Derek Gaunt

Derek Gaunt
Derek Gaunt is lecturer, author of Ego, Authority, Failure, and trainer with 29 years of law enforcement experience, 20 of which as a team member, leader and then commander of hostage negotiations teams in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. As a member of the Black Swan Group, he is a negotiation trainer and personal coach. His training has helped leaders and their organizations increase their performance by changing the way they think about communicating one person to another.
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Recent Posts

5 Steps to Assess Your Leadership Skills

By Derek Gaunt | January 18, 2021

Many leaders get to the top, think they’ve made it, and stop trying to improve.

The best leaders, on the other hand, understand that leadership is always a work in progress and that they can always sharpen their skills. They understand that toxic leaders are the No. 1 reason people leave their jobs, so they work hard to constantly get better and get their team to trust them more and more.

If your goal is to keep your employees engaged and build a tight-knit team that would go to the ends of the earth for you, cycle through these five steps regularly to keep your eyes on the prize.

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Communication Skills: How to Deliver Bad News

By Derek Gaunt | January 11, 2021

In an ideal world, everything would be rosy, and you’d never have to deliver bad news to your direct reports. But there comes a time when every leader needs to give negative feedback or share news the team doesn’t want to hear. The way you approach these delicate conversations will make all the difference in the world.

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Communication Skills: How Leaders Can Regain Trust

By Derek Gaunt | December 28, 2020

Even though you’re a leader, you’re still a human being—which means that from time to time, you’re going to make mistakes. That’s just the way it is.

Now, making a mistake isn’t the end of the world—even for leaders. But because of their egos, many leaders fail to admit they’ve made any mistakes at all. They’re afraid of looking weak or being viewed as fallible. For some people, an apology is akin to an admission of incompetence.

When leaders don’t accept responsibility for their own individual shortcomings as well as when the team doesn’t perform the way it’s supposed to, relationships with those around them are damaged. 

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Leadership Training: How to Confront a Fellow Leader

By Derek Gaunt | November 23, 2020

Maybe you keep hearing grumblings about how a leader at the company is demoralizing their direct reports. Maybe you keep hearing about a manager who is quick to take credit for team successes—and even quicker to assign blame when things don’t work out well.

Whatever the case, there will be times when you need to deliver bad news to another leader at your organization. When this happens, there are almost no changes in the approach you’d take if you were delivering the same news to a direct report.

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Infographic: 7 Characteristics of Effective Leadership

By Derek Gaunt | September 22, 2020

Most of us have either been there ourselves or have heard someone else say some form of the following: “The job was great, but I couldn’t work for my boss anymore so I decided to look for something new.”

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5 Reasons Fear-Based Leadership Is Ineffective

By Derek Gaunt | September 07, 2020

Show me a leader who uses fear to get the troops in line, and I’ll show you a toxic environment.

Unfortunately, far too many leaders use fear to get their employees to do their bidding. Maybe the leader constantly reminds employees about the company’s dire finances during COVID and suggests that it’s only a matter of time before someone needs to be let go. Or maybe the leader enjoys calling out an employee’s mistakes to the whole group—leading everyone to constantly worry about being embarrassed or belittled for not meeting the boss’s expectations.

Whatever the case, fear-based leadership is ineffective. There are leaders who might be tempted to use their ego and authority to torment their teams and remind them who’s boss, it’s impossible to get the best business outcomes when you take this approach. 

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What Is the Black Swan Accusation Audit™?

By Derek Gaunt | August 24, 2020

When you’re in the middle of a negotiation and the other side’s head is filled with negative thoughts and ideas, there’s a black hole vortex in their thinking. They can’t think clearly, and in many cases, they might not even be able to hear what you’re saying at all because their internal monologue is hogging the microphone.

The good news is that you can stifle these negative thoughts and make sure your counterpart is more receptive to your message by using a technique we created called the Accusation Audit™.

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How to Demonstrate Leadership Virtually

By Derek Gaunt | August 17, 2020

If you’re like many people, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced your organization to work remotely and embrace the virtual office.

Because of the current state of the world, practically everything is relegated to the digital environment. If you’re used to managing a team in an office setting, you might be thinking that you’ll need to adapt your approach to the new way of working.

Not so fast: When you’re leading virtually, your roles and responsibilities stay the same

There are, however, a few different tactics you may want to prioritize to help your team adjust to “the new normal.” Try them out when you’re trying to demonstrate leadership virtually.

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Communication Skills: Did You Know There Are 5 Levels of Listening?

By Derek Gaunt | August 13, 2020

This blog was originally published on 5/14/2018 and updated on 8/13/2020.

Most people who think they are good listeners underperform—by as much as 60 percent, in fact, according to some research. It turns out that overconfidence actually impedes their success. 

Being too confident actually prevents you from truly understanding the motivation of the other side, which prevents you from being able to use Tactical Empathy™ to get the outcomes you’re going for. 

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Communication Skills: How to Use a Cold Read and Accusation Audit

By Derek Gaunt | August 06, 2020

This blog was originally published on 4/17/2017 and updated on 8/6/2020.

A few years ago, I was the only hostage negotiator in a room full of SWAT guys. 

The quarterly meeting was for SWAT guys, by SWAT guys, and I was an interloper in hostile territory.

Why was I there? To request a piece of their pie. 

The SWAT group had a training operations cache of about $78,000. Because they hadn’t spent any of the money over several years, I wanted to know whether I could grab $9,000 each year to train negotiators.

I used two communication skills—a Cold Read and an Accusation Audit™—to walk out of the room with what I wanted.

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