Karin’s Leadership Articles

Your team is smarter than they look. I promise. If they’re not learning as fast as you would like, stop and consider. What if it’s not them– but you? Here are three ways to make your team 10% smarter.

1. Stop Interrupting

I didn’t get this right away when I first started in an executive role. I figured these were seasoned leaders. If they were busy when I called, they’d tell me.

But I soon learned that despite my best intentions, I was considered “the boss,” and they would drop everything and do what I asked.

Of course, every now and then that’s EXACTLY what you need. The sky is falling, the customer’s really ticked off, or your bosses’ hair is on fire. Got it.

Just remember, creative work and breakthroughs require concentration. No one does their best thinking in a constant barrage of interruption.

If it can wait, give back some mental energy by making ongoing lists for each person and setting a time to run through what you need. They’ll be in a better space to think and respond, and in the meantime, they got on with their other priorities. Resist the urge to just pick up the phone and disrupt their flow.

2. Give Permission to Do

I recently met with the founder and CEO of a medium size company who had brought me in to do some leadership development work with the frontline team.  I shared the laundry list of amazing business improvement ideas that had surfaced as we talked leadership– literally side effects of deeper conversation. These were solid ways to improve revenue and customer service.

His response, “Karin, what CEO in their right mind would be upset with them just doing these things? If they’re good ideas, why didn’t they just do them?”

His entrepreneurial spirit couldn’t imagine a mindset of waiting for permission, but he’d not said that out loud. Be sure if your team is busting with ideas they feel encouraged to share and try them.

3. Expose them to More

In almost every company I’m working with one of the big asks is to help the team think more strategically. As I dig in the number one issue is almost always lack of exposure to the bigger context of the vision, the financial strategy, or how their work connects with other departments. It’s impossible to connect the dots if you only see half of them. The more your team knows, the deeper their thinking will become. If you want to grow big picture thinkers, give them something to think about beyond their current role.

 Looking for someone to help your team get a bit smarter? Please call me at 443- 750-1249 for a free consultation.

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

    Ask empowering questions and hold the space for the person to think and speak. As the leader, refrain from interrupting. Silence will enable your team to go deep and increase their own awareness. For the majority of people, easier said than done.

    • Karin Hurt

      Steve, Questons followed by silence can draw out miracles. Thank you.

  2. Terri Klass

    A great way to help a team get smarter is to learn more about one another. I have found that asking about what is important to a teammate outside and inside of work can cultivate a workplace of trust and transparency. When teams trust each other performance soars. Developing relationships is magical in small collaborations as well.

    Thanks Karin for bringing up this great topic!

    • Karin Hurt

      Terri, Terrific add. I totally agree!

  3. LaRae Quy

    Great topic!

    I have always found that by asking this simple question, small miracles can happen: “What do you think?”

    So many times folks do have ideas, input, or frustrations about how something is being handled, and by allowing them to contribute to the solution, it not only makes them feel valued, sometimes they have really good ideas!!!

    • Karin Hurt

      LaRae, Thanks. That’s one of my FAVORITE questions.

  4. Jon Mertz


    Great ways to make your teams smarter. Another ways is to stop making decisions that they can make. How can people learn if they don’t make decisions? Not only that, the teams are closer to where the action is so give them space to decide and learn.


    • Karin Hurt

      Jon, Fantastic add! So agree.

  5. David Tumbarello

    What amazing comments today! I am so impressed by the quality and spot-on helpful comments that keep the conversation going in this blog.

    I was thinking about the value of Professional Development. Sometimes, ninety or three hundred dollars investment can produce savings that will exceed the cost in no time. I thinking about empowering the clerical staff with Excel training or database training. Or helping mid-levels learn in a structured setting about Empowerment or Leadership development. I could expand the list, but you get the idea – invest in professional development and your staff will not only get smarter but they will bring more value to the organization. And a satisfied employee is an engaged employee.

    • Karin Hurt

      David, I so agree. I love it when so many people chime in to extend the conversation. YES! I feel so lucky to have gone through some amazing programs over the years. I’m always surprised when companies say they have “no budget” for external development. Investing in employees not only makes them stronger and more productive, it goes a long way in making them feel valued.

  6. Bruce Harpham

    A compelling problem: “If they’re good ideas, why didn’t they just do them?”

    This is a side effect I have seen over and over again in large firms that put a lot of energy in policy, governance and risk management. Everyone is concerned that an industry regulator (or the internal audit department) will be displeased. Coverage from senior leadership is one of the few ways to address the problem

Virtual Leadership Training Programs


Join the Let’s Grow Leaders community for free weekly leadership
insights, tools, and strategies you can use right away!

Where in the World are
Karin & David?

Other Related Posts