67. Cultivating Exceptional Leaders with Karen Schmidt

67. Cultivating Exceptional Leaders with Karen Schmidt

Karen Schmidt

Cultivating Exceptional Leaders

Karen Schmidt is a frontline leadership expert and Director of Let’s Grow. Karen developed what’s known as the Practical Leadership Development model to give frontline leaders the skills they need to boost their performance, improved team productivity which in turn, gives senior leaders peace of mind. She incorporates her Workplace Gardening Philosophy for a down to earth approach to leadership.


Karen is a speaker, workshop leader, facilitator and coach and her career took this road as a result of encountering disengaging leaders and colleagues who were performing below their capabilities. Originally a Human Resources practitioner, Karen’s been nurturing frontline leaders for more than 20 years. Her experience comes from working with organisations across 20 industries and over 8 countries in both big cities and regional centres. Karen is the author of 5 books including “Greenhousing: nurturing the next crop of leaders” and “Green Thumb Leader: how to grow from a frontline manager into a frontline leader”. Today she works with current and future leaders across Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia. Her clients include corporates, government, professional associations, not for profits and small business.


During my conversation with Karen, we talk about:


  • How Qantas listen and improve the customer experience
  • A brilliant follow up and referral program that clients love and is growing a chain of hair salons
  • Why frontline staff are the key to referral business
  • What makes a leader versus a manager
  • Common mistakes we make in our management hiring
  • ‘The Peter Principle’ explained and how to avoid this easily-made mistake
  • How to achieve 3X profits
  • Customised, ‘slow-release’ leadership programs; why it achieves better outcomes
  • How to minimise ‘knowledge and implementation’ separation
  • How the ‘I can do it’ mindset can work against us
  • Progress measures and achievement milestones; and
  • The need for personalisation to boost the client experience


Links For This Episode


“Engaged employees are the key to having loyal customers. Employee engagement is a direct result of who their supervisor is” Karen Schmidt


“I see too many people who are pushed into being a team leader. For the reasons:“you’ve been here the longest”, “you’re the oldest”, “we need to find a way of paying you more money and this is the only way to do it”. If these people don’t want to do the role then it doesn’t matter if they have the skills or the knowledge. If they don’t have the mindset or the attitude to do it, then they will fail.” Karen Schmidt


“Look around and see people who have the mindset to do the role and approach them early on…Sometimes you need to give people weeks, months to get used to the idea. ‘I see you as team leader potential. We’ll help develop you and support you. Three or six months down the track there might be an opportunity for you. Think about whether you’d like to do it’.” Karen Schmidt


“For an effective leadership program, it can’t be a ‘one size fits all’. There’s nothing worse than saying ‘I’ve got 5 people in team leader roles, let’s put them through this one program’. They’re all at different stages and need different things…It can be become theoretical rather than practical” Karen Schmidt


“I find the accountability aspect of coaching is what works. When you say ‘here’s your action items, we’re going to come back and I’m going to see what you did’. I’m going to hear why you didn’t do things or what the results were and get you to critically reflect on your own behaviour. Because what I’m trying to do is help them become self directed learners so they can take those strategies and use them when I’m not around.” Karen Schmidt

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