Karin’s Leadership Articles

The secret to moving and shaking is stirring. Anyone in power can shake and intimidate. Real leaders stir hearts and minds toward powerful possibility. Growing leaders long to be stirred, not shaken.

Shaken Not Stirred

Joe was visibly shaken as he left the readout with the senior team. His results were solid, and he was prepared to share his team’s story. He just hadn’t anticipated that line of questioning. He could feel the conversation going sideways, and then he choked. 

He’d seen this movie before, and it doesn’t end well. The questions turned to sarcasm mixed with a few “gotchas.”

He left humiliated, stressed, and worried about what to tell his team. Should he be transparent and expose his fumble? Or downplay it, and buffer the feedback?

The last thing on his mind was how to improve the actual work. Instead he vowed to study more, bring more data, and stay up a bit later to rehearse. He said a little prayer that his career was not too deeply damaged. Joe was shaken, not stirred.

Stirred Not Shaken

Mike was full of anxiety as he approached the leadership readout. Last time, he was caught off guard and he knows the career implications of screwing up twice. When the question came that he couldn’t answer, he instantly felt the blood drain from his face. He stuttered in his response.

The next comment surprised him. “Mike, we know you know your business better than any of us. We just want to help you improve. We are here to support you. Let me rephrase the question.”

What followed was a series of open-ended questions and exciting dialogue. Joe stopped searching for the “right” answer and spoke from his heart.

He shared his latest wild and crazy idea. Everyone chimed in on the pros and cons. He left with tangible feedback on next steps, and areas to improve. He quickly huddled with his team to share the experience and inspire next steps.

He looked forward to the next review to share the team’s progress. Mike was stirred, not shaken. Why do we still have so much shaken going on?

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Mike Henry Sr.

    Karin, thanks for the great comparison and reminder. Your analogy provides a fitting picture of the challenges we face developing leaders and as developing leaders.

    Do you also agree there are times when we allow ourselves to be shaken and we could have chosen instead to be stirred? Does Joe have the ability to choose to be stirred rather than shaken?


    • letsgrowleaders

      Mike, what a by important point. That could be a post in itself. We have choices how we respond. Don’t let the shakers get you down.

  2. Steve Borek

    Leaders need to treat everyone equally and with respect.

    Having worked for sales organizations for over two decades, too many times, I saw management use scare tactics and bullying behavior to intimidate certain individuals.Then again, they’d behave totally different with star performers.

    This sends the wrong message to the sales force.

    A team that’s fearful of management will do everything they can to please. This can mean telling management what they want to hear, even if it’s not accurate.

    When the team doesn’t respect the leader, they’ll do the minimum to keep their jobs.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Steve, so agree. What yup describe here leads to a scary downward spiral.

  3. Dave Bratcher

    One of the most powerful ways to “stir” is found in prior success. This is done when leadership remembers about a team members success and can ask questions like, “When you led the new technology implementation, what was the one thing which kept it on time?” This is just an example, but the point is to ask questions and get them to “find” the answer. Each of us have it inside, and it’s the leader’s responsibility to get it out. Thanks for the “gotcha” lint, too! Happy “Stirred” Monday!

  4. letsgrowleaders

    Dave, thanks for all you do to stir as well. Agreed, reminding people of past successes stirs confidence.

  5. Marcus Hurt

    Very good post! I love the simplicity.

  6. Dallas Tye

    Gosh, I’d like to see a whole chapter on this!
    I agree with Marcus about how simple, but thought provoking at the same time.

    I also agree with how Mike put it at the top of the page – “Does Joe have the ability to choose to be stirred rather than shaken?”.

    Too often when coaching leaders I have found they did not have this ability, or at best did not understand how they did what they did when they managed to fend off tense situations.

    The ability to think clearly under pressure is one to be explored.

  7. Ali Anani (@alianani15)

    Karin- this is an amazing post. Stirring and shaking chemical reactions (my PhD work) to stirring people. What a coincidence as I published today my presentation on SMART Emotions to SMART Actions. It is insufficient to have SMART Goals; it is equally important to turn them into SMART actions. This is possible if we bridge the goals and actions with SMART Emotions. The presentation gives examples

    I am working on turning the SMART goals of this post into SMART actions. I shall share my findings with you

    • letsgrowleaders

      Thanks, Ali. Enjoyed your presentation, on smart actions…so critical to achieving smart goals.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Ali, always appreciate your comments and insights. Thanks for continuing to extend the conversation.

    • Felix

      Dear Mr. Ali, I looked for your article ” Smart emotions to Smart actions in Slideshare and it said the content was removed, .I also tried in scoop.it , it said not found. Could you please send me a copy via email. Regards, F.F.

  8. Michelle Spear

    I don’t know how many times I’ve been shaken by someone in a role of control/power over me. It’s definitely no the way to treat others or be treated. Stirred is far more exciting and productive. Thanks for the great analogy!

    • letsgrowleaders

      Michelle, I hope you will find more stirrers along your journey, as well as continuing to be a stirrer yourself. Namaste.

  9. LaRae Quy

    A brilliant post!

    I do think we make the choice to be shaken or stirred (what a great metaphor) when confronted with unknown or unexpected. It must an intentional reaction by us because our natural tendency is often to run (or be shaken). We may perceive it as a threat to our survival. It is an internal choice…but this post really made me think about the way I respond to situations! I confess I’ve been both shaken and stirred simultaneously; sometimes that shake is what I needed to get out of my rut.

    • letsgrowleaders

      LaRae, ohhh, I like that… being shaken and stirred simultaneously. Sometimes I get ticked off by the shaking, but then…. it turns into internal stirring, and stirring of my team. The challenge is to not pass down the shaking, but transform it first. Thanks so much for extending the conversation with your important comment.

      • Ali Anani (@alianani15)

        It is interesting that this post “stirred” me to Google more about mixing and shaking. One lovely reference entitled ” Shaken not Stirred” brought my attention to a new science. Here a snap description of it “Science is beginning to catch up with the art of mixing drinks, giving birth to the field of ‘molecular mixology”.
        Now, mixing and shaking sometimes work together, but in some favorable drinks the foamy surface is destroyed. Shaking is enough.

    • Dallas Tye

      Agreed its and internal choice however when being shaken its a choice made faster than the speed of ‘conscious’ thought.

      Karin, your practice sessions sound valuable. Linking them to some level of understanding around the physiology of success as well, and its link with being able to think clearly under pressure could be beneficial as well.

      Your understanding Karin of the effect of paced breathing (for example) through yoga would be a wonderful addition. Not saying they need to do yoga 😉 however establishing the right physiology will help prepare and also sustain them during a presentation,,, and stop the blood draining from around our tummies for use in muscles that fight and run, only to be replaced by flocks of distracting butterflies.

      • letsgrowleaders

        Dallas, ahh yes… that’s such an important point. Working on our physical responses as well as our emotional and intellectual ones. Great add, as always.

  10. Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

    Hi Karin,
    Such a simply AND powerful message — stir don’t shake. I *love this post. I would underscore “stop” the shaking. While leaders are busy shaking people, they can’t stir them!

    Terrific post and I will tweet for sure.

    Many thanks for this image!

    • letsgrowleaders

      Kate, Great to see you here. Beautiful. It really is tough to shake and stir at the same time. I agree with you, why not just “stop the shaking.”

  11. Dan Rockwell

    Thanks Karin! I have two new words in my leadership vocabulary… Shaken and Stirred.

    Power mongers love to shake people. It makes them feel powerful. Real leaders stir.

    Great read.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Dan, Great to have you in the conversation. Yeah, I do think it’s about power. The sad part is all that effort to be powerful, actually reduces influence and effectiveness.

  12. sue bock

    Thanks again Karin for some great metaphor insight. Shaken reminds me of Shaking Baby Syndrome. Stirred is kinder and gentler. When you open yourself with vulnerability you will receive support and a team to boost you up until you can fly. Great stories.


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