Success

Ex-Yankees performance coach turned executive coach gives his top tips for success

Credit: Dave Cavalea

Dana Cavalea says it's a lot tougher to coach CEOs than World Series champions like Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter.

"[CEOs] are usually less open upfront and are used to doing the 'leadership' more than being coached," Cavalea, the New York Yankees' former director of strength and conditioning tells CNBC Make It.

Cavalea spent 12 years with the Yankees franchise, seven of those years as the director, where he would oversee all aspects of the players' performance.

"I would ensure all players were ready to play physically and mentally each day," he says, which meant Cavalea would have to custom design training plans for close to 25 players who made the Yankees roster each year.

"Now I approach the CEOs and executives that I advise the same way," he says. "I also keep my roster about the same size at 25."

Cavalea began coaching business executives like CEOs and hedge fund managers in addition to athletes when his contract ended with the Yankees in 2014.

"I started working with CEOs that actually saw themselves as being as competitive as athletes. At first, they just started asking me simple questions as to how they can improve their performance. Then they wanted to be their personal coach," he says, "figuring, that if I worked with Jeter, I'm good enough to help them."

Over the last six years, Cavalea says he has coached more than 250 executives at companies like Wells Fargo, Deloitte, Steiner Sports, Letgo and Taboola. For private coaching, Cavalea says he charges upwards of $25,000 a year.

"I set it up as annual/monthly retainer. Coaching is a process and a commitment that is dynamic and we navigate life together over the year," he says. Cavalea typically checks in with his clients over the phone or via Skype each week or biweekly, sometimes more if one of his clients has a big event or business deal.

How his coaching works

Before Cavalea takes on a new client, he has them full out an extensive questionnaire to help him "get a true understanding of who they are, and what their true needs are," he says.

It also helps him decide if they are a good fit for his program or not. "A lot of executives aren't coachable," he says.

Cavalea then has a 20-minute introductory call with his potential client to learn more about them and address what he calls "the elephant in the room."

"This is the biggest issue that they face. It could be health, weight, stress, anxiety, leadership issues or even a relationship issue at home. This is our starting point," he says.

After they both agree to a year's commitment, Cavalea starts to create a custom plan for their goals. Each week, Cavalea says, he is responsible for managing the client's progress and holding them accountable.

"At times, I have to call them out on their s--- because nobody else usually has the guts to do it. I treat them just like my athletes. I coach them hard, but they all know I care," Cavalea says.

While he says each client and each problem or goal is always different, there are some staple lessons he has learned from coaching more than 1,500 athletes and executives over the course of his career.

In his 2018 book, "Habits of a Champion," he outlines 15 principals of success, which he says can help anyone achieve a goal or improve their performance.

The lessons "have given me strength when I needed it, power when I didn't have it, and, most importantly, the guts to overcome the fears I face every single day," Cavalea writes in his book.

Cavalea's top 5 lessons for success

1. Hate to lose more than you love to win

Cavalea says this lesson was inspired by Deter Jeter. Everyone in sports or business wants to win, he says, but there is a "big difference" between those who simply want to win and those who hate to lose.

"That difference is relentlessness and a fire that can not be extinguished by an acute failure," Cavalea says.

Cavalea says when setting a goal, figure out what is driving you to achieve it. If you are willing to do whatever it takes to reach the goal rather than looking for the easy way out, you are on the right track.

2. Never get too high and never get too low

Cavalea reminds his clients every day that their "mood" and "vibe" determine their daily success.

In highly successful people, he says, temperament is everything. The good leaders (and athletes) are typically unaffected by individual wins or losses, good or bad quarters; rather they stay the course with an eye to what they are trying to achieve.

"They are not defined or reactive by what happens in the micro but rather the macro."

3. Consistency yields results

Cavalea says "consistency over time yields results" is his favorite quote of all time because it is the "true differentiator between those who are champions for life, on and off the field, and those who are just a flash in a pan."

Consistency is the area where people struggle the most, he says: Most people start out to achieve a goal but don't ever finish.

"Nobody has it all together, all the time. I have serviced entry-level millionaires to multi-billionaires and both struggle with consistency, because they run out of willpower to do it alone and hold themselves accountable," he says.

A majority of the time, the problem is that they don't have the right plan and they simply need someone to help them to take the right "baby steps" toward their goal.

Cavalea says if you can't afford to hire a coach, "reading is always an option."

He suggests buying books about the people you admire the most and learn from their stories of success. Or reach out to a business leader in your community that is either retired or reaching the retirement age and ask for advice.

4. If they don't respect your time, they don't respect you

Cavalea makes a majority of his clients take out a sheet of paper and write down all the habits that are causing them to waste time.

"These could be social media-scrolling, having too many open windows on your computer, not having a daily to-do list. Whatever it may be, write it down. Then, keep it in front of you," he says.

"The list works as a guidance system that keep us in line and prevents us from going off task. Usually, when we go off task, we are left feeling depleted and frustrated that we got nothing done," he says, which will result in unachieved goals.

Also, the great lesson in sports that he learned early on was the Vince Lombardi rule: "If you are not 15 minutes early, you are late. This is more than about being on time. It is about respect," says Cavalea.

5. Fit to win

Cavalea says this has nothing to do with looking like a professional athlete but rather if you are "fit enough," both physically and mentally, to play the game you choose to play in sports, in business or in life.

"If you are in better condition, you can give more to others. Get yourself right, then give like a man-imal! (part man or woman and animal AKA #beastmode)," Cavalea writes in his book.

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