Danielle Harlan – Founder & CEO, Center for Advancing Leadership & Human Potential

danielle harlan

Danielle Harlan is the author of “The New Alpha: Join the Rising Movement of Influencers and Changemakers who are Redefining Leadership.” She’s also the Founder & CEO of the Center for Advancing Leadership & Human Potential. 

Growing up in a small oceanside town in California, Danielle’s perspective was slowly shaped by the conglomerate of open-minded, thoughtful people surrounding her, inviting her to question how she can go above and beyond individual success to truly benefit her community. Before pursuing a masters and PhD, Danielle worked for Teach for America and taught special education in a fairly under-resourced area of San Jose. She feels like she derived purpose and also gave back to her community through this area of strenuous, yet rewarding, work.

Danielle says leadership and human potential have been woven into everything she’s done, right down to her doctorate-level dissertation for a Stanford PhD in political science. After earning several degrees as the first person in her family to graduate from college, Danielle wrote and published her book, as well as founded The Center for Advancing Leadership and Human Potential. Danielle’s work as both an author and CEO focuses on what our responsibilities as human beings are to others. They also focus on how we can maximize our impact on others through leadership.

Show Highlights

  • 3:17 – Growing up
  • 5:56 – Teach for America: How Danielle decided to teach kids with special needs
  • 11:50 – Challenges with the curriculum when teaching
  • 14:20 – The Carnegie Foundation
  • 17:38 – Breaking away from that impactful work to pursue social science & leadership
  • 23:55 – Data from Gallup: getting better employment satisfaction scores & productivity
  • 25:16 – The “Traditional Alpha” leader
  • 29:00 – The three core focuses of “The New Alpha” book: personal excellence
  • 39:50 – How to best help a leader who’s accustomed to traditional leadership styles
  • 45:30 – The most selfish thing leaders can do
  • 48:00 – Prioritization of health, wellness and stress management in leadership roles
  • 59:00 – A Grateful Dead comparison in marketing
  • 1:05:50 – Danielle’s hidden talent

Show Links

Danielle Harlan Podcast Interview

Give us a sense of who you are as an individual, in addition to this great work you and your team are working on. 

I’m here actually in the bay area in California, but I grew up in a little coastal town called Big Sur. And it’s interesting because at the time I just thought, “Oh, it’s a beautiful place to grow up by the ocean and the redwoods and all that.”

But Big Sur is actually known as the seed of the human potential movement. There was a lot going on there in the ’60s and ’70s. But I grew up in that community of open-minded, thoughtful people. They really thought, “What are my roles and my responsibilities to my community?” It certainly shaped my perspectives as an adult in a deep way.

I went on to the University of Maryland on the east coast. I became the first person in my family to graduate from college. Anyone who’s had the opportunity to attend college can sort of attest to this, but it was a point in my life where I realized, “Wow, what an incredible amount of privilege to have this education, to be surrounded by so many amazing people and great organizations.”

That also really got me thinking about my responsibilities to others, now that I have this privilege.

And so through University of Maryland, I found out about Teach for America, became a special education teacher and then went on to grad school because I really wanted to better understand the issues. I did my doctorate and master’s degree at Stanford, and studied political science.

All of this seemed so random; at the time, I was just following gut instincts, but I think leadership and human potential were woven into everything that I did — even down to what my dissertation was on in political science — I looked at leadership on the Supreme Court, group decision-making, all of these things that at the time just seemed interesting and cool. But later, that research came into play in such deep ways: my leadership roles, and then also writing “The New Alpha” book and also founding the Center for Leadership & Human Potential. It revolved around how leadership can really help us maximize our impact in the world and solve the problems that we care most about.

At what point did the Teach for America pursuit come into play?

I remember sitting in the car with my mom in the early ’90s right when Teach for America was new. She said, Hey, I heard about this program for teachers. I honestly didn’t even think about that conversation until so many years later when I was in college, when there were Teach for America recruiters on campus.

The reason I connected with the ideas behind that organization and the reason I still do stems from being the first in my family to graduate from college. I saw how that experience gave me access to resources, jobs and a network that many people didn’t have. Many smart people didn’t have the opportunities I did, who were probably much more intelligent and competent than I was. Just because I have this college degree my world is forever different. And so I felt like I wanted to really pay it forward. I got a lot through great mentors and teachers and professors. Being able to give back gave me a sense of purpose and still does.

One of your first teaching gigs happened at a relatively under-resourced part of San Jose, and it involved teaching kindergarten students with special needs. So, why special needs? Why in an under-resourced area?

I remember when I was a special ed teacher full time, people were always like, “You must be a saint.”

I’ll tell you honestly that when I joined Teach for America I didn’t think I’d teach special ed. I had a really naive view of what special education was. Overall, I just assumed it was the most challenging and most intense. Technically, there are many categories of learning differences that fall into special education. So, when I got to San Jose, they said they assigned me to the English and Social Studies middle school. Every teacher’s dream, right?

But they actually said they have a really high need in special education. “Would you consider doing that?” My background wasn’t in education. The school district and Teach for America said they’d train me, and they could give me the skills and confidence needed to be successful. That is, if I was willing to do it.

Teach for America itself is a two-year commitment, and I knew I wasn’t going to be a full-time classroom teacher. I didn’t know that teaching would become a deep, integral part of myself as a human being and a leader. I thought, well, I have a limited amount of time in this experience. So I want to throw myself in in a way that I feel is going to make the biggest impact.

And it turns out that special education was a great choice and a great way to make that impact.

Also personally, I got so much more out of that experience than if I’d chosen something less challenging. Working with students with learning differences challenged me to find ways to help people reach their potential that didn’t follow the conventional path. All of them were so brilliant and so eager to learn and improve. It was just a deeply fulfilling experience. When I look back on my career and all the different things I’ve done and the impact I’ve had in different domains, certainly being a special ed teacher was one of the most meaningful and impactful aspects of my career.


Y Scouts, a leadership search firm, finds purpose-aligned and performance-proven leaders to help organizations achieve their missions faster. Ready to supercharge your leadership search and get the right person in your organization? Contact Y Scouts.

The Passive Candidates vs. The Unemployed Candidates

passive candidates

When it comes to vetting candidates for a role, there are many factors to consider. What’s the culture fit? Does the resume experience align? What do reference checks reveal? Is the job applicant currently out of work, or simply a passive candidate? Here, we asked a handful of business leaders to dive into the passive candidates versus the unemployed ones.

The Passive Candidates vs. The Unemployed Candidates

Be Cautious

As millennials start to dictate the new hiring trends, it’s sometimes hard to distinguish between an active and a passive job seeker. Side hustling has become a way of life, and if the job seeker has completely put his/her career on hold, waiting for another job opportunity, then it raises a red flag with me. It wouldn’t necessarily be a stop sign — I would still interview them, but I would try to raise the question and pinpoint their exact situation.This is a great gray area, but it is really telling for businesses looking for specific skills — especially the companies seeking extremely proactive people.

– Neil Napier, CEO of JobRack

Seek Out Passive Candidates

As an organization who headhunts top performing salespeople, we target gainfully employed (or passive) candidates. Why? In the sales industry, candidates who are employed, or have longer job stays, tend to be A-players. If they are unemployed, or have shorter job stays, it’s an indication to us as recruiters that they were either let go for not meeting targets or quit because they weren’t generating sales, thus not earning commission.

While there are some exceptions, we only go after gainfully employed salespeople. So to us, it is extremely important.

Tips for other organizations: Headhunt these candidates yourself. Don’t go looking for passive candidates on job boards or websites such as Indeed or Monster. The gainfully employed candidates aren’t spending their days applying to jobs. Find them through social networks like LinkedIn, and reach out to them with the opportunity.

– Taylor Dumouchel, Executive Sales Recruiter at Peak Sales Recruiting

Look For Other Qualities

You might think that passive candidates hold an advantage, considering that they are currently working. But that’s not always true. Although the economy has generally recovered from the most recent economic downturn, the unemployment rate is by no means low. There are still plenty of qualified folks out there looking for work. And while this is something to pay attention to, it is probably a mistake to factor someone in or out based upon any particular status – passive or unemployed.

Instead, look at other more reliable characteristics such as a solid work history, stellar references, or even smaller things like showing up for the interview on time with a well-written resume, as a quick example.

You might want to vet an unemployed candidate a little more thoroughly than a passive one, such as finding out why they have yet to find a new job, but either candidate could potentially be a benefit to your organization.

– Andrew Schrage, CEO of Money Crashers

Seek Out Quality, Regardless Of Employment Status

As a business owner I would have more problems with a passive candidate than an unemployed one.

When I’m vetting a candidate, I look more at their skills and dedication to their craft than whether they are employed or not.

As a very specific example, if I’m looking for a social media manager and I come across someone who is unemployed but has been studying for a few years and really knows his craft, that candidate would have a lot more potential to me than someone who is passive and doesn’t seem to care that much about his work.

When it comes down to vetting, I would always recommended looking into what work your perspective candidate has done in the past. Have they had any successes with their profession? Can they prove that they are a professional at their work? You can also research and ask open-ended questions about their profession and see what type of answers they give to evaluate if they sound right for the job.

You should also never rush into hiring someone. Always give it at least a few days after your interview to think it over and decide if they’re right for the position.

– Alex Reichmann, CEO of iTestCash

When it comes to vetting passive candidates and unemployed candidates, what’s your approach? Let us know!


Y Scouts is a leadership search firm that finds purpose-aligned and performance-proven leaders to help organizations achieve their missions faster. Ready to supercharge your leadership search and get the right person in your organization? Contact Y Scouts.

The Purpose Of Purpose

purpose

Here at Y Scouts, we employ purpose as a leading factor in everything we do. Even our podcast is titled “Built On Purpose” — and we interview leaders, CEOs, and other high-level folks who share engaging stories of embracing a purpose-driven life. In this article, we spoke to a variety of business leaders who do the same — and their industries range from a coding bootcamp to an Uber for lawn mowing.

Question: What’s power of purpose at your organization? How does purpose drive what you do and how does it also play into your company culture?

The Purpose Of Purpose

Walking With Meaning

VEERAH is a women-led company crafting luxury footwear that is made responsibly with cruelty-free materials and mindfully designed for the modern woman. This purpose — basing our goals based on positive impacts on society, community and the environment — is the entire driving force behind our company. That’s why we are proud to also be a Benefit Corporation.

– Melinda Richardson, VEERAH

Infusing Purpose Into Multiple Businesses

Purpose becomes more of a factor in my business all the time. That’s been somewhat true since I started my business in 1981, but in the past two decades or so, it’s become central. And not by coincidence, with each leap toward higher purpose and domination by purpose, my business gets stronger.

These days, I’m a profitability consultant for green and social entrepreneurship businesses — and author of 10 books (endorsed by Seth Godin and others). I show businesses how they can go beyond mere “sustainability” (keeping things the same) to develop and market profitable products and services that turn hunger and poverty into sufficiency, war into peace, and catastrophic climate change into planetary balance.

This has been a gradual evolution, starting as a term paper typing service, then moving into marketing for individuals (resumes), marketing for small business/nonprofits/book authors, marketing for green businesses, and now working with businesses attempting to achieve sweeping social change.

– Shel Horowitz, Green/Transformative Business Profitability Expert

Promoting The Purpose In Family

My husband and I own a company called Homegrown Traditions. We share inspiring family tradition ideas and tips on how to create a happy as well as functional home.

Research has shown that strong family connections lead to increased health, less mental illness, lower stress, a happier life, and good habits, among other things.

I owned a women’s swimwear business for seven years, but my husband and I were looking to start a business related to something we could both be passionate about. The idea arose to use our biggest passion, promoting families, as a starting point. We’ve since launched holiday pillowcases for kids, birthday plates, birthday shirts, and chore charts on our website. We also offer a lot of free content, like parent-child date cards, birthday and thank you cards, etc. Although we do need to make money to support our business, or primary driving force in all our decisions is to make sure we’re promoting the importance of families and enforcing the idea that they are the most important thing in life.

– Brittney Hanks, Homegrown Traditions

Empowering Women

Hey There Beautiful Inc. is a New York-based 501(c)(3) not for profit organization whose mission is to empower women and young girls to live their dream through education, motivation, self-awareness and self-development.

The power of purpose at our organization drives the passion behind Board of Directors.  The power of our purpose allows others to believe deeply in the mission which drives the mindset to do whatever it takes to make things happen. We are all philanthropists at heart.  Giving back to our communities gives us a sense of purpose and in turn then motivates us with power to give back tremendously.

Being able to change lives for young girls, women, mothers, fathers and the world motivates us every day. This creates a culture of empathy, love and support that allows us to thrive in out daily lives. Personally, I like to see the Board of Directors flourish and live their own dreams. We have created a system together to support, build and grow both personally and professional. This creates the teamwork attitude and “I will never give up on you” stance we have for each other.

It is about ensuring that your company is empowered and inspired so much so that they in turn can naturally affect others in a seamless way that is part of their everyday life.

Like my father who recently passed once said, “When you do everything with love and from a place of love, everything will fall into place.”

– Dailisha Eve Rodriguez, President & Founder of Hey There Beautiful, Inc.

A Mission In The Sports Arena

Sport Graphics, the firm behind the décor and experience at many of the country’s largest sporting events, works hard to ensure that each of our 120+ employees feel a sense of purpose. No, we aren’t solving world hunger, eradicating homelessness or bringing about world peace, but we are serving a mission. Like most, it’s easy to lose sight of the objective and then focus solely on the deliverable (some really incredible graphics, a killer design package or the installation of the world’s largest tournament bracket).

We take on the mindset that we’re part of the client’s organization. We aim to feel what they feel, see what they see (and more) as well as challenge ourselves to deliver something worthy of their reputation. At the same time, our staff — at every level – has a sense of intrinsic pride in the quality of work we put out. Our gut check: Would you show your parents, friends and professional peers what you just created? The answer has to be ‘yes.’

In order for purpose to become part of our culture, we each had to commit to being driven by it. We also had to challenging one another to do the same.

“Work with purpose” isn’t something scrawled on the wall. Rather, it’s something we re-commit to and bring with us each time we step through the door.

– Trena Roudebush, Marketing Director of Sport Graphics

Coding Bootcamp Gives People Purpose

I work at Wyncode Academy, a coding bootcamp in Miami. In a community with high unemployment, particularly for the large number of discriminated-against groups and minorities in our city, teaching adults to code is entirely purpose-driven.

Coding proves one of the most in-demand and highest paid skills in the job market. We have helped hundreds of individuals gain this skill. We also pay special attention to women and minorities through targeted scholarships. These groups typically end up left out of this lucrative career. This is especially fulfilling as most of our students choose to attend in order to leave lackluster careers that were not setting them up for a bright future. We have helped these individuals, anywhere from age 18-55, turn their life around to create better opportunities for themselves.

Our co-founder actually attended a coding bootcamp himself in Toronto, and then saw the world of opportunities that was opened up to him professionally and personally by learning this skill. It prompted him to start Wyncode. This purpose drives our company culture because it creates a community where making space to learn is key, and people are super supportive of those around them, even when they are in direct competition.

– Jocelyn Caster, Coordinator at Wyncode Academy

Purpose: The Daily Roadmap For Employees

GPS Trackit is a telematics provider supported by a dedicated community of employees. We’ve been in business for over 17 years.

People are the lifeblood of any organization. Thus, without a strongly communicated and perpetually reinforced company purpose, those people are left without direction and a sense of fulfillment with the work they produce. This can lead to work produced without passion and dedication — something no customer will stick around for.

Basically, a company’s purpose should act as a daily roadmap for all employees, driving everything they do throughout the workday. This fosters a community of devoted, satisfied employees who feel confident in both their work and their employer.

– Hannah Steffensen, Media Relations Manager at GPS Trackit

Helping Veterans Pursuing Entrepreneurship

I retired as a consultant from the Chicago office of the McGladrey accounting firm in 2006. Then, I started my own firm in Chicago, which helps veterans who want to start their own business. I bootstrapped this business from my own savings. I am also a former U.S. Army Reserve 1st Lieutenant, who fought in the Vietnam War. I created the concept for an incubator for veterans who want to start their own businesses, now called Bunker Labs.

Later, I worked with an organization to start a support program for aspiring veteran entrepreneurs in North Carolina, VetStart.

I was raised and educated to be of service to others. Now, I have channeled that effort into helping veterans who want to start their own businesses. While my business didn’t start out with that in mind, I found that helping veterans was my true calling.

– Paul Dillon, Bunker Labs

Immigrant Employees Delivering Meaning

GreenPal is best described as Uber for lawn mowing.

I’ve been in the landscaping industry for 15 years. I started cutting grass in high school. Over the 15 years I grew that business to over 100 people and sold that company last year.

What has worked for me and my best advice to leaders on building a strong team of loyalists is to rally everyone around the central “Why.”

Why does our company exist?

When I was running an organization of that size proved it was daunting, however, creating something bigger than myself was a fulfilling experience. Our company created prosperity for our people and that’s why we did what we did. Much of our operating core was comprised of Guatemalan immigrants and these were the finest people I have ever known. Typically, they would come to the United States for several consecutive lawn mowing seasons. They would save as much money as they could to improve the lives of their families back home by building homes, ranches, and setting up farms stocked with cattle.

This became our company’s purpose, our Why. In weekly meetings, we would get progress reports from our men on how projects “back home” were coming along. In the halls of our office and in the shop we displayed picture collages of all the homes, farms, and business that had been established by our people in Guatemala. Celebrating these victories gave us fuel to get through the tough times, particularly when economic recession that began in 2009.

– Bryan Clayton, CEO & Co-Founder of GreenPal

Doing Well Through Doing Good

GoodWorks Insurance, an independent insurance agency founded in 2006, uniquely gives half of its profits to local nonprofits throughout the Northeast. It’s the firm’s recipe for success, driving everything it does.

“We do well because we do good,” says CEO Chad Yonker. “Deserving local charities get much-needed funds. We reap goodwill that helps drive our growth.”

“We believe in a purpose beyond profit. Communities profit as our business grows. Our socially responsible business model and commitment to community truly distance us from the competition. We give at least 50% of our operating profits each year to nonprofits supporting local education, health, and safety programs.”

GoodWorks Community Grants go to nonprofits that support education, healthcare, public safety as well as community development in the places GoodWorks does business.

– Chad Yonker, CEO of GoodWorks Insurance

So, what’s your purpose? We’re curious — let us know!


Y Scouts is a leadership search firm that finds purpose-aligned and performance-proven leaders to help organizations achieve their missions faster. Ready to supercharge your leadership search and get the right person in your organization? Contact Y Scouts.

How To Hire Better Conscious Job Candidates

32389-1-eng-GB_concomus170101_article_056_01_012

We’re proud to be featured in Conscious Company Magazine! Y Scouts Co-Founder & CEO Max Hansen offers some important insight on recruiting.

Hiring the right people is essential to helping your conscious business thrive. Here are 4 expert tips for getting it right, from the start.

The saying, “If you build it, they will come” does not apply to finding conscious candidates. You have to put the work in during the hiring process, or you’ll struggle to find the right people.

Here are my four best tips for getting conscious candidates in the door.

 1 // CULTURAL ALIGNMENT COMES FIRST

Before you consider professional skills, focus on culture and purpose in your job descriptions. This will help attract like-minded people and repel those who don’t fit in. At the interview, look for cultural, purpose, and values alignment by talking about the uniqueness of your organization. Then, listen and watch for cues to see if the candidate relates. Caveat: Be aware of how your job advertising terms might appeal to different populations, and make sure to switch them up to attract values-aligned candidates with varied backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.

 2 // HIRE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO LEARN

Let’s be real: No one likes a know-it-all. And if you’re a conscious company, everyone around you is always learning. Seek out relentless learners by asking questions like, “What are you learning right now?” or “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” Candidates’ answers (or the lack thereof) will tell you right away if they love learning or think they know it all already.

 3 // SLOW DOWN THE HIRING PROCESS

Speed kills during the hiring process. The challenge is that you’re itching to check it off the to-do list, so you end up dealing with the pain later. Making a bad hire means you’ll not only have to undo the mistake and redo the recruitment, you’ll also have to repair the cultural damage from a mis-hire. Slow, thoughtful hiring ensures that you find the best possible candidate.

 4 // DON’T RELY ON ADVERTISING ALONE

Hiring the best of the applicants is different from hiring the best possible person. In today’s market, the best talent is already employed. Relying solely on job postings and the candidates who apply is risky. Ask yourself, “If I could hire the best possible person for the role, who would I hire?” Chances are it’s not the best resumé you received from your online posting.

Instead, create a target list of potential candidates or companies where they might be found and pursue them proactively. When you’ve identified someone as a possible fit and started the conversation, you control the initial dialogue and get to dig in on the cultural and mission-fit topics that matter to you. Proactively talking with a potential candidate before they know the needs of the role and company also allows you to better match up professional competencies. If you focus on what the best possible outcome looks like both in terms of culture and ability to perform, you should reap the benefits of a diverse, high-performing team.


Max Hansen is CEO at Y Scouts, which is in the business of finding purpose-aligned and performance-proven leaders who help organizations achieve their missions faster.


Y Scouts is a leadership search firm that finds purpose-aligned and performance-proven leaders to help organizations achieve their missions faster. Ready to supercharge your leadership search and get the right person in your organization? Contact Y Scouts.

Best 7 Research And Development Interview Questions

research and development interview questions

If you’re looking to hire an R&D professional, we have the rundown on the best research and development interview questions to ask during your next hiring cycle. An R&D role involves the innovation, introduction and improvement of products and processes — so a great hire can truly propel your company forward.

Top 7 Research And Development Interview Questions

What fuels your competitive drive at work?

Research and development roles require at least some sense of healthy competition, particularly against business competitors. Does the candidate have a drive to succeed? Does he or she have both the skills and the passion for the work?

Explain how you have used research methods in prior roles.

You can follow this up by asking, “What tools or programs would you need at your disposal on Day One of this role in order to succeed?” Dig deep to find what research methods (and even specific technology) the candidate has used to make products or processes more efficient.

In your opinion, which is the better approach: Working quickly to develop a good solution or taking more time to craft an excellent solution?

This is one of the top research and development interview questions, as it reveals how the candidate performs under pressure. Much of the role involves working under deadlines. But how does the quality of the work match up to those pressures? This question will help you discover if the candidate can balance various factors, such as time-sensitivity and quality of results.

Elaborate on the most challenging project you have worked on. What challenges are you looking for in this role with our company?

An excellent R&D professional would never wish to remain stagnant or avoid challenging projects and situations. This question will clue you in to the intensity of projects the candidate has completed, as well as any aspirations to grow he or she may have.

What do you know about our company, and what would you bring to the table in this role?

All candidates should have researched your company. It’d be laughable any other way — a research and development professional showing up to the interview without any research. Does he or she have any improvements in mind for your company? Top-tier R&D professionals are especially astute at formulating better and better ideas and products. Thus, the candidate should have some fresh ideas to bring to the interview based on his or her research about your business.

Have you ever faced difficulties in convincing others of your own ideas? What did you do to get them on board?

This is one of the best research and development interview questions, as it reveals the candidate’s leadership style and ability to promote ideas before bringing them to fruition. How does he or she go about informing team members or other departments (see below) of blueprints for a great project? What happened after convincing fellow employees your idea was valid?

How would you cooperate with other departments? Which other departments would be most crucial for your work, or would influence your role most?

How effectively does the R&D candidate work with other teams and departments to achieve goals? This question is a must. You can also conduct a reference check following the interview to see how the candidate fared with other coworkers. A research and development professional shouldn’t just work solo; collaboration is essential to creating a positive culture and fostering positive business results.

What other research and development interview questions would you add to this list? Let us know — and contact the professionals at Y Scouts when hiring for R&D roles.


Y Scouts is a leadership search firm that finds purpose-aligned and performance-proven leaders to help organizations achieve their missions faster. Ready to supercharge your leadership search and get the right person in your organization? Contact Y Scouts.

A Meaningful Gift For An Exemplary Leader

A Meaningful Gift For An Exemplary CEO-3

From time to time, Y Scouts wants to highlight companies and cultures that are doing great things and operating with purpose. We also believe that great leaders develop people — so here is an incredible, heartwarming story that exemplifies just that.

A Meaningful Gift For An Outstanding Leader

It’s difficult to find gifts for David Sellers, President & CEO of LGE Design Build. But this past holiday season, his team knocked it out of the park.

Carrie Garcia, Chief Administrative Officer at LGE, has been working with David for 14 years. They started there in their twenties and, she says, “literally grew up here together.”

“Every year for the last 14 years, I struggle — and so does everyone else — trying to find David a gift for anything. That includes his wife,” Carrie said.

LGE Design Build recently started the process of defining values, setting a vision and establishing a mission statement. As Christmas approached, Carrie mulled over what to get for David with that in mind.

“One night, I had just finished reading Built On Values by Ann Rhoades, and this idea came to my mind: I should make a massive photo picture and put on there why everyone in the office thinks David is an amazing leader.”

Fast-forward a few days after that, and an employee came to me and said, “OK, we’ve got to figure out what to do for David.” I told her my idea, and she was ecstatic.

FullSizeRender 4She walked around to every single employee in the company and asked, “Why do you think David is a good leader?” Then, each employee wrote down their answer.

Carrie typed up everyone’s quote — and from there, the team collaboration continued.

“Our rendering guy along with our photographer — we all joined forces and designed a graphic that included every single quote as to why all his employees think he’s a good leader,” she added.

Carrie had it professionally printed on a steel mount, and then LGE’s photographer (who welds on the side) crafted a custom frame for the artwork.

Presenting The Gift

Carrie met with the photographer at the LGE Design Build office two hours early one morning. It was still dark outside — but Carrie wanted to hang it on David’s wall before he came into work.

“I wrapped it after it was hung,” she said. “When David came in, I walked into his office with him and shut the door; I know him very well, and he’s a very private person who doesn’t like a lot of attention. I wanted him to have a private moment when he opened it.”

Before he opened the gift, Carrie explained to him how their current process of establishing LGE’s values resonated with her and the rest of the team. She described how important it is for leadership to tell their employees that they’re appreciated — but how we sometimes forget to let our leadership know how much we appreciate them.

“He opened it and was overwhelmed with emotion,” Carrie said. “We were both wiping away tears, and he read some of the stuff people said, and I read some. He said it was the most thoughtful gift he’s ever received.”

The board — filled with 48 different messages — hangs on the wall directly across from David’s desk. That way, if he’s facing a tough day, as Carrie puts it: “All he needs to do is look up and focus for two seconds, and he’s got four dozen reminders of how amazing he is to everybody here.”

lge design build

The Impact The Gift Has Had

Recently, David was working until midnight and was feeling overwhelmed — and he paused. He began to read the board. Immediately, his attitude changed, and the board helped “reset” him.

“He means so much more to me than just a boss,” Carrie said. “I wanted him to really understand just how amazing he is outside of what I think. I don’t think he realized I’m not the only one in the building who feels that way.”

As the LGE Design Build team moves forward with establishing their values, Carrie noted that the gift helped continue to guide their leader in that constructive direction.

“This board was really meant as a reinforcement to David that the hard work and dedication it will take to implement our values, all the time that our committee is putting into it to make our company a better place — is for something,” she said. “We care about him, and we support him. That board was something to give him the reassurance he needed to keep going down a positive path.”

Ready to supercharge your culture with a purpose-driven, people-focused leader? Contact us!


Y Scouts is a leadership search firm that finds purpose-aligned and performance-proven leaders to help organizations achieve their missions faster.

Aaron Hurst Podcast Interview – CEO of Imperative

aaron hurst

Today we’re interviewing Aaron Hurst, the co-founder & CEO of Imperative, and the author of The Purpose Economy. Aaron has been wired to challenge the status quo from a very early age. He sees opportunity and potential in every direction, and by his own admission is a bit of a troublemaker. During Aaron’s childhood, he moved around a lot and, as a result, he developed the important skill of pattern recognition, a trait that has served him well throughout his entrepreneurial efforts. Early in Aaron’s career, he founded the Taproot Foundation, a pro-bono community of professionals who volunteered their time and expertise to helping mission-driven nonprofits with the marketing, PR, and other important services they need to achieve maximum impact. This community blossomed into a $15 billion marketplace. 

Perhaps the most interesting takeaway was the power of purpose that emerged. Aaron would constantly hear about the sense of meaning the participants would feel from helping the nonprofit community. This theme continues today; Aaron and his team at Imperative focus on unlocking and measuring the power of purpose inside of organizations, not only for the organization, but helping the individual employees inside of organizations to connect their individual purpose to the purpose of the company. In 2014, Aaron published his book, The Purpose Economy, which predicts the next economic wave will be known as the Purpose Era.

Show Notes

  • 3:30 – Early memories from Aaron Hurst of entrepreneurship & innovation
  • 5:18 – The benefits of frequently relocating during childhood & becoming a global citizen
  • 7:50 – Buddhist upbringing & the idea of consciousness
  • 10:00 – Taproot Foundation
  • 13:08 – The gratification of doing pro-bono work outweighing that of the “paycheck job”
  • 14:35 – Labels on the economies of the human existence (agrarian, industrial, purpose economies) and how his work at Taproot led to Imperative
  • 16:27 – The biggest myths & truths around purpose
  • 19:18 – Cause versus purpose
  • 21:10 – The Imperative process
  • 26:01 – Is purpose a luxury?
  • 28:48 – Job crafting
  • 32:03 – Metropolitan areas trying to become the “next Silicon Valley
  • 34:26 – Book by Aaron Hurst, called “The Purpose Economy,” and his strategy for releasing it
  • 39:37 – His daughter’s education campaign for Congress on bullying

Show Links

Aaron Hurst Podcast Interview

You’ve essentially had entrepreneurial DNA flowing through you your whole life. Is there a particular memory you have from when you were young where you knew pursuing an entrepreneurial path, challenging the status quo and living on the edge of innovation was going to be the hallmark of who you are?

It’s funny — I don’t think anyone in my family even knew the word “entrepreneur.” It wasn’t something in my vernacular. I just always sort of saw myself as a troublemaker. I always saw the status quo and felt like a better way to do things existed. Also, I always started clubs — I probably had 10 different clubs in high school that I started. I had my own business in high school, and I saw opportunity everywhere. Although I wouldn’t have called it entrepreneurship at the time, in retrospect, it was. I remember being very much a futurist with a progressive mindset.

My dad always tells me this story — I think it was in junior high. We were walking by a small lake outside of our hometown, Boulder, Colorado. For whatever reason, I started talking about how we were eventually going to have water shortages and we should start pooling our money into buying fresh water sources. That way, we could still have a little bit of profit when water becomes scarce. Even then, I saw where the world was going and saw opportunity in that.

You moved around quite a bit during your childhood. You lived in quite a few different places — both in the states as well as abroad. As you look back on that, I can imagine it was challenging making friends and then having to uproot and move. What have been the positives of that?

It definitely was painful at times, but there were a lot of positives. We moved every few years. One, it really taught me pattern recognition. You started to see the same things emerge across different cultures, and you saw the actual similarities between people who called themselves “different.” It helped me learn how to quickly connect with new groups of people. It also taught me that we’re way more resilient and adaptable than a lot of people who were born and raised in one town and never go anywhere.

Since I graduated from college, I was in Chicago, then San Francisco, then Brooklyn and now Seattle. I believe in that old cliché: “Wherever you go, there you are.” And also realizing you don’t need to be fully rooted in any one area; you can really make the world your home. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I think it was great to be able to move around that much. There are certainly downsides. I have some level of jealousy of kids who lived in one place, who also had the same friends in kindergarten that they did in high school. But I think they miss something significant. I’m a big advocate for study abroad, for example, and other opportunities to get students to see themselves as a global citizen.

Did I read that you were raised Buddhist?

Yes, my parents were both Tibetan Buddhists, part of a Buddhist cult out of Boulder, Colorado. They moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia. I grew up going to a Buddhist elementary school in Boulder and then had heavy involvement up in Nova Scotia as well. It was a largely Jewish population of folks who had embraced Tibetan Buddhism. I struggle to even call it Buddhism, because I don’t think it was authentically of that culture. I think a lot of religion is culture, not just faith. While I don’t practice Buddhism and rejected that cult, I feel like a lot of my work since then was heavily influenced by that. Especially around the whole idea of consciousness, and seeing the world as those who are conscious and those who aren’t. Much of my career is trying to increase that sense of consciousness in the workplace.

You did something truly magical in creating a multi-billion dollar, pro-bono network of services for not-for-profit communities. What spurred the Taproot Foundation?

Taproot Foundation was my venture before Imperative. It started in 2001. Most good ideas are very simple ones. The idea was that nonprofits need the same marketing, tech, finance, HR, recruiting etc. services as companies, but they can’t afford them. Almost without exception. So they’re increasingly being left behind in a market where those services are what define successful organizations. We said, “How do we make pro-bono services prevalent in these other professions?”

It took about five years of really understanding intrinsic motivation as well as how to harness it. How do you actually get someone to complete a complex project? You can’t reward them with a promotion. That really led to the largest experiment that I know of in history on intrinsic motivation — really figuring out, over the course of thousands of complex projects, how you use that intrinsic motivation to inspire people and then get them to finish pro-bono work.

It was remarkable, because when I started Taproot, nonprofits basically said, “We don’t want pro-bono work. It never gets done.” By the time I left Taproot a dozen years later, it was a multi-billion dollar marketplace, we had affiliates all over the world. We had really proven that, once you understand intrinsic motivation, nonprofits really can count on pro-bono work. It got to the point where the amount of work was about four times what is done in terms of cash philanthropy in corporations. It had a massive impact on the nonprofit sector, and people’s identity as professionals.

You mentioned that roughly only 1/3 of the workforce is truly purpose-oriented. Is purpose a luxury that only certain people have access to?

We saw no correlation at all between income and purpose. We saw people in the highest-end jobs not purpose-oriented, as well as those in low-end jobs who have purpose. I think the whole idea that you have to have a certain amount of income is false. In some ways, it’s actually really patronizing. It created part of the problem — of leaders often believing, “I have certain jobs. There are certain people who can’t possibly worry about purpose.” That’s not how it works. You go into a Starbucks and see baristas who are working with purpose and those who aren’t. You see hospital janitors, who have the really challenging job of cleaning hospital rooms, and they still find purpose in that experience.

There’s the great book and work of Viktor Frankl, who was a slave at a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. He found meaning in that experience. We really do a disservice when we say that poor people can’t have purpose. It’s patronizing. It gives us an excuse to create jobs and management styles that are dehumanizing.

For Aaron Hurst and more Built On Purpose Podcast episodes, visit http://www.yscouts.com/podcast.


Y Scouts is a leadership search firm that finds purpose-aligned and performance-proven leaders to help organizations achieve their missions faster. Ready to supercharge your leadership search and get the right person in your organization? Contact Y Scouts.

How To Tell If You’re Truly Hiring A Team Player

hiring a team player

How can you tell if you’re really hiring a team player? The interview process alone can’t possibly reveal that — so it requires delving a little bit deeper to find employees who pull their own weight and more.

We asked leaders from all over to answer this question: “How do you know you are truly hiring a team player?” Before your next hire, take a look at some real insight and wisdom from various business leaders.

Hiring A Team Player

Going The Extra Mile

Deniz Sasal, Founder of The Career Mastery, says trust is paramount.

“Just as everything else in life, trust plays an integral role in choosing a candidate,” he says. “This is a critical element that many employers somehow tend to forget.”

Sasal continues:

“A new addition to a team should not only have the desired skills and experiences, but also should be someone of integrity, someone who will proudly represent an organization in his/her social and professional circle, someone who will go extra mile because he/she believes in the organization and fights for its future success. Now, that’s what I call a true team player and that’s why I believe trust and integrity should play a key role in choosing candidates. You can always bring a new hire up to speed with training, yet it’s not easy to instill integrity in someone.”

Another crucial point he noted: “A candidate who tries to deceive the interviewer in a job interview will continue to do so once hired.”

Offering Hands-On Collaboration Opportunities

Jonathan D. Roger, Operations Director & Certified ScrumMaster at AndPlus, suggests adding a hands-on activity to the interview process.

“We’re a software firm. A key part of our interview process is having the candidate come in and build a simple application with a couple of our senior engineers in the space of 30-45 minutes,” he says. “This often makes it easy to tell whether or not a candidate plays well with others. Some candidates grow frustrated when offered suggestions, which often leads to a no-hire decision. Candidates who are receptive to criticism and treat our engineers like resources and teammates rather than annoyances always seem to be our best team players.”

Volunteering, Mentoring & Facing Failure

Founder & CEO of Source Capital Funding, Inc., Sacha Ferrandi, offered unique insight on hiring and identifying team players.

“There are many traditional ways to identify team players,” he says. “However, we have found that there are other several more non-traditional traits to look for that indicate a great, team-focused candidate.”

Ferrandi provided three key traits to seek out when hiring a team player:

1. Volunteer Experience.

Look for volunteer experience that goes deeper than donating or one-time community events. The key here is to find candidates that volunteer their time and actually go out and make an impact with the organization they volunteer at. This shows a dedication to their community and indicates that they like to help build and hold together a team.

2. Handling Failure.

One great way to gauge a candidate’s team-oriented traits? Talk about a time of failure. Look for someone that is comfortable taking the blame and not pushing it off on others. Especially as businesses win or lose as a group, having a member who has the mentality of: “Well, I did my part. It was someone else’s fault.” — does nothing to grow a team’s long-term cohesiveness.

Putting blame on others, even if others are responsible, is a warning sign of a bad team player. No one likes working with someone who throws people under the bus. Having someone like this on your team could be detrimental to your group’s success.

3. Mentoring

Does your employee or potential candidate mentor others? This trait is an exceptional quality to have in a team environment because it demonstrates that the person wants to help others succeed. This is especially true for roles that require specific knowledge. Those willing to share their expertise and help grow others’ careers fit extremely well in any organization.

hiring a team player

Watch For Warning Signs & Seek Out Certain Traits

Bret Bonnet of Quality Logo Products points out: You never know for sure what you’re getting beforehand, but in my experience, employees who are true team players:

a.) Are more productive.

b.) Stick around longer.

c.) Cause fewer problems.

“We’re slowly but surely replacing those who don’t want to play ball (and get upset when their favorite type of sugar packets go missing from the snack room) with those who care more about the company’s goals,” Bonnet adds.

He continues: “It all starts with the interview questions. When interviewing candidates we do our best to avoid any off-the-shelf questions that the employee might have had a chance to prepare for. The goal is to make them uncomfortable or catch them off guard. Then, we hear real, honest answers instead of rehearsed answers.”

At his organization, Bonnet says, they pose questions such as:

Saturday is your boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s birthday. Saturday is also the night of the big company party. Do you attend the company party or celebrate the birthday? Why?

On the surface, it doesn’t seem anything too complicated. But if they can’t give a good reason for missing the company party, their answer to this question often weighs heavily against their chance of getting hired. People who are unable to celebrate it on a different night/day than a mutually agreed upon day where 100% of your co-workers will be in attendance does not belong at your company.

Finally, check for other telltale signs of employees who are not team players. This includes: Those who ALWAYS keep their office door closed, and those who ALWAYS wear headphones. Candidates with extroverted personalities also ultimately have a higher likelihood of being a team player.

Dig Deep

David Waring, Co-Founder of Fit Small Business, says the interview process gives employers the chance to dig deep and figure out if they’re hiring a team player.

“For an experienced candidate, the type of jobs they had prior can give you great insight as to whether or not they are a team player,” he says. “For example, salespeople who work on commission are used to an environment where they need to worry about their own sales and productivity. They are generally out for themselves rather than working as a team. So if you are looking to hire a team player, proceed with caution.”

Waring added that projects, interactions and even extracurricular activities can shed light on your hire.

“For other types of positions, simply asking the candidate what types of projects and interactions they have had with their team can give you good insight. However, you need to consider this on a granular level rather than a high-level view of things.”

Finally, the questions they ask at the end of the interview can give you great insight. If they’re asking about culture and interacting with people, then that is a positive sign. If they ask about compensation and growth in position, while it’s not a bad thing, it doesn’t give any insight into whether they will be a good team player or not.

It May Not Be Completely Innate

Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation, says her goal is to hire team players.

“We screen for ‘team player-ness’ by asking questions about their work ethic, examples of how they contribute to their prior companies and willingness to go above and beyond,” she says. “Sometimes we can identify people who we believe could be team players with a little nurturing and then we pair them with other already-established team players in our company.”

Sweeney continued: “I don’t think being a team player is innate. It needs to be learned at times. It also often comes from management. A team player mentality can be contagious; when leadership in a company are team players, then the team tends to rise to the occasion. So, if someone has the right attitude, you can further evolve their ‘team player’ status by setting expectations, setting a good example with leadership and rewarding behavior that shows a can-do attitude.”

What other advice do you have for hiring a team player? Let us know — and contact the professionals at Y Scouts when hiring a team player.


Y Scouts is a leadership search firm that finds purpose-aligned and performance-proven leaders to help organizations achieve their missions faster. Ready to supercharge your leadership search and get the right person in your organization? Contact Y Scouts.

Brett Hurt Podcast – Co-Founder & CEO of data.world

brett hurt

Today, we are interviewing Brett Hurt, the co-founder and CEO of data.world. To say Brett has accomplished a lot at a relatively young age would be an understatement. Brett has been a part of launching five start-ups, and, with the help of three co-founders, has just launched his sixth. Brett grew up in a household of entrepreneurs. His dad was the inventor of the first-ever halogen fishing light. At age seven, Brett received his first computer and began programming. This marked the beginning of a lifelong pursuit of Brett Hurt seeking to understand how things work.

Between ages 7 and 21, Brett spent close to 40 hours per week programming. He credits his parents, in particular his mom, with supporting him and helping him find his true passion. This passion led him to the co-founding of Bazaarvoice where he served as the President & CEO for 7 ½ years and the eventual IPO in 2012 — rated one of the top five IPOs in 2012 by the Wall Street Journal. Brett’s current project, data.world, squarely focuses on building the most meaningful, collaborative, and abundant data resource in the world. This episode with Brett Hurt is full of meaningful life lessons and a series of great stories everyone will appreciate.

Show Notes

  • 2:13 – Relevant & inspirational Abraham Lincoln quote
  • 3:30 – Brett talking about his background growing up in entrepreneurial household
  • 8:45 – Brett Hurt & his upbringing in programming and hard work
  • 15:34 – How Brett’s father turned down a big offer from Walmart
  • 21:40 – Talking about losing his parents and starting his own companies and making a lot of money
  • 26:14 – Talking about famous entrepreneurs/industrialists like Elon Musk
  • 29:51 – Talking about business through lens of Trump election
  • 35:22 – data.world
  • 41:46 – Impact the data.world will have on the way people find the organizations they may eventually work for.
  • 44:38 – data.world’s setup as a public benefit corporation
  • 50:20 – What’s the best way to engage with what is happening at data.world?
  • 54:33 – The key messages from Brett’s 2015 commencement speech at the University of Texas at Austin Master of Science in Technology Commercialization
  • 1:02:10 – The expected major increase in life expectancy & its impact on work

Show Links

Brett Hurt Podcast Interview

I want to start with a quote that I know will resonate with you. Abraham Lincoln once said, “There is just one way to bring up a child in the way he should go, and that is to travel that way yourself.” You were born into a family of entrepreneurs. Your dad was the inventor of the first halogen fishing light. What was it like growing up in a house of entrepreneurship?

It was incredibly cool, and I love that quote. When I started data.world, I put a blog post out on luckyseven.io, and I quoted Lincoln with that same quote. It was an incredible experience growing up in an entrepreneurial household. At the time, you don’t realize how much you’re actually learning by working with your parents. They also had furniture stores I would work at. They raised me to intuitively understand the customer. How to serve the customer, ask the customer questions about how they found us, have them navigate the store more efficiently. And also do the hard work, like sweeping the floors.

That hard labor, too, is something you never forget as a child. The thing I remember most was that my friends were kind of jealous of my parents. I didn’t entirely understand it, and I took it for granted because it was all I knew. As an adult, I realized that my friends were jealous that my parents truly enjoyed their work. They heard their parents complain about their jobs. That made a huge mark on me that, no matter what I do in life, I should do something I’m truly passionate about. Otherwise, why do it at all? There are so many programs that make fun of work. There’s “The Office,” there’s “Silicon Valley,” the movie “Office Space.” These are all great fun, but their real tragedy is that a lot of people look at their work in that way.

Especially given the fact that the data shows we end up spending ¾ of our adult lives at work. For it to be anything other than meaningful seems like an incredible waste of an opportunity.

It is, and you only live once. Why not make it count? We were put on this earth to hopefully do great things, and I find it a real tragedy that so many people hate their work. That’s no way to live, and it’s no way to bring up a child, either. Your children are paying attention. My “innate” entrepreneurial skills are innate because of the environment I grew up in. My parents were some of the most important mentors I’ve had entrepreneurially. I very much miss them.

Was there a certain point in your life where you knew you were destined to follow in their footsteps and be an entrepreneur? Was it gradual?

If I trace back to my early roots, I started programming when I was seven years old. My mom — when she first got me the Pawn game, she could tell I was really interested in how it worked. I wasn’t just content playing the game. I was maybe four years old then. How do electronics work? How does this magic come to life?

So, when I was seven, she read an article about the computer age arriving. Atari had come out with one of the first personal computers. She bought that for me because she thought it would make me interested in mathematics. My grandfather taught mathematics at UT Austin for over 35 years. My mom had majored in math as well as accounting. She thought this would really light me up. She was right, but she never anticipated how right she was. I then programmed over 40 hours a week from age seven to 21.

My mom had to have a superhuman discipline to keep everyone out of my way. The pressures of childhood — “You should be outside playing, you should be doing this activity and that activity.” My second-grade teacher took my mom aside one time and told her I was going to be a loser in life. She told her I would be hopelessly lost, and that all I did was play with computers and talk about computers. She was really concerned about me. That really offended my mom, and she didn’t tell me that story until I was an adult and was already successful. This passion for technology and how technology would change the world was really embedded from a very young age.

I’m forever thankful that my mom sat down with me and learned how to program with me and gave me that gift of finding my passion. It’s one of the most important jobs a parent has is to help a child find out their true passion in life, and then let them do it with no judgment, no matter what societal pressures come along. But then, having that childhood, I didn’t feel too comfortable interacting with lots of people.

I realized I wanted to go into business when I was in undergrad. I worked for Accenture full-time for my junior and senior year. The way I got that job was very karmic. At age 10, I helped an 18-year-old kid set up his first bulletin board system. He remembered that and called me as an adult. Later, I decided to become an entrepreneur. Deloy had this program where they would pay for your MBA, as long as you got into a top school. I launched four businesses while at the Warden School. Also, I worked regularly until three or four in the morning. I really established myself as an entrepreneur.

One lesson you learned early on from your dad involves a story about Walmart.

It’s an interesting story for quite a few reasons. I remember so fondly working on the fishing lights with my dad, and learning about direct marketing with him. When I was 10 years old, Walmart approached him to sell his products (all fishing-related) — in all the stores nationwide. He told them no, and I just couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t take the chance to become a really big company.

I was really angry at him. I remember he sat me down, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Son, you may realize the value of keeping life simple one day, or you may not. That’s your choice.” He just didn’t want to take on the growth of having big factories. He was comfortable. Someone later told me, “Brett, just because it was right for your parents doesn’t mean it’s right for you. You’re a different person, and you should honor the drive that you have.”

brett hurt

Even during the businesses that you have launched, you have always preached the importance of reflection time — even taking four, five, six, sometimes up to 10 weeks off for vacation throughout the year. Is that your dad’s lesson ringing through?

I incorporated that lesson in that way. It’s also non-negotiable that, no matter what I do in life, I must be there for our children’s most important moments. My parents, I realized as an adult, were really your classic lifestyle entrepreneurs. You look at Elon Musk for example, who is the founder of three companies simultaneously. They are all dramatically changing the world. I’m sitting in a Tesla right now as we have this conversation, which is my favorite car by far. He has had a pretty challenging personal life. He works very hard, and that’s what is right for him. Look how much he is changing the world. He’s the ultimate expression of an entrepreneur that can change the world.

I choose to have some limits. My limits are that, no matter what’s going on, I’ve got to be there for my children’s most important moments. I’ve been married 20 years. It’s a huge part of who I am. I have to have that reflection time, because that reflection time is what strengthens me as a leader. It helps me understand what I’ve learned and be able to apply that. People put massive pressure on themselves to say “I’m the CEO of a startup, and therefore I should work nonstop,” and they do not take time for themselves. Their marriage, friendships or their physical health could fall apart.

Hopefully all entrepreneurs are passionate about what they’re doing, but if they don’t take that time, I would argue that they could actually create a worse company. Companies are so often a reflection of the leaders at the top. They must have a mental balance, or you have a whole company running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

I want to read a quote: “If the universe of data were suddenly made available, it would unleash the creativity of problem-solvers to combine different data sets, public and private, to develop innovative solutions to innumerable challenges.” That said, what exactly is data.world?

data.world is basically a project that, in many ways, the world has been gearing up for. It’s a social network for people who love data, to be able to share the data sets they love so they can work more effectively on them with other people in the public as well as with their teams. At the end of the day, we’re creating the most meaningful, most abundant and the most collaborative data resource in history. That’s a very ambitious goal. We’re doing it as a public benefit corporation. The other nomenclature for this is a B Corp.

The reason I say that it’s been in the making for a long time: you need to get to the point where storage costs and processing costs have fallen to where you could build something this ambitious. You also need to get to the point in the world where there are a lot of examples of the power of collaboration. A great example is GitHub. It has over 14 million programmers from all around the world who are collaborating and sharing open source code. It became a force multiplier for people in the programming industry. If you’re a programmer, you’ll just share your GitHub profile with a potential employer to show your work.

I very much envision data.world being what my children use in college, and them asking me, “Dad, what was it like before data.world?” And I would explain you had to email people and submit data on a thumb drive and you couldn’t tell how people were working with the data and collaborating. But, as we get all this data in one place, it will create an enormous opportunity to solve the world’s problems — whether it’s poverty, climate change, cancer. You will be able to address any of that in data.world, and everyone can see how you addressed it and be able to create derivative work on top of it. It will accelerate all of our progress in humanity.

For more Built On Purpose Podcast episodes, visit http://yscouts.com/podcast/.


Y Scouts, a leadership search firm, finds purpose-aligned and performance-proven leaders to help organizations achieve their missions faster. Ready to supercharge your leadership search and get the right person in your organization? Contact Y Scouts.

Corey Michael Blake Podcast – CEO, Speaker, Storyteller

corey michael blake

Today, we’re interviewing Corey Michael Blake. It’s difficult to put a label on Corey — he’s many things: an entrepreneur, an actor, a director, a storyteller, a CEO, and an all-around great guy. I might add — I’m giving him the title of having the most contagious laugh of all time, something you’ll get a taste of during the podcast. Corey is a soulful human being, full of deep insights and someone who is constantly pushing himself to learn and grow.

He’s a student of the power of Vulnerability, and we dive into a tour of his life and the many experiences and lessons that have led him to where he is today. Corey’s guiding principle of life is to Lead with Love — a learned skill that requires consistent practice. Whether you’re a CEO looking to up-level your leadership, or you’re searching for a more meaningful existence at this thing we call life, this episode is loaded with authenticity and realness. Enjoy this episode featuring Corey Michael Blake.

Show Highlights

  • 3:50 – Reflecting on 2016
  • 7:00 – The game “Vulnerability Is Sexy”
  • 7:26 – Discussion on vulnerability
  • 11:26 – How the Meisner Technique in acting contributed to Corey’s sense of being present
  • 18:00 – Childhood moment where he felt a true connection to staying present
  • 20:42 – The experience of living and working as an actor in L.A.
  • 23:52 – Starting Writers of the Round Table and Round Table Companies
  • 26:52 – From The Barrio To The Boardroom: Meeting Robert Renteria
  • 34:12 – Creating children’s books and coloring books warning kids of gangs & drugs
  • 35:11 – Corey’s inspiration for novels marketed toward children
  • 38:32 – Round Table Companies
  • 44:25 – Love as a guiding principle
  • 51:10 – Values pasted to a wall versus living them
  • 55:20 – The power of the pause
  • 59:11 – Having a support system in experiencing life breakthroughs

Show Links

Corey Michael Blake Podcast Interview

You started the Vulnerability Is Sexy game in part through a KickStarter campaign?

Yes, we did a KickStarter campaign in 2013 that was successful. Then, we decided to launch this campaign to activate and excite our network and to at least know from a resonation standpoint what we were looking at. That proved successful.

Let’s talk about vulnerability, given that it is such a huge part of who you are and what you stand for. As you retrace your life as a student of vulnerability, is there a particular point where you recognized this was going to be a pursuit for you?

I look back at my time in L.A. I was in Los Angeles from 1996 until 2005, and I kind of shifted from acting being my priority to wanting to be a more prolific storyteller, and wanting to be more involved in the production. Really, I wanted to manage more of the process and support the level of quality that I was excited by. During that process, I created two storytelling companies prior to RTC. Both of them failed, and ultimately “imploded” because I made bad decisions in terms of who I got romantic with.

That period of my life was wrought with desperation and hunger and passion and pain and self-torture. It was a really dramatic time in my life. And during that time, I felt deeply connected to some of the people around me. The acting technique I was learning when I lived in L.A. was called the Meisner Technique, and it was about stripping away language and being with people in this energetic exchange. We would have 20-minute exchanges that would stay with me all week and live in my body. I got addicted to connection, and addicted to being in those moments where we feel so much — whether it is incredible love and attraction, or deep sadness triggered by an exercise. Being in those truthful moments, at that time, was life-giving to me.

So when you ask that question, I think it was that period when that addiction began and eventually blossomed into using it in a healthy way — with what I do now through the company.

During your time in L.A., you were in a really well-known Super Bowl ad for Mountain Dew, you were in the movie “Fight Club” — you’ve done some pretty cool things. Is the chaos of L.A. what most suspect it to be — with the politics and perceived superficial nature of L.A. and the acting community? What was your experience?

I don’t believe it is that for everyone, but I do believe it was very much that way for me. I had a strong hunger to be successful out there, and I brought my very competitive nature. As a result of that, when I look back at my time there, I describe it as this: I became what I thought L.A. wanted me to be in order to get where I thought I wanted to go. It was pulling me into the commercial world, and I certainly didn’t go to L.A. to be a commercial actor. But commercials pay really well, so I found myself building a career being a spokesperson for major brands.

It was exciting to audition for the work and to get the work — until it hit a point where it just wasn’t anymore. When I started producing and directing some projects, I found auditions to be a distraction. I found myself angry when I was stuck in traffic heading to an audition that was taking me away from what I really enjoyed — which was more control over my creativity. As an actor, I felt like a tool for other creative people. It was very disconnecting for me, and it was what started pushing me away from continuing in that regard. If I had gotten serious regular roles, or a major film, that might have changed — in which case I might have had more input.

I found that Wanted to be part of a project from start to finish, and that meant I had to change my direction.

Is that realization what led you to Writers of the Round Table and eventually Round Table Companies?

Not strategically. But if I look back on the path, I had been successful at commercials. I didn’t need a day job, because I got to study acting and rehearse a lot. I saw this 45-minute PBS documentary while I was in college on a guy named Harold Clurman, who started the Group Theatre in the 1930s. That went on to become Broadway, and then Hollywood. He described himself as a “generator.” He was not the best actor or the best director. But he was the person who brought the talent together to create art about what was important to speak of during the day. I had an epiphany moment in L.A. — that’s who I want to be.

So I invited nine of my other classmates to join me at Mammoth Lake in a lodge. Eight said yes. We went up there for a few days and started the first iteration of a storytelling company. It was such a stunning, loving experience that it became my new addiction. From there, we started making films and winning awards at film festivals. That led to the understanding that my work would need millions of dollars behind it in order to be seen. Or, I could ultimately create a lot of stuff that would sit on a shelf. That was eventually the reason to transition over to the writing world and to books — which became the impetus for Writers of the Round Table. On a much more modest budget, you can create something to go out into the world and start changing lives.

Is this where you ended up connecting with Robert Renteria? Talk about the From The Barrio To The Boardroom foundation.

I started Writers of the Round Table in a very practical way. I recognized that I was leaving L.A. Also, I was getting married and I needed to find a way to generate income that wasn’t tied to Los Angeles. Once, I think I was playing around on Craigslist and I was applying for writing jobs that looked creative. I found there were all kinds of writing jobs I could do, that I was curious about. Originally, I founded the business as a conduit between writers and businesspeople who needed quality writing. I wasn’t just an agent where I would find work for someone and say, “Good luck.” Instead, I became integrally involved.

Eventually, because of my L.A. background, my storytelling and my theater degree, Robert Renteria crossed my path. He was looking for someone to help him with his biography. At our initial meeting, when Robert talked about the life that he had lived and how he wanted to use that to inspire people, I got emotional when I talked to him about helping him paint that picture. We worked for a solid year and a half putting that first book together. That kicked off a new addiction of creating things that pushed people to make dramatic changes in their lives.

These graphic novel translations of popular books, and this idea of leveraging a pictorial version of stories to market in a new way — you’ve been very successful in that realm. What inspired you?

Around 2010 or so, we would have conversations with all our staff members and call it “dreaming time.” We wanted to know what we weren’t doing that we would love to do. Our creative director said he loved comic books, and he wanted to get us into that area. Lo and behold, as a result of that conversation, someone approached us about creating a nonfiction comic book series based on bestselling business books. We had some initial dialogue, but this person decided to go with someone else. But because our creative director expressed how valuable it would be to him, I fought for it. I told this person I respected his decision but we stayed in touch. I asked if he had feedback for our process.

A month later, he came back to us. We did three prototypes: Dale Carnegie’s “How To Win Friends And Influence People,” Dale Covey’s “Seven Habits,” and we did “Think & Grow Rich.” Eventually, we parted ways with the comic book company and created Round Table Comics. Suddenly, we were off to the races doing our own series. We’ve done a whole bunch of them for disabled children, helping kids to understand the disabilities they face.

How would you best describes what Round Table Companies is and does?

We’re an amazing, brilliant company, but we’re nontraditional. Nothing else quite like us exists in the world. We were born as a book-writing company; that was our first love. Helping people write the book they were born to write. We write very moving, emotional, page-turning books. Then, we built out a whole array of services for thought leaders. How do we support them and their brand identity? How do we support them in telling their story in different ways so people want to read the books?

I describe the book as going to bed with someone. When you first meet someone, you can’t invite them to bed — that’s an intense request. So how do we create an ecosystem around the thought leader so that people go through the whole stepladder. Flirting, talking, dating, getting into a relationship with the brand to the point where they then want to curl up with the book. Hopefully, by the end of the book, they feel like their life has changed as a result.

That blossomed into finding other creative ways we can support them. That grew into illustration, comic books, and graphic novels. Then, because we were attracting world-class, amazing, talented people — we realized we had access to incredible levels of genius, especially in the coaching world. We started hiring more coaches, and getting into the world of executive coaching — helping people to tell a new story. Then, it opened us to how storytelling can shift a culture. How can storytelling help amplify what a business stands for so that the world can truly see the essence of the company, and know if they want to be a customer or if they’re totally repelled?

For more Built On Purpose Podcast episodes, visit http://yscouts.com/podcast/.


Y Scouts is a leadership search firm that finds purpose-aligned and performance-proven leaders to help organizations achieve their missions faster. Ready to supercharge your leadership search and get the right person in your organization? Contact Y Scouts.