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We Don’t Ask Leaders to Walk on Hot Coals

According to motivational speaker, Tony Robbins’ website, walking across hot coals on lanes measuring 10 feet long and heated to between 1,200 to 2,000 degrees provides attendees an opportunity to “understand that there is absolutely nothing you can’t overcome.”

Maybe so, but I’d be interested in hearing from the 21 people who were burned at a recent event what their take is. I’m even more interested in learning why people do these things to begin with?

When people ask if we are “motivational” speakers, I have always said no.

It’s not that people who work with us, or hear our consultants give keynote presentations, aren’t inspired – they are. Thousands of people have said thanks, shared their personal experiences, picked up a new idea or tool to share with their teams or committed to doing something a little differently following one our speeches, workshops, consulting engagements, etc.

And, it’s not that we don’t have a lot of fun and sometime “play” games or ask people to take risks – we do have a tackle box of exercises designed for hands on learning.

And, it’s not that we aren’t asking people to set/reach aspirational goals – we are.  Heck, to us, overcoming obstacles and achieving your full potential is synonomous with “catching your limit”.

We have just never wanted our firm, or our consultants, to be associated with the kind of staged event that leaves people feeling on top of the world only to fall back down come Monday morning.  As a P.K., my partner, Tom, ranks this type of event right up their with tent revivals and serpent handlings.

I am not trying to put a spotlight on Tony Robbins, as he has replicated this event many times without people being burned and his intent is for this to be a safe way to get someone outside of their comfort zone.

However, I am saying beware.

Beware of consultants and speakers who make things seem overly simplistic.

Beware of people who make promises that they can’t keep or have no control over.

Beware of messages that promise extreme results with little effort.

Have confidence within yourself to think for yourself and ask yourself, “Do I need to walk over 2,000 degree hot coals to understand that there’s nothing that I can’t overcome?”

“Will hiring a motivational speaker change the fact that my senior management team doesn’t trust one another?”

“Will doing some whacky, one-time, event create the momentum for sustained energy and engagement within my team and myself?”

In our work with leadership, teaming and change, we’ve learned that the types of changes that leaders and teams want take hard work, time, courage, persistance, honesty, vulnerability and more.  There are no shortcuts, but with our guidance, we can share our experiences, approaches that have worked for similar groups and guide teams in a direction for success and help them avoid unnecessary floundering or setbacks.

We work to create safe environments in which people can talk openly and honestly, share ideas and work towards solutions as a team.  We introduce new skills that allow people to learn new approaches to overcoming obstacles that have been getting in their way for years.  We facilitate sessions and teach methodologies for engaged, productive meetings, idea generation and problem solving.  We help build measures of accountability and evaluation procedures into initiatives so that success or failure can be fairly assessed and we can all learn from what worked and what didn’t.

We work directly with leaders to ensure that they are not asking more of their people than they are willing to give of themselves.  And, we spread the message that if you are a leader who wants an engaged team culture, your work is never done, it is on-going, never ending and a lifelong endeavor.

Along our journey, we have learned of the skepticism people have of consultants/speakers in general and we have tried to do our part to do our work with integrity and commitment to our clients.  We have tried (and at times failed) to practice what we preach.  And, we have focused our efforts to provide inspiration vs. motivation.  We love this quote:

“Instead of motivation look for inspiration. Inspiration comes from the same word as spirit. When you are inspired, the spirit moves you.”
-Deepak Chopra

Our clients do not ask us for short cuts or quick fixes or tent revivals.  And, we don’t ask them to walk on hot coals.

><(("> Melissa Laughon

Melissa is a ><(("> Team Member at Catch Your Limit, a management consulting firm with offices in Tallahassee, Florida and Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, visit

Posted in Leadership.


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