January 2020

Through engineering and science, Sanborn Head provides integrated earth, energy, and environmental consulting services across the U.S.

Barret Cole met David Liddell approximately 10 years ago when Sanborn Head’s CEO brought him in to work with senior management. Although Mr. Cole wasn’t involved in decision making at the time, he was part of the team that worked through an 18-month leadership development program with him. After taking over as President and COO of Sanborn Head in 2015, Mr. Cole contacted Liddell Consulting about providing supervisory training to enhance an employee engagement program Sanborn Head was developing. Liddell Consulting worked with him to customize a training program to help Sanborn Head’s supervisors develop specific leadership, supervisory, and communication skills.

“In 2017 we launched a talent management program called EDGE (Empowerment Development Guidance Engagement). It replaced our more traditional talent management program with a forward-thinking program that emphasizes career and professional development.”

Barret Cole, PG, LEP, President and Chief Operating Officer, Sanborn Head


Employee engagement is a common leadership challenge, especially in companies that have multiple generations present at different levels of leadership. Sanborn Head is no exception. Facing impending retirements of several longstanding leaders and key contributors that had been with the company since its inception, a main concern Mr. Cole had when he took over as President and COO was retaining and developing the next “generations” of Sanborn Head’s people to support the firm’s commitment to the internal transition of leadership and ownership. Although Sanborn Head had been focused on employee engagement, he and his leadership team recognized that there was an opportunity to create a more engaging talent management program. Mr. Cole and his leadership team also recognized that the success of the new program relied heavily on the supervisors tasked with executing it.

“Although it took off very well, it was readily apparent that the overall success of the EDGE program would be predicated on the strength of our leadership. Each ‘EDGE Leader’ needed to be adept at dealing with all sorts of issues around employee engagement, as well as setting, communicating, and facilitating the achievement of employee development goals. We knew we needed to create a supervisory training program to help the EDGE Leaders succeed in the incredibly important role we were asking them to fill.”


Because of past leadership program experience with Liddell Consulting, Mr. Cole understood how we could formulate a program to train Sanborn Head’s EDGE Leaders to not only be better leaders, but also to listen even more effectively and provide even better guidance to the “EDGEees” they were responsible for. The Liddell Method is a repeatable, results-driven program and approach to help teams and leadership function at the highest possible levels, but it isn’t set in stone. Taking into account the specific needs of the supervisors and goals of the EDGE program, Liddell Consulting developed a 12-month program that folded internal training in with the messages that our method advocates.


“Their ability to customize and be flexible was a strong draw. They could have said: ‘here’s the program,’ but instead they said: ‘let’s hear what you want to accomplish and let’s create what is right for your goals.’ They tailored an approach to fit our vision.”




Having now just finished the first of two 12-month programs, Sanborn Head has already started receiving positive feedback from the EDGE Leaders who have participated. Although the program is still in process, Mr. Cole believes it is well on its way to achieving the goal of improving supervision and bolstering the EDGE program. By providing Sanborn Head’s EDGE Leaders with a better understanding of different communication and work styles, and motivators, they can be better leaders. All leaders benefit from understanding better ways for dealing with difficult situations, as well as how to best give feedback, constructive and positive alike.


“We could teach a version of this program internally, but bringing in a third-party professional made sense for us. Because he spent the time to get to know us, and because of his engineering background, Dave understands the profile of the people at Sanborn Head that he’s trying to reach.”


  • A trusted third-party perspective can lend objectivity to employee programs
  • Customization is what makes leadership programs work best
  • Leaders get to where they are for good reason, but it’s good to know when to ask for help
  • No matter how good your company culture and employee engagement may be, there’s always room for improvement
  • All leaders, regardless of experience or leadership style, can benefit from learning new methods and broader understanding of their impact on those around them 


Sanborn Head is an engineering and technical consulting firm serving a broad array of private, public and institutional clients in the development, energy, industrial, and solid waste markets. Our multi-disciplinary team of engineers and scientists specializes in integrating our core expertise in earth, energy, and environment to deliver innovative, yet practical solutions to our clients.


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