Leadership/Management

Vistage CEO Sam Reese: ‘We All Have Big Opportunities For Breakthroughs’

It was his high school track coach who taught Sam Reese that while it’s important to set goals, it’s even more important to follow through on them. 

Ill-prepared for the state championship track meet due to an injury that sidelined him most of the season, Reese asked his coach about his race strategy. “I haven’t been running all year,” he began. “What place should I be running for?”

“At the beginning of the season you said you were going to be the state champion?” the coach replied.

When, puzzled, Reese told the coach that his goal now seemed unlikely, the coach flatly replied, “Then don’t run… but I thought you wanted to win it?” 

“I do want to win it,” said Reese as the coach’s meaning began to dawn on him.

“So go for the win,” said the coach.

Reese ended up winning and went on to become an All-American track and cross country athlete at the University of Colorado Boulder. 

His coach’s lesson — once you set a goal, commit to action to achieve it — may sound simple and even obvious, admits Reese, but this fails to account for human nature, which can always come up with ways for “talking ourselves out of” committing to action. 

Reese overcomes the inclination by remembering his track experience every day. “You wake up in the morning in Boulder, Colorado, and you look outside, and there’s three feet of snow on the ground,” explained Reese in the podcast. “You can talk yourself out of the effort by saying it’s too cold, you’ll get wet and, maybe, even sick. But if, instead, you just put the shoes on and go, you never, ever regret it. You feel great the rest of the day.”

Reese adopted his goal-setting ethos to fashion a 35-year career as a business leader and, today, is CEO of Vistage, a CEO coaching and peer advisory organization for small and midsize businesses. Today, more than 45,000 members in 35 countries rely on Vistage to help make better decisions for their companies, families and communities. 

In our conversation, Reese shared his thoughts on ways leaders can hold themselves and their teams to a bolder standard of “action,” including: 

• Setting your personal goals around the “Six F’s” of family, finances, function (career), fitness, faith and future

• Building a great team by first declaring what you believe in so others can hold you accountable and better align with you in their work 

• Thinking in terms of achieving personal and organizational breakthroughs

“I believe that we all have big opportunities for breakthroughs,” averred Reese. “We can get stuck thinking we can only improve a little bit at a time, but I believe in big breakthroughs. The fun and the challenge is to achieve it and then you hold on to that as long as you can — until you get to the next level of performance.”


Don Yaeger

Over the last 30 years, longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated and 11-time New York Times Best-Selling Author Don Yaeger has been blessed to interview the greatest winners of our generation. He has made a second career as a keynote speaker and executive coach, discerning habits of high performance to teach teams how to reach their full potential.

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Don Yaeger

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