Gary is famous for asking; he wrote the book on it. He probes his clients with the only kind of questions that can produce change: unexpected ones. From the client’s answers, this dedicated Minneapolis leadership coach offers not just insights but alternative courses of action.
“There always are several good roads to Rome,” he says. “The key is to identify the one that best fits both your head and heart.” He focuses on the destination–and not the possible curves in the road–for a simple reason: most obstacles are artificial, and the rest are in our heads. “Clear your head,” he believes, “and the obstacles disappear.” This may explain why Gary’s clients call him “eccentric in exactly the right way.” Gary has yet to meet a client who wants to be ordinary, and he helps them enjoy unusual success by employing unusual approaches.
CEO experience: Managing Partner and Co-founder of CO2 Partners, LLC (2004), an Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Firm. Founded ACI in 1989 with $4,000 and two employees, then grew 48 percent compounded annually for 12 years to over 2,200 employees and went public on the NASDAQ. ACI was one of Venture Magazine’s Top 10 Best Performing Businesses and Business Journal’s 25 Fastest Growing Small Public Companies, and Gary was an Entrepreneur of the Year finalist.
Board memberships: All Kinds of Minds, Harvard Alumni Club of Minnesota, IC Systems, Inc., Richfield Bank, ACI, Telecentrics,, Outward Bound National Advisory, HBS Alumni Club of Minnesota (Past President), Minnesota Zoo Foundation among others.
Author: Just Ask Leadership: Why Great Managers Always Ask the Right Questions (McGraw Hill 2009); articles for Business Week, Leader to Leader, and Forbes.
Clients: Unilever, Intel, Genentech, MetLife, Thermo-Fisher, and 100-plus entrepreneur-led businesses.
Education: University of Minnesota (B.A); Harvard Business School; Covey Leadership Center; Disney Leadership Institute; and Aspen Institute Crown Fellow.
Want to know more about Gary’s approach to leadership and life? Read his blog, Elements of Leadership.
Shana Finnegan is known for guiding and engaging established and emerging leaders through an inspiring process of resetting their vision for personal and professional success, realigning their growth curve to achieve the vision, and refreshing beliefs and expectations that empower healthy behaviors and habits. While each coaching engagement is unique, there is one common outcome for all: experiencing joy and fulfillment in the process of growth in both work and life.
Shana’s approach to coaching is rooted in a belief that even the most accomplished leaders benefit from elevating their vision, levelling the ruts in the road, and expanding limiting beliefs and behaviors. Her empowering and mindful coaching style uncovers truths and revelations that play a key role in transformation and forge a path to new levels of success and happiness.
With more than two decades leading and transforming successful companies, Shana can relate to the challenges of C-level leaders. She believes that real growth – the kind that elevates people and accelerates personal and business growth – happens when we are willing to unravel and disrupt ineffective beliefs and habits, embrace curiosity and new ways of thinking, push perceived boundaries and limits, and finish what we start.
As COO and leader of several technology businesses, Shana has deep experience in business and leadership change initiatives and bringing them across the finish line successfully. Her passion is assessing, recommending, and implementing enterprise-wide initiatives that position an organization for profitable growth and foster a high-integrity culture that attracts, develops, and retains the best talent to deliver positive results.
John Sandahl is a certified team and executive coach, change-agent, and team-development speaker with 20 years of experience helping teams and their leaders around the country achieve high performance through the power of connection and coaching.
John is an expert in facilitating any experience from very large group events to one-on-one personal coaching sessions, and has yet to meet a group or individual with whom he can’t find some common ground to start the change process. He has worked with well over 175,000 people over his career to date, helping them make change both personally and organizationally.
In addition to his work in the world of business teams, John has sustained a 20-year Ultimate Frisbee career while playing all over the world: he is a four-time national, three-time world champion, and former captain of Team USA. He also coached the US National U20 women’s team three times in the junior world championships in Finland, Canada, and Germany where they medaled each time. He is passionate about helping people learn to see each other (and themselves) in a better way, and has directed team-development workshops with the national non-profit Youth Frontiers for 14 years.
John has a B.A. from St. John’s University, and he trained with both Team Coaching International and The Coaches Training Institute (the standard-bearers of coach training organizations worldwide), where he earned the CTPC and CPCC certifications.
To maximize your own capabilities and to learn more about executive coaching and business coaching, contact John online.
John specializes in entrepreneurship, sales and marketing, and expansion in consolidating markets. Prior to becoming an executive coach, John was the national marketing representative of the year for John Wyeth, a Fortune 200 consumer products company. He also operated his own retail grocery business for fifteen years, grew revenue at double digit rates, and sustained 4% operational nets (1% industry average) while doubling the workforce head count.
Having successfully built and sold his company, John now shares his in-the-trenches experience with clients. His clients range from leaders in IT companies, retail and service organizations, to manufacturing firms. John prides himself on his ability to view opportunities from an elevation, whether it’s scaling a business, supporting development of a sales and marketing process, strategically aligning stakeholders, or improving organizational culture and communication.
John has a BS in Management and Finance from the College of Business, St. Cloud State University. He is an elected official for the City of Ramsey, seated on the board of directors for Achieve Services, as well as a commissioner serving the strategic direction of Quad Cities Community Television. He is active within civic organizations as well, including Rotary International, Lions, and Anoka Area Chamber of Commerce (where he previously served as chairman of the board).
Tom Schlick has over 30 years of experience as a customer-focused business operations executive. He is known as a transformational leader, successfully leading organizations through high growth as well as difficult turnaround situations. Tom moves confidently from vision and strategy to tactical development and implementation. He also has the unique ability to build cohesive, high-performing teams that can work cross-functionally in alignment with common goals.
Tom has held COO, SVP, EVP, and VP positions with P&L responsibility at small, medium, and large corporations, both public and privately-held. These companies include Johnson & Johnson (Sterilmed, Inc.), Emerson Electric, ACCO Brands, XRS Corporation (now part of Qualcomm), and Entrust Datacard. Tom’s industry experience spans healthcare/medical devices, process control, transportation/trucking, secure ID/financial services, and office products and equipment.
In all his roles, Tom has excelled at training and developing both individuals and teams, increasing their business acumen and preparing them to drive change in the workplace. From a functional perspective, Tom is particularly adept at delivering results through operational execution, developing customer service and new revenue streams, and leading global multi-site ventures.
Delivering Results through Operational Execution
Developing Customer Service and New Revenue Streams
Leading Global Multi-Site Ventures
Tom holds an MBA from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota and a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Minnesota. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and Green Belt. Tom has been a mentor with the MENTTIUM Corporation for over 15 years, mentoring high potential executives from many companies. He currently serves on the advisory boards of The Service Council and the Society for Service Executives. He was the past President of AFSMI (Association for Service Management International). In addition, Tom has been a guest speaker and panelist at several large national professional conferences focusing on transformational change. He shares a 7-step process he has developed to achieve faster growth and higher profitability—using Service as a strategic differentiator and by driving greater company value from industry Best Practices.
Mackenzie is an executive assistant (EA) with over 20 years of experience working with C-Suite executives, presidents, and founders in the non-profit, private, and public spaces. In addition, she has over 10 years of experience hiring, training, and managing administrative assistants—both to work on her team and to support other executives.
In 2016, Mackenzie founded a virtual assistant firm that provides professional and personal assistance to owners and CEOs that works to ensure the same level of integrity, dedication, and care given in a face-to-face environment is also given while working remotely. Her collaboration with CO2 began at the beginning of this journey with CO2 being her first client. The partnership has been an underpinning in deepening the knowledge of the true nature of the relationship between a CEO and their assistant stemming from CO2’s Managing Partners’ work with that relationship and the CEOs he coaches.
Mentoring and training Executive Assistants in best practices has been part of her repertoire for many years, and in 2020 she developed a formal, 8-week coaching program for Executive Assistants to learn the core values of the EA role, develop their personal brand and elevate their role to that of a strategic partner to their leader. Her coaching aligns with CO2’s values: asking questions designed to gain understanding, promoting self-awareness, a growth mindset, and acting authentically and non-judgmentally.
When she is not hard at work, Mackenzie can be found hiking, running, camping, swimming in the ocean, or having dance parties with her two sons.
Carmen is a new leadership coach who believes in bringing the authentic, vulnerable self to both professional and personal settings.
Carmen began her own leadership career working in highly regulated laboratories. The process-driven culture initially informed her leadership style. She relied on processes, standards, and a black-and-white mentality to “lead” people. She recalls, early in her leadership career, saying, “I don’t want to let them know too much about me because we can’t be friends.”
However, she quickly realized that her true nature was to build relationships and, in order to be successful, she needed to bring that authenticity to her leadership practices. Carmen was rewarded for bringing vulnerability and humility to her leadership style when she was selected to participate in an exclusive (top 1%), high-level leadership development program for a large non-profit organization. The goal of the program was to create the next level of top executives over a three year time-span. As a result of the program, Carmen was given the opportunity to lead groups in a variety of departments including Operations, Sales, and Project Management.
During this leadership program, Carmen realized that her true passion was for developing leaders, not necessarily for continuing into an executive leadership role herself. In her peers, she saw the divide between their work and personal selves, and felt that divide was limiting them. The divide seemed to be creating, in her opinion, the feeling of “being caught in the hamster wheel.” Not only did it seem to affect the leaders but it trickled down to all people within the organization. Leaders were guarded, protective, and often in survival mode—and so, in turn, were their employees. As soon as the leadership program ended, Carmen switched careers and moved into talent and organizational development roles.
Most recently, Carmen held a corporate position responsible for strategic talent development of an 8000+ employee company as well as refreshing the leadership culture of said company. In that role, she’s asked leaders to bring a sense of emotional safety to the workplace and coached them 1:1 to be their authentic selves as they lead.
Coaching clients comment:
“I felt I was heard and understood by Carmen. One of my difficult directors resigned from the company exposing more areas of concern. Carmen was thoughtful as I expressed my concern and disappointment about this individual. I asked for her support to help guide me in a meeting with my direct reports to address the ‘elephant’ and develop a team-building workshop to start the healing of the team…. I found our coaching sessions very beneficial and felt like I had an action plan for my business unit, but also for me as I work on my true self to be present at all times.”
“I connected with Carmen at an emotional level and felt very comfortable with her. I could feel her passion/excitement in the tone of her voice. It really helped that she made me feel ‘human’ – that it was ok to feel/be the way I was – and that there wasn’t something wrong with me, per se, but that we would work on a plan for improving the quality of my leadership.”
“Carmen was able to identify some problem areas that I was (and had been) unable to put into words which was definitely a byproduct of my sense of being heard and not judged.”
Carmen also hosted numerous team-coaching sessions that encourage the practice of being vulnerable, authentic, and transparent. These efforts have resulted in an increased level of staff engagement.
Participants from team workshops have provided the following feedback:
“This workshop is exactly what [the company] needs more of. There is still a disconnect between the culture of service and the interactions we have both in the center and with middle/upper management. Carmen was amazing, mindful, and well spoken.”
“It was a great workshop that I would recommend for each team. A true eye opener.”
“Today’s session was great! I think you are an amazing fit for the work you are doing. I’m looking forward to partnering in developing the team. I would like to bounce some ideas off of you in terms of team dynamics and how to get them functioning independent of me.”
At CO2, Carmen focuses on leaders wanting to make a shift in personal leadership style to being more vulnerable and people-centric, teams that need to make a similar change in order to be more effective, and organizations aiming to adopt a people-first culture.
Carmen holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from St. Mary’s University and has completed the full set of coursework for development coaching from the Coaches Training Institute (CTI). Outside of coaching, Carmen is passionate about fitness, the outdoors, and enjoying her small family, her son, Lukas, and husband, Brian. She enjoys participating in extreme obstacle races like the Tough Mudder (she got electrocuted the last time she participated!!), camping in northern Minnesota, and watching her son play soccer. She connects with her authentic-self through yoga practice and travel.
Bob believes that authentic relationships are the foundation of leadership success.
Over the course of his 30-year career, Bob has earned the opportunity to lead many areas across organizations including information technology, marketing, sales, analytics, and strategy. In each new opportunity, he has always focused on developing relationships within the team and across the organization.
In addition, his strengths as a strategic thinker and trusted executive have allowed him to take on various roles to spearhead change and guide the organization forward by translating vision into action in the drive for revenue growth, profit, and shareholder value.
Bob has been called upon numerous times to:
Bob’s approach to coaching is grounded in getting to know the individual. Delving into helping them to identify their strengths, passions and needs as well as gaps that may be inhibiting their success.
While Melanie likes to describe herself as a ‘recovering CFO’, she is known for being a highly accomplished Executive with over 25 years of progressive financial and strategic leadership experience. She is a trusted advisor to business owners with a proven record of strong leadership, team building and resilience.
After a stint in public accounting at a Big 4 firm, the bulk of her career was spent at Taylor Corporation and Davisco Foods International, two of the largest privately held companies in Minnesota.
As Corporate Controller of Taylor Corporation, Melanie was responsible for a portfolio of 85 domestic and foreign companies (mainly Canada, Mexico, Asia and Europe). During her tenure at Taylor Corporation, Melanie was on the integration teams of 35 separate company acquisitions.
As CFO for Davisco Foods International, Melanie helped the company owners through a sale of assets to Agropur, a $5B Quebec based dairy cooperative. She was retained by Agropur and tasked to lead the US finance and administrative restructuring and integration.
Melanie is currently the Executive Board Chair for United Prairie Bank, a thriving community bank in southern Minnesota. She is passionate about the bank, the communities and families they serve and maximizing value to the shareholders of this multi-generation, family-owned organization.
She is also proudly known for being an advocate for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Her son’s Autism diagnosis opened her eyes to the superpower of neurodiversity. She has been a keynote speaker spreading the idea of inclusion and acceptance for individuals with disabilities to more than 1,000 people at leadership conferences.
Melanie holds a B.S. from Minnesota State University- Mankato and was a CPA in her former life. She uses yoga, walking, reading and traveling to stay centered. Melanie is a proud mom, daughter, sister, friend, mentor, philanthropist and community volunteer. Her proudest volunteer work was her 3-year appointment to the State of MN Special Education Advisory Panel (SEAP) from 2017-2020. She was the Chair of SEAP for her final year.
Lisa is a believer in leading with integrity and authenticity. She is passionate about empowering and supporting other leaders in pursuing their personal missions and leadership development. She helps her teams and those she coaches or mentors to bridge the gaps from current to future states.
She believes in the principles of “The Corporate Athlete” (Jack Groppel, founder/author), starting by setting vision through new stories, telling and accepting old stories, and then setting plans to move from old to new. She applies the approach to business as well as personal goals. As a coach, she listens and helps her colleagues break down complex problems and work their way through a series of options to ultimately land on the ideal solution for their organization in the current environment.
Lisa specializes in leading the strategic designs and builds of new businesses. She has experience leading at companies ranging from small, not-for-profits to publicly traded Fortune 100. Areas of accountability and experience include strategy, marketing, market research, strategic account relationships, product management, innovation, web design, and client data management. While Lisa’s breadth of experience spans several areas, her passion is for strategy development, building businesses, and transformations or turnarounds.
Lisa is a lifelong learner. She continues to work with coaches and her personal and professional leadership network to learn from them. Her personal philosophy is that there is rarely, if ever, only one way to get things done. It is much more important to listen and incorporate ideas from others to gain their buy-in and alignment. Only then, will we accomplish great things together.
One of the books most given and suggested by Lisa to others is Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements”. She says that it is also the development resource she turns to when needing a personal refresh.
In her downtime, you will most likely find Lisa with a camera in hand, whether it be shooting a wrestling match, wildlife, candids for families, or senior photos.
Board memberships: Wrestle Like A Girl, Beyond Walls, Thrivent Charitable Impact & Investing.
Education: Augustana University, BA in Mathematics and Journalism; University of IL at Chicago, MBA with Marketing emphasis
Brian believes that strong business performance starts with a strong team that is aligned behind a common purpose and strategy, all pulling in the same direction. Of all of his accomplishments in building successful businesses, it is the development of the teams he has led that makes him most proud.
Brian spent the majority of his 30+ year career leading teams and building consumer-facing brands across traditional and non-traditional Retail channels, with most of it being in the food industry. During his 13 years at Nestle, Brian led businesses in the frozen, refrigerated, and shelf-stable product segments (Stouffer’s, Lean Cuisine, Buitoni, Ortega, and Nestle Ice Cream). From there he joined the Schwan Food Company where he led the marketing efforts for their Consumer Brands (Red Baron, Tony’s, and Freschetta) and Home Service (direct-to-consumer) businesses, helping to drive record top and bottom-line growth across both. After Schwan’s, Brian started a consulting business doing what he loves most – helping small-to-medium size CPG companies develop winning brand and innovation strategies. Lastly, Brian spent the past 7 years as Managing Director, leading Cargill’s Truvia natural sweetener business where he continued his trend of driving market-leading growth as well as leading the brand’s international expansion into over a dozen new markets.
Brian’s desire to move from the corporate world into coaching was driven by his experience of working with a CO2 coach. He attributes much of his success in business to the guidance he received from his coach, helping him make better decisions regarding the leadership of the business and the team. Brian’s decision to become a coach was driven by his desire to give back and help others benefit from his experience, and to transfer the learnings he received from his coaching experience to others.
Brian lives in Deephaven, MN with his wife of 32 years and has two grown sons.