Name: Darren "DC" Lyons
Oranisation: Korrior, Inc.
As a customer journey executive for 20 years, Darren built relationships across the globe, managing a business process outsourcer organization in Asia, Central America and South America. When he was the director of global customer care for 1-800-flowers.com, he led a vendor organization of 1000 FTE across seven partners in five countries and ten cities.
Over the past seven years, Darren has had numerous health issues, including two below-knee amputations, stage five kidney failure requiring dialysis three times a week, a stroke, and congestive heart failure. Yet, Darren has used the concepts learned managing vendors to help him overcome his physical limitation, leaning into your discomfort, the power of partnerships and the importance of clear, consistent and concise communication. Darren's story is one of triumph because of his tenacious desire to fight back for his life through these trials.
Darren obtained his Master's Degree in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix and a Bachelor of Arts in History from George Mason University. Darren and his lovely wife Elaine founded Korrior, Inc. with a vision to create inspirational books and faith-based media projects. Darren's eBook, A Day in the Life in a Skilled Nursing Facility: Short Stories from a Young Man Trapped in a Nursing Home, was released in September 2018. Darren's memoir, With Worn Out Tools: Navigating The Rituals of Midlife, was released in the winter of 2021. Darren is a certified John Maxwell trainer, coach and speaker with an executive coaching clientele of 15 executives in four countries. He is a licensed color code personality assessment facilitator, training over 500 leaders in four countries. He is a 2019 consumer reviewer for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program. Darren lost over 270 pounds with a vegetarian diet.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Darren's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
Finding the time to reflect is the most difficult aspect of leadership. Many leaders carry profound thoughts in their head. Often times the leader is so busy that they don't find the time to "flesh-out "those thoughts or even write their ideas down. As a coach, I encourage leaders to invest time into their own reflections before communicating to their team. It's a trick that you don't have time to plan. The old saying is, "fail to plan, plan to fail". When I take time each week and write out my Most Important Things (MITs), and consistently practice that weekly management discipline, I become a better leader. At Korrior, Inc. "we help leaders get thoughts and ideas out of their heads, and transform those thoughts and ideas into breakthroughs.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
Like many of the people that participate in your survey , I started my leadership journey honestly in the church. I refined my communication skills by reciting recitations and participating in church plays. Then I developed more specific leadership skills by participating in school government (SGA), and being president of my freshmen, sophomore and junior classes. Later I refined those skills through affiliation with my fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. But my true leadership skills were developed through leading large call center organizations. In my corporate career, I was a Senior Manager at Capitol One, Director of Global Customer Care at 1-800-Flowers.com and Assistant Vice President of Consumer Operations at The Hartford Insurance, As an entrepreneur, I go back to the lessons that I learned from mentors at those organizations such as Ed Siska, Keith Jones, Lynn Quido, John Streitmatter, Carey Box, and Greg Brown. I call on many of those mentors even today.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
When I was a corporate executive my day was full of meetings, often back to back on conference calls with teams across the globe. I had to struggle to even get a bathroom break! Now my days have different struggles.
I start my day by participating in a Clubhouse room at 5 A.M called "Establishing J.O.Y.". Clubhouse is an "all audio" phone application. I am a co-facilitator in a community of faith that creates a space for participants to discuss issues of faith and create a J.O.Y plan for the day. At 6 AM I participate in my local church's prayer group (Voice of Hope, SDA). Then I put on my prosthetic legs and start my day!
As I double below knee amputee, stroke survivor and dialysis patient with a heart condition, you can imagine I have one or two medications to take! Also, my schedule is dominated by my dialysis sessions and medical appointments. The trick is to find full time work with part-time availability.
Next I have my wheelchair yoga work-out which keeps me flexible as I spend most of my day in a wheelchair and transition to a standing Rollator to get to dialysis.
As the CEO of Korrior Inc., my day is ruled by my "Most Important Things" List (MITs). This list is separated into 5 sections that I work through each day (writing, training, coaching, speaking, CEO stuff). Since "the fortune is in the follow-up" I spend the majority of my time following up on tasks in my incubator. These task include preparing and coaching for my twenty executive coaching clients, training or preparing to train corporate leaders in The Color Code Personality Assessment, preparing a new keynote message, marketing my book, or following up on new opportunities.
Since I have to work on diverse tasks, I have recently started setting a timer on my phone to break up my day. This technique helps me to focus on one task at a time, and breaks up my day into productive "chunks".
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
In my book, "With Worn Out Tools: Navigating the Rituals of Midlife", I share the double below- knee amputee rule #1, the mother of all double below-knee amputee rules. It is based on the premise that it takes 75% more energy to complete any task with your prosthetic leg compared to completing tasks with your natural leg. The rule states, "From now on, nothing is easy, everything requires your maximum effort". As a double below knee amputee, even simple tasks require my maximum effort; getting out of bed , standing up, or walking across the floor (try doing that with no ankles!).
As an entrepreneur, every executive coaching client, Color Code Personality Assessment participant, or keynote attendee deserves my maximum effort and energy. I was reminded of this when I had my 27th follow up meeting with a new client!
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey is the book that has most profoundly impacted my leadership skills. Written in the 90s, this time tested resource continues to drive my thought process. Habits like, "Beginning with The End In Mind" has helped me to invest time into strategizing the big picture. "Be Proactive" helps me to "stop doing nothing". But the strongest habit is the fourth habit; "Seek first to understand, and then to be understood". That habit has help me to better communicate with people with differing, and diverse opinions.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Live in the moment! A career is full of different assignments. Some you will be suited well to and in some you will struggle. Live in the moment and get the lesson out of each one. Enjoy the journey!
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
I have a sales incubator that I use to track new sales opportunities. It is like an homemade HubSpot". I update it weekly.
In this tool I enter in new sales opportunities, track progression, and update contacts information until they come to fruition. Recently, I was following up with a prospective client for the 27th time! I know this because my Sales Incubator is a Google Sheet, and my latest update was on cell AA (there are 26 letters in the alphabet, so cell AA is the 27th!).
As I invoiced that client for the first time, I was reminded that, "the fortune is in the follow up". Ask for what you need, expect resistance and believe! Stay true to your business disciplines and believe!