Episode 150: How to Create a High Performance Culture with Illens Dort

Rob: All right, welcome back to our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners. This is your host Rob Shallenberger today and welcome to the Becoming Your Best show. This is going to be a fun interview today. We have a person who has been a good friend through the years. He helped coach the soccer team of my sister, so we’re excited to hear some of his insights. His background is fascinating. Born in Haiti, and really just a life full of incredible experiences that may not be easy for a lot of us to relate to. So he’s going to bring an interesting perspective and insight into the show today.


Just before we get going in this interview, if you haven’t already taken the personal productivity assessment, this is a reminder that this is a powerful 25 question assessment that you can take for free that can really help you increase your confidence, your peace, your prosperity. It’s very research based assessment. So this is something that can really pinpoint specific things you can do in your life right now to help you find those things that you’re looking for, whether it’s health, better relationships, better finances. To do that, simply go to, and right there on the right hand side of the page you’ll see the assessment link and you’re welcome to take that for free. So I just wanted to remind our listeners about that, and if you haven’t taken that, take it and feel free to share it with some of your friends and family.


Okay, so let’s get into this interview. So first of all, Illens, like I mentioned, from Haiti, has had a fascinating life in coaching both from the professional sports side as well as now on a higher level coaching executives and teams around the world. He recently completed our Becoming Your Best trainer certification program and has been using that to really accelerate his results. We’re going to hear some of his thoughts on this, but before we get into that Illens, tell us a little bit about your background so that our listeners can get to know you a little bit better because you are a humble, amazing leader and it’s just an honor to have you on this show.


Illens: First of all Rob, thank you so much for this invitation and I am so delighted and appreciate the opportunity to share some thoughts with you and share a little bit about my background. So first of all I was born in Haiti in a very small town, even a village, a long time ago. If I give you the name and you Google it, this is what you will say, “Illens you’re blessed and you’re lucky that you’re from there.” But in addition to that also, I was blessed for having wonderful parents who taught me at a very young age some key principles in my life. My mother was one of them, my father was always a teacher, a friend, a mentor to me.


Just quickly, two years before my mother passed away, she was still working on developing herself. You know, doing some wonderful things in her own environment. Her goal was to live until she was 100. So the way she approached life was that, “You know I have nine more years ago.” She didn’t focus on the fact that she was 91. She kept saying, I got nine more or eight more. She passed when she was 92, a wonderful person, wonderful leader in my life. I’m lucky also that my father is still living and is still a great mentor and a great example in my life.


But simple upbringing. They were farmers, but they taught me great principle in life. One of them is to always, always work on yourself and better yourself, and continue to educate yourself. Do that so also you can have an impact on the community where you live and help other people to listen.


Rob: Yeah, that’s a great insight right there. When did you come to the U.S.?


Illens: The first time I came, when I was in Haiti and I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I first came here in 1984 to go to the MTC for preparation. Went back to Haiti and served a mission there And then we moved back to Utah in December of 1986. So it’s going to be 32 years since my wife and I we’ve been in Utah, this wonderful state.


Rob: So you’ve been here for a long time and it’s interesting, I was just on an interview with Alan Taylor on our last show that just went out last week. He’s just an amazing person as well. He’s involved with He does their weekly radio podcast. He’s interviewed, I mean, literally thousands of people. It’s interesting that he started the same way you did. He started talking about his mother and his father and the impact and influence they had on him. I just think that’s fascinating. I’ve heard this a lot lately. It’s just as an insight for me as to what type of fathers and mothers are we being if that’s something that applies to us right now in our life. I hope we caught that.


Now Illens, one of the reasons for doing this podcast is because you went through our Becoming Your Best certification program about a year ago. I don’t know how many of our listeners are aware that there is a certification program where people can actually come and get certified to be a Becoming Your Best facilitator or trainer. You get the PowerPoint, the Trainer’s Guide. You get all of the materials that you need to go out there and teach this to organizations, to groups and it’s an awesome experience.


So I’d like to ask you, from your perspective, having gone through this, why did you do it and what is your long term vision for you as a certified trainer? This isn’t something that we often talk about and it would be nice for the people listening to this to hear from a different perspective.


Illens: And I appreciate also as you prepare for this question, you explain the opportunity that you and your father and the members of Becoming Your Best offer to other people like me to be certified. But the reason that I decided to do it, first of all, that as you mentioned at the beginning, I’ve known you, I’ve known your father, Steve Shallenberger, and all the members of your family for a long time. Always have great respect and appreciation and admiration for everyone in your family. Your dad has been a great mentor to me, I look up to him. So when I when I knew that he wrote a wonderful book, Becoming Your Best, that book was introduced first to my son and he shared that with me. Well, I get very excited and as you know, if it’s something coming from Steve it’s going to be great.


So this is how I do things in my life. I look at the person, the character of the person. Is it someone that I can trust? Is it someone that can I can follow? Is it someone that I can have in my life as a mentor? And then all these questions have already been answered with my relationship with your family. And then I look at the content. Before I became a certified member, I attended the two day conference. Great material. I was extremely impressed. I learned so much. I love the concept. But at that time, I didn’t know that you had a certification program. So when I was introduced to the certification program, it was a no brainer for me. It’s something that I had desire to do, I just didn’t know it was there. And when that opportunity came, I just jump and went back and be certified.


So the reason for that is that, number one, I know it’s a great organization with great leadership and great content. And the book, Becoming Your Best, and also the Transformation Challenge. By the way, almost 10 days ago, I did a great presentation in front of 50 high caliber business owners from eight states and then using the topic of the Transformation Challenge and the Six Steps to Planning and Execution, it went so well.


The goal is that number one, so I can continue to improve myself in all areas. In a personal leadership, and also working with the teams and other people and the way that I live my life. So that was the number one reason. Number two also is to help other people, is to add value to other people, and to have the right tools and the right materials so I can serve my clients and the people I associate with. As you mentioned, as a certified member, the resources are just immense. You know, great videos, great support from the team, and having great mentors and coaches in you and Steve.


So it’s something that I will encourage not only for those who want to grow and be coach or trainer and speaker, but also those who want to improve themselves and also improve the members of their teams, whether it’s in their home or in the community or at work.


Rob: Yeah, you brought up an interesting point and that is, we’ve had people who want to just simply get certified so that they can teach their family these principles and use these tools and processes. You know, up to large organizations such as Patricia with Equifax and many others. Part of your vision, Illens, is to take this to so many different people. You’re going to lead a cruise here soon, and you’re going to facilitate a seminar on this cruise and you’re doing some amazing things.


I think our listeners kind of get the idea of the power of being certified as a trainer is you have access to a lot of these resources, videos, you know, PowerPoints, training guides. All of these things that most people don’t, and it would save them and you thousands of hours to do this. So I want to shift gears. I mean, I don’t want spend all the time on the certification. That’s great for those who may apply to it and I know there’s some who are interested in that. If so, you know, we welcome you into the trainer certification program. Go to the website and I think the next opportunity is in April.


But I would like to shift gears a little bit now, away from that and focus on some of your life experiences and lessons learned that can apply to our listeners. Because really, what you’re doing now is, you’re taking the things that you have in the trainer certification course and you’re really amplifying your ability to facilitate groups and do all these things based on your life experiences, at least from your background that’s very unique. So as you’ve had the chance to go around the world, you came from Haiti, you been here for almost three decades in the U.S., you’ve coached soccer at a very high level, you’ve met with business owners from all over as you mentioned, so if you don’t mind sharing, Illens, what are two or three big lessons learned along the way that have had a big impact in your life and that you feel like could have a big impact in the lives of our listeners?


Illens: So the first one, let me share an example of an experience that I had when I was at the end of my high school here in Haiti. Prior to that, due to the fact that I had great parents, great teachers in my life, I always knew the importance of working hard and spending time preparing for whatever you want to accomplish in life. But one thing I didn’t want to do with my background in Haiti, I never was interested and public speaking. At the end of that time, the high school year, I had a wonderful friend who was going to the Academy, the Military Academy in Haiti. He was a close friend, so therefore I was asked to prepare a speech, a farewell speech for him, because I knew him very well, we were close friends. And then I said, “Oh, that’s wonderful.”


But I knew that public speaking wasn’t something that I was interested in. So I prepared this speech very well and I was very comfortable with that and I found another friend whom I thought was going to be a great speaker for that audience and then I assigned my speech to her.


Then the moment came, it was a beautiful evening, a lot of people gathered together and then she was nowhere to be found. I never knew that. I thought I was the only one who had that problem. I never knew that she will be in that situation. And at that time, by default, I became the person to deliver the talk. And as a wonderful speaker as you were, Rob, you know very well that there is a difference between preparing it on paper and prepare yourself to deliver it. So I was ready to do it and ready to sit down and, you know, relax and watch someone else do a wonderful job but I was not really and I did not prepare myself for that time to be the one delivering the speech.


And then by default, I did it and I tell you, I did a very, very bad job. I knew it, the audience knew it. But you know, I did not blame her. It was a great opportunity for me to learn. It was at that moment I told myself, “you will always be prepared for whatever situation that may come your way.” Prepare in advance. So one of the insight that I’ve learned in life and also in coaching is that you need to prepare. Preparation is crucial. One of your quotes that I love so much is that, “Transformational leaders makes time.”


Rob: Yes, absolutely.


Illens: It’s very central and it’s very powerful. For preparation, you have to take the time, make the time. With coaching soccer, how to prepare myself, take the time to prepare for the practices, take the time to prepare for the games and take the time also to be ready and learn. In life and also in sport, we learn that sometime we win and we will win a lot of games and sometime we lose. My approach in life is that sometimes you will win, you got to prepare for that. But the key for me is that you have to be ready to learn all the time. Learn when you are succeeding and even learn from your defeats. And also win with humility and also embrace defeat with kindness and compassion.


Rob: Ooh, that’s a good quote right there. Win with grace, embrace losses or setbacks with kindness and compassion. That’s an awesome quote. You need to write that one down and put your name next that one, Illens.


Illens: Thank you so much, I’ll do that.


Rob: You said something interesting there though, Illens, and that is that you just simply can’t be the person who refuses to quit. Part of what you’re talking about is having a vision sufficient and powerful enough internally, if I understood you correctly, that allows us to win with grace and humility, I love the way you said that, and when we get knocked down, when things happen that we don’t expect, which they will to all of us, that we can have the fortitude to get up and keep going and get back on the path towards accomplishing that vision. And if we don’t have a vision, and when we get knocked down, because I say when because it will happen to anyone regardless of money or background, whatever, when we get knocked down, if we don’t have that vision, it has the ability to potentially keep us down.


You’re obviously very familiar with the 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders. These are high performance habits that are very predictive of success. Number 12 is never give up. Number two is to lead with a vision.


Illens: Never give up, yes.


Rob: As you shared this lesson learned and insight, I’m just reinforcing it with all of us. You know, one of my good friends is Rudy Rudiger from the movie Rudy. You think about the power of his vision and how many times he got knocked down at Notre Dame and yet he just kept getting up, he kept getting up. He would make adjustments. So we don’t just keep hitting our head against the wall, we make adjustments and we look for the door and a better way. The point is that when we have that vision, we get up and go after it. I’m going to remember that quote, and when things don’t work out, that we can lose with kindness and compassion.


And then when we win and things do go our way, that we can do it with grace and humility. I love that Illens. You’ll probably have some more nuggets here but that’s one of my takeaways already from this podcast. So what’s another lesson learned along the way that you’ve experienced and really fortified within yourself over the past couple of decades?


Illens: Another one is to know yourself and to know also the players, the members of your team, the members of your family, the members of your communities, and also to know their strength and their weaknesses. You know, sport and life really it’s a team activity. You got to know yourself and know the members of your team. Let me share an example with you. One time I was coaching a team, and just before the game, and we were playing in our time, we were playing against another team that was really high caliber, high class. You know, when they walked on the field, it was like, it was sponsored by, you know, Nike, thing like this. We were a fantastic team but we are just humble. My players, they were just having great time there, and it was a girls’ team.


The other team, they were doing the drills and things like this and a thought came to my mind. And we had drills to do just before the game, but they were just connecting with one another. I went to my team and I said, “Guys, look at the other team. We got to get our mind in the game.” Then one player, and I’m grateful for that, and she knew me very well and we had a great connection and she looked at me and she said, “Coach, don’t worry. When we’re just talking with one another like this, we are getting ready.”


You know, what I had to do is just tap out and go back and wait for the time that we needed to do our drills knowing that, you know what, they have their own ways of connecting with one another. They’re going to play for one another, I didn’t have to worry. So in life, as a leader, as a coach some time, you give the vision, you clear the way, the best thing to do is to step out.


Another example was that, it was a younger team, I think it was like under 10. They were nine years old. It was a boys team and they had a goalie. He knew all the techniques and during the first half of the game, I watched him playing a different way. I taught him to cover the angle and he was leaving an open space where all they had to do is cross the ball and then they would have scored us. The parents, especially mothers of goalies, they get really nervous and then they were nervous and I was nervous as well. But I looked at it and observed that he was making the right plays. Even though the technique, the fundamentals, he was not using them, but he was making the right plays. So I told the parents, you know, it’s okay, just relax, he’s doing their very best. Then during halftime I say, he’s doing his very best. I wanted to make sure that he understood that the fundamentals are very important.


So I went to him, I pulled him aside, one on one, and I said “you know what, you are doing great job there, you make a lot of saves, but I realize that you are leaving the back side open. All they had to do was to cross the ball, they would have scored on you.” And he looked at me, being only nine, he say “Coach I knew, but this is what I know, I learned that if I go right in front of them, 9 out of 10 times they will kick the ball right at me and I’ll make the save.”


So he used a very high level of technique. Something you cannot coach is the intuition, is his own creativity. He knew the basics, but also the high level is that you know what, I know what they’re going to do. My job is to make the save. I know what they’re going to do. So what I learned from that, you know, even when he gets older, by using his intuitive gift he’s going to adjust and make the right play. There are times that you lead, you give the vision, step away and let the players do the things and accomplish the goal, and step out of their way. So you have to know them and you need to know their strengths and weaknesses and see their power to identifying strengths and weaknesses of the members of the team and also the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent.


Rob: And that’s good really in any walk of life, isn’t it? I mean, we’re talking about our home, we’re talking about our children, our teams, our employees, where that’s applicable. I mean, you’re talking about helping establish the vision, give them the direction and then, you know, get out of the way and maybe call it shadow leadership, where from the side you’re helping them so they don’t fail greatly, but small failures are okay. You know, there’s this term helicopter parent or the helicopter manager, and they’re always hovering right over the top of the person so they can’t even fail in small degrees and learn the lessons that come from that. At least that’s one interpretation from what I got from that. When you’re talking about knowing someone, if we’re always hovering over the top of someone, whether it’s our children or employee, if we know them well, we’re not giving them the chance to grow and blossom. And it’s only when we can step out of the way that you really give them a chance to fly a little bit. You know, to leave the nest, to jump out and spread their wings.


That’s a good reminder for all of us. What’s the vision? Put them on the path and then step out of the way and let them move and innovate their own ways to get it done. Like you said, that goalie, she found a way and it wasn’t necessarily the way that maybe we thought it should be done but she found a way and it worked.


Illens: Yeah, and our job is not to kill that skill, right? It’s to create that environment where they can work and do their very best. And that leads to, if we have time for that, to another insight.


Rob: Yeah. How about one minute on this one?


Illens: Yeah, is to create an environment and a culture where members of your team and the members of your organization can perform at their highest level. One quick example on that. We were playing a game and then it was during the tournament season, is win, you move on and then lose, you go home. As a coach and also as a father, I always put the players first, always first. I look at the situation and they were very…The members of the other team, the players of the other team were extremely aggressive against our players.


I pulled one player and I say, “You know what, just slow down, I don’t want you to get hurt.” And then she looked at she say, “Coach, the only way I know how to play is to give it all my best. That’s the only way I know how to play.” I just stepped aside and I said, “My dear friend, go ahead and play your game.” You know what, she did not hold back and we won the game four to three, she scored three goals out of the four goals.


Just create that environment for them where they can perform at the very, very best. Put them in their zones of strength and protect their weaknesses and guard that and just allow them to blossom and that’s a wonderful thing a leader and a coach can do for the members of his or her team and for his or her followers.


Rob: Yeah, that’s a great one. You know, there’s an analogy that we’ll use in some of our seminars, and you know this, you’ve heard it, of tomatoes. And we’ll ask people, who in here has grown tomatoes and some will raise their hand. And say, “Okay, let’s say that we wanted to grow world-class tomatoes, not just average tomatoes, world-class tomatoes, what are some of the things that you would need to do if you were the gardener? Or what are some of the things that need to be present to have a world-class tomato?” So you hear sunlight, you need to fertilize it. You know, keep the weeds out, keep the bugs away. Keep it protected from the wind, all these. Some even say, you ought to talk to it.


The point is, after they come up with this list of things, we’ll ask, so if you do all of those things, can you guarantee a world-class tomato? Of course, the answer is no. You say, well why not? Well, because there’s things that are outside of our control. So what are we doing as the gardener? We’re creating the conditions where these seeds can grow and thrive and become a world-class tomato. We create the conditions, we can’t guarantee it. The follow up to that is, where’s the life? Can you give life to the seed? Well, no. The life is already in the seed. So we ask, can you kill the life in the seed? Yes.


Illens: Yes.


Rob: And it’s similar to leadership, where’s the life? The life is in the person, just like you said, the player. We can kill the motivation. We can’t necessarily change someone’s mindset on our own, we can’t control that 100%. What we can do in our homes and in our businesses and with our teams and even in our own lives, is we can create the conditions where people can grow and thrive and flourish just exactly like you said, which is such a great observation. And then, we can’t necessarily guarantee that’s going to happen. In many cases it does. Where we have 100% control over, however, are creating the conditions and the culture where people can thrive.


So Illens, it’s been fabulous having you on the show. What great thoughts and advice. I’m excited to see where you take this content and the people that you train and I love hearing your success stories. If we don’t wrapping up, what’s one of your favorite quotes?


Illens: I have several great quotes. So the one that I’m going to share with you today is the one that I’ve been thinking about, that had a great impact on me, actually, it’s coming from your dad, Steve Shallenberger. It is from the book of Becoming Your Best. The quote is, “An inspiring and well-articulated vision will transform your life, an organization and even the world.” My good friend, Rob, I believe in this so so passionately. I learned some principles from my parents and then having a clear vision and that’s how I love to lead my life.


Rob: That’s almost like we pay you to say that there, Illens. No, that’s very nice of you to share that and thank you for highlighting my dad. I love him, he’s an incredible person and I believe that I’ve seen it in his life. So thank you for sharing that quote Illens. Any parting comments for our listeners. We’re going to wrap up any parting things that you want to say? How could someone find you? Everyone should know that Illens also has a book. Can you just tell them where to find you? Maybe website and the title of your book, so if they would like to get it, they know where to find it.


Illens: Yes, the book is Thinking and Acting with a Compassionate Heart. The book, you can find a copy on Amazon. The eBook is also on Amazon and doing very well. Or you can go to my site at or you can send me an email to and you can either get a copy from me that I’ll be glad to sign, or you can go to Amazon and then go to author and then look for Illens Dort or Thinking and Acting with a Compassionate Heart and wonderful thoughts there and a greater principle and processes that you will learn.


Quickly let me share this. I love the feedback that I receive from the people who have read the book. One of them is a person who is 84 when he read the book and then he called me and said Illens, at age 84 right now, after reading your book and I’m coming out of retirement because I’m going to focus on my passion and my compassion and find ways to continue to serve people in my community. That was way kind of him to share that impact.


Rob: Well, that’s great Illens. Just in case to our listeners didn’t catch it, it’s So, and get a copy of his book, read it, it’s awesome. Illens is amazing. I wish everyone had the chance to meet Illens face to face, talk with him eye to eye because he’s truly an amazing human being who radiates goodness, light and he’s having an impact on a lot of people and a lot of businesses around the world and I have a feeling that this is just the beginning as he really goes out there and has a big impact.


So I hope you’ve gotten something from this podcast today. We wish you a wonderful day wherever you’re at. And for those who do have interest like Illens to get certified as a BYB trainer, you can go to our website and click on trainer certification to get more details about how to get certified and when that will be. We would love to talk with you about that if you have any questions. So Illens, thanks again for being here. To all of our listeners, we hope you have a fabulous day wherever you’re at in the world.


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