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7 Questions on Leadership with Karin Reed

Name: Karin Reed

Title: CEO

Organisation: Speaker Dynamics

Karin M. Reed is an Emmy award-winning journalist and CEO of Speaker Dynamics, a corporate communications training firm which specializes in helping people speak with ease across any platform – in person, on camera or through virtual communication tools. A four-time author, she has been featured by a variety of major media outlets, including Forbes, Fast Company, Business Insider and CNN. She was recently named an “Author who Inspires Us” by McKinsey and Company. Karin and her team have been the chosen training partner for some of the world’s most recognized companies – from Nike to Eli Lilly – and most respected academic institutions in the world –from Duke University to the Graduate School of Business at Stanford.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Karin's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

Delegating! My business started as just me, myself and I which made me very comfortable doing it all (with some intense googling of things I did not know.) As the business grew, I realized I could no longer do it all without sacrificing the quality of the work... and my sanity. What I discovered was the great joy in growing a business with others who are also invested in its success and broaden our ability to meet client needs.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I began my career as a broadcast journalist, winning various awards along the way and interviewing luminaries like Muhammad Ali. In hopes of gaining a bit more control over my schedule, I left the news business to apply my skills in the corporate world. What I found is I would be brought in as the "professional on-camera spokesperson", but more and more often, they would bring in someone from the corner office or the corner cubicle to appear on camera alongside me. That often did not go so well for them. Speaking on camera requires a totally different skill set. I recognized a business opportunity - to teach business professionals how to be better on-camera communicators. That was well over a decade ago, and the business grew steadily with an expansion to speaking well, on-camera and off. The pandemic really put Speaker Dynamics into high gear though because suddenly we weren't training just the executive leadership teams; we were training the entire enterprise. We scaled up and are fortunate to have worked with amazing companies and clients who are embracing our hybrid communication world.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

With clients all over the globe, I have days where I am delivering virtual workshops at 10PM or 5AM my time. Each day is different depending upon the client needs. On days where I am not delivering training, I try to work out first, move into work mode with meetings throughout the day and attempt to wrap up in time to make dinner which I actually really enjoy. However, I admit there are times when I need to go back into my office to address something before going to bed. I work from my home office now (something that stuck as a result of the pandemic) so it can be tough to separate personal and professional life. I try to be as "present" as possible for both.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

Even though I teach effective communication, difficult conversations can still be challenging. I am not a confrontational person, so it's hard for me to bring up something that needs to be addressed that is not up to par with people I truly care about. However, if it's not addressed, it becomes a much bigger issue over time. I do try to follow my own advice - stick to the facts, let it be a dialogue, and don't seek blame, seek a path to a better outcome.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

I am a big fan of Dorie Clarke. She has reinvented herself multiple times, and her book "The Long Game" gave me clarity on what I should be spending my time doing... and what I should not.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

There are many chapters in life and in your career. Look for the path where you are uniquely suited to travel and make strides, but know that your path might be a zig-zag... and that's perfectly okay. Always assess whether you are leading the life that fits with your priorities. If you are not, make a change.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

I firmly believe that everyone has a valuable story to tell, perspectives to share, that enrich all of us. But sometimes we get in our own way because we lack the confidence to communicate those stories, those perspectives.

That was the problem I helped to solve for a fellow CEO who said she was turning down speaking opportunities because she was terrified of public speaking. What's more, she knew she was doing her company a disservice by saying no because she was missing out on an opportunity to elevate the business and its brand.

She was one of our first executive coaching clients and one of our most gratifying success stories. Today, that CEO is a sought after keynote speaker, panelist and podcast guest, but it took months of building her confidence and skill set to get there.

Leaders aren't always inherently great communicators, but it is a critical piece to their leadership success. Leaders need to inspire others with their words as well as their actions. I love that we get to play the role of "Confidence Creator" to help make that happen.

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