Executive Forum

Breakout Sessions

The Executive Forum at Workhuman 2019 featured four visionary thought leaders, each with a unique perspective on how to shape the future of work by connecting culture to shared purpose. While the speakers also presented to the at-large attendees, these sessions provided the audience an opportunity to interact and explore further.

Here are a few key highlights from these Executive Forum sessions:

Gary Hamel

The iconoclastic business thinker and best-selling author discussed the value of connections, diversity of thought, and the importance of higher purpose. Bureaucracy – of course – can slow or halt these aspirations, so it’s important for leaders to recognize when archaic power structures should be challenged and dismantled.

Gary told us the diversity of thinking in our organizations needs to match the diversity of thinking in the world. He encouraged us to be agile when building teams– to not just check traditional diversity boxes, but to make sure there’s an infusion of youth, openness to new ideas, and to loosen the grip of relying on what’s worked in the past.


For leaders, your real contribution is how you grow the capacity of other human beings.


David Horsager

The best-selling author and CEO amplified the importance of trust, basing his comments on global research that articulates quantifiable ROI. Using data throughout his discussion, David walked through the eight traits of trust – clarity, compassion, character, competency, commitment, connection, contribution, and consistency – and how each supports this fundamental business truth.

David told us our core issues are never solely related to leadership, finance, sales, or even culture. Without trust, companies are at risk for failure. And CFOs take note – the lack of trust is the biggest expense we have. The data shows it again and again. Trust is the foundation of accountability and applies to business and personal relationships.


Everything of value is built on trust.


Kat Cole

The COO and president of FOCUS Brands North America provided practical suggestions on how to lead large, complex teams in a “fireside” chat with Workhuman CMO Maggie Fox. Kat’s overarching message was to make sure leaders and their teams understand the mission – “the North Star” – by giving them freedom within the framework by nurturing a culture that promotes innovation and allows mistakes.

Kat gave very specific suggestions on how to create this culture, including forming a panel of well-respected executives to talk about their mistakes, setting up sessions to inspire open communication (Coffee with Kat, Garage Talks, Side Hustles), and the importance of getting in front of issues before they turn into real problems. This means putting ourselves on the front line – sitting in on IT calls, setting up skip-level meetings, and talking to customers. 


Often the only way out is through.


Brené Brown

The research professor and best-selling author walked us through an exercise based on her “Dare to Lead” research, a seven-year study on the future of leadership and the required skills to effectively lead over the next 5-10 years. The “Living into Our Values” exercise challenged us to identify our values, with practical suggestions on how to turn these values from “BS to behavior.”

Brené explained that courage is a collection of four skill sets – rumbling into vulnerability, living our values, braving trust, and learning to rise – that are observable, measurable, and teachable. She defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure, and that if we cannot manage these, we cannot lead. As leaders, we’ve got to be able to sit with discomfort. This makes us stronger.


There is no courage without vulnerability.