An Olympic Chairman on Finding Your Voice

I was fortunate to have a conversation with the Chairman and Team Leader of the US Olympic Sailing Program, Dean Brenner. He’s founder of the Latimer Group and recently authored, “Sharing the Sandbox.”


Interviews with unexpected beginnings often surprise me the most. I had a feeling about Dean so I asked, “When did you realize you were a teacher?” Dean said, “Funny you say that.”  He and his wife discuss this very topic. He is a teacher but not in the formal sense.


Eventually, his dad entered the conversation.

Dean said, “I had a ‘complicated’ relationship with my dad. For many years we didn’t speak.”

Dean and his dad were getting to know each other again when his dad died suddenly. His new book, “Sharing the Sandbox,” begins, “To my father…”

Finding his voice:

Dean said, “I remember trying to chime in with the adult conversation at the dinner table. Whenever I misspoke or used poor grammar, dad grilled me in front of everybody.”

Those years were a double edged sword for Dean. They strained his relationship with his father but Dean said, “I learned the value of words and to think before speaking.” Today, Dean is an executive coach, with a focus on public speaking, presentation and communication skills. Dean said,

“I help people find their voice.”

I asked, “How do you help people find their voice?” Dean said,

“I Remind people how great they are.”

Dean went on to share his coaching orientation.

Helping people find their voice:

  1. Believe nurture matters; it’s not all nature.
  2. Don’t be directive.
  3. Ask simple questions.
  4. Repeat back what you hear.
  5. Develop tangible steps to clear goals. Coaching is more than a pat on the back.
  6. Provide tools. Say, “This has worked for others, it may work for you.”

I appreciate the tension between not being directive and providing tools that worked for others.

How do you help people find their voice?