Todd Kuckkahn is on a mission to revolutionize company culture and leadership. His efforts assist businesses with their budget’s bottom line.
In a way, he needed lots of experience in gathering cash because Todd is a DODO (Dad of Daughters Only) of four young women equally adept at spending whatever he could make. Although they are all out of the house now and starting careers or families of their own, Todd already has one grandson and is looking forward to several more someday soon.
“I blame my daughters for all the gray hair I have, but my wife and I were blessed to have such good kids,” he explained.
One of the things Todd enjoyed doing was coaching them in various sports as the girls grew up, especially basketball. Standing at 6-feet and 3-inches, he was a teacher and basketball coach right out of college. In fact, he worked for legendary University of Wisconsin head basketball coach, Bo Ryan, when they both coached the University of Wisconsin – Platteville men’s basketball team. After closing the regular season in 1991 with a 28-3 record and setting a school record of 97.4 points per game, the team won the NCAA Division III national championship that year.
After working a few years as a high school teacher, Todd jumped into the non-profit world where he served as a fund development officer for the United Way, Girl Scouts, Madison Children’s Museum, Marshfield Clinic and Special Olympics. In education, he worked for University of Wisconsin campuses in Madison and Stevens Point, as well as a private high school.
At his most recent job, Todd served as the executive director of the Portage County Business Council where he forged a desire to develop leaders and help professionals improve their networking skills. He continues to serve as an adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point.
Turning point at 50
It was after Todd turned 50 that he began pursuing a new direction for his life in a way that combined his natural speaking ability with his enthusiasm for mentoring younger professionals.
He completed training and became certified by the John Maxwell Team as a motivational speaker and leadership coach. Then, he started his own company providing training to a variety of businesses and other organizations where he encourages employees to lead efforts toward meaningful engagement and building trust.
“I’m on a mission to revolutionize company culture and leadership,” Todd explained. “I’ve been involved in some lousy work situations as well as some really great companies. What made the difference was the amount of engagement taking place among the staff.
“The scope of business is changing quickly for companies large and small,” he added. “If businesses aren’t shifting, then they’re going to be in trouble. I guide them toward more engagement while helping them shift toward more productive hybrid work models.”
COVID changed the business landscape for every company by forcing many staff members to work from home. While many employees and companies were skeptical about the situation at first, they discovered employees liked the flexibility to work from home and firms learned the staff could often be more productive by working remotely.
“Consequently, we are really losing the connectiveness that once defined effective workplaces,” Todd explained. “The smiles, handshakes, hugs, lunches with coworkers – people who work remotely miss out on all those positive opportunities for interpersonal connections.”
It’s even more challenging for companies with remote staff working overseas. Those relationships are difficult for people to develop trust with each other, he added.
“Sadly, people often make judgements based on what I call the iceberg effect. They form opinions based on the 10% of what they can see,” said Todd. “Yet, most of who we are lies below the surface and that is only visible through close human connections.”
Living to lead
Todd started this journey back when he was working at the Portage County Business Council. One of its members was sponsoring a Live2Lead event at their company. Hosted by John Maxwell himself and featuring presentations by well-known business leaders, the event was simulcast to locations around the world. Because the organizer knew the event could have a life-changing impact on participants. he wanted Todd’s help in promoting the event.
A fan of Maxwell’s writing for years, Todd suggested trading a complimentary membership in the council for six tickets to the event.
“He agreed and we promoted the event. However, being the smart leader that I am, I grabbed one of the tickets and gave away the other five,” he explained. “What really struck me while watching Live2Lead was that John Maxwell was turning 70 that year.
“He had written dozens of books and impacted tens of thousands of people, but John said he had not accomplished everything he needed to in his life,” said Todd. “Here I was, about to turn 60, and I felt as though I hadn’t really done anything.
“When John mentioned he was traveling to some Caribbean countries to train other leaders, he got really emotional about it,” Todd added. “As I listened, I realized I could have a similar impact around me.”
Much of what Todd teaches comes from Maxwell programs, but he also taps into material produced by Patrick Lencioni, Simon Sinek and Matthew Kelly, among others. To get access to those materials and become a Maxwell-certified trainer, Todd did have to make an investment. But, he considers it money well spent.
“I have a daughter who is getting married and doing a destination wedding. THAT is a sizeable investment,” he explained. “Yes, it cost money to go through the Maxwell program, but the resources I can use far outweigh any cost I incurred to access the material.
“You can make an investment in something and not do anything with it, or you can make the same investment and choose to do a lot,” said Todd. “While I was going through the Maxwell material, that’s when I decided to promote the concept of solopreneurship.”
When Todd described his vision to start a new company to his family, he received mixed support.
“My kids were curiously excited, but my wife was a bit more nervous about it,” he explained. “She eventually came around, but she was worried at first.
“I thought a lot about it before deciding to make the move,” said Todd. “Only one of our daughters was still in college wrapping up a master’s degree, so her path was pretty well set. The other three all have good jobs are at good points in their lives, so it wasn’t a risk from that standpoint.”
However, his biggest concern was losing health insurance benefits that came with his job.
“As a solopreneur, you have to work when the work is there and you don’t necessarily choose when that happens,” Todd explained. “We try to carve out time for fun and frolic, but it’s really a 24/7, 365 work commitment.
“The other problem I had was making money while I was training to improve my public speaking skills. I wasn’t marketing myself like I should,” he added. “That created a yin and yang effect where my income fluctuated based on how much I was speaking and how little I was marketing my services.”
Todd had taken several personality tests during his career to identify his natural strengths and ideal communication style. The Maxwell organization offers its own DISC training program, which allows Todd to give the test to others and help them analyze results. He is a certified trainer and consultant.
“The test really is a good way to learn about yourself because it can be funny and scary how accurate the test really is,” he explained. “Personally, I scored high in being enthusiastic, outgoing, optimistic and energetic. But, when I need to get something done, sometimes that can get in the way.”
However, just by knowing that he has that trait, Todd can surround himself with others who are more driven and can hold him accountable to getting things done.
People over 50 who are struggling with determining a purpose for their lives could benefit from taking the test, Todd explained. The Maxwell Team’s report is 30-pages which includes charts and data showing people their strengths and weaknesses to identify endeavors ideally suited to their strong points.
“A common problem when confronting our weaknesses is that we often focus on strengthening those. However, we really should be focusing on leveraging our strengths and surrounding ourselves with people who can counter our weaknesses,” he explained.
The report also includes an action plan to guide the test-takers’ next steps. Todd said he is happy to guide people through taking the test and help them determine how to best apply the results. To schedule a 30-minute complimentary call with Todd, which is a $347 value, visit www.calendly.com/toddkuckkahn.
Age discrimination is real
Todd is convinced age discrimination is real for people over 50, but he said it shouldn’t be.
“People may look at someone like me and think he’s too old to offer any practical value, but they forget about the value of experiences,” Todd explained. “I’ve had 15 jobs and I’ve been fired four times. But, in each of those cases, I didn’t burn bridges and I always left with valuable insight.”
That experience enabled Todd to develop a roadmap for others to follow to achieve career and personal success. He does that by focusing on five core values:
“That’s what I use to overcome any deficiencies I have because of my hair color or my age,” Todd said, noting his hair is almost completely white. “I know I’m not going to get every opportunity. But, I know there is a plan out there for me. If I just focus on my core values, so I know I’m going to get the right ones and the best ones.”
Todd developed a five-step roadmap to help people shift their minds toward better opportunities.
“A lot of people talk about mindset, but I talk about mind shift because you really need to start from the inside out,” he explained. “First, just like with an airplane emergency, you need to put on your own oxygen mask, otherwise you won’t be able to help anyone else.”
That involves identifying your own core values, such as what’s important to your “who,” or the people who matter most in your life and those in your circles of influence. Then, Todd guides people into creating a wheel of life that focuses on nine key elements: career, finances, heath, family and friends, romance, personal development, recreation and their contribution to society.
Next, Todd explains how differences actually make people better because one person’s strengths can offset another person’s weaknesses. The fourth element challenges people to get out of their comfort zones so they can move forward. The key to doing that is to accept the possibility of failing.
“Thomas Edison reportedly failed 10,000 times in trying to invent the light bulb. Kobe Bryant, one of the best NBA players of all time, missed 14,481 shots, which is an NBA record,” said Todd. “Both men would never have enjoyed the level of success they did without breaking out of their comfort zone.”
The final step is a DISC assessment, which helps people see their strengths and weaknesses so they can pour more effort into doing what they do best, and either get training to improve deficiencies, if necessary, or outsource those things they struggle to do well.
Todd teaches people who are still working, but feel unfulfilled in their jobs, to become intrapreneurs for their companies. They do that by finding something they are really passionate about and applying their unique skills and knowledge at whatever organization they work.
For example, someone who is employed in technical support, but really loves working with people, could become an intrapreneur by serving as a trainer to help other people better understand the technology they work with every day.
“Wherever you’re strongest in your workplace, that’s where you can share your passion and really have an impact on the company, your coworkers and the community at large,” Todd explained.
Most people have a message they feel strongly about sharing with others, but they remain fearful about venturing out to pursue those things they are really passionate about, he explained. Yet, when people get in a situation where they can passionately share that message and make a difference in the lives of others, then they almost have a duty to do share it.
For Todd, technology poses a major hurdle to accomplishing all he could do in a day. So, he outsourced video editing and web development to people who love to do those kinds of tasks. Not only does it free up Todd’s time, but by having experts do the work for him, the final result is significantly better than what he could produce by himself.
“It might require a little bit of investment upfront to get you on track, but in the long run it will pay off quite substantially,” he explained.
Since venturing out on his own as a coach and public speaker, Todd said he’s received a number of rewards and affirmations reassuring him that he made the right move.
For example, he’s had time to engage people in conversations which have led to some pretty significant self-discoveries for people Todd has coached. Through his public speaking, he has enjoyed an opportunity to share his wisdom with people of all ages from high school students to other baby boomers.
“It’s so fulfilling for me to be able to help them set a path for their careers,” he explained.
Today, Todd wants to add more value to the lives of other people. He never sees himself as formally “retiring” because of his constant need for a physical or mental challenge. Yet, he does enjoy having more control over his time.
There are a number of big goals remaining on Todd’s adventure list. Topping the list is a desire to speak to 17,120 people at the same time. That’s the capacity of the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis., where the Wisconsin Badgers play home basketball games. Todd would like to address a sold-out audience of that size someday.
“Watching performers on stage as they do the same thing day after day amazes me,” he explained. “They get so much energy from the crowd while they’re on stage that I’d like to experience it myself. It’s not age that holds people back, it’s their belief system.”
Another goal was to start a podcast, which is something he does with an associate he met through is last job. Called Crushin’ Company Culture, the podcast focuses on leadership development and improving the work environment.
“Aaron and I are certainly the odd couple. He is a millennial and I’m a baby boomer. He has dark curly hair and I have straight silver hair. I’m friendly and affable, while Aaron is introspective and brainy,” Todd explained. “But we make a great team by approaching company culture from different perspectives. It’s a lot of fun.”
Advice for people over 50
For seasoned citizens wondering what to do in the next stage of their lives, Todd encourages them to just take that all-important first step toward pursuing whatever they want to do. If people don’t know what to do, then Todd strongly encourages people to begin the mind-shift process to fertilize their minds to be open to new ideas and opportunities.
He recommends subscribing to Minute With Maxwell, a free 3- to 5-minute daily video from author and coach John Maxwell that helps people with personal development. He also recommends Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek to help people develop and communicate a sense of purpose.
For people still working, Todd recommends books written by Patrick Lencioni which also address improving corporate culture.
“There are a lot of great authors out there, so who knows which one will impact you the most,” Todd explained. “But, if you sit in your La-Z-Boy every day and get beat up watching the news about all the crap that’s going on in the world, I guarantee you will be frustrated and won’t go anywhere. The biggest gap in life is between what we know and what we actually do.
“I used to spend a lot of time doing meaningless stuff on social media,” he added. “Now by shifting just 10 minutes a day to developing my faith and leadership skills instead of scrolling through posts and responding to comments, that gave me an extra two-and-a-half days a year to do whatever I want to do.
“If your life change requires exercise, you don’t have to become a triathlete. Just start exercising five minutes a day,” said Todd. “Most importantly, surround yourself with people who are going to make you change and start thinking differently.”
After closing his business and enduring several painful years of uncertainty regarding what to do with his life, Greg founded Forward From 50 to help men and women over 50 to live more purposeful lives by pursuing things they are passionate about. A Wisconsin native, Greg currently lives in Arizona.