If You’re As Good as You’re Going to Get You Can’t Work Here: Case Study of Deschutes Brewery – Part 2

Do you resonate with this sign? Maybe you can’t wait to e-mail the picture to your team to energize your commitment to forwarding continual performance improvement. Before you hit “send,” pause to soberly consider the full implications of such a radical message. In most companies, the hard-to-admit reality would be best captured in a dramatically different sign:

Now be ruthlessly honest. Do you work for a competent-is-good-enough organization? So if you raise the bar to proclaim never-ending performance improvement as a job requirement, your life is about to get very messy. Do you really want to get bogged down dealing with uncomfortable emotions–fear of failure and self-doubt–that inevitably arise when people feel forced to expend the unreasonable effort and risk required to keep getting better. After all, they didn’t sign up to become Navy Seals!

So how does Deschutes Brewery live their core value “Do our best and next time do it better?” Besides adopting my Practice While Real Work Gets Done Process described in Part 1 of this blog, the sales team makes mindset disturbance coaching the centerpiece of their performance improvement efforts.

Mindset disturbance coaching becomes indispensible when a leader does everything else right—including expectations, culture, training, motivation, rewards—but people falter because performance improvement requires expanding their comfort zones. Faced with this challenge, Deschutes managers invite their team members to embrace discomfort by taking accountability for their mindset, and the ensuing choices, actions, and results. As everyone rushes to take accountability, the end result is a bonafide “no-spin zone.”

In Part 2 of this blog, I share highlights from a 3-year case study describing my collaboration with Deschutes. Get ready to learn about a performance coaching approach that is vital for making talent development your game-changer advantage.


During our 3-year collaboration, Deschutes Brewery achieved impressive quantifiable results in:

  • Compounded annual growth rates higher the rest of the US beer industry
  • Citation as an Outsider magazine best companies to work for
  • Outlier results in Gallup Employee Engagement surveys (88% rated “engaged or very engaged”-an outlier result).

For the full description of organizational results, download the case study by clicking the button below:

Download the Case Study

A Game-Changer Coaching Process: Coaching for Mindset Disturbance

“You will never touch a level of greatness until your comfort zone is disturbed.”
—Ray Lewis, all-time great linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens

Every sales manager is familiar with employees who won’t do what they’ve been trained and are expected to do. Sales reps don’t do cold call marketing. Managers don’t delegate. People receive feedback and don’t put it into practice. Logistics teams agree to project plans and don’t follow through. Trainees go to workshops and don’t apply their training back at work. Facing these types of problems, most sales managers who attempt to hold people accountable, exhaust the customary checklist of potential causes:

So what’s going on? Even talented, well-trained, and full engaged employees fail to pursue goals that require expanding their comfort zone. They seek to avoid taking on seemingly unreasonable effort or risk.

Comfort zones are governed by our mindset. A mindset is a habitual, automatic, pre-ordained filter that influences how we experience a situation—either as a threat to avoid or an opportunity to seize. The way our mindset gauges the degree of effort or risk needed to accomplish a goal determines the ensuing sequence of choices, actions, and ultimate results. Consequently, mindset is the root cause of our performance slumps, plateaus, and breakthroughs.

Unfortunately (maybe tragically), most managers are ill-equipped to coach employees to master their mindset. It’s not a skill set covered in a company’s management training or by most outside consulting firms. So managers seek to avoid dealing with performance challenges that trigger unpleasant emotions like doubt, fear, or lack of confidence.

Deschutes’ managers regard self-reflection on mindset as the vital foundation for all performance improvement efforts. Mindset mastery gets practiced not only in formal coaching sessions but in spontaneous mini-coaching opportunities, known as the “throw the red flag drill.”

Coaching for mindset disturbance.

Imagine we are eavesdropping on your managers’ attempts to hold their direct reports accountable for unsatisfactory results. We’d probably hear questions like these:


  • What happened that prevented you from achieving your goals?
  • What got in the way of your improving on weaknesses we covered in your performance appraisal?
  • What caused you to miss the deadline?
  • Why didn’t the results we planned for get accomplished?

Be ruthlessly honest. How do these widely-used questions prompt people to respond? Instead of holding anyone accountable, they encourage forms of blaming– rationalizing, explaining, justifying, spinning, and story-telling. They divert attention from where it needs to be—focusing on self-imposed obstacles to producing results.

Blaming enhancement questions prevent people from taking accountability. Even worse, they encourage practice in fabricating a victim mindset (a skill which most people are already well-practiced).

So if the customary blaming enhancement questions don’t work, what’s the alternative? Accountability-driven questions invite coachees to practice taking accountability for their mindset and ensuing choices, actions, and results. By owning their role in producing undesirable results, coachees are freed up to make uncomfortable yet essential behavior changes.

In learning to coach for mindset disturbance–shifting from blaming to taking accountability, Deschutes managers carried laminated cards containing the following “accountability-driven questions”:


  • What result(s) (i.e., behavior change, metric, project completed) are you committed to accomplishing?
  • What actions have you chosen to take or avoid that undermine your commitment?
  • What justifications do you choose to accept as “valid reasons” for continuing actions that undermine your desired results?
  • What short-term payoffs do you choose to accept when you tolerate missed results?
  • If you choose to continue these undermining behaviors and accept the short term payoffs, what unwanted outcomes are likely to continue or even intensify in the future?
  • What new actions will you choose to take to deliver on your commitment?

Andy Tysler, Deschutes VP of Sales, realized passing out laminated cards with accountability-driven questions wouldn’t break his managers’ well-ingrained habit of asking blaming-enhancement questions. In early 2015, he designated fourteen zone managers and market managers as Champions for the 5Ps. In turn, I conducted workshops on “Coaching for Mindset Disturbance,” followed by 12 months of coaching phone calls with pairs of these Champions.

Developing proficiency in asking accountability-driven questions paid big dividends for the Deschutes Champions. For examples, half of the group stopped long-standing micromanaging habits and became effective delegators. As one standout example, Zone Manager Mike Foy generated a powerful mindset disturbance:

“I used to think that if I don’t do the job myself, it won’t be done right. Since I was doing tasks that were my direct reports’ responsibility, everyone was underperforming their roles. I was screwing over my team by curtailing their professional development. I’m being a doer, not a developmental leader.”

Foy kept a log of his hours freed up from doing direct reports’ jobs that now became available to pursue his top priority activities. He calculated the typical hours allocated to perform the delegated task multiplied by the number of times the task got done per year. In 2015 and 2016, he freed up 493 hours per year of his own time. In addition, Foy became a developer of delegators. His two direct reports freed up 865 hours through their delegation efforts. The Deschutes team mastered a vital lesson in performance management. Stop holding people accountable. Start inviting accountability—not only for their choices and actions, but for their mindset.

The Throw the Red Flag Drill. In pro football, a coach who disagrees with a referees’ call can throw a red flag to request a review of a videotape replay. Bad calls get overturned.

At Deschutes, anyone can toss a red flag to call out victim language and invite a colleague to instantly restate the issue by taking accountability for his/her choices and actions. Victim language attributes the cause of ineffective behavior or poor results to unfavorable circumstances, inadequate talent, upset feelings, or lousy past history of performance. By taking accountability for their mindset, team members dispute these self-imposed constraints and regain their full performance capacity.

Deschutes team members realize what’s at stake and bring red flags to team meetings. If a team member offers up a vintage victim phrase like “I get sucked in by the daily hazards of being a sales manager,” red flags get tossed. Instantly, the perpetrator is invited to restate his/her last comment using the language of accountability–“I chose to let other people’s requests take precedence over my private time slotted to work on high priority projects.” Finally, this teachable moment creates an opening to choose more effective courses of action, like alerting teammates in advance about “no interruption” time slots and assertively declining non-emergency requests for time.

For two years, Chad Travertini, a Deschutes market manager, tracked the frequency of red flags drills and the victim remarks that drew instant coaching, such as:

  • “This is the way we have always done it.”
  • “I have so many accounts, I don’t have time to sell.”
  • “It’s out of my control.”
  • “It’s not the right time.”

What’s the cumulative effect of throwing red flags? According to Travertini,“People I communicate with regularly learn that the blame game won’t be tolerated. We operate in a no-spin zone.” The red flag drill extends the no-spin zone to meetings with managers and sales reps from distributors of Deschutes beers?

Does the idea of throwing red flags sound hokey or gimmicky? That’s exactly why the drill works. It turns a conversation to correct ineffective behavior into a playful game among team members who genuinely care for each other. Ultimately, everyone comes to realize the value of seizing these red flag drills to accumulate more practice reps in taking accountability. (Notice how practice in blaming occurs naturally and doesn’t require a pre-arranged triggering cue. All that’s required is an unwanted outcome, and a blaming rant or pity party erupts!).

Are you still thinking, “I can’t imagine people throwing red flags in my office?” If so, throw a red flag on yourself for harboring such a self-limiting belief.


Andy Tysler repeatedly says, “We’re inventing the future of the beer industry.” Deschutes sales team doesn’t mimic other beer manufacturers who offer their products as solutions for distributor and retailer problems. Their over-riding competitive advantage comes from inventing solutions to pervasive dilemmas in talent development.

The Practice While Real Work Gets Done Process enables team members to achieve unprecedented productivity—improving their skill proficiency while achieving today’s metrics. The Deschutes team lives the core principle: “All there is at work is time to get better.” (This work process innovation was covered in part 1 of this two-part blog. CLICK HERE TO READ PART 1.

Coaching for mindset disturbance focuses managers on the root cause of performance slumps, plateaus, and breakthroughs. By rushing to take accountability for their mindset, Deschutes orchestrates a “no-spin zone,” where people discard self-limiting beliefs and get freed up to express their full capabilities.

By galvanizing these game-changer solutions, Deschutes out-practices, out-coaches, out-learns and ultimately out-performs their competition.

Exclusive information not contained in my 2 blogs sharing this case study: If you’d like details on how Deschutes orchestrates Raise the Bar periods to routinely upgrade their sales team’s performance standards year after year, order the full case study by the button below.

Download the Case Study

To order my book on Amazon.com click on the button below or the book cover.

“We’d do more training but we barely have time to get our daily tasks done.” 

This is a universal lament from business leaders in fast-paced organizations… until they apply the unique and time-efficient practices outlined in this book. Competent is Not an Option shows you how to adapt the talent development process used by championship sports teams to produce all-star leaders in your business.

Buy the Book