Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity so that they can drive innovation, productivity, and revenue without burning out employees. After two decades as a Verizon executive, Karin founded Let’s Grow Leaders, a training firm focused on human-centered leadership development for those determined to get breakthrough results without losing their humanity. Leaders, she found, were hungry for practical tools and leadership development that stick.
Since 2013, Karin and her husband, David Dye, have helped grow over 10,000 leaders in 14 countries with their live leadership development programs, keynotes, blogs, videos, and books. They also provide clean water to the people of Cambodia through their Winning Wells philanthropic initiative. Karin is an 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.
She is the host of the popular LinkedIn show, Asking for a Friend. And she was recently named by Inc. Magazine as a Top 100 Great Leadership Speaker.
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Table of Contents
Before we begin, our readers are interested to know about how you got started in the first place. Did you always want to be where you are today or was it something you were led to? Share with us your journey.
Karin Hurt: “Why in the world,” people often ask me, “would you leave a successful executive career at Verizon to start a leadership development company?” The truth is, I didn’t set out to rid the world of cynical, dehumanizing leadership. I just hit a point of such utter frustration that I started to blog.
I had witnessed too many examples of executives and managers destroying themselves and their teams with a win-at-all-cost mentality. Others were so focused on being liked by their teams (or pleasing their bosses) that they failed to speak up or hold people accountable. I didn’t expect to leave my day job– the blog was for me to help me crystalize my thoughts– and for others who I thought could benefit from my practical approach.
The blog took off, and I quickly built an international following. People started calling me to invite me to keynote their conferences, and to train their teams. Others kept asking “when are you going to write a book?” So I took the leap, gave Verizon plenty of notice, and started Let’s Grow Leaders.
And now the love story…
One day, David Dye (who was running his own leadership company) called me because he had read something I had written in an HR magazine and he thought he could have written it. We got to talking and realized our vision and approach to growing human-centered leaders was totally aligned. We plainly shared two passions:
- Convincing leaders that you can get breakthrough results without losing your humanity.
- Giving managers the practical tools to make the change–and to make the change stick.
So, yes. My husband, co-author, and business partner, David, and I met online, (not the swipe right or left kind, but David swears he would have swiped right) and started reading and supporting one another’s work. After a while, we realized we were writing the same book, so we decided to collaborate. We wrote our first book, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul, while David was living in Colorado and Karin was in Maryland (evidence that you can nurture creativity and trust in a remote team).
Soon after the book was complete, we realized we had fallen in love somewhere along the way. We got married. We merged our businesses. Now we help human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos so that they can drive innovation, productivity, and revenue without burning out employees.
Tell us a bit about your current focus. What is the most important thing that you’re working on and how do you plan on doing it?
Karin Hurt: Our Virtual Leadership Development Programs bring sustained transformation to organizations. We offer a comprehensive solution with live virtual leadership training sessions, practical tools and techniques, and digital learning reinforcement that creates lasting behavior change.
Our manager curriculum is grounded in our first book: Winning Well: A Managers Guide to Getting Results– Without Losing Your Soul, and our advanced strategy and innovation programs are based on our latest book, Courageous Cultures- How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers and Customer Advocates.
Some argue that punctuality is a strength. Others say punctuality is a weakness. How do you feel about it, please explain.
Karin Hurt: Punctuality is an indicator of reliability and reliability is a key component of trust. If you can count on me to show up when I say I will, that builds trust. It’s a sign that I will do what I say I will. Plus, being on time shows that you respect the time of others.
How important is having good timing in your line of work and in the industry that your organization operates in?
Karin Hurt: Staying focused on timing keeps everyone in synch. “Scheduling the finish” is one of our 6 competencies that you can’t lead without that grounds our leadership programs.
Founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson, states “Timing is everything in life, and it’s particularly crucial in entrepreneurship. People often equate success with luck, but it usually comes down to impeccable (and carefully mapped out) timing”. Do you agree with this statement? Please answer in as much detail as necessary.
Karin Hurt: Timing matters a great deal in entrepreneurship, but so does execution. You can have a great idea and great timing but if you don’t have the right people and strategy to execute you won’t be effective.
As a leader/entrepreneur/CEO, how do you decide when to put the pedal to the metal and when to take a break? How do you time the key moments in your career?
Karin Hurt: In our work with clients (and in our own business), we focus on a concept we call, Mind the MIT (most important thing). “Infinite need, finite me, so mind the MIT).
You can’t be operating full throttle all the time and expect to have the energy and capacity for creative thinking that is so vital as an entrepreneur. We like to think about our business in seasons. There are certain seasons that are extremely busy for us and we need to give everything we have for our clients and other times that are lighter (for example, no one is usually doing leadership training over the holidays and August is usually a lighter time.
We also really need to focus on pacing and working on the business while working in the business– and to have a tight project management approach to our work. Great planning and a strong operating cadence, can help to reduce some of the frenetic feelings that are so common in fast-growing companies.
Branson also states “If you’re starting to feel like you’re just going through the motions and losing sight of why you started, it might be time to take a break”. But how do you decide when to take a break?
Karin Hurt: I would agree, that it’s either time to take a break OR try something new. Branson is always reinventing his businesses and looking for new opportunities. I think that’s vital in any business. I think it’s important to plan breaks into the natural operating cadence of your company– so you can avoid that burnout feeling he is describing here.
“Timing can be everything when starting up. It can be the difference between building a thriving business and not” How has good timing helped you achieve success in your career or business? Are there any particular examples from your career that you would like to share?
Karin Hurt: Just before the COVID Pandemic, we had written a book called Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates, focused on very practical ways leaders could tap into the best ideas of every team member.
Although we were initially frustrated that we were launching a book in the middle of the pandemic (conferences were canceled so we lost marketing and back-of-room-sales opportunities; bookstores were closed; it was harder for employers to distribute books to employees working from home), AND YET we the topic turned out to be incredibly timely in helping organizations navigate the pandemic. Interviewers kept saying to us “you couldn’t have known this was going to happen, but how is it that you were able to skate to where the puck was headed…”
The timing of our Courageous Cultures research and tools had enabled us to serve and support clients from around the world with tools they really needed, just when they needed them. Also, we already had extensive experience with live-online programs with spaced learning over time, so while other training companies were working to figure out how to pivot to an online platform, we were very fortunate to already have advanced technology in place, and experience in facilitating these programs internationally.
So, the increased appetite for live-online leadership programs, was helpful for us, as we were prepared to immediately support growing international needs.
“When you’re thinking of starting up, ask yourself: ‘Is the community I want to serve ready for this idea?’ It could make all the difference!” Would you like to add anything to this piece of advice for all the aspiring entrepreneurs?
Karin Hurt: It’s so important to meet your community where they are, but you also don’t want to underestimate them. They may be more ready than you think if you can make it easy to understand how your idea will make life easier for them.
I’m a big believer in starting small– with a pilot and proof of concept– to build trust and prove the value, before asking clients to invest in something bigger. I know that if we can work with a small group of leaders and help them improve their results and influence, they will be our best marketing with others in the company.
COVID forced many businesses to adapt fast, some did so successfully, others failed, it was a lot due to good or poor timing. What are some of the big lessons you’ve learned during the pandemic?
Karin Hurt: Show up with confidence and humility, stay focused on results and relationships. Stay close to your clients and really listen to what they need (and help them). Stay close to your team and really listen to what they need (and help them). Put people before projects- connect at a human level. Stay true to your mission and values– integrity matters above all else. Pivot fast, and learn what’s working and what’s not. Proactively ask your team (and clients) for their ideas and respond with regard to all ideas (even those you can’t use).
Transparency and authenticity make all the difference– our clients who thrived had leaders who were telling their teams the truth. We have a 7 step process we teach that has helped clients thrive by tapping into the best ideas of their teams and showing up courageously during this time.
Your insight has been incredibly valuable and our readers thank you for your generosity. We do have a couple of other bold questions to ask. What fictional world would you want to start a business in and what would you sell?
Karin Hurt: We created a fictional world in our children’s leadership book called Glowstone Peak. Those sweet gnobucks, gnomes, and nuins could really use some teambuilders where they can really learn to listen to one another. Timing would be perfect for leadership and DE&I training.
Before we finish things off, we would love to know, when you have some time away from business, what is one hobby that you wish you could spend more time on?
Karin Hurt: Triathlons. Scuba Diving. Travel.
Larry Yatch, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Karin Hurt for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Karin Hurt or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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