How To Bring Out the Best In People

The story he shared in a recent workshop I led stopped my heart. We were talking about leadership and “bringing out the best in people,” when John (obviously not his real name) confided, “I’ve never seen anyone do what you’re talking about better than my wife.”

We smiled. “No. You don’t understand,” he continued.  (His eyes got bigger and his posture took on a sincerity that made everyone in the room lean in.) No one expected what came next.

“I was an absolute asshole. If you were to look up bad husbands in Wikipedia my picture would be there.”

I stayed totally still. There was absolutely nothing I could say next that would trump his story.

“I had been such a jerk for so many months. I knew it. She knew it. I was deeply depressed, and not myself. She didn’t complain. She never seemed to take it personally. Although, I can’t imagine how she wouldn’t. We had no money, which made the whole situation even more grim.

Then one day after a lot of long ones, she asked:  “Would you be willing to fully trust me and get up at 3am with me tomorrow and follow me?”

I felt so guilty, I said “Sure.” Even though I found the mere thought exhausting.

She woke me up, blind-folded me and took me sky diving–my top bucket-list adventure. We both knew we couldn’t afford it. But I leaped in. She took pictures and videos. As she played them back, she reminded me, “This is the man I love. This is who you really are. You can be this. You will get there again. I love you.”


I’m going to admit right now, I’m not that big of a wife. This would NEVER have occurred to me. I’m in awe of this woman I’ve never met, inspiring a man with enormous potential to be bigger. As he shared his story, his eyes sparkled as they had for the previous two days. He was a ball of vibrant energy and potential. I’d feel lucky to have him on any team I was leading.

Perhaps someone you’re leading right now could use such a generous, humble and confident approach. A second chance to be seen for what’s possible.

P.S. I would love to schedule a free consultation about how I can help your team achieve breakthrough results in 2015.  Click here to download a one-page highlight sheet. karinhurt_One_Sheet

Posted in Authenticity & Transparency, Communication, confident humility and tagged , , , .

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.


    • Vikram, Great to have you join the conversation. Thanks so much. Yes, I think it’s a lot like the Pygmalion effect.

  1. Be fully present each and every time they’re in your presence. Give them 100% of your attention. We live in a multitasking world. When you’re not fully present, the other person sees it and feels it. They also think you have no interest in them at all.

  2. As this man’s wife demonstrated, sometimes all that is needed is to show someone we have the confidence and trust in them. As leaders, we can do this through empowerment and make the environment safe. In the event a mistake happens, perform the autopsy, learn from it and move on.

    What an incredible story. Thank you for sharing, Karin!

    • Bill, Thanks so much. I love the idea of “performing the autopsy” and moving on

    • Beth, I don’t think I’d have the stomach to watch my kids sky dive. Yikes!

  3. Karin

    This is a great story. I’m not surprised by this wonderful wife’s leadership capabilities. My wife has lifted me up more than once. We need cheerleaders in our lives (personal and professional) who can inspire us to be the person they see in us even if we can’t see it for ourselves. I love your blog and its “groundedness”. It’s all real and so useful.

  4. Karin,

    Great Story!

    I have been utilizing quite a bit from your conversations in my current role, and I love the positive energy I get from reading your blogs.



  5. A truly inspiring display of love, devotion and belief. We all need people who will believe in us unconditionally and we also need to be those people for others. I wish you all an amazing day!

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