Tara Davis

It’s too easy to get wrapped around the axle and caught up in all of the potential outcomes. For me, being an entrepreneur means taking risks. You have to begin before you can either succeed or fail.


Tara Davis is a military wife, mother of four daughters, breast cancer survivor, epic cupcake baker, avid traveler and the founder and President of Desire Lines Consulting, LLC. Desire Lines Consulting is an organization that offers leadership development workshops, seminars, keynote speaking, and coaching, aiding personal and professional growth through study and practical application of proven leadership methods.

Growing up and then marrying into the military has allowed Tara to see the world and experience people and cultures of all kinds and she weaves her experiences into each and every training she delivers. She has an intrinsic ability to hold employees accountable, while providing the tools and information they need to be successful.

Tara is equipped to work with people across all leadership levels and engage them for both personal and professional success. Combining strong leadership skills with the ability to communicate honestly and effectively, she helps build relationships across all organizational levels to improve efficiency, productivity and employee satisfaction.

Tara has served individuals and corporations in both small groups and large as a dynamic and innovative Learning and Development Professional. With over 25 years of experience in creating and implementing targeted learning strategies and solutions that meet both organizational and individual needs within a diverse work environment, Tara drives results in sales, customer service, marketing, technology, operations and organizational development. She is an energetic leader with creativity, insight, vision and enthusiasm to inspire and garner superior results.

Tara is as comfortable and confident in front of an audience of one as she in front of an audience of 1000. She believes in self-development, the philosophy that learning never ends and that true compassion can overcome most performance issues.

From building leadership programs for Fortune 500 Companies to inspiring today’s youth to embrace a leadership role, Tara’s goal is always to serve the end to end process…ensuring that individuals and organizations reach their purpose through an intentional plan of professional development.

Where did the idea for Desire Lines Consulting come from?

Desire Lines are those pathways that we typically see in nature where people have stepped off the constructed path and created a new, foot trodden shortcut or an alternate path through the grass, the trees or sand to get to their destination.
I started thinking about the similarities between nature paths and career paths. Too often, I’ve seen people afraid to take risks, going to work just to do a job they don’t enjoy and without a progressive system of checks and balances to help them reach their goals.

While working as a corporate trainer and coach. I began paying closer attention to the patterns in people’s behavior where professional development and career goals were concerned. People either didn’t have a path or they were afraid to deviate from a path they were following, resulting in career frustration, performance stagnation and an overwhelming sense of professional confusion.

On the flip side, I saw companies that used training as a stick (negative) instead of a carrot (positive) which resulting in resentment, fear and performance anxiety. I decided that I wanted to provide leadership development services to organizations that truly believed in their people, who bought into the power of professional development and who were building a bench strength of future leaders for their company for all of the right reasons.

I saw a need to get people and organizations off the concrete path and forging new paths of personal and professional development.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

As a military wife, my days start early because my husband leaves for work before the sun comes up. I use the time between when he leaves and when the rest of my world is waking up to respond to emails, review proposal requests and consider my agenda for the day. I’m a list maker, so I usually go over my daily and weekly plans throughout the day to ensure that I have a handle on upcoming travel, events, training materials and speaking engagements.

Depending on my schedule, I may be working close to home or traveling to a client’s location. My day may consist of facilitating Mastermind Groups (an in person or virtual group of people coming together to collaborate on leadership/workplace challenges, giving advice, and sharing connections), conducting executive coaching sessions, leadership training seminars or team building workshops. Somedays, I barely come up for air and other days I am fortunate enough to carve out some valuable quiet time to create new content ideas or customize a program for a new customer.

I work hard to find a healthy balance between being highly accessible to my customers and dedicating time to my top priorities, including my husband and four daughters, and when I’m not working, we’re usually traveling.

How do you bring ideas to life?

My mind is always seeking out and running through new ideas, new content, new ways to engage and enliven groups and audiences. It’s a blessing and a curse because it’s hard to turn off and I tend to focus on the details before I’ve fully built out the foundation. To avoid this, I’ve discovered that I have to just dive right in and do it. When I overanalyze ideas, I become trapped in the minutia and progress is stymied.

I’ve learned to just roll with it now and it serves me much better. A colleague gave me a hat that reads, “F*$% it, we’ll do it live!” It’s not a hat I wear out and about, but I’ll admit that it is a potent reminder for me that sometimes, you just have to jump into the deep end of the pool and get wet. It turns out that those times, the ones where I’ve jumped and built my wings on the way down, I’ve actually created some of my greatest ideas and my most successful workshops.

In my line of work, I’m always testing new ideas, trying new approaches and its always in front of a live audience. There’s not much room for error. Even familiar content that I’ve delivered hundreds of times, has new life breathed into it when delivered to a new audience.

It’s too easy to get wrapped around the axle and caught up in all of the potential outcomes. For me, being an entrepreneur means taking risks. You have to begin before you can either succeed or fail.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Leadership Development and Emotional Intelligence have to top my list, of course! Soft skills (which I actually think are hard for most people) are even more critical for those frontline leaders and anyone who is new to management. Think about it, how many of us receive training when we take on a new leadership role? We were good at what we did, so we were promoted. Congratulations! Now what?

As a society, we’re surround by and engrossed with technology. Look around you, and you’ll see faces looking downward or staring into a computer screen. We interact with technology more hours of the day than we interact with people, yet it’s people that ultimately drive the success of a business.

Communication, delegation, team building, and emotional intelligence skills are often overlooked when a team member moves from a “technical expert” position to a “leading experts” position. Managers need to know how to interact with their teams. They need to feel comfortable coaching their employees. They need new skillsets that involve giving advice, mentoring and delivering effective feedback to ensure the individual and the team attains the highest levels of success.

People used to hide the fact that they had mentors, coaches or were attending and participating in professional development sessions. Now, everyone is recognizing the importance. Individuals and companies alike are seeking new ways to improve productivity.

When people learn to communicate effectively, when leaders are confident in their abilities and the abilities of their team, organizations win. When organizations win, employees and customers win. As you can tell, I’m all about the wins!

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I make lists. I’m always taking notes, checking emails, scheduling appointments and recording thoughts on my phone or computer. Without my lists, I risk missing critical obligations, responsibilities and ideas. At the end of each day, I review the list from that day and make a new list for the next day. Anything that wasn’t addressed or resolved, gets top priority on the new list. This allows me to call it a day without the stress of worrying about what the future has in store for me. I can go to sleep peacefully, knowing I have as strong of a handle on tomorrow as is possible. We can’t anticipate everything, but if we’re prepared, the journey is so much more enjoyable.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t be afraid to be bored. As we get older, we constantly avoid boredom by inundating ourselves with social media, entertainment, travel, books, technology, music, etc. But boredom is actually conducive to growth. It’s in those quiet, reflective times that we are able to think about who we are, who we want to be and what we want to do. If we’re always filling our heads with noise, we never give ourselves the opportunity to listen to the voice in our own head.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody else agrees with you on.

I always say that “Peer pressure is a wonderful thing”. People want what other people have or want to do what other people are doing. Usually, this is perceived as a bad thing, a jealousy issue or greed. I believe that when we are motivated by goals, when we aspire to be better and when we seek out mentorship or coaching to get to where we want to be, we’ve allowed that “peer pressure” to challenge and inspire us to greatness. Sometimes it takes seeing what others are doing (and accomplishing because of it) to push us out outside of our comfort zone and get moving in a new direction.

I remember working with a sales executive who wanted to promote to a sales leader. Unfortunately, he was struggling to make his monthly sales quota. He wanted to be a team leader but wasn’t eligible without improving his performance. When we first met, his focus was on what other people were doing or not doing and how successful it was making them. He was angry and resentful that they were hitting their targets or running teams while he perceived himself to be working longer and harder for lesser results. He knew exactly what everyone else was doing, what worked for them and what didn’t.

It turned out that he was so focused on them, that he wasn’t focused on how to improve his own performance. Seems obvious, right? But what he hadn’t figured out yet, was that instead of coveting what he saw other people doing and becoming, he could take his observations and use them to improve his own behaviors. When he recognized what motivated him, we worked out a strategy on how to drive results. He wasn’t satisfied in sales. He wanted to run a team. He wanted bigger results and bigger wins. When he redirected his focus, found an accountability partner and turned his own performance around, he was promoted. Now, he runs one of the organization’s most successful sales teams. He’s great with people and he intrinsically knows how to inspire others to reach their peak performance abilities. In the end, he took the success that he coveted, learned from it, made a plan and implemented it all to build and customize a super sales team.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I make time for family and friends. They are the lifeblood of our success, our cheerleaders and our support groups. No one understands us better or knows how to encourage us when we get frustrated. It’s easy to spend hour after hour working, forgetting meals, milestones or home life. As an entrepreneur, there’s no specific quitting time, so getting lost in your responsibilities, regardless of the size or scope of your team, can happen easily.

A night out, a dinner in, a gathering with friends…time spent away from work with the people that remind me why I do what I do is critical for my success. It sounds easy and stupid simple, but I’ve found that I have to be intentional about making time for my top priorities. When I’m happy and relaxed, I’m more productive and efficient.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

I try to add value to people each and every day. I am by nature, shy. I know, it’s a direct contradiction to what I do every day by standing in front of and working with groups of strangers. In my job and in my role, it comes naturally, easily and authentically. But strategic networking, reaching out and starting those cold conversations has required patience, practice and intentionality on my part.

Adding value to others comes easily to me and fulfills the goal of networking. I ask questions. I engage people in conversations about themselves, their interests and their work. I offer tidbits¬. I’m not doing it to grow my business. I’m doing it to add value to someone else. I’m a firm believer that what goes around, comes around and when you make someone feel better, give them insight to help them be more productive or show them a new perspective on a potential roadblock, they will remember you.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Early in my career, I was dealing with a recurrence of breast cancer. On the morning of an important event, where I was scheduled to be a key note speaker, I received word that I would need to begin chemotherapy right away. Not easy news to hear but I was a cancer veteran, military born and bred and, oh yeah, I’m stubborn Irish, so I believed I could compartmentalize and get through my event. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the same level of energy as usual and I know it showed in my level of engagement. My heart wasn’t in it and when you deal with people, you have to be fully in.

I didn’t completely recognize how off I had been until I was doing my post event wrap up. I noticed little things were missing from what I normally experienced…people coming up and talking after my speech, connections on social media, my ability to mentally recall names and faces from that day. I had been present, but not engaged.

I overcame it by reaching out and explaining to the company what had happened and offering a sincere apology. They hadn’t noticed I was “off”, but I knew what I was capable of and what I had delivered. I offered them the opportunity to invite me back, free of charge to deliver a longer, better workshop at their convenience. Thankfully, they accepted and the next year, when I took the stage, I addressed the audience and took full accountability for my previous presentation. I would like to believe that my authenticity, honesty and accountability resonated with the audience and my client that day more than the presentation.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Zip closure chip bags. If someone started manufacturing self-sealing chip bags, we would eliminate stale chips and accidental spills in the pantry. The need for plastic clips, rubber bands, paper clips and every other random office supply tool to close the bag would be eliminated. Hmmmm, somebody run with that and let me know when it’s done because I have a house full of chip eaters!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

An incredibly bright, neon pair of New Balance running shoes in Paris, France. I’m not exaggerating when I say you can see them from a mile away! I had traveled overseas with a group of friends for fashion week so we all packed cute clothes and shoes to match. I inadvertently left my comfortable, worn in, shoes at home and we were averaging 20 miles a day on foot as we took in the sights. After three days, my poor ankles were a mess! By the time we finally arrived in a location with any semblance of a department store, my choices were severely limited, and these day-glow beauties were my only option. I became a fashion icon! Everyone laughed and teased me for the remainder of the trip, but I can walk circles around everyone. Several months later, those New Balance shoes are my fan favorites and I bring them along whenever I travel!

What is one piece of software or web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

I love my Livescribe Smart Pen. As much as I love my technology, I still prefer to write with paper and pen. The Livescribe pen allows me to write in a notebook and it instantly appears on my iPad or smartphone. My tablet or smart phone can even record audio, capturing details I may have missed. My notes can easily be converted to and saved in a digital format that is infinitely more useable. Client notes can be tagged and organized. Drawings are saved, and my handwriting can be converted to text. Additionally, it makes sharing thoughts, documents and ideas much easier with others.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

“You Can’t Send a Duck to Eagle School” by Mac Anderson. It’s a lighthearted, yet relatable book that addresses simple truths about leadership. It’s short but powerful and everyone can get something useful out of it.

What is your favorite quote?

“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.” –Mahatma Gandhi

Key Learnings:

• Sometimes you need to jump first and build your wings on the way down. Whatever you are dreaming of doing, begin it. Procrastination is not conducive to progress.
• Soft skills are hard and they don’t come naturally to everyone. Take time to focus on the skills that allow people to get along with and communicate better with other people. Its people, more than technology that is the key to success at any organization.
• Boredom is a key contributor to creativity. Give yourself the opportunity to get inside of your own head and see where it leads you.
• By adding value to others, you build rapport, trust and loyalty. It’s the most authentic way to network yourself and your business.
• Integrity is everything. Take accountability for your mistakes and missteps. Do whatever it takes to make it right for your customer and you’ll build loyalty for years to come.