Thursday, November 18, 2021

Would you pick up the dust ball – or just the quarter?

Over the last decade, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege of meeting a myriad of amazing marketing, branding, customer experience, leadership, and social media experts. Sam Horn is one of these internationally known experts and is based in Texas. We recently discussed leadership, corporate culture, and communication, and highlights follow Sam’s bio.

Sam Horn, CEO of the Intrigue Agency, helps people create respectful, collaborative, one-of-a-kind communications and projects that add value for all involved. Her commentary has been featured in The New York Times, Fast Company, Forbes, and more. Her presentations receive high evaluations for featuring original insights and stories, laugh-out-loud anecdotes, and actionable recommendations people use immediately to produce real-world results. She is known for her ability to help people create intriguing, purposeful, original communications that help them break-out instead of blend in. Her TEDx talk on INTRIGUE has nearly 500,000 views and shows how to connect with anyone anytime. Visit her websites at and and connect on Twitter @SamHornIntrigue.

QUESTION: You've written nine award-winning books published in 17 languages on a variety of business and communications topics. Which was your favorite to write, and why?

(Here's the link to Sam’s Amazon page:

SAM HORN: That’s like asking a parent to pick a favorite child! I would need to ask what topic someone was looking for. Based on the answer, I would then respond accordingly. For example, if someone wanted advice to create a perfect pitch, I would choose POP!: Create the Perfect Pitch, Title, and Tagline for Anything. If someone wanted to read about removing conflict from the workplace, I would choose Tongue Fu!: How to Deflect, Disarm, and Defuse Any Verbal Conflict. If someone wanted to read about office bullying, then I would answer with Take the Bully by the Horns. And that’s just three – there are more.

QUESTION: No one ever wants to work for a bully. One of your many speaking topics is bullying in the workplace, and you also include a bullying quiz on your website. What are some of the things employees can do if their boss is a bully, and if their workplace culture is toxic?

(Here’s the link to the bullying quiz on Sam’s website:

SAM HORN: A bully is someone who doesn’t want to cooperate and just wants to win. We cannot wait for this person to self-correct. Their entire house of cards is built on making everyone else wrong. Instead, we need to hold them accountable for their inappropriate and egregious behavior.

I always recommend that we document the behavior, so it is objective and not subjective. If someone has behaved in a bullying manner, go back to your desk, and write down at such and such a time, this person did XYZ. Documentation gives the decision-makers an opportunity to act.

QUESTION: You wrote a post entitled, “Never Again Give an Elevator Speech.” That seems like unusual advice. Please explain.

(Here’s the link to the post:

SAM HORN: Turn a one-way elevator speech (aka, monologue) into a two-way elevator connection (aka, dialogue). Want to introduce yourself in a way that isn’t confusing and that can actually lead to meaningful conversations and connections? Keep this question in mind: “What are the end results of what you do that we can see, smell, taste, and touch?”

Here’s an example: A conference attendee once approached me and said that he had difficulty explaining what he did. After a brief discussion, I realized that he made the software that makes it safe for us to buy things online. But I told him not to tell people that. Instead, I suggested that he ask people, “Have you, a friend or a family member ever bought anything online on eBay, Travelocity, or Amazon?” This question increased the odds that they’ve experienced what he does or know someone who has. They might respond, “Well, I never shop online. But my wife’s on Amazon all the time. She loves the free shipping.”

Now, confirm your connection by linking what you do to what they just said, “Well, our company makes the software that makes it safe for your wife to buy things on Amazon.” You’ve now made a connection – and in a much better way than with an elevator speech, aka monologue.

QUESTION: You wrote a post for Huffington Post entitled, "Don’t Just Lean in, Step Up" that was posted on January 22, 2014, but is just as timely today – seven years later. One quote stood out to me: "You do not serve when you step back." Can you please explain what you meant?

(Read the full article here:

SAM HORN: Think about sports for a moment. If you are a basketball player, do you want the ball to attempt a game-winning shot?

There are two types of people in this world: the type of person who steps up and says, “give me the ball,” and the type of person who steps back.

Leadership is very similar. Sharing accomplishments with all the highs and lows is not bragging. On the contrary, it teaches others how to take risks from real-life examples.

QUESTION: Which three leaders inspire you, and why?

SAM HORN: Here are lessons learned from three leaders I’ve worked for.

My first boss was at a restaurant where I worked as a waitress in South Carolina. I saw a quarter on the floor and picked it up, but there was a dust ball nearby that I left on the floor. I saw the dust ball, and he did too. I knew that I should have picked it up. The boss asked me why I did not pick it up. I learned a life lesson that day that has remained with me: it is imperative to do the right thing no matter who may be watching. Imagine if I had been a customer watching the quarter being picked up by an employee – but not the dust ball. I definitely would NOT have wanted to be that customer!

A boss of a tennis pro shop where I worked sat me down with someone I did not get along with. He said that we had to overcome our personality differences – that our problems with each other were negatively affecting the entire workplace. He said I was good at my job and that the other person was good at his job. But the two of us had to work together to figure out how to work in cooperation rather than in conflict. Perhaps, the inspiration for our working in cooperation to improve the situation was that we were told we were both valued.

Jim Petrus, General Manager of the Grand Wailea in Hawaii, was also an inspiration. In preparation for the hotel’s soft opening, I saw him on his hands and knees planting flowers and doing landscaping. I learned that it is imperative for employees to see top leaders actually doing work – if they want to earn respect and loyalty and create a positive corporate culture, as opposed to simply sitting in corner offices and earning large salaries.

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does that quote mean to you?

SAM HORN: We all have the opportunity and responsibility to be a good leader, to champion others’ accomplishments.

TWEET THIS: We all have the opportunity and responsibility to be a good leader. –@SamHornIntrigue #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding

My gratitude to Sam for appearing on my Blog and for sharing her inspiring insights.

Here’s the link to watch Sam’s TEDx Talk on YouTube:
“Intrigue – How to Create Interest and Connect with Anyone” (January 3, 2014)

Image Credit: Frank McKenna via Unsplash app.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Debbie for this opportunity to "talk story" - as they say in Hawaii - and share some stories and insights about leadership, communication and branding. Hope people find these insights inspiring, intriguing and useful.


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