Karin’s Leadership Articles

Even the most confident among us sometimes lose our voice. Everyone needs encouragement every now and then.

A Story of Voice Losing and Finding

Our church is exceptionally progressive when it comes to women in leadership. In fact, the ministers and all church staff are women. And yet, we have this big deal tradition– a fundraiser auction– which has been historically led by male auctioneers. Something just didn’t seem right about that.

After hearing enough behind-the-scenes chatter on the phenomenon, I mentioned my/our concern to Bob, the auctioneer lead.

“Why are there no women on the stage? Why are they all behind the scenes?” He looked surprised, “Not sure. I guess no one’s expressed an interest. There used to be a woman who did it.” That wasn’t quite enough for me, ‘”Who have you asked recently?” It was friendly banter, and he said he’d work to change it up next year.

We picked up the conversation 10 months later, when my phone rang. “Karin I’m doing the line-up for the auction. I’d love for you to be an auctioneer.”

Oh boy. I’d wanted SOME woman to do this. But didn’t really see myself in the role. Sure, I’m a speaker, but “go bidder bidder” wasn’t exactly my style. But what could I say?

“I’d be honored.” I smiled and thanked him for his follow-through.

So that year, I donned an evening gown–in some feeble attempt to have the congregation notice there was a woman at the mic. I did the best I could (or so I persuaded myself). But honestly, I had a hard time finding my auctioneer’s voice. I’d give myself a C at best. I was a little sorry I’d brought the whole thing up.

Generously, I was asked back again this year.

Time for an upgrade. As I looked at my auction item list, I realized that the first few items really leant themselves to song. If you haven’t heard this before, I was voted “most likely to burst into song” in high-school, so this is not really a stretch thought, but the wacky place to which my brain orients naturally.

But stay with me… There was a grown-up women slumber party, just calling for a round of “Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee.” Or the poker night, “Luck be a Lady Tonight,” from Guys and Dolls. You see?

And so I went for it, belting out the attention-getting openers. The crowd smiled.

A few items in, it was time for our dinner break. I checked in with my veteran auctioneers. “Oh yeah that works,”  they were all with me using the non-traditional approach. When I confessed I had no idea how I would sing about sushi, we brainstormed ideas (we landed on “Fish Glorious Fish (Oliver style).” Richard on sound gave me a thumbs up and adjusted the mics for the new sing-to-sell approach.

We sold a plenty of sushi.

When taking on an uncomfortable role, it may feel safer to play the role as it’s been played before. But that’s not always what will bring the best results. Digging deeper to find your most natural voice (and encouraging others to do the same), may be the best way to inspire confidence and improve results.

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. Steve Borek

    Tea with lemon.

    If that doesn’t work, help them discover who they really are.

    • Karin Hurt

      Steve, I have drank plenty of tea with lemon before performances 😉

  2. Chuck Bower

    Love the blog post, great idea for “singing” the items!

    • Karin Hurt

      Chuck, thanks so much. It was a lot of fun.

  3. Terri Klass

    I couldn’t stop laughing thinking about you singing “Fish Glorious Fish” ! You are a natural Karin and could definitely see you in this role!

    What I relate to most of your authentic post is not being put off when we do something that doesn’t turn out as well as we planned. Strong leaders reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly, learn from those lessons and try again.

    I have had to relocate my voice many times whether it was during a meeting with clients or presenting a workshop or becoming president of a volunteer organization. My mantra is as long as I am still standing I’m able to grow and get better.

    Thanks Karin!

    • Karin Hurt

      Terri, That’s a great mantra. Namaste.

  4. Bryan

    Inspirational story on many levels. Put your money where your mouth is and follow through. Stepping out of your comfort zone. Being unique and using your own personality to achieve results. Trying and succeeding at a novel approach. Thanks for sharing!

  5. LaRae Quy

    Love the graphics on this one, Karin!

    I also love the story since I’ve chaired many a church fundraiser over the years. While it may not be politically correct in this day of gentler approaches to leadership and mentoring, I’ve found that the best way to learn is to…jump in. A sort of sink-or-swim scenario. And it IS incredibly uncomfortable—relying on what others have done may act as a bandaid the first time around but after that, you need to take ownership. It’s so interesting that most folks DO rise to the occasion when pressed into service and produce amazing results.

    Thanks for bringing up this subject…not one many want to talk about!

    • Karin Hurt

      LaRae, Thanks so much. Wow, chairing a fundraiser is a big deal. I imagine you could write a whole blog on the stories from that. Leading volunteers is one of the best ways to grow in confident humility 😉

  6. Alli Polin

    What a fun story! I’ll bet that was one fun auction! Reminds me of when I first started acting… during early rehearsals I’d read the lines, before we went live, I could speed run though the lines but knowing the lines wasn’t what made it acting. It was doing the work to find myself in the role instead of simply becoming someone else for the night that made the magic happen.

    • Karin Hurt

      Alli, Thanks so much. We should share acting stories some day!

  7. David Tumbarello

    Natural voice! Love the story, Karin. This is inspirational because it shows how development occurs. First she is curious. Then she volunteers. Then she is nervous. Then something magical happens and she begins to take ownership. Then she decides to bring her own voice. Then she nails it. (Repeat cycle with new skills and challenges!) I am inspired to share this story and remember the lessons in my own life. Thanks!

    • Karin Hurt

      David, thanks so much. Growing is fun.

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