We sat down with Dave Goldson to talk about leading through mindfulness, the importance of being authentic, and why Slalom stands out in the competitive New York market.
What makes the New York business community unique, and how does Slalom fit into it?
It’s an intensely crowded and competitive market; every ounce of trust and business must be continually earned. We aren’t the only consultancy here, but our rapid growth suggests we’re standing out. Our folks are the best at what they do. We leave our egos at the door, roll up our sleeves, and work side-by-side with our clients. In this market, there’s no room for BS—we deliver what we promise and do the right thing, always.
What’s the most satisfying project you’ve worked on at Slalom?
The client was a leader in the health and wellness space, struggling to maintain profitability and consumer relevance in a landscape dominated by ubiquitous, free, and low-cost digital products. They needed to transform fast or face extinction. The approach we brought was to begin transforming product development on day one by leveraging what is now Slalom Build. We co-created two new digital products from scratch and successfully launched them into production in 90 days, all while creating a comprehensive transformation roadmap across experience design, people and culture, process and tools, and data and analytics. As we worked together to implement the roadmap—which at its peak scaled to a team of over 50 people—we were also delivering more new products, experiences, and revenue streams along the way.
Together, we helped the client affect real culture change and turn around their business. That project proved Slalom New York could drive transformation at scale, deliver outcomes, and successfully work our way out of a job—which is what good consulting is all about.
In this market, there’s no room for BS—we deliver what we promise and do the right thing, always.
What’s a challenging but important thing to do as a leader?
For me, one of the most critical aspects of strong leadership is being present and focused on the person or task at hand. Leaders are bombarded every day with hundreds of things competing for our attention, and we have to learn how to compartmentalize and prioritize. I’m a big believer in mindfulness and I’m on a lifelong journey to live in the present, both at home and at work. When I’m in a meeting, I’m committed to being 110% present, focusing on the individuals in the room, listening actively, and not getting distracted by other priorities.
If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice at the beginning of your career, what would you say?
First: Be your authentic self. Early in my career I felt I had to project an image of what a trusted advisor should be. Building trust sometimes includes saying “I don’t know, but together we can figure it out.” When I learned how to be authentic in my relationships with clients and team members, I earned their trust faster, and at a deeper level.
Second: Getting to a win-win can only be achieved by a mindset filled with abundance. Bake the largest possible pie rather than trying to make your slice the biggest.
Finally: Asking open questions yields so much more value than trying to tell someone the answer. It’s likely to be your answer, but maybe not theirs.
What books or thought leaders have influenced you?
I recently had the opportunity to see Peter Diamandis speak. I’ve read several of his books and watched his TED talks. He has an unbridled optimism and faith in humanity’s ability to solve the world’s most difficult problems through new investments in technology. He inspires me to bring a purpose-driven abundance mentality to my work and life. I’m proud to lead an organization that’s actively leveraging technologies and new ways of working to help our clients improve the lives of their customers.
Is there a particular activity that helps you get into a state of flow?
Hiking gets me into a state of flow. On Saturday mornings you’ll find me on the trails near my home in New Jersey with my headphones on and music blaring. I feel a sense of oneness in nature, where I can let go of my worries and be at peace with myself. It’s one of the ways I meditate.
What other ways do you recharge outside of work?
My family is my source of strength. One of the reasons I came to Slalom and have stayed all these years is because I don’t have to sacrifice time with family for my career—I get to have both. I’m so fortunate to have married the love of my life and raised two amazing children who are now strong, independent young adults.
We enjoy traveling the world together and recently made our way across the Andes to Machu Picchu. Not that adventure travel is our only thing. We’re quite happy lounging in the backyard, enjoying a meal together, or binge-watching one of our favorite shows.