that weekend in Toronto.

Monday Morning combined many of my experiences into one short book that has sold well over a million copies worldwide.  How could I do that?  I didn’t.  It was a gift that was given to me.  Most of you do not know the personal challenges I was facing at that time.  Trust me, it was a dark and difficult period.  Everything was tested including my faith.  For whatever reason, God chose Monday Morning to be the catalyst to propel me from an emotional bottom to something far greater than anything I would have ever asked.

Now you know the backstory of Monday Morning Leadership.  Thank you Jesus!

It’s Thanksgiving week!

Thanksgiving week is my favorite week of the year.  Regardless of how busy I am, before carving the turkey I carve out some reflection time. I think about my family and the close friends who mean the most in my life. I think about associates whose kind words and a little nudge have provided me the inspiration and encouragement I needed to press on.

I hope you will take a moment to encourage a relative, friend or associate today.  You will probably never know the impact of your encouragement.  And, you may be surprised to discover a boomerang of encouragement that comes right back at you.  Try it.

Thanks to people like you, I have been blessed to live out a dream far greater than I could have imagined. Thank you! I have been extraordinarily blessed.

May this Thanksgiving week provide you peace, love, and encouragement for the future.


Learning from Failure

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

  • Thomas Edison

Why do some people who have incredible gifts and abilities end up going nowhere?  I believe that the main reason that those talented people get stuck in their career mud is how they respond to failure. They take the easy route, accept failure and give up. And, watch out, they may throw some blame and victimization your way.

On the other hand, successful people learn from failure. In fact, most successful people fail faster and more often than the average person. They learn enough from failure to be successful.

When failure shows up:

  1. You have to stay in the game. You may have to change direction but you are in good company. Every successful person has been where you are. No one has been successful without overcoming some adversity along the way.
  2. Failure is teacher. Keep your eyes open to the opportunities that failure is teaching you to move toward.
  3. Don’t hang your head. Hold your head high and look failure squarely in the eye and say, “I am bigger than you. You cannot ruin me. I am going to learn from you and whip you.”

Excerpted from Monday Morning Choices by David Cottrell.

No Rules. Just Right.


Do you remember that restaurant slogan a few years ago?  Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it.  Get what you want without following any rules. That may sound like a pretty good way to run your organization.  After all, isn’t the bottom line the bottom line regardless of how you get there?  And, many people have rebelled against rules since sixth grade.  Give them what they want –freedom!

Really?  Do you think they really want to work in a no rules environment? They probably want everyone else to have structure and rules … each person wants the autonomy to do it their way, right?  That may sound good but allowing anyone complete autonomy is a good way to ruin your organization.

However, a shift you may want to consider is to make is to shift from absolute structure to enabled autonomy – where your team’s independence is encouraged and supported within your established guidelines. Technology has created an avenue for more autonomy and creativity in how results are achieved, but there has to be a balance between structure and autonomy. No rules, just right does not work.

Structure creates definition and clarity. And it also helps to provide you with information, strategy, resources, and recognition. In addition, it provides a consistent way to enforce rules and ethics. Structure is necessary, but it exists only to assist in the results you are trying to achieve. It does not exist to manage the process you follow.

Absolute autonomy – total independence – may sound good and may even work for a short period, but it does not work long-term. Without some structure, chaos will reign. The result would be constantly shifting priorities, direction, processes … and the fallout would be unhappy customers and disengaged employees. Long-term chaos is never a good thing. Your structure is designed to prevent chaos from sneaking into your team disguised as fulfilling a need to be autonomous.

No one wants to be micromanaged. But, there is responsibility that comes with enabled autonomy. Your primary responsibility is to create positive, healthy conditions for your team to do their best work. The more freedom that they are provided within your guidelines, the more responsibility they will accept to deliver positive results.

Here are a few points to ponder as you coach your team from structure to enabled autonomy:

  1. Too much structure or too much autonomy is toxic to your team.  Do you have a balance of structure and enabled autonomy?
  2. Does your team have the freedom to creatively deliver positive results?
  3. Simplicity liberates your team.

Based on the book LeaderShift … Making leadership everyone’s business.

Subscribe to David’s blog here: