$schemamarkup = get_post_meta(get_the_ID(), 'Schema', true); if(!empty($Schema)) { echo $ Schema ; } The Power of A Second Chance - Let's Grow Leaders

Karin’s Leadership Articles

The planners of the 2015 National Speaker’s Association Influence conference had every reason to believe he was up to the challenge. After all “Sam” had just received the coveted CSP (certified speaking professional) certification (proving he was a seasoned speaking master). But as Sam took the stage in front of 1700 of his speaking peers for his five minutes of NSA fame, he went blank. After a few stumbles and restarts, he uttered the words that drew an audible gasp from the supportive crowd, “I knew this would happen.”

He’d just committed professional speaking sin #37 “When you screw up, for God’s sake don’t draw attention to it and make it worse. Keep going.” We all were watching our worst speaking nightmare play out before our eyes. Nothing worse than bombing in front of your professional community.

By Tuesday morning so much was going on, our brains were full, and “Sam’s” five minutes of angst had faded for most of us. What happened next sent tears down my face (I looked around it… wasn’t just me).

The music blared and large screens spread the message, “Welcome to Redemption Island.” The screens then REPLAYED that horrible moment where “Sam” had let his inside voice out, “I knew this would happen.” The MC announced, and “We are here to give him another shot.”

The crowd went wild.

He gave the speech. Flawlessly. He ended with thanking his peer who had encouraged him to give it another go, in fact he said “I love you.” (There’s nothing more powerful at work than peers who truly love you-with a little “l” and no sex.)

The Power of a Second Chance

First some context.

In yesterday’s keynote,  Mel Robbins described the NSA like this “It’s like you’re going camping by yourself and stumble upon a huge party down by the river with all kinds of people just like you who invite you to come play” (I may be paraphrasing, but that’s close… please don’t quote me, quoting her). So what’s surprising is not that they got to this answer, but how few other organizations I’ve been a part of would have handled it this way.

Why it worked.

1. No one judged

Okay, okay. Who knows, there might have been someone. But I watched the hush come over the crowd like a wave at a large stadium. I’d be willing to bet my next keynote fee that 98% were in his court. I’d venture to guess there were at least 100 prayers lifted up in his direction. There was no scolding. No, “We trusted you with a coveted spot” speeches. No, “Don’t ever do that again pep talks.” Or stories of “a long recovery.” It was more of “Well, that happened. It sucked. Let’s figure out how to move on.”

2. They let him try again.

Risky. If he had blown it again, it would have been a nightmare for him, and sent questions about the certification process. The meeting planners knew the risk. They went there anyway.

3. He was willing to.

It would have been easier to have a few drinks, call his wife, and obsess over this for the next two decades. He took the risk of getting back on the stage, and trying again.

4. He worked hard.

I don’t know how many times he practiced, but I’d be willing to bet my NEXT keynote fee, that he left nothing to chance. A humbling experience makes us stronger.

5. They acknowledged success.

A standing ovation.

What could have devastated his confidence, became a career highlight. I’ll bet somehow the moment of 1700 peers saying “I understand” will be in his “best of” highlights reel.

Failure feels like an island.  Can you imagine what would happen if we started with finding opportunities for redemption?

There’s awesome power in winning well.

Let it be so. #winningwell

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?


  1. Paul LaRue

    Love the story Karin! Second chances are perhaps the most valuable tool anyone can give to someone. Where would any of us be without the second chances we’ve received?

    • Karin Hurt

      Paul, Thanks so much. I’m so with you. We all screw up. I often wonder why so many of us forget that when we are in the position to give someone a second chance.

  2. David Tumbarello

    Sweet! Redemption is about being given a fair chance. No says it’s going to be easier. No one says you’re going to get support. No one says redemption is going to erase memories. But redemption is an opportunity to show your best self. Hopefully for one last time (for that audience at least!)

    • Karin Hurt

      David, Indeed. Being given a fair, second chance can make all the difference.

  3. Terri Klass

    Excellent post, Karin!

    Your storytelling skills are superb and I am impressed that the National Speaker’s Association led the way in making sure one of their own had a second chance up at bat. Great lessons to be learned here.

    We all have our days where we need to be offered a chance to redeem ourselves. A great workplace and team knows the huge impact of doing that.


    • Karin Hurt

      Terri, Thanks for your kind words. I’ve had so much fun working on honing stories for our upcoming book: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results—Without Losing Your Soul.

      It’s so much fun to use story to reinforce key messages.

  4. James McKey

    I loved the way you told this in what was a really visual story telling method. I think story telling is a lost art that one point we must have all had to learn sitting around the fire place telling stories to each other passed down the generations. Have you ever ventured into teaching leaders and general employees how to tell good stories and where the power lies in that skill set?

  5. Robert Bradford

    Excellent post. I had a long talk with him at the Cigar PEG, because I knew that what we saw wasn’t how he normally works. He said the screw up was because – get this – he wanted there to be no chance of failing, which led him to do something he never dies: memorizing his speech. What you saw on the second time was him being himself, an expert who knows, but does not script, his material. And you are right, it was excellent!

    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks so much for sharing the insider story. That was my hope for him when he was faltering… “you’ve got this… you know this… just talk to us.” When times get hard, be yourself and speak the truth. Nothing draws audience connection more than that. Namaste.

  6. LaRae Quy

    Thanks for the reference to my post, Karin!

    And yes, resilience is the operative word for your friend Sam, and for so many of the rest of us as well. When we are resilient, we are able to not only find redemption, but to appreciate it as well.

    Great story…and an even greater message!

    • Karin Hurt

      LaRae, You have so many stories of resilience. We all need to find that part in us. It’s stronger than we may think. Namaste.

  7. Laurie Guest

    You captured this event perfectly and I had all the exact same emotions you described. After five days with some of the best speakers in the world, this still ranks as one of the top five moments in my convention. Thank you for writing this.

  8. milany

    super love your story.for me…people always deserve a second chance.thank you for sharing.


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  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 Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and 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.

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