Try This Powerful and Easy Technique to Improve Your Leadership

Try This Powerful, Simple Technique to Improve Your Leadership

One of the best ways to improve your leadership is to reflect on how it feels to be led.

I’ve had some amazing bosses over the years who taught me a great deal through their words.

But mostly by their actions.

I’m sure you have too.

And yes, I’ve had my share of managers I’d rather forget.

But I don’t.

Because you can learn as much from a bad boss as a good one.

Of course, every now and then I say a little prayer, those jerks will tune in to what I’m putting down 🙂

But that’s not really the point, is it?

We’re working on OUR leadership.

A Simple Technique to Improve Your Leadership

If you’re like me, you’re probably finding yourself a bit more introspective these days.

A crisis will do that to you.

I’ve been spending a good bit of time deliberately thinking about where I learned what I know about leadership, and where my beliefs about what great leadership is, came from.

And, I’ve been taking it a step further and reaching out to some of my old managers (meaning managers from a long time ago, not saying they’re old, but you know….), and sharing what I learned from them and how I learned it.

AND, here’s where the bonus learning comes in.

I ask them to reflect on what they were trying to teach me and WHY.

Some stories they remember.

Some, not so much–an important reminder that people are always picking up more than we may think we are putting down.

So here’s my challenge to you.

  1. Make a list of your previous managers– the good, the great, and the ugly.  (If you’ve had a long career, it can even be helpful to go to LinkedIn and see all your past roles and picture who you worked for at the time. (BTW, if we’re not yet connected on Linkedin, let’s do!)
  2. Write down what you learned working with them.
  3. Reflect on how that influenced your leadership.
  4. Bonus- find them and invite them into a conversation (this really is the fun part).

My Conversation With Ray Davidson (One of My Good Bosses 😉

So this is one journey back. I asked Ray for a perspective about “how he grew me.” Classic Ray, he went meta.

Some highlights:

  • “Every person comes to the table with a level of potential. And as leaders, you never know how you impact that individual and how you can navigate and walk down the path with them so they can realize the potential they didn’t even realize they had.
  • “And I think some of that is being agile enough in your leadership so you can tell stories because everyone doesn’t receive things the same way. Also to be there from a listening perspective and to realize you may be making an impact you don’t even realize you’re making.”
  • “But if you are sincere about being willing to cultivate the seeds of potential in others in general. Never write anyone off from the potential of what they can be.”
  • Learn what the movie Men in Black has to do with leadership at 2:45
  • And if you’ve heard us talk about an “emotional check for understanding in one of our leadership programs, here’s the origin story at 4:18
  • We conclude with an important and powerful, diversity, and inclusion conversation.


Thanks, Ray. So appreciate you.



What Employees are longing for in a remote one-on-one

What Employees are Yearning For in Remote One-on-Ones

If you really want to connect and support your team, there’s no better place to start than a great cadence of meaningful one-on-ones.

And yet, even before this transition to remote work, when we would ask employees about their experience with one-on-ones, we often heard nervous laughter and responses like these:

“One-on-ones, what are those (hahaha)?”

“She has an open door. She tells us to come by whenever we want. (Of course, she’s never there. Hahaha)”

“I just count on windshield time with my manager between client visits. He’s so busy, that’s the only time I know I’ve got him captive (hahaha).”

“He just leaves me alone. I do a good job. I guess he would tell me if I was screwing up (hahaha).”

Obviously, these responses are less than ideal, but it’s even harder to wing it now. So much is changing—and fast.

In the last few months, when we’ve asked employees about one-on-ones, the tenor of the conversations has changed from nervous laughter to deep concern.

Employees are yearning for MORE DIRECTION and CONNECTION in their remote one-on-ones.

“Dear Boss, here’s what I need most in a remote one on one…”

Today we share what we’re hearing employees need most right now in their one-on-ones. We encourage you to share this article with your team and to talk about what’s working in your remote one-on-ones and what you can do to take them to the next level.

Clarity: Help Me Understand What’s Most Important Right Now

“I understand that you don’t have all the answers. Priorities change.  But please give me a fighting chance of working on the right things, because quite frankly, I’m feeling overwhelmed and I don’t have time for rework or wasted effort. Please use our one-on-one to ensure I know what matters most this week, and what I need to do to be successful.”

Caring: Show Me I Matter More Than My KPIs

“It’s been a rough week. I’m tired. I signed up to be a working parent, but not a working parent with no daycare! I know you’re busy, but before you jump right in and talk about the project, can you take a minute to see me and check-in to see if I’m doing okay?”

Consistency: Give Me a Cadence I Can Count On

“I know your heart is in the right place and that you’re being pulled in a million directions too. But this is the third time you’ve canceled our one-on-one. I had my list all ready to cover with you. And now I’ve got to track you down. I scheduled my one-on-ones with my team AFTER ours so I would have answers for them. Now I’m heading into those with unanswered questions which is embarrassing and is slowing all of us down.”

Credibility: Be Real With Me, So I Can Be Real With You

“You know what made me feel great, that one time when you opened up and really shared how you were feeling. It made me feel so much better to know that you’re scared and tired too. But since then, you’ve just been so perky and positive—and I wonder, are you for real?”

Capacity: Ask Me What I Need

What I need to hear more than anything right now is: “How can I be most helpful?”

Curiosity: Ask Me For Ideas

I’m learning a lot and I’ve got some great ideas about how we can do things better. But, I feel awkward sharing my ideas if I’m not asked.

Boss, I really care about you, this company, and our success. I’d love to have some time to pull up with you each week in a quick one-on-one to share as we work through this important time together.


Your courageous employee.

Your Turn:

What would you add? What’s working well in your remote one-on-ones?

See Also:

How to Overcome One of the Biggest Challenges from Working From Home

How to Hold an Effective Mid Year Review in a Pandemic

How to lead when what were they thinking

Leading When “What Were They Thinking?”


It can be frustrating when your team’s behavior doesn’t make any sense. But those moments where you wonder “What were they thinking?” are also opportunities. In this episode, you’ll get a way forward for the next time you wonder “What were they thinking?” that helps you find out. The answer will always help you move your team forward.

How to overcome one of the biggest challenges of working from home

How to Overcome One of the Biggest Challenges of Working From Home

The Harvard Business Review article,  The Implications of Working Without an Office covers great research about the benefits and challenges of working from home. I highly recommend it.  If nothing else to validate those mixed emotions you’re having.

Because if you’re like every client we talk to, this new working from home model isn’t ideal. But it’s not a disaster.

The big challenge is not that people are forced to work from home. It’s that they’re working from home in a pandemic with children crawling all over them. Their other routines are disrupted. They can’t see people they love. All in an unstable economy. And of course, there’s the emotional investment in the very important conversations about racial equity and injustice.

People are tired. Worn thin. Scared. Lonely. Overwhelmed.

And Yet …

And with all that going on, the research shows many people are feeling more productive.

Since all-virtual work began, employee stress, negative emotions, and task-related conflict have all been steadily falling; each is down at least 10%. At the same time, employees have experienced an approximately 10% improvement in self-efficacy and their capacity to pay attention to their work. A couple of months in, employees reported that they were “falling into a consistent routine,” “forming a pattern [of work time and breaks] with my coworkers,” and “learning what makes me the most productive and how I can best manage my time and energy.” One employee even noted, “I think it’s weird how normal everything has become — the virtual meetings, the emails, everyone looking grungy.” Another stated that it just became “business as usual.”

Comments made by everyone from frontline employees to CEOs revealed a slew of perceived benefits from working from home. One CEO told us he “hoped this put an end to the ‘fly across the country for a one-hour meeting’ expectation forever.” Others reported that they had “more focus time,” “shorter meetings,” and “more flexible time with family” — and, most commonly, were “not missing the daily commute.” By the eighth week, many employees reported getting “into the groove of working from home” and “wanting to continue” working virtually. Several even said, “I love it.”

And if your teams are like the many employees being surveyed by HR departments all over the globe,  you’re hearing, “I’d prefer to work from home at least some of the time.”  Particularly once we’re past this pandemic and the kids are back in school where they belong 😉

Lost Informal Collaboration: One Big Challenge of Working From Home

One of the biggest challenges of working from home is lost informal communication that leads to spontaneous collaboration, best practice sharing, and new ideas.

One key reason to think twice before going down that path (a long term shift to WFH) is the loss of unplanned interactions that lead to important outcomes. Physical offices cause people who don’t normally work with each other to connect accidentally — bumping into each other in the hallway or the cafeteria — and that interaction sparks new ideas.

This is worth considering and being deliberate about addressing.

4 Ways to Foster Deliberate Collaboration in Your Work From Home Team

1. Ensure you have meaningful shared goals and measures.

If your employees are only being measured by their own KPIs (or stack-ranked against their peers), you’re already fighting an uphill battle when it comes to collaboration. Now add “out-of-sight,” and it’s natural for people to keep their head down, focus on their own work and forget about the “team,” which is a generous use of the word in this case. If you want your team collaborating, ensure they have some shared goals, and shared skin in the game.

If your success depends on your peer’s success, you are far more likely to pick up the phone and see how you can help.

2. Create deliberate time for collaboration and I.D.E.A. sharing.

The challenge of depending on spontaneous collaboration, even in an office setting, is that it might not happen.

Don’t leave collaboration to chance. We’ve been amazed at the incredible ingenuity that’s coming out of quick, focused zoom breakout room sessions where cross-functional teams come together and ask important “How can we?” questions and share their best thinking. With the right set-up, even twenty minutes in focused conversation is enough to get people sharing micro-innovations and solutions.

This is more than just asking “Does anyone have any ideas?” at the end of the meeting. Start with clarity about where you need a great idea, and then give them tools to vet and share them.

3. Enable asynchronous communication.

In his book, Remote: Office Not Required, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson describe the best practice they use at their company 37signals.

At 37signals we’ve institutionalized this through a weekly discussion thread on the subject, “What have you been working on?” Everyone chimes in with a few lines about what they’ve done over the past week and what’s intended for the next week. It’s not a precise, rigorous estimation process, and it doesn’t attempt to deal with coordination. It simply aims to make everyone feel like they’re in the same galley and not in their own little rowboat. It also serves as a friendly reminder that we are all in it to make progress. Nobody wants to the one to report that “This week was spent completing Halo 4, eating leftover pizza, and catching up on Jersey Shore.” We all have a natural instinct to avoid letting our team down, so when the commitment becomes visual, it gets reinforced.

4.Train in cross-functional cohorts.

We’re in our third year of an award-winning cohort-based, live-online leadership development program (see my interview with Michelle Braden on why this worked).  We run this 7-month program in cohorts of 20 or so employees from 6 countries across a wide variety of functions. It’s highly interactive so it’s easy to share best practices and work through challenges together. Although participants are not people who would normally work together, they build deep relationships and learn an incredible amount about other areas of the business—all while honing their leadership skills—all without ever being in the same room.

Remote team collaboration requires a bit more intentionality, but with just a bit of focus, you can actually get more collaboration than waiting for people to bump into each other in the hallway.

Your turn.

What are your favorite ways to overcome the biggest challenges of working from home?

one way to avoid micro-managing remote team members

One Way Smart Leaders Avoid Micro-Managing Remote Team Members

Avoid micro-managing remote team members by scheduling a clear finish.

Recently we spoke with Shawna, an executive who reflected on the past year and the shift to remote work. “We’ve exceeded our goals, but I also am sure that our failure to follow through on some things has cost us between twenty and thirty million dollars. I’m worried about micro-managing remote team members, but also want to make sure we’re following through.”

Increasing numbers of organizations have committed to long-term remote work.

At the same time, the initial burst of pandemic-response energy and creativity is giving way to the realization of the many challenges that aren’t going away any time soon: family members will still be in the background as employees try to balance working from home and homing from work; that remote team productivity and collaboration take serious work; and, that broad economic turmoil turns up the heat on the need to stay competitive in the marketplace.

How can leaders ensure that their teams achieve the results necessary to keep the business moving while creating space for the realities of working from home – and all without micro-managing remote team members?

Schedule the Finish

Good intentions and talented people aren’t enough to make sure the most important priorities happen.

Especially when your people have a thousand things hitting their windshield plus the challenges posed by working from home, pandemic stress, the movement for racial equity, economic instability, and worrying about how they’ll manage another semester with their children attending school from home.

Life is crazy and your team has more to do than time to do it. Their interruptions will get interrupted. If you don’t have an intentional, focused way to finish what you start, it won’t happen.

Effective leaders don’t leave the finish to chance or a heroic act of willpower. (Most of us have used up the heroic willpower reserves by this point.)

That’s where “scheduling the finish” comes in. Scheduling the finish means you and your team don’t leave the completion of critical items to chance, good intentions, or willpower.

Rather, you schedule a mutual moment in time where you will follow up, follow-through, and finish the task. This isn’t a vague intention – it’s an appointment on the calendars of everyone involved.

Avoid Micro-managing Remote Team Members

Scheduling the finish helps you avoid constant check-ins and follow-ups for task completion.

You do want to stay connected with your remote team members. But connection takes many forms—personal interest, emotional thoughtfulness, and fun – and business transactions.

Knowing that there is a moment in time where you will turn on the camera and discuss the completed priority allows you to focus on other vital forms of connecting with your remote team members.

Make It Automatic

If you have to spend energy trying to remember everything you and all your remote team members need to finish you’ll never do it. There’s just too much going on and your brain has limited energy. Just thinking about every open loop can be exhausting.

Here’s how it works.

The moment you set an intention, make an appointment with yourself or with the other person where you will complete the intention or take the next step. The key is when. What moment in time will you follow up, follow-through, and finish?

Here are some examples:

  • When you have a performance conversation using the INSPIRE model, the final step (E) is the Enforce step. Schedule a brief meeting to review their desired behavior. Eg: “Sounds good. Let’s meet at 10 next Tuesday to see how this is going and if you have any questions.”
  • When you delegate, schedule a time where the other person will meet with you in person or by video to return the project to you, answer questions, and discuss next steps.
  • When you lead a meeting, conclude the meeting by asking who will do what, by when, and “How will we know?” The final “How will we know?” are scheduled commitments to the team. Eg: “We will all have our data to Linda by Friday at 4 pm. Linda will send us the new process by Wednesday at 3 pm.” Everyone puts the times on their calendar. If Friday 4 pm comes and Linda doesn’t have data from Bob, she calls him. If 3 pm Wednesday comes and they don’t have the process, they call Linda.

The key in all these examples is to make an appointment. There is a difference between a to-do item and scheduled time on your calendar, particularly when that time is scheduled with another person. The likelihood of you both keeping your commitment increases significantly.

For items that don’t naturally fit in a calendar appointment (eg: you’re rolling out a new process to improve on-time delivery and quality), you can still make appointments with yourself to reinforce the initiative (communicate at least five times through five different channels) and to review performance.

When you create an expectation – particularly a new one that is the result of training or a new process – follow through on behavior quickly. When people get the behavior right, celebrate it, acknowledge it, and reinforce that this is what people like us do.

When it doesn’t happen, have quick INSPIRE conversations to redirect people back to the new way of doing things. If there are problems that prevent people from doing what’s needed, solve them quickly and visibly.

Your Turn

We often see energetic, type-A leaders who excel at inspiring vision, creating a process for success, and setting goals, struggle with follow-through. It doesn’t feel as fun as creating or motivating.

That’s why we invite you to make it an inseparable part of getting started. When you make a goal, start a project, or introduce a process, don’t stop until you’ve scheduled the finish. You’ll leverage your team’s energy, focus, and boost morale when everyone feels good about what they’ve achieved.

See Also: How to Hold an Effective Mid-Year Review in a Pandemic


Courageous Cultures Interview with Karin Hurt

Courageous Cultures Interview with Karin Hurt


Karin Hurt joins us in-studio for the first time ever to talk about Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates. In this episode, find out why business leaders are responding passionately to Courageous Cultures, why courageous cultures are more important now than ever and how to get started – with practical tools – today.

You can download a FREE chapter of our new book Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates here.

7 steps to builidng a culture where people speak up and share ideas

7 Steps to Build a More Courageous, Innovative Culture

Are you looking to build a more courageous, innovative culture? Do you want an innovative culture where the default is to speak up – where everyone at every level consistently shares ideas and best practices?

A courageous, innovative culture where:

  • Teams at every level of your business continually ask, “How can we make this better?”
  • Leaders have the courage to ask what’s not working and really listen.
  • Everyone is confident to raise a hand on behalf of the customer and put purpose above politics.

Welcome to the World of Courageous Cultures

What does it mean to have a courageous culture?

Our favorite definition of culture comes from Seth Godin: “People like us do things like this.”

It’s that invisible force of mutual understanding and awareness that drives behavior. A courageous, innovative culture is a place where “people like us” speak up. We share ideas. We solve problems. The default is to contribute.

It’s a culture where silence isn’t safe and effort is everything.

Courageous cultures go way beyond employee engagement. People are energized. They bring their whole selves to their work. Innovation isn’t limited to the senior leadership team or R&D. Everyone innovates, every day.

Courageous Cultures isn’t a book about large scale innovation, the ground-breaking shifts in direction to capture new markets, or building a game-changing product (though courageous cultures can do that too). It’s about the daily innovation that improves your customers’ experience today. The group that comes together and says “If we’re serious about this, we’ve got to solve this problem” and then does. When you build a courageous culture, you’ll see teams of micro- innovators, problem solvers, and customer advocates working together to make things better.

If you are looking to build a more courageous culture where people speak up and share ideas, our Courageous Cultures research shows that it takes more than an open door.

7 Steps to Building a More Courageous, Innovative Culture

Today we share a quick, high-level overview of our 7 step approach to creating a culture that encourages consistent contribution. For more check out our new book  Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates.

1. Navigate the Narrative

We all tell ourselves stories about what is happening, who we are, and what other people think about us. To Navigate the Narrative means that you pay attention to the stories you tell yourself, stories that reinforce your values, culture, and commitments.

Courage starts with you—the courage to get real with yourself, acknowledge your internal stories, and ground yourself in the experiences that give you and your team confidence and courage. Then you’ll be a role model for everyone else.

When it comes to building a courageous culture, leaders go first. If you want your team to speak up and share ideas, they need to see that you’re doing that too.

See: How to Tap Into Past Moments of Courage to Cultivate More

2. Create Clarity

In this step, you want to be very clear about two things. First, be clear that you really do want ideas—and keep in mind that your team may not be convinced. 67% of the employees in our research said that their leadership operates around the notion that “This is the way we’ve always done it.” And, second, be clear about what an outstanding idea would accomplish. In our Courageous Cultures I.D.E.A. Inspiration rallies, we start with 3-5 areas of the business where leaders really need ideas.

See: How to Help Your Team Navigate Their Concerns About Culture Change

3. Cultivate Curiosity

Here’s where you go out and deliberately ask people for their ideas. We share many ways to do this, along with some terrific best practices. The I.D.E.A. model also helps your team to vet and refine their ideas.

See: CEO World How to Get Your Team to Bring You Innovative Ideas You Can Use

4. Respond with Regard

One of the most frequently overlooked steps is how you respond to an idea—even if it’s not great.

You get more of what you encourage and celebrate and less of what you ignore.

If you want a consistent stream of ideas and best practice sharing, be sure you respond to ideas with regard. Start with gratitude (thank them for thinking and contributing). Then add information (about what is happening next, data, or more context). Then close with an invitation (encouragement to continue to think, problem-solve, and share).

See: SHRM Executive Network: How to Cultivate Solutions-Focused Employees

5. Practice the Principle

When you Practice the Principle, you commit to finding the core idea within best practices and help your team localize best practices for their unique circumstances. This step helps you to scale best practices across markets, geographies, and contexts.

See: How to Find the Great Idea in Your Best Practice

6. Galvanize the Genius

In Galvanize the Genius, you leverage a 5 x 5 communication strategy, communicating what’s important in your new culture five times, five different ways.  This means that everyone has clear direction about what is important (know), that those priorities and behaviors are cascading to ever level (flow), and that you are checking to ensure what you think should be happening actually is (show).

See: 5 Reasons Your Team Doesn’t Get It

7. Build an Infrastructure of Courage

When you Build an Infrastructure for Courage, you ensure that all of your HR systems and processes are aligned with, and support, the courageous, innovative culture you are looking to create. This includes recruiting, onboarding, training, compensation, recognition, and succession planning.

See: Recruiter: You Want Your New Hires To Share Their Ideas, But Do They Feel Heard 

Your Free Courageous Cultures Executive Strategy Guide

Courageous Cultures Executive Strategy GuideWe designed Courageous Cultures to be easy to read as a team and to implement the tools and techniques.

Chapter five and the following chapters include a First Tracks section at the end of your chapter to make it easy to get started on your Courageous Cultures journey. There are tools, best practices, and approaches you can use to build a courageous, innovative culture on your own team.

In addition, when you buy the book, you can also download the free Companion Executive Strategy Guide. You will find First Tracks templates and additional discussion questions to engage your team. We also include some “shareable” PDFs on the research and tools to make it easy to cascade the process throughout your larger team.

Courageous Cultures

Why Courageous Cultures are More Important Now than Ever (and more)

No more safe silence – build courageous cultures for a brighter, bolder future.

We’ve spent the past three years researching, interviewing, and working with leaders of big and fast-growing companies, nonprofits, and government organizations around the globe to bring you Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates.

And yes, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, a global racial equity movement, and one of the most challenging economies in one hundred years. We certainly didn’t know what was coming, but working together, we are confident that leaders who commit to building courageous cultures in their companies and teams will thrive. And that together, we can build a bolder, brighter future.

So, today as we celebrate this new resource for leaders and teams, we want to take a moment to answer some of the most frequent questions you’ve asked us over the past few months.

1) Why did you write Courageous Cultures?

We’ve worked with many senior leaders who consistently confide their frustration that people in their organizations don’t see problems and fix them and either aren’t thinking creatively on behalf of customers, employees, and processes or else aren’t speaking up with their creative ideas.

At the same time, we would talk with frontline employees and supervisors in those same organizations and they would say things like “no one wants to hear my ideas” and “they don’t really care what I think.”

This gap is concerning. Leaders need ideas from every level of the business. Employees have ideas and insights. But somehow, there’s a disconnect. We wanted to understand exactly why this happens and what exceptional organizations and leaders do to bridge the gap. So we partnered with the University of North Colorado on this extensive quantitative and qualitative research study.

Courageous Cultures is the product of that research and gives you a practical roadmap to overcome the barriers and build a culture where everyone contributes and ideas are valued.

2) Who will most benefit from this book?

We wrote it for leaders who see the need for consistent contributions from every member of their team or business. Leaders who are willing to take the first step themselves and recognize that the days of having all the answers are long gone. We made it easy for teams to read together and implement the tools and techniques.

3) We are in such uncertain times, both in the US and globally. How can Courageous Cultures better equip leaders, businesses, and people to continue moving forward in these challenging times?

With so much uncertainty, the need for ideas and potential solutions has never been greater. Many organizations are in the midst of a fast pivot to find creative ways to serve their customers. Many are working from home and trying to do the best they can with what they have from where they are. Teams and companies who leverage every good idea and help people to think strategically will be able to thrive going forward. Those that can’t, face an extremely difficult road ahead.

4) What’s your best advice for helping employers and employees best communicate – especially right now?

Get past the concept of an open door— it never was enough, because for many people it still takes courage to walk through it. And if you’re working remotely it’s even more difficult. Connect at a human level with deep empathy. Proactively communicate important messages five times, five different ways, and then ask courageous questions and REALLY listen to the answers.

With that foundation, be crystal clear that you really want ideas.  And then show up very curious and proactively and consistently ask people for those ideas.

Let’s start with a fundamental aspect of leading a courageous culture: clarity.

For leaders, this means communicating very clearly that you need ideas and – specifically, where you most need great ideas.

  • Maybe your priority is to help retain remote customers.
  • Perhaps you need to acquire new customers.
  • Or shift the way you deliver your value.
  • Or maybe your greatest challenge right now is helping your team navigate work-life synergy.

Where is it you most need a great idea? Be very clear about that and regularly ask for ideas.

For employees, one of the best communication tips to give your ideas the very best chance for traction is to flesh it out and make it useable. You can do this using our I.D.E.A. model. Take a little bit of time to answer these questions and you’ll have the best chance of being heard and making progress:

I: Why is the idea Interesting? How is it aligned with other strategic goals?

D: Is it Doable? Do we have the ability to take action now or does it rely on something beyond our control (eg: a vaccine)

E: Is it Engaging? Who else will love this idea? What do I need to do to get their support?

A: What are the next Actions? Describe the next two or three specific steps that would be taken to follow up and implement your idea.

5) Can you elaborate on some of the most frequent challenges & opportunities you’re hearing leaders and CEO’s face right now?

There are several – and it depends on the industry. The four most common include:

  • For those who have shifted to remote-work: helping their workforce manage their work-life balance, mental and emotional health in the midst of a tremendous, urgent pivot where there is so much important work to be done.
  • How to maintain their workforce development when people aren’t in the same room. We’ve been working with leaders across a range of industries to help with dynamic live-online leadership development and programs that help teams tap into their resiliency and creativity to work through the challenges of these times.
  • How to deliver meaningful value to their customers in new and different ways. It’s a massive time of exploration and creativity for many organizations.
  • Maintaining a compassionate focus on achieving results while balancing the genuine challenges posed by the pandemic and racial equity movement.

6) How can people and organizations adapt to and learn from the best practices of others right now in our now WFH situations? What’s the best way, for example, of reaching clients and creating opportunities and revenue?

The most important answer is to be close to your team, try different approaches, and pay close attention to the micro-innovations that just might work when you scale them. Who is having success? Study what they’re doing and why it works.

The specifics vary.

For example, just last week we spoke to sales teams in the same organization. One had found that their customers were working from home and more available for a call than they ever had been when they were in the office – so long as they set a firm, brief limit on the call’s length. A different team, however, found that their customers were far less available and they were getting creative about how to even set up meetings.

The key is to find ideas that just might work, then test them. Find out what is working, at a fundamental level, that just might scale across the organization. Don’t replicate a good idea too quickly – make sure it’s reproducible in different settings with different people.

7) Microinnovators, customer advocates, and problem-solvers are all necessary. How can we improve our skills in these areas if we’re really only strongest in one? What other roles, if any, are important to have in your team and culture if you want to build a strong, more courageous culture?

At their heart, Courageous Cultures are an elegant dance between Clarity and Curiosity. You are clear about what success looks like and where you need ideas. Then you cultivate curiosity and begin finding potential micro-innovations, test them, and refine them. Then it’s time to get clear again as you cascade those fresh ideas throughout the organization.

Courageous Cultures Clarity Curiosity model

8) What key takeaways do you hope readers will glean from or improve upon after reading Courageous Cultures?

One of the most important takeaways for us is that when you build a courageous culture, it actually takes less courage for any one person to speak up with an idea because it’s the norm. It’s what “people like us” do. But someone has to go first and that’s a leader’s job.

We need every idea, solution, and contribution we can get in order to build a brighter, bolder future together. That’s what Courageous Cultures is, for us, more important now than even when we wrote it.

Thank you for being a part of this journey. Your commitment to winning well and working so hard to build courageous cultures inspires us every day.

With gratitude,

Karin & David

You can download a FREE chapter of our new book Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates here.

What to do when you can't use their idea

What to Do when You Can’t Use a Team Member’s Idea


When you get an idea you can’t use, it’s an opportunity to help people think more deeply and to get even better thoughts. In this episode, you’ll get specific leadership techniques you can use to build more strategic thinking and relevant problem-solving skills in every member of your team.

You can download a FREE chapter of our new book Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates here.

how to bring your boss a better solution

How to Convince Your Boss You Have a Great Solution

You see a problem and you have a great solution. But, no one asked you for your opinion.

If you’re like many of the employees in our Courageous Cultures research, you might even be a bit nervous about speaking up, particularly if your boss wasn’t so receptive last time.

It’s tempting to assume that everyone else sees the issue. Or that the solution is obvious. But people are busy. And it’s quite possible your great solution hasn’t occurred to them.

How to Make Your Case For Your Great Solution

We often find when employees are frustrated that their great solution is not being heard, it’s because they could use a little help making the case.

Here’s a simple technique we use in our I.D.E.A. Inspiration rallies to help people share their best solutions and great ideas.

C- Consider

What do you want your boss (or another stakeholder) to think, do, or say as a result of your conversation? One of the things I often noticed in my executive roles at Verizon is that employees would often come to me with ideas, but wouldn’t have “an ask.”

“And here’s how you can help” or “Here’s the support I need from you” makes it easy for your boss to respond.

A- Articulate

Before you go into the conversation, write down your top three ideas. Once the conversation gets going it’s so easy to forget your main strategic points. This will prevent the frustration of leaving the room and thinking, “AGGHHH I forgot to share one of my best selling points for this idea!”


Make sure you’ve done your homework.  Find supporting evidence as to why your solution is important and doable. Consider the counter-arguments. Look for data and evidence that support your great solution. Find examples of where your solution is working elsewhere.


Engage other people who also think you have a great solution. Why would Joe in Finance support your idea? How about Laura in IT? Ask for their input to help sharpen your argument and build a stronger case. Sometimes hearing an idea from multiple perspectives is exactly what’s needed to get people’s attention.


Your turn

What’s your best advice for helping employees position their best ideas and solutions?

Courageous Cultures by Karin Hurt and David Dye

Timely Leadership Advice for Unprecedented Times: Courageous Cultures Press Release

As workplaces are adapting to sudden and unprecedented changes due to the global pandemic, leaders must find new strengths within their teams.

Leadership experts Karin Hurt and David Dye release a timely new book of practical steps leaders can take to adapt fast by tapping into the hidden solutions engine within their organization.

Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Microinnovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates

Courageous Cultures Research FindingsBaltimore, Maryland, July 21, 2020 – Karin Hurt and David Dye of Let’s Grow Leaders announce the July 28th release of their inspiring new book titled, “Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Microinnovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates”(HarperCollins, Foreword by Dr. Amy Edmonson.)

Every day, employees are barraged with problems.

They cringe as they try to soothe customer frustrations about problems they can’t fix. Or, they face battles with inefficient systems and outdated procedures. As the COVID-19 pandemic transforms the world, new challenges emerge at an unprecedented rate. The research from Hurt and Dye shows that employees have game-changing ideas for how to solve these issues but frequently don’t speak up to share them. As a result, organizations waste money and miss opportunities to create better experiences for their customers.

Courageous Cultures is informed by years of executive consultation as well as a research collaboration with the University of Northern Colorado’s Social Research Lab. It provides practical tools to uncover, leverage, and scale the best ideas from every level of an organization.

  • See why organizations struggle to create healthy cultures that encourage employees to contribute their best thinking.
  • Re-engage and motivate employees by applying proven models and tools.
  • Learn how to apply the best strategies and techniques used by successful companies around the world.

Organizations have the opportunity to build a Courageous Culture today and stop missing out on the hidden solutions engine within their organization.

“In our world of rapid change, a Courageous Culture is your competitive advantage. It ensures that your company is ‘sticky’ for both your customers and your employees,” says Hurt. “In our conversations with executives and senior leaders across a range of industries, we know that innovation and solutions aren’t just appreciated—they’re vital,” Dye added.

Praise for “Courageous Cultures”

Daniel H. Pink, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of “When,” “Drive,” and “To Sell Is Human” says, “Silence isn’t always golden. Effective organizations need people to speak up. Courageous Cultures is the ultimate guide to building a workplace environment that values outspokenness. By following the guidance in this savvy book, you’ll attract first-rate talent, serve your customer better, and liberate people to perform their best.”

Liz Wiseman, New York Times bestselling author of “Multipliers” and “Rookie Smarts” says, “Hurt and Dye offer leaders a wonderfully practical road map for how to get the most from their people – by creating a culture where safe silence dies and small acts of courage compound to increase innovation, problem-solving, and customer advocacy.”

Kevin Kruse, CEO of LEADx and New York Times bestselling author, says, “Imagine if you could cast a magic spell over your entire team and suddenly all the complainers became problem solvers, the safely silent became innovators, and your bystanders became upstanders. “Courageous Cultures,” by Karin Hurt and David Dye, will teach you how to cast that spell.”

Randy Oostra, President and CEO Promedica Health System, calls Courageous Cultures “a compelling and actionable roadmap for business leaders to tap into the energy and wisdom lying just below the surface within their own organizations. No leaders would be without this valuable resource.”

Sunil Prashara, President and CEO, Project Management Institute says, “Courageous Cultures offers simple steps to nurture a bold organizational culture that encourages people to speak up, take smart risks, innovate, become problem solvers, and seize competitive advantage in a fast-transforming business environment.”

The book will be available for purchase on, iBooks, Barnes and Noble Booksellers, and all major outlets, and is available in audible read by the authors. “Courageous Cultures” includes fifteen chapters with titles like “How Courage Works—According to Research” and “People Are Different: How to Leverage Your Diverse Talent to Build a Courageous Culture.” For more information on “Courageous Cultures,” (including a free sample chapter, pre-order bonuses,  details on the authors, the book trailer, advanced praise, press coverage, and purchasing information), visit

About the Authors

Karin Hurt and David Dye are the Founders of Let’s Grow Leaders, a leadership training and consulting firm in Maryland, and the authors of 5 books including  Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul as well as the soon to be released Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Microinnovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates. Recently named on Inc’s list of Most Innovative Leadership Speakers, Karin and David work with leaders around the world who want to achieve breakthrough results and build highly innovative, courageous cultures.  They are also dedicated to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells, building clean water wells in Cambodia.

Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Microinnovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates

By Karin Hurt and David Dye

HarperCollins Leadership

July 2020

Hardcover, $24.99; 224 pages


How to help your team navigate the narratives and encourage voice

How to Help Your Team Navigate Their Concerns About Culture Change

When you’re working hard on culture change, it’s natural for your team to feel skeptical.

After all, you’ve been thinking about this for a while.

You’re committed to engagement and making a difference.

You may wonder why your team isn’t breathing a huge sigh of relief and jumping on board.  After all, your vision for the future is compelling and engaging.

It’s also likely they have questions of their own about your motives, your follow-through, and what will happen next.

How do you help your team navigate their narrative about what happens next?

George’s Story

You wouldn’t have known he was going there.

There was no pre-workshop to help him Navigate the Narrative.

We were facilitating a leadership panel at an executive conference, when George, a financial services operations director asked for the microphone.

Here’s his story.

I served in Afghanistan. One day we were driving through the desert in two Humvees. I was a passenger in the lead vehicle, and the other was close behind when I noticed that our driver was driving very fast and it didn’t feel right. I was getting more and more nervous. You see, I’ve been trained. I knew how dangerous this was. But I didn’t want to be seen as a backseat driver, so I kept the feedback to myself. Finally, I took out my GPS and tracked our speed. We were going seventy-five miles an hour on those damaged streets! It was too fast for the conditions, but I still didn’t say anything. Then, my buddy looked back and we realized that the second Humvee was no longer behind us.

We turned back, and sure enough, it had flipped. We lost a man that day. I’m haunted by the fact that I could have saved his life if I had just spoken up.

Then he continued.

The stuff (building a courageous culture where people speak up) we’re talking about today is real. The concern you’re sitting on might not be life or death, but it matters. We need to care enough to tell one another the truth—and we don’t always do that. We have to figure out how to do this well. Today is an important start. I look forward to hearing your ideas.

George was off to a powerful start with a clear message: “Your concern matters. We need to care enough to speak the truth.”

That’s clarity about the culture you are working to create.

Hopefully, you don’t have a story like George. Thank goodness, we don’t either.

But you do have stories that matter, and your team needs to hear them.

4 Questions About Culture Change Your Team Wants You to Answer

When you start talking about building a more  courageous culture, most employees will have four big questions on their minds:

1. What do you actually mean?

They want to know how this will look in their day-to-day world. Whether you hear this question or not, these are the thoughts people have as they wonder exactly what you’re talking about:

For example.

“When you say you want us to be Customer Advocates, can you give me some real examples?”

  • How will I know what’s safe and when I’ve gone too far?
  • When you tell me you want my innovative ideas—what kinds of ideas? How do I ensure I’m not wasting time on ideas that don’t matter or won’t get funded? What kinds of problems should we focus on solving?
  • How do I position my ideas in a way that will be heard?
  • And, oh by the way, are you sure my boss is on board? Because he’s the most risk-averse micromanager I’ve ever worked for. What are you going to do about people like him?
  • And if you really want me to be courageous, how do I speak up when everything you’ve laid out here isn’t working—how do I do that without being labeled as negative?

2. Why does it matter?

For many employees, this will all sound like a lot of extra work, so they need to understand why the culture you described is better—for everyone. Be sure what you are describing is true.

We once heard an executive tell his team he needed their best thinking “because we’re in the fight of our lives,” meaning a competitor was breathing down their necks and the company’s stock price was in jeopardy.

We happened to know that several people in that room really were in a “fight of their lives” with a sick family member, a kid on drugs, an aging parent for whom they had to make tough choices, and other major life challenges. His tone-deaf remark was lost on them, as they nodded politely and went back to doing their work the way they had always done it—his “why” had backfired.

3. Can I trust you?

Your team won’t be able to hear anything you say about courage and innovation without first watching what you do—very closely— to see if what you do matches up with what you’ve said. They also want to see if you pay attention to what others do.

4. What is expected of me?

The only way to shift culture is to change behaviors.

As you know from any shift you’ve made in your own life, it comes down to one behavior at a time. You can decide you want to be an Ironman triathlete, but if you’ve never run a 5K, you start by lacing up your shoes and going for a short run. If on your first weekend, you tried to take swimming lessons to improve your stroke, weight training to build endurance, and ride your bike over Vail Pass, you’d end up discouraged, sore, and not much fun to be around.

Unless you are in the wonderful, unique position of building a culture from scratch, as in a few of the fast-growing start-ups we’ve had a chance to work with, there’s probably no reason to announce “We’re building a Courageous Culture!” We encourage you to read this book with your team and visualize what success looks like. We’ll give you a way to do that in the First Tracks section at the close of each chapter. Then, pick one set of behaviors and work on those first. What would make the biggest difference for your organization—more problem solving, more innovative ideas, or having your team more focused on advocating for the customers?

George picked one place to start. “We need to care enough to tell one another the truth.” Sure, he wanted great ideas, for teams to share best practices across geographies, and more strategic problem solving, but he knew that for his team, what came first was the courage to speak up when something isn’t right.

Your turn.

What questions do you find coming up as you work to build positive culture change?

What are your best practices to help your team navigate the narrative?