Give The Guy a Brake: The Power to Stop

So you’ve got everything rolling on all cylinders. The right people, all on the proverbial right bus, all moving in the right direction. Excellent. You’re a motivational leader with a strong vision, inspiring the team toward unprecedented results. This team is fired up, everyone’s with you. Fantastic? Or just about to get dangerous?

Whenever I start a new role, the first person I look for is my “brake guy.” The guy (or gal) who has a deep knowledge of the business at hand, who cares deeply about doing the right thing, and has the courage to say “stop.”

And then my plea goes something like this…

“We are starting on an incredible journey. And trust me, we are going to get the right folks on the bus, all moving in the right direction, and we are going to build momentum. It will be exciting and we’re going to go fast. We might even get folks singing along as we ride (see skipping to work). We will work hard to build an environment of empowerment and constructive dissent. And yet, when it seems just right, it’s harder to stop. You are my brake guy. I need you to be by my side and ready to pull the brake whenever I am about to drive this bus over the edge. I assure you it will happen and when it gets to that point I am counting on you. I promise I will listen.

Brake guys are invaluable. I have had some fantastic brake guys over the years. It doesn’t happen often, but every time they have used that power, they have been dead on and all I could say was thank you.

Leaders who work fast with big vision, need someone like this around them. I recognize that not every leader fits into this category. If you err on the side of caution, you might need a “push me off the cliff guy,” but that’s a subject for another time.

How Brake Guys Can Help


  • remind you to pause before reacting
  • offer more data and analysis
  • hear what the team is not saying
  • provide historical context
  • remind you of the long-term implications
  • offer options you may not have considered

If you are brake guy, thank you on behalf of all of us who need you.
If you need one, find one, and listen well.

Please share: Have you ever had a brake guy?
How was he or she helpful?
Have you served in that capacity?

Posted in Communication, Results & Execution and tagged , , , , , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was recently named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of 3 books: Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.


  1. Great post Karin. There are keys to knowing when to pull the brake – is everyone looking around and nobody saying anything? Is everyone NOT looking around and NOT saying anything? It can be difficult to find the brake in the dark, and the dimmer switch is often controlled by situations such as, Titles, Meeting Subjects, Sacred Cows and Pink Elephants – but you know when you have to pull the brake, you know!

  2. Interesting post but I would understand better with an example.

    Do you always need to pull the brake? “I am about to drive this bus over the edge. I assure you it will happen… “.

  3. Marcus, Thanks for asking… no you don’t always need to pull the brake, but as Don says, “when you know you know.” A brake doesn’t mean to stop a project or initiative. It could be just a decision or a particular element of the plan. In any complex environment there will be times that you need to change course… it’s great to have people “turning up the lights” as Don says, or “putting on the brakes.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.