Insights from Dave Baker and the Palmetto Leadership Center

Mollee D. Harper

Monday, May 1st, 2017

South Carolina CEO sat down with Dave Baker, Principal and Sr. Consultant of Palmetto Leadership Center in Anderson, SC. Baker describes his unique service offering to manufacturing organizations (including health, nonprofit and more) in employment, engagement, and succession planning related to workforce leadership development. He shares insights into the importance of human relations in organizations today, with an emphasis on ways to ensure job fit, new leadership transition, and preparing for leadership changes in an organization before and after it happens… the “soft”, but very real costs of human assets at the executive level in organizations.  (Reach Dave at or visit

“My whole career has been focused around the unique business opportunities within the State and the southeast. There are a copious need and desire for continuous improvement emphasis here in South Carolina. I am very excited about the opportunities in the Upstate of SC and the surrounding Atlanta – Charlotte corridor.”

“With manufacturing having a significant impact on the South Carolina economy, workforce development is a major focus and often revolves around developing specific technical skills. What is equally important and a little quieter on that workforce development piece is developing the next generation of leaders and growing those leaders within an organization now. This is extremely important for business continuity for the organization in the future.”

“My niche is in manufacturing because that’s the experience I bring to the table. People are people regardless of industry. While manufacturing is really my bread and butter, I work with a wide range of organizations that face these same issues. The bottom line is we help organizations get results by getting the right people onboard, engaging and developing them, and planning for inevitable transition.”

Palmetto Leadership Center is headquartered out of Anderson, South Carolina and provides leadership consulting services including talent, teams and strategy solutions for business owners and executives specializing in process improvements and executive leadership development.

Baker shared, “The services I provide through the Palmetto Leadership Center are based on the experiences I have had in human resources and the manufacturing industry specifically. What I bring to the table is real-world experience, boots on the ground perspective, from the fast-paced, rough and tumble world of manufacturing. I offer executive coaching and business coaching for executive leaders to the front-line salaried leaders. What I’ve seen in my career, the front-line is the meat layer of the sandwich. They are accountable to both the hourly associates and the executive leadership of the organization.”

“Our services cover three areas: Employment, Engagement, and Succession. These are cradle to grave services from the first day of employment, to planning for, and executing a viable succession plan for when the employee transitions out of the organization.”

Talent Identification and Selection Services

Baker described, “We help organizations objectively identify the right people for the right positions and get them on-boarded and acclimated to the organization as a new leader. I don’t source candidates, but do provide comprehensive processes to help identify and select the right candidates to ensure there is an effective job match. Working with organizations to develop effective new leader transition processes includes coaching them about the culture of the organization. This helps remove some of the anxieties and pitfalls early on, so a new leader can hit the ground running.”

“Often there are a lot of assumptions made on both ends when a new leader joins an organization or is promoted. We work to set goals for the first 90-days of employment, a critical period for setting the tone to ensure long-term success. How will I know if my boss is happy with me in achieving both short-term and long-term goals? What do I need to accomplish early on? What does my team need to know about me and how I operate?  Who are the influencers and antagonists? These are an example of what we cover on the front end.”

“Traditionally, HR’s role is to get a new employee onboard, signed up, and all paperwork completed. Often what’s missing is how to successfully get them started in their new role and orientation to the organization. I tie this in to help organizations make these transitions more successful.”

“In-house HR roles have become more and more compliance and transactional in nature, leaving little time to focus on the strategic elements required to set the new leader up for success. The worst thing you can do is bring somebody on board and not prepare them for potential landmines in their environment, the sacred cows of the organization, and where they need to tread lightly or carry a big stick.”  

“We’ve had success working at the top with this process and then work down. Our clients tell us they don’t want to hire another leader without this level of focus. While paying a professional recruiter a 20+% fee, we ensure that the investment is not lost and that the new leader is integrated into the organization successfully for the long term.”

Workforce Engagement Services

“The second element being engagement, includes team building, individual professional development, and education. We believe you train animals, but educate people. I’ve got a 60-acre site, conveniently located just off the interstate, for offsite strategic planning, teambuilding, and retreats where organizations can get out of the board-room and assemble off-site to participate in unique team building activities or just get away to clear their heads and gain clarity.”

“We also facilitate leadership development process with a high-performance coaching academy. With a process that is real-time based on current challenges, we emphasize results. The process includes an emphasis on not only gaining new insights, but new actions with ongoing follow up for accountability. We cover a variety of topics providing measurable value to the organization including workforce engagement, strategic planning, and leading up-down-and sideways to get the most out of your relationship with your boss and team.”

“We educate leaders using real problems and real issues that the participants are dealing with in their environment and develop conflict resolution techniques and tools to increase teamwork.”

Succession Planning Services

“The last or third element of Palmetto Leadership Center’s service framework is in succession planning. Benchmark organizations in manufacturing typically have an 80% hiring from within goal. Part of what I do is to help organizations plan ahead.  Having to go outside the organization and fill a role can be bittersweet. You do need fresh talent and new ideas, but you have people internally that want the opportunity to grow. This can cause a lot of bitterness and problems.”

“We spend all this time getting the right people in. Then we invest in and educate them. Nevertheless, turnover is real in all organizations. The mindset is to start over, get someone else in and hope for a better result. Frequently, this leaves a significant gap between when they left and when a new leader is identified, selected, and is in place. We work with organizations to develop a structure for succession to reduce or eliminate those gaps. I offer a way to plan for succession in all leadership positions whether a site leader, quality manager, VP of sales, operations manager, etc.”

“We use this process to evaluate the strengths, challenges, what we want in the successor, including what we don’t want. This circles back around to the employment process by identifying a custom profile for the position, unique to the organization. If we’ve done our homework, we’re already grooming someone in the organization for each role to protecting the business continuity.”

Executive Coaching

“A coaching engagement is often my entry point to an organization. Executive coaching is really a big part of what I do. I don’t really sell myself as a coach, although the market terms that service this way. I prefer to say I’m just highly skilled at helping leaders get from Point A to a better Point B.”

“The business coaching and executive coaching service that I provide is woven into all three services I provide. Often I’m working with one executive and provide one-on-one coaching to help them develop and bring their workforce together.”

“I can work in any industry because everyone faces the same personnel challenges whether it’s technology, banking, non-profit, or healthcare. I have the advantage of not having a biased opinion about the industry or environment. As an outsider, I can help them navigate those issues and bring a different perspective to the table. I want to make sure to get the word out about what I offer and how I can help leaders get results.”

Baker founded Palmetto Leadership Center in 2015 and serves as Senior Consultant. Baker has more than 25 years of Human Resources leadership and generalist experience in diverse manufacturing environments including automotive, pharmaceutical and wood products.  Prior to founding PLC, Baker served as Director of Human Resources for BorgWarner for 14 years; Human Resources Generalist for Bausch & Lomb; and Human Resources Manager for Willamette Industries, Inc. He also served as an Adjunct Professor for Anderson University. Baker served in the TN & SC National Guard in field artillery units and is an Eagle Scout.

Baker received his B.A. from Harding University in Psychology and Business and his M.S. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Baker is an ICF-ACC certified Executive Coach and holds certifications with the Society for Human Resources Management (SPHR & SHRM-SCP) and Interaction Management™ with DDI, Inc. He is an Affiliate Partner with Profiles International and is certified in the use of multiple assessments including the ProfileXT & Checkpoint 360.

Baker concluded, “I grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia. I was not on the streets per se but learned the school of hard knocks fast, and how to get home by the fastest route without being beaten up. I learned early on about team dynamics, body language, and human relations. I’ve been blessed with an ability to effectively communicate with top leaders in organizations and help them see what’s really going on around them, versus what’s being reported on paper. My greatest successes have been in recognizing the dynamics between people, teams, and organizations to resolve conflicts and achieve success.”