Dave Fano

Dave Fano is the founder and CEO of Teal. Dave is an architect by training and a serial entrepreneur by compulsion. He founded the successful building information and technology consultancy Case. He then sold Case to WeWork and took on the role of chief growth officer there, where he was a key driver of their meteoric growth. I met Dave when he started his latest venture, Teal. I remember when Dave was first talking about his career experiences and how he wanted to make things better for the people who actually build companies, the employees, he told me that it struck him that the way people think about their careers and their jobs was broken, and he felt that the need to create a company to fix that. That compulsion led Dave to create Teal, an incredible group of people dedicated to providing the education, community and tools to help professionals build successful and fulfilling careers. I'm especially grateful to be talking to Dave today because Teal is one of Talentisms, first IP partners, and is using our big four framework and methodology to help people create their own unique path of professional excellence. I encourage you to learn more about this amazing company at Tealhq.com.

Jeff Hunter:
Hi, I'm Jeff Hunter, the founder and CEO of Talentism. Today, I'm speaking with Dave Fano, the
founder and CEO of Teal. Dave is an architect by training and a serial entrepreneur by
compulsion. He founded the successful building information and technology consultancy Case.
He then sold Case to WeWork and took on the role of chief growth officer there, where he was a
key driver of their meteoric growth. I met Dave when he started his latest venture, Teal. I
remember when Dave was first talking about his career experiences and how he wanted to
make things better for the people who actually build companies, the employees, he told me that
it struck him that the way people think about their careers and their jobs was broken, and he felt
that the need to create a company to fix that. That compulsion led Dave to create Teal, an
incredible group of people dedicated to providing the education, community and tools to help
professionals build successful and fulfilling careers. I'm especially grateful to be talking to Dave
today because Teal is one of Talentisms, first IP partners, and is using our big four framework
and methodology to help people create their own unique path of professional excellence. I
encourage you to learn more about this amazing company at Tealhq.com. That's Tealhq.com.
Dave, thank you so much for being here. Welcome to the conversation.
Dave Fano:
Thanks Jeff, I'm super honored to be a part of this as you know, someone who I look to as a
mentor and someone that's really paved the path for some really incredible things. And so I'm
really appreciative to have the time to talk to you and to do this with you.
Jeff Hunter:
So, Dave the way I understand it, at Teal you provide career coaching. You've worked with me,
you've partnered with Talentism. So, you know, our approach and thinking, and of course I know
you've done a lot of coaching over time as a successful executive. How do you think about the
value and importance of coaching?
Dave Fano:
So I think coaching is critical and I think that for anyone to push beyond their understanding of
their limits, some kind of external force is incredibly valuable, right? I think you know, for the
short time that I had a personal trainer, I was able to push myself, they were able to push me
further than I was able to push myself, just because I think we kind of you know, we like to play
it safe. We don't want to hurt ourselves. We don't like to fail. And so there's something about
having someone who you know, has your best interest in mind and helps you push to what they
think your potential is. And also that they've seen it done before, right? I mean, a lot of, I think
life is quite lonely in the sense that we're doing these things and we're experiencing them for the
first time and having that broader perspective, because even though that thing we’re
experiencing for the first time, there's a high likelihood someone else has experienced it. And so
I think that that is a lot of the value that, that coaches bring. I do think there's an important
distinction between coaching and advice and you want both, but I think that distinction is
important. Now all that said, that's not really what we do at Teal. I think that coaching is a
component of what we do and we're trying to be quite cautious about how we engage with the
theme of coaching. I think one of the things that's inherent in coaching is this one-on-one
relationship with an individual. And I think one of the things that you guys have done great at
Talentism is that you're establishing it as more of a platform. But you're still obviously have your
association to your coach that is using the platform. We're hoping to take that a step further,
mainly because we want to make it accessible to more people. There is an inherent cost
structure that comes with, you know, the livelihood of a person being based on, you know,
advising and this one-on-one high touch way, that I think is great for those that can afford it. And
a lot of times it's funded by companies, but we really want the consumer or the person that
works at companies to be able to do this and have agency with their career. And so that puts
the pressure on us to figure out ways to make this cost accessible and really leverage
technology and develop a platform and a methodology and framework that allow people to do it
on their own without the need of the high touch one-on-one coaching. So then that pushes us to
invest in tooling, content and frameworks that people can do in a self-guided way with the ability
to level up into a coach as necessary, but even that we're trying to figure out ways where that
can happen through chat or other low cost models and mainly so we can make it accessible to
more people, because that was kind of one of my contentions that you brought up earlier on in
the introduction is that these kinds of resources that I've been incredibly lucky to have. I got later
in my career, once I was sort of fiscally eligible. I have very few regrets, but I just think that if I
would have had access to these kinds of things earlier, I might've made better or different
decisions, and I really want to help people get access to those things sooner. So that's kind of,
so I think there are aspects and essences of coaching in what we do, but in terms of like a
delivery model and methodology, we're trying to break some new ground.
Jeff Hunter:
Yeah. So I want to talk a little bit about something that you said at the beginning of what you
were talking about. So I've shared with you that, you know, seven years ago, when I started
Talentism, I really didn't intend to start a coaching organization. I had these theories about the
human mindand how things work and a way to unleash potential. And it turned out that what I
thought was going to be a consultancy ended up being very much a coaching organization,
because as I worked with leaders and brought these frameworks and this way of thinking to
those leaders, they said; Hey, would you coach me? And so then I went out and started trying to
figure out the world of coaching, cause I had never done it before. And I know there's a lot of
incredible coaches out there and I wanted to sort of respect the craft as also learn about my
blind spots and ended up really differentiating or at least trying to differentiate what I was trying
to do from what I experienced most coaches trying to do. And I think you brought up a little bit of
what I experienced most coaches trying to do, which is be almost like a change agent or an
accountability agent in a person's life. Like there's a, I'm gonna push you or I've got a better way
of doing something. And what we've been trying to do is figure out how to be a good detective in
your life to help you make sense of the evidence that you're producing as you try to achieve
your goals. So it's really not an attempt to provide a place of security or safety. It's not an
attempt to say; Hey, listen, you said you were going to go out there and, you know, apologize to
people and he didn't apologize or whatever the thing is that the pushing of the, towards a
person's limits, but more to help them gain a level of self mastering a level of self awareness, a
level of self skepticism and self-acceptance and use experiments along the way to try to
produce more evidence, more data. So you can sort of see who you are. So help me, help me
connect that because I think when I think about the coaching sessions, you and I have, I have
found you to engage with that methodology really well. So can you help me understand what I
may be missing in what your saying, did I misinterpret that or do you see like different coaching
in different situations?
Dave Fano:
So I think the methodology is incredibly powerful and I think it's amazing. I just know what I pay
for coaching and a lot of people can't. And so what, and so I think it's that high touch component
of it that I think that's part of what makes it remarkable, but it's also part of what makes
inaccessible. And so I want to try to figure out what are the parts of it that can be extracted and
made more accessible via technology and automation, which hopefully then can guide people
through a journey to know when to engage in that at the right times, is because I think that like
point coaching could be super valuable, but also part of what's built into like the coaching
business model is a need to kind of keep it going, right? Like, there's, we're going to be monthly.
I'm going to get you to a monthly fee because that's just the nature of business. Recurring
revenue is good going out and reacquiring customers every month is really expensive and
costly. And so they are, and look, this is just, I think, kind of the, one of the tensions of
commerce, be it employee, employer, you know, a service provider service receiver. And I think
you have to be like fiscally eligible enough to get that kind of quality of service. And then what
happens is there's a like non-linear relationship of cost to quality. And I think as you get down to
the low cost coaching, I don't, I think that there is a serious diminishing of quality. And then not
to say that there aren't remarkable coaches, but the volume of coaches is also much, much
higher. And so the chances of someone engaging with a coach and them not being helpful are
quite high. And I think that then the scales tip from not helpful to hurtful. And I think that's really
dangerous because I think people, especially when it comes to navigating their career are really
looking for a safe place to talk, because there's so much judgment and pressure around talking
about things like how much money you want to make, or that some of the vulnerabilities you
have, because you have to maintain this identity of confidence that people actually quite quickly
intrust a coach. And if these coaches aren't experts like you with the experience that you have,
they can very quickly misguide somebody and then you actually give them quite bad advice.
And I think it's actually quite easy for people to lean into giving advice and not follow like proper
coaching methodologies, which are hard and you have to be practiced at. And so I think that's
the big concern for me and then kind of what we're trying to tackle at Teal, that it's less driven by
like a human to human interaction, which allows for a tremendous amount of judgment in a very
vulnerable space and making a bit more systematic and predictable and not necessarily in
terms of outcomes, but at least in terms of experience.
Jeff Hunter:
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And as you were speaking, I was just reflecting on something
that happens to me a lot of days, not all days, but the, you know, I'll be talking to maybe five, six
CEOs or founders in a day and I'll end the day asking myself, did I do a good job today?
Because I believe that responsibility of a coach to be fully present for the person and engaged
in what they're going through and suspend judgment in the pursuit of investigation of what's true
and try to, you know, put aside our own biases and beliefs, just so we can, at least in our
methodology be true to the framework and try to process the information well, and every day I
end up wondering like whether I did a good job. And I think that you know, in big four, that's the
nature of how we think about these things, right? Is it is not pleasant to wonder at the end of the
day, whether you did a good job. And yet I think its the very nature of a pursuit of excellence.
And I've seen you do this and many other people, is like the harder you work, the more you
realize how far you have to go to be excellent. And so you work even harder and are open to
the question about whether you're even doing this right. And so you keep pushing and pursuing,
but I can imagine that the difference between somebody in my position, being able to afford the
time and the pressure of being able to do that every day to challenge myself and somebody
who's trying to handle a much broader scope of people is different. I did want to ask you one
thing that you were talking about. So one of the things I think has been really clear and in
everybody I work with and I'd say you're an especially good case of this. They have pretty good
self-awareness and they care about that. Like they want to be self-aware, absent
self-awareness I think it's almost impossible to get better at something. Because you spend
most of your time caught in your internal narratives about how everyone else is to blame for
what's going on, as opposed to seeing where you are in that picture. What have you found in
the world of Teal with regards to a career, a person who's going through a career change or
career challenge and how they bring a sense of self-awareness to that? Are they just trying to
get into the next job or are they really able to step back in your experience and sort of reflect
and think about, you know, a bigger picture.
Dave Fano:
That's probably been the most exciting and intimidating part of these early parts of the Teal
journey is it's so complex what people are optimizing for and the way that they've crafted their
life either, you know, strategically or opportunistically or proactively or reactively to get them into
the situation that they're in and watching them navigate all those things to make that next
decision to, you know, people who get laid off and say, well, this was great because I was never
going to quit. And now I can take the next three to six months to figure out what I want to do to
someone who abruptly quits and says, I need a job in a week because I was so miserable, but I
really don't have any cushion, but I made that decision anyway. And so just like watching and
dissecting the way that people make decisions and what those triggers for them are, has been
really interesting. And we're actually going through an exercise now trying to archetype people
and it's really hard and it's no, we're not going to be able to just like bucket people. It's going to
be these different dimensions and just seeing where people are on those scales of what matters
to them. And you know, is someone a saver so that they can make these decisions is someone
you know, kind of a bit of a planner, but not a saver. So they're less willing to take a job that they
don't like. Where are they in their career? You know, are they, is this job one or is this job
seven? Are they, why are they pursuing compensation because the world has told them to, or
because they really need the money. And how have they attached like compensation to
self-worth and identity. There's, our careers make up such a massive part of our identity and
they trigger a lot of parts of our biology. I think that, you know, amygdala hijack is a real thing in
career management, but it's not life or death in the same way. It was that our amygdala was
kind of like built to do when we were being attacked by a saber tooth tiger or something, but we
confuse ourselves and that's been really interesting to see, like where is someone using more of
like the calculating parts of their brain versus more of these like animalistic survival parts of their
brain as they make these career decisions. And it's been super fascinating and to say that I've
got like patterns, it would just be way too early.
Jeff Hunter:
Yeah. So Dave, I think something that you and I have talked about frequently that as part of not
only our ongoing coaching, but also as part of the partnership between Talentism and Teal. And
I think it's embedded in what you were just talking about with regards to what people are like
and what their context is, what their situation is. Is this notion of how individuals pursue their
individual or unique path to excellence embedded in this idea, in this concept that excellence
really as being good at what you do, being good at your craft or your job or your responsibilities
is really the only sustainable competitive advantage, even in the midst of huge disruptions and
how work gets done with technology and global markets and all those kinds of things. What you
see is that people who are truly excellent tend to have secure, security and the people don't can
be much more at the whims of bad managers, bad leaders, bad companies, etcetera. When
you're working through coaching individuals or working with individuals and giving them the
toolkit that Teal is giving them to help them think about not only what they want to do for a living,
but what they're really good at. How do you guys think through that and how do you work that?
Dave Fano:
So it's early days for us on that front, we've been laser focused on helping people land jobs, you
know, given the current climate and part of that is understanding what they're good at. And this
is where one of the reasons we're excited to partner with you guys because you've done a lot of
work on that front, what we have done some work on is that we've developed our own what
we're calling work style assessment. It's more of like a behavioral assessment. It's got a lot of
learnings from disc which is a pretty common workplace behavioral assessment. And we've kind
of put a little bit of our own flavor on it. And one thing that was really important to me in us
building it, which is I saw in a lot of flaws in these assessments is you can't take them multiple
times and compare the data and you, and they don't have a lot of like three sixties, some do.
But it's, you know, those, then you have to like hire a consultant to read you the results. And so I
wanted to do something a little more self-serve there. And that's been really interesting seeing
how someone perceives themselves versus their reputation, right? That's kind of the distinction
Hogan makes which I think is a good one and that's prompted some great conversations when
someone would say, even for myself, I, one of the words pairings is questioning and accepting.
And I was, I put myself all the way maximum accepting, and I think of the 15 people that took it
on my behalf, not a single person put me on the accepting side and part of it was semantic, but
then it was like a huge eye opening for me. I was like, oh right, yeah. When I do that, like
intensive questioning that I do, it makes people, like it comes off as a different way, or me
thinking that's my path to becoming accepting. And so it was, I think that, that is really helpful.
And I think in the context of shaping your career, understanding how others perceive you,
because your career really is influenced by the people that enable it, scaffold it, you know paved
paths for you. It really isn't this singular thing. It has a ton of dependencies. And so that's an
area where we see ourselves really investing, is having other people that you trust, give you that
input and making it really easy. You know, so one of the ones we want to work on now is skills. I
might have a sense of what I think I'm good at, but I'm also incredibly susceptible to blind spots.
So in a way to help me understand what I'm good at, I'm going to start to engage with others
and say; Hey, what do you think I'm good at? Like in my last role at this company, as my
manager, what were areas where you think I excelled and I want to leave out the negative
because that's kind of not the point. I think you can do that in other ways. And then it gets
awkward for people to then give that feedback and then they want an amenity and you have to
end up having to do all these things to obfuscate the value. So let's just keep it simple and have
people tell me what they think I'm good at. And so I think my intuition right now is that that will
surface things that either people didn't realize they were good at, or they thought that they just
took for granted. They didn't recognize it. What I've seen oftentimes is things that people are
really good at. They just think that that's kind of like second nature and that's not worth
articulating as a skill, but in the pursuit of building a fulfilling career, those are the things that
unlock you. When you can find these things that are these talents that come natural to you, and
that you don't even recognize them as a skill. If more people can help you identify those, then I
think you can get that much closer to doing work that's fulfilling, energizing, engaging, you know,
that you jump out of bed for, in the morning to do. And that's really what we're after.
Jeff Hunter:
That's so cool. Because I think what you're talking about is the nature of confusion and how to
apply that through the lens of Teal. For me, this idea of confusion, I've been working through it
for many, many years or decades, but I always use the American idol task, which is, you know,
the first five years I watched American idol just loved it. Then, you know, they picked Carry over
Bo and I had to leave, but the thing that always struck me and of course it's the way the
producers cut it and everything, but we have to acknowledge all that. They're creating drama,
but you can sort of bucket people who are in effect seeking a career change right there. They're
not professional singers who have big record contracts who are coming in to be judged by the
assignment. They're actually people who would like to make a career change, make a move up.
And so you had this group of people who were just incredibly confident. Incredibly confident like
I know myself, I know what I'm good at. I know my skills and they'd open their mouth and sing,
and it was like a cat screeching. It was just horrendous. And then similarly, there are a group of
people walked in who you could just see it in their face and in their narrative. Like, I have no
idea why I am here. I am a terrible singer, but there's something that is compelling me to show
up and try this. And then they open their mouth and they're just glorious, right? And then you've
got people, you know, in between, there are different levels of self-awareness and confidence
and capability or skill. And to me, we're all just singers trying out for American idol. We all have
different levels of self-awareness about what we're good at and what we're not good at. And we
need help to figure out what's true because just because you can sing it in the shower does not
mean you can sing it on stage and you need help to figure out exactly how good you are and
also what different contexts you're good in and what contexts you struggle in. Because there's
lots continuing with the singing analogy. There's lots of things where, you know, somebody
really good in the recording booth and they get onstage and they're terrible or vice versa. It's
singing both times the same skill, but the context is extremely different in our minds process,
that context very differently. And so I love how you guys are helping people figure that stuff out
because I think having a safe set of hands, an expert set of hands to help somebody figure out,
work through that confusion, help them see what they're really good at, what they're really
compulsively driven to do, what kinds of outcomes they find meaningful and connect them to
opportunities that exist out there is, it's just awesome. It's in my opinion, it's sacred work. I'm so
glad that you're doing it. I'm so glad you've moved from the initial conversations we had to
actually making this thing a reality and helping thousands of people. And I'm just grateful to
have been a small part of helping you. So Dave, we're at the end of our time, I just want to say
thank you so much for participating in this inaugural podcast. We'll see how it goes. We'll just
you know, we'll put it out there and let's see if anybody thinks that we're good singers or bad
singers, but we'll get some feedback and hopefully get better. I really, really appreciate it. Thank
you so much.
Dave Fano:
Awesome. Yeah, I really appreciate being asked to do this and you know, that it means a lot to
me that you would think to have me as one of the early people on it. So I'm incredibly
appreciative and I'm excited to see where it goes and, you know, I volunteer to do another one
where I spill my guts out and then you sorta dissectomy live if that's experiment number two we
can see how the crowd feels about that.
Jeff Hunter:
Yeah, that would be awesome. Okay well, we'll get the anesthesia ready and we'll prep the
room and invite you back.
Dave Fano:
All right. Thanks Jeff.
Jeff Hunter:
All right. Thanks Dave.

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