10,000 Human Beings

Fred’s Story

Fred (not his real name) has a beautiful habit. Every time we discuss a strategy, policy, or project, he stops and asks about the “human beings.” His words are transformative. Fred doesn’t speak of “resources,” “headcount” “people” “employees” or even “team members.” He talks about humans.

Fred Asks…

  • “How will this change impact the human beings in that center?”
  • “Will this system be hard for 400 human beings to learn in 3 days?”
  • “What information do these human beings need to be successful?”
  • “How much time can we give these 800 human beings to look for a new job?”
  • “How will those 12 human beings react to our decision.”
  • “Is this the right thing to do as a human being?

Lessons From Fred

It’s not semantics. It’s people. Words change conversations– every time.

I’m entrusted with 10,000 human beings, not human resources.

I must…

  • slow down
  • ask better questions
  • learn who they are
  • tell them more
  • inspire
  • lead better

We must…

Pause. Think deeper. Put ourselves in their shoes. Think about our friends in similar situations. Personalize our leadership. Be a human being leading human beings.

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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.


  1. Shift the conversation to focus on the human beings…great post and question.

    For us, it’s caught in our second core value. Respect. Every meeting agenda flows through our five core values as a framework. When we are deciding something, question two is: “Is this and how do we have respect for those involved?”

    Also, we use names of actual people. If it’s a decision about staff, one of us might ask; “How do we see this effecting Meredith?” Same if it’s a decision related to campers, volunteers or guest.

  2. Eric, I love the way you run your meetings. Great example about using people’s real names… and consider the individuals impacted. I have used that too. When you put a real name to it, you begin to realize their are other concerns that you may have overlooked. Very important add. As always, thank you.

    • I meant Meredith – as Eric talks about it…Clearly commenting on blog posts prior to having cup of coffee is dangerous…:-)

  3. What a great perspective! I believe in the power of words and this is a great use of that power. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Human beings are a rather inconvenient bunch.

    It took me about four years as a leader to realize I needed them though. A lot of them. Ones like me, most of them not like me. Men, women, young, old.

    All of them needed.

    When I started focusing on the people…I faked it at first…and their needs and struggles, I was a much better leader.

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  6. I loved this post Karin, especially this: “It’s not semantics. It’s people. Words change conversations– every time.” — They most certainly do!

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