Karin’s Leadership Articles

Have you every had a really crazy date? Or worked with a leader who was totally delusional?

Well that was me, about 15 years ago, single (again), feeling old (ironic now) and unsure on the Acela train.

It was just after the diversity council debacle.  I was sitting in the café car on my way to NYC for another meeting trying to rebuild trust.

I hadn’t looked up when the crowd pushed on at the Wilmington stop. It always gets crowded at that stop, and frankly I was really hoping no one would sit next to me. I wasn’t exactly feeling like company.

The conductor came on the overly loud loudspeaker to remind us they had just put on a fresh pot of coffee and the café car was open, when I heard a voice across the aisle, say, “You look really beautiful in that dress.”

To give you a sense of my mental state, it didn’t even occur to me that comment could possibly have been directed at me.

After all, I was beginning to believe my mother’s fear that at 35 it was too late to find someone new and I’d end up alone. In fact I was pretty much accepting the fact.

Five minutes later the voice came closer and I realized that the voice and the man it belonged to were standing in the aisle beside me.

“You know, it’s customary here on the East Coast to say “Thank you” when someone pays you a compliment. Where are you from?

I looked up and locked in on his beautiful brown eyes.

“Oh, I’m so sorry. Yes, thank you so much, err, very much. Do you want to sit down?”

We exchanged stories in a non-stop flurry of excitement. As it turns out Kurt was a West Point grad, also divorced with a small child, and spent half his time in Maryland, with his daughter and the other time in New York running his business. He had a similar juggling lifestyle, except I was in a row home and the Sheraton and he a Waterfront property in Annapolis and a penthouse.

“What are you doing for dinner tonight?”

I told him my plans were to head back that night on the train.

“Is your son with his Dad?”

I said yes, totally relieved to find someone who got the picture before I had to explain it.

“You can grab the 11:14 train home after having dinner with me at this awesome place in Central Station. I do it all the time. I’ll make reservations for 6 that will give us plenty of time to talk.”

By the time I got on the train home that night I began wondering how I’d stumbled on someone so interesting, smart, and let’s face it, rich.

I resisted the urge to call my mother and tell her so. As it turned out, that was a good choice. She never heard this story.

After a week of flirtatious emails and some flowers delivered to work, he invited me to dinner in Annapolis with his daughter, Molly.

“Don’t you think that’s premature?” I asked.

“Nah, It’s casual. I like to have her meet successful women. She needs a good role model. We hang out with friends a lot.”

The evening was going great until I found myself alone with little Molly at the table. “My daddy has already figured out how he’s going to ask you to marry him,” she said matter of factly.

I choked on my water.

“He has? Really. How?”

“Well he’s going to be at the finish line of your next marathon with a bottle of champagne, roses, and a ring.”

Kurt came back to the table and I locked in with those brown eyes again, but this time searching for signs of mental illness.

“What’s wrong?” He asked.

“I told her your secret,” Molly sang out.

“We need to talk.” I said coldly.

“Later. Let me get Molly to bed and I’ll put on some coffee. I can explain.”

We got home and he encouraged me to wait downstairs in the rec room.

I smelled the coffee brewing, and could hear sweet daddy daughter chatter. Hopeful that this was Molly’s delusion, I made myself at home and poked around (as any self-respecting-freaked-out second-dater would do).

I opened the door next to the stairs and found his office–which was decorated as the spitting image of the oval office.

I was still standing in the doorway in shock when he tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a cup of steaming coffee.

“What is going on?” I was shaking now.

“Sit down”, he said calmly, as if he had done this a hundred times before.

“Look, Karin, it’s like this,” he touched my hand sincerely.

“I’m very successful and very busy. I’ve got my life mapped out. I’m going to be President some day and I like my office this way as a constant reminder and inspiration. Every time I sit in that chair, I’m reminded of my goals. Anyone who visits knows my intentions.

I don’t have a lot of time to date, and quite frankly neither do you. We both have a hard time finding someone who meets our standards.

You meet ALMOST all of mine.”

Almost all ??? (I was insecure but still feisty).

“Yeah, you’re divorced and that’s not good for a first lady.”

I started, “May I point out…” and then stopped myself. Why in the world was I defending myself?

“But I’ve been doing a lot of digging. You’re attractive ENOUGH you make a good ENOUGH salary, you’re articulate,  and you go to church.”

And he continued, “I think we can make it work.”

My only thought now was how fast I could sprint to my car, whether I could outrun this West Point grad, and how many other first lady candidates he’d scared off on the second date.

I know you’ll find this shocking, but I’ve yet to see him emerge as a candidate.

Although this year, he might actually have a chance.

Accelerators have great vision, but they also know when to go slow to go fast.

Don’t scare off your team with audacious expectations too soon. Sure paint a vision, but make each step feel doable and realistic. Go slow to go fast. Burn the script and watch the magic unfold.

Two weeks later I met a grad student living in a rented room studying to be a teacher.

Two years later I married him.

But first, I checked the basement.

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. Bill Benoist

    You wrote a very powerful story here, and there is so many different things I could comment on. However, one sentence at the very end stood out most for me: Burn the script and watch the magic unfold. If we believe in our team, and our team knows we believe in them, the magic can be amazing.

    Thank you for a great read

    • Karin Hurt

      Bill, Thanks so much! I’m glad you llke that phrase, it’s one of the “foundational phrases” for my keynote tomorrow. This is the first time I’ll have used this story in a speech. Glad it resonates.

  2. Steve Borek

    OMG, I can’t believe that dude!

    I always let the client or the team tell me the pace that’s right for them.

    I also pay special attention to their behavioral style and language and found it useful to treat them the way they want to be treated.

    What’s fast for one is too slow for another and vice versa.

    p.s. You dated someone who might be getting into the presidential race? You’ve got to tell me. But only me. 🙂

    • Karin Hurt

      Steve, I don’t think there’s any way he’s going to get into the race. I’d be surprised if he isn’t in a mental institution. If he runs, I’ll tell the world until then, I’ll protect “Kurt ;-)”

      That’s great that you let your clients set the pace.

  3. Terri Klass

    Fantastic story Karin! And I must first say you were brave back then and you are even braver today to share this with us!

    I am a believer in going slow initially because I was raised that way. I was taught to be skeptical and as a result it takes me time to really trust fully. It’s not that I don’t give people a chance, it’s more that I like to dip my feet in first, before jumping in. Having said that, when I work with new clients I tend to push myself to sprint and keep an open mind to cultivating an honest two-way relationship.

    Just love the post! 🙂

    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks so much, Terri!

  4. Joy Guthrie

    Great story! 🙂

  5. LaRae Quy

    Wow! What a nut! They come in all shapes and sizes but you made a clean get-away from that one.

    To your point—going slow to go fast is always the best option. Be smart about which moves to make in life and you won’t regret so many of them later….

  6. Tom

    Hi Karin
    A very insightful article. Getting the ‘pace’ right can be the difference between success and failure. I’ll keep this in mind next time I’m pushed to go at lightning speed for long periods by a business leader while still maintaining a decent standard of work, both quality and quantity – it’s totally unsustainable. In the outdoor adventure/ outdoor education industry where the day-to-day operating risk is very real and where making a mistake can have devastating, even fatal consequences, going too fast for prolonged periods is a recipe for disaster.
    Without doubt, I’ll incorporate this philosophy into my next group briefing – go slow to go fast. The other byproduct of starting out slow is that trust can be built, solid relationships forged through open, honest communication, teams are united around common goals and the results reflect that – short, medium & long term success.
    Thanks, Tom

  7. Alli Polin


    You had me laugh out loud and my eyes go wide. I dated some insane people, but this guy… whew! It’s the unfolding part that’s so much fun. Racing to the final vision leaves no room for the amazing, challenging, inspiring and juicy stuff that happens in between. Love this. Thank you so much for sharing!

    ~ Alli

  8. Kirsten Jepson

    Nice! A great reminder to enjoy the journey even when it is not enjoyable or when it is whipping by at top speed. Also, agree with Tom below, it is not sustainable.

    I wonder if anyone has ideas on how to slow down appropriately and when needed? How do you know it is going too fast?

  9. Best Primavera training

    That was very good tips for that building the confidence in the every employees

  10. geetha

    Nice post to read

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